Mors Funebris Chapter 1 Part 4
“Very well then, Mentor I will go. It has been some time since I have had the opportunity to enjoy an Inn. Just out of curiosity, what is its name?”
“The Prancing Cadaver, it is an establishment that caters to Mamono of all kind.” She replied outwardly, smiling.
‘And it is an excellent spot to loosen tongues twisted with lies.’ Tia thought inwardly. ‘Whenever you talk about yourself Arawn, you prefer to lie. I wonder why.’
“Then let us go.” He replied, returning her smile.
Tia waited patiently while Arawn made a quick change of his clothing, behind one of his apartment’s Shoji panels. When Arawn deemed himself presentable, he stepped out to be judged. He was dressed in his self-chosen togs of a drab-white tunic, and a multi-pocketed kilt, knee-high boots, and black leather vest.
“Arawn!” Tia giggled when she saw him. “Why are you still wearing your Gorget? You’re off duty now.” Arawn looked down at it.
“Oh?” he said, blinking. “Safety actually, my Gorget contains a Periapt.” He replied, pointing to a small yellow gem that sat above the spot where his rank insignia would be. “This Periapt prevents me from becoming too noticeable to Mamono.”
“That’s silly, Arawn. I can see you just fine!” Tia laughed at the ludicrousness of what he just said. Arawn rolled his eyes, and pressed his lips together into a thin line.
“It is not supposed to make me invisible, Tia.” He explained patiently,
“It is supposed to make me less noticeable, less desirable to Spirit Energy hungry Mamono. Here, let me demonstrate it to you momentarily.” He stated, as he moved a hand to hover over the yellow Periapt.
He then looked at Tia with a raised eyebrow. She noticed it, and then nodded.
Arawn tapped once upon the yellow gem, and he saw Tia’s eyes widen in response.
Where a moment before, Tia had been mildly aware that, yes, he was an unattached male. That condition of his, really didn’t register on her innate Essence-sense, much.
But now it was different! Now, her innate Essence-Sense switched into high gear, as she sensed that he carried more! Much more of it than the average human male!
Tia felt a thundering in her ears, as her hearts started to beat furiously in response. She didn’t even notice that her apathetic desire for a mate, rapidly evaporating like the morning dew under the flare-like radiance of Arawn’s Essence.
Nor did she notice her rational mind shutting down, as her Jumping Spider instincts took over instead. It just felt natural to her, to crouch in preparation to Pounce upon her nearby Prey: Arawn.
Upon seeing her crouch, Arawn immediately reactivated his Periapt with a sharp ‘tap’.
‘Great Maker, I had not expected such a swift reaction!’ he thought to himself, alarmed.
After several seconds more, he was relieved to note that Tia hadn’t yet Jumped. But, he carefully aware that she was still breathing heavily, as if in preparation to do so anyway.
‘No sudden moves, Primus. (5)’ Quintus cautioned him.
Both he and Tia silently kept their entire attention focused upon one another for several seconds more. Licking his lips nervously, Arawn noted that her previously blue colored eyes, were now tinged with a pink fog.
‘What? No floating hearts? (5)’. Secundus snarked then. Primus chose to not dignify that snarky comment, with an answer.
“Mentor!” Arawn spoke sternly. “Mentor Helvetia. Can you control yourself?” Arawn asked, moving away from her slowly. He stopped moving after he noticed her eyes remained locked on him anyways. After several heart pounding seconds later she spoke.
“Yes, Arawn.” Tia replied quietly, as if she were talking from a far-away place. “I believe I can.”
Arawn noticed that the pink-haze in her eyes were starting to fade. Tia blinked all of her eyes once, as they slowly resumed their normal color. Tia then took in a shuddering breath, which helped her to relax. Absentmindedly, she then began to groom herself with her finger claws.
Abruptly, she stopped once she noticed that she had.
‘Damn, I hate that nervous habit of mine!’ she berated herself. Then she snapped at him.
“Well Arawn, I think I would’ve appreciated a little more warning…next time!” she hissed, not looking at him. She looked thoughtful for a bit, then continued.
“YES! Please do keep that about your person! Considering how I just reacted, you not wearing that item could potentially cause a riot.” She said, thinking of the Mess-Hall, as she turned to go. Arawn allowed himself to relax, then followed her as the dangerous moment had passed.
Once they were both outside, she prepared to resume the previous conversation concerning magic, as she led the way towards the Inn. She was about to ask him something, when a furious motion overhead, caught her attention. She glanced up.
“LOOK OUT!” she shouted, pushing Arawn aside quickly. Arawn reacted as best he could under the circumstances, and managed a slight dodge. But not fast enough to completely evade the Harpy talons that nearly caught ahold of him.
“Almost had you!” Rhea the Harpy shrieked unhappily then, flapping to regain altitude.
Both Arawn and Tia were unaware then, that Rhea’s talons had managed to knock his Periapt-Gem from its mounting spot on his collar, deactivating it.
Arawn, in turn was knocked over by the inertia of the Harpy’s talons impacting him. But, he managed to continue to roll with its force, all of the way to the other side of the street. There, he crouched warily in preparation for a fight, his clean clothes now askew.
Tia by this time, had managed to recover herself. She crouched into a battle-stance and looked about for the Harpy, who by now seemed to have lost interest in Arawn.
‘Odd.’ Tia noted.
Instead, the Harpy circled back up, and landed on the edge of the barracks roof. There, after looking down at the street confusedly for several seconds, she settled down and started to preen.
When Tia stood up out of her battle-stance, Arawn took that as a sign that all was well. He them made to approach her.
“Arawn! Wait!” Tia shouted then, she’d noticed something out of place on the cobblestones. She went over and picked it up.
“Arawn, where is your Periapt? She asked, concernedly.
“It is right he,…” Arawn started to say, then stopped when he felt it gone from his Gorget-mount. Tia motioned him to silence when he began to speak once more.
She looked meaningfully back at him, then glanced meaningfully up once at the Harpy overhead. Following her eyes, Arawn finally noticed her up there as well. A puzzled look crossed his face once he realized what was going on.
“Arawn, an experiment if you would?” Tia asked. He nodded then, curious.
