Dark Vengeance I: Nemesis

Preface: In a Dark Place

Dark Vengeance is the 800 pound gorilla of the Wulf saga -- so large that I’m having to put it out in three volumes, as it spans about a quarter of a million words and brings all of the disparate threads of the previous tales together in one epic package. Chronicling the evil Thae’Lynn’s most elaborate and dangerous plot and following a war that touches every corner of Thystra, Dark Vengeance ended up being more than just a piece of lighthearted entertainment, at least for me.

There is so much that I can say about the Dark Vengeance saga and so much that I cannot. Early on in this project I swore to make as few changes as possible to the new editions of the Wulf tales, and yet in the case of the current story I had to break that promise. So much happened then, and so much has happened since that I simply cannot leave this story as I wrote it.

I certainly didn’t intend Dark Vengeance to become the agony column that it did. After all when I started I had a pretty normal life, and things seemed to be going reasonably well. Unfortunately, life has a tendency to get out of hand, and before I knew it I was dealing with the end of a nine year marriage, the loss of my job, and a move to an entirely new city which also ended badly, forcing me to rebuild my life almost from the ground up.

It wasn’t a healthy place to be, and some of that was reflected in my writing. Wulf’s dark night of the soul paralleled my own in many ways, with characters and conflicts drawn from real life, and my own doubts and fears echoed in Wulf’s soul-searching.

And now, with that in mind, I look back on what I wrote and see that it has to change. The anger and resentment that I once felt is gone now, and along with it the rage that created some of the tale’s characters. At least one character was far too close to reality and I’ve modified her considerably. Other things that reflect the real tribulations that one goes through in times of change remain, but I see them now with different eyes and fresh perspectives.

And so I bring to a conclusion the reissue of the old Wulf tales. Of course there will be more – I’ve been threatening to bring Wulf back for years, and I already have a number of new stories. But the fact is that while Dark Vengeance is not THE conclusion to the Wulf saga, it is at least A conclusion. It’s a story of beginnings and endings, and one that sustained me and served a far greater purpose than I’d intended.

Prolog

The room was lit with deep indigo, purple and blue with a high vaulted ceiling that vanished into grey misty shadows. Two women sat in silence, a study in contrasts.

The first sat upon an elaborate seat of carved stone, with snakes and daemons twisting along its legs and arms, and a great black dragon’s head projecting from its high back, staring with magically glowing red eyes. She was a dark elf, her skin deep black, her heavy-lidded, almond-shaped eyes a rich purple.

Captive beauty is such a lovely thing, thought Lady Thae’lynn N’Quy, Duchess of Darkoak Hill, Keeper of the Black Ring, Mistress of the Thirty-three secrets, Holder of the Sacred Chain. Beauty chained, restrained, bent to your will. Particularly, she mused with a delicious shudder that set her rings to jingling, when that beauty is an arrogant one, golden-haired and vain, like her race’s cousins, the ancient light elves.

One such kneeled before her now, her skin a pale contrast to Thae’lynn’s ebon flesh. Keeper Vaenetha Toliurim, former Mistress of Stag Vale and Protector of the Sundered Crown had fallen far since the Stormking’s rebellion, now reduced to kneeling, chained and naked, before the representative of her people’s mortal enemy. Yet, even in bondage, the high elven woman maintained a trace of dignity, a spark of the self-assured hubris which was her race’s hallmark.

Thae’lynn smiled to herself, while at the same time maintaining an air of icy disdain. She was happy that the elf retained a small amount of her old spirit. All the more pleasure in the breaking.

Lady Vaenetha held out her shackled wrists in a gesture of submission. Thae’lynn tried not to notice that the gesture made it appear as if the elf woman was offering her breasts as well as her wrists. The room was chilly, and the Vaenetha’s pink nipples had begun to swell.

“Lady Thae’lynn,” Vaenetha said softly, pale blue eyes meeting Thae’lynn’s deep violet ones, “I come as a representative of my people. You asked that I come before you naked and unarmed, in chains as a slave, and so I have. I offer myself in the name of all my fellow refugees, those who followed the Stormking and are now exiles. We beg your succor and your protection.”

Thae’lynn drew a deep breath and gazed away absently.

“And why, as one of the pale ones, who banished my people ages ago, do you come seeking my protection?”

A flash of fear and indecision flashed across Vaenetha’s exquisite, alabaster-sculpted face.

“My Lady, surely you know.”

“No. I do not. Pray tell me.” Thae’lynn kept her voice steady and emotionless.

“The Stormking, Lady... He was... He was your ally, Lady Thae’lynn. Seven years ago he led us in rebellion against our rightful queen, the Silver Lady. We fought our own people on your behalf. We were...”

Thae’lynn let the silence stretch between them. “You were what?”

“We were deceived, Lady. By you. Now, as a result of your deception, we are without a home, rootless exiles, hunted criminals. For years we have wandered, pursued by our own brethren, all of us under sentence of death. We helped you once, Lady, though it was without our knowledge. Now, we ask that you help us.”

The dark elf raised her eyebrows. “You speak bravely, little elf, for a naked, helpless captive.” She tugged contemplatively at the silver stud in the center of her lower lip. “After all these years I’d almost forgotten. The Stormking was my pawn, true. And you were my dupes, fighting your bitch queen like dutiful little soldiers. But I owe you nothing, foolish little elf. No more than the gamemaster owes his dice.”

Oh, the lovely, delicious expressions which pursued each other across the golden-haired elf’s face! Anger, fear, disappointment, tragic loss... and finally, finally...

Oh, the finest and most lovely of all expressions — absolute surrender, the desperate desire to find something, anything, to say or do, to change the unchangeable. It was the look of the condemned prisoner at the gallows, of the spurned lover, of the wealthy man seeing his fortune vanish before him.

At that moment, Thae’lynn knew she had won.

“Please, lady,” Vaenetha said in a small, broken voice. “We beg you. We will do anything. If you do not help us... We will... We will all perish.”

Thae’lynn waited a long time before replying then finally cast the elf a sidelong, narrow-eyed glance, flashing a smile like a cracking whip.

“Hm. Perhaps...” She mused for another long moment. “Perhaps you will have your uses. You say your people will serve me in any way I ask.”

“Any way, Lady. We’ve no other choice.”

“Hm. How many of you are there?”

“Nearly two hundred. We are all that remain after years in exile. Once we were thousands. We have many different skills which would serve you well.”

“Of that,” Thae’lynn replied, smile widening, showing off the multiple dark rings that pierced her flesh, “I am certain.”

She felt a faint throbbing in her thighs and a deeper, warmer sensation at their junction as she watched the elf’s response. Sudden hope, tempered by barely restrained terror of what the dark elves might inflict upon her and her fellow refugees.

“I require proof, of course,” Thae’lynn said, keeping a tremor of growing excitement out of her voice only with stern effort. “I require you to prove your sincerity.”

The elf swallowed, holding her head up, shaking her thick golden tresses. “What do you require of me, Lady?”

Thae’lynn stood, loosening the neck of her gown.

“Much, little elf,” she whispered. “Very much.”

I

Wulf

Lady Daedora is a relatively regular visitor to the Skate, and her arrival usually involves wild sex, in which I am, more often than not, uninvolved. Like so many of my other female acquaintances, her preference is for my companions, Livia and Narisha, and though I’m sometimes invited, their activities are usually noisy, exuberant, and regrettably ladies only. Not that I really mind all that much; the constant attentions of Livia and Narisha are enough to exhaust even the strongest and most virile of men, which I am neither.

This appeared to be one of those nights, I’m afraid, during which I sat around with Stef or, worse, Udo, drinking and getting morose while the entire ship rocked to and fro, and the occasional wail of passion echoed up from Narisha’s well-appointed little love nest-cum-cabin. This night, however, proved different.

For those of you who may be totally confused by all this expository babble, I should probably stop a moment and explain. My name is Wulf, aka several other equally uninventive names, including Chuma (keep that in mind – it will be important later, and there will be a test). I’ve been all things in my day… No, wait a minute; that was that other guy. Let me start over again.

The name most commonly associated with me is Wulf. It’s known to the authorities from Cold Isle to the Demon Realms, and with special fondness in such citadels of good taste as Stoneburg the Free City, the Elven Isles, and the dark elf kingdoms. For much of my life I had made my living as a petty thief and freelance adventurer, though since our acquisition of the mercenary cutter Skate, we’ve added piracy, smuggling, exploration, salvage work and occasional piracy to the resume.

When I say “we,” of course, I include myself and my merry crew, including Stef the thief, who keeps losing parts of his body and getting them reattached, Udo the drunken and only marginally sentient dwarf, Shiika, an almost silent one-eyed tandu warrior, . I’ve got some other miscellaneous friends, too, but they’re off on their own ships or having their own adventures, and don’t show up in this narrative.

Then, of course, there’s the women, who are, I’m sure, the ones you’re most eager to hear about. My affections are pretty much equally divided between Narisha, a lusty wilderness of crimson flesh and black hair, and Livia, a blonde, freckle-faced little nymphomaniac, whose innocent exterior hides a heart that is the very soul of perversity. Narisha is a demon, that is to say a race of creatures who physically resemble infernal beasts but are actually entirely mortal, and Livia is, well, she’s a thief like me. She’s just a kick-ass sorceress to boot.

My history with these two is well known, and has been chronicled in my previous memoirs. I like to think that I’ve played a role in mellowing them both out a tad, since Narisha isn’t quite so demanding, nor is Livia quite so selfish and manipulative since they both started sleeping with me. I am, in all likelihood, wrong in this conclusion, but it at least helps me deal with the frustration of seeing them vanish belowdecks with a delectable dark elf woman, apparently bound for an evening of lustful exploration and penetration of multiple orifices.

This left me walking the decks, noting the inspiring sight of Big and Little Sister rising above the silvery waves, full and crescent, shield and scimitar. Somewhere to the north were the Elven Isles, where the Silver Lady and her councilors strove to keep together an increasingly fractious and chaotic domain. To the west lay the endless grassy Veldt Lands, home of my greatest lost love, the warrior woman Ushandra, while south of us the towering crags of Arwensland concealed and protected the mysterious kingdoms of the dark elves. This last was, of course, where our new guest had come from, flying out of the night on a black-furred warbat.

Above me there was a rush and flap of wings as the aforementioned warbat, which had until now been hanging upside-down from a yardarm, plummeted toward the deck then swooped into the air, lightly grazing the calm water and flapped away like a scrap of paper blown on the breeze.

“Holy shit!” echoed a gruff voice from nearby. “Wha’ the fuck wazzat?”

Udo the dwarf tottered out of the shadows, clutching, as always, a bottle of rotgut.

“Just a big bat,” I said, calmly. “Ignore it.”

“Oh. Ah. Mm.”

That was about the extent of the little bugger’s verbal repertoire, but I didn’t feel all that bad as he fell into unsteady step beside me.

“’at’s what da elf girlie came in on, wuzzunt it?”

“Yes, Udo,” I replied. “She flew here on a big black bat.”

“Hm. Kinda cute, fer an elf.”

“Not an elf, Udo. A dark elf. Only don’t ever call them that to their faces.”

“Hm. Okay. Why not?”

“It’s an insult. Kind of like calling a dwarf a sheep buggerer.”

Udo’s face suddenly contorted with anger. “Hey! Who the fuck called us that?”

I was saved from further pointless banter by the surprising appearance of my beloved Narisha.

She really is the sort of woman who makes you stand up and take notice, if you take my meaning. She’s tall — only a little bit shorter than me, from her tousled, jet-black hair to her powerfully-muscled legs, and everything in between screams loud, hot, passionate sex. She follows the usual demon fashion trends, which is to say wearing as little as possible, in as alluring a manner as possible. Demons, you see, rely upon their natural toughness and resistance to normal weapons to protect them, and figure that armor is nothing but an impediment lustful ogling.

This time, however, her expression was anything but lustful, and she seemed far too somber to have just completed a bout grappling with Livia and Daedora. She was also dressed relatively conservatively, in heavy trousers and a man’s shirt open nearly to the navel, revealing a deep crimson gorge between her breasts. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, Narisha looks painfully sexy even when she’s not trying to be.

“Wulf,” she said, uncharacteristically quiet. “You need to come down. Daedora has something she needs to talk to you about.”

“Heh heh heh,” chuckled the oily little dwarf. “Talk, huh? Izzat wha’ she calls it, the li’l minx? ‘Talk’, huh? Yeah, Wulf. You go do some talkin’ fer me, okay?”

I briefly considered tossing him over the side then finally decided that we probably needed him, and followed my demon lover belowdecks.

Her cabin was set up for a conference, rather than an orgy, and the other two women seated at a table, regarding me with sorrowful gazes. Damn, I thought. Someone must have stolen their lubricant supply.

Fortunately for me, I kept the thought to myself, instead bowing slightly to Daedora.

“Lady,” I said, politely. “I’m sorry, but your bat seems to have flown away.”

I got a small smile for that.

“Don’t worry. He’ll find his way back.”

There was a sadness about her that I had not seen before. Like all dark elves, she was black-skinned, with pure white hair and deep bluish lips. Her face was sharp and active, her deep violet eyes like a fox’s, normally alive with mischief and cunning. Unlike certain other dark elves, Daedora shunned bodily modification, and her skin was smooth, absent rings, bars, scars and tattoos. She wore a fur-lined tunic and tight trousers, and sipped from a steaming mug of tea.

“Hello, Wulf,” said Livia, voice soft and restrained, then cast her pale-blue eyed gaze down at the table. Her gown was the same shade of blue, complimenting her short blonde hair and accentuating the generous, but not grossly overblown, curves of her breasts and hips. Even as I once more admired her delicate beauty, she sighed deeply.

Gods and daemons, I thought, something’s very wrong…

“So what’s going on?” I demanded, seating myself, and feeling a lurking sense of dread. “Tell me before I go out and hang myself.”

Daedora began, speaking softly. “Something terrible has happened. And something even more terrible is likely to happen, as well.”

“That,” I said, pouring myself a cup of tea from Livia’s magically self-heating pot which sat, happily steaming, in the center of the table, “is not very encouraging. What’s happened and how terrible is it?”

“She’s locked horns with an old friend of yours, Wulf,” Livia said. “Remember Thae’lynn N’Quy?”

Now if there’s ever a name tailor-made to boil my blood, it’s that ring-studded dark elf bitch. Alternating trying to fuck me and trying to kill me (usually in concert), she’d managed to get me embroiled in two elven civil wars, murdered uncounted thousands, and been indirectly responsible for the death of my lover Sarra, a wild elf druid. Our last encounter, a decade or so ago, had ended with Thae’lynn and her daemon lover teleporting to safety a bare instant before my lance skewered her like the last piece of meat at a dwarven banquet.

“How can I forget,” I replied, as calmly as possible. “If ever there were two people who wanted to see each other dead…”

“We know she was behind the Stormking unpleasantness,” Livia said. “And probably those doppelgänger assassins who tried to kill you in Vosgraad, Wulf.”

“Her schemes have grown in scope and cunning since the Stormking debacle,” Daedora said. “She is now the undisputed ruler of the dark elf lands.”

My head snapped around at that, and I sat straight up, heart pounding.

“Gods damn her,” I growled. “How could something like that happen?”

“That’s what Daedora was busy telling us,” Narisha said. “Now that you’re here she can continue.”

“Hell,” I said. “I thought you were all down here having sex.”

“That,” Narisha said, “would have been a welcome alternative. Unfortunately, it will have to wait.” She stretched, breasts struggling to escape from her shirt and reminding me that some things don’t change. “Not too long, I would hope, however. A good session of whipping and fisting does wonders for driving off depression, my dear little dark one.”

I winced. Daedora smiled again, but still looked weary. “My lovely demon,” she whispered. “I hope to oblige you again soon. But we’ve other things to discuss now.”

I poured myself some tea, cast about for biscuits, and settled in for a long story.

Daedora

Deep within the labyrinthine canyons and grim mountains of the dark elven realms lies Council Spire, a single shard of black granite rising from a dark, stony plain. Here, where the sky is always storm-tossed, and lightning brings but a brief, electric glare to the shadowy landscape, and where dark winged things flap and squawk, the Zhalha’sarr’im rulers gather once per year in solemn assembly to discuss their realms and decide upon matters that affect them all.

Daedora journeyed there this year, along with her aunt Shadera and her uncle Vomoss, hierarchs of House Yth’ela. She was young for such an honor – well under fifty years – but her parents, lesser household nobles and Zhalha’sarr’im had raised concerns about Daedora’s unorthodox ways. Specifically, her tendency to leave the safe confines of the Darkhold to seek adventure in foreign, dangerous lands. Her romantic relationships with – among others – a demon woman, human sorceress and human thief, remained secret, and Daedora knew that were they to be found out, her parents’ rage would know no bounds.

For the moment, a trip to the Council with her more influential aunt and uncle was considered sufficient to at least show her the majesty and glory of dark elven culture, for these events were invariably accompanied by excessive pageantry and spectacle as each house sought to outshine all the others. Subtlety was a dark elven trait when it came to foreign relations and the manipulation of outsiders, but was a lost art when it came to internal politics.

Though somewhat distressed, and desirous of another trip abroad (when she thought of Narisha Daedora’s thighs ached and she found herself craving a cool drink of water), Daedora found herself looking forward to the Council with growing anticipation. The many and varied traditions of the different houses fascinated her, from their elaborate ceremonial garb, their strange accents and court customs, and even such esoteric points as their magical rituals and sexual practices. These last were a source of primarily intellectual curiosity for, like many dark elves, Daedora found most others of her kind distinctly unappealing. The declining birth rate of the Zhalha’sarr’im was linked to many things, not the least of which was the fact that dark elven males and females generally held each other in complete disdain.

And so it was that Daedora clambered into a luxurious howdah atop a great, sluggish dray lizard and joined the winding House Yth’ela caravan beneath grim violet clouds and began the long journey to Council Spire. Discomfited by primitive conditions — she had only two slaves to see to her needs — Daedora was grateful when the high, forbidding massif at last emerged from the gloom, already surrounded by the retinues of a dozen dark elven families.

The seemingly frail and slender needle of rock was deceptive — close up it was enormous, honeycombed with passages and chambers, hollowed out with ancient magic — powerful spells long forgotten. Daedora sighed with relief at sight of the rooms assigned her, and sank into the deep, black marble tub, eager to wash away the travails of her long journey. A pair of twin nethron servants attended her, and Daedora left the bath chambers feeling refreshed and renewed.

Daedora dined on fresh water shark and landsnails with Shadera and Vomoss, spent the hours between dinner and moons-rise dressing in her finest spidersilk gown and elaborate silver and emerald jewelry, then finally allowed the slaves to painstakingly coif her long white hair, weaving it with platinum wires, deep purple gems and spangles in her household colors of green and black. Finally, she placed her personal firewand at her belt — unlike other races, Dark elves were expected to attend councils armed. When finished, she stood before a full length mirror, gazing at herself with frank admiration.

