The Wizard of Shark Island

The Wizard of Shark Island is a story that had been kicking around in my head for a very long time, based as it is on a D&D game I played in the far distant past, with an evil wizard taking the party hostage and threatening to kill them all unless the attractive female character (the one I happened to be running at the time) gives herself up to his pleasure. Yeah, we were adolescents and things like that were our meat and potatoes. Anyway, the lustful wizard was frustrated and all ended well.

So I thought it would make a great Wulf tale. I started on this one several years ago and set it aside when the Wulf website went down and various other personal matters intervened. I stepped in and finished it recently and now here it is, complete for the first time ever.

Those who follow Wulf’s various escapades will note that it takes place after The Demon Crown but before the Dark Vengeance series, when Wulf was sailing around adventuring with Livia and Narisha, and of course they were all having sex with each other all the time. This is kind of the equivalent of the time that Conan the Barbarian spent with Belit the pirate-queen -- a long, ill-defined period in which they had “many adventures,” which allows every pastiche writer in the world to cram in any story he wants. In fact, if Conan did have all the adventures that the various novel, story and comic writers claim, he’d probably have lived to be 500 or so.

Anyway, I’m reserving that period for some more adventures, since there’s all sorts of possibilities, since Wulf is running around on a pirate ship with two extremely sexy and adventurous women who like to tease the hell out of him, but also really enjoy it when he has sex with other people. Pretty decent arrangement if you ask me...

In this story I’ve teamed Wulf up with another woman who doesn’t take any crap, in the person of the Vendayan sailor Sunita. Vendayans look like folks from southern Asia, by the way -- a pleasant combination of Indian, Afghan, Pakistani and Burmese. And Sunita’s something new -- her relationship with Wulf is a bit different from what you’ve probably come to expect.

The urge to have Sula Khan say “I put on my wizard hat” was almost uncontrollable, but at length I managed to resist it. Mind you, it was a real struggle.

__________

Wulf
There was a time when I wanted to be a wizard. I had visions of myself discovering ancient secrets in distant towers, of casting mighty spells and binding daemons to my will. I was going to be quite the mage — empires would crumble at my touch, and kings would tremble to hear my name.

In reality, of course, my life as a student at the academy consisted of days and nights of mind-numbing studies, poring over ancient books in endless libraries, listening to lectures from wizened old codgers who hadn’t cast a spell in anger for decades, hanging out with other students from my dorm. Nothing truly interesting happened — no giant snakes, no ancient slain sorcerers swearing vengeance on me, no friendly ghosts or protective professors, no exciting sports — none of that stuff that people expect after reading those damned White Empire novels about boy wizards and flying broomsticks.

I was a mediocre student at best; when I was finally expelled after my unfortunate accident (the one that destroyed most of the alchemy wing), it was more of a relief than anything else. Of course, that led to my current life as a wandering freelance adventurer, and I’ve never stopped complaining about it since... Gods only know what might have happened had I stayed and become a good little wizard.

Well, that’s all in the past now and what’s done is done. I bring it up only because I just want you to know that I’ve had a small amount of experience with wizards, and I’ve got nothing against them personally. Most are fine chaps, to be sure, but there are always exceptions — the desire for arcane power, coupled with tolerance for long, dull stretches of study in dusty ancient chambers and an intense egotistical streak often combine to dire consequences.

Case in point, the perverse wizard we ran into while sailing on the Skate one lovely spring. We were sailing south, bound for...

Oh, wait a moment... I suppose introductions are in order, aren’t they? I’m Wulf, as many of you already know, and this particular incident took place while I was sailing the Inner Sea with my companions Livia and Narisha — sorceress and crimson-skinned demoness respectively. Our ship was the Skate, and I suppose in those days our lives consisted largely of wandering around seeing what kind of trouble we could get into.

Livia was a human of sorts — here pale blonde hair, rich blue eyes and freckled, smiling face bespeaking sunlight and innocence. Having been her lover for a couple of years now I knew better, especially since we both enjoyed carnal relations of the Skate’s third owner, Narisha.

Now, Narisha was yet another story. She was the daughter of an especially notorious demon warlord, and was with us as something of an exile. She was a strapping, voluptuous creature with bloody crimson flesh, rich blue-black hair, lovely curling horns, a sinuous tail, pure white fangs and a temperament to match. An alluring combination of cruelty and tenderness, of love and lust. And I don’t think that she could have loved only one partner if she’d tried. I just sighed and accepted it. After all, I had Livia and I had Narisha (often both at once) and if they caused me aggravation — which they did on very, very rare occasions — I suppose it was all worth it in the end.

Or was it? I wondered, gazing out across the sun-dappled sea and wondering where the hell they were.

I didn’t have too long to wait this afternoon, for almost as if I’d summoned them, a pair of slick and gleaming sea otters scrambled up the side of the ship and tumbled to the deck a few feet away, mock-wrestling and play-biting like hyperactive puppies. As I watched, my amusement growing along with certain other sensations, the two sea-creatures changed, their fur vanishing, their legs elongating, tails shortening, then vanishing altogether, faces transforming into human (or at least human-like) visages, long hair sprouting, until they had fully transformed into two naked female bodies — one pale and lithe, the other crimson and firmly muscular.

Yes, it was them all right. Still sopping from cavorting in the sea, their bodies glistened with water droplets, their hair was plastered to their skin, and yet they continued to frolic and grapple as if they were still playful otters. I slowly sat down on the deck, my back against the railing, content to watch and not about to stop them.

In earlier days I’d never been much of a voyeur, but given the number of times that I’d watched Livia being ravished while hiding in the closet, watching on a viewing crystal or while tied in a chair (that’s another story I haven’t told yet), I’d grown at least accustomed to it. And besides, the girls seemed to enjoy being watched. I took some comfort that the Skate’s afterdeck had been covered with a canvas shade, effectively hiding it from the rest of the crew. Not that Liv and Narisha would have minded letting the crewfolk watch them at play — I was more concerned about them neglecting their duties and slamming us into a reef or down the throat of a leviathan while distracted. Off duty, they were free to watch whatever they wanted. I was willing to bet a dozen crowns that at least one of them had figured out how to spy on my cabin when the three of us were going at it, in fact. And if he did, more power to him, I suppose.

And I suppose that all goes to say that when Livia and Narisha bounded onto the deck, sopping wet, randy as cats in heat, and ready to put on a show, I was all too willing to watch.

They tumbled to the deck, lips locked together, hands darting across the gleaming flesh of each other’s thighs and buttocks. Livia rolled on top and slid up Narisha’s body, wet skin sliding against wet skin, thrusting her breasts into the demon woman’s face.

“Mmmm, lovely,” Narisha sighed, rubbing her face between them, pressing them together with her hands. Her fangs nipped at Livia’s pink nipples, and as I watched they began to stiffen, accompanied by the music of Livia’s sighs.

Livia twined her fingers in Narisha’s matted black hair, seizing a handful and pressing the demon’s face even harder against her.

“That’s it,” she whispered. “Right there. Bite me, love. Bite... Ahhh!”

She cried out sharply as Narisha took a large portion of one breast in her mouth, alternately biting and suckling.

“Mmmmm,” Narisha mumbled, lips tight against the softness of Livia’s nipple. Livia’s body began to writhe against Narisha; I could see her muscles flexing and heard the growing volume of her cries. If any of the crew heard her they didn’t seem to notice; so far we were all alone on deck.

“I want more,” Narisha said, her voice burning with urgency. “I want all of you.”

Livia groaned and began to slide further up Narisha’s body, her thighs against her breasts, her mons grinding between them.

“That feels wonderful,” Livia breathed. “I feel your skin against my cunt, darling.”

“I want it,” Narisha said, and stroked her lips with her fingers. “I want it here. I want it right here.”

Livia obliged, still moaning softly and moving up onto her knees, then stepped over Narisha’s shoulders, her loins on either side of Narisha’s head. Narisha’s sharp-nailed hands swiftly encircled the soft pale globes of Livia’s buttocks and pulled her down, pressing her face against Livia’s mons.

Livia leaned back, breasts bobbing, her hands on Narisha’s head, sliding forward and back against the demon’s face.

“Gods, Narisha,” she gasped. “Gods, I can feel your tongue against my clit, sweetheart. Lick it.”

Narisha wasn’t really in any position to reply articulately, but grunted contentedly as her tongue slipped across Livia’s swollen clit and slid between her lips. I couldn’t see much, but when Livia’s back arched violently and her legs tightened, holding Narisha’s head like a vice, it was obvious that the demon was doing her job quite well.

“Ah. Ah.” Livia’s voice was heavy with anticipation, and an instant later she unleashed a long orgasmic moan, thrashing forward and backward, wet blonde hair flying. “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh....”

Livia collapsed, slipping to the deck, and in an instant Narisha was on top of her. Narisha’s lips sought Livia’s as their fingers twined together. Narisha’s muscles flexed and she pressed Livia’s hands to the deck.

“Taste yourself, my love?” Narisha whispered, then kissed Livia again, tongues thrusting. “Taste it? It’s lovely, my dear. You’re as sweet as honey.”

“Mmmmm,” Livia replied, lying unresisting and letting Narisha’s lips and tongue dart across her face and neck. “Such things you do to me, my sweet. Such things you do.”

I cleared my throat. “Having fun, ladies?”

Two pairs of eyes, one rich blue and the other smoldering yellow, turned to regard me.

“Why Wulf,” Livia said, her voice full of shocked innocence, belied somewhat by the fact that she was lying under a naked demoness. “How dare you? We had no idea you were there!”

“You’re not a gentleman,” Narisha added, as Livia nuzzled at her neck. “A gentleman would have made his presence known.”

“And probably get thrown over the side,” I said. “Or possibly asked to join in.”

They both tittered at that one. “Heavens, Wulf,” Livia said. “What in the world would we do with you if you did?”

“Exactly what you did the last time,” I replied, rising to my feet and hoping they wouldn’t notice how tight my breeches had become.

They did, of course.

“Did we do that?” Narisha asked, coyly, pointing. “So terribly sorry. You should have done something with it while we were playing.”

“And give you the satisfaction?” I snorted. “Like hell. Of course, if either of you wants to meet me in my cabin later...”

“That could probably be arranged,” Livia said, eyes narrowing. “Or perhaps I should send Sunita.”

I rolled my eyes. Our newest crewmember was a young, bright-eyed Vendayan girl whose favored garb bared her muscular midriff and revealed the suggestions of some very interesting tattoos. We’d all been speculating about her since she joined up, but so far she’d shown no amorous interest in man, woman or beast. I wondered if she was married, or had taken some kind of vow.

“If you can persuade Sunita, feel free,” I said. “Myself, I’m the last to try to persuade the unwilling.”

“Who says she’s unwilling, Wulf?” Narisha asked. “Perhaps she’s just shy.”

“And you’re just the one to bring her out of her shell, aren’t you?”

Narisha sat up, her breasts bouncing alluringly. “She can keep her shell. I just want to get her out of her clothes. I’ll let you know if I succeed.”

“In graphic detail, I hope,” Livia whispered, loud enough for me to hear. “Now where the hell are our clothes?”

I left my two temptresses to locate suitable raiment; myself, I was more interested in seeing when we’d make landfall. Provisions were getting low and I was hoping to put in at Xul to replenish and possibly get some leads on where to head for next. We’d been following up the usual leads in hopes of striking it rich — lost treasure, ancient civilizations, secret routes to the other side of the world — you know, the type of things that bored adventurers eat up with a spoon. So far all our leads had gone nowhere, and I was getting bored. Livia and Narisha seemed a little restive too, but it at least made them more interested in passing the time with orgiastic sex.

Brex, the pilot reported smooth sailing and told me that we’d make landfall in two or three days — well within our deadline for exhausting provisions and reaching the urine-drinking stage of the voyage (mind you I’ve never gotten to that stage, and never intend to). 

“Course we cut a few corners to make time,” he said, his weathered gaze scanning the horizon, “but the wind’s good and we’ll be fine so long as it holds out. I ‘spect clear sailing all the way to Xesh.”

I was encouraged by this. Even if the wind gave out, Livia had more than enough skill to conjure up an air elemental or two to propel us the rest of the way to Xesh. I stayed topside for a while longer, watching the sun sink lower on the horizon and finally retired to my cabin for a minimal supper — it was late spring and I didn’t have much of an appetite. Sleep hit me with more than the usual insistence, and I found myself strangely grateful that neither Livia nor Narisha had decided to join me in my cabin.

Of course Brex had said that he “’spected” clear sailing all the way — that’s probably what jinxed us. It certainly wasn’t anything I did.

Or was it?

Sunita

Third watch... by the thousand gods, it was the most tedious of duties. But then, Sunita told herself, it was to be expected given her relatively low status on board. She’d only joined up a week previously, after Skate had had a number of crew jump ship in Khendjarat. It seemed like a good deal — the ship was clean and well-maintained, the remaining crew experienced and friendly, and the masters...

Well, they were certainly a sight, weren’t they? A demoness (Sunita had never even seen a demon, let alone served under one), a human sorceress who liked to turn herself into dolphins and sea birds, and a handsome but somewhat taciturn man of uncertain ancestry. They were, the other crew assured her, wealthy enough to sail the ship all across the Inner Sea without any real goals, all three were experienced adventurers and they were...

How, Sunita thought, to put it politely?

...Intimate?

Yes, she supposed that was best. She had served on shipboard before and knew what went on. Some sailors, away at sea for months, learned to do without companionship, save when in port. Others learned to keep each other company — which of course had interesting implications on ships with all-male crews. Such was the way in Sunita’s homeland, where the idea of women serving on a ship was considered unlucky, but Sunita herself had always thought such things to be nonsense, and knew that both sexes served together in other, more enlightened lands. Even so, women crew were often considered inferior even in the north — this was the first vessel on which she had served as a woman and been treated as an equal by the other crew. Of course, both Sunita and her parents knew that she was destined to sail the seas, lucky or not, and when she informed them that she was shipping out to find her fortune, they were delighted, for they knew that greatness lay in her future.

It seemed to Sunita that allowing women to sail did away with many of the problems associated with sea travel. Men who preferred the company of women could have it, while men who walked the path with other men could do as they pleased. She’d seen many such individuals back home, where many men felt that only members of their own gender could offer real companionship and intellectual equality.

More nonsense, of course. Sunita was the equal — physically and mentally — of almost any man she could name. And any woman, for that matter.

The relationship between the sorceress Livia and the demoness Narisha was of especial interest to Sunita. Certainly, the notion of intimacy between women had occurred to her, but in Vendaya it never seemed to show its face in public in the same fashion as it did for men. If women pleasured each other in Sunita’s native land, they did so in the safety and privacy of their own homes. The mechanics and specifics of such relations had therefore always been a mystery to her... Her position on these matters was more one of healthy curiosity rather than outright lust.

There was no denying, she told herself as she walked along the narrow deck at the ship’s waist, that the ship’s masters were indeed an attractive group, despite their obvious eccentricities. The one called Wulf had a certain dark charm that Sunita found alluring, as if he had seen so much in his life that nothing surprised him anymore. Of course, she reminded herself, this was likely something of a façade, intended to keep outsiders at bay and protect what was most likely an especially vulnerable and sensitive soul. Or perhaps, he was just a great wasted spirit with little to offer.

She could see him being either, and in the course of this voyage, it wasn’t likely that she’d learn which one was truer.

Sunita herself was no stranger to the sea, and she walked with the practiced roll of an experienced hand. She was Vendayan, with dusky skin and lustrous black hair. She was not tall, but this could be an advantage, allowing her to scramble up and down the rigging and fit into smaller spaces than taller mariners. She liked to think that her body was pleasing — much like the priestesses and goddesses carved on the ancient jungle-grown temples, where they cavorted and coupled with gods and daemons. Her hips were generous, and she could dance with the best of them, often to the amusement and approval of the crew, and she often found her breasts more of a hindrance than a help while at sea.

She normally carried Vendayan weapons — a curved tulwar and katar (or punch dagger, as the northerners so crudely described it) and wore traditional Vendayan garb — a short-sleeved vest pulled tight across her chest, exposing her midriff, baggy trousers and sandals (though going barefoot helped her clamber up and down the rigging). She knew that this also exposed a portion of the tattoo that she’d had placed on her abdomen, and she smiled quietly. Surely they wondered what it was, she thought. Would they ever find out? That remained to be seen.

Such thoughts were common when one walks the deck on last watch. Overhead the moons shone down from a cloudless sky, one a crescent, the other swelling to fullness. When they were both full or near-full, the light was almost as strong as on a cloudy day, but this was a rare occurrence. Tonight, the argent light was strong but not overwhelming, and the sea all around glinted gently like thousands of silver pieces strewn on black cloth. The only sound was the gentle splash of the water and the creak of the rigging...

