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Chapter 32.2

ELMIRYN________________________

The blood came fast, seeping into her mouth and almost choking her. It dribbled out the corners of lips, along her tensed cheeks into her ears, where the world became a muted beast. The blood in her mouth was hot and sour. Her vision rippled. A wail of sound came to her, screeching in violin–

No, no, NO!

You idiot, don’t swallow–

But with a muted pop, the violin voice was gone, and Elmiryn felt her spirit being pulled through her scalp. She felt out of body, up high, like a specter happily shivering in the ferocity of the scene. Her pounding headache, shakes, nausea, and weakness gradually receded. She felt fierce and indomitable. The warrior felt like a predator.

Artemis’s strangled scream encouraged her to bite harder, to the point that the flesh in her mouth was severed.

With a great wrench, Elmiryn twisted her hips and torso, and lifted her arms, overthrowing her attacker as though she were a pillow. The warrior spat out the severed piece of tongue, her eyes fogged in her bloodlust. Her body trembled, excited, fueled by an anger so pure it burned her from within. With a roar, Elmiryn raised her fist, but before she could attack, Artemis swung her arm and caught her with the back of the hand. The blow was powerful, setting Elmiryn on her back.

Her spirit returned to her, and the feeling of invulnerability petered out in the face of her reality. She felt ill, her stomach doing turns as a dull ache came to her head. Her lips tingled. She felt feverish and wondered why her ears were ringing.

Then she heard Artemis laugh.

It was gurgling and thick, but there was no doubt that Artemis was actually laughing. Elmiryn lurched onto her side, her chest heaving as she stared at the goddess. The deity was holding herself up by the arms, blood still dribbling from her mouth to give her a rabid, demonic look. Indeed, her manic gaze seemed unholy, and the warrior tensed.

“Houu has-shh hurr me…” Artemis chuckled, the sound wet and squelching. Her head lolled to the side and she smiled.

When the goddess didn’t continue, Elmiryn made to sit up, dragging her body just a little further away. “What?” She asked breathlessly. The blood was drying on her face, but her lips were still sticky from it. Disgusted, she wiped at her mouth with her arm.

The goddess held up a finger and turned her head. Within the next instant, there was a strange and muted noise like flesh sizzling. Then, the warrior realized with a start that Artemis was growing her tongue back.

Giving her new tongue a quick click, Artemis returned her eyes to Elmiryn, grinning smugly. “Ah! Much better! Now, as I said before…thou hast hurt me…truly…but not verily.” She raised a hand. “Still. As the infinite sky above us, this truth cannot be changed. Thou were able to remove a piece of mine person. And that is commendable enough. I am not surprised, but I am pleased.”

Elmiryn stared at her in disbelief. “So this was a game to you?”

Artemis’s eyes rolled upwards as she absently wiped her face. Though she didn’t get all of her face, the blood seemed to vanish all the same. “Well, I would have said ‘test’, but a game? I suppose that is fair to say.”

The woman’s face grew red. “Fuck you! Fuck you!! Who do you think you are?”

Artemis raised an eyebrow. “A goddess.”

Elmiryn scrambled to her feet, her knees weak and her illness swelling like an angry balloon. “You’re a fucking monster!”

The deity laughed as she stood, her graceful body practically glowing in the dark. “Oh come! You speak as one proper-false. It was not so bad. Look. Thine ambrosia goes unstirred…” And the goddess gestured at Elmiryn’s pants, her lips curling in a leer.

The warrior bared her teeth, her face flaring as the situation stared her down once again. The helplessness. The bewitching aura that had steered her mind clear of all rationale. The cold and listless feeling as things spiraled out of her control. Artemis had nearly…

Elmiryn’s hand drew her sword and she dared a step forward.

Artemis’s eyes dropped a fraction. “Mmm…this is more like it!”

With a yell, Elmiryn swung her sword at a diagonal cross, her back stinging from the cuts the Wolf Mother had raked down her spine. She felt her hate magnified by Artemis’s smirking lips–her sharp gray eyes taunting the woman mercilessly. But her target moved faster than she could comprehend. With a strike to the chin, Elmiryn flew backwards, her vision erupting in stars as her jaw stung. When she landed, she found it was more than pain that kept her down. She couldn’t move. She tried lifting her arms, her head, but they just twitched pitifully. She opened her mouth to speak and found she couldn’t.

This is it, then. Elmiryn thought with disgust. I manage to literally fend off an army of men, and in the end, a woman has me on my back. This is just great. I bet Halward’s laughing at me.

