The battle rages. Sven will have to command his harem to victory!
The Rogue's Harem
Book Three: The Rogue's Passionate Harem
Chapter Ten: Devouring Flames
Note: Thanks to WRC264 for beta reading this.
Chapter Twenty-Eight: The Priestess's Lie
The cloud of insects surged down at me, hungry. The world grew darker, an artificial night falling on me. My skin crawled. My stomach tightened. The swarm came at me from every direction. My tail swished. I had to go somewhere. I didn't want to get devoured but—
Purple sprang around me.
A dome of mystical energy manifested a heartbeat before the insects engulfed my body. The bugs slammed into the shield. A great, angry buzz rumbled around me. It rattled my bones. I shuddered, goosebumps raising across my skin as I watched the insects crawling across the energy barrier. They pressed in on it. The dome rippled and bowed beneath the weight.
I grinned at them, big and toothy. “Take that, bugs! Aingeal just saved my cute ass!”
I couldn't help it. I rolled over onto my hands and knees, I just had enough space to do so, and wiggled my rump at the bugs. I smacked my butt, my tail swishing from side to side. The angry buzz swelled, my ears twitching against the sound.
“Yeah, that's right! Aingeal's a sexy faerie, and she's going to kick your ass!”
The insects burst away from the dome as Princess Ava's feyhound body burst through the swarm of buzzing, angry bugs. They scattered around its wooden body. It landed on the other side, the insects boiling up into the air and forming into a new cloud, almost like a fist hovering in the air.
“Yeah, yeah!” I shouted. “Gods, you have great timing, Mistress Ava and Mistress Aingeal!”
“Aingeal says, 'Your ass is too cute to cute to be eaten,'” Ava said, her voice sounding so weird coming out of the feyhound's wicker mouth. It was so girlish, hardly distorted at all.
“But Mistress Aingeal, you love eating my ass,” I said, grinning.
“This is serious, Zanyia!” Princess Ava shouted.
Before I could answer, a purple ball of energy surged up into the cloud. The insects surged out of the way, scattering before the attack. Some fell broken from the sky, but a few dozen compared to the thousands didn't mean much.
I shivered. They could really, really have killed me. My fingers flexed against the cobblestone. My tail went rigid. I almost died. If those bugs had gotten to me... Who would take care of Master? He needed sex slaves to watch out for him, and he wouldn't claim them on his own. I had to find more submissive girls to love him.
I couldn't do that for my husband if I was eaten by a bunch of dumb bugs.
I curled up on my belly, grateful that I was alive. That Aingeal saved me. I watched the feyhound dart back and forth across the street, firing more balls of purple energy or waves of force, battering and scattering the horde. It split apart, coming at her from every direction. But what could they do to her body? It was made of woven wood. Their bites wouldn't do anything.
I shifted, squirmed. My skin itched again, but not out of fear like before. I wanted to get out of here. I wanted to fight. I yowled and hissed. I needed to be free. I couldn't be caged up. I could do something. I could... could...
“Mistress Aingeal, let me out! Please! I can swat them out of the sky and... and distract them so you can kill them.” Yeah, I could do that. Aingeal's attacks were killing some. It was just... slow process.
“Gods, are you crazy?” Princess Ava demanded before she leaped around. “You almost died. You can't fight this.”
“But... but...” I let out a frustrated yowl.
The purple dome suddenly contracted around me and spread beneath my body. I gasped as it lifted me up from the ground. I shifted around in a ball of purple energy, floating over the street. My head whipped around. What was Aingeal—
My stomach lurched to the right. I gasped as she hurtled the ball down the street, slamming through the insects. I smiled as they buzzed away, streaking in all directions to avoid getting swatted. A few splatted on the outside. A pleased purr rose in my throat. Aingeal had a sense of humor.
I loved it.
The ball of energy dropped me off before the Temple of Krab. It vanished, leaving me shaking my head, lying on my side. I sat up, snapping my head around to gain my bearings. Mistress Ava was right; I needed to find something else to fight.
I formed another illusion of myself, clutching the amulet. My left hand tightened on the facets of the rubies as my right pointed at the formless, beige mound of ooze. Carsina charged in, wielding the diamond hammer. My fingers painted, controlling the illusion, my pussy juices evaporating off my fingers, consumed by the spell as paint.
