Wizardquest 2: Chapter 19- Girl’s Best Friend

Part of you knows you shouldn’t accept this. Though he’s never treated you with any hostility that you know of, it’s precisely for that reason you have trouble just accepting this: It’s the things you don’t know. Putting yourself in the power of a man who, apparently, had been working with the Grand Wizard and Selene before you even got here and then conveniently managed to get in contact with you now? That scares you.

But…what choice do you have?

Gritting your teeth against the pain and nausea, you send to Erwin to have the others agree. He gives you a concerned expression before nodding his head and tugging on the Grand Wizard’s robes. The older Wizard looks him over and then turns to you with a grim face. Sighing, he walks over to you and puts a hand on your head before whispering, “Don’t fight it.”

A sensation of utter violation comes over you at his touch. Your very core rebels against it, but you fight to keep yourself under control as you feel him penetrate your very core. Something near your stomach tickles and… suddenly you don’t feel nauseous anymore.

Confused, you look up at the Wizard and see him retract his hand and mutter, “One hell of a toxin…” before waving at you. “Get up, you have things to do.”

Though you feel like sauce covered noodles, you stagger to your feet, much to the relief of your comrades. Ebe moves over to help keep you standing on your unsteady feet. Giving her a brief smile, you turn your head to notice Tabitha sitting next to Alice, her legs still twitching every now and again. She looks pale and sweaty, as if she’d just run a marathon, but she still gives you a smile and nods her head.

“Ah, Rommel.” Ako says, breaking the moment as she addresses you. Does she seem happy to see you again? Ugh, damn her sister for telling you she has the hots for you. “It seems you’re recovered enough then. What is your answer?”

“Recovered?” You wheeze, taking a waterskin from Ebe and drinking it. Cool water dribbles down your cheek as you wipe your chin and say, “I feel like I got hit by a Leyway.”

“You look like it too.” Alice says, much to Tabitha and Sophie’s annoyance.

“You say Ammon can get us out of here?” You ask, watching their expressions. They betray no emotions as Sayaka nods her head.

“Yes, there are assets in the area which can help you and your companions out of the Palace.”

“How convienient.” You mutter, though they don’t seem to hear. That, or they pretend not to hear. Sighing, you say, “What choice do we have? We’re not exactly in a good position and Ammon has been quite generous before.” Shrugging, you instantly regret the motion as you shudder in pain.

Sayaka nods her head and then leaps into the air, bounding off rubble and out of the ruined building faster than you can follow. Giving Ako a questioning look, the sister shrugs (without pain, you may add). “You did not expect that we would transport you ourselves, did you?”

“There’s… more of you here?” You ask, surprised. “How did the cultists not discover you?”

“Ammon is… very good at being discrete. Besides, they have their hands full at the moment.” She holds a finger to the air and then points at Sophie. The Cat o’Ninetails looks confused for a moment before her ear twitches and she turns her head to the south, frowning.

“Was that… an explosion?”

Ako’s eyes twinkle.

“The Prophet.” You say, turning back toward the Throne Room interior. Your eyes linger upon the dead Monarch, her corpse covered in so much dust and debris it might as well be part of the floor. A twinge of something comes to you though you can’t say if it’s regret or anger. Doesn’t matter much now, does it? There’s something more pressing that’s bugging you.

“What of her?” Selene asks, rubbing her head. “She’s dead now. I hope.”

“Yes but… does Hent-ateh know that?” You ask. Selene blinks in surprise and then cocks her head.

“I’m not certain. Does it matter?”

“It does.” Ebe says, understanding. “If Hent-ateh knows that the last Pharaoh is dead then it’s possible that it’s contract to the Apophis is over. And if it’s not dismissed by the Apophis then it could go feral.”

Ako curses under her breath in a language you guess must be Eastern in origin. She turns to the Pharaoh and begins to make the hand signs for that odd sorcery she used against Hent-ateh, but you call out to stop her. Grabbing you staff, you at Ebe to help you move and head over to the corpse. You say, “There’s something I need to do first.”

Ebe sets you down next to the corpse and cocks her head as you look over her body. She shares a look with Ako before the two let out a soft gasp as you pull down the remains of her top, exposing her rather shapely breasts. Ebe stutters, “R-Rommel! W-what are you doing?!”

“Are you afflicted with the Curse of the Mummy again? Why would you go after such cold breasts when there are warm ones all around you?”

“Shut it.” You groan, feeling up the body of the dead Pharaoh. “I’m looking for something.” They’re right though, it is creepy as fuck what you’re doing, but where else was she going to hide that damn thing? She’s basically wearing a one piece outfit.

All in all, you’re only able to find another vial of semen (which is distressingly warm) and an amulet shaped to look like a stylized eye. A single ruby shimmers in it, but you’re fairly certain you feel no magic coming from this thing. Frowning, you stuff it away as Ebe cocks her head.

“Not what you’re looking for?”

“Perhaps he needs to perform a cavity search on her, just to be certain.” Ako sighs. Her eyes flick back to the chapel as she does so, but she makes no move for you to go.

“I was searching for the [Talisman of Tet’hua].” You say before shaking your head. “I’m not even certain I know what this thing is supposed to look like, but I don’t think this is it.” After explaining what the Talisman is, the other two look to each other.

Ebe looks pensive. “Well… what you have there is the icon of the Pharaoh’s so… maybe it’s some kind of keepsake? “

“Hmm.” Ako says, rubbing her chin, but says nothing further.

>You obtain [Keepsake pendant]

>Shaped like a stylized eye, this pendant looted from the Prophet of the Twins is the symbol of the Pharaohs.

“We don’t have much time.” Ako says, gesturing for you to move back. “I’ll do the duty.”

“No.” You say, shaking your head. Something… something just doesn’t feel right about burning her corpose. Perhaps too disrespectful? Either way, you push yourself and dig out a small trench in the stone underneath the Pharaoh. Her corpse slumps in as you dig and with effort you bury her in her own Throne room.

“Huh, I’m just glad there weren’t any tunnels under here.” Ebe says, shaking her head. “Wouldn’t have done to have her plop into the prison. Or would it?” She lets out a strained giggle before sighing. “Sorry. I… I should be more respectful. She wasn’t the best ruler but… but she did have Ectria’s interests at heart.”

Closing her eyes she sighs and spreads a wing over the grave. A soft, melancholic song escapes her lips, words in Ectrian that you understand. A dirge, sung for the dead of Ectria. Perhaps the Pharaoh didn’t deserve this much, but who were you to judge? You’re just some asshole Wizard.

{Hey! Get back here!} Erwin sends, a moment before Sayaka seemingly appears next to her sister, spooking Ebe.

“We need to go, now. The horse is accounted for and the others are being aided.” Sayaka says, to which Ako nods.

“Of course.” She walks over to you and puts an arm around your shoulder, helping you up. Ebe puffs out her cheeks and does the same, the two staring at each other with annoyance. Sighing, you say,

“Girls, you’re both pretty.” Oddly enough, this seems to calm them both down and they move you into the chapel again.

A group of men and one Anubis in black outfits are in the chapel now, helping get the others ready. Two of the men and the Anubis hook Mr. Ed up to a sling, the Monster pulling without too much apparent effort. A large wagon with two horses attached sit outside and you watch as they put him into it, something you find mildly hilarious. They do the same with Tabitha and Sylphie, who can’t walk, putting them in a secondary wagon where they usher you and the others inside. Confused, you just follow their orders as they load you up and then throw a tarp over you, shrouding you in darkness.

The wagons start pulling soon after and you create a small light to look at your companions who seem dumbfounded. How in the name of the Gods did they manage to get these in here without being noticed? Better yet, how did they manage to KEEP from being noticed as they approached? The wagon bumps a few times and you feel disoriented until a hand grabs, sharp nails digging into your coat. You turn to see Tabitha next to you, to which she shrugs. Another bump jostles the two of you together and you make to break away, but her grip intensifies, so you stay put.

Voices are heard soon outside so you cut the light and wait. A grating noise sounds before you and then the wagons are moving again, progress significantly less bumpy this time. Though you feel a little worried, the reassuring hand of Tabitha keeps you in steady and you allow yourself a moment to let all the aches of the evening wash over you. Gods, but you’re tired. To just sleep now would be the greatest thing you can imagine and yet… there’s no chance for it. You need to put on a good face for Ammon so you can get out of this, figure out how to get to your sister and…

A pain fills your heart at that thought. Your sister… still a slave to the Apophis. A part of you screams, telling you that you abandoned her by going with Ammon, but what choice did you have? Did you expect you were going to somehow just convince her that she needed some kind of “Ritual to become the ruler of Ectria?” Or maybe you would accept her disturbing advances and trap her when you were alone in order to purge the Apophis from her?

Yeah, right. And Hent-ateh would just allow you to do that. Like Liala would allow you to do it either. Thoughts of the Lamia Cult Leader make you sick as you imagine what would happen if she found the [Talisman of Tet’hua] again. Would there be another Apophis to contend with? Would she stand idly by and allow Helene to live? Or perhaps she’d make damn certain that Helene was to fade away, forever replaced by Hel’alin…

“Rommel…” Tabitha whispers next to you. “Are you alright?”

“I… no.” You say truthfully. “But I don’t have the time to be not alright.”

“Well, my legs don’t really work, but I think we’re doing pretty good.” She says. “I’m two for two on breaking legs but at least I’m also two for two on no one dying. That’s a pretty good I’d say.”

“Are you just trying to make me feel better?”

“Is it working?”

“Well-” You begin, but are cut off by Sophie as she hisses,

“Quiet. You two can get a room later.”

Both of you immediately quiet down as the wagon comes to a stop. Feet landing on paving stones sound around you and a moment later the tarp is thrown back, casting you in lantern-light. It immediately makes you blink and put your hand up, shielding you from the light as a familiar figure in a well tailored suit comes into focus.

“Ah! Rommel! So good to see you again.” Ammon says, smiling at you as his guards help you from the wagon.

———————————————–

Ako hands you a bowl of soup with a large hunk of bread. You take the bowl with shaky hands and sip at it under you blanket as she steps toward her sister and takes her place beside Ammon. The man doesn’t look to have changed at all since you last saw him, still wearing the suit with white undershirt and grey vest. The only thing you can notice different from now compared to the warehouse before is the threads of gold woven into the vest. It’s stylish, though you’re not really one to comment on such things.

The man chuckles and waves a hand. “First, let me welcome you to one of my many homes.”

The room you’re in is rather lavish, filled with a variety of silks and plush cushions, most of them centered around a large hearth upon which a fire blazes. Your companions rest around it too, bowls of soup in their hands as well. All except for Sylphie, who rests with her head on her Sister’s lap, mother and father nearby to keep her company. Outside you’re certain Erwin is resting atop Mr. Ed as well, likely keeping him guarded from any… unsavory advances from Ammon’s men.

“Quite nice.” Selene says, a perpetual scowl on her face. “Though a little ballsy to be in the Alnabil district right now.”

“Oh, I assure you, we are not in that district. A little too dicey right now.” He chuckles. “Though I do have a much nicer place there, this is Masrah district.”

The theatre district then. Which means you traveled northwest after leaving the Palace. Probably the best place to go, all things considered. Looking to the man he continues.

“I’m certain you’re asking yourselves, ‘how did he manage to get us out of the Palace?’ Well, there’s a few small cargo entrances in the walls and one of them was fairly… unguarded.”

That must have been the grating noise you heard. Still, seems a little convenient. Before you can ask, Sophie says, “How did you know to have wagons readied for us? I suppose we are thankful, but I find it a little too coincidental.”

The others nod their heads with the same sentiments. To the man’s credit, he merely shrugs and says, “I had a vested interest in watching the proceedings of the fights. Did not Zoras tell you that?”

“Where is she?” You ask, stirring at the mention of the Girtablilu’s name. “And what happened to Polah?”

“Polah? Oh, the fires in the Tajr district abated. I believe she’s alright now, though she isn’t exactly in my employ. Did you know she speaks to animals all day? Interesting Monster.” He shakes his head. “As for Zoras, she had other business to attend to for me since you dismissed her.”

The Grand Wizard grunts and drinks his soup in one, messy burst before setting down the bowl and burping. His daughter gives him an exasperated look, but his wife just continues to stare at Ammon. Wiping his mouth on the blanket given to him, he says, “You know, as I spent months of my life being tortured and beaten while my wife was mutilated before my eyes, I wondered something. ‘What was my old friend Ammon up to?'” He gives the man a cold look. “For a man who is able to get us to the Ectrian capital without being noticed, establish the cult of the Violet Sands from nothing, and get us into the Palace to try and assassinate the Pharaoh, you certainly didn’t try very hard to spring us from the dungeon.”

“Oh, dear Wizard that’s quite harsh.” Ammon says, putting a hand to his chest. “You wound me with those words. I was quite distraught myself, though at the time neither of us could have known she’d do what she did.”

Ebe wrinkles her face at that before looking down in contemplation. The man sighs. “A chain of events no one predicted. I know it must have been rough for you down there all those months, but at least what I had helped you forge kept the Pharaoh’s attention on Ectria and not on Deleor. A regrettable outcome, but as soon as I’d heard of two girls who looked much like their beautiful mother, I knew I could make right the wrongs.”

“By sending my CHILDREN into mortal danger?” Selene says, fury on her face. Her tails begin to writhe behind her and both Sayaka and Ako’s hands drift to the Eastern knives at their belts. They halt as Ammon holds up a hand.

“Peace, all of you.” He says, holding both hands up to Selene. “We were lacking in options and Rommel here… well, when I met him the first time I knew that he’d have what it takes to free the two of you.”

“All it took was the Violet Sands rising up after a certain Urn reached them.” You say in a flat tone.

“The Khepri made quite the sum from the sale, so I’m told. Of course, so did I, so we all profited.” He gives you a miserable look. “I am sorry to hear about your sister though. To think she would become the Apophis…”

“Yeah.” You say with maybe a hint of sarcasm. “Yeah, I’m sure you’re real sorry.”

“In more ways than you know, yes.” He says, shaking his head. “I’d heard Helene was a good woman, but this Hel’alin… I’m not so certain. However at the moment she is who we know of and she will take control of Ectria soon. I expect a proclamation tomorrow.”

“A proclamation?” Ebe asks, looking concerned.

