A/N: Hello and welcome to chapter 1. I've ben a fanfcition writer for a long time now, yet this is the first ever thing I've written that wasn't based on an established world. As such, I'm nervous and excited. Hopefully I do okay. I'm eager to hear your input.
Disclaimer: This story will contain some sexually explicit content. This includes sex acts between women and women, men and women and men and men who look like women (the last is in this first chapter, for instance). It might also contain some other stuff later on. We'll see.
A Light Forgotten:
Chapter 1: Hell, Wings and Blood
Master, I want to thank you. I never thanked you once when you were alive; not for anything. I seldom told you anything of importance. There was so much I left unsaid. So much I should have said. But I didn't say it. I couldn't. I can't speak everything I want to. It's a problem I have. Something stemming back from all those years I spent so entirely alone. Besides, I thought I had forever to say it. I had faith in you, Master; I thought you'd win.
I owe you this life. You pulled me from the snow, a stupid girl who didn't know anything about the world. A girl who was seldom familiar with the color of the sky. You saved that girl. You guided her. You made her into someone else. I would have died back then without you. And if I hadn't died, by some miracle, I'd have been lost. I'd have become resentful. Of the world. Of him. You always told me I should resent him, but it's because of you that I find I can't. I can't claim to understand the emotion we humans call love. There's a lot about my own kind I fail to grasp. That's why I don't blame him. He's mortal. He's flawed just like we all are. Just like you were.
Your mortality really did surprise me. I think it surprised you too, in a way. Of course you knew you were mortal. You tried to hard to change the fact. It was your purpose. But I don't think either of us thought you were actually going to die. I sure didn't. Nothing was impossible for you, Master. Conquering Death seemed a simple enough task for you, but alas, he was the one opponent you could not match.
I don't know if I'll fare better against him. I don't know. Maybe I'll just end up like you in the end. Whatever the result of my duel with Death, I won't run. I owe you that much. Perhaps that's silly. Perhaps foolish. Whatever the case, I think that I owe you that much, Master. As payment for all the foolish human love you showed a stupid girl like me. Thank you.
Blagden's Hell was aptly named. It was the most unforgiving Ruin in all of Astraeia. A massive spire that descended deep into the earth, it's original purpose had been lost. Like most other structures built by the Ancients, like most other Ruins, it had been reduced to a simple monster-infested treasure cove. A perfect target for a bold enough Adventurer.
But with Blagden's Hell being bold wasn't quite enough. You had to be a little crazy or stupid too. Hundreds of able adventurers had taken on it's challenge, hungry for the bountiful treasures that rested inside. The number of men known to have come back alive could be counted on one hand. And even those few had only managed to keep their lives because they were smart enough to know when to turn back. No modern man had ever seen the bottom of Blagden's Hell.
Eirwen Fenix was determined to be the first, even if she was a woman. It was true determination too. That much could be seen by anyone were they able to watch as she fended off a fierce land dragon's snapping jaws with her sword.
Land dragon's were not weak monsters by any stretch. They were about three times as large as a horse with rock hard green scales and poison dripping fangs as long and sharp as a quality short sword. This was saying nothing of their massive talons or fiery breath.
This breath attack was Eirwen was next assaulted with. Not wanting to be scorched to a crisp, Eirwen fell back and under the attack. She charged forward with her sword in hand as the breath waned, though it's heat could still be felt, and tried to gut the beast. Alas, her sword barely dislodged a single scale before coming to a complete halt.
The land dragon swiped Eirwen with its powerful claws. She gave a low cry as the sleeve of the long black cloak she always wore was sliced through effortlessly along with the flesh beneath it. The blood began to flow instantly from the deep wound, drenching Eirwen's arm, trickling down to saturate her dark-red, long gloves. The pain was intense. She clenched her teeth powerfully as she fell back. Running to put some distance between her and the dragon.
Then she tripped. She fell to the ground on her face, the wide brimmed black hat flying from her head to reveal her spiky silver-white hair. She sat up quickly, her vision blurring, to see the land dragon storming toward her, clearly hungry, intoxicated by the scent of the blood dripping from her hand.
Quietly Eirwen began to mutter some words in a tongue long forgotten by humans. She held out her bloodied left arm at the stampeding dragon. This was her last shot. She was dead if this one failed. That in mind, she focused everything she had.
Then she called out clearly, "My blood is my weapon! Let it rend this foe in two! Blood Slicer!"
Suddenly all the blood clinging to Eirwen's arm started to glow a bright red and began to spiral about the arm, growing and growing until it formed a massive, oversized glowing red sword. Eirwen held this sword over her head for a moment, then allowed it to come crashing down.
The land dragon was proud in its final moments, not even trying to escape as the magical sword came to slice it cleanly in two down the middle. It's two halves flopping downward in opposite directions to reveal its insides, as blood splattered everywhere.
Eirwen panted at the floor. She was so weak now. Her wound had given her access to one of her more powerful spells, but that didn't make it any sort of blessing. She'd die if she let it bleed much longer. She couldn't die yet. No, she couldn't die ever. That's what the game was. She was going to be immortal. Dying wasn't allowed.
"Curse it all," she muttered in her pain as she clenched her wound harshly. She began to chant another spell primer in a monster language. Healing magics weren't worth much. Most were weak and not really worth the energy they took. She had decided to take on the Hell alone, but it really might have been wise to take a Priest for times like this. Even a wound like this would be child's play for one well versed enough in the Divine Word.
"Use my life force to stabilize this wound!" she called out as her hand clenching the wound began to glow. "Restore!"
Eirwen gave a suppressed scream as she felt the magic energy in her body funnel directly from her hand into the open wound to repair the damage done there. The pain was worse then that of taking the wound itself had been. Eirwen feared she'd fall unconscious. That would mean death. She wouldn't allow that.
Then, eventually, she was done. She leaned on a cold steel wall nearby. She couldn't go on anymore. She needed to rest. She cursed this. She had only covered a quarter of a floor that day. That was the worst progress since she had entered Blagden's Hell three months ago. No one knew exactly how deep this hell was. The scholars who studied the Ancients who built it speculated it was an even 100. If so, Eirwen was close. She had seen 95 floors in her three months.
But it had only gotten harder by the day. The first day she had descended seven full floors. Now it took multiple days to just get down one floor. And the floors were physically smaller. It was just she had things like land dragons to deal with regularly now. It made for slow progress.
She was already well past the bar set by her Master. He had only made it down 64 floors before he realized he was ill equipped for the rest of the trip. He had been about Eirwen's age then. By the time he took her in, his four months in hell had become just another one of his many fanciful tales. But always he had insisted that traversing the Hell was possible if you were prepared, if you knew how to tackle it.
They had been preparing to take on the Hell when he had contracted the dreaded, sure-fatal Baumer's Disease which would end his quest for immortality in failure. It had been three years since then. Eirwen had trained rigorously through those years. She was determined to conquer the Hell and unearth it's secrets even if she had to do it alone now.
She realized then that she was hungry. She crawled over to the halved land dragon carcass. The liver was still intact. This was the tastiest part of a land dragon. It hadn't just been fighting and magic Master had taught her, she had to learn the anatomy of every variety of monster you could name. Which parts were edible, which parts weren't. Surviving for months in a place like Blagden's Hell demanded it. A human body had its needs after all. Water was simple. She just had to use a simple water spell to convert the moisture in the air to something drinkable. But for food, she needed to rely on the monsters she slew.
Skewering the land dragon liver with her sword, she ripped it out of the carcass. She held it up and cast her most basic fire spell. A spell that required no incantation of any sort, it produced a gentle flame. Eirwen held the liver in the flame for a while, letting it cook until done. She produced some water and drank it before biting into the cooked liver.
Eirwen liked meat a lot, but damn did she ever miss seasoning. Still, she ate until completely full. She filled her small flask with some more water and drank it down quickly. Now with some of her physical needs replenished, it was time to replenish some other. Namely, her weary body needed to sleep. Magical energy required the passing of time to re-accumulate, so sleep was even more important. Her energy was depleted near completely. Even the basic fire and water spells had left her feeling drained.