But with these thoughts, she felt fear, and it gripped her stronger than anything she had ever felt before. It was worms in her stomach, a cold flash over her skin. Her throat tightened and the woman’s eyes clouded with tears.

Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck–

She could hear Artemis chuckle over her. Elmiryn closed her eyes tight. She could feel the goddess’s new tongue flick her nipple, making her jerk and her skin break out in gooseflesh. She could feel the deity’s hands on her thighs, squeezing, caressing the sensitive inner region near her sex. Then the hands traveled higher and–

Elmiryn felt something bite her left ear.

She gave a yell, her fist launching in an upward punch. She felt it connect something furry.

Her eyes snapped open.

Wait, furry…?

“RAARGH!! IDIOT! THAT HURT!!”

Elmiryn gave a shout and sat up, her eyes fluttering. “…Cat?

Before the woman was the Twin, it’s rump in the air as it covered its snout with both paws. The creature’s tail lashed behind it, and it growled in great displeasure before raising its head to glare at the woman with its glowing tawny eyes.

“Next time I find Elle the Idiot passed out and bloody, I will leave her there! No doubt, you were doing something unpleasant,” she snapped.

“Wh-Where is she?” Elmiryn sat up straighter, her head whipping about frantically.

“Where is who?” the animal grumbled.

Artemis!

“…Artemis? Who are you talking about?”

Elmiryn stared at the Twin, her brows furrowing. With concentrated effort, she breathed in deep through her nose and out through her mouth. Gradually, her heartbeat slowed and she rubbed at the place over her heart. “I…n-nevermind.”

What happened? Where’d she go?

Then the warrior recalled why she was out in the forest to begin with. Grabbing the Twin around the shoulders, she cried, “Hey! We’ve been looking for you!”

The Twin snapped at her arms, making her let go. “Well stop looking. You’re noisy and annoying.”

“Stupid animal–this is important. Nyx needs you.”

“Well I don’t need her!” The Twin returned to all four paws. She narrowed her eyes and turned as if to leave. “Leave me alone.”

Elmiryn glared. “LOOK you fucking flea-brain–” but distant voices caught her attention, effectively stopping her.

“Elmiryn! Elmiryn!! Where are you?”

“Fiamman! Hey!”

“Elmiryn! Are you all right!?”

“Hey blockhead, quit wasting our time!”

The others. Just how long had she been gone? Was everything just a dream?

…Then why was she half-naked and still covered in blood?

“I’m over here!” She hollered, getting to her feet. She felt a mild dizzy spell and closed her eyes, her hand going to her head. Turning with her eyes still closed, Elmiryn said, “Anyway, as I was saying Cat, Nyx is in–” She dropped her hand and opened her eyes.

The Twin was gone.

Elmiryn kicked at the ground. “Shit!”

“There you a–aaaah!!”

The woman turned to see Quincy standing rock still amidst the trees, her face slack in shock for the second time that day. The wizard slapped her hands to her eyes and turned around. Sanuye and Gudahi appeared from behind her, their eyes inquisitive. Hakeem appeared soon after, and with a short cough, he looked away. Elmiryn looked down at her naked chest and grinned humorlessly. Any other time and this would have been hilarious, only…

“Sorry,” she mumbled, covering herself. “Has someone got something I can use?”

One itchy scarf later, and Elmiryn found herself facing down four expectant faces. She spared them a brief glare before turning her eyes in search of the Twin’s tracks. “What?”

“We’re waiting for you to tell us why you’re half naked and covered in blood,” Hakeem said patiently.

“I found the Twin. Now can you guys help me pick up her trail before we lose her for good?”

“Did she attack you?” Sanuye asked next.

Elmiryn moved to check the last place she had seen the cat, her eyes squinting. “No.” Then she froze, realizing her mistake. Her eyes flickered to the side. “Yes.” Her voice was quieter.

“Tell the truth,” Quincy snapped.

The warrior heard her approach and looked up. The wizard’s face was tense and her eyes were hard. She knew Elmiryn had been less than forthcoming with them before, and now she was fed up with it. That was plain to see. The redhead’s eyes flickered to the other woman’s pearl earring, still dangling from her ear.

That stupid artifact must be giving me away, too…what did Quincy say it does? Let her know what’s relevant, or something? If she isn’t getting any tips, then she must know what I’m saying is bullshit. What truth can I give them without saying I was nearly–

Elmiryn’s face went blank. She adjusted the scarf wrapped around her. It was dark wool. Quincy had tried to give it to her days ago so that the woman wasn’t only wearing her chest wraps, but Elmiryn had refused because of the uncomfortable material. It was itchy and hot. She hoped the others would see this as the reason for her sudden sweat.

