Something heavy was on her.
Goldfeather buried her head into the pillow, shifting her weight around as consciousness slowly returned. She had a restful sleep, a rarity in her profession, but something didn’t feel right. She moved her leg, searching for the cooler regions of the bed, only to find it bumped another’s.
“Sorry, did I wake you?”
Goldfeather craned her head to the side, opening one eye to the man above her in a quizzical fashion, who grinned sheepishly back.
Now she understood.
The man atop of her simply smiled and kissed her cheek.
“Sorry. I saw you sleeping and I just couldn’t resist,” Eidan responded.
Arching her back, she raised her butt against him like how a cat would, wincing as several popping sounds emanated from her spine.
“You could have at least waited for me to wake up,” Goldfeather groaned.
In truth, she didn’t mind at all.
Waking up in a warm bed after a restful night’s sleep was indeed a rarity, but even more so when it came to Eidan. She had no idea how long their relationship would last this time.
Inevitably something would drive them apart.
Goldfeather pushed the thoughts out of her head, and instead focused on the tender kisses Eidan placed along her neck and down her back, his rhythmic thrusting causing her to elicit gentle moans from her lips.
“What time is it?” She groaned again, closing her eyes, hugging her pillow as Eidan gripped her ass tightly.
“Just after dawn. I don’t think anyone is looking for you.”
It was an invitation to stay in bed. Laying in each other’s arms and fucking all day was a tempting idea but she had her duties.
She was the Captain of the Royal Griffon Knights.
“I have to be at the barracks soon.” She protested weakly.
“They can wait.”
“I have to review drills today.”
“They can drill themselves.”
Before she could reply back, Eidan launched a furious assault to her weak spots, nuzzling his head into the crook of her neck and nibbling on her feathered ears. The way he stirred her made her head feel fuzzy, and she was content to lie there and relish in the pleasure. And perhaps, she told herself, she could afford herself this one little instance of selfishness. Her Knights would most likely be grateful for a reprieve from the daily monotonous training they underwent; the newest recruits would, at least. The more veteran Knights spent their training dueling each other, testing their skills and strengths against one another.
And she was the favored opponent.
“Mmmm,” Was all she could muster in response.
A sudden and furious knocking on her chamber door however disrupted their love making. Goldfeather turned towards the sound of the disturbance.
“I’ve got it.” Eidan said, kissing her cheek as he withdrew himself from her.
Goldfeather immediately felt a longing emptiness, annoyed that someone had interrupted their precious moment together. She would never openly admit such a thing to him; she was too proud to ever admit such a thing. She had worked hard attempting to mold herself in the image of a strong, self-reliant warrior. It was only in front of him that she could afford to lower her defenses and let herself be coddled. She didn’t mind being petted, hugged, or called cute by him.
So long as it was him.
And she was still a girl after all.
Biting her bottom lip, she waited impatiently waited for him to return, her tail whipping back and forth, slapping against the bed noisily. It was only moments later she realized that Eidan had failed to put on any clothes when he had dismounted her.
“Eidan!?” she yelped in panic, bolting upright.
He returned just as quickly as he pulled away from her. He carried in his arms a tray bearing what looked like fresh fruit and water. He smiled innocently at her, all the while still nude, his phallus still erect and glistening with her bodily fluids.
“I’ve got breakfast!”
Goldfeather’s eye twitched as she watched him put the tray down on a nearby table.
“Eidan,” she began trying to remain calm, “You can’t just answer the door… my door… naked! People will talk about this!”
“Oh relax,” he said, popping a slice of apple into his mouth. “It’s not like anyone doesn’t already know about us. Plus it was your aide that delivered the food. I think your Knights know to keep a tight lip.”
She sighed buried her head into her pillow once more. His carefree attitude grated her sometimes. Most of the time. And the thought of her aide, who had answered the door expecting the noble Captain of the Royal Griffon Knights and was instead greeted by a naked man made her want to curl up and die from embarrassment. The poor girl must be traumatized.
“Still. The last thing I need is more gossip talking behind my…. Eidan, what’s wrong?”
Goldfeather had watched him pick up a small letter from the tray, his expression turning sour with disgust. He chewed thoughtfully, holding the letter gingerly in his fingers as he presented it to her.
Goldfeather’s feathered ears perked up.
The Candlelight Vigil were the loose network of spies and informants fully sanctioned by the King and his Spymaster. They’re official responsibilities were to gather information and report any potential threats to the crown, and their duties extended far beyond the boundaries of the Kingdom. The common public believed that they were everywhere; posing as bakers, ferrymen, the tavern keeper’s daughter.
They could be anyone.
And though the Royal Griffon Knights and the Candlelight Vigil both served their liege and the Kingdom with the upmost loyalty and were on the same side, even she had her qualms about them. While the Royal Griffon Knights proudly served in the light dutifully and with honor, the Candlelight skulked in the shadows and weren’t above using despicable means to an end.
But as Knight, her dealings with them were rare.
She plucked the letter from his fingers and examined the wax seal; three lit candles embossed in deep red wax. With a tug, she broke it and removed its contents.
“You don’t want to read it?” Goldfeather asked questioningly, surprised that he didn’t show any hint of curiosity towards its contents.
He shook his head.
“You know how you always tell me not to stick my nose into trouble?”
He turned his attention back to the bowl of fruit below him.
“Well, that’s just trouble.”
Goldfeather didn’t feel the need to pry further and instead turned her attention towards the letter, the contents of which, were as much as she expected as much from an organization of spies.
Short, vague, and demanding.
Having finished, she folded the letter and brought it over to the now diminished candle that she had lit the night before, it’s smoldering wick easily catching the paper on fire. She let the burning remains drift lazily to the floor, watching the flames lick and eat the paper away.
“A mission?” Eidan asked.
Eidan shifted uncomfortably and only sighed.
“Shouldn’t do it. The things those guys do would make your skin crawl.”
Goldfeather shot him a disapproving look. She had a duty to the Kingdom and its people. If another organization, no matter how skulking or shadowy they were and sanctioned by the King himself were to ask for help, who was she to refuse? She was a Royal Griffon Knight, bound by duty and honor. And she was prepared to do her duty, even if it should require her to fly into the jaws of death itself. Before she could remind him of that, Eidan interrupted.
“Sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
A silence descended between the two of them. She knew that he worried about her and no doubt thrusting herself into danger made him worry even more so. But still she thought, it should have been the other way around. She was more than capable of taking care of herself.
The sole reason why she joined the Royal Griffon Knights was to grow stronger to protect him.
It was a strange feeling, seeing the young clumsy farm boy she fell in love with, now a battle scarred adventurer. She didn’t believe half the stories he told of his adventures. The other half, she didn’t want to believe.
At least she understood how he felt about her.
“Any idea how long you’ll be gone?” He asked suddenly, interrupting the silence.
“No. The letter sounded important though.”
“Yeah. Well maybe it’s for the best.”
He joined her on the bed, embracing her in a tight hug, while Goldfeather gave him a quizzical look.
“I also got a letter. From an old friend.” Eidan explained.
“I was thinking about paying him a visit. Just a quick hello for old time’s sake.”
She gave him a concerning look, afraid that he might go off gallivanting on some other adventure.
Eidan smiled and hugged her reassuringly, as if sensing her uneasiness.
“Relax. I’ll be back long before you return. I still got to finish my deal with that witch.”
Goldfeather nodded, remembering that Eidan was in service to a witch in the city in exchange for replacing an eye that he had lost in one of his previous adventures. She leaned against him, intertwining her fingers with his as they simply sat and enjoyed each other’s company.
“I don’t suppose,” he began, “that you’ll be flying to wherever your mission is, do you?”
Goldfeather smiled wryly.
“Of course I will be. Why else do I have these things?” she said, wagging her body from side to side to emphasize her wings.
“Oh good.” Eidan said happily. “Because once I’m done with you, I don’t think you’ll be able to walk or ride.”
Confused, Goldfeather raised an eyebrow at him. “What. Why?”
With a devilish grin, Eidan rolled atop her and pushed her down with a pomf.
“Well, if you’re going to be gone for a while, and I’m going to be gone, we might as well enjoy the time we have now.”
Goldfeather eye’s winded at the prospect at what was going to happen next. Already she could feel his erect phallus pressing against her.
“But-but I have still have to review drills.” She weakly protested.
Eidan seemed to consider for a moment, but then ultimately shrugged.
“They can wait.”
It was later in the day that Goldfeather was able to muster her knights for the mission, and after flying overnight, she and her company were nearly at their destination. In the end, she chosen a dozen of her knights to accompany her rather than a full company, allowing them to travel faster and attract less attention. Her knights flew in formation beside her, flying in two separate V-shaped squads with scouts flying ahead to ensure the path was clear.
Travelling along the coast always brought a certain joy to her; riding the warm air currents allowed her to fly with ease, only needing to flap her wings with the barest hint of effort to stay aloft. But she couldn’t fully enjoy it as a worrying feeling grew inside of her. She constantly replayed the contents of the message over again in her ahead.
Travel to Pelavan with upmost haste and await further orders.
Now that her head was clear of thoughts of…other needs, she was finally able to mull over her mission.
The Free City of Pelavan was a merchant republic, located on a peninsula between the Kingdom and Imperium. It was a major trade hub and hundreds of ships sold their cargos and plied their wares from the greater nations and even beyond the Great Sea. Pelavan was an epicenter of mixing cultures and peoples and one needn’t look far in the hundreds of bazaars and trade markets that flourished there.
It was famous for being one of the most prosperous cities in the world, which was rare, as both the Kingdom and Imperium had attempted to either annex or conquer the city-sate at one time or another. In the end after numerous wars and sieges, all attempts had failed and both great nations had agreed to “allow” the city to exist.
Though Pelavan seemed like a haven, it was infamous for taking pride in the fact that their entire society revolved on one singular aspect.
Their laws, their government, and even their way of life centered on profit. Slavery had been abolished and they even claimed to have eradicating organized crime and even the infamous Thieves’ Guild.
It was a strange society by any standard, but it made them wealthy and respected.
But it wasn’t her destination that worried her.
Something in her gut felt wrong.
Why would the Royal Griffon Knights be needed in Pelavan, a city that was more than capable of taking care of its own problems? What could possibly necessitate the use of some of the most elite knights in all the land?
Her first inclination was that somehow the Candlelight Vigil had gotten themselves into some trouble and needed to be rescued, though she quickly dismissed the idea. The Candlelight Vigil would never allow themselves to be caught, much less need rescue. After flying for hours she finally came to the conclusion that no matter what reason or purpose she could devise, in the end, she and her knights were simply being used to some greater end.
And that, Goldfeather thought, was what she hated the most.
Her duty was to her King and country. Should it be called for she would gladly lay down her life.
But if a group of skullduggery spies demanded it, she would have to politely tell them to go first.
It wasn’t long before signs that they were approaching the city began to appear. Small fishing boats began to appear in greater number, sticking near the coast while larger trade ships with their massive white sails could be spotted further out in the ocean, their wakes carving a bath in the deep blue behind him. It was easily clear as to where these ships were headed, and appearing out of the mist of the clouds, Pelavan appeared.
The city was smaller than that of the Kingdom’s capital, its grey stone towers rising impressively high into the sky. Dull green shingles topped many of the towers, though some were unadorned, collapsed inward and left jagged; a clear reminder of the past wars. The harbor bay itself was packed with ships, leaving Goldfeather to wonder how such massive vessels didn’t end up bumping into each other all the time.
But what was most impressive about the city was its location. The entire city was built into the side of a massive unassailable cliff, providing a natural refuge.
With a hand signal, Goldfeather motioned for her knights to descend and drop to the ground.
Upon landing, she and her knights submitted themselves to the gate guards. They showed no reaction to their arrival and went about their routine of logging their entry and confiscating their weapons.
For the interest of public safety, no foreigners were allowed to bring weapons inside.
From the corner of her eye, Goldfeather noticed one of her knights, gripping her sword reluctantly while a guard waited patiently with an outstretched hand.
“Give them your weapon,” Goldfeather ordered, undoing her own sword belt. “We’ll get them back once we leave the city.”
The knight looked at her apprehensively, a look of defiance on her face.
“It’s an heirloom,” She said defensively. “And I refuse to walk around a foreign city without it.”
“Just give it to them,” another griffon said behind her. “We’ll be getting new ones anyway.”
With a frustrated look, she began to undue her belt as well. Goldfeather let out a sigh and proceeded to relinquish her weapon to the guards. The last thing she wanted to do was cause trouble.
She eyed the metal rod slung behind the guards green jacketed backs.