Eirwen fumbled for the very thing that she had that her Master hadn't when he attempted the Hell. She found the curious light weight short metal rod in a pocket of her cloak. She held the device up into the air and pulled at either end until it became longer, so as it was three times as wide as her body. She held it forward and over her head. Then she pressed the single button on the device, causing it to light up
Instantly, a thick barrier fired from the bottom of the rod, until it hit the ground. Eirwen let go of it and backed up toward the wall. A second barrier shot forward from the device to the wall, straight over Eirwen's head. Two barriers then shot down to from walls, completing a rectangle. With that, Eirwen was protected.
Eirwen hadn't much studied Relics, devices like this, remnants of the lost technology of the Ancients who built places like Blagden's Hell in the first place. She didn't know much about them. But some of them certainly were useful, even for an expert magician like her. She had no way of guarding herself from monster's while she slept. This barrier device made conquering Blagden's Hell possible. She wasn't a better magician than her Master when he took on the Hell. She was just more prepared. Her Master had unearthed this device from another Ruin he scaled. He didn't keep many Relics, but he had kept this one, immediately noticing its worth.
Thinking about it, Eirwen knew she'd be hailed as a hero if she conquered the Hell, but in truth her Master was more incredible. Scaling sixty four floors and returning. Spending four months in a place like this. And doing it all without a restful night. Having to worry about being ravaged by monsters as you sleep. She almost felt like she was cheating doing it this way, even as her weary body cried out in pain. It was the fact that he had drawn up the very strategy she was using that it seemed validated to her.
Eirwen removed her cloak and then the light armor she wore beneath it. She couldn't sleep well with it on. Below it was a simple, blouse, drenched in sweat. She grabbed her hat and used it as a pillow. She used the cloak as a blanket. She knew she'd be fast asleep in a minute.
As she lie there waiting for sleep to take it's hold, she thought about the outside world. She didn't covet fame. Part of her Master had, but she didn't desire to have her own legend as he did, even if that would be inevitable should she return. She was doing this just for the sake of a rumor. The beast at the bottom of the Hell was said to protect a Relic with greater power than any other. It was vague as anything. There was no saying this unspecified power was even what she wanted. It was likely a weapon. For one who sought the key to immortality, a supremely powerful weapon was hardly worth much.
But it was the next lead on his list. Master had thought it was worth his time. So Eirwen decided it was worth hers. Maybe there was something sad in a 22 year old girl following the ghost of an old man even into mortal peril of the most extreme, but she was committed. She owed him it. She owed him everything.
It would be interesting to see the reactions of her fellow adventurers when she returned. She thought about the last encounter of note she had before departing Rainier for Vernell. When it came to fellow adventurers, Gwayne Garron was the biggest name in the land. Everyone knew him, and if you didn't know him, you weren't really an adventurer. He was that big, that important. The King of the Rainier Underground.
"So, what brings the lovely Miss Fenix before me t'day?" Garron asked, already laughing, his right eye, the one not concealed by a black patch staring at her like a bird of prey.
"I just felt it pertinent to inform you that I will be departing tonight for Vernell," said Eirwen in a solemn voice, nodding at the man.
"Oh? That so?" the man laughed. "Got yer eyes on a Ruin then, do ya?"
"Blagden's Hell," said Eirwen readily.
The man began to laugh uncontrollably, his long messy blonde hair moving about as he began to shake his head. "That right? Well, it's been nice knowin' ya, Miss Fenix."
"You doubt my return?" Eirwen started.
"Yer good," said Gwayne. "That's fer sure. But there's a difference tween bein' good and bein' God, and it's more than jus' a letter."
"I'm surprised you know how to read, Gwayne," Eirwen commented, giving her own quiet laugh.
Garron burst out into hard laughter. "Always the funny one. The old man rubbed off on ya, kid."
"But you mean to say that it takes someone of divine standing to conquer Blagden's hell, I suppose," Eirwen said nodding.
"It's the truth," said the man. "Maybe if ya gave me fifty good men I could make it ta the bottom, but I ain't so sure I could make it back."
"Master made if 64 floors in," said Eirwen in a low voice.
"But ya ain't 'im, kid," said Garron. "Ya gotta face the facts, Missy. Ya ain't Volker Osman. They only made one of 'im. We ain't gettin' another."
"I know. But I have a tool which should make the difference. A Relic he excavated from the Ruins near Faramond," said Eirwen.
"Come to think of it, ol' Volker was thinkin' on takin' on the 'ell before Baumer's reared it's ugly 'ead, weren't 'e?" said Garron with a nod.
"That's right. I was to go with him," said Eirwen. "I've been preparing the last three years to do it alone."
"Ya disappoint me, Miss Fenix!" said Garron. "And here after all these years I thought ya 'ad left behind the stupid so inherent ta yer sex."
"You really are the lowest," said Eirwen.
"'ey, it's the truth," said Garron. "Women ain't nuthin but pretty things fer us ta look at and play with. That ol' Volker got sumthing like yerself out of one is pretty damn amazing, I'll say. They always say 'e's the greatest magician of our time. And as I see it there's no greater proof to that claim then yerself."
"What's that supposed to mean?" said Eirwen, narrowing her eyes.
"We first met when ya were still jus' a kid, right after 'e first found ya and took ya in. Back then ya was jus' another dumb little girl, not a special thing about ya. That there's a damn good adventurer in front of me now, that the old man got sumthin' like this out of a woman of all things, that's magic of a sort beyond any I ever seen come from a spell," the eyepatched man gave a slimy laugh.
"You really are scum," said Eirwen. "I don't know why Master had any sort of respect for you."
"Hey, ain't we friends, missy?" Gwayne started. "I like ya. Yer one of the best around. I can say that much fer sure, even if I don't understand it. I sometimes wonder if yer still all woman when ya take off those pants."
"You'll never find out," said Eirwen simply.
The man smiled. 'But still, it's a woman's ignorance that tells ya to try the 'ell. Pure and simple. That one's not meant fer men. Sure as 'ell ain't meant fer a woman," he said shaking his head.
"I suppose I'll just have to prove you wrong then, Gwayne," Eirwen said in a low voice.
"What sort of party ya takin' down there then? Anyone who works fer me getting roped into yer stupidity?" the man asked.
"I'm going alone," said Eirwen. "I've considered taking a priest, but I don't know any good ones that I can trust who will take me up on the offer."
"Just cuz they believe that shit, don't mean the 'oly men are idiots. Course they wouldn't join ya fer such a thing! There's a little sumthin' called self-preservation most men got. But I s'pose it's lost on certain women," said Gwayne harshly.
"Perhaps Gwayne Garron is just a coward," said Eirwen in a low voice.
The man stood up, his hand went to the Relic he wore at his side, a device called a gun. "Ya got nerve, miss Fenix. But I'm a man of 'onor. I'd prefer ya spare me that shit if ya want ta even make it to Blagden's 'ell."
"I'll take my leave of you then, Gwayne Garron," she said, hardly flinching. "See you in six months."
"'ate to say I don't plan on dyin' tween now and then. But when I do make it to 'ell, I'll be sure ta stop by and say 'ello," the man laughed.
Eirwen nodded and stood to leave. "Very well then."
"Nice knowin' ya, Miss Fenix," Garron spoke.
As she fell asleep, Eirwen tried to picture the look on Garron's face when she returned. It would definitely amuse her.
Five hours passed as the girl slept. She woke up then to the sounds of a pack of hell beasts, large hulking four legged beasts with massive horns coming out of their heads, chomping at her barrier. She could have just ignored them and went back to sleep, but she felt surprisingly alert and ready. She chanted a quick spell primer.
"Flames of judgement, answer my call! Pure Inferno!" she called out and a massive pillar of flame erupted under their beasts, incinerating them.