“Artemis.” The word barely made it out of her mouth.

Quincy’s eyes narrowed and Elmiryn could see the Lycans exchange looks from the corner of her eyes.

The woman returned to the task at hand. Her voice was tight when she spoke. “Anyway, she’s gone now. The Twin showed up right after her. If we hurry, we might catch up.”

“Leave that to us.” Gudahi and Sanuye appeared at Elmiryn’s sides and knelt to the ground. Putting their faces close to the soil, they sniffed and sniffed.

Both stiffened and exchanged looks once again.

Gihli?” Gudahi asked Sanuye.

She gave a terse nod. “Rothen ron-kwe.” Then without another word, she quickly began to strip.

Quincy gave an exasperated sigh. “Again with the nudity?”

“Get over it,” Elmiryn snapped. She looked to Gudahi. “So I take it you’ve got her?”

The Lycan nodded. “Sanuye is going to run ahead to make sure we do not lose her. We shall follow as quickly as we can.” He turned to Hakeem as Sanuye, now naked, stepped further into the bush, her skin darkening. “Prince of my heart! Would it hurt your pride too much if you rode upon my back?”

“Only if you don’t say it in such a lewd way…” Hakeem muttered.

Elmiryn looked away from them to watch Sanuye shift. Unlike Nyx, whose transformation was slow and painful, the Lycan’s form seemed to shift like water.  Her skin rippled with a full coat of fur, her limbs shifting smoothly and quickly to that of an animal’s. Within seconds, Sanuye no longer stood in her sapien form, but rather, as a wolf, her gaze glowing in the dark. She glanced over at the others, her dark tongue appearing to lick her chops once, before she put nose to ground. Within the next moment, she was off at a full gallop, her slim form vanishing in the dark of the forest.

Elmiryn turned to see Hakeem on Gudahi’s back, and Quincy eyeing him suspiciously. “Ready, Elmiryn?” The Lycan asked.

The woman gave a silent nod.

For once, something is going to go as planned. I fucking swear it.


HER_____________________________

Since coming to this sweltering cesspit of hot weather and torpid beasts, I have known something of freedom for the first time in my (arguably) short existence. Since knowing awareness, I had felt trapped and stifled by my other half’s constant hatred and fear of me. But I was free. Finally. Free.

…And freedom brought its own onslaught of miseries, I quickly learned. Suddenly, that extra layer of insight was gone and lost, to where I knew not, but there it was. My lacking experience and my basic animal instinct was all I had to survive and find pleasure with in my new phantom world. The survival came easily. Before my sense of self appeared, I was the very spirit of survival after all. But pleasure…? I realized with a sinking sense of depression that I had no idea how to find joy or happiness for myself. In fact, I seemed to have every reason to feel sorrow and regret. Stalking the forests, I heard the monster, heard the havoc and carnage it wreaked upon the land. In its wake, it would leave nothing save for that miasma of death and despair, but hidden in the scent was a lace of something I knew. I shied away from the truth, feeling ill and frightened beyond comprehension. On my own, I do not think I could have parceled out my emotions any better than an infant would an alchemical formula. With this misery over me, suddenly my basic sense of survival seemed so cruel and terrible that my hunts for spirit flesh led me closer and closer to the Lycan tribe. Though I knew they would see me as a threat, still I ventured near, because I had nothing. No one.

Naturally, I had to find Her.

My other half, my Twin, my sapien counterpart split free of me as I was her, and there we sat staring at each other for the first time in separate states of existence. Finally, that small sliver of doubt that had haunted me was answered. I was not a figment of her imagination. I was real, and none could deny my existence.

But like all things between Nyx and I, the meeting was painful and infuriating. As I had suffered, alone and dodging the spectre of my own mistake, so had she been living her dream of singularity, and with that freedom, the joy of love.

Joy.

In my solitude, I had become better practiced at the verse of sentient minds, but nothing could adequately explain the depth of rage and jealousy that I felt toward Nyx upon sensing Elmiryn’s scent intimately weaved into hers. That heady scent of sex. That spice of attraction.

Villain! That you would know a thing apart from me, and still demand that I yield to your desires! What of me!? Am I not allowed to know my own brand of joy?

…And there I was, still nameless and shunned when the return of the despicable monster broke our unhappy reunion short. I fled, seeking my refuge, and I did not know what became of Nyx.

