Aden took a deep breath and tried to compose himself, but it was difficult to contain his excitement. His eyes traveled over the official document for the tenth time in as many minutes, lingering on the seal and signature at the bottom. This was it! This was their big break after an eon of magical study, meager jobs, and grunt work. While it wouldn’t keep him and his group ‘set for life’, a successful mission here meant bigger and better work down the line.
Now all that remained was to not screw things up.
Nervously, Aden ran his fingers through his straight brown hair, trying to compose his arguments before he addressed his party, or rather one member in particular.
“Excuse me sir, how old are you?”
Aden sighed and dug into the pocket of his robe for his magical license. His short stature and boyish features often prompted this sort of question, despite being twenty and five summers old. The glasses likely didn’t help. “Here.”
The bartender took one look and nodded. “Sorry about that sir, you—“
“Yes, I’m short and I look young, I know,” said Aden flatly. “Drinks please?”
Aden ignored the apologetic look and took the tray before carefully making his way through the crowded tavern and to the corner booth his party had claimed.
“Alright Aden, you’ve kept us in suspense long enough. What’s this big surprise you’ve got up your sleeve?”
Carefully, Aden set the drinks in the center of the table and eyed the male human who had spoken. Blond, lanky, and wearing an overcoat with more pockets than could be easily counted. Dusty made an interesting presence within the party as an ex-locksmith and appraiser turned adventurer. He was a deft hand with many tools, but an utterly hopeless fighter. His experience with traps, treasures, and locks balanced out his lack of combat experience.
“It’s obviously a job,” said the woman sitting next to him. “Aden always brings us to this place when he needs to convince us to take a silly task. Good thing I’m open to bribery.”
Atlanna wasted little time in putting her bow aside and grabbing the offered drink. In contrast to Dusty, the green-haired woods woman was shorter, more compact, and had muscle to show for her years of adventuring. She’d said that her green hair, eyes, and ability to disappear seamlessly into a wooded area came from a mixed dryad heritage, but Aden had his doubts.
“What sort of pest extermination job are we dealing with this time?” she asked. “Devil Bugs again? Or is it something even more threatening like giant mouse girls?”
Aden pushed his glasses up and grinned. “Neither. We’ve got an actual job,” he said before proudly presenting the signed and stamped document.
Dusty whistled softly. “That’s a legitimate seal. From the governor! How did you manage it?”
“Persistence. And by being a cooperative detective and witness to that whole incident with the gate guards,” Aden explained. “We’ve got a legitimate chance to make a name for ourselves with this. No more pest killing, no more menial labor, and no more looking for lost pets.”
“Well it’s about damn time you did something useful, although knowing you we’re gonna be acting as glorified messengers,”
Aden took a calming breath and turned his attention to the last member of the group, Snowdrop. If her name had reflected her personality, it probably would have been ‘Skull Crusher’ or ‘Nightmare Inflicter’.
Snowdrop had tone and muscle in abundance, and silver hair streaked with black strands gave her an imposing look, but it was the red eyes, sharp horns, and the cross shaped scar on her cheek that stood out the most. Aden had never asked how she’d gotten it.
“No, it’s not messenger work,” said Aden calmly. “By all accounts in the briefing, it’s a cult. One located outside the city borders. It’s a place they’ve been watching for a while, but recently the group has been buying a lot of expensive magical foci and alchemy ingredients. It’s concerning enough to warrant investigation.”
Snowdrop huffed, wrapped her fingerless gloves around the mug, and took a long drink. By the time she finished, the tankard was considerably lighter. “Investigation? Are you serious? It’s a cult! Let’s go in there, beat up the leaders, and break all their toys.”
“When you’re dealing with unstable occult magic, you can’t go rushing in,” said Aden, voice pointedly calm. “You might make things worse.”
“The only thing that’ll make things worse is if you give ‘em long enough for one of their stupid rituals to actually work,” Snowdrop scoffed. “You agree, right Atlanna?”
Atlanna was very carefully looking at her drink as though it was the most interesting thing in the world. Dusty responded instead. “I’ll be happy to go along with whatever plan the two of you agree on,” he said tactfully.
Snowdrop angrily downed the rest of the tankard and crossed her arms beneath her chest, tightly contained with a black top that left her toned stomach visible. From her attitude, it was clear to Aden that it wasn’t the first she’d had that night. “Bunch of wimps all of you. When has rushing in and kicking ass not worked for us?”
“Do you want me to give you the list alphabetically or chronologically?” Aden snapped. “I’m pretty sure you’ll be passed out before I finish it!”
Snowdrop grinned. “And how far would this party have gotten if we’d gone with every overcom… over… stupid plan you dreamed up? You’d still be assessing the rats in that lady’s basement!”
Aden slammed a palm on the table. “There were devil bugs in that basement! My assessments and caution were warranted!”
Snowdrop surged to her feet. “You would have turned that day job into a weeklong study!”
Aden got to his feet as well and leaned over the table towards her. “You were ready to knock down an entire wall on a whim!”
“That wall had it coming!”
“Could you stop being such a bull for two minutes?”
“Maybe if you can stop being such an academy boy!”
A sharp whistle sounded throughout the bar, leaving Aden’s ears ringing. Calmly, Atlanna let her fingers fall away from her mouth. “People are staring.”
