The World of Erasthay
The Knight and the Acolyte Book Seven: Illusory Passion
Chapter Six: What Shadows Hide
© Copyright 2016
Story Codes: Fantasy, Magic, Violence
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Note: Thanks to b0b for beta reading this!
Knight-Errant Angela – The Halani Desert
“Oh, I am going to spank that slut,” Angela fumed as she pulled the final piece of hide over the frame of their tent. “Where did Sophia get to?”
“Snuck off with my wife,” Chaun answered, lounging on a pile of supplies. He strummed his lyre.
Angela frowned as she straightened up, fixing him a hard stare. “I see you managed to avoid work.”
“It is a skill of…”
His words trailed off as he straightened, cocking his head. Rising over the buzz and bustle of the caravan setting up for camp was an ululating cry. The surrounding servants let out gasps of fear while the caravan guards, wearing a motley collection of mail and boiled leathers, drew swords. The cry came from around the camp.
“Las’s cock,” Angela groaned, dashing to where she left her kite shield. “Thrak!”
“Here, Angela,” the orc said, his massive ax in hand, swarthy body painted by the setting sun. He gazed to the horizon pointing to the dunes.
Black-swathed desertmen on camels poured over the dune, racing down sandy slopes, raising flashing scimitars, their cries raising in volume. I set my shield and drew my sword, wishing Midnight was here. I hadn’t thought of my stallion, abandoned when we fled the Saltspray Palace, in days.
He would be invaluable right now.
“Chaun, stay in the camp. If you see Sophia or your wife, keep them there. Minx, you stay, too.”
“And miss out on the fun,” the halfling grinned as she skipped up to us.
“Yes,” Angela nodded. “Thrak, take Faoril. Xera, with me.”
The mage produced a vial of Thrak’s cum and downed it, a smile crossing her lips as a shudder went through her body. She was such a slut for cum. She pocketed the vial and gave me a nod before heading off with Thrak to join the other guards racing forward to meet the charge.
Farson was to the south of me, marching forward in his black armor, his sword in hand. He moved with a relaxed confidence. His lamia slave wasn’t with him. That was the first time I had seen him without the slave scampering at his side. He glanced at me and gave me a nod.
I did not like it.
“Let’s go, Xera,” I said, casting one last look at camp. Where was Sophia at? I thought she would appear with the alarm being raised. It wasn’t like her.
But the charging desertmen were too immediate of a threat. She had matured, growing competent since when we first set out from Shesax over four months ago. She would be fine. I didn’t have to worry about her.
I would so spank her when I found her.
Xera padded behind me as I joined the other guards, waiting for desert man’s charge. I shifted my stance on the sand. It was like the training ground where I practiced with… I hit one of the empty holes in my mind occupied by my relationship with Kevin and excised by the Lesbius Oracle. I shook my head and raised my shield, readied as the desertmen charged closer and closer.
Sand kicked up from the feet of the camels. The desertmen whirled their scimitar over their heads, leaning over their mounts. Their ululation grew louder and louder. My heart beat faster and faster. I leaned forward, setting my shield and bracing my body.
They hurtled closer faster and faster, racing at us. The caravan guards all stood ready, their blades heavy. None carried shields. It almost distracted me, causing me to ponder why they would face mounted attackers without shields, but the pounding of camel feet on sand brought my attention back to the attackers.
So swift. They moved at the speed of a charging warhorse.
Then the camels were on us. A scimitar scythed down at me and struck my shield. The impact jarred my arm. My feet slid back in the sand, digging furrows. On either side of me, the caravan guards swung their heavy, curved blades, cutting the camel’s flesh. If they dodged.
Camels spilled to the ground, screaming in pain, throwing their riders to the sand. The unfortunate guards fell in bloody spurts, their life soaking into the sand as the final rays of the sun winked out and night settled.
I set my shield as the second wave charged in.
“Save me some,” I grinned at Faoril as she lifted her arms, wiggling them, her robes sliding down to her elbows.
“And risk you getting your head cut off?” Faoril asked.
I snorted. “By them.”
The raiders charged down the dune, ululating. My hand tightened on my ax. The rage growled inside of me, begging to be unleashed, promising to kill them all. I didn’t need it. Not against these raiders.
“Fine,” Faoril said. “To keep your fragile, male ego intact, I’ll leave you some.”
“It is delicate as fine porcelain,” I laughed. “I thank you.”