“Take a step towards me, slowly.” She instructed. Arawn looked back at her, and then hesitantly took a step, trusting her. Tia kept her attention focused on the Harpy still. Who by then, was done with her preening, and was looking down at them both with curiosity.
“Another step.” She commanded. He did, and then things changed.
Overhead, the semi-bored Harpy’s attitude changed dramatically. Suddenly, she was vastly interested in Arawn as her hawk like eyes fixated themselves onto him. Almost immediately, she was readying herself to launch herself into a dive-attack.
“Get back!” Tia shouted then, feeling her own surge of desire in that moment along with. Arawn did as she commanded, and she felt her desire dissipate. Looking up, she noticed the Harpy’s interest had waned as well, as she settled herself back onto her perch.
“Well.” Arawn said then in that moment. “This makes for an interesting conundrum.” Tia then came up with a hypothesis, and informed Arawn of it with suggestion of how to test it.
After a moment Arawn nodded his assent, and after she had tossed him his Periapt back, he reaffixed and reactivated it. Then, she asked him to step closer to her for a moment, while she kept an eye trained on the Harpy still perched above them both.
When he had done as she had asked, she noticed that the Harpy’s head snapped around as she was suddenly interested in him again, but Tia’s desire did not. She informed him of all this, after they’d both stepped back onto the ‘safe’ side of the street.
The conclusion was obvious, his periapt was only effective near ground level, in certain areas.
“Odd, most odd,” he stated thoughtfully. “I did not experience such limitations with this device when I was in Royal Makai.”
“Perhaps we should stay on this side of the street for the time being.” Tia suggested. Arawn readily agreed. The both of them then continued on their respective journey, all the while keeping all of their eyes on the air above. Tia also mentioned that she’d let him know if, and when, she her desire well up.
‘Most intriguing,’ Quintus spoke mentally then. ‘it is almost as if the Periapt’s influence waxes and wanes in an unknown manner. (5)’
‘There might well be a pattern, Quintus.’ Tertius replied. ‘We will just have to keep notes, on all of our field trips. (3)’
‘Agreed. But what if say, one of us ends up a victim of ‘proactive-dating’? (4)’ Quartus asked nervously. Primus could sense his other not-brothers shifting around nervously as well.
‘If such happens, then we will deal with it then. Until that time, I would recommend we all take extra special efforts to prevent such’! (1)’ Primus remarked dryly. His not-brothers readily agreed.
‘But remember, we are under orders to not harm any of the Mamono, or the civilian populace during our time here! (1)’ he reminded them all.
Luckily, no further untoward encounters occurred during their journey to the Inn named the Prancing Cadaver. East and down the gentle sloping street they walked side by side, past the shops surrounding the outer gate, and then down around a bend in the street called, Codswallop lane.
During that journey, Arawn was not besieged by any Mamono, Harpy or otherwise. However, he was ‘greeted’ by an almost endless stream of stray cats, of all colors and coats.
Each of whom felt it necessary to demand attention from him, as they mewed their respective ‘hello’, and then rubbed themselves against his legs. Attention he freely gave, much to Tia’s annoyance. As she could only occasionally coax a cat to tolerate her ministrations.
All along the way, both Arawn and Tia were treated to a panoply of sights. They passed numerous humans dressed in the local Cynosure garb, all out and about on their own errands. None of whom seemed to take any special note of a Spider-Girl escorting a human male.
Arawn thought it strange that there were few examples of Mamono present. Though he was surprised, when they both crossed one intersection of streets. Tia stopped and waved a hello at a specie of Centaur he had never seen before, who then waved cheerfully back, without stopping to chat. He was struck by the fact that, like Tia, her coat of fur was striped white and black.
“She’s a Pundamilia-Centaur, Arawn.” Tia stated, after having caught sight of Arawn’s curious look. “She serves as an aide to the Ambassador of the Birani Empire.” Arawn couldn’t think of anything to say to that.
Tia then noticed Arawn looking to and fro, almost as if he were looking for something in particular. Tia inquired what it was he was searching for.
“If I tell you, you will laugh.” Arawn stated, nervously. When he said THAT, Tia wasn’t going to end the hunt, she HAD to find out! Eventually, she coaxed it out of him.
“I promise, that I won’t laugh.” she said tightly.
“I am noticing,…” he hesitated, not looking at her, then he sighed heavily. “a complete lack of the presence of prostitutes.” He said quietly.
Tia couldn’t help it, she burst out laughing. When she got herself under control, she noticed that Arawn’s face was flushed with either anger or embarrassment, she couldn’t tell whichl.
“If you need help with that, Arawn,” she grinned widely, “I’m sure you’ll find plenty of Monster-Girls on base willing to lend you a hand, or the equivalent.” She replied with a mischievous look in her eyes.
“Thank you, Mentor Helvetia.” He replied as evenly as he could manage. But I am not in need of sexual release.” He almost growled. “It has been my experience that in any human city, prostitution of one form or another is present.”
“Oh.” Tia replied smirking, not quite believing him. “The reason you don’t see any here, is that like I said earlier, the base’s Monster Girl population takes care of most of that need in this area. The spot to look for them is over closer to the docks. They ply most of their trade there with the Sailors.” Arawn tersely nodded his thanks. Thankfully, Tia didn’t pursue the subject any longer.
Eventually, he also noticed that several times during the walk, Tia stopped occasionally and looked longingly at several scenic views. These included a number of distant buildings, an island in the harbor to the East, and other assorted intriguing looking places. Arawn asked her about all this, to her.
“They are all places I’ve been wanting to go for some time.” She replied, with a hint of sadness.
“Why have you not?” he asked, curious.
“Because of the Orderites.” She said nervously, glancing around momentarily.
“Who are they?”
“They Arawn, are the last remaining official members of the Order still living here in Cynosure.”
“What?!” Arawn replied, surprised. “I was under the impression that they had all been expelled, after the Order’s last invasion.”
“They were.” She smiled wryly. “Eventually, they managed to ooze their way back in. But only after they were forced to make oaths of non-aggression,…” Tia explained, but left unfinished.
She walked silently for several paces in a hypervigilant state as she passed an alleyway. Arawn remembered that she had done several times already, then she started speaking again. “Oaths that they have found ways to circumvent. There are two groups of them, and it can be difficult to differentiate between them on sight.”
