Tributaries Cover In Sight, In Mind Cover Blackwood Cover

Chapter 35.3

NYX____________________________

Being with Elmiryn was like reveling in a new world filled with pleasure and delight. I’d never known that kind of release before. That kind of freedom. It was so nice that for a moment, I forgot about the fact that we were on our way to what could perhaps be our final struggle. This may sound odd, but if I could worship any part of Elmiryn’s body, it would be her tongue–not to say I didn’t love other parts of her–but ye gods, the things she could do with it…

Here in the blackwood, I somehow felt less concerned with restraining myself. The soil was soft as we had our fun. Then of course that time came to leave. I helped Elmiryn to wrap the scarf around her chest, then watched as she pulled on her pants and boots. As she dressed, she lured me into yet another one of her games.

“That isn’t true,” I argued, in response to her last comment.

She chuckled. “It is!”

“You’re just saying that because–”

“It’s true?”

“No! Because you’re being an asshat!”

“Oh ho! Someone’s getting cross, I see!”

I shot Elmiryn the most dangerous look I could manage. “Lady Picaroon, you are flirting with disaster!”

She threw her head back and put her hands on her hips. Her pants were still unbuttoned. “But disaster is my middle name!”

I raised an eyebrow at her, and the redhead scrunched her nose, blinking. “No wait–”

“I don’t cross my eyes when you’re down…there. I don’t care what you say.” I stepped close to her and fastened her pants. My eyes peered up through my bangs, my cheeks tinged pink. “And anyway, if I believed you, that would only mean I’d never want you between my legs again!”

The woman shook her head with a grin as she held my face. “Why? I think it’s cute when you do it!”

“But that’d be embarrassing!”

“Did you know that fifty percent of things that people consider embarrassing during sex actually turn out to be positively arousing?

My lips gained a hook of a smile. “Like what?”

Elmiryn shrugged. “Oh, you know. Like female ejaculation.”

“Wh-What?” My eyes turned wide.

The woman’s eyebrows rose, and of course, my cheeks had to burn a deeper color at that moment.

She leaned in with a giggle as I shied away. “Now this is interesting! You haven’t heard of a woman ejaculating?”

“How is that even possible!?” I said with a grimace.

“It’s simple. When properly stimulated, a lover can…well, have an explosive climax!” Elmiryn’s smile turned sly, “You’ve really never heard of that? Never read it in any of your countless books?”

“No…”

“Hmmm…”

I looked up at her sharply. “What’s that pondering tone for?”

She took a step back, her cerulean eyes wide with earnest. My suspicion only rose. “Oh. Nothing!” She jerked her head. “It’s been a while. We should head back. Whether Quincy and her jungle python are done, it doesn’t matter anymore. They’ve had their fun.”

My nose wrinkled as I followed the woman back the way we’d come. “Python?”

She quirked an eyebrow at me. “Yeah! Didn’t you see Hakeem’s penis?”

I sputtered, my face going red all over again. “N-No! No!! Of course I didn’t! Sweet Aelurus, why would you ask such a thing!?”

Elmiryn shrugged. “Oh. Well, it wasn’t a sea slug, let me tell you that. Sedwick was no where near as–”

I slapped my hands to my ears. “Aaah! I’m not listening!”

The warrior stopped in my path, and when I glared at her, she held up her hands a sizeable distance and mouthed, “It was this big!

I slapped at her with both my hands and stomped my feet. “Elle, stop it! I don’t want to have to think about that every time I look at him! Gods!”

She laughed and grabbed my wrists. “Nyx, don’t you ever wonder about those things?”

“Obviously, I do not!” I shot back. I gave her a small shove and she let me go. “And I was quite happy not knowing!”

“Relax! That isn’t really how big he is.”

“…Really?”

“Sure. When a man has an erection, his penis gets–OW!! Do you HAVE to bite me!?

My look was searing. “I find it’s most effective in getting you to shut the hell up.

“So mean!” Elmiryn pouted, rubbing the place on her boob where I’d bitten her. “I think I’m a bad influence on you!”

“Oh wonder of wonders! Whatever gave you that idea?” I muttered with a roll of my eyes.

When we returned to the others, Quincy and Hakeem were still getting dressed. The wizard was helping Hakeem into his chainmail, her cotton shirt and pants being the only thing she had managed to put on. Like Elmiryn and I, their color disguises, which had been solid in shade before, were now mixed. On Quincy’s shirt, notably over her breasts, I could see Hakeem’s blue handprints–which of course made me look to see if such evidence was clear on my own skin.

When they took notice of us, we stopped. No one said anything. They stared at us and we, in turn, stared at them. Quincy’s face blushed, and because she was blushing, I blushed.

Dear gods, I should’ve known how awkward this would be!

“You wanna hear something funny?” Elmiryn started, and I winced.

Oh gods, here she goes.

Warily, my eyes fixed on her sideways.

She went on, a simple grin on her face. “One second, Stanislav was sitting in front of us, puffing his weird perfume. The next, I wake up somewhere else with my clothes off! It’s just the damndest thing! It took me forever to find everything and get dressed again!”

I squinted one eye. What is she…?

“That’s odd,” Hakeem said with a pensive frown. “The same happened to me!”

Now I stared at him.

Quincy’s eyebrows rose. “Curious that I suffered the same!”

Elmiryn patted my shoulder. “I found this one curled up in the bushes like a sleeping baby!”

My eyes fluttered “You did?”

For all your wit, you can be a bit thick, can’t you? Kali grumbled.

I frowned for a moment before my eyes widened. “Ah!” I nodded emphatically and looked at them all. “That’s right! I was asleep in the…uh…” my voice trailed as the corners of my lips jerked upward. “In the bushes.”

At my lame attempt at carrying on the charade, Elmiryn snorted into a laugh, and I joined her, my stomach tightening from my combined humor and anxiety. Before I knew it, Hakeem and Quincy were laughing too, and we carried on, hysterical at the absurdity of the situation.

The laughter died as I turned to spy Lacertli scuttling out from the underbrush. “I trust we are ready to proceed?” he hissed.

My eyes narrowed at him. Did his little reptilian face hold a look of smugness, or was I just imagining it? I was tempted to ask.

But in the end, I said instead, “Aye, sir,” and knelt down with my arm held out.

The lizard god climbed up to his usual place on my shoulder, and I stood.

Good,” He said. “The devils over yonder have reached a lull in their festivities. The castle keep has quieted. Now is the time to strike!”

An idea struck me. “Sir, would it help if I slipped into the Somnium?”

Lacertli closed his eyes as he considered this idea. Quincy and Hakeem quietly rushed to finish dressing in the meantime.

At last he said, “No. The visions these beasts would visit upon thee, Nyx, is much for thy mortal mind, extraordinary as it were. Thou art safer pressing into the villainous nest unaltered.

All those warm fuzzy feelings I had before? Gone now!

“Y-Yes, sir,” I stammered. My stomach was twisting into knots.

Elmiryn brushed her knuckles down my arm. “Don’t worry, kitten. These spirits are having a party. What do people do at a party?”