A smile grew on her lips and then sand exploded. It burst around ten of the tribesmen in the first rank. Tendrils of flowing dust wrapped about their camels, yanking them down to the sand, spilling their riders. They tumbled in yellow clouds that then coalesced and pinned the riders to the ground. Her magic surged through the sands, tripping up more of the attackers. Then she hardened the sand, fusing it into stone, trapping the soldiers and turning her attention to others.
I stepped before her as the survivors of her attack rushed at us. Scimitars raised high. Camels bayed. My ax swung, bit into flesh. I cleaved through the camel’s chest and the rider’s leg. The beast crashed into the ground, tumbling past us, rider screaming.
I reversed my swing and slammed it into the next rider as he slashed his scimitar at my head. The force of my blow threw him from the saddle of the camel. He hit the ground, flopping like a clubbed reindeer. Blood flicked from the end of my ax as I swung again, cleaving the legs out of a third camel.
Sand erupted before me, engulfing a fourth rider. His camel emerged from the cloud, veering to the right without its riders guidance. The dust contracted around a man, his hands and feet sticking out of a ball of rock, screaming in fright.
Faoril did not kill any of them.
Another rider bore down at me. I had no time to ponder Faoril’s state of mind. She hadn’t fully overcome the trauma of killing Relaria. I ducked the scimitar swing and slammed my ax into the camel’s flank, drawing a bloody line. The rider pitched from his dying mount. I leaped over the kicking camel and landed on the groaning rider before he rose.
My ax fell on his head.
“Thrak, there’s another tribe to the south,” Xera shouted.
I looked up. The second wave of this attack slowed, staring at their fallen brethren. Down the line, more had reached the defenders. Angela fought with her shield and sword, hacking and slashing, while Xera’s bow twanged, felling riders. I glanced south. Where had they come from? They marched across open sand with no dunes to give them cover.
Faoril pulled out a vial of cum and downed it. “Thrak, you can handle them, right?” She pointed at the regrouping riders.
“Easily,” I grinned, marching across the sand, my heart beating with exhilaration. “Go wrap up those from the south with your magic. No need to prop up my fragile ego any longer.”
Faoril laughed and turned. Wind swept around her and lifted her into the air. She soared to the south of the camp as I broke into a run. I bellowed at the top of my lungs, gripping the ax in both hands. The riders fought to control their camels and regroup to fight me.
The servants huddled with the camels, the sounds of battle raging beyond the tents. Dust drifted through the air, scented with blood. My fingers strummed on the lyre, my voice singing a calming song, keeping panic out of the air.
I wish my music worked on myself.
Where was Xandra? Was she out there in the fight, using her totems? She was such a frail thing. She had only fought once against the imps. She was not cut out for such danger. I wasn’t cut out for such danger. But we were dragged into this by prophecy.
I sang by rote, my fingers dancing across my lyre. My neck craned, peering past pack camels and the servants keeping them from bolting, looking around tents, searching for a glimpse of my wife’s sky-blue hair, her slender frame.
Where was she?
Screams drifted over my music. Sand exploded. Dusty gouts burst up into the air as Faoril unveiled her magic. My eyebrows furrowed. Or maybe that was Xandra using her totems, summoning elementals. I hoped she was safe, Angela watching her back.
I glanced to my right and blinked. Minx was gone. The halfling rogue had been sitting on the pile of goods playing with her dagger. Small footprints darted to the north. If I knew she would run off, I would have asked her to find Xandra for me.
Maybe I should go look for my wife.
My fingers played faster, my voice rising. Xandra was fine. She had her magic. Sophia was with her and the priestess could use her magical dagger. She was fine. Safe. Thrak, Angela, Xera, and Faoril would send the desertmen packing, assisting the caravan’s guards. Then we could get back to the business of finding the Mirage Garden and leave the roasting desert behind.
I could not believe that Angela didn’t think I could fight. Didn’t she see me battle the gnome alchemist? Okay, yes, I was taken out of the fight by her lust bomb. But I was winning until then. It irked me that she told me to say back with Chaun.
I mean, he was a handsome stud and the way his fingers danced on his lyre did give indication on how well he could finger a wet cunt—and I had heard his wife singing his praises enough—but he wasn’t a fighter. Like Sophia and Xandra. They were the support.
I was the offense.
I had my knives. I had my alchemical bombs. I could do so much. I pulled out a sticky bomb as I darted across the sands, weaving between the camels legs, and popped out on the northern edge of the battle away from Angela and the others. I raced past Farson and shuddered, his gaze following me.