Only now did Aden realize that his forehead was nearly touching Snowdrop’s. Sheepishly, Aden slid back into his seat.
Dusty cleared his throat to fill the awkward silence that followed. “I’m at least in favor of scouting the place before we make a decision. Atlanna should be able to take the lay of the land easily.”
“Yeah, that sounds good,” Aden mumbled.
Snowdrop snorted. “Fine. But if black clouds or other ominous crap starts happening, we rush in.”
“Agreed,” said Atlanna. “Come on, Snow, you’ve had enough. Let’s get you to bed.”
The holstaurus grumbled some minor objections but Atlanna’s cajoling and nudging eventually coaxed her into leaving, a bit unsteady on her hooves. Aden waited until she was well out of view and up the stairs before groaning and putting his head in his hands.
“Ten years of magical study and I still haven’t discovered a spell to cure the headaches she causes.”
Dusty chuckled while he drank. “Come on, she’s not that bad.”
Aden stared at him. “Not that bad? You do remember the first thing she did when we got to this city was punch a gate guard, right?”
“He was running a racket, he deserved it.”
“And she pulled us into a days-long legal battle.”
“And that’s probably what put us on the governor’s radar and got us this job,” Dusty concluded. “Look, I’m not saying that there aren’t better ways to handle this sort of thing, but you gotta admit, her straightforward tactics work.”
Aden sighed and reached for his own as of yet untouched drink. “No, but they create a big mess for the rest of us to clean up.”
“Maybe for you. I’m just here to pick locks, look at trinkets, and make sure you don’t wander into traps. Oh and uh, Snow might have gone a bit overboard at the bar tonight.”
Aden’s head thunked onto the table. “Dammit Snowdrop…”
“I’d call it a small price to pay for what she offers. I’ve yet to see a minotaur beat her strength. Plenty of adventuring parties would kill to have her around.”
“And yet she chooses to torment ours,” Aden mumbled into the wood. “Lucky us. Why though?”
“Maybe because she knows that we’re a stabilizing element no matter how much she doesn’t want to admit it. Or maybe it’s—”
“Don’t start with that nonsense again,” said Aden quickly. “I’m really not in the mood. She’s also leagues away from what I’d even consider my ‘type’. If I even had a type, it would be the opposite of everything she is.”
Dusty rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like ‘damn liar’.
“For how much you two quarrel, it’s a wonder you’re not sleeping together,” said Atlanna bluntly.
Snowdrop snorted and casually threw her clothing into a corner of the room. “Him? You’re kidding me. The least I ask of my partners is that they don’t get blown over by a strong gust of wind. I’m not into lanky types who can’t take a hug.”
“Minotaurs can’t handle your hugs and I’ve known Oni that have a lower standard of strength than you.”
Snowdrop finished undressing and flopped down hard on the bed. “I’d break him before we even got to foreplay. Assuming I even wanted to go that far. Other monsters are content with passive and meek types, but I need someone willing to push back.”
“Were we listening to the same conversation?” asked Atlanna. “Because I don’t think he had any problem pushing back against you.”
Snowdrop waved a hand dismissively. “Yeah, but that was with words. He thinks they’ll solve everything. Remember when those gate guards tried to shake us down? He was gonna roll over for them!”
“Yes, I definitely remember that,” Atlanna deadpanned. “And it was only thanks to Aden’s legal knowledge that saved us from being thrown in prison.”
“And none of that corruption ring would have been exposed if I hadn’t punched that guard and his friends!”
“That’s…not untrue,” said Atlanna carefully as she hung up her bow and quiver on the wall pegs.
“Face it,” said Snowdrop. “Aden has no initiative. In getting crap done, I’m the one on point.”
“Once you actually know where that point is,” countered Atlanna. “Aden got us this job and clearly knew the right people to talk to.”
“And who do you think is gonna be doing all the work in actually busting this cult?”
“All of us,” Atlanna reminded. “Even Dusty. Even if he isn’t the type to throw a punch.”
“That was a rhe…ree…the kind of question you already know the answer to?”
Snowdrop flicked her hand in Atlanna’s direction. “Right. That. Dance around it all you want, but at the end of the day, you need my muscle.”
“We do. And for all his arguing, Aden knows it too, so maybe try to play nice a little bit tomorrow? We’ve got a lot riding on this job.”
Snowdrop groaned into her pillow. “I hate trying to argue with you when I’m drunk.”
“You’re not drunk.”
“Call me out again and I’ll put you in a headlock.”
Atlanna dropped the argument. There was only so much a voice of reason could get away with against Snowdrop.
Aden breathed in the cool morning air, his staff glowing while he peered through the trees towards the building their target cult was holed up in. The place was well outside the city limits and a fair distance away from logging operations in the area, but within ‘concerning’ distance to Stormwatch. Despite the clear neglect, it was easy to see how majestic this place had been in its prime, though the statues had faded and the colors in the stone had long since washed away.
“Sense anything yet?” Dusty asked. Without the benefit of a long robe like Aden, he was visibly shivering, and his impatience was clear despite his best efforts to hide it.
“Faint magic from their wards, but not much else. A lot of the residual magic is interfering from this distance.”
“Residual? What did this place used to be?”
“Sabbath property,” said Aden, letting the magic from his staff fade. “When Stormwatch was still finding its identity, all of the religious organizations weren’t allowed inside the city limits. So they set up shop on the borders, and when they finally got approval to move in, there wasn’t much use for this place.”