I frowned “Drink?”

She shrugged, and I thought I saw the slightest tic in her right eye as she did so. “Among other things. If that’s the case, I’d imagine these spirits are not going to be super perceptive…am I wrong in thinking this?” Elmiryn directed the question at Lacertli, and it was easy to detect the note of challenge in her voice.

I tensed with a breath, my mouth turning into a hard line, but when I exhaled, the fight seemed to go out of me. I don’t know that it was resignation. If anything, I found myself accepting the fact that–given how Elmiryn normally was in situations like these–she was actually behaving herself. Quite a bit. So what use was there in picking a fight?

Lacertli didn’t really seem to care, at any rate.

Thou art correct, Elmiryn,” was all that he said in response.

Her eyebrow went up at that, and with a shake of her head, she walked away. I watched her go, my brows pressed together in concern.

I wanted Elmiryn to be human. Her fae nature created a rift between the ordered world we all lived in, and while I was still capable of understanding her roundabout logic, it was with the acute awareness that no one else did. What would happen the day that I ceased to understand her? Would that ever happen? We connected on so many different levels, but since meeting her, I’d seen Elmiryn change. Her whimsical humor was dying, being replaced by something thorny and bitter. Her need to be acknowledged, to feel useful, to be important–and by powers that challenged simple definition, no less–was becoming ever more extreme.

But perhaps it was this last fact that still gave me hope. It was my feeling that Elmiryn wanted the universe to acknowledge her existence. Not society–but nature itself. She needed have a place in some greater order, and while her ambitions begged a place higher up amongst the stars, I believed she could find that place if she searched hard enough. It stemmed from the human part inside of her, the one that still believed in the world of the gods and their universal laws. If I could find a way to take that part of her and put it to my advantage, I might be able to save Elmiryn. But she had to overcome some obstacles first. Accepting Lacertli was one of them. Her search for fault in him would be tiresome, surely, but her frustration at his refusal to rise to her baiting seemed just the treatment she needed. Maybe the lizard god could change her opinion.

There was no doubt in my mind that the warrior had somehow convinced herself that the gods deserved her hatred–and the terrible thing was that I feared some of her loathing was justified.

Artemis potentially had another enemy in me, after some of the things the warrior told me.

Laying with Elmiryn, I had a chance to quiz her about the strange scratches on her back. The story came hard, and the troubling part was that the woman still refused to divulge all the details, but in short, the Wolf Mother had attacked her.

“She’s…hunting me,” Elmiryn had said. “This is a game to her, Nyx. I’m the prey.

“This can’t stand, Elle! It isn’t right! She has no reason to harass you like this!”

“Careful kitten, gods have long ears…”

“I don’t care!” And it terrified me, but I didn’t. “Maybe…M-Maybe Lacertli can do something!?”

“Right, because I like that about as much as Artemis stalking my ass…”

“I’m serious!! The gods stay out of mortal affairs for a reason–if Artemis were pursuing you to right some wrong against her people, she would be threatening divine balances as set forth by the God King! Even I know that!”

“You’re ignoring the fact that I could’ve challenged Artemis personally, Nyx.”

My heart skipped a beat. “You mean…you mean when you went unconscious?”

She had nodded, a pondering look on her face. “I defied her. And I survived. Or was it something else…?”

“Elle?”

“I feel like it’s on the tip of my tongue, but it just won’t come to me…

“Maybe you aren’t supposed to remember?”

The look on her face had caused a shiver down my spine. “That only makes me want to remember more.

There, in our little spot in the blackwood, I gazed at Elmiryn’s tightened back and wished for simpler days.

“Well, we’re ready.” Quincy said, giving Hakeem’s armored shoulder a pat.

I blinked. Ah…I drifted off.

“If there’s nothing else, then we should get going,” Hakeem said next. I could see his arms flex, and his chainmail seemed to flare with life for a moment before returning to its newly acquired shade of blue.

I looked to Elmiryn. She looked at me. I gave a stiff jerk of a nod, and she returned it. I can’t say for certain, but it felt as though she were trying to speak to me with her gaze. To reassure me? Instill me with courage?

Either way, the warmth in my chest was undeniable. and my back straightened.

Elle, I won’t let anything happen to you! I swear my LIFE on it!

The woman drew her sword and gave it one twirl in her hand. Looking at Lacertli, then the wizards, she turned and stalked off toward the open field.

“Let’s go kill us a witch!” I heard her cry.

Taking a breath, I followed with the others, and that terrible sight blossomed before us yet again.

There was the castle keep atop its hill, and in the field below it was the field of evil spirits. They were just as terrifying as before. The trampled grass and soil seemed an unhealthy green and purple color from the slime and refuse that was spewed and ejected. Amidst the ruckus of laughter, I could hear screaming, and my heart chilled. I wouldn’t put it past these devils to have a live mortal snack to enjoy between their other depravities.

As a group, we moved forward into this frothing nightmare. The blood, and bones, and bodily fluid rivaled even that of the Albian daesce, and I had to fight to keep from retching. The air was sharp and acrid–like singed hair–and my eyes watered. I wanted to grab Elmiryn’s hand, but Kali held me back, and her voice came in a low growl within.

No! These spirits know nothing of love! How do you think they’ll react if they see you doing something as simple as holding hands?

Swallowing down my protests, I relaxed my hand at my side.

Glancing at the others, I saw that Hakeem and Quincy were staying rather frosty. Neither’s expression gave anything away. They even seemed unaware of what was going on.

Meanwhile, I was fighting hard not to piss myself again.

Up ahead, Elmiryn was at a brisk trot. I could see her shoulders were hitched up a degree, but like the wizards, she made no show of noticing anything around her.

Inwardly, I sighed. I was going to have to toughen up if I wanted to make it out of the Other Place. What sort of merciful sight was I expecting when we encountered Syria, anyway? Tea and biscuits?

And so, with a rigid body and stiff neck, I managed to keep walking. A good thing, too, because if I kept focusing on the horribleness, I would’ve turned and fled screaming like a fool.

…Or maybe when the giant flesh demon–with its exposed muscle tissue and bloody veins–keeled over right onto our path.

The real trouble wasn’t that the thing was blocking our way. After all, we only needed to walk around him if that were the case. But that wasn’t the case. For when the flesh demon fell, his six eyes blinking stupidly, he had knocked into a thick serpentine creature with shark-like teeth. The monster turned to attack when he knocked into another spirit, and well…the misfortune just kept chaining on and on, until–like a classic bar room brawl–we were suddenly in the middle of one very dangerous battle.

I yelped, leaping to the side as a hairy beast without a face nearly trampled me to death.

I looked to my shoulder. Naturally, Lacertli was gone. What appeared there instead was a large black hand, and I followed it to see Hakeem’s face staring intensely into mine.

Ikati, we have to run!” he shouted.

Without waiting for me to respond or even react, the Fanaean pulled me after him, and we dodged through the long legs of what at first appeared to be a crane, but then turned out to be some nebulous of energy. I could see Quincy up ahead of us, her staff held before her as she evaded the fighting of the spirits.