“One group preaches that we Mamono are acceptable to the Chief God, but that we are ‘misguided’.” Tia said, with her face screwing up into a smirk.
“And the other?”
“The other preaches what the Regular Order does, that we Mamono must be exterminated, as aberrations.” She frowned.
“So, how can one tell the difference?”
“Usually by their actions. The tolerant ones have actually started a number of services and charities devoted to being nice to Mamono. The intolerant ones on the other claw, have been forming gangs with the intention of harassing us.”
“The way you speak it Tia, makes it sound like you have the voice of experience.” Tia screwed her head over to Arawn and nodded vigorously.
“Unfortunately, yes I do.” She sighed, “Just a few days ago, after I had departed a bath house run by the friendly Orderites, I was attacked by a group of the hostile ones not far from here. Obviously, I survived.” She said, with a shadow crossing her face.
“What happened?” Arawn asked, seeing that shadow.
“One of them died.” She replied quietly, surprising him. “I was court-martialed.” She explained after she saw his reaction. Then she held up a hand to forestall any of the other questions.
“He attacked me with bladder full of some liquid. I was able to deflect it back onto him, then it burst all over him.
I’ve never seen anything like it Arawn, he just dissolved in a matter of seconds leaving behind his bones. But even those melted after another hour.” She reminisced sadly, shaking her head.
“Wait! Why were YOU court-martialed?” Arawn demanded.
“Because I caused a death in the civilian population; a violation of General Order Number One. Which is: Take Them Alive. I think you can guess why the General would order that.” Tia smiled at him. Arawn smiled back.
“Even someone who tries to murder a Mamono?” Arawn half-facetiously asked.
“Yes,” she nodded, “Even one of them. After all, such behavior is no different from an Order Fighter’s!” she grinned.
“So I take it that any Orderites who are caught attempting to murder a Mamono can expect, ‘the usual sentence’?” Arawn asked. Tia nodded.
“Not just the Orderites, anyone.” she nodded happily. “Even the City-Guard are required to turn them over.”
Several blocks later, they arrived into a broad circle of several intersecting streets. ‘Guessing by the crowds, the circle appears to be quite popular with the locals.’ Arawn judged, looking around.
“Look over there Arawn!” Tia stated, pointing. Arawn looked and noticed a number of acrobatic humans doing some kind of display.
“Oh, I see! Buskers, am I correct?” He cried in delight.
“You are, that crumbling building they’re performing in front of? That’s the last Chief God temple in Cynosure, supposedly its haunted. Or cursed, or something. No one goes into or out of it. Not even the beggars anymore, apparently.”
On the near side of the circle stood an overly large building that Tia indicated to be the Inn. The building appeared to be built of limestone bricks and was framed with large sections of sawn driftwood.
As the pair drew closer, Arawn noted the sound of some revelry emanating from inside. He also noticed that over the larger than normal pair of entrance doors, hung a sign decorated in the traditional manner of Inn’s across the multiverse. A visual representation of the Inn’s name.
In this case, it depicted a humanoid figure seemingly caught in mid-pose of a high-step dance. But the figure appeared to be half rotten due to decay. A small fallen gravestone behind and below said cadaver, attested to its supposed good mood. All this, despite several of its body parts littering the ground underneath it.
“The Prancing Cadaver eh? What a ghastly sight.” Arawn stated aloud, grimacing while looking up at the sign.
“I do not suppose that you have any notion of where the inspiration for its name came from?” he asked, turning to look at his companionable Spider-Girl. Tia simply shrugged her black and white furred shoulders in response.
“I’m afraid not Arawn,” Tia replied, shaking her head, “I’ve asked the Inn’s Owner, Mr. Ousum about it. But, according to him its always been that way, ever since his family purchased the Inn centuries ago.”
Before Arawn could reply, both of the entrance doors were pushed outward by a large crab-like claw marked with a double curl near its base. Attached to that claw was a wobbling Ushi-Oni, who expelled a large breath in her effort to steady herself, after she had most of her feet/claws back on the ground.
Arawn noted that her skin held a purple-hue, marked by spikes and curls. Her hair was vast and unruly, as if it had not been brushed for some time. She wore a white-ish shirt stained with wine.
She was unsteady in her gait for two reasons. The first being because she appeared to be highly inebriated, as Arawn could detect due to the reek of ale that surrounded her. The second because she was carrying a passed out human male draped in her arms. Arawn noted that the male was dressed in City Guard togs.
As she finally stabilized her stance, she focused her fierce eyes onto Arawn and Tia, noticing them both. Arawn noticed that one of her eyes was half covered by a strip of red-cloth with writing on it. Why, he had no idea.
“Hello Kaori!” Tia greeted first, smiling widely up at her.
“Kon’nichiwa Helvetia!” the Ushi-Oni managed to slur/shout jovially back down.
“It appears that you have a date for tonight. Well done!” Tia congratulated her.
“Tonight?!” Kaori spat, then lurched. “More like the whole week! His unit is on leave, and he’ll be otherwise occupied until then!” Kaori chuckled evilly while forcing herself to stand upright, again.
Tia chuckled happily along with her. While Arawn became distracted by the size and shape of the Oni’s horns.
‘How on earth did she manage to step through that doorway without knocking them on the sill?’ he wondered silently.
“It appears that you’ve managed to out-drink another one Kaori!” Tia said cheerfully.
“Indeed, I have Tia! If it wasn’t for male pride, I’d never get laid!” Kaori stated with a smile. “Looks like you’ve got yourself an opportunity tonight as well, Tia!” Kaori added, pointing to Arawn with an unencumbered leg. Which didn’t help with her stability.
“Actually not Kaori! He’s my student. Besides, I’m hoping to meet Ikiniz tonight.” Kaori’s face spread into an overly wide grin at hearing her. Arawn noted that nearly every one of her teeth were canines, and felt a modicum of pity for her soon to be source of Essence.
“Whatever you say, Tia!” Kaori stated disbelievingly. “Time’s a wasting! Sayonara!” Kaori said, shifting the unconscious male to a more stable position on her shoulder.
“Sayonara! Try not to destroy the baths this time!” Tia replied happily, as she and Arawn watched Kaori clatter/wobble blithely off into the darkening evening with her prize. Kaori waved a furry tail once in acknowledgement as she turned a corner.