Her race, she knew, was a selfish and narcissistic one. For Zhalha’sarr’im, Daedora was downright charitable, but even she could not resist the potent lure of her own reflection, of the dark, wicked beauty she exuded, from delicate, pointed face with its small, pouty mouth painted silver, to her shapely, exposed shoulders and pert breasts, nipples stiff and starkly silhouetted against the purple silk of her gown. When she walked, the black skin of her thighs was visible though the high slits in either side of her long skirt, and a pair of silver sandals wound thin tendrils about her calves, almost to her knees.

The pressing, but deliciously impossible desire to make love to herself tugged at Daedora. Perhaps, she mused, allowing a throg to wrap her in a fur-lined cloak, our race is dying out because none of us can ever find a passion to equal that which we feel for ourselves...

House Yth’ela was seated in the dome-roofed council chamber, household guard resplendent in black and green enameled armor, spears held on guard, and Daedora watched the rest of the families arrive. The scions of House Jabushan marched into the chamber, eyes fixed rigidly to the front, faces expressionless beneath dragon-crest helms. House Devora came, clad in bright colors and outrageous clothing, scandalizing other, more conservative families. Duchess Reanna Nythor and her daughter, the Baroness Shav’rae entered, escorted by a pair of demon guards in black armor, and followed by a long train of relatives and retainers bearing household banners. Young Faela M’Than, come only recently to Patriarchy of his house, entered with his own version of Shav’rae’s demons, a squad of steel-clad bull jarreks.

Others came — the green Dragonscale Guards of House Nendotha, the slender bat-riders of House Voale, the furtive assassins of House Inytas, and the other minor houses — Uthiam, Nashla, Ruthas, M’non and Yaleatta. Last came Prince Tyreth, the virtually powerless ceremonial ruler of all the dark elven realms. The position of king or queen remained unfilled, at least until, as dark elven tradition dictated, they returned to the elven homeland and replaced the treacherous light elves who had usurped rulership of the land.

No, wait... Daedora’s eyes scanned the chamber, counting households, matching family crests with retinues then looking back to the Prince, who stood in the center of the chamber, looking confused and angry.

Where, Daedora asked silently, was House N’Quy?

It took several long moments for the absence to finally sink in with the dark elves who now filled the chamber. No house would dare defy convention and arrive after the High Prince...

Apparently, it quickly became evident, Thae’lynn N’Quy, Duchess of Darkoak Hill would, and did, for a few heartbeats later, she and her escort appeared, striding confidently into the chamber.

No one could deny that Countess Thae’lynn was a perversely beautiful woman, tall and slender, with her dozens of gleaming piercings, her elaborately braided and coifed silver hair piled atop her head, and her luminescent purple eyes. She wore a midnight-black gown with an open bodice, revealing her breasts and silver-studded nipples, and a single sculpted black thigh.

Thae’lynn was beautiful, true, and cunning, but she had also led her people into countless disasters, from the abortive invasion of the Elven Isles to the ill-advised backing of the rogue sorcerer known as the Stormking. Her intrigues grew more elaborate and cunning with each passing day, and many considered her the prime schemer in all the Zhalha’sarr’im lands.

Her household was one of the strangest of all, as well, reflecting her xenophilic tastes. An exquisite young dark elven beauty, naked save for silver chains, eyes downcast, led the procession. Daedora guessed that this would be Yawesha’ae, Lady Thae’lynn’s favorite plaything. The Duchess of Darkoak Hill herself was borne on a litter by a quartet of minotaurs, and beside her walked her black unicorn, Valla. Daedora shivered, recalling the tales of the beast’s carnivorous appetites. Behind her, leading a column of household guards strode the fearful form of Mazzor, Thae’lynn’s daemon lover. Last in line came a curious procession, a group of white robed, hooded figures, bearing a second litter, this one concealed by a white cloth screen.

The Prince whirled, his face a mask of annoyance, melting quickly into curiosity.

“Lady Thae’lynn!” he said, his high voice echoing off the domed, vaulted ceiling. “We are pleased you could join us at last. Perhaps you could explain your tardiness?”

Thae’lynn nodded graciously as her bearers set down her litter. “A thousand pardons, your grace,” she said. Though her voice was soft, steel underlay her tone. “My retinue, as you can see, is rather elaborate, and we were unavoidably delayed.”

“Mm.” The Prince seemed unimpressed. “Unavoidably delayed, Lady? Very well, we will overlook the infraction. Please take your place among your peers.”

Rather than complying, Thae’lynn stood, stepping down from her litter as graceful and dramatic as an animated ebon statue.

“Again, my apologies, My Prince,” she said. “It is just as well that things have gone as they have, for I’ve an important matter to bring before these assembled dignitaries.”

Now the Prince seemed truly annoyed. “Lady Thae’lynn, we will deal with your important matters in due course. Other houses have business to discuss as well.”

“Mm.” The steel in her voice became more obvious. “I believe that my matter is of considerably greater importance than anything these worthy nobles —”

The Prince’s tone was harsh. “Lady! Take your seat, or...”

“Or what, My Prince?” Thae’lynn demanded. Mazzor stepped forward, talons gleaming with implicit threat. “I only ask your indulgence for a moment, then I will take my place if you still feel it is warranted.”

Tyreth stepped back involuntarily, eyes wide. Around him, hands went to sword hilts and his personal guards gripped their spears more tightly. All seemed suspended for an instant.

“Very well, Lady,” Tyreth said, softly. “You have my indulgence. But if it is not worth my time and that of these assembled nobles, there will be consequences.”

Thae’lynn smiled, as if victory was already hers.

“As you know, my agent the Stormking was defeated in battle two years ago.”

“And we are still paying the price for your folly!” shouted a voice from House Nendotha.

Thae’lynn ignored the taunt. “And in the wake of his defeat, the Elven Realms are in chaos. Hundreds of the Stormking’s Light Elf followers fled, and wandered throughout the lands of the Middle Sea.”

Thae’lynn gestured, and the hooded figures came forward, bearing their heavy, concealed litter.

“At last, my fellow nobles, with nowhere else to go, they came to me, their ally and sponsor. They offered their lives and souls to our cause, my brothers and sisters.”

One by one, the figures removed their hoods, revealing the fine-boned, golden haired visages of light elves, males and females. A hush fell over the assembled Zhalha’sarr’im.

“My kindred, it is well known that in all the history of our race, none of us have ever had light elves in our households. I now have accomplished such a thing. These light elves are pledged to me and to House N’Quy.”

Thae’lynn’s burning violet eyes scanned the chamber, and Daedora felt the other woman’s gaze rest briefly on her.

“What will they do for me, you ask, my brethren? To what lengths will they go for their beloved Thae’lynn? Let me show you.”

She made a quick gesture, and the assembled elves moved, setting down the litter and removing the white screens.

“Behold,” Thae’lynn declared proudly, “Keeper Vaenetha Toliurim, and her new lovers.”

The assembled dark elves gasped in involuntary astonishment at the scene before them.

Upon the litter was constructed a framework of black wrought iron, end caps in the form of bat and dragon heads. Astride the framework, wrists bound to a pair of metal crossbars, was a graceful light elf woman, naked save for a harness of black leather straps that presented her breasts like offerings on a tray. Doubt-maddened eyes noted that the two swollen pink nipples were pierced by heavy silver rings, with a fine chain hanging between them. Her face was uncovered, her expression was one of wide-eyed fear, mixed with anticipation and smoldering excitement. Some observers noted the effect of overindulgence in dream-smoke, but even this was amazing, for it was well known that light elves never partook of such things.

And that wasn’t all. The scene before them was, to the eyes of the Zhalha’sarr’im, almost inconceivable. The high elf woman, lithe and lissome as all of her kind, clad like a dark elven courtesan, slowly spread her supple thighs apart, revealing a cleanly shaved pubis, pink vulva naked and hairless, a purple gem glittering from a silver ring that pierced her clitoris. What had happened, what god or goddess had been stirred to action, what cosmic law has been transgressed, to bring one of the proud, the golden, the chosen, to this state, a bound, eager captive, lying naked and exposed before her enemies?

It defied logic and ten thousand years of experience. Between the elven woman’s legs crouched two black-skinned Zalha’sarr’im, a male and a female, also naked, also pierced and chained. After the first few moments of shock finally began to subside among the assembly, something new and even more unbelievable happened.

Slowly and deliberately, with apparently practiced ease, the two dark elves began to kiss, lick and bite their way up the elven woman’s splayed thighs. The elven woman — who was she? Keeper Vaenetha? — closed her eyes briefly, and her pink tongue moistened her lips. Her pierced breasts rose and fell, chain glittering in the faint violet light, and the silent assembly fancied they could hear a tiny moan escape from her throat.

Daedora’s thoughts mirrored those of her fellow nobles. Who was this Keeper Vaenetha? Thae’lynn said she had followed the Stormking. She was a woman without a country, now, a hunted outlaw. But even that made no sense, and did not explain her behavior. What high elf would subject herself to this? What high elf would allow herself to be...

To be what? Daedora wondered, feeling her own excitement grow. Best not to question. Best to only...

Only watch...

“Ohhhhh...” Lady Vaenetha began to moan almost before the first dark elf’s tongue touched her naked vulva. Daedora fancied she could see goose bumps rising on the thighs of the bound elf woman, but perhaps it was her imagination.

Not her imagination was the intense licking the elf began to receive from her two ebon lovers. First the male, then the female, lavished attention on Vaenetha’s cunt, first stroking and licking the shaved outer lips then slowly stroking them open to reveal the soft, moist flesh beneath. Then the male held her open with long, slender fingers, allowing the female to lap at the elf woman’s inner lips, and nibble briefly at the silver ring that pierced her clit.

Vaenetha responded to this in a fashion that would have made her relatives back in the Isles hide their faces in shame. Her moans rose, building toward a shriek, and she tugged at her bonds, straining her wrists against the black leather cuffs. Her pink, pierced nipples swelled up of their own accord, rising and falling with the increased rhythm of the captive elf’s feverish breath.

“See, my kindred?” Thae’lynn said, walking closer and gesturing toward the elf. “See how she enjoys the attentions of her new lovers, how she revels in the forbidden sensations of Zhalha’sarr’im tongues against the yearning flesh of her throbbing pearl? How she wants more? You do want more, don’t you, my dear?”

Vaenetha nodded, lips parted, eyes begging. “Yes. More. More, please.”

Her enthusiasm seemed genuine, for all could see the quickening of her breaths, and the swelling of both her pink nipples and the prominent bud of her clitoris. Then the dark elf woman encircled Vaenetha’s clit with her lips and sucked gently, but with increasing pressure.

“Ohhhhh. Oh.” The golden-haired elf’s moans grew even louder. She licked her lips again, and pursed them, as if searching for something to place them against.

“She wants to suck something, does she? What a slutty little elf she is.” Thae’lynn addressed the male dark elf. “Go give the elf whore something, Navan.”

Navan obliged, standing to reveal a growing erection, and offering it to the distraught Vaenetha. Hands still bound, she allowed the male to slip his member between her full red lips. Her moans continued, though muffled, as Navan began to slide his prick in and out of her mouth, growing steadily harder and larger with each stroke.

Between Vaenetha’s legs, the silver-haired female was still busy, her tongue pointed, lapping at the stiffening clit then stopping to bite and tug at the silver ring that pierced it. The effect was to increase the tenor of Vaenetha’s moans, and quicken her feverish breaths, even as Navan’s thrusts into her mouth grew faster and more insistent.

“Suck him, whore,” Thae’lynn said, moving closer, running her hands against her own breasts. “Suck his nice, hard cock until he comes. Fuck her mouth, Navan.”

Navan seized Vaenetha’s head, grabbing great handfuls of golden hair, yanking her down on the black shaft of his cock, thrusting in and emerging gleaming with Vaenetha’s saliva.

It only excited the elf woman more. She dragged at her bonds, and squeezed the female’s head between her thighs, her groans becoming screams, rising and falling with each thrust of the male’s cock, with each stroke of the female’s tongue, redoubling as the female plunged two fingers inside her, slipping between the swollen pink lips of her cunt.

“Mmmm,” groaned Navan. “Unnn... Yes...”

“Make him come,” Thae’lynn urged, moving closer, ignoring her audience, barking commands into the elf woman’s ears. “Suck him like the slut you are, and make him come in your mouth. Understand me, elf whore?”

Vaenetha’s eyes widened, and she nodded, sucking faster at the now fully-erect black cock.

“See how she obeys?” Thae’lynn said. She’d slipped a hand beneath her gown and was busy at one nipple. “Watch the little elf whore make him come.”

“Come,” whispered Vaenetha, urgently. “Come now. My mistress... mmm... my mistress bids it...”

“Ahhhh...” moaned Navan. The pace of his thrusting grew, and a look of intense concentration contorted his face. “Ahhh...”

“Mmmm.” Vaenetha’s voice was muffled by the hard cock in her mouth. She released him. “Come for my mistress.”

“Ahhhh...” The dark elf went rigid, the stiff black member contracting, spurting hot white semen across the elf woman’s pale face. Her tongue flicked rapidly, licking up the sticky white fluid.

“Lick it up, slut,” hissed Thae’lynn. “Tell everyone that you’re a little elf slut.”

“I’m a little elf slut, mistress,” Vaenetha replied, semen trailing from her red lips. Between her legs, the female dark elf was still busy, spittle and cunt juice gleaming on her face. “I’m... I’m...”

“Are you coming, little elf slut?”

“Ahhh... Mistress... I’m... I’m...” Vaenetha flushed pink, then red, and her body shook. “Ahhh. I’m... I’m your slut, mistress. Your slave...”

“Coming now?”

“Coming now, mistress. Your slave is coming...” She convulsed again, dragging her wrists against the restraints, squeezing the dark elf female’s head between her thighs. “I... I want... I want...”

“What do you want, slut?”

“I want to be fucked, mistress.” Another convulsion. “I want to be fucked like a slut.”

“Hm.” Thae’lynn motioned at the two dark elves. “Stop pleasuring this slut. It’s my turn now.”

Dutifully, Vaenetha’s lovers stepped back and melted into the shadows. The elf woman moaned briefly in frustration.

Thae’lynn pointed to Yawesha’ae, who glided forward, head bowed, to loosen the fastenings of her gown. In a single motion, Thae’lynn let it slide to the floor, and stood before the gathering, naked black flesh accented by gleaming silver rings in her navel, and a host more dangling and glinting between her thighs. Yawesha’ae stepped behind her, removing combs and hair sticks, and a moment later the Duchess’ silvery tresses tumbled down her back like a gleaming waterfall.

Thae’lynn dismissed her slave, who returned to a submissive kneeling posture nearby. She turned to the assembled dark elves, who continued to gape in silent awe. She spread her arms wide, breasts riding up, ribs standing out starkly against her dark skin.

“See her, brothers and sisters?” she said again, motioning toward Vaenetha, who sagged in her bonds, momentarily sated, sweat gleaming on her face, shoulders and breasts. Her nipples were heavily swollen, and the chain between them grew taut with each fevered breath, eliciting a faint moan of desire from the elf woman’s wet, parted lips.

“She is ours, body and soul. She will do whatever her mistress wishes. She wants her mistress to fuck her like the little elf slut that she is. Don’t you, pet?”

Vaenetha nodded rapidly, biting her lower lip. “Yes, mistress. Yes, mistress. I want you to fuck me like a slut.”

“Hm.” Thae’lynn gestured and now Mazzor approached, bearing a carved onyx box. “My daemon lover has a certain item here which you might all find interesting.”

The winged monster opened the box and prodded a finger inside. There was motion, and a curious object emerged, crawling like a dark insect. Its initial appearance was that of a set of male genitalia supported by six crab-like legs.

“An ancient automaton, created before the Great Catastrophe,” Thae’lynn said. “See what it does, brothers and sisters.”

With that, the nightmarish contraption scuttled from Mazzor’s hands over to Thae’lynn, and up her leg. In a swift motion, the automaton seemed to elongate, growing in two directions at once — one side grew into a simulacrum of an erect penis, long and thick, while the other end stretched into a second, smooth cylinder of flesh. Thae’lynn closed her eyes and sighed as the thing slipped its legs around her thighs, and the smooth end slid between them, sliding past the jingling silver rings that pierced her labia and slipping smoothly inside her. The thing then moved one last time, its edges blurring, merging with the flesh of Thae’lynn’s abdomen, thighs and cunt.

“It’s part of me now,” Thae’lynn breathed. “And now, look at it.”

Now, emerging from Thae’lynn’s crotch was a heavy black phallus, thick-headed and slightly curved. This was no artificial device, hard and lifeless, attached by straps — this seemed truly fused with Thae’lynn’s flesh, responsive as a real penis.

“We’re working to duplicate these now,” the Duchess said. “We’ll have them available for sale in a few months.”

There was an audible gasp from the female dark elves who, having long since tired of trying to instill passions in their bloodless male cohorts, saw endless possibilities in the new device.

“Now,” breathed Thae’lynn, her voice tight against the all-filling sensation of her new organ, “now, the little elf slut can be fucked.”

Lady Vaenetha’s eyes widened, and a look of mindless desire brightened her face.

“Fuck me, mistress,” she sighed. “Fuck me with your big cock.”

Thae’lynn stepped toward her, the new phallus before her like a rigid polearm.

“I’ll fuck you, elf slut,” she said, climbing astride the platform and crawling toward her captive. “No fear. The question is how I’ll fuck you.”

“Any way you want,” Vaenetha pleaded, and all watching knew that her plea was sincere. “Fuck me any way you want. Put that cock anywhere you want.”

Now Thae’lynn was poised above Vaenetha, her silver hair cascading down onto both of them. Her pierced nipples grazed the silver rings in the elf-woman’s breasts, making quiet metallic sounds. Thae’lynn reached down and stroked the head of her erect cock against Vaenetha’s moist cunt-lips.

“Want it?” Thae’lynn demanded in a whisper audible to everyone watching. “Want it?”

“I want it,” Vaenetha replied. “I want it.”

“You have come all over your face,” Thae’lynn said, and licked at Vaenetha’s semen-streaked cheek. “I think you need some more.”

“I want your come on me,” Vaenetha said. “I want your cock to come all over me.”

“I will, slut, I will.”

With that, Thae’lynn slipped the oversized head of the artificial cock between Vaenetha’s cunt-lips and thrust into her with a single, violent motion.

“Ahhhhhhh...” the elf’s cry, mixing pain and exultation, echoed in the high-roofed chamber. “Ah, mistress... Oh, it’s so big...”

“And you’ll take it all, won’t you, bitch?” Thae’lynn demanded, and began to drive, thrusting in and out. “Take all of this big beautiful cock in that hot, wet cunt. Take it all and love it.”

“Yes, mistress... Yes, beloved mistress...”

“Say you love it.”

“I love it, mistress. I love your big, beautiful cock... Ohhh... You’re making me come again...”

Vaenetha writhed against Thae’lynn, white flesh against black, large pale breasts against Thae’lynn’s smaller ebon ones, hips grinding as the dark elf’s gracefully curved buttocks thrust again and again in ever-increasing rhythm.