It was about this time that I realized I couldn’t see Elmiryn.

“Elmiryn!?” my head twisted just in time to see what looked like a pack of carnivorous worms devour a very fat and sweaty man with one eye. “Elle, where are–

My words were cut short as a long purple tentacle punched me hard in the gut, effectively ripping me out of Hakeem’s grip. When I hit the ground, it was to find three tall men stop to peer down at me. It only took me another second of inspection to realize, however, that these “men” had bat-like ears, blood-red eyes, and unnaturally waxy skin. In unison, they tilted their head to the side, and again, in unison they smiled down at me.

When they spoke, it was with each spirit saying a single word in a fluid sentence. “What–have–we–here? A–tasty–mortal–trying–to–disguise–as–one–of–us?” They laughed, and just as before, it was in unison. The terror in my heart escalated, and I tried to rise.

One of the three spirit men slammed a pointed boot into my shoulder, making me scream. Their touch made me feel as though fire had erupted across my skin.

“Ah–ah–ah–little–trickster! We–aren’t–done–with–you–yet…”

I squeezed my eyes shut, willing the shadows to take me…only to find that the shadows resisted my commands. Just as the terror reached its apex in my heart, a fierce cry ripped through the chaos in the air.

Kyaaah!

My eyes snapped open just as the three spirits were blasted away by what appeared to be an invisible force. Stunned, I stayed there, trying to calm my heart, when Hakeem appeared over me. His chainmail armor had changed to the smooth black armor with arrow-designs I’d seen him wear in our fight against Syria. Grabbing my hand in his cold gauntlets, I could feel the power rolling off of it in thick waves, and my hair stood on end. He said nothing as he pulled me to my feet, let go, and took off at a run towards the castle keep. Startled, I followed him, my thanks dying on my lips. What was I thinking? We had no time to stop and chat–not with our lives still at risk.

The brawl between the spirits raged on, and in the confusion we managed to slip by the spirits at the edge of the field, who seemed taken in by the violence happening closer at the center.

Before I knew it, we were at the steps leading to the castle keep.

We rounded the hill, to better hide from the attention of the spirits in case any looked our way. For a long time, none of us spoke. All that could be heard was hard breathing. Finally, when my heart had quieted to a more reasonable pace and enough breath had returned to my lungs, I straightened and asked, “Where…is Elle?”

Just as Quincy and Hakeem shrugged at me, a voice sounded behind us, making us jump.

“I’m right here, kitten!”

I whirled on the spot, my face breaking out in a huge grin. “Elmir–” My grin waned. “–ryn…”

Clutched in the woman’s other hand was a massive gourd, and this she raised to her mouth for a long deep drink. My face tightened. I didn’t need to guess what she was imbibing.

After an especially long pull, Elmiryn lowered the gourd and wiped at her mouth. With a great sigh of satisfaction, she cried, “Now I’m ready to–” her eye twitched. She paused, then slapped a hand to her face. “Fuck, I forgot I can’t wink anymore!”

“Because that’s what’s really the issue here…” Quincy muttered behind me, and I found myself silently agreeing.


Back to Chapter 35.2 | Forward to Chapter 36.1

Chapter 35.2

NSFW Warning!

Advisory: NC-17 content. Click to expand. »

ELMIRYN________________________

Elmiryn had originally wanted Quincy to take her clothes off for what she intended, just to get a good look at all those delightful things that so few had witnessed. The idea only just came to her. It was a basic human desire, to fulfill one’s wants, and being a creature of many wants, the warrior couldn’t help but traipse her thoughts along the old avenues of promiscuity. It had been days since she had last been with Nyx, and it seemed like it would be days until they could be together like that again. This drove the woman crazy.

So she told herself to want others was natural, and if she ignored the fact that Quincy got on her nerves half the time, she found it was easy to fantasize. But when time came to bring up her brilliant idea, her gaze happened on Nyx, and without warning the woman suddenly felt robbed of her tongue. A nettled feeling entered her chest, and the others gazed at her curiously. Opting to stall for time, the woman held up a hand.

“Just one sec. Let me get what I need.” Then after a thought, she added. “I promise it won’t do anything bad!”

The curious looks turned to wary ones as Elmiryn turned and ventured into the shadows of the black trees.

Since she had colored herself in different lights, the warrior had been continually fascinated by the way her glow seemed to die upon the dark nature around her. It colored the ground, and it colored the dark mauve leaves, but the tree bark was a void of all light, tricking her mind into thinking the trees were doorways to another place.

Another place, than the Other Place. Hah!

But her humor quickly faded as she set to work, carefully extracting the color from deep within the trees’ wood. They wafted through the air, and collected into a ball of light as they mixed. Remembering Bronislav’s anger, Elmiryn tried to spread her harvesting to leave each tree with what she thought was enough light. Blues, greens, yellows, and oranges…So many colors.

Ah. There was red.

In her studies as a youth, Elmiryn had learned that red was the lowest spectrum of light. That was why astronomers and theater halls used enchanted embers to emit a soft glow. She thought it was funny that a color meant to represent romantic passion was actually the weakest of its ilk.

Just goes to show you how dim love is, she thought with a roll of her eyes.

Back at the Lycan village, Elmiryn had decided to let her relationship with Nyx stand on its own, without design or criticism. As if to spare herself from deepening questions, she’d just think of making love to Nyx instead. Even if it left her wanting, the warrior was better accustomed to sexual frustration than matters of the heart. Elmiryn had no real wish of being monogamous, and the Ailuran didn’t seem to have any expectation for her to be.

…So then why did that fact bother her?

And why am I getting nervous whenever I act like myself? It’s getting annoying! If Nyx really understands as much as she says she does, then what’s the big deal? This is what I do!

Elmiryn’s fist clenched tight, and the light on her skin pulsed. The color she was extracting from a tree flowed a little too quickly, and she hurriedly pushed some of it back.

She shook her head as she chastised herself. What am I doing? This isn’t the time to sit whining about my love life.

And with a stiff nod, the warrior drew the ball of light she had collected and returned to the others. Nyx was staring at her feet, preoccupied. Stanislav busied himself with inspecting the area. Hakeem now wore his chainmail shirt again, as well as a new pair of impromptu shorts which had been fashioned from the scraps his wife had collected from Bronislav’s rags. It made her wonder why Nyx still lacked clothing. Then the woman wondered why she was wondering about something so wonderful to begin with.

Quincy stared as the redhead approached, her eyes lingering momentarily on the orb of light Elmiryn held. Her arms crossed high over her chest. “It’s almost unfathomable how strange you’ve become since we’ve met,” the wizard muttered.

Elmiryn quirked an eyebrow as she extracted Quincy’s favorite color: Green.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I mean…that.” Quincy pointed as Elmiryn approached with the light in her hands. “This thing you do, where you mess with the elements–and not the normal elements, but the elements of elements! Minerals, gases, soul energy, light…When I first met you, the sword was your only weapon! But now…?”