“So, who is Ikiniz?” Arawn asked, curious. Tia turned to him with a smile blossoming on her face.
“My lover. He, is the reason I wanted to come here tonight.” She beamed. “He mentioned that he had something he wanted to tell me, the next time he and I talked.” she almost giggled, moving to enter.
‘Gracious, she is positively radiant!’ Arawn observed, as Tia led the way into the Inn.
Inside, the already noticeable levels of music became much more readily apparent. Arawn noted that the entrance area was sized to accommodate some of the wider bodied Mamono.
Tia and Arawn looked around the interior of the overly large main room. There were quite a number of tables already occupied by a variety of human and Mamono. Sometimes it was humans or Mamono sitting alone, sometimes together, all of whom were at ease with each other’s presence.
‘The Great Maou would smile if she saw this.’ Arawn thought happily to himself. Looking about he noticed several other tables in various stages of occupancy.
On the far end, away from the entrance doors, stood one non-descript seeming table. Arawn’s eye was immediately drawn to it, as it gave a grand vantage point of the entirety of the main room. Tia noticed his attention and remarked.
“That’s called ‘The Assassin’s Table’.” She mentioned, with a bemused look. “Never sit there.”
“I think I can imagine why.” Arawn replied, mirroring her attitude.
Tia continued to look around, until she managed to find a table that was unoccupied. With a gentle tug on his arm, she directed Arawn over to it. As Arawn made his way over, he stepped carefully over several tail-tips along the way. Once there, Arawn sat at one of the two chairs, whereas Tia chose to crouch herself on the other side of the table, facing him.
Shortly, one the Inn’s barmaids appeared, carrying a tray. Arawn managed to suppress his surprise upon seeing her. Instead of being impolite and staring at her, he chose instead to give her a quick glance, and captured a mental image, so as to study at leisure. It was a skill of his Eidetic Memory that had proven useful during many a mission.
He decided, that she was one of the more unusual looking examples of Mamono that he had yet encountered. She appeared to be a Satyros, but there were quite a number of notable differences between her and them.
She politely introduced herself as, “Monara”, and asked to take their order. Arawn deferred to Tia, who decided upon a pair of drinks called Moonlight Ale.
After she had turned to go. Arawn noted that Monara had a bare-skinned pointed tail that hung nearly to her knees. But, instead of the fur he’d have expected to see on a Satyros tail, there were a pair of gold bands wrapped around it. One near the base, another halfway to the tip.
Quickly, he reviewed the ‘mental snapshot’ he had of Monara. She definitely resembled a Satyros Mamono, in that she had the pointed ears, tail, and cloven hooves of one.
However, unlike the fur that Satyros normally had, Monara sported none beyond her head-hair. He was curious about the rest of her ample bare skin, as it was colored a light blue reminiscent of the sky. Arawn was startled when he realized that her eyes had glowed with an innate white light.
Focusing on other details he noted that, instead of her having the standard Satyro’s rounded brown-mottled horns. Monara’s horns were a uniform blue as they made a slight curve that pointed towards the back. Which was at odds with the standard forward facing succubus horn tips.
“Tia? Do you happen to know anything about which species of Mamono Monara is? I have never encountered her kind before.” Arawn asked, curious. What Tia said then, surprised him.
“She’s not Mamono.”
“She’s not Mamono. I don’t know for sure, but according to the rumor mill; she’s similar to you in that she’s from another world.
“Any idea how she managed to end up here?” Arawn asked eagerly.
“I’m afraid not Arawn, you’d have to ask her.” Tia replied with a sidelong glance. Then she turned to face him full on.
“I also noticed that you didn’t deny that you came from another world this time, Arawn. Why is that?” she asked in as even a tone as she could manage. Arawn, jerked in surprise and widened his eyes as he turned to look at Tia.
Tia watched carefully, as a range of emotions roiled across his face. Surprise, indignation, annoyance, and then the least expected, chagrin, and finally, humility.
“Very astute of you Mentor.” He said quietly, feeling caught. Then he sighed.
“It is because I am from another world. One far off in the depths of the Multiverse.” He explained in a low voice as he turned and looked at Tia at last. He noticed that she was frowning intently and had her arms folded, all the while staring back at him with a severely annoyed look.
“Earlier today, you told me you from a nation that was governed by The Order. Were you lying to me then?” she asked suspiciously.
“Technically, no. What you would call the Order, is known as The Authority in that place,…”he sighed, “that,…world.”
“Arawn,” Tia began, with a dangerous tone in her voice, “why did you choose to lie to me? What are you hiding?” Looking back up at her, he noticed that one of her hands had drifted from her arm-folding, and was now below table level, concealed. Possibly holding something?
He looked long and hard at her for several seconds more. Then he spoke.
“I did so because, you have not been deemed to be at an acceptable level of trust, for me to not lie to.”
“On whose authority do you say that Arawn?!” Tia shot back, feeling her anger rising in response to his words. He continued to stare at her for several seconds more, then he opened his mouth. Tia interrupted him before he could speak.
“I don’t care if I have ‘the authority’ or not Arawn! If I am to be your Mentor, I DEMAND to know the Truth! Your actions, good or bad, will reflect back onto me.” Her words, instead of fanning the flames of his anger, quenched them. Tia observed a thoughtful look forming on his face.
“Very well then Helvetia, I will tell you more. But there are some things that I do not have the authorization to tell you. At least, not yet.” Tia lowered her head in annoyance.
“I lied to you under the orders of the one whom I serve.”
“And who is that?” Tia demanded quietly, her hands forming into fists. Arawn automatically looked both left and right, he then settled his eyes back onto Tia, and sighed. Locking his eyes with hers, he replied with three words.
“The Great Maou.” He whispered. Tia’s eyes widened in response as she mouthed those words back at him.
Arawn remained solidly passive, as he got the chance to observe her in return. He was most surprised at what she had to say next.
“Truth.” She said in awe. “You speak the truth.” She finished, her jaw hanging open. After a second’s pause, she closed her jaw with a snap.
“You can discern if someone is lying?” he asked. She nodded fiercely.
“If you serve the Great Maou,” she whispered fiercely, “then surely you don’t need me as a Mentor?!” she demanded angrily.