Eirwen dressed herself and let the barrier down before standing. She'd try and knock out the rest of this floor now. She couldn't have that long to go. She started to walk forward down a steel-walled corridor. The corridors down this low still seemed to be operating. They were lit up using lighting Relics, which were in the ceiling. Visibility wasn't a problem thus. It was just when she got to the parts that weren't lined with steel, the parts connecting to caverns, that things like land dragons would pop up.
She continued for a long while. It was all steel corridors. Aside from a few child hell beasts, nothing crossed her path. And then she arrived at the staircase. She proceeded down it to the next level. Traversing the next level, she was shocked. Not only was it rather small, but it was entirely empty. It seemed to be filled with large chairs and a number of rooms that all seemed empty. Finding the next staircase, Eirwen became uneasy.
There were only 100 floors according to the scholars. Floor 96 had been empty. Now she was on floor 97. That one proved to be even smaller and even emptier. This was unnatural. Up to that point, floors could take days. Now she had just done over two in a matter of minutes. Floor 98 came next. This was the smallest yet. It was a simple corridor with one room attached. Eirwen entered the room.
It was filled with a strange sort of Relic. Flat rectangular devices that were lit up, showing images on them. Eirwen looked at the images and noticed they were different floors within the Hell. From this point, one could watch someone's progress as they scaled the Hell. Eirwen was impressed, but even further set unease. She turned back and decided to descend further. Floor 99.
It was a very large, open room. Eirwen couldn't see the end of it. She walked forward. There was a large chair at the center of the room. A woman was sitting atop it. She stood when she saw Eirwen. She was beautiful, a perfect female figure encased in a revealing black dress. She had soft, deep tan skin and silver gray hair. Her ears were pointed and she had red eyes. Black wings extended from her back. Eirwen nodded. This was no woman at all. This was a demon.
"Hello, there," said the demon. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you after watching you for so many days now."
"I wasn't aware I had an audience," said Eirwen. "But it matters not. I suppose you're the last obstacle."
Eirwen drew her sword and pointed it at the demon.
"You intend to fight me, human girl? Amusing," the demon said.
"I didn't come all this way for nothing," Eirwen said.
"Then show me what you got," the demon said smiling and laughing. "Show me everything!"
I'm sorry. I owe those words to more people then I literally know. I owe them to you more than any other though. I hurt you. I see your face now, I see your eyes and I am forever reminded of the pain I caused. I can't help but hate it. I can't help but hate who I am. I can't help but hate what I've done. It wounds me. It paralyzes me. It keeps me awake at night more often then I'd like to admit.
Humans are fragile. I don't think I learned this until I hurt you, even if it should have been obvious to me well before that. With all the blood on my hands, I should have learned early on what I could do, what pain one can cause in another. But I am a slow learner I suppose. No, that's wrong. I didn't even try to learn. I was so filled with hatred. And shouldn't I have been? Men and monsters are not so different. He taught me that. He hurt her and he hurt me. When he killed her, I killed him. I killed him because I thought he would kill me next. He might have. I wouldn't have put it past him. I might have been justified there, but his blood is far from the only on my hands.
Was it wrong for me to hate people after all that? I don't know. But I did. I wanted no part of the race called humanity. And yet there you were, beautiful and pure. You got close to me. You showed me something I had never felt. Kindness. I can't blame you for that. I can't blame you for getting close to even one such as I, but if you hadn't, I wouldn't have become obsessed. I wouldn't have hurt you.
But would I still be full of hate now had it never happened. Would I know regret, would I know guilt if I still was blind to the fragility of men? I don't know, and I don't care to speculate. All I do know is that I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I truthfully am. I don't expect you to forgive me. Ever. I don't expect anyone I hurt to forgive me. That's why I live this unassuming life now. My own life, my own happiness, my guilt makes it meaningless. I'd kill myself if I were a little stronger. But I'm weak. So I'll live. I'll live now for the sake of others, for the happiness of others. That's all I can think to do. It's not redemption. It's just something for me to do. Something selfish. Something to take my mind off all the pain I've caused. But even this is fleeting, I fear. I am cursed.
It was a pleasant, warm evening in North-Central Maytland, the small farming town of Irvyn. Wren Pandra wore an even expression on her face as washed some dishes. It was kind of a slow night so far at the Irvyn tavern. Less business then required two waitresses. She was fine staying in the back though. All the men came to see Una anyway.
This was thought without the slightest note of resentment. Wren didn't want people to stare at her. She didn't want people to even like her. She didn't want anyone's attention. She just wanted to do what she could. She just wanted to live a normal life her among these normal people. It was all she desired.
Wren began to hum a song she had heard many times before. A sad nostalgic song which had once brought her comfort. She stood there and washed, lost in the song for a while. Then she was called.
"Wren!" Schaeffer the tavern keeper called out to her. She went immediately.
"Yes, Boss?" she started.
"Suddenly got some traffic in here, it seems," Schaeffer, a round, jolly man started, nodding to a group of men who had entered. "Help, Una out for a bit, will you?"
"Sure thing, Boss," Wren said cheerfully. She went up to a table of men she knew. A young farmer, the local tailor and the old carpenter's apprentice.
"What can I do for you tonight, gentlemen?" she asked.
"What's Aida got cooking up for us today, Wren?" the tailor started.
"She's got a stew boiling," said Wren. "And she baked up one of her meat pies."
"I'll take some of the stew," said the farmer.
"As will I," said the tailor.
"I'll take some of the pie," the apprentice carpenter started.
"Sure thing, men," Wren said. "And I suppose each of you'd like a flask of beer to wash it all down with."
"That would be lovely, Wren," the apprentice started with a smile. The other two nodded.
"It'll be right up then," said Wren with a smile. She went off to convey the order to Schaeffer and his wife Aida, a sweet older lady who was nothing but kind to Wren.
Wren turned around, ready to work the next table. Irvyn had a lot of younger men when compared to other towns in the area. Men who weren't yet married, yet had already left their mother's care. They all flocked to the tavern regularly for food and drink almost daily. And though the married men came in on occasion for drinks, this was the usual clientele. Wren knew most of them by name. So did Una.
Wren glanced at Una. Una was a the wife of a farmer named Burchard Grainger. Burchard was a man of 34 years, ten more then his wife. He was an ox of a man, big and strong and nothing but reliable. He had the trust of his village more than about any other. Una was not so reliable. She dropped plates, spilled things, tripped over her own feet, all on a regular basis.
But it was her beauty that kept the men coming back. Una was a goddess of a woman. Bearing two children had certainly not ruined her perfect figure; in fact, it seemed to have left her already amazing breasts even bigger. They were truly stunning. Wren was big herself. She was much bigger than most women. But Una was even bigger still.
Maybe that was why Wren worked here. With her long black hair and beautiful bronze skin, there weren't many places she could go where she'd be overshadowed by another woman. Of course, the fact that Una couldn't do a job like this on her own, might have been part of it too.
Speaking of which, Wren felt like sighing as she watched Una trip backward over a crack in the wooden floor, landing on her butt, the beers on the trey she had been carrying flying up only to crash down after spilling all over her.
"Oh, no!" she said, absentmindedly feeling the wet front of her shirt as every eye in the establishment stared. "I'm all wet..." she said with a pout, pulling at the wet fabric that contained her bountiful breasts, unaware that it had become fairly see through. Wren moved toward the girl.
"Again, Una..." she sighed. "Come on, let's get you cleaned up."
"I'm so sorry," she said to the men she had been serving, as they stared continually at her exposed breasts, likely not caring about ever getting served. "I'll bring you more beer in a minute."
She then looked at Schaeffer who was shaking his head. "I'm sorry Mr. Schaeffer. I know I said it wouldn't happen again, but I... I-I..."
"It's okay, Una..." the man replied. "It happens. Besides, you've said it wouldn't happen again every day for as long as you worked here now..."
"R-really?" said Una, tilting her head. "I'm so sorry..."
The man shook his head but didn't say nothing more. He knew what Una did for business. Anything he lost for spilled drinks was made up entirely by increased traffic. Men had started coming in from neighboring towns after all, all to see this legendary big breasted beauty.