Elmiryn shook her head. “My sword will always be my weapon. This fae stuff is just useful because of where we are! Here, hold out your arm. I’m going to test this.”

“This isn’t permanent, is it?”

The warrior smiled wickedly. “We’ll just have to see now won’t we?” And before the other woman could stop her, Elmiryn smeared the green light all down Quincy’s arm.

She laughed as the wizard squealed, and held up the green orb of light. “Here, just take it! You can spread it yourself! I wanted to make sure it would go on right.”

Quincy blinked at her. “I can…take it?” Elmiryn raised an eyebrow and shoved the orb at her. The other woman let out a gasp as her hands held the light to her chest. “This is amazing!” the wizard breathed.

“Actually, I’m pretty sure us holding the light isn’t a fae thing. I think we could always do it. I just needed my power to get the light out to begin with.” The warrior started to give everyone their colors.

When everyone was ready, she nodded in satisfaction. “Looks good!”

“What are you talking about?” Nyx despaired as she stared down at her yellow skin. “I look like a fruit!”

“Mmm…looks like something I could eat,” Elmiryn purred.

The girl sputtered and the warrior ducked as Quincy swung her staff at her.

“Knock it off!” the brunette snapped. She was glowing entirely in green light.

Elmiryn just laughed. “You’re all so sensitive!”

“I’m sick of your perversions, is what I am!” the other woman huffed. “I’m surprised you didn’t try for something more!”

I almost did… Elmiryn thought with a sober grin. Her eyes trailed to Nyx again, and she took a breath.

The Ailuran may have complained that she looked like a fruit, but to Elmiryn, the girl looked nothing short of brilliant. Her slim taut body radiated warmth, and it reminded the warrior of the suns in the sky. And given the warmth she’d felt whilst nestled in the youth’s bosom, Elmiryn was ready to bet that the Ailuran held a shard of Ortus in her heart. How else would the girl feel so amazing? What was more–with her beauty naked and free, the warrior found her mind burning with thoughts of Nyx in passionate throes. Her throat tightened. Her sex pulsed.

Elmiryn grinned ruefully and knuckled her eyes. Gods, I need to get laid…

Hakeem spoke. “Now we’re all dressed, so to speak. Is this really enough for us to slip by?” His skin was colored in a soft blue.

“Aesutan was said to have done this, so I don’t see how we can’t,” the warrior said with a shrug. “I mean, how many humans come here and think to disguise themselves in light, anyhow?”

“Appearance-wise, we might just make the cut,” Quincy murmured. “But there’s one thing we’re forgetting.”

Elmiryn blinked. “What’s that?”

“Our scent!” Nyx cried out, her eyebrows going high.

Quincy snapped her fingers with a tilt of her head. “Exactly.”

“Oooh…” Elmiryn nodded slowly. “That’s right. Aesutan didn’t just look different, he smelled different too. From his time with the Lycans.”

His orgy with them, to be precise,” Lacertli chipped in. “Their musk was powerful.

Nyx blushed through her lemony glow. “But sir, I’m the only non-human here besides Stanislav!”

Aye. This is true.

The Ailuran stared, aghast.

“Well, Nyx. You heard the god,” Elmiryn’s hands made as if to drop her pants when Quincy whacked her on the head with her staff. The redhead clutched it with both hands. “Ow! I was JOKING, wizard! Fuck!

“Look,” Quincy said as she ignored Elmiryn’s raging. “I simply will not do Nyx to get past those spirits!”

“I wouldn’t let you even if you wanted to!” Nyx snapped, her blush deepening. “Can we talk about something else? Please?

Hakeem’s deep voice followed this request smoothly. “Lacertli, if I may?” The lizard-god looked at the Fanaean, and he continued. “May Stanislav not help us in some way?”

Lacertli flashed a reptilian smile. “Aye. He may.

Nyx fixed the god with a scandalized look. “Sir, why didn’t you say that to begin with??”

Because you didn’t ask,” was the short reply.

“Stanislav?” Quincy called.

The young leshy spirit had ventured some back the way they had come, his strange hands poking at the dirt like he were meaning to plant seeds in these places. At the sound of his name, his leafy head popped up, and he came waddling back.

“Yes?” He asked mildly.

“Can you douse us in some scent or fragrance that would mask our human odor?”

“Hey, hey,” Elmiryn interjected. “I don’t have an odor. I have a scintillating musk.”

“Is that what that stench is?” Quincy returned.

Before the warrior could shoot off a come back, Stanislav spoke. “Oh, yes! If you wish it, I can make you smell quite sweet! But it might be a bit much for your noses. This scent is quite strong. Are you sure you still want it?”

Elmiryn sidled up to Nyx. Out of the corner of her mouth, she murmured, “Hey, you know I’m still up for trying that other idea–”

“That sounds great, Stanislav,” Nyx said loudly. She spared a quick glare before going to the nature spirit.

The warrior pouted after her. Something told me I shouldn’t have made that into a joke earlier…now Nyx is cross with me!

Dragging her feet some, the woman stopped next to the others. “So what are you going to do?” She asked the leshy.

“This!”

Stanislav took a deep breath, his small chest expanding. Then when his face had turned a darker hue, he exhaled in a great rush of air.

Elmiryn’s nose filled with a sweet, deep scent. It was familiar, but so potent she had to sort her memories just to name it. Then her eyes fluttered.

“That’s…jasmine?” The air seemed to turn warm around her, and her skin flushed. She grinned. “Mmm, I like that!”

Hakeem let out an appreciative sound, and Quincy smiled at him.

“There! Have I done well?” Stanislav asked, rubbing his hands together.

Lacertli chuckled as he peered into Nyx’s smiling face. “Aye. Thou hast done well, Stanislav.” He nodded at the leshy.“These braves can take things from here. Thou shalt find a safe place to hide until this matter is dealt with. Thou art still too young to face such a threat as they face.

The nature spirit gave a bow. “Then I wish you all the best of luck! Goodbye, and thank you!” And with a quick turn, he vanished amongst the trees, his vine-like arms swinging along the branches.

Elmiryn watched him go, her eyes at half-mast. Her breathing had turned steady. Her hands, which had started their usual shaking from withdrawal, seemed to calm at her sides. “What was he talking about? This scent isn’t so bad.”

“No, it isn’t,” Quincy murmured. Her eyes were glazed. “I actually quite like it!”

The warrior looked to Nyx next. The girls eyes were closed and she stood swaying on the spot. “Nyx?”

When she touched the girl’s arm, the Ailuran gave a start and looked at her. Elmiryn’s breath caught as their eyes met. “Nyx…”

“Yes?” Was the whispered reply.

“Are you all right?”

“I feel fine. A little dozy, I suppose.”

The warrior frowned when she realized their speech had slowed. “O-kay. Maybe Stanislav was right about–” She broke off when she saw Quincy and Hakeem in arms, their lips locked in a passionate kiss. She blinked, mouth open. “Uh…”

“Elmiryn?”

