Night in Vosgraad

With Livia in the picture, Wulf’s backstory was almost complete and I could bring things full-circle. Night in Vosgraad is a fairly forgettable story, but it at least serves to round out Wulf’s adventures in and around the Middle Sea region. This story’s heroine, Rhiannaa was inspired by a very nice t-shirt that I bought at a GenCon, depicting a tattooed and barely-armored woman with an expression that said she didn’t take crap from anyone. Of course it was a natural to have Wulf hook up with her. This tale also introduces Udo the Dwarf, another character who was either loved or hated by Wulf’s readers (his death in Elven Twilight was lamented by several fans, to his credit).

This story experienced a fair amount of rewriting, as it originally included a demon character named Lord Ilvrax the Besieger, master of the shapechanging cat-creatures. I’d intended to develop Ilvrax as an ongoing villain, but other circumstances intervened and Thae’lynn pretty much took over archvillain duties. Consequently, I wrote poor Ilvrax out and made the cat-creatures freelance assassins. Here’s the end result, and now it fits into Wulf’s continuity a bit more smoothly. Hope you like it.

__________ 

Lord Cwynneth Devora, Second Scion of Dragon Cliffs, Defender of the Keys of Ma’ax, and Initiate of Trigon’s Inner Chamber, felt a level of nervousness bordering on outright fear. Among his own kind, the dark elves, Cwynneth’s distinguished lineage, family connections and otherwise meaningless titles protected him like a suit of armor. To harm Lord Cwynneth was to harm House Devora, and House Devora held real power.

But here, now, on the far side of the world, deep in the shadow caverns beneath broken isles thrown up by strange seas, surrounded by creatures counted among the mythic and phantasmal even by the jaded dark elves, Cwynneth realized that his elaborate titles and much-vaunted influence with the high and mighty of his own race now availed him nothing.

What, he wondered, standing alone and unarmed in darkness as perfect and all-encompassing as his own ebon skin, did any of the realm’s creatures care that he, Cwynneth Devora, had witnessed ritual slave-flayings with Prince Tyreth himself, or whispered endearments and obscenities in the graceful ears of Young Lord Faela M’Than as the two of them writhed on Cwynneth’s bed in passion’s embrace, or violated a chained and weeping Baroness Shav’rae Nythor in every way imaginable, urged on by her own mother, or cemented alliances with a dozen other houses and toasted them in the blood of mutual enemies? What difference did any of these make here and now, amid creatures who knew little of outside affairs, and cared less, save where such affairs conflicted or coincided with their own?

Why indeed? Cwynneth was here on a mission, commanded by the First Scion of a ruling house, and here he would stay, either until death...

...Or, he thought, more hopefully, until he could persuade his hosts that this was one of those cases where his interests coincided with theirs.

A challenging task, he mused, but one to which he felt singularly well-suited. Just the same, Cwynneth felt fear, and struggled to master it.

He had almost succeeded when a light appeared in the gloom, and Cwynneth’s heart lurched.

The light grew slowly, like the early morning, but this illumination was neither cheery nor comforting. A dim red light cast wan shadows all around Cwynneth, revealing the faintest hints of the room’s shape and design.

Cwynneth stood in the center of a circular chamber, with dark stone columns evenly spaced about its perimeter. Between the columns all lay in darkness, and Cwynneth, even with the enhanced senses of his race, could not see beyond them.

The diffuse red glow seemed to come from the domed ceiling above Cwynneth’s head, but he had little time to marvel at it before a sibilant voice echoed through the chamber, riveting his attention.

“Who are you, dark elf, who would come to this place so far from your home?”

Cwynneth winced at the pejorative — virtually all races referred to his people as “dark elves,” but the objects of the term chose to consider it an insult, preferring instead their own name for themselves, the Zhalha’sarr’im.

Cwynneth swallowed his pride and spoke. “I am Cwynneth Devora, Second Scion of Dragon Cliffs, Defender of the Keys of Ma’ax, and Initiate of Trigon’s Inner Chamber,” he said, realizing with some distress that beside the booming utterance he had heard, his own voice sounded frail and uncertain. “I come here with a proposition, one which may well be to our mutual benefit.”

The darkness beyond the columns stirred, as if something moved there that Cwynneth could not see.

“What could a dark one offer us, I wonder?” asked the voice. “We dwell apart from all creatures, emerging only when it suits us to do so. We act when it amuses us, not when an outsider demands that we do so.”

“I demand nothing.” Cwynneth felt his heart hammering uncomfortably. “I come before you humbly, with an equally humble request.”

“Humility, from a dark elf? Truly, the world is changing. Your kind lives only for violence and vengeance, driven by the hatred of your light-elf cousins. What you do not see is that you are closer in temperament than you suspect. Neither you nor the pale elves see the evil that dwells in your dark hearts.” The voice tittered. “You amuse us, dark elf. Perhaps we will speak.”

The darkness stirred again, and two creatures emerged. Physically, they resembled sleek, hairless, bright pink cats, with elongated, triangular heads, and sinuous, snakelike necks. Their ears were large, as were their vivid, gemstone-green eyes. They moved with the grace of the felines they resembled, prowling toward Cwynneth and fixing him with curious gazes.

“Long has it been since your kind has come here,” purred the first, and began to stalk slowly around the dark elf. “We find you fascinating.”

I suppose it’s better than finding me appetizing, Cwynneth thought.

“We have interest in your special talents,” he said, proffering a leather pouch. “I bring an offering that we hope you will find pleasing.”

One of the creatures reached out a pink paw. Cwynneth repressed a shudder when he saw that it was like a small hand, with flexible fingers and a pair of thumbs.

“Let us see,” it trilled. “Let us see what you bring.”

Cwynneth swallowed hard. “You are interested in our proposal, then?”

The second cat-thing chuckled, and rubbed its head against Cwynneth’s leg.

“We could kill you, dark elf, and take your offering.”

Cwynneth forced a smile. It was not what he was truly feeling.

“Killing me for what is in this container would be...” He paused, as if choosing his words. “Incautious. Mind you, killing me may not be as easy as it seems, but that is beside the point. There is much more of this.” He allowed the first cat-thing to take the pouch. “And we will provide it if you do as we request.”

The creatures eagerly opened the pouch, then cried out happily. The pouch contained brownish dried leaves, and Cwynneth caught their pungent odor.

“Dragonsfrond,” sighed the first creature. “It is our kind’s most potent intoxicant. It was believed to be extinct, destroyed in the great cataclysm.”

“Not in our realms,” the dark elf replied. “It still grows there, though it remains rare. We can provide you with all you need, however, if we can come to a mutually agreeable settlement.”

The cat-thing inhaled deeply, then looked up at Cwynneth.

“So the dark elf has need of our skills,” it sighed. “This skill, perhaps?”

The creature shimmered and its outlines seemed to shift. It rose up onto two legs, its color deepening, transforming, until it resembled...

Lord Cwynneth felt his heart skip a beat.

“Is this form familiar to you, dark elf?” whispered a husky voice, unlike that of the cat-thing.

Cwynneth swallowed. “It is,” he said, his voice dry and clipped.

The creature that stood before him, gloriously naked and shameless, was tall and lushly-curved, its skin crimson, its hair a wavy blue-black waterfall. It — no, Cwynneth couldn’t bring himself to refer to the creature as “it” — she was a demoness, a woman whom he had first seen almost a decade ago when she and her father, Lord Cammon, came to Arwensland as ambassadors. Her name was Narisha, and a younger Cwynneth had fallen madly and hopelessly in lust with her.

Any being, male or female, dark elf, human, dwarf or orc, could easily have felt the same. Her breasts were soft, perfectly shaped globes of flesh that hung gracefully over a slightly curved belly and muscular thighs, a soft nest of dark fur between them. Her skin was decorated with flickering black tattoos, her dark blue nipples were pierced with silver rings. Her lips were also dark blue-black, rich and full, her teeth white and fanged, her eyes slightly slanted, glowing yellow with a wicked expression. Twin horns curled from her forehead and a long slender tail twitched and lashed spasmodically.

“I saw this image in your mind,” the creature said in Lady Narisha’s deep and smoldering tone. “I saw that you wanted her and that your lusts were unfulfilled.”

The second cat-thing stalked around the Narisha-creature’s feet, rubbing and stretching like the feline that it resembled.

“We see desire,” it purred. “We see desire and take its form.”

“Then,” said the Narisha-thing, “we kill.” Cwynneth must have looked distraught, for the creature giggled. “Or not. We sometimes simply take our pleasure from others. We are creatures of pleasure, after all. Much like your people.”

She stepped forward, reaching out her hand to stroke Cwynneth’s cheek with a black-lacquered nail.

“We like you, dark elf,” it said, softly. “We would show you the pleasures we provide.”

The second creature tittered again and its outlines began to shift. A moment later it resembled a dark elven woman, as naked as the Narisha-thing, slender and firm-bodied, with small breasts and dark purple nipples, pierced with silver bars. Her face was delicate and fine-boned, her eyes an almost luminescent violet, her lips sensuously-shaped. A cascade of silver-white hair contrasted with her ebon flesh.

It was Lord Cwynneth’s patron, Thae’lynn N’Quy, Duchess of Darkoak Hill and one of the most powerful women in the Zhalha’sarr’im realms.

Did he lust after the woman? Of course he did, though he had not until this very moment realized it. Duchess Thae’lynn was a notorious woman, a known zoophile, daemon-lover and sadist. Needless to say almost everyone in the realm wanted her desperately. Why, Cwynneth thought wryly as the two female-seeming creatures began to stalk sinuously around him, stroking his face and arms, should I be any different?

Now the two creatures stood before him, embracing, Narisha’s plush red breasts pillowing Thae’lynn’s smaller black ones. Their lips and tongues intertwined, Narisha’s long red fingers stroked at Thae’lynn’s white hair. Slowly Thae’lynn began to slide down to her knees, kissing and biting as she did so, lips and teeth touching Narisha’s flesh until she reached the demon woman’s breasts. Her lips encircled a pierced nipple, alternating sucking and licking with a stiffened tongue. The Narisha creature groaned.

“We feel pleasure in our new forms,” she gasped. “We feel it so... Mmmm...”

Cwynneth felt his breeches tighten as his excitement grew. That these were not what they appeared to be, that they were alien creatures, not sensuous naked women, seemed only to enhance his fascination as the two changed positions and Narisha began to nibble and tease at Thae’lynn’s nipples.

The pressure at the dark elf’s loins grew unbearable. He loosened the laces of his breeches as the women sprawled on the floor, Narisha’s shapely crimson body above that of Thae’lynn. He could see the dark elf woman’s face between Narisha’s thighs, her tongue glistening as it stroked at the black lips of the demon woman’s cunt, her ebon fingers encircling Narisha’s shapely buttocks, digging desperately into the dark red flesh. Narisha stiffened and writhed, and a deep groan issued from her throat.

By this time Cwynneth had lowered his breeches and seized his now-erect penis in a tight grasp and began to stroke. As he watched, the Narisha-thing came to a noisy climax, followed a moment later by her companion, their two bodies tightly locked together, convulsing in a strangely synchronized rhythm.

Then two pairs of eyes, yellow-gold and lambent violet turned to look at him.

“So sad, poor little dark elf,” sighed the Narisha-thing.