“Actually, I do.”
“What! HOW!?” she demanded, indignant. Arawn raised his hands in a surrendering gesture and went on to explain as best he could.
“Since I come from another world. As such, I am a ‘fish out of water’. This world of yours, is one I wish to tarry in for a long while. Perhaps even make it my permanent home if I can.” He replied, sadly. As reluctant to listen as she was in that moment, Tia continued to do so.
“I need to learn the ways and wherefores of this world and your culture, in such a way to minimize any negative impact from my unfamiliarity of it.”
“I’ve seen an inkling of what your Magics, what your powers are, Arawn! Why do you need someone like me, especially me!?”
“Because I was advised to.”
“By WHO!!” Tia hissed.
“That person who recommended you, made it a condition of her help that I not reveal her name to you! She was most adamant about that! Yes, yes, yes!” He whispered back at her acerbically, “I know that sounds ‘mysterious’, but that is all that I am allowed to tell you in the here and now.” He held up a hand to her to forestall Tia’s next demand.
“Yes, I think I can guess what questions you have. Let me speak what I think you can be trusted with, for now please.” He waited for a second, then got a nod from her.
“All Honesty? Yes, I was supposed to arrive her with my beloved Shoggoth: Takana. Unfortunately, we were unable to.” He sighed heavily, “be that as it may. Yes, I wish to command troops because I have done so in the past, and I definitely wish to continue to do so in service to the Great Maou.”
“Wait! You’re a lone human male, why would you wish to serve the Great Maou?” Tia demanded, not quite convinced.
“Because she freed me from slavery, even though she did not need to. I wish to repay her the kindness. Once I learned of her Grand Plan and its details, I decided that helping her in her endeavor, would be but one way for me do so. It would also stand me in good stead.”
“So, how is your being here in Cynosure, supposed to help with that? Why not simply command troops in a more direct role?”
“As you can see, I still have a lot to learn concerning that. But, Cynosure is also a ‘test’ if you would, both of my ability and my motivations.”
“But wait! What is there in Cynosure that would require the services of someone so well-versed in Magic?”
“You yourself mentioned it, a few hours ago.”
“The Fort. You mentioned that the Baphomet who built it, left behind masses of Demonic Energy in the hopes that they would corrupt the City, yes?” Tia nodded, thinking.
“Yet it did not. The Great Maou, sent me to find out why.”
“But why keep all of this, oh wait. I think I know why.” Tia sighed. ”The Order.” She replied. Arawn nodded to have her continue.
“Because the more they learn, the more they know about such details, the more they’ll be inclined to take advantage of it.” She surmised. Arawn closed his eyes and nodded silently.
“I would not be surprised if the Orderites, as you call them, are also conducting their own investigation.” He replied. “I too, am kept in the dark concerning many of the secrets of Fort Eequor and Cynosure. The Maou’s reasoning for keeping me in that condition, is that I might learn of something that her people overlooked. Fresh minds, fresh ideas.”
“I keep secrets from you, not because of maliciousness, but because I wish to insure the success of the Great Maou. ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth.’ Is how one phrase puts it.” Arawn then reached out a hand and extended it towards Tia. She looked down at it, and back up to him expectantly.
“I promise that there will come a time, that I will be able to tell you the complete truth. You have the right to refuse me, Tia. But, I just need you to trust me until then. Will you do that for me?” Tia continued to look at his outstretched hand for several long seconds, as she mulled over his words.
‘Everything he just said, was the Truth.’ She thought to herself. ‘How odd for anyone, especially a human male to do that for a change. WAIT!’ she realized. ‘He’s trusting me!’ Internally, she knew in that moment that she had already made up her mind. ‘I like this feeling.’ She then reached out and took his hand in her own. Together they clenched each other’s fist.
“Yes.” She smiled at him. Relieved, Arawn smiled back. And in that moment, both a friendship, and a relationship was born.
And unbeknownst to them both, the world of the Great Maou now had a fighting chance for survival.
Their brief moment of mutual compatibility was ended, by the overdue arrival of the pair of tankards filled with Moonlight Ale .
Monara apologized for her tardiness, as Arawn attempted to pay for them. But, Tia insisted upon doing so instead. Arawn agreed, but only after extracting a promise from her that he be allowed to pay for the next round.
‘Oh my! This Ale is well named,’ Arawn said to himself after taking a peremptory swallow. ‘I could bask in its taste all night! (1)’ he grinned.
‘Careful! This ‘Ale’ has a proof in the high double decimals, Primus. I would recommend caution in its consumption. (5)’ Quintus warned.
‘Noted. (1)’ Primus replied dryly, as he felt a flush forming already.
After finishing half of his tankard in one swift guzzling, he noticed that Tia’s attention had shifted over to some humans who had entered.
“I take it that one of those in that group of humans, is your Ikiniz, Tia?” She nodded distractedly, as all of her available eyes fixated upon the one tallest male in the group.
‘A rather strapping young male. A bit overly dressed with the fripperies, but who am I to cast judgment? Odd, the young male she is focused upon, appears to have a human female hanging on his arm. Perhaps she is a sibling.’ He noted with increasing trepidation.
Tia, on the other hand, didn’t seem to notice the woman that Arawn had. Quickly, she excused herself from their table, then skittered over to talk to her erstwhile lover.
Arawn silently observed from afar, the tableau that unfolded before him and felt a spark of anger that was soon fanned into a flame.
At first, Tia seemed rambunctious enough upon approaching the Ikiniz-fellow, then he noted with concern, that Tia’s body language rapidly shifted into one of shock as Ikiniz pointed to her and made some sneering comment.
‘Shall I augment our hearing to find out what is being said Primus? (5)’ Quintus asked him then.
‘No need. It is obvious what is taking place. (1)’ Arawn/Primus replied, as he felt his anger grow by leaps and bounds, fueled by a combination of the Moonlight Ale, and Tia’s subsequent treatment.
Somehow, Arawn managed to control himself. as he continued to watch Ikiniz’s every move like a hawk. Ikiniz then turned to one of his companions, and apparently made a jest at Tia’s expense.
The group of human males, and one female, laughed uproariously in response, and Arawn felt his hands tighten in a scalding fury as he watched Tia step back in a display of hurt and dismay.