Sunita paused, cocking her head to one side. There was another sound... like a large body heaving itself from the water, very close by...

Her attention was riveted on the gunwale a few paces ahead. A hand appeared, gripping the railing — it was oversized, grey, ridged with protrusions at the knuckles, like the fins of a shark. For an instant Sunita gaped, then turned, making for the ship’s alarm gong. As she did, a heavy grey form lumbered over the side ahead of her and she cried out in surprise and horror, hand leaping to the hilt of her tulwar.

The creature was like a horrid amalgam of man and shark — mostly shark. It had legs with webbed feet and muscular arms ending in the fierce-looking hands she’d seen, but its body was sleek and grey on the back, white on the underside, and sported a jutting dorsal fin. Its face was the worst — a grinning, black-eyed horror bristling with triangular teeth and glaring at her with inhuman malevolence.

She’d heard of such things, usually in childhood tales of adventures at sea — moheeba, they were called — shark-men. And they were said to serve evil sea-mages. Shaking off her momentary shock, Sunita drew both weapons and raced at the thing, shouting in the hope that someone would hear her.

“Attackers! Corsairs!” she cried. “Moheeba!”

The thing threw up a ridged, grey-skinned hand to block her first blow, but the weapon cut flesh and it snorted angrily, then slapped at her with its other hand. Sunita ducked the blow and lashed out with her punch-dagger, catching it near the elbow. Blood spattered and it hissed, falling back before her onslaught. She was about to press her advantage when from behind another thick-skinned hand lashed out, catching her on the side of the head, slamming her against a bulkhead. She spun, swinging tulwar wildly, hoping she would hit something, when a second blow crashed into her. She fell against the railing, and felt the momentum of the blow carry her over the side. For an instant she fell, then the black waters closed around her.

She kept a grip on the dagger, but the tulwar slipped from her grasp as her sodden clothes dragged her down. Sunita’s head broke water for a moment and she inhaled a lungful of air before sinking once more.

Wulf

I had vague impressions of shouting and the clang of weapons, and then my old instincts kicked in and I was out of bed in an instant, stumbling into my clothes and grabbing my saber. I heard something about corsairs, and that was all I needed to hear — a pirate raid this far from land was almost unheard of, but I wasn’t about to stop and calculate the odds against it. Outside I heard a crewman scream, and I knew that they needed me.

I launched myself from my cabin, making for the companionway, and the ladder up to the deck. All around me were cries and shouts of confusion, and I hoped that I wasn’t too late to turn the tide. I also hoped that Livia would be able to fire off a spell or two — that was sure to set things to rights.

Still trying to be optimistic, I struggled onto the deck and beheld a scene of carnage, with great, ugly shark-men slashing away at my unfortunate crewmen who seemed both too stunned and too horrified to mount an effective defense.

“Rally here, lads!” I shouted (and yes, I know they weren’t all lads — it just sounded better at the time), and hastened forward.

It would have worked, I swear — usually the presence of a calm head is all that a beleaguered crew needs to get tore in and drive off the attackers. Unfortunately I hadn’t reckoned with the shark-men being smart, for even as I moved to aid my crew, the heavy mass of a great black net dropped over me, and I crashed heavily to the deck, my saber bouncing away. Suddenly, a heavy weight fell atop me, and I felt myself being twisted up in the net and dragged away.

Oh, gods, I thought, this is not how I wanted this trip to end...

Sunita

She bobbed to the surface, struggling to stay afloat. Her garments were soaked and kept dragging at her — she’d managed to lose the sandals, but the rest was plastered to her like a second skin. The Skate was nearby, now stopped as the shark-men pulled down the sails and collapsed the rigging. Close to her, she saw the sea-ladder trailing and reached out a hand, hoping to grab it...

And a huge grey form exploded from the water between her and the ladder, all fins and teeth and lashing tail. The horrid triangular teeth grazed her hand as she yanked it back, as the moheeba twisted gracefully through the water, disappearing beneath her.

Sunita’s heart was racing — she’d always feared the sharks, though she knew that they were as much a part of the sea as the wind and the waves. Now one of them was beneath her, probably racing upward, mouth agape, ready to rip her flesh from her bones. Desperately, she threw herself to one side as quickly as she could, still grasping her dagger. Water geysered and she felt herself lifted up and then as quickly flung aside, sliding along the rough, gritty flesh of the attacking shark-man. It had just missed her... Only one chance remained...

Sunita lashed out with her katar, thrusting heavily into the pale white belly of the creature, now exposed by its leaping attack. As they both crashed back into the water, she felt the vulnerable flesh slice open; furiously, still shouting angrily, she cut downward, and the creature’s throat and abdomen ripped apart, exploding into a messy mass of entrails, blood and flesh.

It was dead and didn’t know it — the shark-man thrashed about in agony, and its pointed, jag-toothed head struck Sunita, sending her flying through the air, fetching heavily against the Skate’s wooden hull. Her hand found a rope — the ladder or a trailing piece of rigging cut by the moheeba, and twisted ‘round it, pulling herself upward and away from the bloody waters below. The shark-man’s death throes weakened and finally subsided, and to her horror, Sunita saw two of the creatures fellows leap into the water to feed on the remains.

With a final effort, every muscle protesting, Sunita pulled herself back onto the deck — there was blood everywhere, and corpses of crewmen and moheeba lay sprawled in various postures all around her. Someplace to hide... She could not let the shark-men find her.

Nearby, a hatch cover lay splintered by a falling spar. Quickly and silently, she slipped through it and dropped into the hold below — just in time, it turned out, for a pair of shark-men passed by almost immediately afterwards.

The hold was chock-a-block with crates and barrels — mostly empty now after months at sea. Sunita clambered among them and found a barrel near the far wall, behind several other containers and well-hidden from the rest of the hold. She pried the lid off with her dagger and clambered inside, finding almost immediately by smell that it had once held dried fish.

It was of no concern to her now, she thought, wrinkling her nose all the same. Any refuge was a good refuge, and now she could stop and consider what to do. The horrifying thought that the shark-men intended to rob, then sink the ship, occurred to her, but as above her she heard the sounds of sail being raised and the creak of rigging, her fear subsided.

The barrel was cramped and uncomfortable, but at least she was safe for the moment, and free of the shark-men. What came next, however, was anyone’s guess.

Wulf

It was a truly unpleasant trip that night, believe me... The shark-faces seemed to have at least a rudimentary understanding of sailing, and were able to get the ship underway, while the rest of us were held under guard on the deck, our hands and feet tied, gags rudely shoved in our mouths. We’d lost at least five crewmen, I noted with dismay, and both Livia and Narisha had been taken as well, though I imagined that both of them had put up quite a fight. We all made eye contact during the night, though we were unable to do anything else, so close a watch did the shark-folk keep over us.

It was greying into early morning when I saw the towering cliffs of an island, and noted that our ham-fisted shark-man pilot was guiding us towards it. Did the fish-heads have some kind of pirate racket going, I wondered? And if so, what did they do with their prisoners?

Answers would have to wait. The ship sailed, relatively smoothly (save for scraping on some coral a couple of times and making me wince horribly at the thought of the damage) into a protected harbor in the center of the island. I wasn’t sure whether this was a natural formation, for when the sharks yanked us to our feet and prodded us to leave the ship, I saw that it was a round lagoon, its waters a rich blue-green, surrounded on all sides but one by great rocky cliffs. And perched atop the highest cliff was...

You guessed it — a lone tower, rearing toward the sky, bristling with balconies, cupolas and windows. Gods...

They carried us along a gangplank to a dock that extended out into the lagoon. With growing dread I looked down at the near-transparent waters and saw a half-dozen vast dark shapes cruising serenely beneath us — these weren’t shark-men this time, but real sharks, and some of the largest I’d ever seen.

The shark-things began to carry us up a narrow trail that led from the docks up the cliff-wall. The lagoon and the Skate dwindled behind us. There were no other vessels — my ship sat alone at anchor, suspended in the near-luminescent water. Everywhere I saw the silent graceful shapes of sharks and shark-men, swimming about and circling as if on patrol. I counted a dozen sharks and a score of shark-people, and I was probably being conservative.

Higher we climbed. My captor’s breathing became labored and I saw gill slits opening and closing painfully as it went on. Perhaps they could only stay out of water for a limited time before their gills dried out and they suffocated. It might be a useful fact, if I were ever free and in a position to use it. For now however, there wasn’t much I could do as I, and the remainder of the crew for that matter, were bound up and being carried to an unknown fate.

At least, I reminded myself, we were alive. But then again, they might only be keeping us alive for greater and more painful amusements later.

What a jolly collection of happy thoughts I was.

Livia

For the tenth time that day, Livia cursed herself. The shark-men had taken her unawares, rushing out of bed barely clad, and without a prepared spell. Two of them had tackled her, held her down and gagged her, while a half-dozen of their fellows had overwhelmed Narisha. Several had fallen during the fight, but the demoness was taken nonetheless — grimly, Livia noted that the shark-folk seemed determined to take them, and as many crewmen as possible, alive.

Wulf had been taken pretty handily too, she observed. They’d carried him over, bound up in a net and tied him securely, along with the surviving crew. There were about a dozen left alive, which meant that at least six had perished, possibly more. Livia desperately tried to recognize faces, and again cursed herself for not remembering everyone’s name. The new girl, the Vendayan, was notably absent, and Livia’s anger and sorrow at the mess deepened.

Narisha wasn’t normally the one to be tied up and helpless, but there she was, slung across a shark-man’s shoulder, her buttocks thrust up like ripe red tomatoes, her yellow eyes burning with barely-restrained rage. Livia had managed to throw on a light shift before they’d taken her, but Narisha, the demoness that she was, hadn’t even done that, and was naked save for a pair of boots. It didn’t matter — demons usually just wore armor for show anyway.

Livia’s senses were alive by this time, and she felt the spark of magic in the air. It seemed to radiate from the massive tower above them that grew even huger the nearer they drew to it. This was clearly a wizard’s abode, the thought, and these damned fish-people seemed to be the spell-lobber’s servants or slaves. She’d heard vague stories of such things from the southern seas, but this was the first chance she’d ever had to see them in person. Unfortunately, it might also be her last.

Enough of the negative, Livia reminded herself. You’re a sorceress and you’re here with your crew. No bargain-basement hedge-wizard and his pet fish had ever gotten the better of her, and never would if she had anything to say about it. Grimly, Livia steeled herself for an ordeal.

You’ll pay for this one, whoever you are, she thought to herself. You’ll pay in blood, mark my words.

Sunita

The ship had lain at anchor for over an hour, creaking slightly with the gentle rise and fall of the water outside. No sound of footfalls or the wet hissing of the moheeba echoed from above. Cautiously, Sunita edged the barrel lid open and peered out into the gloom.

Nothing. Only the dim forms of crates, barrels and bags... No shark-men, no crew, no nothing.

As quietly as she could manage, Sunita climbed out of the barrel and stole through the hold, finding the ladder more by touch than anything else. Climbing silently she raised the hatch cover a hairsbreadth and scanned the decks.

They were empty. Bright in the morning sun, blue-green water surrounded the ship, and from nearby a pair of fins cut the surface, then vanished. The shark-folk evidently preferred cavorting in the water to standing guard on a captured ship. The rest of the crew was either dead or captured, after all, and it was unlikely that Skate needed a prize crew.

Opening the hatch a tiny bit more, Sunita inspected the anchorage, and looked up the craggy rock walls. There, she saw a procession of tiny figures wending their way toward an ominous, red-roofed tower that perched above the island like a raptor waiting to swoop down.

So our pirate moheeba have a master, and he lives in that tower, she thought. That is no palace of the fish-folk, at least not if I remember the stories correctly. Their master doubtless breathes air and bleeds the same color as I.

The notion of climbing up the walls and stealing into the tower to rescue her fellow crew members from an evil pirate-lord and his shark-man minions was at first horrifying, and then, after a few more minutes, surprisingly appealing. She had no chance of escaping this place on her own, and the idea of fighting her way to the enemy’s lair to save her comrades appealed to the adventurous young girl in her. Besides, perishing with a sword in her hand was far better than being fed to the fish while still alive.

But how to go on? Quietly, Sunita lowered the hatch cover and withdrew back to the hold to think. She would have to hurry, however — gods only knew what horrors awaited her companions in that fearsome tower.

Narisha

There was nothing in the cosmos, Narisha thought to herself, more humiliating than being captured and bound up like a stag, especially when it was being done to her by a gang of fish. Of course it probably wasn’t the damned fishes’ idea, in any event — these things looked too simple to do anything other than swim, eat and spawn. There was clearly some other intelligence behind their actions, and she strongly suspected that it dwelled in the tower that loomed larger and larger in the pale of early morning.

Though her curiosity was piqued, the demoness wasn’t terribly keen on meeting the tower’s master face-to-face. The shark-men seemed overconfident now that they had her helpless, but they didn’t know that she still had a card or two up her sleeve. It was a rather silly metaphor, come to think of it, as they’d taken her while she was mostly naked, but the principal was the same nevertheless.

Narisha tightened her wrists against the bonds. They’d tied her up with tarred ship’s rigging -- tough and uncomfortable, but not entirely unbreakable. Especially when her wrists and ankles began to swell and thicken, imperceptibly straining against the ropes, even as dark stripes began to appear across her naked crimson body; the shark-boys apparently had eyesight that was even worse on land than in the water, for none noticed her transformation until it was too late.

There was a brief pain as the ropes cut into Narisha’s arms and ankles, then they frayed and snapped, falling away as her body grew taut and muscular, arms and legs shortening and her face turning into the snarling visage of a red-and-black tiger. The shark-man carrying her hissed in alarm, then collapsed as Narisha’s fangs sank into his unprotected neck.

Mmmmm... fishy, she thought, tearing a chunk of the creature’s throat away and swallowing it. The other shark-men were hastily dropping their burdens to a chorus of grunts and muffled cries of pain from the crew, and raced at her, claws slashing, jag-toothed maws gaping.

The trail was narrow, with the cliff face on one side and a precipitous drop back to the harbor on the other. Narisha braced herself on all fours and sprang for the first shark-man, ripping high at his face, then crashing into his legs, sending him sprawling, tumbling over into space. It would be a few long seconds before he actually hit the water, and Narisha imagined that it would not be a terribly pleasant trip.

The creature who had been carrying Livia hesitated at his comrade’s fate, allowing Narisha to swivel about and gut the single shark-man behind her. The ponderous corpse now blocked the trail, allowing Narisha to turn once more and engage Livia’s bearer.

This one was smarter. He feinted, blocked, fell back and struck at Narisha’s unprotected flank with its finned claws. The creature found purchase and ripped at her flesh, but she shook off the sudden shock of pain and wrapped her great paws around its head and neck, overbearing the creature and carrying it to the ground. The precipice was only inches away, and it sought to roll over, forcing her over the side, but Narisha did not give ground, raking the horrific shark-face with her claws, tearing out both gill slits and puncturing a black, staring eye. The fish-jaws snapped and gnashed, but with a deft move, she managed to turn the creature around, until it was face down on the rock, and proceeded to ruthlessly pound its face into the gravel until it stopped moving, save for an occasional tremor.

In a heartbeat, she was back on her feet, turning to face the attackers who now clambered over the corpse of their comrade. She roared a challenge, and prepared to attack again...

And suddenly, unexpectedly, a blow of numbing force slammed into her from behind, sending her to the ground. Stars danced before her eyes, mixing with the fell blue-white spark of mana. Narisha felt her hold on the alternate form slipping, and she began to transform back into her demon-body. Agony stabbed through her body as Narisha rolled onto her back, desperately seeking her assailant with fading vision.

He stood suspended in mid-air, perhaps ten paces from the cliff wall, looking at her coolly, arms crossed, a dark cloak blowing in the updrafts from below. Human, by the look of him, with a small black beard and a cruel cast to his features.

“A demon and a were-beast,” he marveled, even as Narisha’s consciousness faded. “You’ll be a fine addition to my collection, my dear.”

Wulf

It was a terrible thing watching Narisha take on the shark-men and come close to saving us, only to be struck down by a cowardly wizard who blasted her with a spell from a safe distance. Of course, cowardly wizards are above all else smart wizards who know when not to put themselves in harm’s way. And smart wizards are less likely to become dead wizards, so I wasn’t really all that critical of his tactics.

As for his manner, well, I can’t say that that appealed to me particularly. I was still gagged so I couldn’t say anything as the wizard, all cool dark grace and swirling cloak, directed the fish-faces to take us the rest of the way to the tower. It was something of a relief when we marched through the yawning gates, hundreds of paces above the distant blue-green gemstone of the harbor below, and were finally flung unceremoniously into cells. Despite my anger and frustration, I ended up falling asleep beside a couple of other crewmen — exhaustion was an enemy that I simply couldn’t stand up to.