“We can’t leave you to pleasure yourself,” said the Thae’lynn-creature, rising smoothly to her feet and walking deliberately toward him. “We must help. It’s the least we can do as good hosts.”

The Narisha-thing rose and walked a few steps behind.

“Yes, we are good hosts,” she agreed. “See if our guest agrees.”

In unison the two female creatures glided to their knees, and turned their smoldering gaze back to Cwynneth.

“See what we can do,” they said together.

The Narisha-thing began to run her tongue along the underside of Cwynneth’s cock while its companion began to kiss and nibble at her cheek and neck. Then they changed and Cwynneth’s hard black organ began to disappear into the Thae’lynn creature’s mouth, sliding past her puckered violet lips, and emerging slick and gleaming.

Cwynneth stroked their hair, first one, then the other, feeling heat rising deep in his belly. The creatures radiated a strange sense of comfort and rightness, and he felt unaccountably comfortable and pleasant at their touch.

Now the Narisha-thing was sucking him, his organ vanishing completely. Then again. Then Thae’lynn — no, no... the thing that looked like Thae’lynn — began to suck and lick, her tongue long and warm and flexible, embracing his fevered, painfully erect flesh.

“Do you like this, dark elf?” she whispered, stroking the slick organ across her lips and face, then giving it back to her crimson-fleshed companion. “We love to give pleasure. And sometimes to kill.”

“But not you,” said the other, sliding Cwynneth’s cock in and out of her mouth once more. “No, dark elf. You bring us pleasure, and riches. We like you.”

Cwynneth groaned.

“I’m...” he said through clenched teeth. “I’m going to...”

“Oh, yes you are,” hissed the Narisha-thing with a trace of the cat-creature’s sibilance. “You are indeed.”

“Do it now,” said the other. “Do it for us.” She looked up at the dark elf, opened her mouth and extended her tongue. Cwynneth saw the glint of a single metal bar that pierced the woman’s tongue.

“Ahhhhh...” he gasped and his cock unleashed a stream of hot white semen, streaking the black flesh of the Thae’lynn-creature’s face, splashing across her tongue.

“Mmmm,” sighed the Narisha-creature with obvious fascination. “I wanted some of that.” She began to run her tongue across the other creature’s face, lapping up the spilled seed. As Cwynneth watched the creature’s outlines blur and grow indistinct, transforming back into their elongated, pink quadruped forms. The thing that had been Thae’lynn purred as its companion licked its face clean.

“So who is this troublesome enemy of yours?” it asked. “And where does he dwell?”

Cwynneth heaved a mental sigh of relief. Though he knew there were negotiations to come, he also knew that eventually the deal would be done, and he could return home in triumph. Gods, it was almost over.

Wulf

Litharna is the place where they claim that science is as good as magic — better, in fact, since anyone can learn to use science, but not everyone has the talent for magic. Of course, the truth is that magic and science are equally capable of screwing you, and the Litharnans are simply deluding themselves if they think that a world run by science would be superior to one run by magic.

For all their supposed scientific “enlightenment,” the Litharnans are a grim crowd, ruled by an autocrat elected by the other corrupt nobles, but called simply “Prince” since the Litharnans don’t want to seem pretentious. The Prince shares power with his various nobles and influential merchants, and together they do their level best to run the place into the ground.

Not an easy task, overall. The Litharnans are a tough and resourceful race, naturally talented at making money, and at hiding it from the Prince’s tax collectors. They generally go about their business, toasting the Prince’s health when it suits them, ignoring him or condemning him as a fool the remainder of the time.

And, oh, yes, sorcery is officially banned. The least it will get you is a year in the dungeons; the worst is death of the most painful kind, at the hands of the Orlanist Inspectors, who see the hand of the Dark One in everything they don’t understand. Of course, the Orlanists, elite of the worshipers of Kybor, the One True God, practice magic themselves, but when they do it, spells are called miracles, and sorcery is called prayer. A very narrow distinction, I say.

In any event, the Litharnans practice magic, as well, but usually well away from the prying eyes of the Inspectors and their hounds, or at least after gold has been liberally applied to the right palms.

I myself, being only marginally talented in the region of sorcery, try to avoid spellcraft altogether when I’m in Litharna. With my luck, the first time I tried to use a cantrip to heat water for my tea, a fully equipped team of Orlanist Witch-Hunters backed up by a suicide squad of Kyborist Knights of Truth Triumphant, along with a regiment of pikemen for good measure, would come barreling through the door and drag me off to the Chambers of Verisimilitude for a few hours of recreation with hot pokers and needles. With this frightening vision in mind, I generally swore off magic while visiting that lovely land, and had so far managed to avoid trouble.

My name, for those who don’t know, is Wulf, and I describe myself as a freelance contractor. This means that I do anything I can in order to secure food and lodging, and given the somewhat segregated nature of our economy, this usually means stealing from people who have more than they need. Mind you, I do this only because I have to. If the wealth were a little better distributed, I’d probably settle down with a couple of reasonably attractive women (I never seem to be able to limit myself to just one...) and raise a litter of little hellions.

Now, while that may or may not actually happen in the future (and current circumstances suggest that it might, but I’ll deal with that part of the story later), my misadventures in Litharna are the main focus of this evening’s entertainment, so I’ll stop rambling and get back to the tale at hand.

Two years previously, I had had either the good or the bad luck to be the sole survivor of an ill-conceived and -fated invasion of the Veldt Lands, home of ferocious warriors who don’t like foreigners. As our army was being butchered around me, I had been saved from death at spearpoint by a tough-assed sonuvabitch dwarf named Sigurd. He himself had snuffed it a few moments later, but not before calling on me to tell his family how he had died.

Despite my somewhat dishonest line of work, I am the sort who takes oaths very seriously, and over the following months, I’d been making inquiries into exactly who Sigurd’s family was. Finally, I’d gotten word that he was a wandering scion of the Hillcleaver clan, which just happened to have one of its great houses in Vosgraad, capital city of Litharna. As I hadn’t been to Litharna in a while, and the Scrutators of my hometown, Stoneburg, had begun to consider me a suspect in a series of daring jewel thefts (which, for once, I actually had nothing to do with), I decided that a brief Litharnan holiday would do me some good.

Unfortunately, for me there is no such thing as a holiday, and within a few days of my arrival I had managed to get caught en flagrante with the well-endowed wife of a castration-minded local farmer, take a wrong turn to an isolated mining town, almost get myself gutted by zombies, was raped and almost drained of blood by a pair of snotty vampiresses, reluctantly accompanied a beautiful sorceress named Livia in her quest to destroy their master, a vampire-lord named Thazar, and finally engage in a mindless fuck-fest with the aforementioned Livia under a thundering (and, by the way, damned cold) waterfall. All in all, I was about ready to retire, and I hadn’t even made it to Vosgraad yet.

But Wulf is Wulf, and as the gods throw various evil schemes and razor-sharp bear traps into his path, he laughs lightly, skips around them, and falls into the next stake-lined pit of fate. After bidding farewell to the beauteous Livia (and looking forward to renewing acquaintances when I returned to Stoneburg), I resumed my wayward path, and, this time taking no chances, booked passage on an expensive steam-powered riverboat, directly to Vosgraad.

To my surprise, the voyage was uneventful, enlivened by neither pirates, foul weather nor sea monsters, and within two days, the sooty grey skyline of Vosgraad became visible to my wondering eyes.

Now, this was just the sight I needed at that point, for since her departure, I had been plagued by visions of the fair Livia. In my dreams she swayed gracefully, either clothed in flowing, diaphanous robes, or entirely naked, her pale, firm body like the work of a demented sculptor, her blue eyes soft yet intense, her face serene, framed by white-blonde hair, decorated with a light spatter of freckles, which served only to enhance the innocent perfection of her ethereal visage.

There was no refuge in the waking world, either, for this image of her continued to float in the clouds above me, or arise from the shining sea below, just as she had erupted from the icy mountain water, an unclothed vision, a tantalizing neried, determined to entangle me in her embrace and drag me down, not to my death, but to the wet and inescapable pleasures of her mouth, her breasts, her belly, her thighs, her...

Phaedra’s tits, will you stop it!!!!

I couldn’t get away from it. No matter how many angles I observed my situation from, I kept returning to the same ineluctable conclusion. I’d done it again.

I hadn’t fallen in love, so much as stepped in it.

And it was with that delightful thought in mind that I stepped off the gangplank and onto the teeming waterfront of Vosgraad, determined to immerse myself in debauchery so deeply that the thought of Livia and her translucent blue eyes, pale skin, freckles, smooth, wondrously sensitive breasts, soft and silky thighs, and all those other features I was trying not to think about, would not dare intrude.

Gods, was I naïve...

* * *

Life is pretty much one big disappointment, except at those moments when you discover that the purse you thought was full of copper bits when you stole it is actually crammed with gold half-dragons, or when the woman you thought wanted nothing to do with you suddenly pops stark naked out of a lake in front of you and clamps you in an end-of-the-world liplock. These moments invariably never last, however, and within a few days or weeks you’re invariably broke once more or, as in my case, sitting dejected at the edge of a delectable and surprisingly intelligent barmaid’s bed wondering if your limp little friend is ever going to rise to the occasion again.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Shendra, wrapping soft arms around my shoulders and kissing my cheek. “It happens to lots of men.”

“Gods,” I grunted, “you don’t have to say that, you know.”

“It’s what you’re supposed to say, isn’t it?” she asked, lying back and folding her arms over her small but flawlessly-formed breasts. “That and, ‘it’s okay, we can just cuddle’.”

I suppressed a shudder. “Look,” I said, “you’re disappointed. Hell, so am I. You can go ahead and be annoyed.”

She smiled at that. She had a brilliant smile, which perfectly complemented her petite features and short brown hair. The rest of her was a bit on the skinny side, but my past experience was that her lack of stature was deceptive, for once she hit the sheets she had all the drive and persistence of a orcish halfback. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t going to be getting any samples this time.

Then again...

I lay back down, rolled over, and faced her, head propped up on my elbow.

“You know,” I said, “I’ve always been of the firm opinion that you can satisfy a woman even without the usual accouterments.”

Her smile changed from one of amused sympathy to an expression somewhat more adventurous.

“You really think so?” she asked, rhetorically. “You’re a man, though... you should be obsessed with the belief that only an erection can truly fulfill a woman.”

“That’s not how my lesbian friends feel,” I said. “Well, not usually, anyway,” I added, remembering Countess Xylara and her strap-on accessories.

“Ahhhhh,” she said, taking a deep breath, breasts rising and falling. “You’ve been taking pointers.”

“Well,” I replied, moving my lips close to hers, “I’m also of the firm opinion that you should never stop learning.” With that, I planted my mouth on Shendra’s and felt her tension suddenly release as her tongue plunged hotly into me.

I wrapped my arms around her, feeling her respond in kind, and we lay, bound tightly in each other’s embrace for a time, our lips locked together, lips and tongues entwined. I felt her move luxuriantly against me as I ran my hands up and down her firmly muscled back.

“You’re warm,” I commented, feeling heat radiate from her, growing until I felt as if I held a bonfire in my arms.

“I get that way,” she whispered. “When a man kisses me like that. Now guess where I’m warmest.”

“I don’t need too much direction,” I replied, slipping a hand down one thigh and toward the moist softness of her sex. When my fingers grazed her cunt lips and the wiry hair surrounding it, she gasped and stiffened.

