The heavy beating of wings sounded Aaron’s and Kiera’s return. Clusters of fallen leaves and the insects hiding under them scattered at the sudden push of wind from the griffon’s wings. Touching down before their cavernous hideout, she swiftly carried her injured partner inside the tent she pitched and set him down on his sleeping mat.
Kiera looked over his body. His clothes were stained with a significant amount of blood, and from the position of one of the fingers lodged in his body, it looked like one had cracked a rib.
“Don’t worry, Aaron. I’ll give you some of Beatrice’s potion, alright?”
Aaron, with his face scrunched up in pain, could only quickly nod in agreement.
With her superhuman speed, Kiera pulled out each of the disembodied digits stabbed into Aaron. In the span of a second, Aaron was left with four holes spurting blood from his body.
With Aaron’s trousers and tunic quickly becoming soaked in even more blood, the griffon grabbed hold of Beatrice’s purple healing potion. Popping off the cork and sticking the nozzle up to his lips, she placed a supportive claw behind his head and tipped it back.
To Aaron, the potion could be easily likened to the world’s strongest alcohol. Something that could blind a mortal man with a single sip and knock out an ogre. His face scrunched up even further the moment the thick syrup hit his tongue, and it burned like liquid fire as it slid down his gullet and hit his gut like a molten slag.
Unable to stop a knee-jerk reaction from the intensely unpleasant experience, Aaron began gagging and thrashing beneath Kiera. The griffon reacted in turn, placing a knee on his chest and pinching his nose shut with the other claw.
“I’m sorry, Aaron. Beatrice should’ve told us it wouldn’t have been pleasant… please, just try to keep it down, alright?”
With a third of the bottle’s contents drained, Kiera pulled the nozzle from his lips, leaving the human gasping and sputtering for breath.
Just a few seconds after he ingested it, a series of disgusting ‘shlicks’ emanated from Aaron’s body as his wounds closed shut at an almost frightening pace. In just ten short seconds, the four holes punched into his body were nothing but tiny white scars. Even his broken rib pieced itself back together without any sort of splint.
“Wow… a potion this strong must cost a fortune!” Kiera marveled, looking back at the red-tinged elixir for a moment before returning her attention to her partner, “So, how do you feel, Aaron?”
Aaron’s scrunched face remained that way. Any trace of pain was gone, but a stifling heat ensnared him as his wounds closed. Seizing up, his vision soon began whirling around like a hurricane. He felt like he was on the verge of passing out from heatstroke, but being pulled back from the brink right before he lost consciousness.
As his world spun and vision flashed white, Aaron could slowly feel himself sliding into a delirious state. Curling up his legs and covering up his eyes and forehead with both hands, he unleashed a series of loud huffs and groans.
“Oh gods… fuck… what’s happening to me…?”
Her concern peaking once more, Kiera gently pushed Aaron’s hands away and placed one claw up to his forehead. Her brow furrowed at the result.
“It… it feels like you have a fever, Aaron. A pretty nasty one at that. Let me see if I can-”
Kiera abruptly stopped her analysis and seized up when she felt the tip of her wing brush up against some hot, hard, throbbing organ. Having a sneaking suspicion of what it was, the griffon slowly craned her neck over her shoulder to take a look at Aaron’s crotch.
And sure enough, he had an erection.
Her face flushing red, Kiera slapped a claw over her mouth and fell back to her bum, finding herself unable to take her eyes off her partner’s hard penis. It angrily throbbed in his trousers, begging for release…
She shook her head from side-to-side to clear away any lewd thoughts bouncing around in her brain. Aaron, however, was slipping even further.
“Kiera… I’m… I’m burning…” he moaned, tugging at and tearing his tunic and weakly thrusting his hips into the air.
Not knowing what else to do, Kiera leaped back forward with a water skin in one claw. She held one hand against his chest and used the other to press the skin up against his lips.
“D-drink, Aaron. And please, calm down…”
The delirious man eagerly gulped down every last drop of the cool water, but it didn’t seem to help him in the slightest. In fact, the griffon’s touch only seemed to excite him even more. Breath accelerating, he grabbed her shoulder and pulled her in closer.
“Kiera… help me…” he begged in a low, raspy voice.
