Adventure of Rekka – Ch. 08


Hello again.  If anyone was still interested in this, sorry for being such a scumbag.  I finally have time to get back to writing, so I’m back at it.  Can’t get this story out of my head.  This chapter sort of got away from me.  It’s almost as long as all my others combined.  I hope you enjoy it, I still suck with punctuation and I’m sure its rife with spelin erros, but it looks pretty legible.


A small rounded object landed next to the bush before exploding spectacularly, ripping most of the foliage from its branches and causing small fires to break out amongst the grass.  A hoot of excitement preceded a skinny young man hopping to his feet from behind a depression in the earth a stone’s throw from the bush.

 

“See, Tabby?  Pretty cool, right?” asked Larry, grinning up at her as she left her protective crouch, huge paws still held over rounded tiger ears. “Oh, you can take your hands off, the shows over,” Larry said, reaching up to pull her elbow.  The much larger woman gave him a bashful smile as she lowered her arms.

 

“Hey!  You alive?  Should we send in Helena?” a man yelled, fifty feet back and hunkered down behind a felled tree and stacked boulders.  Still further behind that bunker the top of a white haired woman’s head popped over several stacked logs and packed earth, concern in her eyes and nervously twitching ears. Her horn gleamed in the sunlight.

 

She lowered her head immediately as a worried man’s voice raised concern.  Next, two black paws reached over the berm followed by wolf ears and red eyes, fire trailing from them.

 

“There, they ain’t dead. Can I come over now?  I wanna see the ‘splosion,” Rekka called, clearly frustrated at not being closer to the display.  It had taken true actual pleading and begging from Bill to have her back that far in the first place.  He’d tucked Helena in with her in case Larry got himself, or more importantly Tabitha blown to pieces.  No begging could keep Tabitha away from Larry’s side.

 

“Hell no!  You promised!” Bill yelled back, “Next he’s going to test that stupid gun of his, and we both know how that turned out last time!”  He looked back toward Tabitha and a now scowling Larry.  “Tabitha, please for God’s sake get away from that madman and his deathwish!” he called.

 

Bill himself was only this far forward so he could see if there might be any secondary explosions before calling for the medic.  Tabitha only shook her head and looked down at Larry, placing her large paw hand on his back.

 

“My gun is not stupid, you fucking redneck!  It’s the most advanced piece of technology this world has ever seen!” He yelled back, incensed. “Now watch this shot,” Larry finished, shouldering his stupid gun and taking aim at a small tree trunk.

 

Hesitating, he lowered the gun slightly and looked over at Tabby for a moment.  “Still, you should move a few feet back and cover your ears.. I only fired this thing a few times before they took it away from me,” He admitted softly, “Just don’t tell Bill.”  Again Tabby shook her head, this time with a slight smile.

 

“No, I trust you,” she responded quietly, her eyes shining with pride for him.

 

Larry took in a breath to calm himself.  He never thought he’d be feeling such concern for someone else’s safety, finding it a deeply unsettling experience.  Still, he just had to prove that shithead wrong.  The Boomstick Mark I was a thing of beauty and elegance, and he’d shoot Bill next if he didn’t admit it after this display.

 

“Right.  Okay.  Here we go,” he said, shouldering the weapon again.  He nodded at Tabby as she placed her paw hands over her ears.  Sighting down the barrel he pulled the trigger.

 

With a deafening roar the gun bucked in his hands, slamming into Larry’s shoulder and causing him to take a step back.  Tabby reached out to steady him as they beheld the poor tree he’d aimed at.  Unlike the muskets most of the smoke did not spew from the end of the barrel, instead venting to the sides through cleverly designed ports.  They could easily see the tree with a fist sized hole in one side, looking like someone had taken a large bite out of it.  The tree slowly bent to its side before snapping off completely as they watched.

 

“Dead yet?” Bill called before cautiously poking his head out.  Larry didn’t seem to hear him.  Turning around he sneered at Bill, shaking his gun over his head like a Tusken Raider.

 

“You see that shit?  Perfect!  This world better watch out, the Boomstick Mark I is here!” he yelled.

 

They yelled back across at each other a few times, clearly not getting their points across until the ringing faded from Larry’s ears.

 

“I said fire another round off!  I want to be sure!” Bill yelled again.

 

“Fuck you think this is, Russian Roulette?” Larry snapped back.

 

“Yeah!” Bill responded, ducking back down.

 

“Fine, asshole!” Larry nodded at Tabby who once again shielded her ears. Pausing a moment he took the time to stuff cotton wadding in his ears, having forgotten it last time in his haste to show off.  He pulled the Luger-like slide causing a small cylinder to fly out of the ejection port, not bothering to catch it due to it probably being hot as hell, but minding where it fell.  That done,  he immediately sighted and fired off another shot, this time having braced himself better for the recoil.

 

The next tree fared slightly better than the last. Larry’s aim was off and it only blew a small chunk off the side, leaving it standing.  It seemed to pull to the right, something he’d like to fix but would just have to compensate for until he found time and tools.

 

Bill didn’t bother getting back up before shouting, “Another!  Stress test that sunovabitch!”

 

Larry had already removed the cotton so he was hearing well enough to respond.  “Fuck you, dude!  I’m not made of bullets, and you already threw out my extra powder!  I’ve got 3 shots left in this, and only 10 in the box!” he shouted back, already slinging the gun onto his shoulder.

 

Bill scowled to himself, before looking up as Rekka slid into his foxhole.  She grinned at him as she nestled to his side.

 

“That was kinda neat, huh? Did you see that tree! Boom, then it had a hole in it!  An’ he didn’t blow himself up or anything!” she said, clearly impressed.

 

“I thought you promised to hunker down while he was shooting that thing.  God knows how far the shrapnel could fly when that ridiculous hunk of metal explodes,” Bill responded, scratching at her ears while frowning with worry.

 

“Hey, that’s what Helena is for! I made sure she wasn’t watchin’, so no problem!” Rekka responded cheekily.

 

Bill just sighed and stood up to look over the berm to make sure Larry wasn’t about to blow up before pulling Rekka to her feet. She was short enough to not see over herself and growled with irritation.

 

“C’mon, make him do another ‘splosion.  I wanna see one of those grr’nades,” she ordered.

 

Bill looked down at her, the worry clear in his eyes but he admittedly wanted to see one go off himself.  Instead of just hearing it and waiting for the gurgling screams from Larry.  Taking in a breath and blowing it out he finally nodded.  “Okay, but when I yell duck you duck, alright?”

 

“Yep!  This is gonna be so awesome!” she declared, pulling herself up to see the action.

 

“Yo, Larry!  One more grenade.  Don’t screw it up!  You’ve got an audience now,” Bill called, glaring menacingly at Larry before pointedly nodding down at a captivated Rekka.

 

“Hey, no problem.  These are goddamn foolproof, and kinda lame. Wait until I make the next ones!  Then you’ll see some serious shit!” he shouted before laughing slightly maniacally, and nodding once again at Tabby to cover her ears.  Bill’s hands did the same for Rekka as he stared grimly down the field.

 

Lighting the fuse from the torch stuck into the earth beside him, Larry immediately threw the grenade as far as he could before crouching down a bit next to Tabitha.  Bill had to admit the skinny little wimp could throw, and the grenade sailed safely away to land among the still smoking bushes.  Once again it exploded, shrapnel tearing apart the nearby branches and small fires breaking out in any dry grass around it.

 

Larry stood up and turned around to grin back at Bill and Rekka, waiting for the applause.  Rekka tilted her head to the side and called over.

 

“That it? It ain’t as good as I thought it’d be,” she called over.

 

“What? Dammit, this is the most advanced warfare the world has ever seen, be amazed!” Larry snapped, shouldering his gun.  With Tabitha’s assistance he scrambled up the slight depression and walked over to Bill’s foxhole.

 

“Pfft.  Wait until you see an angry dragon, now that’s impressive. Thought it’d be somethin’ like that,” Rekka said, disappointed.  “Your metal thingy is neat, though.  I bet that’ll go through one of them stupid knights pretty good,” she said, clearly anticipating seeing just that.

 

“Wait, dragons? For real?” Larry asked, scanning the sky before looking at Bill for confirmation.

 

“Yeah, clear as I can tell there’s just about any “mythical” creature we can think of around here.  Pretty cool, huh?” Bill explained, excited by the prospect and eager to sightsee.

 

Larry clearly didn’t share the sentiment, suddenly closing his eyes before muttering, “There’s no place like home..”

 

“Fuck that, and fuck Kansas.  I see any ruby slippers I’ll shove them up old Ozzy’s ass,” Bill stated, completely serious as he looked over at Rekka.  She just grinned at him, not terribly interested in whatever pop culture he was going on about but happy to know he was completely onboard sticking with her.

 

“You need to get over that, and soon.  You really gonna leave all this behind?  You going to leave Tabitha behind?” he asked, lowering his voice as Tabitha wandered over carrying the crate of grenades on her shoulder.

 

“Fuck dude, this sucks,” Larry said, hanging his head.  He was torn, and miserable for it.

 

“Figure your shit out.  Hell, getting home might be impossible anyway.  I almost hope it is, but I’d like to find out just the same,” Bill whispered.

 

Larry looked up, curious about that, but didn’t want to continue the conversation with Tabby standing over him.  She looked down with such love in her eyes and he felt his chest tighten.  Confused feelings welled up in him as he did his best to smile up at her.  The purr he loved so much started up, causing him to swallow the lump in his throat.  He quickly grabbed her paw in his and they began walking back to the carriage.

 

Suddenly a cry came from the farthest bunker.  “Hello? Is no one injured?  May I come out now?” Helena’s musical voice queried.  Felix’s head could be seen peering over the top of the bunker at them, clearly not comfortable letting Helena follow suit.

 

“Oh yeah, I forgot about them,” Bill said before yelling back, “Yeah, it’s all clear.  Y’all can come out!  Rekka will be right there to help!”  He nodded at Rekka and shrugged.  She smirked back and trotted over to help Felix push Helena up and out.  Bill had no intention of assisting.  After Rekka had explained unicorn physiology he had absolutely no idea where he could grab the woman without causing offense.

 

Once Helena had been extricated from the bunker the group met up around the carriage for a discussion.

 

“That went better than expected.  Nobody died, Tabitha wasn’t hurt.  Unfortunately Larry remains with us, but what can ya do,” Bill began, winking up at Tabitha to show he was only kidding.  “I suppose we can trust the gun and the dinky grenades a bit.  Still, never fire that thing standing next to Rekka or we’ll have words,” he said, his last statement lost his usual brashness, the sober tone communicating to Larry how important her safety meant to him.  Larry nodded slowly, unexpectedly understanding how Bill felt.  Bill returned the nod, pleased that Larry was treating this seriously as he resumed speaking.

 

“Hate to say it but I’m impressed.  You made one hell of a cannon there, Larry.  Be proud. Tabitha, you be proud of him, that thing is a marvel of engineering the likes of which this world has never seen, and I honestly cannot comprehend how he was able to do it.  I’m sure Larry has many more advancements he’ll amaze us with down the road,” he finished, brow raised at Larry questionably.

 

Larry stared right back before lowering his eyes and fiddling with the Boomstick for a moment.

 

“Yeah, I’ve got some ideas.  I’ll need a workshop, tools, and some competent assistants for a start,” he finally admitted, still not completely coming to terms with his predicament, but getting there.

 

Bill nodded a moment, then seemed to remember something, he turned and jogged over to his purse, digging through it.  Finding what he was after he walked back over to Larry and presented him with the multi-tool.  Larry snatched it out of his hands like a hungry wolf.

“My God.  You had this the whole time?  This is hardened tool steel, precise.. So goddamn precise!  I’m keeping this, fight me for it,” Larry said defiantly, holding the little tool to his chest.

 

Bill laughed, holding his hands up and backing away.  “All yours man, that cannon and whatever else you plan to make are probably the only things worthy of it in the world.  Enjoy, I’m glad it found a home,” he said, shaking his head with amusement as Larry brushed his fingers lovingly over the unfolded multi-tool.

 

Felix was clearly curious about the little tool, asking, “What is that?  It looks very well made.”

 

“That is just a taste of what we have back home.  Machine tooled precision.  Hardened steel, you’d have to try very hard to break that thing.  And it’s just something you stick in your pocket to use on run of the mill tasks.  I mean no disrespect,” he nodded at Helena now, “but your people could not possibly equal it’s quality.”

 

“Fuck no they couldn’t, the tools I spent months making, using tools a blacksmith had on hand?  God damn.  Those tools I made were barely sufficient to make the actual tools I needed to make the Boomsticks,” Larry explained, still marveling over his new toy.  Continuing he said, “Those tools?  Not even close to how well made and useful this thing is going to be.  It’s going to take me years to be somewhat satisfied with a workshop here.”

 

Larry was so caught up in the tool he did not notice as Tabitha’s chest swelled, breaking into a smile.  Her tail twitched and waved behind her as she gazed down at him, believing now that he planned to stay, if only long enough to get his workshop running.

 

Bill’s heart went out to her then.  He was going to seriously beat the tar out of Larry before the man left, if he decided to.  Shrugging, he hoped it wouldn’t come to that, and figured it probably wouldn’t the more time Larry spent with Tabitha in any case.

 

“Moving on.  Felix.  How far would you say we’re from the quarry?” he asked, looking over at the man.

 

“Oh.  I’m not sure, I’ve only guarded the returning wagons once.  Normally I had garrison duty, or close patrol.  I can’t be certain but with the time we’ve been traveling I’d say we’re only a few hours away by foot,” he explained, gazing down the road before shrugging at Bill.

 

“Hmm, good enough.  Time to do some scouting,” Bill replied, waving his hand in front of Larry to get his attention.

 

 

“What do you suppose those lanterns are, some kind of spotlight?”  Larry asked, peering through the scrub brush he was hidden in.

 

He and Bill were prone on a hill overlooking the quarry, watching as the denizens went about their day.  Tabitha was prowling somewhere to their rear, well out of range so as to put any Huntstone users at ease, but close enough to provide aid if the men ran into trouble.

 

Rekka had stayed with Felix and Helena to make sure no passing mamono decided to have their way with Felix.  Coincidentally keeping Rekka out of harm’s way herself.  Making the decisions came with perks, and Bill abused his power shamelessly.

 

Looking over the quarry they could see the place was far more fortified than the prison, ironically.  The walls here were complete and looked as though they had seen much wear and tear.  Scorch marks and scored masonry spoke of past battles.

 

Despite this the guards on the wall did not seem particularly wary, and the entire operation gave off a much more lenient civilian atmosphere.  One of the guards was currently sitting between two merlons with his legs hanging over the drop, eating his lunch.  Another was carrying on a half shouted conversation with someone below and out of sight.

 

The two “lanterns” were spaced evenly apart along the main wall on either side of the front gate.  Even in daylight they gave off a visible white light, pulsing regularly in concert for no apparent reason.

 

What they could see of the inner compound was a hive of activity.  Most of it was taken up with the actual quarry.  Sunken steps with the far wall melding into the side of the hill and filled with half-chiseled blocks and rudimentary machinery.  The north side of the quarry served as a natural barrier to attack, the sheer cliff keeping all but the most tenacious mamono from attacking.  Two raised stone towers served as a line of defense there, manned by archers.

 

The inner buildings were also stone, well built and low to the ground.  The place was the size of a decently large town.  Stables, some kind of inn or tavern, and housing for the workers and guards.  Several smaller houses were likely for those higher up on the food chain.  Another structure placed conspicuously farther away from the others was built far more sturdily, but also sported a light wooden roof.  Larry had reckoned this was where they kept or manufactured the black powder.

 

Finally answering Larry’s question BIll said, “Nah, look at them.  That’s not flame, and we both know these guys ain’t discovered electricity.  I’m betting those are like my Huntstone.  Some kind of early warning system for mamono,” Bill replied, staring down at the compound.  He continued, “I’m not certain why they pulse like that, I have to point mine around to find anyone.”

 

“Hmm, they probably pulse faster the closer the uh, mamono’s come to the walls,” Larry guessed.

 

“Not a bad idea.  And it’s just mamono,” Bill corrected before asking, “Can you see Tabitha out there at all?”

 

“Hell no, Tabby’s a damn ninja.  I’m sure she can see us just fine, though,” Larry replied, scanning the area behind them.

 

“Wave her over if you can.  Be ready to stop her though,” Bill requested, staring at the lights.

 

Larry nodded, turning around to wave at the area to their rear.  He wasn’t surprised when Tabitha seemed to materialize out of a patch of grass he was certain he’d stick out of like a sore thumb.  She sprinted towards them at incredible speed and Larry smiled viciously with pride.

 

Bill watched the lights, which began to pulse quicker in concert.  The guards immediately took notice, reaching hastily for weapons and scanning over the walls in all directions.

 

“Alright, send her back,” Bill said with a wave, now barely peeking over the hill.

 

Larry waved her back frantically, and Tabitha stopped on a dime, turning back to her hiding spot and disappearing from sight.

 

The lights returned to their previous slow strobing, and the guards calmed down a bit, a few still anxiously scanning about.  A few minutes passed and the guards returned to their usual bored slacking.

 

“Yep, good thinking, seems to be exactly how they work.  It’d be a real bitch for mamono to sneak up on this place,” Bill said, before an evil grin spread across his face.

 

“Course, they never banked on a couple of fools like us.”

 

 

“Alright, I have a plan,” Larry stated.

 

They were back at the campsite, roughly a half mile from the quarry town.  The horses and carriage were hidden by a screen of trees from the road where Rekka, Tabitha, Felix and Helena waited attentively.

 

Rekka had a pleased look on her face that the plan was not coming from Bill this time.  Tabitha’s tail waved lazily through the air, so she may have been relieved as well.

 

“Scratch that, Bill has a plan.  He just wanted me to say that for some reason,” Larry said, looking at Bill with a raised eyebrow.

 

Tabitha and Rekka both let out sighs while Felix and Helena shared a worried look.

 

“Dammit, dude.  Now they’re going to take some convincing.  At least tell them you approved the plan,” Bill demanded, glaring at Larry.

 

“I wouldn’t say approve.. It’s not a bad plan.  Not a great plan.  Not even a good plan. It’s certainly a plan, though,” Larry admitted.

 

“See?  Our resident genius couldn’t think of a better plan and stamped it with his seal of approval,” Bill said, clapping Larry on the back and nearly knocking him over.

 

“Sounds more like you’re ‘bout to get us in a fight again, husband,” Rekka said, her tone not displeased.  Rekka liked fighting, though she preferred Bill stay out of it.

 

“Well, probably.  I mean, hell, it’s pretty much certain.  That’s a big part of the plan, in fact,” Bill replied.  “Still, there is some finesse involved, a little more trickery than stealth this time.”

 

Rekka and Tabitha shared that look again, and shortly after Tabitha nodded her acquiescence.  She immediately crossed to Larry and wrapped him in her huge paws.

 

“Don’t worry Tabby, they haven’t seen anything like my Boomstick before, I’m betting they fall over and start worshipping me as a God as soon as I show them how it works,” Larry said, running his hands through the silken fur of her paws.

 

Bill grinned at Rekka and held his palms up in question.  Rekka simply shrugged and grabbed his hands in her paws before pulling him in for a long passionate kiss.

 

“If you get hurt I’m gonna kick yer ass, husband,” She stated after pulling away after a few moments.

 

“Good enough!  The plan is a go!” Bill stated, rubbing Rekka’s back and smiling at his captive audience.

 

“Excuse me, don’t we get any say in this plan?” Felix asked suddenly.

 

“Hell no, you don’t get a vote until you survive at least one of my stupid plans or escapades, check your contract,” Bill replied, grinning down at Rekka.

 

“Well, ridiculous as that sounds it does seem fair.. what exactly is your plan?” Felix asked, a worried look on his face.

 

“First off, we’re going to need an army.”

 

 

“How do you know you’re using that thing right? It’s fucking magic,” Larry questioned as they trooped along the deer trail deeper into the forest, Bill waving the Huntstone around in front of him.

 

“Because I’m a natural when it comes to this hocus pocus crap,” Bill retorted, smirking at his pilfered Huntstone.

 

Larry coughed suddenly, sounding suspiciously like “Bullshit.”  Bill simply scratched at his temple a moment with his middle finger.

 

“Anyway, why’d we have to take everyone with us?” Larry asked, looking pointedly at Felix and Helena.

 

The two seemed to be having trouble walking along the small path while holding hands, but they did not seem comfortable being out of each other’s reach.

 

“Cause if we left them alone Felix would probably get dragged off by some mamono and be ravished, Larry.  We went over this, we have to babysit him until we’re sure he’s not going to end up ruining our healer,” Bill replied. “You never play DnD?  Always protect the healer and never split the party,” he finished.

 

“Huh, wouldn’t have pinned you for a DnD geek,” Larry said, a mocking smile on his face.

 

Bill simply shrugged, saying, “What can I say, I’m a complex man.  Plus it’s more fun than poker and you can drink budweiser while fighting dragons.”  Larry sighed at the mention of beer.

 

“You fought a dragon, husband? Wow!  That ain’t easy, they’re real tough,” Rekka exclaimed, beaming up at Bill.

 

“Damn right, never mess with barbarians,” Bill replied, puffing up with false pride.

 

“Now, what we have here is your standard adventuring party,” Bill stated pointing at everyone in turn, “Tabitha’s the tank, Rekka’s the DPS, and Helena’s the healer.  You with your stupid boomstick are the wizard, and Felix is the useless NPC porter.”

 

“Huh, wizard. I like that.. and don’t call the Boomstick Mark I stupid,” Larry muttered.  “And what does that make you then, huh?”

 

“Me? I’m the plucky comic relief,” Bill replied, sharing a grin with Rekka.

 

“So you’re kind of like our mascot, sure.  Don’t split the party, huh?  Then why’d we leave them behind to check out the town?” Larry asked, gaze still fixated with avarice on the glowing crystal.

 

“That was scouting, it’s completely different than splitting the party.  Besides, Rekka was watching the dependents.  There’s no better guardian than her, trust me on that.  I needed you there because I’m pretty sure I can outrun you if we got attacked,” Bill replied, waving the Huntstone about and making satisfied sounds.

 

“Whatever, man. I’d kneecap you and leave you to the friendly natives.  Just let me see that thing before you get us all lost,” Larry said, slinging his ridiculous cannon over his shoulder and reaching for the Huntstone.  Bill handed it over, still confident they were heading in the right direction.  Larry looked it over for a few seconds, figuring out its workings fairly quickly.

 

“Huh, no surprise here.  You have this thing set at about a kilometer.  We’ll be searching these woods for days,” Larry said as he clicked the silver dial down to a much lower setting.  Immediately the Huntstone lit up as bright as Bill had ever seen it.

 

The wind took that moment to shift, blowing into their faces.  Tabitha’s tail puffed up as she stared into the surrounding trees, Larry taking notice and grimly unslinging his gun now expecting trouble.  Rekka simply chuckled and stared into several conspicuous bushes.

 

“Whoa, anyone smell bacon?” Bill asked, his stomach growling.

 

The bushes around them rustled and out popped several women.  They were doing their best to dress like Mad Max extras; all leather, buckles, and exposed skin.  If this world had cars they would undoubtedly be wearing tire tread shoulderpads.

 

It didn’t escape Bill that they were well armed, mostly large stone hammers and the occasional jagged stone-tipped spear.  Glancing down at the smirking Rekka he decided they probably weren’t in much danger, but he wasn’t going to rule it out.  He knew Rekka didn’t worry much about losing a fight.