It was the reason why city had been able to maintain its autonomy for so long, even against the might of the Kingdom and the Imperium.
As to how the Pelavan obtained such a weapon was only a mystery.
With their weapons confiscated, Goldfeather and her Knights passed through the stone archway and city gates, finally entering the city. No sooner that they had, a griffon knight appeared by Goldfeather’s side.
“Your orders, Captain?” the dark haired griffon asked in a practiced manner.
Second in Command to the Royal Griffon Knights, and leader of the First Company of Griffon Knights.
A year ago, Goldfeather had always imagined that she would be the one to assume the leadership of the Griffon Knights. She would have never suspected that the position of Captain would instead be passed to her. It was even more surprising that no one had voiced their protest at the decision.
After countless sorties, missions, and battles, Goldfeather had at times doubted that decision. She had often wondered whether Amelinne would have proved better suited for the position. She was a born leader, level headed, and came from a venerable noble house, unlike her own more humble origins. Even Amelinne’s visage paid homage to the Griffon Captains of old; her dark brown hair was woven was into a tight braid and her great white wings gave her an almost angelic appearance when she flew against the morning sun.
Whether or not Amelinne ever showed disapproval of her command, Goldfeather’s never noticed. Amelinne was famous for her taciturn, professional demeanor. If she ever had to think of a perfect soldier, it could only be of Amelinne. One would imagine it would prove difficult to get along with such a reserved person but strangely, Goldfeather found her to be of perfect company.
“First we-“ Goldfeather started.
Before she could finish her sentence, she and her knights were suddenly charged by a mob that seemingly materialized out of nowhere. In other any other situation, the surprise attack would have caught Goldfeather and her knights completely by surprise, causing untold mayhem in such a sudden brawl.
Instead, Goldfeather steeled herself to the traditional Pelavan welcoming committee; the hawkers.
“Fresh food and warm baths at McGavern’s Tavern! We’ve got the softest beds in the city! Easy access to-”
“Need a sword? The Sabin Brothers in West Market Square forges the best steel at discount-“
“The Sabin Brothers are shit! Burgenwier Armory produces quality swords and armor from the purest metals-“
“Are you tired of polishing your armor, working your elbow down to the bone? Hi, I’m Baily Mayz, and I’m here to tell you about my wonderful new product, the Poli-Bright!”
Goldfeather held her hands up, leaning away from the variety of goods the shouting men were thrusting into her face. Every foreigner that entered the city always found themselves targeted by some group of Hawkers. From soldiers, to tradesman, the Hawkers waited to pounce on whoever entered the city. There was even a group for the pious, who offered the services of the churches and peddled religious artifacts. Goldfeather was used to it at this point. This had been her third time coming to Pelavan and she had learned to deal with the marketers. From the corner of her eye, she caught Amelinne’s impassive gaze.
She smiled and gave curt nod.
Staring with her, onne after the other, the griffon knight’s suddenly unfurled and splayed their wings to their fullest lengths, ushering a gust of wind that threw a cloud of dust, sending the hawkers scurrying away. A mean trick, but an effective one for dispersing crowds Goldfeather learned.
She tucked her wings back in and turned to her knights.
“Alright. Keep your wits about you. If this is your first time in the city, keep to the main streets. And if you get lost or feel something is off, take to the skies. Even in a city like this, danger still lurks.”
With her properly knights advised, Goldfeather turned towards the busiest market street and proceeded to lead her knights into the bustling crowd, secretly hoping that she wasn’t leading them all into a trap.
Pelavan was first and foremost a place of commerce, and its lively bustling market streets were a clear sign that business has been good. All manner of people ranging from all walks of life haggled and bargained for whatever goods the merchants had laid out, each hoping to gain a more advantageous deal over the other. Everything from strange exotic foods to trinkets and potions were all laid out on either ragged carpets or crudely made make-shift stands. Trinkets and baubles were of no interest to Goldfeather’s attention, as she wasmore focused on the people they passed by. Adventurers, knights, peasants, common citizens, and even the evidently clear but odd eccentric noble made their way through the streets.
But intermingled with them were even odder sights.
And not just the accepted kin of Cats or Kikimora, but actual real monsters.
She couldn’t help but gape at the sight of a hellhound, barely clad in leather scraps as it hungrily eyed a meat seller’s stall. Lamia hissed together in their own language, absentmindedly trying on clothes as pedestrians simply stepped over their tails as if they were used to such an occurrence. Even the sight of a massive foreign Oni with its brightly hued crimson skin barely drew the interest of the crowds. Such sights would have raised the local militia to arms back in the Kingdom, but here it seemed their kind was more tolerated. In fact, Goldfeather noticed her own appearance hardly drew any attention whatsoever; a stark contrast to the looks of awe and admiration she routinely received back in the Kingdom.
“Keep a sharp eye,” Goldfeather called out behind her. “I don’t want us getting separated or distracted.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw several griffons rush to hide something behind their back or look away. She shook her head and sighed. Though they were knights, Goldfeather had to remember that they were also still girls of noble birth. And for some of her present company, this was their first time to the massive mercantile city. She herself had acted much the same way when she first came to Pelavan on a mission.
“Come. Let’s go find some weapons.”
Goldfeather led her company of knights towards an open style shop that had a number of swords and armor displayed for sale, the steel keenly polished to no doubt catch the eye of any who walked by. Ignoring the armor, Goldfeather and her knights began to peruse through the racks of swords. Most were of poor quality compared to the weapons the Royal Griffon Knights carried. She didn’t expect to find high quality steel at a street vendor but then again she didn’t need it. The weapons were temporary and would only need to serve their purposes while they remained in the city. As soon they departed, they would be able to retrieve their original weapons back at the city gates.
One by one, the knights began to choose their weapons, picking out whatever suitable steel that lay hidden in the junk. Goldfeather chose an arming sword; shorter than a longsword, but easier to handle and better suited for fighting in the tight confined spaces of a city street. It wasn’t pretty. Its blade was tarnished and it had been worked on and repaired several times over. But it was balanced and at least its edge was sharp. Whatever lay before them would be dealt with just the same as if they had been armed with the finest blades of the Kingdom.
Finding that the blade had no scabbard to go with it, she turned her attention towards a woven basket that had an assortment of mismatched and discarded scabbards. But before she could reach down to rummage through it, one was handed to her.
“Here, try this one.”
She turned to find a young man with brown hair tied back into a short pony tail, and a humble smile that stretched from ear to ear. The large leather apron he wore descended down to his feet, and combined with his lanky stature, made it appear as if an upright log was talking to her. By his appearance, Goldfeather had taken him for a craftsman. She smiled back and accepted the scabbard from him, finding that her arming sword fit quite snuggly. She began to equip the blade around her waist.
“My thanks, kind stranger,” Goldfeather said being polite.
Most griffons of the Royal Griffon Knights came from the nobility. And like all nobles, they viewed the common folk and the peasantry with varying degrees of disdain or apathy. But unlike the nobles, she held no ill will towards them.
After all, she had once been like them.
“Don’t mention it,” he smiled happily in a typical Pelavan accent. “Whenever I see a pretty girl in need, I just can’t stop myself from helping out.”
Goldfeather couldn’t help but laugh at his audaciousness. It was rare she met a peasant that was brave enough to approach a knight, let alone try and flirt with one.
“And a flatterer. Be careful, that tongue of yours might get you into trouble someday,” Goldfeather warned jokingly.
She held out her hand for him.
“I am Captain Goldfeather of the Royal Griffon Knights,” she said, formally introducing herself.
A look of awe flashed on his face before he took her hand, shaking briskly with both hands.
“A pleasure to meet you my lady! I’m Matthias, Chief Branch Officer of His Majesty’s Candlelight Vigil. And truly, it is an honor to meet you.”
They smiled and continued to shake hands for several seconds before Goldfeather began to process what he had said.
“I’m sorry, what?”
She watched in astonishment as the man before her seemed to almost transform. He rolled his shoulders back and stood just a bit taller. Suddenly the mild mannered, if not overly friendly, craftsman disappeared, and in his place was a man that seemed entirely too confident for the clothes he wore.
“Did you think we wouldn’t notice a group of Griffon Knights come strolling through the front gate?”
Even his accent had disappeared.
“You’re a spy?” Goldfeather gaped.
“Ooh…well,” Matthias said scratching the back of his head, suddenly bashful. “We prefer the term, ‘unsuspecting observers’.”
It was then that Goldfeather noted that several of her knights were now paying attention to their conversation.
She sighed. Working with spies was not in her repertoire. She preferred planning attacks and leading charges, not dealing with the intricacies of spycraft.
“So what is it exactly that you need from us?”
“Well actually, we’re a little behind schedule,” he said a bit louder for her knights to her. “So if I could have you follow me, we can continue our meeting at a more suitable location. As for your knights, I’ve already prepared accommodations for them on the north side of the city; a certain Viscount’s summer home who’s currently away. He won’t mind. I’m sure your knights could use the respite.”
Goldfeather thought it over for a moment before nodding. They’ve been flying almost a full day now and even her wings were starting to feel heavy.
“We’ll be fine. We can finish paying and follow you.”
Goldfeather looked over to find Amelinne and several other griffons standing beside her, ready to depart with them.
Mattias seemed to regard them for a moment before clapping his hands together.
“I appreciate your enthusiasm, I really do, but the whole point of a secret meeting is that it’s supposed to be a secret. I only need your Captain.”
Amelinne didn’t respond and stood her ground, eyeing down the man with an intimidating gaze that would have caused a wild boar to wither in fright. To his own credit, Matthias only smiled pleasantly back, undeterred.
“It’s fine.” Goldfeather interjected, breaking the standoff. “You have the Knights. I’ll be back shortly.”
Amelinne mechanically tilted her head to the side.
“I believe your earlier orders were that we were not to be separated, Captain.”
Goldfeather couldn’t help but smile.
“Then I’d expect nothing less than a daring rescue mission if anything should happen to me.”
With introductions out of the way, Amelinne led the griffon knights away to their temporary base while Goldfeather began to follow Matthias through the winding city streets. As Captain of the Royal Griffon Knights, she was privy to a number of secret meetings and councils and was more than familiar with the lengths gone for the sake of security and secrecy. No doubt they would cross over several streets or retrace their steps to throw off any pursuers. It what she would do at least. To her utter surprise however, they instead stopped in front of a tavern at the end of a street corner.
“We’re here,” Mattias proudly announced as he pushed open the door for her.
“Surely this isn’t it?” Goldfeather said, confused. “Shouldn’t we practice a bit more…discretion?”
Matthias sadly smiled and ushered her in. “Unfortunately, the time for discretion has long since passed.”
Goldfeather frowned at the thought of conducting a secret meeting in a tavern.
‘Hardly the most secure location,’ she thought.
She strode inside and to her astonishment found it completely empty. No patrons, no tavern keeper, or even for that matter, chairs or tables. In the dim light, there was only one round table situated in the middle of the otherwise spacious room, with four chairs placed around it and four plates of hearty looking tavern food prepared and placed in front of each.
In one chair, a man wearing a hooded brown cloak was already eating, ignoring Goldfeather and Matthias. He wore his hood pulled tightly forward to hide his face with only his well-groomed beard clearly visible as he miserly ate from a plate of food.
Matthias walked around her and took a seat next to the hooded man.
“Help yourself to the food, though I apologize if it’s cold. We’ve been waiting for some time.”
Gingerly she took a seat across from them, making sure that her wings and armor didn’t catch on anything. To say that she was confused was an understatement. She watched as the two men wordlessly enjoy their meal. It was some time before Matthias seemed to remember her existence.
“Oh! Sorry,” he exclaimed, wiping his mouth. “Where are my manners? This gentleman over here is my esteemed and worthy counterpart from the Imperium. My organization isn’t quite sure what his real name is or even if he has one, but we’ll callhim Beardsly for now.”
The bearded gentlemen barely looked up from his meal.
“Don’t call me that.”
“Oh you love it,” Matthias shot back. “If you didn’t like it, you would have shaved off that thing years ago.”
Goldfeather ear feather’s suddenly perked up.
“Did you just say he was from…the Imperium?”
For centuries the Imperium had been at war with the Royal Kingdom, with the very last war nearly destroying half the continent. Both sides agreed that any further escalation could very well destroy everything they had known and to that end, imposed peace. A great swathe of land was ceded from each side, creating a buffer state between the two great nations in the hope to prevent future conflicts.
In reality, the newfound territory had been rendered inhospitable through war; the careless use of arcane contamination and sheer destruction had rendered the land worthless. Those that could retreat back into the safety of the greater nations did, while those that couldn’t fled to what major settlements remained.
