Wisdom in Shadow, Chapter 3

Preface: Greetings, all! This is the third chapter of the tale that began with “Wisdom in Shadow – Chapter 1,” comes immediately after “Wisdom in Shadow, Chapter 2,”and is the third story is a series that began with “What You Don’t Know,” also located on this site, although it features a mostly-different cast of characters.

As always, my standard disclaimer: The monster girls featured in this tale, and many elements of the setting, are based off of the works of Kenkou Cross, and as such this work is intended to be a tribute to his creativity. The characters, however, are my own. Pray neither sue nor steal; I have very little to take, but I love that which is mine.

Wisdom in Shadow

Chapter 3 – Scripture

     The Chapel of Divine Revelation was humbly named for such an impressive structure.  As Simon entered the outer narthex, he was impressed by the roominess of the entrance, which featured vaulted ceilings high overhead.  Judging from the structure of the building’s exterior, a second floor was located above the center of that ceiling, but that stole nothing of the high arch from the entryway.  He looked around, marveling at the differences between this place and the cathedrals he was accustomed to from his time in Olympus City.  While this building lacked much of their opulence, such as the gold inlay and the gleaming marble, it had an undeniable dignity to the dark wood of its walls and the age-smoothed carvings that covered them.

     Simon paced leisurely as he gazed around him.  The outer narthex was uncrowded, with only a few groups of pilgrims standing about, talking amongst themselves as they awaited one of the nuns that were cloistered within to lead them further into the cathedral.  The pilgrims were so few in number for such a significant location that Simon frowned, wondering if there were indeed rumors scaring travelers away from Videre and its landmark.  So lost in though was he that he scarcely noticed the pilgrims wincing and turning away from him; the sight of a scowling Inquisitor was rarely a good one.

     Motion near the door leading into the inner narthex drew his eye, and he turned to see one of the sisters enter the room, only to spot him and immediately leave once more, the sound of her racing feet echoing in the open air.  He chuckled at that, glancing down at his tabard and his staff before looking over to the nearest group of supplicants. “It seems I’m expected,” he explained wryly, trying not to resent the way they flinched at his voice. “Sorry for skipping the line.”

     Only a few minutes passed before Simon’s escort arrived.  Unlike the frantic nun who had run to fetch her, the sister who entered the narthex walked with a calm grace, her head held high and her face politely reserved.  Unlike the previous sister, who had been clad in a blanketing black habit and a white wimple that had covered much of her face, the tall woman approaching him now wore a slightly more refined outfit, with a white scapular belted tightly over her dark attire, and the white coif she wore left much of her platinum hair bared, a bit of decadence that Simon was sure Lector Themras would decry as vanity.  It was hard for Simon to judge the woman’s age; her face was unlined and even attractive, though her expression spoke clearly of the authority she wielded.  She favored him with the subtlest of smiles as she approached, bowing her head slightly in greeting. “Welcome, sir Inquisitor, to the Chapel of Divine Revelation.  It is always pleasurable to see another member of the faith join us here for enlightenment.  I am Sister Benevolence, prioress of this convent.  What might we humble sisters do for you this morning?” At this, her smile grew, and he thought he could see a hidden humor in her dark eyes.

     “My apologies, Prioress,” Simon began, bowing his head in response. “I am Inquisitor Errant Simon Hopkins, and I’m afraid today I come on assignment, rather than on pilgrimage.  Lector Themras has deployed me to survey your practices in light of yesterday’s… unfortunate events.”

     “Ah, Father Wulfe,” the woman said, her face slipping slightly into sadness. “A true shame for one such as him to fall like that.  We were not associated with him, or his practices, but it is always troubling to hear of such tragedy.”

     “Of course.  I take it, then, that you didn’t know Father Wulfe personally?”