 

Stepping forward with his hands raised to show he was unarmed, Bill took a closer look at the mamono.  They looked remarkably human, although they were each plumply curved and well endowed.  The only truly odd thing about them seemed to be their ears. Large floppy pink ears folded over from the sides of their heads.

 

Something about their mannerisms bugged him.  They looked decked out for a fight and yet they were fairly timid and unsure despite the fact that they outnumbered the group nearly three to one.

 

“Ladies, hello.  I think you’re just who we were looking for,” Bill said with as much charm and confidence he could muster while surrounded by armed babes straight out of Heavy Metal magazine.

 

“Why are you looking for us?” the closest one asked, stepping up to Bill and lowering her weapon.  Abruptly the woman made an odd noise, completely derailing his train of thought.

 

“Wha..?  Did she just oink?” Bill asked, turning to look at Rekka questioningly.  The strangely porcine mamono took the opportunity to pinch his butt, causing him to jump back a bit.

 

Rekka just laughed and nodded, moving beside Bill and gently pushing the larger woman back.

 

“Sorry sister, he’s mine.  Go find your own before I find out if you taste as good as you smell,” Rekka stated, her playful tone carrying a steely hint she wouldn’t abide any further poaching.  Bill gingerly moved behind Rekka for protection.

 

“Okay. What about the little one?” Mrs. Piggy asked, unperturbed.  Another woman from the back of the pack called out, “Ask about the pretty one!”

 

“Hey! I’m not that small,” Larry snapped, before a concerned look crossed his face. “Hey, who’s the pretty one?  Felix?  This is bullshit..”  Tabitha simply chuffed and hooked her tail around his waist, placing her paws on his shoulders possessively.

 

“Wait, pretty?  Me?” Felix asked, confused.  Helena blushed and shuffled closer to him.

 

Bill only chuckled, shaking his head before saying, “Sorry ladies, we’re all accounted for.  Don’t worry, though.  I think we can help each other and come to a mutually satisfactory arrangement.”

 

There were concerned muttering and outraged oinks from the assembled women, with some disagreement about the meaning of mutually, before the lead woman spoke up, “Why?  If you’re not here to mate or fight, then why did you come?”

 

“Well, I’d like to explain that to your leader first.  Unless you’re it, of course,” Bill replied.

 

At his question all the women appeared downcast, shuffling their feet and letting out mournful oinks.

 

“Our leader was hurt.  Hurt bad fighting men at the stone place.  Maybe dying,” she said finally.

 

“Oh! If someone is injured, please take me to them, perhaps I can be of help,” Helena spoke up, moving forward with Felix at her side.

 

“How would you help?” the pig woman replied, giving her a skeptical look.

 

“She’s a unicorn, stupid!  Just look at her, she can heal!  With magic!” Rekka snapped, indignant.

 

Bill patted Rekka on the back, trying to hide his grin.  Clearly she was protective of the pretty little healer.

 

“That’s right, if anything can be done Helena here will be the one to do it,” Bill said, happy to help but happier still to have some leverage over the next step of the plan.

 

“Please! Follow us back to camp.  No time to waste!” she pleaded, another oink squeaking out her distress.

 

“Lead the way, we’ll follow,” Bill replied, waving her on.

 

The entire squad turned as one and began jogging down the deer trail, oinking their excitement.

 

The party followed them at a short distance in order to discuss the situation.

 

“Let me guess, werepigs?” Bill asked Rekka.

 

“Nuh uh.  They’re orcs, there ain’t no werepigs I know of,” Rekka responded.

 

“No fucking way.  They’re pink.  Hey Larry.  Those pig girls are orcs,” Bill said, pointing out the curlicue tails of the marching women.

 

“What?  That’s bullshit.  They’re not even green,” Larry scoffed.

 

“That’s what I said!  What gives, Rekka?  Orcs are supposed to be green, with huge muscles and jutting teeth,” Bill demanded.

 

“Nuh uh!  Orcs is pink, all piggy too,” Rekka replied, “You guys don’t know anything.  Maybe you’re thinkin’ of ogres.  They’re green, and they got muscles almost like Tabitha.”

 

“Green ogres?  This place is getting everything wrong,” Larry grumped.

 

“Yeah, where we’re from orcs aren’t pigs.  They’re big tough war criminals with axes and spiked shoulder pads.  They damn well don’t oink,” Bill complained.

 

Bill and Larry spent the next few minutes bitching their disappointment and demanding the orcs change their name to werepigs.  Rekka kept rolling her eyes and laughing, clearly enjoying the men’s only half-serious arguing.

 

“Your stupid world don’t even have orcs.  Those girls are orcs, that’s all there is to it,” she stated, grinning up at Bill.

 

“Well, that’s a fair point I guess.  Still, after we heal their boss let’s see if we can’t convince them to change their name,” Bill replied, grinning back.

 

“Ok, they ain’t too bright.  It could work,” Rekka said with a laugh.

 

 

In short order they arrived at the orc camp.  The place was a sty.  Bed rolls and crooked tents sprawled in every direction, with several smokey fires placed to no regard for safety.  The orcs that had remained in the camp were sitting forlornly, singly and in groups, talking quietly and occasionally looking toward a much larger, more luxurious tent.  The orcs perked up upon the return of the hunting party, and several shocked oinks were heard when they saw the group of newcomers.

 

The men were the center of attention, though thankfully they weren’t rushed by the platoon of orcs.  In fact they seemed almost intimidated by them, and looked to the tent as though for comfort only to have their expressions fill with sadness.

 

Bill stole the initiative and began his usual attempt at charm, “Hello, ladies, it’s a pleasure to meet you..”

 

Helena abruptly moved forward, her four legged stride determined.

 

“There is simply no time, Bill.  Please, take me to the injured party so that I might render aid,” she demanded, her professional tone confident as she looked to their guide.

 

“Yes!  Follow, please!” the orc responded, quickly rushing towards the large tent. Helena swiftly followed and disappeared inside the tent.

 

“Right, well.. Follow her, everyone.  Protect the healer, don’t split the party.  Keep an eye on Felix, don’t need him being dragged off into the bushes,” Bill said, following after the unicorn.  Felix groaned and jogged ahead to catch up to Helena.

 

Ducking through the open tent flap Bill found himself in near darkness, the small fire pit near the center of the tent giving off a low red glow.  Letting his eyes adjust he found himself in an opulently, if messily furnished boudoir.  Many rugs and chests lay scattered about, their contents overflowing with stolen goods which ran the gamut of expensive looking jewelry to sealed packages of food and supplies.  The entire affair gave off a flea market feel.

 

The heady smell of bacon was much heavier in here, and Bill’s stomach growled despite himself.  Larry and Felix looked suddenly uncomfortable, glancing about and adjusting the crotch of their pants when they thought no one was watching.  Tabitha’s tail was twitching slightly and she moved closer to Larry, placing her paw on his back.  Rekka pressed in close to Bill’s side, causing him to wonder briefly why everyone seemed so touchy feely.  Rubbing Rekka’s back he peered about the room.

 

He noticed Helena’s horn was lit up slightly, and wondered about it.  He’d only seen it do that when she was healing, or very happy with something.  It seemed unlikely the latter would be the case.  She seemed to be acting normally, moving to the cot and peering down.  Bill breathed in the scent a little more deeply, but finding no ill effects on his part.  He’d ask about it later, likely Rekka knew something but hadn’t bothered to share, so it probably wasn’t a big deal.

 

Towards the rear of the tent was a large cot overflowing with furs, blankets and quilts.  Bill was fairly certain there were a few tapestries in the jumble.  Pillows were stacked up and overflowing onto the floor, scattered about haphazardly.  Oddly, there was a large object behind the cot which looked a bit like an anvil with a long bar sticking out of it.

 

The owner of the cot was cloaked in shadow, the only thing Bill could make out was a limp arm that was holding something in its hand.  Moving closer he found it to be a stuffed boar doll, well used and missing an eye with many old stitch marks about its fuzzy body.

 

Leaning around Helena, Bill got his first good look at the occupant.  The woman was in terrible shape.  There were badly stitched wounds over most of her upper torso, including her left eye and cheek.  Her abdomen was absolutely swathed in bandages, with spots of blood seeping through in many places. It looked as though she’d caught a rocket with her stomach.  Bill drew in an involuntary hiss of breath, shocked by the damage the woman had endured and still managed to cling onto life.  This drew the attention of Helena, in full professional mode.

 

“Bill, Tabitha, Rekka. I need you to hold her down as I cannot suppress her pain.  The damage is simply too extensive, and we must act quickly.  She is fading fast,” she ordered before muttering, “Oh dear, I have never seen such injuries.”

 

Bill gulped, then nodded to Rekka and Tabitha as they shuffled around to get in closer to the cot.  Without words they sorted themselves around the poor woman, Tabitha using her great paws to hold onto her shoulders.  Rekka wrapped her paw hands around the woman’s ankles, applying pressure, her face a mixture of pity and concern.  Bill grabbed onto the woman’s wrists, placing them at her sides, careful not to dislodge the stuffed boar she held onto.  Trying not to notice the fresh blood on his hands he looked to Helena and nodded.

 

Helena sank to her knees, awkwardly shuffling her rear legs before placing her hands above the woman’s bandaged abdomen.  She began to sing softly, her horn glowed far brighter with a soft white light.  Bill blanched and swallowed back the urge to vomit upon seeing the wounds clearly.

 

A few moments passed when suddenly the woman jerked her arms in Bill’s hands, nearly lifting him off the ground.  Cursing, Bill hooked his knee under the cot and used all his newfound strength to hold her arms still.  Rekka was growling as she wrapped herself around the woman’s legs, holding onto the cot with both arms.  Tabitha just pushed down harder on her shoulders, locking the woman’s torso in place.  The cot creaked ominously, and Felix whipped around the back to join Bill in holding one of her arms, uncertain if he was helping but willing.  Larry simply shuffled behind Tabitha for safety.

 

“Jesus Christ, hurry up Helena,” Bill gasped, ignoring the glare from Felix.  Just then the woman rolled her wrist, the slick blood and sweat on her arm caused Bill to lose his grip.  Her hand shot up to grasp Bill around the neck, with surprising pressure making him choke.  He’d thought only Tabitha or an enraged Rekka could do something like that to him now.  Her one undamaged eye glared at him as she snarled her pain.  Rekka yelped with shock.

 

“Bill! Let go!” She shouted with panicked concern.

 

Bill shook his head as well as he could, still holding onto the other arm he began to pry at the hand choking him.  Surprisingly, Larry abandoned his safe haven behind Tabitha to help tug ineffectually at the woman’s wrist.  Just as Bill started to see stars the woman gave out a sighing breath, slumping into the furs with her arms falling limp.

 

Bill coughed, drawing in a heaving breath as he fell onto his ass next to the cot.  Rekka immediately knelt down next to him to check over his neck, almost beside herself, growling her concern.

 

“It’s ok, beautiful.  I’ll be fine,” Bill rasped out, patting her on the arm as he panted.  His voice was strained, and there was a visible outline of fingers slowly fading around his neck.  He was going to feel that tomorrow.

 

“There.  The worst is over, and we are nearly finished,” Helena said in a soft weary voice.  “Felix, please remove the bandages.  Rekka, I need your claws..  Would you please cut out the stitches so that I might finish healing her?”

 

Rekka seemed unwilling to move from Bill before he smiled, patting her on the back and struggling to his feet.  She smiled back at him then hopped over to begin plucking at the thick stitching around the woman’s neck and face.  Felix paled and began removing the bloody bandages slowly, worried about what he might find underneath.

 

“Damn, dude.  Thought she was going to twist your head off there for a sec,” Larry said quietly to Bill, “You sure you’re ok?”

 

Bill coughed again, rubbing at his throat before answering, “Yeah, I’m fine.  First time someone besides Rekka managed to put the hurt on me.  Surprised, mostly.”  Looking over at the shorter man he continued, “I appreciate you trying to help, though.  Won’t forget that.”

 

“Hey, I need you alive to get me outta this fucked up situation,” Larry responded, embarrassed.

 

Bill just nodded his understanding, and said no more.  Guy stuff.  He took the opportunity to look over the orc that had guided them so far.  The poor woman was a blubbering mess, staring at her leader on the cot with tears streaming down her face, her hands clutched over her mouth.

 

“Uh, hey.  You ok?  She’s going to, uh.. be fine now.  I think.  Right, Helena?” Bill asked the weary looking unicorn, unsure how to handle a crying woman in bondage leather with a huge hammer strapped to her back.  Maybe the right thing to do would give her a hug, but he wasn’t about to open that can of worms.

 

“Hmm?  Oh, yes.  I have finished, she will be fine now with rest,” Helena replied absently, still kneeling.  Bill noticed she was swaying slightly, and the glow from her horn had nearly faded out, leaving them in relative darkness.

 

“Thank you, thank you! Thank you so much!” their guide cried with an oink of punctuation, rushing over to wrap Helena in a hug.  Helena didn’t respond, and simply leaned into the woman before letting out a snore.  It was a dainty, surprisingly delicate snore, but a snore nonetheless.

 

 

“So, wasn’t that fun,” Bill drawled while rubbing at his neck.

 

Rekka was sitting in his lap, face pressed into his shirt, incredibly upset about him once again being hurt.  At least she didn’t seem to blame the poor woman.  No one could after seeing how much pain she had been in.  Rekka was simply glad he was all right besides an ugly purple bruise.  Bill figured Helena would try to heal him as soon as she woke up, but he had no intention of stressing her.  Obviously healing took a bit out of her and he would be fine in no time.

 

“No! It was’n fun!  You got hurt again, I hate this!”  Rekka moaned, reaching up to caress his neck.

 

The others shared a look of shock, never having seen Rekka acting like this.  Bill just rubbed her back and smiled at them, letting them know everything would be ok.

 

“Don’t worry, beautiful, I’m just fine.  I was mostly just shook.  Either it was adrenaline fueled strength or that lady is a powerhouse.  I’m just glad she picked me to throttle, pretty sure Felix wouldn’t have walked away from that one,” Bill said, shaking his head.

 

Felix’s eyes grew large at that where he sat against a log cradling a sleeping Helena in his lap. The woman half, anyway.  When Tabitha had carried her out of the tent, she’d woken momentarily and reached out to him groggily.  He now sat very still not wanting to wake her, only holding her hand in his and brushing the other through her hair.

 

Speaking quietly he said, “I hadn’t thought of that.. Though, I’m certainly glad you’re fairly unharmed.” Looking nervous, he asked, “Bill, why exactly are you so strong?  Did you.. Has she..” He trailed off, looking uncomfortable and eyeing Rekka.

 

Bill shared a look with Larry for a moment, curious.

 

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?  I was stronger as soon as I showed up in this world.  Not sure how, honestly.  Larry missed out when they were handing out super powers, poor bastard,” Bill flashing a grin at him.  Then he looked at Felix and asked, “What’s Rekka got to do with that?”

 

Rekka turned her head to glare at Felix then, causing him to stutter, “Uh, um.. Nothing.  I’d simply heard.. No, I must have been mistaken.” He blushed, looking away from Rekka.

 

Rekka and Tabitha shared a look, Tabitha blushing and lowering her eyes, avoiding Larry’s as he craned his neck up at her while he sat in her lap.

 

“Rekka..,” Bill said, trying to get her to explain.

 

Rekka sighed, pushing her face back into his chest as he scratched at her ears.  Finally, she spoke, “It’s more stupid stuff, but I’ll tell ya.. it’s part of that dumb spell the Demon Lord cast, an’ you know how that worked out..”

 

“Wait, what?  Demon Lord?  Spell?” Larry asked, turning back to look at Rekka.  She took a moment to tell him the same story she’d already told Bill.  When she got to the hero failing to kill the Demon Lord, Felix’s head whipped up.

 

“Titus Manlius Secundus..” He hissed, in the same way a West Point officer might snarl out Benedict Arnold.

 

“Manlius?  Jesus, you people..” Larry snickered.

 

“You’ll get used to it,” Bill said, chuckling.

 

Rekka finished her history lesson, Larry growing more restless as she revealed how the mamono came to be.  Finally he broke in, “Wait, what?  Your people were.. Like, real mon.. Ugh.  Your ancestors were ..real hounds?  And she just.. Just turned them into, y’know, people?  What the fuck?  Even the males got turned into women?  That’s.. Goddamn, does no one in this world know about consent?”

 

“Well, she’s a succubus.  An’ the Demon Lord.  She does what she wants,” Rekka stated, shrugging.  Larry was holding Tabitha’s tail and staring down at it with an unreadable expression.  Finally he just sighed and continued stroking it.

 

Suddenly Larry whipped his head straight at Bill, his expression panicked.  “Wait, wait, wait!  I’m going to be a father?” he demanded.  Tabitha immediately tensed, her usual mask of calm disappearing as she looked down at Larry, replaced by worry.

 

“Probably.  I’m looking forward to it, personally.  If she’s as cute as Rekka I’ll probably die of happiness,” Bill quipped, now tickling Rekka, making her squirm and laugh.

 

“Well.. well shit.  Fuck!” Larry glared at Bill for a moment.  Then he craned his head to look up at Tabby.  They gazed into each other’s eyes for a few moments.  Larry broke the silence, looking back at Bill.  “Well, goddamn.  I can’t leave now.. I’m not a complete bastard,” he said, sighing and leaning his head back into his wife.  Her diesel truck purr kicked into overdrive as she hugged him tighter, causing Larry to squeak slightly as she compressed him.

 

“So what other surprises do I have in store, Rekka?” he asked, slightly winded.

 

“Well, it’s not always the same.. but with, y’know, hellhounds and prob’ly jinko you’ll get stronger an’ last longer matin’.  Usually live longer, too,” she said with a shrug.

 

Bill and Larry shared a look before Larry burst out, “Fuck yeah! Finally some good news! When do I get the super strength?  I need it!”

 

“Ahdunno!  Takes a while, though.  You’ll jus’ have to keep fuck’n,” Rekka said, breaking into a smile. Amazingly, Tabitha shared one with her.  It was one of the first she’d given to anyone but Larry.  Most men didn’t take any news well when it came to mamono changes, and they were thrilled their husbands were so unexpectedly positive to learn of them.

 

“Don’t know why you were so worried to explain that to us, I’m totally up for some of that,” Bill said.  He and Larry grinned at each other like Christmas came early.

 

Felix broke back into the conversation, “Um, just out of curiosity, what might happen.. Well, no reason, but how would a unicorn affect her.. lover?”  He was bright red and failing to sound as casual as he wished.

 

“Not that you’re going to find out anytime soon, lover boy, but I doubt you’ll get any stronger.  Hell, maybe you’ll grow a horn,” Bill answered, rubbing his chin.

 

“Nah, I bet you jus’ get healthier.  Maybe heal faster?  Probably won’t get sick,” Rekka guessed.

 

Felix relaxed, looking thoughtful.

 

“Gonna get you a goddamn chastity belt,” Bill muttered, not wanting to lose his cleric any time soon.  Then he asked, “So, shit.  I’m going to get even stronger?  And hell, I already take care of the bedroom antics just fine.  Living longer would be nice, though.”

 

“I dunno.  You’re jus’ weird.  No man’s ever been as strong as you, far as I know.  You could last longer, though.  That’ll be nice,” Rekka responded, leering at him.

 

“Woman, you’ll be the death of me,” Bill deadpanned.

 

The party’s spirits were raised and they lapsed into an animated conversation concerning mamono changes and the possibility of children.  Bill was enjoying himself immensely when he noticed the change of atmosphere of the orc camp around them.

 

“Don’t look now, but the natives are growing restless,” he said, his voice cast low.

 

“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell ya,” Rekka said, staring boldly at the nearest group of orcs.  Their morale seemed to have been raised, and they were looking over the men with a lot more interest.  A few of them were even holding their weapons while they undressed them with their eyes..

 

“The girl in the tent’s a high orc,” Rekka continued, not terribly concerned, “They get all skittish when their leader’s down, and ain’t much of a threat without one.  They’ll be gettin’ their nerve back now that they know she’s ok, though.”

 

“Great, what do you think they’ll do now?  They’re not gonna forget we’re the reason she’s not dead, right?” Bill asked, looking at his sword lying out of reach, and wondering if it would be a smart idea to strap it back on.

 

“Maybe, like I said they ain’t too bright,” Rekka replied, now grinning confidently back at the orcs, making a show of spreading her claws to lick at her paw as though she was simply cleaning herself.  Her hellfire flared out, as it usually did when things were getting interesting.  “We’ll prob’ly haveta beat some sense into em, an’ they’ll be less likely to back off even if we down a few.”

 

“Well hell, whatever happens make sure they don’t get to Felix.  Tabitha and I will have to do the heavy lifting this time.  Fire that stupid gun in the air if they get to close to you, Larry.  I really don’t want to have to kill anyone today,” Bill said, not liking the situation one bit.

 

“Don’t worry, even all worked up they’re no match for us,” Rekka said, the hellfire in her eyes flaring out.

 

It seemed the orcs weren’t as stupid as they looked, and they began to get the hint the party wasn’t about to roll over for them.  The closest group sat back down and began talking animatedly amongst themselves again, shooting glances their way now and then.

 

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Rekka taunted, smirking right back.  She turned back to Bill and said, “They don’t have their leader backing them up, so they’re still not ready to fight.  If she’s in a mood we’ll have to beat her up first.  Shouldn’t be hard, she’ll be all weak from the healin’.”

 

“She’d better be damned grateful for being alive, I need these orcs for the next step of the plan,” Bill grumped.

 

“Try not to get ‘stracted by that smell, neither.  It’s botherin’ me too but I ain’t lettin’ my guard down with these piggy’s lookin for a fight, neither,” Rekka explained, “High orcs got a smell to em, makes ya all horny, and makes the regular orcs all brave.”

 

“That’s what that was in the tent, then.  I was meaning to ask you about it,” Bill said, rubbing his chin.  “Ain’t affecting me, far as I can tell.  Though I’m always a little horny when you’re around.”  With that he scratched at the patch of fur above her tail.

 

“Mmm.. Don’t start that now, I needa be ready to fight,” Rekka breathed, her eyes lidded with lust for a moment.

 

“Damn.  That makes sense.  Wasn’t sure why Mr. Happy was coming out to play, not after the last few nights with Tabby.  He’s worn the hell out, I can tell you that,” Larry said, patting Tabitha on the thigh.  Her purr was hitching a bit as she shook with silent laughter, her tail twitching in his hand.

 

Bill couldn’t help noticing that Larry kept his hand on her thigh, starting to caress her softly.  He figured Larry might still be feeling the effects.  While Larry and Tabitha spent most of their time in close proximity, they seldom initiated public displays of affection far beyond hugs and hand holding.  A far cry from he and Rekka’s own constant game of sexual chicken.

 

“Um.. I know what you mean ba-back in the tent, but I don’t feel any different now,” Felix broke in, uncomfortable.

 

Bill nodded, “Yeah, I saw Helena’s horn was glowing a bit when we entered the tent, think she’s got some way of blocking it.  Probably working on you since you’re holding onto her.”

 

“Oh. Okay, that’s very nice to know,” Felix responded, looking at Helena’s horn, but unable to make out any glow in the sunlight.

 

“Yeah, keep holding her hand, God help us if you two start getting worked up,” Bill said, shaking his head.

 

Felix blushed again, his hand shaking a bit as he ran his fingers through Helena’s hair.