Today the Free Territories were just as lawless and ruthless as they were when they were first created over a hundred years ago. City-states constantly fight each other for resources, warlords ravaged the lands, and their troubles always seem to spill back into the Kingdom and the Imperium, giving Goldfeather and her knights plenty of work.
And though neither side had since declared war with each other, the Kingdom and the Imperium still clashed from time, with the reasons just the same as they were a hundred years ago.
Matthias however seemed unfazed by her concern.
“At times our two peoples do have their fair share of…disagreements,” he began. “And at any other given time we would be happy to play our little games of subterfuge, assassinating diplomats, seducing each other’s wives, and the like.”
He leaned back in his chair and looked over to the bearded man, expecting a response from him. When he offered none, Mathias only shrugged and and turned his attention back to her, his tone suddenly serious.
“But in times of danger, even the greatest of enemies must work together to overcome an even greater threat.”
Goldfeather watched them for several seconds, her mind wracking with all manner of possible explanation as to what was happening.
Again and again, she could only think of one.
“Is this a trap?”
“Believe me,” an icy voice called out. “If this was a trap, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Goldfeather’s heart sank.
There was only one person whose voice could instill such a mixture of fear, hate, and as much as she didn’t want to admit it, respect. Descending down the stairs of the tavern was the last person she wanted to see. Even in the dim light, her black-blue hued scales seemed to glimmer, as if they were just as finely polished as the ornate dragon embossed armor she wore.
Syernia, the Stibnite.
Captain of the Imperium’s Dragon Knight Corps.
The Black Death. The Dreadknight.
Her greatest rival and enemy.
Goldfeather bolted upright, throwing her flying behind her.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Matthias also stand and raise his hands and begin to say something, but she paid him no heed.
The enemy was before her and she had to react.
She didn’t even realize she had already drawn her sword and assumed a defensive stance. She was too busy trying to assess the situation. Syernia was a fierce fighter, even more so when the two of them spotted each other on the battlefield. Strangely however Syernia made no move against her.
Slowly, Goldfeather began to realize that something was off about Syernia.
The Imperium Captain only smiled and took a long swig from the mug she held.
“Oh please,” Syernia said dispassionately. “If I wanted you dead, I’d have done before you reached the city.”
Goldfeather could only gape as her mortal foe simply ignored her and took a seat at the table, leaving her standing there looking very foolish.
“As I was saying,” Matthias began. “Before we have any further misunderstandings, Captain Goldfeather, are you aware of the First Pledge?”
“The First Pledge?”
Goldfeather struggled to remember. Diplomacy was a part of her training, as it was important to remember all the treaties, pacts, honorable agreements, and those who did or didn’t abide by them. Such things were important to her, but more often than not, she had more practical things to worry about; like training her knights.
Matthias answered for her.
“In the event of great peril, all nations, no matter if enemy or ally, shall set aside all grievances and work together,” he explained. “Well, actually it’s much more wordy than that, but you get the picture.”
Goldfeather took a deep breath and relaxed her stance. “And what peril would that be?”
Matthias motioned to the last empty chair.
“If you would sit down, and with all parties equally represented, I can explain.”
Begrudgingly, she sheathed her sword and placed her chair next to Syernia, taking extra care to keep an eye on her. The dragon only leaned back and smirked.
“Can we finally get on with it? You damn spies have kept me in the dark for three days now, and I was already annoyed before you dragged her into this,” Syernia said, motioning to Goldfeather.
Goldfeather ignored her.
“Could you please tell us the meaning for all this?”
Matthias sat back down in his chair and motioned for the bearded gentlemen to speak next.
What he said made Goldfeather’s heart drop to the pit of her stomach.
“The Demons Lord’s Archmage is currently in the city.”
It was several seconds before anyone spoke next.
There were only five Archmages throughout the world. The Kingdom had one, the Imperium had its twins, one ran a school in the Free Territories.
And the Demon Lord had its own personal Archmage.
All of whom were capable for great and devastating power.
“Impossible,” Syernia said breaking the silence. “If that were the case, why are we all still here? Why hasn’t the city been reduced ash yet?”
“I agree,” Goldfeather said, inwardly kicking herself for agreeing with arch-enemy. “If that were the case, someone would have known. The Pelavan would have locked down the city or deployed their own mages.”
“In fact…” Goldfeather said thinking. “If this is true, why aren’t the Pelavan here with us now?”
The sound of the two men eating was all that could be heard before the bearded gentlemen barely raised his head from his plate.
“Can’t be trusted.”
“We have no idea if the Pelavan are working with the Archmage and even then, they can’t be trusted.”
He began to happily cut into a piece of meat as he explained.
“If the Demon Lord and the Lich King were to walk hand-in-hand to the city gates and announced that they would consummate their unholy matrimony atop the smoldering ruins of the city…every single flower girl and wine seller would still try and make a profit off of it.”
Seyernia chuckled at the thought, but all Goldfeather could do was close her eyes.
This was too much to be taking in.
At most she had expected to be rescuing some spies or doing some fighting, not contending with mages that could call forth lightening and spew fire and death with a snap of their fingers.
“That still doesn’t answer the question of why we’re here,” Syernia interrupted.
“An Imperium Dragon Knight’s duty is to clear the skies of bird-brains, not fight wizards.”
“And a Royal Griffon Knight’s duty is to clear the skies of flying lizards.” Goldfeather aggressively shot back.
“Enough, enough,” Matthias said raising his hands, trying to quell the tension between the two. “We have called you here because the Archmage still hasn’t made his move yet. Though we may have a reason as to why.”
Once again the bearded gentlemen spoke.
“The Tanreef Centennial.”
“Yes,” Matthias sighed, pushing his plate aside.
“The Tanreef Trading Company is celebrating its Centennial Anniversary in a few days’ time. It’ll be a lavish event. Fine dining, nobility, rich and influential dignitaries. A perfect place for a disaster to happen, wouldn’t you say?”
Syernia shifted uncomfortably in her chair.
“And you want us for guard duty?” she asked dryly.
“To some degree. Half of your forces will guard the event from the outside but the other half will attend as guests of honor; we’ve already made the arrangements. If everything goes as planned, then the Archmage won’t know what hit him, and hopefully we won’t have need of you,” he explained.
“If it doesn’t go as planned, than your mission is to get our people out as quickly as possible.”
Goldfeather’s eyes narrowed.
“And if the worst should happen what should we expect?”
For the first time, the bearded gentlemen looked up from his plate.
“Then a fight, obviously.”
The Imperium Dragon Knight simply nodded her head.
“Well if that’s the case, then why call the feather heads?” Syernia said, indicating towards Goldfeather.
“I can understand Dragon Knights. Were impervious to magic. So why them?”
Goldfeather’s fought the urge to offer a retort. Although indignant, Goldfeather was also eager to hear the reason.
“Firstly,” he began, “You’re not impervious, you’re resistant. A bolt of aether down your throat will kill you just as easily as any other creature. Secondly, because this mission requires a basic amount of trust and cooperation if we are to succeed.”
He leaned forward, tenting his fingers as the addressed both of them.
“We are dealing with the Demon Lord. Whatever grievances we have, no matter how petty, we set aside until we eliminate this common threat to us all. Just as we’ve done in ages past. ”
Matthias then turned his attention towards Goldfeather.
“And lastly, because Captain Goldfeather’s record speaks for itself and her prowess and ingenuity always seems to catch everyone off guard.”
“Indeed it does,” The hooded man said with just the barest hint of ire before returning to nurse his meal.
Goldfeather suppressed a grin. Syernia however was less impressed and simply scoffed. She drained the contents of her mug and slammed it down on the table.
“Fine. Let’s just get this over with. The sooner I can get out of this fish-reeking city, the better.”
For the next hour, the four continued to discuss the details of the plan. Or at least they were supposed to. During that time, Goldfeather’s frustration only grew as only the two spies still refused to explain how exactly they were going to deal with the Archmage. It was clear the knights only had their part to play and anything else regarding the plan needn’t concern them.
She huffed angrily.
She hated the idea of her knights being used like a tool, of not knowing what they were getting themselves into.
Fighting mages was one thing, but the Demon Lord’s very own Archmage?
At this point, and as much as she hated it, there was nothing more she could do but prepare for the mission ahead and place her trust in her new allies; even if they were dubious spies and her own country’s mortal enemies.
Goldfeather’s next destination was a merchant that would provide her knights with the necessary equipment for entering the Centennial. They had come to the city armed and armored, prepared for battle; not attending formal balls. They would need to look the part of invited guests, and that meant dresses, jewelry, and the accompanying flair displaying their status.
She scanned the shops that lined the busy street trying to find the one that Matthias said would be her contact. To her dismay, only a few had written signs. Many used the traditional spool and thread denoting a tailor, while some of the more prosperous shops instead used brightly colored banners with intricate symbols or emblems in them, most likely imitating the banners nobles used. She tried these shops, ignoring their pushy attempts to try and sell her fine expensive cloths. She had nearly lost all hope when she finally arrived at the last shop, located directly next to the docks, having almost mistaken it for a warehouse.
Boxed crates and various oddities were stacked precariously high and she could have sworn some stacks were teetering on collapsing. Carefully she maneuvered her way inside, taking extra care to keep her wings tucked lest she cause an avalanche. As she moved further inside, she could see a variety of dockworkers busy moving or unloading boxes. They were far too busy to pay any attention to her, so instead she focused her attention on a lone figure standing in the back.
“Excuse me,” she said, approaching the blonde haired kitsune absorbed in reading a piece parchment. “Do you work here? I’m looking for someone that’s been expecting me.”
The rather short kitsune looked up from her parchment with a look of mild surprise as she regarded the larger griffon.
“I suppose that’d be me then!” she said happily, setting aside the parchment and extending her hand.
“My friends call me Kitch! I’m the proud owner of this emporium!”
Goldfeather looked at her hand for a moment before embracing it.
Like many of her kin, Kitch was the embodiment of the kitsune; Beautiful, exotic, and just a bit too free spirited, her golden tails fanning furiously behind her. Of what little she knew of kitsune, she did remember that a kitsune’s status was denoted by how many tails they had; the more powerful, the more they had. At most Goldfeather was able to count out at least five, meaning that Kitch at least had some worldly experience.
A nine-tailed kitsune was supposedly regarded as a god.
“An honor to meet you then,” Goldfeather replied. “I was told that you could help my knights and I prepare for the Tanreef Centennial.”
In truth she was quite surprised.
Goldfeather had taken her for another worker, but now that she stood before her, what she had mistaken for a workman’s apron was actually an elegant deep green tabard dress, with intricately designed faint golden embroidery that spiraled throughout the fabric. The cloth alone must have cost a fortune.
“Ah, the Centennial! It’s supposed to be the biggest event this year! Anyone whose anyone is going to be there, myself included of course.”
Goldfeather tried not to squint at the amount of pride that beamed off the young kitsune’s face.
“And you need something more appropriate for the occasion, hmm? Nothing more unflattering than showing up underdressed at a party.”
She stood on her tip toes and tapped Goldfeather’s chest plate with a finger.
“Or for battle.”
“That much is true.” Goldfeather agreed. “I need something suitable for my knights, whatever you have on hand. I’ve been told that price wouldn’t be an issue.”
At those words, the kitsune’s ears perked up and her eyes widened in a look of ecstatic glee.
“Well why didn’t you say so!? What are you looking for? Any particular style? Have you considered concealed weapons? Oh! Don’t forget jewelry too! I’ve got some Benitoite that I might be willing to part with if -“
“That’s more than fine!” Goldfeather interrupted, taking a step back from the passionate kitsune.
“I just need something practical for my knights. I think that would be acceptable.”
The kitsune frowned over her response.
“Fine,” Kitch said after some deliberation. “But it’ll be the height of fashion! I have my own reputation to worry about too, you know! I won’t let the Royal Griffon Knights show up to the biggest party of the year wearing nothing but curtains and ship sails.”
Goldfeather flinched at the memory.
But seeing as nothing she could say to the kitsune would dissuade her, she kept silent.
“But so long as you’re here, we might as well try and find something for you. I’m sure I must have something in this mess.” Kitch said, walking past her.
“It’s hardly worth the trouble. I can return when-“
The kitsune stopped and looked back curiously.
“Is something wrong?” Kitch asked.
Goldfeather struggled to remember how words worked.
“It’s just that…your…”
At a loss of words, she couldn’t even begin to describe what she was seeing. What was supposed to be the back of the young kitsune’s dress, simply didn’t exist. There was nothing covering the kitsune’s backside except for a few simple straps of cloth. Her cream colored skin and golden tails exposed for all the world to see.