Thae’lynn began to moan incoherently as well, her words becoming a meaningless blur. The thing inside her must have attached to her in a manner more than purely physical, for the excitement was genuine, and her groans clearly those of a woman on the verge of mind-blasting orgasm.

“Ahhhh...” Thae’lynn gasped. “It makes me come. It makes me come as a woman and as... as a man... Gods and daemons... fuck... fuck...”

“Harder! Please!” Vaenetha’s cries rose to a fevered pitch of unthinking desire, as if the entirety of her existence hung upon pleasing the black-skinned woman above her, as if they were now both the same creature, an amalgam of male and female, of light and dark, of dominance and submission. “Fuck me harder... Oh... Ohhhh...”

Another series of orgasms wracked the golden-haired woman, and her legs twined around Thae’lynn, pumping along with the dark elf, pulling the now-gleaming black cock into her even faster, thrusting harder and deeper with each stroke.

“I’m coming. Coming for you, mistress.... Ohhhhhh....” Vaenetha flung her head back, hair flying, cheeks flushed. “I... come... for... you...”

Thae’lynn had reached her limit as well, for she pulled out abruptly and jumped astride Vaenetha’s torso, stroking the long black cock with her hands. The automaton contracted, jetting white across the elf woman, splashing her face again, splattering across her proffered tongue.

“Oh, mistress,” Vaenetha whispered. “Oh, sweet mistress...”

“Good little slut,” replied Thae’lynn, stroking the woman’s semen-covered face then licking her fingers. “Good little slut.”

Then she turned and stepped off the platform, allowing Yawesha’ae to towel the sweat and semen from her body. The automaton, spent for the moment, slithered from her and slipped to the floor, where Mazzor retrieved it and returned it to its box.

Their part in the pageant completed, the high elves resumed their hoods, recovered the litter, swiftly and obediently withdrawing into the darkness. A moment later, Thae’lynn’s other attendants likewise vanished, leaving her, alone and still naked in the center of the multitude, her face a mask of self-satisfaction and arrogance. She threw her head back and again spread her arms wide, breasts bobbing up, twinkling brightly.

“Sisters and brothers, hear me!” she shouted. “You have seen what I have done. Our arrogant cousins are reduced to humiliating submission and serve me! Have any of our people done such a thing before?”

The silence which welled up in the chamber seemed to answer “no.” Even the Prince was silent, wondering what the Duchess’ next words would be.

“I have led our people before,” she continued, “and, yes, we have failed. But with each failure we learn more. Listen to me, sisters and brothers — I offer to lead you again, lead you to a glorious destiny that is assured. I stake my life upon it.”

“And if you fail, what them?” demanded a voice from House Yaleatta. “More death and suffering for our people, and you washing your hands of responsibility?”

“Nay, sister,” Thae’lynn shot back. “I said I would stake my life upon it, and I do. If I lead you again and fail, my life is forfeit, and the Prince may take it as he chooses.”

The Prince himself looked impressed, and nodded as if to urge Thae’lynn to continue.

“Our people live and scheme in shadow,” she said. “We creep unseen and work mischief in secret. This need not end now, and what I propose involves virtually no risk of shedding Zhalha’sarr’im blood. All our work will be done by others, and when they have finished, we will simply claim what is ours by right!”

“Fine words!” barked Duchess Kyla Nendotha. “Your deeds have yet to match them, Lady!”

“As I said, sister,” Thae’lynn replied in a low, determined voice, “should I fail, my life belongs to the Prince and to this council. I will not fail.”

“And what new price do you ask from your long-suffering people?” Nendotha persisted.

Thae’lynn nodded sagely, as if this was the question which she had been waiting for.

“Long ago, before we were exiled to this barren rock of a continent,” she said, “our people had an office called In’choreta, or ‘Protector.’ The protector led her people in war and crisis in the name of the King or Queen, and her word was law. We have not had a Protector in ten thousand years, but today I beg the Prince’s indulgence, and ask that he award me that office for a probationary period of one year. If after that time I have not performed to his satisfaction, I will voluntarily step down and accept any punishment he deems fit.”

There was a moment of stunned silence, then the chamber burst forth in a confused babble of voices. The naming of Protector was one of the few powers that the Prince retained, and as Thae’lynn said, it had not been used in millennia. The notion of using it now...

At last, a single voice rose above all the others and with a shock Daedora realized that it came from her Aunt Shadera.

“She demands absolute power, and says she will voluntarily give it up!” she shouted. “She asks that we hand her the crown, keys and scepter, on a vague promise of glory! Lady Thae’lynn is either mad or a fool, and I will follow neither!”

Another chaos of voices rose up, some shouting in agreement, others screaming defiance. In the center of the chamber, Prince Tyreth and two advisors spoke with Thae’lynn and spoke back and forth with growing urgency. After several long moments, in which several scuffles broke out between opposing households, the Prince stepped forward, raising his hands for peace.

“Silence!” he shouted. “Silence now! I will speak to Lady Thae’lynn’s request!”

The Prince’s guards finally had to step in to restore order, and soon the chamber was quiet once more, though black glances between rival groups continued. Beside Daedora, her aunt fumed and her uncle looked fearful.

“The Duchess of Darkoak Hill asks that we name her In’choreta,” Prince Tyreth said. “While it is true that her plans up to now have proved less than successful, her intent was admirable, and only chance and treacherous allies thwarted us. She has told me what she plans, and I find it both reasonable and feasible. With the understanding that she will voluntarily relinquish the office in one year should she fail, we hereby name Lady Thae’lynn N’Quy our In’choreta, Protector of the Zhalha’sarr’im realms!”

If the previous noise had been loud, what followed was deafening. More than half the assembled households raised their voices in agreement and proclamation, shouting long life to the Prince and glory to Lady Thae’lynn. Others stood, shocked or contemplative, waiting to see the outcome of the discussion before choosing sides. A few brave few actually cried out in protest, trying to shout down the now-overwhelming exultation supporting the Tyreth and Thae’lynn.

Among these was Aunt Shadera.

“No!” she shouted, an edge of desperation in her voice. “Once given the power she will never relinquish it! She has brought nothing but suffering to our people, and now you would give her ultimate power, simply because she has enslaved some high elves! Fools! All of you!”

“Silence, bitch!” shouted a young man from House M’Than, racing at Shadera with a drawn knife. Two of Shadera’s bodyguards stepped forward, glaives whirling, slicing the boy open in a spray of blood. Daedora gaped in horror as the body fell, twitching, knife clanging to the stone floor.

Elsewhere, similar scenes were being played out, and an instant later, Daedora saw Thae’lynn’s household guards and the Prince’s soldiers wade into the crowd, weapons drawn, slashing at all of those who had opposed the proclamation.

“Damn her!” Shadera cried. “She’s drawn her enemies out into the open and now she’s taking the opportunity to wipe us out! Daedora! Vomoss! We must flee!”

Daedora turned, hand darting to her belt where her firewand hung. Ceremonial, it nonetheless carried a full load of deadly spells, and when one of Thae’lynn’s guards, a thin elf in black armor, appeared before her, Daedora cut him down without compunction, transforming him into a twitching, gibbering torch lit with purple flames.

As they fled the chamber, a great commotion erupted behind, the screams of the combatants redoubling in volume. Thae’lynn’s daemon, Mazzor, had joined the fray, grabbing elves and smashing them against walls or tearing them asunder.

Daedora, Vomoss and Shadera escaped with a handful of guards.

“We’ll never survive with that thing after us,” Shadera said. “Make for the pinnacle. There should be warbats there. We can fly from here before they realize we’ve gone.”

And so they struggled along the winding, narrow stairs and passages of Council Spire, climbing higher and higher, until they reached a wind-swept landing, a dizzying, nauseating distance above the mountains and rocky plains below. A couple of guards stood near a squadron of warbats, but they only stared curiously as Aunt Shadera and her retainers mounted up.

“Quickly!” she urged, untethering her animal and kicking it awake. “We’ve only a few —”

“Stop them! Traitors! Don’t let them escape!” The shout came almost in direct response to Daedora’s aunt’s words, and an instant later the landing was alive with soldiers, some in the Prince’s colors, others in the livery of Thae’lynn or her allies.

Then, Daedora and Shadera were airborne, the landing vanishing behind them. Uncle Vomoss cried out in agony as a crossbow bolt pierced his chest and he tumbled from the saddle, twisting and dwindling in the long fall to the ground. The last of Shadera’s household guards sacrificed themselves so that their Duchess could escape, falling before the swords of the usurper and her toadies.

If there was airborne pursuit, it was too late, for the fleeing pair was able to make it to a friendly outpost on the edge of Yth’ela territory. Daedora’s bat collapsed, panting and drooling, spilling her onto the stone courtyard as Yth’ela soldiers hastened to help her.

“We made it,” Aunt Shadera said, weakly, to the captain of the guard. Her husband of nearly 200 years was gone, but his loss had yet to make itself felt fully. “Thae’lynn N’Quy has persuaded the Prince to grant her total authority, and she used her power to kill all who opposed her at the Council. As of today, we are at war with House N’Quy and its allies.”

The captain stared in horror. “Allies?” she said, disbelieving. “Thae’lynn has allies?”

Shadera nodded. “The Prince among them. I fear our house is now at war with the remainder of the Zhalha’sarr’im.”

“Daemons save us,” whispered the captain.

“They will not,” Shadera said, grimly. “No one can save us now. All we can do is delay the inevitable.”

And so it was. Aunt Shadera had never been a fool, and her prediction was rapidly proved true. A handful of minor noble families opposed Thae’lynn; these were quickly crushed. Of the major houses, only Yth’ela and the Dragon clans of Nendotha openly stood against her. Though Yth’ela commanded powerful magics, and each Nendotha Dragonscale Warrior was worth a hundred ordinary soldiers, all of the rebels knew it was only a matter of time before Thae’lynn’s triumph was complete.

Thae’lynn

Prince Tyreth’s moans were thin and, to Thae’lynn’s ears, weak. So unlike the virile males she normally bedded — the minotaurs, ogres, humans, tigers, leopards, and others. Though her distaste for male dark elves remained considerable, she knew, as she bobbed her head with feigned enthusiasm, sliding Tyreth’s erect manhood into her mouth, that this was necessary, both for her and for her people.

“Oh, Duchess...” he gasped, hands gripping the back of her head and driving her on. “Oh, dearest Duchess.”

We must always use titles, mustn’t we, Thae’lynn thought, contemptuously, letting Tyreth’s black cock go, and running her tongue up its underside, careful to stroke the hard silver ball on the end of her tongue bar against its softest portions. She was rewarded by another shudder and moan, and by increased pressure on her head.

“Oh, suck it, please.”

A sense of power infused Thae’lynn, to have one of the most powerful leaders on all of Thystra in the palm of her hand (or, more specifically, in her mouth), to have him begging and pleading for her attention...

No, she told herself, deliberately stretching her lips to surround the Prince’s good-sized organ and feeling it slide past them. She pressed her tongue bar down again as it went, feeling his heat rise.

No. He is but a figurehead — a proud but powerless ruler whom we rally ‘round, pretending that we are still a nation, still a people, not a ragged band of refugees driven from our homeland by light-skinned cousins who could not stand to think we were related.

He is not powerful. He is nothing.

Thae’lynn released the prince and tugged feverishly with her fist, feeling the warm lubrication of her own saliva.

He is nothing. I am powerful. I am the one. My enemies are all dead, or soon will be, and my plan is already in motion.

Not him. Not anyone.

I am powerful. She swallowed the slick organ with deft, experienced strokes. I am power.

You will come for me, majesty. And you will know that I am Mistress, now and forever.

“Ohhhhhhh...” The moans rose in intensity.

She released again and tugged with even greater enthusiasm. As she did, she whispered hotly.

“Come, my prince. Come on me. Come in my face. Come on my tongue. Come for your Duchess.”

“Oh, I’m com... coming...”

“Yes, my Prince. I’m ready —”

She was cut off by a gush of hot white semen that shot from the Prince’s cock, splattering her face and lips. She sucked at his glans, feeling more pump into her, filling her mouth. Thae’lynn swallowed, feeling for a moment the same excitement as she felt when she made little Yawesha’ae scream in pain and ecstasy, or when one of her male lovers finally gave her what she wanted, coming inside her or splattering her with hot semen...

This was no ogre, no minotaur, no leopard or other mindless animal male, of course. This was his majesty, High Prince of the dark elves, and his orgasm sealed his fate.

Thae’lynn released him and he collapsed, cock still twitching, leaking a thin stream of come. She licked her fingers, then crawled atop him, face still wet with the Prince’s semen.

“Gods and daemons, your majesty,” she whispered, looking down on his exhausted, panting form. “Aren’t you glad that you made me Protector?”

“Oh, yes, dearest Thae’lynn,” he replied. “Very glad indeed.”

Daedora

White Lizard Crag stood, battered but as yet unbowed, under the siege engines of Protector Thae’lynn and High Prince Tyreth. Once thought impregnable, the Crag was a solid massif crouched beneath the sheer face of the Ice Daemon, a splintered, ugly mountain with peaks as sharp as razors. A single iron gate granted entrance to the vast palace and fortress, and this had never been breached by an enemy. Smaller forts surrounded the main structure, and these bristled with ferocious defenders, ready to sell their lives dearly. White Lizard Crag stood alone, and though house Yth’ela remained defiant, most wondered how much longer they would endure.

On the rocky wastes below, a great army camped, the smoke from its fires rising to the sky and joining overhead like a vast, dirty shroud for House Yth’ela. The struggle continued night and day. Naked slave infantry of a half dozen races, driven by whip-wielding overseers, flung themselves at the Crag’s defenders, suicidally brave in the knowledge that failure would bring worse and more painful death than that waiting on the end of House Yth’ela’s spears. After the slaves came mercenaries — scarred veterans of a thousand battles, of every imaginable race. Humans, jarreks, orcs, wolfen, dwarves, goblins, even the odd Kaitian and tandu, all advanced sternly, faces grim and implacable, against a storm of arrows, sling bullets, magical projectiles and other missiles, storming one small fortress after another, pushing though splintered gates, scaling ladders or siege towers, hacking with swords, pummeling with maces and clubs, stabbing with daggers. Quarter was neither asked nor given, and as often as not, the mercenaries were driven off with heavy losses, and another fortress remained in Yth’ela’s hands. But each day, such victories grew rarer, and after a month only a half-dozen forts continued to hold out, and most of these were utterly cut off from the main citadel. So far, the dark elven forces — the infantry, lizard riders, wizards, assassins and bat-cavalry of the Protector and the Prince, had taken little part in the siege, preferring as always to let others do the bulk of the fighting and dying.

Looking down from the ramparts at the antlike activity below, Daedora knew it was only a matter of time. A week, a month, a year, what did it matter? House Nendotha had fallen, and with them, House Yth’ela’s last allies. No one could save them now, with all the dark elven houses united against them and the newly-appointed Protector sworn to slay every defiant household and bathe in their blood. Thae’lynn seemed unstoppable now, her enemies destroyed, and the Prince utterly in her thrall. It was an open secret that the two were lovers, though most who knew Thae’lynn wondered how she could stand the touch of a male of her own species. Daedora mused that the Duchess of Darkoak Hill was probably capable of enduring much worse in her quest for ultimate power.

Daedora’s heart went out to the family retainers who fought below, desperate and doomed, as another wave of mercenaries surged forward, screaming with bloodlust. They had doubtless spent the past few hours drinking, whoring and inhaling dream smoke in anticipation of this attack, and in a few moments she knew they would be swarming all over the tiny outcropping where Fort Nyna still held out.

She brushed away a tear. Her people weren’t supposed to feel this way, to experience sorrow and pity, to mirror the pain of others. Hers were a harsh, cruel people, given over only to self-gratification and indulgence, driven by hatred and desire for vengeance against a people and a world that rejected them, made them outcasts and called them evil. If evil they were called, so the reasoning went, then evil the dark elves would be.

Who, Daedora wondered, made such a decision? Who decreed that she was destined only for a life of self-serving pleasure and the infliction of pain upon the innocent? Who but those like Thae’lynn N’Quy who saw the cosmos only in terms of how it served her? Who but those that each day besieged Daedora’s home, pounding it to rubble, intent only upon the painful extinction of all those within?

Swallowing her fear and forcing back tears, Daedora looked down, and was not for the first time, ashamed of what she was.

“Lady! Look out!” The voice cut through the air with the swiftness and urgency of an arrow. A trained instinct took over, and in an instant Daedora was sprawled upon the flagstones, feeling a cold rush of wind and a tearing sensation as great talons grazed her back, tearing fabric, but leaving her flesh untouched.

She looked up. Swooping upward, frustrated in her first attempt, was a thin dark elven woman mounted astride an enormous snowy owl. An assassin of House Inytas! At last, now that Thae’lynn’s victory was assured, they had broken their neutrality and entered the fray. Flying through the shadows on nearly silent wings, the owl-riders were among the most fearsome of the dark elves’ aerial troops.

“Get inside, Lady!” The voice came from a guardsman in house colors, who hurried forward, spanned crossbow at the ready. “I’ll deal with this one!”

“No!” Daedora shouted, clambering to her feet as the assassin swung around for another run. Though her prey was alerted, the fierce determination in the assassin’s pale eyes remained undimmed. It was said that once a House Inytas killer marked a victim, only death could stop them.

Daedora fumbled at her belt, seeking her firewand. It was gone, knocked loose when she fell. Desperately, as the white-feathered monster descended with sickening speed, Daedora cast about for the lost wand.

“Yth’ela!” shouted the guardsman, discharging the crossbow. “Long Live Duchess Shadera!”

The bolt flew true, striking the assassin in the shoulder. She cried out, and the owl dipped slightly, but then came on again. The assassin’s cry of pain transformed into a scream of rage, and then she was on the guardsman, the owl’s talon’s stabbing. The assassin rushed upward once more, leaving a sundered corpse in pieces behind, blood staining the flagstones.

Rage surged through Daedora, and she glared at the flyer with fierce hatred. The defiant cry of her guardsman still rang in her ears as her hand found the fallen wand, and she leaped to her feet, shouting her own battle cry.

“Death to Thae’lynn! Death to the Tyrant!”

The owl descended once more, and the assassin’s face contorted into a sadistic grin.

It evaporated a moment later when Daedora spoke a magical password and the wand belched forth a torrent of purple flames. The owl and its rider were enveloped, both screaming horribly, and the entire flaming mass dropped suddenly, crashing into the wall beneath Daedora’s feet, then tumbling down and down toward the battlefield below.

She looked up, struggling to catch her breath and still her racing heart. More sky riders soared overhead — owls, bats, lizards. With the last of the forts now lost or completely cut off, N’Quy’s final assault could begin. Hastily, Daedora turned and ran back for the relative safety of the inner fortress.

What was that N’Quy bitch doing now in her command tent, so far away, Daedora wondered?

Thae’lynn

The interior of Duchess N’Quy’s tent was lit with a violet light that deepened shadows and cast warm, dark rays into every corner. Tendrils of dreamsmoke drifted through the air, combining with fragrant incense and the smell of exotic oils. Presently the room was occupied by three individuals – the daemon Mazzor, the pleasure slave Yawesha’ae and Thae’lynn herself. The Duchess lounged on her massive round bed, clad only in a thin black robe, admiring the splendid ebon roundness of her slave’s buttocks as she lay, face down, beside her.