“Here!” the illusion shouted, waving the gem. I made it glint, flow red. I had to protect Carsina. The ooze would kill her. She didn't have Ealaín's armor, and the aoi si warrior was having trouble not getting hurt. I couldn't let the poor priestess die.
Not after failing to save poor Master Theophil.
The protrusions writhing to seize Carsina shifted around. The thing let out a loud burble of triumph. A tentacle surged out at my illusion. My hand squeezed down hard on the ruby, the facets biting into my palms. I maneuvered the lie I created. I couldn't let the ooze touch my illusion. It would fall apart.
Only I wasn't fast enough. It sent those tentacles out before and behind it. I ducked beneath one, but the second struck my illusion in the stomach and... grabbed it. It pulled my illusion into its body. I shuddered as I suddenly felt so slimy. It reached beneath my robe, caressing every inch of my skin.
Like I was in him, not my illusion.
What was going on? I stepped back, confused. My illusions shouldn't be solid. I shouldn't be feeling anything. Pain pulsed in my left hand as I shook my head in confusion while Carsina howled in wordless rage, slamming the diamond hammer into the outside of the ooze over and over, the brilliant weapon flaring with light.
Doing nothing to the monster.
The thing writhed, shifted, then it seized Carsina.
“No!” I shouted in shock. “No, no, stop grabbing her!”
The monster writhed. Carsina gasped as the ooze dropped her inches from being pulled into is girth. She scrambled back, her midriff soaked by slime. Her eyes were wide. She glanced at me, her red eyes trembling, almost glowing surrounded by the red of her skin.
“TRICK!” gurgled the ooze. “TRICK! TRICK! TRICK!”
It undulated and writhed, almost like it beat against an invisible fist. It made me shiver. What was going on?
Metal groaned behind me. I threw a look and—
“Las's putrid cum!” I snarled.
I moved with the shadows. I flowed away from Prince Meinard's massive sword slicing down at me. I felt the air whistling by me as the blade missed me by mere inches. It hit the cobblestones. Sparks burst from it.
I spun out of instinct, ramming my rapier at the dripping torso. The shadowy blade slammed right into the belly, just below the sternum. On a fleshy body, it would have penetrated deep, cutting organs, incapacitating Prince Meinard so I could dispatch him.
The shadowy blade only bent against his metal form.
Bellowing, Prince Meinard pivoted his attack. His sword slashed horizontally at me. I ducked low, slipping into a crouch. Then I flowed with the shadows backward as the iron body leaped off the well and crashed against ground in a mighty clang.
“You scurry like a cockroach,” Prince Meinard growled. “And you think you're worthy enough to touch my daughter.”
“Oh, I've done so much more than touch her,” I said, putting all the cockiness I could into it.
But I needed another plan. How could I deal with this Las-damned iron construct. My weapon couldn't hurt it at all. Frustration boiled through me as Prince Meinard came slashing at me, blade whistling, searching for my blood.
“We need something more effective,” I thought to Aingeal.
“What's good against bugs?” Aingeal asked me back as she sent Zanyia's ball of energy crashing through the insect swarm, killing another dozen.
“I don't know...” I jumped the feyhound's body to the right as a fist of insects slammed down into the street. A few spilled over us, biting at the wood, gnawing at it. Purple rippled over my proxy's body, battering off the gnawing insects. They didn't do much damage, but if enough nibbles were taken out...
“Moths are attracted to candle flames,” I thought to her. “It burns them up.”
“Nathalie!” Aingeal shouted, my soul jarred by her enthusiasm.
The insects suddenly burst away from us. They charged up the road, flying towards crackling flames and Sven's shadowy form dancing in the street.
I stood there confused as I watched the ooze writhe. Carsina scrambled back while Kora stood shaking her head. I lowered my weapons of light and stopped forming the brilliance I was about to unleash to distract the thing.
Carsina scrambled back, a band of slime coating her leather work clothes. The diamond hammer flashed with light, a momentary flash of crimson reflecting off the ruby clutched in Kora's hand. Was it the hammer? Had it done something to Kora's illusion to make it solid?
“FALSE!” gurgled the ooze, it's rippling body hammering against the constraining force.
Carsina glanced at the hammer, her brow furrowing. Then she gained her feet and yelled again. Maybe her hammer could do something. She reached the beast and slammed her weapon hard against its rippling bulk and...
It was like slapping jelly. It rippled and undulated, but it didn't penetrate. It didn't do any more to the creature than my weapon did. And yet the thing stood there, unable to move, writhing. I charged in, thinking of nothing else I could do but keep attacking. Maybe my ax could hurt it.
