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Part Nine: The Threat
I’d always considered myself the foremost connoisseur of humanoid creatures on Tenvalia. I’d had every kind there was to have, and indeed, I’d developed something of a food pyramid to rank them. Yes, much like grades of meat in the butcher shop, there was a hierarchy when it came to quality of species. Bottom-shelf varieties included: orc, goblin, troll, and ogre. Orcs were too salty, goblins were too lean, trolls were too tough, and ogres were downright disgusting. Then there were the value-pack cuts: mermaid, centaurs, fauns, dwarves and nymphs. Mermaids were too fishy, centaurs and fauns were too gamey, dwarves drank so much their blood was slightly fermented, and nymphs would only suit a vampire going on a vegan diet. Next were the quality cuts: humans, pixies, incubi, succubi and valkyries. Humans were savory creatures, but their shear multitude and availability somewhat cheapened their standing in my eyes; pixies were like candy, but their small size didn’t make for much of a meal; incubi and succubi were scrumptious treats, but were more akin to a drug than actual food; and while valkyries were extremely rare, their rarity was somewhat diminished when you realized the winged beauties tasted too much like chicken. Then, at the tippy-top of the pyramid, were the elves. Dawn-elves were rich with herbal undertones, and were a delicacy of the highest order, but high-elves were something truly special. Their blood was decadent and sweet, the texture like velvet on the tongue, and the old lineages gave them an aged quality like fine wine. Yavara, being the only dark-elf I’d ever tasted, was somewhat of a disappointment. There was high-elf, yes, but it was marred with succubi, orc, and a touch of incubi.
There were campfires as far as the eye could see. To me, they were like little suns burning upon the earth, blinding me from the figures that surrounded them. It wasn’t that they were too bright; just too hot. The elven bodies that mulled about the camp were magnitudes cooler, and so shone dully to my thermal lenses. I would have to get closer to properly distinguish them with my eyes, but my nose had never failed me. I took a deep inhale, and my mind ignited with the myriad of flavors, a veritable buffet of high-elf soldier. I licked my lips.
“Do you see how they’re set up?” Zander whispered, pointing to the map, then gesturing to the encampment, “Each sector forms a web with the command post in the center. And at the very center of everything is high-command.”
I glanced at the map, switching to nocturnal vision. “Eighty regiments of a thousand, eight division of ten-thousand. Eighty generals, eight of which are division commanders, and one field marshal.”
“And that’s where the structure ends.” Zander smiled, “Everything below that is a shitshow. We just need to cut the head off the snake.”
I sniffed the air again, noting the slight burn in my nostrils. “Nadi wood.” I muttered.
Zander nodded. “They cut down every Nadi tree in the royal arboretum, but their munitions are sparse.”
There was a flash of green, and Ivanka and Tiffany stepped from the portal. “Zander, we got your message, and we’re quite irritated with you.”
“Our queen was throwing one hell of a party at Castle Thorum, and we’re missing it.” Tiffany lamented.
“I do believe the nymphs performed the single greatest loss of virginity in history.” Ivanka added.
“Not to mention the largest incestuous orgy.” Tiffany tittered.
“There was also a tasteful amount of rape.”
“And a touch of gender reassignment. Her Highness is an aficionado of debauchery; I do hope she lets us taste her new hybrid.”
“Oh, she looked absolutely decadent.” Ivanka rolled her eyes in longing.
“Speaking of which…” Tiffany stepped onto the cliff’s edge, and peered out at the vast army.
“That’s a lot of tasty treats.” Ivanka whispered.
“The Ten?” Zander inquired.
“We made sure to bring them with us. We dropped them off at Glacier Lake before we found your church ruins.”
“A fat, slobbering bunch of inbreds, the lot of them.” Ivanka added with a sneer, “Our queen would be wise to dispose of them as soon as she can.”
“If they represent the best of their people, then Brock and his Terdini are the only orcs worth continuing; the rest should be turned to steers and used as feed.”
“Directed evolution.” Ivanka said with a nod.
“Directed evolution indeed.” Tiffany smiled at me.
“Vampires.” Zander snorted.
I turned my attention to him. “How many of my children will you need for this, Fredeon?”
“All of them.”
I nodded. “We’ll shadow the army until they get to the marshlands, then we’ll attack.”
“I’ll ingratiate myself with them in the meantime.” Zander said, “When the time comes, cause as much chaos as you can before you leave. Poison the water, stampede the horses, light everything on fire. You’ll only have one chance, so make it count. Everything little extra thing you do here buys us hours, days, maybe even weeks.”
“Every little extra thing will cost me more of my children’s lives.”
“It is war, Titus.” Zander grunted, “Life is always the cost.”
“You don’t think I can hit him from here?” I laughed at Rose. Arbor had detected a ranger spying on us from the Great Forest. He was about three-hundred yards off, but I could just make out his cowl from the edge of the tree line. Though I hadn’t slept for nearly a week, my vision remained keen. I notched the arrow as I gazed from the top of Castle Thorum’s tower.
“There’s no way you’re making that shot.” Rose said.
“Adrianna,” I said to the hybrid woman formerly known as Thomas Adarian, “tell Rose about the shots I made at the bowman’s tourney.”
“She shot three arrows shaft-to-shaft-to-shaft into a bullseye at two-hundred feet.” Adrianna said, “My queen, please spare him.”
“What will you do to keep me from shooting?”
“Do you want me to humiliate myself?” She asked angrily, “Haven’t you done enough to me?!”
“I think you know the answer to that.” I muttered, drawing the bow and gauging the wind.
“I’ll capture him.” Adrianna insisted, “I’ll bring him to you so that you can change him.”
“Wouldn’t a high-elf think death was preferable to your fate?” Rose mused.
“A true Highlander would throw themselves off this tower in shame.” I narrowed my eyes on the horizon line, “But we lost our pride with our race.”
“Adrianna seems to have kept hers, actually.”
“That’s just her stubbornness.”
“Did you lose your compassion as well?” Adrianna demanded, “Didn’t you say that mercy is a strength?”
“Only when applied conservatively; otherwise it’s a trait that can be predicted.” I closed one eye, “And that is a weakness.”
“Please, my queen,” Adrianna said, “I deciphered the messages for you; you already know how many of us are left. With Arbor on your side, you’ll track the rest of us down easily. What’s the point in killing him?”
“I’m not going to kill him,” I smiled, “I’m just going to scare the shit out of him.”
I loosed the arrow and watched it arc. It flew across the clearing, across the bridge, and down to the tree line. It speared through the ranger’s cowl without so much as touching a hair on his head. The ranger ducked for cover and scampered into the trees, leaving his coat to billow from the branches like a warning flag.
“Holy shit.” Rose gasped.
“Time to pay up.” I smiled, hiking up my skirt and spreading my legs.