“Yes. The Palace is claimed, the Pharaoh is ah… ‘absent’ and will be presumed a captive of the Apophis since no body can be found.” He gives you a sidelong glance. “The guards upon the walls are likely to lose morale in that case and the people will end up submitting- well, those who don’t find a way to flee, of course.”

“If that’s the case, then why are you here still?” Alice asks giving him a cool look. “You’re a little too smart to stay on a sinking ship. Or do you want to pledge your loyalty to her?”

Ammon smirks and folds his arms behind his back. “Not quite. While the Pharaoh was a danger to many things, these cultists have grown out of hand. Hent-ateh is a danger to all the people of this country and their leader is, forgive me, likely to impose very disturbing dictates if history is to be believed.” He sighs. “I never expected this when we first found them, Wizard. If only I’d known, perhaps… well, we cannot change the past, but we can secure the future.”

“Secure the future for what?” You ask, skeptical.

“The existence of our people and a future for Ectrian children.” Ammon says before giving a wry smile. “Ah, perhaps that was a little too melodramatic. Still, I believe that if we allow the Apophis to gain power again, it will only lead to further suffering.”

“What are you saying?” Ebe asks, hesitant.

“I am saying that it would be in the best interests of the people of Ectria if an Apophis was not to take the throne.”

Tabitha’s eyes narrow. “And who would? You?”

Ammon sighs and looks to Ako. The Kunoichi bows her head and he looks Tabitha in the eyes before saying, “If I must.”

The room goes quiet at those words. Ammon… the King? No, no… this is Ectria. It would be a return to ancient times, before the rule of the Pharaoh. If he were to do this, he would become Ammon, the Sultan.

“I don’t understand.” You say, breaking the silence. “Why are you telling us this? Why didn’t you just leave us to die back there?”

“Because Rommel, I’ll be frank. In forgiveness for everything that’s happened, I wanted to offer both you and the Grand Wizard chance before things slip out of control.” As he says this, two men walk into the room and stand behind Ako and Sayaka. The Grand Wizard grunts and Sophie gasps as you notice what’s in their hands: Magitek Rifles.

“Where… How did you get those?” The Grand Wizard asks, clenching his jaw.

“Wizard, please.” Ammon says before turning back to you. He sighs and continues. “You see, the Apophis must be removed. However, knowing what she is to you I am offering you the chance to spare her life.”

You can barely comprehend what he’s saying. He’s going to… to kill Helene? After everything you’ve learned, everything you’ve planned to save her, he’s just going to kill her? A rage flares up within you and you stand up, feeling your magic spike up about you. How DARE he threaten her and you like this? Who does he think he is?!

The men level the magitek rifles at you and you hear the whirring sounds of their power generators come alive. More of the same sounds come from all around you and you curse, realizing you’re surrounded. Perhaps you could take out Ammon and a few of these men, but the chances of them hitting and killing one of your friends is too great. Your mind flashes to Sylphie, laying unconscious and you merely clench your fist, seething in anger.

“I’m sorry if it seems like a threat, but you know it’s true.” Shaking his head he says, “However, the chance I offer you is good. I will not go back on my word on this.”

Teeth clenched, you hiss out, “What… do you want?”

“Hent-ateh must be destroyed.” He says, shaking his head. “While I’m certain it can be dealt with, the destruction and chaos would be immense. Even worse if it were to escape when its master is removed. Slay it, and I swear to you that I will remove Helene without killing her.”

“I…” You begin, thinking it over. A thought passes through you and you go ashen. “What of the rest of the cultists?”

“Unfortunately they’re too far gone. I’m afraid they were just in their goals but the means are too much. The people will never accept it and they are won’t to foment bloodshed again. They will have to be dispatched.”

Your mind drifts to the woman who hailed you in the Temple garden and you feel sick again. Sitting down on the cushions, you put your hand to your head and groan as Tabitha rubs your back. You’re aware of Ammon turning to the Grand Wizard and saying,

“As far as making it up to you, I’ve found where the Nexus point is in the Palace. If you can open it, then I will gladly make certain that Ectria will become connected with Deleor and the Monster Nation.”

“I don’t see the downside to this.” The Grand Wizard says. “What’s the catch?”

“No catch.” He says, holding up his hands. “The profit to both of us is immense from this. If I’m correct then this will allow mana into Ectria. It will change this place for the better.”

Both Selene and the Grand Wizard exchange looks of consternation, yet they slowly nod their heads. “The Prophet seemed very insistent it would require a sacrifice to open.” Selene says, hand drifting protectively over her daughter’s head.

“I believe you proved that the Prophet was not omnipotent.” He says, nodding his head. He’s about to say more when a man walks over and whispers in his ear. Ammon frowns and then sighs before giving you a pitiable look. “I’ll have to cut it short here, I’m needed for something.”

“One question.” Tabitha asks, hand still on your back. “What if we say no?”

Ammon cocks his head and then shrugs. “Nothing, I suppose. I’ll release you to the streets and you’ll be free to do as you please though I’d be careful.” He stands up and gestures to Sayaka and Ako. “These interesting times are far, far from over.” With that, he walks out of the room, taking his guards with him and leaving your party alone with your thoughts, and worries.

“Well.” Alice says, sitting back against her cushion. “I’m sure we all saw that coming.”

Sophie gives her a cold look while her parents just shake their heads. Behind you, the sound of the magitek rifles cycling down makes your spine shudder, though it could easily be the mix of rage and fear you felt. Tabitha begins to rub your back at the tension and you look to her before letting out a long sigh.

“Hmph.” The Grand Wizard says, crossing his arms. “I suppose it all makes sense when you put it together. Have us increase the presence of a cult while using the Khepri covens to sell supplies to them. Increase tensions in the Kingdom and when the first assassination attempt fails, use the conveniently empowered cult to finish the job. Even better, when you swoop in and “liberate” the people to restore order, you’ll seem like a hero.”

He turns to his wife and shrugs. “Did I get it all?”

“I’d say so.” She says, clenching her teeth. “Of course, that means you’re implying he wanted us to fail, or at least force the Pharaoh to perform the Rites of Pah’sen. Clearly, he wouldn’t do that though.”

“Clearly.” He says with all the sarcasm in the world.

Sophie looks down at her sister before over her shoulder. You can’t see anyone standing nearby, but the way her ear twitches makes it obvious that you’re being watched. The faint thrum of the magitek weapons nearby also further that belief. Ammon isn’t just going to leave you alone, not in his house.

Sighing, you cast [Privacy Barrier]. Almost as soon as you begin to speak, a man appears from a dark corner of the room and taps your shoulder. Leaning in, he whispers, “Master Ammon would appreciate if you did not cast such magic in his abode. I hope you understand.”

The barest hint of a threat laces those words. Giving him a slow nod, you dismiss the spell and he walks away, back into his hidey-hole. What’s distressing is you watched him walk over there, but you can’t see him any longer. It’s only a small corner! Right…?

“Well.” Tabitha says, shrugging. “It won’t do us much good to pretend we’re free to talk here anyway. I doubt even if we talked about assassinating Ammon here much would happen of it.”

“Personally, I’d use my sword.” Alice says, holding up her sheathed weapon before frowning and setting down. She lets out a sigh and slumps her shoulder. “Though honestly, I’m… just tired at the moment.”

Everyone nods their heads at the sentiment. Exhaustion fills you to the brim and the outburst of emotion you just gave only made it worse. Still, there’s too much to do and you force yourself to take a deep breath and address the others in a soft voice.

“So… do we take the offer?”

The others blink in surprise before turning to themselves, confusion on their faces. Sophie looks at you, brows knit, and says slowly, “Rommel… don’t you usually decide these things?”

Surprised, you say, “I… well, most of the time yes, but this time it’s too important.” A sigh escapes your lips. “I want… no, I NEED to know everyone’s thoughts on this. It’s important.”

Sophie nods her head slowly before saying, “I cannot speak for my sister, mother, or father, but for myself? I do not trust Ammon.” Her ear twitches to the corner where the man is hiding, though she doesn’t otherwise acknowledge him. “However, just because I do not trust the man does not mean that I don’t believe this offer isn’t generous. I believe he himself would agree that accepting this would some caveats would be appropriate.”

Selene smiles and rubs her daughter’s hair, to which Sophie rolls her eyes. Once again, the Monster Lady looks defeated, staring at her palm with the expression of a mother who just now realized that her daughter was fully grown and didn’t need her. The Grand Wizard takes her other hand and squeeze it before speaking.

“I’ll speak for the two of us then. Looking at the wider picture, it seems as if this nation is going to need leadership. For all his faults, Ammon is nothing but cunning and at the moment that seems like a good thing for Ectria. We will see about this business with the Nexus, but removing the cult from power is the first step.”

Selene sniffs but doesn’t withdraw her hand. “Fine then, I will speak for the Monster Nation since you spoke for me. Officially another Monster monarch would be seen as favorable by the Monster Nation, however allowing such actions as theirs could invoke poor behavior on the part some residents of the Monster Nation. During a crisis with Galmathoria, we do not dare allow a civil war to erupt.”

“What, like this “Queen of the West” business that happened a few months ago?” You ask, to which Selene grunts.

“More little episodes like that are occurring. Deliberate or not, I need to put a paw down on this.” Nodding her head, she says in a resolute tone, “Therefore, I will support Ammon. I do not trust him from a professional, nor a personal standpoint, but I will support stability.”

Sophie and the Grand Wizard nod their heads. You turn to Alice who takes a deep breath and speaks in a serious tone. “I’ll be honest. The thought of that creature Hent-Ateh still walking around disgusts me. Ammon seems smart, and I don’t much care who sits on what’s left of that throne, but that thing…” Her face contorts to anger. “I… we need to kill it.”

Tabitha sits up straight and says, “Alice, if this is about what happened before-“

“No, I mean… yes, I mean, ugh.” The swordswoman takes in a deep breath after cutting off Tabitha and says, “Yeah, so I didn’t end up doing much, again. But this is about actually protecting people against Monsters, and not just you lot.” She waves her hand at Tabitha and the others. “It’s about… I don’t know. Maybe about finally doing what I should have been doing from the start.”

Her eyes go flat and she looks about the room as it goes silent. “Oh what, going to make fun of me again?”

“No.” Tabitha says, shaking her head. “Not at all. It seems an appropriate goal.”

Alice narrows her eyes and then looks to the others with a wary expression. They echo the sentiment, even the Grand Wizard and Selene, though they don’t really know her. Pursing her lips, she leans back and smirks before asking loudly, “Well, oh great Teacher, what about you?”

“We are offered a good enough deal. We can increase stability in the region and save lives. If we can get concessions from Ammon, then Deleor is protected as well. On top of that, we are offered and option to save Rommel’s sister, which accomplishes many goals.” She shrugs. “As a Lizardman, I despise duplicity and underhanded tactics, however I do not see any downside to this. Besides, Ammon should know that things never go as planned if one tries to betray Wizards and those they keep around them.”

The others nod at this, all except for Ebe. She frowns and says, “Save lives… You just heard him, he said he’s going to kill all of those cultists. Do you think that will stop with just those in the capital? What of Lady Aliph and the people of that town? What of those in my hometown with sentiments against the Pharaoh? Will he just slaughter them to consolidate his rule?”

She looks around at your party and narrows her eyes. “Everyone here is dear to me but… I forget sometimes you’re not Ectrian. That this isn’t your homeland, and these aren’t your people. While I don’t approve of the methods of the cult, I know the feeling of most of the cultists. They wanted change, to improve their lives, even if it meant bloodshed.”

She wraps her wings around her legs and says, “I don’t approve of this, but what choice do we have? It’s going to happen whether we want it or not, it’s just that we get the choice of reducing the collateral damage I suppose.” Tears begin to trail down her cheeks. “It… it wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

Both you and Tabitha share a look and she nods as you stand up and walk over to her, kneeling down before her. She looks at you with teary eyes and you clench your jaw, looking into those hurt eyes. When you first met her, she was so naïve and carefree, yet now… perhaps the cruelest part of this journey was the innocence everyone lost, and it affected none so much as it did Ebe.

“Ebe…” You begin before hanging you head. Taking a deep breath, you look up into her eyes and say in a firmer voice, “I’m sorry, but… I have to go with Ammon’s offer. I’m sure he’ll listen to reason about sparing some of them, but… but we can’t throw away this offer.”

“I know.” She whispers. “I know you can’t, and that’s why it’s even more infuriating.”

Nodding solemnly, you stand up and turn about to the others, looking at them. In the center of the circle of the people you consider your friends, you study their expressions before taking in a deep breath.

“Alright then. We’re in agreement, for better or worse, it’s the course we’re living with.”

Selene gives you a quick nod before turning to another, oddly shadowed corner in the room. “You there, return your Master to us. We have words to speak with him.”

A man dressed in a form of Deleorian butler’s uniform steps forth and bows before heading toward where Ammon left. Watching the man leave, you can’t help but think that Ectria was about to get a man in power with seriously eclectic tastes in followers. Dapper, you must admit, but very strange.

Sitting back down next to Tabitha, you wait for Ammon to return. Alice pat’s Ebe’s back as she sobs, but otherwise the scene is quiet and somber. It actually takes less time than expected for Ammon to return, his two Kunoichi bodyguards standing next to him as he clasps his hands behind his back. Ako blinks and rubs something off his cheek to which Ammon doesn’t seem to notice. When you give him a questioning look, he just shrugs and says, “Politics.” Standing straight, he looks over you all and asks, “I understand you have a very heartwarming and productive chat while I was away?”

“Yes.” You say, firm. “We agree to your terms, however there are certain provisions we wish to settle before fully cooperating.”

“Oh ho, so you’re a negotiator now?” Ammon says, smirk on his face. He snaps his fingers and a servant enters from another room with a chair that he flips around and sits with his arms on the back of it. “Though I suppose you’ve played some hardball before. Fine then, shoot.”

“Master…” Sayaka says, her eyes looking conflicted at him discussing serious politics while sitting in a chair the wrong way. He ignores it while waving to you to speak.

Some might consider the gesture to be unprofessional, but you know that Ammon is anything but. This is a calculated move on his part as well, showing that he doesn’t have be formal around you- he has that much power over the situation. Pretending to ignore the gesture, you begin again.

