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Introduction:

Marchosias creates a whole new world to punish Lyden.
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Chapter 18
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A Land of Fantasy: Part 1

My eyes are slow to open, my head feeling full of cotton. Groggily I look up, seeing a partly cloudy sky above me, and find that I’m lying in a field of what appears to be wheat.

“How did I get here?” I mumble, sitting up and holding my head in my hands. The last few moments come to me as though through a haze. Did I piss someone off? Why do I feel as if I’d been so afraid? Ugh, I just can’t seem to focus.

Gaining my feet, I check over myself, verifying my armor and sword are in place.

Wait. . . . Armor and a sword? Why doesn’t that seem right. . .? My head hurts, and I decide to worry about that at another time. I know it’s important, but I can’t seem to care enough. I must have gotten really drunk last night, I decide. But then, how did I end up out here in the middle of nowhere?

The joints of my supple jerkin, made of thick brown leather, seem to be in order. My blade, Muramasa, feels tight in his sheath. Gently, I pull up on the hilt, clearing only a small portion of the chrome-like slightly curved blade. There is no mistaking the bloodthirsty feel of the blade, and I immediately shove him back home.

Shaking myself to get rid of the rotten feeling, I wish I could just leave the blade behind. Every time I’ve tried, however, I find it attached to my hip a little while later. The katana only stays off me when he knows I intend to put him back on later.

Shielding my eyes against the midday sun, I look off into the distance. Every direction looks the same, until I spot a small shack to the east.

Whatever happened to me seems to still be affecting me, as I trip over my own sword a few times before I can keep my feet under me. By the time I reach the shack however, I’m walking as if I’ve always had the sword on my hip. I still can’t remember my past, other than that my sword is dangerous, and that I’m a wanderer. Well, all swords are dangerous, and right now I’m wondering where the hell I am.

Of course I’ve always had a sword on my hip. Why does everything seem so odd, as though my entire life is somehow skewed?

“What can I do for you, Stranger?” a gray haired man asks, coming around the side of the shack, an axe in his hands. He looks very tired, bags thick under his eyes, and a slump to his shoulders that bespeaks many weary years of life.

“Thomas?” I ask, thinking the man looks familiar, but the moment is gone before I can grasp it.

“Eh?” he looks at me in confusion. “How’d you know my name?” He hefts the axe again, a little more menacingly. I know he’s no match for Muramasa and me, but I don’t feel like feeding my sword.

“Sorry,” I tell the wary man, raising my hands in front of me to show I mean no harm. “Just something that crossed my mind.” My stomach growls, and I have no idea how long it’s been since last I ate. “Say, you wouldn’t have any work I could do for you in return for a bit of food, do you?”

He squints as he looks sharply at me, trying to decide if I’m a threat to him or not. I am, of course, but I try to act as if I’m not.

Finally he grunts before giving me an answer. “You look like a nice strong lad. I don’t know why, but I feel as though I can trust you.” He moves the axe to his shoulder, and I can see that it’s rather dull. Kind of like the old man, I think, but don’t know where that thought came from. “I’ve got some wheat that needs to be culled, and since the Lord of Light saw fit to give me a rebellious daughter, instead of a hardy son, I could use your help.” He eyes Muramasa on my hip, and I can already see the wheels turning.

“I’m afraid my blade isn’t fit for cutting wheat, but if you have a scythe I could borrow, I’ll see what I can do with that,” I tell him, before he can ask. He wouldn’t like the consequences if I pulled my blade out.

He grunts again, and nods his head to the back of the shack. Heading back, I find a rusted scythe, and sigh. This is going to be a lot of work.

The farmer has to teach me how to properly use the blade, but I catch on quickly enough, and get lost in the work.

“Ho!” Thomas yells, thankfully pulling me from my thoughts. I’d been daydreaming about a strange orange carriage, winged women, and odd-looking houses. “Come, sit.” He shows me a plate of food, and I drop the scythe where I’m at, rushing to him.

It’s probably poisoned, a voice says in my head, but I ignore it. Muramasa is always paranoid.