Mazzor watched, a look of quizzical interest mixed with curiosity on his short-muzzled draconian face. For years now, Thae’lynn had wondered exactly how her daemonic lover truly felt about the frenzied couplings of lesser beings like elves and humans, and now, as she watched his cock grow to gargantuan size and rocklike hardness, she still had no real answers. The daemon’s organ seemed to be under total voluntary control, and he seemed to be able to fuck and orgasm with unlimited capacity. Thae’lynn herself had never actually worn him out, though not for lack of trying.

Thae’lynn reached for the graceful silver vessel beside the bed, the enchanted chalice she had helped plunder from the Elven Isles during the great invasion years ago. It was full to the brim with rare scented oil impregnated with narcotic herbs and dreamweed. It appealed to Thae’lynn to use such a sacred vessel for an entirely profane purpose, and as she dripped a few droplets onto Yawesha’ae’s shapely buttocks, she felt a renewed thrill of the perverse, the forbidden. No matter how many holy places she defiled, how many relics she used for profane gratification, however much virginal purity she despoiled, she still felt the faint quickening of her pulse and the touch of moisture between her legs whenever she did it.

“Up,” she said, quietly. “Give your master a good view.”

Obediently, Yawesha’ae rose up to her knees, her black buttocks gleaming with a few precious drops of scented oil. She had once been Thae’lynn’s best friend, now that her house had sworn fealty to N’Quy, she was the Duchess’ most favored plaything. She bore various rings and piercings like Thae’lynn, but nowhere near as many. Once possessed of long, lustrous silver hair, she was now totally shaved, and the line of her naked head, along the shallow arch of her back the twin globes of her buttocks and columnar thighs was smooth and picturesque as if drawn by an artist with a single brush stroke.

Now Thae’lynn tipped the goblet further, dripping more oil onto the other woman’s ass, sending a gleaming, golden trail between them. Yawesha’ae moaned at this, her breath quickening slightly. She knows what’s coming, Thae’lynn thought. The little bitch.

“Is he ready, mistress?” Yawesha’ae asked, voice high and tight with anticipation. “Is he ready to fuck me?”

“Hm.” Thae’lynn looked over at Mazzor, his massive organ stiff and rigid as a stone monolith. He was always ready, she thought. But did he truly want to fuck, or did he simply enjoy watching the effect his cock had on his lovers? “He’s ready all right. We need to make you ready, however.”

“Please,” Yawesha’ae said, breathlessly. “Get me ready for his cock.”

“As my little slave wishes,” Thae’lynn replied. Sometimes she wondered at Yawesh’s enthusiasm – she usually preferred her victims to beg and plead for mercy before she fucked them. The slave’s blatant masochism and endless desire for her touch was sometimes disconcerting.

Not this time, however, Thae’lynn told herself, rising up on her knees and taking up position behind Yawesha’ae. She poured more oil between her slave’s buttocks, liberally this time, savoring the impassioned moans that she elicited. The oil left a warm, tingling sensation, and its narcotic components were absorbed through the skin. By the time Mazzor decided to finally use that great organ on Yawesh, she would be in a drug-fogged stupor, all senses enhanced, pleasure and pain doubled and redoubled.

Slowly but deliberately, Thae’lynn slid a hand up Yawesha’ae’s oil-slick thigh, and up between the taut roundness of her ass. Yes, she was well oiled up, Thae’lynn’s fingers glided effortlessly along the soft black skin.

“Good, little slave?” she whispered. “Is that where you want him?”

“Yes, mistress. Yes, it’s good. Please make me ready for him.”

Thae’lynn slid her hand faster, oiling every crevice, finally seeking out the tight portal of her slave’s asshole. A moment later, she slid a finger inside, and felt Yawesha’ae tense suddenly.

“Ahhhhhh…” Yawesha’ae sighed. “That feels good, mistress.”

Deeper now… Thae’lynn slipped her middle finger almost to the knuckle, feeling initial resistance that melted almost immediately. She slid her finger out, then in again.

“Another, slave?” she asked, surprising herself with her own consideration – usually she did whatever she liked without asking.

“Yes, another. Faster, please.”

Thae’lynn saw no reason not to oblige, adding a second finger and increasing the pace of her thrusts. A moment later she added a third, then a fourth, finger-fucking Yawesha’ae’s asshole with ever-increasing intensity.

“Ohhhh, yes…” Yawesha’ae sighed. “Yessss… I can hardly wait until I feel his cock where your fingers are… Yessss…”

“His cock is considerably more than my fingers, little slave,” Thae’lynn warned.

“That’s what I want, mistress.”

“Very well, then.” Thae’lynn removed her fingers and beckoned toward the daemon. He stepped forward, rigid cock gleaming with a natural lubricant that his skin seemed to exude. The thing seemed far larger than Yawesha’ae could possibly take, but Thae’lynn knew that such appearances were deceiving, and he could actually vary its size at will.

“Your slave wishes to be pleasured?” Mazzor rumbled. He seemed to like to talk in this manner.

“Well, slave?” Thae’lynn asked, stroking Yawesha’ae’s smooth, gleaming head.

“Yes, mistress,” Yawesha’ae said, a hint of apprehension creeping into her voice. Thae’lynn smiled to herself. Yawesh knew such things pleased her – she was fully familiar with the daemon and his cock, having welcomed it in every orifice on numerous occasions.

“Give it to her, Mazzor,” Thae’lynn ordered. “Put your cock inside her.”

Then she took up the chalice and poured the remainder across Yawesha’ae’s buttocks and back, rubbing it in, luxuriating in Yawesha’ae’s moans as the rush of narcotic sensation reached her.

Instructions issued, she lay back on a large pillow and spread her legs apart, slipping a finger down to where more than a dozen silver rings glittered, while a lone ring decorated with a black gem pierced her clitoris. She was already wet, of course – such antics never failed to excite her, and as she watched her vast, winged lover slip is oversized organ between Yawesha’ae’s buttocks, her arousal grew greater, more intense. When she touched her clit, she almost came instantly, but held off, waiting for the right moment.

Yawesha’ae’s moans changed to a drawn out screech like an angry cat as Mazzor’s cock found her asshole and slipped in without ceremony, plunging deeply inside her.

“Ohhhhhhhhhhhh… Mistress, he’s so… so big…”

Thae’lynn reached up and pricked a nipple with a sharpened fingernail, feeling it swell and strain against her silver piercing. With her other hand she tugged on her clit, feeling the delicious sensation of pleasure mixed with pain that always sent her tumbling into ecstasy.

Yawesh’s eyes were half-closed, only whites showing. “Can I play with myself, mistress?” she asked, voice straining at each thrust.

“No,” Thae’lynn hissed. “No, you little cunt. You can’t play with yourself. You have to sit there and take it until I tell you. Understand?”

“Oh, yes. Yes, mistress. Ahhhh…”

Thae’lynn so wanted to slap Yawesha’ae’s face, claw her buttocks as the great cock plowed into her, yank on her nipple rings and make her scream. But she waited; pleasure delayed, pleasure delayed. She toyed with her clit and squeezed her breast, flicking out her long black tongue to lap at her own nipple. Trigon’s modalities returned to her – pleasure delayed was pleasure increased. Pain delayed was pain increased. Pleasure, pain… pain, pleasure. For many, like Yawesh, they were one and the same.

Now, for instance. The great, thick cock thrusting up her tight asshole must be terribly painful, but to see her, one would think she was in the throes of the purest form of ecstasy.

Thae’lynn felt a contraction as her cunt clenched, driven to the brink of orgasm by the painful tugging at her clit and nipple, and by the beautiful image of demon and slave before her.

“Play with yourself, bitch,” she gasped, feeling the first waves. “Play with your clit while he fucks you…”

Yawesh complied delightedly, slipping a hand behind her, stroking her wet lips and swollen clitoris as the daemon’s huge cock continued to pound in and out.

“Ahhhhhh…” A groan escaped Thae’lynn’s lips, and a moment later a second cry of release erupted from her slave.

“Mistress, mistress… I’m coming… I’m com… com… Nnnnnnnnngggggghhh…” Yawesh collapsed forward, and Mazzor came down as well, still slamming his cock into her asshole.

“Come, daemon,” Thae’lynn ordered, still stroking herself, feeling another wave rising. “Shoot your come all over us…”

As always, Mazzor obliged, pulling his great cock out of Yawesha’ae, and letting it erupt in a sudden gush of hot white semen, almost instantly covering the twin mounds of the slave’s buttocks, and splashing across her back. Copious amounts landed on Thae’lynn’s face and breasts, and she stroked it into her skin eagerly, feeling another orgasm wrench her.

“His come… Oh, it burns… Oh, mistress…” Yawesh’s cries continued. “It feels so… so good… I’m coming again, mistress…” Another orgasmic wail followed.

Thae’lynn collapsed on the bed, the combination of narcotic oil, orgasm, and the hot sensation of Mazzor’s semen overwhelming her.

“Mother of Pleasure,” she sighed. “Never, never, never, has anyone had so much fun while on campaign.”

“Yes, Lady,” replied Mazzor, withdrawing into the shadows, leaving the semen-covered slave in drugged slumber. “Slaying your enemies seems to increase the intensity of your pleasure.”

“So it does, lover,” Thae’lynn replied, drifting off to sleep herself. “So it does.”

Daedora

The last survivors of House Yth’ela met in desperate council, deep within the fortress. Though the upper stories remained in friendly hands, the lower galleries had fallen. Only the destruction of the narrow stairways up had prevented N’Quy’s total triumph. Even this had only bought a little time, for now aerial troops rained stones and incendiaries on the upper stories, and sappers tunneled up from below. A few days, perhaps a week, of life remained to House Yth’ela.

Daedora’s father, Nuthru, had followed Vomoss into death early on in the siege. Daedora’s heart still ached for him, but even more so in the knowledge that everyone else she held dear would also die soon.

Her mother, Kytthu and Aunt Shadera were the ranking females now. Both had lost husbands, and both now looked ancient, the weight of centuries now at last pressing down upon them. Soon, all knew, they would depart for the Uttermost Lands, where they would dwell with the Mother of Pleasure for all time. Their departure would be voluntary — no one in the room expected to be captured alive.

“We will fight to the last,” Shadera said, her voice a hollow echo of its former self. “When the enemy is at the doors of this chamber, I will cast the final enchantment, and painlessly send us all to the Uttermost.”

Kytthu raised a hand in protest. “Shadera, what of Daedora and the other young ones? Should they not at least be given a choice?”

Shadera shook her head. “The N’Quy bitch will not give them any choice. They will be killed outright, or kept alive for torture. Imagine what she will have that damned daemon of hers, or that flesh eating unicorn, do to them? No. We must all go to the Uttermost Lands together. Our honor demands it.”

Daedora felt a sting of fear and a yawning pit of despair. She did not want to go to the Uttermost Lands. She did not want to leave this existence. There were so many things to do, things to see. And what of her friends, her lovers?

Early in the siege, Daedora had fantasized about rescue, often by her demon lover Narisha, clad in stern steel armor, wielding a great black sword. Other times it was the wizardess Livia or the human, Wulf, sailing into battle, sweeping her away to safety. Even then, Daedora knew such imaginings were foolish, and they seemed even more so now.

Still, even a chance of escape seemed better than nothing. Then again, quick and painless death with those she loved was infinitely preferable to the drawn out agonies that Thae’lynn N’Quy doubtlessly planned for her. Best, she thought, to stay here and deny the bitch the pleasure of witnessing her death.

Daedora ate little that evening, and said good night to her family with a heavy heart. In her chambers she crawled into bed, curled into a ball, and wept silently. Below, she could hear the faint chinking and clinking of sappers tools, of her enemies slowly but surely tunneling upward toward her.

One last image of Narisha hovered before her, of the crimson-skinned woman lying naked beside her, touching her gently, whispering to her.

“I love you, I love you all, no matter what I may say or do. When I am cruel to you, it is because I love you, and when I say things to you, I do not truly mean them, but it makes you want me all the more, and that makes me happy. I love you, little elf.”

Daedora wept openly now, hearing her sobs fill the room.

One thing only. One chance. One last image...

She sat up, reaching for her bedside table. In it, among all her other personal belongings, was a viewing crystal, which she used to communicate with Narisha and her crew when they were nearby. Daedora had tried to reach her lovers for weeks now, and each time had been thwarted. The Skate was either too far away, or the crystal no longer functioned.

Daedora held the crystal close, weeping and whispering.

“Narisha. Livia. Wulf. Anyone. Please, hear me. Please answer me.”

To her surprise, the crystal began to grow warm, and deep inside it, she saw the tiny image of the blonde-haired sorceress, Livia.

“Daedora?” The voice was faint, but audible. “Is that you?”

Livia!

Faint hope grew inside her. “It’s me! Can you hear me?”

“Only faintly, love. We’re south of Xesh, and we’re a long way off.”

“Oh, Gods,” Daedora said, feeling the tears start again. “Please. You must help me!”

And the story came tumbling out. Not everything — there was scarce time for that. Only that she was in danger, and that an army stood at the gates. What could the sorceress do save listen, Daedora wondered? They were too far, too far.

“We’ll sail south,” Livia said, determinedly. “I’ll try to set the crystal to locate us. Can you get a warhawk or a griffon and fly to meet us?”

“I don’t know,” Daedora whispered. “I don’t think so. Oh, Gods, Livia...”

“Don’t!” Livia’s voice was edged with concern. “Don’t start now. There’ll be time for that later. We can be in dark elven waters in a couple of days. You need to find some way out of that fortress. Disguise yourself. Steal a flyer. Anything. Please, Daedora. Don’t give up.”

She steeled herself at the words, taking a tight grip of the terrible emotions inside her, locking them away, sealing them behind walls.

“I’ll do it,” she said. “I’ll try to keep in touch.”

“When the homing crystal is ready, I’ll key it to yours,” Livia said. “It will glow blue when you are moving toward us. I’m sorry, but it’s the best I can do.”

“It’s all right,” Daedora said, quickly. “It’s all right. I only wish... I wish I could bring my family...”

“Just you, Daedora. We’ve no other choice. Please hurry. Stay alive, and we’ll decide what to do then.”

All thoughts of sleep vanished, and Daedora was out of bed, gathering possessions, thinking, wondering what to do.

The next night, the sounds of picks were closer, and attacks on the upper ramparts grew in intensity. Dozens of N’Quy flyers fell to earth, pierced or burned by the defenders, but more of Yth’ela’s troops fell and soon only a handful remained. The upper ramparts were abandoned, and the family began to prepare for the final battle. Shadera said they would soon gather in the council chamber.

Then, Daedora’s crystal began to glow blue. Tonight, she knew. Tonight would be her only chance.

Thae’lynn

Colonel Ta’loren, Thae’lynn’s chief adjutant and Second Eldest of House Voale, entered the inner chamber with an air of self-importance that he wore like a cloak. He was clad in sleek black armor, making him look like a red-eyed specter, gleaming with highlights of silver. Unfortunately, his attitude evaporated the moment he saw what his commander was doing.

Lady Thae’lynn stood, stark naked save for a dark crimson veil and her omnipresent silver piercings, legs apart, fingers spreading her swollen cunt lips, allowing access by…

By, Ta’loren noted, torn between lust and nausea, a great black wolf, chained to a central post so that it could just barely reach the Duchess and lavish attention on her with its flexible pink tongue. Her head was thrown back, lips moist and open, eyes nearly closed, with only a thin sliver of whites showing.

“Uhh… My Lady?” Ta’loren was almost afraid to speak.

Her head snapped up when she heard him and she whirled, leaving the wolf yipping with disappointment.

“What do you want, you moon-faced assassin of joy?” she demanded picking up a robe and wrapping herself in it. “You’re lucky I’m in a good mood or you’d be the wolf’s next meal.”

“Uh, Lady. We are ready for the final assault. We have word that Duchess Yth’ela and her household will… Will cross over before we attack so that we cannot capture them alive.”

“Hm. Saving us the trouble, are they?” Thae’lynn picked up a dreamweed pipe and lit it with a smoldering incense taper. She inhaled, held her breath for a long moment, then expelled a stream of deep purple smoke. “Ah, well. I’ll grant them that much mercy. Begin the assault at midnight. If they’re still alive by the time we get there, well then they’ve no one to blame but themselves. You have your orders.”

Ta’loren saluted. “My Lady.” He left with evident relief.

Thae’lynn turned back to her wolf. He was still eager for her, fired by spells and drugs. A pity to let it go to waste, she thought, dropping her robe and walking back toward him.

“Feast, my pet,” she whispered as she felt the hot pink flesh touch her. “Feast upon your mistress.”

Daedora

Since the fall of the upper ramparts, the enemy had kept its aerial troops there. Passages to the upper floors were blocked with rubble, and heavily guarded. The last surviving Yth’ela warriors were tired, most were wounded, but all were ready to sell their lives dearly. Even so, Daedora was able, using a few minor cantrips, to slip unseen past them, and crawl carefully through the rubble choked stairways, toward the upper levels. Besides, she rationalized, they were on the watch for attackers from above, not interlopers from below.

Things had happened so quickly that Daedora had barely had a chance to see her family one last time. Of course, she could not say she was leaving; they all believed that she would be gathering with them the next day to all pass together into eternity. She held back tears as she left them, gathered her small pack of belongings and headed upward.

Outside, all was dark. Thick clouds obscured the moons, but Daedora’s enhanced senses picked out the soldiers and flying mounts who lounged on the walls, waiting for the call to battle. Her cantrips continued to hold out, or the enemy would have detected her as easily; Daedora’s people saw in the darkness as easily as others saw in the light.

Now she crouched in shadow beside a large pile of rubble, the debris left by a great siege stone. The ramparts had always been her favorite part of the castle, and now they were in ruins, occupied by sworn enemies. More sorrow assaulted Daedora; she pushed it aside along with all the other fear and loss she felt.

Ahead was a squadron of warbats — these were beasts she had ridden before, which she knew how to control. Swift but rather stupid, the creatures did little fighting themselves, serving instead as mobile platforms for transporting infantry or archers. The bats riders lay nearby, all apparently asleep. Their mounts, on the other hand, looked restive, eager to take off for a night’s foraging. None were tethered or restrained.

This was what Daedora had hoped. Warbats were expected to disappear when not being ridden, and the sleeping soldiers would not miss the bat she chose until the next day when it did not return. Even then, the rider might assume that the bat was lost to accident or a predator.

Daedora’s heart pounded with terrifying intensity, and she felt it through her entire body. The bats were unsaddled, of course. Their tack lay nearby, beside the sleeping riders. If she were to ride one of the creatures, she would have to do so bareback, clinging to its fur, guiding it with hand pressure against its sensitive ears. She’d only done such a thing once in her life, and then she’d almost fallen. Now, her life depended upon it.