I did not like that one bit.
I reached the edge, standing with the other warriors as the camel-riding desertmen were almost upon them. I threw the sticky bomb at the nearest rider. The bomb struck the desertman in the chest, bursting, spurting white-yellow foam about him and his camel. The beast cried out, stumbling, the foam reaching its legs, forcing it to stop running. It bleat in annoyance.
I laughed, glancing at the caravan guard standing beside me, a bare-chested Halanian, his ebony skin glinting in sweat. He glanced at me for a moment, and I arched my eyebrows, grinning. He spat and turned back to the charging warriors.
He had no appreciation of style.
I shoved my hand into the pouch and felt the X carved into the clay ball—a sleeping bomb. I whipped it at the rider almost upon us. It hit the camel in the head. Purple gas puffed around the mount and rider. The camel took two steps and then fell forward asleep, the rider tumbling over its head and landing with a grunt.
I chortled, readying my dagger for the charge as the rest of the attackers bore down on us. The desertmen howled at us, ululating, swinging their scimitars at the caravan guards on their charge past us and…
They ignored me. The camels thundered past me and not a single one charged me or swung a scimitar at me. The Halanian guard who lacked a sense of humor, fell dead, his head missing I spun and glared at the tribesman.
“Hey, I’m fighting, too! Don’t ignore me.”
I darted after the offending warrior. He flicked the blood from his scimitar and charged at the back of another caravan guard. The desertman was ignoring me again. I wanted to howl my frustration. My feet threw up sand as I dashed at a diagonal line to intercept his attack, my dagger clutched between my teeth. He waved his scimitar over his head as he charged past, camel’s feet throwing up sand.
I jumped, reaching.
I snagged a leather strap holding his saddle. I grunted, my body smacking into the camel’s rear leg. The rider didn’t notice me as I scrambled up, grabbing the thick, curly fur of the camel and then the rear of his saddle. I made it to the back of the camel, standing behind him.
And stabbed him in the back.
I hit a critical spot. He stiffened, the scimitar falling from his hand. I ripped out the dagger, blood soaking into his black robes. He slumped to the right, teetering for a moment, and then fell out of the camel and tumbled across the ground. I jumped off the back of the camel, landing light on the ground.
“That’s what you get for ignoring a halfling,” I laughed and kicked sand at the corpse. “Next time, don’t ignore us.”
I looked around for more to fight. I peered south through the camp. Faoril stood alone, facing a charging horde. She had no back up. I grinned and dashed through camp. If there were only two of us, the attackers couldn’t ignore me. I would make them respect halflings as a threat.
Angela’s thrust caught the rider in the stomach. He slumped over his camel as it charged past. I stepped to the side, avoiding trampling feet, and fired an arrow. It hissed over Angela’s head and took another tribesmen in the throat.
“There are a lot of them,” I said, my ears twitching. “Is this natural?”
“No idea,” Angela shouted, setting her shield for the next charge. “But if they are this aggressive, I don’t see how caravans can travel the desert without being annihilated.”
The ululation of the second wave crashed over us. I drew, knocked, and fired, taking the rider in the chest. He slumped over and his camel veered to the right then slowed to a lazy walk as the others sped past.
“Support any weak spots in the line,” Angela shouted and raised her shield. A dull thwunk echoed as a scimitar slammed into the hard wood banded in metal. Her sword flashed, cutting into the poor camel. Pain burst in its cry.
The poor thing just wanted to obey her master, carrying him into battle. Humans could be so cruel.
I knocked an arrow, scanning down the line for any gaps. Several guards were down, others fought riders, blocking and parrying. I drew and fired. My arrow slammed into a rider’s back. I drew again and—
Farson wasn’t fighting. He watched Angela.
My ears twitched as I studied him. His face was dark marble. His sword gripped in hand. Blood stained the tip. A dead tribesmen lay at his feet, but he wasn’t helping the nearby fight. Just watching Angela.
I wanted to put an arrow through his throat.
The wind I summoned set me down on the southern side of the camp. I was the only defender here. The rest were to the west, holding back the first tribe. But there was a second tribe racing across the desert, scimitars waving as they charged, kicking up a cloud of dust.
They didn’t ululate like the ones to the west. They were sneaking in, flanking the caravan and hitting it where it was defenseless. It was a good tactic, I supposed. Thrak would know better. I had studied history, and the battles, but not in depth to judge tactics.
I pulled out a third vial of Thrak’s cum and downed it.