The food is simple fair, roots soaked in a simple broth, but as famished as I am I devour it quickly.

“You do good work,” Thomas says, as he surveys his field. “Would you consider staying on? I don’t have much, but I get by, and I can promise you’ll never go hungry.”

I laugh lightly, patting the hilt of Muramasa. The older man tenses at the gesture, but relaxes when I speak. “I’m afraid I have a different destiny,” I tell him. “Maybe when I’m done with that, I’ll come back. There are worse ways to retire, than with a good honest job.”

“A destiny, huh?” he asks me. “I don’t put much stock in those.”

Kill him! Kill him now! I thump the hilt, willing Muramasa to shut up.

“Normally I’d agree with you,” I say, laughing to cover the action with the blade, “but I feel as if I have little choice.”

“Thomas!” someone yells in a panic, and we both stand to look in the direction the voice had come from. I realize my right hand is tightly wrapped around Muramasa’s hilt, and make a conscious effort to loosen my fingers. “Your daughter’s been kidnapped!”

The old farmer begins to curse in earnest, spitting on the ground, before turning to the young boy that comes running up to us. “Who took her, Isaak?”

For some weird reason, I can’t seem to make out any features on the boy’s face. It’s not that he doesn’t have one, just that I can’t seem to see it.

“I don’t know, Thomas,” the young faceless boy states, trying to catch his breath. “He must have been some lord, though, because he was dressed all fancy, and had a couple guards. He took your daughter from the inn and rode off with her on a large black stallion.”

The older man looks sharply at the boy. “Go home Isaak. Thank you for telling me.” He turns the boy around, and gives him a gentle shove.

“Are you going to go get her, Thomas? I know she can be annoying sometimes, but she always treated me well enough.” There is genuine interest in the boys tone before he leaves.

“Go home, Isaak,” the farmer repeats firmly, and the boy takes off running.

“I don’t suppose you know how to use that blade on your hip, stranger?” he asks me, looking off in the direction the boy had come from.

“Well enough, I suppose,” I tell him, and he only grunts in response. I truly hope I don’t have occasion to use the cursed blade.

He goes into his small shack, and returns a few moments later with a well-polished breastplate on, and a short sword on his hip. He looks at me self-consciously. “Don’t know why I kept these. Couldn’t part with them after the war, I guess. Too many memories.”

“Lead on,” I tell him, not truly interested in his past. “Did you let your wife know we were going?” I’m not sure why I asked that, but it seems appropriate now.

He gives me a calculating stare before answering. “You think if I had a wife, my daughter would act the way she does? No, my old lady died years ago.” He clams up, and doesn’t say another word the entire trip into town.

I’m tempted to point out that I have no idea what his daughter is like, but decide the comment isn’t worth the time.

The town, if it can be called that, is nothing more than a group of ramshackle buildings, huddling together for safety.

Thomas stops in front of a building that stands bigger than the rest. On a pole is a wooden board with two images on it. The first is of someone sleeping in a bed, stylized ‘z’s floating over his head. The second image portrays the same man in bed, but this time there is a well-endowed woman riding him, a drink in her hand.

“Your daughter was at a brothel?” I ask, wondering what type of woman we’re going to save.

“It’s not what you think, young man,” he tells me irritably. “She just likes to visit.”

Uh-huh, I think, but keep the thought to myself.

“Listen, Stranger, me and the innkeeper kind of have a history, and it ain’t so great. You mind going in, and seeing what you can find out?” The way he says that, tells me he’s a bit embarrassed about whatever their past is.

Walking through the door, I’m hit in the face with the scents of heavy drink and unwashed bodies.

“What can I do you for, Traveler?” a solicitous voice says behind me. Spinning, ready for an attack, I have to consciously relax, when I see a woman in a low-cut blouse to emphasize her décolletage, and long curly blonde hair. From her demeanor, I know she’s no threat, despite what my blade tries to tell me. As with the young boy, I can’t seem to make out her face. I know this should bother me, but my head starts to hurt again, and I drop it for now.

