The World of Erasthay
The Knight and the Acolyte Book Ten: The Flaming Woman
Chapter Four: The Knight’s Resolve
© Copyright 2016
Story Codes: Fantasy, Magic, Violence
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Aurora Xandra – Unmik, Asunow Princedom, The Princedoms of Zeutch
The alarm resounded through the cell, my delicate ears flinching from the piercing reverberations while the smile grew and grew on Princess Adelaide’s face. The strawberry-blonde woman shuddered on Chaun, eyes casting to the ceiling of his cell.
My stomach twisted with fear and anger. She triggered an alarm. She had just alerted the entire castle to our presence. Minx and I had spent the last hour sneaking into this place. I distracted the guards with a sexy performance, Minx had picked locks, we had disabled the guards protecting the cells, and all we had to do was slip back out again with our friends and loved ones.
And this spoiled bitch of a princess thought she owned my husband. That she had the right to keep him here when her own husband, Prince Gruber of Kivnar, wanted to execute Chaun for the crime of cuckoldry.
“You bitch,” burst from my lips.
“Now you’re not going anywhere, Chaun,” the princess gushed. “You’re all mine.”
Chaun stared up at Adelaide in shock. “What have you done?”
“He’s my husband!” I screeched. “Not yours!”
Sophia burst into the cell, her white robes half-belted, barely covering her slender body. “That’s not…” She groaned, staring at the glowing symbol on Adelaide’s stomach, a heart being pierced by an arrow. The symbol of Luben, God of Love. “That’s a fidelity warding.”
“My husband’s foolish insistence after he caught us last time.” Adelaide leaned over Chaun. “But I took a little precaution. I can trigger it at will.”
“The entire castle will have heard it,” Sophia groaned. “Especially her husband.”
“Who wants to kill Chaun!” I fumed. “And send the rest of us to Doge to be executed.”
The princess shrugged.
Anger surged through me. I shoved my hand into my pouch and seized the first totem I could. I ripped it out, my fingers tracing the straight lines. The stones at my feet buckled and then bulged outward, the earth elemental fashioning a vessel for its spirit. Princess Adelaide shrieked as I puppeteered the elemental’s hand to lash out and seize her by the throat, hauling her off my husband’s body.
“Make it stop,” I snarled, wanting to crush the life from her throat. This was the woman whom Chaun used to love. This was the woman who supposedly used to love Chaun, and she was endangering him?
It would be so easy to break her neck.
“Xandra,” Chaun gasped, rolling naked off his cock, his dick still hard and covered in the hussy’s juices. “What are you doing?”
“Make the alarm stop!”
The princess let out a gurgling sound and touched her belly. The piercing sound died, the light fading away until the mark vanished, leaving pale, unblemished skin. She shivered, her eyes wild in shock.
“I’m…Princess…Gruber’s..wife…” she choked out.
“And I’m Chaun’s,” I answered, tossing my hair, glaring at this woman. My fingers danced faster on the totem’s straight lines. It would be so easy.
Xera’s cum warmed my belly. I had three vials in my pouch. It was the best for life magic. I sent out the tendrils into the female mage and the guards who were gangbanging her. She dripped with cum, lost in the fog of Damiana induced lust. The spell wormed into their brains, touching spots identified by Fireeyes’s journal as controlling the sleep response.
All of them fell into a heap. They would sleep for days, perhaps as long as a week. Without Fireeyes’s obscene research, I never would have the knowledge to put a human to sleep for so long. I tried not to think about the poor people he vivisected to learn this information.
“Useful,” Thrak grunted.
I nodded my head. I had used up half of Xera’s reserve of energy. I grabbed another vial of Thrak’s cum this time. I carried ten vials of his around, preserved magically so it was still as warm and fresh as when he donated it weeks ago. I savored, a hot tingle racing through my body as I swallowed it.
I loved cum.
I nodded my head. “But safe to use. They’ll recover without any ill effect. But we won’t have to worry about the Prince’s mages coming after us.”
“Three journeyman mages,” Thrak grunted. “Who has three mages on retainer?”
“Someone expecting trouble.” I shook my head. “We’ve been lax. Clearly, those who seek the Doge’s bounty have figured out our goals and—”
The blaring alarm resounded from the cells. My head snapped around, eyebrows furrowing. Thrak let out a grunt and hefted his greataxe. It was a wicked weapon, double-headed, each blade a crescent that could hew through a man thanks to Thrak’s strength. He headed to the stairs leading down from above, readying himself.
“A trap we missed?” I asked, frowning, my stomach curdling.
“Perhaps,” grunted Thrak. “The entire castle has to hear this. We’re fighting our way out now.”
I grabbed a second vial of Thrak’s cum and downed it. I would need power. I stared up at the ceiling and sent out tendrils of earth into the stone, feeling the vibrations of the castle. People were moving, assembling. It was the middle of the night, the soldiers who had arrested us woken up from their sleep.
But this time I had my magic. This time we were ready.