Fire roared. Nathalie screamed. She darted past in the corner of my eye, racing for the exit, chased by the flaming centipede. I shuddered, wanting to help her. Maybe... I would be more use fighting something else. Greta still battled the emaciated bear-thing, sweeping water at it
But who would protect Kora?
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Devouring Flames
I jumped back again, retreating before its swings. A purple ball of energy landed before the temple, spilling Zanyia out of it. My lamia slave gained her hands and knees, tail swishing. She had those katars thrusting out from her leather armor, but they would be equally as useless against Prince Meinard as my rapier.
Then Nathalie burst out of the temple, still looking slender and girlish despite the ruby armor she wore. Ruddy orange glowed in the stylized pattern of flames decorating her armor. The air wavered around her, heat dancing in an aura behind her.
A moment later, a flaming thing burst out, its body long and sinuous, segmented. Oily fire dripped off of it, leaving splatters on the ground as it scurried after Nathalie. Her screams galvanized me into action.
I darted from Prince Meinard, sprinting from him towards my slave. He snarled. His footsteps crashed after me, but I was faster. I had to get to Nathalie. Maybe I could hurt this monster. My boots thudded on the cobblestone.
“Master!” Nathalie gasped, her face painted by the orange light of her armor as she charged at me, leading the insect. “I tried! I tried! But it likes fire!”
Mandibles clicked, scything blades that hungered for my slave—my wife's—flesh. I growled as I darted past Nathalie. I lunged my rapier at the monster's flaming body. The shadowy point slammed into the chitinous face plate.
And skipped along it.
I left a scouring scratch across the surface, my blade sliding past its multifaceted eye. Frustration surged in me for a moment. And then my rapier's blade hit the joint at the neck. It penetrated into it, biting into flesh.
The thing snarled in pain. A violent surge of triumph rippled through my body. I twisted the blade, savoring the things chittering snarl of pain. It's long body contorted around, legs scuttling on the ground, splashing flaming oil to burn on the cobblestone.
Finally, something I could—
The thing's back half uncoiled and slammed into my chest. I grunted as shadows swirled, swallowing up the burst of fire exploding around me. I stumbled back a step, my chest aching, the leather armor absorbing only some of the impact. A cough burst from my lungs.
“Gods damn it,” I grunted as the thing hissed and chittered.
Metal rang behind me. The air hissed.
Prince Meinard had caught up at me, his sword slashing down at my back.
Sven flowed out of the way of my blade, darting for the right. The Hunger scuttled after him, ichor bubbling from the wound in its neck. Its sharp mandibles opened and closed with scything whisk that sent a chill down my distant body.
Now I had Sven. He couldn't dodge us both.
“Las's putrid cum!” Sven snarled, shadows dripping off of him as he dodged out of the snapping attack of the Hunger.
I thrust my sword at his chest as he dodged right for me. I saw a moment of panic flash across his face. Then the shadows moved his body. He twisted out of the way, that damned armor of his keeping him alive.
But for how long?
The Hunger scurried after as I pivoted and swiped at Sven again, forcing him to dodge the Biomancer's monstrosity. Sven growled and leaped over the slashing bite only for the centipede-thing to slash at his body. It forced him to slide to a halt, to shift his weight and dodge back.
I leaped and slashed, my metallic body hurtling through the air. My blade hurtled down at—
Fire washed across my face. Heat kissed my body. It absorbed it, drinking it in with ease. I hit the ground, my view obscured by the curling tongues of orange and red dancing before me. My sword slammed into the cobblestone with a jarring force.
The fire died. I blinked and then whirled around to see a slender girl in ruby armor slamming a flaming sword into my chest. It hit my iron body and bounced off. The girl stumbled back, eyes widening in shock.
I backhanded her, my metal fist slamming into her breastplate. Flames burst around the impact. She gasped as it threw her onto her backside in a metallic clang. I ignored her. Fire and her sword couldn't harm my flesh. I had to kill Sven.
Shadows flowed to the right.
“Fire!” a familiar voice yelled. “Nathalie!”
“Ava?” I growled, looking down the street where a wooden dog chased a swarm of insects. The Colony buzzed closer, hurtling towards Sven.
“Nathalie!” I yelled as the girl scrambled to her feet. She looked at me, her blonde pigtails peeking out from beneath her helmet giving her martial form a girlish demeanor. “We need your fire! Burn them!”