“I’ve got this one, Mara,” another voice pipes in, and this time I can see the woman’s face, though that’s not the most startling aspect to her. She’s wearing tight black leather, which matches the shade of her black hair perfectly. Stiletto shoes give her some added height, and in her right hand is a coiled whip.

“Yes, Mistress,” Mara bows to the other woman, and scuttles away.

“I’m just looking for the innkeeper,” I tell the other women, slightly afraid of her.

She laughs almost wickedly before answering, “You’re in luck then, for you’ve found her.” She taps the coiled whip against her left hand as she ponders me. “You look like you can handle quite a bit.” Her brown eyes regard me hungrily, and I even see her lick her lips.

“Um, thanks,” I reply hesitantly, “but I need to find where they took the farmer’s daughter.” Since Thomas had said he had some sort of history with this woman, I’m trying to be careful and not drop his name. Although, now that I think on it, as small as this town is, she likely knows whose daughter I’m talking about anyway.

Her eyebrows knit together in scorn as she says, “You mean Thomas’s little chit? Ha! She could make a fortune working for me, but all she does is tease my customer’s, never really giving in to their demands. I guess my girls get some benefit from her being here, turning on our patrons, and allowing my girls to charge a little more. Her father couldn’t satisfy, though. Ha! He tried and tried, and I’ll give him points for stamina, but in the end . . . nothing.” Her dark eyes examine me again, taking in my leather armor and sword, and I see the hunger enter her eyes again. “Maybe you can satisfy me? If so, you’ll be the second.”

“I really just—“ I try to stop her, but she cuts me off.

“Satisfy me, Traveler, and I’ll tell you what you want to know. Otherwise the lord that took her will be having virgin tonight.” She grabs the front of my jerkin, and tries to pull me into a kiss, but my arms move faster, gripping her wrist, and spinning her about. Her body presses back into me, and she moans, our leather clothing rubbing together as she gyrates her hips.

Well, it’s not as though it’ll be a real hardship, I think, feeling her slender body in my arms. I shove her away a little harder than I need to, and she stumbles before me. She recovers quickly enough, and turns, ready to strike me with her whip.

The leathery tip whistles my way, and I somehow catch it before it strikes my face.

Kill her! Kill her while you still can! Let me taste her.

Shut up, I mentally command Muramasa. I’ll stab her with a different sword.

“How dare you treat me like this,” the innkeeper cries out, trying to yank her whip out of my hand.

Her strength is a lot less than mine is, and I yank her to me, using her own weapon. I catch her as she stumbles, and this time it’s me that pulls her into a kiss. She remains frozen for a second, before thawing slightly, and I feel her lips part to allow my tongue in.

Pulling back, I watch as she blinks in confusion. I use her distraction to yank the whip entirely out of her hands. While she’s off balance, I use her own weapon against her and tie her up.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she demands of me, anger smoldering in her brown eyes.

Looking around the room, I see a number of faceless people watching us. I feel the grin split my face before I consciously will it. She looks around the room as well, and I see panic enter her eyes.

“I think I’m going to get that information out of you,” I tell her cheerfully.

“No! Not out here in front of everyone. What I do, I do in private.” She tries to fight against her bonds, but it’s useless. The leather of the whip refuses to budge against the leather of her costume.

Pulling her over to a counter, I find a small knife sitting on the other side. Gripping it, I brandish it before her fearful eyes, before slipping it into a fold of her leather bellow where the whip is holding her captive, and start cutting.

“No! You can’t do this! I am the mistress here. I won’t be treated like this in my own place.” I turn her around as I continue to cut through her leather. The knife is sharp enough, but the leather is also sturdy, and it takes me a few moments to cut it away. I’m surprised at how little she’s really struggling, despite her words. Dropping the knife, I’m able to pull down the bottom half of her costume, and can smell her arousal.

Standing back up, I release the end of her whip and undo my trousers, letting them fall to my ankles with a clatter as Muramasa strikes the wood floor. I only step out with one leg, before bending her over the counter.