Wren took her coworker by the hand and lead her to the washroom in the back. They always kept a clean spare outfit in Una's size around these days, for when this sort of thing happened. It always did, so it was best to be prepared. Wren handed it to the girl as she helped her out of her wet clothes.
She stared at Una as she changed. Even as another woman, she was captivated by Una's delightfully superb body. Watching the girl undress and wipe her body dry with a rage, she could understand the men's desires.
"I really let the boss down," said Una, her face as red as her hair. "I keep dropping things. It's so embarrassing."
"I wouldn't worry about it, Una," she said. "We all love you regardless."
"I know, Wren," the girl said. "Still, sometimes I wish I weren't so clumsy."
"We all have things about ourselves we don't like," Wren said in a sorrowful voice. "There's nothing we can do about it. We just have to remember that no one is perfect."
"God is perfect. So was Semira, and so are the Angels," Una said, smiling.
"That's not true," said Wren almost instinctively.
"Wren?" Una started surprised. "Don't tell me you're starting to doubt the scripture. That's no good! Father Craddock wouldn't like to hear that."
"Ah! That's not what I meant," said Wren, realizing her error. "I can trust that God is perfect, or at least as close to perfect as you can get. And Semria was his vessel, so she surely is too. But the Angels... that's all I was speaking of..."
"Oh?" Una started, tilting her head. "I guess I heard the divinity of the Angels be questioned before..." she started. "But I don't buy it for an instant! They make the Catalysts after all! Without the Angels, humans wouldn't be able to read the Divine Word."
"Maybe you're right," Wren said, abandoning the argument. There was no point in it. She'd let it be.
"Girls! Ya almost done in there? We got lotsa customers!" Aida called out to them.
"Just a minute!" Wren called. She turned to Una, who was finishing putting on the dry clothes. When she was done, she grabbed Una by the hand and returned to the tavern.
Almost immediately, Wren was greeted with a familiar face. A handsome young man by the name of Durwin; the young town physician. He smiled at her.
"Good evening, Durwin. Care for a drink?" she asked in a soft voice.
"I come not for a drink, my dear miss, but to once again convey my purest love for you," the man said forwardly. "Your beauty is captivating, lovely Wren. I ask you to be my wife!"
Wren stared at the man. She supposed even Una's shadow couldn't hide her completely. Durwin had already proposed to her twelve times now.
"That ain't no good, Doc," said a farmhand. "Wren's going to be my wife after all."
"Not a chance, she's mine," said a young merchant.
"I come here from Colton every day," said a blacksmith from the next town over. "I think my dedication should award me Wren's hand.
Wren looked around baffled. This wasn't right. They were here for Una, not her. Right? She wasn't supposed to stand out.
"I'm flattered, you all," she said. "But I always thought it was Una here who had your eye, not I."
"Una has our eyes, but it's you who has our hearts," said the tailor.
"She's Burchard's girl. Ain't no one round here gonna dispute that, either," said a farmer.
"Yeah. Burchard's a real decent guy," said the apprentice carpenter. "We're men enough to lay off his woman. But you don't have a husband, Wren."
Wren looked down. God, men were more rational creatures then she had previously thought... How did she get out of this.
"But you're still saying that you look at her first," said Wren. "So to you, it's just a matter of convenience. I'm still second in your hearts."
"You're second to no woman in my heart, my Wren," said Durwin. Wren sighed.
Then Una stepped forward. She looked at the customers and then at Wren. She smiled. "Well all of you are out of luck, I'm afraid. Wren is going to be my wife!"
The men stared at the busty redhead questioningly. Durwin forced a smile.
"Uh... Miss Grainger. You're both women... and on top of that, you're already married..." he said.
"I know that," said Una, giving a slight but not unnoticed bounce. "It was a joke!"
The men stared in silence for a moment. The blacksmith from Colton eventually gave a pity laugh which grew in strength until many of the other men joined in. Wren smiled. Everything was at ease. She supposed she didn't mind much. Even if they did look at her, turning men down wasn't so difficult. She just would have to do it more in the future she supposed. She went to serve some more customers. But then something occurred that shocked everyone.
The door to the tavern was thrown open. A small group of four armed guardsmen stormed in. At their center was a single distinguished man in fancy clothes and hat, with a long black mustache and mid-length black hair.
"A table please!" this man demanded in a high voice.
"This one here is open," Wren started, pointing to an open table. The man and his guards at down. "I'm Wren. I'll be waiting on you today."
"No, that's no good," the man said. "The one I heard about is the other one. I want her."
"I'm sorry," said Wren. "But we don't really allow the customer to decide who waits on them."
"I heard of a legendary beauty with fire red hair, I won't settle for anything second tier," said the man. "Why should a man such as I, a man of distinguish, settle for anything less than the cream of the crop? Now, the other girl please?"
"Sir, we really don't..." Wren started tersely. Una walked over and silenced her with an hand laid gently on the shoulder.
"I don't really mind, Wren. I'll wait on them if they really want it," said Una, smiling. "Nice to meet you all, I'm Una Grainger."
"My word!" said the man as he began to eye Una up and down without shame. "She really is all that I heard... I've scant seen such a chest. And everything else is superb as well."
"Sir, this is a business," said Wren in forceful voice. "If you're not going to order, I suggest you leave."
"This one has too much of a mouth for my taste, even if by looks she's a fine consolation prize to the other," said the man. "But I suppose a mouth like that can be fun to fill."
"Ummm..." said Una. "Can I take your order... Sir?"
"Order?" the man started. "That's right. Yes, now what do you have to offer?"
"We have Miss Aida's homemade stew and meat pie. Oh and there's lots of beer too!" said Una with a nod.
"That's it?" the man said with a high laugh. "This truly is a hick town, I've come to. Disgusting commoner food. To think it's even being offered to me."
Wren looked at Schaeffer. She could see anger in the barman's face.
"Well, if you're not going to order anything, maybe you could just leave then?" said Una in a sheepish voice.
"No, there is something here I am definitely interested in," said the man.
"What's that?" said Una.
"You," the man replied, eyeing her up and down.
"I'm sorry, Sir, but I'm married," said Una, shaking her head.
"I'll pay you any sum you can name for just one night," said the man. "What will it be?"
"None," said the girl.
"You'll do it for free then?" the man started with a laugh. "That certainly works for me..."
"I won't do it at all," said Una. "I'm sorry, Sir, but no amount of money is worth being unfaithful to my husband."
About this time, Schaeffer had emerged from behind the counter and was coming toward the table.
"As the owner of this establishment, I'm going to have to ask you to leave," he said. "You insult what we offer and proposition our employees. I'm sorry, but I can't have that."
"What a silly fat piece of waste," said the man. "Do you have any idea who I am, peasant?"
"You're Viscount Greeley Ashton..." Durwin spoke, a little on edge.
"Correct," said the viscount. "This entire stinking town is in my domain. Do you know what that means?"
Before anyone could answer Ashton stood up. "It means, while you may own this run down filthy shack, peasant dog, I own you. I own this land. I own this town. If I want a jewel hidden in its stinking folds, I believe I'm entitled to it."
"I apologize, Milord," said Schaeffer clearly frustrated. " I was unaware of your identity. But I do honestly doubt this establishment has anything that will meet your tastes."
"It has this girl. She is all I want," said the viscount.
"I'm sorry, Viscount Ashton, but I will not go with you no matter what you offer," said Una.
"That's right," said Wren. "So you can stop trying."
"Commoners truly are annoying," said the noble. "And so very disrespectful. It's unsightly!" He stood up suddenly. "But I suppose I've spent enough time in this disgusting hole. I should leave before it becomes too difficult to get the stench from my clothes."
With that, the noble and his guards left. The whole of Irvyn Tavern seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. Service returned to normal. The rest of the evening went without event. Soon it was time for Wren and Una to head home.
"What a day! I can't believe, the viscount himself was so attracted to me," said Una. "I didn't like him as a person, but I am kinda flattered, you know?"
"I found nothing in that flattering," said Wren.
