The Succubae Seduction: Chapters 20-24

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Chapter 20
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Cops, Confrontations, and Coworkers

I waste no time in getting to my feet, but my balance is off and I tip over, landing hard on the carpeted floor.

Head swimming, I look around to see that I’m the only one awake, though Areth’s tiny form is starting to stir. Brooke, Ondine, Lisa, and Becky all lie motionless. Flashes of witnessing their deaths flit through my mind as I try to regain my feet.

Brooke’s body severed in two bloody pieces.

A spear thrust through Becky’s torso, pain contorting her pretty features.

Angela’s head flying through the air, cut from her body.

A sword thrust through Ondine’s stomach, her face still full of rage at Thomas’s death.

Lisa’s neck snapped from a kick delivered by Brooke’s foot.

A broken sword thrust through Jennifer’s neck, her eyes open wide in surprise and confusion.

No! I shake my head, trying to clear it. They can’t be dead! It had all been a dream. Oh, please let it all have been a dream.

If it had been a dream, then why am I still naked? And why is Muramasa bundled up with my pants?

A shudder runs through me, as I contemplate my fate with the cursed sword. Why had Marchosias been surprised by it? Hadn’t he given it to me in his dream reality?

I don’t have time for that right now. Getting back up to my hands and knees, I crawl over to where Brooke is slumped over on the floor. Placing my fingers against her neck, a heavy sigh escapes me when I find her pulse. Feeling solid again, I get to my feet and this time stay upright. I keep my pace regular as I walk over to Lisa and Becky; I’m still a little unsteady. Relief washes through me as I find strong pulses on both their necks. From here I can make out the normal rise and fall of Ondine’s chest.

Moving back to the tiny Areth, I pick up her small form in my hands, and she begins to stir. Grabbing her clothing, I hand it to her, and she quickly gets dressed, somehow getting her top on around her wings.

“How are you feeling?” I ask, concerned for the four-inch woman.

Running her hands down her dress, she gives herself a quick check, and then looks at me curiously.

“Better than I thought,” she states, wonder in her eyes. “I thought I would feel empty, or something, but I actually feel more alive than I have since coming to your world.”

“Well, that’s something at least,” I tell her, still sad that she no longer has a soul of her own.

“What’s going on?” Lisa asks groggily, sitting up and rubbing her eyes while I get dressed. The other women also begin stirring, and looking around in wonder, appearing muddled.

I leave the cursed sword on the floor, not wanting to touch it, but mentally knowing that I’ll have to put it on at some point, or it’ll put itself on me.

“What do you remember?” I ask the women, when they sit up.

Each woman tells me in turn about their experiences. Becky and Lisa are astounded to find out that they still remember their skills with fighting, though I notice they didn’t get to keep their blades. Why was I so unlucky?

Ondine and Brooke look at each other sheepishly, as they remember battling each other, and the curly redhead keeps apologizing profusely to the other mermaid for killing her.

It takes a bit to sort everything out, by which time Angela arrives, still in her Amazon guise. She remembers just as much as Brooke does, shuddering as she recalls being the demon’s thrall, with no will of her own.

“When I woke up,” the succubus says, “I was in the back of an ambulance. Apparently someone saw me collapse in the grocery store, and nearly fainted when they saw me change into this form. I had to leave the EMTs in quite a horny state, just to get out of there.” Knowing just what the woman is capable of, I almost feel sorry for the medical workers. Hopefully no one gets pregnant out of the ordeal. “They wouldn’t let me leave until they’d done a thorough examination, but I felt I needed to get back here as soon as possible.”

Remembering that Sheila, Thomas, AnnaBelle, and Jennifer had also been in the fantasy world, I think to call them, but Becky stops me. “If the police know about your connection to them, their lines might be tapped. If you call them, we’ll have the police here within minutes.” I’m glad Becky’s thinking straight right now, my mind is still a mess.

I look back to Angela to borrow the police woman’s phone, and groan when I realize she’d probably lost it when Marchosias forced her into the Amazonian semblance. My anger with Marchosias’s meddling is really beginning to rise.

You should have let me taste him, more. He was so sweet!

Shuddering, I try to push the wicked blade’s words from my mind. I may hate Marchosias pretty badly at the moment, but I’m not sure he deserves that kind of death.

“How long have we been out?” I ask, looking around the room. I was supposed to call the police station back the following day, but we’d been in that dream for about two days.

“Not long,” Lisa says, looking at her phone. “Maybe an hour.”

“That would explain why I was still in the ambulance,” Angela states. “Um, Lyden? Where did you get that sword?” The succubus points to my hip.

With another groan, I look and see that Muramasa is securely fastened to my left side. At least he’s quiet now. “A gift from Marchosias, I think,” I state uncertainly. The demon had been surprised I had the blade, and even appeared to be afraid of it. “It’s name is Muramasa.”

Angela, Brooke, and Ondine all flinch and back away from me, fear in their eyes.

“Do you have any idea how dangerous that thing is?” Angela demands worriedly of me. “That thing will corrupt you, until you’ve killed everyone around you.” She looks around the room to emphasize her point. “The only way to break the curse is to. . . .”

“To die,” I finish for her. “I know, but what else can I do? I didn’t choose the sword. I had it when I woke up in Marchosias’s fantasy world.”

“Break the curse, of course,” Areth says, landing on my shoulder. We all look at her, none of us understanding. “Oh, come on! I can’t be the only one to know how to break the curse of that katana.” When none of us answer her, except for a few shakes of the head, she continues, “I guess I am. Well, it’s simple, really. All we have to do is find Masamune. The blade is oppositely cursed. Put the two together, and he’ll be fine. The two curses will cancel each other out.” She pauses, before sitting daintily on my shoulder. “Now, who knows where that blade is?” Did she have to ask that so happily?

“No one’s been able to find that blade in centuries,” Brook protests at the same time Becky asks, “How is it cursed differently?”

Surprisingly, it’s Angela that answers the question. “Masamune is peaceful, where Muramasa is the epitome of evil. Only the most wicked can be harmed by Masamune.” She turns to face the fairy and me, before adding, “The opposing forces of the two swords would tear his mind apart.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” Areth replies cryptically. “Either he goes mad and kills all of us, commits suicide therefore dooming both of our worlds if the prophecy is true, or tries this one chance to counteract the curse.”

“But we don’t know where the other sword is,” Ondine reminds us.

“I do,” Angela says quietly. We all look at her, shock apparent in our faces.

“How?” Brooke demands. “It’s been lost for centuries.”

Angela only shakes her head though, before answering a different question. “It’s in the Pillar of Light’s realm.” She drops her eyes to the floor. “I can guide you there.”

“How do you know this?” Brooke demands again, but I can see that the succubus doesn’t want to answer.

“That’s not important right now,” Becky says, coming to the succubus’s rescue and getting everyone’s attention. Angela shoots her a grateful look, but Brooke glares at the short brunette, obviously not willing to let this go. “We’ve got a lot on our plate, and how someone knows something isn’t as important as how we’re going to get things accomplished.” Facing Angela directly, she holds up her pointer finger and says, “We need to get a phone that won’t be traced back here, but I don’t think we want to get anyone innocent into trouble.” Lifting her social finger, she looks to the fairy still perched on my shoulder, “We need to make that appointment with Gaia, but we should have plenty of time for that.” Third finger rises. “Since Marchosias was kind enough to give us all weapons skills, we need to get weapons.”

“Ondine and Brooke, I’m putting you on that detail,” I pipe up, seeing where the smart woman is going. “Stay on Earth if you can. I don’t want you taking any unnecessary risks.” Turning back to Angela again, I add “You’ll need to guide Areth and me to this other sword. Unfortunately, also thanks to Marchosias, the fairy and I are permanently tied together.”

Everyone gives us a pitying look, until Areth sticks her tongue out at them. At least the tiny fairy’s attitude hasn’t changed. It seems to be just the trick, as the mood noticeably lightens.

“Let’s get that phone and call Captain Jewkes. I want to get my name cleared as soon as possible,” I inform the room. Angela takes off immediately, I think as much to escape Brooke’s demanding glare as to be useful. I plop myself on the couch to wait.

It’s late, and everyone decides to go to sleep, but after the two sex sessions in the fantasy world—had that really only been an hour long?—I’m too wired up to rest.

You can’t trust them, Muramasa whispers in my mind. Sooner or later they will betray you. The succubus. The mermaids. Even the weak humans and tiny fairy will lead you to disaster, unless you let me feed on them. None of them truly care about you, only what they can get from you.

I try to shove the insidious voice away from my mind, but the part about Angela sticks. Why wouldn’t she say how she knew about the location of Masamune? It’s not as though she’s ever. . . . No! I mentally think. Angela can be trusted. She has her reasons, and she only wants to help.

Why is Muramasa laughing?

Concluding that an idle mind will only give the cursed sword more fodder to play with, I check on Becky, and find she’s still awake, so I ask for one of her legal books.

“Sure, any particular topic?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I tell her. “I keep hearing about all these laws that we’re breaking in the Shadow World, and just want to see what I can think up.” It’s a lie, but I don’t want to tell her that I’m working to fight the sword’s influence.

The sound of Muramasa’s continued laughter echoes in my head, but I ignore it. I can trust them, dammit!

“You realize none of my books will cover the other world, right?” Becky asks, concern in her tone.

“That’s okay,” I tell her, getting an idea. “Maybe just something on immigration laws, or marriage laws? Those seem to be the ones I keep running afoul of.”

I realize my mistake in mentioning marriage as soon as the words leave my mouth. I see the short brunette mouth the word ‘marriage,’ and her cheeks go a deep red color, before she turns away wordlessly. She returns a moment later, with a thick book in her hands, refusing to meet my eyes as she hands it over.

“I’m not sure if this will help, but here.” She shoves the book into my hands, and flees before I can explain. I wonder what she’s thinking.

I spend the next little while giving myself a headache, trying to read all the legalese on various marriage laws. Thankfully the fairy gives me some space, and even the katana keeps his whisperings down to a minimum.

Hands start rubbing my shoulders, and I look up into Brooke’s deep green eyes.

“You were looking a little stressed,” she tells me.

“Thanks,” I reply appreciatively, placing my hand on hers. “There’s just so much that needs to be done. Sometimes it feels like I have a mountain to climb, but no gear to climb it with.”

“You’re not the only one here,” she reminds me. “You aren’t carrying this burden alone. Let us be your gear.” She smiles at me, but her brows knit together for a moment. “Come with me,” she says quietly, pulling me to my feet.

“Where are you taking me?” I ask with a smile, trying to hide my sudden unease. I see Arethusa asleep on the couch, and guess that the other women are asleep around the house.

She just returns my smile, though, and leads me out to the backyard.

“You know, growing up in the Shadow World, we didn’t have stars,” her tone is wistful.

“I didn’t know that,” I reply, looking up at the night sky. The stars are hidden behind a layer of clouds. “Did you grow up in an area that had night?”

She holds my hand, and turns to look at me. “No, but sometimes I’d visit the border of where the Pillar of Darkness’s realm enters Varun’s.” Her statement doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Maybe I’m going to have to see if there’s a map or something to the Shadow World.

“Even in the city, there aren’t many stars,” I say, slipping my arm around her waist.

She turns her slender body to face mine, and what little light comes from the house illuminates her beautiful features. Silence reigns for a few moments, as we just take in each other’s features, and the peaceful night. Even Muramasa remains silent, which I’m thankful for.

“I love you,” she whispers self-consciously.

“I love you, Brooke,” I reply, bringing our faces close together, and kissing her tenderly.

Her arms slip around my neck, pulling me tighter into the kiss. My hands roam her back a little, before I finally drop them to her small rear. We kiss like this for a bit, before she drops her hands to my shirt and lifts it over my head.

Our eyes meet as my shirt comes off, and I see her bite her bottom lip in thought. “I want you, Lyden. We . . . we haven’t been together, at least not really, and I wanted to have you before you talked to the police, or go on find the other sword, or meet with Gaia, or some other crazy thing happens.”

I’m surprised as I hear her say that, realizing that she’s right. Every time we’ve been together, has been in one of our minds. This will be the first time we’ll be together in truth.

Smiling gently at her, I start to undo my pants, letting them and Muramasa drop to the grass.

Our eyes meet for only a moment before her hand goes to my groin, fondling my manhood and bringing me to full hardness, while her lips press back against mine and our tongues dance. We’re only kissing for a short time, before she drops to her knees, and sucks my rigid phallus between her soft lips. Dropping my hands to her red curls, I moan, as I feel her tongue go to work around the sensitive rim of my cock’s head.

“Oh, Brooke,” I moan, as she starts to move her head back and forth, slowly swallowing more and more of my turgid prick down her throat. It doesn’t take long before I feel her tongue slipping out to wash my scrotum, her nose pressed into my pelvis, and my compacted prick nicely ensconced within her trachea.

She holds like this for a while, and I begin to wonder if she can breathe, until I move her hair aside, and see her gills fluttering. I didn’t know she could use them in the atmosphere, but as she continues with my rod firmly ensconced in her throat, I can’t complain.

Feeling myself start to get close, I gently pull her off me, wanting to be with my childhood friend completely.

She seems to know exactly how I’m feeling, as she lies back and lifts her hips to take off her pants. Words are unnecessary, as I drop between her legs, planting a tender kiss on her crotch. Deciding that I need a break in order not to blow immediately, I suck in her inner labia, enjoying the sounds of her light moaning at my ministrations.

Her love fluids, already lubricating her hole, start to flow in earnest, and I lap them up hungrily. Sucking hard on her clit makes her squeal, and her strong thighs squeeze my head as she cums, sending waves of delicious energy into me.

As soon as her thighs release their grip on my skull, I kiss my way up her body, spending no small amount of time on her small sensitive nipples. The tip of my cock bumps against the slim woman’s vulva, making us both moan in anticipation. Reaching down between us, I rub myself against her slit, prolonging the moment of completion.

“Umm,” the beautiful redhead whispers, and I look up from her small breast at her, “It’s been decades since I’ve been with anyone physically.”

I understand immediately what she’s telling me. Her hymen has grown back. I wonder if it takes seven years for mermaids like it does for humans?

Moving my mouth over to her other tit, I place my cock at her delightful entrance. “Ready?” I ask.

“Just get it over with already,” she mutters. Taking that as my cue, I slowly work my way inside her, my penis conforming to her undeniably tight canal. As soon as I bump up against the thin barrier of flesh, I hold still, and look deep into her eyes.

“One. . . . Two,” I throw my hips forward with force, tearing apart her hymen and sinking fully into her. “Three,” I say belatedly, as she bites her knuckle to keep from screaming.

“That was worse than I remembered,” she tells me, when she has full control of herself again.

“I’m sorry,” I apologize softly into her ear.

“Don’t be,” she replies back, hugging me tightly to her body. “It was long overdue.”

My lips press against her neck, and ever so slowly, I begin to pull out. Her maimed right hand drops to my buttocks, squeezing it, and urging me back into her.

Every inch of her slippery cunt feels like heaven as we complete ourselves, our souls in sync. My lips travel up her neck to her ear, where I nibble lightly on her earlobe.

Her hips pick up a rhythm in time with my own, and soon we’re both grunting, panting, and moaning as I bring my lips back to hers.

Suddenly her inner walls constrict as she cries into my mouth in bliss, driving my pleasure higher as her delicious energy pours into my soul. Without any other warning, my orgasm hits, as I fire my non-fertilizing ejaculate deep into her.

“Thank you, Lyden,” she mumbles, as we hold each other.

This was a much better distraction than those law books, I think to myself.

We lay like this for a bit, before we decide to dress, and head back in.

A knock on the door startles me, and I find my hand on Muramasa’s pommel before I even realize I’m on edge.

Lisa rushes out of her room and waves me to hiding. I realize the merit in it, heading into the kitchen, when I hear a mature woman at the door and at first think it’s AnnaBelle, until I hear the woman swear.

“Dammit, lemme in, Lisa,” the woman at the door states firmly. “I got what Lyden wanted.”

“Angela?” I ask, coming around the corner.

Standing in the doorway is a slightly pudgy older woman, gray lightly sprinkling her otherwise light brown hair and a smile pulling at the corners of her mouth. In her hand is a flip phone, which looks ancient compared to modern cellphones. While there is a matronly beauty to her, this is the oldest I’ve seen the succubus.

“About time you got back,” I grouse, suddenly ornery with the woman for making me worry. She blinks at me, the smile fading from her face, and I realize how I’m acting. “Sorry,” I mutter, feeling ashamed. Why was I suddenly upset? I’m still a little euphoric from being with Brooke. “Whose form is that?”

“I figured the only person that Captain Jewkes would trust, is Mrs. Jewkes,” she says, and I can see that my attitude has dimmed her inner light a bit.

“Great thinking,” I try to say cheerily, trying to make up for my prior grumpiness, but it sounds hollow, even to me. “We’ll call first thing in the morning. For now, I think we should all get what rest we can.”

Despite being full of energy, I decide to lie on the couch again, and actually awaken to the matronly looking Angela, the sun shining behind her as she leans over me.

“Morning Sleepyhead,” she grins at me, and I can see I’m the last to wake.

Angela flips the phone open, and calls the captain’s cell phone, since it’s stored in the memory, placing the call on speaker so we can all listen in.

“Hey, Hun,” I hear the officer answer in moderated tones on the other end, “I told you I was busy waiting on something. Is it really important?”

I feel bad for deceiving the man, but shake it off. “Sorry for the deception, Captain Jewkes,” I say, keeping my voice firm. “We copied your wife’s phone to make this call.”

“What have you done with my wife?” the man demands angrily, and I realize what it must seem like to him. He probably assumes we’ve kidnapped her and stolen her phone.

“Nothing,” I protest, trying to sound as innocent as possible. “Honestly, Captain, I have no idea where she is, and she has no idea that we’ve cloned her phone.”

“Hmph,” he snorts, “I guess Jenkins really is innocent.” I can hear him taking a deep breath, before proceeding. “You wanted to talk, so talk, Mr. Snow.”

“Did you listen to the interrogation with Miranda?” I ask first.

“That’s Agent Olsen to you, and it seems there was a problem with the recording instruments. There was nothing we could do,” he informs me, and I wonder if he believes his own likely story. “Why don’t you tell me what it was about?”

“I told you yesterday,” I state, growing angry at the man’s cavalier attitude. “All she cared about was making sure I was guilty, and threatening to kill me.”

“She tells a slightly different story,” the man’s voice stays calm and soothing, and I realize he’s trying to play me.

“I’m sure she does,” I say, trying to moderate my own tone to match his. “Look, there’s only one way to prove my point,” my mind races fast, settling on a location. “I’ll text you a location shortly. Meet me there, bring whatever law enforcement you want, but please understand I will come unarmed.”

“You realize that I’ll have to place you under arrest, Mr. Snow,” he tells me smoothly. “You’re still considered a suspect.”

“Do what you have to do, Jewkes,” Becky snaps at him, intentionally avoiding his honorific. “Just make sure Olsen isn’t there.”

“Who’s that?” The other man demands, but I ignore him.

“Like I said, I’ll be unarmed, and I don’t want to try to defend myself against her zealotry,” I add in.

“She’s on administrative leave,” he tells me, and then I hear his teeth click. I don’t think he meant to tell me that.

“Wait for the address,” I tell him, and close the phone.

Turning back to the room, I have to fill my lungs deeply a few times to calm down. I don’t want to take my anger at the captain out on these women. Muramasa doesn’t help, trying to rile me back up, but I push his voice away.

“Brooke, Angela, I want you both with me,” I tell the two women, “and of course Areth will have to come too, though I want you to hide in my shirt.”

“Can I hide in your shirt too?” Angela asks, a smile starting to creep onto her weathered face.

I smile back at her, but can’t find it in me to really feel it. That fantasy world of Marchosias’s really affected me. At least, I hope it’s that, and not because Brooke is standing right next to her. The last thing I need is to start worrying about pissing off one of my girlfriends.

“I want the rest of you with my car,” I tell the other women. “At the first sign of trouble, I want you to get away.”

They look at each other, and I already know that my last order will be ignored. Oh well. Told you, they’re loyal, I tell Muramasa.

Unless they’re staying close to make it easier to betray you, he replies, and I curse the blade.

I tell them all where we’re going as we pile into the Orange Bubble, and lay out my plan.

It’s just starting to lightly rain, and I can’t decide if that’s a good omen, or bad. It’ll help Arethusa, but might hinder negotiations.

I wait until we’re at the park, before texting the location to Captain Jewkes.

I remove Muramasa from my hip, promising the blade I’ll don him again when I’m done. I hope it’s good enough. I’d promised to come unarmed, and Muramasa is likely the most dangerous weapon I could show up with.

We head into the park, finding a good open spot by a pond.

I’ll say this for the local police force: they’re fast. Within minutes a chopper is hovering overhead, and police surround the park. Areth is hidden in the back of my loose shirt, Angela on my left and Brooke on my right, our backs to each other in a triangle as we wait for Captain Jewkes.

“I must admit to being surprised to find you here,” I hear the captain’s voice ring out clearly, and I spot him walking to us.

“I came unarmed as promised,” I yell to him holding my empty hands out. “Will you hear me out?”

I get my first good look at the man. The light rain splashes against his bald top, short but thick white hair above his ears and neck. Thankfully he isn’t one of those men that feel the need to do a comb over. He moves with ease, and looks fit for his age. His hooked nose sits below shrewd eyes, and I know not much escapes his notice.

“I thought you said you didn’t know where my wife was,” he states, anger in his deep voice as he looks at Angela.

“Watch,” is my only response, as I send the image of her as a jogger. Jewkes’s eyes grow large, and I know what he’s seeing without looking. Brown-gray hair lengthening and turning blonde. His wife’s older body slimming and her midriff becoming visible below a sports bra, and more, as the succubus changes into a different woman. “Are you willing to listen, yet?” I ask, trying to mimic his usual tone.

His sharp eyes narrow as he considers us. “And what can she do?” he demands to know, gesturing at the redhead, “Pull a rabbit out of her hat?”

I laugh, and for once it feels good to laugh. A true one that bursts out, and the man looks worriedly at me. Okay, so maybe the laugh was a little too much or too strong.

“No, she’s a mermaid,” I tell him, bringing myself back under control. The man arches his eyebrows, but Brooke runs to the nearby pond and jumps in. She breaches the water a second later, launching into the air, her tail flicking water as she does a flip and dives back in. A few moments later, she crawls back onto the shore, and we watch as her tail splits into two legs before she stands up.

“You’re ogling her,” Angela laughs quietly to me, and I realize I was indeed enjoying the look of Brooke’s lithe body, her clothes plastered to her.

I smile at the succubus, before replying, “So are you.”

Before she can reply, I turn back to the captain. The helicopter is still hovering overhead, and I wonder what they must be thinking.

“Okay, that’s a neat trick. You’ll have to tell me how you did it from behind bars.” The man reaches behind him, and I tense until he pulls out a set of cuffs.