     “I’m afraid not,” the woman assured him. “He tended to keep to his home, and the small chapel in town used by the townsfolk for their own observances.  It is a difficult trek up the mountain, you see, so few of those who live nearby attend services here.  Instead, our masses tend to be for the pilgrims, who travel from across the continent to visit this sacred hall.  We maintain apartments for those who come here, to spare them the toil of climbing up to this plateau.”

     Simon agreed with her strongly when it came to the walk up to the monastery.  It had taken him hours, and even with the added aid of gravity he wasn’t looking forward to his return trip down the mountain.  Her words also explained why the inn in Videre was so sparsely populated; the rooms were intended for those with business in the town itself, or for wealthy travelers unwilling to slum in the spartan apartments provided by the sisters. “I see.  Did you know anything of his crimes before they were conveyed to the church in the capitol?”

     Sister Benevolence smiled at him.  For just a moment, he thought he saw her nostrils flare, as if she were sniffing the air. “His crimes?” She looked away, her lips losing their curl, but her eyes returned to him. “Well, I believe there were some rumors that his granddaughter kept a kobold, but we felt it not our place to chastise him for that.  Some sisters here come from countries where that was once accepted, before the expansion of the Hellenistic Empire, and so did the girl.  We merely believed the situation would take care of itself in time, as it has.”

     Simon nodded, a familiar twinge of guilt plucking at his heart. “Of course.  I doubt that many in the church would see fit to censure you for that, considering you had no responsibility for Father Wulfe.”

      “And anyways, aren’t kobolds harmless?” she interrupted, tapping her chin as if in thought.

     Simon blinked, offput by the suggestion. “Well, I mean… church doctrine is that all monsters are corruptive by nature, and should be shunned, of course.” He carefully fought to swallow down his hypocrisy.

     “Of course.  Forgive my leniency.” Sister Benevolence bowed her head to him in apology.  When she straightened, her lips had retaken their smile. “I assure you that all is as it should be here, but I understand if you must investigate.  If you are to look for any signs of corruption or indolence, shall I give you a tour of the monastery?  I have served here the longest of all the sisters, so I should be able to answer any of your questions.”

     “Thank you, that would be much appreciated.” He stepped forward, and she turned, leading him into the inner narthex.  As they entered that chamber, the first thing he noticed was the statue in the center, a stone column atop which stood a young man clutching a sword to his breast.  His head was bowed and smooth, showing only the most general of facial features.  In contrast, his tabard was detailed with faint lines and darkened with dye, indicating the blood that had flowed from the wound that had slain him.  Simon inclined his head at the sight of the familiar form; statues of the Holy Martyr had been all but omnipresent in Olympus City, but he still reflexively bowed to the man that had saved humanity from the Demon King over a century ago.

     Ringed around the inner entrance chamber were six other statues, carved in the same style as the Martyr’s.  They were, together, the Seven Heroes who had saved the world.  Nearest to him were the Scout and the Ranger, with the Conqueror and the Paladin opposite each other on either side of the main statue.  Closest to the sanctum were the Priest and the Squire, with the latter standing on a higher plinth so his height was not as far removed from the others.  All of the statues wore identical smooth faces, but were dressed in the style of their profession.  The display was similar to hundreds that Simon had seen in the capitol, but a few details struck him as odd.  First, all the statues showed an older style; more modern statues tended to be heavily idealized, to the point that it was often hard to tell the difference between most of the heroes if not for the weapons they bore, the Squire notwithstanding.  Also, there was something about the arrangement that struck him as unusual, and it took him a moment to produce the reason why. “Ah, of course.  This monastery was the home of the Priest before their journey, wasn’t it?  So of course he would have a more prominent placement.” He nodded to one of the rear plinths, which typically would hold the statue of the Paladin.

     “Ah, then you have an interest in our history?” Sister Benevolence turned to him with a brighter smile. “Yes, you are correct.  The structure was far smaller then, and only was renovated after the Last War of the Demon King, in honor of his sacrifice.  The chapel then was devoted to one of the vanished gods, but after the spread of the Church of the Holy Martyr it was rededicated to that faith.”