Staring into his glassy blue eyes, Kiera found her heart panging with pity and guilt, “Ah… damn you, Beatrice! Why didn’t you tell us this would happen?!”
Aaron could only pitifully groan in response.
”I… I can’t just leave you like this.” she said, adjusting her position so she sat between his legs, “N-not after all you’ve done for me and my tribe…”
“Hot… too… too hot…” the dazed human mumbled, squeezing his thighs around her hips and rubbing his erection up against her belly. His words were gone, and he could only mumble and sweat as he begged for relief.
Wiping her own sweat from her blushing face, the griffon decided not to stall things any further. She leaned over to undo his trousers. She hooked a claw under his underwear and pulled both articles down.
“EEEK!” she couldn’t help but squeal as his dick sprung free, smacking into her cheek. Pulling back, she brought his pants and loincloth along with her before landing on her bum between the man’s ankles.
The instant his cock was free, something snapped in Aaron’s mind. Wrapping one hand firmly around his dick, he eagerly pumped it up and down.
Gasping for breath with Aaron’s pants hugged to her chest, she found herself unable to avert her eyes as she watched her delirious jack himself off, his heavy breath and lusty moans bouncing around the tent.
Kiera felt her lips go dry as precum leaked from the tip.
“N-no need for that, partner.”
Not seeming to hear her, he didn’t stop until Kiera grabbed hold of his wrist. Aaron let out a low whine, worthlessly struggling against the monster’s grasp.
“Aaron… I’ll help you.”
The human lifted his head from the mat, peaking up at her. As their gazes met, Kiera noticed his pupils were dilated and eyes were totally glossed over.
But as disheveled and out of it he looked, he seemed to understand. While his erection still throbbed and body still shuddered ever so slightly, he simply sat back and waited for the griffon to make her move.
Kiera glanced down at her rough, clawed hands, finding it hard to imagine they would feel pleasant in any way. She looked back at her tail, but quickly dismissed the idea as far too odd for both of their tastes.
Swallowing the lump sitting her throat, Kiera furrowed her brow in determination and decided what she had to do. Tracing her claws along his inner thighs, she bent over and gave the crown of his penis a small, hesitant lick.
An electric surge rippled down Aaron’s cock and made him shudder. Tensing up, he clutched at the mat beneath him and let out a loud, guttural moan.
“D-does it feel good?” Kiera asked him, tracing her rough palms along his naked thighs, unable to keep her keen gaze off of his cock.
Aaron responded with nothing but a throaty growl.
“I’ll… take that as a yes.”
She continued her ministrations, licking around his crown and the salty precum that gathered at his tip. The dazed human writhed and shook beneath her with every stroke of her tongue.
But inevitably, her lust and instincts drove her to take it even further. Taking the head into her mouth, she leaned her head forward until his cock hit the back of her throat.
Aaron’s entire overheated body jittered at the feeling, his knees bending and toes curling back and forth. Holding him steady, the griffon lifted her head back and moved back down,tracing her tongue along the underside of his dick as she did so.
From his frenzied breaths, something told Kiera that her partner was dangerously close to release. But whatever reason, she found herself not caring.
With a shuddering cry, Aaron’s whole body tensed up as his pent up lust finally burst. He shot out several thick ropes of spunk that splashed against Kiera’s tongue and stuck to the roof of her mouth.
The griffon stiffened in surprise, her taste buds dancing with the salty, bitter taste of it. Feeling his member continue to pulse and fire off more rounds, she did the only thing she could and gulped it down to make room.
While she’d never admit it, a small part of her enjoyed the flavor.
Wiping away the small amount that mixed with her spit that managed to leak out and dribble down her chin, she looked back down between Aaron’s legs.
His cock hadn’t softened in the slightest.
“You’re… kidding me… what the hell did Beatrice put in that potion?!”
“Argh…. grarg!” the delirious human shuddered, squirming around and groaning in pain once again.
“D-don’t worry, partner! I’ll… I’ll make you cum as many times as I have to!”
The griffon dived right back in, licking around the wet head of his cock before swallowing another few inches…
Kiera pulled off, wiping the saliva from her mouth, “Aaron, did you something?”
“No more.” he mumbled like a madman, peaking past a stray lock of iron-gray hair and staring right at her with his dilated pupil.