"I guess not," said Una with a weak laugh.
"See you two tomorrow," said Schaeffer as he awarded them their wages for the day.
"Thanks, Boss," said Wren.
"Walk Una home today, if you can Wren," said the man. "Keep her safe."
"I was thinking the same," Wren replied, nodding.
The two of them left the tavern. Una didn't live too far away, but it was still a fair walk down an empty dirt road before they reached Burchard's farm. Una was smiling softly as they walked. Wren wasn't smiling though. She knew too much to smile. She had known a man like Greeley Ashton once before. She had known a man with the mentality of a collector. A man like that wouldn't give up so easily when he set his eyes on a prize. No. This was far from over.
Wren had to protect Una. She would protect Una. She only hoped she wouldn't be pushed too far. She couldn't let everything fall apart now, after all this time. She couldn't let the true her be shown. She couldn't let Una see that side of her. But she had told the Schaeffer she'd keep her safe. She'd do that, regardless of what it took.
"What's wrong, Wren?" Una asked. "You look troubled."
"Do you remember what I said before, Una?" said Wren in a low voice. "There's a lot about myself I don't like. There's a lot I wish was different."
"But your the best friend I could ever ask for, Wren! You're so kind and sweet and cool," said Una. "I don't..."
It was then that the sound of a carriage moving down the road could be heard. Una turned back to look. Wren didn't have to look. It came to a stop. The viscount and his men disembarked.
"Oh, my, what a fun coincidence, my lovelies," Ashton started, tipping his hat, "that we should meet again on this fine night."
"We already told you, scum. Una is not interested in you! Leave us in peace!" Wren started.
"Insulting me is a criminal offense, you know, girl," said Ashton. "I could have you carted off to jail for that..."
"Then do it," said Wren, holding out her hands. "Just leave Una alone."
The man laughed as he moved in and began to stare at Wren closely "How funny. You really are a worthy addition to my collection too, now that I think about it. I'd love to see you break..." He shook his head. "But I'm afraid, I simply can't let this women be. She is far too lovely for any other man to hold!"
Wren looked and saw that two of the viscount's guards were surrounding Una. They had their hands at her wrists. She was scared. Viscount Ashton walked toward her.
"Two such beauties seldom belong in an shoddy town such as this," said the viscount. "Come with me, my dear. You'll be treated most well."
"I refuse!" said Una. "I won't leave the people I love, ever! Nothing you do or say can change that!"
The man slapped Una hard across the cheek. "Silence, ignorant whore! You are mine now! You have no choice in the matter!"
"Unhand her now!" Wren started.
"What are you going to do about it?" Ashton started harshly. "You're just another useless woman! Yet another trophy for me to claim! You have no power!"
"You're wrong," said Wren in a low voice. "Leave Una be if you value your life..."
"Value my life?" the man laughed hysterically. "What in the name of God could you ever do to me?" He continued laughing "I have no fear of a woman like you!"
And with that, Ashton's left arm extended. Her grabbed Una's left breast and began to massage it roughly. Una screamed. Wren lost control.
A second later, Greeley Ashton's hand was no longer groping Una's breast. It was on the ground, along with the attached arm. Blood poured from Ashton's shoulder where the arm had been severed. The man's eyes were wide with surprise and fear. He fell backwards, unable to deal with the pain. He screamed and flailed about on the ground for a while before going silent and still.
"Viscount!" the guardsman shouted, stunned. All four of them rushed toward Wren with their spears. A fist collided with one man's chest. His armor shattered; he collapsed and coughed blood before falling forward. Another man received a blow to the side of his helmet. He flew a startling distance; he didn't get up. Wren grabbed the spear of the third man and used it to swing the man forcefully into the other, sending both flying.
"Wren..." Una started as she watched in fear. her dearest friend had changed. Her jet black hair had changed to a bright glowing silver; her ears had become long and pointed. Beautiful black wings extended from her back.
"There is so much I hate about myself, Una..." said Wren looking down at the damage she hand done. "I had wished to never show this to you..."
Una stared ahead unmoving, speechless, captivated.
I am not who you think I am. I am a liar. I lie so much I seldom know my own truth any more. I sometimes wonder if there isn't any truth at all anymore. Maybe there isn't. There's nothing wrong with that, is there? Life is fleeting. Why not extract what pleasure from it while you can? What point is the boring old truth that so often gets in the way of that pleasure? It's selfish, I suppose, but I curse that boring truth.
But I love you. And that isn't a lie. I kind of wish it were. It would be easier if if I didn't love you. Sometimes I wonder why I do. You frustrate me. You frustrate me more than you could know. Perhaps it's because you're a simple person. You're different from me. You're honest. I don't believe I ever heard a lie leave your lips. Even as a child, when you approached me with the prospect of selling my life to a foreign government, you held nothing back. Nothing. No emotions, no words, no thoughts. Maybe that's why I went along with it so readily. At the very least, it's why I never resented you, even as I was frustrated.
In the years we were separated, I didn't care about you. I didn't think about you. Then suddenly you were in my life again. You didn't fit into my life. Not at all. You clashed with the person I had become in ways you somehow failed entirely to see. And yet I was surprised to find that I still did love you. I still do. I always will. I'll protect that love as best I can. I'll keep you close as long as I can. I'll protect you from the people who can't handle your pure truths.
But I know I can't protect it forever. I am someone who has been trained to do two things: lie and kill. But even I can't kill everyone who need to be killed. Even I can't tell every lie that needs to be told. Even love is fleeting. Just another part of our short mortal lives. But much like other simple pleasures, us dumb humans don't have much else to strive for. And so I'll keep on lying. I'll lie to them. I'll lie to you. I'll lie to myself. I'll lie to everyone. Because I'm a selfish man. Love, pleasure, cheap thrills. They are all that matter to me.
Corliss. The second largest kingdom in all of Astraeia, second only to the Maytland Empire. A strong kingdom. A proud kingdom. A kingdom hated by all others. A kingdom with no allies. A kingdom which stood boldfaced against the Semiran God and His Church. The kingdom that had set off a brutal religious war that had held Astraeia hostage for three years already. Corliss.
Royston was a sizable city in west Corliss. Arnou Grosvenour was there on business. He had work to do, and he was dedicated to his job. It was his singular greatest joy in life. He loved it. He loved it, and he was the best. There were none better then him at it. Nowhere. He was confident.
He smiled as he stared at the beautiful woman in front of him. She had long, luscious blonde hair which flowed softly a ways down her back. She wasn't too tall, and there wasn't an ounce of wasted fat on her. Her skin was the finest white and her eyes were the purest blue. She was dressed in a low cut blouse and a short skirt. Her lipstick was bright red; her nails were painted black. The finest high heeled boots adorned her feet. She was gorgeous. Perfect.
"You almost ready, Arnou! You're taking forever," a voice called to him.
That annoying woman. It would truly be a pleasure were she to just leave him alone. Arnou Grosvenour didn't need a partner. Especially not one like her. She was just bland.
But he was satisfied with what he saw, so he'd answer her call. Smiling to the gorgeous woman once more, he stepped away from the mirror and moved toward the washroom door. He opened it and stepped out.
"Whoa..." Fawne Hewney started, her eyes getting wide. "I still can't get used to it... Are you sure you're a man?"
"I can't blame you for feeling discomforted," said Arnou. "It mustn't be so easy having a man before you who is more beautiful a woman than you'll ever be."
The girl gave a growl, as her her eyebrow twitched. Fawne was just plain. Average height, average bust, average tan skin, average everything. She didn't wear makeup and she cut her hair in a short, spiky cut. It was like she didn't even try. Born a woman, but not even trying to realize what little potential she did have as one. Arnou didn't understand women like her.
"You really are hard to deal with, cross-dresser," Fawne started harshly. "Can you even call yourself a man looking like that?"
"Who's talking about being a man?" said Arnou. "I believe this mission requires a woman of me." He smiled evilly. "Unless that's your game. In which case you fail even more than you do as a woman."