“You really don’t want to believe,” I say sadly. “Areth?”

The tiny golden fairy leaves the back of my shirt, and flutters up to land on my shoulder. If I’d thought the man’s eyes had bulged at either Angela’s or Brooke’s demonstration, they veritably pop now.

“Captain Jewkes, I’d like to introduce you to my friends.” I hold my hand out to each woman as I name them. “Angela the succubus, Brooke the mermaid, and Arethusa the water fairy.” On the pixie’s name, she leaps from my shoulder, fluttering over to the nearly apoplectic man.

“Your head is shiny,” she says with her usual aplomb, floating around his head, before returning to my shoulder. “Also, don’t call me Arethusa. I hate that name. Everyone just calls me Areth.”

“As you can see, things aren’t what you thought they were, Captain. That fire wasn’t my fault. I was being attacked by another creature—“ I cut myself off as I feel Muramasa materialize at my hip. Captain Jewkes notices, too. “Fuck!” I swear, pissed at the blade for its timing.

“Lyden,” Angela says, fear in her tone.

“I thought you said you came unarmed,” the captain says, obviously glad to latch onto something he understands, even if he can’t understand how the sword suddenly got there.

I open my mouth to reply, but notice a red dot reflecting off the older man’s pate. “Sniper!” I yell, charging the police officer, and tackling him to the ground. The man is tough, though, and somehow gets a handcuff latched around my right wrist, while I’m covering him on the ground.

“Don’t take me for a fool,” the man growls at me, pushing me away from him. Then his eyes grow wide, as he sees the red dot moving on my chest. “What?” he has just enough time to wonder, before I summon my wings, pain ripping through my shoulders as they tear the back of my shirt to shreds, and I feel my energy levels drop slightly. Some small part of my mind notices that forming the new appendages doesn’t require nearly as much energy as it once had, and I thank the sex from yesterday for the energy to bring them out now. I wrap the tough wings around us both just in time, as I feel something impact the thick membrane. “What are you?” he screams at me.

“I’m a generator,” I tell him, knowing that doesn’t really answer his question. “Look, I’ll explain later.” Raising my voice, I shout to the other women, “Where are the shots coming from?” Another bullet hits my wings, but the dragon hide is thick enough to stop it, though it doesn’t exactly feel good, either.

“From a tree a little ways off,” Brooke shouts, and I realize they’re taking cover behind me.

“Areth, can you shield us?” I call out.

“What do you think—“ Jewkes tries to take control, but I ignore him.

The rain stops falling, and I know the little fairy is protecting us. Opening my thick brown wings, I survey the scenery, and see cops running for us. They likely think I’ve attacked the captain. This adventure just keeps getting better. . . .

“Dammit,” I scream in frustration. “Which tree?”

“I think I see her in that one!” Angela yells, as something sparks off the golden tinged shield.

“I can’t hold this forever,” Areth shouts, and I can see the strain in her face, arms outstretched. Even with the light rain, she can’t pull enough energy to protect us for long. “Hurry up!”

“Hold on,” I tell Jewkes. Waiting for the next round to ricochet of our protective barrier, I grip the older man to me, and charge for the tree in question. As soon as we are free of the fairy’s shield, I spread my wings wide, and leap. I still can’t properly fly but I can glide.

We arrive at the tree just in time to see Agent Miranda Olsen drop out, a small caliber rifle with a laser scope in her hands.

“STOP!” I shout in my most commanding voice, and to my surprise, she does. Her eyes turn on me, wide and full of horror.

“What is the meaning of this?” Jewkes demands. “Agent Olsen, explain yourself!”

Angela and Brooke catch up to us, with Areth not far behind. I realize that I could have killed the fairy, as quickly as I moved away from her. Hopefully the distance between us wasn’t too much. I’m going to have to be more careful in the future, and figure out what our range is.

Kill her! She tried to kill you. Destroy her! Let me taste her sweet blood. Please let me taste her. You know you want to. I can feel your anger. Just a quick movement, and I’ll be free to feed. Almost, I draw the cursed blade, but Angela’s hand on top of mine stops me.

“Don’t give into it,” she says. Anger at being thwarted rushes up to me and for a second I’m tempted to shove her away and let her be the first one Muramasa snacks on. Shaking my head, I shudder as I realize how close I’d just come to drawing the evil katana.

“They’re evil, vile beasts,” Miranda is screaming at Jewkes. “They must be put down before they kill us all!”

She raises her rifle to point at Brooke who has stepped to the side, and I know I can’t spread my wings enough to protect the redhead. I start to shout for Areth to protect her, but before I can, she’s tackled to the ground by two men in black tactical gear. A moment later Angela and Brooke are tackled as well. Only Areth, flying above us, Jewkes and me are still standing. We’re surrounded by men in tough gear, weapons drawn and mostly pointed at me.

“Now would be the point where you tell them to stand down, Captain,” I murmur to the man I’m handcuffed to. Muramasa is screaming that I take vengeance on everyone here, but I shove him out of my mind, trying to concentrate on staying calm. This moment is too sensitive to do otherwise.

“What?” the man looks at me in confusion, and I begin to wonder if it’s his favorite word, or if the last few minutes have completely unhinged him. I nod to the SWAT team, and he blinks a few times, the rain falling on us once more, before giving the order. “Stand down.” Again his gaze wanders over us, before looking up at the falling sky. “Is there anywhere we can talk, out of this blasted rain?”

I glance at the SWAT team, still surrounding us, though their weapons are lowered, and then to the very plain looking Agent Olsen. Weapons are still pointed at her. Angela and Brooke are getting back to their feet, when I turn back to the captain. “I think my car will work.”

“Your car?” he splutters. “I’m not letting you drive away just yet, Mr. Snow. I still want an explanation.”

“I’m not trying to escape,” I tell him impatiently. “You’ll understand when we get in the Orange Bubble.” When he still seems hesitant, I add, “Bring some of your SWAT along, and you might as well bring her too,” I finish with a nod to Miranda.

“We’re not going to fit in that burnt out car of yours,” he states, and by the way he’s no longer keeping a calm reasonable tone, I know he’s close to cracking. “Or did you bring a large van out here?”

“Like I said, you’ll understand when we get there.” I turn to walk away, but get blocked by the men in black. Turning an impatient stare on Jewkes, he waves them away, an aggravated expression on his face.

“Johnson, Wilson, grab agent Olsen there, and you’re with me.” I hear the average looking woman start to scream obscenities as they haul her to her feet, but otherwise ignore them.

My car is right where we left it, and I hear Jewkes mutter something about how this can’t be the same car that’d been in the impound lot, and wondering why none of the choppers seemed to notice it before now.

Opening the passenger door, I wave for everyone to get in. The mermaid and succubus head right in, but Jewkes hesitates.

“You two stay out here with her. If anyone leaves before me, they’re to be arrested immediately,” he orders the tough looking men.

“We’ll all fit,” I say, exasperated at the man. “Tell you what,” I add, seeing a way to get this man to lower his disbelief a bit, “Send one of these fine men in first, and let him tell you.”

The police captain looks at me shrewdly for a second, before nodding to the one with ‘Wilson’ on his name tape.

Wilson climbs through the door, and I hear him gasp, before he pokes his helmeted head back out. “Um, Sir, you’re not going to believe this, but we’ll all fit with plenty of room to spare. Hell, the entire SWAT team would fit in here.”

Muttering imprecations under his breath about what’ll happen to the man if he’s wrong, Jewkes climbs in, and I hear him gasp, “It’s bigger!”

“You might as well follow me in with her,” I tell Johnson, before climbing in out of the rain. Miranda is pushed through after me, and a second later the SWAT team member clambers in. Only Areth stays out in the rain. She still looks a little weak after her expenditure of magic, and I don’t blame her for wanting to recharge.

Lisa and Becky are looking at the two SWAT men, fear in their eyes, until Brooke explains the situation to them.

“You see!” Miranda screams hysterically. “This is what I’m talking about. This isn’t natural!” Johnson tries to quiet her, but she shakes him off. “Captain Jewkes, I demand you arrest them all for conspiracy to overthrow our way of life.”

Johnson finally gets a solid grip on her, covering her mouth with a gloved hand and ending her tirade.

“What does she mean?” Jewkes asks, turning to face me.

“Please, sit down,” I say indicating one of the couches, “and I’ll explain everything I can.” The shrewd man takes one final look around the large interior of my car, before shuddering again and taking the proffered seat.

Three hours later, as the sun is just starting its descent to the west, I finish explaining everything. Captain Jewkes still has a skeptical look on his face, but even he can’t deny the evidence all around him.

“What am I supposed to do with her?” he asks, referring to Miranda.

“She tried to kill you,” I state simply. “Let her take the stand, and she’ll condemn herself. Should be no problem getting her locked up in a mental institute.”

“Listen, Mr. Snow, I’m not sure I believe everything you’re telling me, or even want to believe. It’s a lot to think about. Creatures of fantasy trying to destroy their world and come here? I don’t know.” He shakes his head, before turning his shrewd eyes back on me. “Will you be around if I have any more questions?”

“I’m not sure,” I tell him honestly. “I have to get the curse of this damned blade lifted. I don’t know how long I’ll be gone.”

“He can get in touch with us,” Becky says, and we all look at her. “What? You weren’t planning on taking us with you anyway, so he might as well talk to us here on Earth.” I see Lisa nod in agreement, and I accede.

Jewkes lets us go, and we head back to Lisa and Becky’s place.

“Who was that older guy in the fantasy world?” Ondine asks me on the trip back, and I realize I haven’t checked up on anyone else from Marchosias’s nightmare.

“I work with him,” I tell her. “His name’s Thomas, same as it was in the nightmare.” I remember how she’d acted around the man in the fantasy world, and decide I’d better take her with me when I check on my workmates. Checking the clock, I realize there’s no time like the present.

We drop off everyone but Areth and Ondine, and I direct my car towards work.

It doesn’t occur to me until I get there that they might have taken the day off after the events of yesterday, but Jennifer meets me at the entrance, her giant tits barely contained in her guard uniform.

“Why am I not surprised to see you after my nightmare yesterday?” she asks, taking one look at my face, then looking to Ondine. Areth is once again hidden in the back of my shirt.

“Jenny of the Large Pennies,” Ondine murmurs, taking a defensive stance next to me, at the same time Muramasa begins whispering to me, Let me taste her this time. Don’t let her go to waste like last time.

“I’m going to guess that wasn’t a nightmare, after all,” Jennifer says laconically.

“No,” I tell her quietly. “Are Sheila, AnnaBelle, and Thomas here today as well?”

“Well, that would explain why Thomas avoided looking at me this morning.” She looks closely at Ondine. “You’re that little slip of a girl.” She shakes her head, before turning back to me. “Did you ever find Thomas’s daughter in that place?”

“Yeah,” I tell her, smiling. “She’s hidden in my shirt at the moment.”

Jennifer gives me an odd look, and then says, “Well, I hope you at least got to fuck her.”

I flinch when I feel Areth’s small hands pinch my back in response to Jennifer’s crudeness. The large breasted woman laughs, likely thinking my reaction was due to her words.

“Well, come on. I suppose we’d better all go up to your office and get this sorted out.” Jennifer leads the way, passing us all through security and then up to my floor.

Sheila gasps when we walk into the office, and I see Thomas go pale when he sees Ondine. I have a feeling this day just got a bit more interesting for everyone.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Chapter 21
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Subtlety

“And that’s the gist of it,” I finish talking, looking at everyone in my office. Sheila, Debbie, and Thomas look at me with varying emotions, ranging from pure incredulity on Debbie’s slightly plump features, to calm acceptance on Thomas’s older face. Even Jennifer shows some doubt about what I’m saying, even though she’s faced a denizen of the Shadow World first hand. Sheila just stares at me with an unreadable expression. I wonder how she feels about the way I used her in the fantasy world Marchosias had forced us into. AnnaBelle just nods her head, as if she’d already figured everything out. Only Ondine seems bored with what I’ve been talking about.

Turning to AnnaBelle, I take a deep breath to steady myself before delivering the news I know will hit her the hardest. “What do you know about your reverend, or father, or whatever he is, Michael Chilton?”

Her brows draw together, and I can see she’s already getting defensive. “He’s the most pious and religious man I’ve ever met,” she informs me, her tone confident and full of fervor. “I’ve seen him heal the sick through faith, restore the lame, and help the poor. He devotes his time and efforts at a homeless shelter, and never has an unkind thing to say.” Her eyes sharpen as she regards me for a few seconds, and I let her get everything out before I drop the awful news. “Why do you ask, Lyden? Is he someone from your other world?”

I debate on saying that it isn’t my other world. Earth is my world! But I don’t. “He paid me a visit last night, where I’m staying.” I avoid mentioning that I’m staying at my girlfriend’s place while three other sexual interests—Sheila, Jennifer, and Areth—are here with me. I don’t think Sheila would appreciate that news, though I’m certain Jennifer would get a kick out of it. “He was the reason we all shared that, um, vision.”

She raises one eyebrow at that statement. “I’m sure he felt there was something to be learned by it.” Her words say one thing, but her tone is troubled.

“Oh, he did alright,” I tell her, trying to smother an annoyed chuckle. “Areth?” Throughout my talking, the little fairy had remained hidden in the back of my shirt. When she emerges, a new round of gasps sounds around the room. Only AnnaBelle and Ondine show no surprise by her appearance.

“My daughter,” Thomas whispers, then shakes his head to clear the thought.

“In the vision she was,” I agree with the older man sadly, before turning back to face AnnaBelle. “Marchosias found out I’d tricked him concerning her. That vision was his punishment.”

Anger suffuses AnnaBelle’s mature features. “Are you telling me that Reverend Chilton works for that demon?” Her voice is almost loud enough to be called a yell.

It’s Arethusa that responds, fluttering up to her, “No, he is telling you that your holy man is Marchosias, simple human.”

AnnaBelle’s face turns a deep dark crimson color, and I fear she’s about to blow a gasket, but suddenly she calms. “I don’t believe you,” she tells us, her voice barely controlled, “but I can see that you believe it. It’s much more likely that your demon took the image of my Reverend when he visited you.”

I nod to her, though I don’t believe it for a moment. The voice of the two had been the same, something I hadn’t realized until after he’d changed into his wolf form. I’d only met the reverend one other time, but even then, I hadn’t much cared for the charismatic man. Now I know why.

Looking around the small office space, I see all eyes are on me. Well, all eyes except for Ondine’s blue orbs. She’s looking at Thomas curiously. I remember how she’d acted towards the mature man in the vision, and wonder how much of that carried over into the real world.

“Lyden” Sheila’s commanding voice breaks the silence, “can I have a word with you in private?”

I nod to my boss, before leaning over to Ondine and whispering, “Go to him.”

She looks up at me wide-eyed, obviously surprised that I knew what she was thinking, before shaking her head.

Shrugging my shoulders, I start to follow Sheila out, but stop when Areth follows me. “Stay here if you can,” I tell the tiny golden woman. “If you start to grow weak, then follow after, but this needs to be private.”

This might be a good test for how far I can get from her. I’m only slightly surprised at how readily she agrees. She must really trust me.

“Don’t be gone too long,” she tells me, and I nod that I won’t.

Stepping into the hallway, Sheila starts to head back to the conference room, but I stop her before we get too far. She glares at me, her eyes narrowing. “What the hell are you playing at, Lyden?” she demands, her finger stabbing at my chest.

“Um, huh?” I ask, momentarily dumbfounded.

“Don’t play dumb,” she nearly yells. “You knew who I was in that—that place, and you used me like a common whore!”

“What? No! I mean, I did use you like that, but I didn’t know who you were. My memories had been changed. I didn’t know who anybody was!” I try to keep my voice down, not wanting anyone to overhear.

Her hand balls into a fist against my chest, and she drops her head to my torso. She starts to shake, and feeling sorry for the woman, I wrap my arms around her.

“You want to know the worst part?” she asks me, and I can hear tears in her voice. Not knowing what to say, I just rub her back, letting her work through her emotions. “The worst part is, I still dream about that. I still crave it.” She lifts her head to look deep into my gray eyes, and her conviction is such that I can’t look away. “I grow wet every time I think about it. I didn’t wear panties today, hoping you’d come in. Wanting to be used like that again.”

“I’m sorry,” I murmur, truly feeling bad for her.

Apparently it was the wrong thing to say. Anger flashes in her eyes again, and she tries to pull away, but I hold her to me.

“Sorry? You’re sorry?! I don’t want you to be sorry, Mr. Snow; I want you to bend me over and fuck the ever living shit out of me. I want you to shove your cock down my throat, gag me, and use me in every way. I want—“

I cut her off, as I grab a handful of her long black hair, pull her head back and mash my lips to hers. Her entire body shudders as I forcefully part her lips, and she has a minor orgasm, a small portion of her soul joining mine. She really must have been on edge, for her to cum so quickly and easily.

Pulling back from her, I let her fill her lungs with air, as she bends over, putting her hands on her knees.

“It’s because you’re this generator thing, isn’t it?” she asks me breathlessly. When I don’t immediately answer, she tilts her head up to look at me. “Why I feel, for lack of a better term, addicted to you.”

“I’m not sure,” I reply, not liking her terminology, but understanding her point. “It’s not something I do on purpose. I’ve been told that our souls mix when I’m with someone and they become loyal to me, though I think it’s a two way street.”

Her eyes widen unexpectedly before she says, “My God. Debbie, Thomas, and AnnaBelle? Have you been fucking the whole office?”

“No,” I chuckle slightly at the accusation. “I’m not into men, Debbie and I have never been together, and AnnaBelle is too married to her religious views to even consider it. She helped me rescue a friend, but we’ve never fucked.”

“And that other woman, Ondine? Jennifer! That’s why she lost the weight so fast, isn’t it?” she gasps.

“Ondine, no,” I state. “You guessed right about Jennifer, though.” I feel embarrassed admitting this to her. Especially after she’d been so angry with Jennifer claiming to be my girlfriend when she’d called in sick for me.

“You really aren’t human, are you?” Her brows knit together, and her eyes drop to my waist. “Where did that come from?”

Cursing, I already know what she’s talking about by the insidious whisper that starts crying out to be fed. Muramasa.

“This is a damned curse I can’t wait to be rid of,” I tell her, nearly spitting venom in my sudden anger. Why won’t the motherfucking sword leave me alone long enough to conduct my own business? I’d promised to put the bastard back on.

“Lyden, are you alright?” The fear in her tone brings me out of my fury, and I realize I have a white-knuckled clutch on Muramasa’s grip.

Forcefully releasing my hand, I sigh deeply, regaining control. “My next stop is to try and break this curse,” I tell her, still fighting off the influence of the iniquitous blade.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” Her tone, so innocent and concerned, hits something deep inside me, and I look up to see her hands clasped in front of her, eyes wide and endearing.

I snap. I’m not proud about what I do next. My feelings of impotence at everything that has been happening to me rise up in a towering wave, crashing back down and demanding an outlet. For what TanaVesta did to me in her chambers, when I had no choice. For the twelve who died in my apartment complex, due to the fire from the Pillar of Fire’s assassin. For the pain and wounds Angela suffered. For the torture and maiming Brooke had to suffer while under that vast body of water. For everything Marchosias has done, and still he’s escaped my vengeance. For Miranda’s incompetent actions and attempts to kill my friends and me. Everything boils up in my mind, my emotions going haywire.

And Sheila just happens to be the poor soul in front of me, willing and waiting.

Like the stories of the cavemen of old, I grab the woman, fling her over my shoulder and dart into the nearest office. With the blood pounding in my ears, I’m unable to hear if she protests the rough treatment, and to be honest, I’m not sure if I even care right now.

The room is empty, though richly furnished, and I set my boss down long enough to rip her clothes off in shreds. The way she moves and looks at me in shock only drives my desire and ardor higher. In short order, she’s completely naked. My pants strike the floor mere moments later, and I spin her around, before bending her over the desk by the open back window, and plow into her soft folds with my raging phallus. For her sake, she’s already sopping wet, and I’m just able to make out a cry of passion or pain from her. Her pleasure, for once, is not my aim, and I grab her long black tresses once more, hauling back until she’s standing upright, only her legs against the desk keeping her from tumbling forward from the force of me plowing into her tight cunt.

“Yes!” She moans passionately. “Use me, Lyden. Fuck me. Fuck your little whore slave. I’m yours in any way you want, just use me.”

Reaching around her torso with my left hand, I get a hold of her nipple and twist it, enjoying the way her pussy constricts as it clamps down on me.

Energy floods through me a second later, clearing my mind, and I realize she’s just orgasmed. With the wash of new strength, comes her joy at our coupling, washing away my own anger and I falter for a second, as I realize how roughly I’d been treating her.

Even though I know she’s enjoyed it thus far, I still slow down for a second, until I hear her moan in frustration.

I pull out of her anyway, and when she turns around to see what I’m doing, I get a handful of each c-cup breast, and shove her carefully back against the desk. She topples onto it, and I can see her bald coochy glistening at me. Without hesitation, I dive in tongue first, and lap up her juices. My hands go back up to her breasts, as I tweak her nipples in time with my tongue darting in and out of her. Her cries of pleasure ring out in the office, and I don’t care if anyone else hears this time.

She is mine! Muramasa declares.

She will never be yours, I mentally tell the sword. I am her master. She is my slave, now and always.

With that thought firmly in my head, I bring my right hand down, and shove two fingers into her, just long enough to wet them, before pulling them out, and roughly shoving them into her anus.

“Oh fuck, yes!” Sheila Lance screams out in ecstasy. “Use me, Lyden. Use me like the little slut that I am. My body is yours to use however and whenever you want, as long as you use me, I will be your willing slave.” Apparently she really means it!

With those words fresh in my ears, I stand up, and aim my cock for her ass. She reaches down, and spreads her cheeks for me just in time, as I move my hips forward, turgid prick like a missile, impaling her colon with it.

Again she screams out in delight, and this time she orgasms powerfully, her anus gaining a powerful grip on my penetrating penis and finally sending me over the edge.

Our bliss is short lived, however, as the owner of the office we’d confiscated returns. “What the fuck is going on in here?” A voice rings out, deep and angry. Suddenly embarrassed, I look up to see Sheila’s boss, Trevor Anderson, standing in the doorway, a stack of papers in his hands. “Sheila?” he demands, as she looks up at him. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing in my office?”

She sits up, and I step back, slipping out of her rear. With perfect aplomb she looks at her boss for only a second, before dropping to her knees in front of me. “Cleaning off my master, Trevor” she says evenly, before sucking my limp prick between her lips, and cleaning our mixed juices off me.

The other man goes into apoplectic shock, as I moan at her ministrations. I’m not at all surprised when he begins screaming that we’re both fired. He does, however, calm down perceptively when I pull my pants back up, sword and all.