 

“Still doesn’t answer why you’re not ‘worked up’.  Super strength come with super willpower?” Larry snarked, now lounging in Tabitha’s lap, one of her great paws rubbing lightly at his chest.

 

“Hell, probably.  I really don’t know what my deal is.  Think whatever Merlin type brought me here wants me running around free, and not stuck in a bed making the beast with two backs,” Bill joked, shrugging a shoulder.

 

“Dammit, your Merlin is so much cooler than mine,” Larry sighed.

 

“Yep, never cheap out on your wizards, always go for the one with the biggest, pointiest hat.  Shit better have at least 3 stars on it, with sequins,” Bill quipped, “Sounds like you went with the Gandalf package.  It’s a red flag when your wizard uses a sword more than a wand, y’know.”

 

Larry rolled his eyes and flipped him off.  “Wish Helena was awake, I’d really like to know when the chief is going to wake up,” he said, looking around at all the orcs that seemed to be slowly edging a bit closer to the party.

 

“Shit, might sleep for a week with those injuries,” Bill said, once again tempting fate.

 

The party looked up as one when the tent flap was flung back, watching as the tall woman holding onto a thick iron bar ducked through. Her skin was chocolate brown, her hair white, wild, and long.  Unlike the other orcs her ears weren’t floppy and stuck out of her hair, covered in contrasting short brown fur.  She was curvy much like the other orcs, but taller, more athletic.  Her yellow eyes looked about with cunning, a spark of intelligence the other orcs seemed to lack.

 

She straightened up, looking over the other orcs before whipping her arm forward revealing an absolutely monstrous warhammer.  It looked like someone had pounded an entire anvil into the shape of a crude boar’s head, tusks and all.  Must have weighed eight hundred pounds if it was an ounce.  One handed she raised the hammer over her head and roared.

 

“RRAAAAAAAAAH!”

 

As one the entire platoon of orcs answered her, jumping and oinking their joy.

 

Bill had gently slid Rekka off his lap at this point and now stood on the log he’d been using as a backrest.  The high orc whipped her head over at him and a wide grin spread on her face.

 

Before anyone could react Bill raised his arms over his head and screamed back.

 

“WAAAAAAAAAGH!”

 

There was dead silence for a few heartbeats before the clan of orcs rather enthusiastically answered him in kind.

 

“WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!”

 

Bill laughed and whooped, jumping down from the log to grin like a madman at the party.

 

“Man have I always wanted to do that,” he laughed, pleased as could be.

 

“Great, now you’ve done it,” Larry said, shaking his head.  He was fairly certain Bill had started something that would change the battlecry of orcs everywhere.

 

“Fuck it, I wasn’t missing that opportunity.  They’ll probably turn green now, just you watch,” Bill replied, nodding at Rekka.

 

The pair headed over to the chief, Bill pushing aside any orc that stood in their way.  He was rougher than he cared for, but wanted to make a good impression.  The orcs were more surprised than offended, no man had managed to move them so easily before.  Rekka strutted next to him staring down any orc that looked her way, the fire in her eyes flared and trailing along behind her.

 

As they drew closer Bill noticed the boar woman was sweating and her arm shook slightly as she held the hammer over her head.  Still, she grinned triumphantly at them, her eyes shining with confidence.

 

Bill stopped directly in front of her, a polite smile on his face.  Finally she lowered the hammer, letting it drop into her other hand as she held it in front of her, saying nothing.

 

“Nice hammer, mind if I see it?” Bill asked, holding out his hands.

 

The orc laughed, looking at Rekka for a moment.  “It’s his funeral,” she spoke, seeing what his wife thought about it.  Her voice was husky, and sexy as all hell.  Sounded to Bill like he figured some amazonian queen would.

 

Rekka gave a bored sigh, waving with her paw in the affirmative.  Completely hamming it up for effect.  The orc grinned viciously and tossed the hammer to Bill immediately.

 

He caught it with both hands, only a slight grunt of effort coming from him.  As the high orc’s jaw dropped he spun it in his hands like he was admiring a golf club, the head of the hammer flipping up so he could better see the boar’s face.  He mumbled interested sounds as he looked it over.

 

Outwardly calm, inside his tendons and muscles screamed bloody murder. He was certain one of his vertebrae had just exploded.  He hoped blood wasn’t leaking from his ears, ruining the effect.  He may have been too conservative when guessing the hammers weight.

 

Finishing his inspection he tossed it back to the woman, who caught it with surprised grunt, taking an involuntary step back.

 

“Not bad, bit light though,” Bill proclaimed.

 

He was pretty sure both arms were dislocated, and his knees had been friction welded into place.  He wondered if he’d lost a couple inches of height from his spine being compressed.  The high orc stared at him like he’d grown another head before snapping back into her confident grin, though it looked more like a rictus now.

 

“Yes, I’ll have to get a new one soon,” she replied, swinging it up onto her shoulder.  She stared them down for a few moments, then scanned around at the other orcs.  They looked a bit uncertain, gripping their weapons and shuffling their feet.

 

“Tonight we celebrate! Give welcome to our new guests!” she cried, raising her free arm in triumph.

 

The orcs went wild, cheering and dancing about.  He thought it looked like the end of Return of the Jedi, if the Ewoks were bombshell babes in strips of leather armor.  He just knew it would have improved the movie immensely.

 

Covered by the celebrating orcs she spoke quietly to them, “Let’s speak inside,” and ducked back into the tent.  They watched her slim curled tail with a tuft of white hair at the end disappear inside.

 

Bill held the tent flap open subserviently for Rekka, bowing his head.  He knew the orcs were watching, and wanted them to respect her completely.  “After you, my beloved wife,” he said, smiling slightly at her.

 

“Ooh, now this is nice.  Finally actin’ right, husband!” she said, her voice pitched low so the orcs wouldn’t overhear.  She strutted into the tent like she owned the place and planned to redecorate.

 

Bill looked over at Larry for a moment, before pointing at his eyes and then directly at Felix, his meaning clear.  Larry smirked drunkenly, jerking his thumb back at Tabitha.  Bill returned an uneasy thumbs up, he figured the tiger lady could turn this place into pork chops whenever she wanted.  He just hoped she was handling the high orcs lust musk better, the smell of bacon had increased since she’d made her appearance.

 

He followed Rekka in, hoping nobody noticed his wince and sharp intake of breath as he straightened up.

 

Inside the mood was vastly different.  The high orc’s shoulders slumped and she let the hammer drop with enough force to make loose objects jump, leaving it where it fell.  She stumbled to her cot and sat down, holding her head in her hands for a few moments as she breathed in deeply.  Finally she looked up at them.

 

“How in the hells did you manage that, damn you?” her voice was no longer husky.  She sounded like a lost young woman then.

 

Bill didn’t answer, he just groaned as he fell face first onto a carpet, no ability to raise his arms and cushion his fall. With limbs splayed he lay there, his head facing Rekka.  She’d sat down on a booty laden chest, admiring a large gold chain for a moment before dropping it back onto a pile of similar jewelry.

 

“God I hope Helena wakes up soon.  I think I’m dying,” he whined.

 

Rekka threw back her head and laughed.

 

“Don’t show off so much then.  Shoulda lifted with your legs, not yer back!” she reprimanded him.  Seemed when the only one involved in him being injured was his own stupidity her protective instincts weren’t roused.

 

“I knew it!  Damn you, my girls are going to worship the two of you now,” the woman said, flopping onto her back.  She picked up the stuffed boar and held it to her chest, staring into its sole button eye.

 

“Hey, you were showing off too.  No way you’re at one hundred percent after that kind of injury.  Helena said it would be a while, and she knows her stuff,” Bill said, sounding a bit muffled as he lay on his cheek unmoving.

 

“Maybe a little,” she said, a slight smile growing on her face.  “You two must have been together a while for you to even attempt that little stunt,” she said, looking at Rekka.

 

“Yeah.  Round two weeks?  Maybe less?  A joy every second of it,” Bill responded, still on the floor, still facing Rekka.  He didn’t think he was able to turn his neck to look at their host.  Rekka nodded, smiling happily at him.

 

“What? How?” the woman gasped, her eyes wide, sitting back up.  Bill couldn’t see it, but he could hear the disbelief in her voice.

 

“Rekka don’t mess around, she can manage a lot of lovin’ in two weeks,” he replied.  Rekka crossed her legs and began to buff her claws, looking smug.  Bill was surprised to find he wasn’t exaggerating, Rekka really had filled him with a great deal of love in such a short span, though not the kind he implied.

 

“I don’t believe you.  Is he a wizard?” asked the boar woman.

 

“Nah, not as far as I can tell.  He’s jus’ strong,” Rekka said with a shrug.

 

“Larry’s the wizard, I’m jus’ the comic relief,” Bill said into the carpet.  “Anyway, what’s your name?  I can’t keep thinking of you as “boar woman” you know.  I’m Bill, thas Rekka, nice-ta-meetcha,” he breathed out, feeling a little out of it.

 

The woman’s eyes began to gleam as she struggled to her feet and struck a pose with her hands on her hips.  Bill of course didn’t see any of this.

 

“You stand.. well, lie, before Suidaena, Queen of the Orcs!” she crowed, her voice again husky and filled with confidence.

 

“Yeah.  Ok.  Whas’ your real name?” Bill asked.  He tried to turn his head to look at her but gave up.

 

With a sigh she sat back down, picking up her boar plush and smoothing back the ridge of fur along its back.

 

“Sarah,” she said dejectedly.

 

“Thas’a nice name, better’n Sua-whatsit,” Bill replied, his eyes now closed.

 

“Yeah, we can say that one!” Rekka said with a giggle.

 

“Whatever.  Why’d you people even come here.  Not that I’m ungrateful, but now that I’m not dying I have to figure out what to do with you.  My girls expect a lot out of me, and I don’t want to disappoint them.  We.. we’ll probably need to fight,” she explained, looking unhappy about the situation.

 

“Nuh-uh.  We’re teamin’ up.  Gonna fight some other guys.  Need your help,” Bill explained.

 

“What?  Why would we do that?” Sarah asked cautiously.

 

“Mmph.  Rekka, you tell her.  My amazin’ plan.  I’ma sleep.  Or die.  Hopefully Helena wakes up firs’.  Jus’ tell her to get me back on my feet,” Bill mumbled, still managing to be concerned for his healer’s continued well-being.

 

Rekka hopped off her seat to kneel down next to him, brushing her paw hand through his hair gently.

 

“Okay husband, just rest now.. Shhh..” she whispered gently.  A few minutes passed in silence until she was sure he was asleep, a small smile on her face as she watched him.  Finally she stood and turned to sit back down on her treasure trove throne.

 

“I’m so jealous,” Sarah said, “I thought.. I was so sure by now we’d all have one.  The quarry looked like easy pickings.”

 

“Don’t worry, you’ll get one.  Bill will see to it.  He really wants to help us, y’know.. all mamono.” Rekka said, once again smiling down at her husband.

 

“What do you mean?  I was surprised he was the one doing the talking.  You don’t need to force him anymore?” Sarah asked, looking shocked.

 

Rekka let out a breathy, happy little sigh.

 

“I never had’ta.  Y’know.. when I first caught him, an’ found out he was stronger than me.. I thought I’d have’ta maybe ..rough him up a bit, so he’d figger out that didn’t matter,” Rekka said, shrugging as if that were normal.  Well, it was normal for some mamono, hellhounds in particular.

 

“But I didn’t have’ta.  He.. He didn’t even try to get away!  He talked to me.. asked me questions, y’know?  Like.. Like I wasn’.. me.  He din’ try to fight, an’ he wasn’t even scared after he saw what I was,” she said, still hardly able to believe it herself.

 

“One’a the first things he said to me.. that I was cute,” Rekka continued, her voice a mixture of disbelief and joy.

 

Sarah fell onto her back, pressed her face into her boar plush and muffled her squeal as she kicked her feet in the air.  Finally she quieted, holding the doll above her as she stared at it with longing eyes.

 

“I’m so fucking completely jealous.  Does he have a brother?  Father?  Uncle?  Do they even make more like that?” she demanded.

 

Rekka’s smile became a little sad at that point.

 

“Dunno, he don’t talk about home much, his family at least, an’ I don’t ask.. That way he don’t ask about mine,” Rekka said.

 

“Oh. Sorry,” Sarah said, understanding.  Few could say they hadn’t lost anyone to the fighting.  Many had lost everything, it was hardly worth getting into.  It was considered rude to even ask.

 

Rekka knew it was different with Bill, he’d want to know eventually.  If only to try and make it better, the lovable fool.  She only hoped it would be tomorrow.. Every day.  Her time with her husband was too precious and wonderful to be marred with stupid sad stories.  She breathed in deeply, shrugging off melancholy thoughts to beam a smile down at him, who’d done something outrageous again.

 

She couldn’t help but be proud of him, even if he’d been so stupid as to get hurt doing it.  It was just like him, doing everything he could for her.  If he hadn’t pulled that dumb stunt they’d likely be beating the entire pack of orcs into submission, instead of talking to their chief like old friends.  Despite her usual feelings on fighting she found this was somehow nicer.

 

“Y’know, he didn’t do that cause I told him to,” Rekka said, pointing at the huge hammer lying embedded in a carpet.  “He jus’ did it, knowin’ it might make things better for us.”

 

Sarah rolled to a seated position, her eyes wide with shock.

 

“You.. you let him do what he wants?  Is.. is he.. No.  He couldn’t be.. Not with a..” she now waved up and down at Rekka, indicating her species’ famously untameable reputation.

 

“He isn’t in charge, right?” Sarah asked, incredulous.

 

“Hah!  No, nothin’ like that.  Jus’ seems like everythin’ he does is fun.  I kinda jus’ like seeing what’ll happen next, y’know?  Plus..” she said, going silent for a moment.  “He’s doin everything for me.”

 

“I know.. I just know if I told him we’re stoppin, goin home.. back to my stupid cave with.. with nuthin.  He’d go.  He’d be disappointed.. but he’d go,” Rekka finished, a bittersweet smile flashing on her face for a moment.  Her time alone had been far more unhappy than she had known now that her world was filled with companionship and love.

 

Her expression grew dark, staring straight into Sarah’s eyes as she growled, “I won’t have my husband disappointed.”

 

Sarah looked incensed, her hair seemed to lift as her back muscles flexed.  The contest of wills went on for a long moment, Rekka’s fiery unwavering and absolutely fearless gaze winning out.  Sarah huffed out a breath, looking away to her boar plush and pulling bits of errant fluff from it.

 

“I get it.  It’s just like my problem.  What are we going to do about it?  My girls.. They’re having fun tonight, but tomorrow they’ll expect something from me.  My mommy set too high a bar, I have to show them I can deliver.  Food, shelter, men.  They’ll stick with me no matter what, but we’ll.. fall apart if I can’t get what we need, I’ll lose them,” she explained, desperation in her voice.  She knew despite her effect on her friends they could lose the will to fight if things didn’t improve soon.

 

Silence reigned for a moment, both of them lost in their own thoughts.  Rekka wished Bill hadn’t fallen asleep, he was good at finding something funny to say that would make everything simpler.

 

Had Bill heard this conversation the only thing he’d have to say about it is that they’d both let down the women’s side by failing the Bechdel Test.  Which wouldn’t have helped much but he’d have gotten a good chuckle out of it.

 

“Oh yeah!  Bill’s stupid plan!” Rekka cried, remembering what he asked of her.

 

“His.. stupid plan?”

 

“Yeah, his plans is terrible.  You ain’t gonna like it.”

 

“Why in the hells would I help you then?” she asked, confused.

 

Rekka’s grin was fiercely proud, her hellfire flaring out.

 

“Cause no matter how bad his plans are an’ no matter how stupid they really go, they work.”

 

 

“Really Bill, was this entirely necessary,” Helena asked, exasperated.

 

Bill tried to shrug while lying on his back, still inside the tent.  It had been Rekka who moved him onto his back before going to check on the others.  Before and after his healing he’d been unable to so much as twitch a muscle.  Previously it had been the strain, but now it was the fact that every muscle was loose, not answering his orders to move.

 

“Maybe.  I’m pretty sure the alternative was fighting the whole clan, and God knows how that would have turned out,” Bill said, luxuriating in his pain free existence.

 

“Yeah, I would have had to.  Your people probably would have won, though.  I could tell my girls weren’t into it.  Still, had to try,” Sarah said, standing over them.

 

Helena let out a frustrated huff before asking, “Why must there always be fighting before diplomacy.  Could we not have simply talked out our differences?”

 

Bill met Sarah’s eyes for a moment before replying, “I’d love to talk everything out.  It requires trust and understanding.  We didn’t have any of that, so I did the next best thing.  Show we wouldn’t be easy pickings.”

 

“Yeah, luckily for you your little bluff worked out,” Sarah agreed. “I’m glad it did, I don’t always want to fight, but we’re orcs.  It’s what we do.”

 

“It wasn’t a bluff.  I just didn’t want to have Rekka and Tabitha tear this place apart first.  I’d prefer you and your friends were healthy and ready to fight.  Someone else, that is,” Bill explained.  “Also, you don’t have to fight everyone.  Who cares what expected of you, or what they think.  Fuck it.  Do what’s best for you and yours, everything else can fuck right off.”

 

Sarah sighed.  “It’s not that easy.  My mommy is the best warleader you ever saw.  She never backs down, and she wins every time.  I have to live up to that. I just have to.”

 

“Fuck that.  I bet she’d be calling you a fool right now.  You ask her, you just ask her next time you see her.  I doubt she started up with a few friends and just rushed into every fight because it was expected of her,” Bill growled out.  “You’re smarter than that, and you know it.  Stop living in your mother’s shadow and make your own reputation.  Winning is all that matters.  Living is all that matters.”

 

Sarah sighed, looking skeptical.  He hoped she was taking it to heart, he’d hate to see her and her “girls” wasted in pointless fighting when cowardly trickery and subterfuge worked so well for him.

 

“Listen. There’s a saying from my world: Victors write the history books.  Just do whatever you need to get things done, then lie. Lie your ass off. Tell them you took everyone down in single combat while your girls cheered you on and looted the place clean.  Who’s going to make an issue of it when you’re the one with an army of victorious orcs at your back?”

 

“That.. that could work, really,” Sarah said, her eyes filling with a vicious cunning.

 

“Yeah, just don’t try that shit with me, I’m better at it than you’ll ever be.  My people once crossed a frozen river.  At night.  On the biggest holiday of the year.  Caught those fuckers completely by surprise.  Killed them while they slept and were too drunk to fight back.  We’re proud of that shit, guy is one of our historical heroes.  We won.  And that’s the only thing that matters in the end,” Bill stated, foolishly exposing guerilla warfare to an attentive audience.

 

Sarah was looking at him with a mixture of disgust and awe at this point.

 

“Oh, and could you tone that sex smell you’re giving off?  I fucking love bacon, but I think its going to make it boring for me soon.  That’s a crime, you know.  Plus I’m pretty sure Tabitha is going to straight up kill Larry soon,” Bill said, listening to the groaning and chuffing coming from behind the tent.

 

Helena turned bright red then, sputtering out, “Yes please, I have already had to heal him several times.  The chafing is becoming extremely worrying.  Dealing with his dehydration is very.. uncomfortable.  Quite often we cannot get Tabitha to stop while giving them water.  Felix is simply not experienced with affection of this kind, and quite honestly neither am I.”  She shared an embarrassed look with Felix, who kept a hand on Helena’s back to ward off the high orc induced lust.

 

“Hah!  Nope, you’ll just have to endure, nothing I can do about that,” Sarah leered.

 

“Shit, Helena. I know it takes it out of you.  Sorry about this.  At least you only got me back on my feet, right?  I did say that..” Bill said, worry creeping into his voice.  He really didn’t want his healer in a coma when they might need her.

 

“Nonsense.  Sarah’s healing was.. an unusual circumstance.  I assure you I am fine now, and your injuries were hardly taxing.  While very extensive as a whole, the healing was quite simple.  You will be back to form, ready to do something extremely foolish in a few hours.”

 

“Well, if you’re sure..  Thanks, Helena.  Running into you is probably my best luck besides meeting my Rekka,” Bill said, smiling at the memories.  Suddenly his eyes jolted wide.

 

“Where is she?  We’re not fighting so only one thing is on her mind right now,” Bill said, rolling his eyes about, searching and screaming at his limbs to move.

 

With this the tent flap was thrown back, light flooding the tent and forcing Bill to shut his eyes.

 

“Everyone.  Out!” Rekka ordered, glaring at Bill with mad intensity.

 

“Oh dear, more chafing,” Helena said, sighing as she hastily climbed to her hooves to follow Sarah in full retreat.

 

Felix gave Bill a look of sympathy as he made his escape with Helena.

 

Bill despaired for a moment, then opened his eyes and glared right back at Rekka.

 

“Fucking fine.  Show me what you got.”

 

“Oh sugar, finally yer gonna see what a hellhound can really do.  You ain’t stronger than me now.  You just lie back, enjoy yourself.  With Helena here I don’t even have to hold myself back.”

 

Rekka stalked forward, losing what little clothing she had as she closed on her defenseless prey.

 

“Prove it,” Bill demanded.  He’d be crying and begging in a bit, but right now he only wanted to make her happy.

 

With a snarl of lust, which Bill gamefully echoed,  Rekka pounced.

 

 

“We should have thought of this before your dumbass went and fucked yourself,” Larry said, no heat in his voice as he leaned back in the cold water.  He was surprised steam hadn’t boiled off of his groin when he sat down.

 

They were both quite comfortable in the freezing mountain runoff, their new camp far upwind of the orc camp.  They’d have preferred ice packs and cold beer, but the pure rushing water was the best this world could offer them.

 

“Hell, that’s your job.  You knew what was up, start using that big brain of yours,” Bill replied, eyes closed, neck deep in the cold stream.

 

“I didn’t have time.  Soon as those “orcs” dropped their weapons and started partying Tabby had me pinned.  In front of everyone.  They were cheering her on,” Larry said, smiling despite himself.  The last few days had been sweet torture.  “God damn but I was in the same state, trying to give back as good as I got.  Didn’t manage much, but Tabby sure enjoyed the effort.  Pretty sure Helena and Felix were the only reason we lived through that.”

 

“I’m not sure, Helena is a hell of an asset but I’m pretty sure she was more of a curse than a blessing there.  I can’t see Rekka or “Tabby” actually hurting us, they’d probably have calmed down long enough for us to recover. They just didn’t have to, with her there to perk us back up.”

 

“It’s Tabitha to you, prick.  You’re probably right, I have the feeling she’d chew off her own arm before doing any lasting damage to me,” Larry replied with an even tone.  He was too exhausted to really get into it about Bill using Tabitha’s private nickname.  “Besides, if it’s my job to think of things like this why are we relying on your hillbilly ingenuity for making plans?”

 

“Cause, fuckhead, you’d overthink it and complicate things.  It’d be too smart.  They might have already thought of it.  If I don’t know what I’m doing, they’ll damn well never see it coming,” Bill responded, equally without fervor.  They lapsed into silence for a bit, enjoying the numbing water.

 

“Glad you decided to stick it out with us, I was planning to beat you half to death before you bought your return ticket,” Bill said, breaking the silence.

 

“Yeah.  Even before I learned..  I’m.. glad, really glad I met Tabby.   Hell, I was just being stubborn I guess, I hated this world so much for so long.  I had no idea what was outside my prison.  I missed modern conveniences.  Beer, video games, indoor plumbing.  Deep down I knew I’d miss Tabby more.”