She shook her head, then she saw the swarm of insects descending from the sky, hurtling down at Sven as he darted around my father's iron proxy. The buzzing insects had found prey they could harm. I ran faster, wooden claws scratching at the road.
“Burn then now, Nathalie!”
Purple energy burst around Sven. Nathalie slashed her sword down hard before her. The flaming blade left a sweep of heat that burst into dancing fire. It swept through the air, propelled before her. It crackled hungrily as it slammed into the horde of bugs.
“Gods, yes!” I cheered in delight as they crackled. Died.
I protected Sven as the fire rolled over the insects. My soul trembled against Ava's as those bugs roasted. Crisped insects rained from the sky as the flames devoured them. A buzzing roar of pain hummed from the remaining swarm as they climbed into the air.
Nathalie aimed her sword, pointing at the swarm. Her flames chased, hungry for the bugs. The cloud rose into the air, fleeing her fire. It split apart, dozens of tendrils of scared flies darting in every direction.
The fire split, too.
It roared and crackled. Oranges and reds and yellows danced across the iron body of Prince Meinard. Ava's father growled as he lunged at Sven, swiping his sword at my husband's body. Sven, his armor drinking in the inferno's glow, flowed.
“No, you Las-damned bastard!” I howled, only Ava hearing me.
Evocation spirits responded to my anger. The balls of orange light descended, dancing around the feyhound's body. I focused them, my purple aura spreading around them, forming a ball of brilliant power.
I fired it.
The blast soared at Meinard as his massive sword hacked at my husband. Sven retreated before it. He didn't attack. Couldn't attack. What could a blade, even one made of shadows, do against a solid block of animated iron.
My ball slammed into the body. It hit with the force to demolish a building. Prince Meinard's heavy body stumbled back as the evocation spirits spilled over him. He snarled, his voice booming with a metallic ring, and crashed onto his back with a heavy rattle.
“Finally!” Sven growled as burnt insects fell like gray snow around him.
The fire burned the bugs. I smiled. Nathalie had that in hand. I needed to find something to do. To be useful. To help my family. My new wives needed help. My ears pricked. Water sloshed around inside. Something gelatinous quivered.
“FALSE!” something hideous gurgled, like hearing a swamp bog speak.
I glanced through the ruined door and saw Greta swinging a watery sword before her, slamming waves of water into an emaciated monster, the size of a bear. Despite its wizened form, it moved with power, battering through the tidal surf that Greta conjured, a desperate move to keep herself safe.
I formed new katar claws, the leather wraps of my armor springing before me. Silence wrapped about me. I stalked forward at the monster, hunting it, my tail held still as I moved. I licked my lips. Not a sound reached my ears.
The monster would never know what hit him.
It clicked in my head as I grinned at Prince Meinard knocked on his ass. “Ava, Aingeal, you fight your father. I got the centipede thing.”
It scuttled at me as Ava shouted, “We'll stop him!”
“Nathalie, keep burning! You're doing great!”
My sex slave flashed me a grin as she kept her fire burning up in the sky, chasing the strange swarm of insects. The Biomancer's creations were all hideous and disgusting, my skin crawling at the sounds they made, how they scuttled.
The burning centipede scurried after me on its dozens of legs. Each one knifed down into the cobblestone, scratching at the hard surface. It undulated like a snake as it moved, leaving a sinuous, burning trail in its wake, greasy smoke filling the street. Mandibles flexed, hungry for my flesh.
“You're welcome to try,” I grinned, falling into a dueling stance.
As another blast of energy knock Prince Meinard back, I tensed, watching the slithering approach of the monster. Ash drifted down from the sky. Time slowed as my heart beat faster and faster. I focused, my blade becoming an extension of my body, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. To impale the thing on my sword. I aimed for that neck joint bubbling with ichor.
It came closer.
It's body shifted to the right.
Its mandibles snapped.
I snapped forward. My right leg kicked out as I propelled myself forward with the left. My blade aimed down, the entire weight of my body behind the thrust. The shadowy blade drove at the creature's neck joint.
Its tail flexed. Flaming oil burst from it and flew at my face.
The monster crashed through Greta's wave. With a long, bony arm, it knocked her to her feet, her blue armor ringing. She gasped, trembling on her back. It rose above her, mouth opening to rip out my fellow sex slave's throat.
I abandoned my slow stalk and charged.