     “How much remains from that earlier period?” Simon asked as she led him past the statues, his eyes locked onto the shape of the Priest, who had a book clutched to his chest.  That was odd, too, he noted; most of his forms had him holding a staff just like Simon’s own.

     “Well, there are crypts below the sanctuary that hold the bones of ancient saints, and even Heroes from wars before the Last War of the Demon King, though none still know their stories.” She shrugged delicately, and glanced at him sidelong. “It is really a shame, how much knowledge has been lost.”

     “I agree, wholeheartedly,” Simon admitted, looking about him as they entered the nave.  On either side were stained-glass windows featuring depictions of knights battling monstrous creatures, plunging their swords into the breasts of inhuman beasts.  The light of day streamed through those windows, throwing their colors in broad swathes upon the floor.  At the far end in front of the altar stood a podium that was currently unoccupied, though scattered groups of nuns spoke to small parties of pilgrims along the walls. “Even the names of the Seven Heroes, which has always haunted me.” He paused, blinking at that admission. “Don’t get me wrong, I understand that we believe that they are emblematic of humanity as a whole, and so their individual histories are less important, but I feel like we could learn so much from their stories.” He felt like the stumble-tongued student he had been not long ago, bracing for a rebuke from one of his instructors.

     “Oh, I couldn’t have said it better myself,” responded the Prioress enthusiastically, and he turned to find a bright smile on her face. “I myself have spent a great deal of time reading through our libraries in search of some knowledge about them, hoping for some discovery to pass on to the faithful.”

     “You have sizeable libraries, here, then?” Simon prompted, trying to keep the eagerness he felt from showing.

    “Oh, several.  We have liturgical texts in the west wing, and histories in the east.” She laughed musically as she noticed his eyes flick in the latter direction. “We even have more… esoteric texts, including older treatises on the forgotten schools of arcane magic, but of course we keep those locked up.”

     “Is that so?” He subdued his disappointment. “Are they well-protected from intruders?  Such tomes would be incredibly valuable to the right sorts, and could make this place a target for bandits.”

     “Don’t worry,” she reassured him, her eyes locked on his face. “Only a very few people know they exist.  We keep them sealed in a library off from the crypts.  The doors are locked, and the crypts can only be entered through a stairwell hidden along the ambulatory.  I could give you a tour at a later time, if you would like.  Perhaps after our evening service?”

     “Maybe another day,” Simon said. “I can’t stay too long this evening – I must report my first findings back to my superior – and I believe I will be returning.  Just due diligence, of course.”

    “Whatever your Father deems necessary.”  Sister Benevolence continued her tour of the monastery, pointing out the paths that led to the apartments used by pilgrims, opposed by the halls leading to the convent’s chambers.  Simon followed her dutifully, listening to her explanations, asking pointed questions as their walk took them from room to room.  Something struck him as off about the Prioress; she was nothing like the strict matrons back at Olympus City, though few women rose to such high positions in the church back in the capitol.  Instead, she showed a rare sort of insight and curiosity that felt sympathetic to his own nature, though that did little to dispel the mystery that she tended to exude.

     Over an hour later, as she led him up the stairs to the upper levels of the cathedral, she pointed to the thick wooden doors ahead. “Through there are the rooms for the abbot, though we have been without one for some time.  Instead, I have served as the superior for this monastery, just until a worthy candidate is chosen.  We do host itinerant priests here occasionally, and speakers from the various Barrier Cities- ah!” She slipped ahead of him, her ankle turning as she fell onto the floor before he could catch her.  He hastened to her side, and she turned an embarrassed face his way. “Forgive me, I seem to have lost my footing.  Just a moment.”