“Your offer is generous to allow us this option, however as you can see, we’re not exactly in prime fighting form. We will require time to rest so that we may be able to deal with Hent-ateh.”

“Oh, certainly. I have some of my best healers coming to patch you up soon as well.” He says, nodding his head. “While I’m certain that proclamation will come tomorrow, I did not expect you to perform the deed so soon. In fact, that may make things worse. No, I need to set a few things up myself, so you will have time to rest.”

“How long?”

“Long enough, but not too long.” He says, waving a hand dismissively. Well… it’s not really an answer, but it’s something. Basically you take it as, “Not so long that you wear out your usefulness.”

“Good. Now for some questions. What do you plan to do once the cult is out of the way? I assume you will set yourself up as a Sultan, but what will you do with the outlying towns and villages? What will you do with cult members out there who did not directly participate in the revolts?”

Ammon’s eyes flick to Ebe before coming back to you. He sighs and says, “The plight of the people of Ectria has been near and dear to my heart. I am afraid I cannot afford to be lenient to their leaders, but some citizens will have a choice. I would rather not wholesale slaughter.”

“But you will still set yourself up as a monarch.”

He chuckles, “Oh Rommel. What would you have me do, form a council of the wisest Anubis in the land? I’m afraid this land will only respond to one ruler. Besides, with only one person, you reduce the bureaucracy to have an audience.”

“This isn’t a game, Ammon.” You say, narrowing your eyes. He gives a dangerous smile in return.

“I never said it was. Now continue.”

Casting a glance to the Grand Wizard and Selene, you ask, “Though we have little recourse but to trust you at this point, I would like to know if you knew that the Pharaoh would activate the Rites of Pah’sen. Did you believe she was going to kill them?”

Ammon’s smile doesn’t change. It speaks of secrets hidden behind a power you can’t crack and it makes you damn back itch. “I had my suspicions it wasn’t just a legend. However, given the stories I’d heard of the Grand Wizard and the Monster Lady, I didn’t find them to be in danger. Though if they were, political prisoners would be much more advantageous than corpses.”

The couple look to each other with unreadable, yet unsurprised expressions. For your part, you narrow your eyes and say, “Why did you ask them not to Plasma Blast the Palace into oblivion?”

“Too much risk to the Nexus. I wasn’t certain it was present under the Palace at the time, but I am now.”

The Grand Wizard nods his head. “I had my suspicions as well. Ectria was not always a land devoid of mana, but it’s been so long that no one remembers such a thing even exists here. I only learned of it through some ancient texts that managed to survive destruction in the Keep of the Forgotten, though even they didn’t say much on the subject as Ectria had almost no Wizards. With the changes in movements the Pharaoh was making, I was afraid she had found and opened it herself.”

“Which, of course, caused us to come all the way out here and cause this mess.” Selene sighs. “What a farce.”

“Come now, change had to happen one way or another to protect Deleor. Now, that it had benefited me is happy coincidence, but that’s neither here nor there.” Ammon says.

“Does that nexus have to be opened?” You ask the Grand Wizard, who rubs his chin.

“No, but… returning magic and restoring a Leyline would allow Ectria to progress into magitek. It would certainly be a benefit to the people here.”

Ammon nods. “I am quite keen on such a thing myself. Oh and the trade opportunities would be fantastic to have something other than long roads to the ports. Think of it.”

“I am.” You say, not lying. While there was a certain charm in the old ways, your adventures here had proven that change was not only necessary, but inevitable in Ectria. Bringing it in line with Deleor would be one the first steps. Of course, in such a situation one other thing would need to be established.

“We require a non-aggression pact between Deleor, Ectria, and the Monster Nation.” You blurt out before thinking.

“Done.” Ammon says. “What else?”

Sophie gives you a look that says, “What the fuck are you doing?” before looking at Ammon with the same expression. This was NOT how something like this was supposed to go! There was usually more maneuvering and… more than this!

“Rather easy.” You ask, unable to contain it.

“I personally don’t see a reason to get in a war with our largest trading partner. Besides, unless we were to ally with Galmathoria, there would be no reason to invade Deleor in our current state. No, I believe mutual cooperation to be most appropriate here.”

“Good. Now let’s also abolish slavery.”

Ammon’s dangerous smile returns. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.”

Narrowing your eyes, you say, “Slavery is disgusting and only serves to break the wills of your own people. It will not stand in Deleor, especially if slavers continue to enter through the Mountain Pass.”

“Oh, well they also go through the ports, but they have to try a little harder to keep them secret.” Ammon says before giving you a serious expression. “I can and will punish any who aid in slavery of Deleorian citizens, but the institution has been a bedrock of labor in Ectria. The nobility and merchants will accept many of my changes but will balk at this.”

“Then make it gradual.” You growl, anger building inside you. Irrational at the moment? Yes, but you can’t really help it. It’s irrational.

The Grand Wizard shrugs, “Magitek constructs could be quite useful for rebuilding efforts, better than slaves anyway. Might not really need them.”

“You forget that many here have pleasure slaves.”

“Many residents of the Monster Nation are quite hungry for sex, even degrading sex.” Selene says, shrugging. “I’m sure exotic Monsters immigrating would be rather interesting to the eclectic nobility.”

Ammon seems to consider this, likely running the figures in his head on how much he could tax prostitution of these Monsters. Eventually he sighs, “I will take it into consideration. Perhaps when things are less turbulent we can discuss the niceties of such a thing, but at the moment I’ve given more than I need to.”

“You can’t just-“

“Rommel.” Selene says, her voice cold. “I think that’s enough on that subject.”

“… Right.” You say, trying to dissipate your annoyance. Unfortunately you’re unable to do so and switch to another topic. “You have been very… gracious so far. I suppose it is time to ask how we can better accomplish your… our goals.”

“Ah, see, this is how a negotiation works.” Ammon chuckles. “Yes, the destruction of Hent-ateh. Frankly, I don’t know how to do it, but I’m sure you’ll figure a way out.”

“What a vote of confidence.”

“Indeed. Now then, I suppose once Apophis is quite settled she will use Hent-ateh as an object of fear and assassination. Too risky to allow it out of her sight at the moment, but if a juicy and threatening enough target appears, it would be easier to have it attack than sending her cult, which will be tired.”

“So.” You ask. “You’re saying that.. what, we’ll be used as bait to draw out Hent-ateh?”

“No, I’m afraid you might just attract Hel’alin instead. While it would be excellent if you were going to kill her, perhaps not the best in this situation.”

“So then… what, you’re going to lure it out into a trap which we’ll spring?”

“Seems sound enough to me, yes?” Ammon says. “Of course, once there, it’s up to you how to deal with it. I’m afraid if it escapes or things go south, our deal is going to have to be cut off, you understand?”

“Of course.” You say, frowning. “What will you do once it’s destroyed?”

“Well I suppose that’s up to you. If I can help in any way, let me know, but the important thing is that she is not allowed to interfere in what comes next.” He gives you a look filled with implications. “At all.”

“I… understand.” You say, frowning.

Ammon nods and stands up, handing the chair to the servant who scuttles away with it. “Now then, I think that was rather productive, let’s have the healers come and-“

“One more thing.” You say, holding up a finger.

That dangerous smile appears again. “Yes, dear Rommel?”

“I want to speak with Polah again. I believe she can be an asset in tracking the movements of the cult.”

Ammon considers this for a moment before nodding his head. “Very well then, I’ll have Zoras speak with her.” He looks up as two women and a Desert Catgirl enter the room, dressed in the garb of healers. “Well, good timing. Now, there are rooms upstairs for all of you, plenty to go around so rest up and don’t worry about any stains on the sheets. We’ll be in touch.”

With that, he signals to his attendants and leaves the room. The healers come in his wake and begin looking over Sylphie and Tabitha first before moving to the rest of you. You all let them do their work without complaint, too tired and too preoccupied trying to process all of this to care. Fortunately, thanks to the [Health Potions], your wounds are less severe than they could be and exhaustion is your main ailment.

The Catgirl, a Monster Witch with affinity for healing, determined that Sylphie is physically fine, however a major trauma had been inflicted which had upset her humors- something her father said he already knew. She casts a soothing spell over Sylphie and when told about her familiar bond, she says she’ll look over Mr. Ed also. For now, allowing Sylphie to rest is the most important thing.

The other healers tended to Selene’s stump tail, freshening it up and applying some salve, though most of it had granulated in already. As for Tabitha, well, she insisted she was fine and was forced to show that she was not just wearing elaborate greaves, but instead had magitek legs. They had stopped sparking some time ago, and as the healers work on the rest of her, the Grand Wizard looks them over and declares that “Whatever that bitch did, it’s fading.” Unfortunately, one of the mana capacitors burned out, and he’d need to repair it. However, as luck would have it, you’re in the care of fucking Ammon. One of his servants goes to requisition the materials needed without fuss.

“Well, nya.” The Catgirl healer says in Deleorian with that annoying accent some Catgirls have. “You’ll all live, but I would recommend a good night’s sleep and perhaps some wine for the humans and a little semen for the Monsters. Fresh squeezed would be best, nya.”

“No thank you.” Sophie and Ebe say in unison, much to the Catgirl’s surprise. Turning to Tabitha, she offers the same, but the Lizardman merely shakes her head.

“I’ll be fine as well.”

“Mmm, nyalright, suit yourselves.” Gathering up the others, they head off, leaving your party “alone” again.

Alice stretches and stands to her feet. “Alright, I think sleep sounds good. I’d rather collapse here, but if I’m going to have someone watch me sleep, I’d rather it be in a bed.”

“Where someone could join you?” Sophie asks dryly.

“No, but I appreciate the thought.” The swordswoman says, sticking out her tongue. Turning to Tabitha, she asks, “Do you need a hand making it upstairs?”

“I’ll take her up.” You say before Tabitha can reply, causing the Lizardman to give you a quizzical expression.

Alice blinks and then lets out a snrk. “Oh, I see. Well, I’m going to cry over my sword, which is glowing again thank the Gods, and sleep. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!”

She leaves as well as the others, Selene helping to carry Sylphie upstairs with Sophie. The Grand Wizard lingers and coughs in his hand. “Tabitha, in order to work on your legs, I’m going to need to…”

“I know.” She says. “Let me at least get in bed first beforehand. I’ll have them ready for you.”

“Right, right.” He looks at you and coughs into his hand. “She might need a hand with that.”

Tabitha frowns, “Wizard, that’s a little much to-“

“Sure, I’ll help if I can.” You say, cutting her off. Both of them blink in surprise before the Grand Wizard smiles and a little color comes to Tabitha’s cheeks.

“Just get me upstairs.” She sighs. Despite your aches, you pick her up, this time in a princess carry as opposed to on your back. The Lizardman narrows her eyes at you but doesn’t complain as you walk up the stairs, the Grand Wizard’s laughter drifting behind you.

“Asshole.” She says under her breath.

“Well, he is a shit Wizard.”

She closes her eyes and chuckles at that, holding around your neck as you take her to an open room, closing the door behind you with your foot. Gently, you place her on the bed where she promptly begins to remove her pants.

“Uh… uh?” You stutter as she tries to get them off her umoving legs. Finding it difficult, she grumbles and asks,

“A little help?”

“Tabitha, you-“

“Rommel, I’m wearing underclothing.” She says, rolling her eyes. “Or did you expect I’d go without?”

“I’m questioning why you’re removing your pants at all.”

“Because, I need to remove my legs.” She says, matter of factly. “Now then, give me a hand.”

You do, though it’s a little embarrassing. They come off easier than expected, revealing the gleaming adamantium legs which end a non-descript white set of female undergarments. Your eyes linger there a moment and you begin to feel your heart beat a little faster. Feeling a little heat come to your cheeks despite yourself, you look down at her feet instead.

“Hmm.” Tabitha muses to herself, considering something as she works at a panel on her right leg. A moment later a popping sound is heard followed by a hiss and then the leg slumps onto its side. You look up at that in surprise and see the stump of her leg, fitted with an interface for the magitek. This, of course, brings your eyes back to her undergarments and she catches your look.

“Expected a different color?”

“No, not really.” You say, trying not to act totally embarrassed. Gods, why should you care so much? It’s not like you haven’t seen multiple Monsters in states of undress before, not like you haven’t been almost raped either. And yet this is different. Is it because it’s Tabitha? But why should that matter, it’s not like she really wants you or anything, she stated that in the Temple.

“Ah, well, I figure simplicity is best for these things. It’s not like you’re showing them off very often anyway.” Her clawed fingers work at a panel on the left leg and it too detaches, leaving her without legs. She sighs and leans back onto a pillow, placing her hands on her stomach while looking up at the ceiling.

Feeling a little uncomfortable, you take her legs and place them on a side desk before turning back to her. Her expression seems distant and melancholic which makes your heart twinge and reminds you of the boat ride where the two of you connected before. An urge rises within you that drowns out your embarrassment. You feel an almost magnetic need to support her, a feeling you have difficulty describing.

Removing your [Trenchcoat], you let it drop to the floor as you walk to the other side of the bed and get on, sidling up to her. Without even looking, Tabitha’s head slumps onto your shoulder. Both of you stay like that for a few moments before she says, “When I first lost control of my legs, I was terrified you know. I thought I’d lost my way in life, thought I’d failed everyone. When the Pharaoh shut them down again, I felt myself slip away again.”

You remain quiet as she continues to speak. “It was Veronica back then who gave me the drive to fight on after the pain, to get where I am today. I’m ashamed to admit that I’d almost given up hope today as well but… then I remembered I had someone else to support me.” She turns her eyes up to you and gives a wan smile.

“Thank you Rommel, for being my pillar of support when I needed you.”

You inhale sharply at these words as something snaps within you. You can’t say what it is exactly but an immense warmth fills you as she says this with eyes filled with genuine emotion. Lizardmen do not play with tricks, and their emotions are often layered with armor to protect them as a warrior would in battle. But this raw emotion, this tenderness, it breaks through what little resistance you had left in your heart. Words come unbidden to your lips, unable to be contained any longer.

“Tabitha, I want to duel you.”

She freezes at those words, eyes going wide. Slowly, she opens her mouth and tries to form words before taking a deep breath. Her hand grasps the sheets of the bed tight as she asks, “Rommel, you don’t- Rommel, do you understand what you’re asking?”