‘That is MY MENTOR you just mocked. You Bastard!’ he thought fiercely then, getting up and moving towards them.
Tia seemed to rally herself and stepped towards Ikiniz again, her hands out in a gesture of imploring. This time, the human male made a rude gesture at her while making another overly loud crude comment. Loud enough that Arawn heard it clearly. “Tiny body, Big Holes.”
That gesture of Ikiniz, was soon imitated by the other males in his group, every single of them directed towards Tia.
Tia’s already wounded expression, became amplified as she forced herself to not strike out at him, for such boorishness. Being treated like that so publicly, Arawn couldn’t help but admire her restraint.
Slowly, Tia turned from the gaggle of laughing humans, seemingly wilting into herself. Arawn returned to the table as he felt an overwhelming need to protect her then, along with a flaming rage at such needless sadism.
Soon, she made her way back to the table, and clutched at herself mournfully as she fought to hold back her tears. Arawn, wisely chose to not say anything. Until finally, Tia spoke.
“He said he loved me!” she almost whimpered. “We were lovers for several weeks. He just said that it all had been a joke, that I was nothing more than a trifle, and that because of me he had won a bet.”
“A BET!!!” she cried, bereft, frowning and shaking indignantly while her fists clenched and unclenched.
“I HATE MEN.” She spoke loudly, bitterly, while looking at nothing. Arawn maintained his silence, in shock for her treatment by a supposed lover.
After a moment, Tia’s eyes shifted over and focused upon Arawn. Somehow, her already deep frown became more intense.
‘Go ahead and say it Arawn.’ She thought to herself. ‘Say it! I know you’re thinking it! Tell me that not all men are like THAT!’ she glared fiercely at him in her righteous anger. What he said then, caught her completely off guard.
“I cannot blame you. Human males are despicable.” His reply shocked her into a momentary silence.
“Wait! What are you saying Arawn? You’re a human male!” she burst out, having not expected THAT answer from him. “Are you trying to patronize me?” she demanded, shaking with indignation.
“Not in the least, Tia. I agree whole heartedly with you, ‘Human Males’ are indeed despicable.”
“But how can you say that, Arawn! You’re a human, aren’t you?” Tia demanded, confused, Arawn smiled back patiently.
“Technically no.” he replied, shaking his head. “I may resemble a human, but rest assured I am not one.” Looking up he noticed Tia’s skeptical look.
“Would you consider a Dark Mage to be a human or a Mamono?” he asked. Tia, caught off-guard once more, tilted her head in thought. Eventually she sighed.
“Mamono.” She replied quietly. “All right, tell me why you feel that human males are despicable! Tell me, I demand to hear it!” Tia yelled, her voice quavering.
“All right. Take what is going on between the Great Maou and the Chief God for example. Human males fight against the Great Maou, why?” he asked her, spreading his hands apart.
“Because….” Tia drawled out the word, as she tried to recall the reasoning of the members of the Order she had captured once.
“They don’t want to lose their humanity. Or that’s what I overhead some Order prisoners I overhead, claim.” She stated.
“Humanity!” Arawn spat, disgusted. “What humanity means to humans is that they demand the right to die some of the most undignified deaths, for the most spurious of reasons!” he shouted, gaining the attention of several nearby tables. He noticed the curious stares after looking around, then he quieted himself. He continued speaking, but at a much more reasonable level.
“I have visited countless worlds Tia, and I have observed humans make War for the most stupid of reasons. For Honor, over trifling Insults, for supposed Resources, and no few times they start one as a political distraction. The end result is invariably the same.” He sighed in exasperation.
“They all end up killing not only their fighters, but also the families of their fighters and everyone else. Innocents are often the highest casualty in human wars!” Arawn stated tightly, shivering with Ale-rage.
“They murder each other by the thousands, by the millions! Even when they’re not killing each other in wars.” He said heatedly.
“They devote a massive amount of energy to acquire some resources. But only because someone else wanted them first! Then they turn around and destroy those same resources, after the others beg for their return!”
“I have been to countless worlds where those who have far too much already, deny even the least amongst them the barest minimum to survive. All the while, using the most spurious justifications to salve their conscience for doing so.” Arawn whispered hoarsely, his eyes closed in remembrance. It took him a long while to speak again.
“What does the Maou offer?” Arawn asked, opening his eyes. “An end to that, an end to needless suffering. An end to people starving when others grow ever fatter!” Arawn stopped, then an odd look crossed his face.
“Tia?” Arawn asked. “When was the last time you heard of Mamono warring with each other?”
Tia found herself surprised by that question. She was sure that she’d heard of some Mamono fighting over some trifle, sometime. But to actually create a,….War?
“I think I’ve heard of them getting into fights with each other, Wood-Elves and Dark-Elves for example.” She said, doubtful enough to make her hesitate.
“But are Elves, Mamono?” he asked. Tia shook her head, ‘No’. Then she continued to think about it for a long while, but she found that she couldn’t answer, as she had never heard of such a thing.
“Outside of legend? No, I’ve never heard of Mamono making war upon other Mamono.” she said, surprised yet somehow pleased.
“Exactly Tia! Mamono have better things to do, even before the Great Maou came along! You have done guard duty with captured humans, yes?” Tia nodded.
“Then you know that there are some humans that cannot be left alone with another of their kind. Because if you do, one or the other will get beaten up. Why do that? Because most humans cannot abide seeing another one of their kind enjoying himself.” Arawn then spat onto the floor.
“Yet I’ve seen humans here in Cynosure doing good things!” Tia shot back, feeling the need to play Devil’s Advocate. Arawn smiled.
“Fair enough, but how many of them are members of The Order?”
“I don’t know, not many I would imagine.” Tia replied, crestfallen.
“Well, I learned of a phrase before I came here. This phrase is: ‘The Order of the Chief God is an insult to human dignity. For good people to do evil things, that takes The Order’. The man who coined that phrase, was burned at the stake by the Order for his troubles.” Arawn intoned disgusted.
“The followers of the Chief God see their fellow human males who follow the Maou, and they want to destroy them. Why? Because their Chief God told them to, and those Men do it! Eagerly.” Arawn paused, as he wiped his sleeve across his lips.