“Don’t you dare!” she cries out, belying her body’s reaction to my rough treatment. “Not out here!”

Pulling back my hand, I bring it down hard on her rump, making her cry out, and leaving a red handprint behind.

“You wanted me to satisfy you,” I whisper in her ear, leaning over her body and nestling my cock between her cheeks. “Now just shut up and take it.”

“No,” she cries again, and I can hear the tears in her voice. “Not out here! Everyone will see! At least take me back to one of the rooms.”

Grabbing the base of my cock, I begin to rub it up and down along her nearly dripping slit. She jumps at the first contact between our genitals, and I actually hear a slight whimper escape her throat.

“Mistress,” I hear Mara’s slight voice say close by, “do you want me to stop him?”

Wasting no more time, I drive my hips forward, impaling her cunt with my pole. Her head flips back, and I see her mouth forming a large ‘O’.

“Mistress?” Mara repeats, and the innkeeper just glares at the faceless woman until she backs away.

Taking another glance around the room, I see that we have everyone’s attention. A few faceless patrons even have their pricks out, stroking them to the beat of me slipping into this domineering woman.

“How dare you fuck me in front of everyone!” she yells back at me as I slip in and out of her tight cunt, but I can feel her start to move in time with my thrusts. “This is my job! I’m, ungh, the boss here. I, uh, make the rules. Oh God! You will not make me cum in front of . . . in front of . . . in. . . . Oh shit!”

Her pussy grips my phallus hard as her body shudders in the throes of passion. Apparently the thought of everyone watching her is enough to send her over the edge.

I feel renewed with vigor at the thought of being able to get this woman off. She’d said I was only the second, and I can’t feel too jealous about whoever the other person was.

I wait for her to finish shuddering, before I pull out, and aim for her other hole.

“Wait! No, you can’t. I charge extra for that. You can’t—ungh.” She drops her head to the countertop, as I slip inch after inch of my meat into her anus, relishing the feeling of her tight sphincter slowly sliding up my rod. “No, no, no. . . .” she says repeatedly; until I land a slapping blow on her other cheek. Making her jump, and her anus tighten deliciously on my cock.

“You’re going to be a good little girl, and tell me what I want to know, aren’t you,” I don’t ask, but state.

She nods her head, but that’s not good enough for me. Reaching forward, I grip the back of the collar of her top with my right hand, and a handful of her dark hair with the other. Pulling back on both, I stand her upright, enjoying the new angle this causes her colon to take around my schlong. “Say it,” I command her, and then have to stifle a moan as my command makes her colon tighten as she has a minor orgasm.

“Yes,” she gasps, and I realize I’m choking her with her own top by pulling back on it. I don’t let up.

“Louder,” I command her, pulling my hips back, and slamming them forward, pounding into her ass to emphasize my desire.

Yes, Master!” she tries to scream. I loosen my grip on her collar, but pull back more on her hair.

“Where did they go?” I ask my obedient slave.

Reaching around her body, I somehow already know that her pussy is bald, and easily find her clit. I place my finger against it, but don’t move it, or apply pressure while I wait for her answer.
“They . . . they went north, Master,” she says around moans, trying to move her cunt against my hand.

“Good girl,” I whisper, nipping lightly at her ear. “You can cum now,” I give her permission, as I pinch her clitoris between two fingers.

Her wail of pleasure rebounds off the walls, and I see some of her patrons start to fire off their seed as they cum too. Her rear clamps down hard on my tool, and I’m soon firing off into her colon, grunting with each spurt.

I pull out of her ass, and realize there is still one final step to her conversion. “Get on your knees and clean my cock,” I command her, as I loosen the whip still bound tightly around her torso.

She doesn’t even hesitate, before dropping to her knees in front of me, gripping my softening cock, and starts cleaning it with her mouth. I notice that it is clean of anything untoward, before it disappears between her lips.