But Elmiryn’s sudden appearance just now gave me an idea. If only I cared.

Certain that I had no reason to fear being followed, I moved as carefully as I could through the woods, mindful of my trail. I sensed, however, a presence behind me. Spurred on, I tried to shake the feeling only to find that it was doggedly keeping pace with me. Now alarmed by what I knew to be a pursuer, I took haste through the forest, taking all the ways familiar to me in the hopes of losing them. But with each clever twist and deceitful turn, never did I lose them. My alarm rising to all-out panic, I did the only thing I could think of–

I climbed up a tree.

It was a beast of an oak, with thick tangles of branches that supported my weight without trouble. I peered down into the dark, and soon I saw my pursuer. They peered up at me with eyes fierce amidst a warm face of fur. A wolf. A Lycan, by the scent of them. Now my embarrassing tactic seemed less silly. There was no hope for me to lose this creature. The Lycans were as one with the land, and understood every inch of it intimately. Really, it was a small comfort, knowing that I had practically resorted to fleeing up a cliche just to deal with my racial rival. Just to make matters worse, I could’ve sworn the mongrel down below was smirking up at me.

Not long after, Elmiryn and her comrades appeared. Nyx was notably absent. My suspicions were confirmed. The warrior approached my tree, her eyes squinting up at me. Then she grinned suddenly.

“Cat. Tree. Funny!” She said with a chortle.

I just narrowed my eyes at her. “Human. Idiot. Unsurprising.

Quincy raised her eyebrows. “Well. She’s observant, at least.”

Elmiryn spared a moment to shoot the wizard a glare. Her demeanor became grave. “Twin. Get down here. We need to talk.”

“We are talking, you ungodly sack of refuse.”

“This is just as much fun as that time I got stabbed in the shoulder…and had my arm dislocated…and had my head beat in by a Lycan…Quincy, am I missing anything?”

The wizard thought seriously for a moment before answering. “Vicarious nipple tear.”

Elmiryn pointed in Quincy’s direction. “And that. Multiplied by ten. That’s how much I fucking enjoy this skit right now, Cat.”

“So let’s end the charade and go our separate ways,” I spat. “Whatever you have to say, I am not interested!”

The woman kicked the tree. “Will you listen to me!? Nyx is GONE. The beast has her! You’re the only one who seems to know anything about that thing! We need you to find her!”

“Maybe she wants to be GONE? Maybe I want her to be GONE? Why is it always about what Nyx needs and not Me?

“And who the fuck are you?”

“A mere shadow. Clearly,” I growled, turning my back.

There was a heavy sigh.

“What can we offer you that would persuade you to help us?” This was a voice I had not heard before. My ears perking, I turned to look over my shoulder. Ah. It was the little dark skinned boy. When I didn’t answer, he continued. “There must be something you want. From our last meeting, it was plain to see you were less than pleased with your life as it was. What can we do to improve it?”

“Hakeem–” Elmiryn started, but Quincy held up a hand and gave a terse shake of her head. I saw all of this out of my peripheral vision. My eyes were on the boy. This was Hakeem? I remembered only a strong and confident man. This child certainly resembled him, but…

“And how can you give me what I seek?” I asked suspiciously.

It was the tall dark haired man who spoke next. “We can only know once you tell us what you want, of course.”

I spared him a look, then shifted so that my body was turned a quarter of the way around. My tail flicked idly at the tip. “Then this is what I want…” I leaned down, my chops pulling back in a sardonic grin of fangs and whiskers. “A name…”

No one said anything for a moment.

Elmiryn tapped her chin, her lips puckering as she gazed up at me. Then she pointed at my nose.

“Winky Woozerton.”


Back to Chapter 32.1 | Forward to Chapter 32.3

Chapter 32.1

“Dream me oh dreamer
down to the floor
open my hands and let them
weave onto yours

Feel me, completer
down to my core
open my heart and let it
bleed onto yours

Feeding on fever
down all fours
show you what all that
howl is for

Hey hey my playmate
let me lay waste to thee
burned down their hanging trees
it’s hot here hot here hot here hot here”‘Wolf Like Me’ by TV On The Radio, from the album ‘Return to Cookie Mountain’. 4AD; Interscope/Touch and Go, 2006.