It was still warm and creamy, as fresh as when I collected it. I hadn’t messed up the preservation spell since my test and the lemures cum. A flush of embarrassment shot through me just at the thought, and I shook my head.
I had an army of bandits to defeat.
I surged earth magic into the sand. It was loose, able to be compressed. I formed a large trench, ten feet wide and spreading across their entire advance. A thin layer of sand still covered it, compressed to a solid plane but as thin as glass. It would never hold Minx’s weight.
The camels surged closer and closer to my trench. I pulled my magic out of the sands and readied winds to hit those in the back who didn’t fall into the trench. I swirled whirlwinds on the perimeter, starting out as dust devils and growing into tornadoes to plunge through the attackers.
The first camels reached the trench and…
Charged over the thin layer of sand. I goggled. My tornadoes fell apart. There was no way the camels could have ridden across without breaking through. They were huge beasts, with warriors riding on them. I know I made that sand thin enough that it couldn’t support Minx’s weight.
Fear shot through me. They were so close. And still no sound. No thud of the camel’s feet on sand. No rustle of fabric. It scared me. My stomach tightened. But I was trained for this. Not to panic. Not to seize up. But to act.
I detonated sand before the front ranks. Shock waves propagated through the ground, shaking the grains about my feet while sand burst into the attackers. Instead of camels and riders falling to the ground—screaming in pain, their flesh scoured by sand particles, leaving them bleeding and shredded—they burst into motes of shadows.
A cat hissed behind me. I turned, saw nothing. But something slammed into my head. Light flared across my vision. My body went numb. I hit the ground. The cat purred in satisfaction. My eyes rolled in my head. Fuzzy pain spread across my thoughts.
A second crack slammed into my head and plunged me into darkness.
The riders were around me, letting out their cries, circling me, swirling their scimitars over their head. They tried to intimidate me. They had superb control over their mounts, riding so close one camel could bite the next’s tail. Their eyes were dark, all that was visible of their faces.
“You boys too scared to fight me?” I laughed, throwing my arms wide, blood dripping from the crescent blades of my ax. “Eight of you, one of me, and you ride in a circle, holding your cocks like scared boys at their first gangbang. Come at me. Fight me. I am Thrak of the Red Eyes. Stop pissing yourselves and fight.”
I turned slowly, watching them, waiting for my chance to spring. Beyond them, the fighting raged. Angela blocked with shield and swiped with sword while Xera’s bow sang, felling riders. Chaos raged along the line, half the caravan guards down. Farson walked across the sands towards Angela, ignoring the attackers.
Bastard. But Angela could handle him. She had Xera backing her up. My real concern was Faoril.
I glanced to the south. Tornadoes gathered as the new wave charged in. My stomach twisted. I couldn’t see Faoril from here, my vision blocked by tents. She had so many to face alone. Would her magic be enough to stop the second force?
The change in the rider’s shouting gave me a heartbeat’s warning. I ducked as a scimitar flashed over my head. They had turned and charged in while I stood distracted. It was impressive feat, timed so each rider raced at me, paths crisscrossing without hitting me. I dodged another scimitar attack and swung.
My blade cut through a camel. It screamed and threw its rider. The dying beast stumbled, ruining the coordination, and slammed into the next charging tribesmen. The collision sent both beasts crashing to the ground.
I laughed, swung, and swept a tribesmen from his saddle.
Blade hissed. I dodged right. Fire burned along my arm. The tip of the scimitar cut into my flesh. I roared and hacked, hewing attackers as they tried to kill me. Crimson spurted through the air. Rage roared in my chest, demanding to take control as I dodged and weaved, swung and swiped.
The tornadoes spun out of existence. Explosions detonated to the south. And then there was silence. The southern tribes charged towards Faoril, and she wasn’t responding any longer. Fear shot through me. Why wasn’t she fighting?
I charged forward and cut through a tribesmen. I had to reach my mage.
“Stop!” I shouted as Farson advanced on Angela as she fought a trio of mounted desertmen. She cut one down, her back to the Shizhuthian warleader. “Stop now, Farson!”
I drew my bow, arrow knocked and aimed.
The warleader stopped, glancing at me. A smile crossed his lips. A mocking smile. Did he think I couldn’t take him in the unprotected throat or eye from this distance? I could hit him four times before he close the distance.
Footsteps padded behind me, a soft patter of bare feet and hands. Not a beast, but the steps of Farson’s lamia. She was close, almost upon me. My ears twitched, and I whirled around, arrow still drawn. Even though night had fallen, I could see like it was daylight.