Before Kiera could ask the meaning of his words, Aaron grabbed hold of her shoulders, flipping their position so he was looming above her, knees to her side and erection rubbing against her clothed slit. He smiled down at her with a toothy, wicked grin.
“W-wait, Aaron! I… I’m not sure if…”
The human pressed their lips together, his tongue wrestling with hers and tasting his own salty flavor. Any resistance the griffon had melted away faster than a snowball in a furnace. After breaking the kiss, one of Aaron’s greedy hands slipped under her top, giving her hefty tit a squeeze.
While his left hand was busy, he used it’s twin to remove the golden brooch keeping her top pinned in place and slung it to the side. Rolling the cloth up, the human was pleased to find her without a bra.
Licking his lips, he dove in and took one nipple into his mouth.
“A-ah~! Aaron, no… I’m… I’m too sensitive there…”
After hearing that, Aaron used his right hand to reach up and pinch the other nipple.
Kiera threw her head back, letting out a long, lusty moan. Aaron stood up, and she was left rubbing her thighs together as her leaky cunt ached with need.
Hearing the unmistakable rustling of clothes, Kiera looked back up to find Aaron tossing off his tunic, exposing his chest and leaving him as naked as the day he was born. He nodded down at her, assumingly telling her to do the same.
Nodding back to him, she unfurled the cloth that kept her breasts covered, leaving it behind her back. She slid both her underwear and skirt off at once, spreading her legs out and giving Aaron a clear view of her wet pussy.
The griffon bit her lip as she looked over his scarred, muscled body. But she wasn’t able to enjoy the sight for long.
Springing right back atop of her, the naked human pressed his leaking crown right up against her soaking cunt. It slipped in with minimal resistance, her fleshy walls immediately gripping down on the erection.
“Oh~” Kiera moaned, biting down on one of her claws as she watched the human above her through half-lidded eyes, “K-keep going, Aaron.”
His cock penetrated deep, rubbing her tight walls in all the right ways. The griffon threw her back and fought back a loud moan, lifting up both furry legs and wrapping them around his back to pull him in closer.
As the human relentlessly pounded into her, he reached down to continue to play with her jiggling breasts. Squeezing them, pinching and rolling the nipples between his greedy fingers… it just about drove the griffon up the wall. But not before her tight, warm cunt made Aaron submit.
His second load was just as a thick and voluminous as his first, and easily painted the griffon’s slick walls white. His body slackened as he gasped and panted for breath, planting both hands at either side of Kiera’s head and hanging above her.
“Are… are you feeling better, Aaron?” Kiera panted, a few of his iron gray locks swinging down and tickling her nose.
Aaron looked back up, but his wild breathing only seemed to intensify.
Not even bother to withdraw his cock, the sex-crazed human turned Kiera on her side, lifting up one of her legs and laying it on his shoulder.
“W-wait, Aaron! Just give me a second to-”
Pulling back, the human stopped just as the head of his cock was about to escape her cunt- then thrust back in with all his might. The griffon screamed to the heavens, the faintest traces of tears gathering at the corners of her eyes.
“Ah! Ah!~” she squealed as the human slammed into her cum-filled pussy, her breasts jiggling wildly from every impact.
Her head now spinning, Kiera felt like she was going to go insane. The tip of his dick rubbed up against a particularly sensitive spot inside of her, driving her absolutely mad with pleasure.
“I… I can’t take it~” she moaned, her tongue rolling out of her mouth as she panted like a bitch in heat.
With a final barbaric grunt, Aaron rammed his entire cock deep within the monster, releasing his third load of the night. With a shuddering cry, the griffon hit her limit as well.
A mix of both his releases and her own juices squirted out of her overstuffed cunt and around his cock, staining both of their groins. Panting in exhaustion, the spent human finally collapsed on top of Kiera, tucking his head into her breasts and passing out.
Kiera, pushed up and beyond her limit, wasn’t very far behind him. With content smile, she held his head to her chest with both hands and protectively wrapped her wings around his back, drifting off to the world of dreams right beside her dear partner.
As a bitterly cold wind blew past the open flaps of his tent and nibbled at his skin, the slumbering Aaron sprung awake from his dreamless rest. He sat up on his sleeping mat, rubbing down the goosebumps covering his nude body.
“W-wait…? Why I am I naked?”