Elmiryn turned her head just in time to see Lacertli slip off the Ailuran’s shoulder. She stared after him as he scuttled into the brush. “Hey, where are you–?”

“Elmiryn!”

Her eyes snapped onto Nyx’s. The girl’s eyes stared past the warrior at Quincy and Hakeem. “M-Maybe we should go…”

“Why?” The warrior followed where she was looking and gave a start.

Now Hakeem had Quincy up against a tree, her legs wrapped around him, his hands on her jerkin. He was loosening the ties, freeing her breasts…

Elmiryn’s eyes popped. “Woah!” Then she grinned slowly. “Wow! Those two are completely gone!

She felt Nyx’s hand pull at her. “Elle, come on!”

The warrior pouted at her. “Aw, but–” her voice stopped as she took in Nyx’s earnest face and her perky bosom, all pressed up as her arms squeezed close to her body. With effort, she focused her eyes back on the girl’s face. “Kitten, somehow I don’t think they care where we are.”

“But I do!” was the desperate reply, and Elmiryn let the girl lead her away, to a place apart.

When they stopped, Nyx fell to her knees, her breathing deep and shaky. The warrior swallowed as she took in the sight of the girl’s naked body curled and glowing like a work of art. Smooth. Gracious. Vulnerable.

“It’s the scent…” Elmiryn panted, feeling the pit of her stomach tighten along with her throat. “That’s what Stanislav was trying to tell us!”

“I know!” Nyx said in a breathy whine.

“How long do you think this effect lasts?”

“I–I don’t know!”

They both gave a start as Quincy’s cry carried through the trees, high and passionate. Elmiryn’s eyes widened. “Damn! Who on Halward’s plane would have thought we’d be here like this?”

When Nyx didn’t respond, the warrior turned to look at her, and her breathing hitched.

With her hands, the youth touched her breasts, slowly kneading them, her breath coming in uneven gasps past her lips. Her dark nipples perked as her fingers brushed them, her palms pushing at the soft flesh. Elmiryn went to stand over her, her mouth suddenly dry, and the Ailuran looked up, her eyes lidded. With a slow hand, she reached up and pulled the redhead down with her, and the older woman knelt, her throat moving in a tight swallow.

Stiffly, she whispered, “Nyx…I don’t need some weird scent to tell me how much I want you. How much I’ve been wanting you.”

The girl fixed the woman with a shy look. “Kiss me, then…” she breathed.

And Elmiryn did, her lips crashing against Nyx’s, her heart doing a somersault in her chest as she fumbled to undo her belt, the girl’s hands helping her. Soon, with the hated belt gone, the redhead pressed forward so that her partner was under her.

Is this real? she wondered as her lips moved against her lover’s. Or is this all just Stanislav’s magic?

Their tongues met, and Elmiryn groaned, her hips grinding into Nyx’s as the girl’s taste filled her mouth. All the while the scent of jasmine swirled in her senses. Her hands snaked between them, and she marveled at how soft Nyx’s breasts were. Her fingers squeezed and the girl’s back arched into her.

Why do I care? Elmiryn wondered as she broke their kiss and let her mouth lay a wet trail to the girl’s neck. This is wonderful. This is just what I wanted. She smiled as she felt the girl whimper in her throat–that precious birthplace of Words and Meaning.

No. This is everything I wanted. This is who I am.

In a quick roll, the woman kicked her boots off with her feet whilst her hands moved to slip off her pants. Nyx, with an air of impatience, helped by grabbing her pant legs and giving a strong yank. Elmiryn laughed.

And Nyx DOES understand. Look at her. Look at US.

Tugging off the last bit of clothing–the scarf Elmiryn had been using for her chest–the process was complete. Now the warrior’s skin, in all her desire, was free to feel Nyx.

And gods, to feel her!

Elmiryn moaned when the girl straddled her and leaned down for a kiss. Their nipples brushed, making the redhead shiver in pleasure. The tight pit in her stomach was near unbearable now. She wanted Nyx. All of her sweet flesh that burned and trembled at her touch. The bright sunny glow that dressed her skin mixed with the colors on the woman’s to blend and create odd designs as their hands roamed.

The warrior hugged the girl as she sat them up, and Nyx’s legs wrapped around her waist. She could feel her sex rub against the girl’s and she sighed.

This was bliss. This was one of the greatest pleasures in life. What was wrong with wanting this? What was wrong in keeping love simple? It was all Elmiryn ever wanted. For her life to be simple. Straightforward.

Who cares if this isn’t real?

But as soon as the thought hit her, the warrior’s lips and hands stilled.

…This…isn’t real?

Her eyes flew open.

Nyx stopped at her partner’s hesitance, her foggy eyes blinking as she pulled back. “Elle? What is it?” She asked breathlessly.

“We shouldn’t do this…” Elmiryn murmured, her face drawn up in tense conflict.

What the hell am I saying?

“I–I mean…” Her voice trailed and she looked at Nyx, at a loss. “I don’t know. I don’t know about this, Nyx.”

The Ailuran frowned and held the woman’s face. “What don’t you know about?”

Elmiryn couldn’t look into her eyes at first. Her chest had become tight, and for entirely different reasons than before. But when Nyx kissed her cheek, the woman’s face turned just enough to catch the girl’s eye. The Ailuran’s gaze had cleared some, and in her eyes’ tawny depths was concern.

“Elle, talk to me,” she pleaded.

“This isn’t us, is it?” The woman answered quietly. The tension in her chest pulled down until she felt it sit heavy in her abdomen. “This…craziness. It’s all just from Stanislav’s scent. And when it goes? What will this mean? Nothing. Absolutely nothing, because neither of us were in our right minds.” She bowed her head. “I thought I’d be okay with that. But I’m not. I’m just…I’m not, Nyx. What if you regret it? Where will that put us then? I mean–Fuck, I don’t know what I mean…”

Elmiryn scowled and turned her face once more.

Damn it. I’ve ruined everything. When did I get so twisted up about things like this? It all could’ve been so easy!

Nyx pulled her into a hug. The warrior blinked, but let her arms encircle the girl. Even in her anxiety, she felt a stirring at their bodies so close together. The Ailuran felt warm. Soft.

“Jasmines…” the girl murmured. “That’s what the scent reminds me of. Jasmines.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s very nice, isn’t it?”

Elmiryn’s frown twitched and she rested her chin on the girl’s shoulder. “I guess.”

Nyx laughed, making the warrior sit up again in surprise. Her lover pulled back just enough so that she could see the smile on her face. “What else can you smell?”

This question confused the older woman. She blinked as she gave a quick whiff. “I can smell…the grass? The dirt? The trees?”

“Could you smell those things before?”

“Huh?” Elmiryn’s eyes squinted.

Nyx rolled her eyes and gave the woman’s shoulders a small shake. “Go on! Could you smell these things before?”

The warrior’s frown deepened as she thought. “I…” she blinked, and slowly shook her head. “No.”

Nyx giggled, “Neither could I!”

