The crunch of steel heels slamming into the earth in unison, the piercing ringing of the flats of thousands of sword blades clamoring against shields. Ser Luke von Drachen felt as if his heart was going to beat straight out of his chest with pride. A long serving knight of the Order, he had seen combat across human controlled lands, usually against bandits of one flavor or another, and the occasional band of apostates, who were little different from the bandits really. His education since childhood however had prepared him for battle with humanity’s great foe. Monsters. Beings of every shape and size, all of incredible strength and ferocity. Lurking in the depths of the world, the heights of the mountains and the shadows of the nightmares of the race of man.
Here at one of the greatest castles of the Frontier they would stand against the tide of darkness. A grand crusade had been called, and troops mustered from across the lands of man. Fierce warriors, proud knights, cunning mages and free spirited adventures alike, all coming together under one banner, to fend off the Demon Lord’s latest advances into human lands. A whole human nation had fallen last year. The race of man could ill afford another disaster on such a scale. Indeed, the Church had been calling for unity in the face of this latest onslaught of the Demon Lord’s minions. It made him ill to think of the horrors
“Ser Luke! Ser Luke!” A messenger rides up at full canter. Hastily passing him a message. The message itself is a stained scrap of parchment, the hand hasty and hurried, and as the whip of bow strings and the harder sounds of siege weapons loosing their payloads fills the air, the blonde knight finds himself smiling. Orders. They finally had orders! A raised sword blade rallies the other horsemen in a hurry, a path cleared to one of the smaller gates away from the front of the battle. With three hundred heavy horse, they would flank and engage the enemy line from the right, and the other heavy cavalry would do the same from the left, a classic pincer maneuver. Added by the light cavalry being sent wide and around further still to attack the enemy from behind, hopefully furthering the route of the Infernal Foe.
Such happy thoughts of victory in the field were not to be however. As he lead his force around, looking to the castle walls for the signal to attack, Ser Luke began to get a better look at the great foe. He was stunned at first as they rode closer. Some of them looked like women! Twisted monstrosities perhaps, but certainly female all the same. Luke purses his lips for a moment. This wasn’t what they had been taught. Not once in years of training. Women. Even if she was a monster striking a woman was wrong wasn’t it?
Luke shakes his head within his helm, blue eyes narrowing. No. A monster was a monster. Who knew how many they had slaughtered? A blue banner was hoisted on the battlements, the infantry was engaging. Hopefully they would pin the horde long enough to… the green cavalry banner went up almost immediately, with what seemed to be panicked motions on the part of the individuals letting the green cloth fly. Not good. Luke almost doubts for a moment, before offering a second of prayer to the Chief God. He wasn’t a god botherer like many of his comrades, but the unease in his stomach said he should take any help he could get.
With a curt nod to his bannerman, he spurs his beloved charger faster still, taking up the lead with spear raised, the field of battle should be in sight soon, just around this hill and down a small incline. They’d hit the enemy formation Iike a war hammer shattering steel plate. A roar goes up from the assembled host of knights, a cry of challenge, a declaration of intent as they swept around the hill and began their charge, only to see the footmen in rout already, massive creatures of all descriptions leaping with abandon, seeming to flow past pikes as if they weren’t even there, as centaurs, honest to the chief god centaurs shot arrows with lethal precision at full gallop.
Luke hardens his heart, refocuses his mind on the charge as the seconds pass like minutes and the flank of the army of monsters reorients itself to take their charge head on, be it with spear, sword and bow, or with claw and fang. The closer he got, the more detail he could pick out, unable to spot a single masculine figure among the enemy force, as a few hundred yards became fifty, and fifty trickled down to ten, Luke convinced himself for just a moment that they could win, that the heavy horse could break their ranks long enough for the infantry to reform, maybe pin them for the mages or archers. It took seconds to cover the remaining ground and not even a moment more for Luke to fully understand that despite his training, despite their war plans, despite faith for some of them, and bravado for others, the crusaders had never stood a ghost of a chance.
The first wave, himself included was swept from their mounts by weapons forged by hand and by nature. A massive exotic looking polearm flashing out from the mob unhorsing him painfully, landing on the churned mud of the battlefield on his back, breath knocked from his lungs. He took stock of himself,his chest plate intact, no blood, no major wound besides his pride, but that weapon… he did not find time to ponder the nature of the attack that had unhorsed him, as he had to roll himself clear of a leaping monster woman.