He looked out of his tent, and surely enough, stretching her wings out before the mouth of the cave, was Kiera. Sensing he was awake, the griffon looked over her shoulder and shot him a warm smile that nearly melted his heart.
The events of the previous night came rushing back to him, and the guilt they brought slammed on his shoulders. The fact Kiera didn’t even look even slightly upset about it made that guilt all the heavier.
Deciding to man up and face the repercussions of his actions, Aaron hastily tossed on his clothing and crawled out of the tent, pacing up to Kiera with his eyes locked nervously on the tips of his boots.
“Good morning, partner~ ready to get out of here?”
“I’m sorry, Kiera. I was doped up on that potion… I didn’t… I didn’t mean to do that!”
“It’s alright, Aaron. You were in pain and I gave you relief. It was the least I could do to repay you for all you’ve done for me.”
“B-but what about the gems you gave me?”
“Like I said. That was a parting gift.”
Aaron let out a heavy, pent up breath. Relaxing his shoulders and lifting his head, he was able to meet the griffon’s gaze without his heart twisting up.
“Thank you, Kiera… I’m glad you see it that way. Now, are ya ready to get home? We kind of missed the boat when it came to flying at dawn, but we should still start heading back now.”
“Wait, Aaron. B-before we go… there’s something I want to tell you…” she said, a blush appearing on her face as she tapped the tips of her claws together.
“What would that be, Kiera?” Aaron asked.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, Kiera seemed to nod to reassure herself, “I want to travel with you to Misr and help you find the Lost Archives.”
If there were two words to describe Aaron’s face at that moment, they would be blown away. He simply stood there wide-eyed, seeming to reflect on her words.
“W-whats wrong, Aaron?”
“Nothing! I’m flattered you want to help me… It’s just… it’s your tribe. What about the Ravens? They practically worship you there. I would’ve thought you’d be next in line as chieftess once Roana steps down.”
“I’ve already paid my debt to the Ravens for raising me in full. My little sister Zoana is hot-blooded, but she’s going to make a fine leader… not to mention the position of Chieftess is hers by birthright. Besides, I’ve heard rumors there are still griffons hanging around in Misr… maybe if we meet one of them, they might know something about my real parents.” she said, a hint of somberness in her voice.
Squeezing his eyes shut, Aaron scratched his chin, clearly deep in thought, “Hmm. I see…”
“So, can I come with you? The White Lion would be a valuable addition to your party~” she cheered, folding her arms into an ‘x’ over her chest, bending one knee forward, and spreading out her wings.
The human looked unimpressed by her pose.
“P-please?” she asked, settling back down to a normal standing position.
“Sorry, but no.”
The look of shock on Kiera’s face could’ve been compared to when Gregorio had blasted her wing. But just as her bottom lip began quivering, Aaron stepped forward, slapping a hand over her shoulder and giving her a reassuring grin.
“I don’t need the White Lion. I need you, Kiera.”
It was a bright new day at Angel’s Peak. The rays of the golden sunlight peaked through the wispy clouds above, dispelling the chill air and melting away the sleet that formed a few nights prior.
Standing at the edge of the camp of tepees stood a creature with ebony skin and fur, her eyes burning like a fierce crimson hellfire. Stretching out her sore limbs, she popped her neck and wagged her tail around.
“Phew… looks like it’s finally starting to warm up.” she observed with a smile, two gouts of flame bursting from the sides of eyes as a natural reaction.
The hellhound looked skywards, seeing a tiny bundle of black feathers dive bombing her. Stretching out both arms, Valerie caught the little harpy and twirled her around.
“Sylvia! How are ya doin’, squirt?”
The child wrapped her wings around to Valerie’s back, bringing her cheek closer to snuggle into the patch of red fur on the hellhound’s chest.
“Are you feeling better, Miss Valerie?” Sylvia asked, her eyes sparkling with an innocent curiosity one would never expect to find on a technical monster, even considering she hatched a mere five years ago.
Wearing a the toothiest grin she could muster, Val rustled the younger monster’s hair, “Oh, I feel like I brand new girl~!”
“I can tell…” laughed Sylvia as she hopped from the hellhound’s grasp, “You sure have been training hard.”
The hellhound gave one of her biceps a flex, the lean muscles in her arm tightening, “Yup. I’m never going to let some stupid legionary beat me again, no matter how tough they are.”