"I'm not trying to be a man," said Fawne. "Women don't have to look like... well... you, you know..."
"Few women could," said Arnou. "I am virtually a Goddess."
"You narcissistic, deranged, cross-dressing freak," Fawne spouted off. "I don't even know how I tolerate you as my partner!"
"I could say the same. You bore me," said Arnou. "There are so many others out there who are more interesting. And that's in both looks and personality."
"And what's wrong with my personality," said Fawne, hitting the other over the head lightly.
Arnou rubbed the top of his head where hit. "I think you just showed that yourself... The violent, aggressive tomboy thing. No man wants that."
"Grr..." Fawne started. "Like some cross dressing weirdo knows anything about what normal men want."
"Of course I know," said Arnou in a low voice. "What they want is me."
"If that's so, I might just give up on men," said Fawne in a low voice.
"You might have better luck that way, "said Arnou, smiling. Fawne's blush deepened.
"I hate you," she said in a low voice.
"I'm not surprised," said Arnou with a laugh. "I'm better than you at all that matters."
"Not everything," said Fawne, "I have certain things at my disposal you don't."
"Are you honestly proud of those things?" said Arnou with a laugh. "They're small. Not enough for a man to do anything with."
"That isn't what I was talking about!" Fawne started, her face turning pure red.
"Oh, that then? I can't say I'm too envious of that either," said Arnou. "Having more than one hole just seems redundant to me."
"I definitely didn't mean that!" Fawne shouted, becoming yet redder.
"Oh, what then? That lame magic you do?" said Arnou with a proud laugh. "Even with it, I'm better than you thanks to my toy collection."
"If I stripped you of all that, I'd win," said Fawne curtly.
"Oh, so you want to strip me now, Fawne?" Arnou teased. "I'm sorry, but you're just not my type."
"Y-you--!" Fawne shouted, embarrassed. "Don't we have a mission to get to?"
"That's why we're here," said Arnou in a low voice. "Albern Zadoc has to die tonight."
"That's right. I can't forgive men like him," said Fawne harshly. "The Church disgusts me. King Arcellius was able to see through their sham. That men like Zadoc still think to deny this, that they still act in the shadows against the King for the sake of that sham religion sickens me. They all deserve the worst!"
"So, I'll kill him," said Arnou. "The reason isn't so important to me. It's the thrill of hunting a man, trapping him, and then pulling this trigger..."
Arnou held up the small, compact Relic worn on a belt at hist right thigh, under his skirt. It was his favorite. So light and small. Easy to conceal, even in an outfit like the one he wore.
"Just so long as your remain loyal to the king," said Fawne. "He's a great man."
"And handsome too, right?" said Arnou with a giggle.
"Yes!" Fawne squealed. Arnou sighed and gave a forced laugh. "I still hate you."
"Keep putting yourself out there Fawne, you might just get the King's attention," said Arnou, shaking his head.
"Why do I get the feeling that you're making fun of me?" said Fawne.
"Because I always am," said Arnou. "It's far too easy..."
Fawne hit the other on top of his head again. "You jerk!"
"That kind of hurts you know," said Arnou.
"So..." Fawne started, aggravated. "How are we going to do this?"
"He's meeting with the Baron in charge of this area and the mayor of Roytston, trying to win them to his cause. Probably hopes to build support for an eventual rebellion," said Arnou in a low voice. "I'll watch the meeting and see what I can find out about his plans. After that, I'll come back here. He's staying at this very Inn. I'll seduce him here. The rest should be easy."
"So what do I do?" asked Fawne.
"Supporting role," said Arnou. "Watch things. Make sure nothing goes wrong. You know, the same usual boring things you always do."
"Of course..." said Fawne.
"You want to trade places? You could seduce Zadoc," said Arnou with a laugh.
"I don't think I could," said Fawne, shaking her head.
"Of course you couldn't," said Arnou. "A body like that could seduce no man."
"Watch you're tongue or I'll mess up your makeup," Fawne started in anger.
"And jeopardize Zadoc's death? Don't you hate him?" said Arnou with a laugh. He moved to the door. "But enough fun and games. We have a mission to do."
Fawne gave a long sigh. Arnou didn't understand. He never would. That frustrated her more than anything. She looked down and blushed as the two of them left the inn carefully. They had purchased the room as man and woman; since Arnou was returning here, he couldn't be seen as a woman. Luckily, he was good at sneaking about. They found the door while no one was looking.
The Mayor's manor wasn't too far from the Inn. The two of them approached tentatively. Arnou turned to the girl as they hid behind a bush nearby. He smiled.
"Go ahead. Use the one useful spell you know," he said, as he watched. He could see the carriage surely holding Zadoc approaching.
Fawne growled and rolled her eyes. "Darkness keep the light from this man!" she said in a strong voice under her breath. "Conceal!"
Slowly, Arnou became invisible beneath the night sky.
"Thanks," he said. "It truly is a shame my beauty has to be hidden like this."
"I like you better this way," said Fawne with a laugh.
"Being liked by you isn't something I stress much about," said Arnou in a low voice. "Anyway, I'm out."
And with that, Arnou moved out into the night. No one could see him, so he just stood there in plain sight as Zadoc stepped out from his carriage. He was a handsome man in his early forties. Short black hair, cropped facial hair, distinguished eyes, an impressive build; he had been a soldier in his youth after all. Not bad at all. A round man with a beard and an aged gentleman in fancy clothes approached.
"Mayor Swinburne," Zadoc said, approaching the large man and shaking his hand.
"Albern," the man nodded. Zadoc looked at the older man.
"Thank you for agreeing to meet with us out here today, Baron Fisk," he said to the man, shaking his hand as well.
"What you wrote in your letter wasn't something I could just ignore, Lord Zadoc," said the old man. "A decorated veteran of service, a ranking noble, a man who sat beside not only his majesty but his father, speaking such words. I had to hear it out."
"Yes," said Zadoc. "But we should go inside. I don't trust the night."
"Of course, my lords, I welcome you into my home," said the Mayor.
Swinburne showed the two noblemen into his house. No one was aware that the sure footed assassin was following them in, magic concealing him from their sight. Arnou smiled as the guards closed the gate behind him. He was in. They entered the Mayor's manor. They came to an open hall.
"Please have a seat, my lords," said the Mayor, indicating some chairs around a long table. Fisk and Zadoc took their seats. Arnou stood nearby. "Would either of you like something to drink? I'll have the servants get you whatever you desire."
"No thank you," said Fisk. "I have very particular tastes."
"I'll take a glass of wine, I suppose," said Zadoc. "Whatever you have faith in."
"Right away, Albern," said the Mayor, as he nodded to one of his servants standing close.
"So, where to begin?" said Fisk. "You distrust His Majesty?"
"It's extremism. He's outlawed faith in Corliss," said Zadoc. "Say what you will of the tenets of the Holy Semiran Church, but people are hailing Justus Bancroft as a martyr on the streets of Maytland."
"Bancroft? That's the fool they executed, isn't it?" said Swinburne. "Guy had his chance at life. They caught him practicing the faith three times. Most laws you don't get so many chances to break before you're hung."
"But should having faith in a God be a crime punishable by death at all, no matter how many chances we are given before it comes to be?" said Zadoc.
"Something like the Church divides the loyalties of the subjects," said Fisk. "The faithful put the Church before the Crown. I can understand where King Arcellius is coming from."
"If this was truly about such a matter, the King could have started a new branch of the faith separate from Archerd and the Pope with him at the head. Besides Corliss was a proud nation under King Hywel and yet the people still had freedom to believe what they wanted to," said Zadoc a glass of wine was set before him. Another was set before Swinburne.
"Both true," said Fisk. "But we've grown stronger under Arcellius. Disregarding the scripture entirely allows us into the lucrative Relic trade that had previously been monopolized by the Rainier cutthroats. We've become wealthier, even through this war. No, perhaps because of this war."