Luckily Sheila’s skirt had survived my attack well enough, though her blouse is nothing more than rags now. With a smile still plastered on my face, I walk over to the other man, and remove his suit coat. Mr. Anderson doesn’t even fight me off, as I search the pockets and hand his stuff back to him.

Placing his coat about her shoulders, we leave the office, and head back to our old office.

All eyes turn our way, and I don’t miss the knowing looks they give us. AnnaBelle is disapproving of course, Debbie somehow looks both disgusted and intrigued, Jennifer just grins from ear to ear, and Thomas. . . . Well, the other man just keeps looking between Sheila, Ondine, and me. After a second, he smiles gamely my bursa escort way, winks, and turns back to Ondine. Apparently they’d been having a conversation before we’d entered. Only Areth doesn’t seem to care, as she flits about the room examining everything in it.

“I think we’d better get going before someone calls security on us,” I say, looking at Jennifer.

“They already have,” she tells me. “I told them I’d take care of it, since I was already in the area.”

“Thank you,” I tell her appreciatively.

“Don’t mention it!” She replies almost too happily. “It’s not every day I get to escort two sexual freaks out of the building after they get caught fucking on one of the big-wig’s desk.”

Sheila lifts her head and glares at the big-breasted woman, then looks at me, before her cheeks go red and she drops her gaze.

Sheila and I pack up our desks, and out of the corner of my eyes I see Thomas hand something to Ondine, before we turn and leave. Surprisingly, AnnaBelle follows us out.

“I want to go with you,” the pious woman states when Jennifer drops us off at the Orange Bubble.

“You know how dangerous it is,” I remind her, knowing she’s talking about the Shadow World. “You also know what happened last time.” I try to say it kindly, but I’m just not really in the mood right now to put up with any of her bullshit.

“I understand,” she says contritely, “but I need to go. I, my faith, it’s . . . there’s something. . . .” She trails off, not able to put into words what she means.

“You’ve had a crisis of faith, and need something to believe in again,” I fill in for her, saying the words she couldn’t. She nods at me, and I shake my head again. “It’s even more dangerous this time. This sword brings out urges and feelings that I’m usually able to control,” I tell her, hoping my words are true. “Usually. In truth, I’d go alone if I could. No one is safe around me as long as I carry this cursed blade.”

The older woman looks at my hip as I pat the blade. “But you’re going to the realm of Light. Your succubus said that the god I believe in is the Pillar of Light,” she argues with me.

“And what is faith, if you have tangible proof?” I ask her right back. I feel for the woman, but I really don’t think it’ll be a good idea for her to come along.

“And what is my life, if I have nothing to live for?” That statement strikes home, and I finally drop my head in acquiescence.

“You know where to be, first thing in the morning,” I tell her sadly. “And let the consequences be on your head. I will protect you if I can, but I can’t protect you from me.” Without waiting for a response, I turn and climb into the Orange Bubble.

A now familiar gasp behind me tells me that Sheila followed me in. I spin on her, my anger all too easily rising once again. Her eyes are roving the expansive inside of my car, but as soon as I speak, her brown eyes subserviently look at me. “Where I’m going, I don’t think you want to follow,” I state, not wanting to reveal. . . . What? What do I consider Becky and Lisa’s house? My harem? I don’t like that thought, but I can’t replace it with a better one.

Ondine and Areth enter my car, and they both take one look at me, before heading to the back of the vehicle, where the bed is, leaving my somewhat alone with my slave.

“Can any of your other girlfriends handle you in the way I can?” She asks solicitously of me, and I do a double take. “Oh, come now, master. I know I’m not the only one. That much is easy enough to figure out.” She shoots a knowing glance at the fairy. The fact that she’s calling me master now, when we’re not alone sends an odd thrill through me. Is this something that I’ve long kept hidden, or is it some influence from Muramasa? Either way, I need to get back to the Shadow World, and find Masamune, the oppositely cursed sword.

“You’re right,” I tell her, but I’m not yet ready to accede. “But more than your life will be at risk. We’ll be facing unknown monsters, in a world I barely understand, led by a succubus that knows more than she should, with a religious zealot and a precocious fairy as tag-alongs.”

“Will I be able to serve you?” she asks, and I feel my cheeks burn when she drops to her knees and looks pleadingly up at me.

“Damn it all to hell,” I mutter and nod before turning away. “Yes. Might as well bring everyone, but dammit, yes you can come.” The woman that at one time had been my overbearing boss throws her arms around my legs, and thanks me profusely. I actually have to stop her from unzipping my pants, not wanting to do anything in front of Ondine and Areth.

“Pervert,” the fairy says happily, as she comes back over and lands on my shoulder. Sheila takes one look at the tiny golden woman, and bursts out laughing. “You know he likes to do dirty things to women, right?” Areth asks Sheila.

“It’s more fun that way,” the woman still on her knees answers with ease, lightly patting my crotch and making Areth laugh.

I give Sheila the address to the girl’s home, and she promises to be there first thing in the morning as well.

Throwing myself face first onto the bed, I mentally direct my car to head home.

“Is there anything I can get for you, oh wise and beneficent master?” Rolling over, I grab a pillow and chuck it at the giggling pixie.

“What am I supposed to do with this?” Ondine asks, coming over to me, and showing me a strip of paper. Looking at it, I have to stifle a bit of my own laughter.

“That’s his phone number,” I explain to her. “He wants you to call him.”

“Is. . . . Is he a good man, like he was in Marchosias’s trap?” she asks me uncertainly. It strikes me as odd that the mermaid is acting so vulnerable, where always before she’s been rock solid.

“I’m not sure,” I tell her honestly. “All I know is that to one degree or another, everyone had their personalities intact, even if we didn’t have our memories.” She goes quiet as she regards the small slip of paper.

Having said that, I wonder what it says about her personality, that she was a thief? She had been a guard, or soldier, before we’d taken her away from Varun’s demesne.

Finally back at Lisa and Becky’s home, I look forward to just going in and getting some rest, before leaving for the Shadow World tomorrow.

Unfortunately, it’s not to be.

A loud ruckus comes from the house as I step out of my car, and I almost turn to go back in, but Ondine is blocking my way. Sighing heavily, I turn back and enter the house.

“No! That’s not going to work,” I hear Angela yell.

“Of course it will!” Becky shouts back, anger filling her tone. “You’re just too bull-headed to see it.”

“You don’t understand,” the succubus nearly screams.

“What the hell is going on?” I yell when I enter the main room, my blood already beginning to boil.

Everyone grows quiet as they look at me, and suddenly I’m lost in a sea of arms, lips, and breasts. They’re all trying to hug and kiss me, welcoming me home, while Muramasa keeps screaming about assassins trying to kill me.

“Now what was that all about?” I demand when I can break free.

“I was trying to explain . . .,” Angela starts at the same time Becky states, “I don’t see why . . .”

Placing my head in my hand, I can already feel a headache coming on.

“Lisa? Brooke? Can either of you calmly tell me what this was all about?” I ask the other two women in the room.

They look at each other before Lisa nods to the redhead, and Brooke answers my question. “Becky wants to bring as many people as possible, but Angela says it’s not a good idea.”

“I agree with Angela,” I say, then look to the succubus and note that she’s back to her punk form, blue hair, thick mascara and all. “But I want to hear your reasoning as well.”

“The person we’re going to see is a little shy,” she says evenly, meeting my eyes with her hazel orbs. “He’s not going to like me bringing you to him, much less a whole troop of people.”

Turning to Becky, I raise an eyebrow, letting her give her side. “We don’t need to go all the way to this guy,” she says, her voice full of determination. “We know how to fight now, and we can help protect you. I see no reason we should all stay behind.”

A valid argument, I think, but still not enough to sway me. “We need someone to stay behind and answer any questions Captain Jewkes might have.” The short brunette opens her mouth to argue, but I keep speaking. “Also, it’ll be no pleasure cruise. Already I’m having a hard time controlling my temper. Muramasa is constantly whispering to me, and I can’t escape him forever. I don’t know how much longer I’ll last, and it’ll kill me if I hurt one of you.” Emotion is thick in my voice as I finish speaking and I can see the women reacting to it.

“I can stay behind,” Ondine pipes up, still holding Thomas’s number in her hand.

“And we can work together to help you,” Lisa says.

“Together we can fight the sword’s influence until we find Masamune,” Brooke adds.

“Does everyone have a death wish?” I ask, feeling my anger rise at their belligerence. Why won’t anyone understand my point-of-view? “Look at your hand, Brooke. How do you plan to fight with that?” I know my words are unkind, but dammit, I couldn’t bare for her to be hurt worse.

Brooke walks over to me, and I can feel Muramasa’s comforting grip in my hand. Did I speak too harshly to her? Is she ready to finally do her duty and kill me? She bends over, her green eyes meeting mine, and I prepare to draw my blade in defense if I need to.

Her lips pressing softly against mine clears my head, and I gasp, realizing how close I’d just come to making a terrible mistake. Muramasa’s strength is growing, and apparently my willpower is decreasing, but the love I feel from this kiss has been enough to ground me once again.

For now.

With tears streaming down my cheeks, I look around at the other women. “You can come,” I say, “but only as far as Angela says it’s safe. From that point on, it will only be her, Areth, and me.” I see Becky open her mouth to argue, and I glare at her, “I have spoken, and I will not be ignored!” I bellow at the top of my lungs, rage giving power to my voice. Shocked glances abound, as I stand and flee the room before I let my wrath take complete control.

Once back in the Orange Bubble, I scream at the top of my lungs, letting out my pent-up frustration before collapsing back onto the bed and ordering my car not to let anyone in.

Because my car should have remained locked, I’m startled half out of my wits when a hand gently shakes my shoulder.

I don’t even hesitate, as I roll away from my attacker, drawing Muramasa fully from his sheath.

Yes! Let me feed. I hunger for blood. Allow me to taste her sweet essence! the sword bellows in my mind, as its miasmic energy suffuses the inside of my car. I can already feel its influence growing, my willpower weakening even more, now that it’s free of its sheath.

Her? The thought crosses the outskirts of my mind, and it takes some effort to focus through the bloodlust Muramasa is pushing through me.

Angela sits frozen on the edge of the bed, mascara rimmed eyes large in fright and one hand covering her mouth. With my senses sharpened by the cursed blade’s power, I can see she’s shaking in abject terror.

She was going to kill you in your sleep. You know she can’t be trusted. You didn’t want anyone in here, and she snuck in to finish you off. Kill her now, before she attacks. Don’t hesitate, or it will be too late. Feed me!

I take a slow step forward, wary of any traps, but trying to sort out my own thoughts. How did she get in here? Why is she in here? Is that really fear in her eyes, or a ruse to lull my senses? Too many questions and not enough answers.

I can see her lips moving now as she lowers her hand slowly, hazel eyes locked on Muramasa, but I can’t hear her over Muramasa’s demands to let him feed on her essence.

Slowly, I pull back the blade, ready to defend or attack at any moment. Placing my left thumb against the impossibly sharp blade, I slide it up, wetting the edge with my blood. I stifle a moan, as even the small cut hurts much worse than it should, as Muramasa siphons off a portion of my soul. Still with my eyes riveted on Angela, I carefully turn the blade, and then shove him back into his sheath. My wicked blade cries out in anger at being thwarted from feeding fully.

As soon as I hear the cross guard strike the top of the sheath, my knees buckle beneath me, and I stumble forward, tripping onto the bed.

That was too close, I think, swallowing breaths in huge gasps. Sweat breaks out across my body at the effort I’d had to expend to keep from blindly attacking the succubus.

“Lyden?” I hear the blue haired women say my name, and I realize she’s been talking to me for a bit. “Lyden, talk to me. What’s going on?”

“I can’t do this,” I moan despairingly. “It’s too much.”

I feel her hand tentatively touch my back, and when I don’t react, she slowly starts to rub. “Oh, Lyden. I know you’re carrying quite a burden, but it will lighten soon. Just one more day. Tomorrow, we’ll get to Masamune, and break you free of the curse.”

Rolling onto my back, I glare at her, my heart thumping painfully in my chest from anger. “You don’t understand!” I scream at her. “I nearly killed you! I wanted to kill you. I wasn’t in control. How much longer before I go completely mad? How much longer before I slip and one of you is dead by my hand?”

Tears blossom in her eyes, but I see her jaw firm as she reaches for me again. “But you didn’t kill me,” she says in a soothing tone that ends up grating on my already raw nerves. “You took back control, and I know you can do it again. Tomorrow, I promise you’ll be free from it tomorrow.”

I allow her to pull my head into her lap, and my arms go around her slender frame of their own volition.

“How did you get in?” I ask when I know my voice is under control.

“Like me, the car may be yours,” she tells me, “but its soul is mine.” I understand then why she was able to get in, even though I’d locked the doors. I’d been a fool to think that would stop her. Or had my katana made sure I didn’t think of that? Her fingers play slowly with my hair, and I feel myself relaxing bit by bit. “Lyden?”

“Yes?” I ask, realizing I had been slowly drifting off.

“You’re going to need all the energy you can get for tomorrow.” Her voice comes to me softly, almost hesitantly, but I know what she really means.

Smiling, and actually feeling happy, I look up at her. I open my mouth to ask why she’s still dressed, when her clothing vanishes and she smiles back down at me. Her nipple piercings shine in the slightly dim interior of the Orange bubble, and I realize my mouth is mere inches from her crotch.

Turning around in her lap, she squeals when I shove her back and dive into her coochie. Nuzzling her clit piercing with my nose, I dart my tongue between her lower lips, as my hands slide up her flat stomach to her metal tipped tits. Grabbing a piercing in each hand, I twist them lightly, enjoying the sounds of her gentle moaning.

Her fingers dig into my hair, urging me on as I suck in her labia minor, lightly nibbling on them with my teeth. When I can sense she’s getting close, I change tactics, and suck hard on her clit, ring and all. After a couple seconds I’m rewarded from my efforts, as I feel her orgasmic energy flow into me, renewing what I’d lost moments earlier with interest.

She grips my ears painfully, pulling me up to face her, and a serious mien comes over her as she speaks. “I need you to fuck me right now. It’s been too long, with too much happening in between. Fuck me hard and make me scream, my love.” Without waiting for a response, she pulls my face to hers, mashing our lips together, and I know she can taste herself on my tongue.

Reaching down between us, I start rubbing my head against her slit, feeling the metal nub at the top. Her hips keep trying to rise against me, but I hold off from entering her just yet. I can tell she’s growing frustrated with me by her grunts and moans, but still I hold back. Her juices are flowing copiously from her, her fingers digging almost painfully into my back when she screams out, “Just FUCK me already!”

Lifting my head up, I look deep into her eyes. “No,” I tell her firmly, and smile at the shock that registers on her beautiful features. “I want to be with Angelica.”

It takes her but a split second to understand my desire, and I picture her as I’d seen her on the beach in Water’s domain. Her skin transforms from a milky white, to a chocolaty brown, her eyes darkening and changing to an almond shape, her mascara vanishing altogether. Her lips grow firmer, while her breasts grow larger, the piercings fading away into dark brown areolas. I feel pubic hair around my genitals, and I don’t hesitate another moment, driving my hips forward, and impaling her cunt on my pole.

Our mutual moans hit a harmony together, as we both enjoy the sensation of completion. I’d forgotten that in this form her silken inner walls don’t conform to my rod and moan some more as I slide from her depths, before diving back in. The tip of my prick hits her inner most parts prior to me withdrawing ‘til only the head is still in her.

“Oh, Lyden!” she mewls, her arms going around my neck as I continuously plunge into her. “Make love to me. You feel so good, filling every part of me. You complete me, my love. Ohhh, yes! I want. . . . I want to have. . . . Oh, damn, I’m gonna—“

I cut her off as I press my lips back to hers, enjoying their soft firmness. I have a feeling I know what she was going to ask for, and right now I’m not sure I can resist getting her pregnant if she voices the request.

Her lubricating fluids gush around my pistoning cock as I grab her large breasts, massaging them and muffling both our moans in our bliss with the kiss.

As she comes down from her high, I release her mouth and roll us over. Her breasts hang down ponderously above me, and I can’t resist tasting them. Her flesh is sweet to my taste buds, as she rocks her hips to and fro.

Even though I’m no longer moving in and out of her, the feeling of my rock hard phallus stirring up her insides, churning her cum into a frothy white mess feels absolutely divine.

My own orgasm comes on me quick, and I drop my head back onto the bed, moaning and gripping her hips to move her faster.

“Thank you, Angelica,” I moan, racing to the cliff that I know will send me to new levels of delight. “My love.”

As soon as the last words escape my lips, I feel her vagina clamp down hard on me, and pure unadulterated rapture floods my system. That metaphorical cliff drops out from under me, and I fall headlong into wonder and delight as our souls mix and mingle.

Tomorrow will be a new day with new challenges, but for right now, my entire world encompasses only the two of us.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Chapter 22
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Striking Forth

I wake up before the sun has even decided to peek over the horizon. Rolling over, I find that I’m alone. Slowly getting dressed, I hesitate for only a moment before buckling Muramasa on. There’s no sense in angering the sword first thing this morning.

Pulling aside one of the golden tapestries, I look outside the Orange Bubble. Even with the distortion of the dimensional differences between the inside and exterior of my car, I can make out a number of people outside. Faces are too distorted to make out, but I can tell they’re waiting for me to come step from my car.

They’re waiting to ambush you. Waiting to take you out. You can’t trust them. You can only trust me.

I take a few moments at my car door to gather my nerves before stepping out. Shoving the voice of my cursed sword to the back of my mind is almost becoming second nature.

There is a difference between knowing that people are outside waiting for you, and stepping out to meet them. It doesn’t help when there are more sets of eyes than you expect, either.

Sheila is already there, staring at my feet in subservience. Becky and Lisa are holding hands, waiting for me to speak. Angela and Brooke are huddled together, and I can see Ondine’s blade on the wrong side of Brooke’s hip. I’m not sure how well she’ll be able to defend herself left-handed, but I seriously hope I don’t have to find out.

Yeah, because every other trip to the Shadow World has been a piece of cake. . . .

Thomas is there, holding a rifle that probably belongs to the large-chested woman holding a shotgun next to him. I didn’t expect to see either of them here, and for a moment I debate on telling them they can’t come. Jennifer must be able to see it in my eyes, as she caresses her weapon like a phallus and grins lewdly at me.

Ondine is looking at Thomas, frowning at the rifle in his hands. Knowing how she feels about the older man, I wonder what she thinks about the very human weapon he’s carrying.

AnnaBelle stands off to the side, hands clasped in front of her, and her head bowed in thought or prayer.

Only Areth is actively moving about, listening in on conversations. She looks bored, however, and I can’t help but think that’s a bad situation for the entertainment-starved fairy to be in.

Lisa clears her throat, and gestures for me to do something. It takes a moment to realize they’re all waiting for me to speak.

What words do they want from me? If I had any real say in coming events, none of them would be coming with me, but they’d all made it clear that they were going to come and support me, whether I want them to or not. I take a moment to meet their eyes, before filling my lungs with air, and hoping that I don’t shove my foot in my mouth.

“I don’t know what to say,” I tell them honestly, “and I wish that none of you were here.” Frowns meet my statement, but I quickly continue before anyone else can speak. “The friendship I see on this lawn warms my heart more than I will ever be able to say. I can’t ask any of you to follow me on this trip, but I know where your hearts lie, and all are welcome under one condition.

“Understand that I can’t guarantee your safety, especially from me.” Patting the evil blade on my left hip, I harden my gaze to drive my point home. “I’m constantly under attack from this thing, and some of you have seen how unstable I am becoming. I truly hope to be able to break this curse, and return to who I was, though I understand the curse can’t be truly broken.”

“We’ll find a way!” Lisa shouts at the same time Sheila promises, “I’m here for you when you need me, Master.” The two women frown at each other, but I continue as if neither had spoken.

“I don’t know what we’re going to face, or what will be asked of you. If you choose not to go, no one will think any less of you.” I have to swallow before adding, “In fact, I’m asking you to stay behind. Please don’t risk your life for me.”

“You were willing to risk your life when we were in that demon’s dream world, for a daughter I didn’t really have,” Thomas says, his voice loud and firm. “You followed me, when you had no reason to. I’ve served in Iraq, and if you’ll have me, I’ll serve by your side in this.”

I open my mouth to speak, but a sudden lump in my throat cuts me off.

“You trusted me, even after I tried to kill you,” AnnaBelle adds next. “You’ve shown me that life isn’t just about faith and serving a higher power, though I see great things in what you do.”

“I used to be happy with who I was,” Jennifer says next, before I can formulate a response to the others. “Sure I didn’t get laid a lot, or even at all, but I accepted that. When you changed me into this skinny woman, I was upset at first, thinking that you had changed who I was. Instead, I found I was the same person, but happier and healthier. Lyden, thanks to you, I’ve gotten more cock and even pussy, than I’d ever thought I could get. If saving your skinny ass again is the only price to pay, then I’ll pay it again and again.”

Everyone else starts speaking at the same time, telling me their reasons, but it’s a deep baritone voice that cuts through the early morning din.

“I truly hope your invitation to bring anyone is a valid one.” The speaker steps forward, and I’m shocked to see the hook-nosed Captain Jewkes.

“I didn’t expect to see you here, Captain,” I tell him, stepping forward and offering him my hand. He stares at it for a moment, before gripping it in a firm hold.

“You’ve been under surveillance,” he tells me easily. “When I saw this gathering, I came to listen in. If everything you’ve told me is true, then I need to see for myself the threat humanity is facing.”

“Does this mean I don’t have to stay behind?” Ondine asks, drawing our attention to her. I’d forgotten that she was going to stay back to answer any questions the local law enforcement might have.

“I’ve seen her fight,” Thomas states. “I for one would feel safer with her at my back.” You’d think the older man had handed her the world. She doesn’t even notice when I nod her way.

“Will you be believed when we get back?” I ask the police officer.

He gives a self-deprecating chuckle before saying, “I’ve already been warned about the report I filed on you. The higher ups didn’t appreciate—let’s see, how did they put it?—my whimsical and poor attempts at story telling.” He shakes his head, but when his eyes meet mine again, I know he’s deadly serious. “I know what I saw, and need to know the danger we face.”

“And Miranda?” I ask, worried about the trouble the Daughter of Respite could cause for him or I.

“Still locked up for now. There were too many witnesses at her assassination attempt, though she has some friends in high places.” His response doesn’t alleviate my concerns, but at least she’s locked away for now.

“The sooner we get going,” Angela says as she walks up to me, “the sooner we can break your curse.”

“Good,” Arethusa says, fluttering up and landing on my shoulder. “I’m really getting bored. I need some entertainment.”

Jewkes looks at the golden woman on my shoulder, and just shakes his head again. Apparently he still doesn’t fully accept his new reality, but I can’t really blame him either. It had taken me some time to fully come to grips with everything myself, and I still keep finding myself surprised by events.

Even as large as the inside of my car is, it feels slightly crowded with everyone filling it.

“Where do we need to go?” I ask Angela.