She had the torso of a comely female, adorned in all manner markings, wild tattoos covering much of her visible skin, displayed readily by her minimal clothing. It was her lower body that drew the eye primarily though, displaying all the traits and features of a giant furry spider. She didn’t seem to notice him, or perhaps didn’t care, her eyes locked firmly on her target, his bannerman had kept his horse for the moment and was trying to rally the remaining knights when the monstrous woman launched herself at him at a speed that truly shouldn’t be possible for a body that size, a piercing cry of “HUSBAND!” echoing within his helmet it was so loud, as his bannerman was finally unhorsed, and carried off by the great spider after being recovered from the mud of the field.
Husband? What in the hells could that mean in this context? Another moment of noodling, another last minute dodge as a powerful set of talons impacted right where his head had been moments before. The great black weapons of nature belonged to a leg covered in crimson scales, his eyes following those scales up till he found the torso of a human woman, skin creamy like fine silk, eyes burning in their sockets like coals, framed by long black locks like raven feathers, as she beats her wings with just enough energy to maintain her position.
She considers him as his destroyed helmet falls to the earth, utterly crushed in her talons with seemingly less effort than it took him to peel an orange. After a few moments of looking him over, taking in red hair with a neatly trimmed beard and bright blue eyes, with a scar racing across his left cheek, evaluating him like a farmer considering livestock to purchase, she speaks, a velvet aristocratic tone utterly out of place in the midst of the chaos of battle.
“Hmm. You look a touch more refined and a fair bit brighter than most of the rabble here and within the castle… Mayhaps I finally have a worthwhile candidate after one of these little excursions.”
He manages to open and close his mouth a few times trying to figure out how to even sputter a response when he’s cut off by an outraged shout.
“Hold it bitch!”
The speaker is another reptilian woman, this one with scales of a dark blue and hair the shade of the wheat harvest or the finest quality gold, her natural features offset by black armor, the pole arm in her hands and the sword at her waist. These hints of normalcy for a soldier who had lived in the trade of arms nearly since birth almost relaxed him for a moment before the irate lizardman launched into a ear blistering tirade against the winged reptilian woman.
“I saw him first damn you! This is the problem with dragons, haughty, so convinced of your power and status that you think you can take what you want! I even unhorsed him! You can have him if he doesn’t win our bout…” her eyes swing over to him, her voice dropping to a softer, more husky octave “… though he may be worth training up to standard as a husband, he certainly showed admirable skill and virtue…”
The dragon’s eyes go wide for a moment, shock coloring her cheeks pink before they go red and her eyes narrow to predatory slits, seemingly radiating heat like a wild fire as she lands with an almost dainty grace. Amusement colors her tone as the surprise of someone daring to challenge her quickly fades away.
“I wonder as to how you mean to take him from me if I do not accept your claim… What is the phrase lizardmen like to use in challenges like this? Ah. Yes…” the dragon takes up what can loosely be called a fighting stance, every inch of her body radiating raw violent potential, her eyes focusing in on the challenger. “…you and what army?”
Luke can see a moment of doubt cross the blonde woman’s face before her own eyes narrow, refusing to back down in the face of what was apparently a dragon took either extreme over confidence or nearly suicidal courage. Even if dragons seemed, to have developed rather full busts and shapely hips in the time since he’d received his lectures on their kind, one of the most dangerous beings anyone could face no matter their skill at the trade of arms.
The tense stand off however is broken by a fourth participant. Luke finds himself lifted into the air by a woman at least seven feet tall, her body almost entirely rock hard muscle beyond her considerable feminine assets which her Jade colored armor did more to display than it did any form of serious protection. The monster wasn’t one he recognized but the ears, her tail, the fur on her powerful limbs resembled an exotic jungle cat he had seen once, orange and white, with black stripes crossing at regular intervals. More impressive is that she had approached completely silently, right up until she had hoisted him skyward. She inspects his armor and body carefully before looking over the features of his face, and finally leaning in to take a deep whiff of his scent, her cat eyes focused on him like a particularly tasty morsel on the offer.
“Human, you commanded the cavalry at this battle did you not?”
Luke just barely manages to nod, still not quite caught up with current events enough to really speak or handle any complex actions.