Rose grinned coyly as she got on her knees, pushing her curly blonde mane behind one goat horn. Her emerald eyes shown with curiosity as she examined my womanhood, her hands splaying about my thighs, the green veins in them glowing slightly. I guided her face to my crotch, and felt her curious little tongue dart from her timid lips, unpracticed and unsure.
“You didn’t lie with any of your sisters last night?” I asked.
“I was so preoccupied with my brothers.” She laughed, blushing slightly, “Mother tasted me, but I was too… um… full to return the favor.”
I giggled endearingly, stroking her hair. “A woman after my own heart, you glutton.” I pointed to my engorged clit, “You know what this is, right?”
“Oh, I’m very aware of it now.” Rose grinned.
“Well,” I smiled back, “you can’t go wrong touching me there.” I looked up at the very uncomfortable Adrianna, “I’m sure you have extensive experience; why don’t you give Rose a lesson?”
“Is that an order, my queen?”
“It’s an invitation.” I moaned, resting precariously atop the battlement, gauging Adrianna as the nymph between my legs learned through trial and error how to please a woman. Adrianna watched the display with obvious desire, and I wondered if she would surrender to it. But her stubbornness won out, much to my disappointment, and she turned around to gaze out at the exodus of orcs.
Brock lead his new tribes from Castle Thorum, a lone figure before the horde. Only the nymphs remained in the castle they had taken, for the vampires had left hours ago. I would’ve gone with them, but Zander’s message bid me to stay; any help I could provide would be dwarfed by the risk. And so while Zander and Titus worked to slow the marching apocalypse, I was to do what queens were supposed to do, and govern. The superstructure of Castle Alkandra had been finished before Titus departed, and if all went perfectly with Titus’s raid, there would be a massive influx of tribespeople from Glacier Lake fleeing the upcoming battle. At the very least, tens of thousands would be in the shadow of Castle Alkandra in a matter of weeks with no food, no plumbing, and no shelter besides an unfurnished shell of a castle. The logistics made my head spin, and I wished in that moment that I had taken the lessons of my youth seriously instead of letting Elena do all the work. Elena…
“Your Highness?” Rose asked, “Am I doing it wrong?”
“No,” I sighed, pulling her face from my nethers, “you’re doing fine, Rose, I’m just distracted.” I bid her to rise, wiping my lust from her lips with my thumb, “Go rouse your mother and siblings. We’re leaving this place.”
“All of us?” She asked.
I looked toward the east. “Five-hundred men could hold this fortress against tens of thousands, but only if the tens of thousands were crossing the Knife River.” I pointed to the west, where there was nothing obstructing the landscape but rolling hills as far as the eye could see. “The Highland army is north, but this castle is symbolic. They will send a contingent down here to retake it.”
“And you’re just going to give it up?” Adrianna snorted.
Rose looked at me quizzically. “Hundreds of my sisters died for this place.”
“And all your sisters and brothers would die trying to defend it, and for what? This is not your homeland. We are invaders here, and I am no conqueror.”
“As soon as we leave, the rangers in the forest will make a dash for it.” Rose said.
I smiled at her. “You’re a vegetarian, so I suppose you’ve never before bated a trap before, have you?” I looked back at Adrianna, and grinned, “It’s time to hunt.”
I glanced at the hermaphrodite next to me. “How did the family reunion go?” I asked, sucking on a cigarette.
“Fine.” Elena replied tersely.
“Fine.” I snorted, “That’s code for, ‘so uncomfortable I would have preferred actual torture.’”
“I did find myself growing nostalgic for your knife set mid-conversation.” Elena laughed, “If you can call what Mother and I had a ‘conversation.’”
“Lots of nods and smiles between eternal silences?”
“Eye contact was like trying to stare into the sun.” She sighed, “She and I never liked each other, though we loved each other out of obligation. I don’t think she can reconcile what I’ve become with who you say I am. In a way, it would’ve been easier for her to know the truth so that she could finally comfortably hate me.”
“That’s family.” I sighed in turn, “Though I never had any trouble hating mine.”
“Or fucking them.”
“That too.” I grinned devilishly at her.
Elena lit one of my cigarettes between her lips. “You know, after spending so much time with you, I’ve realized something about you, Leveria.”
She regarded me purposefully. “You have a very thick shell, and you wear it like layered armor.” She put her hand on my shoulder, and smiled affectionately. “But deep beneath all the pageantry, propriety, stateliness and power; beneath even the torture, murder, father-fucking and diabolical scheming; beneath even the fear, loathing, and jealousy; you’re a total cunt.”
I sputtered into laughter, smoke shooting from my nose and mouth. “You know me so well!” I sighed, wiping tears from my eyes.
She snickered, then turned her attention to the door before us. “So, what are we doing here?”
I took another inhale from my cigarette. “Some gangster shit. Sir Raftas, Sir Bortan; please open the door.”
Sir Raftas ducked behind a body-length shield and rammed into the door. It flung open with a crash, and Sir Bortan charged in after, smashed his gauntleted fist into a young naked man’s face, sprinted across the room, then ripped the dazed Headmaster Glendian out of his bed. Four more guards flowed in behind him, two of them hoisting the young man onto his feet, the other two briskly knotting Glendian’s fingers together before he could cast a spell. I stepped in afterward, lighting a new cigarette with the butt of the old one.
“Good morning, Headmaster.” I smiled, “Sorry for the unorthodox wakeup call.”
The guards dragged him to his knees, and the haggard old man blinked up at me. The few wisps of hair he had left stuck up from his oily pate, his turkey-gullet of a neck wobbled, his soft body and pathetic cock drooped from him with decades of defeat. I put my cigarette out on his nipple, and his eyes alighted with clarity. He screamed.
“WHY?!” He managed.
“How long have you worked for Lord Ternias?” I asked.
His scream waned, and I waited for him to catch his breath. Across the room, the naked man spat blood, his nose broken, his youthful body dangling in the plated arms of two guards. Finally, Glendian found his voice. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I turned to Elena, who stood slack jawed in the threshold. “Did you know?”
“You think I know anything?!” She demanded.
“Hmm, almost, Dear. Next time put less force behind it; confused people aren’t immediately defensive.” I turned back to Glendian, “Well? How long?”
“You’re fucking delusional.” Glendian spat.
I knelt to his level. “You know me better. How long, and what does he know?”
“It doesn’t matter what I say! You’ve made up your mind, and the truth can go to hell!”
“You, boy!” I snapped at Glendian’s latest escapade, “What’s your name?”
“Allister Opandia, Your Highness.” He replied, his voice clogged with nasal blood.
I smirked at Glendian. “At least he knows how to address his sovereign. Sir Raftas, throw Mister Opandia out the window.”
“Wait!” Glendian bellowed.
Sir Raftas paused, Allister rigid and pale with terror in his arms. I rolled my eyes. “Sir Raftas, is Headmaster Glendian your queen? Defenestrate!”