Sylvia marveled at the hellhound’s muscles, hopping onto her shoulder and rubbing her wings across the flexed arm.
“Ooh! Hey, do you know when Big Sis and Mr. Aaron are going to get back? I miss them…”
The hellhound’s eyes snapped open as her mind was flooded with images of a grizzled young man. His wild, iron-gray hair and black cloak billowed in the breeze as he stared down at her. His ice-blue eyes sparkled with adoration, and his thin lips were curled into a bright smile.
Blushing at the image, Valerie placed her hands to her cheeks and let her thoughts wander.
“I hope they’re okay…”
Snapping out of her fantasy, Valerie’s eyes bolted open and her dreamy smile drooped down.
“O-of course they are! Aaron’s the toughest guy I’ve ever met. There’s no way a bunch of stupid monks could do him in…”
An uncomfortable silence hung in the chilly air between the two monsters for a few moments. Right up until it was shattered by an older harpy flapping above them, crying out the latest news at any she found in her shadow.
“Big Sister is back! The White Lion is unharmed!”
As Val remembered that Kiera’s return meant Aaron’s, she broke out into a wide grin. Sylvia seemed just as glad, taking to the air and flying around in short, quick circles.
The hellhound was quickly surrounded on all sides by the cheering crowd of Ravens. Fingers and feathers waved in the frosty air, the very ground shaking with their exuberant cries of joy. The two descended from the heavens, Kiera carrying Aaron bridal style.
“Whew. Talk about a warm welcome.” laughed Aaron as he and Kiera touched down in the center of the crowd. The circle of harpies and humans around them clapped feathers and flesh together to create another deafening round of applause.
As Kiera let Aaron down, the Chieftess Ranna stepped up to them from the crowd,“Aaron. Kiera. I’m glad to see you’re unharmed. I was just about to send a search party after you.”
“You’d best send them out anyway. I left the treasure hidden in a cave, but there was even more in the chest then we thought. It was too heavy to bring back on my own.”
Zoana peaked out from behind her mother, watching Aaron like he was the Holy Emperor Maximus himself. Still glaring at him as she passed, Zoana sauntered up to her sister. The two monsters shared a quiet smile despite the hoots and hollers all around them, staring into each other’s eyes…
Then without any provocation, Zoana’s bottom lip quivered and tears poured down her cheeks.
“Waahh! Big sis! I was worried you’d died!”
The black harpy jumped at her adoptive sister, pressing her face into Kiera’s breasts and wailing into them.
“Hey! C’mon, Zoana. Calm down. I made it back just fine, see?”
A bead of nervous sweat rolled down the grimacing Aaron’s forehead. Taking a step back from the awkward scene, he bumped right into a heated body. Turning to apologize, he found the teared-up face of a hellhound.
“Aaron… I was worried you might’ve never come back.” Valerie whimpered, hugging herself to his chest.
The iron-haired swordsman couldn’t help but smile, wrapping his own arms around her back and patting between her shoulder blades in an attempt to comfort her.
“Hey, I said I’d come back, didn’t I? I’m a man of my word.”
When they broke the embrace, the hellhound wiped the tears gathering at her eyes and sniffled. And during that sniffle, her sensitive nose picked up a familiar scent.
She looked up at Aaron, her crimson eyes widened and face twisted into a look of shock and pain.
Looking confused himself for a split second, Aaron’s heart sank when he realized that he and Kiera didn’t have an opportunity to properly wash themselves the previous night. To Valerie’s nose, both he and Kiera reeked of sex.
“D-did you two…?”
Aaron’s heart sank to his stomach. He went as pale as a ghost. He raised up two hands defensively. He tried to stammer out an explanation, but the words just wouldn’t come. But after an agonizingly long few seconds, Aaron finally mustered up a simple response.
Although Valerie was a self-proclaimed pacifist, the two gouts of fire exploding from her eyes showed off her uncontrollable rage. With a bone-chilling howl, she rushed past Aaron and tackled Kiera, the two instantly rolling around on the cold stone and clawing at the other.
As the rest of the Roaming Ravens exploded into a mad scramble to stop the fight, the bewildered Aaron stood there, having a creeping suspicion that things would only get worse from there.