“You lead the charge fiercely. Any clan woman of a Jinko tribe would do well to face such overwhelming odds and indeed inevitable defeat with such vigor and courage… you must be tested further, but you shall make a quite satisfactory husband I believe.” Her accent is thick, putting different accents and stresses on consonants and vowels, suggesting she hailed from a shore far from this one as her broad pink tongue briefly flicks against his neck, as if tasting him to finish off her inspection of Luke’s person.
The lizardwoman and dragon’s jaws may as well have been in the mud, shocked faces giving way to their outraged shouts of protest causing the jinko to turn towards the other women, clearly not quite understanding what they might be so upset about, still holding him firmly by the chest plate. The ear blistering tirade from the other two women was enough time for Luke to regain enough sense to reach for his knife and quietly cut the leather straps still holding him into his breast plate, hitting the ground unceremoniously with a clatter of his remaining armor before diving out of range of any reaching claws, regaining his feet and drawing his sword. Luke holds the blade before him like he was showing a holy object to a vampire, trying to ward off the surprisingly comely women in front of him.
The trio of lethal, beautiful women stopped mid argument to round on him, one sword and two sets of very lethal looking claws glimmering daylight. Sound seemed to rush back into the scene for him, it had been near silent besides their voices for a moment, but the clamor of battle was as loud as ever now in this moment as knights and foot soldiers in their small groups of hold outs fell to all manner of monstrous woman, small fights breaking out occasionally between monsters who had selected the same male, much as he was now staring down three of the most lethal looking individuals he’d ever seen, no longer in conflict with each other, but clearly silently agreeing to subdue him before deciding on who could claim the spoils of battle. A curious high pitched whistling caught his ear as his assailants began to step towards him, as blue light flashed in the corner of his eye. He didn’t have time to seek cover, didn’t even have time to throw himself to the ground. He had just enough time to realize he hadn’t seen any of the mages in the field, to feel searing heat, and then succumb to nothingness as the force of the magical explosion threw him from his feet.
Floating. Alone in a black void. Warm, not frightening or anything of the sort. Just empty. His sense slowly to return, light slowly flooding his vision as the warmth begins to focus into positions under his neck, soft, plush sensation pushing against the back of his neck and head, supporting him nicely, a rhythmic sensation pulsing across his body, almost like purring. As he focuses on the sound more sound comes into focus, not the chaos of the battlefield, but voices that seemed almost familiar.
“Come on damnit! You’ve had your turn, he’s resting his head in my lap next! I’m not even sure why I have to share at all, he defeated me in a duel, sword in hand, so he’s my husband now!”
“If this counts as a defeat by your culture than it surely satisfies the marriage laws of my tribe, so he is my husband as well.”
“By the eternal flame, both of you lesser beings have no right to claim that which I have added to my hoard.”
“He’s a husband not a possession you pretentious, winged bitch.”
Luke jerks the rest of the way to full consciousness, attempting to rise and get clear of wherever he’s laying, only to have his eyes flutter open and immediately go dark, the supple warmth of the jinko’s bosom blocked from his face only by a layer of thin silks, far more comfortable to head butt than the armor she’d worn previously that much was for certain. He more or less bounces back to his original position, his head firmly settled in her lap, her muscular thighs the warm sensations he’d been enjoying while coming back to the land of the living. Though from the sound of things they had been sharing him around, a part of his mind both puzzled by their behavior, and wondering if he might not get a chance to better feel the other’s thighs.
All eyes are on him, as his brain begins to fill in the situation he’s found his way into. He, the jinko, the dragoness and the lizardwoman were all arranged a small fire in a comfortable and out of the way cave. He had no idea where they were from there, but they were well concealed and the fire was quite pleasant on his body. Their weapons and armor were communally laid nearby, set aside neatly and respectfully, though the lizardman retained one of her two swords, loose in it’s scabbard, with one of her eyes drifting up the tunnel towards the mouth of the cave, even with predator’s eyes narrowed on her intended prey. Him.
The jinko slams her mighty paws together, the clap once again breaking any growing tension with a sound like a peal of thunder from far away, muscles flexing and tensing in her mighty arms, the occasional flex revealing a small tip of her claws, the combination of the two factors more than explaining why she had no need for a sword, though a odd looking polearm and bow by her jade armors suggested she utilized weapons to enhance her reach when she felt the need.