It must have been later in the morning when the shark-men returned, hefted us once more across their scratchy, fishy shoulders and marched us through a seemingly endless maze of corridors, stairs and chambers.

Someone had put a huge amount of effort into building this place. I saw cunningly-fitted stone walls, marble floors, hardwood doors and carved paneling, stained glass, vaulted ceilings, plush furniture — all of the trappings of a luxurious lifestyle. Constructing a retreat like this would have cost an emperor’s pension, and possibly involved large amounts of magic, or a lot of dead workers — possibly both. I seriously doubted that the shark-men had enough collective intelligence to hang a door properly, let alone build a retreat like this one. I had a feeling that we’d be meeting the builder, or at least the current occupant, soon.

The chamber where the shark-faces finally deposited us was a strange one — it had no outer wall but was instead open to the rich blue sky. I saw a few hints of the craggy cliffs around us, but I suspected we were well above most of the island’s main outcroppings. The room was plain and unfurnished, and a narrow platform extended out from the chamber, somewhat like the pirate’s planks they always show in plays and novels (which they don’t ever really use, either — it’s so much easier just to throw captives over the side than make them actually hop to the end of a board).

The shark men stood, hissing and painting, their gill slits working — they didn’t look terribly happy, but then how can you tell when a shark is sad? Before I could think any more about gauging the emotions of a fish, the black-cloaked man who had struck Narisha down appeared, once more suspended in space, outside the chamber. Effortlessly, he glided into the room and stood before us with the blue and cloudless sky as his backdrop.

Oh my, did he ever look the evil wizard, I thought. It was as if he’d gone to a White Empire cosmetician and hair-care specialist and said, “I’m going to the All Souls’ Night party as an evil wizard — just make me look baaaad.” He had short, jet-black hair, a pair of piercing dark blue eyes and a handsome, swarthy face, perfectly accented by a small black beard — a goatee no less. His clothes were rich black, accented with black embroidery and black appliqué. I don’t think there was a spot of color on his entire body — maybe that was the source of his power; if he wore colors he’d suddenly lose his spells or something.

He considered us for a long time — a crowd of a couple dozen bound crewmen and -women of assorted species, ranging from Narisha the demoness to Udo the dwarf (who had been unconscious since the battle; whether due to excessive alcohol consumption or a heavy blow to the head I could not tell — they were pretty much one and the same to him anyway). The wizard’s gaze took in each of us in turn before contemptuously moving on to the next. He lingered longer on Narisha — naked and bound even tighter than before, but glaring angrily at him — and Livia — scantily clad at best, with her shift ripped alluringly in places. I wasn’t comfortable with him looking at the women like that, but I was at least vaguely relieved that he didn’t have the same expression when he looked at me.

“I am Sula Khan,” he said at last. “I am master here. All on this island belongs to me — including you, your vessel and its contents. You dared trespass upon my realm, and now you shall pay the consequences.” He began to pace, gesturing with black-gauntleted hands. “Fortunately, I am a merciful ruler here in my small domain. Those who labor gladly and serve me well shall earn privileges and, perhaps someday, freedom. Those who defy me and refuse my commands shall be given to my pets for their amusement. And nourishment.”

I heard a throaty chuckling sound from the shark-men, and I knew exactly what he was talking about. Gods.

“You are all fit only for labor,” Sula Khan continued. “Construction, mining, craftsmanship possibly. Learn to love labor, for it is all you have.”

I was really beginning to dislike this son of a bitch, but my gag prevented me from expressing the true depths of my feelings. I contented myself with imagining what he’d look like with a scimitar through his ears.

Once more, the wizard’s gaze lingered lovingly on Narisha and Livia. “There are two exceptions, however,” he said. Kybor’s cock, what a surprise, I thought. “You two will serve me in a more... intimate fashion.”

Narisha chuckled at that despite her gag, and Livia rolled her eyes. It wasn’t the first time either one of them had received such an ultimatum.

“Mind you I prefer my consorts to be willing,” Sula Khan continued. “I’m not above baser acts, but they don’t give me as much pleasure as knowing that my partners have voluntarily given themselves to me, and truly think of themselves as my property.” He stepped over to Livia and began to loosen her gag. “What of you, my dear? Will you voluntarily surrender to me and give me pleasure as I command?”

Despite my somewhat perilous situation, I could still smile (or try to anyway) at the thought of Livia’s retort. Her sexual proclivities aside, my sorceress wasn’t about to take anyone’s orders on the subject. Unless, of course, they’d negotiated in advance.

In this case, they hadn’t. “I’d as soon fuck one of your damned shark-men, you diseased mass of feces,” Livia spat. “And you’ve probably got a little, tiny prick anyway.”

He laughed. “You have spirit,” he said. “I like that.”

(Once more, it was exactly what I’d expected him to say — perhaps there’s an evil wizard acting school somewhere and they all have to attend. They never taught that stuff when I was at the academy, of that I was certain.)

“I fear my shark-men have no such interests,” he said. “Their appetites are somewhat more... visceral.”

Oh, ha ha. The wizard made a joke. Were we all supposed to laugh and applaud?

“I expected you to refuse,” Sula Khan went on. “So I will use cruder methods.” He pointed at me, lying helpless on the floor and hissed at the shark-men. My heart skipped a beat as two hastened forward and looped a rope round my ankles, then bore me — my alarm growing steadily greater — toward the platform that extended out into space.

“I’m a terribly observant man,” the wizard said. “You do not become as powerful as I am by missing the obvious. I see that you have feelings for this individual. A lover? A relative? A friend? Who can say — all I know is that he is important to you.”

You couldn’t prove it by me, I thought, as the two shark men held me tight and approached the edge of the platform. A dizzying distance below I saw the blue-green of the lagoon, and Skate floating there like a toy in a bathtub.

Sula Khan held out what looked like a leather collar (in later years I was to learn it was a wolfen tamer’s collar, but even after my erotic relationship with a wolfen female some years previously, I remained blissfully ignorant of many aspects of the dog-people’s sex lives).

“Wear this for me,” Sula Khan said. “Take it freely and you will be my plaything, fit only to serve and please me. It will be a pleasant life for you, really — you will be devoted to giving me pleasure, and so give pleasure to yourself.” He cast a glance over at Narisha, glaring at him even more furiously. “Your red-skinned friend will join us eventually, I’m sure. But for now I’m content to have you.” He gestured at the shark men. “Now when I give the word, they will cast him over into space, and you will never see him again.”

Livia stared, blue eyes wide in horror.

“You bastard,” she said. “You wouldn’t dare...”

Sula Khan waved a hand, and the sharks heaved me off the platform. Blue sky, black rock and the massive bulk of the wizard’s tower spun all around me, and it felt as if my stomach had ejected itself from my gullet. I felt an instant of gratitude that I was gagged, so no one would hear me shrieking as I plummeted downward.

Then, with a neck-snapping jerk, I stopped falling, and instead swung wildly back and forth, my surroundings spinning even faster and more sickeningly. The shark men had laid hold of the rope and now I dangled helplessly, twenty paces below the platform.

I heard Sula Khan speak some more, but wasn’t able to make out the words for the roaring of blood in my ears and the terrible pounding of my heart. I couldn’t do anything — it was all up to the wizard and his shark-men. Either they hauled me up to a life of pain and servitude or sent me falling to the rocks and blue water below. At this point neither alternative seemed especially desirable.

Livia’s voice echoed down, and again I could not make out the words, but moments later I began to rise again, the shark-men hauling me back up to the platform. When I arrived, my heart sank. Livia stood before Sula Khan, eyes downcast, the black collar encircling her neck. Narisha’s expression alternated between rage and despair, and I felt the same.

There was nothing more for it. We’d lost, and Sula Khan the wizard had the upper hand.

Sunita

Slowly and painfully, day moved into night, the sun fell behind the cliff wall and the lagoon slipped into shadows. From time to time the moheeba stalked through the ship, kicking open doors and making a racket, but never even bothered to venture into the hold. Sunita scavenged some food and waited as the gloom deepened. Her experience with sharks was that they had amazing senses of smell and hearing (in the water at any rate) — able to sense wounded fish from miles away — but their eyesight left much to be desired. If she was fortunate, she’d be able to slip out of the hold and steal off the ship after dark. At least Sunita hoped she would — the fight on the ship had robbed her of her favorite weapon, though the punch-dagger had proved itself more than able to slit a shark-man’s gut.

Night settled over the lagoon, and the hold was doused in near-absolute darkness. Oh well, Sunita thought. No time like the present.

With painful slowness and care, Sunita pushed open the barrel and slid out. Skate was well-built and its joints tight, so there were no untoward squeaks or other sounds as she padded across the deck, avoiding the dark shapes of crates and barrels and at last stood at the foot of the cargo ladder.

Her ascent was as painstaking as her trip across the hold, and a few moments later she crouched in darkness, looking out across the lagoon.

There was almost no light. It took long minutes for her eyes to adjust, and even then the ship was only a vague collection of lines and curves, rising and falling gently with the surf. The moons were still behind the cliffs that surrounded them, leaving her with only starlight to navigate across the deck.

No moheeba either, Sunita noted with relief. Oceanic sharks never truly slept, this much she knew, but what they truly did in the darkness beneath the waves was anyone’s guess. She could picture them, cruising quietly beneath the surface, their primitive minds in a state of drowsy neutrality, propelled only by instinctive movements of fins and tails. Sunita shivered and scanned the deck, searching or the gangplank.

There it was — a patch of slightly lighter darkness, leading off toward the shadowy bulk of the island itself. Beyond, she hoped, was a dock or solid ground — she had no idea which.

Time to find out, Sunita told herself, and continued to creep along the deck, crouched as tiny as she could manage, and finally set foot on the plank. Closer now, she saw the vague outline of piers and a dock of sorts... thank the thousand gods... and began to slowly and deliberately place one foot in front of the other and move, still with infinite slowness, along the plank.

Black water lapped and slapped just a pace or so beneath her, and her mind jumped at every sound, envisioning the horrific grey bulk of a moheeba leaping from the water, tearing at her with its teeth and claws, then bearing her over into the depths, to be torn apart by a host of others and lost forever in darkness.

Part of her screamed to turn back and hide on the ship, to crawl into the hold and wait for thirst or starvation to finish her. It was a familiar part — everyone had a smaller, more sensible side that counseled flight and cowardice. Only the mad or the fool was totally without fear — Sunita had learned this over long months at sea, facing storms, corsairs and deadly natural perils. Now, however, the creatures of her childhood nightmares swam ominously but a few paces beneath her, and she had to move on despite the darkest and most paralyzing of fears.

The dock was but a few paces ahead. Her footsteps seemed no louder than the creak of wood joints and the splash of the water. At long last, after what had seemed an eternity, Sunita stepped onto the dock, feeling the reassuring solidity of the planks after the rolling movement of the ship and the unsteadiness of the plank.

She moved faster now, but no less carefully, heading down the dock toward solid ground. But even as she stepped off the dock and onto the sandy soil beyond, Sunita heard a rush of water and the sound of a heavy body dragging itself up, and knew what she would see when she turned.

Wulf

There was a single grate, high over our heads, and pale moonlight streamed in. They’d taken our bonds and thrown us back into our cell, now that his wizardliness had what he wanted. I shared my cell with four others — Brex the pilot, two deckhands named Philo and Trevin, and — I was delighted to note — Udo the dwarf, who had finally come around to the land of the living.

“Wha... whass goin’ on?” he mumbled blearily. “Wha’ we doin’ here?”

“It’s a long story,” I replied. “There was this wizard, see...”

“Wizard?” Udo was suddenly awake. “Where? Where? Gimme my axe! I’ll split him like cordwood!”

“We’re in his dungeon, you idiot,” Brex said, irritably. “He took our weapons, and he threatened to kill Wulf, so Lady Livia agreed to go play jousting practice with him.” He looked at me. “That was mighty kind of her.”

I sighed.

“Jousting?” Udo looked confused. “Livia don’t know howta joust...”

“Actually, she’s very good at it,” I said. “It’s one of her specialties. I’m sure she’ll give him quite a workout.”

“And what happens to us?” Philo asked, looking tired and miserable.

“Probably worked to death building that fuck-head wizard a new solarium and fed to the sharks,” I said. “It’s what I always dreamed of when I was a boy.”

“We should get out of here,” Philo suggested. “Go take the ship back and sail out of here.”

“And go rescue Lady Livia,” Brex added, then paused a moment. “Oh yes. And Lady Narisha too.” He didn’t sound as enthusiastic about that part.

“Brilliant strategy, seaman,” I said. “I’m all for it. Now care to tell how we can get out of here and fight our way to the wizard without weapons or tools or armor?”

“You appear to have found a weakness in my argument,” Philo admitted. “My instructors gave me poor marks in rhetoric and logic. We’ll have to give it some thought.”

“Well, we won’t be seeing the wizard again for a while,” I said. “I suspect Liv will be keeping that freak busy.”

They looked uniformly distraught at that (except Udo, who looked confused as always). The crew adored Livia, and I think they all nursed crushes on her, and she had them all wrapped around her little finger. Gods only knew how she did it — I don’t think she’d ever actually taken any of them to bed. Then again, perhaps that was her secret. Never mind.

“I expect the shark-boys will come to collect us in the morning and show us to our doom,” I said. “We’ve got until then to come up with something.”

Udo grunted. “Are you sayin’ that Liv’s upstairs screwin’ some freakin’ wizard?” he demanded, the light finally dawning.

I nodded. “Yes, I’m afraid we are. Now let’s hope that she keeps him out of the game for a good long time.”

Livia

Sula Khan certainly set a good table — Livia was willing to grant him that much. But this wasn’t all that surprising as the wizard had probably been using his shark-men to victimize merchants for decades.

The table occupied the center chamber at the top floor of his tower, just beneath the groined and vaulted roof. It was covered in pale Imperial linen, set with Litharnan silver and Kaitian tableware, and lined with exotic foods from a half-dozen realms, from fat Lastland grapes to Veltlands fowl and of course fish of all descriptions. Sula Khan smiled wickedly at her as a goblin filled his goblet with golden Murvanian wine.

“I can see you are impressed, my pet,” he said. His voice was a rich tenor and she suspected that he had rehearsed this line many times. “I have access to luxuries from all across Thystra, brought here by my shark-men and other minions.”

He was dressed in an elaborate red-and-purple gown, embroidered with arcane symbols, and his delicate fingers were decorated with several silver and gold rings. He was indeed a handsome man, with a healthy olive complexion and chiseled aquiline features. His black hair was neatly trimmed, as was his small black goatee. He wore a single necklace that held a shark tooth in a silver mounting. He sat at the head of the table in an oversized blackwood chair, intricately carved with demons and dragons, padded with black leather. It looked more like a throne than anything else.

Livia herself might have been more impressed had she not been naked. Well, almost naked — the tamer’s collar still encircled her throat, forcing her to keep her head up, staring fixedly at her new “master.”

Aside from her lack of clothing (a condition she’d never truly objected to in any event) she remained comfortable. The chamber was an even temperature, and the dining chair where she sat was lushly padded with soft velvet. Under other circumstances, this might have been a pleasant evening’s diversion.

“Yes,” she admitted. “You’ve created a fine little hideaway here. Served by minions, safe from the world, no doubt magically concealed from passing ships.”

Sula Khan nodded proudly.

“On the other hand, you are dependent on merchant traffic and piracy for your livelihood. In the end you’re really just a very wealthy thief, after all.”

The wizard did not seem outwardly to take offense. “It was good enough for my father, so it’s good enough for me. He was a chieftain of the al-Hajim and made his fortune robbing caravans. Unfortunately the other tribes declared him to be too much of a nuisance, so my tribe was driven from the Desert Lands. After a time I learned the trade of wizardry and created this place. Here, I lack for nothing.” He paused. “Save companionship of course. Of a female variety.”

“You don’t have a harem?” Livia asked in mock-astonishment. “I’m surprised. A desert-lander like you without a dozen or more concubines? It’s unnatural.”

Sula Khan ate a date, dabbed his hand in a fingerbowl and then held it out for the goblin to towel dry.

“I’ve a few diversions, it’s true. A number of companions to occupy my time and distract me from daily drudgery.” Here, Livia suppressed the urge to roll her eyes. “Yet, I tire of such things. I seek companionship of a very real sort. I look for someone to truly share my work, to give me real devotion and concern. Someone like you, perhaps.”

Gods. Livia cringed inwardly. Sula Khan was a handsome devil, no doubt — but it was blindingly obvious to her that he had the soul of a self-centered, sadistic, truly repulsive little toad.

Can it be? she wondered. Is it possible that inner beauty truly trumps outward appearance? It was a matter she’d have to give thought to one day, assuming she didn’t end up as Sula Khan’s adoring little house slave.