     “Allow me to help you,” he offered, extending a hand, and she took it with her left, placing her right hand on his left shoulder to leverage herself back to her feet.  As she did so, he felt an odd twinge in that shoulder, the muscle spasming, and he restrained a wince, not wanting to bother her by implying she was too heavy to support.  Much the opposite; she regained her feet gracefully, testing her ankle by rotating it under her dark skirts.  As she was distracted, he did the same with his arm, trying to work the kink out of his shoulder.

     “Anyways,” she continued, shaking her head at her own clumsiness, “I fear I must prepare for the evening service.  Are you sure I cannot convince you to stay?”

     “My apologies, Prioress,” he replied, shaking his head. “But I will most likely return tomorrow.”

     “Then I will make time for you then,” she offered. “Perhaps I could show you the libraries, hmm?” Her smile was kind, though he couldn’t help but feel that warmth didn’t quite reach her eyes as she looked at him.  She took his cautious affirmative with a nod, and bade him farewell, heading away to speak to a pair of sisters lingering nearby as if waiting to speak to their superior.

     A short while later, Simon left the Chapel of Divine Revelation, beginning the long, lonely walk under the evening sun down to the town far below.  His mind whirled as he strolled down the road, his staff tapping a steady rhythm beside him.  The monastery was not what he had expected, but it showed no signs of being the den of idleness that Lector Themras had suggested.  Instead, all of the sisters had seemed quite active, hurrying about their duties, if curious about the Inquisitor their Prioress was leading around.  The population of pilgrims had been somewhat healthier than he had first believed; it seemed that many had taken to long stays in the apartments at the monastery before beginning their trek to their next destination, and so many of the nuns were engaged with parties of those travelers, usually young men or older merchants.

     He grinned to himself as he remembered seeing the libraries that Sister Benevolence had mentioned, though only the barest of glimpses.  The bookcases had been towering, and he knew he could lose himself in there for months.  He had said as much to his guide, and she had laughed when he mentioned that he would have to face the wrath of Lector Themras if he succumbed to spending too much time there.  He remembered that she had teasingly warned him that “Wisdom has its price,” though he couldn’t quite remember why that phrase had stuck out to him as much as it had.

     Still, perhaps his mission here wouldn’t be as bad as he had feared.  With that relief, Simon hastened down the mountain, his mind turning to thoughts of a warm meal, time with Gina, and his bed.  Above him, the monastery on the mountain cast a long shadow, and the sky’s oranges and pinks glowed on the walls like the flames dancing on the flapping banners.

 

******

 

     When Simon made it into the inn, it was much later than he had expected.  His report to the Lector had taken a long time, and he had stayed to help the priest read again over several letters, a fresh pair of eyes to search for hidden meanings.  Not at all to his surprise, the manuscripts had turned up innocuous: a few faded letters from his deceased daughter and son-in-law, a correspondence with a fellow priest in distant Avalon, notes sent from former parishioners that had moved to a new town, but had sent word on their status and their good wishes back to the old priest.  Still, Themras had hounded him as he read over them, demanding he search for meaning behind meaning, as if certain there was something there.  Simon was increasingly certain there was not, but he knew better than to suggest such to the older man, whose face was remaining the same red as his beard more and more.

     His report about the monastery had all but been ignored.  Simon had left out the conversation he had shared with the Prioress about Father Wulfe; he did not want Themras thinking overmuch about kobolds.  Still, the Lector had agreed for him to continue his investigation of the monastery, though Simon increasingly believed it was to have him out of Themras’s hair.  He was curious about how George’s hunt had gone, but the Lector did not offer that information, instead driving him onward by shoving new letters in his face until Simon had finally managed to escape.

     Now, under a sky darkening to plumskin in the west, he finally found his way to his temporary home, his stomach growling with every jostle.  He swung the door open, and stepped into the common room, where flames roared in the wide fireplace beyond tables covered with the last remnants of a dozen men’s supper.  Behind a counter stood Charles Kramer, polishing a mug.  As he saw the younger man, the burly innkeeper raised a hand in welcome, and Simon returned the gesture with a genuine smile.  His expression wavered as he noticed the young lady weaving amongst the tables, carrying a tray laden with foaming mugs.  The innkeep’s daughter, however, only blushed at seeing him, but nodded in his direction.  Simon couldn’t understand at all why she would seem more ready to face him after that morning’s disastrous introduction, but he was willing to forego that awkwardness if at all possible.