I took two steps and then yowled in delight. Not a sound came from my body, not even my shout. The armor absorbed everything. I didn't need to move slowly. I could run as fast as I wanted and still be the quietest hunter in the world.
I leaped, a purr rising in my throat. I didn't hear it, but the soothing rumble of my vocal cords electrified my body. I drew back both my fists, aiming the triangular katars square at this things back. A tremble raced through my body.
I crashed into its back and thrust.
My blades both punched through the papery skin and slipped past ribs to bury deep in the flesh. My bare feet planted on the lower back, my tail swishing behind me. My purr rumbled my throat with swelling intensity as the monster let out a bellow of pure pain and anger.
I loved it.
My tail wished back and forth to give me balance, keeping me in place as it thrashed. Greta squeaked in surprise. Her armor clanged as she scrambled to her feet. I caught blurs of her as the monster thrashed, twisting his torso to throw me off.
“Like my new proxy, Father?” I asked as I hurtled past Sven lunging at the flaming centipede. More purple energy glowed before me, gathered by Aingeal.
“My sweetling?” my father gasped as he stared at my feyhound proxy.
Aingeal fired her power.
The blast slammed into his iron chest. The purple energy spilled over his metallic body. He stumbled back from the force, ringing like a deep gong. I landed before him, staring up at his towering form. Blood and dirt splattered his body. He looked terrifying. Inhuman.
“You... would attack me?” he said.
“Yes!” I snarled.
“Ooh, we're going to kick your ass!” Aingeal screeched, forgetting only I could hear her.
His blade slashed down at me, a falling meteor of iron death. I sprang to the side with ease. It crashed into the stone. Purple energy fired from my mouth. It struck my father in the shoulder. He reeled back.
“How?” he demanded, jamming his blade into the gap between cobblestones, buckling up the paving stones, to keep his balance. “How do you have that power?”
“Because I love Sven!” I cried out. “I'm his wife! And this is what it's gained me! A family who loves me! Not one who enslaves me!” Anger boiled through me.
“Yes, yes, we're going to destroy you with our love!” Aingeal howled. “Cernere's black fingers and Las's fertile cum!”
Violet energy gathered before us, forming a large drop of undulating, liquid power.
Greta gained her feet as I scrambled on the back of the monster. “Ooh, I got you,” I said, allowing my voice to make sound and be heard. “You thought you were a hunter, but no! I out hunted you! I stalked you!”
It howled. Clawed hands swept behind it, blindly slashing at me. I moved, punching my katars into his flesh to pull me along. A foul, black liquid oozed out, spilling down its back as I moved. I twisted my blade in him, loving each and every bellow.
“Zanyia?” Greta gaped.
“Go help out with that ooze-thing,” I hissed. Ealaín and Carsina hammered it with no effect. “Maybe water hurts it.”
“Right!” she said. “Thank you!”
“Can't let one of Master's sex slaves get hurt,” I said.
The ooze kept writhing and gurgling. I stood utterly flummoxed. It didn't fight to defend itself at all, just let Ealaín and Carsina hammer it with their ineffective blows. What was going on? My illusion was still whole, still corporeal inside of it. I could feel the monster squeezing down with its oily body.
It couldn't hurt my illusion. And it couldn't fight. Why?
Bellows of pain drew my attention. Zanyia scampered along the back of the other monster, stabbing into the bear-like monstrosities flesh as it tried to bat her away. Greta darted from them, her large tits jiggling in the low-cut armor, the skirt of banded mail rippling about her pumping thighs. She rushed towards me, holding her watery weapon.
“I'll help, Mistress!” Greta shouted.
I nodded and released the amulet. My left hand throbbed from grasping it. My palm felt cut from squeezing the facets too hard. I flexed my hand as water swept from Greta's blade and splashed over the monster.
“FREEDOM!” the monster bellowed in its gurgling, noxious voice.
Its tentacles lashed out at the water slamming into it. It moved again. Why did water do that?
Chapter Thirty: Iron-Hot Rage
I was so greedy for this new power my daughter had developed. Even as she battered me with the balls of purple energy, driving back my body with each hit, I craved it. I yearned for this ability. What other secrets of imbuing had the priests of Krab shown her? Why had I never thought to patronize the followers of the very God whose blood gave me this ability.
“You know you want to be my sweetling again,” I said, falling to my knee, ramming my sword into the cobblestones again to weather the attacks. They hit my iron body hard. It quivered, the structure growing stressed in place. “Yes, yes you have to be.”