“It would be difficult,” she said at last, “for me to feel more than contempt for someone who killed my comrades, then threatened and enslaved the people I truly care about.”

That took him aback for a moment. “You mean your captain? That red-skinned harlot? Those filthy sailors?” He chuckled. “Oh, they’re quite safe. They’ll play an important role here. I’ll take good care of them. And in time you’ll come to see my finer qualities, I’m sure of it.”

“Where are they now? Where is Wulf? Where is Narisha?”

“Wulf is safe in a cell along with the other sailors. The demoness misbehaved so she’s being suitably detained. Don’t worry — no permanent harm will come to her. I just think she needs a bit of, well, correction.”

Livia almost spat at that, but once more forced herself to be calm.

“What are you doing to her?”

The wizard waved a hand, then seized a plum.

“I’m not doing a blessed thing to her, my dear sorceress. She’s currently entertaining my minotaurs.”

Narisha

The stone chamber was lit only by moonlight shining through a high barred window. Her arms and legs were free, but a sturdy iron collar had been riveted to her neck, attached to the wall by several feet of chain. Damn. Iron wouldn’t break like rope. If she transformed, she’d strangle herself.

She was naked, of course. Everyone seemed to like her better that way, after all. As for Narisha herself, she was like her kin in that she enjoyed wearing garments that left her mostly naked, but enhanced her state subtly. Or not-so-subtly. There was one leather outfit on board Skate, for example, that...

No. This was not the time to contemplate exciting underwear. She was a prisoner, her lovers and crewmates had been attacked, murdered, imprisoned, enslaved, probably raped... Blessed ancestors, why did this always happen to Narisha and her companions? Perhaps Wulf’s belief that he was cursed had proved correct.

In any event, she would need to escape, find her friends and help them back to Skate. The first order of business of course, was...

Something stirred and snuffled in the darkness. A human might have felt a clutch of fear at that, but Narisha’s kind were made of sterner stuff. She merely felt curiosity.

She didn’t have long to wonder. From the shadows emerged a towering shape, tottering along on two hooved feet. A moment later, it was followed by two others, resolving themselves from the darkness like manifesting spirits.

But, she reflected, these were not spirits. They were indeed flesh-and-blood. Their torsos were those of powerfully-muscled male humans, dark-fleshed and knotted with sinew. Their arms bulged with power, and below the waist they walked along on twin hooves. Each had the head of a fierce-looking black bull, each with two sharp, sweeping horns. The first had a heavy brass ring set in its nose, the second had twin gold rings in its ears, and the third was unadorned, and looked like the youngest. Their breathing was heavy and loud as they stepped toward her, hooves thudding on the stone floor.

Narisha gazed up and down at each in turn. They were as naked as she was, and each sported an oversized prick, gnarled and as powerful-looking as the rest of the creature, hanging between his legs like a battering ram.

In spite of herself, Narisha smiled, flashing her fangs, and licked her lips. Behind her, the sinuous line of her tail began to lash.

The lead minotaur, the one with the ring in his nose, came closer, while the other two hung back. At the sight of her smile, the great swinging cock stirred, thickening and beginning to stand up.

“Oh my,” Narisha breathed. “You are very big boys, aren’t you?”

Well, perhaps rescuing Wulf, Liv and the crew could wait a while...

Sunita

The moheeba didn’t call for reinforcements — Sunita wasn’t sure whether it could even communicate effectively when out of water — but instead dashed at her, jaws gnashing. She ducked, but a claw grazed her shoulder, drawing blood. She rolled with the blow, falling to the ground, then bounced to her feet on the shark-man’s flank, stabbing with her dagger. She caught it in the meaty portion of its arm — it wasn’t a crippling blow, but she could tell that the thing felt it.

The moheeba whirled, hissing and slashing, barreling down upon her once more — it seemed that shark tactics on land were much like shark tactics at sea. It wasn’t entirely stupid however, for it avoided her thrusts and clamped a heavy, clawed hand around her wrist, yanking her forward, trying to dislodge the weapon. Sunita tried to twist away, but its grip was solid, and she fell to her knees. An instant later, the crushing weight of the moheeba’s body forced her to the ground, face grinding into sand.

This was bad — she’d either be ripped apart or suffocated. There was a brief opening as the creature shifted its grip, and Sunita took it, whirling around under the thing’s crushing bulk. Her dagger was trapped against her side, but her left hand was free, and she lashed out, striking at the shark-man’s eye with her fingers. Even a creature with such poor sight would flinch at such an attack, and the shark-man’s head involuntarily flicked to the side. The pressure on Sunita’s right arm lessened and she hauled the dagger up, stabbing desperately, and finding a target. She pressed furiously, feeling the skin under the shark-man’s jaw give way as the razor-sharp blade sliced upward, cutting through the bottom of its jaw and into the gnashing mouth itself.

The creature thrashed again and tried to disengage, but Sunita’s hand was stuck, buried in the torn and bleeding flesh, and it hauled her up along with it. Sunita pushed off with a powerful kick of her legs, and now it was the moheeba that slipped and collapsed to the ground, Sunita atop it, the dagger still thrust halfway into the flesh beneath its jaw.

Sunita shouted with effort — and wondered too late if the other moheeba would hear — and stabbed the dagger deeper, throwing all of her weight behind it. The point jabbed into the roof of the monster’s mouth, cleaving cartilage, cutting and slicing, then stopped, thrusting into dirt and sand. The dagger had gone clean through the shark-man’s head.

It went mad then, hissing and convulsing. She couldn’t hold on, but lost her grip on the handle as the shark-man staggered back, twitching and heaving, and finally fell back into the lagoon with a massive splash. There was blood in the water now — the other moheeba would be feasting shortly, and — she hoped — forget all about her.

Now weaponless and soaked in brine and gore, Sunita dashed from the beach toward the place where she had seen the prisoners taken. One of the moons was at last peeking up over the cliff walls when she found the foot of the trail and ran up it, desperate to leave the bloody lagoon and its monstrous occupants behind.

Wulf

“Can you take the hinges off?” Philo asked.

I threw him a withering glance.

“Yes, I could, if they weren’t on the other side of the door,” I replied. “This rogue stuff can be very tricky sometimes.”

He shrugged.

“Perhaps we could batter it down?” Trevin suggested. “It doesn’t look all that thick.”

“It’s thick enough,” I said. “If I had a battering ram or an axe I could probably get through it, but in their wisdom the shark-faces didn’t leave us any tools or weapons.”

“Only our own heads,” Trevin agreed. “But those are the best tools we have.”

I rolled my eyes. Where do they get this stuff, anyway?

But Udo had heard something he understood.

“My head?” he asked, then with sudden conviction. “Yeah! My head!”

With that the little drunkard lowered his head and raced toward the door.

“Udo, don’t — ” I shouted, but too late. Dwarf head met iron-bound wood with a resounding “boom!” and Udo recoiled a couple of paces, landing in a grumbling heap on the floor. To my horror he got back on his feet and prepared to launch himself at the door again.

I was about to stop him when Brex put hand on my arm and pointed at the door.

“Look, Cap’n,” he said with a tone of awe and amazement. I looked — the damned thing had a huge dent in the middle where Udo’s head had struck it, and had been shoved backwards a fingerbreadth. Bloody dwarvish skulls — I’d always claimed that they were the hardest things in creation, and now here was proof.

Like a charging knight, Udo stormed the door once more, and this time the whole thing shook, mortar raining down from the ceiling, and the stones that surrounded the lintel shifted.

“That’s my boy, Udo,” I said. “One more for the home team.”

Without hesitation, the dwarf threw himself at the door a third time, and with a crack a hinge gave way, and a couple of dislodged stones tumbled down. In an instant, the rest of us had piled onto the door and crashed through.

And there we stood in the dim hallway of the dungeon, free at last.

Udo staggered to his feet, weaving slightly.

“’At was great!” he declared.

“What do we do now?” Philo asked.

“I have no idea,” I replied. “How about the rest of you?”

I got blank stares for my trouble.

Gods, it looked as I was in charge again.

Sunita

The tower grew larger and more menacing the closer she got. There were no more shark-men on the trail that wound up the cliff-face, which was for the best — the dizzying heights were bad enough. Normally, Sunita wasn’t especially afraid of heights — she scampered about the rigging like a monkey — but now she had climbed higher than she’d ever climbed before, and each glimpse at the moon-dappled water far below made her stomach protest and her mind scream at her to flee or hide.

Now the gates of the tower rose before her — great panels of iron and hardwood with, Sunita noted with distress, no apparent means of opening. Perhaps they only opened from inside, or — more likely — they were magical. Either way there was no possibility of getting in unnoticed. At least not through the portals themselves.

Sunita’s gaze climbed upward — the tower was studded with windows and balconies. Any one of them would give her access, but the nearest one was another twenty paces overhead, with the stone expanse of the tower walls between her and it.

Oh well, she thought, nothing more for it. She’s climbed stone walls before, but never anything even close to this huge — here she was fighting terror at the thought of how high she was, and now she intended to climb higher.

All in a day’s work I suppose, she thought, testing the stone wall beside the door. Fortunately it wasn’t finished or polished, and was pitted by the elements — there were hand- and foot-holds of a sort, and there was a balcony almost directly overhead.

Gods help me.

Sunita grasped the rough surface and fitted her toes into the gap between two stones, then slowly and carefully hoisted herself upward.

It was going to be a long night.

Livia

 The goblins had cleared dinner away and carried off the tables and chairs. Sula Khan remained sitting in his oversized chair, but bade Livia to stand naked before him. She accepted the treatment without comment, standing with her hands folded, her head held upright by the black collar. The wizard seemed happy with her, and said nothing as the goblins carried in a new suite of furniture.

She didn’t let her expression change as they brought it. No surprise — a bed, couch, low table, and an x-shaped cross set with manacles. Beside it, a pair of silent goblins wheeled in a cart with a rack containing a dozen or so whips, rods and other items.

Of course, she thought. Of course he wants to tie me up.

The last of the goblins scuttled from the room, and Sula Khan made a brief gesture. The room, formerly lit a warm yellow, descended into red shadows. He looked at her mildly.

“It’s time for your lesson,” he said, his voice quiet and even. He gestured again and the collar tightened slightly.

“Not enough to harm you, my treasure,” he said. “Just enough to remind you who pulls the strings, and who is in charge.”

Livia swallowed. The inkling of a plan was beginning to form in her mind.

“I understand,” she said softly. “Would you like me on my feet or on my knees?”

Narisha

The boy (Narisha was already calling them that) seemed a bit surprised at her enthusiasm — gods only knew, perhaps they’d had other female captives thrown to them as offerings and taken what they wanted. Frankly, it didn’t really bear thinking about, since Narisha was mostly interested in gaining their confidence and showing them as good a time as possible.

Nose-ring was standing before her, the other two a few steps back, watching with dull bovine eyes as Narisha knelt at the far extent of her chain, holding his cock in both hands, feeling it grown harder and thicker with each stroke. It seemed to be about the length of her forearm, a massive mace of flesh, with a thick meaty shaft and a head like a fist.

“Goodness,” she sighed, looking up at Nose-ring, who returned her gaze with a curious expression. “How am I ever going to fit this inside me?”

He grunted at that, and abruptly she pushed his shaft upward and began to run her tongue along its underside. It was surprisingly soft there, tough the underlying muscular hardness was obvious as she stroked its sides in rhythm with her tongue.

“Mmmm,” she sighed. “I haven’t had one this big in a very long time, my little minotaur. I can’t wait to feel it in my mouth.”

The minotaurs didn’t seem especially verbal, but all three grunted in reply. The other two looked interested and a quick glance revealed that their cocks, only slightly smaller than their fellow, were also creeping up their legs, growing rigid with oncoming excitement.

“Here goes,” she said, half to herself and half to Nose-ring, kissing his cock’s knobbed head, and pressing her lips around it. Her lips stretched, her jaw opened wide, and slowly but persistently, the great organ began to slide into her mouth. Narisha grunted along with the minotaurs, pressing her tongue against the hardness of the creature’s prick, summoning all the spit she could to lubricate it as it pressed deeper and deeper.

Oh, I’m no weakling human or elf, she thought to herself, feeling the great cock press against the back of her throat. I have prodigious capacities that you three can’t even imagine. Of course, you can’t imagine much of anything, can you?

Now the minotaur’s cock was sliding past her tonsils and down her throat. It was a sensation she hadn’t experienced in ages, and she suppressed the urge to gag. She was going to take it all, no question — it was almost a personal quest now, to show herself that her skills hadn’t lessened over the past months and years of living among the humans.

Not yet. She had to slide the massive organ out, take a quick breath and slide it in again. It was sopping now, with the heavy spittle from the back of her throat. A thick rope of the stuff dripped down from her lips now, and she felt it dribble across her breasts, sliding off one nipple.

Once more... deeper now. Deeper. Deeper still. The smooth, slick inhuman cock filled her now, deeply thrust into her mouth and throat. Now her face pressed against the minotaur’s abdomen and Narisha realized that she had swallowed the entire thing.

Yes. I did it. Her thoughts were exultant. Vaguely, somewhere in the back of her mind, concern for Liv, Wulf and the others persisted, but she was a demon. She lived for the moment. Saving her friends would come later. For now, she sucked again, sliding the knobbed shaft down her throat, sliding it out with another explosion of spittle, then sliding it back down yet again.

Yes, my little one, she thought, the irony of the term lost for the moment. Give cock to your demoness.

Wulf

Now we were free of our luxurious accommodations, there remained a number of other issues — such as finding the rest of the crew. Though Brex suggested splitting up to cover more ground, I knew what foolishness that was — dividing your party is a sure way to get slaughtered individually. If I’m to get gutted, I’d rather do it in the company of my fellow adventurers, since they might actually be able to help prevent me from being gutted in the first place.

With that in mind, we began to creep around the place, exploring the winding hallways and peeking into other cells. After a good amount of time, we were no closer to finding our comrades — gods only knew, there might be other levels to the dungeon, either above or below, and who knew where they were to be found?

I also knew that finding the crew was only the beginning — had we been craven, self-serving cowards, we’d have made for an exit and tried to steal back the ship for an escape once the crew was back together. But we had our other two beloved owners to think about too — everyone knew that our ultimate goal was rescuing Liv and Narisha, and everyone (except perhaps Udo who was the intellectual equivalent of a leaky ale mug) knew that that meant facing the wizard.

And, I suppose, probably dying for our trouble. But that’s the kind of folks we were. Brave but stupid.

At length, I spotted something and waved the others to be quiet.

“Good news and bad news,” I said softly. “Good news is that there’s a stairway going up.”

“Bad news?” Philo asked as if dreading the answer.

“There appears to be a minotaur guarding it.”

“What are we going to do?” Philo demanded. “As you have so ably pointed out, Captain, we have no weapons.”

“Perhaps Udo could charge it and knock it out,” Trevin suggested.

“Right!” Udo declared, and began to race down the corridor.

“No!” I shouted, and of course that was the wrong thing to do, for from around the corner came a cow-like “huh?” sound and moments later the towering, muscled form of the minotaur, armed with a huge axe and naked but for a loincloth, came barreling down at us.

We were about to scatter in panic when Udo struck. The minotaur wasn’t expecting anything so small, and when the ferocious dwarf slammed into his legs, the monster uttered a surprised “oof” and abruptly fell backwards. The axe went flying, spinning end over end, clanging against a wall, and the massive horned bull’s head crashed noisily onto the stone floor.

I gaped — the thing was out cold, and Udo was standing with one foot on its chest, looking triumphant.

“Wish my damn cousins could see me now,” he grunted.

“Come on!” I urged. “Up the stairs before it comes to.”

The others weren’t about to sit around and argue, and piled along behind me. The axe lay in the corridor — it was too big for any of us to use, so I left it, instead sprinting around the corner, and racing toward the stairs.

Yes! I leaped, skipping the first couple of steps and coming down solidly on the stairs beyond...

And a cunning wood-and-fabric step collapsed beneath my weight, sending me plummeting into darkness.

Damned wizards — I’d fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book — a disguised pit trap. Behind me I heard shouts of dismay from the others. Fortunately they’d managed to avoid the trap, but now they’d be on their own. Gods, I pitied them.

Down into darkness I fell.

***

I’m not sure whether I was knocked out by the sudden end of my descent or whether I’d simply blocked it out of my mind. All I knew was that I was horribly uncomfortable and was lying at a very odd angle. It was as dark as the inside of a Kyborist witch-hunter’s soul, and I found myself almost instinctively mumbling a minor illumination spell. A small spark of magelight sprang into existence over my head, and I gazed upon my resting place.