“Seems kind of a waste to let it go to ruin,” Dusty murmured.
Aden shrugged and let the magic in his staff fade. “Well it’s clearly getting a second life as a cultist hideout, so it’s not completely wasted.”
Dust stared at him. “That’s not funny.”
“It wasn’t a joke. Cults are the bedrock of religion. You think the sabbath started out by building their own cathedrals?”
“Ain’t that’s a super cynical way of looking at things.”
A rustle in the bushes alerted the two of them to Atlanna’s return before she showed herself. It was her way of announcing herself, since the first time she’d simply ‘appeared’ after a scouting mission, it had prompted a panicked spell from Aden.
“No lookouts, no guards on the outside. Not that I could see. There is activity on the inside, but I only saw an occasional glimpse through the broken windows.”
“If you didn’t see anyone then there was no one to see,” said Aden confidently. “Wait, what about Snowdrop?”
Snowdrop’s entrance was a lot less elegant, and she was heard a long while before she was actually seen.
“I told you to stop squirming and walk. I’m only gonna hit you if you try to run!”
Aden groaned. “Don’t tell me…”
With an unceremonious crash, Snowdrop emerged through the bushes. She was not alone. Gripped firmly in the fist of her right hand were the dark purple robes of a cultist with a leather strap across his mouth and his pants pulled down around his ankles.
“You found someone?” Atlanna asked. “I thought I covered the place.”
“Oh this wasn’t a lookout. I caught him trying to take a leak,” said Snowdrop proudly. “Don’t look at me like that, I waited until he was finished!”
“From the looks of his briefs, he hadn’t.” Aden gestured for Snowdrop to release him while quietly putting up a silencing ward in their immediate area. “Set him down, Snowdrop, and maybe ease up on the aura of violence.”
Snowdrop huffed but removed the gag and forced the cultist to sit. “Answer his questions or the next punch is gonna be stronger.”
The man wasted little time in scrambling and kicking at the ground to put as much distance between himself and Snowdrop as possible. “Get her away, get her away! That’s not a holsty, that’s a devil with cow tits!”
Snowdrop’s eyes turned murderous. “I’m gonna break his finger.”
“Kinda proving his point,” Dusty mumbled.
“Snowdrop, relax.” Aden then addressed the cultist. “We’re not going to brutalize you, we just want some questions answered.”
“Don’t speak for me,” snapped Snowdrop.
“I don’t know anything!” said the young male frantically. “I came for the food and the drugs, I never believed any of that crap about the old gods or whatever they were worshiping!”
“So you came here for…a party?” Aden asked calmly.
“Well yeah, that’s how they described it. Wear the robes, participate in a few ritual things, and then enjoy the after party!”
“And is that what happened?”
“Um…yeah. They had some really good stuff, too. I never got to try Girtablu—“
“Focus,” snapped Snowdrop. “How many were at this ‘party’?”
“Uhhh… thirty? There were some monster girls too…”
Snowdrop scoffed. “At a cult gathering for the old gods? Don’t give me that crap!”
The cultist visibly recoiled under her admonishment and Aden moved to block his view of her. “Relax, Snowdrop, he doesn’t even have a weapon on him.”
Snowdrop turned her head to the side and spat. “He could still be a cult wizard.”
Aden ignored her and continued with the cultist. “What about the leaders? Did you see them?”
A frantic head shake was his reply. “They kept to themselves and it was dark in there.”
“Well you’re useless then,” said Snowdrop. “I’ll knock him out.”
“W-w-wait! The leader! I did see the leader’s robes! She had a lot of jewelry! Bright green gemstones! She was the one in charge!”
“Oh, something useful. Guess I’ll gently knock you out in that case.”
“Sleep,” Aden commanded, his hand glowing as he passed it over the young man’s face. A second later he was out. “Snowdrop, I don’t care what sort of monk abilities you have, hitting people in the head to knock them out causes problems.”
“I wasn’t actually going to hit him,” Snowdrop retorted. “That guy was more of a wimp than you. The threat alone got him talking.”
Aden let the insult slide. “I think it’s pretty clear that there are innocents caught up in this nonsense. Until we know who is who, we take things carefully. Atlanna, blunted arrows. Dusty, you’re on rope duty. Snowdrop—”
“Half strength, I know.”
“Quarter strength,” Aden corrected. “No lasting injuries.”
“Hey, your force missiles are way more jarring than my ‘light’ blows!”
Aden gestured to the sleeping cultist. “Look at him, Snowdrop. He’s an idiot kid. You could have knocked him out with a stern glare. Unless someone pulls a weapon, casts a spell, or takes a swing at you, go easy on them.”
Snowdrop still looked as though she wanted to argue the point, so Aden broke out his secret weapon. “Please, Snowdrop? We’re trying to look good for the leaders of Stormwatch, remember?”
Snowdrop deflated, ever so slightly. “Fine. But I make no promises if any of these little shits call me ‘cow tits’ again.”
It was as close to an agreement as he was going to get. With a nod to Dusty and Atlanna, the group set off with Snowdrop and Aden in front.
“I never get tired of seeing their ‘good copper’ ‘bad copper’ routine,” complimented Dusty to Atlanna.
“You think that’s a routine?” Atlanna asked with raised brows.
“Well yeah. Snowdrop is a brute but I’ve never actually seen her attack a helpless person.”