 

“Taxes, nine-to-five, traffic, pollution, laws and regulations.  I don’t miss a damn thing.  I was just going through the motions, there was nothing I was really living for,” Bill admitted.  “If I hadn’t met Rekka I don’t think I’d ever have known what it was like to be happy.”  Once again they went silent, thoughts on their new reality.

 

“I’m starting to get why you’re so happy here, you know.  I thought maybe you’d lost your mind coming here.  Still kind of do, but we’ve got women we love, and they love us back.  We don’t give a shit about what this world thinks of us, and we’re pretty much complete outlaws doing whatever we want.  It’s fun.  Sociopathic and psychotic but who can blame us.  Aside from Felix and a few other bottom tier guards everyone in a position of power here has been an absolute scumbag.  I’m not saying we go Bonny and Clyde, kill everyone that gets in our way and to hell with the consequences.. but we don’t have to fuck around either,” Larry said, splashing at a fish that was inspecting his toes.

 

“Yep, the world is our oyster, I figure we ought to be running things. Or at least in charge of policy,” Bill replied, “We could pull a coup-d’etat, and control the puppets from the shadows with an iron fist.  Make these people stop killing each other.”

 

“I’m in.  Shouldn’t be hard.  We just have to get you near whoever’s in charge.  You’ll bring the place down by osmosis.  Everything you touch is thrown into chaos,” Larry snarked half-heartedly. “And where did a redneck like you learn that word, and manage to pronounce it correctly?”

 

“We get the internet in Missouri, you elitist prick, I was pretty much raised by it,” Bill replied, unperturbed.  He didn’t think about home much, briefly wondering what his sisters and father thought of his sudden disappearance.  Maybe he’d strong arm a wizard into dropping a letter off at some point, it would be comforting to let them know he was having the time of his life.

 

“Missouri?  I thought that was a myth, like Camelot.  Didn’t know anyone actually lived in those states I flew over to get to civilization,” Larry replied.  His own family had likely already moved on by now.  They weren’t particularly close, though he realized it was probably his own fault.  He now realized his life had also been fairly empty, sliding along the path of least resistance toward an unfulfilling conclusion.

 

“I think I see why you’re worried about getting sent back now, turns out you’re not as dumb as you look.  May wonders never cease.”

 

“About time.  I see another portal and I’m chucking those grenades at it until it goes away.  You skinny shit.”

 

They spent a few minutes trading friendly jabs as they relaxed in the cold water, their replies becoming less coherent as their teeth began to chatter involuntarily. Bill checked to see if his dick wasn’t ground down to a nub, but unable to really tell.  Rumpleforeskin had shrivelled up in the cold water and his hands were going pretty numb anyway.

 

“We should probably get out before we die,” Bill finally admitted.

 

“Yeah, we should, but they’re waiting on the bank,” Larry said, his head sliding down a bit more, only his nose and eyes above water.

 

“Alright you two, c’mon out.  We ain’t smelled that girl for hours now,” Rekka said, standing near the bank with her paws on her hips.  Bill peeked one eye at her, noting she was breathing deeply and had that gleam in her eyes.  He closed it and thought about letting the current take him.

 

“Nope.  You get in here for at least five minutes with us.  You too, Tabitha.  We’re not falling for your womanly wiles,” Bill said, beginning to float a bit and heading down stream.

 

With a distressed snarl Rekka leapt in like a cannonball and paddled over to Bill before wrapping herself around him and dragging him to shallower water.  Her familiar warmth was welcome and his frozen limbs crawled all over her body happily.

“Fuck! It’s so cold, how’re you standin’ this?” Rekka yelped, shivering, her eyes finally losing their ardor.

 

“We’re freezing our bodies, maybe in a thousand years science will find a cure for High Orc induced lust,” Bill mumbled, his head on Rekka’s shoulder, clinging to her and making full use of her body heat.

 

There was a small splash as Tabitha prowled into the water towards Larry, only her eyes and ears above water as she hunted her prey.  She closed on him and went still, not sure if she should pounce or give her husband a break.  Coming to a decision, she ducked under water for a long moment before exploding to the surface carrying Larry in her arms.  Water spraying everywhere and streaming from her body.  Standing, the stream barely came up to her thighs as she smiled down at Larry while heading back to the campfire, finally in control of her urges.

 

“Okay, husband.  I’m good fer now, let’s go back to the fire.  Promise I won’t make ya scream for at least a few hours, an’ I’ll go easy when I do,” Rekka said, rubbing her paws on his back, trying to warm him up.

 

“Good enough, I’ll want to know if my dick is still there anyway, I think you might have ripped it off this morning,” Bill grumped.

 

“Nuh-uh, it’s still there, I made sure.  You think I’d let you get off that easy?” Rekka quipped, picking Bill up in her arms like Tabitha had for Larry.

 

Bill laughed, enjoying the experience.  He figured it must have looked pretty ridiculous seeing his fun sized Rekka easily carrying his king sized self around like a bride.  Based on Larry’s laughter and Helena’s hand covering her mouth as she giggled they must have been a sight.

 

Felix had his face turned the other way holding onto Helena’s hand like a lifeline.  Rekka and Tabitha had been nude for days and his puritan upbringing had not prepared him for this sort of debauchery.

 

“My hero, thank you for saving me from that dastardly river,” Bill said breathily, kicking his feet in his best damsel in distress impression.

 

“I ain’t no hero!  You should’a taken yer chances with the water, sugar!” Rekka chuckled out, waggling her eyebrows at him.

 

“You brute! Put me down this instant!” Bill cried, kicking his legs faster.

 

“Nope! Yer caught!  Now hold still an’ lemme warm you up,” Rekka said, sitting down easily while carrying him.  Bill leaned back in her arms, enjoying the new experience to no end.

 

“I’m gonna want you to carry me like this more often, you know.  It’s great,” Bill said, grinning at her.

 

“You’da got a lot of this if you wasn’t so stupid strong, y’know,” she replied, scooching towards the fire to dry them off.

 

“I can see that.  Well, I’m not complaining, I’m secure enough in my masculinity to appreciate a strong woman,” Bill said, holding one hand towards the fire, his other warm enough on Rekka’s radiator back.  He’d have held onto her breasts instead but he was trying to avoid revving her engine for now.

 

“Goddamn, you two really are a pair,” Larry said from his own wifely perch.  “Makes you feel for all those poor suckers back home that probably have their soulmates wandering around out here.”

 

“Yeah.  I’ve been thinking about that,” Bill said, now lying on Rekka’s lap like she usually did to him.  She was smiling down at him brushing back his damp hair.  “It’s a crying shame.  I say we fix it eventually.”

 

“Part of your master “plan” there, fearless leader mascot?” Larry asked, half serious as he somehow managed to recline with his head on his hand in Tabby’s embrace.

 

He and Bill were barely aware that they were all naked, though Helena and Felix were trying to look in every direction but the quartet of developing nudists in their midst.  Helena was faring better than Felix.  She wasn’t comfortable but she’d been exposed, for want of a better word, to lustier mamono mating habits in her travels.  Felix’s world was being expanded every day he spent with these lunatics.

 

“Farther down the road, yeah.  Shit, I don’t even have a clue how we’ll do it, if it’s possible, or if there’s any way we’ll keep it from being a complete disaster.. But damn, I want others to know how great this is,” Bill said, sharing a smile with Rekka.  He then gave Larry a meaningful look.

 

“Imagine if some other idiots had gotten mixed up in this world and decided they were just going to selfishly keep it to themselves.  Their names would go down as the worst criminals in the history of the multiverse.  I’m planning to at least give it a try,” Bill explained.

 

“Yeah, well, I guess I know what you mean.  Personally I don’t mind being an interdimensional scumbag, there’s a lot of people back home that I wouldn’t want screwing up this place.  Hell, I’m one of them, just look at what I’ve started,” Larry replied, shrugging off his complete disregard for the prime directive.

 

“I’m right there with you.  We’ll need some sort of way to sort the decent hard working salt of the earth from the morally bankrupt ivory tower intellectuals such as yourself.  I haven’t sorted out how, so you start using that fancy college-boy brain of yours on the problem,” Bill demanded, snuggling into his wife.  He’d done a better job at not interfering with the locals until they’d interfered right back.  If he’d been left alone he’d have gone Grizzly Adams quite happily all alone with Rekka, no clue and no care about the world around them.

 

“Here I was hoping to raise the average IQ of these..” Larry paused a moment, considering Helena and deciding he liked her too much to insult her boyfriend even by proxy, restraining his usual reflex of being an asshole and continuing, “..salt of the earth types.  But I guess a bunch of dumb hicks would do the least amount of damage, and you seem to have had an easier time going native than me.”

 

Bill turned and leaned into Rekka for a moment to let her scratch the back of his head more easily, enjoying being on the receiving end of head scratches for a change.

 

“Holy shit, what kind of tattoo is that?”  Larry blurted, seeing it for the first time.

 

“Fuck!” Bill snapped, lying flat to cover his shame.  “It was a mistake, alright?  It’s not who I am, and it never was.  Don’t give me shit about it.”  He looked at Helena then, an idea coming to him.

 

“Hey.  I could cut it off and have Helena heal me,” he said happily, looking for a knife.

 

“What?  It’s fucking awesome, let me get a better look,” Larry said, interested in how Bill had managed to get a holographic tattoo between his shoulderblades.

 

“What?  It’s awful.  It’s not even straight!  I swear that “artist” was fucking drunker than I was,” Bill replied, but slowly complied rolling back into Rekka and waiting for Larry to tear into him.

 

“I like it too!  It’s real pretty, the way it moves is neat,” Rekka said, pawing at his back.

 

“How the fuck is it moving like that.  They do holographic tattoos?  Shit, if I’d have known you could get one of those I’d have one myself.  A tiger roaring would be pretty bitchin,” Larry said, still looking in awe at Bill’s back.

 

“Hologram?  Fuck are you on about?  It’s a shitty barcode, right?” Bill asked, confused.

 

“What? That’s fucking lame.  No man, it’s like.. A triangle?  No.. It’s a star?  Fuck, I don’t know, my eyes are watering looking at it now.  It’s like one of those magic eye posters.  I think I see a sailboat,” Larry said, his eyes crossed.

 

“Goddamn.  No barcode though, right?” Bill asked, much more concerned about that.

 

“Fuck no, and I wouldn’t peg you for emo.  Did you paint your nails black and smoke cloves?” Larry said, not putting much effort in his barb as his vision began to blur, the patterns never seemed to repeat and he was starting to feel a little queasy.

 

“Fuck you man!  Goddamn, I don’t care what it is as long as it’s covering that fucking thing,” Bill said, immensely relieved with the turn of events.  He whipped his head over at Felix, who was pointedly looking away from him and his splayed legs.

 

“Felix! Do me a favor buddy, dig into my purse over there and bring me the small black rectangle thing.  Don’t drop it, please, it’s fragile,” Bill requested.

 

“Your purse?” Larry scoffed.

 

“Yeah, my purse.  Don’t be jealous, you don’t know anything about fashion. That hat was the shit,” Bill replied distractedly, not able to fully commit himself to the banter as he watched Felix carefully pick his way over to the pile of clothing while looking straight up.

 

“Is this it, Bill?” Felix asked, still looking away as he held up Bill’s phone.

 

“That’s it, bring that over to Larry, please.  I need him to work it and show me this thing,” Bill replied, much nicer to the young man that had staunchly cared for them alongside Helena in their time of need, even as they cavorted shamelessly all the while.

 

“What the fuck, are you kidding?  Tell me I’m wrong and that’s a mirror or something,” Larry said.

 

“Nope, First Class Merlii are the only way to fly.  Can’t call anyone, but it makes for a slick camera.  Take a video of my back, I wanna see it moving too,” Bill requested, craning his neck over as Felix carefully placed the phone in an absolutely incredulous Larry’s hands.  “Oh, and don’t look at the other videos would ya?  Me’n Rekka been making some memories there,” Bill said, almost leering at Rekka before remembering the consequences of rousing her lust.

 

“Christ, you get all the luck.  I’m switching to your Merlin as soon as we run into him.  Mine’s a fucking prick,” Larry said, quickly working the phone to bring up the camera app and switch to video.  He tried not to look at the small windows in the gallery where Bill and Rekka were having what looked like a hell of a good time.

 

“I’ll put in a good word for ya, maybe get a group rate.  Can you see it alright like this?” Bill asked, not wanting to get up and leave the warmth Rekka provided despite the fire being so near.

 

“Yeah yeah, hold on a sec.  Ok, here we go.  Move around a bit, it seems to speed up when you do that,” Larry said, aiming the camera at Bill and zooming in.  To his credit he had the phone in horizontal mode, raising BIll’s esteem of him immensely.

 

“Hey, is this thing charging?  What the hell?  Why hasn’t this melted or exploded or anything?”

 

“Dunno, I just assumed, y’know.. Magic.  Ain’t gotta explain shit, right?”

 

“You are the most uninquisitive fucker I have ever met.  We need to experiment with this.  Will it still work if I chuck it into water?  Is it just being charged, or is magical bullshit replacing the internals and processor?” Larry asked, wanting to open it up and start breaking things.

 

“Fuck that, I’m just happy it works.  I’ve been taking photos of all the cool shit we’ve seen, I don’t want to lose those,” Bill complained, trying to get Felix’s attention by waving.

 

“Felix my man, could you uh, bring it to me now?” Bill asked again, knowing he was being lazy but not one for self-improvement.

 

“Aye.. One moment, Miss Tabitha is very tall, It’s a bit.. complicated to protect her virtue,” Felix explained, not looking happy as he blindly struggled to his feet.

 

“Oh really, you two!” Helena chided Bill and Larry, tiring of their nonsense.  “You are behaving like children.  Let me, Felix.  Do not worry, we will go for a walk in a moment,” she said, patting a grateful Fellix on the arm.

 

“Thanks, Helena.  Sorry, really.  I’m just so comfortable, moving would be painful at this point,” Bill said with grateful laziness.  Rekka laughed and began scratching his back lightly causing him to shiver.

 

“Here you are, Bill.  Your, um, tattoo is really quite interesting.  I have never seen anything like it,” Helena admitted.  She poked delicately at it and immediately flung her hand back as her horn flashed alarmingly bright.

 

“Whoa, are you ok?” Bill asked, extremely concerned for his valuable healer.

 

“Oh, oh my.  Yes, I am quite alright.  How surprising.  It did not harm me, quite the opposite.  It seems to have.. transferred a rather large amount of energy.  I feel as if I had not spent the past few days healing a myriad of injuries.  It is ever so pleasant,” Helena responded, speaking faster than normal. She sounded as if she’d just had a double shot of espresso.  Or cocaine.

 

“Wow.  Well, hell, that’s interesting.  I’m glad it didn’t hurt you, whatever it is,” Bill said, looking her over cautiously, hoping the woman hadn’t been affected by bad mojo.

 

Helena let out a giggle, “I as well, do not worry, I feel positively sublime,” she said, her eyes twinkling and her horn radiant.  Her hooves danced in place while her hands moved about as though she didn’t know what to do with them.

 

“Felix, come, let us walk a bit, I simply must expend some of this energy,” Helena said, smiling widely at her chaste lover.

 

“Of course my dear, if you could, um, guide me a bit, I’d like nothing better,” Felix responded, standing and facing away from the Pornagraphic Four.  He’d turned to look when the incident occured, concerned.  He was now trying to forget the sordid sight, the image of Bill’s splayed legs with no regard for decency would particularly haunt him.

 

“Felix.  Don’t do anything I would do,” Bill said, real threat in his voice.

 

“Aye!  Yes, don’t worry!  I would.. I would never do anything you would do, on my honor!” Felix answered, completely serious.

 

“Thattaboy, you two have fun, but not too much fun,” Bill said, looking at his phone now and flipping to the gallery.

 

Helena and Felix wandered away, Helena talking animatedly about how wonderful she felt while Felix gamely tried to keep up with her speeding words.

 

Bill watched the short video several times, zooming in to check for any remnant of a misspent youth.  Finding none he felt a wave of relief rush over him, sagging into Rekka’s lap.

 

“Thank fucking God.  I fucking hated that barcode,” Bill said finally.

 

“Is that all you care about?  We don’t even know what the hell that thing is, or what it just did to poor Helena there,” Larry snapped, outraged by Bill’s lack of interest.

 

“Oh, yeah. Who knows?  It’s more magic shit.  You sure are high strung about this stuff, we’re literally in another world and you’re concerned about small things like my magic phone and tattoo,” Bill replied, honestly unconcerned about the new tattoo and grateful to have it covering the old one.

 

“If I had to guess it’s probably the reason I’m strong.  More Merlin shit.  I mean, I can’t make sense of it or read it, can you?  So I doubt I was even supposed to know it was there, or learn anything from it, right?” Bill explained, not really interested until a thought hit him. “I guess it does slightly confirm that someone intentionally brought me here, unless the guy that it was meant for was running late.  That’d be kind of hilarious the more I think of it.”

 

“I’m seriously questioning letting you lead this party, you know?” Larry grumped.  “Look, Helena just tapped it and now she’s lit up like a Christmas tree.  What kind of effect could it have on other mamono?  Hey, Rekka, do you feel more.. hellhoundy?”

 

“I’m the hellhoundiest hellhound that ever hellhounded!” Rekka cheered.

 

“Damn right, no hellhound can hellhound better than you hellhound, you hell of a hellhound,” Bill added happily.

 

“I’m going to have to take your word on that, I don’t know enough about hellhounds to dispute it.  Just, did anything change, and I mean physically, when you touched that thing for the first time?” Larry asked.

 

“Nuh-uh, I never felt nothin’ from it,” Rekka answered, scratching a moaning Bill between his shoulder blades directly over the tattoo.

 

“Well.. well, shit.  Tabby, please don’t touch that if you can help it, I don’t want that as yet unknown magical bullshit doing anything weird to you,” Larry cautioned, patting Tabby’s arm in worry.  “Helena’s probably protected by well known magical unicorn bullshit, but who the hell knows what that will do to a jinko, and I really don’t want to find out if it’s bad.”

 

“Yes, my husband.  I will be careful,” Tabby said quietly, touched and purring at his concern for her.

 

“Look, you said you played video games.  It’s pretty obvious it just filled her mana bar or whatever,” Bill said, luxuriating in Rekka’s scratchings.  “It don’t work on Rekka cause she’s got a stamina bar, right?  Different thing entirely.  Truth be told, I’m pretty sure that bar is bugged cause it don’t ever go down.”

 

“Ho-lee shit.  That’s the guy making the plans, ladies.  If you had the frame of reference to understand what he’s talking about you’d be running for the hills.  I’m only sticking around because, frankly, I want to see what happens next,” Larry explained, a morbid fascination for Bill’s incompetence taking over.

 

“Yeah! Ain’t it great?” Rekka said, delighted someone understood Bill as well as she did.

 

 

“Alright, seems to work,” Bill said, letting out a sigh of relief.

 

Poor Helena was encircled by the party, each pressing a hand or paw to her equine back to ward off the High Orc’s very inconvenient sex funk.  It looked as though they were trying to win her in some sort of endurance contest.  Felix had the honor of holding onto her hand.  Only Bill wasn’t in contact with her, as he seemed to be immune to it.  He’d found he was the only one that thought it smelled like bacon.

 

“Hey, no messing around, this is important,” Bill said, eyeing Rekka as she leered at him, pressing only a single padded paw finger to Helena for a moment.  Finally she stuck her tongue out at him, taking a more secure hold of the poor unicorn.

 

“Right, now that’s sorted,” Bill continued, looking at Sarah and her assembled battle babes, “Sa.. Suidaena!  Because that’s your name.  You’ve had your girls watching the quarry, right?  No one’s left with a couple wagons full of stone, right?”

 

“You can call me Sarah, I talked to the girls.  They grew up with me anyway.  I’ll keep the dramatics for dealing with outsiders, but friends can use my real name.  You made some good points, we’re going to try being proper villainous scum like your George.. Washorntin?” Sarah asked.

 

“Oh fuck, you told her about the Christmas thing,” Larry said, “Great, and you’re mad at me for the guns?  I think you started something horrifying here.”

 

“Hey, long as our new friends benefit from it, and don’t try out any underhanded tricks on us I’ll see coming a mile away..” Bill replied, smirking at Sarah and nodding into the incredibly conspicuous “bushes” that had appeared overnight at their agreed upon meeting sight.

 

“Ah, hah hah.  Just getting a little practice in while we waited, of course,” Sarah said with a sickly grin, “Girls, you can finish training later, c’mon out now.”

 

“Right.  Keep it up, I’ll give you a practical course on punji sticks,” Bill growled at her, watching as the orcs sheepishly left their obvious ambush, bolo’s and nets behind  their backs.

 

“Look, I can see you’re trying.  It’s just wasted effort in more ways than one.  Ambushing a fort by hiding in some bushes isn’t effective.  I grew up watching the History Channel.  I’m pretty much a master of guerrilla warfare as far as you’re concerned.  Do as I say and you’ll be committing war crimes before the week is out, alright?” Bill lectured.

 

“Yes, I’m sorry.  We’re all tired of waiting though,” Sarah whined, bouncing her warhammer on her shoulder anxiously.

 

“Focus, Sarah.  The wagons?” Bill asked patiently.

 

“The wagons, yeah-no, they haven’t left yet.  There’s a lot of activity now, though.  So they might be about to?”  Sarah said, watching Bill carefully.

 

She really wanted to ask about the punji sticks, sounding as if they’d be useful to her new strategy of unscrupulously avoiding a fair fight ever again.

 

“That’s exactly why we’ve been waiting.  They don’t know that the fort has new owners yet, so as far as they’re concerned it’s business as usual. Time for us to move, we want to be well ahead of the wagons.  Now I can show you how to set a real ambush,” Bill explained, knowing just the spot.  It had worked just fine on Felix and Helena.

 

 

Lieutenant Cornelius dropped the Huntstone to the wagon’s floorboard at his feet in disgust, his irritation becoming harder to suppress.  His usual calm demeanor cracking as he felt at his coat pocket distractedly.

 

“Confound this horrid device, it’s useless.  It couldn’t detect a demon if I threw it at one,” he snapped, glaring down at it.

 

The roadway was clear for a hundred yards in all directions, the dense forest the demons loved too far away from the road to be setting the crystal alight.  If the Huntstone was to be believed there was a very powerful monster nearly on top of them.  Nothing could hide so close to his three squads without being spotted, not in the pitiful shrubberies and occasional patches of barely knee-high grasses.

 

“Carry on, then,” he managed not to snap, waving the driver on.  Staring down at the defective huntstone his hand moved on it’s own,  reaching into a pocket to reveal a small container and removing a thin object from within.  Muscle memory caused him to strike the thing against his boot with a practiced motion.

 

The igniting flame surprised him out of his scrutiny of the Hunt Stone.  Though it was his strict self imposed rule to refrain, he decided to allow his hand’s flagrant disregard for proper conduct as he brought out his pipe.  Puffing contentedly a few moments later he forgave his hand, clearly it understood well that he needed to calm his nerves.  He was growing quite fond of the ingenuitive dwarfs and their discoveries involving the new powder, tossing the spent firestick aside.  He was growing less fond of what he once believed was an infallible and absolutely invaluable device.

 

The treacherous crystal had been lighting up randomly when placed on its Watchman notch for nearly the entire trip.  He had earlier even tried the lowest Hunt setting and followed it to where the tool claimed the demon was only a few yards from the road in the grass.  He had made a fool of himself in front of his troop as he walked forward to have it blink out completely, indicating the demon was now behind him.  Turning, it flashed on again.  Was he supposed to believe the creature was literally underfoot?