“Just head downtown,” she tells me. “The closest portal is the oak tree.”

My eyebrow rises at that, knowing that it’s also fairly close to TanaVesta, but close my mouth and get into the driver’s seat. I can’t drive my car directly anymore, the exterior view being too distorted, so I command my car to head downtown.

The drive is mercifully short, but seems to take forever. I’m starting to get claustrophobic by the time we pull into the garage. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everyone being here to support me, but do they have to keep trying to talk to me? Muramasa keeps up a constant litany in my mind, and I can feel my nerves slowly growing raw at the constant bombardment.

I can’t hide the heavy sigh I give when I step out, and Becky arches one eyebrow at me, but thankfully doesn’t say anything.

It ends up taking two trips up the elevator to get everyone through the portal, and I can’t help but grin at the looks on some faces as they step out of the oak tree-elevator, and find themselves in a large field, filled with flowers of every shape and color.

I notice Jewkes slip on a pair of rose-tinted shades, and looking around in wonder. Compared to the early morning dimness, the bright light of this part of the Shadow World is a stark contrast.

He notices me looking, and takes the shades off, looking at them for a moment before replacing them. “Blublockers,” he tells me, referring to the amber colored lenses. “They’re not standard issue, but I find they help with brighter lights.”

“Where do we need to go now?” I ask our guide, turning to face the person who’d introduced me to this world, what almost seems like a lifetime ago, and at the same time only last week.

She frowns at me, and I know I’m not going to like her answer.

This is a trap. She plans to hand you over to your enemies. She will lead you into an ambush. Kill her before she betrays you.

“We need to head to the fire border first, and then follow it to Light’s Demesne.” She says the words calmly, but I can’t fully shake off Muramasa’s words.

“The border between Fire and Earth?” I ask unhappily. Do we really need to get that close?

She nods, and I look away from her. If this is truly a trap, then the best thing to do is head straight for it. At least I’ll be prepared.

“It’s too sunny here,” Areth complains as we begin our walk. “Have any of those in my size?” she asks Jewkes referring to his sunglasses.

“I only brought enough for me,” he tells her apologetically. I think he still doesn’t know how to handle the little woman.

I ignore her, as I try to keep my eyes peeled for danger. I keep telling myself that it’s not because I don’t trust Angela, but because of the danger this world poses. Muramasa laughs insidiously in my head.

It doesn’t take long until we come across the Orc’s cave where Angela and I were captured. The stench of rot and decay coming forth tells me that the dead bodies are probably still in there.

I’m surprised at the sense of nostalgia that comes over me at seeing the cave. Life had seemed so much simpler back then. Of course I hadn’t known what I was, or what I’d been heading to, but I also had no idea about the prophecy to save two worlds that now weighs over my mind, or had to deal with my cursed sword, Muramasa. I don’t know. . . . Maybe it’s just that when I think about how innocent and ignorant I used to be, I almost wish I could go back to those days.

“Wait up,” Brooke shouts as I try to keep going. I turn to look at the redhead. “There may be a weapons cache still near here.” I arch an eyebrow at her unexpected statement.

“Why didn’t we use it before?” I ask her pointedly. “They might have come in handy when we’d gone to see TanaVesta. Or do you think you’ll need to use them on me?” The last part comes out a bit more suspiciously than I mean it, and I have to forcibly remove my hand from Muramasa’s grip.

She gives a sheepish glance at Angela, and I begin to understand, relaxing. She hadn’t trusted the succubus at the time. Was she right not to trust the demonic creature? Should I be trusting her now?

I have to shake my head to rid it of that unfair thought.

“Well, I hope you’re happy with the way things turned out back then,” I state, anger thick in my voice. That hadn’t been what I’d meant to say. Hurt and anguish fill her green eyes, but before I can say anything, she takes off walking briskly away from the cave.

“I’m here for you if you need me, Master,” Sheila’s voice chimes near my shoulder, and I glare down at her. What makes her think I want her right now? Always so obsequious and smiling at me. What’s she hiding? What are her true motives for coming along? Who in their right mind would want to be a slave?

Her gentle lips brushing along the underside of my jaw resets my mindset, and I shudder as I recognize Muramasa’s influence. He’s becoming more subtle.

“Thank you, Sheila,” I say appreciatively. I can’t wait to get rid of this weapon!

“Anything for you, Master,” she nearly whispers, and I can just make out a note of disappointment. She really had hoped I’d take her right here and now. For just a moment, I’m tempted to do just that, but I see AnnaBelle giving me a dirty look, and remember the unfair way I’d treated Brooke.

It only takes me a few steps to catch up to the redhead. “Brooke, I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that.”

She only barely glances at my hip, before facing forward again, refusing to look at me. “I know. It’s the sword,” she tells me, but I can still hear the pain in her sweet voice.

We walk in silence for a bit, until the one-time assassin stops next to a large rock sticking out of the ground. A small spring bubbles forth from a crack in the stone, and cool water gurgles up out of the opening.

With an unexpected shout of glee, Areth leaps from my shoulder and splashes merrily in the water. Despite the mood I’m in, I can’t help but grin at the childish way in which the tiny golden woman frolics and splashes.

“Give me a hand,” Brooke says and I walk around to see what she’s doing. Her hands are already dirty, as she digs her way under the rock, and I drop down to start moving dirt out of her way. It only takes a couple more seconds before she strikes something solid. By now everyone except for the still-playing fairy are gathered around us.

The redhead takes a moment to unbuckle Ondine’s blade, handing the weapon over to the other mermaid, before pulling up a small hatch. Darkness greets my view as I try to look past her. She reaches in, and I see her grip something before pulling it out with a sigh of relief. It looks like the same wavy blue sword she’d had when rescuing Angela and I from the Orcs, but I know this one has to be a copy since she’d lost the other one when she’d been taken into custody after saving Varun’s worthless hide. I wonder if it’s the standard blade used by mermaid assassins. She sets that aside, and reaches in again, pulling more weapons out. Ondine gets a small well-balanced dagger, Becky and Lisa both get regular looking short-swords. AnnaBelle takes a crossbow, but it becomes very apparent she doesn’t know what she’s doing with it. Brooke tries to offer weapons to the rest, but other than Jennifer taking a thin stiletto type blade, everyone refuses.

“I can make my own weapons, with Lyden’s help,” Angela says, and when I understand her desire, I help her change to her Amazonian form, replete with a long spear.

Thomas and Jewkes both indicate their own guns, and even Areth states that she can just use her magic. The tiny fairy looks refreshed after playing in the spring.

We cover up the plate to the weapons and refill our water bottles before heading out again. Areth is sopping wet when she lands on my shoulder, and it takes every ounce of my patience not to yell at her. I’ve got to keep a handle on my temper.

Heading out again, it doesn’t take long before we reach the border between Fire and Earth. Behind us is a rich green vista with trees and plants of every description. Before us is a barren rocky scene, heat waves lifting from the dry ground.

The succubus makes a sharp right, and we follow on the edge of the two realms.

“What exactly are we expecting to find?” Jewkes asks me, breaking the otherwise silent trek.

“I’m not sure,” I tell him honestly, wondering why he wants to know, and if I should keep a closer eye on him. Had he been sincere about protecting the human race, or is he really in collusion with Agent Olsen? Why does he keep staring at Angela and Jennifer? Are they in collusion together? Or is he just admiring their proportions? They’re mine, dammit!

“He’s sincere,” Angela says, dropping back to walk next to us. Had she been reading my mind? Why is she invading my privacy? “I’m sorry, Lyden,” she says contritely. “I can read intentions, remember? Of course, with the way you keep grabbing that hilt, you’re pretty easy to read.”

With a guilty start, I loosen my grip on Muramasa. When had I grabbed hold of it?

“You missed the meeting last night,” Angela says to the officer. “The plan is to go to the border of Light, and from there, only Areth, Lyden, and I will go forward. Shemhazau is a shy man, and I’m already afraid of how he might react with me bringing anyone with me.”

“Shemhazau?” I ask. “How long have you known him?” I can’t fight the wave of jealousy that starts to wash over me.

Her soft hand slipping into mine warms my chest, as I remember that she loves me. She won’t betray me, I know. Those thoughts all belong to my wicked blade.

Unless that’s only a ploy to get you to her true lover, Muramasa snidely says, but I block him out again.

“You know my past,” she tells me, and I realize she’s talking about when she’d killed her master’s son through sex, thereby becoming a succubus. “After that, I wandered alone and afraid for a while. Shemhazau Encantado found me, nearly starved to death, by a stream. He came to me as a dolphin, and I was so delirious that it didn’t even seem odd to find a dolphin in such shallow water.” She looks wistfully at the sky, and I can tell she’s looking into the distant past. “He nursed me back to health, and showed me that I could use my abilities to help people. That I didn’t have to kill them.” Jealousy once again rears its head at the thought of some man ‘nursing’ her back to health, but I force it down with some effort. She looks back to me, her large Amazonian eyes wanting me to understand. “He saved my life, Lyden. If not for him, I would have died centuries ago. He’s almost like a second father to me. He’s also the one that paid for your apartment when you were injured, and helped me broker a deal with the Cyclopes for your car.” She turns thoughtful a second later. “Now that I think about it, it’d been him that suggested I visit your office building that day. He’d told me that no one could use a mental break or sexual fantasy more than the poor saps that have to work such menial jobs.”

“You’re not kidding.” Surprisingly those words come from Sheila. “What?” she asks when we all look at her. “Do you think I liked my job?” She shakes her head before looking adoringly back at me. “I’ve never been happier than I am right now.”

I smile at my black haired slave, and am almost shocked to see her blush. “I thought Marchosias had something to do with my car,” I ask the tall succubus.

“Him too,” she says soberly. “Marchosias helped make me what I am, but it was Shemhazau that shaped who I am.” I hadn’t asked that, and a niggling thought makes me wonder if she’s changing the subject.

“And how do we break this curse?” Jewkes asks while adjusting his glasses, bringing us back to the original line of questioning. I wish I’d thought to bring a pair of shades. The heat coming from Fire’s side, and this never-ending afternoon light are giving me a headache.

“Angela says he has Masamune,” Areth pipes up, fluttering about my head for a second before landing on my shoulder again.

“As nice as he sounds,” I say, “do you really think he’ll just hand over the sword?”

“I don’t understand how another sword is supposed to break this curse,” Jewkes says before Angela can answer my question. My anger flares at his rudeness, and it takes a second for me to tamp it down. I need to keep a reign on myself.

“Masamune is oppositely cursed. It can only harm the most-wicked of beings, and creates such a sense of calm and peace that most people cursed with it just lie down and die. They’re no longer even interested in living.” Angela’s words haunt me, and I forget that I’d been angry a moment ago.

“So you just want him to lie down and die?” Jewkes asks shocked at the statement.

“They should balance each other out,” Areth says. “Muramasa makes survival the highest priority, at the cost of paranoia and sanity. Masamune should help balance that out.”

Should?

“Or tear him apart,” Angela shoots back. “There’s no telling what will happen to someone cursed in two opposite ways like that. It could destroy his mind.”

“I’m sure Lyden can handle it,” Lisa says, always the cheerleader.

“Why has no one else asked the most obvious question?” Becky states, and we all stop and stare at the petite brunette. “Lyden is cursed by this blade, and can’t get rid of it. Do you think this other guy, Shem-whatzit, will be able to even hand over the sword?”

A sudden sinking feeling overwhelms me at the sudden concern.

“We’ll figure that out when the time comes,” Angela says and turns to start walking again. From her tone and body language, I can tell she’s not happy. I wonder if it comes down to her second father or me, whom will she choose?

Why would she choose you? Muramasa snidely asks. She’s known him longer. Probably been fucking him longer.

We’re silent once more, as we contemplate our task. It had seemed so simple when starting out this morning, and now the closer we get, the more improbable it becomes.

“Angela,” a chittering voice breaks the silence, and I feel cold chills run down my spine, “I’m surprised to see you so close to our queen’s borders.”

A metallic ring sounds out as blades are drawn, and I turn in horror to see a Myrmidon begin forming out of millions of crawling red ants.

“Lyden,” Jennifer asks, fear already thick in her tone, “is that what I think it is?”

“What do you want?” Angela asks the monster as its mouth begins to form, mandibles slowly protruding out. She looks around, and seems to notice our ready stance for the first time. “If he’d meant to attack, he would have done so by now,” she tells us. “He’s here for another reason.”

“Our queen wishes to talk with you, succubus,” the thing says in its clacking voice. “Though she has no orders for your companions, she has stated regret at her prior behavior.”

“TanaVesta is no longer my queen,” venom nearly drips from Angela’s voice. “She lied and is trying to destroy our world.”

“Tsk, tsk,” the Myrmidon mutters. “She will be most grieved to hear you feel that way.”

“I doubt that,” she says evenly, stepping forward. “You won’t be reporting back.” The large spear in her hands swings around, the sharp blade severing the monster’s arm.

It only laughs, as the appendage splatters on the ground, and the myriad ants that make it up rush to its foot. The arm is already reforming.

“Our orders were to bring you to her peacefully if you would come. Kill you if you didn’t.” Its mandible-filled mouth opens wide, and I can already see the glow of fire before I start moving.

Scorching heat sears my back as I tackle the succubus to the ground, just in time to avoid the full blast. Gunshots ring out, as Jennifer, Jewkes, and Thomas open fire. Rolling over, I look up to see the rounds impacting the monster, but having no better effect than they had back in the grocery store parking lot. AnnaBelle just looks at the creature dumbly, not even trying to use her crossbow.

Angela shoves powerfully against me, and somehow I’m able to roll onto my feet, and come up hand on Muramasa’s hilt.

“Lyden, you can’t!” Becky shouts at me. “That sword is too dangerous!”

Nodding to the smart woman, I remove the sword, hilt and all, from my hip, and then turn to face the beast.

“I don’t suppose you have a can of Raid on you by chance?” Jennifer asks, coming to stand next to me while reloading her shotgun.

Brooke steps in, her rippling blue sword raised in her left hand and brings it down hard on the creature’s shoulder. The Myrmidon screams in pain, and I watch in hope as the red ants around the blade start to turn black.

The mermaid assassin’s watery blade can hurt the thing, I think, just in time to see the creature backhand her, sending her tumbling away from the weapon still lodged in the monster’s shoulder. I have no doubt she could have avoided the blow if she had been using her normal hand, but her reflexes aren’t geared for her left hand.

The monster’s hand grips the hilt of Brooke’s sword, and tears it free with another cry of pain, before flinging the weapon with a powerful throw. I can’t make out where it lands.

It takes a couple steps towards Brooke, and I step forward without thinking, standing over her to protect the fallen redhead.

Its golden mouth opens wide, and I know I’m about to be burned to a crisp. Swinging my sheathed blade at its head, the thing catches it in his hand, halting my attack. Red glows brightly from its maw as it prepares to finish me off.

“NO!” Areth’s voice rings out high and loudly, and a moment later a column of water blasts the thing, drowning the building fire and knocking the Myrmidon back.

Unfortunately he takes my sheath with him.

Free! Feed me. Let me taste its ichor. I want his soul! Muramasa’s voice rings out clearly in my mind, demanding; this time unwilling to be satisfied with a minor cut.

I feel rage deeper and hotter than any I’ve ever felt before flood through my system, and feel my lips turn up in a feral smile.

How dare this insignificant fucking ant try to kill me or my companions? With Muramasa in my hands, I am nearly a god! It seems so easy to step forward, dodging the swing of its arm, and removing the hand from its wrist. It curls and blackens as it strikes the ground, tendril of smoke slowly rising up before it’s consumed in a puff of flame.

Yes! Tastes so sweet. Blood, soft, wet, hot, blood! Feed me!

Somehow I can make out fear in the thing’s gaze, but that only makes me smile wider. There is just something about the feeling of knowing that your enemy is about to fall, seeing the terror on its face, and a thrill that permeates my body at knowing that its fear is because of me.

Its mouth opens again, and this time there is no delay before the flame gushes forth, but Muramasa blocks it, swallowing it all, its chrome blade turning a bright red color. I marvel at the beauty of my sword. Why have I kept it sheathed? I should keep him out all the time. I’ve never felt as good or powerful as I do right at this moment.

Muramasa leaves a golden trail of light as I almost lazily flick my wrist, and watch the insignificant thing’s head separate from its shoulders a moment before flames engulf the entire monster.

“Oh, yes!” I scream exaltedly. “That was fucking awesome!”

“L-Lyden,” Lisa’s voice breaks through the battle fog and I turn to look at her. Why is she looking at me like that? Why is she afraid? I just saved her. She should be on her knees, groveling in supplication to how powerful I am now.

She wants to kill you. Kill her now before she can strike. FEED me more! Why do she and the short one follow you? They don’t truly care about you. None of them do.

Yes, my blade is right, of course. She saw how powerful I am now, and fears me. It’s only right, of course. I should be feared, but why would she want to kill me? Why isn’t she thanking me for saving her and everyone else?

She takes a step towards me, and I prepare for an attack. I don’t know why she would want to hurt me, but such an aggressive movement can only mean one thing.

Raising my wonderful blade up, I prepare to separate her head from her shoulders.

“Master, no!” another voice cries out, and I see Sheila prostrate herself before me, hands outstretched pleadingly before her as she beseeches me. “Leave them here, Master. Take your slave with you, and we will go somewhere we can have some real fun.”

“What are you doing, Sheila?” Thomas demands of her, but he’s ignored.

A truly subservient slave could be some real fun, I think. At least she knows her proper position.

And when we’re done with her, I can feed.

Yes indeed, I think as I bend over and grab the skinny woman around the waist. She squeaks as I throw her over my shoulder and walk away, taking only a moment to sheath Muramasa.

He screams about being put away too soon, but I know he’ll be there and ready when I want to feed him again.

* * *

“Wh-what do you plan on doing with me, Master?” my little slave asks, her voice quavering in fear.

“It’s not your place to question your master, slave,” I tell her forcefully, slapping her ass to emphasize my point. “Now strip!”

Somehow, I had been able to find a cave a little ways away. A couple of Orc carcasses rest a bit deeper in, but right now they are of no concern to me. Right now, I intend to fuck the shit out of my little slave.

She begins to do as I command, slowly pulling her arm from the sleeve of her shirt. She’s taking too long, moving at a pace that I can’t accept, and I grab her top, twist, and yank it off her in one pull, reducing it to rags with ease.

Her larger than handful size tits stand free in the dim light of the cave, and I grin that my slave knew better than to wear a bra today. She doesn’t hesitate to pull her pants off, and finally I see she understands the urgency of my need and desire.

I start working at my own pants, but she moves quickly, her own still around her ankles, slapping my hands away. Greedily she undoes my fly, and reaches in to grab my already hardening phallus. A low throaty moan escapes her throat as my rod pops free.

Hungrily she swallows me between her lips, sucking me deep into her throat, and gagging herself on my tool.

Gripping a handful of her soft black hair, I force her face against my pelvis, truly enjoying the way my cock feels mashed down her gullet, her drool and saliva slipping free from her open mouth and dripping off my scrotum.

“Oh, fuck that feels good, slave. Yes, lick my balls!” I moan, before yanking her head back to look into her eyes. “Be a good slave, and I’ll make sure you’re rewarded,” I tell her, having no intention of keeping the promise.

Tears stream from her eyes and drool from her mouth, but she nods and grabs my ass, pulling my prick back towards her hungry mouth. Her hands work at my waist, pulling my pants the rest of the way off. I hear my sword skitter across the cave floor, and worry that she’s trying to disarm me, but when she starts humming a second later, I forget about it, enjoying the pleasure she’s giving me.

Leaning forward, I grip her left breast, squeezing hard until she moans. My lusty emotions drive higher at the sound of her voice, barely making it around my cock and I yank her off me again.

“Ready to get fucked, slave?” I ask her, not really caring if she is or not.

“Yes Master! Fuck your willing slave. Punish her, or please her! I’m yours!” She kicks off her pants and shoves her ass into the air.

I waste no time before stepping forward and driving my rock hard penis straight into her vagina. With almost no foreplay, I’m shocked at how wet she already is. She still screams out as I hit bottom in her, and continue driving forward. Some part of my brain knows I can change the size and shape of my cock to conform to her cunt, but I’m not letting it, forcing my full size and length into her, until I’m butting up against her womb.

Placing my left hand on her hip, I once again grab her long black hair. Her pussy clamps down on me, as I pull back my hips, and then use my grip on her black locks to drive forward. She grunts at the impact, but I don’t let up. Her inner folds convulse around my rod, as I pound into her again and again. Her screams echo around the cavern in counterpoint to my hips smacking against her rump.

I can somehow sense that she’s coming close to her own orgasm, and decide that I need to finish first. She was good, but I’m not in the mood to fully reward her right now.

I throw all of my concentration into reaching my own culmination, centering on how every inch of her cunt feels wrapped tightly around my cock. The way her ass cheeks jiggle every time I slam into her. And how her voice sounds, part pleasure, part pain, in the way I’m treating her body, as it echoes around the cave.

My first volley fires deep into her, filling her womb with my potent seed. Who cares if she gets pregnant? She’ll be dead long before she can carry the child to full term.

Despite my efforts, I feel her own orgasm wash over me, filling me with new heights of pleasure as her juices drip off my nut-sack.

Even so, I don’t stop pumping into her until every drop is sucked from my long prick.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Chapter 23
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Shemhazau

Realization of my actions washes over me with the force of Sheila’s orgasm, and I shudder from more than the throes of my own culmination.

“I’m so sorry,” I murmur, my voice filled with anguish as I pull out of my slave. My cock makes a squelching noise, and some of my sperm drips out of her wet pussy, the globules of the pinkish stuff splattering on the cave floor. The site of my active spunk running from her crotch is driving my guilt deeper.

“Never apologize to your slave, Master. I take it you’re back to normal?” Sheila asks, turning her head to face me.

“As normal as I’ll ever be,” I reply as my legs give way beneath me under the weight of my memories. I had almost killed Lisa! I was going to kill Sheila! My rump smacks the ground, and I burry my head in my hands.

“It’s alright,” Sheila whispers to me as she cradles my head against her soft bare breasts.

“No it’s not!” I scream at her, shoving her away from me. I can’t stand to feel her caring touch right now. I don’t deserve it. “I can’t be trusted! I-I almost killed Lisa, and you. . . . Oh, God, what have I done?”

“I’m fine, Master,” her voice is soothing, but my nerves are too raw. “I can handle what you choose to give me.”

“No, you don’t understand,” I tell her, not modifying my tone. “How can you? I probably just got you pregnant, but I had no choice in the matter!” Her eyes widen as I speak, her hand going to her smooth stomach. “I can choose when to procreate, and I planned on killing you anyway, so didn’t care. In my twisted state, I thought it was some great joke. When you had your orgasm, however, it brought me back. Now it’s too late.”

“Maybe not,” her voice comes out as barely above a whisper, but it still penetrates my gloom. “I’ve been on the pill since my late husband passed away years ago. I will be alright.”