“Mmm, that’s the place,” she whispered. “Now touch it.”

“Happy to oblige.” Slowly, with one hand, I spread apart the fleshy outer lips and felt wet, succulent flesh beneath it. She was quite wet by this time, and I spent several long moments spreading her moisture, slickening my fingers, feeling her writhe and hearing her soft moans and sighs, before finally sliding my middle finger inside her.

“Y—esss,” she sighed, dark eyes gazing intently into mine. “There it is. Good boy.”

I smiled. It’s nice to be appreciated.

I immersed myself in the sensation, feeling her warmth and moisture envelop my probing fingers, feeling the intricate, welcoming architecture of her cunt, the slick and varied recesses of her uttermost depths.

Her eyelids flickered now and she now uttered gentle, inarticulate sounds which nonetheless spoke volumes.

With one thumb, I massaged the growing prominence of her clitoris while slipping fingers in and out of her.

“Faster!” she hissed, suddenly rediscovering language. “Put another finger in!”

I slipped in a third finger, feeling her tighten around me. I rolled atop her, crushing my mouth against hers, feeling her body’s heat kindle to the intensity of a roaring furnace.

“Faster!” she demanded. “Harder...”

Well, I pride myself on my consideration for other people’s feelings, even if they can occasionally be demanding, and I struggled to drive my hand deeper and faster into the steadily-tightening depths of her cunt.

“Nnnnnnn...” a guttural sound forced itself through a clenched throat and bared teeth. I felt her tense, then a wave of contractions gripped my fingers, with such intensity that I feared I’d break something.

“Wuuuulllfffff...” My name became a long, drawn out noise of ecstasy, and a lazy smile drifted across Shendra’s face as she fell backwards in a boneless pile of sated flesh.

I moved atop her, holding myself up on my arms, and she flashed me a smug glance.

“See?” she said. “Even if the Wulf’s teeth are out of order, he can still use his fangs.”

“You,” I said, “are a lovely and intelligent woman.”

“The feeling,” she replied, “is mutual.”

* * *

Stepping out onto the muddy streets of Vosgraad, dodging a hurtling cart pushed by a determined-looking dwarf, I felt some satisfaction at making Shendra happy, but mixed in and overshadowing it was the eternal male fear — was this permanent? Would I ever rise again, or was I doomed for the rest of my days to be known as “Mister Flopsey”?

The fact is — and I can hear you women out there laughing already — being a man is a damnably tough row to hoe. They SAY it doesn’t matter. They SAY size isn’t important. They SAY it happens to everyone. They SAY they’re content with simply cuddling, but the bottom line is that women like it just as much as we do, and if you can’t get it up your social life is basically screwed.

I knew, intellectually anyway, that I would eventually get over this, but in the back of my mind was the annoying little thought that perhaps I was finished as a “normal” lover...

And, even deeper, I realized, with sinking heart and depressed spirit, that there was only one — no, wait, two — women for whom I could possibly sustain an erection, and even if they were here I’d probably get overexcited and blow it anyway.

The first was, of course, my favorite little water nymph, the sorceress Livia. She’d driven me mad for days, leaving me lost in the wilderness of “Wulf, you’re such a good FRIEND” (you know it guys — I’m sure most of you have been lost there yourselves on occasion), until one day she’d dragged me under a waterfall and banged me until my prick was blue, both figuratively and literally.

The second, the warrior-woman Ushandra, was pretty much lost to me, thousands of leagues distant, striding gloriously semi-naked, beside her muscular steppe-cat, spear clutched in one long-fingered hand, hair gleaming with knots and beads and bangles, breasts large, dark and perfectly formed as ripe chup-fruits, thighs like pillars, belly like stone...

Gods, I was depressed.

After failing at a session of self-abuse in my room at the Blue Lion (Phaedra curse it — I couldn’t even get MYSELF up), I gave up and set my mind to the mission that had brought me here in the first place.

That night, as I sat picking at dinner in the common room, I thought back to the day, now over two years ago, when the Sholanti warriors broke the back of Lord Heatham’s Imperial army, and sent us fleeing through the rocks, spears at our backs, and doom in our faces. I ran, bearing Sigurd’s bulky body with me, until I tripped and we both went sprawling, expecting only death.

And death is what I’d have gotten, had the plucky little bastard not held off the enemy long enough for me to escape. His voice still echoed in my mind.

“Run, you bloody gods-cursed human! I’ve no chance here. Get the hell out! Tell my clan how I died!”

And that, I reflected as I climbed the stairs and headed toward my room, was exactly what I intended to do.

* * *

I stood, motionless, before the clan throne, upon which sat Thjorkill, great patriarch of the Hillcleaver clan. He was a wizened creature, hair and beard snow white, eyes rheumy and dim. His throne was of intricately carved stone, decorated with complex knotwork and protective runes, and behind him hung the great clan banner — crossed axes above a single mountain peak.

Younger, but equally dour-faced dwarves flanked the throne, standing stiffly at attention, axes clutched in their fists, watching me through ornate goggle-helms, and listening as I recounted Sigurd’s heroics, and the debt which I owed him.

“And so,” I said, my voice echoing deeply in the high-vaulted hall, “when I learned that Sigurd’s clan had a great house here, I took ship and journeyed to tell you of his fate, of his bravery, and of our friendship.”

I didn’t tell them about the barmaid, her jealous husband, the hot vampire women, or Livia the lake-lurker, but I figured that wasn’t the sort of thing a bunch of dwarves would want to hear.

Thjorkill ruminated on my words, scratching his chin and looking wise.

“Your words bring great sorrow,” he said at last, “since they tell of the death of a kinsman. Yet, also, Wulf the Wanderer, they bring joy, for now we know that Sigurd died with honor, and even now drinks to our health in paradise, where he sits at the right hand of Mighty Thallaz, the place of all true dwarven warriors.”

He fixed his fading gaze upon me. “You tell us of his bravery, that you were his friend, and he yours. This is a valuable gift, for the friendship of the dwarves is hard-won, and once earned, never lost. As Sigurd was your friend, Brother Wulf, now my people are friend to you. In our lands will you always be welcome, and at our hearths and tables will always be a place for you.”

I bowed graciously, inwardly pleased with myself. Then, of course, the old coot had to go and wreck everything.

“And as our friend,” he continued, “you are also upholder and defender of our clan’s honor. As Sigurd’s friend, it falls upon you to act as guide and protector to his kinsmen.” He turned, slowly, and gestured. “Guardsmen! Bring forth Sigurd’s kinsman.”

I gaped, not knowing what to say or do, as two tight-lipped, grim-faced guards shuffled forward, dragging the recumbent, filthy form of what might once have been a dwarf between them.

“Behold Udo!” thundered Thjorkill. “Sigurd’s second cousin by marriage, once removed!”

The two guards gingerly set Udo on his feet. He swayed first one way, then the other, and finally stabilized between them, staring blearily at the world.

Now, I’ve never claimed that dwarves were a handsome race. No doubt to each other they’re right sexy, but to me, they resemble stocky, bearded transients who have been left in the wash too long and have shrunk to a height just large enough to be obnoxious. Add a steel helmet, a mug of ale in one hand, an axe in the other, and a heart filled with lust for bloodshed and well-endowed human women, and you’ve got your picture-perfect dwarf. Udo seemed to be all these things and so much, much, more.

“Blaaaaaaak...” he belched. “Wha’ th’ fuck’s goin’ on...? Where the hell am I?”

“This, noble Udo, is Wulf, a human hero who knew your cousin Sigurd,” said Thjorkill, patiently.

“Never ‘ad no cousin Sigurd,” Udo complained. “My cuz’s name is Ruvin...”

“Shut up!” snapped Thjorkill, his ancient face registering impatience, an unusual quality in a dwarf. He addressed me. “Udo has been chosen to journey to the human city of Stoneburg, there to learn your customs and report on what he finds.”

I thought, taking another long look at the disheveled, ale-reeking pile of dirty skin and tangled beard before me, that the only customs he was likely to encounter were those practiced on a bar room floor, but I held my peace.

“As Sigurd’s companion,” the dwarf-lord went on, “we charge you with accompanying Udo back to Stoneburg, and there seeing to his lodging and safety. And as dwarf-friend and chosen of the Hillcleaver clan, we know that you will discharge this duty with honor and good faith.”

At this, the old bastard cast a pointed glance at the expressionless, axe-bearing guard-dwarves surrounding him, leaving absolutely no doubt to his true meaning.

“Don’ wanna go ta Stoneburg,” Udo grumbled. “Wanna get my axe an’ die. I wanna go kill stuff, an’ die. Don’ wanna live. Not no more. Not since Helga went an’ left me...” At this he fell on his knees and began to cry.

“As you can see,” Thjorkill said, “noble Udo is overcome with emotion at the loss of his beloved. He was a fine warrior, and won great glory for us in battle, but since his intended left him for a traveling musician from the Headbanger clan, he has not been himself. We felt that some time away, in the worlds of you humans, would do him good.”

The only thing that would do the little drunkard good was a cold bath and a good healthy smack in the face, but once more I kept my thoughts to myself.

“Lord Thjorkill,” I said, glancing nervously at the axe-dwarves, gauging the distance to the exit and realizing that I’d never make it ten paces before I found a foot or so of dwarven steel resting comfortably in my midsection, “I would be honored to be the Noble Udo’s escort back to Stoneburg.”

What the hell else could I have said?

Later, I reflected that there really wasn’t a lot of advantage to this dwarf-friend thing. They hadn’t given me any means of proving my status — no secret handshakes or decoder rings — and as for tangible benefits, all I had to show for my trouble was one drunken dwarf adolescent with a death wish. Gods, this trip was getting less pleasant by the minute.

Shendra

Weariness pulsed through Shendra’s limbs as she made her way home. Her day had been long and taxing, but at least it was over now, and she could look forward to a few hours’ peaceful somnolence. It had not been a bad day, overall, just tiring, and after cavorting with Wulf the night before...

She thought of Wulf and smiled. Despite his affectations, he was a kind man, in a world where such were at a premium. His reaction to his bout of impotence had pleased her no end. Where another man might have given up and gone to sleep, stamped out in a huff or, worse still, blamed her for his “failure,” he had instead seen to her pleasure, bringing her to one of the most satisfying orgasms she’d had in ages. Gods...

Some woman, Shendra mused, seeing her tenement rising ahead of her, should make an honest man of Wulf. Or perhaps a dishonest one.

Whoever or whatever, Shendra knew it wouldn’t be her. She had her own lusts and hopes, and though Wulf was a good and caring man, he was not foremost in her affections.

That role belonged exclusively to —

“Shendra?”

She looked up instantly at the sound of the familiar voice.

“Jacku?” she asked, barely daring to hope, then felt her heart soar, fatigue and exhaustion dropping away, as a tall, muscular form appeared from the shadows.

“Jacku!” she cried, certain this time, joyfully flinging herself into his arms. “I thought you wouldn’t be home for months!”

“Change of plans, darling,” he said, as she rained soft kisses upon his face, feeling his muscles taut beneath her caresses. “The flotilla managed to sell most of its goods in Murvane, so we came back early — gods, but it’s good to see you!”

Passion and desire seemed to rekindle in the body which Shendra had thought weary to the point of collapse. Enwrapped in her beloved’s voluminous black cloak, snuggled close against his broad chest, she gazed up at him, eyes narrow and wicked.