The stormy clouds having long since passed, the nomadic tribe taking refuge atop of Angel’s Peak decided to throw a feast to celebrate the safe return of the White Lion. Building a massive bonfire to staff off the cold and roast their meals, the tribe sat in a large circle around it and set up a mountain of dishes.
“If there’s one thing a man needs when he has a lot on his mind, it’s a full meal and some booze.”
Aaron paused and looked at Timothy, chewing up the meat in his mouth before downing it with another chug of honeyed wine. The two were sitting next to each other, taking part in the feast with the rest of the tribe.
“You can say that again…” Aaron agreed through a mouthful of roasted lamb, “But I was just pretty much starving to begin with, to be honest.”
Timothy took a small bite from a buttered roll, looking around the rest of the tribe, watching young couples dance the night away and happy families sharing hearty meals. After his brief search, he turned to his new wife to his right, who was nibbling on an apple.
“Hey, Zoana? Where’s your sister?”
“Kiera? Mother wanted to have a word with her before they joined the feast.” the spiky-haired harpy answered.
“Ah. So, where’s Valerie, Aaron?”
Aaron paused his meal, wiping some wine and crumbs from his lips with the back of his wrist, “Don’t know. Said she wasn’t hungry, but I know it was a lie. I should probably bring her something after I’ve had my fill.”
“You’d best…” Timothy agreed, nodding his head, “Shit Aaron, you really fucked the pooch on this one… no pun intended.”
“I was doped up on some weird potion! It wasn’t my fault!” Aaron defended himself with a blush.
“You think that makes either of them feel any better?” Zoana scolded him from over her husband’s shoulder, “You’re lucky Kiera has a heart of gold! If you had forced yourself on me while seeing another woman, I would’ve made you suffer! And with that little stunt Valerie pulled, you’re lucky Kiera stopped us from beheading the both of you!”
“I didn’t force myself on anyone! Like it or not, Kiera had sex with me on her own. Look, I never wanted things to go that way, but they just did, alright?”
Zoana didn’t seemed pleased by his response. Shooting up, she pointed her wing at him, “Just tell me this, Aaron- is that rumor going around camp true? Is Kiera planning to leave with you?”
“She’s a grown woman, Zoana, and she wants to come with me! If you have a problem with that, then you’re just going to have to deal with it!”
“I knew that’s what she and mother were talking about! Well, I’m not just going to quietly sit here and let my sister run off with some cur like you!”
Aaron’s boots and Zoana’s talons both met the stone below them as they shot to their feet, staring each other down with a furious scowl. The happy crowd of feasting nomads looked up at the two of them, expecting yet another fight.
Before things could escalate any further, Tim shot between them, placing a hand on each of their shoulders and guiding them back down.
“Calm down, calm down… look, Aaron- why don’t you just grab some more food and go for a walk? I’ll talk to Zoana. There’s no need to fight anymore.”
Breathing out through his nose, Aaron placed a fat turkey leg, spiced meat pie, and several cuts of ham into a small cloth and wrapped them up.
“I’m going to go take these to Val. You guys have fun, okay?”
Zoana folded her wings over her pert chest, huffing and turning her back to him, “Oh, we’re going to have fun…”
“S-see ya later, Aaron…” Timothy said, sitting his wife back down.
Aaron huffed right back at Zoana. He wasn’t exactly expecting the hard-headed harpy to take the news of her sister’s leaving well, especially not since the griffon was leaving with him in particular, but he supposed that it didn’t really matter in the end.
Leaving the party behind, Aaron weaved between the horde of tepees and made his ways towards the trail that lead further down the mountain…
Aaron stopped, swiveling his head around and seeing Tim running back up to him once again, having left his wife to her own devices.
“What is it, Tim?”
Timothy breathed out, running a hand through his scraggly brown hair and tapping his boot against the frosty stone below, “W-we need to talk. Come to my tent.”
Circumventing the outside curve of the camp, they ended up before a teepee larger than the rest, decorated by a zigzagging green line.
“Come on in, Aaron.” Tim said, opening the tent flap wider and motioning for him come closer.
Aaron stepped inside, looking around. The tent was absolutely stuffed with arms and crates Aaron could only assume held more. Timothy stepped past him, sitting before a long table of arms and folding his legs over each other.
The wiry man stuck a pipe between his lips, lighting it up and taking a long puff, “So… is it true, then? Kiera’s leaving with you tomorrow?”