“That Tia, is Humanity! And Humanity is in my opinion, worthless!” Arawn finished grimacing. After a moment’s pause, both Arawn and Tia were visibly surprised to note that all of the Mamono in earshot, and no few humans as well, started to clap after Arawn finished his diatribe.
When the clapping died down, Arawn noted that a tall lanky human with sea-stained hair and was dressed in fishermen’s garb, stand up. He then walked over to stand in front of Arawn with a smile on his face, “You speak truth mate! Yet, not every human will worship that Chief God.” He spat onto the floor, as if speaking the name of that God, left a foul taste on his tongue.
“Here in Cynosure, most of us honor Poseidon.” He stated pridefully, holding himself up straight. He then tapped Arawn on the shoulder companionably and gave Tia a nod before taking his leave.
Arawn noted that Tia seemed somewhat mollified by his answer and the results. But he could tell that she was still upset with the dirt her ex-lover had done her. Arawn thought it over and came up with a plan.
“So, tell me Tia, do you know why the Chief God made human males?” Tia looked back at him quizzically and shook her head.
“Because dildos can’t cook.” He deadpanned. Tia’s eyes just about flew out their sockets when she realized what he said, and she barely restrained her laughter. Smiling, Arawn continued after Secundus provided him with another joke.
“Do you know why the Chief God gave men a penis?” he asked once more. Tia continued trying desperately not to laugh then, but wouldn’t make eye contact.
“So women would talk to them.” Arawn answered anyways. Tia couldn’t fight it anymore, she burst out laughing. After she caught her breath, she spoke.
“It sounds like you’ve been hanging with some Amazons Arawn.” She snickered, quivering.
“I overheard those jokes in the Mess-Hall earlier today. Do you know what is the fastest way to the heart of a man?” Tia tried to refuse to answer.
“His Sternum.” She spoke when she couldn’t fight the urge anymore, then she laughed out loud. Arawn joined her.
And so, it went for another minute or three. Just as soon as Tia was over one bout of laughter, Arawn/Secundus would quip with another, making her start up again.
Soon, Arawn’s real intention became apparent. Eventually Tia’s laughter began to morph into a set of tears and sniffles, as she began a long overdue and necessary crying fit.
Tears began to well up in all of her eyes, and eventually they flowed down her furry face and the sides of her head, Arawn then reached out and placed a companionable hand upon her shoulder.
In that moment,Tia needed more than a minor gesture. Instead, she turned to him and grabbed onto him, engulfing him in her arms as she began to sob earnestly onto his neck.
For several minutes more, Arawn in his surprise, held her. For that short time, it was not Mentor/Student, or Superior/Subordinate. No, it was Vulnerable/Protector, and Tia was grateful for the respite, as she so dearly missed the comfort of her father’s arms right then.
After a while, she pulled away and then stared back at him.
“Thank you.” She whispered. Arawn, smiled back and nodded once.
“I think that my desire for an evening out has waned, Arawn. Would it be all right if we left?” Tia asked, pointedly not looking in the direction of her ex-lover.
“Quite all right Tia, I understand. But, before we go, would you give me the directions to the Privy?” he asked. Absentmindedly, she gave them. After he departed Tia chose to take the time to carefully groom her fur to make herself more presentable.
After what seemed an overly long while, Tia started looking for Arawn. ‘Wait! There he is.’ she noticed finally.
‘Hold on!’ she frowned while watching him. ‘You’ve chosen a path right by Ikiniz!’ she fumed. ‘Oh come now Arawn, let me guess! YES, I thought so! How ‘convenient’ that you managed to stumble into him!’ she thought, annoyed.
After he had returned from his ‘freshening up’, Tia held her peace until they were a couple of blocks away from the Inn. Stopping, she barked at him.
“Arawn! I noticed that you accidentally bumped into Ikiniz on your way back.” She said, glaring at him.
“Did you cast a spell? Because if you did, I’ll have to place you on report!” she growled.
Arawn, for his part feigned both surprise and innocence.
“What?! How can you ask that of me Tia? We both know that would be a violation of Scathach’s general orders.” His response made her purse her lips.
“You didn’t answer my question Arawn. Did you, or did you not, cast a spell on Ikiniz just now?” she demanded fiercely, folding her arms. Arawn sighed dramatically and leaned backwards, holding a hand to his forehead for a second as if wounded.
Looking back at her, he noticed that she remained unmoved by his theatrics. He then dropped his arm and looked her square in her skeptical eyes.
“No Tia, I have not cast any spells on your naughty Ex-lover.” He stated firmly. Tia noted that he was telling the truth, and was satisfied.
“All right then Arawn, let’s go home.” She said, waving a dismissal as she turned to go.
‘YET.’ Arawn mentally finished his reply, as he started to follow, keeping an eye out for Harpies and other flying Mamono.
Later, after both had parted ways, Arawn entered into his cluttered apartment workshop area, and searched around in his collection of books, ingredients, and tools, for appropriate materials.
He then reached into a shirt pocket and pulled out the snippet of hair and several threads of clothing that he had Tertius teleport from Ikiniz earlier. Fastidiously, he placed them all into a jar.
‘Gentleman,’ Primus/Arawn said, addressing his not-brothers, ‘I have decided that Tia’s ex-lover is in dire need of some Karma. I am thinking a curse. I say this since, technically-speaking, curses are not spells. Do any of you disagree? (1)’ Arawn asked, and waited for any objections. None were forthcoming.
‘Very well then. I open the floor to suggestions? (1)’ he asked rhetorically. He didn’t have long to wait.
‘Oh me, me, me!’ Secundus cried excitedly through their mutual psychic link. ‘I have an idea for an appropriate curse! (2)’.
‘Well let us hear it. (1)’ Primus ordered, curious.
‘Veni Vomitus! (2)’ Secundus said, sharing the details of it through their shared mental link.
‘Oh, my Maker!’ Primus said, surprised once Secundus finished ‘That, is highly appropriate under the circumstances. (1)’ he stated. Everyone else in his mind-collective agreed.
‘Let us proceed. (1)’ Primus smiled wickedly, as he reached over and plucked the appropriate tome from its shelf space.
“Beware the Anger of a Patient Majin!” he quoted aloud, chuckling evilly.