“Come on, then — let’s celebrate your early return.”

He smiled. “And how do you propose we do that?”

“I think,” she whispered, fingers working at the lacings of his shirt, “you know that already.”

* * *

Jacku was not necessarily what could be called a handsome man. His face was square, craggy, big-lipped, with eyes a trifle to wide and brows a trifle too heavy. Still, Shendra found him lovely, despite his close-cropped blonde hair, which made him look like an artillery sergeant, and his sometimes over-insistent manner.

It was his heart and mind that she loved, although the body which accompanied his jagged countenance was big, firm and muscular, tanned and hard from long weeks on board ship, and leisure time spent wrestling in taverns. He wasn’t the smartest of men, Shendra thought, or the handsomest, but he was the man she loved, and desired, and...

Well, actions spoke louder than words, she thought, cradling his stiff cock in her hands and delicately teasing its thick head with a pointed tongue, feeling a level of adoration bordering on idolatry steal over her. Here she was, high priestess of Great Jacku, bowing in homage to his lovely scepter, showering her lord with endless affection and wet, insistent strokes of her tongue.

“Have you gotten bigger since last time?” she asked, half-serious. “I wouldn’t have thought it possible.

Jacku chuckled. “Only for you, my love.”

She moved up between his naked thighs and deliberately rubbed the underside of Jacku’s cock with one erect nipple. She wasn’t big enough to take him between her breasts as she’d seen some women do, but he’d never seemed to mind. The soft pressure of her little nub of a nipple, sliding up and down his hot cockflesh seemed to excite him more than the caresses of a dozen skilled courtesans.

And that, she thought, fancying that Jacku’s cock, huge even under normal conditions, actually grew even more beneath her gentle nipple’s touch, was one of the reasons she loved him so.

As satisfied moans issued from Jacku’s throat, Shendra increased the intensity of her touches, switching from breast to breast, fingering the soft underside of the thick organ, and occasionally renewing its lubrication with a wet stroke of her tongue. At last, she felt a rush of intense desire and excitement sweep through her, deepening her breaths, spurring on her already swift heartbeats, and she encircled his shaft with her lips and swallowed it, feeling the familiar sensation of her beloved’s organ against the wet flesh of her lips and tongue.

“You HAVE gotten bigger,” she said, releasing him and rubbing the now wet skin with intent and deliberate finger-strokes. “I used to be able to get all of you into my mouth at once.”

“The fresh sea air,” explained Jacku. “Good for the health — that and the thought of putting it inside you.”

Shendra moved atop him, resting her chin on his chest. “There are one or two things you can put in me first, lover. Start with that tongue I’ve missed so much.”

“Happy to oblige,” Jacku replied, his face taking on a near-predatory expression. It wasn’t an expression Shendra had seen before, she thought as he rolled her, urgently, onto her back, thrusting her thighs apart, and she wasn’t sure whether it was one she much liked, either.

Misgivings were washed away an instant later, as the wet, yielding insistence of Jacku’s tongue split her moist vulva, pushing lips apart, laying bare her hooded pearl, now throbbing with anticipation. Jacku’s lips and teeth worked on her clit first, sucking and biting gently, then harder and harder, in much the same manner as Jacku tormented her nipples when she asked. She felt moisture flow, then virtually gush from her, mixing with her lover’s sweet spittle, leaving his hungry face wet and shining.

His tonguings grew faster, harder, more intense, licking the entire expanse of her pussy, biting at her lips, fingers and tongue occasionally teasing her asshole, until finally he slid one, then two, thick fingers into her sopping cunt, stroking the inner walls, bringing forth even more steaming wetness. And still he bit and licked and tormented her swelling clit, sending shimmering shudders of feeling through her body. It tingled up her thighs, danced in her belly, thundered past heart and lungs, tugged at her tumescent nipples as she pinched and rubbed them with swift, desperate fingers...

Gods... But she wanted this man... Gods...

“Put your finger...” she gasped, feeling her back begin to bend, her hips to rise, her voice shade into a cry of deepest longing. “Put your finger... up my ass... Put it in my ass, please...”

Jacku obliged, moistening the digits of his hand with her copious juices, then stroking the puckered opening, and slowly slipping a finger inside.

Shendra submitted to Jacku’s touches for long moments, feeling teeth and tongue assaulting her clit, thick but nimble fingers lodged in both her cunt and asshole, sweat beading her forehead, her own fingers pinching and raking the swollen rosebuds of her nipples, licking her lips, crying out in rising passion.

“Oh!” she wailed, when she could stand it no longer and she hovered at the brink of ecstasy. “Oh, fuck me now! Put your cock in me...”

Jacku unleashed a growl quite unlike anything Shendra had heard before, then vaulted atop her, the head of his now fully-engorged cock poised at her moist portal of flesh. Was it bigger still, she wondered, feverishly, or was it just her burning fantasy that her lover’s cock stood before her as thick and powerful as a battering ram, and that in the bare, heated instant before he plunged into her, as she teetered above the moist, hot abyss of orgasm, it seemed the biggest, thickest, most exciting and alluring thing she had ever seen, and that as it thrust into her like a plow breaking soil, she felt stretched to her limits, tightness beyond tightness, then as suddenly split apart into a hundred — no, a thousand — pieces, each crying out like impassioned banshees, heedless of the sound, not caring who heard, who saw, who knew — knowing only love and passion and desire and endless, endless shuddering contraction and release, and her own desire to hold him here, to drink him in, to squeeze every succulent, white-hot droplet of orgasmic energy from the huge — no, beyond huge — vast, intractable, indefatigable, beautiful, beautiful cock which continued to plunge in and out of her, endlessly hard, endlessly wet, shining with the sheen of her overflowing cunt, joining her, possessing her body and soul even as it surrendered to her and became her soul possession, and sent her plunging into a sweet cloud of release, that wet and hot momentary world where every sense was alive, every nerve jangled, every extremity cried out for release, and the spark jumped from balls-cock-cunt-clit-belly-nipples-throat-mouth-tongue-head-and...

“I’m...” she said, straining her words through a clenched, parched throat, “darling, I’m...”

Then it all came together, a tiny spark centering on her clit exploding to solar brilliance, rushing like molten metal through her veins, carrying her up and up, away from mind and body and soul to the realm of pure sensation, where thought and desire and action were one, where every motion was pleasure, all other things forgotten...

“...Coming! Oh, oh, darling... Jacku... make... me... co-o-me...!”

But still he kept on, cock moving in a haze of wondrous tension and release and renewed tension, cleaving her again and again, sending her into the abyss yet once more, spiraling down, then rocketing skyward through yet another throbbing explosion of pleasure...

Then, it was his turn. He thrust deep one last time, groaning, and baring his teeth, eyes wild. His body bunched and heaved, muscles tensing like cords, and his cock released a white-hot flood of semen deep into the heaving recesses of her cunt.

“Ohhhhhhh, darling...” she gasped, feeling herself clench and tighten in unison with Jacku’s orgasm. Finally, interrupted by occasional quivers and shudders as the last of the sensation drained from her, she faded and drifted into the soft embrace of post-coital languor.

Jacku smiled down at her — was she still hallucinating, she thought, or was his face longer, more pointed...

...Catlike?

“My love,” he breathed. “I’ve missed you.”

“And I you,” Shendra replied, groggily. “I love you.”

“One last thing before we drift off, dearest?” he said.

“Anything, darling. Anything.”

“Someone told me they saw you with a man called Wulf.”

Shendra’s eyes widened briefly.

“He’s a friend, Jacku. I brought him up here last night. You don’t mind, do you? We’d always agreed that while you were away —”

“No, no, dear.” Jacku waved a hand. “I’m not jealous. I just owe him some money — did he say where he was staying?”

Shendra relaxed visibly. “He said he was at the Blue Lion.”

“Good,” Jacku said. “Just what I need.”

Then, Shendra realized that his face really HAD changed, and that he no longer resembled the man she loved; in fact he no longer resembled anything even remotely human.

A moment later, Shendra found her voice again, and all she could do was scream.

Wulf

I was finally forced to conclude that in his quest for battle and glory, Udo had gotten hit on the head with ogre clubs and troll maces once too often. His conversation was monosyllabic, his sense of humor nonexistent, and his intelligence...

...Shall we say, minimal?

We made it back to the Blue Lion without major incident, and I secured some closet space for my companion (it was the last room in the house, and the rent was exorbitant, but I wasn’t about to sleep in the same room with the drunken twerp). It wasn’t until dinner, however, that his most endearing features showed themselves. Though he had few practical talents, Udo showed a real knack for eating lots of food and drinking lots of ale, both paid for by yours truly.

“Ey, Wulf!” he bellowed, voice rising above the ruckus in the crowded dining room of the Blue Lion. “Watch this!” He seized a pitcher of ale from a passing barmaid, slopping a good portion all over the poor woman, and chugalugged the remainder immediately, leaving his beard disgusting and sopping with foam.

“Ahhhhh! Goooood!” he grunted, wiping his beard with a filthy hand, even as the barmaid complained loudly and a bouncer, who looked as if at least one of his immediate ancestors had been a hill giant, barreled through the crowd toward him.

I rose quickly, apologizing and pressing a silver griffon into the waitress’ palm, and frantically dissuading the bouncer from committing any mayhem upon my runty companion.

“He’s young, he’s stupid,” I babbled. “I’ll keep him under control, okay?”

Some moments of this and the bouncer’s dim-witted brain pretty much forgot what had brought him here in the first place, and he waded back through the crowd to his roost near the bar.

I sighed. “Gods damn it, Udo,” I barked, whirling on the little bastard, only to find that the little bastard wasn’t there anymore.

“Gods damn it,” I repeated to myself, scanning the room for any sign of Udo’s passage — beery footprints, perhaps, or spoor.

A moment later, Udo effectively announced himself with a loud scuffle and commotion near a corner table.

Crowding past barmaids, drinkers, diners, and hangers-on, I made my way to the spot before the bouncer’s somnolent conscious mind could grasp the situation, and there beheld a fearful tableau.

Udo was standing on the table amid spilled beer and scattered utensils, frantically trying to paw, embrace, kiss, and otherwise molest a woman of what I noted even in mid-crisis, was a singularly serene beauty. That she managed to avoid every grope, grab and fumble served only to increase my admiration for her.

On the other hand, when one sits around gawking, one often ends up gutted, impaled, or otherwise grief-stricken, so after my momentary reverie, I sprang forcefully into action. I grabbed a chair and, hoping that Udo’s skull was as resistant to damage as that of other dwarves, brought it down squarely on his greasy pate.

The chair splintered, but Udo still stood, impassive as a statue, turned slowly, and from his vantage atop the table (from which he was nearly as tall as me) stared with a hurt expression.

“Wha’cha do at for?” he mumbled, thickly. “Jus’ tryin’ ta be fr... fr... friend...” A green cast flickered over his features. “I...” he began, “I feel... sick...”

At that point, being no fool, I dodged out of the way, avoiding the sudden regurgitation of most of Udo’s supper, his barrel of ale, and the plummeting form of his body, which fell to the floor amid his own sick, inert and blissfully unconscious.