“Yes.” You say, feeling your heart hammering in your chest. “I think… I think I’ve wanted this for some time, I just could never admit it to myself. Or perhaps the timing wasn’t right.”

Her eyes drift to her legs and you say, “Well, of course, I would wait until your legs were repaired and-“

“Challenge accepted.” She says, smiling broadly, tears streaming down her cheeks. She buries her face into your arm and you embrace her, feeling her cold blooded body against yours. Strange though, she should be cold and yet all you can feel is warm.

She sniffs and looks up at you, a smirk on her face. “I’m not going to pull any punches though!”

“I wouldn’t expect you to.”

“Your form with a sword sucks though.”

“I think I can handle you.”

Smiling wider, she nestles into you and sighs, “I know you can. And if you can’t, well, you’ll just have to try again and again….and again…”

“Yeah.” You say, stroking her head as she drifts off to sleep, exhausted from the events of the day. “You can count on it.”

The last thing you recall before falling asleep yourself is someone entering the room and taking Tabitha’s legs. They give you a thumbs up and a shit-eating grin before they walk out of the room, robes trailing behind them. And with it, your consciousness as sleep claims you, your heart lighter than it’s been in quite some time.

>To be continued

 

>Story continue

Light playing from the blinds nearby tickles your face and you groan, eyes opening as slowly as a castle gate. Groaning, you feel as if your body is leaden, weighed down by all the aches and pains of the previous day. You’re used to feeling like this after sleeping from a long day fighting, but what’s really weird is that your left side feels a little cold and heavier than the right. You try to lift your arm and notice a resistance followed by a grumbling sound. Confused, you turn your head and it takes you a moment to recognize what you’re seeing.

Curled up against the side of your body is Tabitha, her arms wrapped around yours, head nestled into your shoulder. Her torso is pressed up against your side allowing you to feel the toned curves of her cold blooded body. A soft swishing sound catches your attention and you notice her reptilian tail ruffling the sheets of the bed. She stirs and then slowly opens her eyes, blinking much in the same way as you did before looking up at you, drowsy.

“Mmm, morning.”

“Morning to you too.”

It’s funny how not so long ago this would have made you panic, or at least irritable. Today, after everything that’s happened, just waking up to look into that sleepy face makes some of the weight of aches lessen. You wonder if this is how the Grand Wizard feels every day? It wouldn’t be a bad thing at all if you were able to have something like this yourself, would- Oh wait.

“Did… I challenge you to a duel yesterday?”

“Yeah.” She says, gripping your arm tight. “You better not be thinking about backing out.”

“Gods no, of course not, I just… huh.” You scratch your chin with your other hand. “Guess I never saw myself doing something like that.”

“Well.” Tabitha sighs out, “I for one am glad you did.”

“Hey now, I never said I wasn’t glad about it too.”

Her eyes twinkle, “I was just making sure.” She pulls away from you and stretches before cocking her head and lifting the stumps of her legs. Her eyes go flat and she lays back down on the bed before groaning. “Right, out for repairs.”

Standing up, you do a few stretches, feeling some of the tension go away before going to get your [Trenchcoat]. You walk toward Tabitha and hold out your hand to her. “Well, I suppose someone is going to have to be your aide on this today then.”

She shakes her head, sighing. “No, I’d rather they didn’t see me like this. I think I’ll just rest here for a little while the Wizard finished repairs.”

“Want me to bring you something to eat?”

“Now that, I can do.”

Smirking, you walk to the door and touch the handle but stop as you hear her ask, “Rommel?” You turn your head back to her and she asks, a little worry in her voice. “You are serious about the duel, right?”

“Have you known me to not be serious about something?” She raises a clawed finger and you hold up your hand in response. “Never mind. I’ll be back.”

A series of laughs follow as you close the door. Despite the mocking laughter, you can’t help but feel a little good inside. Tabitha’s laughter is always a treat, and it sounds a little better knowing you’re the only one who can hear it. Taking a deep breath, you begin to walk down the hall toward the stairs when you notice a door nearby ajar, two pairs of feline eyes staring at you. A giggle comes from the door as it closes once you turn your gaze to it. Welp, looks like everyone knows at this point, although given that there’s two pairs of eyes, it means that Sylphie is awake.

Unknown pressure releases from your chest at that. You didn’t even realize how worried you were about the poor girl. She’s suffered a lot on this journey, but you suppose everyone has. Shaking your head, you continue down the hall toward the stairs, sending out to Erwin to wake him up.

{Mrmph. What do you want this early in the morning?}

{I really doubt it’s that early given it was early morning when we went to bed.}

{Early is relative.}

{Yeah, yeah. How is Mr. Ed?}

{He’s awake, munching on hay. Says that Sylphie is awake so he’s feeling quite happy. He also says you slept with Tabitha.}

{It’s not- Look we just slept in the same bed. No sex.}

{I know, I figure if you’d done the nasty I’d have felt something.}

Hesitating, you send to Erwin, {Erwin, I’m going to tell you something and I need you to keep this to yourself, okay?}

{Yeah, sure, you can trust me bud.}

{Well, I challenged Tabitha to a duel last night.}

{Give me a moment.} Erwin’s sendings cut off and a few moments later the door to the twin’s room busts open and Sylphie points at you before wincing and then doing it anyway.

“Holy shit, Rommel, did you-?!” You cut her off by casting a [Privacy Barrier] and groaning.

{Erwin, what the fuck?!}

{Oh no, our connection must have flickered, Mr. Ed heard everything. Gosh, that’s a damned shame. Sorry about that.}

Gritting your teeth, you shake your head and hurry down the stairs, knowing that everything is downhill from her. Guess you can’t fucking tell anything important to him now! You grumble to yourself as you make your way downstairs. A guard nods to you at the bottom of the stairs, tipping his hat and saying, “Good morning Mr. Rommel.”

“Uh… thank you.” You say in response, feeling a little odd with something addressing you that way. “Is there anywhere I could get some food?”

“Of course, the servant will escort you to the dining hall.”

“Servant, what serv-“

“Good morning Master Rommel.” A voice says from behind you, making you jump and summon up your magic. Standing there is the man from last evening, dressed in the Deleorian butler’s outfit. He seems utterly undisturbed by your outburst.”Please, if you would follow me.”

Shaking your head, you sigh out and follow the man through the luxurious house, marveling at how oppulent it all was. Did he say this was just ONE of his houses? With all this shit, why would he ever need want to be sultan? Man lived better than the damn Pharaoh, even with a bounty on his head! Of course, given the last regime was just dismantled, that probably held no bearing any longer.

The man leads you into a large room where a table that could easily seat twenty people sits, piled high with various food stuffs. You stare in wonder at the heaps of breads, meats, and other traditional Deleorian and Ectrian foods. Despite yourself, your mouth begins to water and it takes you a moment to realize that some of the chairs around the table are occupied.

At one end of the table Selene sits next to her husband, a loaded plate quickly being devoured before. The Grand Wizard, on the other hand, is busy taking bites of food proffered by his wife’s tail while working on Tabitha’s legs. The adamantium seems so out of place on the table, but when did this man ever care about manners?

Looking about, you next see Ebe, sitting without anyone nearby, a small plate filled with various fruits and breads. She doesn’t look like she’s touched most of it, her expression tired. Finally, at the far end of the table you notice a chair larger than the others where Ammon sits, arms folded in his lap. His eyes meet yours the moment you notice him and he smiles, waving for you to sit.

“Ah, good morning Rommel. I trust you slept well?”

At this address, the others turn to you. Selene’s eyes twinkle while the Grand Wizard merely nods and continues his work. Ebe gives you soft smile and then turns back to her food, deftly handling a fork… somehow… before putting a piece of fruit to her mouth.

“Uhm… good morning.” You say, confused at the expressions the others give you. The servant bows and walks away as you move toward the table and take a seat. Despite the smells making your stomach growl, you can’t help but watch everyone with a confused expression. “Did… I miss something?”

“Not at all.” Ammon says, still smiling. “Everyone is just enjoying brunch after hearing some good news. By the way, how are you feeling?”

“Good? What news are you talking about?”

He chuckles, “Oh, about your duel with the Lizardman. My, I give you time to recover and then you go and do something like this. To each their own I suppose!”

Your eyes go wide and you turn to look at the others. Ebe closes her eyes and nods her head while Selene smiles broadly. The Grand Wizard just continues working and says, “Gotta get these up and working all the faster then.”

“I- But-” You stammer, trying to figure it out before it hits you. Your eyes go flat and you turn to Ammon. “Of course you’re watching us.”

“Of course.” He says, nodding his head. “However, this was unexpected. I will have to prepare warehouse thirteen for the event.”

“What, no rose garden battle?”

“As romantic and thematic as that would be, the estate with that is currently in enemy territory. Besides, I’d rather not have all of you outside if it could be helped?”

Shrugging, you give that it would make sense, just in case anyone saw you. Ammon nods, seeing your reaction and continues. “Now then, just let me know when you intend to conduct this little event, but please be cognisant of yourselves. I do not need you breaking each other during, or after the duel.”

“If he wins.” Selene says, holding up a finger. “It’s very important.”

“Indeed.” Ammon says. “But, enough of such things. I’m sure it’s embarassing for our dear Rommel.” At your flat expression he chuckles. “Ah, I figure I should tell you. The flags around the Palace were changed and the wall guard were informed this morning of the Pharaoh’s ‘imprisonment.’ Hent-Ateh was used to deliver the news, silencing any of resisted in quite the show of gore.”

He leans back in his chair. “Currently, the Violet Sands forces are shoring up the Palace, but they’ve secured the perimeter of the Alnabil district as well as the Mushtarak district. The common people have been allowed to return to their homes, but the nobles are being made to swear fealty to the Apophis. I suspect many of the people will incur similar penalties once the governance of the city is restored.”

“What about the channelguards?” You ask. “And the Mina district?”

“They’ve been opened, but some of the former Royal Guard are confiscating any goods from those who try to flee. Most captains have nothing if they leave and merchants have to figure out how to adapt to this change.” He smirks, “However, there’s confusion in the Tajr district. Gangs of hooligans have made off with most of the products and the Merchant’s guild is sealed tighter than the Palace ever was. It will take time for them to coax them out, how strange.”

“How strange indeed.” You say with a dry expression. Well… at least it’s stalling things anyway.

“Oh, speaking of the Tajr district.” Ammon says, leaning forward to butter some toast. “I’m having Polah brought here. You did wish to speak with her, yes? Well, Zoras will be by soon with her.”

“Ah, I see.” You say, remembering you’d asked for that.

The man stands and takes a bite of the bread. He chews and swallows before wiping crumbs from himself. “Ah, terribly sorry, but I’m afraid I must be off. Congratulations again and have a good day!” He walks away before you can say anything further. You can’t help but wonder if the asshole was just waiting for you to arrive so he could fuck with you.

An uncomfortable silence fills the room, punctuated only by the sounds of the Grand Wizard working on the magitek and his curses. Looking down, you fill your plate with food and then go to do the same for Tabitha. As you do so, Selene asks, “Is that for Tabitha?”

“Uhm, yeah. She can’t really come down here herself so…”

“That is so sweet. I haven’t been brought breakfast in bed in ages.” She looks to her husband who rolls his eyes. “It’s been ages since we’ve slept in a bed.”

“You could at least try.”

“I could, but I’m busy.” He continues working on the legs. “Good work though.”

Somehow his lack of enthusiasm makes you feel okay about the situation. Turning to Ebe however, you see her primly eating and pretending not to notice what’s happening. A twinge goes through your heart at this and you look down for a moment before saying, “Ebe, sorry you had to find out like this-“

“Rommel, please.” She says, putting down her fork and looking at you. “I’m quite alright. I’m mostly just happy that you were honest with yourself as you were with me. I wish you luck in your duel.”

You search her expression for any trace of anger, but you can’t find any. You… kind of wish she was angry with you however. Grumbling to yourself, you continue to fill a plate for Tabitha and say, “Well, thank you everyone. I just hope I can live up the expectations then.”

“Mmm, just remember wider goal.” Selene says, wagging a piece of sausage at you. “We need both of you in shape to fight that monstrosity, alright?”

“Tell your husband to hurry up then.”

“OH MY GODS.” The Grand Wizard says, slamming down his tools. “Can I fucking work on this without someone criticizing me every five seconds?”

“Dear, you have some crumbs in your beard.” Selene says, using a tail to wipe them away. He gives her a cold expression and she chuckles to herself. Picking up his tools, he continues  working at things you have no idea how they work. As he does so, he catches you off guard by asking,

“So, do you have a ring for her?”

“Huh?” You ask, almost dropping the plate. “A ring?”

“Yeah, if you win, you’re marrying her. I assume you know that, right?”

“W-Well sure.” You say, though the words only now just sink in. Marriage… to Tabitha. You’re going to marry her. Holy shit.

“Great, so then do you have a ring?”

“Dear.” Selene says, holding up a tail like a teacher would a piece of chalk. “Lizardmen culture does not often use rings. Very often because they are the ones who challenge men and then propose after losing in combat, they don’t have such things. Besides, they don’t fit well on their fingers.” She does waggle that tail at you a moment later though. “However, it is often customary for the husband to present a trinket or weapon to his wife early in the marriage.”

“Trinket or… weapon?” You say, thinking it over. Well, it would be a first, because you haven’t thought this over at all. Licking your lips, you ask, “What is customary when the man challenges the Lizardman?”

Selene thinks about it for a moment. “Mmm, there’s no real custom there. It’s pretty rare for such things to occur, so I suppose you can do whatever you want.” She leans forward, “However, if I were her, I’d appreciate something. All I got was fucked in the ass.”

The Grand Wizard drops his tools and throws up his arms. “Okay, can we please not bring that story up again?”

“Oh, but honey, I like how you fuck my ass.”

He sighs and looks at you with a pleading expression. “Please make it stop.”

“Why, I like to see you suffer.” You say, chewing on a piece of toast. He glares at you and then taps the legs.

“Listen, Tabitha is one of my closest friends. I’m glad she’s found happiness. Honestly it’s odd for me to say, but I hope you kick her ass. Still…” He folds his hands together. “I’d appreciate it if you made this special for her. She’s important to the family.”