“WAIT!” Glendian screamed again. Without missing a step, Sir Raftas hoisted the thrashing Allister onto the windowsill, and pushed him through it. Allister’s shriek of horror dwindled as he fell, then ended with a sickening crack. Glendian’s face went purple, his eyes bulged and welled, and with canlı bahis a futile lurch, he roared at me, the vessels in his sclera looking ready to burst. “You bitch!” He screeched, “You horrible, wretched cunt!”
“Calm down, Headmaster.” I replied implacably, “You go through faggots like they’re disposable anyhow, so I don’t see what the fuss is.”
“I’ll kill you! I swear to every god there is, I’ll kill you!”
“You’ve had every chance to, and yet here I stand. You’re a coward, Glendian; you’ve always been a coward, and you’ll always be one. It’s why you crawled to Ternias like the little weasel you are.”
He wrenched his face toward Elena. “You let this happen!” He screamed, his voice breaking, “You had your chance! I told you I would’ve protected her!” He spat at her, “Now you’re her whore, and for what? Because you felt indebted? I’ve been indebted to our wonderful queen for years.” He turned his hate-filled gaze back at me, “She’ll never let you pay it back; she’ll collect interest until your bones are ash!”
“I’ve been fair with you, old man.” I said softly, “I only asked you to pay in information, and you’ve been stealing it from me. Now, what does Lord Ternias know, and how long has he known it?”
Glendian fixed his jaw.
I sighed. “Sir Bortan, break his-”
“Since your mother died.” Glendian mumbled. “I went to Ternias to give my condolences for the loss of his cousin. He saw through your ruse. I offered him my services freely.”
“Freely?” I mused, “You truly hate me that much? No, don’t answer that; I don’t care. What did you tell him?”
“Everything I know. The lie about your mother, my suspicions about you and your father, your meeting with the Sea Serpents, the assassination of Prestira Rasloraca, and the truth about Elena.”
I frowned. “He knew about the Sea Serpents and Prestira before the audience with Ambassador Wentz?”
I slowly stood, my mind working. “What has he told you about his plans?”
He laughed derisively. “You think I know his plans? I know his goals, as do you; they’re as clear as day.”
“Get a unanimous vote of no confidence, strip my powers, become steward, then supplant me.” I muttered, “You know you’re an accessory to treason, right?”
“Your entire reign his treason.” Glendian spat.
I slapped him hard across the cheek, the stone on my wedding band slicing a groove from ear to nostril. “I would never bring in an outsider to tip the scales in my favor!” I snarled, “Ternias could plot my assassination and it would be business as usual, but the moment he brought Ambassador Wentz into the fold, he was a traitor no better than my sister!”
I stomped across the room, running my hands through my hair, the pieces clicking into place. Now I knew why Wentz had so doggedly pursued sanctions with nothing more than the testimony of a pirate to lend him credence. Big Bill? How had I not seen it?! Yavara and Prestira, two of the foremost telepaths in the world, had just missed the orc stowed away in the hold? Big Bill was at the bottom of the ocean with the rest of Timothy Two-Shot’s crew. Ternias had supplied the information. Oh, he’d fought so very hard on behalf of the Highlands when Wentz levelled his accusations, but it was all for naught. I’d been left stammering like a fool before the entire Noble Court, and Lord Ternias was there just afterward to play the role of the reluctant ally. He’d even rallied the nobles to support my ploy of Alkandran recognition, but he’d already known who I’d have to use as ambassador, and he’d already known she was no spy, but a tortured prisoner. Had it not been for Elena’s improvisation yesterday, had she followed our script, Wentz would’ve torn her apart and revealed her as a puppet, then leveled every sanction he could against me, just as he was poised to do before I’d been forced to improvise. A second diplomatic humiliation followed by a heap of sanctions would’ve shaken the faith of even my strongest allies. After a swift vote of no confidence, Ternias would become steward, the sanctions would be lifted, and with no one to lift a finger in protest, Eric and I would be quietly assassinated, making him king. But Wentz hadn’t known about the army, which meant Ternias was playing the game from two sides.
“My queen?” Sir Raftas asked, “Should I get a team to arrest Lord Ternias?”
“No.” I muttered, pacing, “With the army gone, all that’s left in Bentius is the city watch, and they’re Huntiata’s, and Huntiata has been in Ternias’s pocket since the beginning. If we use force, it will be used against us in kind. We’ll turn a conspiracy into a coup, and no one, not even Ternias, wants that. He needs his claim to appear legitimate, or it will be constantly challenged.”
“Assassins then, Your Highness?”
“Did I ask you to talk?!” I snapped at the knight, “Your job is to break bones and throw people out of windows, not to fucking brainstorm!” I whirled on Glendian, “When is your next meeting with Ternias?”
“In three days.” He mumbled.
I drew my thumb along the gash I’d made in his cheek. “Heal this, compose yourself, and go to him. Bring Elena with you.”
“What?!” Elena gasped.
I stepped to her until we were a whisper apart. “Is Glendian telling the truth?” I asked so that only she could hear, “Did he promise your mother’s safety in exchange for my death?”
“He said Lord Ternias would make it so. I didn’t believe him.”
“Why would you trust me over him after everything I’d done to you?”
“You were the devil I knew.”
“Was that all?” I smiled.
Elena touched my face gently. “No, but I blame everything else on hormones.”
I snorted. “Yes, you must be a disaster of estrogen and testosterone in this body.” I looked into her azure eyes, “But you trusted me then. Can I trust you now?”
“Why would Ternias let me get near him?”
“Glendian has told him you are no agent of mine. He thinks he’s privy to exclusive information, and will try to use you as a weapon against me.”
“Perhaps he’ll succeed; you know where my true allegiances lie.”
“What difference does it make now?” I hissed, “That army is going to crush Yavara no matter who rules the Highlands! Do you think Ternias will help her? He was one of the greatest proponents for war! Deal with the devil you know, Elena.”
“Maybe I should get to know Lord Ternias.”
“I couldn’t stop you. I wouldn’t know you betrayed me until the knife was in my back.” I rested my forehead on her chest, “I thought I knew how the board was set, but Ternias has changed the game. I dare not make another move until I know who else plays it. Find out who they are.”
Elena took my head between her hands. “What will you give me in return?”
“What do you want?” I whispered.
“What Ternias has already promised me.”
“Ternias will promise the sun and the moon to you, then kill you the moment you’ve filled your purpose. I have always been honest with you Elena, so I will not lie to you now. I will never let you go.”
She looked like she’d scream at me for a moment. Then she took one breath, then another, and brought our forehead together. “We had a deal, Leveria. I’m not doing a fucking thing until I see her.”