Kitch looked down at herself and suddenly laughed.
“Oh, right. You’re probably not familiar with the kitsune’s traditional clothes.”
She lifted her tails, exposing her bare bottom.
“In my homeland, this is actually quite common. It’s the best way to show off our tails, don’t you think?”
Goldfeather however immediately looked away, clearly more embarrassed than the kitsune, who only laughed at her reaction. How anyone could walk around like that in public was beyond her, she thought. The kitsune, still smiling, let her tails drop, which conveniently hid most of her rear and delved deeper into the warehouse.
“I’m hoping these will really take off. If you like it, I can have one made for you.”
“No! No. That won’t be necessary.” Goldfeather said, still in shock.
She followed the kitsune further in, all while she tried to stare at anything but the kitsune’s backside.
“I just want something that’s a bit more….modest.”
She nearly bumped into the kitsune who had stopped dead in her tracks. Confused, she watched as Kitch slowly turned around and began to stroke her chin.
“Modest, hm?” She asked with a devilish grin. “I think I can do modest.”
The alcohol made her eyes water. She stifled a grimace as the hot liquid burned its way down her throat.
‘Modest,’ she thought to herself. ‘No one in this damn city understands the word modest!’
“Another.” Goldfeather demanded, handing the glass off to the kikimora servant.
She quickly traded her empty glass with a filled one and prepared to down its contents as well.
“Er, Captain? Are you alright?”
Goldfeather looked back at the smaller griffon and then back at her drink. She let out a sigh and placed it back onto the silver tray.
So much for trying to steel her nerves.
The Centennial was in full swing, and as Mathias had said, it was indeed a lavish event. A dizzying amount of golden ornamentation littered the great hall, boasting one hundred years of the Tanreef’s collected wealth. Massive crystal chandeliers hung across the ceiling, illuminating the hall with a brilliance display of light. The food alone was so plentiful and catered, that a starving commoner might have shunned the sight for fear it was a demonic trick. It was as if all the affluence in the land had been assembled for this one event and it was not limited to things.
Lords and ladies, trade princes, and foreign dignitaries, mingled about, each adorned with precious jewels and finery, each flaunting their wealth and status as if they were brightly colored song birds attracting a mate.
It made her sick.
She was no noble.
She gained her station through blood, work, and sweat. She once was nothing more than a farm girl, who constantly starved, itched from lice, and wrestled with pigs and barnyard animals.
Mud was her make-up, and straw was her bed.
She was peasant.
So she sought a better life.
Not for herself, but for her family, and ran away to join the Royal Griffon Knights.
And although she had gained a noble title and had the ear of the King himself, she still felt like an outsider. To her, the nobility were capable of great deeds and were worthy of respect. But more of often than not, most nobles she met seemed more concerned about protecting and abusing their status.
And this occasion was no different.
“I hate this place. I hate this mission. And most importantly,” she fumed.
“I hate this dress!”
The nobility had indeed come wearing the height of fashion but apparently styles had changed since the last time Goldfeather attended one of these events. She had made it her hobby to avoid such social gatherings. She had no idea how far the aristocracy’s depravity had fallen.
Her dress consisted of two alabaster pieces of cloth that were simply held together with thin gold chains and revealed entirely too much. The first piece of the garment hung from around her neck but a thin slit ran up from the middle ending just a little too high for her liking.
And it did nothing to hide her ample cleavage.
The back piece however was even worse.
It was only connected with four thin gold chains that felt would snap at any second and worse yet, it only partially covered her rear, leaving all of her back and the the top of her bottom exposed. She took extra care in keeping her tail down to protect what little dignity she had left. But there was nothing she could do about the sizeable gap between the two pieces, leaving her sides bare for all to see and revealed one interesting fact that appeared to be the theme of tonight’s choice of wear.
She wasn’t wearing underwear.
In fact, all the dresses were equally suggestive. Alluring gowns and garments that freely exposed elements of the body only reserved for a lover’s eyes. Leg slits ran all the way up, necklines plunged down towards the navel and beyond, and it all seemed that the slightest breeze could threaten an unintentional peek. But no matter the movement or act, the pieces were so expertly designed and crafted that it almost seemed impossible to let anything too obscene slip.
And each one teased the notion that the wearer wasn’t wearing any undergarments.
“You shouldn’t say that Captain. I think you look rather nice in it.”
Goldfeather looked over to Tillia.
The much younger griffon knight came from a respected, if not eccentric, noble house. No doubt she grew up with such things as commonplace in her life.
Tillia’s own dress was far more tame in comparison.
It was a deep burgundy gown that hung off her neck and hugged her body tightly, save for two slack pieces of cloth that were merely draped over her breasts. The dress ended with two magnificent slits that brazenly showed off her legs and even bits of her pelvis but nothing more. It once again harkened the fact she wasn’t wearing undergarments. Goldfeather would have gladly traded dresses if she could, but trying to avoiding hardships did not set a good example for her knights to follow.
She would handle this burden head on. She could not show weakness even now.
She was still Captain of the Royal Griffon Knights and an honored guest. No doubt people were readily judging her every move. It was imperative that she remain stoic. Goldfeather was a representative for her people and she would not fail them here. She’d just have to put up with the dress for now.
“I think I should warn you though…” Tillia leaned in, interrupting her train of thought, “…to watch how you stand. They did a remarkable job polishing the floor.”
Confused, Goldfeather turned to Tillia, who pointed at the floor in front of them trying to hold back a smile. Goldfeather followed her gaze only to find her own reflection staring back at her in the highly polished marble floor. At first she could find nothing wrong with it, until she finally saw what Tillia was referring to.
She slammed her legs together.
Nope. She hated this. This was a terrible idea. If she ever found Kitch, she would kill her.
She could already feel her face burning up while Tillia tried and failed to suppress a snicker.
“Don’t worry Cap, I think you look wonderful in it.”
“And how could you not feel embarrassed wearing these things?” Goldfeather yelped with a hint of panic in her voice.
Tillia look at her quizzically.
“This is pretty much normal for us. We wear the same things back home.”
She made an effort to twirl around in her dress, letting the fabric cascade around her.
“Even though I have to admit these are much more airy.”
“I just don’t think I’ll ever understand how you can accept all this debauchery as normal,” Goldfeather sighed
“Well I can’t speak for everyone else here, but we are griffons.” she explained. “There’s nothing shameful about us.”
She sidled up close to her.
“Plus, didn’t you have your nude portrait done not too long ago?”
Goldfeather stared down the presumptuous young knight but she only smiled, feigning innocence.
“Let’s just focus on the mission, shall we?” Goldfeather said, changing the subject.
After all, this was just one layer to the plan.
While half of the Griffon and Dragon Knights attended as guests inside, the rest patrolled the grounds outside. If something were to go wrong than they would evacuate as best they could. Goldfeather already assumed the Dragon Knights would prioritize their own citizens first, even if they were supposed to be working together
She gave her own knights explicit orders to save as many as they could, no matter the nationality or social standing. Enemy, ally, noble or not, they were all still people.
Still, she hoped whatever plan the spies had worked. She didn’t even want to imagine what would happen if they failed and they had to fight an Archmage. She shook her head and pushed the thought away. She would deal with that bridge when she came to it.
For now, all she could do was wait.
She watched the party goers mingle and chat with each other, oblivious of the fact that one of the most dangerous beings in the land plotted to destroy them at this very moment.
“Excuse me my ladies, might I intrude upon you for a moment?”
Caught off guard, Goldfeather turned to find a well-dressed man in white and gold addressing them, his jewels and clothing almost immaculate as his jet black shoulder length hair. He wore a ceremonial jewel encrusted sword at his side and the leopard pelt he wore across his shoulder suggested military flair.
“I happened to be blinded by a light of such radiance and beauty that I was compelled to follow it to its source, where I appear to have been ensnared by the most beautiful creatures of the land.”
Goldfeather’s eyes twitched.
“Tillia,” she said, leaning discreetly over to the short griffon. “Who is this?”
“Allow me the pleasure of introducing myself,” he interrupted. “I am the Count of Mont Diaco, Erbil Hamelin Di Belle, a loyal and humble servant of the crown, and your eternal admirer.”
He bowed low, exaggerating his movements with great flourish. He held out his hand for Goldfeather to take, as was tradition when one made such a formal greeting, but she kept her arms crossed.
“And what is it exactly that want?” Goldfeather asked with an almost irritated tone in her voice.
The count recovered almost effortlessly and once again held out his hand, running his free hand through his silk black hair and letting it cascade back in place.
“Why, to ask such a divine being to a dance! Such splendor cannot be wasted standing idly by while the night is young! The beauty of the noble Goldfeather knows no bounds and my heart cannot help but weep to see you so mournfully alone tonight.”
Goldfeather silently stared at him, tapping her finger all the while. It was several moments before she spoke.
“Tell me Count, have you ever used that sword?”
“But of course. I am the King’s trusted general in matters of war,” he said. “And who knows? Perhaps we may have fought together on the same battlefield? If I had a guardian angel watching over me during those dark days, I can only attribute my wellbeing and success only to you.”
Goldfeather tried not to gag.
“Really? Because I don’t remember seeing you during the council meetings with the King and I.”
For the first time, the Count’s facade cracked.
“Ah, well, times of late have been turbulent. My attention has been turned to-“
“And why would you ever such a monstrosity of a sword? The thing is so gaudy, I wouldn’t even carve my meat with it.”
She doubted he had even commanded anything more than his own servants. It was not uncommon for nobles to imagine themselves as cunning generals when in reality all they had ever done in a war was dress up in ceremonial armor and let lesser men do the fighting for them.
“And to approach Royal Griffon Knight wearing a pelt of all things.”
The Count quickly looked down at the leopard pelt draped across his shoulder. She didn’t think it was possible his face could turn a paler shade of white than his clothes.
“I would commend your audacity if I wasn’t insulted by such barbarity. How about you Tillia?”
“Could have been my cousin for all we know, Captain,” Tillia seamlessly chimed in.
“Yes, this won’t do at all. At the very least some recompense must be made for the dead.”
She thought about it for a moment before finally settling on an idea.
“Your head will do.”
The Count visibly choked.
“I-I beg your pardon?”
“Or rather your scalp. I think that’ll suffice. I need new tassels for my banners you see, they get damaged very easily in combat, and I think your hair will work wonderfully.”
She turned to Tillia.
“Fetch me my sword, the sharp one, if you will.”
By the time she turned around, the Count was already gone, having hastily fled back into the crowd.
She looked back at Tillia.
“Who was that again?”
“The Count of Mont Diaco. I think,” Tillia grinned.
“Is he on the list of people we have to save?”
“I think so.”
“See that he’s rescued last.”
“Can do Captain,” Tillia happily saluted. “But do you think he’ll be mad?”
“More than likely. But they’re always like that. One moment, they tell me that I’ll never be welcome into their castle, and the next, they beg me to save them from a siege.”
Goldfeather looked back to the dancing and mingling crowd, afraid some other aloof suiter would try their luck with her.
“Come on, let’s move around at least. Better to present a moving target than be sitting ducks here.”
Goldfeather and Tillia easily parted their way into the mass of people. Though it was partly because of the span of their wings, it was also out of sheer awe. Guests marveled as the Griffon Knights strode across the floor, ushering hushed whispers and looks of admiration along with a few looks of disproval; no doubt Imperium sympathizers. And while Goldfeather tried her best to look stoic, inside she suddenly felt horribly vulnerable. Now she remembered why she sequestered herself off into a corner at the start of the party. Dozens of eyes bore down on her, studying her every movement and gazing over her barely clothed body, every step she took causing her breasts to bounce ever so slightly. She resisted the urge to cover her chest and continued to stride confidentially forward, concentrating on keeping a neutral expression.
Every step she took was a carefully planned.
Luckily for her, she could take solace in the fact that she wasn’t the only one so scantily clad. A number amount of monster girls were already in attendance. She spotted several elves wearing clothes that looked like they would fall apart if not for some magical force holding them together. Cat girls were happily chatting away without a care in the world, unfazed by the fact all corners of their breasts and thighs were easily visible under their revealing clothes. She even spotted an Anubis wearing her homeland’s traditional attire, with only a simple loincloth covering her lower essentials and a cloth harness covering her chest.
She even thought she spotted Kitch, but without seeing her backside, she couldn’t tell if it was the same kitsune or not.
But this all paled in comparison to who stepped in front of her.
Syernia had readily embraced the unique attire of the night, and her dress was the most risqué she had witnessed so far.
If it even could be called a dress.