“All I could smell was jasmine,” Elmiryn mumbled. Her eyes widened, and a grin appeared on her face. “All I could smell was jasmine!

Nyx reached around and tugged at the woman’s hair tie. Her red locks spilled free over her back, and the girl sighed as she ran a hand through it. “You wanna know what I can sense now?”

“What’s that?”

The Ailuran gently pulled forth a lock of hair and pressed it to her nose. Breathing in deep, she giggled. “Your scintillating musk!”

It took a moment for the joke to sink, and when it did, neither of them could stop laughing. Then, with sudden passion, Nyx kissed Elmiryn, her hands tangling in the woman’s hair. Their tongues fought one another, fast and furious, and when they broke for air, the girl gripped the redhead’s hair and forced her head back.

Panting into her open mouth, she hissed, “And for the record, Elmiryn, I never regret anything when it comes to you!”

That did it.

With a growl, Elmiryn pulled Nyx off of her, their bodies spinning so that she was yet again on top. The girl raised herself onto her elbows, her eyes bright with lust as the woman dipped down to suckle at her right breast. She could feel the girl’s skin raise in gooseflesh beneath her fingertips, and her lips quirked upward as the girl arched into her mouth. Holding Nyx’s body to her with one arm, the woman placed her other on the ground for support as she shifted her leg between the Ailuran’s. When her pelvis was against the girl’s the woman ground into her, and her body seized with the explosive pleasure her clitoris felt. It speared down her thighs, up to her breasts, and into her mind.

Nyx seemed similarly possessed, as her grip on the woman’s hip and hair tightened.

“Elle, oh gods!

Elmiryn couldn’t bring herself to speak, her passion stealing her breath away as she rocked her hips into the girl’s, again and again, the pleasure and elation she felt building within her. She straightened, gasping, and Nyx lay back, her head rocking into the ground as their sexes met and their essence mixed, wet and warm and singular. She moaned, her hands planting at either side of Nyx’s head as she ground into her, shuddering, her eyes rolling into her head.

This is…amazing.

She gave a small cry as Nyx began to match the woman’s rhythm, and she shifted back as the girl turned to her side, her body propped by one elbow, her hair spilling into her warm eyes. Now they both worked into one another, a synchronized match. Elmiryn watched, fascinated, as the girl’s teeth bared, and fangs showed. When she blinked next, her eyes were slitted. For a split second, the woman paused, wondering if it were really still Nyx, but when the girl spoke again, the doubt fled her mind.

“Don’t stop!” she bit out, her features tight. “Please!

And Elmiryn listened, her eyes closing as she gave into the steady sensations that made her groan with pleasure. They went like that for a time, lost in one another.

Then without thinking, the warrior moaned and whispered, “Halward, help me!” before her climax rocked through her, hard and rolling. She rode the waves of pleasure, her hips still moving, her lips spreading in a delirious smile, and within a few moments, she heard Nyx follow, the girl’s body seizing as her orgasm came.

Spent, the woman laid back onto the ground. She chuckled out, “Nyx…you are heaven.

Nyx only laughed.

Their legs remained tangled as they lay there, trying to recollect themselves. Elmiryn wiped the sweat from her brow. “Hey…”

“Hmmm?” Nyx sounded sleepy.

“Do you think the others are done?”

They heard a deep groan, followed by a cry of passion.

“M-Maybe we should wait here a moment…” Nyx stammered.

Elmiryn sat up, a leering grin on her face. “Why just sit and wait?”

Nyx sat up as well, her eyebrows raised as a smile spread her lips.


Back to Chapter 35.1 | Forward to Chapter 35.3

Chapter 35.1

NYX____________________________

The situation was seized when Hakeem and I restrained Bronislav. The nature spirit seemed almost skeletal now, with his cheeks and eyes sunken in, and his grassy hair hanging limp and colorless. Without his well of energy to draw from, the spirit withered further, even as I tied some of the rope Quincy lent me around his chest, arms, and legs. Elmiryn recovered last from the lightning blast, and she was none too happy about it.

“The fuck was that…?” She slurred, her body still trying to keep itself steady even as she knelt on the ground.

“Lightning. From Quincy’s staff,” I answered as I crouched by her. “Are you okay?”

She looked at me, her face still twitching on a minute level, and I could see in her eyes just how much charity she was going to spare anyone who so much as pushed her a little bit. “No, kitten. I am not.”

Her head turned and she fixed her irate stare on Quincy, who was, at the present moment, happily cutting away at Bronislav’s meager clothing.

Quincy,” Elmiryn said in that iron voice that made my heart jump. “Do you make a point of not giving a shit about the people around you, or are you just that thick?

The wizard paused in her work, scraps of cloth in her hand as she slowly met the warrior’s gaze. “It was an accident. I wasn’t thinking.”

“So that makes it okay?”

“I’m sorry, all right? Hakeem was in danger!”

“You didn’t even know in what capacity, and yet you were just fine with blasting Nyx and me with your hocus pocus, huh?”

“When a god says my husband could die, I listen.”

“You’re eager to see our pact over aren’t you? You want me to draw on you now, you fucking klutz!?”

“Why are you yelling at me? I already told you, I didn’t mean–”

“The fuck with what you didn’t mean, you could’ve killed us!” Then suddenly Elmiryn pitched forward, clutching at her chest. “Nrrrgh!”

I grabbed her around the shoulders. “Elle? What is it!?”

Her heart,” Lacertli hissed in my ear.

I looked at him. Since the start of the fight, I’d forgotten he was even there. Or…no. Perhaps not forgotten. Because it hadn’t felt like he was there. It were as though he vanished, then reappeared, right back onto my shoulder. I suppose even a god doesn’t care to be struck with lightning, then thrown to the ground.

“He’s right,” Hakeem said over us. I looked over at him next.

The Fanaean wizard was sitting on the forest floor, patiently waiting for his wife to finish her work with the cloth scraps so that he could cover his naked body. While he sat loosely holding his knees, he made no greater attempt at concealing himself. In strange turns, his lack of humiliation made the situation less mortifying, and I was able to look at his face without blushing too much. If I could trick my mind into believing it, then Hakeem would be like any Ailuran male before or after a transformation.

That thought made me feel a lot better.

“Elmiryn’s heart has been through a lot recently, Nyx,” the man said. “Between her confrontation with Artemis, and her recent binge drinking, I’m afraid the risk of dying from heart failure is much greater now.” His face, now once more an adult’s, no longer conspicuously displayed his emotions. But I had grown accustomed to his features enough to suspect a hint of apology in his countenance.

“So the lightning…” I breathed.

“She should be careful,” he finished with a nod.

“What are you two saying?” Elmiryn snapped.

She shifted and raised her head, forcing me to pull away. Her face was tight with discomfort, but her bright eyes shone with determination. I wasn’t sure of it, but the colors that draped her skin seemed to glow brighter somehow.

“I can’t take it easy. Who the hell can take it easy in a place like this? We’re about to come to a swarm of monsters, and you want me to take it easy? Should I lay down for a massage, too?”