Yavara let me wear a sword. I wondered if she thought it was amusing. There were ample opportunities when she turned her back on me, leaving a wide-open shot with only a few paces between us. Sometimes she’d look over her shoulder and smirk, daring me to try. A better man would’ve done it. A better man. I scoffed, A better woman would’ve done it too. I latched the trunk, and dragged it to the edge of the hole that centered the tower of Castle Thorum. It was heavier than I remembered; a lot heavier. I wiped the sweat from my brow, then tore my sword from its scabbard, and slashed at the woman behind me. The blade imbedded into the wood, creating a fractal crack into the glass it framed. I’d attacked a mirror. I hadn’t recognized the woman in it. She was beautiful for an abomination. Though her old uniform hung loosely from her, it did little to hide the magnificent swell of her breasts, the tantalizing jut of her hips, and the alluring bulge of her ass. I blinked at my reflection, not comprehending what I was seeing. My features were fair and elegant; my broad nose now narrow and pointed, my sunken eyes now big and expressive, my thin lips now full and luscious. The forty years of lines that once marred my complexion were smoothed over with radiant bronze skin, its rich hue a contrast to the nearly white hair above it, and the piercing blue of my sapphire irises. But it wasn’t just the way I looked, for my motions were fluid and graceful, the aggression and militarism gone from them. Indeed, I had to think to walk like a man, or my hips would swing lasciviously, an advertisement of my fertility. Oh yes, there was that too. Desires I could not explain that somehow needed no explanation. The pulling in my loins was now an aching in my nethers, the throbbing in my tip was now a pulse in my pearl, the frothing of cum was now a wetting of my lower lips. And what brought about these desires? I was certainly still attracted to women, yes, but there was a deeper attraction, one that stirred something ancient within me. Something I could not fight for long.
I balled my hands and smashed my fists against the tabletop. Stubborn. Yes, I was certainly that. Stubborn to cling to the man I was no longer, stubborn to grasp for pride where I could not find it. If Brock Terdini had lumbered over to me with his hard cock still stinking of April’s ruined shithole, would I have wrenched my face away in disgust, or licked my lips and dropped to my knees? The thought made my stomach turn. And my nethers moisten. My mind went unbidden to fantasies of April writhing between the bodies of orcs, all her holes ravaged, that possessed look in her eyes. Bliss. Such a sweet surrender to abandon pride and become a whore of the moment, a prisoner to the flesh, a slave to perverse desires and even more craven emotions. It aroused me to see her violation. It aroused me even more to imagine it were me.
“Goddamn it!” I hissed against the table. No, it wasn’t pride that kept me stubborn. It was pure hatred.
“Commander?” A familiar voice asked.
I looked up at my reflection. It had changed slightly, the features becoming more angular, the eyes more azure than sapphire. Elena. “Hey Tiger.” I croaked, wiping the tears from my eyes.
Elena blinked twice, her mouth hanging agape.
“It’s good to see you still alive.” I smiled ruefully, “I thought you would’ve bit the poison by now.”
“Commander, you’re a-”
“I am. I guess you probably think I got what I deserved.”
“I don’t know what you deserve.”
I ran my fingers through my hair. “Neither do I. I know that April didn’t get what she deserved. Do you know what Yavara did to her?”
“I saw,” Elena shifted uneasily, “the mirror doesn’t turn off on this end.”
“Of course it doesn’t.” I snorted, “So, what does the voyeuristic queen of the Highlands have you doing all preened up and in one piece?”
“She’s using me as a political tool.” Elena cracked a smile. “Among other things.”
“That’a girl.” I smiled back.
She gave me a furtive look. “I’m sure Yavara has made good use of you, Commander.”
“Once, but I can no longer fill that role. I can’t fill anything anymore.”
She raised her brows. “That’s… intriguing.”
“Intriguing.” I laughed, “Yes, I’m quite the curiosity. When I was commander of the vaunted Ranger Corps, I didn’t get half as much attention as I do now for simply having d-cups.”
“D-cups? Lucky you.”
“You have my empathy, but not my sympathy.”
“We’re in rather the same situation, aren’t we?” I smiled bitterly, “How has she made you betray yourself?”
Elena frowned. “I’m a political prisoner, not a slave.”
“She tortured you for days.”
“And now she lets me roam free.”
“Little freedoms keep a slave better than chains. They make you docile.”
“Leveria respects the distinction; that’s why I’m alone right now, and she’s anxiously pressing her ear to the door trying to overhear me.”
There was a yelp, then a scuffle, and Elena giggled over her shoulder as embarrassed footsteps sounded down the hallway. She bit down on a private smile, then looked back at me. “Where is Yavara?”
“Getting ready to massacre the rest of the rangers.”
Elena opened her mouth, then closed it. She shook her head.
“You don’t believe me? After what you saw her do to April?”
“Her blood was hot. I can’t justify what she did, but she wasn’t herself when she did it.”
I leaned toward the mirror until my nose almost touched it. “Do you know how many rangers survived the attack on Castle Thorum?” I whispered. “Seventy-three. Do you know how many are left now?” I held up one finger, “She fed the rest to the vampires. She even ate one herself.”
“Am I?” I hissed, “Does hot-blooded rage make someone systematically torture an innocent girl until her mind is broken? She made me watch them take April; she raped me while they did it.” I grabbed a fistful of my shirt, and tore it open, my breasts bursting from their constraints, “That’s how she changed me!” I snarled, “But she’s not done, no! She’s ordering that I go with her on her little hunt so that I can watch the last of my legacy die on the forest floor! Those were your brothers and sisters, Tiger, and she’s going to cut them down like dear at a tree line!”
“It’s war, Commander!” Elena growled back, “There’s an army marching right for the Tundra, and when they get there, do you think they’re going to make the distinction between women, children, and soldiers?”
“No.” My grin was like a grimace, “They’re going to do what we rangers should’ve done a long time ago, and slaughter the animals.”
“You don’t believe that.”
“Don’t I?” I growled, “Where did all my compassion get me? Did they return the favor? You know, it was Zander who picked me to be head-ranger; why do you think he chose me?” I gestured to the room, “This castle stood for a thousand years, and I let it fall to the very enemy it was built to stop! The Highlands has grown soft under the stewardship of weak men. We need a strong queen to finally end the millennium-old mistake of mercy.”
Elena stared coldly at me. “I looked up to you once. You were like a father to me when I had no one else. I admired you, I tried to emulate you, I tried to make you proud. What a waste of my time that was.”
“It was all a waste of time, Tiger.” I muttered, resting my head in my hands, “I thought the rangers were peacekeepers, but we were just placeholders for war.”
“Let me talk to Yavara.”
“You know I won’t.”
Elena’s face twisted. “Please, Commander. She needs to know I’m okay.”
I sighed. “I know there’s probably nothing you could tell her that would change anything, or Queen Tiadoa wouldn’t let you do this, but I still can’t take that risk.” I grabbed the mirror, “And besides that, Tiger, I want her to think you’re slowly being cut to pieces in a dark cell beneath Bentius. Her suffering is the only thing keeping me sane right now.”
“I’m not your commander anymore.” I said, walking toward the hole, “We’re just traitors now, the both of us, but you’re much worse than me.”