ELMIRYN________________________

Elmiryn never slept, but always had sweet dreams from far away places. From worlds that didn’t exist and worlds that did. But the lives she imagined for herself in these foreign settings were all fabrications, fantasies of a lunatic who struggled with bleating thoughts to assuage the pain that blossomed in her chest like a fountain. The only tomorrow she wanted was coming all to slowly, time a slow deliverer of her desire. So the dreams came to haunt her ever waking world.

 

She wanted tawny eyes filled with want, soft and quivering lips, wild jet black hair, and flushed skin that at the lightest touch brought about her name in delicious bleats. She wanted to be enveloped in that wild musk, sweet and intoxicating and wonderful.

 

I haven’t slept in days and I just keep seeing these things. What’s wrong with me? I really am losing it

 

When the others lay sleeping, Elmiryn lay on the ground staring up at the shadows, her eyes a light with phantom visions and tantalizing sights.

 

Nyx, wrapped only in animal furs, hay in her hair, her smoky eyes squinted playfully as soft green light haloed her skin. Nyx, bending over and reaching for her pants, her panties fitting to the shape of her perky ass, the curve and flex of her back like some sculpture artist’s dream. Nyx, her shy laughter echoing through them both as the girl lay her head on the woman’s chest, one hand gently kneading her breast.

 

And the woman decided she was proud of herself–proud that her growing mania for the sharpest of drinks was being rivaled by her need to see Nyx again. But it was hard. To say that it wasn’t would have been a lie. Everyday was a battle to keep her addiction from growing more powerful than her desire to see Nyx. And though both tore at her, it was a pain that freed her of all falsities. Elmiryn didn’t need to pretend about anything anymore. She felt like an actress ending a long run of performances, the hot roar of a crowd simmering behind her in a great wave of judgment. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought anymore. For once, she felt absolutely free to marry desire with action.

 

That said, she kissed Quincy squarely on the lips.

 

Of course, Elmiryn wasn’t thinking of Quincy upon the act—she was thinking of Nyx. But in that in-between place of her dream-like illusions and the real world, the lines were blurred, and all that the woman saw was a pair of lips that looked inviting. With her arms around Quincy’s neck and their chests pressing together, she could feel the wizard tense up, a strangled cry coming up her throat. Choked sounds came from their companions and the world seemed to pause.

 

Elmiryn finally realized things were not right when she opened her eyes and saw them meet azure.

 

The warrior loosened her grip, ready to apologize when Quincy shoved her down and slapped her. It wasn’t like the wizard to hit open handed, but the shock must have been great, because Elmiryn had never seen her so taken aback.

 

The redhead stared up at her, one hand on her stinging cheek. She guessed the wizard had been trying to rouse her out of her stupor to give her daily dose of tonic. An apology was on her lips, but something told her to keep quiet for the moment. The brunette stared at her, mouth moving to speak, but nothing coming out. Her face was pale, then after a few moments, the tell-tale signs of a blush began to show.

 

…Then the blush turned to a full-on burn.

 

Mkundu msgaji!” Quincy screamed, and finally the rain of punches came. One hand was still injured, and the wizard could barely make a proper fist with it. But her other hand was completely fit for the task.

 

Elmiryn started laughing, her arms going up around her head as she choked out, “I’m sorry—fuck, I didn’t mean to—ha, ha, HA, HA!

 

“Idiot! Barbarian! THIS is what I get! This is what I get for trying to help you, you stupid crazy BITCH! Jinsi kuthubutu wexe!!

 

Suddenly small black arms encircled Quincy’s waist, and a voice could be heard struggling behind her. “Mweze, kuacha!

 

Elmiryn could see Sanuye and Gudahi rise, and in a moment her assault ended. Her laughter, however, did not.

 

“Elmiryn, please shut up.” Hakeem’s voice was colder than usual.

 

The redhead bit her tongue and looked up to see the young Fanaean’s face puckered in displeasure. Still snorting through her nose, the woman sat up and dusted herself off. “I was dreaming,” she giggled. “I didn’t mean to.”

 

“Then please stop laughing.”

 

“Why? It’s funny when she gets mad.” The woman wiggled her eyebrows at Quincy. “Or maybe she liked it a little?”

 

Gudahi had to hold the wizard back again. Sanuye narrowed her eyes at the warrior. “You make light of things you should not.”

 

Elmiryn shrugged and held out her hand, the smile fading from her face as her need surfaced like lava. “Yeah. Whatever. I’m an asshole. Tonic, please.”

 

Quincy let out a small shriek and threw the small vial at the warrior. “Here! Take it! Drink it all! I don’t care if you go crazy! At least when you’re drunk I don’t have to put up with you!” And with that the wizard turned and stormed off until the dark of the wood made it difficult to see her. Without a word, her husband followed her, leaving Elmiryn alone with the Lycans.