A faint tingling in her ears and fingertips told Daedora that the cantrip was expiring, and in a few seconds she would be completely visible. Now was the time...

Throwing all caution to the wind, she sprinted toward the bats. The spell would not protect her while she moved so quickly and openly, and if any of the dark elves on the walls happened to look her way.

“Hey! What was that?”

The voice should have frozen her in place, but instead it spurred her onward. Daedora leaped the last few feet, landing on the soft brown fur of a yawning warbat. Startled, the creature spread its wings and leaped from the wall, plummeting downward, surprised by the sudden weight on its back.

Daedora clung to the fur for dear life, anticipating the shock when the bat finally arrested its fall and started to fly. When it came, it was almost too much for her; she felt her grip loosen, and one leg slip off, dangling behind the confused bat. The creature darted to and fro, diving and climbing; though it was used to a rider, Daedora had no saddle, and the sensations were proving too much for the bat to handle. It was several long minutes before the bat finally settled into a normal flight pattern, and to Daedora’s horror, she saw that it was making back toward the castle wall, where the dark elves milled around, alerted that something was up. The cantrip was gone now; if the creature returned, she’d be captured for certain.

To be caught after only a few moments of freedom...

Daedora steadied herself and guided the bat the way she’d been taught, by waving her hands near its large, intricately-funneled ears. Thinking that prey was nearby, the bat turned, banking toward the imagined target. She motioned near the other ear, and the beast responded accordingly.

Below, the other bats began to launch themselves into the air, and the elves returned to their rest. They had not seen her. She was safe for the moment.

The bat bobbed and weaved in the way of its kind. Bat flight was nowhere near as linear and graceful as that of a bird, and several times Daedora almost lost her grip, hanging precariously over the vast army encamped below. She saw now how futile Yth’ela’s struggle had been. The army was huge, and the elven forces had yet to be committed. On a lone promontory, she saw a darkly-lit indigo and blue pavilion, banners fluttering around it, and interspersed between them, a number of crosses from which still bodies, or parts of bodies, hung.

Daedora shuddered, then gaped in fear as a great, hulking winged shape came out of the tent. Mazzor, Thae’lynn’s lover. Was that the Protector’s own tent, she wondered? Daedora clung tightly to the bat’s fur, praying that the daemon did not see her.

Thae’lynn

Mazzor’s horned dragon-head inclined up toward the darkened sky.

“Someone is escaping,” he said. “One of our enemies. On a warbat. I’m not certain who.”

Thae’lynn shrugged. “A rat fleeing the sinking ship. Let it go. It will serve to spread word of our conquests. Now…” She turned to where her lover lay on his back, erection towering like the grim edifice of Council Spire. “Now where would you like to put that lovely cock, my beloved daemon?”

Daedora

Hours stretched by, and keeping the bat calm grew harder and harder. The flinty hills and low plains of her homeland fled by. The enemy was far behind, but now Daedora faced hunger, thirst, and a quarrelsome, uncooperative mount. Soon, the black waves of the ocean appeared, and she flew out over the open sea.

Mindful of the shaking she was likely to get, Daedora had secured Livia’s crystal by a chain around her neck, and she checked on it periodically, guiding the bat in the correct direction, maintaining a bright blue glow. How far she needed to fly was uncertain, and the few times she tried to contact Livia through the crystal, she got no response. It was nearly dawn when she finally saw the sails of the Skate, and her gloom lifted. The bat seemed to sense that the long journey was soon to be over, and flapped toward the ship with renewed enthusiasm. Perhaps it was the inviting yardarms, where it could sleep, wings furled, but whatever the reason, Daedora had no trouble guiding her troublesome mount the last league or so to the ship.

When she at last tumbled to the deck, looking up at a young blonde human named Steph, Daedora knew that she was, for the moment, safe. Home was gone, or soon would be, and all she knew and loved would be dead or destroyed. She managed a weak smile when she saw Narisha, and finally fell senseless into her lover’s arms. Here, now, she had a home, and a place where she could recover.

And plan her vengeance.

II

Wulf

Anyone who goes out of his or her way to make someone else cry is, in all likelihood, scum. In this case, anyone who could make a young woman as good natured and kind as Daedora cry was probably asking for decapitation. Since the villain in question was Thae’lynn N’Quy, of course, she’d condemned herself for about the twentieth time over as far as I was concerned.

For, I realized, cradling Daedora against me as Narisha and Livia stroked and petted her and told her that everything was going to be all right, this was a kind and good hearted woman. Dark elf she was and, for many people, that in itself was enough to condemn her. But I’ve known far too many wicked light elves, and far too many noble orcs and selfless demons to judge a person by the color of her skin, or the shape of her ears or the antiquity of her culture. If the dark elves were evil, then the world had made them that way, most notably their smarmy cousins the high elves, who had driven them out centuries before.

Here, sobbing and shaking before me in utter emotional collapse, was a dark elf, and I knew that I cared for her, and wanted to see justice done to those who had slaughtered her family and destroyed her home.

“There, there,” I said softly. “It’s going to be all right.”

As hackneyed and clichéd as it was, that was about all I could say right then, or else I’d start weeping myself.

Damn, but I’m sensitive.

 ***

 It took several hours for poor Daedora to compose herself sufficiently to provide us with any more real information. What we got was disturbing, and enough to make me immediately suggest we light out of dark elven waters and head straight for a nice quiet igloo in the extreme north of Cold Isle, where the dark elves were unlikely to show up.

What I considered a very reasonable suggestion was vetoed, though Livia ordered us to set sail and head north with all speed.

Thae’lynn, it seemed, had her fingers in a large number of pies, and had not been letting mushrooms grow under her feet since our last meeting.

“She is definitely gathering an army, mostly foreign mercenaries. She’s promising very rich rewards, giving them gold and concubines and very old weapons. I guess she’s been gathering up ancient artifacts for years, and is giving the non-magical stuff to her troops. Her core leadership is all female, though, and most of her officers are other dark elves. She has some humans, I think. Perhaps some Wolfen and Tandu, as well.”

“She doesn’t discriminate,” I said. “I suspect she finds the beast-folk pretty stimulating company, if I remember her proclivities aright.”

“Only trusts women, eh?” Narisha asked. “Smart girl.”

“Quiet,” I said. “She lets her mercs do all the fighting?”

Daedora nodded. “It’s traditional. Our own soldiers are saved for the final battle, or not used at all. We prefer to manipulate, rule from the shadows.”

“What about her pet high elves?” Livia asked. “What is she doing with them?”

“No idea. We were shut up in the fortress for so long... There was no news after House Nendotha fell. We heard that they were acting as her agents abroad, where high elves would raise less suspicion than dark elves, but I don’t know for certain. There were so many rumors. That she was dabbling in necromancy, preparing to open another dimensional portal, or summoning ancient sea daemons to be part of her navy.”

I looked anxiously out the porthole.

“Nothing out there yet,” I observed, “but then the night is still young.”

“We’re sailing north, Wulf,” Livia assured me. “Out of her sphere of influence.”

“For the moment, anyway.” I didn’t feel much better.

“She’s been busy, I’ll grant her that.” Narisha didn’t seem much interested in sex, but I knew it was only a temporary lull.

I shrugged. “What’s it mean to us? You say she’s managed to take ultimate power in the dark elf realms, that she’s got the high prince eating out of her... Well, her hand, and that she’s building a huge army armed with ancient weapons. We’re just a bunch of itinerant adventurers with a nice ship. It seems to me that the best we can do is keep our heads down and hope that she doesn’t notice us.”

“You’re sounding awfully pragmatic,” Livia said. “That bitch killed your girlfriend Sarra, laid waste to the Elven Islands, tried to kill you three times — or was it four? — and almost killed Li and Theanna. Me too, I guess, if you count those storm daemons.”

“You think I don’t know that?” I said, feeling somewhat helpless. “If I knew some way to really nail the fucking cunt, I’d do it. However, I suspect she’s a bit beyond the reach of our vengeance right now.”

“Just a minute,” Narisha interjected, “I object to your use of the word ‘cunt.’ I think it demeans a perfectly lovely part of the body to use it as a pejorative.”

“I stand corrected,” I said. “When I said ‘cunt,’ I actually meant Gods-damned cocksucking ice-queen bitch. Is that any better?”

“I would think you would be the last people on all of Thystra to object to cocksucking,” Narisha continued, shaking her blue-black hair. Yes, I was right. The old libido was coming back. Too bad the rest of us weren’t in the mood.

“She’s planning something,” Livia said. “Armies are too expensive just to sit on them. Especially mercenaries. She’s going to use them.”

“For what?” I asked. “Even with an army of mercs, she would still need naval transport, and the high elves would never stand for that. Not after the Stormking.”

Livia laughed at that. “Damned prick-ears think they own the Middle Sea. It’s getting downright impossible to be an honest corsair anymore.”

“Who else is she going to fight? The demons?”

Now it was Narisha’s turn to laugh derisively. “In a goblin’s eye! We’d send her streaking back for home the minute she set foot across the border.”

“Don’t be so sure. She’s got a few thousand years of magical heritage and hatred behind her.”

“And you have no idea what we’ve got, my little pet. No idea.”

I accepted Narisha’s statement with a neutral grunt. Taking on the demons was likely to end in disaster, but up to now, disaster was Thae’lynn’s middle name. Even so, she had managed to end up on top of the heap in dark elf land, and now looked to be turning her sights on the rest of us.

“Perhaps her pet elves have something to do with it,” Livia suggested. “Like Daedora says, they prefer to let others do the fighting. Maybe they’re out provoking a fight right now.”

“I doubt she’d pull anything so overt,” I said. “I’m sure her toy elves are in action somewhere, but they’re doing something we don’t yet suspect.”

Feanor

Lord Feanor thrust smoothly into the soft, welcoming depths of Lady Vaenetha, triggering a deep moan of desire. With strong hands, he grasped the soft roundness of her buttocks, pulling her to him with a demanding passion that even surprised him.

Sex among elves was normally a drawn-out affair, rife with symbolism and ceremony, and its culmination was often a brief, passionless thing. Vaenetha, returned now to her homeland and Feanor’s ward, had brought with her a new perspective, a hot passion that the ancient elf lord had not seen in thousands of years. Perhaps it was her time with the rebels that had taught her such things — Feanor, enthralled by her singular desire for pleasure, and her endless capacity to please him, did not care.

“Oh, my lord!” she cried, blonde hair flying, buttocks shaking violently from each of his masterful, domineering thrusts. “You’re making me... Oh, please, fuck me harder. Please fuck me...”

Such words were never uttered by elvish lips. They were crude, meaningless syllables more suited to short-lived humans or filthy dwarves. Before Vaenetha came into his life, Feanor would never have considered speaking in such a manner. Now, however, it created a rush of burning desire, sending his heart hammering like a war drum, his limbs trembling, a wave of desire that Feanor realized was much like what he felt in battle.

“I’ll fuck you,” he growled, holding her soft buttocks even harder and redoubling the strength of his thrusts. “I’ll fuck you as hard as I want.”

“I’m coming, lord... Oh, Gods... I’m coming...” Vaenetha tensed, then collapsed down onto the bed, crying out with a voice filled with the agony of sudden release. “Ahhhhhhhh...”

The passion still raced through Feanor’s veins. He wanted her all the more, now, and even as the body-wracking waves of orgasm continued to pass through Lady Vaenetha, he seized her by the shoulders, turning her roughly onto her back.

“Oh, please...” she cried. Her face was flushed, her nipples hard and swollen, straining against the silver rings and the chain which bound them. She had told him that she’d kept the rings as a symbol of her old foolishness, of the bondage in which she had given herself up to the Stormking, but they excited Feanor for different reasons. The sight of her nipples swelling, drawing the short chain tight, stimulating her all the more, and driving her toward the crashing release of orgasm made the elf lord want to take her as savagely as he could, and to thrust into her wherever he wished.

Her legs were wrapped round his shoulders now, and his cock was at the gates of her cunt. Her moans, never stilled from the last orgasm, rose to new heights when Feanor thrust into her again. He felt her muscles tighten against him as a new round of climaxes gripped her.

This is what he liked, what he wanted... The female was like a conquered enemy to him, reduced to utter servitude by the power of his cock, as an enemy was taken by the sword. Never before had a woman done this to Feanor, the greatest warrior in elf lands...

Her last climax, a shattering explosion that made her seize the sheets in a death-grip, and rise up to meet him, belly straining, pierced nipples pulled tight by their chain, came moments before Feanor’s. Finally ready, he released into her, cock spurting forth, sending shocks through his entire body.

Spent, the two elves fell together in a sweaty heap.

“Gods, my lord,” she whispered. “I love how you fuck me.”

“I love to fuck you,” Feanor replied, the new words sounding strangely natural. “I love to fuck you more than anything. Besides perhaps battle with our enemies.”

“Perhaps,” Vaenetha sighed, pulling herself close, blonde hair covering them, “I can help you to do both.”

 ***

The dragon princes sat in solemn contemplation as the realm’s nobles debated and argued below. In their center, her beauty even more radiant and unearthly than the loveliest of her subjects, the Silver Lady sat, watching the proceedings in silence. Since the defeat of the Stormking and the disappearance of her daughter, Theanna, the Lady had grown withdrawn and distant, speaking to her subjects only rarely, and leaving the day to day running of her realm to the dragon princes. All knew that she was deeply saddened, and a few suggested that after countless centuries of rule, the Lady was at last preparing to leave the mortal realm, and go beyond. Most discounted such rumors, but each day they grew louder and more plausible.

Lord Feanor, the Silver Lady’s Master of Arms and Supreme Marshal of all Elven Armed Forces, addressed the gathering, his voice ringing like the battle challenge of an ancient hero confronting the demon hordes. He wore a suit of blindingly bright godsteel, and beside him, quiet and subservient, sat his mistress, Lady Vanethae. Though condemned as a traitor for supporting the Stormking, Feanor had extended his protection to her, and now she dwelled in the safety of his stronghold.

“It is well known,” Feanor said, armored fist clutched before him, “that the upstart younger races of the world covet our wealth and knowledge, and would crush us if they had the chance! Now, Lady Vaenetha comes before us with news that they plan to do just that!”

“Why,” complained Lady Durenna Snowtree, “should we take the word of a traitress like her? She freely admits that she fought for the Stormking against the Lady, and if not for your protection, would even now be condemned and imprisoned or worse! She has nothing to lose by lying!”

“Nothing to gain, either,” Feanor shot back. “As you said, she admits to her misdeeds, and begs forgiveness for them. She was misled by a conspiracy of the dark ones, aided, we have since learned, by the human masters of Litharna, Xesh and the White Empire! She has asked to live once more with her brethren and once more obey the word of the Lady. I have agreed, and she now lives as a full member of our society.”

“You trust her words, Lord Feanor? Why? All know what she is to you, my lord! Is your trust bought by simply climbing into your bed?”

A brief flash of rage flickered in the warrior’s eyes, but he stilled it. “You know better than that, lady. My loyalty is to these princes, and to the Lady who watches over us all. And I have taken time to verify all that this woman has told me. The humans are creating an alliance that will take our lands from us and reduce us to pitiful servitude! I say that we should not let them do this! We must strike now while we still can. We will defeat our enemies and at the same time renew ourselves! Bring back our ancient days of glory when we rode upon dragons and none stood against us!”

“Bah!” shouted Lord Heldamar. “You speak like a fool for all your authority, Feanor. This slut has addled your brain. The dragons are all dead. Dead or sleeping, and they cannot be awakened. None have stirred since the goblins invaded.”

“You are wrong!” Feanor shouted. “The dragons stir! They live again! It is the sign we have waited for. Their dreaming is over, and now they return to carry us to victory! Ask the princes if you do not believe me!”

All eyes now turned to the dragon princes who had, until now, listened in silence. The Silver Lady sat above them, but at the gaze of her fellow elves, she abruptly looked away, as if stricken.

“The dragons live,” said Prince Simenor, whom may believed to be as old as the Silver Lady. “And we are told that they sleep more lightly now. Iskhana awoke for a time a month ago, and the others seem to be close to awakening as well. I caution you not to take this as absolute proof, Lord Feanor. Though the dragons may be awakening, this may not be the sign you seek.”

“What is it a sign of then?” Feanor demanded. “We are in peril, my lords and ladies! The others move against us — the short-lived humans, the greedy dwarves, the filthy orcs and the foul beast-folk. Now the dragons are returning, and the gods decree that we set out once more on the road of conquest! Lords and ladies, shall we heed their advice, or sit in silence and fade away as if we had never existed?”

The souls of all the elven nobles watching teetered on the brink. If the dragons had, indeed, returned, it could only be a sign that the ancient glory of the elves would soon return as well. But if they were wrong...

All eyes turned toward the dragon princes, and beyond them to the Silver Lady. At last she returned their gaze. Her eyes were tired, her voice faint.

“I cannot endorse this course of action, Lord Feanor,” she said. “But if this is what you would do, I cannot oppose it either. My heart is weary, lords and ladies, and if you wish to once more walk the road of conquest, to bring in all the pain and sorrow that that entails, you are welcome to do so. I will say nothing more.”

For many, this was a call to stop and think, and not to act rashly, the tired words of a demigoddess weary of the pain of the world.

To Feanor, however, it was the exact opposite.

“Lords and ladies!” he cried. “Are you with me? Shall we awaken the dragons and summon our legions to conquer! Will we redeem the sorrow which the young, foolish races have visited upon our people?”

Lady Vaenetha, sitting in silence beside her lord, smiled almost imperceptibly. Like Feanor, and like her true mistress, Protector Thae’lynn, she knew what the answer would be.

Vaenetha

Lady Vaenetha crept in preternatural silence through the ancient and sacred caverns where legend held that the elven race had been born of dragons, birthed by the ancient god Valaron. For anyone besides the dragon princes to venture here was, of course, an offense punishable by death, and probable enshrinement of the escaping soul in the iron body of a dreadguard.

Lady Vaenetha had faced death before, however, and now the prospect held little fear for her.

A low, sonorous rumbling filled the chamber, making the floor and walls tremble. Vaenetha bit back terror. She knew where she was and what she was to do; the will of her mistress was implacable.

Ahead, a mountainous scaled form filled the vast cavern. It rose and fell with the rumbling, breathing in vast volumes of air, and expelling warm, sulfur-scented vapor.

This was Dhruul, oldest and greatest of the dragons, his scales stained black with age, his spines as hard as diamonds and sharp as razors, his claws like the swords of a dozen angry gods. His name meant “thunder” and the last time he had awoken, a mountain lay splintered in his wake. To the elves, he was a god. To others, he was a devil.

Vaenetha had come to awaken a devil.

Hands shaking, she approached the monstrous thing, and found his head, tucked under one titanic claw, making the creature look incongruously like a sleeping cat. The head was easily the size of two warhorses laid end to end, a wedge-shaped mass of iron-hard scales, webbed fins and spines. Its eyes were closed; they had not opened in millennia.

Reminding herself that the clumsy scuttling of a single elf woman could scarcely awaken a creature of such antiquity, Vaenetha scaled the beast as if it were a mountain summit, climbing up a claw first, then along a forearm, toward the deadly-looking mouth — closed, but sporting several ragged fangs, overhanging Dhruul’s hard-edged lips.