“Dusty,” Aden called. “Magic locks on the front door. You’re up.”
“We’re gonna be fine,” Dusty assured Atlanna while he took out his tools. “We’ve come this far, haven’t we?”
The inside of the cathedral was far more neat and tidy than one would have assumed from the outside. Pains had been taken to clean the corridors, disguise the more broken down sections, and cordon off the areas that were actually dangerous. As Aden had predicted, the absurdly early morning hour meant most of the place was asleep. On two separate occasions they happened upon rooms with several passed out cultists from the party the night before.
All it took was a nod to Dusty and he quickly jammed the locks. A few whispered words from Aden later and a barrier was in place as well. Not an impassable barrier, but one that would delay reinforcements if things turned ugly.
“I hear voices in there,” murmured Atlanna. “It’s a big room. Probably the main worship area judging where we are right now.”
“How many?” asked Aden.
Atlanna pressed her ear against the door. “More than twenty, less than forty. This is probably the main group.”
“Does that mean we can stop holding back?” asked Snowdrop gleefully.
Aden shook his head. “Absolutely not. We’ve got the tools to handle this, so let’s use them.”
Aden’s staff tapped the ground and put up another silencing barrier, allowing them to open the double doors without a sound. That in turn muffled what the robed figure adorned with green gems at the podium was saying, but it hardly mattered once the plan was put into action.
Atlanna’s arm blurred and let loose with the opening salvo, blunted arrows striking with pinpoint accuracy against legs, heads, and exposed arms moments before a terrifically bright light exploded from the gem in Aden’s staff, blinding everyone who looked their way.
Then, Snowdrop rushed in.
It was a sight Aden had seen many times before, but he never tired of watching it. Snowdrop was a dancer combined with an avalanche, unrelenting yet surprisingly graceful. With the light at her back, the robed figures barely saw her coming until her fists found their marks, striking stomachs and sides while her hooves swept their legs. Some managed to draw weapons, and those able to get a strike in found her bracers rebuffing them.
“Pick off the stragglers and anyone that has a weapon drawn,” Aden said to Atlanna as he let the light and the sound barrier fade. The chaos of the scene rushed in with panicked shouts and cries of pain with the leader trying to shout over the din.
“Stand your ground! The old god is with us! Don’t—ahh!”
Atlanna’s arrow struck her forehead center of mass, and she crumpled to the ground behind the podium. Below in the congregation her subordinates were quickly learning how difficult it was to fight in close quarters with stifling robes. Some challenged Snowdrop with their fists and were found wanting. Others tried to pull away from the group and were brought down by Atlanna’s arrows and Aden’s magic missiles.
It was a matter of minutes before most of them were laid out, and the two unfortunate enough to remain standing were only doing so courtesy of the headlock Snowdrop had each of them in. “Yeah, you like that? This is what you get for bringing a dagger to a fistfight. Aden, what’s with these guys? They were barely armed.”
“Why would I bring a sword to morning service?” one of the grappled victims cried out.
“In case your silly cult gets discovered and you have to defend yourself,” replied Snowdrop before bringing her knee up into the speaker’s gut and laying him out.
“That was unnecessary,” said Aden. Waving his hand over the group, he pushed a good deal of energy into another sleep spell. There were too many bodies here to put everyone out, but it made them far more docile and lethargic. “Dusty, you’re up.”
Dusty’s blond head poked in from the outside. “Done already? Are you sure we got the right cult?” Nonetheless, he began his work of binding and patting down the cultists, depriving them of their weapons and freedom while Atlanna watched.
“It’d be way too much of a coincidence if there were two cults using these god awful robes,” Snowdrop snarked, idly going over to where the leader was groaning. “Your number’s up. Should have stuck to the baphomet cults.”
The hood of the leader’s robe had fallen away to reveal a young woman with long brown hair and a pair of glasses that were slightly askew. A red angry mark was emblazoned on her forehead from Atlanna’s arrow. “You…you can’t keep the old god away forever…so long as we keep the faith…he’ll answer us.”
Aden knelt down next to her. “You’re an old god worshiper? Huh, there hasn’t been one of those types in a while.”
“Of course there hasn’t!” she snapped. “Stormwatch drove them all away!”
Aden blinked. “Um…no they didn’t.”
“Yes they did! Stormwatch ran them out!”
Aden rubbed his forehead. “What are you talking about? Stormwatch doesn’t have any laws against which god you worship.”
The leader’s eyes blazed with fury. “Then how do you explain the absence of his shrines and places of worship?”
“Because he’s not a popular god. Most monsters worship the demon queen or the sabbath goddesses and the Chief god is the go-to for humans.”
Snowdrop yawned. “Hey, I’m gonna go look at all the cool ritual stuff while you argue religion, okay?”
“Fine, whatever,” said Aden distractedly. “As I was saying, there’s no laws against any religion in Stormwatch.”
“Well then why all of…of this?!” asked the leader, waving her hand frantically in the direction of the tied up followers.
“Trespassing. Just because this place is in disrepair doesn’t mean it’s unowned. The Sabbath still officially owns this properly and you’re squatting.”
“That…that’s it?” the cult leader asked, flabbergasted.
“No, that’s not it,” said Aden, reaching into his robes and withdrawing the scroll he’d been granted by the governor. “In addition to trespassing, there’s the use of heavily controlled ritual materials, unlicensed magic use, smuggling narcotics through Stormwatch customs, and of course, noise complaints.”