She wore a collared piece, displaying the sigil of her knightly order, an emblazoned winged dragon. From this piece her entire outfit draped her body, displaying copious amounts of her flesh. The gold hems contrasted strikingly against the jet black cloth and her cream colored body.
Everything was left bare except for her nipples and nethers.
She smiled smugly.
“I’m surprised you showed up wearing….that,” Syernia said appraising her. “So conservative of you.”
Goldfeather noticed a hush silenced had suddenly descended around them, the attendees having backed away cautiously, leaving the three of them in a now empty circle. She understood their trepidations.
Two of the greatest warriors in the land from two rival nations, and by all regards the bitterest of enemies, suddenly meeting together like this could only spell trouble.
No one knew what they would do.
With a curt nod, Goldfeather dismissed Tilia and approached Syernia purposefully without a hint of fear.
“I can say the same for your outfit. Very audacious,” she said with the barest hint of sarcasm.
And although they were the bitterest of enemies, they continued to smile and exchange pleasantries and backhanded compliments. They talked about the food and clothes, the décor, and the highlights of the night. It was all meaningless empty scripted banter. But their idle chatter seemed to put the onlookers at ease and soon they continued about their own business.
All the while, the two never took their eyes off one another. It was Goldfeather that made the first real move.
“Anything…happen so far?”
She half expected the dragon knight to offer some witty retort or simply insult her. Instead, she watched Syernia shift from one leg to the other as if she considered the idea, but finally decided against it.
“Nothing so far. A few servants stuffing silverware. Some nobles getting into a shoving match over a girl. Nothing important yet. ”
Goldfeather nodded as the pair stood together now. She would have continued the conversation but it suddenly dawned on her that she had no idea what to say. This was her enemy after all. She didn’t make it a habit of having afternoon tea with people who tried to kill her on numerous occasions.
She gulped, unsure of what to do next.
Luckily, she was saved by divine grace.
“My, lords and ladies, if I may have your attention,” a booming voice called out.
Goldfeather along with everyone else in the golden hall looked up to the source, a simply dressed man standing at the top of the stairs. She took him for an announcer of some sorts, as his voice naturally carried weight.
“It is with great honor and privilege that the Tanreef Trading and Mercantile Company humbly introduces the ever most Holy, with Wings on High, Servant of the Gods, Haohi.
There was an audible gasp as everyone, including Goldfeather, watched in awe as one of the most beautiful beings she had ever seen slowly and solemnly entered the hall and descended down the stairs.
She would have mistaken her for an elf, if not for the light that seemed to naturally radiate off her, while her great white feathered wings almost dwarfed her in size by comparison. Wearing a simple red dress that complimented her pinkish hair, she glided effortless down the stairs. The sound of applauses and praises erupted throughout the hall as soon as her feet touched the floor.
Still awestruck, Goldfeather watched as the angel was soon swarmed by admirers.
“I’ve never seen an angel before.” Goldfeather said breathlessly.
“Don’t be fooled, though.” Seyernia said.
Goldfeather looked at the dragon knight, curious as to what she was talking about.
“I’ve heard of that angel before. Aloof and lazy, even by angelic standards. ”
She looked back to the angel through the mass of the crowd and suddenly noticed that while at first glance, the open navel dress appeared to be quite modest, it was far from it. The angel’s body was faintly visible underneath the dress, shrouded in an almost ethereal like haze of the cloth, but one could easily make out the outline of her frame. And although she couldn’t make out anything definite, Goldfeather could at least tell that she wasn’t wearing any underwear as well.
“Well, surely her presence here bodes well for us?” Goldfeather said hopefully.
“And since when have angels ever helped us mortals out? If you expect her to lift a finger tonight, you’re sorely mistaken.”
Goldfeather sighed. It seemed even divine intervention wouldn’t be able to help them.
“Which reminds me,” Syernia said, leaning in closer so that only she could hear.
“When the time comes, if you would be so kind as to not drag us down, it would be most appreciated.”
“You needn’t worry about us,” Goldfeather said, still watching the angel. “My knights and I are prepared.”
“I should hope so,” Seyernia replied. “The current knights you have are far more lax than under your predecessor’s command.”
At those words, Goldfeather’s head slowly turned back towards the black dragon knight, who continued to smile confidently.
Goldfeather stared aghast at her.
“Do you have a problem with how I lead my knights?”
Seyernia simply shrugged, still confidently smiling.
“Well, it’s just that your current generation of griffon knights are just so…disappointing. The Imperium Dragon Knight Corps has a much higher standard when compared to your knights.”
There was a sly glint in Seyernia’s eye as she glanced back towards Goldfeather.
“And most importantly, we don’t rely on luck.”
Goldfeather was left in shock, unsure of how to respond. In the distance, the announcer once again called for everyone’s attention, but she wasn’t listening.
“Do you have a problem with me?”
“My, lords and ladies, if I may have your attention…” the booming voice called out again.
“Of course I do,” Seyernia declared, turning to face Goldfeather. “The fact that we’re hobbled with you and your incompetent knights endangers the entire mission. We could have done it all on our own.”
“It is with great honor and privilege….”
“If you’re so confident in your skills than how about we settle this once and for all?” Goldfeather challenged, puffing out her chest.
“…that the Tanreef Trading and Mercantile Company humbly introduces…”
“Now that sounds like the first good idea I’ve heard all week.” Seyernia responded, thrusting out her own chest and pushing her breasts against Goldfeather’s, their faces just inches from each other.
The two struggled against each other, each trying to push the other back.
“…Eidan of the Graveyard.”
Goldfeather froze and buckled back. In an instant all her attention was devoted to one thing and one thing alone.
There, atop of the stairs and waving awkwardly to the crowd beneath him, was Eidan.
The guests payed no heed to him and there was no applause. Perhaps they were too busy fawning over the angel or perhaps they simply didn’t recognize the name.
But she did.
Mouth agape, she watched as her on-and-off lover descended down the stairs. Gone were his raggedy adventuring clothes, his strange collection of weapons and gear replaced with the classic yet refined attire of a country nobleman.
Having reached the main hall he looked around, as if he was suddenly lost and wondered where he was, before turning his attention to her direction. It wasn’t hard to spot Goldfeather’s trademark wings, and soon enough he began to make his way towards her.
All the while, she stood there dumbfounded before remembering her previous argument with Seyernia. She turned back to respond to the dragon knight but to her surprise, found that she was no longer there.
Goldfeather scanned the crowd, wondering where she could have gone before a voice interrupted her.
“Hey there, Cara.”
Goldfeather turned back to find Eidan standing before her, wearing his trademark boyish grin on his face.
“Fancy meeting you here.”
Goldfeather’s eyes twitched.
She had no idea how to respond to that.
So she followed her gut instincts.
And punched him in the arm.
“Ow! What was that for!?” Eidan yelped.
“What are you doing here?!” She hissed back. “How did you get here!? What are you even wearing!?”
Only when Goldfeather noticed that several people were watching the outburst did she relent and control her herself.
Eidan peeked through his arms before cautiously dropping his guard.
“Well, in that order…” he began, holding up a finger.
“I’m here because that friend I said who needed help is here. I got in here through hopping a fence or two. And I think I’m wearing a baron’s clothes. I don’t know, I didn’t ask when I knocked him out.” He finished off with an innocent smile.
Goldfeather’s wings splayed nearly to their full length, sending several guests scurrying backwards and eliciting gasps.
“You…you can’t just sneak in here!” Goldfeather barked.
“What and miss this?”
She followed his gaze and remembered the dress she was wearing. At first she wanted to cover herself but such a thing was impossible. Instead she withstood his gaze as his eyes traveled across her body.
For a brief moment their eyes locked with each other.
“You do look beautiful,” Eidan smiled honestly.
Goldfeather’s heart nearly flipped. How he was able still to do that even after they’ve known each other their whole lives, she’ll never know.
“I…no! That’s not important! I’m trying to work here!” She shot back, trying to hide her flustered state.
“Well nothing says I can’t help.” Eidan offered.
“I don’t need your help, I need you to…where is everybody going?”
Goldfeather noticed that most of the guests had cleared the floor around them, moving to the edge of the room while others had begun to pair off, embracing each other with choreographed precision.
The room had eerily grown silent.
“I think they’re getting ready for the main event,” Eidan realized.
“Right,” Goldfeather said. “Let’s get out of the way at least. I still want to know how-“
Before she knew it, his hands had wrapped around her waist, pulling her in closely into a tight embrace.
“Ei-Eidan….what are you doing?” she stammered.
Already she could feel her face warming up.
Now that she was so close to him, she saw that his hair was combed back, his stubble gone, and there was a subtle hint of perfume about him. She wondered if he had always been this tall.
Eidan gave her a reassuring grin.
“Getting ready to dance, of course.”
Goldfeather’s eyes widened in panic.
She tried to struggle but Eidan kept her firmly in his grasp, and with his leading hand, began to intertwine his fingers with hers.
“But…I can’t!” Goldfeather protested.
Eidan looked down at her curiously.
“You don’t want to dance with me?”
“It’s not that,” Goldfeather said, suddenly embarrassed. “Its just that…I don’t know…how.”
When she had joined the Royal Griffon Knights, she had not only been made a knight, but a noble as well.
Unfortunately for her, she later learned, it also meant acting like a noble.
Her training consisted not only of swordplay and aerial maneuvers but also etiquette and the proper mannerisms of someone of the higher class. Everything from speech, knowing how to bow and to whom, to knowing which fork to use during an eleven course meal had been drilled into her.
And as soon as it was over, she immediately cast out the lesson from her mind and focused even more on her martial training.
Dancing, she admitted, was not one of her strengths.
Instead of being deterred, Eidan held her even tighter.
“Well that’s perfectly alright,” he said leaning into the crook of her neck. “I don’t know how to dance either.”
Goldfeather looked up at Eidan to say something, but he who only winked and gave her a reassuring grin.
The words got caught in her throat as she forced herself to look away.
‘Damn him’ Goldfeather thought to herself, tail thrashing behind her. ‘Damn him. Damn him. Damn him!!’
They awkwardly stood in silence, waiting for the music to begin while Goldfeather fought against the butterflies in her stomach.
When the first dulcet note began to play, Eidan leaned in and whispered.
“Just follow my lead.”
Immediately, she felt herself become whisked off her feet as Eidan began to pull her away. She struggled to keep up, shimmying her feet from side to side in an effort to match his pace in a panic.
“Calm down, just feel the music,” he said reassuringly.
It was easier said than done. On more than one occasion, she managed to trip on her own feet and nearly stumble, only to have Eidan catch her.
“Try keeping your wings in, it’s easier if-ow- that was my toe.”
“Sorry,” Goldfeather apologized.
It was some time before she got the hang of it, and much to her own surprise, she was able to keep up with him. In hindsight it was simple. It some respect it was a lot like marching. All she had to do was copy him, flip the movement, and then do it in reverse.
How did she not realize that before?
The two of them soon gracefully twirled and danced about, following the constant rhythm of the music. Occasionally, they would nearly bump into other guests, and they would offer a quick apology before twirling away once again. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the circle of onlookers that watched, no doubt entranced at the sight of dragons, griffons, elves, and other beautiful scantily clad women gliding across the hall. She was mindful to keep her movements to a minimum, lest something unintended revealed themselves.
She nudged into Eidan.
“Why did that man call you ‘of the Graveyard’?”
“I fought in a graveyard once. No big deal.”
“Mm-hmm.” Goldfeather mused, not believing him for a minute.
“And where exactly did you have time to learn how to dance?”
“What are you talking about? I’m just making this up as we go along.” He said sarcastically. “But now that you mention it, there was this beautiful dark elf princess who-“
Before he realized it, Goldfeather had stomped on his foot, causing Eidan to yelp and slump in her arms.
“Get up you fool, you’re making a scene,” Goldfeather said as-a-matter-of factly, picking him up.
“I think you broke a toe,” he whimpered.
She rolled her eyes.
“Then perhaps your hand should stay on my back, and not on my butt, hm?”
Eidan chuckled as he recovered effortlessly and readjusted his hand to the small of her back.
“It really is a lovely dress you have,” he said, peering down at her.
Goldfeather saw his gaze and noted that it was drawn directly to her cleavage. As they continued dancing, she casually pressed her breasts against his chest.
“Enjoy it while it lasts,” she sighed. “As soon as this is over, I’m getting out of it.”
“After the dance? Or after the party?”
Goldfeather’s ear feathers perked up to full attention. She gave Eidan a disparaging look, as if she was scolding a naughty school boy and simply shook her head.
“Don’t try your antics with me tonight,” she said. “And don’t think I haven’t felt you poking into me.”