A half-dozen shafts converged on the chamber, all probably originating at trap-doors and similar cunning locations. Apparently I wasn’t the first to fall for the wizard’s traps — cold comfort that — as the room was strewn with the bones and remaining possessions of assorted previous occupants. A rusty longsword caught my eye, gripped in a skeletal hand, and I pulled it free with a brief muttered thanks to whoever the owner had been.

The shafts were at least fifteen paces over my head, and the walls were smooth, carved from bedrock. I suspected that the chamber’s previous occupants had all perished in darkness, unable to see the shafts overhead, however, and I had the minor advantage of light. I stepped gingerly through the field of bones — humans, dwarves and even an orc or two — this wizard had quite a list of enemies, I suspected. Better still, I found a warhammer near the dwarf’s bones and once more thanked providence and the unfortunate victim for the weapon.

I was just beginning to tap at the wall, testing to see how easy it would be to knock handholds in the rock when I heard the scrabbling sound from behind me.

Of course, I thought, cursing my luck and turning to look, the wizard couldn’t simply leave the room empty and let his enemies starve... naturally he’d want to stock it with...

Centipedes...

Gods and demons... A pair of flat, segmented bodies wove sinuously in and out of the bones on the floor, long slender legs moving in easy, fearsome rhythm. As I watched, a stinger-tipped tail appeared, then as swiftly vanished. Then the scrabbling stopped and silence filled the chamber.

How did they hunt? I tried to remember. If I recalled correctly, they homed in on vibrations in the ground and darted out of hiding, injected poison, then sucked the liquefied flesh out of their victims after they’d died.

Okay, then, I thought. Don’t move.

That, I thought, was not a very good option for me. Though total motionlessness might hold the centipedes at bay, it wasn’t likely to get me out of this oubliette any time soon.

Carefully, I reached down and slowly moved my hand around a nearby skull. With a deft flick, I sent it spinning across the room, landing with a clatter near the far wall.

The two creatures were instantly in motion, their long antennae waving from their flat, mandible-armed heads. Like two snakes gliding effortlessly through the water they glided away from me and toward the source of the noise.

Well, it was at least something I thought, but as soon as I tried to start chipping away at the wall they’d be back, and likely pissed off that I’d managed to fool them. Painful liquefaction, ending up as an aperitif for a pair of centipedes wasn’t the way I wanted to die. I’d always hoped to be killed by a jealous husband while escaping from a woman’s bedroom when I was about 95 or so...

No, I’d have to fight. At least I had a couple of weapons now, but on the other hand these things were faster than a priest chasing an altar-boy, and there were two of the gods-blasted things. The only thing for it was to split them up and defeat them in detail.

I had light, I had weapons, and I had at least a small stock of magical spells — nothing spectacular, mind, but perhaps I had something that might help...

Forcing myself to remain calm I began to slowly rehearse the process of casting a hesitation spell — if I could persuade one of the centipedes to stop in its many tracks for just a few moments, which might give me enough time to flatten its fellow and deal with it separately. At last, I drew a deep breath and repeatedly banged the warhammer on the wall.

The two multi-limbed horrors appeared almost instantly, gliding with deadly grace in and out of the tangle of bones, rocketing from the shadows toward my circle of magelight... My heart hammering, I mumbled the words of the spell and felt a jet of magical energy leap from me, aimed directly at the scuttling creatures. It struck the foremost and for an instant the thing stood still, antennae waving, while its partner continued to slither toward me. Then it seemed to shake off its temporary confusion and took off again, but — to my relief — it headed off in the wrong direction. At least I’d managed to scramble its primitive brain enough that it wasn’t attacking me yet.

But I still had a huge centipede — armored, deadly, rust-brown, coming straight at me...

“Now this won’t hurt a bit,” I muttered, hefting the warhammer. Gods, but it was fast... In a heartbeat it was on me, rearing up, its stinger flashing menacingly, deadly mandibles opening up wide enough to amputate a hand...

I struck wildly, swinging the hammer and catching it on the side of its head. Its antennae swung wildly and it fell over onto its side, writhing in sudden shock. I didn’t give it a respite, but instead swung the hammer again, this time solidly impacting its head with an audible “crunch,” splashing ichor and slime like a burst, rotten fruit. The body continued to writhe, and I barely missed the terrible stinger as I retreated back toward the wall, all the time scanning for the second centipede.

Too primitive for anything resembling tactics, it came swarming over the still-twitching corpse of its fellow, already on the attack. I swung again, but only caught it on the side, rupturing a couple of chitin plates, releasing a couple of spurts of clear fluid. Then it was on me, legs wrapping around my body, bearing me to the bone-strewn ground. It was fearfully strong, but I managed to get one hand under its head, pressing down on the soft connecting tissue, holding those nightmare mandibles at bay. It was a bad angle — the centipede couldn’t use its stinger unless it flipped me over, but I wasn’t about to give it the chance. With my free hand I swung the hammer, impacting right between its cluster of eyes, smashing one antenna to pulp.

Now the second centipede went mad as well, whirling and writhing, and after an instant it released its grip on me and tried to flee into the piles of bones. I wasn’t about to leave an angry and wounded predator alive, but instead once more smashed the hammer down, rupturing its midsection. It came around again, slashing with stinger and mandibles, and I hit it once more, this time almost severing the last few segments from its body.

It was dead now, of course, but it still had plenty of fight left. I retreated, letting the thing’s wounds slow it down, until at last it stopped moving and lay on its back, legs feebly twitching.

I leaned against the wall and panted, praying that no other such horrors lurked down here. At length I gazed up at the shafts above, chose a likely one, and began to industriously chip out handholds in the rock wall.

Livia

Sula Khan’s voice was firm. Livia suspected he’d used it on any number of female captives in the past.

“As a sorceress I am sure you’re aware that your collar is enchanted,” he said. “I obtained it from the wolfen, who have made something of a science of domination and control of captives. It senses hostile intent, and tightens if you attempt to do harm to its owner. In this case, the collar’s owner is also your owner. Me.”

Livia knelt submissively before Sula Khan, who still sat imperiously on his throne. The collar was her only garment and she had adopted her most innocent expression. She was good at that.

“Now as long as our new relationship is understood, my Livia, we can proceed.”

Livia nodded. Here goes nothing.

“What would you like me to do?” She kept her tone from being too willing. She held a little back, as if she was still defiant but beginning to accept the inevitability of Sula Khan’s words. He was certain to be suspicious at this point, and giving in to him completely would only make him more so.

The wizard undid his belt and pulled his robes apart. Of course they were split in the front. Gods.

He was already erect. Another non-surprise, Livia thought. His cock was good-sized, smooth and on any other man might actually have been attractive.

Strange, she thought. A pretty face, a trim body, a shapely cock... None of them made any difference if they were attached to a disgusting worm like this.

“Here, Livia. Your mouth.” He gestured.

Livia reached out and encircled the rapidly-hardening organ with her fingers, stoking gently.

Could it be, she wondered, that it’s the same way with women? Does a man see only a pretty face and firm breasts and a round ass and not care what she’s really like? Is that what he wants? It always seems that way... They care for appearance and not what’s inside...

Livia looked briefly at Sula Khan’s cock, resting in her hand, and then darted a glance up at the wizard, as if to say “Do I have to?”

He seemed to like that. A grim smile darted across his saturnine face.

“Go ahead, Livia. Do as I say.”

Good. He still thinks I’m reluctant, and that all I need is a little encouragement.

Slowly, she began to run her tongue along the underside of the wizard’s shaft, feeling heat rising from his drumhead-tight flesh.

The men don’t seem to care what I do. I can be a complete bitch to them, use them, discard them, ignore them, and yet they come running back whenever I call. If I had once heard one of them tell me that I was doing wrong, that I was hurting them, that their feelings mattered, I might have stopped to think. But no, those fools keep returning to me, chasing after me, thinking with their damned cocks. And now here I am going down on a man I despise for the sake of my friends.

She encircled the knobbed head of Sula Khan’s cock with her lips and slowly began to slide down its length, as if she was having trouble taking it.

That certainly got a look of satisfaction from the wizard. He smiled cruelly and stroked her hair, urging her to slide her mouth further down.

They love that. They do so love that — oh, your cock is so big... I can barely fit it into my mouth... But oh, I’m so devoted to you I’ll take it all, I’ll swallow it, I’ll choke on it, I’ll swallow your seed when you come... Gods, men were predictable.

By now Sula’s cock was almost entirely buried in her mouth, sliding wetly down her throat.

Predictable. Men are so predictable.

She slid the cock out, then swallowed it again, faster and with more enthusiasm this time. As she did, the inevitable thought plagued her.

They’re predictable. But so am I. Gods. So am I.

Narisha

The other two boys hadn’t been able to restrain themselves and with a quick affirmative nod from their leader, they had moved forward, eagerly presenting their cocks for attention from Narisha’s lips and tongue.

Ordinarily she preferred intelligent partners, Narisha reflected, but fucking the truly stupid had its charms. They never expected intelligent conversation, nor any rationales for their activities. They just stepped forward, cocks in hand, and let her suck. That in itself wasn’t always a bad thing.

She sucked the young minotaur first. He was probably the most uncomfortable of the three, given the firm tightness of his erection. Besides, Narisha thought, he was probably capable of doing this at least three times.

Well, she mused, it’s time to find out for sure.

Her lips encircled the youngster’s cock and she swallowed him with more deliberation than Nose-ring. She went slowly at first, but sped up quickly — she’d gotten familiar with the first cock’s girth, and now the young minotaur’s organ slid easily down her throat. As she released the painfully-stiff organ with her lips, she stroked it several times with two firm fists, one after the other, feeling her saliva lubricating the hard, hot flesh.

The youngster threw his head back and lowed like an angry bull, and she felt a spasm growing as his abdomen tightened, and his hands gripped her head firmly, guiding her back onto his cock, thrusting it into her mouth yet again.

“Oh!” she gasped, involuntarily, words tumbling from her lips when the creature’s cock pulled out, then swallowed it again. “You... are... very... excited... aren’t... you?... Mmmmm...”

She alternated sucking and stroking, feeling almost intangibly that the youthful creature was rapidly approaching an equally youthful orgasm.

Mmmm... This is going to be interesting, she thought, teasing the heavy glans with her tongue as she stroked with both hands. In just a moment...

The moment came quite quickly as the minotaur bellowed yet again, hands balling into fists, his horned head thrown back. Semen gushed from the stiff cock, striking Narisha’s face and lips with surprising force, spattering down her chin and splashing onto her breasts. Gasping, feeling a rush of excitement in her own chest and belly, she swallowed, feeling the hot liquid slide down her throat.

“Oh, lovely, lovely,” she sighed as the minotaur fell to his knees, staring at her with dull adoration. Rubbing the prodigious liquid across her cheeks and lips, she turned to the second minotaur, the one with two rings on one ear.

“Your turn, my dear,” she whispered, seizing the creature’s cock — slightly bigger, but still not as huge as the leader’s — in both hands. “Your turn.”

Sunita

So the foul sorcerer had human minions as well, she thought, looking at the two bored guards who stood, leaning on their spears, beside a locked door. It was unsurprising, given the moheeba’s need for water and their obvious lack of intellectual development. There were probably a number of non-fish servants and guards throughout the tower — in some ways facing them, even bereft of weapons as she was — seemed to Sunita far less horrifying than battling those hideous shark-things.

Obviously, she needed to get past the guards, and in addition it was entirely possible that some of Sunita’s comrades were behind that door — her skills with a lockpick were considerable, though she suspected that Wulf had had far more experience in such things. Idly, she wished that the roguish captain was with her now, but cast aside the hope as useless. She scanned the corridor, her gaze at last settling on a small table near the guards, which still bore the remains of their last meal — some meat, cheese, an apple and, stuck into the wood, handle up, a fairly substantial-looking knife.

The guards bore spears and shortswords and wore chain shirts and steel helms. A simple knife against those two would be a challenge, assuming she could even lay hands on the weapon without alerting them.

She would have to be quick, Sunita thought, and almost without a thought reached down and picked up a small bit of rubble, then flung it down the corridor past the guards. In the instant that they looked toward the rock and the clatter that it made as it struck the floor, she was in motion.

Sunita moved with pantherish grace that her fellow crewmembers had often noticed as she clambered up and down the rigging or leaped from spar to spar. It took fewer than a half-dozen long strides to reach the table, seize the knife, heft it to find its balance, then fling it at the nearest guard, who turned to face her just in time for the knife to find its way unerringly into his right eye. He fell, spear falling to the floor, and Sunita tumbled after it, scooping up the weapon and coming up to her feet, just as the second guard was registering her presence.

Confused, the guard raised a hand, and had just enough time to say “Hey...” before Sunita skewered him with a mighty thrust to the midsection. The mail shirt held for but a moment before the guard was thrust backwards, the point emerging through his back and jamming into the stone wall behind him.

Sunita beheld her handiwork — the result of just a few heartbeats’ worth of effort — and felt relatively pleased with herself. Both guards lay dead, and neither had succeeded in raising the alarm. Of course, it wouldn’t do to leave the bodies here, she thought, and besides, that door should be investigated.

She withdrew a thin lockpick from the hem of her shirt and went to work.

***

The room was the sort of thing that Sunita had only heard about in bedtime stories. Unfortunately there were no prisoners, but the reason for the lock and the guards was made manifest as soon as she stepped inside.

It was the master’s treasure-vault, or one of them at any rate. The walls were lined with chests, boxes, barrels and bags, all overflowing with gold, silver and copper coins, or bags of rubies, sapphires and amethysts. Along one wall, a weapons rack sprouted numerous finely-made items, and there were a number of armor trees that displayed chain, plate and leather armor of cunning and intricate design.

Though the gods of avarice whispered always in Sunita’s ear, she contented herself with a handful of various gemstones, then inspected the weapons rack and armor tress. Perhaps something here would be of use to her.

There was indeed a beautiful steel tulwar with a decorated grip and elaborate (if unreadable) script inscribed on the blade, as well as a number of punch daggers. She selected one that seemed to fit her hand, and turned her attention to the armor trees.

A few minutes later, a lithe shadow, clad in black leather and mail armor, and fully armed, moved out of the treasure room and into the corridor.

Now, o master of the tower, Sunita thought, we shall see of what you are truly made.

Wulf

The climb up proved tortuous to say the least. When I finally reached the shaft, I was able to wedge myself in sufficiently to prevent another disastrous fall, but it was slow, painful work. I must have climbed several stories before I finally reached the exit (or, I suppose, entrance), a hidden trapdoor in the middle of a curving hallway.

I dragged myself on to the stone floor and lay panting heavily for a time. I couldn’t stop to rest too long lest more of the shark-boys find me, but my muscles refused to move another inch until they’d rested.

At long last I rose to my feet. I was in reasonably good shape; my clothing was rent but largely intact, and I’d armed myself with a brace of daggers scavenged from the oubliette. The corridor appeared to run around the outer edge of the floor, with the chambers in the center. I proved this by checking a narrow window, which revealed a glimpse of the moonlit island below and the gleaming silver sea beyond. It was well past midnight, and I said a brief prayer to Phaedra that the others were all right. For the time being, however, I was on my own. My three companions were, of course, nowhere to be seen.

My needs were myriad at that point — I needed weapons and I needed to find stairs or some other means of accessing the rest of the tower. With my luck, the stairs were in the center of the tower and spiraled up, which meant that I’d have to explore the central rooms. I was also starving and desperately thirsty, but I pushed those concerns to the back of my mind. Livia, Narisha and the rest of the crew needed rescuing, and I was probably the only one left who could do it.

A full circuit of the hallway proved that I was right — no stairs. I had no choice but to venture into the chambers in the center of the tower. Gingerly, I stepped toward a door and pressed my ear to the latch. From the other side I heard the faint sound of labored breathing. Then a loud snore.

Oh well... It had an occupant, and it was asleep whatever it was. My curiosity got the better of me and I gently pushed the door open.

Inside was a small antechamber, and an elaborate metal door decorated with gold filigree and what looked like silver dancing nymphs. Gods, I’d pay to see what was beyond that one, I thought, then reminded myself that first I’d have to deal with the ogre.

Yes, the ogre... It was sitting on the floor next to the door, head down, snoring loudly. A hellishly-huge falchion lay on the floor near its hand, and it wore a crude metal breastplate.

Asleep on the job, are we, Jojo? I thought, stepping silently into the chamber. That can lead to fatal consequences...

***

A few moments later Jojo was sleeping permanently and I was busy at the door. Its lack of security was downright appalling — a primitive three-tumbler lock immobilized by a first-circle pattern spell. As I still lacked a pick I muttered a second invocation and as the door clicked open reflected that our host probably didn’t expect any visitors, let alone hostile intruders, so it wasn’t surprising that he didn’t waste a lot of resources.