 

It had been nearly three days since they left the Lycan village. Gudahi had retrieved Elmiryn’s sword and Graziano’s gun in a quick sprint, Sedwick had been carted off to the medicine man’s hut, and Artemis had all but gone absent. The time passed in a funny way, stretched and condensed by Elmiryn’s yearnings and withdrawals. Of the whole group, she moved the slowest, her shakes and dehydration preventing her from moving at her usual speed. As Quincy had promised, the wizard gave Elmiryn a dose of tonic every day, but in small amounts to keep the vial from being emptied. Every sip made the warrior feel better, but it wasn’t enough to take away the headaches or the irritableness or the nausea or the aches in her body.

 

Now the warrior had the entire vial of tonic in her hands. There was at least half-a-vial’s worth left. Quincy had never given her that much before. How much pain would this take away? How good would this make her feel?

 

“Elmiryn. Let me see that tonic.” Sanuye’s accented voice broke the spell, and Elmiryn looked at her sharply.

 

“Why?” she snapped. “Aren’t we almost there? What difference does it make if I finish this now?”

 

“And you expect the Twin to have a stash of brandy ready and waiting for you upon our arrival?” The Lycan returned archly.

 

Elmiryn soured. Her grip tightened on the small vial. Sanuye took another step forward. “The tonic, Elmiryn. Please.”

 

The warrior cursed. After another full minute, she tossed the vial onto the ground and stomped away. She felt cold and her body trembled. She wanted a taste so badly.

 

…That was why she let the vial go.

 

Every day was a battle to keep her addiction from growing more powerful than her desire to see Nyx.

 

“Where are you going?” Sanuye said. “Come. You need your dose.”

 

“I don’t want it.” Elmiryn growled, keeping her back turned. She clenched her fist and glared at the trees.

 

“But you know what will happen if you do not have some.”

 

“I…do…not…want…it.”

 

The Lycan growled. “Now you’re just being a child–!”

 

Gudahi’s voice smoothly interjected. “Elmiryn, we know you do not want this. But you also know that we cannot move forward, if you cannot move forward. Think of Nyx. You wouldn’t want me to find her first…would you?”

 

His tone was lightly teasing, but it angered the redhead all the same. She turned on her heel and advanced on the man. He was a little taller than she was, but she didn’t care. That just made it easier should she want to punch him between the legs.

 

“Let’s just get one thing straight,” Elmiryn hissed. “I don’t like you, and I sure as shit don’t like the idea of you near Nyx. So when we do find her? Keep your distance.”

 

The man smiled at her, amused. “Oh? Are you saying you own her?”

 

“Don’t be stupid. I don’t believe in owning people. If I did, I’d have owned some slaves. But I never have and I never will. What you fail to understand is that Nyx and I have a bond, and I’ll cut down anyone who tries to get between that. Got that, puppy?

 

“Certainly,” Gudahi chirped. He reached over and took the vial from Sanuye’s hands. Removing the stopper, he held it up for Elmiryn. “Now, your medicine little warrior?”

 

The redhead glared at him before tilting her head back and opening her mouth. The Lycan let a small amount of tonic pour down her throat before closing the vial again and pocketing it. Her throat tickled in pleasure as she swallowed the tonic down. She could feel her stomach get warmer and some of her aggression melted with it.

 

“We should find the others and keep moving,” Sanuye said, handing Elmiryn her sword belt.

 

Without another word, they headed to where they saw Quincy and Hakeem venture off. Elmiryn still thought the Lycans to be a bit strange—they had habits and beliefs that she just couldn’t comprehend. Like when Sanuye sat praying to trees, or when Gudahi swallowed a small amount of dirt each day. They didn’t seem to know what to make of her either, but at this rate, the woman was getting used to that. She was crazy after all.

 

Quincy and Hakeem were found sitting together beneath a poplar tree, hands clasped as the husband whispered to his wife. Both looked up as the three of them approached. The brunette’s eyes turned frosty at the sight of Elmiryn, but the warrior didn’t care.  She didn’t matter.

 

None of them mattered.

 

“Now that everyone’s done nursing their pet problems, let’s get this over with,” Elmiryn said loudly. She turned to Gudahi and Sanuye. “Have you found a trail yet? We’re close aren’t we?”

 

“We are close, but we still have no trail. Given the commotion you humans made, I’m certain the Twin is more than aware of our presence now. She will be careful to conceal her movements.”