For emphasis she pressed her leg between his and felt a distinct stiffness press against her. To his credit, Eidan hid his reaction well as they danced, the sound of the music changing ever so slightly to signal the approaching end.
“Yes, well you see,” he whispered back, diving into the crook of her neck and breathing hotly into her ear. “I have this terrible problem that happens whenever I see the woman I love.”
He gently nipped her ear
Goldfeather couldn’t help but shiver. At the same time as song had reached its climax, Eidan ended the dance with a flourish, stepping away and spinning Goldfeather while the two still held hands, as if he was presenting her to the onlooking crowd.
The roar of the applause deafened the room, but to the keen observer one would have noticed the Royal Griffon Knight Captain breathing heavily, her eyes half lidded and hazy, as if a forlorn lover had whispered her a sonnet from the soul.
And if one was extra observant, her hardened nipples peaking through the sheer cloth.
Goldfeather breathed deeply.
“That was dirty.”
Eidan smiled and took her by the arm.
“Sometimes you have to play dirty to win.”
Goldfeather chose not to respond and allowed him to lead her away from the dance floor as more participants emerged from the surrounding onlookers, eager to join the revel. Some still remained, apparently not tired at all from the ordeal. She had no idea how they had the strength to continue.
“I need some air,” Goldfeather said, suddenly feeling uncomfortably hot in her already open cut dress.
“We can take a stroll outside,” Eidan suggested. “The night air was quite cool when I snuck in.”
Goldfeather allowed Eidan to guide her. They approached one of the massive framed panes of window with clear glass doors that lined the edge of the hall, leading outside. Before Eidan could reach out for the handle, a voiced interrupted.
“I’m sorry my lord, but the balcony and gardens are unavailable for guests tonight,” a stern looking kikimora maid promptly informed them.
Goldfeather was about to apologize when Eidan suddenly burst out in a strange manner of speak she couldn’t make heads or tails out of. It sounded like gibberish to her, but the kikimora’s stern expression suddenly melted away, and was replaced with one of genuine awe and admiration. She responded happily with her own gibberish before suddenly bowing excitedly and leaving them to their business.
“What did you say to her? Wait. What did you just say to her?” Goldfeather asked as Eidan began to open the paned door.
“Just a bit of Kiki I picked up.”
“You speak Kiki?” Goldfeathed gaped. She didn’t even know the kikimora had their own language.
Eidan flashed a wry smile.
“You’d be surprised what you could learn if you just take the time to listen.”
They stepped across the threshold and onto the balcony overlooking the garden. Just as Eidan said, the cool nightly air was indeed comforting. However, her interest was far more focused on the sight before her.
A hidden garden of perfectly angled hedges, flowers in full bloom, and intricately carved shrubbery lay before them. The dotting lights of fireflies illuminated the grounds and exotic plants glowed unearthly hues of blue and white; even the Kingdom’s Royal Gardens paled in comparison to such an enchanting sight. Just over the edge of the garden wall, the lantern lights of Pelavan dotted the horizon, floating orbs of starlight that perfectly mirrored the night sky.
“I didn’t know this was here.” Goldfeather said marveling at the sight.
“It’s easy to miss. They use magic to make the gardens bigger on the inside,” Eidan explained, sidling up to her.
“Really?” Goldfeather asked in astonishment.
“No, of course not. That’s just silly.”
Goldfeather’s look of wonder quickly faded and she rewarded Eidan with a quick jab at into his arm.
Eidan winced and rubbed the spot where she had hit him.
“You’re still as gullible as ever,” he laughed.
“That’s because half the things that come out of your mouth are either lies or fairy tales.”
It was true.
She lost count of how many times he had supposedly saved the world, rescued a princess from a castle, or returned some ancient treasure to its rightful home. Stories from adventurers were often exaggerated and Eidan was no exception.
“I can tell the truth,” Eidan replied. “For instance, I know the most beautiful girl in the world. And I know that her heart is as golden as her wings in the evening sun, and that no matter what I may say, there’s no one else I’d rather have at my side.”
Goldfeather tried to stifle her fluttering wings and writhing tail to little effect.
Eidan laughed, and whether it was directed at her expense, she couldn’t tell. She decided her next punch would go into his ribs if he continued his antics as they walked underneath the arched trellis. Flowering rose bushes climbed to an astonishing height on either side of them, opening up to reveal the garden before them.
She drew closer to Eidan, hanging onto his arm.
“This reminds me of home.” Goldfeather said, inhaling the earthy aroma.
“You and I have very different memories of home,” he said wryly.
“I mean when we weren’t knee deep in mud or wrangling pigs. Back when things were simpler.”
Before hundreds, if not thousands of people relied upon her.
They stopped at a patch of flowers, meticulously cared for and groomed to bring out the most vibrant of hues and colors. She leaned down to find a curious flower; it’s velvet purple and black hued petals particularly drawing her attention. She reached out to pluck it for herself but at the last moment, decided against it.
“I didn’t know you liked flowers.” Eidan said, peering over her shoulder.
Goldfeather scrambled up, suddenly embarrassed.
“I can like pretty things too.”
The way he smiled so innocently made her blush even more. Thankfully instead of taking the opportunity to tease her further, Eidan took her by the arm and they continued further into the garden. The entrance of the hedge maze was only a few steps away, and though its towering height was imposing, in reality it was quite simplistic. It was as if the gardener had grown it for its novelty rather than its purpose of confusing and trapping the curious.
Not that it really mattered.
She could fly after all.
“Well that was disappointing.” Goldfeather said, peering around the corner.“The exit is just right over here.”
Goldfeather couldn’t help but feel cheated. But then again, she shouldn’t have expected much.
She crossed her arms in mild frustration.
“Are you cold?” Eidan asked.
“Only a little.” Goldfeather noticed.
The cool night air had made her chilly. Of course, the fact that she was barely wearing a dress at all didn’t help much either.
Before she could respond, she felt arms wrap around her and pull her into a warm embrace from behind.
“Better?” Eidan whispered.
Goldfeather snuggled up to him, holding onto his arms.
“A lot now.”
She closed her eyes to enjoy the rare loving moment of bliss.
But only for a little while.
Something was rubbing her outer thigh, and upon investigating to see what it was, her eyes went wide in panic.
“Eidan!” Goldfeather yelped out.
“What is it?” Eidan replied as calmly as ever, still absorbed the tender moment.
She tried to struggle free but Eidan held onto her tightly.
“Eidan your thing is-“
“Hm? Whats wrong?”
“Why is…” Goldfeather paused, struggling to comprehend the situation that was unfolding.
“Why is what?”
“Why is your…cock out!?”
“Oh no,” Eidan said sarcastically. “How did that get out there?”
“This isn’t the time or place for…that!” Goldfeather hissed, craning her neck.
Over his head and above the hedge, she could see the lights illuminating from the balcony above them. If anyone else were to walk out and look down at the garden beneath, they would undoubtedly be exposed.
“You and I know both know there’s only one way to make it go away.”
Goldfeather’s feathered ears perked up. She became still and stared at Eidan accusingly.
“I’m not getting on my knees.”
Eidan began to nuzzle his face into the crook of her neck, planting kisses along the way.
“Well that does present a problem now, doesn’t it?”
Goldfeather rolled her eyes. All the while she could feel him rub his phallus against the exposed part of her outer thigh. Begrudgingly, she reached down and carefully grabbed hold of the shaft and began stroking.
“You better make this quick,” Goldfeather warned, feeling the hardened object throb in her hand.
“That depends on you.”
She took those words to heart and worked faster, continually pumping his phallus. Eidan began to explore her body, letting his hands and fingertips travel along the sides of her body. She shivered at his touch, the sensation combined with the exhilaration of doing such a lewd act in public with the fear of being caught made her heart skip beats. It wasn’t long before Eidan’s hands easily found their way into her dress and began to grope and squeeze her breasts. She barely managed to stymie a moan as his cold fingers began to tweak her nipples, causing her to squirm against him.
“You’ll never get me off at this rate.” Eidan taunted her.
Goldfeather shot him a look that made Eidan instantly regret what he had just said.
With renewed determination, Goldfeather adjusted herself so that his cock nestled comfortably between her thighs and began to slowly grind her butt against his pelvis.
Instinctively, Eidan grabbed ahold her hips.
With the skill that could rival that of the highest pedigree of courtesan, Goldfeather rubbed her supple thighs back and forth across Eidan’s shaft, gyrating her butt in slow circles against him. Now it was Eidan who couldn’t contain himself, his breathing becoming more ragged as he became helpless against her assault. He followed every twist of her hips, matching her movement with his own. It wasn’t long before Goldfeather’s concentrated movements began to falter as Eidan began to assert control and thrust between her thighs, his phallus rubbing against her already slickening entrance.
Goldfeather knew what was going to happen next.
She didn’t resist as Eidan pushed against her back, causing her to lean forward slightly as Eidan’s cock easily sheathed itself into her. For once, Goldfeather was actually thankful for the design of the dress. With nothing to move out of the way or take off, she suspected that this was perhaps the true design of the dress. The thought quickly dissipated as Eidan began to drive into her, slowly and methodically at first.
Her heels, specially designed for her lion-like paws, made her almost the perfect height for his angle of thrust. She couldn’t help but experiment, lifting her leg slightly to take the full hilt of his cock, each of his careful thrusts making the slightest of mewls escape her lips.
With one hand on her hip and the other on her back, Eidan pushed her forward more. The further she leaned, the more the pleasure increased, and soon careful lovemaking was replaced with carnal fucking. Eidan held tightly onto her hips as they began to time their thrusts together faster and faster. For a brief moment she was afraid that Eidan’s uninhibited thrusts might send them both tumbling over in a heap. As if reading her mind, he reached out and grabbed her arms holding her up, and she was left helpless bent forward as he had his way with her. Her fear soon gave way to elation, as the newfound position allowed her to relax and arch her back and tuck in her wings. Even though Eidan’s hips bounced furiously off her ass, she trusted he would hold her. They hadn’t fucked like this since they were teenagers, hiding from their parents as they fucked behind the barn. The way Eidan’s cock stirred her up turned her mind into a muddled mess of euphoric pleasure that she wanted to last forever.
“Where…do you want it?”
Goldfeather barely registered the question, her mind still inundated with carnal bliss. She wasn’t thinking clearly as she tried to process a response.
“Not on the dress.” Goldfeather moaned with her head down.
There was a pause as Eidan began to speed up
“…on the dress?”
“Not on the dress!” She shot back, closing her eyes and biting her bottom lip in a smile.
As if on cue, she could feel Eidan’s cock throb and with a few forceful thrusts, deposit his load deep inside of her, sending her over the edge as well. He entire body shuddered, her great wings vibrating as she rode the wave of pleasure through its entirety. She could feel his hot cum beginning to fill every crevice inside of her. Seizing the opportunity, Goldfeather rose and twisted around, pulling the back of Eidan’s head down and kissing him, allowing his tongue to mingle with hers.
It was some time before the both broke away and after taking a few haggard breathes, Eidan withdrew from her and with choreographed precision the two wordlessly began to tidy themselves up as if nothing had ever happened. Eidan began fixing his clothes while Goldfeather rotated the stiffness out of her shoulders before looking down to find her breasts had somehow gotten free. She tucked them back into her dress before beginning to smooth out the supple fabric.
“I told you not to come in me,” Goldfeather said with just a hint of ire.
Eidan raised his hands apologetically.
“Hey, you told me not to come on the dress. I was just following what you said.”
She could feel his seed within her, filling her to the brim. She didn’t really mind. Though the more she thought about it the more annoyed she became. Now she’d have to concentrate keeping her legs together lest they walk back into the hall leaving a trail of semen behind her. She inspected her legs carefully to find that not a single drop of his seed had managed to blemish her flesh after their impromptu love making.
She held a brief smile at the fact that she was able to take his full load.
Arm in arm, the two left the small garden behind and made their way back to the balcony towards the door they had originally come through.
“I’m glad we at least we got that out of our system.”
“So am I,” Eidan agreed. “It’s been a long time since we had fun like that.”
“Don’t remind me,” Goldfeather sighed. “You’re definition of fun is too dangerous.”
“Oh c’mon, we didn’t get caught. And at most, that time we did it on the King’s Throne was-“
She tried to punch him again, but Eidan flinching was satisfactory enough.
“Good,” Goldfeather said feigning in innocent smile as they reached the top of the stairs “Let’s rejoin the party. Hopefully our absence wasn’t noticed.”
“…I think they might have noticed.”