“Noise complaints? You can’t be serious!”
“I am. The fact that you’re worshiping a distasteful god has literally nothing to do with this. Trust me, if the Sabbath were handling this themselves, they’d have a lot more than a few blunted arrows and flashing lights for you.”
The girl slumped and let out a defeated sigh. “So what happens now?”
“You’ll probably pay a fine or do some community service.”
Snowdrop snorted loudly. “Really? That’s the punishment for a cult these days? Talk about a let down. We can at least confiscate their cool ritual stuff, right? Some of it seems legitimate.”
Aden eyed the book Snowdrop had ‘acquired’. It was the most gaudy looking thing he’d ever laid eyes on, with blood red letters on the cover, multicolored gemstones creating a border around the cover, and bones from some unknown animal interlaced with the spine. “What exactly were you trying to do here, anyways?”
“Um… create a bridge for the old god to grant us some of his power?” said the leader with growing uncertainty.
Snowdrop handed the book to Aden at his gesture. It didn’t take long for him to see past the glitzy cover. “You’re lucky this book was a fake then. Channeling the old God’s power tends to make people really violent.”
The cult leader’s head jerked up. “What? But… but look at it!”
Wordlessly, Aden flipped to the index and handed it to her. The leader began to read aloud. “This work is a fictitious recreation and not to be used in actual ritual summonings. Trademarked Eldor publications? What is—“
“A sabbath organization,” Aden answered.
The girl groaned and let her head fall forward onto the book. “Just end me already.”
“We’re not going to end you, we’re only going to take you— Snowdrop! Stop messing with the ritual circles!”
Snowdrop stopped in the midst of opening one of the many vials that surrounded the the altar. “Why? You said all of this was fake.”
“The transference ritual was fake. It’s still a sabbath book so don’t touch anything.”
Snowdrop glared at him before she defiantly picked up a vial of pink liquid, gave it a shake, and set it down on the shelf. “See? Nothing to worry about. I’m not—“
In a cacophony of noise that Aden swore could be heard in Stormwatch, the overtaxed shelf full of books, vials, and other alchemical ingredients collapsed, several glass containers spilling into the ritual circle and several more shattering beside. Pink mist blossomed from the point of impact, entirely obscuring Snowdrop’s figure.
“Snowdrop!” Aden jumped to his feet and quickly cast a wave of force, knocking Snowdrop off her hooves and far out of the pink cloud. “Cult girl, what the hell was in those vials?”
The cult leader looked at the cloud with wide eyes, even while scrambling away from it. “It was some nectar, honey, and girtablu venom!”
“Why would you ever mix those?!”
The painted ritual circle glowed an ominous pink color, magic building as the smoke and the potent scent faded. Behind it, Snowdrop was slowly getting to her hooves, a visible pink aura enveloping her.
Aden swallowed. “Cult girl.”
“I have a name you know! It’s Am—“
“That is not on my list of things I care about right now! Get your followers to get their asses moving outside!” Aden snapped. “Dusty, get those idiots moving! Atlanna, disable her!”
The words had barely finished leaving Aden’s lips before an arrow flew past his head straight towards Snowdrop’s thigh.
It never reached its destination.
Snowdrop’s hand blurred and her fingers closed around the shaft the moment it got close. “Now that wasn’t very nice…”
“Atlanna, keep shooting!” Aden’s staff glowed and unleashed a bright light amidst the next volley of arrows. Even half-blinded, Snowdrop remained untouched, deflecting and catching one arrow after the next, all while steadily moving forward.
“Cone of Cold!” Aden put a good deal of energy into his spell, the gust of frost striking Snowdrop head on, but her hooves stayed firm on the ground. The holstaurus then shouldered through the icy blast, frost at the edges of her pelt, and she still kept pushing forward.
It did however, slow her enough for one of Atlanna’s arrows to land and deliver a potent payload of knockout drugs. Aden breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Snowdrop wobble, only to feel his heart sink a moment later when Snowdrop righted herself and grinned. “Give me another dose, I’m starting to feel real good!”
“Spirit Shackles! Weakness! Sleep!” Aden felt the drain now as he cast one spell after another.
“Stop holding back, Aden! She can take bigger spells!” Atlanna shouted.
Aden’s mind raced as he tried to think up a spell somewhere between petty and lethal. He’d never realized how terrifying Snowdrop’s endurance was until this moment. “I’m sorry about this. Obliterating Bolt!”
Thunder boomed and his ears rang. Lightning flew from his staff in a jagged arc towards Snowdrop. There was no dodging it and the electricity hit her center of mass and caused Snowdrop’s body to freeze up and then twitch sporadically.
And yet she still remained standing.
With a Minotaur-worthy growl, Snowdrop flexed her arms and tore at the shackle’s magical anchors, ripping free of the bindings and pushing through all the debilitating spells as though they were tissue paper. There was only one spell left to try.
Aden covered his face as Snowdrop got within arms reach and put up the strongest wall of force he could. It didn’t help. Snowdrop’s punch landed in his stomach and doubled him over, and his staff was yanked out of his hand and tossed aside.
Coughing and gasping, Aden only managed to get out, “Atlanna, run!” before Snowdrop jumped over the altar. From his laid out position on the ground, Aden could hear several more twangs of the bowstring before they abruptly stopped.