And there was no one behind me.
But I heard the patter. It was closer. She should be only feet away My gaze swept around, struggling to understand what was happening. And then I spotted footprints and handprints in the soft sand. A trail leading right—
The lamia, invisible, crashed into me. She hissed and snarled, yowling as her claws tore into my naked body. My arrow twanged, slamming into the ground as I struggled to throw her off. Her weight off-balanced me. I fell into the sand, screaming in pain. Hot scratches appeared down my breasts. Blood glinted on invisible claws.
“Angela,” I screamed as I wrestled with the invisible lamia. “Watch out! Farson!”
My blade hacked, felling another rider from the third wave to charge at me. I sucked in deep breaths. My shield arm ached from blocking. Several deep gouges marred the wood and the metal banding the edge had peeled up at the corner, rearing into the sky.
Xera screamed behind me.
I whirled. She lay on her back struggling against nothing. I heard a single word in her scream. Farson.
Adrenaline spiked through me. I turned to see Farson advancing at me, a smile on his face, a sword in his hand. I managed a step towards him when a fresh group of tribesmen rushed me on foot. I cursed and raised my shield, parrying a blow and swinging.
My blade passed through nothing. The figure melted into shadows. I blinked in shock then spun, catching a real scimitar on my shield. I thrust and my blade bit into flesh. The tribesman screamed as I disemboweled him.
Attacks came at me from every direction. Some were real, others weren’t. My blade and shield melted the shadows when I touched them. It was chaos. I danced, my heart racing. Only my Gewin-enhanced reflexes kept me upright. Whenever I hit a shadow, my blade met no expected resistance, throwing me off-balanced.
A sword slashed the back of my leg.
“Las’s puss-filled cock,” I screamed, whirling, hacking, taking off a tribesman’s head.
A second stepped up, swinging hard. I raised my shield, blocking, and it melted away into shadows. My leg throbbed as I turned. Blood poured hot down my flesh to my boots. My blade flashed again and again, melting away attackers.
They came as fast as I killed them. Fear hammered in my heart. Every swing tired me more and more. I couldn’t afford to ignore any of them. Occasionally, one was real. The damned shadowmancer. I knew he couldn’t be trusted.
And then there was nothing, no enemies attacking, no illusions distracting. I stood alone over bleeding bodies. I whirled, looking for Farson. Xera still struggled on the ground, fighting something invisible that clawed and scratched her. Blood glistened with reflected silver on her flesh like oily shadows.
Where was Farson?
A blade hissed.
I dodged to the right on instinct. It saved my life. The blade clipped my side instead of burying deep in my flesh. A deep wound burned into the muscles. I grunted, whirling to see a streak of my blood fly away and nothing else. No Farson. But I could hear his armor clink and his breathing, smell the iron and oil.
I roared and swung my blade as blood pumped out of my wound.
I lost sight of Faoril on my scamper through the camp. By the time I reached the southern end, she was lying on the ground, bleeding from the head. A mallet lay beside her smeared with bits of brown hair and blood.
“Faoril,” I gasped, falling to my knees beside her. I touched her neck, fearing she was dead.
A thready pulse beat.
I looked up. All the attackers to the south were gone. No corpses. No footprints left by camels. Nothing. It was like they never existed. Around Faoril, the only tracks were narrow, a mix of hand and footprints.
“That bitch,” I hissed in recognition. Yowlia, Farson’s lamia slave.
“Faoril!” a horse voice screamed.
Thrak, splattered in blood, rushed around a tent. His long strides carried him to the mage. He fell to his feet beside her, scooping her into his arms. She lay limp, one arm dangling down, fingers trailing in the sand.
“She’s still alive,” I said, anger flaring. “Farson’s lamia snuck up on her. Cernere’s black cunt! I bet he’s heard about the bounty.”
“Where’s Sophia?” Thrak demanded.
“I don’t know. She’s got to be around somewhere.”
He stood, cradling the mage, and tore off to find the priestess. My hand tightened on my dagger. Farson thought he was a better sneak then I was just because he had his shadows. I grit my teeth. We would see.
I hopped to my feet and dashed to where Angela was. That was where Farson would be.
Pain raked my chest and sides. The invisible lamia hissed and yowled, enjoying herself. I shot a hand down, grasping the handle of my dagger. I ripped it out of my sheath dangling from my belt, the only thing I wore.