 

Squatting down he pushed the knee-high grass around, perhaps there was an infant crawling about he thought with humor despite his growing irritation.  As expected he spotted nothing, and upon checking the stone it now indicated another direction entirely.

 

Heads would roll when he returned.  Likely someone had broken the device when last it was used, and the coward left it unreported to avoid punishment.  The scoundrel had placed his entire troop in danger, an unforgivable sin.  He’d have the responsible party flogged when he was found.

 

Despite this Cornelius wasn’t particularly worried, the Huntstone was helpful but its loss would not hinder them.  There were few monsters that would attack a wary and heavily armed troop, and they were far from the more organized war parties the enemy fielded nearer the front.  This was the frontier, the only demons about would be solitary hunters and small independent packs more akin to bandits than the more disciplined creatures he had fought when stationed on the front lines.

 

The new weapons worked well, and the only trouble they’d received in the last few months had been the easily routed orcs.  He was sure the others had learned a very hard lesson and were likely still running in fear.  The big one had been dragged off and had surely expired from it’s injuries.  He’d actually felt a pang of pity for the monster.  She’d been taken by complete surprise, not knowing the larger defensive explosive dropped from the walls could even be a threat to her.  She had ignored it while continuing to hammer the gate with absurd strength, the fear rising for those within as it shuddered in its frame.

 

Cornelius had been fighting them his entire adult life and still found it deeply unsettling to hear their all too human cries of a woman in pain.  Despite himself he hoped her suffering had not been long.

 

He held his pipe far from his body as he leaned down to check on the smaller weapons.  Lifting the oiled-leather container’s lid he nudged the explosives about in their cradles of straw, checking for damage.  They were all intact and ready to drive the demons off, though unlikely to kill.

 

The smaller weapons were more sound than fury it seemed, but useful all the same. They’d lost no one to single attacks since they had become standard equipment.  No confirmed kills as of yet, but the demon beasts found the loud sounds, fire, and smoke to be a traumatizing experience.  He knew this wouldn’t last, the demons were relentless and would soon overcome their fear once they became accustomed to the new tactic.

 

Closing and securing the weapons he again brought the pipe to his mouth, arms crossed and legs kicked up onto the slanted foot rest as he started to feel himself once more.

 

The road was onto a turn here, a hillock and hedges crowding closer than he liked.  It was the single most obvious ambush site he knew of, and he turned about to make sure the troop was on high alert.  They were, all the soldiers felt threatened by the most claustrophobic length of the journey.  They fingered their weapons, keeping a sharp eye out.

He made another attempt at the Huntstone, but the blasted thing was brighter than ever.  Tossing it down to the floorboard again he then flipped the lid off the explosives, knowing seconds counted when the demons attacked.  They had never actually been assaulted at this site,  likely because it was so incredibly obvious a location for such a thing.  Still, no one knew exactly how the demons thought.  Perhaps they were ignorant enough to believe it a good place to catch one unawares.

 

As they entered the most crowded length of the curve, and the most advantageous point for an ambush, Cornelius was entirely surprised to find a man seated on an upturned log in the middle of the road.  Throwing a hand in front of his driver, the sergeant pulled on the reigns stopping the wagon a safe distance from the curious sight.

 

“You there, well met stranger.  Are you in need of assistance?” Cornelius called across, concerned.  The more he looked at the man the more he was convinced he might be mentally impaired.  He wore a tall conical hat, badly made from the hide of some beast.  His cloak was equally in poor condition, looking as though he’d simply tied the entire skin of a deer around his neck.

 

“Issat a fake beard, lieutenant, sir?” his driver asked, perplexed.

 

“Yes, I do believe it is, sergeant.  Appears to be some unfortunate and badly skinned rabbit or large rodent,” Cornelius replied, rubbing his chin and puffing on his pipe thoughtfully.

 

The man appeared to only now notice them, rising to his feet and clutching his shoddy cloak about himself.  Cornelius allowed himself to relax, clearly if this mad hermit was able to live and hunt here the demons did not frequent the area.  It was unlikely he was in the thrall of a beast, once they had a man in their clutches he was rarely seen again, and never without her at his side.  They guarded their captures with astonishing ferocity, if one were near she would certainly have made herself known.

 

“I am a wizard,” the man intoned with a graveness that was at odds with the ridiculous setting.

 

“Indeed!  Would the wizard care for a ride?  It’s not safe to be about on your own like this,” Cornelius called back, concerned for the madman’s well being.  It was said the Chief God cared for such unfortunates, and he had no wish to see one of His pitiable children harmed under his watch.

 

“Safe?  I am always safe in my power.  It is you who are in danger, for I am a capricious and subtle being of nigh omnipotent magics!” the obviously deranged fool thundered while waving his arms above his head, nearly dislodging his ridiculous hat.

 

“Now, be a good boy and order your men to drop their weapons, then perhaps I won’t turn you into a toad,” the wizard said in a much more conversational tone.

 

Cornelius fought back a smile and turned to look over his men, who shared in his amusement from their mounts and wagons.  Turning back he waved his pipe in an apologetic manner.

 

“I’m afraid I can’t do that, sir wizard, if you won’t come away with us please move out of the road, we are on an important errand and have no time to waste,” Cornelius said, chuckling along with his men as they enjoyed their unexpected entertainment.

 

“What!  You ignore my dire warnings?  Me, Biggius Dickius, Arch Wizard of the First Order?  Fool!  Tremble in fear as I cast my third level fireball!” he raged, pointing an accusing finger directly at the lieutenant.

 

Wingardium leviosa!

 

The entire troop stared and waited, nearly caught up in the theatrics.  After several moments laughter broke out, and the poor man became agitated, confused by the failure of his spell.

 

“This is embarrassing, I swear this never happens to me..” he muttered, peering at his fingers and waggling them a bit, pulling at his beard with frustration.  Part of the creature fell away, leaving a ragged gap.

 

“Right, enough of this.  We have tarried too long as it is.  Forgive me master Dickius, but it’s time to part ways,” Lieutenant Cornelius called, enjoying the madman’s tomfoolery but it would be unprofessional to delay his duty any longer.

 

Reaching under his seat he pulled out one of the explosives.  He knew better than to try to physically move the poor man, it was likely he would fight any attempt to haul him onto a wagon or off the road.  He had no wish to harm him or put his men in completely unnecessary danger, for the wizard was not a small man.  He’d make use of the noisy little weapon to run him off.  He doubted it would do any harm should he judge the throw correctly and land it far enough away from the horses and the lunatic.

 

“No, no, I’ve almost got it now..” Biggius mumbled to himself, ignoring the lieutenant. “Wingardium leviosaaahh..? No, that’s not quite right, damn it all.”

 

Cornelius chuckled to himself, pressing his pipe to the fuse until it caught, immediately tossing it towards the wizard. He judged the distance well, landing it safely between the two parties.  Unfortunately the man surprised him, the throw catching his attention and he skittered swiftly to the smoking object.

 

“No! You fool!” Cornelius shouted, jumping to his feet and cursing himself for what his impatience had wrought.  There were shouts and curses from his men, equally aghast that the amusing madman was to be injured or killed.

 

Stooping quickly the wizard snatched it up, spiriting the explosive away into the folds of his cloak.  Cornelius could only wince, turning away and waiting for the explosion.

 

Moments passed, and the troop relaxed, letting out relieved laughs.  It was another dud, then, a welcome accident for once.  Cornelius slumped back in his seat, shaken.  He sent a silent prayer of thanks to the Chief God for taking care of His more unfortunate children.

 

“A fine gift!  But you’ll not buy your way clear of my wrath with mere trinkets.  Now behold my true power!” the arch wizard howled, raising his arms above his head, and incidentally knocking his pointy hat askew.

 

The rattled lieutenant decided to let man do as he pleased, now only grateful he wasn’t responsible for his murder.  The troop were equally relieved, their weapons lowered and tucking into their lunch, ready to enjoy more of the spontaneous street theater.  The charming madman did not disappoint.

 

The wizard began his incantation, arms moving in sweeping patterns,”The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men,” his words growing louder and more menacing as he continued.

 

Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his sister’s keeper and the finder of lost children.  And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My sisters.”

 

There he paused for a beat to glare at them with righteous wrath before ending in a thunderous crescendo.

 

“And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon thee!”

 

A few of the soldiers began clapping as they realized he had finished, spellbound by his oration.

 

Biggius Dickius looked around judging he was the absolute sole focus of their rapt attention before nodding to himself.

 

Raising his arms in victory, he screamed a challenge to the heavens.

 

“WAAAAAAGH!”

 

An answering roar came from all about, against all odds finding the well trained veteran soldiers completely, utterly, and inconceivably off their guard.

 

“WAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!”

 

The orcs exploded into the soldiers from both sides of the road, knocking weapons away and pulling men from their horses.  With practiced motions they began wrapping the confused, terrified men in nets, ropes, and loving arms.

 

Poor Lieutenant Cornelius remained slumped in shock, barely noticing as the sergeant was dragged screaming from the seat beside him.  He shakily looked to his right as a heady smell enveloped him, meeting the eyes of the large orc he’d last seen being carried away by her allies or one very much like her.  The fragrance increased as she moved close.  Bewilderingly he found it combined well with the smoke trailing from the pipe he still gripped in his hand.

 

“That’s got to be the worst ambush I’ve ever seen,” he whispered, lost.

 

Tapping out his pipe, he slipped it into his coat pocket.

 

“But It worked,” the orc replied, her husky voice drawing shivers up the man’s spine as she slipped his sword out of its sheath, tossing it behind her.

 

“So it would seem,” he whispered as she pulled him into her embrace.

 

 

“Biggius Dickius?  Fucking A, dude.  God really does look out for fools and madmen,” Larry said, shaking his head, “I guess I see how you managed to get me out of that hellhole, though.  Guessing you just confused the shit out of my guards.”

 

He was fidgeting around with Bill’s purse, scraping it with the knife of his new multi-tool and rubbing coal from the fire into his etchings.

 

“Gotta mix some truth in with the lies,” Bill laughed, hugging Rekka to him as he watched the chaos in the orc camp, well downwind.  A crystal clear ice cold mountain run-off spring was within sprinting distance of their own camp in case of emergency.

 

“Whatever, I saw you get out of that river,” Larry snarked.

 

“I’m a grower, not a shower.  Besides, you looked like a eunuch after that ice bath,” Bill replied, still focused on the developing orgy.

 

“There you go again, knowing words you have no business knowing,” Larry said, chuckling.

 

He was honestly impressed.  Bill’s absolutely stupid, doomed-to-failure plan had against all odds worked.  He’d found himself nearly as spellbound as the soldiers while Bill played the role he was born for; a raving lunatic too pathetic to abuse and too amusing to ignore.

 

The rest of the party had been forced to stay back from the fighting with their hands on Helena so Sarah’s lust rays didn’t ruin what he assumed would be a failed plan anyway.  Tabby had snuck back to them after spoofing the Huntstone for days only minutes before Bill’s show began.  They’d had an excellent view and were ready to rush out and save Bill’s sorry ass when it all went to shit.  Shockingly, they weren’t needed.

 

“You almost biffed it with that grenade, by the way.  Rekka damn near rushed in, I’m surprised she didn’t honestly,” Larry said, looking over at the happy little hellhound.

 

“Yeah, I was real mad, but I didn’t want to ruin yer plan.. an’ when you didn’t blow up I figured you could keep goin’,” Rekka said, clutching Bill protectively.

 

“Hell, I was almost certain I wasn’t going to be able to pull that fuse in time, probably should have just let it go off.  Figured it might distract from my “incantation”, and I was just too into the performance.  Felt right at the time,” Bill said, picking Rekka up and holding her in his arms as he stood watching the orc camp.  She wrapped her legs around him and snuggled into his neck, proud as could be of her stupid yet lucky husband.

 

“Their head honcho was a lot cooler than I expected, I was sure they’d just ride you down without a word,” Larry admitted, smiling at Tabby as she prowled into camp, sliding into her spot behind him.  He grunted as she lifted him into her lap, relaxing as her all encompassing purr rippled through his body.

 

“Yeah, I was half expecting that too.  Was gonna throw that log at him and take my chances if he did.  My plans are pretty flexible like that,” Bill replied.  “If he stays that way it should make our next steps easier, be nice to work with someone like him assuming he doesn’t lose his mind after tonight.”

 

They spent a few minutes enjoying their view of Sodom and Gomorrah, impressed with the orcs’ barbaric lovefest.

 

“I guess orcs aren’t monogamous,” Bill said, pointing at the group that seemed to be trading men and high fiving each other before pushing their next lovers to the ground.  The men didn’t complain, most of them were completely out of their minds on High Orc brand Spanish Fly.

 

“Yeah, pack hunters.  It’s gross,” Rekka said, sharing an affronted look with Tabitha, another solitary predator.

 

“Hell, look at that one, she’s got three of them to herself,” Larry said, impressed with the woman’s enthusiasm.  “Huh, didn’t expect them to bother with that..” Larry trailed off, watching the orc become the meat in the sandwich.  That wasn’t how babies were made, or so he was told.

 

Rekka turned to look, her eyes widening.

 

“Oh!  That’s what mama meant,” She whispered excitedly.  “You into that?” she asked Bill.

 

“Never really been my thing, honestly.  Maybe we’ll try it on my birthday,” Bill laughed, before looking at Rekka worriedly.  “You mean the butt stuff, right?  Not other men, right?”

 

“Other men, with me? No way!  That’d be.. I don’t even wanna think about it!” Rekka cried, finding the thought more than a little distressing.

 

“Glad to hear it, I’m on the same page.  When we first met I thought I might have to fend off every woman we ran into, I’m highly appreciative you’re keeping me to yourself,” Bill said with humor, but serious all the same.  He was probably in the minority, but he considered harems to be the antithesis of a loving relationship.

 

“If regular orcs aren’t into pair bonding, High Orcs sure seem to be.  Sarah hasn’t left that tent with the captain or whatever for hours,” Larry stated, back to work on his art project with Bill’s purse.

 

“Well, heavy is the head that wears the crown,” Bill replied.

 

Rekka and Larry shared a questioning look at Bill, Tabitha’s focused ears meant much the same.  Watching those and her tail seemed to be the best way to know what she was thinking.

 

Explaining himself, Bill said, “She’s a con artist, and I don’t mean that as an insult.  She gives them confidence by setting herself apart as a leader and protector.  She can’t just roll around in the dirt with them, that’d be like your pastor showing up while you knocked back beers with your boys at a strip joint,” Bill explained, “While I’m sure her girls would be thrilled, she knows it’d lessen her mystique.  They need to see her as an authority figure, not just another one in the gang.  She’ll do anything to keep those friends of hers alive.  I get that.”

 

“You only know that word because of X-Men, I’m sure of it,” Larry said, “But I get what you mean.  Still, I think she might be the lucky one.  That free for all down there looks like fun, but I wouldn’t trade this for anything.”

 

“You and me both, buddy,” Bill replied.

 

That was the last straw for Rekka and Tabby.  With feverish love-fueled lust they pushed their husbands to the ground, incoherent in their passion, frantic growling and whines bubbling out while pulling off clothing.

 

Saying something like that in front of their wives was like tossing a lit match into a pool of gasoline.

 

Larry and Bill traded shaky smiles having known this would likely happen even as they spoke.  Both were pleased to have made them so happy by letting them know how appreciated they were.  The women were even now often surprised how differently they were treated by their husbands, the experience at odds with everything they knew and had prepared themselves for.

 

When Helena showed up to heal the chafing Bill planned to make a break for the ice cold stream.  He even generously planned to make at least a passing attempt to slip Larry free in a display of solidarity.

 

Hours later, their wives satisfied, they relaxed around the fire enjoying the quiet.  Bill was on his back while Rekka straddled him with her head on his chest, apparently sleeping.  He rubbed her back while stargazing, always amazed to watch the night sky in this world, so clear he felt he could reach right up and pluck a star from the heavens.  Even in podunk the light pollution was too great to see more than a few constellations.

 

“Amazing, isn’t it?” he asked, looking over at Larry who was leaning back against Tabitha as she lay on her side looking into the fire.

 

“Hmm?  Oh, yeah.  I guess it is.  I wonder what constellations they have.  Hell, I’d be interested to know what planets there might be in this solar system,” Larry replied, looking up from his scratching at Bill’s purse for a moment.

 

“My money’s on a giant turtle floating through space,” Bill replied, “Sun is drawn across the sky by a god in his golden chariot.  Guy is a real workaholic.  Hasn’t missed a day yet.”

“Bull.  Alien experiment, we’re inside a giant biodome while they take notes on mating habits.  Bet there’s a hell of an uproar now since we showed up and threw off the results.  Probably going to have to shut down, we’ll see a big sign in the sky telling us to board the escape pods in an orderly fashion,” Larry responded.

 

“Too complicated, I like the turtle thing,” Bill said, smiling up at the stars.

 

“Yeah, anyway I’m done, here,” Larry said, sliding over Bill’s purse.

 

Bill had been wondering what he was up to, but Larry just kept telling him to mind his own business.  He thought it was his own business, it being his purse and all, but decided to let it slide.  Looking down at its new decoration he was glad he had.  Holding it up to the firelight he grinned as he read out the words.

 

“Bad Mother Fucker.”

 

“Can’t believe you memorized that shit, Dickius,” Larry said, sharing a laugh with Bill.

 

 

Poor Lieutenant Cornelius hung between the two orcs as they dragged him unresisting towards the largest tent.  All around him he saw his men driven to mindless lust as they sated themselves on their conquerors.  He mourned their loss of freedom, and likely their souls as well.

 

He wondered at what might have roused their frenzied lust, not sharing their enthusiasm but perhaps he was simply too numb to feel anything.  His shock went bone deep.  He couldn’t understand how this had happened.  It was as though a great conspiracy had led him to this doom.

 

The malfunctioning Huntstone, the dud explosive.  His completely out of character lack of vigilance.  Thinking back it seemed like a dream to him, he had never let his guard down.  Not in all of his adult life. It had been pounded into him throughout his career, a single moments lapse in judgement could mean the loss of everyone under your command.

 

On top of those things it was the poor mad man being used as a decoy which offended him greatly.  The demons had never attempted such despicable underhanded tactics before.  He only hoped that they did not abuse the man as they did his men, clearly he had the mind of a child and would not understand.  He was gladdened to see no sign of the poor creature as he was  hauled through the den of debauchery.

 

The two orcs carried him into the darkness within the tent.  The coals in the central firepit gave off a faint red glow and did not allow him to make out details within.  Chests overflowing with what could be treasure were placed about the room without a sense of order.  He was startled by a voice coming from deeper shadows on the other side of the fire.

 

“Leave us, enjoy the spoils of your victory my warriors,” her husky sensuous voice drawing an involuntary shiver from him.

 

The orcs lowered him to the ground, not ungently, saluting their chief and backing out of the tent.  The flap was pulled shut and the shadows closed in.

 

“My my, already on your knees my captain?  You disappoint me, surely there’s some fight left in you yet.”

 

Cornelius’s eyes were growing accustomed to the faint light, and he could now barely make out the woman sprawled on a throne of chests and furs.  If ever there were a barbarian queen in all her glory, this was she.  Clothed in strips of leather, her feet bare, and strong yet invitingly soft thighs spread carelessly as she watched him with smoldering eyes.

 

“Lieutenant.  Lieutenant Scipio Cornelius,” he said at last, breathing in the bewitchingly unplaceable fragrance he’d noticed when she had captured him.

 

“Mmm, no, Captain suits you better my Scipio.  It pleases me, so Captain you are,” she husked, her breasts rising as she took in his scent.

 

A promotion at last, he thought, a slight chuckle escaping him.  He thought to stand, face his captor with the pride he thought he had, but the day’s events had robbed him of that.  Instead he sat, crossing his legs.  Without conscious thought he slipped his pipe out of his coat and began packing it.  When he reached for the match to light it he realized what he was doing, freezing.  Finally he raised the pipe towards the barbarian queen.

 

“If you don’t mind?  It settles my nerves,” he explained.

 

“Oh Scipio, please indulge yourself.  We’ll have plenty of time for that.. indulging ourselves.  I’m afraid no one will be interrupting us for quite some time,” she acquiesced, lust dripping from her voice.

 

With shaking hands he struck the match on his boot, bringing it towards the pipe in his mouth, and using flare of light and the pipe as a distraction to observe the demoness.  It had to be her, or perhaps her sister.  The smoke indeed settled his nerves, clearing his thoughts nicely.

 

“That was a neat trick, are you also a wizard, dear Scipio?” she asked.

 

“No,” he replied, shaking the container of firesticks at her as though it explained anything, and unwilling to discuss wizards for the moment.

 

“Are you her?  The attack on the quarry, I mean.  I’d not believe anyone could recover from such wounds.”

 

Her rich seductive laughter rumbled out as she stretched her body on her bandit’s horde.  She knew what she was doing, and Scipio enjoyed it despite himself.  Finishing, and returning to her decadent reclining she answered him.

 

“Oh yes, I had you all quite fooled, I see.  No mere fire and metal could damage me, I assure you.  It worked perfectly, you believed we were routed and lowered your guard.  Just. As. Planned.”

 

Scipio was skeptical, he knew orcs could be killed with metal.  From first hand experience.  Still, he could not dispute the creature was hale and hearty sitting before him.  Exceedingly hearty in fact.

 

“You know my name, might I know who has captured me so easily?”

 

“Oh Scipio, you surprise me.  Such willpower to resist me so.  Very well, I will reward you for your bravery,” she replied, humor lacing her pronouncement.

 

At last she stood, moving closer to the embers of the fire and lighting her features clearly.  Scipio allowed his gaze to wander over the voluptuous form.  At least his servitude would not be made unpleasant in that regard.  Quite the opposite, the demoness had been blessed like most of her kind with soft curves and perfect skin.  Finally he lifted his eyes to meet hers.  She leered down at him with possessive lust.

 

“You have the honor of being the first among many to kneel before Suidaena, Queen of the Orcs!  Now come, let us.. indulge.”

 

Scipio puffed on his pipe for a moment, considering her words.  Finally he pulled it from his lips and pointed it at her.

 

“First?  Are you a virgin then?” he asked mildly, his surprise robbing him of tact.

 

Suidaena blinked down at him for a moment, her eyes widening.  She abruptly squatted before him, knees together with hands in her lap as she looked into his eyes.

 

“First him and now you, what in the hells is happening to me?” she said, her voice losing its husky timber.

 

Scipio was taken aback at her sudden change.  She seemed much less intimidating now as she placed a hand on her cheek and tilted her head to look him over.  Aside from the ears she might as well have been a beautiful young woman he’d have been happy to wile away the time with.

 

“You’re not affected at all, are you?  Here I am, the pageantry, the mood lighting.  You should be a quivering mess by now.  You should have attacked me, damn you.  Can’t you smell this?  Hells, my girls are probably killing themselves out there and here you are having a relaxing smoke,” she said, mostly talking to herself.

 

“Sorry to disappoint you, you are very beautiful, but I’ve been having a difficult day,” Scipio replied, unsure what she was on about.  He took another draw of his pipe, careful not to breathe smoke into her face.  Many things could be said about Captain Scipio Cornelius, but rudeness was not among them.

 

“Why thank you Scipio, you’re such a gentleman,” she responded, happy to hear him compliment her with a clear mind.