Nodding your head slowly, you think it over. Getting her something nice really would be good to do, however… what would it be? She doesn’t seem to be one for jewelry, though you did have an idea for making a necklace for her with that enchanted pumice stone, so… then what? A weapon then? Thinking about how she still uses that old blade of hers, it makes you feel kind of jealous. What if you broke that sword and then gave her a new one?

You dispel that thought. No, you won’t do something so horrible to a  treasure of hers. But, if you could give her a new one… As your thoughts wander the Grand Wizard says, “Seems you’ve made up your mind.”

“I… well. Maybe.” You say, rubbing your chin. “I just don’t have much practice in forging or anything…”

The Grand Wizard puffs out his chest. “Well GUESS WHO DOES?”

“Alice?” Ebe says, much to his surprise. He deflates a little and Selene chuckles at the suggestion.

A smile comes to you face and you bow your head to the Grand Wizard. “It would be appreciated if you could give me some pointers.”

He sighs, “Fine, but it’s not for you! It’s for Tabitha.”

“Sure, sure.” You say, standing up with the plates of food. “I’m going to go, I’ll talk with you later about this.”

They wave you away as you make your way back to the room to find Tabitha sitting on the bed, fingering the pumice stone you have her. As you enter, she smiles and pushes herself up as you present her with the plate of food. She smirks and says, “Lot of meat on the plate here.”

“Yes, and?”

“Nothing at all.” She takes a bite of some bacon and waves it before her as she says, “So, Alice came in and said something interesting to me…”

——————————————————————–

After your meal you chat some with Tabitha before heading downstairs again on the excuse of seeing how progression on her legs are going. She seems to know you have something else in mind, but keeps it to herself, which you’re thankful for. When you return to the dining room, you find it empty, and are instead lead by the servant to a workshop-like room where the Grand Wizard is busy working on the legs. At your approach he closes a small hatch on the left leg and wipes his brow.

“Damn, I’m good.”

“Finished already?” You ask, curious. He nods his head and pats them.

“Again, just replacing a mana capacitor, but I needed to make one from a larger capacitor designed for those Magitek rifles. Still, seeing as I had a hand in making the damn things, it’s not too difficult.”

“So she can walk again?”

“Yes, and she can kick your ass again.” he sighs. “Anything else?”

You fidget before nodding. “Yes… I’d like your help on what we talked about before.”

The Grand Wizard nods his head and looks over in the corner where you jump as you notice a man standing there. Fucking hells, he has guard EVERYWHERE. Sighing, you return your attention to the other Wizard and say, “I think I’d like to make her a sword.”

“Oh ho, that’s a good choice.” He rubs his chin. “What kind of sword?”

“The same as the kind she has, I guess?”

He frowns at you. “It’s kind of a boring design though.”

“I mean, the same length, etc. I’d like her to be able to use it.”

“Fine, fine.” He thinks about it and looks around the room. “I’ll need to requisition materials then.”

“No need.” You say, pulling out ore from your pocket and placing it on the table. “I’d like you to use these.”

The Grand Wizard frowns and looks over the ore, your friends which had protected you through your journey. You can find no better symbolism then to use them to protect her.

He pokes at a few and separates out Ronnie, Midas, and the silver ore you obtained. Looking over the pieces, he says, “I think we can work with this I suppose. I’ll need to smelt them down though, are you okay with this.”

“Yeah.” You say, putting your hands on your friends. It’s almost like you can feel a warmth from them. “I think they’re okay with it too.”

“Yeah okay, weirdo.” He says, summoning fire. “Let’s get started then.”

>You lose [Iron Ore]

>You lose [Gold Ore]

>You lose [Silver Ore]

———————————————————————–

Both you and the Grand Wizard deliver Tabitha’s legs later that afternoon. She takes some time to get used to the changes he made and over dinner you agree to the postpone the duel until tomorrow. Ammon finds this agreeable as well and everyone is well excited, especially as they already knew the duel was occurring.

News from around the city is that not much else has changed, though the cult is currently consolidating power. A rumor has spread in the city that the Pharaoh is actually dead, and some people want to see the body. Ammon only smiles when it’s brought up. It seems as well that the city needs further provisions and the cult is eyeing the Merchant’s guild critically. Ammon believes that perhaps in 2-3 days they may very well send Hent-ateh to break open the defenses of the guild. Something which may be your ticket to isolating the creature in the end.

Halfway through dinner, you get a surprise guest in the form of Polah, escorted in by Zoras. The Griffon seems a little more than anxious at everything and immediately retires to a room set up for her, along with only one animal, her shoebill. The bird merely shakes her head as you try to speak with the Griffon, and you get the distinct impression of “later.” As for Zoras, she merely sits down at the table and starts eating like nothing ever happened.

“Bloody good to see you lot here.” She says, chewing on some beef. “How are things?”

“Zoras I-” You begin before shaking your head. “I was kind of worried when I heard some of the things happening in the market. I should have known that Ammon was behind it.”

“Ah, well, yes.” She says, blushing. “Bloody thankful you didn’t look farther into it. It was a large help to get this set up and securing the Merchant’s guild.” She looks to Ammon after that and he shrugs, clearly not thinking she spoiled anything, or that it matters anymore. “Still, very glad you’re safe. A shame Polah didn’t think the same but it’s for her own good.”

“Where are her other familiars?” Sylphie asks, looking much more hale than when you last saw her.

“They are being cared for.” Ammon says. “And no, that isn’t cryptic, I do mean that they are being well cared for. Just not here. The shoebill alone could have blown the cover…”

“Aye, she doesn’t really want to bloody talk with anyone at the moment.” Zoras says, shaking her head with a sigh. A moment later, she turns to you however and asks, “Sooooo, I hear you’re having a duel.”

Both you and Tabitha sigh.

————————————————-

The evening was spent going to bed early and resting up for the next few days. Both you and Tabitha share a room again, though she wears her legs to bed this time. She does snuggle up against you again and you have zero complaints with that. It doesn’t go any further than that, despite the two of you being awake for some time, enjoying each other’s company. You heart does race a little as she presses that firm body with soft, tender breasts against you, but you keep it to yourself, even if your little friend is a little less patient.  Tabitha manages to keep herself in check better, not making any obvious signs that she’s turned on by your presence, which is both a good and a bad thing you suppose.

Still, with thoughts of the duel in your head, you both drift off to sleep, cuddled up against each other.

The following morning, everyone eats breakfast together, including Ammon, Sayaka, and Ako. At Ammon’s orders, they eat breakfast, though they seem uncomfortable as people stare. Both of them have the most beautiful lips you think you’ve ever seen on someone, a fact they hide quickly with their masks as soon as possible.

Ammon goes over a few more details of happenings in the city, but most of them are economic and of interest to Selene mostly. As they speak, you’re aware of the fact that Polah isn’t present for the breakfast either. You suppose you’ll need to speak with her later due to her shyness. At the moment, you have more important things to do. Turning your attention to the Grand Wizard, he gives you a sly smile and pats the robe he was given. Nodding back to him in thanks, you stand up and say,

“The duel will commence in three hours. I hope all of you can attend.”

Everyone chatters amongst themselves at this and you look to Tabitha, who nods at you with a look of determination. How strange to know that she wants you to win, and yet she refuses to lose. Well, perhaps human courtship rituals are equally as confusing.

The two of you go your separate ways to prepare for the duel after the meal to prepare. When the time is close, one of Ammon’s servants and some guards hide you and take you to a warehouse where they release you to join the other group- a party that arrived with Tabitha.

The warehouse is large, much like many others you’ve seen, however all the boxes have been moved to the corners of the room, opening a wide space. Curiously they all have strange labels, marking them as either dangerous or fragile. Some of them feel downright creepy. Ignoring the odd objects of Warehouse 13, you regard the cleared area. A ring of chalk has been made with plenty of light in the room cast by oil lamps. A spectator area with chairs has been set and all in all, it looks a lot like an underground pit fight arena.

“How romantic.” You say, shaking your head as you step up to the ring, [Ectrian Sword] in one hand, [Wizard’s staff] in the other.

“Personally, I find this rather delightful.” Tabitha says, chuckling. “But it’s not about the venue, it’s about the fight.”

“Fair enough.” You say, nodding to her.

She points at your sword and raises an eyebrow. “So, you’re going with the sword then?”

“We’ll see. I trust you want me to hold nothing back, yes?”

“What kind of duel would it be otherwise? No, use you full magic. If it’s not enough then you’re going to have to try harder.”

Smirking, you shake your head and roll your shoulders. Heart hammering in your chest, you do your best to calm yourself, but you can’t help but feel nervous. Though you soon need to fight a horror you can barely understand and maybe can’t even kill, this feels like the most important fight you’ll ever have. Gripping your staff tight, you stare into Tabitha’s eyes across the ring as she adjusts her cloak and places her hand upon her sword.

“Ladies and Gentlemen.” Ammon says, standing up from his position. “We are gathered here today under the eyes of the Gods, to watch a union of blades between two warriors. Their prowess together will clash upon each other, testing their limits and forging something stronger than they are apart. If any now would wish to deny this duel, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

No one says anything.

“Should Rommel emerge victorious in this duel, then the contracts of the Lizardmen will acknowledge these two fit to be wed. Failure to do so will bring shame to him. Now then, under the eyes of Gods, men, and Monsters, do you, Rommel, accept the terms of this duel?”

“I do.” You say, tensing.

“And you, Tabitha, do you accept the terms of this duel?”

“I do.” She says, smiling broadly.

“Then by the power vested in me by this being my damn warehouse, I now pronounce this duel: BEGUN!”

Sayaka rings a bell and immediately Tabitha charges toward you, determination in her eyes.

Ah, the direct approach. How very… Tabitha.

Anticipating such a move from her, you thrust out with your magic and throw up a wall of stone from the flooring of the warehouse. With the moment of time bought with that move, you concentrate your magic into cryomancy and begin to drop the ambient temperature around you using <Cold blooded>. Your skin begins to get goosebumps as the spell radiates outward, but before you can drop things further Tabitha leaps over the wall. Her refurbished magitek legs sparkle in the lights of the warehouse and she drops down toward you, sword held in two hands.

Gasping, you leap out of the wall, rolling across the ground as she hits, her legs stabilizing her and cracking the ground underneath. You come out of your roll to stand on your feet and cast [Ice] along the ground as Tabitha’s duelist reflexes allow her to chase after you far faster than you can get up. Though her speed decreases some, the stabilizers in her legs allow her to trasverse the ice without much difficulty. Unable to avoid her entirely, she reaches you and swings her sword, which you barely catch with yours, deflecting the blow.

As she makes for another strike, you can see the pure joy in her expression as she trades blows with you. Well, despite the fact that she could easily kill you with any of those swings, she clearly loves dueling. It must seriously run in their blood to get this much enjoyment out of one on one combat. Or maybe it’s just because it’s you?

Of course, there’s no time to think about such things as she makes for another swing. Dropping your sword, she hesitates in confusion, allowing you to throw your empty hand up in a fist, power of the earth driving forth a pillar of rock toward her gut. She reacts quickly to your geoflexing and pushes away with her legs, rocking back as her legs try to stabilize on the ice again.

Another wall comes between the two of you and you continue to drop the ambient temperature. Things grower colder and colder, to which you can start to see your own breath. The spectators murmur to themselves and shudder for warmth as your magic begins to do its work. In your peripheral vision you can see Zoras cuddling up to Ebe who returns to gesture, too cold to think it over. Once again, before things are finished, Tabitha corners you. This time, she comes from around the wall and dashes toward you, sword held behind and ready to swing.

Stomping your foot down and creating a wave of uneven earth slows her down enough that you’re able to notice that she’s starting to look a little pale. Is the magic getting to her? Feeling a little more confident, you square up with your geoflexing and go through forms, casting up spikes of rock that she either dodges or destroys with her sword. One of them grazes her side and she winces, but still pushes forward.

{Perfect}. You think, seeing a chance at victory. Being cold-blooded, even the mighty Tabitha is not able to fully resist her biology. The ambient cold saps her strength as her body becomes sluggish and tries to shut down to conserve energy. All you have to do is keep this up for a little longer, tire her out, and you’re golden. With that in mind, you step back and prepare to build another wall when Tabitha’s eyes flash with anticipation and she dashes at you in a lunge.

“What the-?!” You cry out, halting your cast as you scramble to get anything for defense. Your thoughts seize up as her sword comes for you and you can only think to pull up a rock before you in [Rock Solid], deflecting her blow. The sword shatters the rock into a hail of shrapnel and the two of you back up, panting.

“Oh come on!” You shout, heart racing. “You were getting tired!”

Tabitha smirks and taps her hip. “Warmth enchanted undergarments. Or don’t you recall?”

Right… right she still had a pair or two of those. She winks as well and says, “I also keep your gift close to my heart.”

The [Basalt] you gave her… the enchantment isn’t much, but if she has it near her core, it would certainly radiate enough to keep most of her warm. You notice a small jewelry chain around her neck and curse- she thought of doing what you were going to give her for a present! Well there goes the anniversary gift in a year. Of course, with her returning to form with her sword which bursts into flames, you begin to have your doubts as to whether or not there will BE an anniversary.

“Well. It was a nice try anyway.” Tabitha says. “Clever. But I don’t think you have any further tricks.” She smiles.”Or do you?”

“Hmph.” You say, keeping the ambient temperature low despite what she says. It has to be having SOME effect on her, though the flaming blade likely mitigates some of it, again. “You think after all that embarrassing stuff I said, that I’d just go and give up so easily?”

Her smile widens and she says, “Then make it interesting for me!”

Metallic feet dance toward you while her flaming blade readies for a strike. Since she doesn’t seem to be cold from your ice magic, you might as well do the next best thing. Moving backward, you freeze her legs.

She jerks forward from the gesture and then looks down at her legs before grunting and jerking, a motion that shatters the ice. As she recovers, a pillar of rock burst toward her chest- she cuts it in half. Pieces of detritus and rocks begin to swirl around her, obscuring her vision and causing her to pull back and protect her eyes as her burning sword slides through the vortex of dust. A few moments later a shout of annoyance is heard and she leaps out, trailing dust as she lands upon the floor of the warehouse, searching about for you. Her eyes trace about until, with a start, she notices a pillar before her.

“Hello!” You say, waving a hand down at her. “Enjoying my tricks?”

“Not exactly what I had in mind, but I suppose that’s who you are. I expected you to throw swords at me or something.”