I stabbed it at the air, aiming where I thought she would be.
Something furry wrapped about my arm, like a rope. No, her tail. It jerked my hand short. And then pain flared in my wrist. Sharp teeth sank into my flesh. My fingers relaxed, dropping the dagger as I screamed.
The lamia yowled, and then she clawed at my stomach. I screamed and grabbed for her invisible wrists. Blood oozed out of the wounds. I grasped one wrist but missed her other. She scratched at the back of my hand.
“Your blood tastes good, elf,” she purred. And then she licked my wound with her rough tongue.
I growled in disgust and bucked, trying to throw her off of me. A clawed hand grasped my throat, claws pricking my flesh by the vital arteries of my neck. I froze, my heart hammering. The purring grew louder and louder. She licked me again, right across my lips.
“Yes, your blood taste so sweet,” the lamia purred. Shadows rippled off of her, revealing her smiling lips, her ears twitching above tawny hair.
Images of my wife flashed before my eyes, an infant in her arms, a beautiful smile on her lips. The daughter I would never see. Minx smile rose from my memory. Her laugh. The scent of forest. Birds chirping in skies.
My side burned. Even with the blessing of Gewin, bestowed on me before I left Shesax on the quest, I was fading. My toes and fingers were ice. My vision blurred. My strikes at Farson slowed. I could hear him, his armor was so loud, but I couldn’t see where his blade was. I swung again.
Sparks flashed as he parried.
“Stop toying with me, bastard,” I snarled.
“You’re good,” Farson said, a thick accent harshening his words. “Very good. Better than I expected. But you’re dying. I just have to wait for blood loss to weaken you then cut off that pretty head and deliver it back to the Doge.”
I spat on him. “Then come take it.”
“I never thought I would meet a Knight Deute who was also a thief. What a stain of dishonor you must bring to your exalted order.”
Shame swirled through me. “I did what I had to. I am trying to kill the Dragon Dominari.”
“Oh, the Empire would love that,” he laughed. “A dishonored knight slaying that dangerous beast. The Empress might welcome you in your court. You could live with the naga. You’d fit right in. A black knight.”
I roared and lunged forward, anger boiling through me. “I would never serve those monstrous naga.”
My leg buckled, collapsed. I spilled to the sand at his feet, my sword falling from my grip. He kicked it away. It skittered across the sand, then he slammed his boot into my breastplate, pinning me to the ground. He appeared, standing in his black armor, a huge grin on his face as he raised his sword for the killing stroke.
“No, I guess you never will serve the naga, fallen knight.”
I froze when I burst around the huddling servants with the camel and saw the fight. Angela lay on her back, pinned by Farson, the man raising his blade to end her life, and Xera lying beneath the lamia slave, the catgirl’s claws in my elf’s throat.
I drew a throwing dagger. I could only save one of them. Angela or Xera.
Pain flared in my heart, a sudden fear yawning in the pit of my belly. Everything slowed. My arm snapped back. I threw my knife, trusting my instinct as Farson’s blade reached its peak over his head. And swung down for Angela’s neck. My knife tumbled over and over so slow like it flew through sweet, sticky molasses instead of air.
I didn’t throw it at Farson. I couldn’t let Xera die. My heart wouldn’t let me. She was too beautiful. Too wonderful. Only she could hear me sneak. Only she could track me through a busy city. Only she could teach me new levels of stealth.
A hunter was the thief of the forest. We were kindred souls.
The blade took Yowlia in the throat with a meaty thwunk. She yowled in pain as her blood spurted.
The lamia’s pain-filled yowl screamed through the night.
Farson’s blade swung at my neck. But he flinched, looking over his shoulder. The arc of his swing altered. He let out a roar of pain. His blade crashed into the sand above my head instead of slamming into my neck.
I had to do something. Act. I needed a weapon. I had a weapon, it just wasn’t whole.
My hand shoved into the pouch hanging off my waist. My fingers brushed the jagged, middle section of the High King’s sword. The adamantium was still sharp after all the centuries of disuse. The metal was strong, special. It never lost its edge.
I gripped it and ripped it out. Farson turned, an anguished cry burst from his lips. Beyond him, the lamia slave fell off of Xera, blood gushing from her throat. She flopped on the ground, mewling in pain.
I swung the broken length of blade. It flashed silver. I aimed my attack at his inner thigh of his right leg, the closest part of him to me. I put all my strength into the swing. My vision fuzzed. The sharp edges of the blade cut into my palm as I gripped it.