 

“It’s the pipe, isn’t it,” she said, her eyes lighting up with delight, pleased she’d figured him out.  “I knew it couldn’t be me, I’m a damned knockout.”

 

Scipio couldn’t help but agree, and nodded at her.  He wasn’t sure what she meant about the pipe, though, and hoped she wouldn’t take it from him.  He grew irritable without it.

 

“I’m almost relieved.  My girls out there, they’re having the time of their lives.. but it doesn’t seem very romantic.  Not like my mommy and daddy.  And that took years to happen.  Before he got used to it, you know.”

 

“No, I don’t.  This is all completely new to me, I assure you.”

 

“Okay, Scipio.  Stand up, we should talk,” she ordered, hopping to her feet.

 

He surprised them both by holding out his hand for her to help him up, and she smiled as she brought him to his feet with effortless strength.  She was slightly taller than him, and he took a moment to appreciate her assets from his new perspective.

 

“Mm, like what you see?” she asked, a little huskiness falling back into her voice.

 

“Of course, as you’re perfectly aware.  I’d only prefer to be at a safer distance.”

 

“Oh Scipio, you’re the safest you’ve ever been, you’ll see.”

 

She smiled at him waving him over to her makeshift throne and motioning him to take a seat beside her.  Scipio did so, finding he was enjoying himself despite this being just the event that he’d been dreading for most of his life.  She settled in next to him, leaning back with their thighs touching as they observed each other.

 

“Let me see the stuff you put in that pipe, would you?”

 

“Certainly.  There’s not much left, I’m afraid.” he replied, digging the small pouch out of his inner coat pocket and handing it to her dutifully.

 

Sarah smiled at him, pleased how this was going.  The man was polite, and wasn’t shaking in terror of her.  This was going very differently than what she’d once dreamed of, and before her conversation with Rekka she would have been inconsolable.  Now, she saw this as the golden opportunity to capture some of the bliss Rekka had attained for herself.

 

She brought the small pouch to her nose and breathed in, not delicately at all.  Scipio found it oddly charming.  Suidaena was far more complex and intelligent than he would have given any of the monsters credit for.

 

“That’s not bad, I can live with this,” she said, giving the pouch back to Scipio, her eyes lighting up as she exclaimed, “Oh! Now I remember where I smelled that before, one second.”

 

Scipio watched keenly as she bounced to her feet, the bouncing not ending very quickly.  He leaned forward for a better view as she bent over a chest to root around in the looted goods behind it.  The long, slim and curved tail that sprouted from just above her perfectly curvaceous and ample rear was further evidence that he wasn’t having a secluded conversation with a human woman, but he was starting to care less and less.  Her happy squeal of discovery caused a smile to spread across his face.

 

“Here we are, I think this is the same stuff,” she said, giving him a wink as she looked over at him, still bent over the chest.

 

Standing she swayed back over to him, dropping the hefty pouch into his hands, then flopping back down next to him.  Only this time she stretched one leg across Scipio’s lap, curious how he’d react.  Scipio simply patted her knee while turning the package over to see the writing on one side.  He surprised her by choking and coughing for a moment, removing his pipe from his mouth and gasping for air.

 

“God’s grace, hallelujah.  The same?  What I’ve been smoking might as well be ashes and dirt compared to this wondrous bounty, my lovely.  The elves grow this, I’d have to save my wages for years just to look at this through a window,” he explained, immediately taking to the idea of a life of banditry.

 

Sarah’s heart fluttered when he called her his lovely, and she suppressed the urge to squeal and throw her arms around him, smiling happily instead.

 

Scipio realized he was being rude ignoring his host and looked over at her, returning her smile.

 

“I hate to impose, but would you mind if I partake?  I never imagined I’d have the chance,” he requested, barely managing to contain his desire to rip the package open.

 

“Of course my dear Scipio, what’s mine is yours now,” she replied, baiting the hook.

 

Scipio was happy to be manipulated if she continued to ply him with such luxuries.  He fiddled with the packaging, wondering how he would open it without a knife.  The leather pouch was tied with a golden threaded string and a wax seal that would have to be cut away to extract its bounty.

 

Scipio nearly tapped his pipe out against his boot, catching himself before he could make such a faux pas.  Clearing his throat he looked a question at Sarah.

 

“Oh, anything.  That should do,” she replied, pointing at a golden gem-encrusted goblet lying on its side to his right.  He picked it up, admiring the king’s ransom he held in his hand, but judged it was probably worth far less than the leather package lying next to him.  He tapped out the dottle that remained in his pipe before turning back to the package.  If he’d been in less regal company he would simply tear at it with his teeth.

 

“Use this, it ought to do the job,” Sarah said, passing over a bejeweled dagger in its sheath she’d scrounged from the pile of booty to her left.

 

He gingerly accepted, unsure if she was testing him or simply trusted him for reasons he couldn’t understand.  Perhaps she simply didn’t see him as a threat, and truth be told he didn’t consider himself one.

 

“Thank you Suidaena, you are an excellent host,” Scipio said, slowly unsheathing it and deftly cutting through the string and wax.  Immediately he returned the sheathed dagger to her, hilt first.

 

“Keep it, you may need it, and we’re unlikely to find it again once it goes back into the pile,” she replied, gently pushing it back into his hands.

 

“If you’re sure, I’ll keep it secure for you then,” he said, sliding it into his belt, not quite believing her disregard for proper procedures for the handling of prisoners.  His officer reflexes nearly kicked in, ready to reprimand her, catching himself when he realized it was not his place.  Rude, as well.  At last he turned his attention to the open package, the scent causing his nostrils to flare with delight.

 

With shaking hands he pulled a pinch of the ambrosia free and tamped it carefully into the pipe.  Satisfied, he extracted another firestick and struck it across his boot with a practiced flourish.  Carefully he puffed it alight, the taste divine as he drew the smoke into his mouth.  Shaking and dropping the extinguished stick into the goblet he leaned back, letting the smoke flow freely from his mouth, completely relaxed.

 

He knew now that it would be completely worth saving his wages for years, living in abject poverty to attain just a moment of this bliss.  He was giddy with the thought that it would not be necessary for him to worry about such things now, unaware that he’d been idly rubbing his free hand on his captor’s knee and sending shivers up her spine.

 

“Let me see those fire things, Scipio darling,” Sarah requested, deftly sliding her other leg into his lap.

 

“For you, my lovely, anything,” Scipio declared, clamping the stem between his teeth and offering the container to her blindly.  Both hands now free and rubbing at her calves as he felt a deep contentment.

 

“Mm, enjoying yourself I hope,” she said, rubbing her legs across his lap for a moment before turning her attention to the little container of sticks.

 

“More than I believed entirely possible, I assure you,” he replied, puffing away contentedly as his hands moved on their own, caressing and massaging her without much conscious thought.

 

She pulled a stick free to examine it, securing the container within her cleavage so it wouldn’t be lost among the riches she’d artfully decorated throughout her boudoir.  Sniffing at the stick brought a memory of the thing that had nearly taken her life, a comparison she did not like.  It was no wonder the things created fire if they were made from the same material.

 

Losing interest in the sticks she tucked it back into its container, leaving it within her cleavage in the hopes Scipio would request it back soon.

 

“What are you thinking, Scipio my darling?” she asked.

 

He puffed thoughtfully at his pipe for a moment, his eyes still closed and not stopping from his pleasing caresses.  Regretfully he removed the pipe from his mouth.

 

“My men, will they return to their senses, or will they remain.. as they are?” He asked, opening his eyes and looking at her.

 

“Well, eventually they’ll calm down a bit.  They haven’t really lost their minds.  My daddy is pretty normal unless mommy pushes the issue.  Took a while though.  For now as long as I am near they’ll always be a bit.. distracted.  Don’t worry, my girls will care for them much the same as I will for you,” she replied, smiling at him.

 

“I’m relieved to hear it, but I believe we have differing opinions on what care entails,” he said, remembering the scene of his men fornicating with mad intensity.

 

“They’ll calm down soon, I’m sure.  My girls are just excited.  It’s their first time,” she explained, “It’s our first real victory together.”

 

“Really?  You look quite successful, truly,” he replied, waving to indicate the riches that surrounded them.

“Oh, no, we stole this from my mommy when we were of age to strike out on our own.  It’s a right of passage kind of thing,” Sarah explained, smiling at the memory.

 

Her mother had pretended to be furious as Sarah and her girls had rushed off into the night, hauling along the suspiciously well packed chests stacked thoughtfully in one corner of her command tent, completely unguarded.

 

Gathering her favored elite warriors, coincidentally the mothers of Sarah’s companions, she had pursued them for half the night only to be forced to give up when the rope was cut from the only ferry for miles around.

 

Her mommy had looked so proud as she waved at her from the other side of the river, the mothers of her girls breaking into tears as they wished their daughters good luck and farewell.  As if they hadn’t done so hours ago during the celebrations.

 

“Indeed?  She must have been overly successful herself, then.  A lot to live up to I imagine,” Scipio replied, taking in all the gold, jewels around him.  He was beginning to think it wasn’t carelessly thrown about.  He would not be surprised at all to learn the darling hellion had artfully stacked it all by hand to display it just so.

 

A stuffed doll of some sort of animal caught his attention, and he smiled at the thought of this warrior woman owning such a thing.

 

“Very.  Circe, the Scourge of the West casts a very long shadow,” Sarah said with a sigh. “Luckily I’m beginning to learn strikes from the shadows have benefits all their own.” She said, flashing a small fierce grin.

 

Scipio nearly dropped his pipe at the mention of the infamous orc general.  Not many of the demons were known by name, and hers was very near the top of the list.  Those at the quarry town would likely never know how close they’d come to doom.

 

Had Suidaena perished and news reached her mother these lands would be as wartorn as the worst areas of the western front, if not more so.

 

“You weren’t exaggerating being a queen amongst orcs then, I see,” he said.

 

“Mmph, more than you’d think.  Call me Sarah, please.  Suidaena is just more theatrics, honestly,” Sarah admitted.

 

“A pleasure to meet you, Sarah,” Scipio said, bowing slightly from his seated position, hand on his chest for a moment.  He found her name pleasing, foreign to the names of his own people though it was.  Leaning back again he considered this complex and layered young woman he’d have mistaken for a brute filled with lust and little else before speaking with her.

 

It almost made him believe she would let him go if he asked.  He wasn’t that foolish, though.  He was likely stuck with her until she tired of him, and the thought was becoming less and less unbearable as the unusual encounter carried on.

 

“Just to be sure, what would have happened had I made a break for freedom the moment we were alone?” Scipio asked, puffing away contentedly at his pipe while his hand seemed to wander further up her leg without guidance on his part.

 

“Well then, we wouldn’t be having a pleasant conversation by the fire, my sweet Scipio,” she said, touching his shoulder for a moment. “Suidaena, Queen of the Orcs, would have had her girls run you down, strip you naked, and hold you on your back in the middle of the camp for me to show you why you shouldn’t run.”

 

“Double damn.  Missed opportunities, I suppose,” Scipio smiling to himself before blowing a smoke ring towards the ceiling.  “Still, I’m pleased to be meeting the real you, honestly I’m entirely surprised that you’re so.. well, not the monster I’d come to expect, if you’ll excuse my frankness.”

 

“Oh, I can be monstrous when I choose, I tend to save that for fighting, or.. mating.  At least, I was supposed to.  You’re the one not acting like you should, you know.  If you didn’t have that bad habit we’d be on the floor getting to know each other without words.”

 

“Are you disappointed, my lovely?” Scipio asked, a little concerned.  Perhaps he should put away the pipe and not betray her expectations, there was little point trying to escape his fate. He was  beginning to realize why he heard reports of men defending their captors during attempts to free them.  He half-heartedly attempted to pull the pipe from his mouth, but his hand rebelled, holding the pipe steady at his mouth.

 

“Not very long ago I would have been devastated.  I thought I knew everything.  Now? No, the opposite.  Not after meeting my new friends,” Sarah said, smiling warmly at him and placing her hand on his, which was now mid thigh and sending sweet shivers up her spine.

 

“Everything I thought I knew changed when I spoke with Rekka, a sweet little hellhound,” Sarah began, a knowing smile forming as Scipio stiffened.  He was anxiously searching the shadows for flaming eyes.

 

“Don’t worry, she has a husband.  And that’s just it.. you’re like him, almost.  She didn’t even have to force him, he seemed to be happy to capture himself.  She said he liked her from the moment they met, and I can hardly doubt her word from the way they get on.  They treat each other like.. like this, really.  They talk and laugh and.. and love each other.”

 

Hellhounds were rightly feared by any who encountered them, fighting one resulted in casualties without fail.  Their speed, strength, and above all their ferocity when fighting for their own lives was impressive, but when defending their young a hellhounds rage was legendary.  When one was found to have established itself sending average soldiers after it was nearly useless, requiring the Order’s assistance.  Even then he’d read reports of Order units being lost to a man.

 

Scipio had only encountered a hellhound briefly while on patrol during his tour of the front.  The squad had considered themselves lucky to receive only bruises and broken bones as she tossed them away like children.  Ignoring the groaning soldiers scattered about she sauntered toward the tallest man in the squad, a green recruit who’d been boasting of his courage and strength only moments before, now flat on his ass staring in horror.  Throwing him over her shoulder she had laughed mockingly while jogging unhurriedly away, her prize wailing his misfortune.  None of the survivors would admit it but they shared a silent prayer of thanks for not being chosen.  No attempt was made to mount a rescue.

 

“He must be the bravest man, or if you’ll excuse me, maddest fool that ever lived,” Scipio replied, trying and failing to envision a pleasant conversation with one.

 

“A bit of both, really.  Mostly the fool, and somehow that’s his best quality.  You’ll understand when you get to know him better,” Sarah said, thoughts of Bill bringing an amused smile to her face.

“I was so completely jealous.  Mamono almost never find that kind of love.  We’ve been fighting so long.  I never even considered it would be possible to catch a man that didn’t hate us, fear us, or both.”

 

“I understand,” Scipio replied, feeling both the weight of the dagger and his years of soldiering under his belt.

 

“Pardon my ignorance, you mentioned mamono.  Is that your tribe’s name?” Scipio then asked.

 

“Oh, yeah, sorry.  Mamono are, well, all of us.  The people your people are fighting.  We don’t call each other monsters and demons unless we’re really mad, you know?”

 

“Mamono, how interesting.  Thank you for informing me, Sarah,” Scipio replied, mentally reordering his vocabulary so as not to say anything that might offend his host.

 

“Do you hate us, fear us, my Scipio?” Sarah asked, her voice poised and serene.

 

The soldier in Scipio found it admirable how she was capable of projecting such a confident front.  In other circumstances he knew she would be a leader he would be proud to follow into battle.  Many of his fellow officers lacked such qualities, and he as well when he went too long without his pipe.

 

“Well,” Scipio began, taking the pipe from his mouth and staring thoughtfully at the ceiling, “I truly don’t know.  I’m a soldier.  I feared for my life at times, which I’ve found can keep you alive if you control it.  Hate?  Not particularly, it’s nearly useless when fighting, more of a detriment.”

 

He paused to consider, looking at his hands covered in sword calluses and old scars.

 

“Honestly, I didn’t feel much.  Can I tell you I haven’t had a conversation anywhere near as enjoyable as this in.. well, years?  Longer?  Now that the worst has happened, no offense meant I assure you, I feel as if I’ve woken from a dream.”  Or a nightmare, he thought.

 

With this he grew more thoughtful, his brow furrowed.  What had he been doing for the last decade and more?  His duty, his all encompassing duty.  He’d barely been a human being, his world shrunk to nothing more than giving and following orders.  Fighting, killing, surviving.  He’d been marching smoothly through life towards its inevitable conclusion.  He tried to envision a future filled with more of that and his stomach curdled.

 

The war, the end of humanity, he found himself uncaring.  They were such hugely abstract problems, nearly meaningless.  Maybe both sides deserved to fade away, if the only other solution involved endless wars resulting in countless forgotten and dying soldiers.

 

“No, I don’t hate you,” he said, looking her in the eye.

 

With a squeal of delight Sarah slid to her knees before him, hugging him almost too tightly as she pressed her face into his chest.  “Oh Scipio, my dear sweet Captain!  I’m so happy you feel that way!”

 

She surprised him then by pushing forward to press her lips to his. Scipio dropped his pipe into his goblet in order to focus completely on the kiss.   It started off sweet, gentle, getting to know the taste of each other’s lips.  Just as their passion began to heat, Scipio running his hands through her hair as Sarah pushed hers between his open coat, she pulled back.

 

“What, I’m sorry?  Did I offend?” Scipio said, passion thickening his words.

 

“No!  I just.. I’m not sure where to go from here.  You.. You were supposed to, you know, just sort of attack me.  It should have sorted itself out.  I don’t know what to do next,” she said, looking down.

 

Scipio didn’t laugh, that would be rude, but he did smile as he brought a rough callused hand to her cheek.

 

“I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t simply attack you, I may be a soldier but that word doesn’t fit the mood, do you agree?” he asked, caressing the side of her face.

 

“No, I guess not.  Could you.. could you show me what comes next?” she asked, smiling shyly.

 

“My lovely, it would be an honor,” Scipio replied.

 

Looking around he spotted a pile of blankets, furs, and a huge assortment of pillows and cushions.  Drawing them both to their feet he led her over to the cozy looking nest.

 

Abruptly Sarah pulled away, rushing back to her throne to pick up the package of pipeweed.  She pulled a large handful from it and walked over to the firepit, sprinkling the pungent herbs over the coals.  Immediately the room filled with the sweet and cloying aroma, overpowering her own.

 

“There, that should keep you as you are, I want this to be.. real,” she said, turning to smile at him.  She then realized her mistake as Scipio seemed to be whimpering and holding a hand longingly at the fire.

 

“Oh! Don’t worry, I know how much you like this stuff, there’s a whole crate back there, enough for a good long while before we have to raid more!” she teased.

 

“Marry me,” Scipio sighed, feeling as if he had found some kind of paradise filled with luxuries, a beautiful woman, and perhaps a little light pillaging.  He thought he might enjoy early retirement.

 

“Oh, Scipio, my darling, what do you think we’re doing?” Sarah replied, her heart melting.

 

Scipio supposed that might be true, and not sure how to feel about it.  He knew from reports that the ‘mamono’ once having chosen a man would not cast him aside for another, and die to defend him.  What he’d previously considered as no more than a mating ritual seemed to  have far more significance to Sarah.  Though it was not his choice he felt grateful it had been Sarah and not one of the others outside.

 

“I see.. Not one to stand on ceremony?  Or is this common for your people?” Scipio asked, taking her hands as she returned to him.

 

“This is how it’s done, of course.  I’ve caught you, now we’ll be together forever.  Why, do your people do it differently?” Sarah asked.

 

“Very.  Priests are involved, generally.  Family and friends if you have any.  Papers are signed, that sort of thing.  Very official, taxes are taken into consideration,” Scipio replied, realizing it sounded fairly dull and loveless.

 

“Oh.  Well, we have none of that.  We have each other, and that’s all that matters,” Sarah stated, finding the thought of priests and tax men watching them make love amusing.  Maybe you were taxed less if the more you impressed them.  “We don’t pay taxes, but I could call a few of my girls and your men in to watch if it’s important to you.”

 

“No, no, I’m fine with a more traditional wedding, certainly,” Scipio said quickly, not wanting an audience.

 

“If you’re sure,” Sarah said without guile, “So.. should I push you onto the furs or are you supposed to?”

 

“Um, no, I don’t think that will be necessary.  I believe it would be more appropriate to remove our clothing first,” Scipio answered.

 

Sarah beamed a smile, relieved to be under such thoughtful tutelage.  As she excitedly began tugging at the myriad buckles and straps which made the majority of her leather outfit Scipio brought his hand over hers.  She looked at him, puzzled.

 

“If you’ll allow me, I think you will find it satisfying if I were the one to undress you, my lovely,” Scipio said softly.  Sarah shivered at his words, warming to the idea immediately.  Nodding her approval, she let her hands fall to her sides.

 

Scipio’s eyes roved over her body, seeking the most advantageous position for his opening strike.  His eyes settled on a buckle that appeared to be holding the line between her fortified breasts and invitingly exposed midriff.  Wasting no time, he slipped through her defenses as he skillfully defeated the unwitting clasp.  The battle was over before it began, the other buckles succumbing to his onslaught with little resistance.

 

Sarah shivered, biting her lip as Scipio’s hands roamed her body removing her armor, caressing her softly as he exposed what little the leather left to imagination.  Her legs began to shake as he slipped loose the last strap attached to the slim leather guard holding her breasts in place.  Gently he slipped it free, letting it fall into the growing pile of straps and buckles he had stripped from her.

 

Her breath hitched as he cupped her breasts, squeezing her gently as he hefted them and fondled.  Scipio was amazed and delighted with their form, perfectly rounded topped with delicate nipples.  They were light pink, contrasting strongly with her caramel brown skin, his mouth watered with desire.  He had never experienced such softness, his fingers sank into her with decadent ease, the flesh springing back into shape immediately upon release.  The armor, inadequate though it appeared, had been heroically concealing what could only be described as mountainous.  With great willpower he restrained himself from climbing these glorious slopes, and with a last lingering caress he turned his attention to what remained to be discovered.

 

Sarah immediately took over in his place, kneading and squeezing her breasts with barely suppressed need.  She watched him kneel before her, eyes wide with desire, breathing heavily with anticipation.  After simply loosening her armor here and removing her shin guards he surprised her by standing back up.

 

“Why?” Sarah whined slightly, he had just been getting to the good part.

 

“Let me lay you down, my lovely, I’ve only yet begun,” he replied, caressing her cheek before taking her by the hand.  He lay her down gently, somewhat surprised to find her weight belied her form, likely connected to her incredible strength.  A lifetime of physical training and combat allowed him to lower her to the furs without issue, for which he was thankful for.  If nothing else this moment made his unhappy life as a soldier worthwhile.

 

Sarah peeked between the valley of her breasts, their shape barely losing form from her now horizontal position, pulling to the sides slightly which Scipio found arousingly wanton.  She watched Scipio kneel beside her, her body twitching and shivering with need.  He took a moment to tease her, his fingers sliding just above the scant piece of cloth guarding her chastity.  Taking pity on her shuddering whimpers he began sliding it free, revealing her maidenhood.  Raising her legs he slipped in from her, turning his attention to her exposed sex.

 

She was completely bare, something Scipio could not have envisioned, never having experienced such a thing.  This new revelation was obscene, sinful, thrilling him with arousal for reasons he could not put into words.  Her glistening sex was as plumply seductive as the rest of her, soft and achingly inviting.  He spent a moment slipping his fingers tantalizing close, teasing a frustrated whimper from her.  Seeing she was nearing her limit, likely ready to grab him and force the issue, Scipio stood.

 

“No!” Sarah gasped, her lust glazed eyes now filling with reproach for a moment only to relax as Scipio began to undress.   Her breathes came in heavy gasps now, a hand clutching at her breast as the other began rubbing wantonly at her sex.  Watching Scipio remove his coat was the single most erotic sight of her life, driving her lust to new heights.  When he removed his shirt, revealing his lean and muscled torso she sagged into the furs, the sight almost too much for her inexperienced eyes.

 

“Oh, my Scipio, so beautiful, I never.. You’re perfect, my captain..” she gushed, hardly believing she’d caught such a perfect example of the soft and gentle men her kind so loved, her protective instincts raging to life.  His body was a delicious patchwork of past scars and trained muscle.  She could not have imagined a more exciting sight, his scars seemed designed to enhance his beauty.  It was as though someone had poured through her wildest fantasies of this moment, enhanced her inadequate imagination, and brought him to life.  His chest had a light pattern of hair, further down her eyes eagerly followed a short trail between his abs disappearing into his leggings.