Hope blossoms in my chest at her statement, and I look at her in wonder. I’d never known she was a widow, but thinking back, I should have realized something. The nameplate that sat on her desk said Mrs. Sheila Lance.

“Probably not, though,” a new voice breaks the moment. Looking up, I see Arethusa hovering nearby. “If you really can choose when to reproduce, bursa escort bayan then that should outweigh any human countermeasures, short of taking physical actions to stop it.” Her matter-of-fact, almost chipper tone feels like a punch to my guts. “What?” she asks as I glare at her. “I followed you back to this putrid cave, and felt you go back to normal. While I have to admit that you’re quite interesting when the sword controls you, it’s also kind of scary. I wouldn’t recommend you use that thing again.”

“Thanks for the advice,” I say laconically, getting back to my feet. Walking over to my clothes, I begin to get dressed. Everyone else shows up just as I pull my pants up, and I can’t bear to look at them.

“Lyden?” Angela says, and I can hear her footsteps come closer to me. I turn away from her, keeping my gaze down as I pick up my shirt.

“Is he okay?” Lisa’s voice asks next, and my heart wrenches at the pain and worry in the small question.

“He’s beating himself up over what he almost did to you, and . . . oh no, Sheila!” Angela says.

“Would you get out of my head!” I demand of the succubus, still not looking up at her.

“As soon as you quit acting like a spoiled child,” her tone makes me whip my head up to look at her, rage burning through me like lava through a tinderbox. Despite her words, I see a smile spread across her face, and I pause long enough to realize what she’s doing.

Nodding, I stand erect, glad to have such friends at my side. “Thank you,” I tell her, and then repeat myself to everyone else. “Thank you.” I turn to Lisa then, guilt once again nearly overcoming me, but she speaks before I get the opportunity.

“It was the sword. I know you would never choose to hurt me on your own. That’s one of the reasons I. . . . Anyway, let’s just concentrate on breaking your curse.” The way she talks so confidently, I know she’s forgiven me, but I can’t help but wonder what she’d been about to say, and at the same time, feel my chest warm at her confidence in me.

Captain Jewkes steps forward, his odd shades perched on his forehead and his piercing eyes sharp above his hooked nose as he looks at me. “They explained the situation as we followed after the little fairy. I’m not very knowledgeable about this magic stuff, but is it something you can hand off? You know, like they did in the “Lord of the Rings” movie?”

“No,” I reply sadly, shaking my head. “I’m afraid it might curse one of you as well. As hard as this is, I can’t condone letting someone else carry this thing.” As I speak, I bend over and pick up the evil blade, buckling it back around my hip. Its voice immediately fills my mind, demanding I kill everyone around me. Closing my eyes, I slowly but methodically force the sound away, until it’s nothing more than an annoying buzz. “We’re getting close to possible relief. As long as I don’t draw it out again, I should be fine.”

He looks doubtfully at me, one eyebrow raised, but I don’t care. I will not burden someone else with Muramasa.

I realize that Sheila is still naked and oddly unconcerned with her state in front of so many people. I have to fight back another wave of jealousy at Thomas openly admiring her, and I move over to help her get dressed. Her shirt is in hopeless tatters, so I offer her mine. It leaves me topless, but it’s warm enough outside that I really don’t need it. I don’t feel like I deserve the smile she bestows upon me, nor the chaste peck she gives my cheek.

I see Areth making gagging faces as she examines the remains of the Orcs, and only then become aware of the awful smell of decay. Without warning I begin to feel claustrophobic and nauseous, forcing me to rush from the cave, to catch a whiff of the clean air outside.

“Any chance we can avoid the border this time?” I ask the large Amazonian woman as she comes up to me.

Her cheeks turn red as she nods, and we head north once again, this time far enough from the border between Earth and Fire to make us all feel more comfortable.

Areth lands on my right shoulder, and for a wonder only whispers in my ear. “I can make sure she doesn’t get pregnant,” she states, and for a moment I’m so shocked at the notion, that I freeze where I’m at.

“You can?” I blurt out, and everyone stops to look at me.

“Dummy,” the pixie chides me, “if I’d wanted to make that public knowledge, I wouldn’t have whispered.”

I look over at my onetime boss, and catch her with her hand on her stomach. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what she’s thinking about. Everyone else is looking at me, but I ignore them.

“It’s up to her,” I mutter and Areth takes off, flying over to my slave. I’m not sure how exactly I feel about the situation. If my power is stronger than her pills, then I got her pregnant, and will take responsibility for it. On the other hand, of all the women I’m currently with, Sheila is the last one I’d have expected to have a child with first.

She’ll use the child against you, Muramasa whispers to me, and I forcefully shove him out of my head. It’s his fault I’m in this situation!

“Master, may I talk with you?” It takes me a moment to work enough moisture into my suddenly dry mouth to reply to Sheila.

“I’m not going to decide for you,” I tell her, trying to preempt her asking me.

“Yes, Master,” she states, brushing a lock of black hair over her ear and looking into the distance. We are well within Earth’s borders this time, but I know that doesn’t mean we’re completely out of danger. “I will decide, but . . . but I want to know how you feel about it.”

I have to unclench my jaw and fists, realizing that she can’t read my thoughts like Angela can. We walk in silence for a bit, before I finally give my answer.

“I want you to be happy.” I look over at her, and for a brief moment our eyes meet, before she bows her head again. “You may be my willing slave, Sheila, but you mean more to me than just that. You’ve saved me from myself twice now. I can never truly repay you for that, nor tell you how much that means to me. As long as you’re happy, I’ll go along with your decision.”

Picking up my pace, I walk away from her. I hear her ask, “Twice?” before I’m out of earshot. Areth stays with her.

AnnaBelle is the next one to approach me, and once again I have to reign in my emotions. I know she means well, but I’m not in any mood to deal with a lecture right now.

“That has to be one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen.” The words spoken so evenly, catch me off guard.

“Huh?” I ask. Yes, eloquence is my forte today.

“I may be old, but my hearing is still plenty sharp,” she states, and I feel my cheeks turn red. “I admit I never thought much of you, and seeing all these other women fawning over you hasn’t helped.” I open my mouth to deliver a scathing retort, but she only pauses long enough to draw in a breath. “But I’ve seen you in action, and I’ve seen how you treat them. Actions speak louder than words, they say. Other than with the influence of that evil thing, that is. I’ve seen how you try hard to protect them, yet you don’t try to control them. You see them as people, not objects, and for someone with your powers, that’s really saying something.” My teeth click as I shut my mouth in stunned silence. “I just wanted you to know I respect you.” Without another word, she walks away.

Now what am I supposed to make of that?

The border between Earth and Light is just as noticeable as the one between Earth and Fire. The main difference being that Light’s landscape seems washed out with faded colors. Earth’s rich verdant green landscape becomes light green, the flowers looking faded and washed out. The whole place seems too bright.

“We will part ways here,” Angela says to the group at large. Becky steps forward to argue, but Angela cuts her off before she can. “We’ve already been through this. If we all go together, Shemhazau will flee. I’m already worried that he’ll take off with just the three of us approaching. If we want to have any chance of saving Lyden, then it has to be only those that must go.”

Thomas and Jewkes nod, seeing the logic in her statement, but Brooke, Lisa, and Becky frown, still not liking it. In the end they have no choice, but end up trying to claim that we could at least just go a bit further, until I lose my patience.

“Enough! The longer you sit here and debate about things, the longer it’ll be before I can be rid of this fucking curse. Angela, Areth, come on. If anyone follows. . . . Well, no one had better follow.” I storm off, letting my dark words hang in the air. Truth is, I’m afraid of what I might do if they don’t listen.

Areth’s weight settles on my shoulder again, and I feel Angela’s comforting presence behind me. I don’t dare look back and make sure my orders are followed.

Despite this being the Pillar of Light’s demesne, the atmosphere here is anything but light. With everything so bright, it actually feels somewhat oppressive. At least the ground is solid. I’d been half afraid that this area would be light particles, and nothing else.

We continue in silence for a while, and I notice that even Areth is remaining silent while she rides upon my shoulder. Unfortunately this leaves me with my thoughts as company, and I can feel my shame increasing from my actions today.

Something seems off, however, as if something is missing. It’s almost too quiet, with the sounds of our footfalls the only audio to fill the air. No birds or bees flutter around, and at first I put the uneasy feeling to having the group suddenly shrink so quickly. But after a couple hours go by, and the feeling doesn’t lessen any, I start thinking it over some more. Arethusa and Angela are still with me, and Muramasa swings easily at my hip. The women look as uneasy as I feel.

Muramasa! His voice has been completely silent since we entered this realm. I’ve grown so accustomed to his constant nattering, that when it vanished, I became uneasy. For the first time in quite a while, a real smile splits my lips, despite my inner turmoil. I even begin to whistle, until Areth tugs on my ear and Angela gives me a worried look and shakes her head.

Just that quickly my almost decent mood vanishes, and I find myself looking at every rock, wondering if its shadow is disproportionate, or if that flower is moving because of the slight breeze or by something else.

It’s with mixed trepidation and relief that I spot a small, old-looking cabin and Angela steers us towards it.

“You know how this place makes you feel?” She asks us in a barely audible whisper, and I nod my head. “Shemhazau Encantado has been living here for centuries. Keep that in mind.”

A couple things seem to click into place in my mind. We’d been told that Masamune makes its owner so relaxed and un-confrontational that they usually just lie down and die. How better to combat that, than living in a place that makes you paranoid?

Why had Muramasa gone silent though? Is it some new ploy to get me to succumb to its evil desires?

Angela gives a series of knocks on the door that I realize must be some sort of code. There is a shuffling noise on the other side of the door and instinctively my hand goes to the hilt of Muramasa.

“No!” Angela hisses at me, at the same time pulling my hand away from the cursed blade.

The door opens a moment later, but I can’t see anyone through the crack. He’s turned off the lights inside.

“Angela?” The voice is a choked whisper. “Lyden,” my name follows a second later, and I can’t tell whether he’s happy or scared out of his wits to see me. “And the fairy, Arethusa. . . . Ah, good, you have the sword.”

His words hit me like a rolling boulder, bowling over me and filling me with shock. Why is he happy about me having the cursed blade? How does he know?

“You already know, then?” Angela asks, her voice barely louder than Shemhazau’s.

“Come in, come in,” he says, opening the door wider. “This isn’t a conversation to be had out here.”

I step through first, and despite Angela’s words, I have my hand firmly wrapped around Muramasa. If this is a trap, I’ll be the first to trip it. Oddly, I feel bothered with the weapon’s missing voice. I hadn’t realized how much I’d gotten used to it, until it was gone.

No traps spring as I step through and my eyes adjust to the dim interior and step into a cluttered living area. Books adorn every wall, stacked upon each other. Maps litter a wooden table in one corner, and a soft yellow light hangs down from the ceiling. Compared to outside, it’s dark in here. Despite the clutter, I notice that the place is immaculately clean. Books are stacked precisely, the maps laid out evenly, and I can’t see anything resembling dirt or debris in here. What I had assumed as there being no light, is in truth a light that is much dimmer than outside.

“Cozy place,” Areth says in her usually blunt way. “A little small and cramped, but at least you’re not a slob like some men and actually know how to clean.” She gives me a pointed look, but I have no idea what she’s talking about.

“Thank you, gracious water fairy,” the man says, bowing to the golden woman on my shoulder. “Please be seated,” he says next, and there are chairs in the room I somehow missed seeing before. The man’s eyes are shadowed, his long stringy gray hair hanging down onto his shoulders, and his shoulders are stooped. Despite his obvious age, he moves with ease and alacrity. “We have another guest coming, but for now, there are a few things I think we need to discuss.”

“Then you know why we’re here,” I state, not really asking.

“Of course,” he says, a bit of mirth in his firm voice. “You’re here to kill me and take my sword.” Shock strikes me to the core at his words, and I open my mouth to protest, but his chuckle cuts me short. “Forgive an old man his ill humor, Lyden. You can’t see things as I do, and there is a long path between here and there. You’re here to break the curse, but I’m afraid it can’t be done.”

Depression replaces shock at his words. I’d been told that the curse couldn’t be lifted, but I’d still hoped, and hearing it from the person we thought could help. . . .

“Listen, son,” Shemhazau’s voice softens and I can hear genuine concern in it, “I said it couldn’t be broken, not that it couldn’t be defeated. How do you suppose I survived so long with Masamune?”

“If I have to choose between living in this place, or slowly going mad out there, I’ll choose to die first,” I tell him seriously, not liking the old man calling me ‘son’.

“Then it’s a good thing you won’t have to choose either one,” he tells me cheerily. “All you need to do is right an old wrong, steal a powerful talisman, and kill your old man.”

I’m beginning to wonder how crazy this guy is. “I don’t want to kill anyone!” I protest. “My father is long dead, anyway, and I don’t know how good a thief I make.”

“Ahh, the foibles of youth.” I’m really getting sick of his happy grin. “What if I told you that you could take out the man that got your parents, and get the talisman at the same time?”

Suspicion at his words worms its way in. Everything sounds too convenient. “What do you mean?” I ask, wondering what his angle is.

“I don’t understand,” Angela says at the same time. “What does any of that have to do with beating the curse?”

“I believe our other guest has arrived,” the man says, still grinning that infuriating smile. The old man gets to his feet, and moves to the door, opening it only a crack, before looking out. I can’t help but wonder at the juxtaposition of his knowledge of external events, and his paranoia. When he’s done verifying the person at the door, he opens it wider, and waves the person in.

Curly red hair is the first thing I notice, but I recognize the person immediately.

“Brooke?” I ask, confusion making my world reel. Then, with dawning horror, I begin to understand. “No, I will NOT kill her!” Shemhazau had said that I would have a chance to take out my parent’s killer, but I’ve already forgiven the mermaid assassin her part in it.

“Lyden?” her soft voice fills the air, as she peers around the dim room. “I don’t understand what’s happening. A flying dolphin came up to us shortly after you left, and told me that I needed to come with it.”

“Relax, son,” the man says as he glides back to his chair. “She is not the one I meant, though she carries her own guilt for her actions. She will need to accompany you. I’m afraid your other two companions here will have to remain behind.”

“That’s not possible,” Angela nearly shouts as she jumps to her feet. Shemhazau looks at her, cringing away slightly, and I see one of his gray eyebrows arch. “I mean, they are tied together. Arethusa will die if they’re separated.”

“I hate that name,” the fairy mutters in my ear.

“Oh?” the enigmatic man says, looking to the little fairy still on my shoulder. “Is that so little one, or is there something you’re hiding.”

“I-I don’t know what you mean,” the pixie stammers. I feel her little hands grip my hair while she pulls herself closer to me, protectively. It takes me a second to realize he’s responding to Angela’s statement, and not the fact that she dislikes her full name.

“Leave her alone,” I state, my voice firm and full of command. No one treats one of my friends like that.

“I think you’d better tell him, little fairy, before I do.” This time the man’s voice is full of menace, and I find myself standing up, not willing to put up with his flip-flopping attitude any longer.

“No, Lyden, don’t,” Areth says directly into my ear, her voice full of resignation as she lifts away from my shoulder. “He’s right.”

“Areth?” I ask, now thoroughly confused.

“We’re not tied together, even though you took my maidenhead,” she tells me as she flutters before my wondering gaze. “I don’t understand why, but that first night, after Marchosias’s trap, I decided to test the limits of our connection, while you were otherwise occupied.”

“You shouldn’t have done that,” I protest. “What would’ve happened if you’d gone too far and couldn’t make it back?”

She gives me a sweet but sad smile before continuing. “I wanted to know how close I would have to stay to you after I felt you absorb my soul.” Something falls from her face, and it takes me a moment to realize she’s crying. “At first I was surprised that I wasn’t feeling any drain on my system as I travelled away from where you slept. When I got to the other side of that monstrous city you live in, I had to admit that something was odd. For some reason, I wasn’t tied to you, as I should’ve been. I was free to continue to live my own life any way I chose.”

“But you came back,” I say softly, trying to grasp what she’s saying. Why is it that after I broke her cherry, we weren’t linked to one another? I’d felt the change at the time, so what happened?

“I almost didn’t,” she answers my statement. “Do you have any idea the kind of freedom that offered me? All our lives, fairies worry about every creature they come across, afraid that one of them may take our maidenhead and forever control us. I no longer needed to worry about that. I am freer than any fairy ever before.”

“Why did you return, then?” Brooke asks, and I can hear a note of anger in her voice. The small golden woman has lied to us all, making life on Earth more difficult, as we tried to accommodate our supposed link.

“I’m still not entirely sure.” Areth’s head comes up, and I can see pleading in her tiny bright eyes. “I saw how you treated those around you, Lyden, and I still felt close to you. You risked yourself back in that demon’s lair to save me, and then were willing to sacrifice your life to the Cyclopes, to save me again. I’d never met anyone who was so willing to put others before themselves, and you intrigued me. I know you didn’t particularly like me, so I pretended that. . . . I just didn’t want you to send me away!” She drops to the floor, and I can tell she’s sobbing.

Angela moves to the fairy’s side, and scoops her up, glaring at me, as though this whole situation was my doing.

“I don’t understand why we aren’t linked?” I state to no one in particular as I try to sort out my own emotions. Sure she had tricked me, but she had also been of help at times. At first I might have sent her away, back when she started to annoy us after saving Brooke, but despite my own words afterwards, I don’t think we’d have made it this far without her. Hell, she’d saved my life on more than one occasion.

“I believe I can answer that,” Shemhazau says, and I jump, having completely forgotten about the scrawny man. We all look at him, even Areth, waiting for him to answer. After a few seconds of silence, I clear my throat, and he looks almost startled as he looks back at me. “What? Oh, right. So, anyway, like I said, I believe I can answer that question.”

“You said that already,” I tell him, feeling my annoyance rising again.

“I know what I said, and what I haven’t said, son,” his indignant reply comes back at me. I’m really getting annoyed with him calling me son. “And one thing I haven’t said is that while you did break her maidenhead, and you did take her entire soul into yourself, you didn’t leave her without a soul of her own.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Brooke says before I can. “If he took her whole soul, then how did he. . . .” she stops and her mouth forms an ‘O’ as her wide eyes look at me.

“What?” I demand, still confused.

“Lemme lay it straight for ya, homie,” the man’s attempt at street voice is almost laughable, if the situation weren’t more serious. “The pixie and you did it before you actually took her maidenhead, right?” I nod, remembering the masturbation session while she was still attached to the orb of light, as well as barely making it into her anus when Marchosias forced us to perform in front of him. “At those times, your souls mixed. You got a bit of hers, and she yours. Now hold on, I’m getting there,” he says, holding up his hands to forestall me interrupting him. “When you finally took her maidenhead, every bit of soul that was in her at the time transferred to you. In truth, that’s all that was required to complete the demon’s trap, but you’re a good lad, and didn’t stop there. Had you done so, then you would indeed be linked to each other. However, like I said, you’re a good lad and when you finished, you transferred some of your soul back to her. Since your soul had some of hers, she was able to take it, and use it for her own. Ya dig?”

The way he says it seems to make perfect sense, and I wonder that we didn’t figure it all out before, until I remember that I still don’t fully understand all of my abilities.

“I still don’t fully understand why she came back,” I say aloud, not really expecting an answer, but wanting to hear my own voice.

“Because I’ve fallen in love with you, dolt!” A golden blur flashes to my face, and she stops, hovering close enough that I can’t focus on her features. I can make out that her hands are on her hips. Never a good sign when a woman does that to you.

“Which brings up another point,” Shemhazau says happily. “The real reason generators were killed off so many centuries ago and why interbreeding has been outlawed.”

The crazy old man has my complete attention again, though I take a moment to reach out and carefully place Areth back on my shoulder. She huffs in my ear, and I can feel her fist strike my ear, but her heart isn’t in the blow.

“Not all generators get their ability to garner power the way you do, Lyden. You owe that fun ability to your father. He was once a king for the succubae. However, all generators gather loyal followers. Loyalty can come in many shapes and sizes, but it’s not unheard of for a generator to amass an army of very loyal friends.”

“And the Pillars couldn’t handle any challenge to their power,” Brooke says, understanding.

“Some of them, yes,” Shemhazau nods. “Gaia, and the Pillars of Light and Dark didn’t push for it, but the other three did. In the end, Light and Dark couldn’t bring themselves to care enough to oppose it, and Gaia wasn’t strong enough on her own.” He looks around the room, and for the first time I catch a glimpse of his eyes. Light colored, but still too dim to make out clearly. “And the only way to produce generators is through interbreeding.”

“So it’s safe to have mixed children?” Angela asks, and there is no mistaking the hope in her voice.

“Of course not,” he replies with that large smile of his. “It’s still true that they could go mad, and with the unpredictability of their powers, that has the potential to cause massive trouble.” The succubus’s face drops, as her hopes are dashed. “But it’s not as big a fear as the Pillars pretend it is.”

New hope light’s Angela’s eyes, and I see it reflected in Brooke’s green orbs. Somehow I think this latest revelation has just created a whole new level of complications for me. I think back about Sheila, and wonder what her decision will be.

“Now back to the real reason you’re here, son; the curse.” The way this insane man keeps changing subjects has my head spinning, and I find myself sitting unexpectedly, Areth squeaking in surprise in my ear. “The curse can’t be broken, but it can be augmented and lived with.”

“How?” Angela asks.

“I’m so glad you asked,” he states, almost like a T.V. personality. “It’ll take three things: Muramasa, which you have, Masamune, which I have,” with a flourish of his wrist, a blade that looks identical to mine—except the blade is pitch black, where mine is a shiny chrome—appears in his hand, “and a talisman to work between the two.”

“He can’t just hold Masamune to have the curse changed?” Areth asks.

“He could, but it would drive him insane, as both blades would constantly war over his mind. He would be the battlefield between.” The old man shakes his head sadly. “The good news is that, in the words of Meatloaf, “Two out of three ain’t bad,” and I just happen to know who has the needed talisman.”

“The man who killed my parents,” I say tonelessly.

Brooke jumps at my words, and it only then occurs to me that we are going to have to go after her old commander. I really must be off balance mentally for it to have taken me this long to figure that out.

“He can’t!” the redhead nearly screams. “If Lyden draws that blade again, I don’t think the real Lyden will come back. Commander Douglas is a renowned swordsman. I don’t know of anyone that can stand up to him, and survive. Or anyone who ever has.”

“One man did, though barely,” Shemhazau says wistfully. “That is why you must accompany him, assassin.” For some reason, his voice fills with anger at the title, as if he’s accusing Brooke with it.

“I’m no better with this hand,” she says, holding up her right hand with its missing and shortened fingers.

Shemhazau smiles as he approaches her, but I can see it doesn’t reach his eyes. Taking her maimed hand in his, he softly kisses each finger, and I hear Brooke gasp with each touch of his lips. When he steps away, the assassin is staring at her hand. Each finger is whole, and looking healthy once more. The flesh of the new digits is a light pink color.