The blade hit the plate covering his leg. A steel sword never would have cut through those steel plates. But this blade was forged out of adamantium by the God Krab himself. The God of Craftsmen and Industry knew his art.
The plate parted like it was made of silk. And then my blade bit into his flesh. Farson screamed. I wrenched the blade out. Arterial spray gushed from the wound. I cut the femoral artery running down his inner thigh. He crashed over onto the ground, his life bleeding out of him.
I groaned, collapsed, the world spinning around me.
Master crashed to the ground, his hand reaching for me. The world grew darker. Blood pumped out of my throat. But I crawled to him. My master. He rescued me from Shizhuth. He carried me to safety. He protected me at the cost of his exalted position.
He loved me.
My fingers clawed at the sand. I pulled myself to him, my life spilling out around me. His fingers wiggled. His eyes stared at me, summoning me one final time. I put the last of my strength, one final burst of effort, to reach him. I yowled as agony knifed through my body.
And I gripped his hand.
I relaxed, joy beating in my slowing heart. I stared into his eyes as the world grew darker and colder. The desert vanished until there was only his face swimming before me. Then there was only his eyes.
And then I saw nothing. I felt his hand in mine.
He squeezed. Relaxed.
And then I awoke. My hand in his. He stood over me, strong and proud in a new universe, a realm of shimmering lights and pulsing darkness. Death. We were beyond life, to where souls went, to where the gods dwelled.
The Astral Realm.
A collar sprang about my neck, the chain in my free hand. I held it up to my Master. He smiled, took it. I purred in delight and rubbed my cheek against his leg, my fingers digging into the bubble of rainbow light on which we floated.
“Where did that halfling come from?” Master asked.
“No idea,” I purred. I didn’t care. That was the old life. “Does it matter, Master?”
He laughed. “I guess it doesn’t. Not any longer. The Empress’s shriveled teats, but we would have lived like royalty on that bounty.”
The sounds of fighting dwindled. Thrak barreled through camp holding Faoril, bellowing for Sophia. The fighting over, I stowed my lyre and moved with the other servant and Aswunt, the caravan’s owner, out of the center of camp, staring at the dead.
“Put pressure right there, Minx,” Xera said, the pair over Angela. The knight lay on her back, blood soaking the sand black around her. Nearby, Farson and his lamia slave lay dead, one of Minx’s throwing knives embedded in Yowlia’s throat.
“Las’s cock, what happened, Xera?” I asked, stumbling forward.
“Farson,” Minx hissed. “His slave brained Faoril, then she jumped Xera.”
I blinked, noticing the blood dripping off of Xera. Her beautiful body ravaged by the lamia’s claws. My back burned, remembering Relaria clawing me while I made love to her on the balcony of the Saltspray Palace. Those had been playful scratches, and they still hurt.
She must be in pain.
“We need Sophia now, Chaun,” Xera said, her voice urgent. “Where is she? Angela’s bleeding to death. She needs healing. Soon.”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her since she and Xandra slipped off.” My heart clenched. “They never showed up during the battle?”
“Matar’s cock,” snarled Xera. I had never heard her sound angry. She stood up, face contorting in pain. “Where did you see them go?”
“This way,” I said, beckoning, my heart hammering in fear. What happened to Sophia and my wife? Did the tribesmen get them? Or had Farson taken them out before the fighting even raged?
Flashes of my wife’s smiling face shot through my mind. Her gentle smile, her innocent eyes, the way she moved with such grace, a delicate creature. She had to be protected. What if she were dead? What if I would never hear her singing again?
I loved her. I truly did. I thought I loved Princess Adelaide. And maybe I had, but it dwarfed what I felt for the little avian girl. She loved me. It was a pure thing, and I kept trying to soil it by urging her to sleep with other people. It wasn’t the nature of her kind. They loved their the person who took their virginity. They embraced that love. They were blessed by Luben in a way no other race was.
I couldn’t lose her. She loved me. I saw it in her every time my eyes fell upon her, the shining aura, the image of her lover. Of me.
I never saw that in any other woman. Not even Adelaide. I only ever saw her husband in my princess’s thoughts, not any one else. Did she not love me? Had our tryst only been physical? I thought she was my heart for so long.
And now I didn’t care about her.
“Find her, Xera.”
“We’ll find Sophia,” She said, trudging behind me.
Her voice softened, pain diminishing. “We’ll find them both, Chaun. Okay?”