 

Scipio felt a smile upon his lips as he listened to her compliments.  He’d never been called anything akin to beautiful before, and found it touching.  In fact he had always considered himself unattractive; his broken nose, hard angles and sharp features looked as though his face was carved inelegantly from stone.  A face appropriate for the battlefield, but not the bedroom.  Despite himself he found his heart lifted by her words.

 

Sarah watched in anticipation as he kicked off his boots, her hands covering her mouth as he began to remove his breeches.  She went stock still as his member sprang into sight, fully erect.  It was the single most desirable sight of her life, a feeling of need rising up from deep within her.  Her hands moved about with nervous energy, clutching at the furs as she snorted gruffly in the way her kind was known to do in times of excitement and stress.

 

“You too are beautiful, my lovely,” Scipio finally responded, breaking the spell Sarah had been under.  “No woman I’ve known can compare, your body is a thing of wonder.”

 

Sarah’s face broke out in a wide grin, his words like an arrow to her heart. “My darling!  Please, hurry!  The next step, I need you!” She cried, writhing with passion on her furs.

 

“A moment, my sweet Sarah, don’t worry.  I’m afraid a woman’s first time can be painful, and I’d like to do what I can to ease it,” Scipio said, kneeling down beside her and hoping she would allow him to continue.  He and his first sweetheart had been virgins, and the memory of their night together was not a pleasant one.  He would do everything he could to make Sarah’s first time pleasantly memorable.

 

“Lie still, my lovely.  You will enjoy this, and it will make what follows more pleasurable,” Scipio whispered.  He kissed her neck then, enjoying her gasp.  He began a slow tortuous path downward, pausing at her breasts to suck lightly at a nipple.  She squirmed and called out his name, shuddering with delight.  He moved lower, trailing kisses as he went, finally reaching her belly.  Sliding between her legs, he parted them, which she assisted with approving quickness.

 

While she quivered with anticipation Scipio leaned in, his hands gently pulling her puffy lips apart, exposing her glistening pink inner folds.  Rubbing his fingers gently over her, he found the smooth hairless skin a delight.  The times he’d done this before he had certainly found pleasant, but this new experience would surely ruin him for anything else.

 

Wasting no more time he bent to his happy task, sliding his tongue between her lips as his thumb lightly circled her clitoris.  Immediately Sarah’s hands flew to his head, this wondrous act unheard of among her peers.  She’d only prepared herself for manic penetration by her lust addled lovers, not this generous act he bestowed upon her.

 

“Scipio!  Hells!  I never knew.. Oh hells, I love you!  Wait until I tell the others.. Don’t stop! Oh hells!” her shouts devolving into squeals of pleasure.  Of course she was well aware that she could perform a similar act upon him, but this was only done to excite a man who had been pushed beyond his capabilities, or simply relieve the overly excited before the real act began.  Receiving such attention had never occurred to her.  It took every bit of her self restraint to keep herself from harming him with her superior strength as he gave her such rapture.

 

He was delighted to surprise her with this, surprised himself these overtly sexual creatures knew nothing of the pleasures an eager tongue could dispense.  He hoped his men had been thoughtful enough to learn this act, for he expected it would be in high demand after tonight.  Switching his tongue to her stiff aching button, he continued his oral assault while gently pushing his fingers into her folds, her gasps and squeals directing him towards her most sensitive spots.

 

“That’s it! Oh hells, never stop!  I love you, my darling, you beautiful man!  So close!”

 

Scipio sped his motions, careful not to change the rhythm and disturb her rising pleasure as he rode her flexing hips.  She was dripping with her excitement now, close to release as he skillfully licked, fingers stroking her relentlessly.  He was soon rewarded for his effort.

 

“Hells! Oh hells!  Please don’t stop! Scipio!” she shouted, tensing.  “Fuck! I’m coming! Oh hells, I’m coming!”

 

As she began to shake with her climax Scipio made his move, sliding smoothly forward, his hard earned experience allowing him to enter her with ease, hilting himself.  He felt her maidenhead give way before him, Sarah did not even wince, too caught up in the pleasure to focus on the pain.  He ground into her with steady pressure, easing her through her climax and careful not to ruin it as she grew accustomed to his presence inside her.

 

“Ah, so good, soooo good, you’re amazing.  My Scipio, my darling,” Sarah murmured into his ear, coming down from her climax, her legs locked around him as she clung to him with her arms.

 

Scipio was finding it difficult to contain his own release, her soft slick walls contracting on him with incredible pressure.  He manfully endured, though he had never felt anything so fine, having no plans to disappoint her with a less than spectacular ending to their love making.  As she calmed he made slow exploratory thrusts, judging if she was ready to continue.

 

“Are you in pain, my sweet?  We can stop until you are ready to continue,” he said, hoping she was more than ready, but more concerned for her enjoyment.  Her answer was immediate as her eyes flew open, panicked that he might pull away from her.

 

“No!  I’m fine, I barely felt any pain and you feel soooo good, darling.  Please!  Keep going! Oh, hells, I need this!” she cried, her hips thrusting back at him now, lifting him with ease.

 

Scipio kissed her then, his passion overwhelmed.  Their tongues battled one another, her plump lips soft beyond compare, her taste pleasing to his senses.  She groaned into his mouth, hands sliding over his back with desperate need.  He brought a hand to her breast, sinking his fingers into the pliant flesh, amazed by the softness he had never experienced in another woman.  The hard nipple digging into his palm ordered him to pinch and pull, her folds clenching him with nearly painful pleasure in response.  Gasping for air they broke the kiss, staring madly into each other’s eyes.

 

“My lovely Sarah, you are divine, a treasure,” Scipio mumbled, his thoughts scattered as he continued to thrust relentlessly into her.

 

“Yessss.. So good, so much more.. never expected, so good,” she hissed, unable to express her joy and pleasure coherently.

 

“God above, I can’t last.  Your body.. like nothing I’ve ever felt!  Forgive me, you’re so tight, I’ll  go mad!” Scipio cried, his thrusts no longer under his own control, her hips meeting his with jarring violence.

 

“Oh hells, yes husband! Please! Give it to me!  Fill me, please, oh hells, I love you!” she cried, clutching to him, wrapping her legs around him to keep him from pulling away as he ground into her with his final thrust.  Roaring they crashed through a mutual climax, his eruption triggering her own as she at last received her heart’s desire.  They shuddered in each other’s arms as they wound down from their climax.

 

“My lovely, lovely Sarah.  Incredible, you’ve ruined me.  I can’t imagine anything finer,” he mumbled, his head on her breast as his breathing began to slow.

 

“Thank you, my husband.  I’ll treasure.. forever!  So much better than I expected, you’re so wonderful.  I’m so completely happy,” Sarah crooned, her eyes sparkling with tears of joy.  Scipio had brought her something special, far beyond any expected love she could attain with another man.  She just knew she was going to cry ugly thankful tears the next time she spoke with  Rekka.

 

They rested in each other’s arms for a few minutes, enjoying the afterglow and the feel of their bodies pressed together, Scipio’s not yet flaccid member held fast by her clutching folds.  He was taken by surprise when Sarah lifted herself, holding him tight as she swapped positions placing herself on top.  She did not release him, muscles clamping down on his sensitive member as she moved.  Her eyes were filled with passion, indicating she clearly wished to continue.

 

“Um, I’m afraid I’m not as resilient as I was in my youth, my lovely.  If you’ll allow me a little time to recover I will do my best to please you,” Scipio said.  He felt a little shame at his confession.  He was not an old man by any measure, but clearly the youthful woman wanted more than he could deliver.  If only he’d met her at his prime, they would have spent the night with the boundless energy of youth.

 

“Mmm, you say that,” Sarah replied, her eyes half closed with passion, “I bet he’s got a different opinion.”  With that she squeezed him rhythmically, proving him a liar as he rose to the occasion.

 

“Ah! I see, perhaps there is a little life yet left in me,” Scipio replied, raising his hands to caress her perfect breasts.

 

“Yess… You showed me how good it could be, and I’ll love you forever, Scipio, but let me show you a little of what you missed out on, darling.  I just know you’ll enjoy it, please try to endure,” she said, leering down at him as she held his hands to her breasts, beginning to rotate her hips.

 

“God give me strength,” Scipio gasped, for once feeling unprepared for battle.

 

 

Bill picked his way gingerly through the sprawled naked bodies, avoiding the churned mud and twitching limbs.  The sun had risen not long ago, revealing the previous night’s frenzied activities clearly.  The orcs had clearly porked themselves into exhaustion, dropping where they lay.  Everyone was splattered in mud and other fluids, turning the camp into a literal pigsty.

 

Finally he made his way to the tent, pausing to consider how one would knock so the two inside could scramble to pull on clothes and make themselves presentable.  Shrugging, he realized his reputation of complete disregard for the consideration of others feelings would come in handy in this situation.  Ducking he pushed through the entrance and prepared himself for a scene to develop.

 

“Oh, hey.  You’re up, good morning.  You two look like you got to know each other pretty good last night,” Bill greeted.

 

The two of them were seated on a makeshift throne of chests and furs, Sarah sitting in the man’s lap with her arm around his neck as he reclined smoking a pipe.  They were dressed, barely.  Sarah with only the bare minimum of buckles to cover her modesty.  The man’s coat lay open, his shirt unlaced revealing a hairy chest, his breeches without boots as they relaxed and chatted companionably.  The man looked up in surprise, recognizing the intruder.

 

“Master Dickius!  I’m glad to see you well, I hope.. I hope you have been treated well?” he asked, looking at Sarah now, mild reproach in his eyes.

 

“Yeah.. I’m good.  We’re old friends now.  How.. how you feeling there?”  Bill asked, looking at Sarah with a raised eyebrow.  He hoped the man hadn’t been brain damaged by Sarah’s eau de fuck.

 

“I am fine, my friend.  Are you hungry?  Do you need anything?” he asked, pity in his eyes and speaking slowly as if to a particularly stupid child.  “Sarah, please tell me you’re taking care of him, it worries me he might be taken advantage of..” Scipio said, looking back to her with pleading eyes.

 

“Hell is wrong with him?  Did you fuck him stupid, Sarah?  I needed him for what comes next,” Bill demanded, frustrated at her negligence.  He carefully cleared a crate and seated himself.  Observing the man, he wondered if he might have to drag him into the cold stream and waterboard him sober.

 

“Maybe a little, but he’s holding up well,” Sarah said, clearly enjoying their confusion.  “Scipio my husband, you’ve already met but his real name is Bill.  Bill, meet Scipio.”

 

“What, the Bill?  Foolishly brave enough to willingly marry the hellhound?” Scipio asked, aghast.

 

Bill rolled his eyes, wondering why everyone he met in this world looked at him with that expression of worried disbelief.

 

“Yeah, that’s me.  Nice to meet you again, Skippy.  Rekka’s the love of my life, think hard before you say anything I might take offense at,” Bill said, staring him down while popping his knuckles.

 

“No, of course not, I would not speak ill of another’s wife, I assure you,” Scipio replied, his reflexive politeness overriding his confusion.  “Back there, on the road.. You seemed to be of limited faculty, if you’ll excuse my impertinence.  I was questioning your state of mind, not casting aspersions upon your.. Rekka?”

 

“Yeah, I’ve seen how you people react to her.  Personally I can’t understand.  If you guys even tried to speak to them I bet you’d see things my way.  Rekka is the single most loving and accepting person I’ve ever met, and she’s the reason I’d even consider stopping this suicide pact your world is so in love with,” Bill explained, tired of people treating Rekka like a monster.  Still, he admitted to himself he was a little proud of the fear and respect others gave her.

 

“I can’t pretend to know your circumstances, but I can assure you your case is unheard of, absolutely unique.  I speak from personal experience, you understand.  I’m afraid we were not given much opportunity for conversation,” Scipio replied, paling at the memory.

 

“Hell, I guess I can understand.  What we have here is a failure to communicate.  They’re too busy hauling you off for a shotgun wedding, and your only answer is to try and kill them.  This is a fucked up situation, and I aim to do something about it.  Hell, it’d be easy to negotiate with a married mamono, from what I’ve seen they’re absolutely not interested in other men once they’ve made their choice.  Hell, they probably have the same feelings as you.  I’m probably going to have to knock the stupid out of both your people.”

 

Scipio considered the man’s words.  The thought of negotiating with the mamono was nearly alien to his mind.  He found this frightening.  If he, with his new understanding of what they were fighting found difficulty with the idea he was certain his countrymen would consider it blasphemy.

 

“I believe you.  I find it difficult to imagine, I have a lifetime of prejudice telling me it isn’t so, but I can’t deny what I’ve found with Sarah.  I’m afraid it would take an act of God for my people to consider peace talks,” Scipio explained, frustration filling him as he took Sarah’s hand.

 

“No worries, just like Sarah discovered I’m pretty good at cutting through bullshit.  I’ll drag your leaders kicking and screaming to the peace table if I have to.  You got a king or whatever?  You’ll find that doesn’t impress me.  Democracy all the way.  Well, maybe not for your people.  I’ll go full tyrannical dictator if that’s what it takes to end this,” Bill explained.

 

Scipio stared at Bill, a dawning horror that the man actually was mad, and dangerously so.

 

“I believe your reach might exceed your grasp, sir.  It would be unthinkable to approach the King.  You would be cut down by the palace guards within moments, and even if you did manage to capture him the full might of the royal army would come crashing down upon your head,” Scipio instructed, vainly attempting to reach the man.

 

“Exactly!” Bill said with enthusiasm, “It’s unthinkable!  That’s been working out great for me.  Everything is so absolutely set in stone for you that you can’t even consider anyone would dare go against it.  How do you think I planned your ambush?  I was certain you’d find it so fucking beyond your expectations you’d damn near capture yourself.”

 

Scipio felt that familiar numbness when he realized they had fallen for a completely moronic trap.  He should have seen it coming, the man was an obvious distraction.  Bill somehow understood him better than he had himself.  Bandits were nearly unheard of, they were too undisciplined to survive against mamono predation.  Even without this, men fighting men was so self defeating few would consider such a horrible betrayal.  A man alone in the wilderness apparently free and without a mamono warder was more so unheard of.  The ambush should not have worked had his own mind not been a willing accomplice.

 

“You’re a dangerous man, Bill.”

 

“Damn, Scipio.  I’m really not.  This wasn’t my first choice.  This world is so fucked up it forced a goddamn tourist to take action.  I just wanted to enjoy a little excitement, have an adventure.  I guess I got my wish.  I’ll admit I’m having a blast, all credit due to Rekka being by my side, but honestly I’d rather not be fighting the entire world,” Bill admitted.

 

Bill grew silent, considering the circumstances he’d found himself in.  Things really had started getting out of hand.  He had a vague idea of what he wanted this insanity to accomplish, but the how of it was becoming a pressing concern, growing murkier by the day.  He really needed a better strategy than making it up as he went along and bullshitting his way through any problems cropping up.  It was a crying shame it worked too well to give up any time soon.  His musings were interrupted by a sudden realization.

 

“What gives, Sarah?  You told me you couldn’t turn that shit off.  How come Scipio’s having a calm conversation puffing away at that pipe?  Shouldn’t he be drooling and humping your leg right now?” Bill demanded.

 

Sarah giggled girlishly, pulling Scipio into her embrace for a moment before holding him back as she looked him over lovingly.  “It’s his bad habit doing it.  Seems to counter me completely.  I really don’t know how it never came up before, but I suppose few men are captured smoking a pipe.”

 

Bill was immediately intrigued.  “Well shit, that could be just what we need.  You have any more of that tobacco lying around?  I don’t want Rekka getting started with that horrible shit, but maybe an incense burner or something would do the trick.”  It was frustrating to plan around part of the force stopping mid attack to roll around in the dirt.

 

“Well, maybe we can spare a little.  I don’t want Scipio running out, he likes it.  And I want him like this, not out of his mind with lust,” Sarah grudgingly admitted.

 

“Shit, no worries.  We can always get more.  Not like we’re going to pay for it,” Bill said.

 

Sarah and he were on the same page when it came to willful disregard for property rights.  Scipio found he was fast becoming a fan of such things as he puffed contentedly.

 

Bill decided it was time to get down to business.  He leaned forward with his hands on his knees giving Scipio a sharp eyed look.

 

“Ready to change sides, Scipio?  You want to make the world a better place?” Bill asked.

 

“I’m sorry, truly.  I’m happy to remain with Sarah, but it would be shameful to betray them to the very people we’ve spent our lives fighting.  I hope you can respect that,” Scipio replied.

 

“Who said you’re joining the other side?  I’m not on the mamono or humanity’s side.  I’m on my side.  If you want to end this stupid war and stop the senseless killing, you’ll join me.  I’m going to take that quarry with or without you.  You’ll be saving lives if you sign on, maybe even ours.  Without you I’ll be forced to kill a lot of people.  I don’t know what you believe, but I really don’t like that.  None of us do.  It just won’t stop me.  This is too important,” Bill asserted.

 

Scipio considered his words, torn.  To be a traitor in these times was beyond shameful.  He wasn’t sure his honor could bear it.  Still, if what Bill said was true and even possible, joining him would be the right thing to do.  His people would never understand, but perhaps that wasn’t important.  He would know he had done the right thing.  Sarah would know it, and that was suddenly very important to him.

 

“I can’t deny you could have simplified your distraction, killing me once you were sure I was in charge.  My men would likely surrender once you’d cut down a few of them.  You seem to value life, if not free will.  Very well, I’ll do what I can.  Know that I won’t kill anyone, my conscience could not bear it,” Scipio announced.

 

“No worries there, I get you.  Hell, I’d be a little disgusted if you didn’t feel that way.  Don’t worry, if it does go to shit and comes down to brawling we’ll let the women take care of it.  I think I just get in their way anyhow.”

 

Scipio did not doubt that last part.  While Bill was not a small man he did not carry himself like a soldier.  The sword he wore on his back was more suited for mounted combat and not adjusted properly to boot.  Had he not displayed such a clever, if twisted, way of thinking Scipio would have mistaken him for a common laborer.  Still, his trained eye spotted that Bill moved somewhat strangely.  His feet tread lightly, out of place on his frame.  The chainmail and sword might as well have weighed nothing, the man acted as though he’d forgotten he was even wearing them.

 

“Gotta say it’s good to have you, Scipio.  Should be a real pleasure to work with you.  Most of the people in charge have been real pricks.  Now let’s get down to brass tacks.  Here’s how we’re gonna do this..”

 

Bill launched into his master plan, knowing they’d be impressed.  The simplicity of it was genius, foolproof in his opinion.  If anything miraculously went wrong they’d just rely on quick reflexes while they beat everyone into submission.  Either way would be successful, he was sure they agreed, the first being preferable because it required far less effort.  Finishing, he waited for their praise.

 

“He’s joking, yes?  He’s going to tell us the real plan now, right?”  Scipio pleaded with Sarah.

 

“I don’t think so.  That’s just how he works.  Rekka says not to worry much about his plans, they’re always like this.  They just seem to work regardless,” Sarah said with a shrug.  “He’s told me about his people’s way of fighting.  They’ll do absolutely despicable things just to win, it’s kind of amazing.  He’s proud of being a devious honorless weasel.”

 

“Damn right, if it keeps me and mine alive I’ll pull every dirty trick in the book.  Then I’ll throw it at them when they’re not looking.  They can judge all they want, I’ll be too busy winning and living to let it bother me,” Bill replied.

 

“I see.. You’re a very practical man,” Scipio said, his tone conveying mild disgust.  “Still, it will never work.  We need to come up with something less foolhardy,” Scipio pleaded.

 

“Nah, it’s perfect.  I’ll prove it to you,” Bill said amiably, pointing his finger at Scipio.  “Put yourself in your commander’s boots.  We get this rolling, confuse the shit out of him, throw an emergency his way.  He won’t be sure what to do, all he knows is he’d better do it quick.  Now, in his place, what would you do?”

 

Scipio opened his mouth to shoot the plan down with logic and reason, shutting it when he realized that Bill operated under a warped mockery of both.  The familiar numb horror crept back into his mind as he realized the mad man was somehow disturbingly correct.  The epiphany did not comfort him in the slightest.

 

“I would follow my orders,” he whispered.

 

 

Private Caius stared blankly into the distance with bored disinterest.  If his sergeant decided to check on him and saw he was slouching between the merlons, chin in hand, he’d not hear the end of it.  Unlikely, the man was almost certainly asleep in the small gatehouse used for filling out reports.  Caius envied him, night watch was unbelievably boring.  The Watch Stones made the post  pointless.  A blind man would notice when they began to pulse their message of alarm.  His job could be done as easily sitting in a warm room drinking tea while watching out a window.

 

He looked around to his fellow miserable guards, three of them spaced evenly along the walls to his right.  Plinius appeared to be sleeping while standing at parade rest, a skill his comrades found admirable.  The two farther away were much the same as he, bored and waiting for the end of watch.

 

“Nothing interesting ever happens here,” Caius breathed, leaning against a merlon.

 

With those magic words the Watch Stones began to pulse slightly faster in unison.  Caius’s stomach sank as he began to scan the area before the walls.  The pulsing stones shed a clear white light farther than torches were capable, giving a clear view across the field to the cleared treeline hundreds of yards beyond the walls.  His view was only blocked by the hill the road curved gently around to the east.  The pulsing of the stones were quickening, making it harder to discern movement, a common complaint of the soldiers.

 

Looking grimly at his comrades along the gate, who were trading looks with him and each other, Caius wondered who would be the brave fool to sound the alarm.  Plinius remained dead to the world, appearing to stoically gaze into the distance and beginning to snore.  The pulses came quicker now, and Caius decided to be the canny soldier who woke the garrison in time for battle or the jumpy fool forced to endure a ration of shit for ruining their sleep.

 

“Wake Plinius before Sarge catches him, I’m raising the alarm!” he called to the other two, pulling out the horn slung at his side.  Placing it to his lips he blasted out three long mournful notes.  His fate was sealed, now.  Turning he watched the other soldier slap the back of Plinius’s head.  The man immediately woke, hard earned slacking reflexes letting him wake without panic.  Immediately he pointed over the wall.

 

“Incoming wagons,” he calmly called out before turning to look at the Watch Stones, now violently flashing the alarm.  “Demons must be hot on their heels.  Sergeant, do we open the gate?”  Plinius addressed the man running up the stairs, desperately rubbing sleep from his eyes.

 

“No, dammit all!  Captain’s decision!  You, keep that horn going.  If anyone’s sleeping through this I’ll throw them over the damn wall when I learn of it!”  the man roared, pointing at Caius.

 

Caius faithfully continued to call the alarm, watching as lanterns burst to life all throughout the compound.  He spotted the Captain rushing towards the wall, tucking in his shirt with his coat jacket unbuttoned as he shouted choleric orders at any who drew near.

 

“Knock that noise off, damn you!  The dead have surely awakened!  Sergeant, what’s the situation?” he ordered.  Caius bleated off mid note, choking slightly.

 

“Wagons returning, sir!  Demons pursuing and close,” the sergeant answered, pointing at the pulsing lights.  The gesture was unnecessary, you couldn’t ignore them with your eyes closed.