“So long as you stay loyal to him, and protect him, your hand will remain whole,” the man says, and then wearily sits back down. “Now go, you two. One of my dolphins will guide you. We’ll talk more when you return.” With a wave of his hand I feel something tug at my navel, and have to blink, as the world around me grows too bright.

“What just happened?” Brooke’s voice sounds to my right.

“I think we were dismissed,” I reply unhappily.

It takes me a few moments to clear my eyes enough to see in the bright outdoors, and another second to get used to the washed out colors. A small dolphin is swimming through the air in front of me and I have to admit that even after all I’ve seen in the last couple months, this strikes me as very wrong.

“I suppose he’s our guide.” Brooke’s words act as a catalyst, and the dolphin, no longer than two feet from nose to tail, begins to swim away. The creature looks completely natural as it moves through the air, that for a moment I get the crazy notion that the air is as thick as water, and have to stop myself from trying to swim after it.

I follow without hesitation, and I can hear Brooke coming up behind me.

“Lyden, wait. How do we know we can trust him?” I ascertain she’s referring to Shemhazau and not the dolphin.

“Do we have a choice?” I ask in all seriousness.

“Well, no, but you don’t understand what he’s put us up to. Commander Douglas is one of the best swordsmen I’ve ever heard of. He may claim that someone has walked away from him, but I’ve never heard of them.” Her newly reformed hand on my shoulder slows me, but I refuse to stop. “We don’t stand a chance against him.”

“Do I have a choice?” I ask her again, without looking her way.

She’s silent for a while, before she says, “The amount of power he must have to fix my hand and dismiss us like that. . . . Lyden, I don’t know who that man is, but he is nearly as powerful as the Pillars.”

“You want to know why he doesn’t come for this talisman himself,” I state, knowing where her mind is going. “I think it’s because he’s cursed by Masamune. He can’t come for it himself.”

“And how will you break his curse, so that you can use his sword to augment yours?” Her words are delivered softly, but I can hear the fear that drives them.

“I don’t think that will be a problem,” I tell her, ideas falling into place in my mind. “He said you had to protect me to keep your fingers, right? Why would he do that, if he meant me harm?” For some odd reason the paranoia this place engenders doesn’t seem to be affecting me when it comes to the crazy old man. Odd, since I’d been so suspicious of him earlier. Maybe I’m just finally willing to accept my fate.

She doesn’t respond to my statement, and we walk in silence for a bit, until she says, “Maybe we can talk to Commander Douglas. We’d worked together once, and—“

“He killed my parents,” I say, cutting her off.

“I had a hand in that too, remember? Do you plan on killing me?” her snide voice almost makes me turn on her, but after all that time trying to keep my emotions in check, and with Muramasa still remaining silent, I’m able to keep myself under control.

“You saved my life, and have protected me since I was a child,” I tell her. Steel has more emotion in it than my voice does right now. “I love you, and will do everything in my power to keep you safe. What redeeming qualities does Douglas have?”

To my surprise, she actually laughs lightly. “Sorry,” she dissembles when I look at her questioningly. “It’s just . . . I’ve never heard anyone call him just Douglas. He’s always been Commander Douglas. It actually makes him seem less formidable.”

“How old are you?” I ask, suddenly more curious than cautious. Her eyes grow wide as she looks at me, caught off guard by the sudden change in subject. Thank you, Shemhazau for that trick. “Even when I was a kid, you looked as beautiful and young as you do now. The way you talked about your old commanding officer, is as though you’ve known him for a very long time.”

She looks forward again, and this time the silence that follows is almost palpable.

Giving the question up as lost, I try to enjoy the scenery and the unique experience of following a swimming dolphin through the air.

The porpoise stops suddenly, and Shemhazau’s voice pours from its open toothy mouth. “He keeps the talisman around his neck at all times, knowing it is something we both need to break our curse. He has long desired my death, and enjoys taunting me with how close he is, knowing that I can’t come for him. What you’re looking for looks like a pearl, but has striations of ivory and ebony throughout it.” Without any further warning, the small creature swims straight upwards, and is soon lost in the too bright sky.

“Where to now?” I ask, looking around.

I spot the answer at the same time Brooke does, and we begin walking towards a light blue hut on the edge of a large pond.

“Let me do the talking,” Brooke says as we come up to the door.

“What do you plan to talk to me about?” a voice behind us startles us, and we flip around to see an older man, sword held out and at the ready. We hadn’t seen anyone outside, and he’s caught us completely off guard.

When he sees Brooke’s face, his jaw goes slack and the point of his very sharp weapon dips slightly.

“I thought you were dead,” he mutters before his sharp eyes flicker to me along with the tip of his weapon. “Who are you?”

“He is mine,” Brooke says evenly, stepping in front of me. “What do you mean, you thought I was dead?”

He looks sharply back to the mermaid, and shakes his head. “When you vanished after being promoted to full assassin, I assumed that that old bastard, Shemhazau, had killed you.”

“Why—?” she asks, but is cut off when the strong man suddenly hugs her to him.

“You don’t know what it means to know our last mission together wasn’t the reason you. . . . But never mind that now, where have you been?” His curious gaze flickers from Brooke’s green eyes to me and back again, before he releases her, and steps back suspiciously. “This is him, isn’t it? This is the child you swore you drowned.” His blade is up again, the point pressed against her throat. Anger suffuses his voice as he glares at Brooke. “All these years I assumed Shemhazau killed you when he escaped me. I mourned for your death, but the truth is, you were a traitor. Give me one good reason I shouldn’t give you a second mouth right now.”

“Because you’re a dead man if you do,” I announce. While the man had been talking, I’d slowly unbuckled Muramasa from my hip, and now I hold the cursed blade up, an inch of shiny metal peeking out from the sheath. I can almost hear the blades mantic cries to be fed, but it’s extremely easy to block out its weakened voice.

Douglas recognizes the blade, and I can see genuine fear cross his face as he backs away. I get a good look at his weapon and see that it’s the twin of Brooke’s wavy blue sword.

“You’re working for him then?” Douglas spits off to the side as he glares at us. “All this time. . . . And you end up doing his dirty work.” With his left hand, he reaches into his shirt and pulls something out. A round object about as big as my thumb, is attached to a leather thong with a piece of wire. White and black lines swirl through the object, making it look as if the thing is made of liquid, as the lines aren’t stationary. “I suppose this is what you’re after? You’ll have to peel it from my cold dead hands, if you can. Come Traitor; let’s see how good you are with your betrayer’s blade.”

I can see that the man’s words hurt Brooke, and I feel true anger rise up in me that he would treat someone I care deeply for in such a manner. Keeping Muramasa sheathed, I step in, trying to knock his enchanted blade aside.

A loud crack resounds and my blade goes flying, sheath and all. Screaming in sudden pain, I drop to my knees cradling my broken wrist. How did he move so fast?

“Hmph,” Douglas grunts derisively. “I thought I would have more to fear from Masamune’s twin. Come Traitor, and test your blade against mine. Let’s see how much you remember of my training.”

My world splits into two portions, one focused on my excruciating pain, and the other on Brooke.

My mermaid lover draws her sword, and I notice that there is no sound when she does so. The two watery blue blades face each other, mere inches separating their incredibly sharp blades. Neither one moves for a moment, eyes locked on their opponent. Having held Muramasa out, I know how hard it can be to hold a blade entirely steady, but theirs could be attached to statues, they’re so still.

Brooke takes a step to her right, and Douglas smoothly follows suite. The redhead now stands between Douglas and me, and I realize she’s protecting me.

I stand up, wanting to help out however I can. “No, stay back,” Brooke says without breaking eye contact. “This isn’t a fight you can help with.” Her voice is flat and emotionless as she commands me to stay put.

I think to change into a dragon, but the pain in my wrist stops me from concentrating enough to do so.

“I’m glad to see you can keep your emotions in check, Traitor. At least all of my training wasn’t lost on you.” I know he is only trying to egg her on with his taunts, but they’re striking home in me.

“You killed my parents, and tried to kill an innocent baby,” I say. “At least she actually has a heart that beats in her chest.”

“A heart?” the other man snarls, losing his temper slightly. “After I killed your mother, brat, and your father escaped from me, do you know what he did? He murdered my wife and two daughters while they slept. Don’t talk to me about a heart.”

Brooke uses the man’s outburst as a chance to attack, and the two blades strike against each other, sending sparks flying. For tense moments, both combatants face off against each other, the blue metal of their blades creating a cacophony in the bright air, ending when Douglas shoves Brooke away from him, and once again they stop and stare at each other.

So, call me dense, but it’s only now that I realize the true import of everything that’d been said. Shemhazau is my father. He had escaped from Commander Douglas, and the assassin must have claimed he’d killed both my parents when he reported back. My old man is going to have a lot of explaining to do when I return.

“You killed his wife,” I continue talking, hoping to set the man off again and give Brooke another opening. “You tried to kill his child, me. Do you want me to feel guilty that you failed? Ha!” I laugh loudly, using the pain in my right wrist to fuel my voice. The man doesn’t even blink as I speak, and I realize I’m going to have to go with low blows to set him off again. “I hope your family screamed out your name when my father killed them. Does it haunt you at night, knowing that the last person to see them alive was the man you most despise?”

“Shut your fucking mouth,” he snarls again, and then has to concentrate on staying alive as Brooke presses the attack, bringing her blade in hard and fast. It’s barely deflected in time, but I still see a line of red open up on the man’s side.

“Maybe your wife offered to suck his cock to save your babies,” I continue, hating myself for speaking these words. I take no joy in what I’m saying, but I’ll do whatever it takes to help Brooke out. “Do you often wonder if he killed them quickly, or took his time? Or did he just kill them as you killed my mother, while she was screaming to save her child?”

Douglas’s temper finally seems to be completely under his control again, as he only glares at Brooke. I open my mouth to continue, wracking my brain to come up with something even more vulgar to say, but Brooke interrupts me.

“Lyden, shut up.” Her words delivered without emotion make me obey more than anything else.

“At least you still have some honor,” Douglas states, and I can tell he’s actually breathing heavier. Brooke by comparison is the essence of calm.

“I’m sorry you thought I was dead all these years,” she says to her opponent, her sword clanging as she knocks aside a thrust from him. “That was never my intent. I was a failure as an assassin, unable to complete my mission. I ran away, unable to bear the congratulations of my achievement, when I knew it was false.” As she talks in her flat tone, Brooke slowly begins to draw her blade back, switching hands and lifting it over her head, still pointing at her opponent. “I am truly sorry for your family. Melissa was always kind to me, and I always thought your daughters were cute.”

“Don’t speak her name, Traitor!” Douglas dashes forward and I watch in horror as my dearest friend and protector grabs his naked blade with her newly healed right hand and moves it only slightly, letting it sink into her gut, then holding it there with an iron grip. The tip of his blue steel pokes out her back, but Brooke doesn’t scream out in pain or even acknowledge the mortal wound. Quicker than my horrified eyes can follow, her left arm drops down and a second later the older man’s head is rolling across the ground.

My utter shock lasts only a second before I rush to her in time to catch my wounded lover with my wounded arm before she hits the ground. I grasp the other blade, but her grip on my arm is firm, stopping me. “Don’t pull it out. You’ll only make the wound worse.” She gasps, showing the pain she’s in for the first time. She looks at her right hand, and laughs for a moment, until the pain stops her. I follow her gaze, and see that her hand is unharmed. “He said that it would remain whole as long as . . . I was protecting you.” Her eyes meet mine, and she gives me a slight smile. “A hundred and forty-two.” I look at her confused, no idea what she’s talking about. “That’s how . . . old I am.” Talking is obviously getting harder for her, and tears sting my eyes as I realize I’m about to lose her.

“Hold on,” I tell her. “I’m going to save you.” Frantically I start racking my brain, trying to come up with some way to reverse the damage to her stomach. There isn’t enough time to sleep and enter her mind. “Shemhazau!” I scream, hoping to get his attention. Maybe he can heal her. “Father, I need you! I can’t lose her. Please, I’ll do anything, just don’t let her die!”

Silence answers my call.

Brooke’s hand brushes my cheek, and I look back down at her. Her form is blurry through my tears, but I can make out a wistful smile on her lips.

“I love you, Lyden.” She shudders and coughs before she can continue. “You need . . . to get the talisman . . . to Shemhazau. It’s . . . too late for me.”

She goes limp in my arms, and it feels like my entire life shatters with her passing. Memories of growing up, of always having her there as a constant companion, flood my mind, overwhelming my senses. I remember becoming interested in women, and crushing hard on the older redhead. I remember her showing up to my high school graduation, and all my other friends being jealous that she was there for me. When I’d scraped my knee trying to show off by doing a trick on my pedal bike, she’d been there to comfort me. I also remember finding her in that prison cell in Atlantis, wounded and hurt. The look on her face when I’d broken free of my restraints in TanaVesta’s chamber. So many memories, and yet they seem to flit through my mind with barely a moment’s hesitation.

Heart breaking, I bend over the form that had once been Brooke, the redheaded mermaid assassin, that had also been my savior as a child, and plant a soft kiss against her immobile lips.

“I love you, too, Brooke. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you.” A new wave of grief washes over me, and I press my lips more firmly against hers, trying to impart everything I feel for her in this one action.

* * *

A hand on my shoulder tries to wake me, but I refuse to give it any attention. Why won’t they leave me alone in my grief? Isn’t it enough for them that I returned with the talisman, and augmented my curse? All I want to do is sleep, to forget my pain. Who cares what happens with the two worlds anymore? Brooke, MY Brooke has been taken away from me. Nothing else even matters.

“Lyden?”

Sometimes I even imagine I can still hear her voice. So soft and sweet, yet with a strength beneath it that belies her past.

“Lyden, wake up. We need to be going.”

I roll away from the voice. Whatever bad guy it is this time, can have me.

“Dammit Lyden, I don’t know what you did, but I’m not strong enough to carry you out of here.” The imaginary voice of Brooke is becoming more insistent. “I didn’t kill my mentor just to let you stay out here and waste away.”

Annoyed, I turn and look at the speaker.

And have to do a double take.

“Brooke?!?” I demand, looking into those familiar green eyes.

“I don’t know how you did it, but I woke up with a killer stomach ache a few moments ago.” She points to the bloodstained tear in her clothes, and I can just make out pink puckered flesh beneath.

“But, how?” I ask, still confused.

“I don’t know,” she repeats. “I was hoping you could tell me.” She looks past me, and I see her eyes grow large. Spinning around, I quickly get to my feet, and then have to take a moment to catch my balance as the world tries to go black. I got up too quick. “Lyden, I can’t. . . .” Brooke’s fear filled tone allows me to focus, and my vision clears.

Two gangly yellowish creatures are slowly. . . . I don’t know what to call their motion. Two long arms, each with two elbows, and two stubby legs attach to short but muscular bodies. The things’ movements are a cross between shuffling, crawling, and sliding over the ground. The creepiest part is that they have no head, just a mouth full of yellow sharp teeth between their shoulder blades.

My entire body aches as I bend over and pick up Douglas’s blade in my left hand. My other hand is still useless. Muramasa is already back on my hip. I see Brooke pick up the leather thong with the talisman attached, and place the blood soaked necklace about her neck.

“There’s already been enough death today,” I tell the two things, hoping they at least have ears to hear me. They continue coming closer. “What are they?”

“I don’t know,” Brooke replies. Her left hand is over the scar of her wounded stomach, and her assassin’s blade sits lightly in her right hand.

Leaning on each other, we begin to back away, placing our backs against the building. A sound to my left draws my attention, and I see two more of the creatures coming at us from that direction.

“Lyden,” Brooke’s voice is full of worry.

“Lemme guess,” I say sardonically. “There is two more coming from the other side.”

“I wish,” she mutters, mimicking my tone. “There are four.”

I open my mouth to swear, and stop myself. Muramasa isn’t influencing me right now, and there’s no reason to act otherwise.

Muramasa. . . . With him in my hands, I could protect us from all eight of the monsters.

And probably lose my identity in the process.

Why can’t I catch a break? I mentally demand of no one in particular. Sometimes I miss those times when Sheila would yell at me to get back to my reports.

“Come on! Let’s get those fucking fuckers!” I hear a female shout a moment before the blast of a shotgun knocks one of the beasts in front of us over. A moment later, a rifle and pistol report in, and the second thing goes down.

“What took you so long, Jennifer?” I ask, trying to stifle a giggle. I know if I let it out right now, they’ll all think I’m mad. Heck, for that matter, I almost wonder if I am half crazed. How are they here?

“Eh, sorry doc,” she says imitating Bugs Bunny, “but we, eh, took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.”

“Between talking and flying dolphins, and ants that breathe fire, I’m not sure I’ll ever get another peaceful night’s rest,” Captain Jewkes states. “Or how I’m going to write this up in a report.”

“I’ve got a great psyche at the local VA,” Thomas says, shouldering his rifle.

“If you’re done chit-chatting,” Lisa yells out, “there are still a few more of those things around.” The athletic blonde swings her short sword, lopping off one of the over-long arms of the monstrosity she’s facing. Becky finishes it off a second later with a quick thrust of her blade through its chest. The two work perfectly together, their movements synced.

The fallen monster’s companion rears up on its stubby back legs, towering over the two women by a good three feet, but topples forward a second later, and I see the hilt of Ondine’s dagger sticking out of its back.

I turn to face the four that Brooke had informed me of, but can only barely make out their back ends as they high tail it out of here.

* * *

“So when the dolphin told us you needed help, we didn’t hesitate,” Thomas says as we sit around a small table in Douglas’s cabin. The old assassin had had the key to it on him, and while the space is cramped, we all feel a bit better with solid walls around us.

Sheila sets a bowl of some kind of stew in front of me, and then drops to her knees besides me and proceeds to spoon feed me. She’d fussed over my wrist, bandaging it, and worrying about how I’m going to defend myself with a busted appendage. AnnaBelle and her had remained back during the fighting, only coming forward when the all clear was given.

“So your succubus and the fairy remained behind, while you went on this dangerous mission?” Jewkes asks me, and I nod in response as I chew some kind of meat from the stew. “And you say that the person we came here to meet is actually your father, whom you thought has been dead all these years? Damn, your life is screwed up.” He looks around the room, his gaze lingering for a few moments on Sheila before shaking his head and muttering something under his breath.

“Where did you learn to cook like this?” I ask Sheila.

“A tavern maid learns all sorts of things, Master,” she smiles enigmatically as she brushes her fingers along the wrappings on my wrist.

“They do, indeed,” I smile down at her, remembering Marchosias’s fantasy world, and thinking that he ended up helping me out more than he’d intended.

“You should get some rest and help heal your friend, Master,” my slave continues, pulling me to my feet, and leading me over to the bed where Brooke is already asleep. The bed is small, barely big enough for the two of us, but soft and soon I’m out cold.

“What took you so long?” Brooke asks me, and I know I’m in our shared mind-space.

“Some of us didn’t get healed up as much after the battle as others did,” I say, holding up my right arm. Apparently my wounds aren’t reflected here, as my wrist is fully functional.

She laughs lightly as she lifts the hem of her shirt, and looks at her unblemished stomach.

“Awe,” I moan disappointedly when she puts the shirt back down.

Her eyes sparkle as she grins at me before looking around at the blankness that makes up the atmosphere of the mindscape. “Do you ever find it odd that we find ourselves together in here, more than in the real world?”

That sobers me up. “Well, if you weren’t so fragile, maybe I wouldn’t have to heal you so often,” I try to say jokingly. I’m not sure it comes out as I’d intended.

“If you’d quit needing saving, maybe I could refrain from getting injured,” she shoots back, and I can see the sparkle return to her beautiful eyes.

I laugh, and she joins me as we come together and hug. I can’t help but wonder at the warmth that infuses my body as her arms wrap around my torso and her curly redhead lays on my shoulder.

“I love you,” I murmur. “And if you ever try something as harebrained as sacrificing yourself for me again, I’ll never say those words again.”

She tries to pull indignantly away from me, but I firmly place my hand on her head, and squeeze her body to mine until she quits struggling.

“I can’t lose you,” I hear her say after a few seconds, and she hugs me tighter. “I gave up every dream I ever had to save you. Everything I ever knew, I abandoned to make sure you lived. I’m not willing to give that up, and I will sacrifice anything to keep you alive.”

I’m stunned at the import of her words. I’d never looked at it from that angle before, but it seems so obvious now. She had wanted to be an assassin, but failed her final test: me.

“Why don’t we make sure we both live,” I tell her softly. “You’ve always been there for me. You’ve been more a part of my life than anyone else has, and when I thought I’d lost you, I couldn’t handle it. If you want me to stay alive, then you’d better do the same.”

“That’s pretty selfish of you,” she replies. “How did you bring me back, anyway?”

“I wish I knew,” I chuckle. “One moment I’m hugging you to me, the next, you were waking me up. Whatever it was knocked me out.”

“Is that why you really brought us here?” she asks, and I can hear a note of laughter in her tone. “To recoup the energy you lost in bringing me back?”

“Wasn’t it you that just informed me of how selfish I am?” I ask back, releasing her head, and letting her look up at me.

“That’s okay,” she replies with a wide smile, “I’m pretty selfish sometimes, too.” She seals her statement with a kiss. The kiss isn’t passionate or demanding, as Sheila’s are, but unique to Brooke alone. No tongue is involved, just our lips pressed together in a way that portrays how much she cares for me, and I for her.

Her hands tell a different story, however, as they work at the button to my pants, wanting to get them down and off. My hands roam her back, and I can’t stop my fingers from curling against the cloth of her top when her slender fingers grip my already hard phallus. I moan into our kiss as she begins rubbing the sensitive head.

I know that sex isn’t necessary to complete the healing while in this unique place, but I won’t pass up the opportunity for it either.

With a quick mental thought, I cause our clothing to vanish altogether. It might be more fun to undress each other, but I really don’t want to break our kiss, or the wonderful sensations she’s sending through my thick rod.

She gasps as I drop my right hand to her rear, giving the firm flesh a good squeeze. Taking the opportunity of her open mouth, I dart my tongue in, and quickly find it twining with hers.

Bringing my left hand around, I quickly locate the small nipple on her tiny right breast, and use my thumb to stimulate it until it’s nice and hard.

She’s light as I use my grip on her rump to lift her up, and then gently lay her down on the dark floor. Finally willing to break our kiss, I let my lips meander across her cheek, until I reach her left earlobe. I stop here for a bit, nibbling gently while my left hand glides across the smooth expanse of her stomach until I find the already wet hole at the juncture between her legs. Her fingernails scratch my back as I move my hand from side-to-side, eliciting escort bursa moan after moan from the gorgeous woman beneath me.

Breaking away from her ear, I slowly alternate between kissing and nibbling my way down her neck and chest, until I reach her left breast. Her nipple is already taut and standing proud, even though I haven’t given this one any attention and I devour it with gusto, while simultaneously slipping my middle two fingers into her. Crooking the two invading digits, I rub hard across the top wall of her uterus, until she explodes in a loud orgasm.