I sighed, miserably, as a couple of bar-gobbos propped Udo’s now even more disgusting form up in a corner and dumped sawdust into his leavings, then looked up, trying to formulate some kind of apology to the little creep’s victim.

To my surprise, she was standing beside the table, looking on with amusement and, gods and daemons, sympathy. Now, as I frantically tried to unstick my vocal cords and speak, I could take a more leisurely glance at her.

Dark red hair fell in thick ringlets, framing a strong face, with distinctly angular lines, razor-straight cheeks and jawline, and a delicately-pointed chin. Green eyes so light as to be nearly translucent reflected torchlight as she met my gaze.

A Lastlander, I thought, or I’m a fool. The barbarian inhabitants of that particularly remote cluster of isles were infrequent visitors to this side of the world, but I’d met one or two before. Generally a handsome race, though every single man-jack of them seemed determined to either drink himself to death or find oblivion at the end of a chaos-knight’s lance. I’d never met a Lastland woman before, and right now I realized that I’d no idea what I’d been missing.

I couldn’t keep my gaze from wandering southward, given the brief nature of her garments, and the striking nature of what they concealed.

Ever see those ridiculous Litharnan novels, with semi-naked barbarian babes standing up to legions of armored hell-spawn, clad only in brief studded leather, then banging the hero to within an inch of his life? Ridiculous, impractical, unrealistic, and so on, right?

Well, here, I was forced to admit, was proof that it wasn’t all bullshit.

As I said, Lastlanders are mostly suicidal idiots who get most of their enjoyment out of stealing each other’s cows, then singing songs about how brave they were. And, as the benefits of modern civilization have yet to penetrate either their thick heads or their teeming forests, the Lastlanders consider excessive armor to be cowardly, and generally plunge into battle naked, or at least sem-naked, much like my beloved Ushandra and her Sholanti warriors. And, since women fight almost as much as men in the Lastlands, here was proof that the myth of the semi-naked warrior babe had at least some foundation in reality.

She wore a cloak, but this was open to reveal the remarkable delights beneath. Her shoulders were protected with large, studded leather pauldrons, her breasts strained against black leather scale, adorned with chains and a couple of dragon- and daemon-head medallions, and she wore elaborately-tooled and -studded leather gauntlets which covered both arms almost to her elbows. Her midriff was bare, but looked solid as a Xeshite dreadnaught, and a brief leather thong and loincloth concealed her lower extremities. All the leather was remarkably crafted and decorated in relief, with abstract designs, knotwork, skulls, beasts, and various other decorations, but it looked quite serviceable. At her left side was strapped a thorny-pommeled broadsword, and at her right a dagger — more evidence that this woman knew what she was doing.

It was her decoration that truly took my eye, however. Occupying most of her right thigh was a large tattoo of a purple orchid, surrounded by decorative flourishes and abstracts, and on each shoulder was a stylized black dragon. Her left thigh, I noticed, was for the most part bare of decoration, though her calf and hip, concealed by armor, bore a partially-visible complex of knotwork and abstract designs. There were others, small and intricate flowers, stylized beasts, and patterns — though I would have loved a closer look, I felt it advisable to keep my distance for the moment.

“A fine good evening, wouldn’t you say?” she asked, as I still struggled to come up with something appropriate to say. “A friend of yours, is he?”

I nodded. “I suppose you could call him that. Actually, his family can’t stand to have him around anymore, and dumped him on me under the pretense of asking me to teach him of honor and bravery.”

She cast a glance over at Udo, who slumbered happily nearby. “Not much of a start, is it?”

“Well,” I said, “we’d only just met.” I extended a hand. “My deepest apologies, lady...?”

“Rhianna,” she said, smiling with a sweetness and sincerity which had me almost instantly disarmed. “And no apology necessary, lord...?”

“Wulf,” I said. “No lord.’ Never liked nobles much, myself. Just Wulf.”

“Then by all means, call me Rhianna,” she said. “Please, sit.”

I obliged, and we sat for some time, talking, while I kept an eye on Udo. Not, I thought, that he was going anywhere, but I didn’t especially want anyone walking off with him, or mistaking him for the day’s trash.

Rhianna, it turned out, was indeed from the Lastlands, and was in Litharna on what she described as “personal business,” which I have found to be a secret code for “None of your business, you twit.” I gathered, however, that it was because of some kind of trouble at home, and she was reluctant to discuss it.

“Look,” I said, “I realize that you’re trying to keep a low profile here, and that you’re loathe to discuss your problems with someone you’ve just met, but given my friend’s bad behavior,” I jerked a thumb at the still-snoozing Udo, “I feel as if I owe you something. If you need any help...”

She smiled again, and once more lit up the room. “None needed, Wulf. I’ve a few other things to attend to, but right now, I’m most in need of a place to stay — if you could help me there, I’d most greatly appreciate it.” She spoke with an alluring lilt in her voice, in a tone which spoke of distant seas and green fields which went on and on, but I forcibly restrained myself from my usual response to such things.

I considered her request. “Well,” I said, “rooms are apparently at a premium. My friend Shendra said that there was some space at her tenement, and if you talk to her, she could probably help you arrange to get lodging by the night.” I told her where Shendra lived.

Rhianna nodded gratefully. “You’re a great help, Wulf, although,” she added with a twinkle in her eye, “I’m half disappointed that you haven’t offered to let me share your room for a night or so.”

Oh, gods... The choicest woman in the place practically flinging me down on the bed, and I was in the midst of a sexual crisis... Shendra had been discouraging enough; I wasn’t about to compound my own sense of failure.

“Ah, Rhianna,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant, “normally, I’d love to, but it’s been a long day and...”

By the gods, she did look disappointed. “Ah, well,” she sighed. “Perhaps another time, then?”

Gods...

“You can count on it, Rhianna,” I said. “I’m really sorry...”

“Och, no worries, love.” She rose, sweeping her cloak around her. I noticed that it bore a lovely checkered pattern. “It’s been fun. Tell your little friend there’s no hard feelings.”

My dear, there’s nothing hard anywhere within an Imperial league, I thought glumly, watching her sway from the dining room, followed by more than a few lustful glances from male patrons (and, I noted, a couple of female ones).

I contented myself for the next several minutes by pounding my head into the table, then with a disgusted snarl, I slung Udo over my shoulder (heavy little bugger, that) and headed upstairs. I didn’t bother to undress him, but tossed him on the pallet in his closet, and staggered to my own room, to ruminate on the unfairness of existence, and try to talk some sense to my genitalia. As usual, the little guys just wouldn’t listen, and I fell into a restless sleep.

A knock on the door some hours later brought me bolt upright, since I was only lightly dozing, and I staggered to the door, pulling on my breeches, ready to flay Udo alive if he was waking me up to ask for a glass of water. Or, in his case, a mug of ale, but either way, the little deviant was dead meat...

I fumbled with the latch and pulled the door open...

...And nearly jumped out of my skin.

Two cloaked figures stood in the hallway, deep in shadow, illuminated only by the tiny tapers kept burning in the corridor. I was ready to dash back, grab my wolfsbane and silver dagger, when one of them spoke, in a voice which caught me by surprise.

“Wulf, darling,” the words wafted like perfume on a fresh breeze, “sorry to wake you, but we just got into town. Care to invite us in?”

With that, the pair lowered their hoods, and I found myself seriously considering crawling around on the floor in search of my dropped jaw.

Yes, I’d been right about the voice. Livia’s deceptively innocent visage stared at me with wide blue eyes, her features just as I’d remembered them, hair just blonde enough, nose tilted at exactly the right angle, freckles perfect and even across her milk-pale skin.

“Livia...?” I forced out. “Is it...”

“My dearest Nukali,” said another voice, equally familiar, “aren’t you going to greet your long-lost lover?”

By the gods, I realized, mind whirling, gazing and trying to comprehend what had happened, it was the statuesque, carved mahogany person of my darling Ushandra, gazing at me with amused brown eyes, her face a harmonious picture of serenity, high-boned, heavy lipped and -lidded, framed by a pair of her great white hoop earrings. Her hair was bound up into her usual intricate knots, braided with stones, charms and gems, which glittered in the candle light.

“Gods...” I gasped, stepping back. “Please... Please... How the hell did you... Please come in... Gods...” I blathered, not knowing what to say or how to say it, but feeling a sudden rush of joy and tenderness at the presence of these two women, both of whom made my heart beat faster and — believe it or not — actually triggered spontaneously lustful thoughts deep in my slumbering libido.

I hastened to light my twin oil lamps and several candles to shed a relatively warm yellow light throughout the room, and positioned myself on the bed as Livia and Ushandra occupied the room’s only two chairs.

“It’s so good to see you again,” Livia said, eyes bright, lovely pink lips curved upward.

“Y-yes...” I tried to calm my racing pulse, with little success. “What the hell happened? How the hell did you find me? And find each other? I never told you about Ushandra...”

“Slow down, Nukali,” Ushandra cautioned. “It’s best not to exert yourself.”

“We met during a stopover in Murvane,” Livia said. “Purely chance, mind you. We happened to be at the same inn, and got to talking...”

“And Livia was kind enough to tell me of her recent adventures.”

“Rather open with strangers, aren’t we, love?” I asked.

“Ahhhh.” Livia exchanged glances with Ushandra. “We hit it off quite well. I felt comfortable enough to tell her everything.”

I chose not to ask exactly how well they’d hit it off, and let Livia continue.

“I told her about our confrontation with Lord Thazar, and our little experience under the waterfall, then Ushandra told me about her own lost love, and eventually we realized that we were actually discussing the same man.”

“Imagine,” said Ushandra, “finding another of your lovers purely by chance while I was searching for you. How many more of them are there, hm?”

“Searching for me?” I asked, rapidly changing the subject.

She nodded. “I’ve been released from my obligation to our king. I’m no longer in the maiden guard, and am free to go as I choose. I chose to try to find you.”

Oh, Phaedra and Rexxara, I thought. “Me? What? Why?”

“Don’t you understand, Wulf?” Livia demanded. “She loves you still, and wants to be with you.”

I gazed at Ushandra, heart melting. “Oh, darling...”

“And,” said Livia, “I realized that I’ve been a fool, too. When we made love in Kenth, I felt something I hadn’t felt in years, and it frightened me. I ran from you, and I’m sorry. Wulf,” her gaze wavered, and she looked down at the floor in embarrassment, “I think I love you, too.”

Double blow... Gods, gods, gods (why the hell do I keep calling on them? They never help me...) The two women I loved most in the world now back in my room proclaiming their own undying love for me.

Two...?

I felt my vision blur, and my gaze wandered in perplexity between the two women, one white, the other ebon, both gazing back at me with eyes full of sympathy, adoration and — Yes! There it was! — lust.

“Both of you?” I asked. “You both came here and...?” Damn, but I can be a total idiot sometimes. “Isn’t there a... problem? I mean, both of you...?”

Now Livia laughed. “No, Wulf. We’re not that kind, either of us. After we both came to the realization of how we felt about you, we... well, that is...”

“We decided to share,” completed Ushandra. Always the woman for cutting to the heart of the matter, my Ushandra.

“And besides,” said Livia, rising up like a pale ghost, “as I said, the two of us did hit it off quite well.”

Now it was Ushandra’s turn to stand up. “In short, on the trip to Vosgraad, we managed to ravish each other in pretty much every way possible.”

Hm, said my logical brain, I’d never had Ushandra pegged as that type. Then again, we all have unplumbed depths, and...