“Snowdrop, get a hold of yourself! You’re not—“
“I’m gonna have a little chat with Aden. Alone,” came Snowdrop’s reply. There was a scuffling noise followed by a yelp.
With a herculean effort, Aden managed to pull himself up at the altar in time to see Snowdrop give Atlanna a rough shove out of the room before slamming the heavy doors shut and kicking one of the stone tables in front of it for good measure.
Aden looked towards his staff and lunged, stumbling over his robes in the process, but even if he’d been able to teleport, it wouldn’t have been fast enough. Snowdrop’s toned stomach materialized right in front of his face and rebuffed him to the ground, his glasses falling off his face.
“S-Snowdrop, let’s be rational about this—”
Snowdrops’ ‘rational’ response was to pick him up by the front of his robes and pull him to eye level. There was a pink coloration in her eyes, a clear sign that the concoctions had yet to work their way through her system. “You don’t know how satisfying this is,” she murmured.
“Seeing you finally lose your cool and act flustered for once.” Snowdrops’ hands shook and Aden fell to the ground again, his robes sliding off his frame and leaving him feeling a lot smaller and more vulnerable than before. “Do you have any idea how intimidating you are?”
The question hit Aden much harder than any of Snowdrop’s blows. A foot difference in height, the ability to wade into a group of twenty cultists without a scratch, shrugging off each and every one of his spells and he was the intimidating one?
Aden stumbled backwards as Snowdrop stalked forward. “Snowdrop, you’ve lost it. How am I intimidating to you in any way? You walked through all my spells and Atlanna’s arrows as though they were nothing!”
Snowdrop shook her head. A hand went down to the tight half-shirt that covered her chest and yanked it upward, letting her breasts free of the tight restraint she’d put on them. She was…generous to say the least. Holstaurus were known for having large busts even compared to other monsters, but it was easy to overlook that with Snowdrop given how much everything else stood out to her. At least until now.
“You’re so damn hard to talk to. You’ve always got something smart to say. Always got a plan or an idea. Makes me feel like an idiot every time I open my mouth and say anything… how am I supposed to deal with that?”
Aden’s back went up against a wall. He could feel his cheeks burning. It didn’t take a magic academy graduate to know what was on her mind. “Snowdrop, I didn’t mean to come across that way, honest! I only wanted to be a leader our team could rely on!”
“Yeah, but how are you supposed to ask someone like that on a date, huh?”
Aden mentally fumbled. “When was that on the table?!”
“I’m putting it on the table right now!”
Aden’s mood took a sudden sharp turn from fearful to bewilderment. When had her attitude shifted this way? Between the countless arguments and insults, attraction of any kind seemed like a fool’s fantasy…even if he did find her brash, push-forward attitude attractive and her powerful form and figure appealing.
Had he always felt this way? Yes…yes he had.
Embarrassed, flushed, and angry, Aden took a step forward away from the wall. “And what if I did want to go on a date? You say I’m intimidating, you’d break me in half for asking! How am I supposed to approach you without it turning into a fight?”
Snowdrop took a step back, her eyes widening slightly. “You mean you would have said yes?”
Aden choked momentarily. “That… I mean…yes?”
It was either the exact right thing to say or the absolute wrong thing to say. Aden wasn’t sure which, but the end result was Snowdrop taking a step forward and wrapping both of her arms around his head to pull him right into her naked chest. Her grip strength was colossal but her breasts were amazingly soft and perfect for enveloping his face and cutting off verbal objections.
“I may be more drugged up than a boy toy at a Sabbath convention right now, but I’m damn well not forgetting this!” Snowdrop rumbled.
Aden’s response was a mixture of muffled phrases that could have been loosely interpreted as words.
“You spent a lot of energy, didn’t you? Go on, have a drink, I’ve got plenty, and I know you’ve been curious.”
He was curious, but at the same time acutely aware that whatever toxins she’d been hit with were almost guaranteed to have an effect on her ‘offering’. Unfortunately, he had little choice in the matter once Snowdrop’s fingers had curled into his hair and guided his mouth to one of her nipples.
“I’ll keep you here until you pass out or start drinking,” Snowdrop warned as she tightened her grip.
It didn’t take long for Aden to relent. His mouth opened and latched on before giving a hesitant suckle, and in a flash his body was feeling bliss. It might have been the aphrodisiacs, but Aden was more certain that it was Snowdrop’s incredible energy that made the taste so mind-numbingly strong.
Aden’s lips pursed and his tongue lapped with increasing eagerness. A trickle of milk turned into a stream, and her firm nipple pushed deep into his mouth while he swallowed one mouthful after the next, a small trickle soon running down his chin. No drink in any tavern could make his head spin like it was now, and nothing was ever going to match this sweetness, either.
By the time Snowdrop had moved him over to the other breast, he hardly needed the tight grip around his head to encourage him. He probably would have stayed there if Snowdrop herself didn’t force him off and coax him to take a breath.
“Get your clothes off,” she ordered.
A sliver of coherency returned to Aden’s mind. “Wha…here? In this temple?”
“It’s a Sabbath temple. The carpets are top-notch. Your delicate ass will be fine.”