Nearer, now. The beast moved restlessly, and she almost impaled herself on a dorsal spine. Closer to the furrowed, craggy valley between its eyes, at the base of its head crest.

Vaenetha fumbled at her neck and unclasped the necklace. At the end dangled an oddly-shaped gem, colored a deep reddish-black and glowing with inner fire. Stretching out almost to the limit of her reach, she placed the gem between the titan’s eyes and watched in amazement as it glowed suddenly bright, then vanished, sinking beneath Dhruul’s scales.

She leaped clear not a moment too soon, for Dhruul’s head, long bowed in sleep, suddenly sprang up, smoke trailing from its nostrils, soaring like the tallest tree Vaenetha could imagine. The beast snorted, loudly, and puffed more smoke. Wings like the sheets of a titanic warship unfurled, buffeting Vaenetha with a gust of magically-enhanced wind.

The elf retained her feet, and swiftly scanned her memory for the words she was to say.

“Lord Dhruul, wisest and most ancient of all dragon-kind, thou art now a prisoner to the will of Trigon, and the whim of Lady Thae’lynn N’Quy... Taka’val. Thrakhun. Tynoet’ta!”

The dragon stopped and stared down at her curiously. For an instant, Vaenetha wondered whether the spell had failed, and whether she was about to be eaten. At last, a booming voice issued from the dragon.

“Very well, elf. I serve Trigon and Thae’lynn. What would they have of me?”

Vaenetha felt the fear and dread flow from her limbs like water. She had succeeded. The dragon was enthralled.

Vaenetha spoke, telling the dragon its duty, and images of blood and fire seethed in her mind.

Gods, they were beautiful...

Ixalia

Captain Ixalia scanned the horizon for at least the hundredth time that day. The surface of the sea was flat and calm as overhead gulls wheeled in a cloudless sky. All around her, the crew of the Raven struck similar poses of puzzled anxiety. Below decks, the slave rowers dozed, taking advantage of a respite in their endless toil.

The Raven and her escort of twenty smaller Xeshite warships had spent nearly a week on station here, at the crux of several important shipping lanes, responding to a rash of piratical attacks and disappearances of merchant vessels. So far, however, the cowardly raiders had yet to put in an appearance, causing Ixalia to gravitate between boredom and fear on a rapidly-shortening cycle.

A lookout’s cry of “Sail ho!” seized Ixalia’s attention, and sent the crew into motion. Half-expecting another lone merchant vessel, trundling earnestly to some unknown destination, Ixalia strained to see, finally discerning a tall white sail leagues distant, but closing rapidly. As she watched, the sail was joined by a second, then a third, a fourth, and...

“Merciful Mother!” came a shout from below, followed by a dozen similar expressions of amazement.

At least fifty warships bore down on Ixalia’s flotilla — white-hulled, graceful vessels with painted sails and silken banners bearing images of eagles, dragons, griffons...

“Elves!” shouted Commander Uxanor, his normally ferocious bearded face now clouded with doubt and apprehension. “Bloody, gods-blasted elves, captain! What the hell are they doing here?”

“I wish I knew, Commander,” Ixalia replied, striding with sudden determination aft. “I’m not about to sit around here idly speculating, either. Prepare for battle!”

Uxanor seemed about to say something — perhaps to point out to his commander that combat against the elven fleet was certain suicide — then dutifully turned and began barking orders.

“And Uxanor?” Ixalia said.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Send Seagull back to Xesh with word of the engagement. If this is an invasion fleet, I want our forces to be ready.”

“Aye-aye,” Uxanor replied, and relayed the order to an aide.

Sails were furled, rowers whipped out of their stupor, and slowly the Xeshite fleet moved forward, led by the vast grey armored bulk of the Raven. Ballistae were loaded with great spiked bolts the length of a man, springals charged with dozens of tiny missiles, onagers with black balls of tar, ready at any moment to be set alight.

“Are they armed for war, Captain?” Uxanor asked. “We should be cautious until we learn their intentions.”

“That is my plan, Commander,” Ixalia said, firmly, allowing a pair of slaves to strap on a boiled leather breastplate, tassets and sword. “We will not initiate hostilities. If they mean no harm, they will say so.” A slave placed a high-crowned helm upon her head, giving her a lean, hawkish appearance. “Just the same, I feel that this is no peaceful expedition. If they mean war then we will give them war.”

But as the small Xeshite flotilla advanced, and the numbers of elven vessels grew, it seemed that the humans were hopelessly outmatched, and rather than war, all they would give their advancing foes was a little exercise. Raven was the sole dreadnaught, heavily armored and capable of withstanding heavy physical and magical bombardment. The remainder of the fleet was light galleys, slender and fast, intended primarily for chasing down commerce raiders. Against the imposing swan- and dragon-ships of the elves, they appeared about as effective as pebbles against a charging rhinoceros.

If any of this concerned Ixalia, on the stern castle of the Raven, grim and quiet in her black armor, she gave no sign. When the first fireballs began to arc up from the elven ships, proving conclusively that their intentions were not friendly, she moved only slightly, ordering her captains to return fire and her wizards to cast counterspells. Skua and Tern caught fire soon thereafter and fell out of formation, but the remainder of the fleet forged on, actually damaging an elven swanship with concentrated missile fire.

They were close, now — close enough to glimpse the serried ranks of elvish warriors lining the decks of their vessels, clad in silver scaled armor, bearing great white shields and red-shafted spears. Arrows rained down from squads of elvish marines, cutting down Xeshite crew. The humans responded, and more fell, staining the water red and drawing the menacing fins of cruising sharks.

Ixalia stood impassive, and Raven bore down upon a great white elven warship, betraying her anxiety only with a slightly furrowed brow. The enemy’s missiles, and the crackling discharge of magical energies slowed Raven’s advance not at all, and in a moment, the two vessels would crash together...

Suddenly, a vast dark form took shape above the elven ship, a cloak of magic falling away to reveal a black, serpentine body held aloft by wings that seemed to blot out the sun and wrap all in fearful shadow...

“Dragon!” cried Uxanor, drawing his sword and racing forward, even as the Xeshite crew around him fell back or leaped overboard in panic. “Dragon!”

Uxanor’s bravery was admirable, but in the end, suicidal, for a dark red-orange cloud of burning wind rushed from the dragon’s open maw, enveloping Uxanor and the entire forward section of Raven, incinerating a dozen crewmen.

“No.” It was a quiet syllable, uttered as Captain Ixalia loosed her own weapon and prepared to join her officer in eternity. “By the gods, no.”

A few valiant crewmen loosed arrows at the dragon, but these fell like so many toothpicks. The ballista operator swiveled his weapon, taking aim at the onrushing behemoth, and loosed its razor-tipped shaft. The missile sped through the air and caught the dragon in the shoulder, but barely penetrated the ancient, weathered scales. An instant later, ballista and operator vanished in a second ball of flame. The dragon landed heavily athwart the warship, making the entire vessel pitch and roll, almost swamping it.

Then Ixalia and a handful of surviving marines were upon the dragon, screaming and stabbing with swords and spears. Once more, these were almost useless, doing little more than scratching the surface of the ancient beast’s iron-hard skin.

“Xesh!” Ixalia shouted, hewing with her sword. “Death to the elves!”

Then a mighty claw reared up before her, and she knew that she could not avoid it. The claw swept ponderously down, knocking aside or crushing the Xeshite defenders. At last, it struck Ixalia, sending her tumbling end over end through the air, the red-stained sea and blood-maddened sharks spinning closer and closer...

Ixalia struck the water with a great splash, and her last thoughts were of Xesh and the husband she had left behind. Moments later her flagship was torn asunder, planks ripped by dragon claws, mast snapped in twain by jaws that had torn the throats of evil gods, hull stove in and burned by more blasts from that titanic maw.

Everywhere, Xeshite vessels burned or sank. The elven fleet sailed on, as if the battle had been nothing more than a minor annoyance. The dead or dying floated in its wake.

The sharks fed well.

 ***

Lord Feanor watched with satisfaction as the smoke of the burning human vessels vanished in the distance astern. Ahead lay the jungle-clad shores of Xesh and the walled human city where his people’s enemies lived in ignorance of the coming retribution.

“We are victorious, my love,” whispered Lady Vaenetha, stroking his back with long, sharp-nailed fingers. “Soon all will know the might of our people.”

Dhruul the dragon flew above the fleet, wheeling and diving against the burning orange of the setting sun. Soon, his brothers and sisters would fly, as well, and then...

...Then, truly nothing could stand against them.

“So they will, my sweet,” Feanor said, and though his once soft voice now bore an edge of cruelty, he did not care. “So they will.”

III

Wulf

Our flight north barely missed the path of the elven armada, and if it had been anyone else besides the ear-boys who had besieged and sacked the city of Xesh a week later, I might have actually cheered. As it was, with tales of elven atrocities spreading like wildfire, I could only mourn for the loss of innocent life.

Elven intentions seemed obvious — the complete destruction or subjugation of any race that might represent a threat. To the elvish psyche this, of course, meant everyone, including yours truly.

With coastal Xesh firmly in elven hands, the enemy now had a secure base of operations to take out any other civilized realm — Necrotia, Litharna, Murvane, the Empire. I doubted they would move south against the Veldt Lands — the thought of the brave Sholanti warriors cutting down the elves like ripe wheat was way too appealing an image to ever come true.

So far, no word came from the invaders themselves, but few harbored any illusions that millennia of elvish resentment and insularity had finally borne bitter fruit. Xeshite refugees told of wholesale slaughter of any cities which dared to resist the green banners’ advance, and of harsh conditions imposed on those who capitulated. The elves set themselves up as absolute overlords, with their new human subjects reduced to slavery in all but name.

Not that I wept too many tears for the Xeshites. A few centuries on the receiving end of an overseer’s whip might teach the decadent bastards manners. I wondered, however, with no little concern, how my former mistress Xylara, her sister Nineh and their respective households of newly-freed slaves would fare against the elves. True, both their estates were defensible and located deep in the jungle, where by all accounts the elves had yet to penetrate, but a nagging (and in many ways to me, surprising) fear for their safety lurked deep within me.

Of course, we couldn’t do much about it. Xesh city and other coastal towns were closed and sewed up tighter than an Inquisitor’s asshole; any approach was sure to invite the wrath of the elven navy. As we sailed north, fear of the once graceful but now fearsome elf warships grew in all of us, and we struggled to leave the area for safe landfall in Necrotia, Stoneburg, or points north. I was now even more prepared to move to Cold Island and live in an igloo for a few years.

For all our speed and caution, we were still caught. Early one morning, our lookout spied a white sail on the horizon, bearing down on us with a daemon’s own speed. We came about and tried to run, but three more sails appeared to windward, and within an hour we were caught in a trap, squeezed like a reluctant nut between four armed and armored opponents.

Soon, the lead vessel, a towering blue and white dragonship with a pair of glittering magefire projectors at the bow, was within a few spearcasts of us, and a faint cry echoed across the waves.

“Humans! Heave to and prepare to be boarded! This is your only warning!”

I turned to look at Livia, and she seemed paler than normal.

“What do you think, Captain?” I asked, knowing the answer. “Do we fight suicidally or give up and take our chances with the prick-ears?”

Livia did not reply, but only glanced toward Narisha.

Our lover growled. She was armed and armored for war, which for a demon means practically naked with a long black sword in one hand. She was a proud woman, and I suspected that the prospect of surrendering to a race as contemptuous as the elves was a bitter one indeed.

“I’ll die on my feet before I live on my knees, my loves,” she said, grimly. “But I’ll not force the two of you to do the same. There’s another to think of, however.”

Oh, gods... I hadn’t thought of Daedora. The elves would probably kill her on sight.

As one, we all turned to see her standing, outwardly calm at the railing, staring at the oncoming warships. As I watched, I saw her hands trembling ever so slightly.

“Let them come,” she said, softly. “Let them come. I must tell someone what has happened. They must listen.” She paused. “If they do not then they can all perish. Our people...” she faltered, tears welling up. “We aren’t worthy. Neither of us. If we can’t make anyone understand what’s happened then I’d just as soon die. Let them board. I will try to make them understand.”

Livia looked at Daedora then at the weathered faces of our sailors. I knew that if she gave the word, they’d all die gladly. Livia, however, was a far gentler and more merciful woman than she’d been when we’d first boinked under that waterfall in Kenth, and she seemed not about to order others to certain death. She spoke, holding emotions in check.

“Heave to,” she said. “Let them come aboard.”

Minutes later, our beloved Skate was swarming with elf marines, and we were being disarmed and escorted none to gently, onto the decks of the elven flagship. I strained to read the runes at the bow. Dolphin. A pleasant name for a vessel on such a grim mission.

We were subjected to a variety of hostile glares as we clambered aboard, and I wondered why. I’d never personally had anything against elves (I’d even helped them on occasion — those I hadn’t killed, of course), but as a group they seemed to think the world hated them. In many ways such sentiment was a self-fulfilling prophecy; act as if you’re at war with the world and eventually — you guessed it — the world will be at war with you.

Angry voices greeted Daedora’s appearance. I’d picked up enough elvish over the years to understand, and what I heard wasn’t good.

“Dark one!” “With the humans! It’s as Lord Feanor said it was!” “Kill them all! Feed them to the sharks!” A few hands darted to weapons but fortunately for us the elves were a disciplined people, and the barked orders of sergeants stilled the storm of insults. Gods only knew what they intended for us later, but for the moment the elves did not seemed especially murderous. Behind us, the crew was getting similar treatment.

Suddenly, from the stern castle, a voice boomed out. “Captain! Bring those four to my quarters! The two humans, the demon and the dark one! I’ve questions for them!”

I looked up to see the speaker, but all I saw was a tall elf in elaborate robes turning away and vanishing belowdecks. A squad of glaring elves in blue-silver armor escorted us down narrow companionways to the stern, and into the presence of the robed elf.

“Leave us,” he snapped, waving a hand. A faint echo of the last time I’d been summoned to an elven officer’s quarters gnawed at me. That time it had been Lady Thae’lynn herself who had summoned, fucked and then tried to kill me, but I doubted that this particular elf had the same intentions as the perverse countess.

The elf turned and my jaw dropped.

“So, Livia the sorceress,” he said, quietly. “You’ve added a few companions to your entourage.”

“Hello, Admiral,” Livia replied. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

Admiral Nae’mitz, commander of the Sea Griffin fleet, advanced on us with long strides, his expression unreadable. He looked at me.

“You, I know. You were the princess’ defender and you helped us defeat the Stormking.”

“I’m afraid that I may live to regret that particular act,” I said, too tired of running to be polite. “Your people have repaid mine with blood and war. I’d as soon have left you to the tender mercies of the Stormking.”

To my surprise, Nae’mitz did not react angrily. “You may be right, human,” he said. “I heard what my people did in Xesh, and I am ashamed. Perhaps you can help me set things right.”

He turned to Narisha and she stared back defiantly. The contrast between the tall, slender and elegant elf in all-concealing robes and the muscular, demoness clad in black leather that revealed more crimson skin than it concealed was striking.

“A demon,” he said. “Lady Narisha, if I am not mistaken? I am acquainted with your father.”

That threw her. Narisha’s poise broke for a moment and she stared in disbelief.

“I am not so insular and foolish as many of my people,” Nae’mitz said. “Your house is an ancient and honorable one, and I am pleased to make your acquaintance at last.”

“The same, I guess,” Narisha mumbled, totally at a loss for words. I looked around. The world hadn’t ended, fortunately.

Finally the admiral looked at Daedora.

“I’ve no love for your fellow dark ones, lady, but unlike my kind I’ve no rancor either,” he said. “I do not know your name, but rest assured that the color of your skin does not influence my opinion of you. That you are with Livia speaks well.”

Daedora met his gaze. “Thank you, Admiral. It so happens that I have information which may explain the present state of war between your people and the humans.”

“I see.” Nae’mitz stepped away, looking thoughtful. “Please sit, all of you. And please accept my apologies for my crew’s rudeness. As I said, I am anything but happy about my realm’s recent actions, but as a loyal servant of the Lady, I can do little save obey the orders of her representatives, even if they are as contemptible and cruel as Lord Feanor. Sit. Please.”

I think all of us were more than a little stunned by Nae’mitz’s reception, and sat down numbly at his map table as he poured blue-green elf wine for us.

“Perhaps it is the will of the gods that I find you,” he said, sitting down and staring at us with deadly seriousness. “Or simply a lucky twist of fate. As it is, you are among the few people with whom I can truly share my fears. My people’s war with the humans is at best foolish and at worst utterly suicidal, and I must speak of it.”

I sipped at the wine and once more marveled at the elves’ skills. “Who is Lord Feanor? I heard a crewman mention him.”

Nae’mitz shook his head and looked disgusted. “Our Lady’s chief marshal,” he said. “An old man who wishes to recapture the glories of a youth long past. It is he who urged us to war against the humans, some say at the insistence of his mistress, Lady Vaenetha.”

Daedora sat up straight at the name. It sounded familiar to me, as well.

“My Lord Admiral,” she said urgently, “that woman is nothing more than a tool of the woman who slew my family, and who unleashed the Stormking. Lady Thae’lynn N’Quy holds Vaenetha’s strings, and those of many other elven traitors.” Swiftly, she explained the situation, mercifully leaving out the more salacious portions, such as Thae’lynn’s well-trained hardware.

Nae’mitz listened to this impassively, his wine sitting untouched before him. When she finished, he picked up his glass and drained it in a single draught.

“Thae’lynn,” he muttered, angrily. “Our nemesis. She sends her little toys to task us, to seduce us and to convince us that we can once more rule the world. We exhaust ourselves battling an enemy who is not truly an enemy, and whose numbers are as limitless as grains of sand on a beach. We win, but are so reduced in numbers and strength that Thae’lynn and her mercenaries can easily step in and displace the Silver Lady, and so rule the isles once more. Or we lose, and the dark ones’ greatest foes are vanquished and exterminated. Foul devil of a woman, this Thae’lynn.”

“She has the Silver Chalice,” I pointed out. “It’s probably made her an even more skillful schemer than she was before.”

“The Chalice.” Nae’mitz’s eyes were blank and leaden. “It makes the good wicked, but what does it do to those who are wicked to begin with?”

“I should think that would be obvious,” said Daedora. “And Thae’lynn is possibly the blackest hearted bitch in all of Thystra.”

“Wait ‘til they get a load of me,” Narisha muttered under her breath.

“Where’s the Silver Lady in all this?” Livia asked. “Is she supporting this idiocy?”

“She is not opposing it, and that is all Feanor and his allies need.” Nae’mitz looked saddened. “She has not recovered from the war with the Stormking, nor from her daughter’s disappearance. She sits alone and passively accepts what her advisors tell her. When Feanor called for this war, she counseled caution, but lifted not a finger to stop him.”

“We must see the Lady,” Daedora insisted. “Help us reach her. Tell her the truth. She will believe me.”