I slipped through the door as silently as I could and pushed it closed behind me. The chamber was dimly-lit by deep violet-blue mageglobes, hung with tapestries and silken fabrics. The floor was covered in plush rugs and cushions, all shades of dark colors. Censers hung by chains from the ceiling, emitting tiny curls of smoke, scenting the air with sandalwood and myrrh. I saw the dim forms of couches and low tables — nearby was one laid out with the remains of a feast — grapes, cheese, goblets, carafes and a largely-denuded game bird of some kind.

I’m nothing if not practical, and I put the remains of the bird to good use, washing it down with the last few droplets of wine from the carafes. Warily wiping my mouth I scanned the room, looking for any signs of movement. By the time I made toward the far end of the room I was breathing somewhat easier, convinced that I was alone.

The room was shaped like a pie wedge, with the entrance at the larger end, and the exit — presumably to a central stairwell — at the other. It grew narrower as I advanced, but before I could see whether a door would materialize out of the gloom ahead I was startled by a sudden movement nearby, a sinuous shifting of the darkness, as if a great snake was uncoiling.

I suppressed a surprised yelp and leaped aside, drawing my daggers. No attack came, but I thought I could see two points of light gleaming in the shadows, joined a moment later by another pair.

“Who is it, sister?” queried a mellifluous voice. “Who intrudes?”

“We shall see,” said a second, almost identical to the first. “Lights.”

The room was illuminated by a brighter but still-cool enchanted glow, and I was able to see the entire chamber for the first time.

Beside me, about three paces distant, was a round couch — no, it was more of a bed — laid out with silken bedclothes, pillows and furs, and huddled in the center, staring at me with two pairs of delicate almond-shaped eyes...

“Hello, man,” the musical voice piped. “What is your name?”

I stared in amazement. As Sula Khan’ desire for Livia’s alabaster body had proved, he was apparently a collector of females, so it shouldn’t have come as any surprise to me. All the same, here was something I had never expected to find.

In the center of the bed, inadequately concealed by a blue silk coverlet, were two slender but shapely creatures, staring at me intently, their arms protectively ‘round each other. They were utterly identical, and my guess was that they were both fae of some variety.

I haven’t encountered too many fae. There was the one that guarded the Demon Crown that Stef and I had “freed” through indelicate means, and Livia used to keep sprites and pixies as guards, but these two were different. Though there were dozens or possibly hundreds of different breeds of fae, they radiated an unmistakable otherworldliness as surely as they radiated vulnerable sensuality. I suspected they were nymphs and if so, this was the first and likely only time I’d ever see one.

They were female, apparently naked. The bedclothes had fallen far enough to reveal their breasts — small but shapely, with prominent greenish nipples. Their skin was outwardly white, though with a tinge of green, their hands and fingers long and delicate. Rich green tresses fell from their heads, dangling over pale round shoulders. Their faces were delicate, triangular and just inhuman enough to be exotically alluring. Each had oversized bright green eyes, tilted to an angle just greater than a human’s, small curved noses and tiny mouths with pursed, greenish lips. A pair of long curved eyebrows extended from either side of their heads, looking for all the world like the wispy antennae of moths or butterflies.

“I’m... I’m Wulf,” I said, struggling to stay calm and polite. “My apologies for disturbing you ladies. I’m just... Just passing through.” I didn’t sheathe my daggers, but lowered them and tried to keep them out of sight.

“Through?” said one, tittering. “There is no ‘through!’”

The other giggled in exactly the same tone. “You cannot go ‘through.’” She gestured toward the far end of the room. “There is no door there, silly man.” Her large, alien eyes narrowed. “You seek the master?”

I sighed. No sense in lying at this point.

“Yes. We have business to discuss.”

They giggled again, in harmony this time.

“You need a door, don’t you?” said the first. “You need to find the stairs, don’t you?”

“I do,” I replied.

“We can make a door,” said the second. “We can send you to where you want to go. The master may not be pleased to see you, man, but we do not care. You go find him, do your business.”

“Good,” I said. I still held the daggers, my thoughts cautious. I’d been given similar offers in my life, often by women who then tried to slit my throat. “Just show me the way then, and I’ll be —”

I was interrupted by another chorus of giggles. Then, somewhat disquietingly, they spoke in unison.

“No, no, no, man. It’s not so simple. There’s a price to pay.” The sheet fell away and I saw both of them, their pale green-white bodies intertwined.

I swallowed. My breeches were beginning to tighten.

“The master summoned us,” said the first nymph. Her long fingers began to stroke her sister’s hair. “In our home we lay in the fields and made love all day, to each other, to the fauns, to the pixies, to the centaurs, to the naiads and dryads and nixies. It is what we do, you see.”

“But now the master says we can only make love to him,” said the other, sadly, turning her face upward and letting her sister stroke her under the chin like a cat. “Him and each other, of course. He likes this very much.”

“And he has bound us,” said the first, and began to kiss her companion on the neck and cheek. A dark greenish tongue emerged, licking delicately. “We cannot leave. We do not mind, not much. But we long for others. We long for the days in the glades where we lay naked and felt the sun and the wind and the rain on our bodies. In the glades where all came to find us and sought our touch.”

“Perhaps you would care to help us remember those days, stranger.” The second nymph drew a sharp breath as her companion’s fingers tweaked a nipple. “Enjoy our flesh before you get on with your bloodletting. Perhaps we can provide you with some assistance in your endeavors. And perhaps if you succeed we may be free to return to our old lives and lovers.”

I gulped hard. Never let it be said that I would deny a lady (or ladies) in need.

“I hope I’m able to, uh, perform to your liking,” I said. “Since my crew and I need all the help we can get.”

The first nymph — or was it the second? — tittered again. “Don’t fear, handsome stranger. You help us and we will help you.”

I stepped forward, unlacing my tunic. The notion flashed briefly through my mind that this might be yet another trap and the nubile faeries would turn out to be ravenous succubae, but if that was the case I was probably doomed anyway, so I decided to simply enjoy it.

“By the way,” I said, clambering onto the bed, “what are your names?”

***

They didn’t have names as it turned out — they considered this to be one of those amusing mortal habits that true fae had no need of — so I had to content myself with calling them First and Second. After a few minutes with them however, I was having a hard time even keeping track of that.

“You start,” said the First, her lips pursing into a pert little smile. “Then I go.”

“No,” said the Second petulantly, crossing her arms under her small breasts. “You go first. I went first last time.”

First sighed. “Fisties?”

Second nodded. “Fisties.”

Before I could apply any lascivious interpretations to the term, each held out a fist, raising and lowering them as they counted together.

“One, two, THREE!” First had extended two fingers, while Second continued to clench her hand in a fist.

“Scissors cut everything, don’t they?” First asked with an innocent, wide-eyed glance.

Second shook her head. “Not rock.”

First frowned. “They’re very good scissors.”

Second was unimpressed. “I win. You go first.”

First relented at last, crawling toward me on hands and knees.

“How many?” she asked, looking back at Second, who sat cross-legged near the head of the bed.

“Ten?” Second suggested, and I felt her hand stroke my forehead. She looked at me. “Ten, you think?”

I had no idea what they were talking about, but I nodded anyway.

“Ten, sister,” Second said.

“Mmm,” First said, reaching out to caress my thigh with delicate, green-nailed fingers. She encircled my cock which lay, half-erect, against my stomach. “Should I lick him first?”

“Just get him hard,” Second said. “Then I start counting.”

“Mmmm,” First said again, and began to stroke at my member with a small green tongue. My heart began to beat faster as she did, and I felt my flesh growing warmer and heavier.

“Oh, this won’t take long,” First said, and flashed me a wicked smile. “Not long at all.”

In a few moments I was hard as a rock -- thoughts of Livia and Narisha cavorting naked on deck flashed through my mind, and the touch of Second’s fingers, which slid softly along my cheek, touched my lips and slid down to my chest, seemed to enhance the exciting warmth of her sister’s tongue.

“I think he’s ready,” Second said. “You can start now. I’ll keep count.”

First smiled again, her moth-like eyebrows arching. “Ten?”

“Ten.”

With that First’s lips encircled my cockhead and with near-excruciating slowness, slid down, letting my organ slide into her mouth and throat.

Second’s fingers stroked at my nipples.

“One,” she said.

First let my cock slip out, then slipped her fist around the now-wet shaft.

“That’s not in the rules,” Second cautioned as First slid her fist up and down.

First sighed. “Oh, the rules. They must be obeyed.” Then she swallowed my shaft again, a fraction faster this time.

“Two.” The little fingers touched my lips and I almost instinctively sucked at them, letting them slide into my mouth.

“Three.” So few strokes and I was beginning to feel heat rising in me. Had I already been primed by Liv and Narisha’s naked excesses on my ship? Did I want one last big orgasm before I finally died at the hands of an evil wizard? Fae sex magic? Whatever it was, the hot wet caress of First’s lips and tongue were moving me closer already.

“Four,” Second said, then looked down at me. “Don’t come yet, man. I want to taste you too.”

I swallowed hard. My breath was coming harder how.

“Five. Six. Seven.”

First’s full little lips were stretched out to accommodate my erection. I felt impossibly hard, painfully so, as she swallowed, holding me in her throat for long moments, then released me along with a flood of saliva.

“Eight. Oh, sister, I don’t think he’s had one of our kind before.”

“Once,” I gasped. “A long time ago.”

They both giggled.

“Nine.”

First held it again, her face coloring, her tongue teasing at the underside of my cock, slipping one way then the other, then she let me go again, eyes wide.

“He’s very big,” she gasped, pressing my wet cock against her small breasts, flicking its glans across her nipples. “Oh, that feels good.”

“One left, sister,” Second said. “Then my turn.”

First heaved an exaggerated sigh, placed my cockhead between her lips and swallowed again.

“Gods...” I groaned. I felt a great reservoir of orgasmic release growing inside me, still dammed up and barely restrained.

“Ten!” Second said with a happy squeal. “Now get out of the way.”

Deftly, moving like pale green shadows, the nymphs traded places. First took up position behind me, my back resting against her breasts, her head pressed down onto mine. Her arms encircled my chest and she watched with rapidly-shortening breaths as her sister slipped between my legs, hands cupping my buttocks, and began to kiss and nibble at the tight, hot flesh of my prick.

“You do ten now,” First whispered hotly. “You suck him ten times.”

Second’s technique was different. She took my glans in her mouth, slid it in an inch or so, then let me go.

“One,” said her sister, rubbing my shoulders. “Though I don’t think that even counts.”

Second looked up at her with an insouciant glance, then took me in her mouth again, swallowing more deeply, then again, deeper still.

“Two. Three.” First’s voice was tight and excited. I could feel her pressing her body against me, her thighs flexing.

And so it went as Second swallowed my cock a bit deeper each time, at last sliding her mouth all the way against my loins, my overheated organ lodged deep in her throat. The desire was rising again, but this time it was from a different source -- that was their secret, it seemed, to draw me closer to release, then pull me back and draw me in from another direction.

They traded again, each taking nine strokes, painstakingly counted of by the other as she kissed and teased me, then eight, then seven, then six. Each time I was on the brink, and each time they let me down at the last possible instant.

Gods and daemons, how the hell would I have the strength left to face that fucking wizard if they kept doing this to me?

Livia

“Oh,” Livia gasped, pulling Sula Khan’s slick cock from her mouth, then swallowing it again. “Oh, gods.”

Her new master seemed to be well enjoying her performance. She was giving him what he expected — hostility, followed by reluctant acceptance and now, growing passion at the realization that she was truly his plaything. And, of course, her inevitable delight at the prospect.

Certainly it was what Sula Khan expected. What he didn’t know was that, in reality, he needed it.

He needed devotion. Otherwise, there was nothing.

“Gods,” she gasped again, and began to rub Sula’s cock across her face, slick with her own saliva. “Gods, it’s beautiful.”

He pulled her head away and fixed her with his dark gaze, holding her face between his hands.

“You sit here now,” he said.

***

She had to admit he was good with his mouth. She’d come once, and now was working on a second as the wizard stroked gently at her labia, then moved to her clitoris with a pointed tongue. She groaned deeply, feeling the tremors spread across her thighs and into her belly, and resisted the urge to reach out and stroke Sula’s head and press it harder against her mound.

No. I’ll not give him that. Let him think I’m still holding back. Let him want more from me.

“See, my little one?” he asked, breathily. “I can be generous as well.”

“Yes,” she murmured, voice tight with anticipation. “Yes, you can, my wizard.”

That certainly triggered something. He smiled and returned to her clit and lips, licking harder and with greater intensity.

Oh, yes, she thought feverishly as orgasm swept her. Yes, think that it just slipped out. That your power and skill has begun to overcome me, that now you are “my” wizard... Oh, yes...

And it was almost true. Almost. Had he been less of a complete prick, gods only knew, she might actually have liked him. She might actually have enjoyed this.

Oh gods, she thought painfully. I am enjoying this. I despise this bastard, but I’m enjoying it.

Narisha

Things had moved on at a fevered pace. Now the seed of both younger minotaurs dripped from Narisha’s face and breasts and the two creatures sat on the floor, staring intently, their cocks still hard.

Narisha herself was on her hands and knees now, her chains clinking as she pressed her buttocks backwards, feeling the heavy, thick, knobbed organ of the elder minotaur slammed repeatedly into her. He gripped her hips in a hard, bruising grip, pulling her along, each impact shivering through her hips and belly.

She couldn’t form words at this point, but only cried out loudly as the great cock plunged deeply inside her, pressing into the deepest parts of her cunt. She had come the moment that the creature’s organ touched her outer lips, and now she seemed to convulse and contract with each stroke. She felt her juices gushing from her cunt, dripping down her legs, joining with the sweat, spittle and semen that already covered her.

This was how it was with her — rational thought was swept away. Everything was for the moment. All that mattered was the cock that pounded into her, filling her cunt, powering orgasm after orgasm. The world was a cyclone of sweat, moans, cock, spit, cum and cunt. The endless haze of passion tore away anything else, including thoughts of crew and lovers...

She felt the inevitable tightening and strained bellow of the minotaur as he continued to fuck her, the heavy thick organ almost spitting her in half.

She wanted it. She wanted more. She wanted to feel it, feel the creature’s cum cascading across her.

She fell forward and before the minotaur could react she rose to her knees and turned, seizing the slick cock in her hands.

“Come,” she gasped. “Come on me. Come all over me.”

The minotaur cried out, its bellow deeper and longer than either of the other two. A jet of pure white semen shot across her, sopping her cheeks, her hair, her lips, her chin. Another orgasm exploded from Narisha’s loins and she fell back, feeling the hot gush of cum continue, streaking her breasts and belly as the minotaur stroked himself along. The flood subsided for a moment, but the creature groaned again and another, less prodigious mass of cum splashed her belly and thighs.

Abruptly Narisha realized that the other two minotaurs had indeed regained their erections and now stood on either side of her, stroking themselves as their leader’s orgasms finally subsided.

“Both of you,” she whispered, rubbing the rich mixture of fluids across her lips and breasts. “Come again. Come on me.”

Another burst of cum shot from the younger minotaur. Most of it dribbled into Narisha’s open mouth, the rest dripping out across her fevered crimson flesh. An instant later, the second minotaur came across her breasts, thick clots of white sliding down and dripping from red skin and blue-black nipples. As they did, Narisha stroked herself to yet another orgasm.

Narisha sighed. “Thank you,” she breathed, feeling her heart beat begin to subside.

She looked at the eldest minotaur and smiled, feeling cum drip from her lips. She pointed to the chain sunk into a heavy iron staple in the far wall.

“Care to remove that for me?” she asked, sweetly.

Wulf

They were down to one each now. Each nymph lay on her stomach at my side, and each in turn took my cock in her mouth, letting it slide inside, then releasing it to her sister’s attentions.

I wasn’t sure whether the contest was to make me come, or to see how long they could keep me on the brink; so far it seemed like the latter, and I was in a feverish and nearly-delirious state, gasping and moaning with each touch of lip and tongue and mouth.

I felt lost in a haze of lust and pleasure, even though my fear and concern for the crew and my friends continued to simmer deep in my mind, lost and distant in the fog, but not forgotten. For the moment, however, time seemed to stop and I floated in a strange and pleasurable nether-world of mouths and tongues, breasts and soft flesh, cunts and thighs.

Time was a blur. By the time I was able to focus again we had moved, and I was fucking First -- or perhaps it was Second -- from behind while her mouth and tongue were busy between Second’s -- First’s ? -- thighs. Second accepted her ministrations, legs spread, hands busy, one twined in Second’s hair, the other squeezing her own nipple as she counted.

“Five... oh, oh, sister... Six... Almost... my turn... Seven... Eight... Yes, let him fuck me now...”

They changed placed nimbly, First kneeling in front of me, presenting her small but shapely buttocks. Second lay back as her sister pressed her thighs apart and began to delicately nibble and lick at the wet greenish flesh of her cunt lips.

First paused and looked back at me.