“Yeah…” You say, watching her intently, making no motions to attack her. Eyes following her movements, you watch as she walks around your pillar, tapping the stone with her knuckles. It seems unlikely that jumping up would end well for her, so she merely contents herself to wait for you to come down it seems. Good, because you only need a little bit more time studying her before-

Tabitha steps back and raises her sword before slamming the enchanted blade into the rock, tearing out a massive chunk in an explosion of stone. The structure of the rock pillar cracks and shudders, falling apart from the strike. You let out a surprised cry (as does Ammon who shouts quick order to Sayaka and Ako) as your seat slides out from under you. Arms flailing backward, you feel yourself about to fall when you quickly leap forth from the top of the pillar and plant your feet on the section quickly going horizontal. The rock shifts under your feet and you slide yourself down as it crashes, <Rock Slide> allowing you to zip across the pillar and leap off right before it hits.

A flaming sword comes flashing toward you mid leap. With a shock, you realize Tabitha had been watching you and predicted your course of action. Thrusting your hand out, you push her into the air with a burst of rock, throwing off her aim. The sword whistles past you, flames singing your face as you hit the ground and roll.

Distantly, you can hear Ako and Sayaka as they keep the pillar from smashing into other parts of the warehouse with their strange, eastern magic. Of course, your main focus is intent on Tabitha, who leaps off the pillar you made under her and lands on her feet, sword at the ready. She cocks her head at you and you grit your teeth continuing to watch. Almost there… almost there…

Tabitha moves in again, this time faking a blow with her sword that you deflect with your staff. You try to get a lock on the sword with your <Iron Manipulation>, but you’re unable to with the conflicting sigils embossed in the blade. Not that it matters much, because her true intention is revealed as she flips about and slams your chest with the full force of her reptilian tail. The blow staggers you backward, pushing all of the air from your lungs.

The flaming sword comes for you again. Twisting back, her blade slides down directly before you and you wheeze to step away when the backstroke returns. Your chest hurts abominably from the blow, but you manage to throw out a string of pillars with your geoflexing that causes her to dance back and allow you to build a quick wall to gain a moment to get your breath. Unfortunately things are a little more taxing than they have been recently as you removed the [Heldoran’s Glove] before the match. You know, to make things more fair. You sort of wish you didn’t do that.

Consequently, the wall you’ve made is smaller than the others and she’s easily able to swing around it, literally. Grabbing the corner of the wall with her free hand, she kicks out toward you with an adamantium foot. The blow catches you in the chest and drives you onto your back with a crash. Groaning, you look up to find her foot pressing down on you, a look of disappointment on her face.

“Well.” She sighs. “It was fun while it lasted. You’ll do better next time, right?”

Staring up at her, it finally clicks together. Closing your eyes, you sigh out as your [Mage Sight] goes away, “I don’t think we’ll need a next time.”

“Rommel, what are you talking about- ahn!” Tabitha gasps as the flames of the sword in her hand wink out. Her breaths become shallow and she staggers back off you, shuddering as she rubs at her skin, eyes looking shocked. “W-w-what did you?”

Picking yourself up from the ground, you take in a deep, steadying breath and look her in the eyes. “Took me awhile, but one of my tricks paid off it seems.”

“B-Bastard.” She says, teeth chattering as the cold permeates her body. “You even undid the-the spell on the gift you gave me and my damn undergarments.”

“Don’t worry, it will go back to normal eventually. [Reverse Polarity] doesn’t last forever.” Holding out your hand, the [Ectrian sword] you dropped flies into it via your magic and you move into one of the forms Tabitha taught you. “Besides, is that any way to talk to your future husband?”

She blinks twice before giving you a look of utter bewilderment and then laughing. The laughs grow so intense with her shuddering that she has to hold her stomach with one hand, the other still holding her sword out toward you. Taking in a few, deep breaths she says, “Of all-all the people- Gods hahaha, oh Gods.” Exhaling she shudders and takes up her blade stance again before smiling. “You’re one of a kind, Rommel. Come, let’s finish this.”

“My thoughts exactly.” You say steadying yourself for the battle. This time, you take the lead, charging at her as a man should.

Steel meets steel as her slower reaction time is still more than enough to match you. The two of you trade blows, you catching some of swings with your staff while slicing with your sword. Back and forth you fight over the ruined ring of the warehouse, the voices of the others calling praise a dull roar compared to the duel before you. The rush of the contest, ache of your muscles, the ringing of sword against sword- you begin to see why Tabitha likes this so much.

Your blade meet and your faces are but mere inches from each other. Looking into her eyes, you see the thrill of the duel in her eyes and an adoration you’d seen before but hadn’t fully recognized. She really does love you, doesn’t she? And yet, at the same time, she can’t lose this duel. The internal conflict within those eyes steels your own determination as you press forward with your weight, caught up in the rush of the duel. Unfortunately, Tabitha’s lifetime of experience cuts through the difference you’ve created, and with a twist of her blade, disarms your sword.

Before the sword even hits the ground, she strikes again, throwing your staff from your hand to clatter to the ground. Finding yourself without a weapon, you square off against her with your hands before you, feeling the connection with the earth. Well, you suppose you never would be able to defeat her at swordplay, but clashing blades with her felt so damn… appropriate. Waving at her to come at you, she does so, sword already swinging.

You know you can’t beat her normally, she’s just too good with that sword. You have an arsenal of spells at your disposal, some of which could level buildings if you put your mind to it, but you can’t risk hurting her or the others. Merely fighting with geoflexing is likely to end in a loss for you as well, so what do you do? As the blade comes toward you, you notice your own sword on the ground and the answer comes to you in a flash.

Tabitha’s sword arcs at you, and you deflect it with a pillar of rock from your geoflexing, throwing more of the rock at her to make her dodge. More of the rock grazes her legs and torso, cutting into her clothing to expose her skin underneath, but it doesn’t slow her down. Pushing both hands toward her, a wave of rock pushes forward. Gritting her teeth, she leaps into the air over it, sword held high as she makes to bring it down upon you.

A cry issues from her throat as the blade comes down, almost shining in the light filling the warehouse. Mere inches from striking your head, she twists the blade to hit you with the flat side, anticipating the victory. The blade stops suddenly and she shudders, feet planting hard on the ground. Body shuddering, breath coming heavy, Tabitha stands before you, eyes wide as she beholds an unexpected sight.

On one knee, arms over your head, you clasp her sword in shaking hands coated in  various metals of your rock collection friends. Breathing out hard, your literal metallic grasp on the blade firms and you look up into her eyes with smug determination. Her eyes go wide before she grits her teeth and tries to push the blade down, as if realizing something.

Your arms begin to burn from the force of Tabitha trying to push down the blade. You begin to feel yourself begin to slip when you behold a glimmer of something else in her eyes- doubt. For the first time in the duel, Tabitha shows a sign of worry, that perhaps she can lose. Something within your core begins to feel more stable and you draw forth the power of the earth. Perhaps it isn’t geoflexing which allows you this burst of strength but you’ll take it anyway, using it to begin to push her sword up and away from you.

Hands trembling from the cold, Tabitha presses in harder with her blade, but her eyes begin to grow wide as you begin to stand up. Hands still holding the blade above you, you lock eyes with Tabitha and she gasps as she realize what’s happen to happen. With a twist, you tear the blade from her freezing hands, sending it clattering to the ground.

The room grows silent as everyone looks to the sword which continues to wobble for a moment before going still. Tabitha’s eyes shift to you and she raises her hands in an unarmed combat gesture, but in her state she’s unable to stop your next attack. Stepping forward, you bat aside her arm, put your other hand around her back, and press your lips to hers.

Tabitha’s eyes go wide at the lightning assault. She makes one furtive protest, beating at your back before her fist goes slack, fingers instead digging into your back. Her cold lips press against yours and you feel the pressure of her body against you, her cold blooded frame drinking away the heat from your sweaty body with a desperate hunger. Even though the air is rapidly leaving your body, you can think of nothing else but this embrace as you hold her tight, lips pressed against hers.

When you let go of the embrace, the two of you pull away, catching your breaths as your exhalations steam up in the frigid air. Her eyes search yours and she gulps before saying, “You win. Husband.”

A cacophony of clapping startles both of you and you turn to see the makeshift audience clapping and shouting for joy. Sophie and Sylphie run up to both of you, offering congratulations to the two while the Grand Wizard and Selene hang behind, using their magic to warm up the building. As they offer their warm wishes, you find Tabitha’s hand sliding down to grab yours in a tight embrace. She shares a coy look with you before turning back to the others, talking about how she was certain she’d win.

—————————————————————

With the duel concluded, Selene goes over a few rites to recognize the outcome of the duel and your… well, your marriage. Even though she isn’t a Lizardman, her centuries of life and position as Monster Lady made her expert on such rituals as well as the authority to pronounce them.

The whole time you two continue to hold hands, Tabitha pressing close to your body for warmth. Of course, neither of you ,mention that the enchatments you used [Reverse Polarity] on have returned. It’s better this way.

When the final rites are said, Tabitha gives you a sly smile and stands up to kiss you again, a gesture that makes the assembled Monsters (including Sayaka and Ako) titter. Even Ammon and the Grand Wizard smile at the gestures while Erwin, who was small enough to come along sends you many, MANY mental congratulations. In fact, the only person who didn’t seem as enthused about all of this is Alice, who let out a shriek of disbelief as it occurred to her that TABITHA of all people was getting married before her. Zoras was forced to sedate her. Even still, she let out soft sounds reminiscent of the sounds of an irate frog.

Before returning to the house, you do your best to restore the ring to the way it was before, Ammon promising you that a crew would sweep the rest out. When you apologize for any damage, he waves it off and wipes a tear from his cheeks, saying, “I always cry at weddings.”

The procession back the house unfortunately is done in secrecy again, but when you return a feast greets you. Even though breakfast wasn’t all that long ago, you feel utterly famished and both of you eat with abandon, laughing with everyone about how no one thought Tabitha would find anyone good enough for her.

Halfway through the event, the Grand Wizard stands upon a chair, holding his hand up to the air. “Now that much of this is settled, I believe Rommel has something he wishes to present to his lovely bride.”

Tabitha chuckles, “It’s… still odd to hear that.” She looks to you, an expectant expression on her face.

Holding out a hand to the Grand Wizard, he pulls something long out of his robes. How it kept it in there, you’re not certain, but you think he may have borrowed a bag of holding from his daughters. Either way, you turn to Tabitha and go to one knee, proferring up the gift.

“Though it’s not exactly traditional, I thought it’s something you might like. Something with meaning that even if you never use, I hope you keep it with you.”

Tabitha’s eyes go wide as she reaches out and takes the gift in her clawed hands. In her grip rests a sword made of steel with a golden cross guard and silver inlaid into the pommel shaped as a fox’s head. The length of the blade is comparable to the one she currently wields even though this one is lighter, with both [Sigil of Endurance] and [Sigil of Reduction] weaved into the metal.

She takes a few practice swings with it before looking over the blade again and then nodding. “It is an acceptable blade. I am surprised you could find one like this in such a state of the city however.”

“Find it?” The Grand Wizard chuckles. “Tabitha, he made the damn thing. Well, with a little help of course.”

She looks at the blade with newfound admiration and quirks an eyebrow. “This was made with your rocks, wasn’t it?”

“I figured my friends could protect you as they protected me.”

Tabitha who heartedly laughs and leans down to kiss you on the lips. It’s so weird to see the normally reserved Lizardman being so full of emotion, but you can’t say you don’t like it- at all. The other laugh and make sounds of “awww.” Alice, who had woken up from her little sedation, makes to grumble but claps her hands instead when Zoras raises her tail.

“Now then.” The Grand Wizard says, putting his hands on both of your backs. “Now that the tradition of beating the shit out of each other and then eating food is finished, there’s only one thing left to do.”

“Oh Gods, dear no, please don’t.” Selene says, looking aghast.

“LET THE BABY-MAKING COMMENCE!”

Sophie and Sylphie both respond immediately by berating their father while Ebe’s cheeks grow violently red. Alice sips at her wine while Zoras sighs and smirks. Tabitha looks a little uncomfortable herself, but her eyes drift to yours and she whispers,

“That’s not a bad idea.”

Oh.

>To be continued

 

>Story continue

“I… well. That sounds…”

Despite keeping your composure earlier, those words from Tabitha seem to hit you from out of nowhere. It’s not like it’s something you don’t want to do with her, hells it’s… well, you ARE a Wizard after all. It’s just something you never really considered doing before in truth and now that it’s presented before you, it’s a little startling. In a good way.

Clearing your throat, your expression changes to a smile and you say, “Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen on a wedding day?”

A smirk crosses her face and she elbows you in the ribs gently. The others chatter amongst themselves or berate the Grand Wizard so they don’t notice as your fingers slide against each other before culminating in one of the most profane and lewd of gestures- holding hands. Well, all except for Erwin, who sends smug thoughts into your head like the little bastard he is. Lovable, but a bastard.

Across the room you see Ammon at the end of the table, wine glass in his hand. He raises it toward you and gives a knowing smile to which yours droops. Oh… right. He’s got people watching and listening to you. The thought immediately makes you embarrassed for a moment before you stand up and think it through. Should you really care if Ammon watches you fuck your wife? Yes, yes you should, but at the same time, you hope he feels a jealously that burns him inside.

At your slight nod of the head and smug smile the man blinks a few times before hiding his smile in his wine glass. Maybe he’s just a pervert. Either way, you have more important things to do. Thinking about such things again makes your heart beat faster, to which Tabitha looks at you with a smirk. She can probably feel your pulse through your hand and she squeezes tight to make it even more apparent what she thinks about this.

“Shall we go now?” She whispers in your ear.

Her voice makes your spine tingle in the best way. You have to stop yourself from immediately responding and instead thinking it over. Gods, there’s nothing else you’d rather do right now- something you never thought you’d say before meeting Tabitha- but… maybe you should get some advice first. You know how sex is supposed to be done of course! It’s just the minutia, like how best to do it and such. It is Tabitha’s first time and you want it to be good for both of you of course. Maybe if you asked…

Your eyes drift over to Tabitha’s again and you see the longing there. Over forty years without experiencing sex or the touch of a lover, buried under mountains of duty and guilt. Only now does she dare hope again that such things are open to her. Would she know if you lacked the experience? Would she care?