Eidan had stopped and stared curiously at the glass windows. Following his gaze, Goldfeather saw the guests inside packed together as densely as possible, squeezed against the window, all of them trying to peer out outside and into garden. Slowly the sinking realization that the two had just put on a voyeuristic show for the entire party to ogle at dawned on her.
She could feel her knees beginning to buckle out of sheer embarrassment.
“What are they all staring at?” Eidan wondered aloud serious.
Goldfeather prepared to launch into a tirade at Eidan for his usual lack of awareness and denseness, but something was indeed wrong. Looking over the crowd, there was no laughter, gossip, or any signs of joviality whatsoever. Instead, all the party goers looked ominously out into the distance. Turning around, Goldfeather finally realized what had captivated their attention.
Out into the distance, the entirety of Pelevan’s docks were on fire.
A roaring flame illuminated the night sky in a haze of red and yellow. Great bellows of smoke blanketed out the horizon and obscured the very stars. Already the distant sound of tolling of bells could already be heard.
Several thoughts swam through Goldfeather’s mind.
Where did the fire come from? Who was responsible? Why did she only notice now? Was it the Archmage?
All at once, the entirety of her purpose in Pelavan came rushing back to her.
She had completely forgotten about it. A part her wanted to blame the social obligations of the party. A part of her wanted to blame the dress, of being wrapped up in the night’s events.
She wanted to blame Eidan.
In the end, she determined, she had just been careless. She should have been on guard.
And now they were all paying for her failure.
“Damn, that went up fast,” Eidan said, breaking her train of thought.
As if on cue, a gust of wind blew from above. An armored figured descended from the blackened sky and landed next to them.
“The dockyard warehouses are on fire!” Amelinne yelled her face covered in soot.“It’ll spread quickly if we don’t get it under control.”
“Nevermind that,” Goldfeather said, breaking free from Eidan.
Years of training kicked in, and Goldfeather effortlessly resumed her role as a commander. The least she could do now as make up for her failings.
“Our mission is to get these people out of the city. Start evacuating them to the rally points now.”
“Already done Captain. But there’s something you should know.”
Goldfeather looked back into the dance hall and saw a number of her knights beginning to take control of the situation, herding the guests away from the window. It was an odd sight to see her knights so scantily clad, assuming their duties as if they were wearing their full plate armor.
It was stranger still that she didn’t see any of the dragon knights doing the same.
Or any dragon knights whatsoever.
“The Dragon Knights have all gone off towards the fire.”
“They want to fight the Archmage. The ones flying with us flew fast and hard towards the fire. Tillia reports that Seyernia and the other dragon knights in the hall were arming up and were seen heading towards the flames as well.”
Goldfeather rolled her eyes.
Of course dragon knights would fight.
Guard duty and rescuing nobles were beneath them. The only two things that concerned them were glory and victory. They hoped to achieve both by killing the Archgmage, leaving Goldfeather and her Griffon Knights to evacuate the party guests alone.
“Fine. Get these people out however you can; Use wagons, horses, it doesn’t matter how. Don’t bother trying to fly them out one at a time, it’ll take too long,” Goldfeather ordered before turning towards Eidan.
“Eidan, you’re with me. Let’s see if we can’t convince the city guards to open the gates. Amelinne, If we have anyone to spare, get them-”
Goldfeather’s head whipped to over to Eidan, who stared transfixed at the raging inferno.
Eidan shoulders sagged as he let out a long sigh.
“I can’t join you. I have to go and take care of something first.”
Goldfeather blinked several times over, trying to comprehend what he had just said. Was this another one of his jokes? Did he seriously not comprehend what was going on?
“What? What are you even talking about?” she said at a loss of words.
“I’m sorry but…I’m needed elsewhere.”
Eidan turned away to leave.
Goldfeather couldn’t believe what was happening.
She reached out and grabbed his arm.
“Are you insane? What’s wrong with you?!”
“I’m sorry but I can’t help!” Eidan shouted back, almost throwing Goldfeather back by the sheer volume of his voice.
He quickly calmed himself.
“I have to go save my friend.”
Goldfeather struggled to think what to say to him, to convince him to stay. Everything about this seemed so wrong. And then it clicked. Something she should have realized from the moment she laid eyes on him that night.
Her grip slowly tightened around his arm.
It took three days on a hard ride, switching fresh horses constantly to get from the closest Royal border to Pelavan. How did he get here so fast, impeccably dressed, without a bead of sweat on him?
How did he find her, of all places, on this exact night?
“…why are you here?”
The silence that hung in the air was deafening.
And so was the realization.
“It can’t be…”
“Look,” Eidan said, laughing nervously. “It’s a long story, and I can tell you later, but I’m already late for-”
“You lied to me.”
“Well, only a little bit. You see, I was-“
“You were trying to distract me, to lure me away from the party.”
“I admit, that was my intention at first, but-“
Goldfeather tightened her grip.
“Are you working with the Archmage?”
Eidan looked away. He let out a long sigh and shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
“Yes. He is my friend. And I got to go help him.”
Before she could react, Eidan wretched himself out of her grip. She watched in utter disbelief as Eidan sprinted away and launched himself at the outer wall, scrambling over it and disappeared without a trace.
For the briefest of moments, Goldfeather was left speechless. The world froze before her. The only thing left was a slow beating that welled from within her chest and echoed in her ears. She first assumed it was her heart breaking. But it couldn’t be so, for this noise was calling to her, and it demanded an answer. Louder and louder it grew, Goldfeather wondered what could possibly be so deafening.
Her confusion slowly gave way to resolution.
They were drums.
It was the call of duty, something she had heard so many times before, and now was no different.
Goldfeather turned to Amelinne, her vigor renewed.
“Get those people out!” Goldfeather barked. “Get them out! I’m going after Eidan!”
With a single flap of her wings, she rose to an astounding height.
There was a criminal on the loose and justice to be dispensed. And she needed answers. Once she found him, she would get them, even if she had to beat them out of him.
She would get her answers, one way or another.
From the skies, the city looked relatively calm. The buildings closest to the fire were already being evacuated with greater efficiency than she expected. There were no stampedes of panicked mobs barreling down the streets and crushing innocents, but orderly lines being directed by the city guards. The fire itself seemed to be contained to the harbor district for now. Though there was no telling when it would spread. Errant coals and embers could travel far on even the gentlest of breezes.
Goldfeather turned her attention away from the fire and focused on the streets below her once more. With the eyes of an eagle, Goldfeather kept a watchful eye for Eidan’s figure in the streets, scanning every nook and cranny. It would only be a matter of time before she found him. She rubbed her arms and shuddered at the briskness of the wind upon her skin, the dress offering almost no protection for her. In retrospect, she should have gotten changed before going after Eidan, though it made no difference now.
Unless she wanted to fly around naked.
Movement below caught her eye. Turning her head, she spotted a suspicious figure hugging close to the walls and building rafters on a vacant street. Strange behavior considering that the fire still a ways off from where he was. She banked left, losing altitude as she descended upon the figure. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be two individuals, one of which was clearly hurt. He leaned against the other, hobbling along as the other looked back towards the sky.
Their pace quickened considerably as they hastily ducked into an alley.
Goldfeather followed, circling overhead and dodging high towers. Occasionally, she would spot them, clearly trying to lose her and clearly on the move. There was no point in catching them now. The alleyways were too narrow for her to maneuver and as long as she was flying she held the advantage. As soon as they reached a clearing, she could dive on them. A fully armored griffon landing forcefully upon an unsuspecting foe was usually enough to kill them, if not break their shoulders or spine. Even if she was unarmored, landing upon them would still send them flying.
And if it was Eidan, she would enjoy it.
Her chance finally came when she spotted them rushing madly to an open courtyard. She tucked her wings and dove forward, the rushing air deafening her ears and her tail shifted ever so slightly to prevent her from rolling. Faster and faster she soared, though the more she closed the distance, the faster the two individuals hurried.
They soon broke out into a run, and just as she was about to tackle into them, they suddenly disappeared into the ground. And at the last second she passed over them, Goldfeather saw the smiling boastful smile Eidan always war as he disappeared.
They had jumped into a well.
Goldfeather spread her wings and looped, losing much of her momentum as she twirled about and landed gracefully at the edge of the stone well. She hurried over and peered in, seeing only blackness.
It was smart move.
Underground was the bane of any aerial knight. She wouldn’t be able to fly, nor would she be able to fight as effectively. If the water was too deep, she’d most likely drown in the dark. The most logical thing to do was to fall back and assemble a team to go after them but that would take time and by then they would be long gone.
No doubt Eidan was counting on her to turn back and think like a Captain.
Not this time.
This time she wanted answers.
And nothing was going to stop her.
She held her breath as she jumped over the edge of the well, tucking in her wings as closely as she could as the fall took her. The fall itself was longer than she expected, and when she finally hit bottom, she was forced to spread her wings to balance herself. Luckily, there was more than enough room for her wings and the water wasn’t deep and only reached up to her ankles.
The one unfortunateness she would have to deal with was the darkness. Though Griffon Knights were capable of many feats, seeing in the dark was not one of them.
Goldfeather’s feathered ears perked up at the echoing voice. That was Eidan. Was he taunting her?
“Show yourself!” She called back into the darkness, her voice bouncing off eerily off the walls.
There was a painfully long pause he responded.
“Just follow the sound of my voice!”
Goldfeather took several breaths. What choice did she have? Cautiously she moved forward, her wings stretched out to follow along the wall. No doubt this was some underground canal built underneath the city.
Occasionally, Eidan would call out to her allowing Goldfeather to trace the source. She had no idea what Eidan was playing at. He could be leading her into a trap or perhaps he was just a distraction to trap her down here for hours.
She rounded a corner and to her relief spotted a source of light. She treaded carefully, making sure to avoid splashing as possible. As she got closer, she could see that the light came from a flickering small campfire built into alcove along the canal wall. And tending that fire, was Eidan.
Every fiber of her being told her this was a trap.
She would hold him down and beat him senseless until he told her what she wanted to know.
Just as she ready to pounce on him, Eidan looked up and their eyes locked into each other.
“…Well don’t just stand there, get out of the water.”
Eidan’s nonchalant, unenergetic voice caught her off guard.
“Tell me what’s going on Eidan,” Goldfeather demanded. “Or I’m going to hold your head underneath the water until you do.”
“Fine. Fine. Just come over here and get out first. It’s freezing down here.”
Alert for any more trickery, Goldfeather shuffled towards him, ready to pounce in any direction should the need arise. Instead, Eidan simply stood up and took off his country nobleman’s coat and offered it to her. For the first time, Goldfeather noticed how truly cold she was. She couldn’t even feel her feet anymore after trudging through the chilling canal water for what seemed like ages. Begrudgingly, she accepted the coat and threw it over her shoulders. She ignored Eidan’s offering hand as she stepped into the alcove and sat next to the fire.
She looked over her shoulder to Eidan.
Eidan scratched his eyebrow.
“Right, right. Uhm….”
He walked over and sat next to her, and pointed off to the other side of the small fire. There, slumped against the wall, was a rather sickly looking man. At first glance, he looked to be a nobleman, but something was off about him. It wasn’t the fact that he was nursing a wound on his stomach or the wizard’s hat the lay by his side. As best as she could describe, he just seemed ill-suited to the clothes he was wearing. It was as if a background character had stolen the main protagonist’s clothes and usurped his role.
“This is August Avonzio,” Eidan explained. “…the current Demon Lord’s Archmage.”
Goldfeather looked down at the man, slouched against the wall, who waved meekly at her with his free hand. Immediately, she knew what he had just said was a lie. The Demon Lord, supreme ruler of all Monster Girls, didn’t have a human male as its Archmage.
“And he also doesn’t know a lick of magic.”
“Oi!” The man called August interrupted, struggling to pull himself up.
“I know plenty of magic! They’ve got stories about me.”
“Oh please,” Eidan said, rolling his eyes. “If I wanted to hear about those stories, all I’d have to do is go to any of the brothels and-“
Both Eidan and the wounded August both stopped what they were doing at turned their attentions towards Goldfeather. Her talon pointed directly between Eidan’s eyes, quivering as she tried to control her anger.
“I am not in the mood to play games.” Goldfeather growled through gritted teeth. “I want answers. I want them now. And if I don’t get them now…I’m going to drag you headfirst through these sewers back to the surface, and then I’m going to drag you over every cobblestone I can find, until you give me answers.”
Eidan gulped and pondered her words. The gentle sound of the passing water and crackling fire were all that could be heard as the two stared at each other.
“You never mentioned she had such a kind disposition.” August said sarcastically.
“Shut up.” Replied Goldfeather and Eidan in unison.