     “Hey, Simon, over here!” called a familiar voice, and the Inquisitor turned to see George Lambton sitting at a nearby table, a plate picked clean before him and a stout mug in his hand raised high in greeting.  George still wore the tabard and colors of a Purifier, but had discarded his leathers in favor of more comfortable attire.  Comfort was also the reason he was leaned back in his seat with his feet propped up on one of the other chairs, and his cheeks glowed crimson with a warmth rooted, most likely, in the array of empty cups on the table, and the alcohol tolerance of a young man unaccustomed to having the freedom to drink without the threat of sanctimonious lecturing. “Join me!”

    Laughing in resignation, Simon accepted the invitation, even though he was nervous about Gina and the monster hunter being in the same building at the same time.  George, he knew, was a novice, just like him, but he still had no intentions of letting his guard down.  He pulled out the seat across from George, propping his staff against the next chair, and sat down heavily.  His legs were tensing from the climb up and down the mountain, and he feared his calves would rebel in the morning when he had to do it again.

     “So,” George began, his words slightly slurred. “How’s the church on the hill?  Lotsa nuns and stuff?”

     Simon nodded genially.  Actually, that summed it up pretty well. “Lots of nuns, no monsters, if that helps.”

     “Same in the woods.  I mean, not the nuns.  No monsters.  Nothing.  The mercen- I mean, the men-at-arms didn’t find anything either.” George sighed irritably. “This hasn’t been a great assignment so far, if you ask me.”

     “Well, yeah,” Simon agreed, thinking of Father Wulfe’s face as the mercenaries had tied him to the stake. “Not what I expected.”

     Before George could continue, Simon noticed the presence of a person standing behind him.  He glanced over his shoulder to discover the bespectacled daughter of the innkeep, who was looking at him with a nervous blush. “What would you like?” she managed, her voice trembling a bit, and Simon winced as he remembered once more what she had seen that morning.

     “Ah, just something meaty, preferably, and an ale.” He tried smiling at her, but she quickly turned and headed for the kitchen.  Simon watched her go, sighing in defeat.

     “I think she likes ya,” George teased from across the table.

     “If only,” Simon replied, then hastily realized he needed to avoid explaining that comment. “Not many girls go for Inquisitors, it seems.”

     “That’s why Purifiers are the best Order, you know?” George replied smugly, taking a long swig from the mug he held.

     “Oh, drowning in the ladies, are you?” teased Simon, and the other man looked away with a crimson-cheeked frown.  Simon leaned back in his chair, feeling comfortable around George for the first time since they had met, just before they had departed Olympus City. “Hey, I’ve got a question.  Why did you join the Purifiers?”

     The change on George’s face was immediate and sharp. “Why do you ask?” he asked, his eyes narrowed.

     “Just curious, I guess.  I mean, monster hunting seems a little… rough,” Simon finished lamely.

    “’Cause Purifiers are heroes, don’t you know?” George lowered his mug unsteadily to the table so he could point a finger at Simon. “We are the closest to the heart of the church, right?  That’s what they say.  The Martyr himself would’ve been a Purifier.”

     Simon nodded.  He had heard similar arguments from other young men.  Defenders were glorified guards, Crusaders were glory hounds, Hospitalliers were weak nurses, Warders were sneaky cowards, and Inquisitors were snoopy booklovers, but Purifiers were the ideal knights.  They were the ones that protected humanity from the monsters in the dark, the dragonslayers, the bane of the undead, the answer to every bump in the night.  Still, Simon had met experienced Purifiers before, and they had felt more like murderers to him, at least now that he imagined Gina in front of them.