Xera stepped out into the room. She opened her mouth to speak and the alarm died. The elf’s ears twitched and she let out a sigh of relief. The alarm was ear splitting, and she had keener senses than all of us combined.
“Princess Adelaide triggered a fidelity charm,” the elf explained. “Soldiers are assembling through the castle.” She bent her bow, limbering a beeswax string on it. “We have several minutes before they group up.”
“We should move,” Thrak growled. “Cut our way out now.”
“And kill how many of the soldiers just doing their duty for their Prince?” I asked, stepping into the guard room. I wore my armor, feeling comforting in the metal cladding my breasts and the chainmail loincloth dangling off my heavy sword belt.
Blessedly, the pieces of the High King’s sword were still in my pouch. Our belongings were not despoiled.
“And so we should just surrender or own lives to the justice of this Prince Gruber and the Doge of Raratha?” Thrak grunted.
“We are criminals,” I answered. I no longer said that with a bitter twist. I had accepted it. “Killing these guards is wrong. They are the lawful authority here.”
“So we should surrender?” Thrak grunted. “I don’t want to swing from a Rarathan gibbet. And I won’t let Faoril swing either.”
“You won’t.” I glanced at the mage. “Seal off the entrance.”
“That will trap us in here.”
“It will give us time to plan.” I took a deep breath. “We have to think of some way to get out of here without killing. We are trying to protect these people, not murder them.”
Faoril licked her lips, her silver nose piercing glinting in the torchlight. She nodded her head and turned to face the entrance. Stones groaned and shuddered as her magic shaped the wall, closing off the entrance into the cells. Above, metal clattered, soldiers gathering to storm down here.
“They’ll break through with picks,” Faoril said.
“And it won’t take them long,” Minx said from behind. “That wall doesn’t look like it’s made of the sturdiest of stone.”
“It doesn’t have to hold for long,” I said.
Angela and a naked Chaun spilled out, his clothing held over one arm, his lyre in the other. Then Aurora appeared, an earth elemental following behind her, holding a naked woman in its grip. Her face was pale.
“Princess Adelaide, my Queen,” Sophia answered when I gave her a questioning look. “The source of the alarm. She is…attached to Chaun.”
“She wants him to stay,” Aurora said, her face livid. “She’d rather see the rest of us dead just so she can have Chaun. She thinks she can convince her husband not to kill him!”
“He won’t…” Adelaide groaned. “He’ll do anything for me. Loves me…”
Minx let out a derisive snort. Then she sighed and flopped down on a chair, lounging. Men rushed down the stairs, their armor clattering. Exclamations of shock rang. Metal struck the wall. More shouts came, passing along upstairs. Mind gave me a look. “So, what now?”
“We figure out how we’re getting out of here. Ideas.”
“You know my thoughts,” Thrak said, leaning against the barrier Faoril made.
I shook my head.
“It’s simplest,” purred the pirate captain, lounging beside Thrak with a feline grace.
“Well, Faoril can use her magic and bind up all of them,” Sophia said. “She’s done it before.”
“To a whole army?” Faoril swallowed. “It would take a lot of cum, and… I could only hold them for so long. And once I’m too far from them, I won’t be able to maintain the spell, then they will be chasing us. I would have to expend more energy to hold them down.” She glanced at Thrak. “It would be…easier if I did something more permanent.”
“No!” I clenched my fist. “Then we truly will be outlaws.”
Sophia gave me a supporting nod. She understood. What we did in Raratha, stealing from the Doge, wasn’t right. But it hadn’t hurt anyone. When his guards attacked, I had defended myself. I tried not to kill them… But… What if I had? Even if my order stripped me from their ranks, I still felt I was a knight. And it was my job to protect people, not kill them.
“We will not fight.”
“And if we have no choice?” Thrak asked. “If there is no way out of for us except fighting? Do we die?”
I glanced at Sophia, at her beautiful face, her green eyes. I led her here. It was my duty to protect her on the Quest. I couldn’t let her die. My stomach twisted. “If we have no choice,” I conceded. “But we do. There has to be a way out.”
“We’re underground,” Minx said, ticking off her finger, “our only way out is blocked off by Faoril’s magic, there’s about a hundred angry guards on the other side, and even if we do get past them, there’ll be more. We’ll be hunted all the way to the Altar of Souls.”
“Just let me have Chaun,” Princess Adelaide said, squirming in the elemental’s grip. “I’ll free the rest of you.”
“No!” Aurora screeched, her eyes angry.
Chaun, dressing, bit his lip. His violet eyes caught mine. I can see it in his eyes. He would do anything to make sure Aurora escaped here alive, even taking up the princess on her deal. But that would mean abandoning Chaun. And that was assuming this woman even had this much influence over her husband.
“Come on, we’re smart, diverse, we can come up with something better than fighting,” I said, the sounds of weapons striking the wall. How long would it hold? The soldiers were shouting for tools. “We have Faoril’s magic and Xandra’s elementals. There has to be something we can do. Someway to make a path.”