“Seven now, I think,” she said. “Are you getting closer?”

I nodded and didn’t reply. My capacity for language had flown away along with every other rational thought. I began to stroke my cock against her wet lips and after a moment, pressed inside her, pulling her hips back against me.

“Oh!” She seemed surprised at this, then set to licking at Second’s cunt as I began to thrust in and out.

“One. Two. Oh, lick me, sister. Fuck him and lick me.”

I hadn’t stopped while she counted and First noticed.

“You missed one, sister, or... maybe... Oh... you missed two...” I tightened my grip on her hips and pulled her toward me, thrusting forward faster and faster. “Three... No... Ohhhhhh....” I felt her tighten inside, pressing down on my cock with warm, moist intensity. “Oh... He’s making me...”

She thrust her face down, devouring the moist flesh between Second’s thighs, her groans muffled by the wetness there.

“You come, sister,” Second gasped, stroking her nipples with both hands. “I’ve... I’ve lost count now... You... Make me... Make me.... Ohhhh....”

They both came at once, almost as if they were mirror images of the same creature. I felt moisture gushing from First’s cunt, spilling down her thighs. She collapsed onto the bed beneath me, her head still between her sister’s thighs, gently licking. Beneath me her small body was hot and slick with sweat.

At last I found my voice and spoke softly.

“Need some assistance there?” I asked. First turned and looked at me, eyes narrow and dreamy.

“Assistance?” I felt the touch of her fingers on my cock. “Don’t you have something to finish yourself, man?”

“I do,” I whispered, then licked along Second’s thigh, eliciting a delicious shudder. “I want to help you first. Then I can finish.”

First smiled. “If you like.”

She began to tongue Second’s wet green cunt-lips, pulling them open with her fingers to expose their soft, lighter interior and the swelling prominence of her clit. A moment later I had kissed my way up Second’s thigh and joined my tongue with First’s.

“Oh, both of you?” Second gasped, stroking her nipples, then reaching down to cradle each of our heads. “You do love your sister, don’t you?”

First sighed and let me suck at Second’s clit. Then I pulled away and sucked at her lips as first probed the little nub with a pointed tongue. Then we both paused to kiss and lick Second’s wetness from each other’s faces.

“Oh, sister. Oh, man...” Second was writhing now, arching her back, tensing her thighs, pressing us both closer. “Oh, I love this so... Oh, I’m going to...”

First and I alternated licking at Second’s clit, and in my mind I felt the enormous pressure that was building inside the nymph... There was definitely some kind of sexual connection with the two sisters -- surely this was why they were such sought-after bed-partners, since I felt something of their own pleasure even as I felt my own.

“Oh... I’m going to...” Then Second came violently, more juices spurting from between her lips, splattering One’s face. I licked at it -- she was sweet and sticky, and I felt strangely as if I was eating the flesh of a ripe and very flavorful piece of fruit.

We lay in a tangle for a few long moments, gasping and sighing wordlessly.  Then one of the two spoke, but I was well beyond making any distinction between them.

“We need to finish the game, sister. And our friend needs to be on his way.”

Livia

Livia’s moans of ecstasy were only partially simulated. She was in the chair, facing away from Sula Khan as he thrust into her from behind, his slender but strong hands holding her hips firmly, pulling her along the smooth length of his cock. His own breathing was heavy, occasionally interspersed with his own soft moans.

“Oh, darling,” she gasped. She’d done it thousands of times, and each time at least a small part of her meant it. Not this time, she thought. Not this time. “Oh, master. Yes, gods, make me come. Please. I want it for you.”

Sula’s thrusts grew faster and deeper, plunging in and out with almost mechanical precision. She felt the hard flesh inside her, felt herself tightening around it... Gods, such a shame the man was such a bastard... Yes, she was going to...

“I’m coming,” she said, her voice heavy with desire and oncoming release. “Gods... I’m...”

And she did. It was her third.

“Now you see,” he said, still plunging away as spasms rocked through her body. “Now you see what I can do for you.”

“Yes, my love,” Livia gasped. “Yes, I see now. Yes, I want you so.”

She collapsed forward, panting heavily, sweat running down her forehead.

He pulled back and stood, gazing down at her. She looked up at him lazily. The collar was still heavy on her neck, restricting her movement somewhat, but she tried to ignore it.

Yes, he certainly was a handsome man. Naked now, he was slender but muscular, his limbs firm and shapely, his cock still standing at attention, slick with her own exertions.

Livia’s gaze wandered back toward the furnishings that the goblins had dragged in. Her eyes lit on a wooden frame set with manacles and straps, and the rack of whips and devices next to it.

“Tie me to that, master,” she whispered. “Tie me to it and whip me. Then fuck me some more. Fuck my mouth. Fuck my ass. Make me yours.”

“You are mine,” he said as she rose, and walked without assistance toward the frame. “You’ve been mine since the moment I set eyes on you. You know it, don’t you?”

“I’m yours,” she said, bending over the frame, arms dangling, ass and thighs exposed to his attention. “Now use me however you like.”

Yes, men loved hearing those words...

And, in certain circumstances, she enjoyed uttering them.

But now, now... Yes, she enjoyed saying it. But for different reasons entirely.

Wulf

The nymphs did their counting game again, but this time, thankfully, they started at five strokes, traded, then moved to four, then three, then two...

And again I tottered, feverish and desperate, on the razor’s edge of orgasm. I stood now, and they kneeled, one sucking my cock, then the other.

“One.” Pursed greenish lips encircled me, and I was swallowed up into warm wetness.

“One.” A small and nimble tongue caressed the underside of my cock, then slowly devoured it.

“One.” Her lips slowly slid down my shaft, leaving it wet and slick, and my cock vanished entirely, then emerged dripping with saliva.

“One.” Teeth gently nibbled at me, then again my cock slipped away between tiny green lips, stretched out to accommodate it...

“Oh, gods,” I groaned. “I think...”

“One.” The nymph -- I didn’t know which -- took my cock in her fist and moved it toward her open mouth.

It was too much.

I groaned and the pressure that had been building for so long finally released, my cock contracted and splattered white streamers across her cheeks and tongue, and into her open mouth.

“Oh, sister!” squealed the other -- I decided it was Second, though I wasn’t at all certain. “Oh, my dearest sister! I win. You made him come first!”

First -- or whoever she was -- grinned, my come dripping from her chin and down onto a swollen nipple.

“You win, sister,” she admitted. “Now have your reward.”

Dutifully, Second let her sister lie down and began to lick my semen from her face.

“It’s so good, sister,” she whispered. “Try some.”

With her fingers, she scooped up some of my seed, and let it dribble into First’s mouth. She licked her lips and sucked at her sister’s fingers.

“It’s what we live for, man,” she said, rubbing my come into her skin and across her breasts. “We were born to do this, you know.”

“I can believe that,” I said, feeling weak and drained but surprisingly alert for my exertions.

“Now you need to go,” said Second. “Take vengeance for us. Set us free.”

“With pleasure,” I said. “Now, about my clothes...”

“Oh, we have more than that for you,” First said, sliding up to a sitting position. “You give us your seed, your life energy, and we give you...”

Together they gestured and the air around me sparkled. A moment later I was clad in a silvery mail shirt, and a slim, shining blade was in my hand.

The nymphs gestured toward the back of the room. Of its own accord, the door opened silently.

“Go,” they said in unison. “Go and do what you must. We will not forget you, man.”

I nodded.

“I won’t either, believe me.”

Sunita

The tulwar and armor were indeed more than they had seemed initially, and Sunita left behind ample evidence of this in the form of a half-dozen slain human guards. Her approach had been silent and the black armor seemed to make her even more elusive and dexterous, allowing her to easily evade the humans’ blows, nimbly dancing about the room slashing throats and bellies until at last she was the only living thing there.

The sheer swiftness and ferocity of Sunita’s onslaught had left the guards unable to raise anything like an alarm and now, breathing heavily but otherwise unharmed, she collected the guards’ lantern and approached the far end of the room where she hoped an iron-bound door would lead to a stairway.

She was interrupted by a rattle at the main door, the one through which she herself had entered. As it opened on protesting hinges, Sunita scuttled back into the shadows, moving as quickly and quietly as she could back toward the entrance.

A human in chainmail entered, leading a pair of ogres. The ogres in turn bore chains attached to manacles that imprisoned...

Sunita drew a breath involuntarily — she recognized Udo the surly little dwarf, Brex the pilot and a deckhand she remembered was named Philo. Thank the thousand gods, they were the first crewmembers she’d yet seen. The three of them looked worse for wear and Brex looked on the verge of unconsciousness, but they were all plainly still alive.

The human guard wasn’t paying attention as he led the ogres in, for when he looked up and saw the carnage in the room — the sundered bodies of his fellow guards and the crimson splashes across the stone walls — he stopped short, barking out in confusion.

“What the hell?”

They were his last words, and suitable ones at that. To an observer it would have seemed as if the shadows suddenly came alive, transforming into a black-armored figure who struck mercilessly, jamming a heavy punch-dagger into the man’s back. He choked and fell, then Sunita spun delicately around, tulwar spinning, and threw herself at the ogres.

The first ogre grunted, dropping his chain and struck at her with an open hand. She ducked, but it still caught her a glancing blow, throwing her off rhythm. She swung the tulwar, scratching the ogre’s arm, then the other ogre was on her, punching with a rock-hard fist.

Sunita felt herself move without conscious thought, and the blow fell on empty space. She slashed with her tulwar and stabbed up with her dagger, feeling them both bite, and seeing the second ogre fall back, yelping in pain, nursing a wounded shoulder.

But there were two ogres and only one Sunita and now she’d lost the element of surprise. With a snarl the first ogre grabbed for her, but she twisted away, the creature’s filthy thick fingers sliding from the armor as if it was covered in oil. Then she came in again, stabbing and slashing, ducking another clumsy grab and coming up close enough to hamstring the ogre with a quick tulwar-slash before dodging away again.

Black blood coursed down the ogre’s injured leg and he tumbled over ponderously. The second ogre leaped over his fallen comrade and aimed another heavy blow at her head, but an instant later a length of chain snapped over his head and his entire body was yanked backwards. The angry form of Udo the dwarf appeared on his back, pulling the chain tight and swearing, froth flying from his lips.

“Take this, ya orc-fuckin’ shithead,” he snarled, holding on despite the ogre’s desperate attempts to dislodge him. Seeing her chance, Sunita struck again, gutting the ogre from throat to belly, and a flood of entrails and blood burst from the wound. The entire gory mess collapsed on the floor, atop the first ogre, who still struggled to rise. Another pair of swift dagger-stabs and it too lay still.

Udo emerged from the wreckage, gore-soaked and grinning.

“Hi, yer ladyship,” he grunted. “Good ta see yer not dead.”

“Same to you,” Sunita replied, hastening to unchain the two deckhands.

“Thank the gods,” Philo said as he kicked the chains free. “I thought we were done for when we lost Captain Wulf.”

Sunita’s ears pricked up. “Wulf was with you?”

Philo nodded, kneeling beside Brex, who had collapsed during the fight. The pilot stirred and moaned. He had a large bloody gash on his head but seemed otherwise intact.

“He fell through some trapped stairs. I don’t know if he made it or not. After that we tried to find our way out, but the guards jumped us. Poor Trevin got gutted and they took the rest of us.” He looked up and forced a smile. “I always admired the way you clambered around in the rigging, lady.”

“And I admired the way you scrubbed the deck,” Sunita said. “Now shall we get out of here?”

Brex groaned again and pulled himself up on one elbow.

“Sunita,” he said, blinking and rubbing blood out of his eyes. “I knew it was a good idea when Wulf hired you.”

Sunita grinned.

Wulf

I climbed the stairs with a renewed sense of purpose and nagging urgency. The fine mail and slender weapon that the nymph sisters had provided me were indeed impressive, but I knew that fae gifts were usually as transient as a high priest’s ethics. They were unstable in our realm and had a tendency to disappear at inopportune moments, though no one knew whether this was due to the inevitable forces of the material world or simply because the fae thought it was funny. Regardless, I suspected that the endgame was rapidly approaching.

I was approaching the door that hopefully led to our evil wizard’s living quarters when I heard the voices behind me. Alarmed, I started to look for someplace to hide, but a spiral stair isn’t the best place to be stealthy. I was contemplating scaling the wall hand clinging to the ceiling when I realized that I recognized the voices.

The warm glow of a lantern illuminated four figures — to my delight I saw Udo, Brex and Philo, all variously armed and armored with scavenged items (Udo wore an oversized human jerkin and a helm that came down over his eyes, but it didn’t seem to slow him down a bit, nor did the oversized mace clutched in one meaty hand). Leading them and holding the lantern, however, was an impressive figure in sleek black leather armor, bearing a curved sword. It took me a moment to recognize...

“Sunita!” I exclaimed involuntarily, and below me the four figures jumped at least three paces into the air. Their alarmed expressions quickly turned to joy when the recognized me, however.

“Cap’n!” Udo bellowed, throwing his arms around me and endeavoring to crush my ribs. “Where’dja get the swell armor?”

“A long story,” I said hastily, and looked at the others. “Are you all right?”

Brex gave me a wan smile; it was obvious he was in pain. “I’m not worth much, Cap’n, and I’m afraid we lost Trevin to an ogre. These others are in pretty good shape, though. ‘Specially her ladyship here.”

I looked Sunita up and down. She cut an impressive figure.

“I see you’ve taken advantage of our host’s armory,” I said. “Or did you just have that armor hidden in your tunic?”

She smiled at that. There was blood on her face, but I suspected it wasn’t hers.

“No, I’ve been appropriating suitable equipment from that damned wizard,” she admitted. “It’s good to see you, Captain.”

“The feeling is very, very mutual,” I replied, then turned back to the door. It was iron, forged in the shape of a fanged shark’s mouth. “Now I suspect our friend is somewhere behind this door. Shall we end this farce once and for all?”

They all nodded.

“Let’s hack the fucker t’kindling,” Udo suggested helpfully.

I kneeled down and began to inspect the door.

“Patience,” I said. “All things come to those who wait.”

Livia

Livia writhed as Sula Khan brought down his crop on her exposed buttocks with a sharp snap. The sensation tingled through her body, and her heart beat faster. Her clit was pressed against the polished wood of the frame, and yet another body-racking orgasm was building up. She pulled against the leather restraints that held her fast, feeling another stroke land on her fevered flesh.

This wasn’t her normal mode of entertainment — certainly, she’d done it in the past, and it was an exciting enhancement to whatever she was doing. But usually she just wanted to get to the straight-ahead fucking. Narisha adored giving and receiving pain and domination, but all demons were like that. Sex was sex to her, and no distinction between activities.

Once again, Sula Khan knew what he was doing. He had put his robe back on and now laid the crop across her with even, measured strokes, light at first, heavier and heavier, the stinging sensation increasing and combining with the rising heat in her cunt and chest.

She was sure that her ass was bright red by this time from the way that the sting of Sula’s blows persisted, enhanced and increased by each subsequent stroke. The thought was strangely exciting, and as the next two blows forced her to press harder against the frame, the deep throb and tingling sensation from her clit grew and grew until it was almost unbearable.

“Harder,” she gasped. “Harder. Don’t stop. I’m going to...”

Her words trailed off into incoherence as she tightened and convulsed, yet another orgasm squeezing her, releasing, then squeezing again.

“More,” she said even as the last tremors continued to pulse through her. If she hadn’t been bound up she’d have thrust her buttocks at him, urging him onward, but she could only speak. “Fuck me. Fuck me now. Please fuck my ass, master.”

“As you wish, my Livia,” Sula Khan rumbled, and she heard the whisper of his silken robe sliding to the floor. “Whatever my Livia wishes.”

Got you, you bastard, Livia thought, then gasped again as she felt the hardness of Sula Khan’s cock sliding between her buttocks.

“You want this, my little one?” His voice was tense. “You truly want this?”

“Yes,” she said, surprised at the vehemence of her response. “Yes, I want it. Please.” Her throat was tight and her heart beat heavily. She desperately wanted a drink of water, but ignored it. “Please, master.”

Part of me wants to see this troll-fucker dead, she thought. And part of me really does want this.

It was the latter part that was talking now.

***

As with the whip, Sula Khan started slow, showing surprising delicacy and an almost gentle touch for one who had been so violent and unpleasant earlier. He slid his cock between her buttocks deliberately, stopping when she gasped, then pressed forward, sliding another increment inside her.

“That’s good, master,” she said. “That feels... Gods, that feels good...”

After several long moments he was deep inside her, filling her completely. Her fingers gripped at the wood frame as he began to slide out, farther and farther, then in again, faster and with greater force.

“Yes, yes,” she sighed. “Do it. Faster.”

“Is that what you want?”

“Yes. Yes. I want it faster. Harder.”