 

The warrior feigned disbelief. “Well that’s just great!” She turned and wagged a finger at Quincy. “You see what I put up with?” Elmiryn ducked the rock just in time, and turned to see the wizard stooping down for another one to throw.

 

“You are a plague, Elmiryn!” Quincy shouted.

 

“Enough!” Hakeem barked. Both women stopped. Never had they heard the man-boy so angry before.  He glared at them both, his body tensed and his face twisted. “Did Sanuye not just say that your ruckus is giving us away? Remember what we came for, and for the love of the gods, shut UP.”

 

Taika!” Quincy exclaimed, clearly scandalized.

 

Elmiryn just shrugged and crossed her arms.

 

The Fanaean turned his eyes on the Lycans. “We have no trail, but you know where we can find one, yes?”

 

“The brook is not far from here. There is an ohtak—or spirit gate—near it that would serve as the Twin’s game. If we search between those places, we may find her den.”

 

“Then let’s go,” Hakeem said, his eyes holding a storm. Since they’re departure from the village, the Fanaean had been on edge. Elmiryn suspected it had to do with her and Quincy’s bickering, but when everyone else was asleep, she also spied the boy gazing wistfully into the woods. After spending so much time there, maybe Hakeem missed the village?

 

Whatever the reason, his disposition made the atmosphere of the group all the more tense. No words were exchanged as the five traveled through the thick terrain. The Lycans were in the lead, their knowledge of the area the only protection the others had from being completely and utterly lost. With time, Elmiryn began to hear running water, and through the discomfort of her withdrawal, she began to get excited.

 

“Anything yet?” she asked Gudahi, who was closest.

 

The man silently shook his head. The woman grit her teeth but said nothing more. When the trees finally gave way to the sight of the brook, the group stopped and the Lycans turned to them.

 

“The ohtak is to the northwest.” Sanuye pointed. “If we search the area between, we should find clues to where the Twin is hiding.”

 

“What do we do if She doesn’t want to be found?” Quincy asked, her hands on her hips.

 

“Then we hunt her down,” Elmiryn said, already moving away.

 

They split up, their eyes carefully searching their surroundings for any signs of the Twin’s presence. Since her manic episode at the village, Elmiryn’s senses were more or less back to normal—at least when you ignored her vivid waking dreams and the fact that they were in some weird half-dimension that twisted aspects of true reality.

 

Stepping carefully over the banks of the stream, she moved further and further away from the others. A piece of moss here, a flowering weed there, and pebbles and pebbles and pebbles galore. The warrior crossed the brook, moving northwest, as Sanuye had instructed, but still kept her distance from the others. Closer to the tree line, she thought she saw something—a broken bush branch. Alone, it didn’t mean much. There were other animals in the forest after all. But as the warrior neared, she saw more—animal droppings behind the bush.

 

Given the size of the Twin, Elmiryn thought it possible that these were the cat’s leavings. But they were dry, and the soil surrounding it lacked any distinct tracks to corroborate her assumptions. This fact confused her. Usually when animals stopped to relieve themselves, they left a good impression in the dirt from their squatting. Even dry, compacted soil was likely to show some sign of passing. But the earth was clear of any marks, from the Twin or other creature.

 

Perplexed, Elmiryn moved on to find more signs of animal presence. Berry seeds and chewed up bush leaves. Half-eaten grasshoppers and the carcasses of small animals. The woman’s head began to hurt worse the more she found, her confusion mounting. There were no signs of tracks, resting spots, fur, or fresh scat, though plenty of signs of fresh kills, recent feeding, and disrupted plant life.

 

The sounds of the brook grew smaller. The warrior hardly noticed. The shadows about her thickened and sweat beaded on her forehead. Elmiryn stopped to lean against an oak, the long trails of moss hanging about her like hair as a sudden anxiety began to gnaw at her gut. Blinking, she turned her head to call for the others, but she froze.

 

Nestled in the underbrush from whence she came were the glowing eyes of an animal. It was not the Twin. The Twin’s eyes were tawny, like Nyx’s. These eyes were a familiar gray.

 

Her breath hitching, Elmiryn turned to flee, some animal instinct rising up in her before she could even register it, let alone stop it. As soon as her eyes broke contact, she heard a growl and the sound of something bursting forth through the ferns and bushes. The warrior took a breath, to scream for the others, but it was too late.

 

Something hit into her from behind and Elmiryn was rocked forward hard, her body slamming into the forest floor. Pain shot throughout her. The wind gone from her lungs, the woman wheezed and her hands scrabbled in the dirt.