My brief reverie was interrupted when, as one (and as if they’d rehearsed this moment beforehand, the vicious little minxes), the two women shed their cloaks and stood before me in all their glory.

I gulped. Livia was dressed all in white, what little there was of it. Her breasts were bound up in a white halter, a silken belt clasped her midriff, and a small skirt of pleated silk covered her to about the tops of her thighs. A crisscross of white leather sheathed her legs, and she wore a pair of white sandals on her tiny feet.

Ushandra was her usual self, unashamedly naked save for a black breechcloth and belt. Her feet were bare, and she wore a sizeable selection of necklaces, most composed of dark blue or purple ceramic or glass beads, hanging down over her substantial, but still firm, breasts.

Livia approached Ushandra, and twined white arms round her shapely neck. She wore long white gloves, as well, I noticed.

“Now, Wulf,” she said, “since we’ve missed you so, we decided that we’d have to give you a sample of what we’ve been doing in your absence before we invite you to join in. Tomorrow we discuss the future, but tonight...”

“Tonight is for love, Nukali,” Ushandra said to me, then fixed Livia with a piercing stared, and repeated, softly, “Nukali.”

Phaedra save me, if this wasn’t going to break my dry spell, I thought, still somewhat lost in thoughts of love and wonderment, nothing would.

Then Ushandra caught Livia up in a strong embrace and their lips met, mouths wide, tongues darting. I tried to keep my breathing even as I watched Ushandra’s hands, with their long, strong fingers, stroke up and down Livia’s back, reaching up to her neck to loosen the halter which restrained her breasts, all while maintaining a passionate pressure on the blonde woman’s eager mouth.

“You’re a selfish man, Wulf,” breathed Livia, lips grazing Ushandra’s, “keeping this woman to yourself. Such passion, you should share it...”

“Only with those I love,” Ushandra replied, then looked at me. “And I love you. I love her, too, Wulf. I’ve learned how strong another woman’s love can be, now.”

I swallowed hard, again. As my heart continued to pound, I felt something I’d wondered whether I’d ever feel again. Phaedra be praised, I was getting hard again.

Now Ushandra pulled Livia’s halter away, exposing those small but exquisitely-formed breasts, pale, and shading to delicate pink in such a way that it was impossible to see where her aureoles actually began or ended, and rubbed strong fingers across them.

Livia sighed, leaning backwards, giving herself up to Ushandra’s caresses. Ushandra, for her part, held Livia tightly against her by the small of the back with one hand, while stroking and squeezing Livia’s breasts with the other. Then, she moved down, lips encircling first one soft pink nipple, then the other.

“Mmmmm, Wulf...” sighed Livia. “I’d not have believed she’d never been with a woman before me, the way she makes love...” Her voice cracked slightly as Ushandra’s lips continued to embrace her hardening nipples. “I’d always dreamed of a woman... oh, darling... who could make me feel this way... Ohhh.. Who I could give myself to... uhhh... totally.”

Her words blurred into incoherency as Ushandra bared gleaming white teeth and bit down hard on one of Livia’s turgid, pink nubs.

“Mmmmm,” Ushandra breathed. “She tastes so sweet.”

“It gets better,” gasped Livia. “Please... let me...” With that she slid through the circle of Ushandra’s arms, dropping to her knees, slender white fingers reaching to enfold Ushandra’s taut, ebony breasts.

“May I suck them? Please?” She asked, eyes wide and imploring, all submission and docility. “Please, Ushandra?”

“Not yet,” breathed the dark woman, stroking Livia’s white-blonde hair. “Touch them gently. Stroke my nipples with your fingertips.”

Even as I realized that my dry spell was ending, and my cock swelled to uncomfortable prominence, I forced myself to remain still, watching the lustful drama being played out before me, apparently for my benefit.

Livia obliged Ushandra’s request, and her fingers danced lightly across the other woman’s firm, rounded breasts, stroking gently, finally focusing with slightly greater pressure on the twin, dark aureoles. Ushandra’s nipples responded to the attention alarmingly, swelling and distending hugely. They must have presented Livia with an irresistible lure, for after only a few more moments of manipulation, she gazed hungrily at the twin mounds, fitted her lips around one and sucked eagerly.

“Ohhhh...” moaned Ushandra as Livia continued to finger and stroke the unsuckled breast, then suddenly seized the swollen nipple between thumb and forefinger, pinching hard.

“Liviaaaaaa...” she groaned.

By this time I had already begun to unlace my trousers, more out of a sense of self-preservation than anything else, since the size and intensity of my erection threatened to split my seams. I began to rise to my feet.

Ushandra fixed me with a cold stare and gestured imperiously.

“Sit, you,” she said. “You just watch until we say otherwise.”

Biting my tongue, I sat down as submissively as I could manage and watched the scene continue to unfold.

Ushandra unfastened her long breechcloth and let it fall, standing against Livia’s white, flawless body totally naked — or as naked as she ever was with her collection of beads and bangles. She stepped back and resumed her seat, moving long-fingered hands down her thighs and spreading them apart, revealing the thick swatch of pubic hair and black, moist cunt-lips which I had once so enthusiastically kissed and adored. Slowly, without urgency, she spread them apart, revealing her sweet, sopping depths, black fading to dark, luscious pink.

“Now, Livia,” she said, and I heard a faint quaver of passion and anticipation in her voice. “Drink now. Drink of me.” Livia moved forward and kneeled between the ebon columns of Ushandra’s thighs, making soft, pleasurable sounds, apparently oblivious to me, caught up in the worship of the dark woman’s sex. She slipped her face into the dark recesses, and I briefly saw her pink tongue emerge to graze the gleaming black lips. Then, she was completely absorbed in Ushandra, and the black woman’s thighs closed around the silver-blonde head.

“Ohhhh, Wulf,” said Ushandra, stroking a breast with one braceleted hand, and guiding Livia’s gently bobbing head with the other. “Oh, Wulf, the way she licks my cunt... ahhh... she’s sucking my clit now, flicking her tongue across it... Now she’s... biting... me... Oh, she eats cunt so well, this woman... Ohhh...”

I growled inwardly, wishing I was still a lion-man — no one ever seemed to care when Chuma burst into things, but poor Wulf remained stuck with sitting still like a good boy, while the two most prominent objects of his lust licked each other like Litharnan ices...

Now, Livia had slipped two fingers into Ushandra, who opened her thighs enough for me to see. Livia’s pointed pink tongue jabbed and darted around Ushandra’s swelling clit, while her fingers flew in and out with the persistence of a Litharnan landsknecht fighting his last battle.

By this time I found myself wondering why I’d ever had a problem, since my prick was stiff and upright as a mainmast, and I was beginning to wonder whether I’d ever get to use it.

Ushandra was no help, leaning back, her breasts — seeming, if possible, even bigger than I’d remembered — bobbing and climbing almost of their own accord toward the ceiling, nipples stiff and erect, aureoles hard and grainy. She wasn’t talking anymore, but was crying incoherently at each thrust of Livia’s two — no, wait — three, now — nimble fingers, and each merciless slap of her tongue. Then, a moment later, her entire smooth, gleaming black body went rigid, and stretched tight as a wire. The strangled cries of orgasm wrenched themselves from between clenched white teeth.

“Ohhhhh... Nukali...”

Livia didn’t cease her endeavors between Ushandra’s cunt lips, and even as one wave receded, another built and crashed down, and Ushandra went rigid once more, arms tight at her sides, beads and bangles clacking, belly straining, breasts quivering, impassioned howls dragging themselves from her constricted throat.

The blonde woman gripped tight, like a rider on a wild, bucking horse, refusing to let up as another torrential orgasm, then another and another, wracked Ushandra’s exquisite body.

This went on, I estimated, for at least three full minutes, until the rolling waves finally subsided, and Ushandra relaxed her tight muscles with a sigh, sweat gleaming across her forehead. I was somewhat surprised when she didn’t collapse into a huge, mahogany-colored puddle on the floor, but instead fixed me with the intense, lustful stare that had haunted my dreams ever since leaving the Veldt Lands.

I swallowed hard as Livia, too, turned, a hungry expression on her moist, gleaming face. I found myself wondering whether she’d changed since I’d last seen her — her glowing innocence, even decorated as it was by Ushandra’s copious secretions — was now a positive bonfire, in stark contrast to the rage of wickedness in her pale blue eyes — a wickedness that would have put even the evil Lady Thae’Lynn to shame.

“Onto the bed,” hissed Ushandra.

* * *

Ushandra’s orgasm didn’t seem to have taken anything out of her. On the contrary; she seemed energized and ready for more.

Somewhat energized myself at the thought of a return to full function, I wasted no time in shedding my clothes to join my two angels of lust — one black, one white — on the narrow, overstrained bed.

I wasn’t certain who to kiss first, so compromised by kissing both, our tongues and mouths uniting indiscriminately, embracing first one, then the other without preference.

I had soon progressed down their respective torsos, licking and sucking first at Ushandra’s large — now, now they were nothing short of enormous... strange — breasts, then at Livia’s smaller, more sensitive mounds, while above, the two women exchanged sloppy, wet tongue-kisses and moaned softly.

I figured that I was on the right track, and grazed down Ushandra’s flat, muscular belly, and Livia’s tight, concave one, finally arriving at a place many might consider just short of paradise — between the two moist, musky-smelling cunts, left to decide, once more, which first to embrace in ardor and desire.

As Ushandra had so recently been treated to an intensive cunt-licking, I chose Livia, noting with some surprise that she was now entirely devoid of pubic hair, apparently shaved with enormous delicacy and skill, and her cunt was pink, shiny and naked to my attentions.

I slid my hands behind Livia to cup her soft buttocks, and lightly ran my tongue along the sweet pink fissure atop her mons. She cried out and I felt her clutch Ushandra more tightly.

Against the insistent pressure of my mouth, she spread her legs apart, giving me access to her hot and wet inner depths.

Oh, how I explored those depths, dear reader. Now given, submissively rendered, access to every beloved inch of my favorite lustful sorceress, I was determined to investigate and familiarize myself with every crack and crevice. I licked and gently nibbled at the hairless outer lips, ran my tongue between them, gently and lovingly opened her inner labia, like the gateway to a legendary treasure, lingered in the clefts between them, sucked and drank the flowing sweetness they bore, slid my tongue into the dark moistness beyond, felt her flow increase with the tenor of her moans, and drank her like sweet honey wine.

I softly stroked with my fingers, feeling her cunt-lips swell and grow hotter still as I sucked juices from them and let my saliva lubricate them further. I played with the tight opening of her asshole, and she cried out even more as I penetrated it with one finger, then let my tongue roam higher to her tight, pink clitoris, now a growing bud, begging for my attention. I dragged a stiffened tongue across it, feeling her move against my mouth, clutching Ushandra tighter, clamping me against her mons with urgent intensity.

I bit her clit lightly, sliding two fingers into her even as I continued to stroke her asshole. This set her off into a new round of convulsions — whether this was an orgasm or its shuddering preliminary, I couldn’t say.

Above me I heard Livia whispering fiercely to Ushandra. Most of her words were incoherent, punctuated by grating moans, but the essential, “I want to be fucked now,” was all too audible.