“Let us introduce ourselves to our new potential husband. There is surely a solution to our conundrum, and it is best to explore them with wisdom before we defer to violence. It would be a pity to kill either of you, you seem to be fine and powerful warriors.”
The lizardman snorts “Assuming you could kill either of us… likewise though Jinko. I’d hate to die.”
She stands with something of a flourish, long scaly limbs moving even more gracefully without armor, sword half drawn as she flows through an abbreviated form of whatever martial art she is clearly a master of before coming up and drawing her sword in something of a fencing salute before returning the sword to it’s sheath. “I am Nadia, the wandering one. Like many of my kin I walk the earth seeking battle and an equal, a peer in the art of combat, by besting me, this human man has earned my maidenhead.”
Luke meets her eyes as best he can, not sure how to respond to the wild passion he found in her rich blue orbs, darker than his own light blue. It’s flattering really, scales and claws aside, that a woman as skilled as she clearly was in the arts of war declaring him a worthy suitor.
The jinko nods and rumbles, not bothering to rise, merely stroke his chest for attention, green cat eyes narrowing at him. “I am a Jinko, my tribe is from the mountain ranges far to the West of here, though my people originally hail from across the sea. I came with my sisters seeking strong husbands that our clans and tribe might continue to grow and flourish. This man defeated me, and showed great valor in battle, I consider him a war prize and my husband, all the more so after his cunning trap on the field. I am called Vala.”
Another set of eyes he couldn’t answer, passion he could not muster in himself, a knot of ice growing slowly in his stomach. It wasn’t that he hated his position. Ser Luke was a red blooded man of more than a few seasons, no old soldier, but more than old enough to know the desires and joys brought on by romancing a fair lady. Monster or no, these three women were some of the loveliest he’d ever seen, their passion, his own lust, and some unknown energy that seemed to float through the room and into his veins battering down his resistance and discipline, his pledge to slay the monsters that lurked in dark places… not to lay with them as a husband with his new bride! And yet, as the dragoness rises and slowly stretches her wings the siren song of just that scenario seemed to tempt him ever further from his vows, and the light of the Chief God.
The flare of the dragon’s mighty wing span becomes a flash and flutter of movement, wrapping around her in a shifting, shimmering dance, flashes of flesh and cloth revealed by the slow movement of the wings, her red scales glimmering in the fire light, making it look as if she dancing in a in a spiral of flame, as her hips begin to rotate and move, in a way that cannot help but draw one’s eye. Her beauty is treasure, and the dance another way to display her status and position in society, to entice a mate and to silence her rivals. Her wings settle back behind her back, the dragoness walking through the fire without care to stand before him flames lapping at her heels.
“I am Aava, the great red dragon of the Western Reaches. I accept no dominion of the kings of man or monster, suffer no gods, tolerate no masters… and I have selected you to be a part of my hoard human.” Her stiff imperious tone rolls throughout the room, leaving silence in it’s wake. Silence at least until Nadia starts cracking up. Aava’s outraged roar just makes her laugh harder, the lizardwoman showing absolutely no fear what so ever in the face of Aava’s reddening face. By the time she collects herself, Aava is simply seething, before Nadia dusts herself off.
“Surely you’re not serious oh great dragon of the West.” Nadia starts, eyes rolling over Aava’s title. “You think we didn’t notice you cooing over him and tracing his abs through his shirt while it was your turn to have his head rest in your lap? Didn’t he defeat you too? I know how your kind’s instinct works… I bet you don’t just want him as a husband, your insides are just squirming, you want to be pregnant. Tonight.” Nadia leans in, her predatory, cocky grin shining bright white in the shadows of the cave. “Human… do it. Command her. If I’m right it would cause her physical pain to resist a command you gave her now.”
Aava’s cheeks flush from an angry red to an embarrassed pink, clearly caught, and not sure how to even respond to the impudent warrior woman who feels no deference to her, and gives her no respect, but where anger should have flared, and likely would have flared until her earlier “defeat” instead she simply whispers “No…”
“I’m sorry?” chides Nadia, pushing her luck a bit with a creature that like as not could kill them all with a wing twitch.
“No… he doesn’t need to assert his authority like that. Please… don’t. It would be… uncomfortable for me.” A great clawed hand rubs her forearm, her eye to her feet, looking for a moment less like a great tyrant upon the land and more like a naughty schoolgirl called before the headmaster, her eyes settling on Luke “I recognize you, and only you as my worthy mate. Come with me… please?”