I can feel her tongue swirling around the tip of my over-sensitized phallus, and decide to pull out of her mouth. Leaning over, I grip her cheeks in my hand, and stare into her brown eyes. Not a trace of defiance is left, only complete submission. “That was very good, innkeeper. Now I want you to finish off any other patrons that haven’t gotten off to our little show.”

“Sheila, master,” she says quietly. “My name is Sheila. Will you ever come back?”

Pulling up my trousers, I turn and walk out, without giving her an answer, but something about her name tickles the back of my mind. What is it about her that—my mind grows thick with fog again, and I dismiss it.

A young woman bumps into me as I try to leave. “I’m sorry, mister,” she mumbles an apology, and I feel her hand at my waist. Gripping her wrist, I pull it away, before she can draw Muramasa.

“You don’t want to do that,” I growl at her, looking down into a young face framed by brown hair. Two blue eyes refuse to meet mine.

“Help!” the girl screams. “Rape!”

“Ha, ha,” a faceless male patron behind me scoffs at her. “We already know his worth. And the rest of us know your thieving ways, Ondy. It’s about time someone caught you.”

Without releasing her wrist, I drag her out of the brothel.

“Did she tell you?” the older farmer asks as I walk out, ignoring the struggling girl in my grasp. “I heard some yelling in there. Did you have to get rough?”

I chuckle lightly as I answer him, “You could say that. It was definitely some lord, and he took your daughter north.”

“Who’s this?” he asks, finally noticing the girl.

“A little thief,” I tell the farmer. “What should we do with her?”

“We can’t take her with us,” the man says, but I see he is eyeing the younger woman. “It’ll be too dangerous.”

“I can fight!” the girl states, twisting her arm just right, and escaping my grip. “Let me help you. It’s the least I can do to make up for trying to rob you.”

I look doubtfully at her, but she had escaped my grip.

“You can fight?” the farmer echoes my thoughts.

“I can!” she exclaims indignantly. “Let me borrow your sword,” she says, turning to me, “and I’ll show you.”

I grip the hilt of Muramasa protectively as I glare at her. “You don’t know what you’re asking for, girl.” I turn to Thomas, but he already knows what I’m going to ask, and nods. “Test your skills bare handed against him,” I tell the thief.

“But he has a. . . .” she trails off as Thomas removes the sword from his hip and hands it to me. She barely even waits for him to let go, before springing her attack.

I can tell right away that she has speed on her side, as the veteran farmer barely blocks her fist. She aims a kick for his hip, but he scoots back, and her foot passes harmlessly by. With her now off-balance, Thomas takes advantage, and delivers a quick open-handed blow to her back.

Ondy stumbles forward, but recovers quickly and with grace. This time she’s wary as she faces her opponent, trying to get a better grasp of his skills. The two trade precise blows, blocking and dodging as necessary, while gauging each other’s capabilities.

Where did the old man learn to fight like that, I wonder, and then remember that he’d been in some war. Still, it doesn’t seem to sit right that he’s this good.

I see him slowing, and she notices it too. With a triumphant yell, she dodges around a weakened jab, and goes in for the final strike.

Thomas nearly blurs, and before I know it, Ondy yelps and is on her back. Thomas is sitting on her stomach, her arms held against her sides by the older man’s legs.

“Yield,” Ondy cries out, seeing the game is lost.

The older farmer gets up, and I hand his sword back to him.

“You’re fast, girl, but you’re also impatient.” He reaches down, and offers her a hand up. She disdains it, and gets back up on her own.

“You tricked me,” she complains.

Thomas laughs heartily, before replying. “In a fight for your life, never assume you know your opponent. They just might surprise you.”

“But we weren’t fighting for our lives. It was just a little sparring,” she defends herself.

Thomas scowls at her, and his tone grows deadly serious. “Every fight is a fight for your life. Don’t forget that.” He sucks in a deep breath, and continues in a more moderate tone, “You’re welcome to come with us; I guess we could use your help. You know how to fight, but you also have a lot to learn.”