 

The captain looked over the wall just in time to see the wagon slide to a stop in front of the gate, the horses nearly pushed beyond their limits.  The beasts were covered in lather, breathing as though they’d run through the night, and likely had.  The captain’s eyes grew wide, the other vehicle was most certainly not a wagon.

 

“Good lord, is that the warden’s carriage?” he shouted at no one.

 

“Looks it, captain, sir,” the sergeant replied anyway.  “Damn!  Look what they have in the wagon!”

 

Covered in chains and ropes one of the demons snarled and growled, straining mightily against her bonds.  A twin to the one that had been forced from the walls with the new explosives.  The captain found the sight beyond jarring, it made no sense at all.  The monsters were never captured, they were either killed or routed.  There was no use in interrogating them, most of them were barely capable of speech.

 

“Open the gates, sir?” the sergeant prompted, recognizing the driver of the wagon, waving at him.  His head whipped up then, looking back the way the wagons had come, his heart beginning to race.

 

“Damn! Do you hear that, sir?” he hissed with trepidation.  Clashing sounds of battle echoed just out of sight, men screaming while the demons roared an unfamiliar battlecry, swords crossed in anger was a familiar sound to every soldier in earshot.

 

“No! They’re not bringing that demon into my garrison!  They’ve brought the monsters down upon our heads!  They’re insane!  It’s beyond criminal!” the man roared, ignoring the sergeants second question and pointing accusingly at the wagon’s driver.

 

“Cornelius, damn you!  You’ve gone mad!”

 

“Captain, good to see you as well.  Open the gates in the name of Lord Flavius!  Rouse the men, battle is imminent!” Scipio shouted back.

 

The captain’s face drained of color.  He’d be hung if he failed to assist the infamously foul tempered Lord.  Still, he hesitated.  Something did not feel right, why was Scipio driving the wagon and not leading the battle?  Why was Lord Flavius not demanding entry with his usual arrogance?  His answer came swiftly.

 

A gauntleted fist pushed through the open window of the carriage followed by the owner’s bellow.

 

“Open the damn gates you wretch!  I’ll have your commission along with your head!  Graaah! You butcher..!”  The last statement made little sense, but the captain’s finely tuned sense of self-preservation roared to life.

 

“Open the gates you damned fools, must you require orders for the most obvious decisions?  Lord Flavius will have your lazy hides!” he cried, hopefully loud enough for the Lord to hear.

 

Men bent to the task, turning the gears that raised the gate and portcullis.  The flashing of the Watch Stones spurred them on with maddening haste.  The second Scipio judged the clearance would allow it he ducked his head and drove the wagon into the courtyard.  The carriage followed a heartbeat later  The milling soldiers below surrounded the wagon, spears ready as they stared in disbelief at the demon chained within.  The gates slammed shut behind them.

 

The captain ran down the steps four at a time doing his best to break his neck.  Arrowing towards the carriage he was intercepted by Lieutenant Scipio.

 

“Captain, no time!  Lord Flavius is wounded.  My men turned back to give us time, I’ve been ordered to gather a relief force and drive them off,” he rattled off with professional clarity.

 

“Wh-what?  Nonsense!  We cannot leave the garrison undefended!” he cried, anxiety giving his words a shrill edge.  Pushing Scipio aside he rushed to the side of the carriage, only to skid to a stop as a man pushed his way through the window to glare down at him, holding an armful of bloody bandages.

 

“You!  More bandages, damn you!  Can’t you see this is an emergency?  What the hell are you doing?  Hot water!  Damn and hell, if you stress my Lord you’ll kill him!  Don’t bother him, I’m performing surgery here!  Do your damn job, Captain Cornelius has command!  Do as he says!  Where the hell are those bandages you fool?  If my Lord dies I’ll see that everyone from here to the capital knows of your crime!”  He threw the bloody bandages to the ground before diving back inside, his cries for clean linen echoing from within the carriage.

 

“My.. my lord?  Forgive me, but this is completely against protocol.. Surely you don’t intend us to go forth and meet the demons?” the captain begged.  It was clear the man was losing his grip on the situation, his eyes growing wild as his hands shook.  An unfamiliar odor was bothering him as well, scattering his thoughts with inappropriate desires.

 

“Blast you!  Gaaah! Get your hand out of there, it’s a wound not a glove!  You damned fool, do as I command!  Captain Scipio knows my will, jump to it before I have you hung for dereliction of duty!  Insubordination!  The weapons are all that matter!  Recover them!  Curse you, are you using rope to stitch that up?  I’ll hang you next, you clumsy butcher!”  the voice seemed to be having two separate conversations, further confusing the captain.

 

Scipio slid next to the man then, voice pitched low to not be overheard but filled with firm confidence.

 

“We need to gather the men, everyone we can arm.  The demons have taken Carcere, they have the new weapons.  Flavius was wounded capturing their leader, if the fiends escape she will be our only link to recovering the weapons.  Clear the men from the walls, they’ve learned the workings of the weapons and they’re using them to great effect.  They’re sitting ducks up there.”

 

“Captain..?” the man asked, finding it difficult to process this new development.  The strange smell was distracting him to no end now, not helping his racing thoughts one bit.

 

“Field promotion, for saving Lord Flavius’s life.  The creature nearly had him, though he fought like a demon himself.  Carcere was a trap, my Lord and the survivors were barricaded in the stone tower.  My Lord saved us, he bravely sallied forth to keep my troop from being overwhelmed.  I won’t let his sacrifice be in vain,” Scipio explained, his voice filled with admiration, changing to barely controlled anger as he finished.

 

“I see, yes. Yes of course.  We’ll leave the archers, surely.. They’ll be no use in a melee,” the Captain responded vaguely, trying to collect his thoughts.

 

“No!  Clear them from the walls, the towers as well! The demon’s are likely choosing their targets as we speak!” Scipio cried, waving his arm with exaggerated alarm towards the towers guarding the northern end of the quarry.  As if he’d called it down himself an almighty roar let loose, a large chunk of a tower’s merlon shattering next to a shrieking archer.  Seconds later another roar rang out, this time at the front gate causing men to fling themselves flat, plastering themselves against the wall.

 

“Clear the walls!  Get off those damn towers!  Rally to the gates!  Arm yourselves, spear and sword!”  Scipio shouted, smoothly taking command, jogging to the gates as he waved the soldiers to his position.  The captain followed him, glad to let Scipio lead.  He found it difficult to focus beyond the curious smell, the snarling bucking demon stealing his attention.  Her sensuous curves and pliant flesh attracted his eyes whenever he tried to focus on the situation.

 

Scipio stood near the gate, cold impatience writ clear on his face as he watched the archers from the towers sprinting towards the courtyard.

 

“Get those men spears, swords, anything you can retrieve before they arrive.  Raise the gate, we’re not wasting any time!  My men are dying out there, and you’re going to relieve them or you’ll regret your mother ever giving your father the time of day!”  Scipio roared.  The men reacted with unthinking speed as Scipio shed his laconic calm for raging impatience.  They were in no mind to disobey, the bewitching aroma had worked its spell, as the men were sweating and unsure why their arousal was raging forth.

 

Once the gate had risen enough to allow the soldiers to duck through, Scipio ordered them out, slapping them on the back as they rushed.  He turned the wide eyed captain away from the sight of the snarling woman in the wagon and pushed him firmly through the gate.  As the last man ducked through Scipio ordered the soldiers manning the gears to follow him.  In their haste they did not notice as he slowed and stopped, returning to the winch.  Shaking his head in disbelief he kicked the latch free and the gate thundered closed.

 

“That should not have worked,” he muttered to himself, waving to Sarah.  She immediately sat up, ropes and chains falling free, clearly not connected to anything.  Smiling her pride she hopped to the ground, rushing over to wrap him in a hug as she kissed him fiercely.  Scipio clutched her desperately, adrenaline draining from him to leave him shaky and weak.  He had been certain they would see through the charade, forcing them to combat the entire garrison.  Despite his words he knew now that he would have killed to defend this woman.

 

The carriage door flew open, revealing Bill’s smug face as he enjoyed the look of his shiny new quarry town.  He waved at the gathered civilians who’d wandered near the walls to see what all the fuss was about.  A few nervously waved back, unsure why the entire garrison had abandoned their posts, and who the tall woman was.  Their situation was made horribly clear as Bill stepped down from the carriage and held out his hand to Rekka.

 

Several of the men turned and sprinted towards any stout door they could find, the sight of her eyes trailing flame giving wings to their flight.  The rest began shouting, calling for soldiers and demanding answers.

 

Bill ignored them to shake hands with his driver.  He forgot the man’s name, but Bill had chosen him for the task because the man so clearly did not want to leave the arms of the two orcs who’d chosen to share him.  The fact that the man was desperate to get back to his sweethearts before they found a new plaything ensured he would keep his mouth shut.

 

He’d thought about using Felix for the job, his loyalty without question.  In the end he decided against it, pulling Helena and Felix aside for a discussion.  They were to wait safely outside the walls until called for.  If the worst came to be Bill ordered them to leave, disappear somewhere to enjoy what happiness they could find.  The thought of the gentle innocent creature being killed through violent action turned his stomach.  Felix was off the hook by association.

 

Besides, he wasn’t sure how he’d stuff Helena into the carriage.  It had been asses to elbows and getting to know each other better than they liked.  At least in the case of himself and Tabitha, friendly though they were.  Rekka had molded herself to him with impressive flexibility, easing their discomfort by playing border patrol as they stuffed themselves between the benches to hide from prying eyes.

 

Watching the more quick witted civilians sprinting off caught Bill’s attention.  He cheerfully waved again before throwing his arm around Rekka and wandering over to the other couple.  Tabitha prowled out of the carriage, rocking it with her weight.  She calmly looked over the crowd before turning to join the others.  Several more civilians sprinted away ready to put distance and thick doors between themselves and their new neighbors.

 

“See?  Foolproof,” Bill declared, smugness now rising to toxic levels within his body.

 

“I still can’t believe it.  Captain Dulius is not a stupid man, hot headed certainly, but no fool.  I cannot believe he simply walked himself through the gates, this should not have worked,” Scipio said, unsure why he was beginning  to feel anger at their victory.

 

“I told ya, when the punishment for questioning someone is summary execution most people are going to shut their mouths and keep their doubts to themselves,” Bill said, shrugging.

 

The Flavor Lord had really come through for them, his renowned foul disposition and astounding arrogance a convenient weapon Bill was more than happy to wield like a club.  The hardest part had been holding in his laughter as Rekka made faces at him while he channeled the spirit of an infuriated man who was utterly incapable of thinking someone might disobey him.  Even Tabitha had been unable to stop a smile from slipping loose as Bill ducked back down after lambasting the poor captain, continuing to shout for bandages.  He was finally beginning to crack the woman’s shell.

 

“This was so completely despicable, Bill.  You’re really good at dirty underhanded deception!  I’m learning so much!” Sarah gushed.  Her admiration of the shameless reprobate growing daily.

 

“Finally some appreciation, thank you Sarah,” Bill gratefully replied.

 

“Yeah, your stupid plan was great, husband!  I’m so proud of ya!” Rekka cheered, jumping into his arms for kisses.  “I can’t wait to hear the next dumb thing you think of!  I’m so glad you’re lucky!”

 

Bill decided to accept the compliment without complaint, Rekka’s support never failing to cheer him.  He would admit to himself that his plans were pretty stupid.  He just had a pretty good handle on how these people thought.  They seemed almost eager to be duped.  Fighting the same battles for so long left them unable to expect anything but direct opposition.  Any truly unexpected situation seemed to catch them flat footed.  He couldn’t pretend this would keep working, the second they ran into someone who thought outside the box they’d be in trouble.

 

“Well, shall we finish this?  I don’t want to patrol these walls myself and those fellas out there are just ripe for conversion.  We’re going to need more orcs, I think.  There must be a hundred men or more living here,” Bill said as he made his way up the steps.

 

“Yeah, my girls won’t be able to handle all that.  They’ll try their best, but soon they’re going to be the ones begging for rest,” Sarah agreed.

 

“No worries, I’ve got a plan for that.  No fighting or trickery involved, so stop looking so nervous  there Skippy,” Bill snapped.

 

“I’m relieved to hear it.  I’m not sure my heart can take another incident like tonight,” Scipio replied, not making an issue of his new nickname.  Bill’s eccentricities were many and varied, it was easier to go along with his odd ways.  The nickname carried no malice or insult in any case, he could live with it.

 

“Alright, lets see how they’re doing out there.”  Bill muttered, poking his head over the wall he spotted the crowd of soldiers milling about.  Looked as though they’d only traveled a few minute’s distance from the walls before comprehension reared its ugly head.  Captain Dulius had gathered his sergeants to his side and appeared to be having a very heated discussion.

 

“They’ll probably be back in a few minutes, can’t wait for that conversation,” Bill said with a laugh.

 

They paused to watch as Scipio jogged to the wildly strobing crystal, twisting it firmly.  Immediately the annoying flashes ceased and it now glowed with a steady illumination.  Scipio quickly did the same to the second, relieving their eyes from the annoyance the lights had become.  Finished, he jogged back to receive the compliments of his grateful companions.  Scipio then struck a match across the wall, lighting his pipe while he watched the brewing argument among his former comrades.

 

The pipe caught Bill’s eye, reminding him to check over Rekka and see if she was getting riled up by Sarah’s mating miasma.  Tabitha hadn’t leapt from the walls to torment Larry again, so she was probably alright.

 

“How’s it working, no uncontrollable inconvenient urges I hope?” Bill asked them.

 

“No more than usual!  It don’t smell bad, I kinda like it,” Rekka replied, sniffing at the thing.  Tabitha nodded her agreement.  They both had a pouch of the tobacco on a secure leather sling tied around their necks.  Through tense experimentation Bill had discovered simply smelling the stuff would clear their thoughts, countering Sarah’s ability and allowing them to work as a unit.

 

Before the discovery Sarah’s role in the plan was to simply wait and see what happened, maybe force the defenders to fight on two fronts as she led an assault on the gates.  Bill was delighted he could instead weaponize her passion perfume as part of the scheme.  The fact that he’d have another absurdly dangerous friend within the walls was a reassuring bonus.

 

“I’m glad, I’m really happy I’m getting the chance to make friends.  Scipio being able to love me for real, and meeting you all has been so completely amazing, I feel so lucky.  It’s been lonely, I couldn’t really let my hair down around my girls.  We can’t talk much with non-orcs, and people tend to avoid us.  So we stick to our own.  I missed talking with mommy,  I wish I could let her know about this, she only has daddy now I’m gone,” Sarah professed.  Scipio took her hand in his with a comforting smile.

 

“Yeah, I get exactly what you mean.  I’m happy for you, Sarah.  It eases my conscience being an accomplice to happiness for a change,” Bill replied.  “Makes me feel better about being the worst thing that ever happened to most of the other people I run into.”

 

The group shared a laugh at that, though Tabitha kept her mirth to a lashing tail and twitching ears.  Life was good, they were winning, and most importantly Rekka was happy.  He was bound and determined to make her life rich with companionship and filled with joy.  If that meant he had to carve a path of destruction across this world he’d do it with a smile on his face and a bounce in his step.  If he kept making friends at this rate he’d soon have an army at his back to maximize the damage.

 

“I almost feel sorry for all the people we’re going to fuck over while we have the time of our lives,” Bill stated cheerfully.  He hugged Rekka to him as he watched the soldiers trudge back to the walls, looking forward to their outrage.

 

“Speaking of which, this ought to be fun,” Bill quipped, waving his limbs as he hopped on his toes to loosen his muscles while he considered the best way to irritate the captain.  He waved  the others back as he took a position visible from the ground as the soldiers neared the gate.

 

“Who goes there?” Bill called, sounding like he’d seen this all before and was bored of the repetition.

 

“You damn well know who I am!  Open the gates, Lieutenant Cornelius has much to answer for,” Captain Dulius snapped back with the confidence of a man who believed he was still in charge.

 

“Off with you, beggars.  You’ll find no charity here,” Bill jeered at them, shooing them off with a dismissive wave.

 

“What?  You stupid little fool, do you realize who you’re talking to?  I’ll have the flesh flogged from your bones!  Open the damn gate, no more nonsense!”

 

“Will you keep it down?  People are trying to sleep back here.  This gate is staying closed, throw all the tantrums you like.  I’ve got my orders.  You can talk to my boss when she gets back,” Bill called down.  He leaned into the merlon and began stargazing, ignoring the incredulous soldiers.

 

“What in the devil is going on?  Have you lost your mind?  Let me speak to Cornelius,” Dulius called with frustrated, unbelieving impatience.

 

“Never heard of him.  If you want I can get my boss up here, but I don’t think you’ll like what she has to say.  Got a real fiery reputation, if you take my meaning,” Bill called, “Maybe you should just come back later.  If you need lodgings I hear Fort Carcere is nice this time of year.”

 

Captain Dulius went absolutely apoplectic at that, beyond words as he pointed up at Bill, trying to hang him for insubordination through willpower alone.  Bill decided it was a good time to reveal exactly what sort of trouble he’d served up for them.  He beckoned Rekka over and held onto her hand protectively as she hopped between two merlons to leer down at the milling soldiers. The hellfire in her eyes was unmistakable, and terror spread through the assembled soldiers like wildfire.  The fact that a hellhound was standing at ease on the walls which had promised safety only moments ago sent morale plummeting into the abyss.

 

“Man wants to speak with you, Boss,” Bill reported.  Rekka’s laughter pealed out, lifting BIll’s spirits as it crushed those below.

 

Captain Dulius stared at the hellhound, his mind thrown into absolute confusion.  He wondered for a moment if they had gotten lost in the dark and arrived at the wrong fortifications.  His attention wandered to the men around him, perhaps he was the target of a prank.  Surely this could not be real.

 

Bill felt pity for him then, liking it better when he turned red and shouted outraged demands.  He waved Scipio, Sarah, and Tabitha over to hammer their position home.  The arrival of two more of the enemy upon the walls did not come close to matching the horror of seeing Lieutenant Cornelius standing calmly between the two.

 

“Welcome back.  As you can see there have been some changes since last we met,” Scipio called down with unruffled courtesy.

 

“Scipio, what have you done?” a sergeant demanded, dismayed.

 

“I won’t insult you by trying to explain my actions.  Know that we do not desire your deaths, comply with my orders and you will not be harmed,” Scipio replied.  The accusing eyes of his former comrades were nearly unbearable.  The knowledge he was working towards a better future was cold comfort next to his present treason.  Sarah placed a supportive hand on his back as she sensed his distress.  Bolstered by her presence, Scipio soldiered on.

 

“You will be allowed entry once you relieve yourself of your weapons.  The choice is yours, you are free to leave and I promise you we are uninterested in chasing you down.  Discuss it amongst yourselves, but try not to take too long.”  Scipio nodded to Sarah.

 

She loomed over the wall, glaring down at the milling men below for a few moments.  Turning her attention to the treeline at their rear she thrust her first into the air.

 

“WAAAAAAAAAAGH!”

 

She and her girls had taken to the new battlecry with great enthusiasm.  While it undoubtedly raised their spirits the true appeal came from the sense of the absolute rightness they experienced as it rang out.

 

“WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!”

 

Her girls answered her challenge with savage enthusiasm and she reacted with a victorious smile. face  glowing with a terrible fierce pride.  Scipio found her beautiful beyond description at that moment, her untamed exuberant spirit a complimentary contrast to his own disciplined professional nature.  Only through an ever ready capacity for directed violence did they find common ground.  Any shame he felt for his actions melted away as his loyalties came into sharp focus.  His life of fighting for an indefinite cause with no end was over.

 

Any thought of escape along the road was rejected by the soldiers, the forest was obviously filled with an army of orcs ready to sweep down upon them.  They dearly wanted to have the solid walls between them and the monsters lurking just out of sight, and take their chances with the ones within.

 

“Should you refuse our hospitality I wish you safe travels.  If you have decided to join us, please gather your arms together a safe distance to your rear.  Announce your readiness once you have finished,” Scipio ordered.

 

“Don’t try to sneak a blade in, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.  All three seconds of it,” Bill threatened, slipping effortlessly into the role of bad cop.

 

Wordlessly the defeated soldiers obeyed, thoughtfully piling their weapons a reassuringly safe distance from the gates.  Captain Dulius was seated forlornly in the road before the gate.  He appeared to be staring into his hands trying to find meaning to this madness.  One of the sergeants gently divested the man of his sword and added it to the pile.  Waving curtly to Scipio he returned to the captain’s side.  His fellow sergeant took the other flank and together they lifted him to his feet.  The man seemed to focus then, pulling his arms away with a quiet world of thanks.  Glaring up at the figures on the wall he prepared himself for what may come.

 

“Hold your damn horses, what’s your rush?” Bill yelled down, further confusing them for no reason beyond finding it amusing.  Nodding to the women he skipped down the steps.  Quickly making sense of the gears that would open the gate Bill took a moment to confer with his beautiful and dangerous friends.

“This should be simple enough as long as no one tries to be a hero.  I’d appreciate it if you three remained close, try and corral them into that open area.  We’ll have them sit there like good little boys until reinforcements arrive.  I’ll give them the orders, but I’m going to stay well out of their reach.  There’s no way in hell they’ll try going hands on with you beauties, but it’s a fair bet they might try their luck on me.  I don’t want some idiot setting off a riot.  Just keep them packed together, Sarah you do your thing.  Fighting should be the last thing on their minds soon enough.”

 

The women nodded, Rekka a devil-may-care smirk on her face, not at all concerned about the situation.   Bill could only agree.  Disarmed soldiers were about as threatening as toddlers to the fierce competent mamono.  Stepping over to the winch he wound the chain back with ease.  Normally this would take two men, one on either side of the gate.  Bill had no issue handling it alone.  He stopped once the gate rose to the minimal height a man could crouch and shuffle through, a lever snapping into place to keep the chain in position.

 

“Well, don’t just stand there, come on in.  No pushing now, plenty of room for everyone.  Find a seat near my lovely wife with her beautiful eyes.  Can’t miss her.  Feel free to talk amongst yourselves, but don’t wander off,” Bill announced enjoying Rekka’s cocky strut as she herded the prisoners into place.  Captain Dulius seemed to recognize him, his eyes narrowing as he looked at the open carriage, the ploy clear to him now.  He shook his head, not believing he’d fallen for such a juvenile deception.  Once everyone was in and seated between the watchful eyes of three extremely dangerous Mamono Bill allowed himself to relax.

 

“Damn I’m good.” His quiet tone full of self-satisfied good cheer as he turned back to the gate, quickly winching it fully open.  The soldiers grew agitated at the new development, but the mamono assured their good behavior.

 

Bill strolled out the gate, really beginning to appreciate the victory now that everything was wrapping up.  He was getting pretty good at Grand Theft Fortress.  Waving his hand casually he yelled into the trees.

 

“Mission accomplished, come on in!  Drinks are on me!”

 

Before he finished speaking figures had begun exiting the tree line and heading his way.  Bill looked around, a heady feeling of accomplishment filling him with excited energy despite the late hour.  Now they had a place to call their own.

 

A name for his new acquisition came to him in a flash, forcing him to dismiss with regret his first choice of Rekkapolis, Billtopia being a close second.  He figured he’d have plenty of opportunities for slapping immature labels on captured settlements as he continued his campaign of confusing terror.

 

The new name was far too appropriate, and he knew nothing else would do.  For now his friends and loved ones had found a safe place to rest and recover in relative security.

 

Bill smiled as his friends and allies drew close, fondly calling out a warm invitation.

 

“Welcome to Asylum, enjoy your stay.”

 

 

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