The icy cold knot in Luke’s stomach explodes, driving cold shards though his body as he quietly pulls himself from Vala’s lap sitting apart, his thoughts finally having come together.
“I… I’m afraid you have the wrong person.” The tone in the room shifts quickly, three sets of eyes looking at him with concern and growing confusion. “My name is Luke von Drachen, I consider myself a good soldier, a good knight. I have ably served the kingdoms of man and the Chief God since I was a child…” his tone firms up slightly as he regains his mental footing. This was wrong. He couldn’t have defeated them, proved himself the greater. He was proud of his accomplishments, but Luke was a humble man. He knew his skills, his abilities, and was confident in them, but to defeat these avatars of strength? One of them maybe provided it wasn’t Aava, but all three? “…I couldn’t possibly have defeated the three of you at once. I was still dealing with all the monsters I’d learned about through the years suddenly being beautiful women…”
The three women exchange looks, seemingly electing Vala to speak for them by silent consent. “Human, no… Luke. You lured us into a trap, even if you did not intend it when you backed away from us on the field, by drawing us forward the spell one of your mages fired off impacted directly between the three of us…”
“Uh huh! Caught most of us by surprise too! I think Vala was just slightly dazed, and Aava took the worst of it… and I was knocked unconscious briefly! You might say it was luck, but fortune is a weapon in battle too.”
Aava holds up a claw, her imperious tone back in place over the innocent girl that lurked within her “Dare you suggest my instincts are wrong? That the instincts of a dragon might identify a worthy mate for just nothing? You do not hold a high enough opinion of yourself… you could learn something from me when it comes to pride.”
Vala reaches out and rests a thick, furry paw on his knee, petting him lightly “Regardless of the circumstances, we all see you as worthy. I have learned that humans consecrate marriages for land deals and other minor things, trading their daughters and sons like cattle… is not being found worthy and desirable on your observed merits more than enough criteria for women to select a good husband from? Or women who find you worthy in turn good candidates for a bride for a man of honor?”
Chief God forgive him but that logic sounded good enough to him… and their eyes. One set would have been lethal, no man or god could withstand all three eyes looking on him so warmly, melting away his already feeble resistance. He holds up a hand, the ice in his stomach slowly becoming as water, the sensation of unease slowly uncoiling from him. “Peace… I yield my ladies, your arguments are valid, my objection is not… but before we go any further, I must know how all this came to be. I am not complaining mind you, as the alternative would be my rather violent and painful death, but you all are supposed to be ravenous beasts, the mortal foe of all humanity…”
“I shall show you exactly how ravenous I can be husband…” Aava mutters, slapping a hand to her mouth when she realizes she’s thinking aloud.
Nadia sticks her tongue out at Aava as she scoots forward slightly, idly stroking her chin. “Wait… you mean you don’t know? Like… about anything?” Luke’s nod of acknowledgement cues another round of silent communication, with Nadia taking the role of teacher.
The blonde warrior woman draws everyone’s attention with a polite cough. “Well… look, the short version is, it used to be that your version of events was right, but all monsters have all been monster girls for a long time now. I don’t know how that hasn’t gotten back to Order strongholds, but the current Demon Lord is a succubus of incredible power. She married The Hero sent to slay her, and together they drove off the chief god and cast a grand spell to make all monster kind the way we are now. The demon lord wishes to end the circle of conflict between monster and man. There is no longer such a thing as a male monster, and all monster girls have a intense drive to seek out of a human husband. So that leads us to our present state, the Lilim Druella’s armies…”
“Is she the Demon Lord?” Luke interrupts, curiosity about his for that was perhaps not an enemy overriding his normally reserved manners.
Nadia quickly waves his question aside in the negative “No, she is the Demon Lord’s daughter. One of them any way. She is the one who conquered Lescastie for her parents, and repelled the Order’s attempt at retaking the country. She is a ruthless general. Our wars however are far more bloodless than the combat you have experienced in the lands of man. Many if not all of your horsemen now live, being taken to the homes of their new wives.”
That Luke found hard to believe. “How is that possible? Even you carry swords Lady Nadia.”