Smiling, Ushandra silently released Livia, who, with surprisingly little resistance, rolled me over onto my back and moved astride me, grabbing my still rock-hard cock in both hands, and rubbing it feverishly against her moist labia. The vision of her, an alabaster-skinned vision of purity and near-angelic virtue, flawless face contorted in an expression midway between desperate desire and soul-deep satisfaction, her shoulders tense, her breasts swollen and flushed, her thighs clenched, rubbing my hot, erect organ against her pussy was a juxtaposition of images and emotions which nearly overwhelmed me.

When, at length, she relented, plunging my shaft inside her, I felt a rush of passion sweep through me, and I clasped her sweat-slick ass and pulled her down, then released and pulled again, with greater ferocity and emotion each time.

Livia uttered guttural cries with my strokes, and by the tenth or twelfth I realized I was moaning too, providing a basso counterpoint to the sorceress’ impassioned, soprano wails.

Then I felt a second sort of warmth, and behind Livia’s bobbing form I saw Ushandra, hands around her belly, and felt her tongue sliding along my cock as it slipped in and out of that sweet, hairless cunt. I pulled Livia down so that she lay atop me, legs splayed, cunt exposed to Ushandra’s tongue from behind, and watched as the black head moved in unison with my thrusts.

Livia and I both growled and cried out wordlessly, and Ushandra’s tongue licked at my cock, further slickening the hot tunnel into which it slid. Even as the hint of oncoming orgasm sparked deep in my loins, Livia once more fell into a deep abyss of cries and bucking contractions. This time, they were merciless, with both me and Ushandra holding her down as I squeezed my cock deep into the clenching, contracting cunt, and Ushandra licked and played with her. Another orgasm followed, ending with her limp against me, my cock still hard and inside her, bathed in her flowing juices.

What followed remains somewhat blurry, but the final disposition was Livia, lying languidly on her back while Ushandra, atop her in 69 position, licked and sucked her cunt with eager tongue while presenting her buttocks and glistening cunt to me, lips open and inviting.

“There, love,” Livia said in a lazy voice. “She’s ready for you now.”

Gods, this is going to be it, I thought, grasping my cock and thrusting between Ushandra’s muscular, rounded buttocks and columnar thighs. No sense delaying any further...

Overwhelmed by my desire for both women, I thrust into Ushandra without pause, and was rewarded by a single, impassioned wail, one which had echoed in my memory for years.

Moist tightness closed around me, and below I felt Livia’s tongue darting and licking, first at Ushandra’s cunt, then at my shaft and balls as I slid, slowly at first, but with increasing speed and vigor, into her lover.

“Ohhhhh, Nukali, you fuck so well,” Ushandra moaned. “I love how you... ohhh... fuck me...”

“And I love to fuck you, darling,” I replied, speeding my strokes even more.

I hadn’t a lot of resistance left at this point, and as I gripped Ushandra’s lovely, soft ass, pulling myself into her again and again, I felt her tense with orgasm, then a moment later, pulled out — despite our last meeting, I remembered Ushandra’s restrictions — and unleashed a powerful, wrenching orgasm, shooting a stream of semen across Ushandra’s ass, then another across Livia’s sweet, smiling mouth.

I collapsed backward, then heard a snap as the bed, tortured beyond its limits, finally broke, spilling us all onto the floor.

I breathed deeply for long moments, moaning and shuddering, then looked up, words of affection and thanks on my lips...

Into a face from my nightmares...

The two women were women no longer, but instead a pair of shiny, hairless feline monstrosities with long, sinuous necks, and grinning, triangular heads. As I stared in horror and disbelief, one of them lashed out with a wicked, claw-studded paw...

I tried to roll away, and the creature struck me only a glancing blow. Just the same, it opened a bloody gash in my side and the pain told me that I’d broken a rib, maybe two. Further, the wound stung and burned, making me wonder if the beast’s claws carried some kind of poison.

I didn’t have long to ruminate on that particular possibility before the monster sprang again, claws outreached, jaws slavering. My weapons, casually tossed down beside the door, were out of reach for the moment, so all I had left were my bare hands. Again, I managed to partially duck, earning a slash along my naked shoulder. This time, however, I was determined to prove that I had claws as well, and slammed the ball of my hand into the cat-thing’s chin, feeling an encouragingly solid smack as I did so. By the gods, they were flesh and blood; I might still have a chance.

Not much of a chance, mind you...

“Why do you fight us so, Nukali?” whined one of the creatures in a mocking parody of Ushandra’s melodious voice. “We just want you to love us.”

I resisted the urge to spit. They’d drawn back now, both of them, as I stood, naked and panting in the corner, blood streaming from my wounded flank and shoulder. The burning sensation spread, and I knew with desperate certainty that I’d been poisoned.

The twin cat-beasts regarded me from their vantage point, squarely between me, the door, and my weapons. Compounding my lack of good sense in abandoning my weapons, I’d had the singular presence of mind to rent an inside room with no windows. And so far, I noted, my tussles hadn’t roused my neighbors, assuming I had any.

The first creature, which had stood aside while the Livia-thing had come at me, stretched and hissed, then gazed at me sweetly.

“Poor Wulf,” it said. “Angry at us for impersonating his lost loves, is he?”

“Fuck you,” I replied. It was about all I could come up with.

“I believe he is, sibling,” said the one I’d fought. “Watch out for his right, though. It packs a serious wallop.”

“Not half what I’d like to do to you,” I growled. “Why the hell are you doing this to me?”

“Orders, orders,” purred the first. “Our employer wants you dead.”

“Who’s this employer?” I asked. “I’ve a lot of enemies.”

“Oh, no one you’d know,” said the first creature. “It’s best that some things remain secret.”

I drew a breath, desperate to buy time. “What are you?” I demanded. “Daemons?”

“No, not really,” said the second.

“What we are,” said the first, “is what you most desire. Or,” it added, the outlines of both creatures wavering and melting, “what you most fear.”

And to my horror, I saw that the pair had transformed into the semblances of the snake daemoness from the Alabaster Temple, a four-armed monstrosity with a voluptuous woman’s torso and a reptile’s hindquarters, and my favorite little metal collector, Thae’lynn the dark elf. She was as naked and gleaming with studs, rings and bars as I remembered her, and she looked equally ready to fuck, then try to kill me as she had the last time we’d met.

“Now,” said the snake-daemoness, “enough talk. We would drink your blood as we drank in your passion, little man. Prepare yourself.”

They moved forward in tandem, the first monster’s snaky body undulating across the floor, four claw-tipped hands reaching for me. The Thae’lynn-thing stalked toward me, gliding with the grace of a dancer and the beauty of a black panther on the prowl.

No weapons, blood loss, poison burning through my veins, urging me to collapse and sleep the sleep of the dead...

Overall, not a terribly encouraging position, I thought.

It was at that moment that my door chose to cave inward, exploding into splinters, and revealing the recently-reviled but now-gods blessed form of Udo the dwarf, great-axe whirling, followed closely by none other than the beauteous Rhianna, resplendent in her fanciful tattoos and brief but alluring armor, sword in one gauntleted hand, dagger in the other.

“Yaaaaaaaahhhhhh!” screamed Udo, axe descending upon the snake-woman. With a hiss and a growl, she slithered with almost blinding speed, transforming back into a hairless, serpent-necked cat monstrosity, and raking the dwarf with her claws.

The Thae’lynn thing abruptly melted back to her native form, but stood uncertain, confronted now on both sides. Then Rhianna was upon her, sword slashing, chopping into the shiny pink shoulder, and she sprang into action, claws out, fangs dripping. Rhianna defended ably, but the creature forced her back.

I leaped toward the door, and scooped up my rapier, then stood painfully, wounds still wracking me.

“Much obliged, both of you!” I cried. “It was getting a little dicey there!”

“No talk!” barked Rhianna, parrying a claw-slash off her basket hilt. “Help me!”

I hastened to oblige, and now the cat-thing fell back, assailed by both of us together. I was not up to snuff, as the thing’s toxins had slowed me, but it was enough to turn the tide. A quick glance over my shoulder showed that Udo had his opponent backed against the wall, and as I watched, a mighty blow of his axe split the beast nearly in two.

“Aieeeeeeee! Kill! AIEEEEEEE!” he exulted, gore-splattered and wild-eyed. Gods only know why half the building hadn’t come running, or fled in fear. Then again, they were probably used to this kind of thing.

Rhianna’s and my opponent watched with a look of panic, then looked up at us. Its form wavered, and then I saw Livia once more, pale and naked, crouching on the floor, beseeching me with wide eyes and outstretched arms.

“Wulf... Please...”

“Fuck me,” I snarled, and drove the point of my sword into its chin. Blood jetted and it shrieked then fell, writhing. (And yes, perhaps “Fuck you” might have been a better rejoinder, but I wasn’t feeling very well.)

Now, the fight over, my body suddenly realized just how much of the cat-things’ poison pulsed through it, and I felt a wave of light-headedness sweep over me.

“I need,” I said, weakly, “to sit down...”

* * *

An hour and several cups of strong herbal tea later, I felt somewhat better, save for a pounding headache, chills, and an overwhelming desire to sleep, which I continued to resist. Of course, my broken ribs hurt, too, but that was largely incidental.

“I went to your friend’s tenement, just like you suggested,” said Rhianna, the lilt in her voice as alluring and charming as ever. “When I got there, they’d just found her, or what was left of her, in her room.”

I stared at her in horror. “What?”

“She’s dead, Wulf,” Rhianna said, sadly. “Someone — I’ll wager it was those two — had killed her very messily. I was on my way back to tell you when I ran into this one,” she indicated Udo, who now slept, noisily, in one corner, cradling his still-bloody axe, “and we both went upstairs to your room. We heard you mouthing off to those two, and in we came.”

“For which,” I replied, taking in a scalding mouthful of tea, and drawing my blanket more closely around my shoulders, “I remain eternally grateful.”

“What in the name of all the gods were they?” she asked. The two bodies had begun to disintegrate almost immediately, breaking down into slimy black corruption. Only the collars remained.

“No idea,” I said. “I’ve heard of shapechanging assassin beasts before, but nothing I believed. And someone sent them after me. Damn them, they killed Shendra just to get to me.” I felt tears start. “She was my friend, Rhianna.”

She nodded. “I know. You told me. And I take it that that lot gained entry by impersonating other friends of yours.”

“In a sense,” I said. “Long lost ex-girlfriends.”

Rhianna looked cynical. “And for that you turned me down?”

“I didn’t know,” I said. “Forgive my somewhat dim-witted repartee, but I’m still sick, probably poisoned, and dealing with the death of a close friend. And, since you’ve just done me the favor of saving me from a particularly loathsome death at the hands of a couple of smart-ass shapechangers, I will humiliate myself by telling you the reason that I didn’t take you up on your offer is because I am currently in the midst of an embarrassing bout of impotence, largely brought on by the blonde-haired little minx which that last beast impersonated.”

She smiled thinly. “So do you think that killing the creature taking her image might help you to banish her from your memories?”

“Interesting theory,” I said. “We’ll have to put it to the test when I’m feeling better.”

She kept me up all night, taking and pouring me full of tea, and by morning I felt exhausted, but considerably healthier. We paid off the innkeeper to dispose of the bodies and, being the suspicious types that we were, took the collars to the local Temple of Kybor and, in exchange for a small donation, received the high priest’s assurances that he would cleanse and destroy them. He also mumbled some incantations over my wounds and healed my broken ribs for no extra charge. More, I thought ironically, of that Litharnan non-magic. For all that, I felt much better.