“Yeah. Sorry to steal your new sister-in-law so soon, but I’m going to need all the help I can get.”
Timothy thoughtfully nodded his head, “Don’t worry about. I’d like to have got to know her a little better, but I trust you, Aaron. I knew you were a man who’d lay his life on the line for others from the first moment I saw you.”
Aaron’s brow twitched, “Really? I remember you saying something much less flattering back when that crowd was throwing rocks and junk at me…”
“Water under the bridge!” Tim cheered through a puff of smoke, merrily laughing like he wasn’t just called on his bullshit. He pointed down at the weapons on the table, “Now, pick whatever you want… but just one. We’re going to be moving north out of the Legion soon, and I have to make a profit for the Ravens, ya know? Haven’t even traded with anyone outside of the village yet, so I don’t want to screw up this new job too fast.”
“Alright, I get it.” Aaron muttered under his breath, his icy eyes darting from one weapon to another. There were a myriad of different deadly tools gathered from all around the globe, and Aaron found himself lost for a decision.
Some sort of ball-and-chain attached to a sickle, a thin, curved blade he recognized as a shotel, a spiked flail…
While he was tempted to pick out something entirely on aesthetic, he could imagine his old friend Connal the blacksmith smacking him upside the head for even entertaining the thought.
‘No, I’m trying to avenge my brother, not win a fuckin’ beauty pageant. Think, Aaron. My claymore already weighs me down enough, not to mention it would be smart to bring something small and inconspicuous into towns in case I get into any trouble. But I’ve also got to think of combat practicality. What am I lacking?‘
Aaron though back to his most recent fights, the vengeful priest Gregorio chucking spells at him from a distance while he was unable to strike back. After that came memories of the pale madman Cronan pinning him behind a tree with a rapid barrage of spikes.
Grimacing, Aaron thought back even further. Back during his time doing the Legion’s dirty work, he always allowed Miles to snipe enemies with his crossbow or step aside for William and his spear when he faced an enemy with a clear ranged advantage.
“I like to get up close and personal with my opponent, but it’s high time I learned how to strike from a distance. I’m the worst aim you could imagine, but I suppose I’ll have to suck it up and keep practicing until I can hit a bullseye.”
“That’s the spirit!” Tim cheered.
Aaron disregarded all other weaponry but the ranged ones. A crossbow? No, too bulky, and much to hard to maintain on the road. A sling? Conspicuous, but he couldn’t imagine he’d be doing too much damage with it.
That’s when he spotted it. A simple leather bandolier, the strap running across the chest holding five throwing knives. They would take a while to master, but they could easily kill at close range in the meantime.
“Oh yeah… this is nice.” Aaron laughed, picking up the bandolier.
“Ah, excellent choice. Use that to protect Kiera, alright?”
Aaron slipped the bandolier over his head, setting it outside of his black tunic. He nodded towards Tim as he fastened it, “Don’t worry, Timothy. I will.”
Just as Aaron was about to leave, something caught his eye. In the corner of the tent, a wooden mannequin was dressed up in a flashy yellow overcoat and purple collared shirt. Around its scalp, it sported a crimson bandanna.
“Hey, Tim. Do you mind if I have one other tiny little thing…?”
Further down the trail, Aaron hiked downwards, right until he found a pitch-black figure sitting on the side of the path. Curled up into a ball, she stared at the silent town of Angel’s Fall as unflinchingly as a statute.
Her ears remained flattened, and her tail remained static. Swiveling her head around, she peeked at him over her shoulder.
Aaron waved back at her, coming up and taking a seat beside her. He hung his feet off the side of the trail as he handed her a small cloth, her nose instantly picking up the sweet scents of spiced meats from under the fabric.
“I brought you something to eat.”
Valerie pushed the cloth away, “I-I’m not hungry.”
“You’ve been sitting here for almost six hours, Valerie.”
“And you’re not hungry?”
With a heavy sigh, Aaron set her food to the side and turned back to the hellhound, “Look… I’m sorry about what happened with Kiera. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses for either of us, but I’m also not going to turn down her help. We’re up against the most powerful empire the world has ever seen, Val. Not accepting help some someone as strong as Kiera would be insanity.”