Releasing her nipple from between my teeth, I immediately move the rest of the way down her body, locking my lips with her nether-lips, while she’s still shuddering, and tasting her sweet nectar as it flows from her honey-pot.

Her orgasm seems to extend as I concentrate on nibbling her tiny clitoris, until she painfully grips my hair and pulls my head away.

“Enough! I can’t take that anymore. Lyden, I want you in me now. I want to be complete with you again.” Her voice is thick with desire, and I can’t resist her.

Moving back up her body, I begin rubbing the tip against her opening, but her legs wrap around me with astounding speed and strength, and she pulls me into her with one quick motion, screaming out her enjoyment as I moan with the feeling of her soft wet flesh sliding around my conforming cock.

Her legs keep me locked in pace, but she uses her pelvis to lift up and down beneath me. Gazing down at her, she has her hands gripping my arms below the shoulder, her eyes closed tight, and a delightful smile on her pretty lips as she brings herself off against me.

I wait for her quivering to stop, before I roll us over, and pull her chest down to my salivating mouth. Her small breast easily fits between my lips as I suck hard on it, and I truly take pleasure in the way her tight coochy tightens around my prick. My hands drop to her rear again, and I use my grip to pick up the pace of our lovemaking, feeling my culmination coming close.

Brooke’s hands grip the side of my head, and she pulls me away from her sensitive tit to press her mouth back against mine. This time her tongue invades my mouth a moment before I feel her fluids gush around my pole. She feels too wonderful for me to hold back any more, and I let loose with my first volley, gasping with pure unadulterated bliss as our combined climaxes comingle.

Time loses all meaning as we float through a haze of pleasure and delight in each other, and when I finally return to myself, I find I’m back in bed, snuggled tightly against the redhead.

The shutters have been drawn tight against the bright light outside, and I can hear a few snores around the cramped little hut.

Feeling refreshed and renewed, I carefully get out of bed, and walk towards the outline of the door. I can see Thomas and Ondine curled up together on the floor in the brilliant light as I slip out, and smile for the two. I really hope they’re happy together.

Jewkes meets me outside, and I can see Thomas’s rifle across his lap.

“You’re not trying to slip off and do something heroic, are you?” he asks me, and I notice a cigarette dangling from his lips beneath his hooked nose.

I laugh softly, wondering at how much I’ve been in a good mood since coming to Light’s domain. Even with the paranoid feelings this area engenders, it’s still better than dealing with Muramasa.

“No,” I reply. “Jennifer was just snoring too loudly to rest anymore.” It’s a small fib, and suddenly I feel overwhelmingly guilty about it, but I don’t call it back. Is a guilty conscience the reason for all the paranoia I’ve been feeling in this place? I’ll have to ask AnnaBelle if she feels paranoid here. That might explain why Muramasa has remained so silent.

“Heh,” Jewkes laughs in response to my lie, “with chest airbags that large, it’s a wonder she can breathe at all.” I smile in response, thinking about how the woman would feel about someone commenting on her assets that way. She’d probably enjoy it, knowing her. “How’s the wrist?” he asks next. “I understand you’re able to do some healing while you sleep.”

I laugh lightly, wondering what the man would think if he knew what exactly I did in my sleep. Experimentally, I move the fingers on my right hand, and feel no pain. I grimace as if it’d hurt terribly, however, the paranoia of the place making me cautious. “I wish it were a hundred percent,” I reply, thinking this isn’t a true lie. With Sheila’s wrappings I don’t have full movements of that hand. The guilt I feel for the slight deception however, is still strong. “Have you gotten any rest?” I ask the lawman.

“This is the third watch,” he states. “Thomas and Ondine took the first watch, and Jennifer took the last one.” He stands up suddenly, rifle to his shoulder and ready to fire. I follow his gaze, and see one of my father’s dolphins swimming through the air towards us. It feels odd to think that I now have a father again, after believing him dead for decades. Jewkes dips the point of the weapon, but doesn’t put it all the way down, staying cautious.

The small creature opens its toothy mouth as it comes close and begins speaking in Shemhazau’s voice. “If you’re done lazing around, son, I think it’s high time you returned with the talisman. Your companions will remain behind, all of them. I personally guarantee their safety and yours. Let’s break this curse together, shall we?”

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Chapter 24
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Murasame

I stand silently outside Shemhazau’s door. My father’s door. For most of my life I’d thought him dead, but now I know better. Inside this small hut is the man that helped bring me into this world, who’d raised me until that fateful day on the lake. And who is obviously mad with the curse of Masamune and living here in the Pillar of Light’s domain, using the paranoia of the place to stave off his sword’s effects.

How do I face him, knowing what I do now? I’d already talked to him once, sure, but then I’d thought he was just a means to an end and a silent benefactor. His actions take on a whole new light as I think back over what Angela had told me. He’d sent her to my office that day. He’d helped repair the Orange Bubble into a magical vehicle that Areth had made even more magical afterwards. How many other times had he helped me from the background, never letting his hand be seen?

Why couldn’t he just be there for me like any other father?

This is getting me nowhere, I think, while shaking my head to rid it of all the unanswered questions.

Brooke had reluctantly handed over the talisman before I’d left to follow the tiny dolphin back here, and I grip it almost painfully in my hand now. She had almost died to secure this for me. Is that why Shemhazau had made her go with me? For revenge in her part of my mother’s murder?

I pound hard on the door, not willing to think on that thought too much. The wooden entrance swings open on silent hinges, and I squint in order to try and see into the gloom. A golden object flies out at me, and I don’t even have time to duck before Areth has her body plastered to the side of my face in a fierce hug, or at least as fierce as her tiny arms can make it. Angela is only a couple steps behind her, but her hug is much stronger due to the size difference and the fact that she is still in her Amazon form.

“Ribs . . . cracking,” I gasp, not entirely wanting them to quit.

“I was so worried,” the succubus squeals. “Shemhazau was able to watch the whole thing through his dolphins, but he refused to say anything after Brooke. . . .” She steps back suddenly, hand over her mouth, and looks past me. “Oh, no! Lyden, I’m so sorry, I. . . .” She trails off as tears spring from her eyes and she hugs me again, this time softer, and I can feel her sobbing against my shoulder.

I never thought I’d see an Amazon cry, much less over the mermaid, but I don’t let her stay misinformed. “She’s alive,” I whisper as softly as I can. I don’t know if he’d meant for her death or not, but I don’t want Shemhazau knowing everything. I still don’t trust him.

“Of course she’s alive,” the man bellows from within the darkened hut. So much for keeping that a secret! “You asked for my help, son, and I gave it.” I guess he can read internal thoughts much as Angela can.

“Wait,” I state, shocked, “you’re the reason I was able to heal her?”

“Don’t sound so incredulous. I, well, you might say I had a hand in it.” The way he says ‘hand’. . . .

“You somehow healed her through what you did with her hand?” That doesn’t seem to make sense, but weirder things have happened since I found out about this other world.

“Don’t be so dense, boy. You healed her. I just demonstrated the way to do it with her hand. You are my son, after all.” The two women gasp at this revelation, and I realize that the crazy old coot hadn’t revealed that to them yet.

I think back to when Brooke lay motionless in my arms, and remember kissing her, full of emotion. Had that been the catalyst?

I notice the look on Angela’s face, a cross between anger and incredulity.

“If he’s your father. . . .” Her gaze switches between Shemhazau and me, “Then everything I’ve done since that day for him. . . .” Slowly she walks over to the old man and looks at him sharply. Without warning, the strong woman’s arm flies out and slaps him across the face. The man stumbles under the blow, and I’m too shocked to react. “I trusted you!” she bellows at him. “You were like a father to me, and you used me for your own purposes. If you’d have just told me the truth, I would have done anything for you.” She lifts her arm to strike him again, but this time I break from my paralysis and catch her arm in my left hand. She turns her glare on me, angry at being thwarted, but I step in quickly and plant a soft kiss on her lips.

“I still love you,” I tell her softly. Confusion at the juxtaposition of my words and her actions registers in her large blue eyes.

“He used me, Lyden. He lied to me.” There is genuine pain in her tone, and I glare at my father as I hug her to me. He steps further into the light, and I finally get to see his eyes. They are as gray as mine are and filled with sorrow.

“I have a feeling he’s used a great many people in his lifetime,” I tell her soothingly.

“Do you want me to blast him, Lyden?” Areth asks me. The thought of the little pixie trying to blast Shemhazau is almost laughable, and I remember Brooke’s warning that he’s nearly as powerful as the Pillars are. It does strike me as a bit odd that the pixie is willing to do battle for the succubus’s pride.

“No. I think he’s hurting enough already,” I tell the pixie. I turn back to my old man, and fix him with a piercing glare. “I think there is a lot we need to discuss,” I tell him, my voice firm.

He nods at me, and smoothly walks back inside. I catch sight of his right hand, the one that hadn’t been against his cheek, and see a glow slowly fade away. He’d been ready for battle.

I lead the succubus inside, and mentally send her the image of her as a punk as I sit down, and pull her into my lap. She’s quite a bit lighter in this form, and she seems grateful for the affection. Areth lands on her favorite spot, my right shoulder, and we wait for Shemhazau to speak.

The old man stares at us for a bit, before finally clearing his throat, “So, what would you have me talk about?”

“How about at the beginning,” I say slipping my arm around Angela and patting her leg to indicate my meaning.

“The beginning goes back further than you may know, son. If you want my history, I’m sure you can find plenty of tales about me on the internet. Surprisingly many of them are true.” I’m surprised he’s familiar with the internet, but as knowledgeable as he constantly is, I guess I shouldn’t be. “But I suspect you want to know about other things,” he nods to Angela with a small smile, but she just sniffs and cuddles closer to me. The older man sighs heavily and lays his head back against his chair and closes his eyes.

“It was your mom, Lyden, who convinced me to help out Angela. As mermaids are forbidden to enter the old world, she couldn’t do it openly. We used to visit there anyway, just for fun.” Sadness enters his tone as he talks about my mother. “Your mom wanted to have a child, but since our union was anathema, we knew we never could. I used to rule over all succubae long ago, and since Angela was a newly formed one, we thought it would be perfect for me to help her.” This explains how he was able to read my surface thoughts earlier, as the ruler of the sexual demons, it must be one of his powers. I realize how well informed this man seems to be about what I know, as well as the rest of the world, and can only think that his dolphins have something to do with this.

“But I don’t remember ever meeting her,” Angela says, refuting the man’s story.

“No, but she watched over you, nonetheless,” he replies, still keeping his eyes closed. A small smile spreads over his face as he continues to look into the past. “I was the face you saw, but there were many things she did for you in the background. No, I won’t talk about them now, they were too many, and I don’t want to think much on that. It still hurts, losing her.

“Anyway, in the throes of passion one night, your mother got with child. That same night, we were discovered in our union by Douglas’s wife. She reported us, of course, and we fled. I’m older than human history, but even I can die by an assassin’s blade. We hid on Earth, and that’s where you were born, Lyden. We took the last name of Snow—a poor joke on your mother being from Water, and the cold treatment they gave us here in this realm—and tried to live as normal humans.

“For reasons I’ll never know, Douglas never gave up looking for us, and somehow found where we were.” His voice takes on an edge now as anger fills it. Why had Douglas been so adamant in finding my parents? Too much is going on, and I’ll never be able to ask the other man. “We thought we were safe. We went for a trip on the lake. Your mother missed swimming most of all, and the closest we could come was boat rides. When the two assassins came for us, we were nearly defenseless. Your friend snatched you out of the boat while your mother pleaded for your life. She cared more for you than anything else.” He pauses again, and I can see a tear leak out of his eye.

“Her pleas were cut short when Douglas ran her through.” Righteous anger suffuses his tone now. “It all happened so quickly. All I had on me was a small dagger in my boot.” He snorts derisively. “I pulled it out, ready to sacrifice myself to avenge you and your mother. Douglas laughed at me, and to my surprise at the time, threw me a sword. I was angry and desperate—not thinking straight after losing both of you—but I still should have known it was a trap. I knew I was in trouble as soon as I drew Masamune from its sheath. The assassin had worn gloves, but I was bare handed. The curse took me, and I couldn’t fight him. When he attacked, all I could do was defend myself, using both blades.”

He shakes his head, but I can see his knuckles are white as he grips the arms of his chair. “Thankfully the curse was still new enough, that I was able to get in a lucky strike with my dagger, and get away. I hid out until they left, and found you on the bottom of the lake, okay. I don’t know what possessed the female assassin to spare your life, but I suspected she would be back, so I watched over you with my dolphins until she returned. I continued to watch over you from the shadows. I had to watch from a distance while you grew up into the person you are today. You’ll never know how hard that was, but I did it for your own safety.” Again, I marvel at how strong he must be, and how much his dolphins must aid him.

He opens his eyes, and looks to Angela for a few seconds before continuing, “It was shortly after Douglas killed my wife that I brought you to the new world for the first time. You accused me of using you. . . . I won’t deny that I did, but I never wanted you to be in harm’s way. I didn’t know you would grow feelings for my true son. I never meant to hurt you, Angela, as I have always tried to treat you as my daughter.” He chuckles a bit to himself. “If I hadn’t spent so much time as the leader of a species that delights in sex in all its glory, I might have a problem with my two children being together.”

“He’s not my brother,” Angela says at the same time I claim, “She’s not really my sister!” We look at each other, and then laugh a little uncomfortably. She tries to get up from my lap, but I tighten my grip on her, and force her to stay where she is. She gives me a thankful look, and then a quick peck on the cheek.

My father misses none of this, of course, but he drops his head back, and continues speaking. “Yes, I sent Angela to you, Lyden, and yes I’ve manipulated events since then.” He draws in a deep breath, and the way he does so, makes me think I’m not about to like what he has to say next. “I’m the reason you have that cursed blade at your hip.”

I charge to my feet in outrage and shock, unfortunately dumping Angela, and sending Areth angrily fluttering away. “You WHAT?!?” I demand, rage infusing my entire being at his revelation.

Despite my actions, Shemhazau remains seated, his eyes closed and his voice steady, if not completely calm. “I stole the blade from Marchosias, placed a new hilt on the tang, and delivered it into his fantasy world, giving it to you.”

“Why would you do that?” I demand, painfully holding the referenced grip. He had intentionally cursed me? I don’t even want to know how he was able to slip into Marchosias’s world, to give it to me.

His eyes open again, and if ever I’d thought he was crazy or not altogether there, those notions fly right out of my head. What I see in his light gray eyes is pure cunning. Before me is a man who doesn’t just think things through, but plans for every contingency. There isn’t an action that occurs around him, that he hasn’t already prepared for or set in motion.

“You intended for Brooke to die.” The words are out of my mouth, before the thought had completely formed in my head, but as soon as I speak, I know them for truth.

“I knew there was a chance she would die,” he tells me without blinking. “I also knew there was a chance she would survive. I gave you the best chance of making sure she lived. If she died, though, then it would have been small penance for her part in your mother’s murder.”

“Bullshit,” I exclaim indignantly. “That’s why you sent her and me alone. And what about her helping me out thoughout my childhood? A childhood without a parent? Doesn’t that account for something?”

“She’s alive, isn’t she? I know a hundred different ways that encounter could have played out, son,” he states, only a slight edge touching his voice. “Douglas was a master swordsman in every respect. He threw me Masamune to test his technique out on the blade’s defense. He had beaten it before. He could have killed your entire group, including you. Your best chance lay in surprising him with the mermaid alone. In the end, all that matters is how it did come to play.”

“And how do you see things playing out with our swords father?” Not until the words are out of my mouth, do I realize how homoerotic that statement was, but my anger won’t let me be sidetracked. “You said before I left that I would have to kill you. What happens if I choose not to kill my own father?”

The grin that splits his face then seems almost feral. “Many things can happen then. Neither of us will be free of the curse, unless I choose to kill you. Since you’re the one prophesied to defeat the ancient evil, I’d rather not kill my own blood. Despite what you may think of me right now, I care for you.”

“What do you know of the prophecy?” I ask, some of the steam has been taken from my anger at his words.

“I knew the oracle that spoke it. I was there when it was given.” His eyes still hold the same edge, but there seems to be more there now. “When it became apparent to me that you were a generator, and I saw the signs of the prophecy coming to pass, I took action. I understood the part about the cursed swords. A blade to kill, and a blade to save, a talisman to forge the path between. To kill and save, or save and kill, one path to both, yet choices lean.” He pauses to fill his lungs. “I’d have happily given you the sword to save, but it was too late. The only choice was to give you the sword that kills. You will never know how much sorrow I felt at that action. Especially because I know how it needs to end.”

“I won’t do it!” I shout. My emotions are boiling right now. “I’ve had to live my life without having you there, and now that I’ve found you again, I refuse to take you out of my life!”

“To kill and save, or save and kill, one path to both, yet choices lean.” He shakes his head, his stringy gray hair spreading out. “If you kill me, then you can save so many lives. If you save me, then we are all doomed anyway.”

My legs give way beneath me, and I collapse back into the chair.

“How can you ask this of him?” Angela asks, stepping between us. “Do you have any idea what that will do to him?”

“It will save his sanity,” Shemhazau states quietly. “He can live here, and slowly Muramasa will erode his willpower, until he is nothing but a violent shell. He can return to Earth, where his blade will destroy him in a matter of days, if not less. Or—“

“Or he can kill you, change his curse, and have to live with the guilt that he killed his own father for the rest of his life, until it eats away at him, and he goes mad,” Angela spits, cutting my father off.

“Yet choices lean,” he quotes the last stanza of the verse again.

“How will this work?” I try to ask, but my voice breaks and I have to repeat myself before I’m heard. “How will this work?”

“Lyden, you can’t seriously. . . . He’s your father!” Angela says spinning to face me.

“Even I don’t think you can handle such a crime,” Areth says next.

I really do need Lisa here to cheerlead me on, though I doubt she’d support me in this either. I don’t blame them.

“Shemhazau,” Angela spins back around, her blue hair flying out from her pretty little head, “please! There has to be another way. I don’t want to lose you either!”

Shemhazau pulls her into a tight hug, and I can see the succubus crying against his chest, even as she beats her fists against it.

She truly does love him like a father, I think, as I slowly get to my feet. I feel entirely numb inside. There is no emotion left in me right now. After almost losing Brooke yesterday, finding out that this man is my father, and with everything else, I just can’t do it. I’m tired, I’m exhausted, and I don’t have it in me to fight anymore. Maybe when Aldol is defeated, I’ll have time to lie down and just sleep the sleep of death. Until then, I have too much work ahead of me.

“What must I do?” I ask while pulling out the round black and white talisman Brooke had removed from Douglas’s corpse. His dried blood has permanently stained the leather thong, but it’s the orb that attracts my attention with its constantly swirling striations of light and dark. Almost like the colors of our two opposing blades, I realize.

“Lyden, no!” Angela screams, breaking free of Shemhazau and diving for the talisman. My father is no slouch, however, and with a quick wave of his hand, she vanishes along with Areth.

“Don’t worry,” he says as I stare at the spot she’d just been in, “I sent them to your other companions.” He regards me seriously for a moment, and then says, “For what it’s worth, I truly am sorry, son. I’ve spent all the time I can spare, trying to come up with another solution, and failed.”

I only nod at his words, still empty inside. It doesn’t matter. None of it does. I’m simply a pawn, caught up in a battle between beings of much greater power.

“When I remade the hilt of your sword, I placed a hidden compartment in it. Twist off the bottom piece.” I do as I’m told, and find that the end of the hilt comes off. “Good, now place the talisman in there. Yes. And put the cap back on.” I continue to do as I’m told like a puppet on strings, removing the wire around the talisman, and sealing it into the hilt.

“For this next part, we’d better not do it in this realm. The guilt would destroy you.” He places his hand on my shoulder, and once again I feel that tugging at my navel a split second before I find us outside again. Blinking at the sudden light, I look around and see we’re back in the Pillar of Earth’s realm. The border with Light is right behind me, and I can also make out the dry rocky ground of Fire’s domain. “This is a crossroads for both of us,” he says, and walks across the border into the dry air. He gives a flourish with his right hand, and suddenly Masamune is there, the dark black blade glinting in the light. The blade turns in his hands, and a moment later, he’s presenting the hilt to me. “You must take my blade, draw yours, place them together, and strike me down with both.” I can see tears begin to form in his eyes as he speaks. Some small spark of emotion tries to come to the surface, but somehow I can sense Muramasa tamping it down. He must sense the tension in the air, and know he’s about to feed. “Don’t hesitate,” my father continues, his voice starting to become choked up. “If you take too long, the warring blades will destroy your mind. Strike hard, and strike—“

He cuts off as I swiftly grip the hilt of Masamune, draw out Muramasa, and set them side-by-side, gripping both blades in one hand. In the less than a second that this action takes, I can already feel Masamune trying to get me to lie down and relax and be at peace. At the same time Muramasa crows with freedom, and his desire to feed and kill. I almost stumble under the onslaught of the warring influences, but I thrust my hand forward and some small part of me watches in horror as the twin blades pierce my father’s chest. Two small rivulets of blood start to wind their way down his chest.

White light, blindingly bright pours forth from the holes in Shemhazau’s chest, as his mouth opens and he speaks his final words.

“Thank you, Son. I love you, and have always been proud of the person you are becoming.”

Emotions return in a tidal wave of grief. Too much to handle at once, and I black out.

* * *

“He’s over here!” someone yells, and I open my eyes. Angela is looking down at me, worry thick in her hazel eyes. So odd, I think, that her eyes change color with every form of hers. I wonder if the world looks different for her with each eye color change. “Lyden, speak to me! Are you alright? Where’s Shemhazau?”

Where is he? How should I know? He was here just a moment ago.

“Something’s not right,” she says. “He’s not responding.” Her hand whips back, and a second later I hear a crack as she slaps me.

I don’t feel it.

“What happened to him?” This is Brooke’s voice, and a second later I see her curly red hair blocking out the sky.

“I don’t know!” Angela’s voice is full of painful emotion as she continues to look down at me.

I don’t care.

“This is the border with Fire, right?” Jewkes’s voice comes from my right. I wonder what his first name is? I’ll have to ask him, sometime. Not now though.

“Yeah, I know,” Angela says. “We need to move, but Lyden won’t budge.”

“We’ve got incoming,” Jennifer shouts. Angela looks away from me, and I see her face go white. Well, whiter than it normally is when she’s in this aspect.

You know, I really can’t decide if I like this aspect of her more, or her original self, the black-Asian woman.

“It’s that light thing from before!” Lisa’s voice rings out.

Multihued lights shine across everything in view, but surprisingly I hear a pistol going off.

“Come on!” Jewkes screams out, and I see him step forward, wearing his colored sunglasses. “Why are you all just standing there?”