     George was nothing like that yet.  This was his first mission, just like Simon, and the only monsters he had fought had been made of straw in his Order’s practice yards.  Of course, Simon was also a novice, and experienced Inquisitors weren’t usually delights to be around, either.  Simon was whole-heartedly glad that none of them were present in Videre.  He would have ended up on the pyre before the moon could rise.

     “So, you found absolutely nothing out there?” Simon changed the subject, and immediately he could see George relax, taking back up his mug.

     “Naw, not tracks, not dens, nothing.” He paused, frowning. “Well.  There was one thing, but I don’t know how it has anything to do with monsters.” Simon waved him on, but the Purifier took a long time in responding. “It was like… a circle?  With lines and shapes, drawn in the ground.  Nothing around it, no tracks I could see, but the ground was hard all around, so it was hard to tell.  Only prints I saw came from a pair of boots, and I only saw them in one direction.”

     Cold fear trickled into Simon’s gut. “George, that’s a magic circle.  The tracks only went one way?  That’s… not good, whatever it is.”

     The Purifier stared morosely into his now-empty mug. “I was afraid of that.”

    “Listen, if you find any more of those, you have to tell me.  And the Lector.” Simon’s mind went immediately to the missing pilgrims.  While magic was still used by those in the church, it was a very specific type.  Arcane magic in general had gradually been outlawed after the days of the Seven Heroes, especially since it was seen as a gateway for demonic energies to corrupt those who used that power.  Still, a few hidden hedgemages still practiced the old ways, and the church was quick to discipline those they discovered.  Perhaps the missing people weren’t due to monsters after all, Simon pondered.

     Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Simon’s meal.  The young woman carrying the food leaned close to deposit Simon’s plate in front of him, and he felt a soft pressure on his left shoulder that sent an overpowering thrill of unexpected pleasure racing up his spine.  As he shivered off that intense feeling, he turned to look at the girl, who was regarding him curiously. “T-thanks,” he stammered, feeling a tightness in his breeches.

     “It’s no problem,” she said, smiling meekly.  She met his gaze for just a moment. “I-if you want, I’ll have a tray with some food you can take up to your room as well, in case you get hungry.  Oh!  And I’ll get you another ale, sir,” she added for George’s benefit, taking up his empty flagon and rushing back towards the kitchen.

     “Great service here, eh?” George teased once more, and Simon shook his head, still trying to calm his racing heart.  What was that feeling, he wondered, when she had touched him?  He shook off the question, shifting uncomfortably in his seat, as he turned to his meal, drawing free a drumstick from a half-chicken and biting into it fiercely.  The food was well-prepared, he noted, and nowhere as bland as the food he was used to back at the capitol.

     The conversation turned from there to less important matters, ranging from the best places to eat back at Olympus City, to the worst instructors they had had to deal with during their training.  Simon found himself relaxing more and more around George, who he discovered had a good sense of humor, even if they didn’t share many interests.  He almost envied the fact that the Purifier was more pious than he was, but perhaps his own feeble faith came from being a conscript taken from his parents by the church, he reflected with an old bitterness.  Still, George made him see why being a Purifier would be appealing; they treated the world like an adventure, and that meant a freedom Simon would not soon see.

     Several times the girl returned to the table to refill their cups, but never did Simon have another reaction to her presence, even when she brushed against his arm as she leaned close to deliver George’s next drink.  She spoke to him more freely as he relaxed, the ale fizzing into his mind, and George’s suggestive comments got more and more blunt as the evening dragged on.  Once, long ago, Simon had dreamed of settling down with a girl like her, he remembered.  That dream had faded much like his childhood fantasy of being a librarian, but still his new friend’s comments dragged those ideas back to the fore.