My eyes narrowed. “Elmiryn why do you insist on pushing things so far?”

“Pushing things how far? To where it needs to go? For all we know Syria could be right around the corner, and damned if I’m just gonna sit on my ass because mud boy here says my heart can’t take it!”

Quincy threw the cloth she had collected to the ground and stomped over Bronislav’s prone body. “Don’t call him that!” she shouted.

“Elle, you’re going too far!” I added.

Elmiryn glared at me, then up at the brunette. “None of you have any idea what I’m capable of. Not a single clue!” Then in one explosive motion, she bounded to her feet and drew her sword. She only stumbled a few steps, her eyes rolling briefly before she managed to settle into her stance.

I stumbled back, my hands up, my eyes, wide. Quincy’s staff appeared in her hands with a flash, her face contorted in anger. Hakeem had risen to his feet as well, a dark expression on his face.

We seemed to hang there, suspended in time, everyone waiting for that flinty move that would spark the next sequence of events. Sweat rolled over my pulsing temple. I could feel a massive headache coming on. Why did things have to be this way? Why couldn’t we all just work together and get free of this nightmarish half-world? Was it really just Elmiryn, or was it all of us failing to control our urges?

I would feel the same… I heard Kali grumble deep within.

The exchange that followed was faster than normal speech, less because we were talking quickly, and more because we simply understood the other’s wordless intent. This was the first time since I had been reunited with my Twin that I had felt so close in thought with her.

What do you mean?
I mean the way Elmiryn is behaving now…I understand it.
Why? I don’t!
Nyx…perhaps you don’t understand this feeling because you have always been reliant on yourself.
That doesn’t make any sense. I’m weak, and Elmiryn is the most independent person I know!
Is she?
I…Yes! Of course!
Let’s see. A woman who, since childhood, had her life planned for her by her father. A woman who worshipped the gods and trusted them to aid her in her road to greatness. A woman who relied on her fellow soldiers to keep her alive when facing down terrible threats. A woman who yearned for company so badly that she took an Ailuran outcast as her ward, despite the fact that she had been at war with the Ailurans for much of her adult life.
That…It doesn’t mean–
Elmiryn may be strong, and she may be capable, but she is NOT self-reliant. Since this whole mess has started, she has been forced to depend on people she hardly knows in very uncertain circumstances. That’s stressful enough. Now, after having everything she ever depended on taken from her–the gods, her family, her soldiers–add in Quincy risking not just HER life, but yours. You are the one person that has reliantly stuck with her since first meeting. I’d say, I’d be rather angry. I’d say, I might even be a little frightened. I can understand these things, sister, because I too have spent much of my life reliant on someone else. The very same person Elmiryn cares for, in fact. You.
Sweet Aelurus…

And time suddenly came crashing back around me.

Elmiryn let out a low roar and dashed forward. Quincy brought her staff to bear, ready to block the woman’s attack. I was stuck, rooted to the spot for my sudden revelations.

But what happened next was not what either of us were expecting.

Instead of cutting at the wizard, as I’d thought she would, Elmiryn pushed at Quincy’s staff with the flat of her blade, forcing the brunette to correct her balance. Taking advantage of this, the redhead side-stepped the woman and did a quick spin, her blade swinging.

It slammed into Bronislav’s skull, splitting it cleanly down to the base of the neck.

The spirit made no sound or indication that he saw his end coming. There was just his brutal end, marked with a loud wet crunch. I let out a cry, my hands going to my mouth. Quincy sputtered as she stared from Elmiryn to the sword and back. Hakeem…just stood there, his eyes narrowed. I suppose there would be no love lost there, considering Bronislav had tried to consume his age.

Still gripping her sword, Elmiryn slowly turned her gaze toward me. At first I thought she was looking at me, and then I realized Lacertli was her focus of attention.

“This is what you wanted…right?” she panted.

Lacertli’s black tongue flickered out once, before he gave a small nod. “Yes.”

Elmiryn returned the nod, her lips pressed into a thin line. Turning her attention back to Bronislav, she ripped the blade out from the nature spirit’s corpse, then reached down into the gaping cavity that was his head. Ripping one half to the side, Elmiryn dug her hand in deeper, the wet sound of blood and organs telling me that she was really rummaging around inside. I felt sick, and I couldn’t help but remember my battle with the black nymphs and their monstrosity, their body parts littering the ground in so many disgusting pieces.

Stop thinking about that! Now you’re going to make ME sick! Kali complained.

“Elmiryn, what the hell are you doing?” Quincy asked sharply. She still hadn’t put her staff away, and I looked at her warily.

The redhead didn’t answer until she pulled her hand free of Bronislav’s corpse. Gripped in her hand was a dark object–too small and perfectly round to be any organ I recognized.

While I find it bothersome in the manner with which ye discovered this seed, I shall yield that it makes for a much more expedient end to this trouble,” Lacertli hissed.

“I could feel it,” Elmiryn said, holding the ‘seed’ up close to her face. “Inside of Bronislav. I knew it was there because it reminded me of my own.” She looked down at her chest, then back up at the seed, blank faced. I shivered at her sudden lack of emotion. “It’s different from mine, though…”

Tis natural, and of good make, that is why.” The god turned his head toward me. “She must plant the seed, so that a guardian may be born anew.

“Will this repay my family debt?” Elmiryn asked, clutching the seed close to her now. A small frown had appeared on her brow.

Lacertli looked at her. “When light and dark is once again in Harmony, then shall thy family regain a level of honor.

“It would take a lot more than this to get us back on track, wouldn’t it?” The woman muttered.

Such is the debt, such is the payment. Bronislav’s debt has been collected. Now let his successor take on the task of restoration.

She considered him for a moment. Then she said something that nearly made me faint.

“…No.”

ELMIRYN________________________

She relished the looks of astonishment on everyone’s faces. Quincy looked like she had just swallowed a bug, the way her lips screwed up and her eyes popped. Hakeem’s mouth dropped, his brows knitting together. Nyx looked ill, her skin paled and her posture weakened to the point that the warrior was certain a breeze could blow her over. And Lacertli…?

His golden yellow eyes blinked once before he grumbled and laid his head on the Ailuran’s shoulder as if to take a nap.

Elmiryn pouted. “Really? That’s all you’re going to do?”

Lacertli didn’t raise his head. “This god does not take to childish games, Fiamman. Plant the seed. My patience grows short.

The woman rolled her eyes and cleaned her sword’s blade on the grass. After sheathing it, she searched for an adequate spot on the ground. Meanwhile, her companions cursed at her.

“Halward help you, FIamman, you are such an idiot!”

Mkundu, bote swaini!

“Elle that was completely unnecessary!”

And so on, and so forth. It was all just so much noise to Elmiryn. She spared them an unconcerned shrug and knelt down at a spot she felt adequate to begin digging. As her fingers plunged into the soft soil, her mind tickled, and she froze, her spine straightening.

Thou art testing thy limits.

Lacertli. The woman smirked but the expression lacked real mirth. She didn’t like it when Meznik invaded her mind, why would she like it any more when a god did it?