“I don't!” she snarled.
“Don't tell me your pussy isn't hot for my cock. That you aren't craving writhing in my bed again. I know you yearn to be my whore.”
“Never again!” she hissed. “You will never touch my body!”
“But you want me.” I stared at her acorn eyes. “Even in this wooden form you wear, I know your true body is aching for me. Your pussy so wet for your daddy's cock fucking you.” I smiled despite another set of energy balls slamming into my body, rocking me to the side. “You called me Daddy. You moaned it with that wanton mouth.
“When you weren't sucking my cock!”
“Shut up!” she howled.
Purple energy washed over me.
“When you weren't guzzling down my cum, you called me Daddy in that sweet voice. I can feel the passion from you. You want me. You may hate me, but your body is addicted to me. Sven can never—”
My head snapped back. A numbness fuzzed through my control of the proxy for a heartbeat.
“I don't have to do anything for you!” she snarled. “I'm not bound by that spell! I'm free! And I'm pregnant with Sven's son.”
“What?” I growled. “That pup tried to use that same lie.”
“It's no lie! We conceived a child. All those times you pumped your cum into me didn't matter, Father. Your seed was wasted!”
“Sven's son will rule Kivoneth one day! Not yours!”
As I reeled back from the blow, anger surged through me. A rage so deep, so black, encompassed me. How could my daughter betray me for him? I raised her. I loved her. I worshiped her with the same fervent passion I gave her mother. Only two women ever shared my bed. Two! I loved them both.
How could she do this to me?
A purple shield sprang around my daughter's proxy, blocking my slashing sword. I gained my feet, gripping my blade in two hands, and hammered it down at her. Blind fury consumed me. I hacked and hacked at the purple shield, battering at it, compelling my proxy to its limits.
Molten rage built in my proxy, heating me.
“That's it, get that ooze!” I shouted as Greta slammed her water at it.
That got a reaction from the slime. It did not like that. It undulated and gurgled in anger. Tentacles lashed at her, bursting through the waves to attack her. She cut one with her blade. I loved it. I slammed my punching daggers deep into the monster's back and watched Greta unleash her passion in frothy waves of—
A bony elbow cracked into my head.
The world spun around me. I hit the ground, rolling in silent agony. I came to a rest, the world blurring into doubles before me. My temple pounded. I groaned, struggling to understand what had happened. My stomach writhed. I let out a groan, ears twitching.
I had to... do... something... What... Think...
The monster loomed over me, ichor dripping down its sides, running from its back. A maw of sharp teeth opened.
The ooze retreated before Greta's water. It slashed tentacles at it while contorting and writhing. Somehow, the liquid was hurting it. I lowered my glowing weapons, not sure what I should be doing. I was useless against the monster. Then her blade cut through a tentacle that burst out of her water. It fell to the ground in a splatter of jelly.
“NO!” gurgled the monster.
I took a step back, breathing, gathering myself. The other monster, the one Greta was fighting, howled in agony. I glanced over in time for my stomach to tighten. Zanyia hurtled from its back and crashed into the ground, her silent tumble eerie. She came to a halt on her back, her body limp.
The monster loomed over her, teeth flashing.
My armor flared in brightness. My weapons brilliance shone upon me as I raced across the temple, boots thudding on the stone floor. The ooze gurgled in pain behind me as jaws snapped down at my lamia-wife.
“Zanyia!” I screamed, raising my ax and hammer.
Ealaín charged past me, rushing to Zanyia's aid. Carsina scrambled back to me, soaked by Greta's water. She gripped her diamond hammer in her hand, her face wide and trembling. She stared at me, shaking her head.
“How did you do it?” she asked.
“I thought that was you,” I said, glancing at the hammer. “You hit it, and it went still.”
“No, I thought it was you. You shouted at it and it was like... like it listened.”
“Why would it do that?” I demanded. “That doesn't make any sense.”
Carsina just shook her head while the monster gurgled. Greta hacked at it with her sword now. Every watery sweep sent more and more jellied flesh to splatter the ground, the ooze shrinking in size now, dying.
Did I control it?
My blows slammed into the back of the monster. Black ichor spurted around the bade of my ax while I felt the satisfying crunch of bone beneath my hammer. Light exploded. The monster howled, its bulk stumbling over Zanyia.
She lay dazed, but I was in time.