     By the time George staggered out of the inn, many of the townsfolk had left the two young men to themselves.  Simon had begun to note the disapproving glances that Mr. Kramer was shooting his way, but he had still kept his tongue guarded.  He knew better than to betray their trust, even as the room wobbled a bit as he headed for the stairs.  He belatedly accepted the tray of night snacks from the girl as she rushed after him, and stammered out his gratitude, which she accepted with a smile, almost as if his lack of composure worked inversely to her comfort with him.  The stairs proved a challenge for him as he balanced the tray that held a pitcher of cold water opposite a small platter of snacks, perhaps a supplement for the food they hoped had sneaked to Gina during the day.  He arrived at his door without incident, and still had the presence of mind to knock softly before entering, hoping that might put his canine guest more at ease.

     Gina stayed out of sight as he entered the room, and her absence sent a shock of sobriety burning through him.  He rushed to the corner just in time to notice a pair of furred feet drumming impatiently on his bed, and he sighed in relief as Gina turned to see him with a brilliant smile.  He barely had time to set down the tray before the kobold rushed him, flinging herself onto him with a hug.  He laughed, staggering, as she rubbed her face on him with a contented grin.

     “Sorry I’m late,” Simon offered, but she recoiled from his breath, waving a paw in front of her nose.  He blushed, realizing she smelled the alcohol on his breath, and turned back to the tray, pouring himself a glass of water that he futilely hoped would help rinse his mouth somewhat clean of the odor.  He was still mid-pour when Gina recovered from her overpowered sense of smell, pressing against him once more, holding tightly to his back. “Missed me, huh?” he chuckled. “I missed you too.” He was surprised at how honest that statement was, after only a day of knowing her.

     Gina was pressed against him tightly enough that he could feel her body stiffen suddenly, and she began sniffing furiously at his back, leaning hard against him.  He leaned forward, feeling oddly ticklish under her breath. “What, are you saying that the rest of me stinks too?  Give me just a moment, and I’ll change into my nightclothes.” The innroom featured a small washcloset with a basin and rags, fortunately hidden from the rest of the room, though he wouldn’t put it past Gina to try to come in there with him.  The warm blurriness of his brain allowed him to wonder for just a moment if that would be so bad.

      Gina tugged at his overshirt, and he helped her remove it. “Alright, alright, I’ll take the hint,” he relented.  He started to head for the washroom, but Gina didn’t let him escape, yanking at his undershirt. “H-hey, I can take off my own clothes, you don’t have to-” He was interrupted as the shirt became tangled, his arms and head and glasses trapped inside the labyrinthine cloth, but as he struggled against his bindings he felt Gina pushing him across the room. “Wait, stop, I can’t see!”

     He freed himself just in time to see he was standing in front of his bed, and Gina paused only to shove hard against his back.  He landed facedown on the mattress, his head swimming enough that he didn’t resist as he felt the kobold climb on top of him, straddling his butt as she leaned over his back. “What are you doing?” Simon demanded, craning his neck to see her, but Gina ignored him.  He could see just enough of her face to notice that her eyes were widened, as if she were surprised by something she was seeing, but he was too busy trying to decipher her behavior to divine what could have shocked her. “Gina, stop, I need to go wash, let me up.”

     He froze as he felt one of her paws press against his upper spine, holding him in place, and she shifted atop him.  He heard her sniff gingerly at his left shoulder, then recoil, and a low growling from deep within her throat sent a shiver racing up and down the course of his back. “Gina, what’s wrong?” he asked, his concern clearing the fog from his mind.  Still she didn’t answer, but neither did she release the pressure forcing him against the bed.  He tensed as he felt her lean closer once more, and his panicked mind made him vision himself as trapped prey before a wolf’s fangs.  He could feel her breath on the skin of his shoulder, and then- a warm, moist touch, in a long stroke.  Gina smacked her lips, as if ridding herself of a sour taste, but then leaned back in.  He groaned as he felt her begin to assault his skin with her tongue, lapping repeatedly against him, bathing his shoulderblade in her saliva.