“Perhaps, perhaps not,” Nae’mitz said. “In any event, you would never be allowed near her. Not without conclusive proof beyond mere allegation. Besides, I cannot help you — my orders are explicit, and I cannot abandon my post. All I can do is work to learn as much as I can. If I am reassigned or are otherwise able to assist, I will find you. For now, the best I can offer is freedom, supplies, and my best wishes.”

We talked for a while longer then Nae’mitz summoned his guards, told them that we were noncombatants and not representatives of a hostile power, and ordered us set free. Some of the sailors looked at us with open disgust and a few looked defiant, but the admiral’s authority was strong, and by the next morning we were once more sailing north, now further determined to flee the line of elvish advance as quickly and efficiently as possible.

There was little conversation while we sailed north beyond that strictly necessary to operate the Skate. The sooner we put the elves – whatever their flavor – behind us, the better.

Even the bustling ports of Murvane didn’t seem safe, with tales of elven atrocities and conquest streaming in. Ta’vallen was choked with refugees and merchants exploiting the panic, charging the maximum price for the minimum goods and taking home the difference. It was appalling, especially when I was forced to lay out a dozen Imperial Suns just to put us up at an inn for a few days, but I counted myself lucky that we’d found anything at all.

When we sat huddled around a table, eating overpriced food and drinking overpriced, watered-down wine, it was obvious to all what was going on.

“The admiral was right,” Daedora said, sadly. “I see Thae’lynn’s hand in all of this, no question. I suspect that her captive High Ones have been the catalyst, enough to goad our stupid pale cousins into war with the rest of the world.”

“It’s a war they can’t win,” I said. “Nae’mitz knew that too. The ear-boys have got magic and dragons, and the finest ships in the world, and an elven archer can put out a hummingbird’s eye at a thousand paces, but there simply aren’t enough of them. And I’d hate to see what happens to an elven swan-ship when a Litharnan dreadnaught gives ‘em a broadside. Magic against science. It’s the conflict the Litharnans have been waiting for.”

“They don’t need to win,” Livia said, more serious than I’d ever seen her. “All they need to do is weaken themselves enough so that when Thae’lynn does unleash that army she’s building, the Isles will fall into her hand like a ripe apple. If the elves do manage to conquer us all, she steps in, displaces the Silver Lady, and ends up ruling the world. If they are defeated, she still steps in, and rules the Elven Isles. Again, not ruler of the world, but the most powerful ruler in the world. She can’t lose.”

“So do we do what Nae’mitz suggested?” I asked. “Find proof of Thae’lynn’s complicity and take it to the Silver Lady?”

“You have any better ideas, bright boy?”

“Hell, yes. Like I said before — keep our heads down and wait for this storm to subside. Maybe a nice little villa in the northern White Empire...”

“Listen,” Livia insisted. “If that bitch wins, no corner of Thystra will be safe.”

“How about Kaitia? I’ve got relatives there.”

“Very funny,” muttered Narisha. “I don’t know about you, my little blonde plaything, but I have confidence that you humans will be able to band together and finish off the point-ears. Somewhat like ants overwhelming an elephant.”

“Apt,” Livia agreed. “But what then? Thae’lynn steps in, takes over the Elven Isles and has all the secrets of Elvish civilization at her command. The rest of the world is too exhausted to take her on, and they’ll probably figure good riddance. I’d hate to see Elvish naval and military technology wedded to dark elven cunning and resourcefulness.”

“Gods,” I commented, “you’re in a mood, aren’t you? Since when did you care about who runs civilization?”

Livia gave me a look of utter disgust. “Since I met you and Narisha, you knob. I thought I could live on my own, not depending on anyone. Now you’re in my life and, hell, I guess I was wrong. Unfortunately, along with my newfound humanity comes a newfound love for the rest of mankind, whether they’re humans or orcs or dwarves or what have you. A couple of years ago, I’d have said the world could go fuck itself. Now... Well, I don’t especially want to lose the world I’ve got.”

I felt flattered, along with a sudden rush of sympathy and affection for my freckle-faced sorceress. “So you think we should save the world. How?”

“Search me. Perhaps if the truth were known, it might bring the Silver Lady out of her funk, and the high elves could be persuaded to stop, or maybe the rest of the world will band together against the real enemy.”

Narisha waved a hand. “Nae’mitz said we won’t be able to get near the Silver Lady without real proof. We’d be thrown out on our asses the minute we started talking. Dark elf conspiracies. Gods, next you’ll be saying that we’re being visited by little green dwarves from another world.” A man at an adjoining table cast lustful eyes at her lush red calves and thighs. She glared at him, bared her fangs, and he looked quickly away.

“So we need proof, or at least a better idea of what Thae’lynn is planning,” Livia said. “One of us could infiltrate this army she’s raising, learn her plans then get the hell out.”

“I could go,” Daedora volunteered. “I could disguise myself...”

“No,” I said, with a vehemence that surprised me. “The bitch or that daemon who buggers her will see through you in an instant. No disguises. If one of us goes, it’ll have to be someone she’s never seen before.” I gazed at Narisha then at Livia. “Maybe...” I faltered. “I can’t let you go, either.”

Narisha met my gaze, grinning like a tiger.

“Why not? All her officers are women, and she’d probably have no objection to a demon...”

I shook my head. Doubt was, for some reason, banished from my mind. “I’ll go.”

Livia looked shocked. “What are you talking about, Wulf? Thae’lynn knows you. She knows what you look like. Hell, she probably has your face tattooed on her ass. Any idea what she’d do if she got her hands on you?”

“I’m not going,” I said. “Chuma is.”

“Chuma? The lion-man.” Livia went suddenly pale. “No. You can’t be serious. That was just a spell.”

“We’ve investigated it, Livia, remember? You said that that witch doctor was able to turn me in to a n’doro because I already had some of the essence of a lion man inside me. We’re all made up of multiple experiences, multiple souls. All we have to do is bring out the part of me that’s a lion man.”

Livia seemed horrified, and Narisha looked distinctly dubious. Daedora looked up at me, and our eyes met.

“Wulf,” she said. “You don’t have to do this.”

“I know,” I replied. “I’ve got a lot of reasons. I know I was reluctant before, but now... Well, I want to help you. I want to give Thae’lynn some payback. I want to try and stop the foolishness that’s going on around us. I want to spare all three of you the danger. I guess I’m also thinking about your people, Daedora. The ones Thae’lynn killed. If we get rid of her, you’ve got a chance to take back your territory, honor their memory. Hell, you need a lion man to go spy on that tongue-pierced cunt, then I’m your man.”

I thought she might burst into tears. “Thank you,” she said, softly. “Thank you. If there’s anything I can do...”

“See, Wulf?” Narisha said. “She’s offering you her body.”

Daedora glared at her. “I’m offering nothing of the sort. You’re all my friends and my lovers, and my body is not a bargaining chip. I’m just telling Wulf that I’m grateful.”

Narisha smirked. “Of course you are.”

Bitch. Daedora was a kind and considerate woman, I realized. In short, for a dark elf, she was the worst kind of pervert.

In the end we agreed. The chance to do dirt to Thae’lynn was too much to pass up, whatever the danger. A strange determination for a lifelong coward like me, wouldn’t you agree?

The fact was that neither Livia nor Narisha had ever come into contact with Thae’lynn before. They were both capable – probably more capable than me, and both had major grudges against the Duchess. Why couldn’t I simply let them go, and stay out of danger myself?

The only reason I could come up with was that I loved them both, and didn’t want to risk either. It wasn’t the first time I’d known someone whose skin I valued above my own, and probably wouldn’t be the last. I’m kind of sentimental that way.

We decided that Livia would transform me back into Chuma, then I would make my way south and join up with Thae’lynn’s growing mercenary army. My companions, meanwhile, would gather whatever intelligence they could in the Middle Sea, and possibly rally support for their cause elsewhere. I had a brilliant idea, myself.

“Theanna,” I said. “If she were with us, we’d be guaranteed an audience with the Silver Lady. Theanna and Li are probably still with Captain Skrall. Have you heard anything from them lately?”

“If we had, you’d have been the first to know,” Livia said. “I doubt you’d forgive me for keeping word of Li and Theanna from you.”

“True,” I replied. My beloved Kaitian babe and her elven companion were among my dearest people, up there with the three women at the table, and my long-lost Ushandra. “You can find them, though?”

Narisha smiled. “We’ll find the little minx, don’t you worry.”

“Yeah,” I said, “but what are you planning to do with her once you find her?”

Narisha grinned, once more baring her fangs. “That’s my little secret.”

And so it was. I went to bed alone that night, steeling myself for the return of Chuma the lion-man. Again, I was unsure whether I’d ever be human again.

Livia prepared the spell the next day at sunset. We transferred back to the Skate, where she had prepared a casting room, with a summoning circle and various candles and censers. I undressed and stood in the center, noting with discomfort that Livia held a small black stone with the image of a lion scribed into its surface.

“You remember, Wulf,” she said. “Swallow it.”

“Can I wash it down with something?”

“Not yet,” she said. “Just do it, and let’s see what happens.”

Narisha and Daedora stood back a ways, watching with interest. I swallowed the stone, feeling it go down the hard way, and stood still as Livia chanted and waved various wands and rattles at me.

I felt an old and familiar sensation. My limbs tingled. I felt a surge of great energy, and a moment later I stood in the middle of a whirl of fading motes of light, looking at the room from nearly a foot higher. My body was now covered in a tawny pelt, and I peered down a short furred muzzle at Livia. I looked down. Yes, it was all there. I was a heavy-boned, muscular humanoid lion, with retractable claws, a pale-furred belly, powerful legs, a swishing tail and...

“Gods! He’s hung like a plow horse!”

That was Narisha, bless her horned little head.

Yes, I’d retained all of my features as a lion man, including an organ the size of a small merchant vessel. I cast Narisha a withering gaze, feeling my last shred of dignity slipping away.

“Wulf, dearest! You can’t possibly keep that to yourself, can you?”

I growled, and it filled the room. “Just watch me, demon.”

Narisha looked at me and pouted prettily. “Oh come on, lover. You’re leaving us tomorrow. We may never see you again. Don’t you want to use that thing on me, and give me something to remember you by?”

Livia and Daedora looked interested, as well, and my human-sized libido seemed to grow to fill my new lion-sized body. The alien organ between my legs stirred slightly. Gods, I thought. Here we go again.

“I’ll see you in your cabin,” I said. “I expect written thank you notes from all three of you before I leave.”

 ***

So there I was. Yes, the ultimate male fantasy – three naked, beautiful, eager women, and me with a tireless cock the size of the White Emperor’s summer palace. Unfortunately, nothing like this ever happens without at least some minor counterpoint, and the fact that I was about to leave all three of them – possibly forever – tempered our ecstasy somewhat.

Still, the attentions of three naked, beautiful, eager women tend to drive off misgivings and depression, at least for a short period of time.

Of course, “naked” is a relative term. Narisha wore a pleasant ensemble of black leather straps that held her breasts out, displaying her blue-black pierced nipple quite nicely, and exposing the soft flesh between her thighs. Entirely hairless, I noticed.

“You’ve shaved,” I observed.

She nodded, baring her fangs. “I figured that you had all the fur we needed right now.”

I smiled but didn’t laugh. “They’re ahead of us already,” I observed.

Moaning softly, Livia and Daedora were busily devouring each other’s cunts in a striking study in black and white. They were both beautiful, of course, and as exquisite as any carving by the finest Xeshite erotic artist. Livia was on top, the long and graceful, slightly furrowed curve of her back ending in a pair of sweetly contoured buttocks. Daedora’s silver-tressed head was busy there, while closer to me, Livia’s tongue lapping at the dark elf’s slick inner labia then nibbled at the nub of her clit with tiny white teeth. Daedora moaned deeply at that, and apparently returned the favor on Livia, for the blonde woman stiffened and cried out.

“Now there,” Narisha said with some satisfaction, “is a beautiful sight. Elf and human united in lustful exploration of each other’s inner recesses.”

“It makes you wonder why we fight so much,” I replied, still getting used to my deep basso rumble.

“Fighting is fun, but foolish, my lion-man,” Narisha said, slipping her arms around my neck, playing in my mane, and opening her mouth for a kiss. “So much more fun to kiss and lick and bite and fuck, don’t you think?”

“I agree,” I said, and moved to meet her, mouth to muzzle.

Gods, she was warm, and smelled heavenly. Demons emit scents that drive humans mad; as a lion man I was practically delirious. I wondered whether Narisha would put an ordinary lion man into heat just by being around him.

“Mmmm, lover,” she whispered against my mouth. “Nice sharp, lion-teeth you have. Nice bristly lion tongue.”

I demonstrated, caressing her face with a long, wet lick. She sighed.

“Oh, yes. Oh, my nipples are getting hard, lover. Can you feel them?”

I encircled her breasts in my hands (my hands were bigger, too – Narisha’s mounds overflowed my puny little human extremities), confirming that her nipples were swelling with intense desire.

“Bite them,” Narisha hissed urgently. “Bite them with your sharp lion-teeth.”

“My pleasure,” I replied, grabbing her roughly around the shoulder, eliciting a delicious squeak of surprise. Beside me, Livia started babbling wildly, apparently since Daedora was busy inserting more than the requisite number of fingers into her cunt.

“Oh, more, please, please, please.” I felt her tense, though I didn’t look at her. “Another finger. Yes. Another finger. Three now, darling. Three fingers inside me. Give me another, sweetest. Yesssssss…”

Of course, it turned me on massively (my cock was rock-hard, of course, and the thought of using it on dear sweet Narisha wasn’t making it any softer) and I bit down on Narisha’s pierced nipple with the same enthusiasm I’d used on dead antelope out on the plains.

Narisha’s scream was enormously gratifying, especially given the fact that she usually preferred to inflict pain rather than receive it. Unfortunately for me, it seemed to bring out her own violent streak.

“Oh, fuck!” she shouted – it wasn’t an expletive, it was more along the lines of a demand. “Bite me, you cocksucking bastard! Harder!”

Livia, lost in her own world, added her own cries to Narisha’s and together they made a sort of hellish sexual harmony.

“Your thumb now, sweetheart. Whole hand, whole hand inside me. Ohhh… Ohhh… I’m so tight for you, lover. So very, very, very tight… Is your hand in me? Is it all in? Oh, squeeze it. Squeeze it….”

“Harder!” Narisha ordered, grabbing my mane and yanking my mouth down upon her. “Bite harder! Make it hurt, fucker. Make it hurt.”

Such a lovely combination, I thought, biting as hard as she requested, noting that I hadn’t managed to score her magically strengthened demon flesh at all. Perhaps that’s why demons like pain so much – it doesn’t do them a bit of harm…

“Lick me,” she ordered, pushing my head down. “Put your mouth on my cunt right now.”

I considered refusing, but even in my lion-man persona, I suspected that Narisha could have kicked my ass. All the same, I took my time, chomping my way down her chest and belly, licking as hard as I could, making her yelp and demand even more.

“You’re taking your sweet time, lover,” she complained. “I’m not feeling anything in my cunt yet.”

“Good things come to those who wait, princess,” I growled. “You need to learn patience.”

She squeezed her breasts hard, tweaking the nipples I’d just finished with. “Patience isn’t my strong suit, cat-boy. If your face isn’t between my thighs by the count of three…”

Rather than wait to see what she planned if I failed, I shoved her thighs apart and thrust my muzzle into the moist blue-black flesh of her cunt, lapping with strong, unrestrained strokes of my tongue. She was quite ready, and a virtual flood of her innermost fluids poured forth, soaking my face. The scent was maddening, and I combined by hard licking with savage bites.

If her scream before was loud, this one was positively deafening. Strong hands seized my mane, and her thighs locked around my head, trapping me against the moist, overflowing font of her cunt.

Narisha’s scream trailed into a long howl as she ground her mons against me, dragging on my mane with urgent fingers.

Well, I thought, in a moment of rationality, either she comes or I suffocate. Time to get serious.

I managed to force her thighs apart far enough to slip in one finger, feeling the soft tissue inside her part, granting me access to her hot, sopping depths.

“Nnnnnnn,” she snarled through clenched teeth. “Lick me. Lick me. Lick me until I come.”

“Happy to oblige,” I said, though through the hot, moist filter of her soft cunt-flesh it probably came out a wet mumble. I returned to my task, since Narisha probably couldn’t hear me anyway.

“Ahhhh!” she cried, hands clenching, legs tightening around my head. “Ahhhhh, you bastard! Ahhhhhhh! I’m… I’m coming…”

I feared for a moment that she’d crack my skull, then was overwhelmed by a literal flood of sweet liquid pouring forth from Narisha’s innermost depths (another one of those demon abilities, I guess). I was unable to breath for an instant, but Narisha released me, letting me pull my head away, soaked and sputtering like a half-drowned cat.

She was still going, of course, squeezing her firm red breasts together, fingering her nipples, crying out incoherently. Livia and Daedora had ceased cavorting long enough to watch us, and lay languidly, stroking each other.

Okay, I thought. They want a show, then I’ll give them a show.

Even while Narisha continued to writhe in the throes of the orgasmic cataclysm I’d set off, I moved atop her, seizing her wrists, and growled.

“Time to get what’s coming to you,” I said, and seemingly of its own volition, my cock slid between her thighs and into the moist channel of her cunt.

“Oh! Oh, fuck!” Her cries were breathless, and almost instantly she tightened around me, plunging off into another series of raging orgasms. She strained against me, but I held her tightly – under other circumstances she might have been able to throw me off, but I’d waited until she’d already spent most of her strength. I pulled out and plunged in again, then again and again, faster and faster until…

“Gods! You’re making me… Oh, Gods! Fuck, yes, fuck yes, fuck, yes…”

She snarled, baring fangs, and a faint tracery of black and red stripes faded in and out across her skin. Her cunt tightened around my cock as greedily trying to hold it inside her, but I escaped its grasp and pounded inside her again.

Beside me, Daedora, eyes wide and lips parted with desire, began to kiss her way down Livia’s body, lavishing attention on her swollen pink nipples then licking down across her navel toward the downy frosting above her mons. Livia turned her head to face Narisha, and licked her full lips.

“How good is he, darling?” she whispered. “How good does he fuck?”

“Oh, unbelievably,” Narisha replied, voice midway between snarl and whimper. “Unbelievably. It’s like having three cocks inside me at once… Ohhhhhh… No, I’m wrong. Four cocks, not three…”

I’d forgotten just how energetic my lion-man alter-ego was. Livia and Narisha, both gloriously naked and glowing with perspiration, lay side by side, holding hands and exchanging kisses while I slid my cock in and out of the crimson-skinned daemon woman, and Daedora continued to feast between the pale sorceress’ thighs.

“Oh!” Narisha yelped suddenly. “Oh, there was another. Sweetest sister, I don’t know how many times I’ve… oh… oh…”

“You’re so beautiful when you come,” Livia whispered to her, a hand sneaking down to tweak her pierced nipple. “So very, very beautiful.”

I growled and thrust in again, making Narisha shudder, breasts shaking, belly heaving. Her muscular red thighs squeezed my hips and she crossed her ankles behind me, limiting the length of my thrusts.