No, of course not. If there’s one thing you know about this Monster it’s that she’s truthful to a fault. A true Lizardman does not deal in mind games, only duels, and what is sex if not a duel? The best ones are those met on equal terms, right?

Nodding your head to her, you let go of her hand and pick her up once more in a princess carry, to which she lets out a little gasp of delight. With her legs working this time, it’s a little awkward, but you can handle it. Everyone turns to you as you pick her up. Smiling at everyone, you say, “I think we’re both full. Have a good time with the feast and thanks for something to our wedding.”

“It was a duel.” Tabitha says, chiding you.

“Same thing.” She doesn’t deny it.

“Oh, you’re full now, but I’m sure you’ll be STUFFED soon enough.” The Grand Wizard says, shit-eating grin on his face. His wife slaps him on the backside of the head as she smiles,

“Oh, don’t forget: Don’t fuck her in the ass by mistake.”

Both you and Tabitha look at each other with uncomfortable expressions before you leave the room to raucous sounds behind you. So what you killed a Pharaoh two days ago and helped usher in chaos into the capital of one of the oldest countries in the world? Weddings…er, duels, are something to celebrate!

Making your way to the room the two of you have appropriated, you kick in the door, thankfully not destroying the hinges in the process. Entering the threshold, you deposit Tabitha upon the bed once again and stand above her, looking down into her eyes. In return, she looks into yours and you both stare for a long while before she coughs and says, “Well… we’re here… in the bedroom.”

“Yeah.” You say, feeling a little awkward now. Maybe… maybe you should have gotten tips from Selene after all. The silence drags on for a few moments more before Tabitha sits up on the bed and smirks, patting it.

“Nervous?”

“A little.” You say, sitting down on the bed. She chuckles and turns your head to hers before pulling you into a kiss. Though your kiss at the duel was long and powerful, it was more full of force than anything-appropriate for the situation. This, on the other hand… this is something else.

Her lips melt into yours as she presses herself into you, her body sliding up against you. Without knowing it you put your hands around her back as well, wanting to feel her toned yet soft body. Her breath, mingles with yours and you catch sweet hints of the wine she drank earlier as her tongue begins to invade your mouth. Not backing down from the challenge, you press back, the two of you dueling between each other’s mouths until you’re forced to pull back for breath, finding yourself panting from the surprise assault.

Heart hammering in your chest, you feel your trousers tightened from the kiss and a burning longing builds in you again. Tabitha squeals in delight as you press her down to the bed with another kiss, passion flowing through you as a drive you long thought dead reawakens. When you pull away this time you can sense a hunger within Tabitha that was suppressed and is now trying to assert itself- with interest.

Taking in shallow breaths, you shrug off your [Trenchcoat] and prepare to taste of her again when you notice something on the bed. A small, paper wrapped package lies there tied in string. Tabitha’s eyes follow yours and she cocks her head in confusion. “What is that?”

“I don’t know.” You say, sitting up and reaching over to take the package. Inside sits a stack of a few dried leaves cut into pieces along with a note that says, “Enjoy, with love, Big A.” Cocking your head, you take one of the strips of leaf and turn it in your fingers. “It’s purple.”

Tabitha gasps and you turn to see her looking incredibly embarrassed. Her eyes flick from you to the leaf and back again. It’s actually really adorable to see her looking like this and it takes you a moment for your adoration to turn to recognition. Oh, it’s a leaf and it’s purple and… ohhhhhh.

A smile comes to your face and you lean into to Tabitha to say, “Do you want to… pass the pipe?”

“Y-yes.”

Chuckling to yourself, you get up and rummage through your things for your [Pipe]. After crumbling some of the purple leaf into the pipe you light it with a little magic and take a few puffs to get it going. Soft, purple smoke begins to drift from the burning leaf. It suffuses you and fills you with a calm feeling, something which soothes the raging fire within you. Confused, you blow out some of the smoke and look at the pipe before handing it to Tabitha. She looks at it for a few moments before putting the pipe to her lips, closing her eyes, and inhaling.

Though she’s never smoked as far as you know, she seems to instinctively know not to take too much and instead slowly exhales, some of the tension leaving her. Handing the pipe back to you, she leans her head back with a smile on her face. Confused, you take another puff of the pipe, trying to discern why this was called an aphrodisiac. When you look back to Tabitha to hand her the pipe, you find her removing her shirt and exposing her bare chest.

The black garment slips to the floor. Her strong, powerful arms slip back to behind her head and she undoes the ponytail there, letting her medium-length hair fall about her slim, yet steady shoulders. Shaking her hair, she looks at you with hungry eyes, that look down, inviting you to partake of her body. Not wanting to be rude, you do so.

Strong though she is, Tabitha’s body appears to you soft and inviting. Freed from her clothing, her deceptively large breasts hang loose before her, captivating you as you trail further down with your eyes. Lines of green scales glitter along her body, framing her white skin which hadn’t tanned like yours. You can see the tightness of her abdominal muscles as well, though not such much that they stand out- the physique of a duelist, not a warrior.

Something begins to stir within you. The calm feeling from the smoke starts to change, making you feel hot. Your trousers seem to tighten further as you behold the captivating form of her body and she slides up to you, pressing her bare back against your chest before taking the pipe and inhaling, breathing out a thin cloud of purple smoke.

Unable to help yourself, you place your hands on her strong shoulders. As soon as you do a familiar, yet terrible feeling comes over you. Instead of feeling any panic, you invite it, as if accepting the curse you have been given. You whisper in her ear as your fingers begin to knead the taut muscles of her neck, “Let me loosen you up a little.”

Tabitha lets out a soft gasp as you press upon her sore shoulders with an unearthly skill. Unable to form words, she merely places the pipe to the side and lets you work upon her back. Allowed to do their work, your hands explore the whole of her back, pressing into the tight, strong flesh while gliding over to soft, silken scales.

Moans of pleasure escape her lips as your fingers course over her back, her breath coming light under your touch. Her skin, cold to the touch, makes you remember how you chilled her body and how the Grand Wizard reversed the skill. Focusing on your magic while your hands work, you try to increase the ambient heat but find it difficult to spread it out like that. Annoyed, you instead find you can concentrate it in one spot- your hands.

“Ahhh…uhn…. ahn!” Tabitha lets out as your warm fingers knead her back like dough. She melts into the motions then as the purple leaf sinks into both of you, heightening your arousal. Even as you work upon her body, you can feel your own, painfully erect member in your pants. This is highlighted as you slide your hands down to her reptilian tail and the split pant she wears. She looks back over her shoulder, hair obscuring your look at her. Her hands grab yours, their cold scales drinking in the warmth of your magic and helping you push her pants down to expose her warmed undergarments.

Taking the initiative, you remove the rest of her clothing then to reveal her ass underneath her tail. It lifts upward, giving you a better look at the pale flesh there which is firm, yet supple. Placing your hands upon it, you massage her with your heated hands, making her let out cries you hadn’t heard before. Hands sliding closer and closer to her inner thighs, you notice a wetness coating the inside and trailing down toward her adamantium legs. Smirking, you squeeze her buttocks and she gasps before slapping you with her tail, which actually hurts!

“You remember what Selene said, hmm?”

“Ouch… yes, I do.” Adjusting your jaw, you lean over and whisper in her scaled ear, “Turn over.”

As she does so, you finally reach back and lift your own shirt, exposing your chest. The air in the room is not particularly cold though, so the burning inside you does not subside- not that you want it to. Tabitha flips over onto her back, revealing her alluring chest. She gasps as she beholds your body and you feel a mix of pride and embarrassment, something you’re sure is reflected in your expression. She bites her lip and her moistened thighs rub together as if in anticipation.

Unfortunately for both of you, your hands, these damned, cursed hands, are not finished. Almost as if being pulled by a magnetism, you lean forward and place your hands upon her shoulders again. Shrugging, you lean down and kiss her, tasting the vapors of the smoke she inhaled earlier. She lets out a gasp of pleasure while you do, your hands beginning their nefarious work again.

Fingers gliding down her chest, you find your hands sliding to cup her breasts, taking in the while scope of their grandeur. With little effort they sink into the soft flesh of her mounds before gliding up to play with her delicate nipples. She lets out low moans in your kiss as your fingers do everything to them. When you pull back for air, she lets out a shuddering breath and gasps as you continue to knead her, hands claiming dominion over her breasts.

From there, you slide down to her abdomen. Fingers which were so rough with her before trace delicate lines across her belly. Oddly enough, this makes her eyes go wide and she arches her back with a cry before sinking back to the bed, squirming as you rub her belly. Did Lizardmen really get off to having their bellies rubbed? This is very, VERY useful information.

Your hands find themselves stopping close to when her eyes glaze over from the pleasure. Tracing the lines of her hips, you find your fingers lingering near her groin. Heart hammering in your chest, you gently spread her legs to explore the fountain where the mess that covers her legs originates.

While you’ve seen naked women this is your first time up close seeing a pussy. Perhaps it’s the purple leaf in your system, or perhaps it’s the incessant drive to have sex with Tabitha but you find it’s one of the most beautiful sights you’ve ever seen. Your fingers twitch, as if wishing to explore the space, but a scaled hand touches yours and you find Tabitha looking at you. She shakes her head and says, “Not yet. It’s my turn.”

Frowning, you pull away at her insistence, though her hands are shaky from your ah… “massage.” You stand before her as she pushes herself up, her magitek legs stabilizing her as she leans forward and drops yours trousers.

Immediately you cock pops out, reveling in the glory of being freed from the cloth prison. Tabitha stares at your member for a long while and you begin to grow concerned when you notice a tear rolling down her cheek. Clearing your throat, you ask, “Are… you alright?”

“I just… I just never thought that… I mean…” She sniffs and rubs at her face. “I mean uh, wow! It’s just so big!”

Sighing, you rest your hand upon her head and say, “I’m here for you, alright? We’re in this for the long haul.” Coughing, you say, “Also, it is fairly large, isn’t it?”

She smirks at you before reaching out and grasping your shaft. Her hands, covered in scales as they are, make you shudder at the cooler temperature, but you admire the way her scales rub the tender flesh there. Even though she has calluses there from years with the sword, you still shudder in pleasure as she strokes your cock.

“You’re not the only one with magic fingers.” She says as you feel yourself getting harder under her touch. “Now then… let’s see if I can do this right.” Pushing herself forward, she kisses the tip of your penis before placing the head in her mouth.

A cool, ye pleasant sensation travels down your dick and up your spine. You shudder as she does so, looking up at you with anxious eyes. You nod at her and stroke her head, to which she makes a determined expression and begins to take you further into your mouth. The pressure upon your member feels heavenly while her tongue and saliva coat your dick.

She starts slow, hesitant, but as she grows more confident her speed and depth increases. Hand upon her head as you stand awash in this pleasure you feel your fingers twitching. Uh oh. Before you can stop yourself the power of your [Hands of Solos] unleash themselves on her unsuspecting scalp. She gasps while your dick is halfway in her mouth, entire body shuddering. Her eyes slowly begin to roll back from the pleasure but before they do, she snaps back to it, determination coming to her expression.

Swallowing, she presses the attack by thrusting your whole member into her throat. The sudden sensation makes you buck your hips a little and she coughs, doing her best to keep you inside. At your protest she pulls out, allowing herself to breathe before glaring at you and taking you again. It seems even she has a limit to what she can do, but that won’t stop her from continuing. That’s the Tabitha you know and love.

As your fingers give her the royal treatment, gliding through her hair, rubbing her scalp, etc. she continues to suck you. A pause followed by a delighted sound comes as you leak pre-cum and it further invigorates her. Soon you feel yourself shuddering as you come close to your climax. Not exactly certain the protocol on this sort of thing, as not having asked anyone, you say, “Tabitha, I’m almost-“

She cuts you off by going faster and you let out a little grunt before gasping. The orgasm hits you like a hammer and you almost thrust yourself into her mouth as you ejaculate. At the same time, your hands hit the masterstroke, finishing your pat of her head. Years of pent up sexual tension you never knew you had pour out in that moment, culminating in a tide of semen that gushes from your loins. It splashes against Tabitha’s throat, sliding down and filling her mouth before leaking out in dribbles down her chest. She never flinches though and when you finish and pull out of her mouth, she shudders for a few moments, cum dripping down her chin before swallowing. Tears form at the corners of her eyes which run down to join the sticky fluid on her chin.

“Uhm… Does it taste that bad?” You ask, wincing.

“No.” She whispers, crying in earnest. Her long tongue snakes out and licks some of the split semen on her hands and she shudders, making a soft moan. “It tastes better than I’d imagined it would. Every Monster says it’s amazing but I never imagined it would be like this.” Head bowing forward she shakes as more tears roll down her cheeks as she begins to outright bawl.

“Tabitha…” You say, sitting on the bed next to her. Pulling her close to your chest, you feel her cold-blooded skin against yours, sharing your heat. You stay quiet as she cries, her body shaking in anguish while you hold her. Eventually she sniffs and says,

“Gods, look at me. All it takes is one load of cum to reduce me to tears. How pathetic.”

“I don’t think so. I think it’s actually kind of flattering. To think, my cum made the mighty Tabitha, the Wanderer of Deleor break down into tears. It’ll make Alice super jealous and- oof!”

You wince as she elbows you in the ribs. “Don’t you dare tell Alice a word about any of this!”

“I won’t.” You say, kissing the top of her head. “You take as much time as you need.”

Sniffling again, she pulls away from you and takes a steadying breath. She makes to rub at her eyes but pauses and studies the cum on her body, licking it off before doing do. Oddly enough, that’s actually kind of hot. Watching her do this, you feel a stirring in your crotch again, and you feel somewhat… unsatisfied. Yes, the blowjob was one of the most pleasant experiences you’d ever had but your eyes drift down to her crotch and you feel a hunger, a fire building inside you from the drugs and the emotions. You want to breed to Tabitha more than anything else you’ve ever wanted.

This makes it all the harder to contain yourself while she gets composed. Finishing clearing her tears, she turns to you and pauses, studying your eyes before looking down at your dick. Understanding flashes and she reaches over to grab the pipe again, taking in a long puff before drawing you in for a kiss, spreading the smoke into your mouth as well. Unable to breathe unfortunately, you cough and pull away, the smoke filling your lungs in a bad way.