The monster whirled around and then flinched from the light pouring off my weapons. It held up a clawed hand, taking a step back from me. I grinned and stepped forward, moving between it and dazed Zanyia.
“It's a hunter... like me...” Zanyia groaned. “It doesn't like... the light.”
I glowed brighter.
I groaned and pushed myself to my feet as the incandescent aoi si rushed at the monster. It snarled in fury, claws slashing at the brightness. A wave of dizziness swept over me as Ealaín drove the monster into retreat.
I smiled, my prey distracted. It was time to go in for the kill.
Lights and shadows danced, the brilliance of Ealaín's sweeping weapons creating deep pockets of darkness. I skirted around their fight, my katars dripping with the monster's ichorous blood. I yearned to defeat it.
“Rithi's inspiring vision!” snarled Ealaín as she pressed her attack.
I darted in and leaped at the thing. It threw up a bony arm, blocking a hammering blow. Its arm shivered, somehow not breaking. But the burst of pure, white light stabbed into the monster's eyes. It flinched, head twisting.
Its neck exploded.
My katar slammed into the side of its neck, severing deep into the flesh. Its roar cut off into a gurgling wheeze. Ichor spurted as I cut through veins and its windpipe. It stiffened and thrashed. Ealaín, her face a dark spot amid her glowing armor, slammed her ax and hammer into the thing's chest. The blade split through its ribs while the hammer crushed the sternum.
The monster toppled backward. I leaped off of it and landed in a crouch beside the aoi si. I whirled around and smiled as it crashed into the ground. It spasmed, clawed fingers twitching. The ache in the side of my head faded as I purred my delight, letting the sound rumble out of my throat.
I was a better hunter.
Carsina darted back to fight the monster.
“You can't hurt it!” I cried out.
“I have an idea!” she shouted, brandishing the diamond hammer.
Despite Greta hacking at it, she was only carving off small chunks. It retreated farther back, working around the room and... coming towards me. It still wanted the amulet.
A wave of fear shot through me as tentacles formed. I took a step back. They shot out at me.
Carsina didn't charge at the monster like I thought. She reached Greta. As I threw myself to the floor in a vain attempt to dodge the tentacles, I caught a glimpse of Carsina slamming the hammer into the back of Greta's armor.
Diamond energy pulsed.
I hit the ground.
Tentacles seized me in a slimy grip.
“Sven!” I howled against the terror of the disgusting appendage lifting me up in the air.
The diamond energy poured into Greta's armor from the hammer. The blue glow flared. Her sword burst with water. It spilled out around her, splashing with its purity. Any part of the ooze it touched dissolved away, washed clean by her water.
With a shout, Greta leaped forward and slammed her sword into the monster's depths. As it dragged me towards its bulk, it suddenly swelled. It let out a gurgling cry. The tentacle squeezed tight about me as it ballooned larger and larger.
Water burst out of the sight, a stream washing through its body, cleaning it from the inside. It erupted again and again. It deflated now, dissolving in the torrent of purity Greta poured into it. I gasped as the tentacle melted into muck, dropping me into the water flowing across the floor. I grunted, landing on my side, my robe soaked in an instant.
The glow in Greta's armor faded. The vast flood dwindled. But it was enough. The thing melted away, leaving behind the desiccated corpse of poor Theophil. I shuddered, looking away as Carsina let out a low, keening moan of grief.
We won, but...
“His body is strong,” Aingeal gasped. “He's battering through the abjuration spirits with just metal.”
I trembled, staring up at my father's sword hammering down at me. I was close to his proxy. I had been around his proxies before. He and mother had taught me how to use my abilities from when I was a child.
“We need to move, Ava! The shield's going to fail!”
I never noticed... strings before. It couldn't see them, but... feel them with my mind, sensing them with a means of perception beyond sight or hearing or touch or smell or taste. They moved the sword, the body, puppeteering it.
Something in the back of my mind flared with diamond energy. It swept through the world, most pouring into an armor, supercharging its abilities. But... it was my hammer. Krab forged it for me to do... something. I could use it to create.
“What's wrong? Ava! Move! One more blow and he's battered through!”
I siphoned off a minute amount of the energy. The strings were delicate things. I didn't need a hammer to destroy them. Just a sharp pair of scissors. I imagined them all around the body, guiding them with this sixth sense.
I severed them.