“You should feel this, pet,” Narisha said. “This has got to be the biggest fucking cock I’ve ever had inside me. Oh, sweet pussy cat… Oh, fuck that cunt… Fuck it as hard as you want to.”

“I can’t with you holding me in like this,” I complained, stroking one of her sweat-damp cheeks.

“Too bad, you cat-cocked bastard,” Narisha snarled back, baring fangs. “Want me to change now?”

I didn’t reply, but kept thrusting, watching her stripes fade in and out in time with her racing pulse.

Narisha’s sighs became growls, and she looked at Livia grinning savagely.

“I’ll make you a bet,” she said, huskily. “Oh, goddess, fuck me…”

“Ahhhh… Daedora, sweetest…” They both seemed to be having problems carrying on conversations for some reason. “What kind of bet?”

“He’s… he’s bigger than that muscle-headed plaything of your’s in Godshome, isn’t he?”

“You mean Arlis?” Livia nodded, eyes wide, mouth open, a shudder of orgasm building. “Yes… I think he’s… Ahhhhhhh…”

“Of course he’s bigger,” Narisha snapped. “I’ll bet you can’t take this beautiful lion man up your ass.”

Livia looked indignant even as Daedora’s tongue and fingers drove her toward another climax. “Fuck you, hellspawn. I can take anyone up my ass.”

“A large claim, yet to be tested. Take him up the ass, Livia. All the way. Every inch.”

“What’s the reward?” Two ebon hands reached up to seize Livia’s breasts and squeeze her nipples. “Oh, sweetheart! Harder, please…”

“Your love slave for a day?” Narisha asked. “At your command in all things? We’ve never done that before, have we?”

“No, you’ve always been the one in charge. Hm.” Livia looked thoughtful. “So what you’re saying is I let him fuck me in one of my favorite places, and if he can do it, I get you as my sex slave for a day? And if I lose, I’m your slave again?”

Narisha nodded. I fucked her even harder for that, and yanked on her nipple ring, but she hardly seemed to notice.

Livia let Daedora slide out from between her legs and lay beside her, a reclining statue of pure jet. “I don’t understand,” Livia asked. “What’s the catch?”

“None at all, sweet little one,” Narisha replied. “Just me being my usual controlling self.”

“Mmmm, darling,” Livia sighed, rolling luxuriantly onto her stomach, damp bedding sticking to her white skin. “I love it when you’re in control.”

I pulled out of Narisha and regarded the three women with what I hoped was a cynical stare. As a lion-man I probably only looked pathetic, however.

“You women,” I said. “Good thing you all fool around. You’re more than one man can handle.”

“In the desert kingdoms,” observed Daedora, stroking Livia’s back, “a man can have as many wives as he can afford. And in Vendhaya a woman is looked down upon unless she has at least two lovers in addition to her husband. You northerners are all thin-blooded.”

“Come over here and I’ll show you thin blood, you little strumpet,” I said, but stopped short. “Oh, excuse me. Narisha says I have to fuck Livia’s ass.”

“And I’m just lying here thinking about it,” Livia sighed, fixing me with the sweetly innocent burning gaze which has led many a man or woman to ruin. “You’re the biggest cock I’ve ever allowed to fuck me that way. Consider yourself honored.”

Then Livia looked up at Narisha, expression instantly softening to the pleading, submissive face she normally wore for the demoness.

“He can fuck my ass,” she said softly, “but you have to get me ready.”

Narisha looked as smug as if she’d just been made White Empress.

“Why, of course, little pet. Your mistress would love to get your ass ready for that nice, big cock. You,” she said to Daedora, who lay there, stroking between her ebony thighs, “keep him hard. Use your mouth.”

Daedora nodded, eyes lowered. Gods, but these women were compliant. I wish they’d be like that for me once in a while…

“Hands and knees, little pet,” Narisha purred. “Ass up so I can get to it.”

“As you wish,” Livia said, softly, rolling onto her stomach, then rising slowly and languorously. “I can’t say no to you, ever.”

“You’d better not,” Narisha said, kneeling beside her and stroking her arched back. “Not unless you want a sore ass for a week.”

“Hmmmm, that might be fun,” Livia replied. “No. Never. I refuse,” she continued without enthusiasm. “I’ll never do anything you say ever again.”

“Bitch,” Narisha said, slapping Livia’s ass hard with her open palm. The blonde woman tensed and cried out. Livia slapped again, leaving a livid red palm print.

“Oh, you know how to make me behave, don’t you?” Livia hissed. “I love it.”

I was pretty captivated by this, and had temporarily forgotten Daedora (how you can forget about a carved ebony statue of lush beauty and a desperate desire for sex is beyond me, but I succeeded nonetheless). She returned to the center of my attention when she slipped unceremoniously between my thighs and ran her long pink tongue up the length of my still rock-hard cock.

“Ohhhhhh,” she sighed, kissing my bulbous glans and licking all around it. “This is enormous, isn’t it?”

“It isn’t really mine…” I began, but then swallowed my next words as Daedora’s lips encircled my shaft. She had some trouble, lips stretching, but with a muffled groan, she let the erect rod slide into her mouth then slide out again.

“I don’t know if I can get this all down,” she said, insincerely, gazing at me with lambent violet eyes. “I don’t know if it will all fit in my mouth.”

“You’re welcome to try,” I replied, taking her head in my hands. “Go right ahead.”

She didn’t take it in her mouth immediately, but instead began to kiss and nibble her way from the head to base, licking delicately.

“Promise me,” she whispered, once more locking me with her dark gaze. “Promise you’ll fuck me with this.”

I made a neutral noise in response, now consumed with desire to be devoured by her swollen-lipped mouth.

“Promise me,” she persisted. “Promise me you’ll fuck me. Promise you’ll come for me.”

“Uhhhhh…” My rational mind was struggling to respond, when she leaped atop me, grabbing my mane in both hands (damn, but that was a popular thing to do – maybe I’d cut the blasted thing).

“Promise,” she repeated. “Promise.”

“All right,” I said, surrendering at last. “I promise I’ll fuck you.”

“Then I’ll suck you until you come,” she whispered in my ear, so low that only I could hear her. “I’ll suck you until you come and swallow it all. Just watch.”

Well, now, that was something to look forward to. My promise made, Daedora returned dutifully to her ordered task, lavishing oral attention on my cock.

Beside us, Livia and Narisha continued their fun and games. Narisha had produced a crock full of oil, slathered her hand with it, and was busily finger-fucking the blonde woman’s asshole, to the accompaniment of Livia’s enthused encouragement.

“Mmmmm, feels good,” she whispered. I noted that Livia’s own fingers were busy, playing between her thighs as her crimson-skinned lover stimulated her nether orifice. As I watched, Narisha slipped in a second finger, and Livia squealed loudly.

“Oh, yes, yes. So very good, lover.”

“This is nothing,” Narisha hissed, looking over at Daedora. Contrary to her previous fears, she had succeeded in getting at least half my cock in her mouth, and seemed quite prepared to swallow it all, though where she was putting it was anyone’s guest. “Wait until you feel that thing in you. I look forward to it.”

“You want me to fuck him?” Livia demanded, eyes wide, pupils dilated. “You want me to let him shove that up my ass?”

“I demand it,” Narisha replied, sliding in a third finger. “I insist upon it, in fact. Mmmm, that bitch is sucking him really well, though. Hope he doesn’t come before you’re ready for him.”

Small fear of that, I thought, remembering the seemingly endless reserve that my lion-man body seemed to have.

“I’m ready now, sweetheart,” Livia whined. “I want him up my ass now.”

“Not yet, pet,” Narisha said, sternly. “You wanted me to get you ready, and you’re not ready until I say so.” She slapped Livia’s pale ass once more. “Understand, bitch?”

“Yes, mistress. I understand.”

And so it went for several more minutes, with Daedora’s delicate, thick-lipped mouth lavishing attention on my cock, and Narisha authoritatively fingering Livia’s asshole, all the while telling her what I was about to do to her. Livia, of course, loved it, and came at least once before Narisha at last released her and beckoned to me.

“Now, you,” she said. “Bring that cock over here and put it in her ass.”

Daedora released me with some reluctance, and I moved toward the waiting Livia, my cock wet with the dark elf’s spittle.

“Wait,” Narisha said, holding the crock of lubricant and stirring it with her fingers. She then took a large glop of the stuff and slathered my erect organ. “Don’t want it to hurt too much, do we, lover?”

“Don’t want it to hurt at all,” I said, softly, but Livia cut me off.

“I want it to hurt,” she said. “I love it when it hurts.”

Gods. I was surrounded by sick fucks, wasn’t I?

“Not too much, sweetheart,” Narisha said. “A little pain, perhaps. Not too much.”

With that, I positioned myself behind Livia and looked down at her. She literally trembled, muscles tight, and when I grazed my slick cock between the perfect hemispheres of her ass, she cried out.

“She knows what’s coming,” Narisha said. “She wants you so much. Give it to her. All at once.”

Well, I wasn’t quite that overcome with lust, and instead tested her asshole with a slow, steady thrust, feeling her open up before me. She was tight, though, gripping me like a fist, and her moans grew louder as I slipped deeper.

“Ohhhh, Narisha…” Livia gasped. “You’re right… Oh, my, you’re so right…”

“Very good,” Narisha whispered, fingers busy at her nipples and clit. “So very, very good.”

“Further,” Livia whined. “Slide it all the way in.”

I wasn’t even half way, but I forged on at Livia’s urgings. Her lovely buttocks tensed and quivered and she clenched sheets in tight fists, howling, in between pleasure and pain.

Livia grabbed Daedora’s arm.

“Play with my clit. Please play with my clit while he fucks me.”

Daedora looked fierce and moved beside her, slipping a finger between Livia’s sopping thighs. I felt the pressure on my cock as I slipped it the last couple of inches into Livia.

“Oh, he feels so good in my ass,” Livia said.

I couldn’t resist. “Better than Arlis?” I asked.

“Oh, much, much better,” she assured me, and Narisha grinned, flashing fangs. “So much better than Arlis.”

Well, I thought, my cock fully inserted into Livia’s wonderfully tight rear entrance, that’s something anyway.

“Here, dearest.” Narisha offered Livia a finger, and the blonde woman bit down hard. The demoness grimaced briefly then sighed.

“Now fuck her,” Narisha demanded. “Fuck her hard.”

I began to slide out, accompanied by more cries from Livia and renewed finger action from Daedora. I felt her stroke and squeeze at Livia’s clit, and Livia quivered in response.

Daedora watched my cock with a fascinated stare. “Mmmm,” she whispered. “Remember your promise.”

I nodded and thrust in again, feeling the resistance of Livia’s anus melt before me. Again, and again, with increasing speed and force.

“Ohhhhhhh, sweetheart,” Livia cried. “I’m gonna come. I’m gonna come.”

“Yes, dear, of course you are,” Narisha replied, letting Livia suck on two fingers. “Come for that big, fat cock in your ass.”

“Ohhhhhh, yesssss…” Livia bucked, slamming her buttocks against me, driving my cock into her, then moving forward and slamming back once more. Gods, she was fucking me a hell of a lot harder than I had fucked her…

“Make me come!” she cried. “Make me come now… Sweetest darlings… Make me come…”

Then it was over, and her entire body went rigid, flushing pink. I felt Daedora take Livia’s clit between thumb and forefinger, squeezing, releasing, squeezing.

“Come on her,” Narisha urged. “Come all over that sweet white ass.”

Okay, I thought, as the mistress wishes…

I pulled out on the brink of orgasm, then felt my own contractions rear up, and my come splashed across Livia, renewing her enthusiastic cries. Moments later, Livia collapsed in a heap of pale, moist flesh and sweat-plastered hair, panting and moaning softly.

“Oh, darling Narisha, darling, darling, darling, you were so very, very, very right… Oh, gods what a sweet cock…”

Daedora looked at me then at Livia’s come-splashed buttocks and pouted.

“You said I could have some of that,” she said, feigning disappointment.

“A promise is a promise,” I said, feeling a faint stirring even as the last traces of orgasm twitched through me. “Just wait a few moments and I’ll oblige.”

Daedora smiled brightly, watching my moist cock stir.

“My, what a cock you have,” she said.

“Almost not worth having the man attached is it?” Narisha said, smirking.

I rolled my eyes and growled. Stupid woman.

***

Daedora looked like she’d finally found paradise, and I suppose given what she’d been through she deserved it. She reclined, lying between Livia and Narisha’s sleek naked forms as the two women stroked, kissed and fondled her. Narisha had a bunch of grapes which she periodically dangled above the dark elf woman’s lips, letting her take them one at a time with a dreamy, misty-eyed expression.

“Glad you’re all relaxing while I do all the work,” I said, but they ignored me.

It certainly felt as if I was doing all the work. Daedora’s legs were draped across my shoulders and I held her beneath the hips, lifting her up, allowing me access to the soft, wet depths of her cunt. She sighed and moaned softly, considerably less vocal than the other two women. Her passion and enthusiasm was easily their equal, however, for I’d been doing this for nearly a half hour without letup, driving her to at least a half dozen orgasms.

“Oh, Wulf, you keep your promises so very well,” she whispered, grape juice dribbling down her chin as Livia tweaked one of her nipples and Narisha caressed the other. “I made you a promise, too, Wulf. Ready to let me keep it?”

“Wait,” I said. I’d gone well past any concern for my stamina – this was a borrowed body, and I intended to use it for all I was worth. “One more for you.”

She sighed deeply, and let me slide my organ into her another twenty or thirty times before she tottered over a cliff and into another tooth-grinding climax.

I was pretty much under control and confident by this time (so unlike my normal self, you may note), and allowed myself another orgasm, splattering her thighs and belly with semen, to Narisha and Livia’s evident delight.

“We’re not letting you leave,” Livia hissed, rubbing the hot liquid into Daedora’s slick black skin. “Either that or you can’t change back.”

“I think, my dear, that you’ll be only too happy to get the old me back when the time comes,” I said. “Though you seem to enjoy it now.”

With that, Daedora rose to her knees and reached out to grasp my cock, soft now and wet with our various fluids. At her touch, I once more felt the wheels in motion, and began to grow hard once more.

“Three times now?” Narisha demanded. “We need one of these lion men for ourselves if Wulf doesn’t want to stay.”

“Sorry,” I said. “Real lion men only have sex during the breeding season. I seem to have lion man stamina and human lust.”

“An excellent combination,” Daedora whispered, slipping blue-black lips around my rapidly-growing cock. “Mmmm…” She released me and licked around my glans. “Seems even bigger close up.”

All right, I thought, enough of that. I was beginning to feel subordinate to my own sex organ. Then again, many men feel that way, I guess…

Daedora surprised me, taking my entire cock between her lips again and without preliminaries, letting it slide down her throat and not letting up until she’d swallowed the entire thing. Where she put it, I didn’t know, but there it was, consumed to the hilt, held by quivering blue-black lips, Daedora gazing up at me with adoring violet eyes, as if pleading with me for more.

Slowly, she slid me out, slick and hot then took me in both hands and whispered hotly.

“See, I can suck it all. Come in my mouth.”

“What?” Narisha asked. “I didn’t catch that.”

“Personal,” I replied, stroking Daedora’s head as she sucked at me once more. In went my cock, faster this time, teased at by the black-skinned woman’s tongue and nipped at by her teeth. Again, faster still.

Soon Daedora was sucking me with swift strokes, letting my entire organ slide down her throat then slide out once more.

“Gods…” I growled.

“Come,” she whispered and swallowed me again. “Come for me.”

Oh, yes… Nothing could have held me back at that point, and within a half dozen or so swallows I felt the imminent arrival of my climax.

“I’m coming,” I said. “I’m coming for you.”

Daedora smiled and sucked me down again. On the upstroke, orgasm seized me once more, and I unleashed a final torrent of come into her hot, welcoming mouth.

Completely spent, I fell back, but then my interest was abruptly renewed when Daedora slid to her knees and embraced the other two women. My semen dripped out of the dark elf’s lips, down onto Livia and Narisha’s faces and lips. Livia stroked up the fluid with her fingers and sucked it off, while Narisha delightedly opened her mouth and extended her tongue, letting my come slide into her mouth.

Though it was enough to make me want to do them all one more time, my body finally told me it was time to stop.

“Gods, you women,” I grunted, watching them lick each other’s faces clean. “I can’t do this much longer.”

“Oh, you don’t have to,” Narisha said, rolling Livia to face me, then sliding her arms around the sorceress to squeeze and tickle her swollen nipples. “You sleep, lion-boy. We’ll keep ourselves amused.”

When the hell did they ever run out of energy, I wondered? I sighed and collapsed on a pillow, lulled to sleep by the impassioned groans of my three companions. My last waking image was of the women daisy-chained together, licking and toying with each other’s cunts.

Such a life, I thought. Such a life.

***

We parted company the next day, with me shipping out on a mercenary cutter bound for the south and war, and the women taking the Skate west in search of Skrall and company. As I watched my ship’s sails vanish over the horizon, the women’s lingering goodbye kisses still smarting on my whiskered cheek, I began to have second thoughts about this entire enterprise. Maybe I should just stay a lion man, go retire to some tropical island, and spend the rest of our lives fucking each other senseless.

Then again, I told myself, it’s a little late to back out now. Only the Gods knew what lurked in the south, and what plans that bitch Thae’lynn was brewing. My anger at her and all she represented soared once more, renewing my determination to succeed.

Thae’lynn

“The last of the Swamp Lords’ citadels have been cleared,” said Mazzor, as he stood beside Thae’lynn and the two of them gazed out across the indigo waters on the dark elven coast. “The high elves now have a foothold in the Wild and a base for their invasion of Xesh.”

Thae’lynn inspected her nails. “And the dragons?”

“All are under our control, lady. It simply remains for you to give the word.”

“I hold the dragons in reserve, daemon. They’re my hole card. I’d prefer our other plans move forward first. How goes the construction of the new gate?”

“Slowly, I fear. Since the destruction of my gate in the Elven Isles, the opening of new ones is far more difficult. We will succeed eventually, however.”

“Make sure it doesn’t take too long, Mazzor. And the recruitment of mercenaries and allies?”

“The orcs are, of course, eager to join our endeavor, though a few are aware of your betrayal of Warlord Thrazz. Most didn’t like him, however, and don’t really care so long as we provide them with much plunder. Mercenaries are arriving slowly but steadily. As per your instructions, I have placed females in command of all units of company size and larger.”

“Good Mazzor. You’re one of the few males I can truly trust.” She turned her gaze back out to sea. “Soon our pale-skinned cousins will begin their futile war of conquest, and we will be there to pick up the pieces when they are finally destroyed. Soon now, we will rule what is rightfully ours.”

She picked up the Silver Chalice and drank deep, feeling the twisted wisdom and ancient energy of the goblet burn through her veins.

“Now,” she said, stroking the daemon’s muscled chest, “perhaps you could go fuck me to within an inch of my life.”

“Always happy to oblige, lady,” Mazzor replied.

-- END--