"I'm not saying we should return to recognizing it as the kingdom's official religion. But persecuting those who chose to do something as harmless as offer prayers to God reeks of tyranny. You can feel the tension in the streets. They openly chant Bancroft's name in Maytland as a battle cry, but it won't be long before our own people do the same," Zadoc argued.
"Never met a noble so concerned with the common people, Albern," said Swinburne.
"You forget that Lord Zadoc is of common birth. He acquired his title through years of service," said Fisk with a nod.
"That's right," said Swinburne. "And you're going to throw away all that hard work by organizing a uprising? You seriously think that can work?"
"It might be foolish," said Zadoc. "But Arcelius rubs me the wrong way. He's so very different from his father. I don't trust him. I think he acts only for himself, lost to his subjects' desires. Something has to be done. I'll stand up to him if no one else will."
"You're an interesting man, Zadoc. Who is on your side so far?" Fisk asked tentatively. Arnou's ears became a lot more attentive. This was why he was here.
"Marquess Telford," said Zadoc, sipping at his wine.
"The Marquess?" Fisk started, surprised. "Someone like this is already on board?"
"That's right. He was close with the Hywel. He has no trust of this new king and his iron rule," said Zadoc.
"I'm skeptical," said Fisk. "But a name like Telford certainly does add weight to your words."
"And you, Mayor?" asked Zadoc.
"You're a man of charisma, Albern. For one like you, I think my city of Royston will rally," said Swinburne.
"I'm pleased to have your support," said Zadoc. "Send word when you reach a firm decision, Baron."
"I already have," said Fisk with a nod. "For all my questions, you saw me as a man to trust with this plot. And you are right, sir. I am a man firmly devoted to the people. I will join you in this."
"Excellent," said Zadoc, finishing his wine. "I am pleased to have another man of influence as my ally."
"Meetings like this probably shouldn't linger," said Swinhurne.
"Thank you again, mayor, for allowing us your home," said Zadoc, standing. "It has been a pleasure."
As the men exchanged final pleasantries, Arnou started to leave. He had heard what needed to be heard. Quietly he slipped out of the manor. He waited for Zadoc to emerge so as the gate would be open. Then he left behind the target.
He found Fawne nearby. She released her spell.
"Learn anything?" she asked.
"Telford is going to be next on the list," said Arnou.
"The Marquess is involved?!" the girl started. "You can never judge people, I suppose..."
"It doesn't matter to me. It's all just a fun game," said Arnou. "Speaking of which, a lady mustn't be late for a date. This lady has a date with Albern Zadoc that she can't put off any longer."
"But you're a guy..." Fawne said under her breath.
"You know what to do," said Arnou.
"Right," said Fawne.
The two moved quickly as Zadoc's carriage had yet to depart. They got in position a distance about halfway between the mayor's mansion and the Inn.
"I call upon you! Come to me, do as I say! Summon Familiar!" Fawne started in a strong voice. A large wolf like beast suddenly appeared. It snarled and snapped its jaws. Arnou smiled. He watched and waited. In just a few seconds, the sound of Zadoc's carriage was heard.
"Now!" he shouted. He began to run, out into the road, the beast chasing after him. He darted out in front of the carriage, which came to a halt. He feigned surprise and purposely lost footing. He fell to his rear. The beast jumped up.
Albern Zadoc effectively leapt forward, a sword in hand. He stabbed the beast in the air, and threw it back. It ran in the opposite direction.
"Are you alright, young lady?" Zadoc asked, looking down at Arnou, offering him a hand.
"Thanks to you, Mister. You saved my life," Arnou said, tilting his head and smiling, eyes opened wide, peering directly into Zadoc's.
"Helping a maiden in need is something any man who considers himself a man would do," said Zadoc. "I'm just pleased that I was in time. Monsters like that are ravenous. A maiden shouldn't travel alone at night."
"I know..." said Arnou. "But I've been traveling a long while. I hoped to finally reach my destination tonight."
"For where are you headed, Miss?" asked Zadoc. "I'd be pleased to take you there and listen to your story on the way."
"Thank you so much, kind sir," said Arnou smiling at the man. "I don't live in town. I was going to see about getting a room at the Inn actually. I believe it's close."
"What a coincidence," said the man. "I'm staying there myself."
"You don't say?" said Arnou. "But aren't you a man of noble standing? I would think you would have somewhere else to stay."
"I didn't have to. But I do like staying among the people. Perhaps it's because I'm a commoner by birth, but I believe the nobility should never become distanced from the people, else the authority of the kingdom will become meaningless," said Zadoc nodding.
"I've never heard a noble talk like that before," said Arnou smiling.
"Albern Zadoc," said the man. "I suppose I'm not a typical noble."
"You're so much more dashing, Lord Zadoc. It's enough to make a young maiden like me quiver," said Arnou, giving a blush.
"And your name, miss?" he asked smiling.
"Aimee Rodina," said Arnou. This was his character's name for the night. He was not Arnou Grosvenour, he, or rather she, was Aimee Rodina. And that's how it would be until Albern Zadoc was dead.
"Meeting you is a pleasure, Aimee," said the man. "Are you nobility? I struggle to believe it's a common beauty before my eyes."
"You're words are most flattering, Lord Zadoc," said Aimee. "I'm no such thing, I'm afraid. I'm just a common girl from Norward."
"Nothing so common about your visage, dear Aimee. Your lovelier than any girl of nobility I've seen," said Zadoc.
"Why thank you, Sir," said Aimee, flashing a charming smile.
"Why did you leave Norward, Aimee," said Zadoc in a low voice. "Did something happen?"
"Papa contracted Baumer's..." Aimee said, looking down sadly. "He was all I had left..."
"So you're all alone now then," the man spoke. "You travelled up here to escaped the memories of your loss."
"That's right..." said Aimee.
"It's dangerous to take on such a long journey all alone," said the man in a protective voice.
"I wasn't alone. I was traveling with some merchants. But then a few miles ago, one of them tried to touch me, so I decided, perhaps hastily to flee, without any of my belongings. And then just now that wolf attacked..." said Aimee in a sad voice.
"A maiden of such beauty should be careful around men she doesn't know," said Zadoc.
"I know. I was foolish," said Aimee in a low voice. "Thinking of it now, I'm not sure how I'm even going to pay for a room at the Inn. I haven't any money..."
"I have money, dear Aimee," said Zadoc. "I'll pay for your room."
Aimee's eyes went wide. "Really? You'd do that for a stranger?" she started, grabbing his arm. "I suppose true gentlemen do still exist. You save my life, offer me your carriage and even a room. I could never repay such kindness."
"I ask no repayment," said Zadoc.
Aimee hugged the man's arm to her chest. "Distinguished, charming and so handsome. You're like a prince, Lord Zadoc. I fear my heart begins to flutter in your presence."
Zadoc seemed to stiffen up. He looked at the girl. "You really are beautiful, Aimee..."
"I think maybe you could save your money tonight, Lord," said Aimee in a low voice. "I don't need my own room. I'd rather we share."
Zadoc stiffened up even more. "Aimee... I'm not..."
"Forgive me, I should have asked," said Aimee, moving back. "If I knew you were married, I never would have..."
"I'm not," said the man, flustered. "I'm just not used to... this... To young girls asking such things of me..."
"If you're uncomfortable, I'll back off," said Aimee, shaking her head and blushing. "I can be really stupid. I never should have..."
"I'm flattered, Miss," said Zadoc. "You have no need to feel shame."
"Oh?" said Aimee deviously, moving in close to the other. "So what's that mean for tonight?"
"If you're serious about it..." said Zadoc. "I wouldn't mind some company..."
Aimee wrapped her arms around Zadoc's neck and placed a kiss at his cheek. "I hope this young maiden pleases you," she whispered in his ear. Zadoc blushed and looked away. He didn't speak for a while. Soon the driver was stopping the carriage. They disembarked.
"This way, Aimee," said Zadoc, leading the girl into the Inn and then up a staircase. "This room is mine."
"Lord Zadoc," said some approaching men. They were his guards and attendants. There were four of them, including the one who had driven the cart.