Eidan looked away and rubbed the back of his neck.
“Alright, you want to know everything? Here is everything.”
He cleared his throat and began.
Apparantly, August was nothing more than a conman, a charlatan who managed to fool a great many people into thinking he was a wizard supreme. And through a series of unfortunate events, he had somehow managed to wind up as the personal Archmage to the new Demon Lord after having previous defeated the old one.
“…and after that, he got recognized in the city and couldn’t get out so, he sent out a letter to the only person who could help him.”
The entire time he spoke, Goldfeather stared at him with a blank expression. There were many facets of his story she didn’t believe but for every outlandish explanation Eidan provided, another seemed entirely possible. She sat on the opposite side of the fire, listening intently to him.
“So you mean to tell me that the old Demon Lord is dead…that all the wizards and mages in the world, the other Archmages, and both the Imperium and Royal spy organizations don’t know that this man is just a….fraud?” Goldfeather said, struggling to comprehend everything.
“Pretty much yes.”
Goldfeather shook her head
“I find that hard to believe.”
“Oh yeah sure, don’t mind me.” August said, abruptly, suddenly reminding Goldfeather that he had been sitting down the entire time between them. “I’ve just been bleeding my guts out here; not like I’d use magic to fix me up or anything.”
Goldfeather turned her attention back to Eidan.
“Is he going to be okay?” She whispered.
“Oh yeah, sure.” He nodded. “I patched him up before we escaped.”
“You should have seen the other guy.” August laughed. “Mage-Hunter. Sliced me up good, but he was scared shitless when he found out I could still do magic. Even with all his anti-magic bullshit. Here, watch.”
He rolled up his sleeves twirling them about to show that there was nothing hidden before he suddenly clapped his hand together. As he pulled them away, a single red rose materialized between his palms. He held it limply in his hand before tossing it away.
“Tah dah.” He smiled triumphantly, wiggling his fingers.
Goldfeather stared at him blankly.
“What? You’ve seen that one? Hold on, I have a deck of cards here somewhere…”
“So he actually doesn’t know magic?” Goldfeather turned to Eidan.
“Not a clue,” He replied, hiding a wry smile.
“So this whole thing…my mission, the party, everything. It was all because of a lie?”
“Well….not a lie. More like a…misunderstanding.”
“But what about the fire? Was that you too?” Goldfeather asked.
“Yes, but I got permission first before doing that.”
“August got caught in the city, pinched between the Royals and the Imperium, so he asked me to help. I got here quick as I could, and with a little negotiating with the Pelavan, I managed to strike a deal,” Eidan explained.
“I’d help them root out not one, but two spy organizations leeching off the city, and in return, I’d have the perfect distraction to smuggle August to safety. The warehouses were scheduled to be destroyed anyway. But I admit the fire spread much faster than I thought it would.”
Goldfeather leaned back.
Now it made sense. She had wondered why the citizens reacted so calmly to the fire and with such an orderly procession, not to mention the speedy response of the city guard.
It had all been planned.
“And as of right now, the Pelavan are cracking down on our little spy friends,” Eidan continued. “I’m sure most will have gone to ground or escaped, but at least we managed to disrupt them to some degree.”
“You mean you disrupted a Royal operation,” Goldfeather countered, remembering that it was the Candlelight Vigil that had first requested for her help. “Whatever plans they had, no matter how nefarious, in the end, it was for the greater good.”
Eidan couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Well speaking as an adventurer, I don’t hold any special allegiances to the King or the Kingdom. And I can tell you that the Candlelight are much more nefarious than you take them for, on that you can trust me.”
“And wow can I trust you?” Goldfeather questioned. “After how you lied to me? After how you tricked me?”
Goldfeather watched him grow despondent. His shoulders sagged.
“I had to,” Eidan admitted, refusing to meet her eye. “I had no idea how you would react. You were working the Candlelight. And we were being watched.”
“So you didn’t trust me?” She responded in disbelief. “How could you even say that?”
Eidan shot her a look out of the corner of his eye.
“What would you have done if you’ve known?”
“What?” Goldfeather replied confused.
“What would you have done if you’ve known? Throw me in jail? Kill me? Because that’s what you should have done,” Eidan said wringing his hands. “I was aiding an enemy of the Crown and an enemy of mankind…even if he is harmless. Would you have believed me? I wouldn’t have.”
Goldfeather didn’t know how to respond.
In truth, Eidan was probably right.
At first, she probably wouldn’t have believed him, attributing it to another one of his wild stories. But if what he said was true than she would have no choice to arrest him. It was her duty, after all. Another part of her would have simply ignored what he had said, and kept the information to herself. But would she endanger the lives of her griffons just for the sake of her lover?
She didn’t know.
She didn’t know what to feel right now.
Goldfeather wracked her brain to try and even describe her feelings.
Conflicted was a good place to start.
“So what does this mean for us?”
Eidan let out a long sigh and stared into the small fire.
“You know,” Eidan sighed. “Just once, I’d like to go back to bed with you in it.”
All Goldfeather could do was stare at him before turning her attention to the fire as well. She had lost track of how m any times they got into an argument, swore they’d never see each other again, only to wind up in each other’s arms once more. Was this another one of those times? In her heart, she didn’t want it to be. Not this time. She sensed that Eidan felt the same. His usual cocky defensiveness was unusually tempered. In the flickering flames, she could see the myriad of faint and tiny scars dotting his hands and face.
“I think you two should just get married and get it over with.” August suggested.
“Shut up!” Both Goldfeather and Eidan said in unison.
The two shared a brief smile before chuckling to themselves.
But something Eidan had said earlier caught her attention.
“What did you mean ‘being watched’?” Goldfeather asked.
“Oh, you didn’t notice?” Eidan said. “We were being watched the entire time at the Centennial; the spies had eyes everywhere.”
Goldfeather grew more apprehensive.
“So mean…when we were in the garden together…”
“Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.”
Goldfeather’s jaw dropped. If she had ever felt the most naked during tonight’s events, it was now. She pulled the coat tighter around herself and buried her face in her knees.
Eidan couldn’t help but laugh.
“Relax, they’re just spies. And were not so much of a secret, so no real harm done.”
Goldfeather instead opted to wrap herself in her wings and pretended to not exist.
Eventually the time came to depart.
Eidan and August made their escape out of the city, but not before Eidan promised that they would talk more once he returned. The words brought her some comfort, for at least they had decided not to burn bridges. Though she did wonder when she would see him again. Having said their goodbyes, Goldfeather reported to her comrades that she was unable to apprehend Eidan in the canals.
Or at least she would have.
With the Pelavan seemingly ousting the two spy organizations and with no sign of Mathias or the bearded gentlemen, Goldfeather was left as the highest ranking officer. And with the city still standing and all the guests safely evacuated, the mission, technically, was a success. There certainly would be repercussions but there was little chance she or the Royal Griffon Knights would face them.
All that was left was for them to return home.
But before they could, one matter had to be settled.
The Pelavan authorities had offered her a reward for her gallant actions at the centennial party in evacuating the guests. Goldfeather had the inclination to believe that refusing such a reward would have been even more detrimental to the now fickle relationship between the two nations, so she wholeheartedly accepted.
She should have listened to what the reward was first before accepting.
Goldfeather took a deep, shaky breath. Like countless times before, she put on a stern, stoic-like mask; a useful technique that helped her endure such otherwise traumatizing situations in the past, lest she look foolish and weak.
The reward was a luxurious stay at one of the most exclusive bath houses in Pelavan, renowned for its mystical healing waters. And although it was rare that she indulged in such luxorious, after last night’s events, she welcomed the notion.
She sorely regretted it now.
Having steeled herself, Goldfeather grasped the handle of the door and pulled it aside.
Immediately, she was enveloped in a cloud of mist and warm humid air wrapped around her body. With feigned calm, Goldfeather stepped inside, taking care to shift her body to the side to allow for her wings. The baths were apparently famous here, and already a fair number of visitors were already relaxing in the rejuvenating water. If she had been alone, perhaps she would have properly enjoyed it to her own leisure.
Unfortunately, the customs here meant that the springs were not separated by gender.
Men. Women. Adventures. Nobles. Monster Girls.
All relaxed and soaked in the waters together.
Only a small towel strategically protected her front, carefully positioned so her arms covered her breasts and the towel her nethers.
Everything else was left bare for all to see.
Already, Goldfeather could see eyes glance towards her. How could they not? Griffons were rare, and already she could tell some recognized her. She ignored them. She had too. Lest she crumple and shy away, begging for privacy and modesty. Instead, she turned and walked briskly and purposefully along the water’s edge, trying to ignore the occasional whisper or turning head. She wanted to badly to cover her rear with her wings, but even that would imply embarrassment. Instead she kept her tail firmly down and between her cheeks, intent to not letting it sway to reveal more than she could. Spotting a more secluded part of the baths, she carefully stepped in, trying her best to ignore the sudden wet heat of the near scalding water. Once again, she showed no emotion as she lowered the rest of her body in, only wincing ever so slightly as the water enveloped her body and reached up to her shoulders.
Having finally gotten into the water, she finally allowed herself to relax, satisfied that at least her body had some hint of privacy in the waters. Her brief moment of respite was interrupted by a cough directed in her direction. Goldfeather turned to notice an older woman sitting further away point to the towel on her head. Confused, Goldfeather looked at her for a moment before noticing that everyone in the waters either had their towel on the head or none at all. Nude bodies sat along the edges of the baths or in the steaming waters, uncovered for all to see. She could even see a few erect phalluses of young men who flirted with giggling girls who teased back without a care.
Goldfeather looked down to the towel that still covered her chest and cursed the strange customs of foreign lands. With trepidation, Goldfeather took the towel and folded it neatly and placed it atop her own head. Hot water dribbled down her hair and back as she sat naked in the water for all to see. She at least made an effort to close her legs, but nothing could be done to avert the eyes that stole occasional glances towards her direction.
‘I wish, they didn’t float,’ Goldfeather cursed her breasts as they bobbed in the water.
“You shouldn’t be embarrassed. They are quite lovely,” A sing-song like voice spoke.
Goldfeather recoiled as warm water splashed her face as another figure dipped into the waters next to her; a figure without blemish or markings and great white wings that seemed to radiate light and splendor on their own. Goldfeather was left in complete awe. She didn’t know whether to stand or bow. Instead, all she could do was stare at the strawberry haired figure.
An actual angel was sitting next to her.
The winged creature turned and ran her eyes over Goldfeather’s body.
“You know, your portrait doesn’t do you justice in the flesh,” she smiled, resting her arms to the sides of the spring without a care in the world. Goldfeather noted the number of faces turned towards their direction now.
“It is an honor to meet you, your grace. I didn’t mean to-“
“Oh please!” The angel interrupted suddenly. “No need to hold formalities with me! I find it much easier to mingle with people without all the divine statuses and conventions.”
“O-Of course.” Goldfeather said, flustered. “Then allow me to introdu-“
“Oh I already know who you are, Captain.” The angel said, once again interrupting her with an enthusiastic smile.
“It is I that should be introducing myself to you. I’m actually a huge fan of yours. My name is Haohi.”
Goldfeather remembered that name. She was the angel that was at last night’s party. She was amazed that even without the dress and jewelry, the angel could look even more beautiful. Perhaps it was just a feat that all divine beings were capable of.
“You’re a fan of me?” Goldfeather she asked in disbelief.
“Yes! In every which way so. Your struggles, your achievements, your insecurities-Oh! And you and your boyfriend! Such a cute couple.” Haohi said in a playful tone.
Goldfeather gaped at her. She was used to praise. It was always heaped on her. But not from angels. Not from the divine. The only interaction she had with angels was when they announced the next Heroes to fight against the Demon Lord.
“I’m honestly amazed how you and the Graveyard ended up together, though perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised,” Haohi continued. “Growing up together under the same roof, looking out for each other, exploring each other’s bodies.”
She sighed longingly.
“Mortals are such fascinating creatures. I envy you at times.”
“Hold on.” Goldfeather said. “I’ve heard that before. Eidan of the Graveyard. They said that last night.”
“What does that mean?” Goldfeather asked “Why do people call him that?”
Haohi turned to Goldfeather, wearing a look of utter disbelief.
“Oh. You mean he didn’t tell you?”
She stared off into the distance for a brief moment, deep in thought before she turned to address Goldfeather again.
“Oh. Oh dear. Then I suppose that does complicate things. Then perhaps, I should give you fair warning.”
Even in the simmering water, what the angel said sent chills down her spine all the way to the base of her tail.
“Beware of Eidan of the Graveyard, for he is not to be trusted.”