Aden found his objection overturned as Snowdrop pulled him right back into her chest, smothering him while her hand moved between his legs and delivered a firm squeeze. Her milk had already done a wonderful job in exciting him, and her rough but affectionate handling soon had him straining at his pants. A few moments later he was given a breath.
“Any other complaints?” Snowdrop asked sweetly.
“F-for our first time, can’t we—mmhmm!”
Aden fell into hellishly soft bust once more, and this time Snowdrop didn’t stop at casual groping. Her fingers latched onto his pants and smallclothes and forced them down to his ankles. His exposed manhood wasn’t left dangling though, as her half-gloved hand wrapped around it and squeezed tight. The blissful ‘grapple’ lasted for nearly half a minute before she released him from the busty prison.
“Any other complaints?” Snowdrop asked more pointedly.
“…the carpet does look comfortable,” Aden mumbled.
Snowdrop grinned and gave him a light push away from her body. “Then get your ass moving before I start tearing things.”
Mage outfits were not inherently difficult things to remove, but under Snowdrop’s lustful gaze it was far more challenging than any of his spells. Things only got more embarrassing when his clothes had finally hit the ground. Adventuring may have given him an edge over more studious and reclusive mages, but his lanky body still felt akin to a stick figure next to Snowdrop’s considerable mass and muscle. The foot difference in height didn’t make him feel any more confident, especially as it put him at the perfect height for breast-smothering.
Snowdrop stripped much faster than him and didn’t bother with her boots or gloves. She looked ready to pounce, a feeling only emphasized by the way her tail flicked behind her, not unlike that of a werecat.
“Snowdrop, c-can I say one thing first?” Aden pleaded. “Please?”
The pink glow in her eyes faded slightly at his plea. “Hmph. Make it fast.”
“I wanted…wanted to say that I’ve always admired you. You’ve been the focal point of all my plans and…and this group wouldn’t be what it is without you. I would have asked you out but…I’m not a very brave guy myself, you know?”
The pink glow faded almost entirely. Snowdrop was taken aback by his words. Then, the pink glow and the aura returned, brighter than ever, along with an almost manic grin. “I’m going to ride you until there’s an indent in the carpet. Maybe once I’m done you won’t be such an idiot anymore.”
Snowdrop tackled him down to the carpet, catching Aden’s mouth in an aggressive kiss while her weight settled on him. Aden’s arms went around her, holding tight as her taut stomach rubbed against him and her tongue overwhelmed his own. Her tail was affectionately coiled around his leg, and he could feel her hot juices against his thigh even amidst all the sensations.
There was no buildup or grace to her technique. Snowdrop was drowning in raw, unfiltered lust, and the transition from her aggressive kissing and grinding to lifting her hips and using a hand to angle his cock properly was as easy as breathing for her. Aden’s mind didn’t catch up until her hips fell hard and forced him to the hilt.
Snowdrop was every bit as rough, aggressive, and strong as Aden had imagined. Her frantic riding slammed him into the carpet repeatedly and he could barely move his hips in response. What caught him off guard was how tightly she clenched around him. Every time at the hilt, she paused and ground against him, drawing out embarrassingly cute cries from him.
“Hehe… you enjoying that? Every succubus brags about being able to do this, but any monk worth their words can learn it,” Snowdrop boasted, shoving Aden’s head into her chest again as she gave a particularly powerful clench and muffled his second cry of pleasure.
Mercifully, she wasn’t too invested in denial play. At least not in her current state of mind. She went right back to riding him within seconds. Her breasts bouncing violently in front of Aden’s face while the slap of her hips against his echoed through the cathedral. While her riding may have been erratic, her vagina was the opposite, rhythmically clenching around and caressing his shaft with a softness only rivaled by Snowdrop’s chest.
Muffled as he was, there was no way for Aden to communicate to Snowdrop how close he was beyond a rapid tapping of her shoulder. She seemed to get the message and redoubled her movements. “Hurry up already!” she demanded.
It was hardly the most romantic pillow talk, but it was effective. With a final crash of their hips, Aden’s endurance peaked and his climax hit hard, spilling deep inside Snowdrop while she let loose with distinct bovine sounds of pleasure. Aden’s body felt limp and warm, but he hardly had a moment to enjoy the afterglow before his head was captured and forced up against her nipple once more.
“Drink,” she ordered. “Get your energy back. I’m not done with you and you sure as hell aren’t gonna be done until I’m done.”
Aden didn’t even think to object, this time grabbing her breast with one of his hands and massaging it while he drank. Snowdrop guided his other hand to her free breast and soon he was getting a second dose. His lips were far more eager this time, squeezing her nipple as he suckled hard and drank eagerly. He knew in that moment he was never going to find an equal for her sweet, charged taste, and while he drank from one breast, his hand was groping her other and pinching her nipple to the point where his fingers had become slick with her milk.
By the time he’d had his fill, his shaft was nice and hard again, the sensitivity from his last climax a distant memory.
The pink had faded from Snowdrop’s eyes when Aden pulled away, but there was still a noticeable tinge there. He had mere seconds to get out a plea. “C-can we go slower this time?”
Snowdrop huffed. “Really?”
“Really,” Aden gasped. “I…I want this to last a bit longer.”
Snowdrop’s eyes narrowed for a moment before she suddenly rolled the two of them over, putting Aden on top. “Fine, you set the pace then, but if you bore me I’m gonna go at you even harder.”