The hellhound remained motionless, and Aaron wasn’t sure if she was giving him the silent treatment or letting his words digest.
“That was the second time.” the hellhound finally whimpered.
“That was the second time you’ve run off without me. I… I thought the first time was because you didn’t want me to get hurt. If I was stronger, I could’ve come with you to find the treasure. But… but I’m not a warrior. I’m just some pathetic little wimp who was more interested in playing pretend than fighting.”
“Valerie, what are you saying? I would’ve died if you hadn’t saved me from those soldiers!”
“Those were just a bunch of losers! I’d never be able to beat a paladin, or even a bunch of legionaries that were actually ready for a fight.”
“No… you’ll get stronger, Val. We both will.”
Valerie shook her head, “J-just go on without me, Aaron. Kiera… Kiera is better for you anyway. She’s smarter than me. She’s stronger than me… she’s practically a princess! S-she also makes you feel better than I can too, can’t she…?”
“Stop it. Don’t ever sell yourself short like that , Val. I never would’ve made it this far without you, and Kiera and I won’t make it much farther without you either.”
Aaron couldn’t be certain, but he thought he saw the faintest traces of a smile appear on her lips. After another brief moment of silence, he touched her naked neck.
“By the way, Val… what happened to your scarf?”
“It was that huge guy on the horse. The captain. He stole it from me and got his lackey to rip it up.”
As the memory returned to her, more tears gathered at the corners of her eyes.
“Ah… don’t cry, Val. It was just a scarf.”
“I-it wasn’t just a scarf! It… it made me feel… made me feel like I had something to fight for.”
“What do you mean?”
“I-it’s a hellhound tradition. When we come of age and our mother thinks we’re a worthy warrior… we… we get our very own skull collar. But… but I never got one. That scarf… it… it made me feel like I had finally made something out of myself by helping you. Stupid, right?”
“I… I don’t think it’s stupid. I’m actually flattered you think of me that highly, Val.”
Aaron’s words only seemed to depress Valerie further. Now back on the verge of tears, the hellhound went on, “Not to mention… it was made from the first gift you ever gave me.”
“That cloak wasn’t a gift, Val. I was only thinking about my own safety when I bought it for you. It was because I didn’t want to get spotted with a hellhound, not because I wanted to buy you a gift. Come here, Valerie. If you’re that upset about losing the scarf, then I’m glad I talked Tim into giving me this.”
Valerie turned towards Aaron, her ears perked up in confusion. The human placed something up to her neck and reached behind her back, securely fastening it so it hung over the patch of red hair on her chest.
Pinching the tip of the triangular thing, Valerie lifted it away from her chest and saw that it was a crimson bandanna.
“This is my first gift.” Aaron said, pulling away.
“A-Aaron… you big dummy…”
The cracked floodgates finally bursting, Valerie tackled Aaron to the ground and wailed into his shirt.
“P-promise you’ll never run off without me again…” she sobbed as she looked up at him, quivering and quaking as she cried her eyes out.
Hugging her tighter, Aaron nestled his head by her own.
After walking a bit further down the trail to clear his head, Aaron trekked back up to the camp and retired to his tent for the night. The sleepy swordsman stumbled past the flaps, tossed off his boots and bandolier, and collapsed into his bedding with a loud yawn.
‘I’ve spent way too much damn time around Remington… I should be crossing the border by now. Ah well. Now that I have Kiera and some more money, that should speed our pace up a good bit. For now, I’m just going to have to get a good night’s sleep and-’
Aaron’s thoughts came to a screeching halt when he felt a woman grab onto his left side, smooshing his arm between her breasts. The same phenomenon occurred on his right, causing his heart to jump and body to shudder.
“Goodnight, Aaron~” Valerie and Kiera playfully whispered into his ear in tandem. Both gave him a kiss on their respective cheek, then moved up to his lips, only to bump heads. Both of the monster’s eyes snapped open as they realized the other was there.
“Get out of here, you whore!” Val barked.
“What, so you can have your way with Aaron? I don’t think so!”
“I wasn’t the one who raped him when he was drugged!”
“Excuse me? He was in pain! I was helping him! You kidnapped him and dragged him off to some dingy cave!”
As the two monsters above him continued to hurl insults and accusations at each other, Aaron encased his head in his pillow and let out a frustrated scream.