Chaun stopped halfway in pulling up his trousers. He was bent half-over, his balance wavering as he stared at me. “We can make a new path out of here.”
“How?” I asked.
“With my magic,” Faoril said, nodding her head.
“Faoril did split apart the street when we fought the knights in Hargone,” Chaun said. “She could tunnel us through the rocks to outside the castle. Then we could escape.”
“The stables,” Minx said, snapping her fingers. “We need horses. The ones we bought are at the inn. So why not steal the fine mounts from Prince Kivnar.”
Captain Thyrna purred her approval.
My stomach twisted at that. But it was better than fighting through the soldiers.
“Where’s the stables?” Faoril asked. She looked around. “I don’t even know which way is north down here.”
“That way,” Xera said, pointing at the wall to the right of the closed off staircase.
“And I know where the stables are,” Minx said, hopping off her chair. “Ooh, I like this plan.”
“Where’s the closest point to the stables from here?” Faoril asked, excitement in her voice.
“Well, let’s see.” Minx bit her lip. “Back into the cells.”
“How long will this take?” Thrak asked. He moved from the wall. “This won’t hold for more than a quarter hour.”
“Longer,” Faoril bit her lip.
“I can put a warding up at the tunnel down the cells,” Aurora said. “It should last a few hours. They will not get past it.”
“Like the warding to the caldera of Mount Peritito?” Faoril asked.
Aurora nodded. “I do not have the power or skill to make it permanent, but the elemental should last a few hours.” She reached into her pouch and pulled out a totem carved with triangles. “It will be too hot for them to approach and try to attack.”
“Good,” I nodded. “Minx, show Faoril where to start digging.”
“What do we do about the Princess?” Sophia asked.
I blinked. I didn’t even think that was an issue. “Let her go.”
Sophia gave me a look, something hard in her expression. What was she thinking? But she didn’t say anything.
Minx, however, had no problem, saying, “Take her as a hostage. If her husband cares about her, we can use that. Threaten to kill her.”
“Kill me?” squeaked Princess Adelaide.
“We’re not going to kill you,” I told her quickly, giving Minx a glare.
Minx shrugged. “Prince Gruber doesn’t know that. We’re dangerous criminals, after all.”
“Chaun,” Adelaide gasped in shock as I pulled her arms behind her back and bound her wrists. She was now dressed in the blue brocade gown she wore when she slipped into her cell. It molded to her body, enhancing her natural, curvaceous beauty. Her strawberry-blonde curls fell about her shoulders. Her green eyes shone with tears. “What are you doing?”
The words were expertly pitched to make me feel terrible as I pulled the hemp rope taut, binding her wrist together tightly. Aurora watched, fingering her earth totem, her eyes still hard. Our travels had changed her so much. She was far more quick to act with violence now, all her innocence lost by the dangers we had faced.
My heart ached. I was her husband. I should have sheltered her from such pain.
“I’m tying you up,” I told her. “Relax. You won’t be harmed. Trust me.”
“I do, Chaun,” she said then glanced at my wife. “I love you, Chaun. I know you won’t let your friends hurt you.”
Aurora let out an annoyed chirp.
“I don’t love you, Adelaide. I’m not sure I ever did. I think I just loved the idea of loving you.”
“What does that mean?” she asked, eyes blinking.
“She needs to be gagged,” Aurora said. A smile crossed her lips. “I can do it.”
I gave my wife a look. “I’ll do it.”
Farther down the cells, stone groaned as Faoril ripped into the corridor’s wall She had drunk half her cum vials already. “I’ll need a lot of power to do this,” she had said before getting started. The tunnel was already deep, her and Minx walking down it as she forced the ground out of the way.
“You don’t have to gag me,” gasped Adelaide. “I won’t call out. I give my word.”
“We wouldn’t be in such danger if you hadn’t already sounded one alarm,” Aurora huffed, her arms folded.
“Which is why we have to gag you,” I told the princess. “I am sorry, but you brought this on yourself.”
“By loving you?” she gasped. “By wanting you? By missing you so much? These years have been so dull and gray without you.”
“I’m sure you had other lovers to amuse yourself with.” I tore off the sleeve of one of my shirts.
“They weren’t you, Chaun. No one could replace you.”
Aurora nodded her head in agreement then stopped herself, setting her jaw.
“I am flattered I affected you,” I said as I rose. “But I’m sorry, Princess. You’ll have to find another toy.”
“Toy!” she gasped right before I shoved the gag into her mouth. The rolled up cloth forced her jaws open. I tied it tight behind her neck. She tried to speak, her words muffled.
“I don’t think you’re a toy, Chaun,” Aurora said, her body trembling.
I reached out, touched her face. “I know. When I look at you, I can see myself in your thoughts. The man you love and the man who is your husband. I only see Gruber in her thoughts. Her husband. She either loves him or loves no other man.”
Princess Adelaide let out a loud, muffled groan, her eyes wild.
“I know, you think you love me, Princess, but you do not.” I sighed. “You want to own me. You think of me as a toy, as a possession. And that’s not love.”