Jennifer comes up behind him and without hesitation strikes him in the back of the skull with her shotgun. The law official crumbles under the blow.

The large-chested woman jerkily walks over to me, and I somehow know she is fighting Aldol’s influence. “It would seem you’re harder to kill than I thought,” Jennifer’s mouth forms the words, but it’s Aldol’s sexually ambiguous voice that pours forth. “This time I’ll be sure to finish the job.”

Jennifer slowly brings her shotgun to point at my face, but I still can’t find it in me to care right now.

Lyden, an unexpected voice sounds directly into my mind, I know you’re upset with me, but right now would be a good time to act.

“Dad?” My own voice sounds rough in my ears, and Jennifer freezes for a moment, her features confused.

Son, if you don’t act soon, everyone you love is going to get killed.

Energy floods through my limbs at that thought, and I roll to the side just in time to avoid having my head blasted by shotgun spray.

I use my momentum to gain my feet, and look at my attacker. “Forgive me,” I tell Jennifer, then super speed past her. Turning and drawing my blade, I strike her much as she’d struck Jewkes, with the hilt of my blade. I notice that my blade now has the constantly swirling eddies of light and dark as the talisman had, and know that the two separate blades are now one.

Behind you.

I spin around in time to see Thomas level his rifle at my chest. Everyone else is frozen where they stand, though I can hear AnnaBelle praying. Why is she free of Aldol’s control? Whether she’s praying to Aldol, or the Pillar of Light, I’m not sure, but I don’t have the time to think about that right now.

Thomas fires, and everything slows down. I watch in fascination as flame pours out of the barrel just ahead of the bullet. It’s almost child’s play to move the blade into the projectile’s path and deflect it harmlessly to the side. Normal time resumes as the chunk of lead strikes the dirt.

Thomas lands face first a second later, and I turn to look around me. “Give it up, Aldol. You can’t beat—Oomph!”

Something large and bright flies from the monster, striking me in the chest, and I go flying back. Where had that come from? I didn’t know it could do that!

Dazed, I look around, and try to get back to my feet. Smoke curls up from my bare chest, and I can see that it’s red, raw, and bleeding. Breathing is difficult and filled with horrific pain.

“THIS IS NOT YOUR WORLD, FIEND,” a new voice booms out and I feel like my head is struck by a powerful bell. “BEGONE NOW, OR FACE THE MIGHTY HOST OF HEAVEN IN ALL ITS HOLY WRATH.”

Aldol’s voice rings out from many throats. “I will not be thwarted this time. I will destroy this world and every world! Your master’s enforced order in what should be pure chaos is wrong. You have no idea the amount of pain these creations cause.”

Despite his declaration, the multi-hued creature flees. What did it mean: these creations causing pain?

“RISE GENERATOR, AND BE WHOLE.”

The pain in my chest vanishes, and I carefully get to my feet. Looking around, I swear to you, I see an actual angel. White wings, halo, and all. A bright golden sword is in his hands, and he takes a moment to sheath it at his side.

The angel turns to AnnaBelle then, and places his hand on her head. “YOUR PLEAS FOR HELP WERE HEARD, LITTLE ONE. YOUR FAITH HAS BEEN REWARDED.”

“Thank you, dear Lord!” the older woman cries out, dropping to her knees, hands clasped before her and tears streaming from her eyes.

“I AM NOT THE LORD, BUT ONE OF HIS HUMBLE SERVANTS.” He turns back to me, and I see his gaze go to the blade at my hip. “I KNEW YOUR FATHER A VERY LONG TIME AGO, GENERATOR. HE MADE SOME POOR CHOICES, AND WAS PUNISHED FOR THEM. STILL, I AM SADDENED TO SEE HIM IN SUCH A STATE. KNOW THIS: THE FATE YOU AVOIDED BY USING THE TALISMAN, IS NOW HIS FATE, AS HE MUST CONSTANTLY ACT TO BALANCE OUT THE OPPOSING FORCES OF THE TWO BLADES. MASAMUNE AND MURAMASA ARE NO MORE. FROM THIS DAY FORTH, YOUR BLADE IS MURASAME. YOUR FATHER WILL GUIDE YOU AS HE IS ABLE, BUT HIS PATH BACK TO RIGHTEOUSNESS IS FOREVER BLOCKED.”

Tell Michael my father says as tears spring to my eyes, that he still owes me for that bet between Adam and Eve.

The angel laughs loudly, and I think my eardrums are about to burst at the powerful sound.

“I THOUGHT I PAID THAT TODAY, OLD FRIEND. FINE THEN.” The angel Michael approaches me, and holds out his hand palm up. In it is a tiny golden horn, affixed to a thin golden chain. “WHEN THE NEED IS DIRE, AND ALL HOPE SEEMS LOST, SOUND ON THIS, AND I WILL COME TO YOUR AID.”

“How am I—“ I try to ask, but he’s already gone.

Suddenly I’m hit from all sides by a tangle of arms, legs, and breasts. Overwhelmed by the day’s events, I close my eyes, and just enjoy the moment.

“Don’t you ever do that to us again,” Brooke glares at me when she pulls out of the tangle.

I see Angela look at me sadly and turn to walk away.

“Angela, wait!” I cry out as I see her wings form.

“Forget about me, Lyden,” she says, without turning around, her voice choked up. “I still love you, but I don’t know if I can ever forgive you.” She takes to the air and is soon out of sight, flying straight into TanaVesta’s realm.

I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive myself, I think after her, understanding how she feels. I’d killed the man she thought of as a father. He had been my father.

“She’ll be back,” Areth says, landing on my shoulder. “No one can resist staying away from a dolt like you.”

Turning away, I face the rest of the group. My heart is torn in more pieces than I ever thought possible at the moment, but there is work to be done, and I have responsibilities to meet.

Thomas, Jewkes—whose first name I find is Richard—and Jennifer are all fine and unharmed. Ondine still fusses over Thomas, and I can tell he’s hamming it up for more attention from her.

“Your wrist,” Sheila says, taking my right hand.

“Michael must have fully healed me,” I tell her dishonestly.

“That was the Angel Michael?” AnnaBelle cries out in shock, and I realize his name hadn’t been spoken out loud. The pious woman drops to her knees, and I have no doubt whom she’s praying in thanks to this time.

We check ourselves over and find that no one is hurt. Brooke tells me that her scarred stomach had been healed after waking up in Douglas’s small home.

“Why were you able to resist that thing?” Becky asks Jewkes, and I perk up a bit, wondering the same. “Are you colorblind, too?”

“What do you mean?” he asks, somewhat confused. “I’m not colorblind at all. What does that have to do with anything?”

“I think it’s his shades,” I say, entering the conversation. “You said they were Blublockers, right? Don’t those block out a certain wavelength of light?” He nods at my statement, and I feel a small measure of happiness enter me. “We need to get more of those,” I say. “They make you immune to Aldol’s control, just like my color-blindness does for me.”

“You mean that was the thing you’d told me about?” he asks incredulously. “Didn’t seem all that tough to me.”

“Except that its true power resides in its ability to control almost anyone it wants,” I tell him.

He rubs the back of his neck and gives Jennifer a rueful look. “I see what you mean.”

Jennifer looks apologetic, but we all know her actions weren’t her fault.

“We really shouldn’t stay here any longer than we need to,” Becky says, and of course I can’t argue with her logic. “Can we get back without Angela?”

That poses an issue I hadn’t thought about before. Angela had always been the means of getting us in and out through the oak tree elevator.

“Only one way to find out,” Lisa says, and starts heading south.

“I am here for you if you need me, Master,” Sheila says after we’ve been moving for a bit, offering her services as a whipping post.

“Thank you, but I’m fine,” I dismiss her off-handedly. I’m not in the mood, but don’t want to hurt her feelings either.

“Are you going to be alright?” Becky asks me a few moments later.

“You can talk to us if you need to,” Lisa says before I have a chance to reply.

“Thank you, my beautiful girlfriends,” I try to tell them graciously, “but I have too much to do, for me to just lie down and wallow in self-pity.”

They give each other a look, which I ignore, and then walk away.

“Don’t even think about trying to comfort me,” I tell Areth as she rides on my shoulder, and she gives a ‘humph’ before flying off to annoy Sheila. I can see Brooke giving me worried looks, but right now I just want to be left alone. I don’t need to be coddled, I just need to buckle down and take Aldol out. Once that creature is out of commission, then I can concentrate on my love life.

“So, remember how I told you I served in the Army?” Thomas asks when he approaches me. “It was tough. I never told you why I got out, though.” I look at him, wondering if this is another attempt to cheer me up after Angela’s leaving. “I had my own squad, and my commander ordered me to do something I knew was wrong. I refused, of course, but he talked some of my men into doing it.” He chuckles lightly, shaking his head. “That’s kind of how I see that light thing. He talks you into doing things you know you shouldn’t. I’m really sorry I tried to shoot you.”

“What happened to your commander?” I ask, ignoring his apology. I know it wasn’t his fault.

This time his laugh is genuine. “As far as I know he’s still in Fort Leavenworth, turning big rocks into little rocks, and being Bubba’s Bubbette at night.”

I smile at his analogy, and after a few seconds of silence, he walks away.

You know you’re going to need to face your feelings sooner or later, don’t you?

“Not you, too,” I whisper so no one else can hear. “I’ve had plenty of practice lately reigning in and controlling my emotions. I think I’ll survive.”

The walk to the Oak tree seems to take forever, and I have to fight hard in order to keep my emotions in check at the sight of it. So many memories. . . .

Thankfully the bark splits for us, and a couple of trips later, we’re all safely back on Earth.

The sun is just coming up over the city buildings as we pull out of the garage.

“We’ve been gone for three weeks,” Lisa says, checking her phone.

“There goes my job,” Jennifer groans.

“I could put in a good word for you at the department,” Jewkes offers, and I’m surprised at how readily the large breasted woman agrees.

“We might have a bigger problem,” Becky states, and I can see she’s truly worried over something. She doesn’t give me any significant looks, so I know it’s not her concern over my well-being. “Aldol knows you’re still alive, Lyden. He also knows where we live.”

Silence sits heavily in the crowded car as we all take that in. Becky was the one most affected the last time Aldol attacked us at her place.

“I could get you police surveillance,” Jewkes states hesitantly, “but I don’t honestly think they’re equipped to deal with your sort of problems.”

“They’re not,” I state bluntly. The law enforcer grimaces, and I realize I might have been a bit too blunt, but I don’t care enough right now to mollify him.

I believe I can help, here. Shemhazau, or maybe I should start calling him Murasame now, informs me that he has many bank accounts on Earth, and that we can get plenty of money to find a better place.

“But what about all our stuff?” Lisa asks when I inform them of what my blade said.

“I forbid anyone to go back there,” I say firmly, and get more than just a few dirty looks at my imperious tone.

“I’ll send a car around, and see if anyone or anything is watching it,” Jewkes tells the two women. I glare at him, but he just shrugs his shoulders. “I understand you want to keep everyone safe, Lyden, but I’m not under your jurisdiction.” He turns back to Lisa, “Give me a key, and if it looks clear, I’ll have someone move all your valuables, and anything you list, out.” The two women immediately get to work listing everything they can’t lose, and from the suffering look Jewkes gets at the growing list, I can see he’s starting to regret his decision.

“Would . . . would it be alright if I stayed with you?” Ondine nervously asks Thomas. The older veteran looks nervously at me, and I just nod his way. It’s his decision, and Ondine doesn’t belong to me.

“I would be honored,” he tells her, and then his cheeks burn bright red as the mermaid hugs him tightly.

As soon as she lets him go, I carefully pull him aside. “I’m not going to tell you how to live your life,” I begin, “but I wanted to make sure you understand what you’re getting into.”

“Wha’d’ya mean?” he asks me, glancing over my shoulder at his new roommate.

“She’s a mermaid, not human for one, and she’s completely infatuated with you,” I state matter-of-factly.

“I may be old, Lyden, but I’m not dumb. Though she could be young enough to be my daughter,” he tells me with a grin on his face. “It was easy to figure out she wasn’t human. Hell, you tend to attract very few human women,” he gives Areth, buzzing around the compartment of the Orange Bubble, a significant glance. “And I’m not blind, either. But tell me; where is a man my age, going to find a hot young thing like that, willing to be with him in our world?”

“The internet,” I reply blandly, and then ruin it with a little laugh. Man, but it feels good to smile about something! “And she might not be as young as you think,” I add, remembering how old Brooke is.

“Do you think I could convince her to get some piercings?” he asks me conspiratorially, and my laugh only grows as I walk away from him. He’d been the original reason Angela had shown up as a punk that fateful day at work.

We hit the bank, and I have to sign an entire novel’s worth of forms, before they inform me that the money will be available within forty-eight hours. Thankfully Shemhazau is able to communicate with me even when we’re not together, as I’d left him in the car. Somehow I think the bank would have frowned on me bringing in a large katana-like weapon.

My father informs me that he was steadily growing weaker, the longer we were apart. I guess that explains why Muramasa kept coming back to me, even when I didn’t want him to.

While we were at the bank, I saw that I still have enough money, and then some, in my account to get us all a hotel room to tide us over. I decide to splurge and reward my friends with a five-star experience, but after paying for the rooms I head back to the Orange Bubble to be alone.

Everyone heads up to their penthouses—I’d rented two—except for me. Even Areth is willing to change into her tiny golden dog form, but I choose to stay with the one link I still have to Angela.

My wallowing is interrupted by a knock on my car’s door.

“What is it, Arethusa?” I demand, when I sense the fairy on the other side.

“I don’t think you should be alone, right now,” she says to me. If it had been anyone else, I would have turned them away, but this is so out of character for the little fairy, that I just decide to turn away and let her back in. I’m not feeling up to arguing with her right now.

Ignoring her and crawling into the oversized bed, I’m soon fast asleep.

My dreams are filled with visions of faceless monsters, coming for me, and slowly taking out my friends, one by one.

“Lyden, wake up!”

Sitting bolt upright, sweat flings from my brow before running down into my eyes, making them sting.

“You were having a nightmare,” the fairy says soothingly, placing a hand on my shoulder.

Wait a minute. . . .

My legs get tangled in the blankets as I attempt a hasty retreat from the bed, resulting in me landing face first on the floor of my car.

“Stay back!” I yell at whomever was just in bed with me. It couldn’t have been Areth, she’s not big enough to be the owner of the hand that had been on my shoulder.

“Lyden, relax! It was only a dream,” the golden pixie’s voice sounds above me as I free myself from the evil covers.

“Who are you?” I demand. Murasame’s hilt is suddenly in my grasp, and I hold the sheathed blade up, still trying to see in the dim light filtering through the curtains.

A golden glow slow brightens from my bed, and I see the fully formed body of Areth on her hands and knees, looking curiously at me. The glow is coming from her.

“Arethusa?” I ask, confused. “But how . . .?” I realize I’m still pointing my sheathed blade at her, and embarrassedly drop it.

“Gee, you sure don’t wake up easy, do you?” the normally tiny woman asks of me, trying to hide a smile behind her hand. “And stop calling me Arethusa. I hate that name,”

“How did you get so big?” I ask her, trying to hide my disgruntlement at being so terrified a moment before. “Is Marchosias back? Did he do this to you?”

“The demon?” She quirks one light-colored eyebrow at me. “Why would he. . . . Oh! Silly mortal, I can do this on my own!”

Silly mortal? Grr. . . . I’m a mortal? Does that mean she’s immortal?

“Then why haven’t you done it on your own before now?” I demand, my ire rising.

“Because there hasn’t been a reason to,” she states simply. “The way you were tossing around in your sleep, you almost crushed me twice. I figured it would be safer if I was this size.” She emphasizes her point by shrugging.

Anger turns back into embarrassment at her statement.

“Sorry,” I mutter as I get to my feet, and try to straighten the blankets some before getting back under them.

Lying on my side, facing away from the still slightly glowing fairy, I try to get back to sleep. Her arm slips around me, and I can feel her breasts pressed against my back. Despite my mood, my cock also seems to notice.

“Today really screwed you up, didn’t it?” she asks without preamble.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I tell her, trying to keep my voice calm. I thought I’d made that clear enough, earlier.

“Well I do want to talk about it,” she huffs. “I know she means a lot to you, and you lost your father today as well.”

“I said I don’t want to talk about it,” I repeat myself, my voice full of anger. Despite everything, I can feel tears begin to fill my eyes. Why did this have to happen? I honestly don’t know which is worse: having Angela leave me again, or knowing that I killed my own father.

I’m still here with you, son, Shemhazau’s voice fills my mind.

It’s not the same, I think.

“On the other hand,” Areth continues talking as though I hadn’t, “The succubus is still alive, and you’re free of the cursed blade.”

“I’m not free of it,” I yell back. “I killed my own father, and still have the damned thing with me, only now it’s filled with the voice of my father. I will never escape the guilt of what I’ve done!” the tears are flowing in earnest now. “And Angela left because I had no choice and killed the man she saw as her father. I can’t even tell you how messed up I feel about that!”

“You’re alive,” she states then, as if that should make the whole world right again.

Anger over flows through me as I roll over on top of her, and pin her arms down as I glare at her. She doesn’t understand, and I don’t know how to make her understand. My voice is loud as I scream mere inches from her face. “I’m alive? What good is that, when everyone around me keeps getting hurt? Angela is gone, my father is dead, I’m saddled with a sword that is likely going to be more trouble than it’s worth, and all you can say is, ‘I’m alive’?”

“I was wondering what it would take to get you on top of me,” she says then, a smile spreading across her lips and giggling softly. I can feel her hips moving against my groin, but it still takes a few seconds for her meaning to penetrate my skull. “You haven’t hardly looked at me twice since we escaped from Marchosias’s fantasy world. I was beginning to think you didn’t care for me. Then when you found out I’d tricked you. . . . I’m glad to finally see you showing me some emotion. Treat me as you do Sheila, if you must. I can take it. Just stop ignoring me.”

I’m stunned. I mean, I know she’d said she loves me, but I hadn’t even realized how I’d been treating her. True, I didn’t know she could change her size at will, but that gives me no right to pretend as if she’s not important, or to ignore her feelings entirely.

“I-I’m sorry,” I murmur, not sure what else to say as I release my grip on her arms.

“Prove it,” she challenges me, giving another wiggle of her hips, making sure I don’t mistake her meaning.

Just because I’m feeling perverse, I state, “I’m, sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Thrice said, and done.”

Her eyes go wide for a second, before shrewdly squinting back at me. Her skin is still glowing, and as she responds, the glow brightens until it’s almost blinding. “I love you. I love you. I love you. Thrice said, and done.”

Shock ripples through my system as she states those words three times, meaning that they are undeniably true.

“What’s that phrase you mortals have? If you keep your mouth open like that, you’ll catch flies.” She laughs as I close my mouth with a click of my teeth. Her laughter grows, as I continue to just stare at her, unsure of what I’m to make of the golden fairy. When her joy looks like it isn’t going to end anytime soon, I press my mouth to hers, kissing her soundly.

Her mirth turns into a moan, as I grind myself against her. Underwear is the only thing either of us are wearing, and as soon as I pull away, we waste no time in removing them. I can feel her slender hands gripping my length, rubbing me against her slight slit in anticipation of our connection. When I pull my hips away, however, she groans in frustration.

“Be cruel to me if you must,” she tells me earnestly, “just please me as you have in the past.”

“I won’t be cruel to you,” I tell her softly. Bending forward, I plant a soft kiss on her neck, then another lower on her collarbone. A couple kisses later, my lips land on her sweet areola, and she gasps as I graze it with my teeth. I only spend a couple seconds here, before continuing my trek along her softly glowing skin, down her smooth stomach, until I reach the golden tuft of hair at the top of her pussy.

I can already smell her arousal, and can’t resist dipping my tongue into her little pot. Her back arches as I use the tip of my tongue to lightly flick her clitoris, and a second later she’s gripping my ears and pulling me forcefully against her as she cums. Energy floods me, and I begin to feel giddy inside, as a portion of her soul joins mine.

Bringing my right hand up, I slip my middle finger into her wet hole, and crook it against the top wall of her vagina. At the same time, I suck hard on her clit, occasionally popping it between my teeth, and enjoying how her legs twitch each time I do this.

“Oh Lyden! Thank you. Thank you for showing me a world where I don’t have to fear everyone I meet. Thank you for showing me what real pleasure is.” She sucks in a deep breath. “And thank you for making me cum again!”

Her sweet juices begin running down my chin, and wetting the sheets as her legs clamp my skull, muffling her loud moans of pleasure.

As soon as her legs loosen their grip, I lift my head and look at her, smiling as she glows from more than just her magic.

“You are incredible,” she states, slightly out of breath. “I . . . um . . . want to return the favor.”

I nod at her, as I climb my way back up the bed, pausing only long enough to kiss her softly, sharing her wonderful taste between us, before flopping onto my back, and waiting for her.

“What do I do?” she asks me, tucking her light tresses behind her ear, and looking between my cock and me.

“Try kissing the tip, and do whatever you’re comfortable with,” I tell her coaxingly.

She follows my advice, planting her light mouth against my tiny hole, then pulling back and licking her lips. “Salty, but not terrible.” She says, and then smacks her lips some more. “I think I taste better, though.”

Before I can formulate a response, she drops her head forward and swallows the head of my prick between her lips, causing a moan to escape my chest.

“A little less teeth,” I say, guiding her. “Good. Yes, that feels great. Try using your tongue around the rim. Oh, yeah, just like that!” I let her continue for a bit, enjoying her enthusiasm, before turning her face up to look at me. “If you keep doing that, we’ll never make it to the main event,” I lie to her. The truth is, she’s not the most skilled, though even a bad blowjob is better than no blowjob.

“Really?” she asks me smiling, and I just nod at her. She lunges up my body, her small lithe one seeming to weigh almost nothing as she lies on top of me, hugging me fiercely. “Thank you for showing me that sex isn’t something to be feared,” she whispers in my ear, and I can feel her tongue flick across my earlobe. “Though I still think you’re a dolt and a pervert, thank you.”

I can’t stop the laugh that burbles forth at her words, though it turns to a moan of pleasure as she slowly sheaths my sword in her womb. My rod conforms to her slick inner walls, as I slowly sink deeper and deeper into her.

Her teeth nip lightly on my neck and her arms wrap tightly around my torso as her fingernails dig into my skin. My hands slide down her slender back, avoiding her delicate wings, until they rest on her pert bum. I remember sliding into her back door, and feel myself growing harder at the thought that I might be able to do so again.

I let her set the pace, riding me slowly at first, then gradually picking up the pace, until she throws her head back and I lean up to latch onto her nipple as she has another powerful orgasm. Her tight canal feels so wonderful as it slips and ripples along my length, that I let loose with my own orgasm, and concentrating on not getting her pregnant.

Panting slightly, we hold each other for a time, until the sun comes up.

The world may not be right, or even close to it, but the fairy is right: at least I’m alive.

=================
Author’s Note: Five more down, 9 more to go.

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