Well, it didn’t take long for the well-deserved results of the curse to become apparent to Ikiniz. But, it was a couple of weeks longer, before Ikiniz came close to concluding correctly who was the source of his sudden sexual ill-luck.
First-Technician Winnie, Fort Eequor’s go-to Gremlin for every technical problem deemed unrepairable, was in an extremely good mood right now. The reason for her good mood was due to,…well it was difficult to think of any one particular thing. This was because her mind was too preoccupied with pleasure. Endless waves of it.
She certainly didn’t want to think about,… well,…something trivial no doubt.
Or was it something,..important?
Because every time she did try to concentrate on that something, it lessened the quality of the pleasure-waves that were constantly crashing into her. She found that she didn’t want the pleasuring to stop or even slow down, despite the sense that she was being overwhelmed by them.
Panting heavily, she was distracted from thinking again, as a pair of flaccid tentacles oozily retreated out of her vaginal folds. She felt bereft when they dripped the last of their fluids in their withdrawal. Thankfully, they were quickly replaced with another pair, who seemed just as determined to fill out her vagina as their predecessors.
Closing her mouth, Winnie automatically swallowed the saliva diluted chocolate that she’d been savoring for the last several minutes. Every time she swallowed a mouthful, she felt another tentacle tapping gently at her lips, announcing its readiness to supply her some more of its ambrosial delight!
Right then she tried to open her eyes, but it was useless, as she couldn’t see anything! Her entire universe, her entire existence had become a mass of pleasure inducing tentacles groping and massaging her entire body!
Winnie tried to squirm her way out of them again, as she felt herself being gently spread-eagled by a number of those squirming appendages. Flexing her limbs against them experimentally, she felt that they had a steel like hold on her ankles and wrists. Normally she hated any kind of bondage, but now she was loving every second of it!
Slowly shifting her awareness around, Winnie became aware that a pair of tentacles were relentlessly assaulting her nipples with an endless circling and suckling. A part of her mind shifted to the pair of tentacles that were now hammering her vagina with an alternating piston like invasion and retreat.
When one retreated, the other advanced, filling her to her upper limit of endurance. While simultaneously, a third tentacle had taken residence up inside her anus, twirling endlessly to and fro, driving her pleasure to an ever-higher plateau.
‘Where am I?’ she thought suddenly in desperation! ‘How did I get here?’ she said, trying to rally herself.
‘No! I mustn’t allow this!’ a small sane part of her mind spoke, resisting. Slowly, she began to fight back against the sensation of Chocolate, and Tentacles. ‘Fight this Winnie! This isn’t right!’ her ever reducing sanity screamed silently up at her.
‘How long? How long have I been here?’ she asked herself, as she futilely struggled against her bonds once more. “It seems like forever now!” she howled, but there was no one nearby to hear her.
‘The teleporter!’ she remembered finally! ‘I was below the malfunctioning teleporter!’ she recalled. Despite the ever-mounting levels of pleasure that her inherent demonic nature demanded, Winnie felt her mind latching onto the thought of the teleporter as a means of escaping her predicament.
‘Wait!’ she ordered herself, as she valiantly focused her thoughts. ‘I can still sense the teleporter, it’s nearby!’ she said to herself, feeling her Gremlin abilities rousing.
‘Yes!’ she almost screamed in joy as she felt her talents start to initialize. ‘A message! I need to send a message!’ she silently spoke rallying herself. Slowly, but with an ever-increasing level of her implacable determination, Winnie punched through her resistance, out into the controls of the malfunctioning teleporter platform.
Somehow, it felt near, yet so very far away at the same time!
‘No matter!’ she cried, ‘I must DO THIS!’ she mentally exploded in a paroxysm of Gremlin magic and survival instinct.
And it worked. Somehow, she was successful. Her mental command, combined with her affinity for all things magi-technical worked. Deep within the obscure and ancient command codes of the teleportation platform, a hidden subroutine was activated.
The effects were immediate.
The head of every Porter-Tech in the Teleportation Pavilion, shot around at the sound of Platform # 8’s unusual activation.
As opposed to the usual hum of a powering-up sequence, inevitably followed by the snap-bang of someone being transported. There was a screeching cry, followed by a small whirlwind twirling into existence over the platform’s surface.
The Pavilion Officer-in-charge, Dark Sergeant Andra, immediately shouted out a warning and attempted an emergency shut down of all of the platforms.
Alas, to no avail. For when she made the attempt, every single control system panel froze up. Cursing momentarily, she uselessly smashed a fist onto her own misbehaving panel.
What happened next, surprised even her jaded Salamander eyes.
For within platform number eight’s whirlwind, something appeared to form out of nothing. Andra’s eyes tried to focus upon it as she moved as close as she dared to it. But her mind refused to make sense of the item.
It appeared to be an oblong object floating in mid-air with crackling discharges of miniature lightning sprouting from it. Then, after several more seconds of coming into being, there was a final flash that momentarily blinded her!
Simultaneously, the whirlwind vanished, leaving the oblong object floating in the air for a second. Then it fell to the floor with a small ‘ker-thud’.
Dark Sergeant Andra cautiously made her way to the center of the platform, as she was the only one brave enough to do so. Once there, she toed the object that sat before her.
‘Wait!’ she thought, ‘it looks familiar!’ then she realized what it was.
“A Dildo!” she said aloud. “What the fuck is someone thinking, teleporting a dildo?!” she cried angrily. Waving away the warnings that came from the nearby Porter-Techs. Andra bent over and picked up the offending sex toy.
When she got a firm hold of it, it felt,…different. Curious, she raised it to her nose, after she noticed an odd scent. Sniffing, she soon discovered what the dildo was made out of.
“Chocolate?!” she cried in dismay. “Who the hell makes a dildo out of chocolate?!” she demanded.
But, her demands for explanation had to wait, as she sensed rather than heard, platform # 8’s activation sequence beginning once again. Instinctively, she leapt from the platform over to the control console.
As before, a purple whirlwind formed, and within a few more seconds, another chocolate dildo appeared out of nowhere.
Andra was dumbfounded by the spectacle. She flinched when a subordinate reached out and placed a paw on her shoulder.
“What should we do, Dark-Sergeant?” implored a Red Oni.
Andra thought for only a second, then replied.
“Contact Command, tell them we have a situation.”