I pushed Adelaide out of my cell and towards the tunnel. Thrak stared down the hallway at the crackling wall of fire, the warding Aurora had summoned. Even from here, I could feel the heat rippling. If there were guards on the other side, I couldn’t hear them.
“Can your earth elemental repair the wall after we go through?” Thrak asked as I pushed Adelaide into the tunnel. The orc lounged nearby, the pirate captain kneeling beside him, her cheek resting on his knee like a cat rubbing up on her owner.
“Yes,” Aurora said, her voice sounding lighter, like she normally did. “That is a good idea.”
It was cramped in the tunnel. A pink light danced around Sophia, summoned by her magic. She stood up with Faoril and Minx. Stone ground behind me as Aurora sealed the tunnel smooth, hiding any evidence of how we had escaped. Maybe we could be well on our way towards the Altar of Souls before we had any pursuit. It lay in Princedom of Kot-Ner, an enemy to Prince Gruber. But his Princedom of Kivnar lay between Asunow and Kot-Ner. We’d have to cross through Gruber’s realm to reach the Altar. If we could stay ahead of him and cross the Nyer River into Kot-Ner, we’d be out of his reach.
Faoril grunted as she worked, sweat pouring off her forehead. She formed an upward ramp after the tunnel cleared the central keep, climbing us up to the stables located, according to Minx, against the back of the courtyard abutting against the outer curtain wall. Princess Adelaide panted as she walked up the steep incline.
“It will be all right,” I kept telling her. I was still…fond of the woman. I didn’t want to see her afraid or bound. I didn’t even like using her as a hostage, but we couldn’t let Prince Gruber stop our quest or execute us.
I was attached to my head. And I would prefer to see my wife live.
Faoril was on her seventh vial of Thrak’s cum when the tunnel broke open into the stables. The smell of dung and the musk of horses flooded down the tunnel. I wrinkled my nose against the shock of the reek as Faoril staggered out and leaned against the wall.
“I never want to do that again,” she groaned.”
“You’ll have to do it one more time through the exterior wall,” Minx pointed out.
Faoril let out a bitter sigh.
The castle still rang with activity. Through the stables open doors, we could glimpse people hurrying around in the rainy night, holding torches. Lights blazed in many of the castle windows. I imagined Prince Gruber fretting, worried what we were doing to his wife, hating how we were escaping. He thought he had us. He was the type of man who did not react well to surprise.
I could attest to that personally.
The horses were chosen by Angela. I helped saddled them as Faoril ripped the hole in the curtain wall while Aurora sealed the tunnel we bored through the floor. She nodded her head in satisfaction when she finished as I lent her a white mare to ride.
She gave it a dubious look.
“No different than a camel,” I said, “except horses have a smoother ride.”
“We should kill the other horses,” Minx said as Faoril scrambled up into a saddle, a resigned look on her face.
“No!” Angela, Sophia, and Xera said at the same time.
“They’re such majestic animals,” said Angela.
“They’re beautiful,” said Sophia.
“They are regal and noble creatures,” Xera said, scratching the nose of Sophia’s roan gelding.
“Sorry,” Minx said. “But… They’ll use the horses to pursue us.”
“They would just buy new ones in the city,” Angela said. “It won’t do anything to slow them down.”
“Well, it would,” Minx muttered. “They’d have to take the time to buy the new ones.”
I swung into the saddle of black gelding, patting the horse on the neck as he snorted. Angela shook her head, mounting a palfrey warhorse, a mean brute that stamped his iron-shod hooves and snorted. Angela looked small on the big mount, but at the same time, she looked natural. She belonged on a warhorse. I knew she missed Midnight, her stallion she had to abandon in Raratha.
I wondered what happened to our horses. Maiden was a great mount. We had wandered the lands since my flight from Prince Gruber’s court and my downfall as a Bard of Az. Was she still in the Doge’s stable? Did he ride her from now and then? Or had he sold her?
“Then let me rig a trap,” Minx said. “A nonlethal trap.” She pulled out an alchemical bomb and her knife. She pried up a paving stone and dug out the dirt beneath it, setting her bomb into it. Then she carefully set the stone over it.
“Pressure plate,” nodded Thrak in approval.
“First person that steps on it will get hit with a sleep bomb. Probably knock out some of the horses and the men. That might slow them down.” Then Minx scrambled onto the back of Aurora’s mount. “Let’s ride!”
I took the reins of Princess Adelaide’s mount. She slouched over it, her skirts hiked well over her body. A horse blanket was thrown over her shoulders as an impromptu cloak. The rain poured out there. She was in for a miserable night.
We rode out of the castle, Aurora sealing up the wall behind us. It was on the edge of the city. With all the bustle in the castle, none of the watchmen were paying attention. Thyrna broke away, riding for the cove where her pirate ship lay to ensure it was safe, following orders from Thrak.
She wasn’t a part of our quest. Not really.