Nadia pulls one of her swords to her, drawing it from it’s well worn sheath “Demon silver. It is the weapon of choice for monsters who use them, instead of causing physical wounds, it insteads strikes one’s spirit energy, weakening the target, allowing them to be easily captured, as the vast majority of men at this battle likely were. You yourself tasted it’s effects when my polearm unhorsed you. It took you more than a few minutes to even try and recover yourself did it not? The taking of husbands is the heart of what fuels Druella’s armies, and why her call to arms are usually answered by the various tribes and clans. Especially if the Order is involved.”
Luke’s brow knits, as if slowly puzzling out what the lizardwoman had just said “Wait, the Order being involved is a plus?” All three women nod sagely, Nadia’s lilting tone winding into his mind as he processes this new information.
“Of course. Order knights and soldiers are for the most part healthy, chivalrous warriors, and you have mages, rangers, all manner of men for the taking.”
“So an Order crusade is…” Nadia nods “More or less what I believe the human merchant class calls “Speed dating.”
Aava licks her lips, managing to look haughty and sultry with a simple tilt of her eyebrows. “It’s like a buffet… it can be hard to find tasty morsels, but the choice bits come out eventually, like you. I have joined Druella on four campaigns now, but I am afraid she’ll have to make do without me now.”
Vala huffs into her snow white ruff, stretching lightly, her shadow dancing on the wall as she relaxed her spine down to the tip of her tail, the way only a cat can. “This brings us to the current problem. We all have a claim to this man. I have thought while Nadia has instructed our potential fiancee in the affairs of the world and I would like to propose a solution. What if we… share him? A radical thought, but not unheard of, and far preferable to bloodshed that would likely end with us all dead or injured…”
Vala shifts more, muscles tensing, drawing attention to just how little the silk shift covered her body, it covered more than her armor, but the effect of light silk draping itself on hardened muscle, caressing her feminine curves, and lending it’s softness to her warrior’s body was perhaps lewder than if she had been naked. Luke suddenly noticed it was very warm in the cave, surely it was dark by now, the light of the full moon might calm them down if they went for a stroll in the cool night air.
A lesson from his childhood suddenly smacks Luke in the back of the head as he surveys the monster girls arranged in front of him, their cheeks flush, bodies tensing. Monsters were said to be affected by the full moon, and while they might be lusty women now, it appears the Demon Lord’s arcane magic had not changed that susceptibility to the moon.
“I… Suppose I can see the value in having strong sisters to stand with, along with a strong husband.” Nadia wrings her hands a little, clearly working very hard to remain disciplined, and in control of her nature which was visibly threatening to boil over, her nipples hard enough to cut class, protruding against the thin shirt she wore under her gambeson, her hand unconsciously drifting between her legs before it wrenches back to her thigh, fingers gripping into the hem of her shirt. “I assent to your plan Vala… I look forward to becoming stronger together with you all.”
All eyes shift to Aava, the proud red dragon is perfectly controlled besides the furious blush on her face. Her arms crossed firmly over her chest as she sits there, contemplating the proceedings silently, as Nadia slides closer, patting the other woman on the shoulder blade.
“Aaaaaava, come on. Don’t be so frigid. Just tell us you’re in so we don’t have to worry about fighting and can get down to breaking hubby’s pelvis.”
The dragoness snaps at the air in Nadia’s direction, a snarl filling the cavern that could drop the stomach out of the guts of the staunchest warrior, building in volume until she launches herself across the room, pinning Luke to the ground. “Gah! Yes dammit yes! As long as he puts a baby in me tonight I don’t give a damn how we work this out! I don’t want to burn a calorie that doesn’t involve this man screwing my brains out till I’m knocked up!”
You could have heard a pin drop in the silence that followed Aava’s proclamation. Her behavior as a proud dragon almost entirely forgotten behind this third side of the woman before them, not the somewhat shy young woman who’s personality had peeked out from behind her fortress of arrogance that seemed to be part and parcel to her species, this though, this was the monster, fully off the chain, subsumed to a lust greedy and needy enough to only belong to the race of dragons, her hips grinding against the pinned knight automatically as Nadia and Vala divest themselves of their meager clothing and advanced on their new partners.
Luke had only the briefest moment to reflect that his life might be more in danger on this very night from these women who have made themselves his wives than it had ever been on any battlefield. This last thought as an unmarried man is quickly chased from his mind by a hungry kiss from Aava, her tongue sliding between his lips as if she wanted to drink his flavor, her eyes burning into his, promising it was going to be a long night consummating their marriage, with a lifetime of such nights to follow.