“I don’t know whether I trust him,” I said as we walked away, wind whipping at Rhianna’s plaid cloak, granting occasional tantalizing glimpses at the pale body within. “He might sell the damned things and pocket the profits.”

“What’s the harm?” Rhianna asked. “They’re out of our hands, now.”

“Good,” I said. “Now, by the gods, I’m hungry. How about some breakfast?”

She nodded. “I’m ravenous.”

In more ways than one, I suspected...

As we sat together over platters of bread, meat and eggs, Rhianna looked up at me, surprisingly shyly, given the firm set of her jaw and the riveting green gleam of her eyes.

“Wulf,” she said, “do you really like me?”

I stopped up short at that, considering that half the male population of the Lastlands probably liked Rhianna, largely because the other half hadn’t yet met her.

“Rhianna,” I replied, “you’re stunningly beautiful, you swing a sword like a Landsknecht, and you saved my life, besides being funny and intelligent. What’s not to like?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she replied. “It’s just that men always seem so shy and retiring around me.”

I looked over at her sword, so recently used to dismember the shapechanging beast. “Perhaps they’re intimidated. Beautiful women are hard to talk to. Harder still when they’re good fighters. Most men don’t like to be bettered by women in combat. Or in anything else, for that matter. Me, I’ve never minded. I know my limitations, and if you’re a better sword-fighter than me, so be it. By the way, I suspect that you are, but I hope we never have to find out.”

“No worry there, pet.” She smiled and patted her sword. “This steel’s for my enemies alone, human or otherwise. You’re no enemy, Wulf.”

“Glad to hear it.”

“Now,” she said, “you need to get some rest, now that we know you’ll wake up afterwards. I’ve got plans for this evening.”

I raised my eyebrows quizzically. “Anything you can talk about?”

She smiled mysteriously. “After last night I have a personal obligation to take care of, and perhaps we can test out your theories.”

“Really.” Curiosity tapped feebly at me, but I was so bloody tired that it made little impression. “Well, I guess I’ll learn more tonight.”

The smile didn’t waver. “I’ll wake you when I’m ready.”

* * *

I slept like the dead, and true to her word, Rhianna summoned me near midnight with a cryptic and strangely fascinating look in her deep green eyes.

I can’t say the place we went was terribly impressive. Vosgraad is a huge city, with a vast slum region, which proved to be our destination. Tumbledown tenements crouched cheek-by-jowl beside crumbling ruins, burned-out shells and filthy hovels. Transients, beggars, and whores of the most pathetic sort crouched in doorways and cast silent glances, suspicious or hopeful, at us as we passed. We had to draw our weapons twice to ward off particularly bold pickpockets before finally arriving at a small shop on the ground floor of a tottering apartment building.

A weathered, virtually unreadable sign read “Tattoos,” and when Rhianna strode up to the door and knocked imperiously, a thin crack of yellow light appeared as it opened a fraction.

After a brief, whispered conversation, Rhianna beckoned me, and I joined her inside the shop. It was crowded but clean, lit by several short tapers. Walls were covered in color images of tattoos — I recognized one of Rhianna’s. Shelves were lined with inkpots and -- unsettlingly -- sharp, gleaming steel needles of several sizes.

Behind us, the proprietress closed, locked, barred and chained the door as I gazed at her with considerably more than mild interest. She wore an indigo gown, which hugged her figure in some interesting places — strong hips and thighs, gently-curved breasts, and a cascade of vivid black hair bound up with thongs into a single thick rope that hung down her back. She was veiled in the style of the desert lands, with a single, opaque blue cloth, decorated with silver threads, above which I noted two deep brown, almond-shaped eyes and skin the color of fresh nutmeg. She saw me and bowed gracefully.

“The Lady Ismin,” said Rhianna. “Finest tattoo artist in all the Desert Kingdoms. Ismin, Wulf the Freelance.”

“At your service,” I replied.

Ismin’s eyes narrowed, and I suspected that she was smiling, though her veil was all-concealing.

Rhianna shed her cloak and hung it up, moving with unhurried grace to a nearby contoured chair. She presented one naked thigh to Ismin.

“This one,” she said, casting me a quick, burning glance. “A wolf, I think.”

I’d swear that Ismin suppressed a giggle beneath her veil, but couldn’t be sure as she began selecting inkpots and wicked-looking needles from her shelves.

“Come, Wulf,” Rhianna said, beckoning, green eyes smoldering with an emotion I couldn’t readily identify. “Stand beside me.”

I joined her, hand resting on one of her studded shoulder pieces. She looked up at me, candlelight glinting in her dark red tresses.

“I’m under geas,” she said. “I’ve sworn to take a new tattoo each time I kill a foe.”

I swallowed, glancing at the dozen or so other tattoos which decorated her exposed parts, wondering what she had that I couldn’t see.

“How many more do you have?” I asked.

“You’ll find out,” she promised. “For now... Well, Wulf, I like to have someone with me when Ismin does her work. It can be quite painful.”

“I imagine,” I said, as the veiled woman returned and set a stool beside us, with easy access to Rhianna’s exposed thigh.

Just as I was wondering how Ismin could work in this light, she snapped her fingers, and a tiny mageglobe, perhaps the size of my thumb, darted from behind the counter and hung suspended beside Ismin. As I watched, its glow steadily increased until it shed light like a small sun, focused on the pale flesh of Rhianna’s leg.

Ismin then reached beneath the chair and withdrew what looked like a pair of weathered old belts, and looped them around Rhianna’s thigh, one near the top, the second just above her knee.

I watched dubiously. “What’s with the leather gear?” I asked. “You don’t look the type.”

Rhianna gave me an annoyed look. “I’m not. It’s just so that I don’t move my leg while she’s tattooing me.”

As we spoke, Ismin skillfully sketched out a detailed wolf’s head on the white skin with a stick of charcoal.

“Are you planning on moving around a lot?” I asked, suddenly curious.

“Only as much as necessary,” Rhianna replied, a strange grin on her face.

The veiled woman completed drawing a somewhat stylized, snarling wolf’s head, then selected a needle and without further ceremony dipped it into a jar of deep blue ink.

Under my hand I felt Rhianna tense in anticipation. An instant later, with methodical precision, Ismin slid the sharp, gleaming instrument into Rhianna’s flesh.

“Ahhhhhhhhh,” Rhianna breathed, then looked up at me, eyes wide, but wild with excitement. “That first shock is always the worst.”

I felt the blood leave my face as Ismin went about her work. With rapid, precise strokes, she slipped the needle in and out, following the line of her initial sketch, pausing periodically to wipe it clean, dip it back into the ink, or dab with a cloth at the bright beads of blood left behind by her ministrations.

Rhianna bit her lip as Ismin continued, and whispered, “Gods, this hurts, Wulf.”

She was breathing hard, and from my vantage point, I could see a faint sheen of perspiration forming in the deep cleft between her halter-bound breasts. To my surprise and relief, I felt a familiar stirring between my legs. Damn... maybe Livia was out of my head for the moment...

When Rhianna looked up at me, however, the light in her eyes made me wonder how much of her agitation was from the pain and how much was from...

...Shall we say, other sources?

Then, she reached up and started to unlace my breeches, and I realized exactly why Ismin had had to strap her leg down. I realized that I was once more growing to full tumescence, and began to concentrate on possibilities other than life-long impotence.

“Don’t worry,” she hissed. “Ismin’s highly professional. She doesn’t care what we do so long as I don’t move my leg.”

I didn’t really have a response to that, other than to note that Ismin wasn’t entirely disinterested, for as Rhianna reached long, insistent fingers into my breeches and pulled forth my cock, uncoiling now like an annoyed snake, the veiled woman darted a quick glance over us, and that damnable expression of amusement flickered once more in her dark eyes.

“The pain,” Rhianna whispered, stroking my cock to near-instant stiffness. “It’s so intense, so deep... Gods, Wulf, I need to do something to relieve it.”

“Is this how you usually relieve the pain?” I asked, concentrating on each syllable even as soft pleasure from her fingers radiated through me.

“It is when there’s a man around,” she replied, voice taut. “Now keep quiet and enjoy this, you bloody fool...”

As Ismin’s needle darted in and out of Rhianna’s tender thigh-flesh, leaving its trail of gleaming blood, Rhianna gasped again, then ran her pink tongue up the underside of my cock, and then as quickly slipped it into her mouth, moaning softly. Her red lips held me tightly, and she slid down the length of my stiff organ with deliberate, agonizing slowness.

I unleashed a deep moan of my own when Rhianna’s tongue flicked at my cock’s opening, then slid around it as she continued to swallow, deeper and deeper. At last, the whole length of my prick filled her sopping mouth and upper throat, and her hot green eyes fixed me with a look that was at once commanding and pleading. I’d seen such a look before. Perhaps it appealed to both sides of my nature. On one side, the animalistic need to dominate, and on the other the need to be subordinate to and protected by a loved one, or by an authority figure...

Anyway, whatever it was, it got me even harder.

I slipped my hands behind Rhianna’s red-tressed head and began to thrust for all I was worth, plunging my slick organ back into the depths of her mouth. Fortunately for Rhianna, the chair was securely attached to the floor, and her leg was firmly strapped in, so Ismin never missed a jab.

The pain seemed to keep Rhianna on edge, and she attacked my prick with renewed energy, sucking and biting lightly, then leaving off to stroke me with her fingers.

I inclined my head at the still-absorbed Ismin. “I’m going to come a long time before that’s finished,” I whispered. “Hope you don’t mind.”

The green eyes met mine again. “Just wait until she finishes the outline,” Rhianna hissed back, before taking a long, hard slurp on my shaft. “I’m not having it all done in one sitting.”

Gods, would she want me to be there for the next one, I wondered? The sight of Ismin stabbing her needle into Rhianna’s leg, however skillfully, was more than a little disturbing.

I swallowed hard and concentrated on Rhianna’s lovely mouth and tongue, as she once more enveloped me in hot, sweet, moistness.

“Gods...” I felt my breath come faster now, my heart pounding harder with each one of Rhianna’s prodigious gulps.

“That’s it,” she whispered, then swallowed me to the hilt, and slid me out again. “Give it to me.”

“Yes,” I gasped. “Yes, I’m going to.”

“Now,” she commanded, stroking, and staring up at me. “Come for me now.”

With a rush like a tidal wave, the unbearable tension finally released, and my cock contracted violently, unleashing its pent-up cargo into Rhianna’s mouth. She sucked intently, a look of rapt, devoted concentration on her face, swallowing my load with ease, then at least releasing me, my slick cock collapsing like a stove-in goblin war-barge.

Wiping her lips, Rhianna looked down. Ismin was busy wiping her tools clean, and covering ink pots.

“I think we’re finished,” she said with a sly grin. “For the moment, anyway. Glad we were able to “

As we left, the neighborhood seemed a little less menacing. Rhianna’s fresh tattoo was securely bandaged, but she winced slightly with each step.

“Think you’re up for another round when we get back?” she asked. “This thing hurts like bloody hell and I need to keep my mind off it.”

“You have the strangest way of dealing with pain,” I commented.

“I don’t hear you complaining,” she shot back.

“Don’t worry. I’m not.”

— END —