"Things went well today, men," said Zadoc. "I'll be retiring to my room now."
"Who's this, my Lord?" one of them asked.
"Aimee Rodina. A fair maiden with whom my path did cross tonight," said Zadoc. "She will be sharing my room tonight."
One of the men glanced at the cart driver. This man nodded. "Our Lord saved the girl from a beast. She's a common girl. No one to worry about."
"Yes. Such a fair creature is no concern of ours," said another of the men, with jealousy in his eyes. All of them seemed jealous to an extent.
"This way, Aimee," said Zadoc, opening his door and leading her in. He closed the door behind him.
"Someone seems eager all of a sudden," Aimee giggled.
"I didn't like the way they were staring at you," said Zadoc. "I trust my men, but a beauty such as you should be protected from such stares."
"You flatter me," said Aimee. "My shining knight."
She moved toward him slowly and wrapped her arms around him again.
"Can I kiss you?" Zadoc asked, stroking the girl's hair while holding her.
"That would be lovely," said Aimee, ready. Zadoc closed in. They shared a kiss for a while, their lips pressed together softly. The contact became harder soon, less innocent. Zadoc's tongue fought it's way into Aimee's mouth. She welcomed and met it, kissing the man hotly while guiding him toward the bed, eventually sitting him down on it.
Her hand moved to the crotch of his pants. He seemed surprised by this and broke the kiss.
"Someone is already excited, it seems," said Aimee in a seductive voice as she stroked the already hard organ pressing into the man's pants.
"Someone's a lot less innocent then I imagined," Zadoc replied.
"Are you disappointed?" asked Aimee.
"Not too so," said the man. "I can't lie. I want you, Aimee."
"Then, you'll have me," said Aimee. She undid his pants and pulled them down, revealing the man's penis. It was longer then average by a bit; thick and very hard. She grabbed it and stroked it a few times. It was warm. She dropped to her knees.
"What are you..." the man started. Aimee wrapped her soft lips around the pulsing member. She took the piece in deep, allowing it to fill her entire mouth, hitting the back of her throat. Her tongue moved up and down the hard shaft again and again. She then moved up the shaft and began to lick circles around the sensitive head. She pulled off of the erection, and then licked down it all the way to the base before putting it back into her mouth.
She sucked it hard and fast, while her lips wrapped around it closely, all the while making sure her teeth never touched it. Zadoc began to let out low moans. Aimee moved up and licked the head again, lapping up the precum that had leaked out of the tip. He was really squirming now. Aimee thought about letting him release in her mouth, but she had another idea. A more fun idea. She pulled off the throbbing, hot penis, her saliva still clinging to it.
"Was that good, my lord?" she asked in an innocent voice as she moved up the bed, clinging to his leg.
"Easily, the best I've ever had," said the man, deeply excited. Aimee grabbed the organ that had just been in her mouth and began to stroke it up and down as she continued to move upward. As she did, she pulled a tiny device from a hidden fold in her dress. She thrust her tongue once more into the man's mouth as she brought the device to his neck. She jabbed it in suddenly.
"What is... What is..." the man started, realized some sort of needle had been stabbed into him. He tried to throw Aimee off. She jerked hard at the erect member in her hand, causing him to flinch. Then, soon, his energy left him.
"It's a special fast acting poison. It weakens the body's muscles," said Aimee. "Not even a big, strong man like you can overpower me now. As you are now, you'll find you haven't even the energy to manage a sufficient scream."
"Who.. who are you?" Zadoc asked. He was still hard. Aimee could hardly believe it. His life was in peril, but he was still aroused in her hand. How wonderful. The damned masochist.
"Arnou Grosvenour." And the act was done. Arnou smiled at his prey while he held his manhood tightly.
"The assassin?" said Zadoc. "But you're a woman?"
"Am I?" Arnou laughed,and pressed himself into the man, his crotch pressing onto the man's leg.
"You're..." The man was simply stunned.
"I'm not the best at my trade for nothing," Arnou giggled girlishly as he continue to stroke the man. "What I'm wondering, is why this little guy's still so hard? Don't tell me Albern Zadoc has such kinks..."
"What do you want from me?!" the man started.
"What does an assassin ever want?" Arnou asked.
"The people will rise in revolt whether I live to see it or not!" said Zadoc. "Arcellius' tyranny will not stand."
"Look, I don't really care about all that," said Arnou. "I love no king. I love no kingdom. Arcellius Dargan is as good to me as Semira's pope. "
"Then why?" the man started.
"Because I like to look into the eyes of pathetic men, helplessly cornered. I like to watch them breathe their last as I pull this trigger." Arnou raised the gun from his thigh and pointed it at the man's head.
"Monster," said the man.
"A suitable term perhaps," said Arnou with a playful smirk. "Regardless, your darling 'Aimee' desires one last kiss."
Arnou kissed the man deeply, tongue wildly flipping about the other's. All the while he accelerated his stroking of the man's penis. His hand moved fast. Soon the man was squirming again. Arnou smiled as he began to move more and more. He backed off.
"Good bye, Lord Zadoc," he said in his Aimee voice. "It was lots of fun playing with such a handsome, distinguished man. You've made this maiden very happy."
A few more strokes and the man gave a low moan and his lower body moved upward. Bang. As several streams of sticky white semen flew clean upward from the man's penis, a single metal bullet flew from another shaft: the barrel of the gun pointed at Zadoc's head. He was dead instantly. Blood splattering everywhere as the bullet pierced his skull and brain and then came out the other side.
Almost instantly, the sounds of the guardsmen shuffling to the room to check the noise could be heard. Arnou stood and ran toward the room's window. He shot the glass to break it then jumped through.
"Gentle wind, ease his descent!" a ready and waiting Fawned shouted from below. "Wind carry!"
A soft wind carried Arnou gently down to the ground below from the second story window. He nodded as he found his feet.
"Mission accomplished. Let's get out of here!" he said.
"Right," said Fawne. And the two of them began to run. Once they were a safe distance from the Inn, Fawne concealed them both with her spell.
"That one was fun to play with," said Arnou. "I rather enjoyed myself."
"Glad you had your fun..." said Fawne. "But with my concealment spell, such traps hardly seem necessary."
"You'd rob me of my greatest pleasure?" Arnou laughed. "Besides. Even when you're invisible, a man may still be on guard. But in the throes of pleasure, even the greatest man lets his guard down."
Fawne sighed. "Fine. Whatever Corliss' top assassin says."
"I need to find somewhere to change," said Arnou. "Those guardsmen will orchestrate a search for Aimee Rodina. I can't resemble her any longer." Arnou examined himself further, noting the reds stains on his blouse and the white ones on his skirt. "Besides, these clothes are dirty."
"Right," said Fawne. "Then it's back to the capital to report our findings."
"Yeah, "said Arnou. His smile fell as he thought about someone close to him. "The capital..."
A/N: End chapter 1. It was really long. I know. Most chapters won't be near as long. I wanted a chance to establish all three protagonists. I was surprised kind of that Arnou's segment was the longest by far. But I do suppose I put the most exposition in there, with that meeting; the sexual stuff added to the length too. Neither of the girls did anything sexy yet after all. Normal yaoi is not for me at all, but I like "trap" content. That's what Arnou's about. Never wrote anything like that short scene there before. It was interesting. Kinda fun. Arnou is the most sexual protagonist, so there'll be a bit more of that, but this story, like my fanficition, is still going to be mostly lesbians in the long run, if perhaps this has you worried. I enjoyed writing the first person introductory bits. They give you some little hints about the character's pasts, and were quite interesting to conceive. Overall, I had a lot of fun writing this. It flowed naturally.
Another thing to note is that I am taking character submissions for this project. If you read it, liked it and want to design a character to show up in the story at some point, I'd love that. Head to the Glorious Escapism Roleplay forum linked on my profile page and in the "Original Fiction" section you'll find a thread about this story where you can submit character ideas or just discuss the project. Or you could always submit the character by some other means if you prefer.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed and keep reading in the future. Thank you all.