Thomas turns north, and I fall into step next to him. A couple seconds later, Ondy comes running back up to us. “Will you teach me?” she asks Thomas, and he only grunts in assent. “I don’t have a weapon.” She says next, and without looking, the old man produces a dagger from nowhere, and hands it to her. This man is more dangerous than I’d originally given him credit for.

The woman slips the dagger into a sash around her hip, and we walk for a ways in silence. Ondy proves her worth, as she finds tracks on the edge of town, heading north.

Straight into a forbidding looking forest. Yay.

“We should go around,” Ondy states, but Thomas shakes his head.

“My daughter’s in there, and I’m going to get her back.” His tone is so adamant, that I decide not to argue.

“I know these woods,” Ondy declares unhappily. “If we run into any problems, let me do the talking.”

Keeping one hand on the hilt of Muramasa, and both eyes open, I follow Thomas and Ondy into the dark forest.

The first sign of trouble comes from Ondy, as she yelps, and jumps back, brandishing her dagger. A shadowy form steps out onto the path, their features obscured by the gloom of the area. I can tell that this person at least has a face.

“Leave your weapons and all your money and we’ll let you leave with your lives.” A slight breeze blows through, and a shaft of light pierces the branches, giving me a quick look at her face. Short brown hair and a blue eye. Her left eye is covered by an eye patch, and I have just enough time to make out a crossbow in her hands, before the light is blocked again.

She also has the biggest knockers I’ve ever seen on a woman, her bodice is cut low to take full advantage of her incredible cleavage.

“I’m just trying to find my daughter,” Thomas yells to the woman, ignoring Ondy’s indignant hiss at not being allowed to talk first. “Did you see her come by here? Some men took her.”

The woman laughs throatily before answering. “You mean that little slip of a thing riding in that lordly man’s lap? Didn’t look to me like she wanted rescuing.” She laughs again, and there’s a coldness to it this time. “Of course, she was also out cold, but the man’s hands were all over her.”

“You bitch,” the farmer screams, drawing his sword and charging the woman.

She lazily lifts her crossbow, and I barely have time to shout a warning before she fires the quarrel at him.

A loud clang resounds through the forest, and I’m certain the bolt is lodged in the man’s breastplate. His sword clatters to the ground, and I see him hunch over, holding his hands close to his chest.

“She only has one bolt,” Thomas gasps. “Get her before she can reload.”

Before I can begin to move, the trees and leaves around us rustle, and I watch as faceless people step out of the shadows, some holding crossbows and regular bows, some holding daggers and swords.

In the time it takes me to notice the rest of the bandits, Ondy has moved over to check on Thomas.

“Is he okay?” I ask, still wary to draw Muramasa.

“I’m fine!” he yells. “Damn bitch hit the guard and knocked my blade out of my hands.”

I breathe easier as I hear those words.

“Look,” I say, addressing the well-endowed woman, “We don’t want any trouble. We’re just trying to retrieve his daughter. We have no money, and our weapons aren’t worth your effort.”

“Any weapon is worth the effort, stranger, even the sword between your legs,” she laughs back at me, “or is that one only a little dagger, not worth anything more than buttering my bread? ’Course that one on your hip looks rather nice as well.”

“This blade is cursed,” I inform her. “Believe me when I say I would hand it over if I could.” I look around at all the faceless bandits, trying to formulate a plan. “What will it take to leave here unmolested?”

“It’s too late for that, but for a bit of entertainment, we may let you leave with your gear,” her almost too quick reply makes me worried.

“What kind of entertainment?” Ondy asks worriedly. As the only woman in our group, she has the most to lose.

“Sorry, sweety,” the bandit leader quips, “you aren’t my type, and I have plenty of men to satisfy me if I want.” She starts to unlimber her shoulders, turning her neck from side-to-side, and I have a feeling I know where this is going. “How’s about we go one-on-one, to the death. You win, and you walk free. I win. . . . Well, if I win, let’s just say I’ll end up with your stuff anyway.”

“I accept,” I say easily, confident I can beat this one eyed woman. I walk over to pick up Thomas’s sword, but he yells at me to stop.