 

Hands slammed onto her wrists, pinning them.

 

Stunned, Elmiryn stared at them as her attacker chuckled.

 

“Tut, tut! What easy prey you make!”

 

The warrior’s fear lessened enough to allow her anger to take hold. “Artemis!

 

She felt the goddess’s breath on her ear and recoiled. “Yes, Elmiryn?” Artemis whispered. “Is something the matter?”

 

“Get off me!” Elmiryn snarled.

 

Artemis playfully licked the woman’s ear. “But why? I like it here.”

 

“I said, get off–!” but the warrior’s words were cut short when Artemis grabbed her by the ponytail and pulled her head back hard, causing the woman to cry out.

 

“I can either win this hunt with thy love or thy blood,” the goddess hissed, her hand reaching around to roughly grope the woman’s breast, then her neck. “I prefer love, but I have been known to find satisfaction in blood all the same.” Following this, the warrior felt claws at her back. They cut down her spine, into the skin, and Elmiryn grunted in pain. The bandages around her chest loosened and fell away, leaving the blood to flow freely down her back. Next, Artemis ripped out the tie that fastened the woman’s hair back, and it fell about her in tangled waves.

 

Elmiryn felt Artemis move her hand away from her neck to her shoulder, and before she could react, the goddess flipped her over with little effort. The redhead felt her anger turn to rage, her fear all but vanishing. No one ever forced her like this. She was a fighter, a soldier—these things just didn’t happen.

 

Yelling, the woman tried to arch her back and twist her hips, to grab Artemis’s hands and to slip away from the goddess’s mounted position. But the wolfish deity was faster and stronger, and in a blink of an eye, Elmiryn was once more pinned down, her screams of frustration harsh and loud. Whipping her hair from her face, the redhead glared up at the goddess, who smirked down at her. Like Elmiryn, her dark hair was left to hang freely about her shoulders, but what was truly different about the goddess this time was the fact that she was completely naked.

 

As the horror of her situation settled on her, something fought to worm its way in. It was an idea—or perhaps a base bodily reaction—but Elmiryn resisted it all the same. She thought of what it would mean, to give into this notion, what it would cost her. In her struggle to resist, her hatred grew, but still the idea pierced in deeper and deeper…

 

Artemis is beautiful.

 

The tension grew in the pit of her stomach, warmth pooling within her even as she squeezed her eyes shut and tried to turn her head away. She felt Artemis grind into her, the action resulting in an eruption of pleasure that Elmiryn’s growling hitched and she could feel tears of shame welling up behind her eyelids.

 

The goddess laughed as she dipped down, her mouth on the woman’s neck, wet and warm and soft. Her breasts brushed Elmiryn’s breasts, making her nipples perk and her thoughts clouded. They were soft, almost satiny, and for a second the redhead forgot the real reason she was arching her back.

 

When she remembered, a shout tore up her throat and her eyes snapped open. Elmiryn’s struggles renewed and she turned her head in an attempt to push Artemis away. What happened instead made the warrior squirm. Artemis kissed her, first close mouthed, before lips parted and her tongue fought its way through to explore the redhead’s mouth.

 

Elmiryn thought, Bite it!  BITE!

 

But something kept her from doing so. Maybe it was the taste of Artemis—so sweet and fresh and like life itself that it was all the woman could do to keep from coming right then and there. Elmiryn’s eyes fell shut again, and she moaned—both in ecstasy and despair. Try as she might, she couldn’t stop this. Her head was hurting her—from the battle of wills, from her withdrawals. She wondered if she could have even put up a fight at her peak condition. Everything felt so hopeless…but as far as defeats went, was this so bad? Artemis was beautiful, and not many could say a deity had pursued them. Elmiryn was so wet, she had soaked through her undergarments—

 

“What? You thought I’d stay dry as a desert with your hands and mouth all over me?”

 

A flash of startled tawny eyes, unaware of the power they held, unaware of the effects they could bring. And then…a warm tongue, all along the inside of her thigh, tasting Elmiryn’s desire, to the place where her thigh connected to her hip—so close and yet so far.

 

“And the rest you’ll have to deal with.” Nyx’s voice, thick and husky with her passion.

 

Elmiryn’s eyes snapped open, her mind finally clear of its confusion.

 

Artemis may have been beautiful…but the woman did not want her.

 

And so with all the strength she could muster in her jaw, the warrior bit off the goddess’s tongue.


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