As my father's sword fell, his entire body went limp. The blade crashed through the shield. I leaped to the side as the iron sword hit the pavement, purple energy falling like rain around us. A moment later, his body clattered to the paving stone.
“What did you just do?” Aingeal asked.
“I... I banished him. That's not a proxy any longer. He can't imbue it.”
“You can do that?”
I nodded the feyhound's head, wondering why the hammer suddenly surged with its power.
I raised my left arm before me as the splashes of flaming oil hurtled at me. They landed on my bare skin, sizzling. My sword lunged forward, my thrust true. I braced myself for the searing pain. Felt the first kiss of fire.
Shadows slithered down my arm and swallowed the fire, leaving only raw, stinging flesh behind.
My sword plunged into the gap of the centipede's carapace. This time, I didn't glance off its armored chitin. My blade drove deep at an angle, cutting into its organs. I plunged deep, twisted my blade. It thrashed as I pinned it to the pavement. Flaming oil flung off in all directions, splatting the ground as it hissed and thrashed.
Its head lifted up. Its mandibles opened wide. In its maw, flames gathered. I cursed and wrenched my sword free, throwing myself back. It vomited a gout of flame at me. The heat seared before me, chasing after me.
I closed my eyes, bracing myself for—
Flames whooshed in front of me. I felt a new heat that was somehow... loving in its warmth. I opened my eyes to see a curtain of fire burning before me, absorbing the liquid vomit, burning off the oily gout spewing burning from the monster's mouth.
“Master, strike!” Nathalie shouted. Her flames died.
The centipede's mouth still gaped open after breathing. Flowing with the speed of shadows, I threw myself forward. My rapier lanced through the air and rammed down the monster's gullet. I penetrated so deep into it, the hilt slamming into its mandibles. They twitched as the monster spasmed. Its legs collapsed.
I wrenched my blade free as it spasmed. Its tail curled up into a ball as it went through its death throes. Inky ichor poured out of its mouth, forming a noxious puddle on the ground. The flames licking at its body caught fire, the reek driving me back.
“Master!” Nathalie shrieked in delight and ran to me.
An owl hooted.
Pain exploded through my soul.
I howled as I slammed into my body. I shuddered on my chair. I bucked and groaned. I ground my teeth together from the pain of my proxy's destruction. How did she do it? How did Ava so neatly destroy me. I was moments from battering down the shield and hacking her form into kindling. Then I would find her. Seize her.
Remind her who owned her pussy after I had Sven's brat expunged from her. I would breed her, even if I had to tie her to the bed and make her my broodmare!
“Your Highness,” an agitated voice shouted from beyond the door. “Please, your Highness, are you in pain?”
“I'm fine!” I growled. “Go away, Shevoin!”
“But... my Prince, we have word from Az. It just arrived via the priests of Seljan. Monsters are attacking the city. The town militia is being butchered.”
“It's nothing,” I growled.
“It's failure,” a new voice said from the door.
Shevoin let out a yelp of surprise. “Wh-what are you doing here?”
My office door burst open. The Paragon ducked her massive form through the wreckage. She rose like a shadowy monolith above me. Through the pain stabbing into my mind, I groaned. My stomach twisted with more than nausea. A cold sweat broke across my body.
“Your other monsters were still alive,” I said.
“All dead,” she reported. She loomed over me, her voice that strange rumble of masculine and feminine. “You are afraid.”
“Of course not,” I growled, straightening despite the cold dribble running down my spine. “Set backs happen in any conflict. We must regroup and find a new avenue of attack. They had... armor. Abilities we did not anticipate.”
“They opened the vault. They have the key.”
“But we can still get it,” I said, desperation swallowing fear. I rose to my feet. “We can still get the amulet, kill that cuckolding bastard, and then you will help me save my Princedom.”
“Yes, we still can,” she said, holding her hand before her. She had a strange thing in it, like a beetle, but with ten legs. They flexed, each ending at sharp claws. It made a skittering sound.
“W-what is that?”
Before I could move, she thrust her arm forward, pressing the beetle into my chest. Ten needles stabbed into my flesh, sliding past my ribs. Such agony exploded through me. I fell backward into my chair, spasming, my fingers clawing at the hard carapace.
“Change only comes through pain, Prince Meinard,” the Paragon said. “Soon, you will be ready to win back your daughter and your princedom. Soon.”
She crooned, the hideous sounds a mockery of a mother's lullaby while torturous pain assaulted my body. Reshaped my flesh.