“Oh Tiger,” I smiled sadly, “you couldn’t hide it if you tried.” I tossed the mirror into the hole, and watched it flip end-over-end into darkness. “Goodbye kiddo.” bahis siteleri I whispered, then kicked my trunk after her. I watched as all my possessions, all my memories and promises tumbled away. A boom sounded from deep below, and I felt some of the weight lift from my shoulders. A small smile cracked my lips, and a little giggle followed after.
“Goodbye, Thomas Adarian.” I whispered to myself, “Hello, Adrianna.”
The company of rangers moved silently along the forest floor. They looked up at the canopy and peered cautiously around boulders and into hovels, their bows in hand, their arrows nocked against the lax strings. They made it to the clearing, then the captain held up his hand, and the company halted. For a moment, there was only the ambiance of the forest; the chirp of birds, the whistle of wind, the creak of spruce and maple trees. Then there was a soft patter. The patter became the pounding of sprinting feet, and a young man burst into the clearing.
“Hold!” The leader hissed as bowstrings drew and arrows were aimed. The young ranger who had entered the clearing caught his breath, his hands on his knees. He was without his overcoat, and I wondered if he had been the scout from earlier.
“They’re gone!” The scout gasped, “The castle’s been abandoned!”
“How can you be sure?”
He pointed an unsteady finger to the west. “I ran to the bridge, and nothing happened. Then I ran across it, and nothing happened. Then I ran right up to the gate! There’s no one there, Captain! They must’ve moved north soon after the orcs left!”
I could see the relief move through the company like a wave. Their heads rose, their shoulders relaxed, and they eased out of their crouching stances. One by one, they quivered their arrows, and shouldered their bows. That was when the nymphs removed their camouflage, and materialized from the brush like arboreal phantoms. They circled the clearing with wooden weapons in hand, each one honed to a killing point. I loosed the arrow I’d trained on the scout, and he fell gurgling before the stunned faces of his comrades, clutching at the haft in his neck. Then, chaos. The nymphs charged the encircled rangers and crashed into the column. They shrieked manically as they brought their weapons down again and again, viciously piercing through leather and flesh, sounding the discordant cacophony of screams and cries from the falling elves. The roiling mass of battle enclosed on itself until the circle was nearly filled. When I was satisfied with death, I jumped to the forest floor with a crash. The nymphs ceased their attack, pulling back to reveal seven rangers huddled together in the center, surrounded by their dead and dying. When they saw me, all color drained from their faces. The reaction excited me.
“Gentlemen, ladies,” I said, smiling to the three men and four women, “I have an interesting proposition for you.”
One of the women brandished a knife and rushed me, screaming with bulging eyes. I let the blade come to within an inch of my chest, then froze the poor fool in place, disarmed and disrobed her, and tossed her bodily before her comrades, naked and terrified. She scrambled to her feet and cowered behind the other rangers.
“…as I was saying,” I continued without breaking my smile, “I’m willing to make a deal for your lives. Since it’s clear there is some distrust between you and I, I brought someone you all trust to vouch for me. Adrianna!”
Adrianna stepped solemnly from the crowd of nymphs, not meeting my eyes. “Captain Dafian,” she said to one of the men, “you’ve served your country well, and upheld the highest standards of the ranger corps. It’s time to lay down your arms and spare the lives of your remaining soldiers.”
“And just who the fuck are you?” Captain Dafian snarled, his sword poised to strike.
Adrianna stepped into killing range. “The last time we spoke, you asked me to send a bouquet of tulips to your mother, Rosiana.”
Dafian’s snarl affixed his face, but his eyes widened. His sword lowered a fraction. “Commander?” He whispered. The other rangers dropped their jaws in shock, looking from their captain, to their old commander.
“Not anymore.” Adrianna said with a sad smile, “Now I’m just an old friend asking you to live.”
“What did she do to you?!”
“She spared my life at the cost of my gender and race. She is offering you the same terms.”
“And you thought I would accept?!” Captain Dafian roared. He turned toward me, his sword pointed at my chest, “I don’t care who you trot out, you traitorous whore, I’d rather die than become like you!”
The ground shook, the trees groaned, and the nymphs retreated to the edge of the clearing. The rangers formed a tight perimeter, their gazes flitting frantically. Thick roots sprouted from the soil and wrapped about the fallen elves. Those unfortunates who hadn’t yet died were constricted by the woody appendages like a boa’s victim, and dragged screaming beneath the black earth. The tilled soil churned like a combative ocean, then calmed when Arbor’s bare feet touched the ground beside me. A bed of tulips sprouted in a ring about the seven rangers, one flower for each fallen elf.
“You mistake me, Captain.” I said, stepping toward the huddled rangers, “I am not offering you a choice.”
“Death is always a choice.” He hissed with a shaking voice.
“But it’s such a boring one.” I hooked my thumbs into the lacing of my corset and grinned. “Wouldn’t you rather fuck me?” I sang, undoing the lacing and letting the garment fall to the forest floor. “Haven’t you been curious,” I asked sultrily, strutting to the captain, “about what it would be like to lay with the Dark Queen?” I ran my finger along the blade of his sword, my eyes daring him to swing it. “Surely, you’ve heard tales of my escapades;” I stepped into his guard, and wrapped my arms around his shoulders, “there’s nothing I won’t do to please a man.” I whispered, and planted a kiss on his neck. I finished the embrace by pressing into him; my bronze breasts squishing against his chest, my crotch fixing against his groin. His mind was open to me, and I tasted his thoughts. Mortal fear, murderous hatred, and unrestrained wrath; a concoction like fine wine on a palate such as mine. I caressed his mind with my fantasies, my depthless perversions that treated such emotions as flavors to be tasted in the heat of lust. Eat, sleep, fuck, kill; even before my transformation, the extremes of life and sensation had mingled in my excitement. Now I whispered them into all their minds, and stoked the primal flame within their loins.
I slid my hands into his pants. “What are your desires, Captain?” I hissed, my seeking fingers finding their prize, wrapping coolly about his growing member. The heat of it sent a shiver through me, and cast my eyes into half-lidded expectancy. I stared into his warped gaze, seeing that delectable concoction of emotion. “I’m yours, Captain.” I moaned breathily against his lips, “You can do whatever you want to me. Beat me, humiliate me, choke me and punish me.” I licked his chin, “I’m not your queen,” I felt him get hard in my hand, “I’m your begging whore.”
“Please…” He hissed, such confusion in his face, “Don’t do this!”
“You’ll thank me when it’s over.” I whispered, my lips hovering just in front of his, my eyes staring lustfully into his own. “Nothing can compare to the pleasure a woman feels when a cock is inside of her. Will you put your cock inside of me, Captain? Or do I have to make you do it?” I watched his mind working behind the lens of his irises, and saw his fear, hatred and wrath corrupt with my desire. It wasn’t indoctrination, but coercion, something done easily to someone who’s backed into a corner with no choice. His face became hard and cold.