“Tabitha! Gah, are you craz…y…” You trail off as you look at her upon the bed. She lays on her back, adamantium legs spread with one clawed finger opening the folds of her pussy in invitation. Blinking, you look down to find yourself still hard as a rock, despite just blowing your load. Purple leaf burning in your lungs, your heart hammers in your chest and you drive into a singular burning need. Holding your cock ready in your hand, you guide it toward her waiting lips and enter her.

Both of you let out gasps at the same time. Even just inserting the head feels amazing as Tabitha’s tight vaginal muscles clamp down upon you. Her juices, overflowing from her snatch allow you to easily slide into her, filling her deepest places with your warmth. You both look at each other, getting used to the sensation before she nods her head and you push onward with slow determination to sink your sword into her scabbard.

“Does it hurt?” You ask, having remembered that being said somewhere to happen.

“No.” She says, shaking her head. “Things are a little different for Monsters you know. We’re kind of built for this sort of thing.”

“So you don’t mind if I-“

“Just fucking do it, I NEED IT.”

Without further adieu, you plunge yourself fully within her to the hilt and she throws back her head, pushing her chest outward at the sudden force. You can feel yourself swelling within her as her walls tighten down upon you, as if afraid you might take away this source of pleasure. Despite the pressure you pull yourself out and then thrust back in again, forming a rhythm that drowns you both in ecstasy.

Tabitha lets out gasps and moans with each thrust of your hips, her own body moving in time with your motions. You feel overwhelmed at first with the influx of sensation but your world begins to narrow down to the singular desire to drive yourself into her, taking in her cries of pleasure as encouragement to continue.

Scaled hands reach out toward you and you lean forward as she laces her fingers behind your back, pressing her mouth to yours. The passionate kisses you shared before were somewhat orderly compared to this sloppy, messy affair as your lower bodies slap into each other, making both halves rock. Pulling out of the kiss, Tabitha looks into your eyes with a passionate fire and hisses, “Deeper.”

“I’m not certain I can go much-“

“DEEPER.”

Something cold and metallic touches your ass and you cry out as Tabitha’s magitek legs lock behind you, driving you into her like a piston. She lets out a cry of delight and matches the rocking of her legs to the timing of your thrusts, using her metallic frame to bring both of you to greater heights as you press upon her cervix with your thrusts now.

Your breaths come faster as a need, a drive forces you to make your thrusts stronger and quicker, as if you need to hurry and unleash yourself within her. Tabitha’s cries of delight only increase at this and she moans, “Do it, do it, oh Gods, do it.”

The familiar sensation builds up in your loins, signaling your climax and you cry out as you press into her yourself with as much power as you can muster. Unyielding metallic legs lock you into place as you explode within her, unleashing a tide of semen just as thick and powerful as your earlier load. Multiple shots, eager to enter the promised land fly forth from your dick, painting her with your sperm.

Each gush of cum makes Tabitha let out a cry, her head thrashing back and forth under your onslaught. Forty-three years of being a virgin, undone in one torrent of semen. Years of inhibition and pent-up lust let loose to wrack her body in unimaginable pleasure drive her nearly to the breaking point and even by the time you finish her legs have yet to unlock.

“T-Tabitha? Dear?” You ask, feeling circulation cutting off. “Do you mind?”

“H-huh? W-what?” She says, words slurred. It takes you clanging on her legs for her to get it enough to let  you enough slack to begin to pull yourself out. Her eyes flash open as you do and she cries, “No!” pulling you back in. When you look at her in confusion she looks to the side and says, “Can we… just stay like this for a moment?”

Her legs loosen enough to not crush you and you sigh in relief before nodding your head. Holding out a hand, she takes it in hers and you smile down at her, still connected by the groin, awash in the after-glow of what you just did together.

“Yeah. Take as long as you need. We have all night and the rest of our lives.”

———————————-

The next morning the two of you awaken sore yet happier than you’ve ever been since you can remember. Using the water basin to clean yourselves for the moment, you make for the bathing facilities Ammon had set aside for your group, bathing each other and preparing for the day. You both agree that you will not succumb to the pressures of the others when you arrive downstairs for breakfast and comes up with a few remarks on how to deal with Alice. Bathed, dressed, and perhaps having a quickie, you make your way to the dining hall.

As you enter, the two of you prepare for judgment but instead you find something amiss. Everyone turns to regard you with serious expressions and Ammon stands, nodding.

“Ah, good morning. I trust you are both well rested and recharged, yes? Good. Polah has informed us via her scouts that there’s been movement in the Palace. The cultists speak of an assault on the Merchant’s Guild today.”

His expression grows stern. “Sorry to cut the honeymoon short, but it’s time for your group to live up to its end of the bargain.

Both you and Tabitha share a look of understanding. With grim determination, you nod to each other, acknowledging that the time for play was over. You need to clear this task before anything you’d promised can truly come into effect. As pleasant as the last day was, it was only a temporary reprieve from the debt you owe to Ammon and it’s time to deliver.

Ammon waits until both of you sit down at the table before he continues. “As I’ve mentioned, Polah, who still won’t come down from her room, has said that one of her familiars is noticing the Violet Sands gearing up for battle again. Hent-ateh is restless and it’s clear the goal is to strike at the last remaining hideout: The Merchant’s Guild.”

“What’s so important about the Merchant’s Guild?” Sylphie asks, frowning. “Can’t they just… contain them? They can’t stay there forever.”

“Ah, I’m afraid the problem lies in the fact that much of the city’s food stores have been… moved there. A city devours food quite rapidly and without a constant influx they can’t sustain this population. The Apophis didn’t conquer only to have no one to rule, after all.”

“Then won’t they have more food just come in from the ports?”

“Not yet.” Ammon says, shaking his head. “Messages have gone out before the city was taken informing other merchants to stay away.” He smirks at Sophie’s frown directed his way. “Either way, they need to keep things together and consolidate control before being able to pay for food, etc. Given that many of the vessels, trade routes, and warehouses are kept by influential merchants, it’s going to be difficult to work without their cooperation.”

“Now, I don’t know too much about merchants beyond the happy variety.” You begin. “But I do know most of them are fairly cowardly. Why wouldn’t they just side with the winning team?”

The Grand Wizard sighs. “While I appreciate your understanding of the Danuki, it’s fairly obvious why this is occuring.” When you give him a questioning look, he thumbs a finger toward Ammon.

“Oh.” You say, frowning.

“Come now, don’t look that way.” Ammon says, shaking his head. “The Merchants understand my reputation and know it would be better for them to side with me than a, forgive me for saying this, cult of psychopathic snakes.”

“Very well then.” Tabitha says, nodding her head. “You want us to destroy Hent-ateh then, correct? Give us more information about the area.”

“Of course.” Ammon says. He snaps his fingers and the servant in the butler outfit walks in with a map that he places on the table. It’s a far more detailed map of the city than the one you have and actually looks like it was drawn by someone with talent and not a hack on his lunch break. He points at a section of the map denoting the Merchant’s Guild.

“The building is three stories in size with two spires where officials usually stay. The lower levels are for goods storage and day to day trading. Merchants come in, purchase and sell goods, then move along to the docks to through the city. Second floor is for accounting and administration and third floor is housing for influential merchants and people who need to be impressed.”

“Sounds like the first floor would be the easiest to ambush.” Alice says, rubbing her chin. “Lots open space, yet plenty of goods and other merchandise to hide in.”

“I would appreciate.” Ammon says, folding his arms. “That the creature does not damage anything. The merchant’s goods staying in tact is how they’ll capitulate.”

“Will it… will it come alone you think?” Ebe asks, looking worried. Out of everyone, she still fears the creature the most.

“Doubtful. The Apophis knows it can’t or won’t hold the goods so cultists will likely arrive, potentially more of the enthralled too.”

Looking over the map you tap a spot before the Merchant’s Guild. “This area before the Guild, is it some kind of open market like the Grand Bazaar?”

“Yes and no.” Ammon says, looking at the spot indicated. “Trading does occur outside, but it’s mostly for those waiting their turns and for organized flow of people and wagons. Some wagoneers will stay the night in this area and others will offer services there.”

“Is it still full of wagons?”

“Yes, at the moment.”

“Hmm.” You muse, looking back at the map. “This street runs directly from the palace to the Merchant’s guild, right?”

“Correct. Many prominent businesses and accounting houses line this promenade.”

“Looks like there are quite a few side streets too.” Sophie says, looking at what you’re seeing. “Could be used as an ambush spot also.”

“Is the area evacuated?” Ebe asks with a serious expression.

“Mostly. Can’t keep every vagrant out of the area.” Ammon says, shrugging. “I can’t say if there are any looters out or not, but it’s mostly empty.”

A wealth of large, ornate buildings are marked out on the map with plenty of windows, availability to get to rooftops, etc. The street itself is very wide, but you could try something from there possibly, or…

“Do you think it’s still possible to draw them away from that area? To a more advantageous position?”

Ammon considers. “Possibly, there are plenty of areas in town I could mention, especially in the Mina district which could be used to lay a trap. I do not know what bait you could possibly use, however.”

“You said they might go after you if proffered the chance?”

He purses his lips. “At the information, I made it known my whereabouts were in the Merchant’s Guild.”

“Ah.” You say, dropping that. Another thought comes to you though. “What if the Apophis were to be threatened? I assure you they’d pull away.”

“Too much of a risk.” He says, shooting it down. “I need you to destroy this creature, anything further will be handled afterward.” A dangerous look enters his eyes and you feel a shiver down your spine. Tabitha puts her hand on your leg and gives you a look out of the corner of her eye, saying nothing. It still calms you down, however.

“Well, so we can ambush the creature, take care of the cultists, but how do we kill it?” The Grand Wizard asks, shuddering. “That thing was creepy and it reminded me of Xanthia. Frankly, I don’t know how to kill her either and I’ve thought about it, a lot.”

“What’s odd is it should know the Pharaoh is dead.” Selene says, folding her arms. “Why is it still here and serving the Apophis then?”

“Maybe it really doesn’t know?” Alice suggests, shrugging. “I mean, it doesn’t look totally with it.”

“There is not another Pharaoh, is there?” Sophie asks Ammon, who shakes his head.

“No, the Pharaoh did not have a husband, though she had a consort. She did not have a child, though no one is certain why not.”

Selene sighs. “I suppose she was so driven by her righteous quest and Phallia’s whispers that she ignored such things. A sad life.”

Sylphie sighs, “Maybe the covenant is different than we thought it was? Maybe it’s something else linked into all of this? Or maybe it had a new contract drawn up?”

“Seems unlikely seeing as it’s so driven to fulfill the covenant.” Tabitha says, shaking her head. “It’s possible that the covenant is over but it’s pretending to follow orders?”

“I don’t think so.” Ebe says, shuddering. “It looks like it takes too much pleasure in killing people.”

“Perhaps.” You say, rubbing your chin before changing the subject. “When we fought it before, the major flaw was the construct body it’s inhabiting. Sylphie’s [Thunderstrike] damaged the chest and I thought destroyed the core which it is housed in, but perhaps it survived? Maybe if we remove that, then we can kill it for good?”

“It’s possible.” The Grand Wizard agrees. “Short of terminating the ritual it was summoned with, removing what it’s bound to could produce desired effects. Or free it to fully manifest, you know, one of the two.”

“Great confidence boost, dear.” Selene says, patting his shoulder. “Do you believe your control over metal is enough to stop it, Rommel?”

“I think it’s made of adamantium in most spots.” You say, shaking your head. “Or some metal I’m not familiar with. I’m not confident I could.”

“What about that short-circuit thing?” Alice asks. “You could shut down the magitek enchantments, right? Then, once she’s immobilized, BAM!” She slides her sword out of her sheath some. “We hit it with everything we got.”

“Could work, I suppose.” Tabitha says, nodding. “It’s not a fan of your sword.”

“Everyone loves Energieschwert.” Alice says, pouting. “People who don’t just don’t understand.”

“It’s something.” You say, frustrated. If only there was a clear path here, but unless you can make an Apophis remove the covenant and send it back, there’s no other choice. Even if it’s enough to just make Hent-ateh hide for awhile while you work on Helene, that’s something, right? It’s not like you have enough knowledge to bind the damn thing again, even if you had a vessel for it.

Clapping draws your attention as Ammon addresses everyone. “Transportation and further supplies can be provided as needed, but time is of the essence. We do not know when they mean to strike out and I’d rather we be in place sooner than later, hmm?”

Nodding your head you recall something you have which could be helpful here. Rummaging in your pockets, you pull out, [Aliph’s Sigil]. Ammon gives you a curious look as you touch it to your forehead and hear the cultists speaking. Where it was a frenzied chatter a few days ago, it’s fairly quiet now, only a few voices communicating over it.

“…See to the Apophis’s will.” A man’s voice says. “However, Lady Liala wishes not to be disturbed while this occurs. Protect her within the Great Temple, but do not enter without her orders.”

A female voice chimes in. “Preparations are almost complete. Hent-ateh grows restless and I fear it has lashed out and killed a member of the cult who strayed too close. When will the Apophis send us forth?”

“Patience.” The man’s voice comes again. “When the sun is full in the sky, we will be seen visible to all as we complete our revolution by casting down the merchants and the usurper. The creature will serve its purpose and remove all who stand in our way. The Apophis’s designs will come to fruition.”

“Of course. I am sorry for doubting, the wisdom of the Apophis is infallible” The female voice finishes before the sigil grows silent beyond some unimportant information about weapons and food stores looted from the Palace.

“I think they’re going to strike at noon.” You say, putting the sigil away. It clinks against the [Keepsake charm] you have in your pocket. Purposefully keeping the part about “the usurper” quiet, you continue, “And Hent-ateh is growing more and more unpredictable. It even killed a cult member.”

Ammon looks fairly distressed at this information, frowning deeply. “Thank you for that Rommel. If noon is correct then…” He looks at a clock in the corner which reads 8:12. “Only a few hours to prepare.”

“Indeed.” Tabitha says, turning to you. “So, how do we want to do this?”

You have a few options on where to make your attack, but how do you want to do it? This thing is dangerous and unpredictable, but everyone is rested again and ready for the fight. You have to believe you can do this before ending this charade and returning home. With a clenched jaw you set about thinking how you want to handle this horror, if you can.

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