We reached the heart of camp. Everything was chaos. “It was right here. I saw them head in that direction, I think.”
“You’re not sure?”
“That was before the attack. It’s been hours since then.”
“It was only a quarter of an hour at most. Fear can make time seem to take far longer.”
I blinked. “Well, they disappeared, I think, not long before the attack. Sophia had a naughty look in her eye.” I laughed. “I bet they’re making love and don’t even realize we’ve been attacked.”
“Maybe.” Xera’s tone wasn’t as convinced as I was.
But I had to believe it. I latched onto it. They were making love. Sophia was eager for another tryst with my wife. I bet Xandra lay on her back, hidden by a sand dune, humping her pussy into Sophia’s hungry mouth, her moans singing out across the desert.
We would hear them as we neared. My beautiful songbird. They were fine. Safe.
They had to be. Please, Las, let her be safe. I had never prayed to the progenitor of my race—Las wasn’t a caring good—but I would do anything to see her. She had to be alright. Not after I lost my heart to her. Tears burned in my eyes.
“Well, do you see their tracks?” I snapped.
“Yes,” Xera said. “She is fine, Chaun. They are making love.”
The elf moved, her eyes locked on the ground. I didn’t know what she saw. It was all confusing to me, and in the dark, it was hard to tell what was a track and what was a divot. We moved across the sands farther from camp.
I kept my ears pricked for the unmistakable sounds of my wife moaning in passion. I breathed in, hoping to scent feminine lust perfuming the air. Instead, I smelled something burned. I wrinkled my nose and frowned.
“Do you smell that, Xera?”
“Burned sand,” she answered.
“What caused that?”
Xera shook her head.
We rounded a dune and came across a patch of sand melted into smooth glass. A brass lamp lay in the center of the rippling, blackened glass. Intense heat had exploded here. My stomach tightened.
“No,” I groaned.
Beyond the patch of melted sand lay Xandra and Sophia’s discarded clothes, white robes spread wide, my wife’s skirt lying half on top. Xera walked around the burned glass, staring at the disturbed sand.
“They fell to the ground here to make love. The scent of their pussies linger.” The elf bent down, studying.
“And they ran, right? From whatever did this?” My heart pounded so fast. “Xera? They ran. Where?”
“They didn’t. Their tracks end here. They…” Xera shook her head and glanced at the lamp lying in the center of the glass. “The efreet has them. They’ve been spirited off to the Mirage Garden, the offering for our entrance.”
I stared at the lamp and trembled. “No, not my Xandra. No one comes back from the Mirage Gardens.”
Acolyte Sophia – The Mirage Gardens
The fire fell away from Xandra. I clutched the naked, trembling avian, her small breasts pressed against my tits. All the excitement of our lovemaking had been forgotten when the efreet appeared before us, his flesh crimson.
“This is a mistake,” I shouted as I stumbled. Water sloshed about my ankles.
Xandra and I appeared in a pool, the water lapping at our calves. Steam rose from the water, obscuring our sight for more than a few feet. Women laughed around us. Shadows moved through the fog.
“A mistake,” purred a woman, her voice exotic and sultry. She appeared out of the darkness, her flesh dusky and bountiful. Breasts heaved before her, pierced by gold nipples. Her flowing, brown hair fell about a gorgeous face, as beautiful as my goddess, lips lush and red. “What mistake?”
“We’re not offerings,” sobbed Xandra.
“Were you naked and lying on the desert sands?” the woman asked, her sapphire eyes flashing with mirth.
“Yes,” I answered, staring at her lush beauty. “But we’re not offering. We were just making love. That’s all.”
“In our Lord and Master’s domain.” The woman tossed back her head and laughed. “You are now a part of the harem of Riad, Potentate of the Mirage Gardens.”
And then she kissed me hard on the lips. I stiffened in fear. Harem? To a man.
“No, no, no,” Xandra wailed beside me. “I already have a husband.”
“Not any longer,” a new voice purred. A black-skinned, Halanian maid stepped out of the mist, moisture beading around her dark nipples. She seized Xandra. “You are Riad’s now. You were offered to him. He is your new husband, Lord, and Master.”
The Halanian kissed Xandra while I trembled. Angela would rescue us. This was the plan. Only we were the offerings instead of her. Somehow, she would rescue us. My Queen was a brave knight. Nothing would stop her from rescuing me.
To be continued…
Click here for Chapter 7.
I have released a part 31 of the revamped Devil’s Pact on Smashwords. Read this post for more information if you’re interested!by