Sula Khan responded by thrusting deeper, pressing against her buttocks. His weight pushed her down, again pressing her clit against the hard wood of the frame. Out again, and in, still faster...

“Ah.” The sound was short and involuntarily. She wanted this. She wanted it so very, very much...

But not that much, Livia reminded herself. I don’t want it that much.

He pressed on for long minutes, sliding in and out with greater and greater intensity and passion. She came again, and again, until she barely could tell when one ended and another began.

The tempo of Sula’s moans grew faster, with a familiar undercurrent.

“Come my love,” she urged, looking back at him through a curtain of sweat-soaked hair. “Come for me.”

“Yes,” he groaned, pulling his cock forth and stroking with both hands. “Yes. Yes, my Livia... I...”

A jet of white spunk splashed across her swollen red buttocks, then another and another. At last the flood subsided, and Sula Khan staggered back to collapse in his chair, panting, his erection wilting.

“I loved that, darling,” Livia sighed, looking back at the wizard. “I loved making you come.”

“I loved doing it for you,” he replied, his voice heavy and slurred. Yes, he was in that pliable post-coital state that Livia was so familiar with.

“Can you unbind me, please?” she made her voice as submissive and pleading as she could. “I want to touch you.”

Sula Khan gathered as much strength as he seemed able and rose to his feet, walking over and unbuckling the straps that had held her.

“You’re so beautiful,” he said, softly. “You’re what I’ve wanted for so long. What do you want, my love? What would you like me to do for you?”

Livia stepped from the frame, her joints protesting. The hard pounding that the wizard had given her, along with a half-dozen or more orgasms had taken a toll, but now she called upon the last of her resources, forcing a smile, and glancing at the frame.

“I’d like you to get on that yourself, darling. Let me show you the same passion you’ve shown me.”

Sula Khan had had a long day. A ship-full of pirates had fallen into his hands, along with the most alluring and beautiful woman he’d seen in ages. She had a lush, crimson-skinned companion, and Sula Khan had every intention of trying her out as well, but for now his attentions were focused upon the enchanting creature before him — short, blonde, with a pale trim body and enchantingly curvaceous breasts, alluring hips and shapely buttocks. She was a sorceress, a spellcaster like him, and she had accepted his collar submitted to his desires, at first with reluctance, and finally with enthusiasm and now he knew that she was his and his alone. He was no fool — no woman could simulate the passion she had just shown. She wore his collar, a device that would choke the life from her at the slightest thought of disobedience. And now, she wanted him to...

Sula Khan smiled.

“Of course, my darling. Of course.”

Narisha

She was free now — well, mostly free, with an iron collar and a length of chain ‘round her neck. The staple that had held her prisoner was yanked from the wall, and now she was free to leave, seeking out her companions for rescue...

That could wait, of course. For now, she had persuaded all three of her boys’ cocks to hot rigidity again and she rode astride the eldest, his organ once more urging her to multiple, almost indistinguishable orgasms. Behind her, the second minotaur thrust his cock between her buttocks, piercing her asshole and filling her completely. The youngster stood in front of her, his cock deep in her mouth, sliding slickly in and out.

Yes, fuck me boys, she thought. Fuck as hard as you want. Then...

Then we’ll go rescue everyone. But for now...

Oh, blessed ancestors. For now, I want cock.

Sunita

Though she’d frequently heard Captain Wulf denigrating his own abilities (and by the thousand gods, who hadn’t by this time?), Sunita was impressed at how quickly he disarmed the door’s trapped lock, dispelled the ward that protected it and sprung the latch with her lockpick, allowing the access to the wizard’s inner sanctum.

“Thankfully for us, security at this place stinks to high heaven,” Wulf said. “Our friend Sula Khan seems like a really overconfident shit, doesn’t he?”

Sunita nodded. “Though I’d not have used those words, Captain. We have much more colorful invective in my homeland.”

Wulf grinned. “Such as?”

“The one I am thinking of translates roughly as ‘misbegotten bastard offspring of a crippled orcish whore and a leprous flatulent ratling.’ As with so many phrases in my native tongue, it is conveyed in a mere three syllables, with subtle emphasis derived from the inflection and tone of each separate morpheme.”

“Huh?” Udo grunted. “Wha’d you just say?”

“She said her language is far too complicated for most of us to understand,” Philo said admiringly. “Perhaps she would deign to teach us a few choice epithets when we’re done with our current adventure.”

Sunita felt suddenly flattered and smiled as prettily as she could manage.

“I would enjoy that very much.”

Captain Wulf cleared his throat and looked vaguely annoyed. “There’ll be time for that later. We’ve got to get moving.”

They were in a mage-lit stone entry hall, with three doors leading out. A quick check revealed — unsurprisingly — that none of them were trapped. The doors on either side led respectively to a library and a sitting room, while the center opened on another short flight of stairs, leading to an iron portal inscribed with a large and elaborate sigil.

“It says ‘Sula Khan is Supreme,’” Sunita noted. “It’s a fairly vulgar Salonic dialect from the desert lands.”

“Arrogant bastard,” Brex muttered.

“Couldn’t agree more, sailor,” Wulf replied and quickly knelt down, going to work on the portal with a quickly mumbled counterspell and Sunita’s lockpick.

Unfortunately as Wulf poked at the first tumbler, Sunita heard a sound that struck fear into the heart of every dishonest freelance: the dreaded “audible click.”

Behind them, the door to the landing slammed with an ominous solid thud and the mageglobes that illuminated the stairs went out, plunging them into darkness. A wave of cold enveloped Sunita and for an instant the stone walls shone an icy blue. Then three floating, ghostly shapes appeared, wailing thinly and glided effortlessly through the air towards us.

The captain summed up Sunita’s emotions in crude but effective language.

“Oh, shit,” he said, drawing his fae sword and coming on guard.

Wulf

It was pretty much all I could think to say. I’d spent the entire night making light of Sula Khan’s overconfidence and lack of caution and here I’d blundered into a truly deadly trap.

The three spirits came at us with unhurried, ghostly grace, reaching out with glowing, bony hands. Udo threw himself at the first, swinging his mace. It met with no resistance at all, passing through the spirit as if it was a particularly hostile patch of fog. Udo himself yelped as he fell, off balance, tumbling down the stairs.

“Ow! ‘At’s cold! Ow!”

My own blow, even from the slender fae blade the sisters had given me, was no more effective, and as the creature’s glowing foggy luminescence swirled and reformed from my blow, it touched me with a glowing bony hand.

A lance of icy cold shot through me and I felt my very essence being drawn from my body. I tried to scream, but nothing came out. Nearby, Philo and Brex struggled in the grip of the other two spirit-creatures. Poor Brex was near the end of his endurance — he’d be even easier to dispatch than the rest of us.

They hadn’t reckoned with our fifth companion. Deftly stepping past me, Sunita swung her tulwar at the spirit that held Brex and to my shock, surprise and relief, the weapon cut solidly into its substance, hewing off a glowing chunk of its ghostly body. Thank the gods — it was enchanted!

The spirit shrieked in anger and released Brex, reaching out to grab Sunita’s throat. She ducked — damn, she was nimble — and struck again, this time splitting the monstrosity in two. The sundered halves vanished like smoke as the surviving spirits released me and Philo, gliding down the stairs toward Sunita.

She fell back, putting more space between us. My mind whirled, searching frantically for something I could use to help her, at last recalling a minor enchantment intended to give spirits temporary substantiality. It was normally used to allow spirit servants to perform menial tasks that required a physical body, such as cooking, cleaning and sex, but in this case it might also work to give our weapons something to bite.

As Sunita swung at one spirit, then the other I muttered the spell and felt the energy flow from me. I couldn’t tell if it had any effect, but I wasn’t about to let Sunita face these floating bastards alone.

“I think we can hurt them!” I shouted, and bounded down the stairs, sword spinning. “Charge!”

Philo shouted bravely and charged after me, brandishing a battleaxe. As we came, Sunita sliced the arm from one of the spirits, but then gasped in pain as the second managed to grab her by the throat.

A small form appeared between me and the spirits. It was Udo of course.

“Die, fucker!” He swung his mace, connecting with the spirit that was attacking Sunita. A huge divot appeared in its shape, venting cold vapors. My spell had worked!

I aimed a second blow at the thing’s head, and sliced clean through. The spirit vanished just like the first, and beside me Philo used his axe to finish off the last of the three.

I cast a quick magelight spell and we stood there panting in its cold light for several long moments.

“Well done, shipmates,” I said at last, gazing from one face to another.

Brex seemed all right, but he sat heavily on the stairs, staring at me with round, haunted eyes.

“Don’t mention it, cap’n,” he said weakly. “It’s loads more interesting than splicing cables and mending sails.”

Narisha

All three of the minotaurs had come again, and Narisha’s skin was glazed with sweat and semen. They had all collapsed, of course, utterly spent and uninterested in further fucking.

Good, she thought. Now I can leave and find Liv and Wulf.

A wave of weariness overcame her as she tried to stand, however, and she sank down, feeling the eldest minotaur’s arms slip around her.

A quick nap first, she thought. It has been a long night, after all.

Wulf

When we burst into the wizard’s inner sanctum, armed and ready for a fight, the sight presented to us was so ludicrous that I couldn’t restrain myself.

“Good gods and demons, Liv, what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

I wasn’t the least bit surprised, of course. In the deep recesses of my mind I had suspected that Livia would handle the matter all by herself. Had we just sat quietly in our cells she’d have been down in the morning, grinning like an idiot, walking bowlegged and telling us that we were free and not to worry about that silly Sula Khan and his damned shark-men.

Naturally, I had ignored my instincts and led a jailbreak, but here was living proof that Livia’s resources were every bit as powerful and varied as mine.

Sula Khan didn’t look quite so fearsome now that he was naked, manacled and bent over an elaborate contraption that looked like one of Countess Xylara’s torture benches. Even less so now that he had a large cylindrical object projecting out of his nether orifice, and a large gag in his mouth.

“Well, if you must know, Wulf,” Livia replied, sweetly, “I bound him up so he couldn’t make any arcane gestures and gagged him so he couldn’t speak any spells. As for the dildo in his ass, well, I just did that for fun.”

She was as naked as he was, and had that satisfied but slightly-soggy look that I’d come to associate with the aftermath of an epic session of bestial coupling. Yes, she’d used her feminine wiles all right. The pained and humiliated expression on the once-dreaded Sula Khan’s face spoke volumes.

“I’m sure he’s thinking that your collar is defective,” I observed, stepping forward and unbuckling it from Livia’s neck. I dropped it on the floor. “After all, it’s enchanted to kill you if you engage in any hostile act or thought toward your master.”

Livia cast a wicked glance at Sula Khan, whose expression was both baffled and frightened.

“I wasn’t hostile,” she said. “Not at all. I meant everything I said. I never thought of anything other than what I did. You see, dear? I can say that I’m your servant, and mean every word, but in the end, you’re the one who is tied up, gagged and helpless, and I’m free.”

I sighed. “So we escaped and fought our way up the tower to rescue you,” I said, then looked at Sula. “Your twin fae sisters were very entertaining and extremely cooperative, my friend. By the way, despite what they may have said in private, they hate your guts.”

That seemed to hurt as well, and I felt a moment of shame at kicking a man so hard when he was down. It passed quickly, however.

“Have you found Narisha?” Livia asked.

“Nope,” I replied, “though like you I’m sure she’s busy fucking her way to freedom even as we speak.”

“No doubt. This piece of shit said that he’d given her to his minotaurs for entertainment.”

Sunita looked horrified at this, but I reassured her.

“Narisha will have those minotaurs eating out of her hand in no time,” I said. “Or something to that effect. I’m too tired to think of any more clever sexual puns.”

“So what do we do with the bastard?” Philo asked. “He’s responsible for the deaths of our crewmates and gods only know how many others.”

I shrugged. “Clap him in irons and take him back to Godshome for the bounty, I guess. He’s probably got a ton of gold on his head by this time.”

“No.” The single icy syllable cut through the room. Sunita strode past me, tulwar in hand. “No mercy for killers.”

I raised a hand to stop her. “Sunita, wait — ”

I was too late. She swung the tulwar high in the air and brought it down squarely on Sula Khan’s neck. He shrieked despite the gag, but the sound was cut off. There was a single spark of pure mana and the wizard’s head went tumbling to the floor. An instant later, instead of the gout of blood I’d expected, a torrent of mana-sparks erupted, covering the decapitated body and reducing it to ashes in a matter of moments. The tulwar, it seemed, was inimical to wizards as well as spirits.

On the floor, all that remained of Sula Khan was a weathered skull.

Sunita looked neither sad nor elated — her expression was that of a professional completing her job.

“We have no mercy for such in Vendaya,” she said. “Magic is a gift of the gods. Those who use it for personal gain or to destroy others deserve no mercy. As we speak his black soul writhes in the halls of torment, devoured and sundered by demons over and over. This is the fate of wicked sorcerers.”

I swallowed hard, gaping at Sunita with newfound respect and no small amount of fear.

I guess my expression said it all.

“Worry not, Captain,” she said, sheathing the tulwar and once more smiling brightly. “I know that you and the Lady Livia have used magic for less than admirable purposes over the years. In the end, however, you both have good souls and are nothing like the scum that imprisoned us. You, I will defend and fight beside to the end of my strength.” She kicked Sula Khan’s skull and it went spinning across the floor. “His kind always will I fight and kill.”

There was a moment of shocked silence, and at last Livia spoke.

“Well that’s that, I suppose,” she said, unbuckling the collar and dropping it on the floor. “Perhaps we could find some clothes for me and then go retrieve Narisha?”

I cast one more slightly fearsome glance at Sunita, resplendent in black armor, the deadly katar in one hand, the enchanted tulwar in the other. She smiled again.

Damn, I thought. Don’t let the kind face fool you.

“That,” I said, “is an excellent idea.”

***

We found Narisha lying naked in a pile of exhausted minotaurs, her skin, face and hair plastered with sweat and various other fluids. When we entered the chamber she chuckled wickedly.

“What took you so long?” she demanded. “I was going to save a couple of minotaurs for you, but I got impatient.” She indicated her neck, still bound by an iron collar attached to a length of chain that had been yanked from a nearby wall. “Don’t you think it suits me, my loves? Don’t you love your Narisha chained and collared like an animal?”

Gods. The woman never stopped, did she?

I’d dispatched Philo and Sunita to free the other crew, and by the time we were all gathered by the lagoon the horizon was growing light with oncoming dawn.

“I think this island is ours by right of conquest, wouldn’t you say?” Livia said as the crew began to prepare to return. “Isolated, magically concealed, safe harbor... Once we have Brex patched up I’ve asked if he and Philo would be interested in managing it for us. You know, keep it cleaned and ready for occupancy?”

“Seems like a good idea,” I replied. “I suspect that the legalisms of ownership are just too complicated to get into right now, so they can safely be ignored.”

Narisha stood beside us, still naked and cast a glance down at the warm tropical waters.

“I think I’ll need a quick swim to get all this off me,” she said and made to splash into the waves.

“Uh, what about the sharks?” I asked. “They were pretty big.”

Narisha giggled. “Silly. They won’t like me. I don’t taste like humans.”

She had that one right, I thought, watching her dive into the water and swim gracefully toward where Skate rode at anchor.

“If I say so, Captain, you seem to have quite the interesting relationship with your two partners,” Sunita observed as we stepped into a ship’s boat and began to row along. Behind us, Livia busied herself with some of the crew who were busy hauling plunder from the wizard’s tower.

“That I do,” I said. I looked at her. She was beautiful, no doubt of it — dusky-skinned, dark-eyed, ferocious and particularly striking in her plundered black armor.

Yet there was something else... She was a shipmate now. A companion, a fellow warrior and a freelance of considerable skill. I couldn’t see her in the same context as Livia and Narisha. And in a strange way, the notion that I could think of her that way pleased me.

I still had one question, however.

“By the way, Sunita,” I asked, pulling on the oar and watching the ship draw closer. Narisha was already there, vaulting over the rail, a crimson-skinned water nymph. “I was wondering, if it’s not too intimate a question...”

“My tattoo, captain, is of a Vendayan sea-dragon,” she replied, anticipating my question. “Its head is at my left breast, its jaws encircling my nipple, its body extends across my belly, around my navel, and its tail ends on my right thigh. You see, my parents visited the soothsayer at my birth, and she prophesied that I would one day be known as Sunita Seadragon, and would sail all the world’s oceans. It was a good prophesy, and one that you and your crew had a large part in fulfilling. For that reason alone I choose to share my secret with you. I trust you will keep it to yourself.”

I laughed. The sun was rising and Narisha was throwing down a boarding ladder from Skate.

“Of course I will, Sunita,” I said. “Of course.”

And so I did. Until now, of course.

— END —