“Get on your knees.” He hissed. I obeyed, but not quickly enough. He grabbed a fistful of my ebony hair, pulled out his stinking, fat cock, and rammed it into my throat. I took him easily, wrapping my lips around him and running my tongue along his delicious underside, tasting the salt of him, the rich tang of sweat and hormones. He smashed my face into his loins over and over, forcing my esophagus to stretch wide, sounding a symphony of gurgles from the stretched seal of my sucking lips. I could feel his rage; oh I could taste it. I gave him pleading, vulnerable eyes and whimpers of pain to encourage his sadism, to willow under his overbearing cruelty and succumb to his lust as he succumbed to mine.
The other two males undressed and came up behind me. One of them roughly pulled down my thong and pressed his cock against my puckered aperture.
Oh, fuck my ass!
He drove in hard, pushing my body forward, forcing my face to press against Dafian’s crotch, my nose squishing, my nostrils flaring to take in the miasma of his loins. I screamed a muffled cry of pleasure around Dafian’s cock, staring up with eyes full of arousal. I shifted my hips backwards against the man, clenching my sphincter around him as it slid the length of him, my rectum sucking him deeper into my vile depths, embracing his invasion. I reached back and spread my leaking cunt with my index and middle finger, moaning for the other man to fill me. The man in my ass pulled out and waited for a second. I almost turned around and yelled at him to put it back in, but I soon found out the cause of the delay. The other man pushed his cock atop his comrade’s and they both rammed into my asshole as one. Oh, the pain was exquisite. I squealed in unfettered agony as I felt my rim stretch to a ruinous oval, giving Dafian the satisfaction of my genuine suffering.
“Did that hurt?” He laughed cruelly as I covetously sucked his cock, “You said we could do anything.”
This wasn’t my first double anal, and my lewd body soon adjusted to the torture. My gagging outbursts of pain turned to lecherous exaltations of pleasure. Their two cocks writhed together inside me, rubbing against the stretched channel within, stimulating the taut surface like I hadn’t known since I was still a high-elf. Tears leaked from my eyes as they began driving congruently, forcing shocks of terrible pain and even worse pleasure so deep into my foul depths. Oh god, I could die! I rocked on my knees to rape myself in contest with them, my bulging buttocks slapping against their crotches, their fingers sinking into the bronze flesh, gripping me like they wanted to tear the meat out. I coiled my throat around the captain, and sucked him like he’d never been sucked before, the sensuality of my tongue a juxtaposition to the rapaciousness of my lips. My eyes rolled back into my head, and I reached around to grip his clenching cheeks and bring him deeper into my throat.
I’ll warm up the women for you. Arbor’s telepathic voice said.
I felt my pelvic floor expand from my body with each pull from the men, sending hot blasts of painful ecstasy up my spine. I hummed mindlessly as the captain thrusted relentlessly down my throat, my cheeks hollowing with each pull and puffing with each forceful advance. Try as I might, I couldn’t put on the façade of vulnerable fear any longer for him. As he tried to hurt and humiliate me, as his bulge formed and receded in my neck, I could only mewl for him like a wanting slut, and stare up at him with eyes cast in great contentment.
“Oh, you little bitch!” He growled, pulling out. A bridge of his nectar and my spit glistened from my lips, and I followed mindlessly after it to taste his cock once more. His hand struck my face. My head whipped to the side, my cheek stinging delightfully from the blow. I growled and smashed my ass back against the two men brutalizing my anus, twisting my hips against them and hearing their duet of groans. I grinned up at Dafian, licking my lips.
“Is that all, Dafian?” I giggled between gasps. He sent a backhand across my other cheek. My body shuddered in pleasure, my pussy gushing in response. I looked up at him once again, my eyes brimming with arousal.
“Again, Captain!” I hissed, “Hit me again!”
He did, his palm meeting my cheek, the delicious heat flowing into my face. I stared up from a disheveled mess of black hair, my eyes wild and possessed.
“Why don’t you hurt me on the inside instead?” I whispered, curling my fingers into my soaking cunt.
One of the men behind me grabbed my breasts and pulled my body back. I was forced upright, my spine arching uncomfortably as my pelvis was held firmly in place. Dafian grabbed my throat and squeezed tightly as he lowered himself beneath me. I choked out my cries of pleasure, the pressure in my eyes building, my face reddening. I felt Dafian run is cock along my slit, and I forked my fingers about my lover’s lips, and dropped my crotch atop him.
My body lurched violently back and forth, my hips squirming in a desperate dance, my ass squishing against the men behind me and below me. I squeaked out strained notes of delight, my eyes watering from the choking. Dafian pounded into me relentlessly, brutally spreading my soft petals and stretching my taint. It felt like they were trying to rip the membrane between my channels, their girths rubbing in contest against the tender flesh that divided my womanhood from my rectum, sending lightning bolts of sharp pleasure ripping through my pelvis. Dafian released my throat and filled his hands with my breasts, his hot body oppressive and suffocating against me, driving into the muscular torso of the man behind me, trapping me. I was helpless to it all, a great weakness ballooning from my ravaged holes, the lassitude turning my limbs to jelly until I could do naught but hold onto Dafian’s strong shoulders and exalt breathlessly into his chest. My mind was cast into a fugue state of ecstasy, and I stared with drool hanging from my mouth at Arbor.
The forest spirit was a celebration of seduction. Like a mother doting upon her children, she tended to each of the high-elf women with tenderness and care. Each caress of her hand, lick of her tongue and probing of her tail further eased the expressions of fear and confusion that marred their portraits, and left them with faces relaxed in bliss, their pale lips parted to yield contented moans. Two elves laid on their backs, their legs bent and splayed lazily to accept Arbor’s hands, her fingers gently penetrating the slit and anus of each, her thumbs sensually massaging the engorged pearls from their pink hoods. Their petals glistened with the nectar of their pleasure, webbing Arbor’s purple fingers in their lust. The third woman was bent over between them, her face shifting lazily in the grass as she reached back to spread her supple cheeks. Arbor doted upon each of her holes, planting her face into the tantalizing crack and closing her eyes to savor the flavor. She straddled the last elf, and used her pointed tail to deeply invade her anus as she pressed their frothing flowers together, the delicate flesh smearing clear honey between their splayed legs. The elf seemed to be hypnotized by the serpentine motion of Arbor’s belly as it flexed and undulated above her gyrating hips, the flat, smooth expanse shadowed by the bobbing domes of Arbor’s breasts, whose nipples grazed her face.