     This was hardly the first time Gina had licked him, but this, this was different.  Simon writhed under the touch of her tongue, moaning desperately into the blankets beneath him.  Pleasure radiated from the places that her softness traversed, the moisture on his skin tingling electrically.  As she mechanically lapped at him, he struggled to rise from the bed, his hips bucking unconsciously.  Delicious heat flooded his body, and he felt his member jutting roughly into the mattress, a burning hunger consuming his loins. “Oh, Gina,” he sighed, looking back to her with lust simmering in his gaze, “that feels nice.  Do you – ah! – do you want to pick up where we left off this morning?” He offered her a pleasure-numbed smile, blind to the concern and fear in her eyes.

     Instead, she redoubled her efforts, lashing her tongue against him, her teeth scraping his flesh.  She was panting soon, both from the licking and from the effort of keeping him restrained as he groaned under her touch, his face flushed with sublime pleasure.  Finally, at last, she stopped, regarding his shoulder with an appraising stare, making certain her task was done.  Satisfied, she rose off of him, walking over to the tray he had brought and spitting into one of the cups, her saliva splattering violet stains on the glass.  She reached for the pitcher of water, now lukewarm, and washed her mouth out several times, spitting into the glass to rid her mouth of the tainted taste of the mark she had cleansed from Simon’s back.

     On the bed, Simon sighed in exhaustion.  The ale and the warmth of the room left his head swimming in deep waters, and he could barely keep his eyes open as fatigue sapped all his strength.  He couldn’t recall what had just happened, let alone why he needed to rise from the mattress. “Come to bed, Gina,” he murmured, wondering where his pillows were as the room faded into darkness.

     It was hours later when the kobold followed that command.  By that time, she had replaced his nightshirt on him, and relieved him of his breeches, taking a long blushing look at his equipment as payment for her services.  She had scooted him into the bed, and now he was lost to the world as midnight flooded Videre with darkness.  Still she stood watch, sensing a dark presence at the edges of her sight, until finally it departed.  Safe at last, she joined Simon on the bed, hugging him protectively.

     Neither of them were awake to notice as the water she had spat into the cup evaporated, the dark ink that had formed the pleasure rune on his back fading into the air with the sickly-sweet scent of overripe fruit and thick perfume.

Continued in “Wisdom in Shadow, Chapter 4 

Author’s Note: I will keep this note short, as I am pressed beyond exhaustion.  I wrapped up this semester’s tasks, finally, but with 3 basketball games and a dance to chaperone afterwards, I find myself worn quite thin.  Still, aside from a few miscellaneous tasks, I am free.  Free to write, and write I shall…. Chapter 5 is only the beginning.  My goal is to end this tale by year’s end, and then, to begin the next…

But, lest I forget, thank you for reading.  Even seeing the numbers of views my stories get warms my heart, though to hear the voices of my readers is a far greater joy.  I shall return on Wednesday with the next chapter, and hope that it, too, draws your eye.

But, now, I can do nothing at all, but sleep…

~Wynn Pendragon

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2 thoughts on “Wisdom in Shadow, Chapter 3”

  1. About what I expected. The Chapel is a hidden nest of monsters, presumably the origin of the disappearing pilgrims as they snag themselves husbands?

    I do wonder about the “Prioress” and why she stuck a pleasure rune on him, though. Is she trying to sic the other Inquisitor on him for having participated in burning Father Wulfe and for his comments on monsters (although by KC rules, monsters stringently refuse to actually try to harm humans)? Is it a step to seducing him? Just an attempt to drive him deeper into pleasure? It’s suspicious.

    I’m even more curious as to why Gina removed it. Maybe she understood the amount of danger it put him in, or she realized that if it wasn’t removed his poor human mind would go addled from overpleasuring?

    Super interested in where you go from here. It may be darker than what you usually write, but it isn’t anywhere near grimdark. I love this sort of thing. But don’t push yourself too hard if you’re getting tired. Exhaustion is the enemy of both good health and good writing.

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