I just wanted to see if I could say ‘no,’ even if I didn’t mean it. She replied inwardly.

Are ye satisfied?

Not really.

Then why play that game?

Better question–why not?

Elmiryn dropped the seed into the little hole she made and pulled the soil back in. After she patted it down, she stood and turned around.

“All right. I buried the seed. Now wha–”

Behind her, she felt a swift boom that knocked her forward a few steps. Dirt and rock pelted her back and rained on her head and shoulders. Stammering, she moved to draw her sword again when she turned and saw what had made the ground explode as it did.

A small child-like creature, with long skinny legs and arms, a perfectly round head, and leaves for hair, crawled up out of the soil, his green eyes blinking. He had the same fire in his gaze as Bronislav had, and his face was a rich blue.

Elmiryn stared. “Is that…?”

Tis not he whom ye so quickly dispatched, but his successor. I think I shall name him…Stanislav.

The little nature spirit blinked his small eyes and held his hands up to his face with wonder. “Stani…slav?” he whispered.

“Now wait a minute!” the woman seethed. “You knew he would come springing up from the ground like that! Why did you just let me stand there like a moron!?”

She wasn’t sure it was possible, given his inhuman face, but she could’ve sworn that Lacertli smirked at her. “As ye would put it…why not?

Nyx giggled. Quincy crossed her arms and fixed Elmiryn with a satisfied grin. Hakeem was busy looking at his feet, but the corners of his lips were twitching. The warrior could only stand there, her mouth struggling to come up with a witty comeback when it suddenly hit her…

She laughed.

The fact that everyone seemed surprised by this only made her laugh harder.

“What?” She giggled out. “It was good! It was a good prank!”

She was met with exasperation.

Undeterred, Lacertli continued. “Stanislav, I am Lacertli, and under my guidance, these braves have given thee life. Henceforth thou art the guardian of the blackwood. Thy successor, Bronislav, failed in his duties by letting desperation get the better of him. All ye must remember is to trust in thyself and the ways of Harmony, and thou shalt know glory like none other!

“This seems like a lot to put on a newborn…” Nyx mused.

Lacertli glanced at her. “As a spirit, Stanislav is born with innate knowledge from the energy he is comprised of. Only certain details need be filled, and he is ready to carry on his full duties as a guardian.

“The woods…” Stanislav murmured, his round face frowning. “They scream! What has become of the light here?”

Demons. Evil spirits. Search within thyself, Stanislav. Thou knowest where these interlopers carouse. Lead these braves to them, and the threat shall be removed in full, leaving you free to do thy good work!

Stanislav’s eyes suddenly began to glow, and he nodded vigorously. “Aye, m’lord!” He looked at them all, and Elmiryn’s face twitched from the eager look on his face. What an ugly little thing.

“Come ye braves!” He exclaimed. And without warning, he turned and dashed into the woods, his arms and legs suddenly becoming whip-like vines to grab and swing on the trees. “This way!”

“Hey!” Elmiryn started, before she took off after him.

Behind her, the warrior heard her companions give chase as well, and just like that they were tearing through the blackwood after Stanislav. Elmiryn struggled to keep his little form in view as he bobbed in and out of sight. The stitch in her chest protested, and her breathing became labored. She hated this new vulnerability in her. As much as she loathed to admit it, Hakeem was right. Her body had been through much–what with the lack of sleep, the close calls, the drinking. Speaking of a drink…her mouth was parched.

They seemed to go on forever until suddenly Stanislav stopped, his form ducked low within a set of shrubs. Elmiryn only spotted him because his leafy head was raised enough so she could still see his glowing eyes. He gestured for them to come closer, and following his lead, the warrior ducked low and approached. Glancing back, she saw the others do the same.

Up ahead, there were sounds of laughter and clinking glass. A small glow weakly flowed past the black trees.

“How many are there…?” Elmiryn breathed.

“Many,” Stanislav whispered back. “You glow too much. Stay behind me and the trees.” Carefully, he began to crawl forward, and with a sigh, she followed.

The treeline thinned as they went, and within a moment they had to stop, because before them was a great field. Looming over the field was an old castle keep–the one they had spotted earlier on the other floating islands.

Elmiryn stopped short, her eyes widening. Behind her, she heard Nyx give a low whine.

Hundreds and hundreds of spirits filled the field, and each was more terrifying than the last. The woman’s eyes flickered from horror to horror, and she tried to fashion a plan to get rid of them. When getting rid of them seemed less and less likely, she started trying to think of a plan to get by them. When even that seemed unlikely, she wondered if it was possible to at least steal a drink or two.

After all, when looking at the fifteen-foot-tall monster made of nothing but eyes, or the cackling mob of shadowy spectres, or the four-legged beast with the head of a mosquito–all of a sudden, the prospect of getting drunk didn’t sound so bad.

Then Elmiryn’s eyes widened.

“That’s it!” she breathed.

“What’s it? This entire journey? Because that’s about how I feel right now,” Nyx said weakly.

“There’s so many of them out there,” Quincy breathed. “Even more than the Belcliff soldiers we fought!”

“Somehow, I think this bunch will be a tad bit more challenging than a mob of shambling undead,” Hakeem muttered darkly.

“Will you fuckers listen to me?” Elmiryn snapped. When all eyes had turned to her, she jerked her head excitedly toward the evil festivities. “An army is like any snake. Cut off the head, and the rest becomes useless!”

Nyx frowned. “I’m not following.”

“She’s saying we should kill Syria first,” Quincy explained, but by her expression, she wasn’t thrilled by the idea.

“But I thought we were going to take care of these spirits first!” Nyx exclaimed.

Elmiryn replied, “We are going to take care of them, that’ll just be the last thing on our agenda!”

Hakeem frowned at her. “By your logic, slaying Syria will weaken this mob. Many of them will flee this place entirely. The ones who remain, we can pick off when they scatter. Is that right?”

“Yeah.”

“But you’re assuming the spirits will not somehow get involved when we confront Syria!”

Elmiryn pointed up at the castle keep. “Look at that place. Its space is limited. Only a certain number of spirits can enter at any time. Plus, we’ll have the advantage by having the upper ground. We can take whatever they throw at us!”

“Still too many assumptions. The variables are not in our favor!”

“Nothing is in our favor!” She snapped. The others stared at her. Elmiryn continued, her hand gesturing out at the field. “I don’t know how many times we have all come close to death, but we got past it every time because we were determined not to fail! Yes! You’re right! There is a chance we could die! But if you let your doubts beat out your hope, then you’re only raising your chances of failure! Nothing we do in life is guaranteed. We just happen to be living an extreme example of that! But I’d have thought you people would have accepted that by now!?”

“As uplifting as your hope-filled speech is, we still need a plan of sorts, or do you think we can just wish ourselves to safety?” Quincy remarked coolly.

Elmiryn grinned. “That’s easy, wizard. Tell me, what’s your favorite color?”


Back to Chapter 34.4 | Forward to Chapter 35.2