The nymph males soon joined in, sensually guiding the elves into their seduction. I watched in fascination as each elf girl accepted the men, allowing them to fill the vacant holes Arbor left for them. Soon the four elf girls were stuffed to capacity, their gangbangs not violent like mine, but slow, and gentle, a graceful dance of perversion that was only meant to please. One by one, the elf girls succumbed to the indulgence of excess, and feasted without shame upon the flesh of man. Arbor retreated into bahis şirketleri a bed of her daughters, and she too was filled to capacity, with tender sucks and gentle fists that stretched her open. I gazed my own pleasure at her. She looked back at me with half-mast eyes, her full lips parted in a blissful smile, her hands gently stroking the hair of the daughters nursing from her. Her pale, purple skin glistened with a sheen of sweat, her chest rose and fell with deep, sensual breaths, her pussy and ass gaped delectably from the hands inside of her.
Dafian snapped me out of my transience with a slap across the face. I was immediately brought back to my defilement, and grinned down at the hateful elf. One of the men pulled out of my ass, and my exhausted rim constricted loosely around the other cock. He stood up, took hold of my hair, and pulled back until I was looking directly backward, my hair draping to the forest floor. My inverted vision was filled with the sight of his throbbing member, shiny with my anal lust and stinking deliciously of my filth. He pushed the tip against my lips, and I obediently consumed him, moaning around him, leaning back to feel him slide easily down my stretched-back throat. I savored the abhorrent taste as I sucked, my tongue greedily cleaning every inch, my lips drawing from his base as though to milk his loins dry. It pushed me over. I felt myself rising in orgasm, my body twitching as pings of hot pleasure scorched from my desecrated holes. The familiar quaking in my nethers rumbled through me, my movements became violent and desperate, my eyes opened wide and I screamed a choked soprano note. I shifted chaotically, writhing and convulsing, my hips dropping and pushing back against the men in my holes, my back arching and rising to the man in my mouth. With a final tremble, I climaxed. My victims shared in the catharsis, crying out in equal parts terror and ecstasy as they exploded inside me, the last time they would ever do such a thing. As I descended from the precipice, I watched in fascination as the three men turned into beautiful, hybrid women.
Their hard bodies became supple, their pale flesh became flawless bronze, and their masculine build contoured into the robust curves of womanhood. Their cocks receded from my holes, and I was left vacant with nothing but the hint of heat lingering where they’d been. They all collapsed upon the ground, only their bulging eyes remaining unchanged as their features became delicate and refined.
“Captain Dafian…” I said, stroking the terrified woman’s face, “what is your first name?”
“Faltius.” She replied in a high voice.
“Faltia is your name now.” I beamed, marveling at my creation. Faltia shifted uncomfortably beneath me, scanning her body with rapid eyes. I looked behind me to see the other two doing the same, testing their new bodies with something between horror and curiosity.
“I don’t understand.” Faltia whispered, her voice shaking, “I’m me, but I’m… not me. What did you do to my head?! What did you-”
“Shh.” I placed my finger on her lips, and drew a soothing hand across her hyperventilating breast, “Don’t fight what you’ve become. Do not search for shame to fuel your battle; you will not find it any longer. Surrender to who you are.” I drew my hand down her soft belly, and rested it between her legs. “Surrender to me.” I whispered on her lips, and entered her with one finger. She gasped, tensing everywhere, her neck striating below her gritted teeth. I cooed softly in her pointed ear as I gently opened her, massaging the virgin tightness that enveloped my digit. Her walls relaxed around me, her rigid thighs eased open, and her cheeks flushed with color. My hand became wet with her nectar, squelching as I slowly moved my invading finger back and forth over her spot. With a release of breath, her neck relaxed into an elegant column, and a wonderous expression dawned upon her face.
“Oh… oh wow.” She moaned softly.
“Now you realize it.” I said quietly, “You’re not just a woman, but a very special breed.” I curled my finger inside her, and she cried out, her knees splaying wide so that I could invade her deeper, “This is your last act as Captain Faltius Dafian. Show your soldiers the way, and shed your past as I have done; they will follow you. We’re not high-elves anymore. We’re free.”
“You slaughtered my troops!” She gasped.
“I did.” I whispered back, “And you will never forget it. That memory is yours to keep, but the pain belongs to a dead man.” I removed my finger. “You don’t feel it anymore, do you?”
She paused, considering the thought. In that moment, I saw the last of Faltius Dafian fade from her sapphire eyes, leaving a sanguine portrait of virgin emotion. “No.” She said, a small smile creasing her lush lips.
I smiled back. “Tell me, Faltia, of those women over there,” I said gesturing to the high-elf girls writhing between nymph bodies, “which one of them have you wanted the most?”
“Alexa,” Faltia said, pointing to one on her back, “but ranger officers aren’t allowed to-”
“You’re not a ranger anymore, you’re a citizen of Alkandra. You’ll have a plot of land and a new wife. Why not take Alexa as your woman?”
“She’d never have me.”
“Oh,” I said slyly, “I don’t know about that.”
I crawled over to the female high-elves entangled in lust, and descended upon one that was reaching her peak. I bid the nymphs to evacuate her, and I took their place between her legs, pushing two gentle fingers in her gaping anus and two more into her stretched slit, making her sound a sweet cry from her now unoccupied mouth. There was a moment when she tried to fight it, but she was too enraptured by the sensations to do so with conviction. When her eyes were rolling back, and she was thrashing on the ground in the throes of mind-breaking ecstasy, I wrapped my lips around her throbbing pearl, and sucked. She came like a fountain, showering me with her nectar and crying out in sonorous release. She changed as Elena had changed, and I sucked from her surging loins as the ecstasy waned from her, gazing upon her face to gauge how she would react. The fear was apparent initially, then the confusion, but both were quickly jettisoned by the suction of my lips, each slurping pull bringing into focus the new reality of what she was, of who she was. Soon, I only saw blissful acceptance upon her face.
“So, you’re Alexa” I said, pulling her cock from my mouth.
“Yes… my queen.” She said unsurely.
“You have a secret admirer.” I ginned slyly. We both turned to see Faltia shifting nervously, her hands held bashfully behind her back as she watched us. I turned back to Alexa. “Do you like her?”
“She is beautiful,” Alexa mused, seemingly surprised that she thought that, “and I’ve always liked the captain, but ranger officers aren’t-”
“Holy shit,” I laughed, “you’re not a ranger anymore! Captain Dafian isn’t a captain anymore, she’s now a woman, -a virgin in fact- and she needs someone to be with her in these trying times. Do you think you could be that person?”
Alexa inclined her head, a surprised smile creasing her lips. “I suppose I could.”
“You’re a sweet little thing,” I smiled and kissed her cock, “Adrianna could learn a thing from you.”