In a quarter hour, we were on the highway leading north from Unmik. It would take us northeast to Kivnar and then into Kot-Ner. And once we reached the Altar of the Souls, it would only be days before we fought the dragon. In two weeks, this would be over.
I shivered as we rode. The rain finally let up near dawn, leaving us bedraggled as the sun lightened the horizon, rising over the Despeir Mountains. The sharp peaks loomed into the air, daggers thrust into the sky. The desolation was the plain before those mountains, the lands burned by the Dragon Dominari when she claimed them five hundred or so years ago. There were ruins of cities, towns, and villages in the shadows of those mountains.
And beyond them was an even worse place: the Shizhuth Empire.
I pulled my wet cloak about me. It hadn’t helped to keep me dry. Rain had still leaked through, my robes damp about my body. I just wanted to curl up by a campfire, bound by ropes, while my Mistress used my body for her enjoyment. Warm and loved.
But there would be none of that. We had to get away.
The sky grew brighter and brighter as the sun came closer and closer to rising over the distant mountains. And then, it peeked out, shedding golden light that painted the bottoms of the gray clouds with rosy hues.
“We are being followed, Angela,” Xera reported.
I glanced behind me, staring down the road we were traveling. The steely gray of predawn was fading into the dun colors of autumn. Trees dropped their leaves in curtains of oranges and reds. Fields of ripened grains ready to be harvest surrounded us.
And metal glinted on the horizon.
“Prince Gruber?” Angela asked.
Princess Adelaide straightened on her mount. She looked bedraggled as I felt, her eyes puffy with exhaustion, her hair plastered to her cheeks. The horse blanket she wore was soaked, molded to her body as she shivered on her mount.
“Indeed,” Xera said.
“Let me try something,” Minx said, slipping off Aurora’s horse. “Keep riding.”
She darted down the road, using her dagger to gouge out three dimples in the hard-packed road and setting her alchemical bombs into them. She didn’t bother burying them, but let the tops of the clay spheres peek out of the ground. Then she ran to catch up with the horses, vaulting back onto Aurora’s mare.
“Let’s push to a cantor,” Angela said, biting her lip.
I nodded my head, heeling my gelding. Horses could cantor for a while and then slow to a walk to rest. You couldn’t push a horse too hard. If you galloped them, they would collapse of exhaustion pretty fast. But with cantors spaced with rests, we could move faster. For a while. After a few days of such hard travel, they would grow fatigue. They could die from exhaustion if we pushed them too hard.
The hooves beat on the road, Thrak and Xera jogging beside the horses. The pair had inexhaustible stamina. She was so light on her feet, she looked like she danced. And Thrak just had boundless energy, plodding along with his large bulk.
After an hour cantering, Xera’s ears twitched. She looked behind her. “They hit your traps, Minx.”
The halfling chortled. “Two sleep bombs and a sticky bomb. That should slow them down. I spaced them out, too. And hopefully, some of them went off in the middle of their group.”
“Make them cautious, too,” Thrak grunted.
Angela gave me a hopeful nod. “Let’s slow the horses and walk them. They need a rest.”
I patted the lathered neck of my gelding. His breath steamed in the morning air.
We walked them for an hour before we went back to cantering. Aurora gripped her reins in the same sort of death grip Faoril had first used when we left Esh-Esh all those months ago. Pain crossed the avian’s face as she shifted in the saddle.
I understood. My legs were chaffed from riding and my butt was growing sore. When you rode every day, you got used to the discomfort. It was still tiring, but you didn’t actually hurt. It had been…months since we rode horses. I’d have to heal everyone when we stopped for the night.
My stomach rumbled as noon approached, our horses slowed to a walk again. We ate as we rode, munching on our trail rations we had purchased in Unmik before being arrested. I grimaced as I tore at the hard jerky. It was so salty, drying my mouth out with every bite.
“Angela,” Xera reported, half a stalk of grass sticking out of her mouth. The elf could just eat the greens growing along the side of the road. “They are gaining on us. We were an hour ahead, but I say it’s now forty-five minutes.”
“How?” Angela groaned, looking over her shoulder. “If they are pushing their horses faster than us, they should be collapsing. They’re all wearing armor.”
“Well, they do have spare horses,” Xera reported.
Angela and Thrak both groaned.
“Is that an issue?” Xera asked, ears twitching.
I nodded my head. “They can push their horses faster because they can change mounts and let them rest by not carrying a rider.”
“We need to find a place to fight them,” Thrak growled. “As soon as possible. The longer we ride, the more tired we’ll become. We haven’t had any rest since arriving in Unmik.”
She bit her lip.
“Surely we can keep riding faster,” Chaun said.
“Not without killing our horses,” I groaned. “And then they’ll still catch us.”
“Time to use our hostage,” Minx said. “It’s why we brought her.”
“Let’s hope your husband actually likes you,” I told the princess.
“There’s a rise coming up,” Thrak said. “If they charge, they’ll have to go uphill.”