Aden didn’t waste any time. His hands and lips were at her breasts, licking up the errant trails of her milk even as his fingers coaxed more out of her. His hips wiggled a bit, finding a comfortable spot between her legs, and then he began to move.
At a third of her speed and a tenth of her aggression, it was a wholly different experience, with plentiful amounts of time to enjoy her curvy and muscular body. In between his licks and suckles, Aden even saw flashes of a smile on Snowdrop’s face, and her fingers were soon at his hair, stroking and rubbing his head as he showered her body with affectionate praise.
Aden could tell Snowdrop was restraining herself. He could feel her muscles tensing each time he slid into her, feel her tail tightening around his leg, and most particularly, feel that aura of lust returning. She was holding herself in check for his sake, and the thought made him feel immensely warm inside. Of course, that also meant he had a very limited amount of time to request anything from her.
“Could…you show me your muscle control technique again?” Aden asked softly. “Maybe…put your legs around my waist?”
Snowdrop grinned. “Guess it’s only fair after you milked me.”
Her legs settled around his thighs akin to an iron bar. Meanwhile her arms came around his back and neck to pull him into her body. It made him hip to hip with her and barely able to squirm let alone move…and then her walls began to move.
No need for aggressive riding or thrusting, Snowdrop proved extremely capable of stimulating him as her walls tightened, relaxed, and massaged him ceaselessly while they embraced. Aden’s hands and mouth gave Snowdrop’s chest much deserved praise, and in return she squeezed and bullied his shaft into submission, occasionally stopping a premature climax with a tight clench at the base.
Then, right as he reached his limit, Snowdrop squeezed down extremely hard and stopped her motions entirely. Aden whimpered as his shaft throbbed with need, but he wasn’t going to move unless Snowdrop let him.
“We’re going to do this again,” Snowdrop said firmly.
“O-of course!” Aden agreed.
“Even if I’m not as approachable without the drugs…I want to do this again,” she emphasized with another full body squeeze.
“I…I promise we’ll do it again!”
“And I don’t just mean sex, I want to do other things with you too. Outside of our job.”
Aden felt his body groaning from the pressure of her legs and arms, but it was nothing compared to the stranglehold she had on his length. “All of that! I want all of that too!”
“…you promise?” Snowdrop’s voice wavered slightly.
“I promise! My word as a mage, scholar, adventurer, anything you want!”
Finally, it seemed good enough. Her walls relaxed and the movements began again. Aden didn’t last ten seconds, and neither did Snowdrop, her moans mixing with his as the two of them reached their peak, with Aden pouring out a terrific amount of essence and energy for his new girlfriend, or perhaps lover, to consume.
By the time his seed had been thoroughly drained and his shaft coated in Snowdrop’s juices, exhaustion settled in. Holstaurus milk was a great energizer, but ultimately it only helped a man borrow energy that they were going to have to repay later. The pink had faded completely from Snowdrop’s eyes now, but her affection had not, and her hand continued to gently caress Aden’s sides as they lay there.
“If you’re about to suggest we get up and start doing things again, I’m going to punch you,” Snowdrop threatened. “I’m comfortable right now.”
“We really shouldn’t leave Atlanna and Dusty to do everything by themselves though,” Aden reasoned. “We are still here on a job.”
Snowdrop growled under her breath. “Hmph. Fine. But we’re sharing a room tonight. I’ve got months of pent up frustration that I need to make up for.”
Boldly, Aden leaned up and kissed her cheek. “I’ll make it happen. Promise.”
Dusty and Atlanna were not difficult to find. Both of them were waiting right outside the doors Snowdrop had blocked off. To Aden’s surprise, Snowdrop was the one to speak first.
“Hey…sorry you two. I should have been paying more attention. I’m um…also sorry for hitting you, Atlanna.”
Wordlessly, Atlanna extended her hand towards Dusty. “Pay up.”
Dusty cursed and withdrew a small stack of coins and dropped them into Atlanna’s hand. “I swear you set this up somehow.”
Aden blinked and looked between the two. “You were…betting on us?”
“On how long it was going to take,” affirmed Dusty. “I thought it was going to be at least another month before she jumped you.”
Aden gaped. “How was that a foregone conclusion?”
“Because the two of us had to constantly listen to you two whining about the other,” Atlanna responded calmly. “You complained a lot, but you were always appreciative of each other.”
“Not that we’re expecting that to stop,” teased Dusty, “but at least you can complain to each other now, too.”
Aden sighed and hung his head slightly. “Thank you, both of you, for putting up with us.”
“You’d better be,” Dusty muttered. “And since you left the cleanup to us, we’re expecting you to pay for the—urk!”
Atlanna slowly withdrew her elbow from Dusty’s side. “The cultists are locked up and tied up. We need to escort them to town. Are you ready to move or do you need a minute?”
“We’re ready,” said Snowdrop hurriedly. “Lead the way.”
Aden sighed as Dusty and Atlanna did just that and he followed along several paces behind them with Snowdrop at his side. “You know…even after all that, I’m not really sure where we should start with this relationship.”
Snowdrop furrowed her brow for a moment before reaching her hand out and grabbing Aden’s palm, her fingers curling with his. “How about this and then go from here?”
Aden smiled and gave her hand an affectionate squeeze. “Yeah. I can do that.”
“I’m still going to ride you ragged when we get to our room tonight.”
“Dammit Snow, come on.”
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