I changed the rest of the high-elf girls one by one, bringing them to orgasm with my mouth, then learning who they were. Eva wept and needed comforting when she changed, Kiera was wrathful and needed me to fight her, and the last woman, the one who had charged me with a knife, didn’t react at all to her transformation, but I certainly did. I gagged, my eyes widening in shock at the sudden filling of my mouth and throat, my jaw aching to accommodate the immense girth now opening it. The woman transitioned from feminine gyrations to masculine thrusts seamlessly, her eyes closed in concentrative pleasure, her lush lips parting to sound moan after escalating moan until she finally grabbed my head, and face-fucked me into a sputtering, gurgling mess of leaking spit and welling eyes. I recovered quickly, and joined the hermaphrodite in her lust, furiously rubbing my clit as she furiously forced her meat down my neck. She encased herself in my squelching throat until her cock was pulsating with sensation, and she was crying out, the lines beside her shut eyes deepening with the furrow of her brow. I came with her, my thighs trembling as I sprayed my release into the grass, my mouth sucking mindlessly, my throat swallowing gluttonously to take all her milk into my belly. Then I revealed the magnificent size of her with a slurping pull of my lips, and gazed upon it in awe.
“And what’s your name?” I rasped from a ruined throat. I looked down at her to see that she’d covered her face with her hands, and was peeking from the crack of her fingers. Was she blushing?
“Furia.” She squeaked through the press of her palms.
“A fitting name for someone who would charge the Dark Queen.” I chuckled, “Even more fitting for your manner as a lover.”
“I’m sorry!” She squeaked again.
“You’re sorry…?” I trailed off, and glanced between her legs. There were droplets of blood in the grass. “You were a virgin?” I gasped.
She nodded, her face still covered. I gently grasped her wrists, and peeled her hands away to reveal the beautiful face below them. Such big eyes, such lush lips and rosy cheeks. Her features were doll-like, made even more so by the exaggerated size of her pointed ears, which she’d tried to keep hidden behind her hair.
“Furia,” I muttered, brushing her platinum bangs from her face, “there’s no room for shyness in my kingdom, especially not from one such as you. You and your comrades will be the faces of my new nation, and I will not have those faces downcast or covered.”
I smiled affectionately, and shifted my weight off of her. “Don’t worry about it. Go join the others.”
The hybrid hermaphrodites and women awkwardly greeted one another in their new bodies. Two of the newly-changed women (formerly Brian and Soren, now Brianna and Soraya) tried and failed to retain their masculine demeanor. After taunts and teases from the hermaphrodites, the flexing women giggled along with the group, and eased naturally into stances befitting their gender.
“Why are you so fucking stubborn?” I asked Adrianna as we watched the hermaphrodites and the women laughing and joking, “They’ve accepted their new selves.”
“They still hate you. They’re just happy to be alive.”
“You killed their brothers and sisters in arms before their eyes, then you raped them.” Adrianna laughed bitterly, “I don’t need to project to know what they really think of you.”
“The violence of war is impersonal, and I rather think I seduced them.”
Adrianna snorted derisively. “You’re delusional.”
“If they were still high-elf rangers, I’d wager that you’d be right. But they have been reborn, as have you.” I eyed her, “Perhaps I am delusional, Adrianna, but at least I know what I am.”
Adrianna watched the socializing hybrids with a fixed disapproving frown. Though they had formed a tight circle, I could see the way they pared themselves. Alexa and Faltia were sharing smiles, Brianna had her weight shifted on one hip as she talked with Eva, and Keira was nearly touching nipples with Soraya. Furia was left the odd girl out, staring at the ground and laughing awkwardly with the rest of the group when they laughed. She crossed her arms over her breasts and looked around uncomfortably, then her eyes connected with Adrianna’s, and she smiled shyly. If it were not for my keen elven eyes, I might’ve missed the way Adrianna’s mouth twitched at the corner.
“What’s her name again?” I mused airily, looking side-eyed at Adrianna, “The one with the third leg.”
“Furia Augustinia, private first-class.”
“Furia…” I let the name draw out, “I think I’ll keep her for myself. I could use a new toy.”
“You don’t think I know what you’re doing?” Adrianna growled.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I smiled slyly.
Adrianna’s face grew red. She set her jaw and watched Furia with practiced implacability.
I rolled my eyes. “Good god, Adrianna, do I have to spell it out for you?”
“She’s my subordinate, it would be unprofes-”
“Holy fuck! You. Are. Not. Rangers. Anymore!” I yelled, “Just talk to her! If you don’t, I’m going to fuck her every day and make you watch!”
“Fine,” Adrianna said as she walked away from me, “I’ll do it for her sake.”
“Sure.” I smirked.
I watched giddily as Adrianna approached the lonely hermaphrodite. Furia looked up at her, and smiled. Then they were laughing and chattering away, their weight shifting from hip to hip, the distance between them shrinking as the conversation went on. It was so fucking adorable. I turned to the person beside me, and grinned. My smile faded. There was no one there. No Prestira, no Patricia, no Elena. When I turned back to the creatures I had created, none of them met my eyes. They were almost like my children to me, these hybrids, and yet I knew Adrianna had been right about them. No, they wouldn’t hate me as she had said, but they would also never love me. Their bond would be with one another, friends and lovers forged by the memories of their past selves and the common experience of their new lives. I had created them, but I was simply a force of nature, something that diverted the course of their lives, but not something that flowed with them down the stream. And as I watched Adrianna, I felt something I hadn’t known since I’d transformed. Jealousy. But that was just the surface emotion, something far more palatable than the truth that lied beneath. Loneliness. I was Brock’s queen, Zander’s destiny, and Arbor’s ally, but no one’s friend.
“What are you going to do with her?” Arbor asked as she stepped to my side.
“Adrianna has skills that will make her invaluable in Alkandra.” I said, “I needed her to have a vested interest in its success.”
“That is why you left an extra female survivor.”
“Do you feel guilty about what you did to her?” Arbor asked. There wasn’t a hint of judgement in her voice; she was genuinely curious.
“Does it mean I’m a bad person if I don’t?”
Arbor paused, then spoke. “I have lived for ten thousand years, and all I have ever seen in humanoids is a drive for satisfaction. Not happiness, mind you, but satisfaction, to feel fulfilled. In that quest, everything one does is for the selfish intent to derive satisfaction, even if the action itself is unselfish. You hurt Adrianna to feel satisfied in justice, and she hurt you because it satisfied her duty to her country. Neither of you is good or bad having done your deeds. Only selfish.”
“That’s an interesting point of view.”
“So, are you satisfied?”
I watched Adrianna and Furia, and my thoughts drifted to Elena. I bit my cheeks to suppress the tears. “No,” I whispered, “but I won’t hurt her anymore.”
“I am glad.” Arbor said, “But what of yourself, Yavara?” She touched me beneath the eye, “You cannot hide your exhaustion with makeup. You have not slept for nearly a week.”
Arbor frowned. “You are not. Mania sets in after only five days, and you are already there. A mad queen of immeasurable power and terrible grief is a potent concoction.” She opened her palm, and from it, a poppy grew.
I eyed her. “A drug-addicted queen is hardly better.”
“This will induce narcosis without the addicting euphoria.” She plucked the flower, drained its essence into a wooden vial, and handed me the vial.
I hesitated to take it. “It’s not just falling asleep that’s the problem, Arbor.”
She smiled. “It will be a dreamless sleep, Yavara. I promise.”
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