Angela nodded, her face set. She hated this. She didn’t want to have to do this, but what choice did we have? We couldn’t get caught. We had to keep going on our quest and then… What? What would happen to us once we defeated the dragon?
We’d still be hunted by everyone. Fugitives. Unless… My eyes fell on the pouch dangling at Angela’s waist, thoughts dancing through my mind.
“Lift her up, Aurora,” I growled, my anger surging. I hated doing this. It was detestable.
But what other choice was there? It was the only path that could get us away that wouldn’t result in bloodshed. I stared at the approaching column of knights and soldiers. Men who were just following the lawful orders of their prince. Violence had to be avoided at all cost.
So I had to be confident. I had to convince Prince Gruber that I would kill his wife.
It made my skin crawl.
How had this become so complicated? It should have been so simple. The ritual at the Temple of Saphique in Secare chose my quest, at random, and then I had to prosecute it. I should have the support of everyone. Especially with the Quest I was on.
I was trying to kill the Dragon Dominari. The very beast that had despoiled parts of the Princedom of Zeutch. The beast that lurked in the mountains to the east. The most dangerous monster in the world. I was here to kill it. Prince Gruber should be thanking me. Helping me.
Maybe… Maybe I could use that to appeal to him. Then I wouldn’t have to threaten his wife’s life.
Princess Adelaide gave a muffled shriek as Aurora’s air elemental lifted her into the sky. Faoril could have done it, too, but I wanted her to have all her magic at her disposal. The last forty-five minutes, waiting on Prince Gruber to catch up, had not been unproductive. Faoril had gotten two loads of cum from Thrak, two from Xera, and two from Chaun. Plus she had another five vials in reserver—two of Xera’s, and three of Thrak’s.
She was bursting with magic.
The leader of the column, presumably Prince Gruber given the regal cloak draping the armored man’s pauldrons, lifted a hand. The column trotted to a halt, the soldiers and knights wielding lances. At the back, servants managed trains of remounts strung out in lines tied together. I shivered. A black-robed figure rode beside Gruber.
A master mage. Where had the prince produced that?
Then Gruber trotted forward alone, his head lifted up the hill towards his wife dangling above. She had to be unmistakable in the vibrant-blue dress and her strawberry-blonde hair. Not quite my fiery curls, but they stood out.
“Stay here,” I said, my heart thudding as I heeled my horse.
“Be safe, my Queen,” Sophia said, gripping her dagger in one hand and a healing potion in the other. She had her robe open, her nipples bare and dribbling with milk, already blessed to heal. Just in case.
Her words comforted me as I rode down to meet Prince Gruber. My hand itched for my sword, but I hoped words could win the day, not deeds. Not strength of arms. Not death.
I wanted to squirm as I rode down, feeling the eyes of my friends on my back, the army on my front. Everyone watched me. I didn’t like it. I wasn’t one who sought fame or glory. There were many who joined the Knights Deute for that. I did it because of Lady Delilah. She was so regal, so powerful, so sure of herself. I had such a crush on her. It was just as foolish a reason to join the order.
But then I learned about Honor. Fidelity. Courage. I learned about the nobility of protecting the weak, of sacrificing so that others could prosper. It didn’t matter to me if the world loved or hated me. I just wanted to protect them. To give them safety.
Gruber reigned up his horse as I approached. His eyes flicked to my mount. “Gladiator,” he grunted. “My best warhorse.”
“My apologies for borrowing him, Prince Gruber,” I said. “My need was pressing.”
He pulled off his helmet, revealing a rugged face with a prominent nose. Dark-blond locks fell down to his neck, spilling over his cloak. He had a harsh look about him, a man quick to judge the actions of others.
“Yes, I am sure it was pressing from your perspective.” He worked his jaws. “Thieves always find justifications for their crimes.”
“I am only trying to defend your lands from the deprecations of the Dragon Dominari.”
He furrowed his brow, cocking his head. “What?”
“My Quest, your Highness, is to slay the Dragon Dominari. It is why I have come to your lands, stolen your horses.”
“And assaulted the Doge of Raratha.”
I licked my lips. “That was…unfortunate. I was only there for the piece of the High King’s sword in his vault, but an erinyes interfered. It was…regrettable what circumstances forced upon me. But the greater good will be served with the beast’s death.”
“And you think you can do it?”
My hand reached down, shaking the large pouch. Metal rang. “With what I have in here, yes. I will reforge the High King’s sword and slay Dominari. Your people will not live in fear of her shadow.” I pointed to the mountains. “You can reclaim the farmland lost, the productive mines of gold and silver and iron. You can enrich your princedom, your Highness.”
“By letting you reforge the instrument of conquest? And where will your ambition take you after you’ve done the impossible, woman? Do you have dreams of reforging his Empire. Of making me and the other Lords bend knee to you. A woman?”
I shook my head even as the thoughts of glory danced through my head. “No woman may rule. Lordship must be in the hands of a man, just as our Holy Father, Pater, rules the universe.”
“As in Heaven, so is it on Earth,” Gruber nodded.
Why? Sophia’s question echoed in my mind. Why couldn’t a woman rule?
“My ambition is to slay the dragon and fulfill my Quest. Nothing more.”
“A Quest given to you by an order of Knights who have attainted your name and declared you a Knave? The three orders all hunt for you, Angela. You are a fugitive.”
I nodded my head.
“And still you’re going to slay the dragon.” He snorted which turned in to a full, belly-shaking laughter. The mocking chortles grit my teeth.
“Yes!” My voice rang, cutting through his laughter. “That is exactly what I am saying! I shall slay her and end her tyranny! Help me! Let me continue on my quest!”
He shook his head. “No, no. Why should I help you achieve your ambition? You want to rule us all. Do not deny it. You have the High King’s sword. Everyone will lust for it. Whoever possesses it has the right to his kingdom. That blade was broken up for a reason!”
His hand reached for his sword.
“So you would reforge it?” I spat. “You would break our parley, cut me down, and then reforge the sword.”
“You have gathered all the pieces for me,” he said. Greed burned in his eyes. “I was deep in my thoughts when you escape last night, pondering what to do with it. You had delivered to me the most dangerous, most powerful relic in the world. It was there, in my dungeons. I just had to have the courage to seize it.”
“And you didn’t,” I said. “You don’t think you’re strong enough to wield it. That your enemies would destroy you for possessing it.” My eyes narrowed. “And that you will have to venture into the land of your bitterest rival to reforge it. That’s why you didn’t remove it from my belongings when you captured me. You’re scared.”
“Yes,” he snarled, his face twisting. “Maybe I should just dump it into the sea! Maybe I should claim it for myself! Either way, you are not worthy of wielding his sword, criminal!”
His sword flashed from his scabbard. Such greed burned in his eyes, masking the fear. The High King’s sword would change the balance of power in the world. Why hadn’t I seen that. I was so fixated on killing the dragon, on completing my quest.
I would complete my quest.
“I have your wife,” I snarled. “At a command, she’ll be dropped to her death.”
He froze, his eyes flicking up to Adelaide in the air. His jaw clamped shut. He lowered the sword.
I drew mine. His eyes flicked to it as my warhorse stamped his hooves. He had his moment to strike while I was unarmed. He was a coward. I could see it in his eyes. He wore all that armor, and he was afraid of me.
“You won’t kill her,” he said, eyes narrowing.
“I will,” I growled. “You will let us continue on unmolested. We shall ride through your princedom without being shadowed. Without seeing any of your soldiers. We shall free her once we cross the Eyer River. She can find her own way back to you.”
He shook his head. “You won’t kill her,” he growled and sheathed his sword. “You aren’t that sort of person, Angela. You believe yourself to be honorable, righteous. An honorable knight doesn’t kill a princess.”
“I thought I was a criminal! A power-mad woman willing to do anything to conquer the world.”
He wheeled his mount around. “You won’t kill her, Angela.”
“You’re going to attack us?”
“Yes. I will take back my whore wife,” he snarled.
“And if she dies in the fighting? War is messy, your Highness.”
He shrugged in his armor. “The whore was down in the cells. With him! She always protested she didn’t know that it was the changeling in her bed and not me. But I wondered. It ate at me. Now I know. She can die with her lover.” He heeled his steed and galloped back to his men.
“Las’s putrid cock,” I growled and hauled the reigns of the warhorse around. I heeled him, galloping back to my friends.
Mud churned by his steel-shod hooves, flying around us as I raced up the knoll to where they waited, ready to fight. My stomach churned as I reached the top and yanked my mount around, anger boiling through me.
“Well?” Chaun asked.
“He said his whore-wife can die with her lover,” I growled. “He wants the sword. I fear he’s been up all night thinking about making himself High King, trying to work up the courage to go down into the dungeon and seize it from my pack.”
A muffled shriek came from above as Aurora lowered Adelaide to the ground. The princess’s eyes were wide. She was trying to scream, but her words were muffled by the gag.
“And that is a master mage?” Faoril asked, standing at the hill’s edge.
“Yes,” I nodded.
“It will take all my concentration to thwart him,” she said, her face going pale.
“Then I’ll have to pick up the slack,” Thrak growled, stretching his arms over his head, anger twisting his voice.
My voice came out a lot more calm than I felt as I gave orders: “Chaun, stay close to your wife. She’ll have to protect you. Sophia, stay by them, but be ready to move to heal anyone. Xera, try and put an arrow into the master mage. Minx, if that fails, maybe you can sneak up on the mage while he duels Faoril.”
“Love to try,” Minx said, a huge grin on her face.
I set my shield as the column of horses advanced. Not at a gallop, but at a slow trot, conserving their horses for the charge up the hill. My heart beat faster and faster. Xera raised her bow, arrow knocked, standing calm, naked and unaffected by the chill in the air.
A wind rose, growling from the east. The column came closer and closer. Faoril suddenly grunted. Flurries of air exploded before the part, whipping at the mud of the road and the grass growing up the hillock. It blew over green blades, ripping up entire swaths tufts. Faoril cocked her head, skirmishing with the master mage.
The wind howled louder from the east, drowning out the gale whipped up by the master mage. A storm approached.
“Angela!” Xera called out, her head whipping towards the mountains. There was fear in her voice.
A shadow fell across a nearby farmhouse. The peasants working the fields were running. And then I saw it in the sky. The immense wings spread out, membranous like a bat’s, the color of blood. The dragon’s body was the size of a small inn, belly made of banded scales, neck thick and long, ending at a lizard-like head with curling horns rising black, forming a spiked mane. An even longer tail swished behind it. Smoke billowed from an open mouth.
My heart lurched. Dominari.
The soldiers, about to charge up the hill and fight us, broke in a panic. Prince Gruber, turned around in his saddle, waving his sword in the air as his men galloped in every direction, crashing into each other as the monstrous dragon bore down on them. Her wings flapped, a powerful wind flattening the field of ripe barley she flew over.
“Saphique gentle love,” Sophia gasped.
Fire exploded from the dragon’s mouth. A great gout of orange roared forth. Like liquid, it spilled across the ground, mighty waves of flames that slammed into the column of soldiers. Prince Gruber vanished in the inferno. A moment later, his horse burst out of the flames, burning, a screaming cheery-red lump slumped over the saddle. The horse made it three steps before collapsing in a heap, spilling the prince to the ground, his armor melted by the immense heat.
One hundred soldiers dead in a heartbeat. In a single breath.
The dragon soared past, the flames billowing in her wake. I could feel the heat from here. I flinched from it. It was like looking into an open oven. On the road, the inferno raged. Men stumbled out of the blaze, their armor glowing cherry red like Gruber’s before they fell to the ground dead. The fields of barley burst alight, ignited by the sheer heat of the cataclysm.
“Cernere’s black cunt,” Minx gasped. “How are we fighting that?”
I gripped my sword, staring at the dragon as it banked over, the tip of her wing digging a furrow through a field of barley not yet burning. She turned towards the inferno, flying back to feast on her meal. Dragons enjoyed their meat charred.
All I had to do was charge down there and fight her. Kill her. Fear hammered in my chest. How could I fight her? The immense heat of her flames would kill me before I could even close in on her. My armor would melt.
The dragon landed in the midst of the inferno, the flames obscuring the monstrous form except in flashes. Smoke billowed into the sky, rising in a thick column. Someone threw up behind me. Aurora whimpered in fear.
“My Queen,” Sophia said, placing her hand on my sword arm. “It’s not time, yet.”
I glanced at her, shivering, shaken. “Time?”
“We’re not ready. We don’t have the sword. We don’t have the magics to…protect us from that.” Her eyes were so soft. “We have to go, my Queen.”
“She’s killing them,” I croaked, tears falling down my cheeks.
“She’s already killed them.” Her hand slid down to my fist gripped about my sword. “We will kill her, my Queen. When we’re ready. Dying today won’t stop her from killing tomorrow.”
I nodded my head.
“Saddle up,” I said, my voice hoarse.
The dragon roared from inside the inferno. Her head appeared from the flames, eyes molten gold. There was such…pleasure in the roar. Such a release. The head vanished, and I heard the crunch of metal as it tore into the half-melted armor of a soldier, eating the man.
I wanted to throw up.
Instead, I heeled my warhorse around. Sophia was right. We would kill the dragon when we were ready.
King Edward IV – Shesax, the Kingdom of Secare
My eyes opened. A tremble ran through my limbs. I felt energized. Slata had blessed me. She had given me the power to slay Angela and keep my kingdom. My son would succeed me onto the throne of Secare. No woman would rule.
“Edward,” my wife, Lavinia, gasped. She appeared over me, her blonde hair mused, her blue eyes bloodshot and haggard. “You’re awake. Thank the gods.”
“I’m awake,” I grinned. “And I feel amazing. Reborn. I can feel it. She changed me.”
“She put you in a coma,” Lavinia gasped. “The court physicians were sure you would die. It’s been twenty days since Slata appeared.”
“Twenty days…” I blinked at that. “Metamorphosis takes time. The caterpillar doesn’t become the butterfly overnight.”
“Butterfly?” she blinked.
I threw aside the blankets, my stomach growling. “Send for food and ready a pegasus.”
“What?” Lavinia shook her head. “No, no, you can’t go anywhere. You must be exhausted.”
I cupped my wife’s face, stroking her with my strong fingers. “I am anything but exhausted. Slata has given me the power to hunt Angela down and kill her. I just have to find her. She must be nearing the Altar of Souls by now. Maybe I can reach her before she reforges the sword.”
“And if not?”
“Then I’ll kill her and take it.” A surge of exhilaration shot through me. “Our son can inherit more than just Secare once Angela is dead!”
To be continued…
Click here for Chapter 5.
I have released a part 38 of the revamped Devil’s Pact on Smashwords. Read this post for more information if you’re interested!