“No,” he tells me. “She disarmed me with her little trick. I need to regain some honor, and I don’t want anyone else touching my sword.”

He picks up his blade, or tries to. His right hand doesn’t seem to want to properly wrap around the grip, but he only grunts and picks it up with his left hand. Giving it a few practice swings, he faces the bandit leader, sword up and ready. I just hope he’s good enough with his left hand.

“You’re hurt,” Ondy exclaims. “Don’t do it.” When he doesn’t respond to her, she turns to me, and I can see the pleading in her eyes. When did she start caring so much? “You can’t let him do this. I know who she is!” She flings her arm out, pointing at the female bandit. “That’s Jenny of the Large Pennies. She’s a dead shot with any bow, and nearly as good with a blade. She’ll kill him.”

“Not nearly as good, darling,” Jenny says sweetly, “better.”

I understand Thomas’s position, though, and know he needs to do this for his honor. If anyone else fights for him, he will lose even more face.

“Take care of my daughter, Stranger. Thanks for your help to this point.” The man’s words are solemn, and I take it he’s heard of her too.

“The name’s Lyden Snow,” I tell him, at least wanting him to know whom he’s traveling with.

Everyone suddenly freezes, staring at me and even Ondy backs away, covering her mouth in worry.

“That’s a poor joke to make, friend,” Thomas states, then turns back to his foe, closing the distance in only a couple steps.

Those two steps are all the warning Jenny gets, but it’s enough, and her blade blurs as it comes out of its sheath, and meets his blade, edge-to-edge. Her riposte is quick and hard, knocking Thomas backwards a step. I actually wonder that the bandit is able to move with such ease, with such a large chest, but when she somehow gets behind Thomas and bumps into him with her breasts, knocking him down, I see she uses them as an asset, rather than a hindrance.

I also see that she’s just playing with the older man. There’s no doubt that he’s a skilled swordsman, even left-handed, but she’s younger, quicker, and more agile. She also has a surprising amount of strength in her attacks. I watch as Thomas’s attacks grow weaker and weaker, hoping that he’s using the same ruse he’d used on Ondy earlier.

Sure enough, just when it looks like he’s done for, he springs his final attack.

A painfully cracking clang reverberates through the trees, and something shiny strikes the dirt in front of me. Looking closer, I see it’s the remains of Thomas’s blade.

My head snaps back up as Ondy cries, “No!

Thomas is staring at the four inches of steel above the guard in shock. He collapses to his knees, and I can just make out a trickle of blood seeping from his cheek.

I quickly grab Ondy before she can take off, and she starts to fight me, as Jenny places the blade at his throat. Her eye meets mine, and suddenly I feel like I know who she really is. Flashes of memory start to seep through the fog that’s been surrounding my mind.

“Jennifer?” I ask, struggling to recall how I know her.

“Lyden? What—“ her words are cut off as Thomas uses the distraction to ram the remains of his blade through her neck, and into her brain.

NO!” This time it’s me screaming the words, as I watch the woman I once knew fall to the ground, lifeless. I can’t hold onto Ondy any longer, and she rushes over to Thomas, pulling him into a hug. I feel the fog start to creep back in, obscuring my mind and forcing my memories away.

I begin crawling over to them, but by the time I reach Thomas and Ondy, I can’t remember why I’m crying. The bandit leader is dead, and her cohorts have retreated into the forest, staying true to her word. I should be happy, but the tears won’t stop.

Raiding a dead body is a hard thing to do, but we end up with her blade and crossbow, along with a small bundle of quarrels, and a bag full of coins. We’ve won our freedom, so why am I still so sad?

“We’d better get moving,” Thomas states, shaking my shoulders and reminding me that we’re not out of the woods yet. Penny of the Large Pennies is dead, but her bandit crew could still be lurking in the trees.

“But your cheek,” Ondy states. “You’re injured!”

The old farmer wipes his cheek with the back of his hand, smearing blood across it, but also showing that it’s nothing more than a scratch.

Thomas complains that his new sword isn’t as good as his old one, making sure that anyone around can hear how knowledgeable he is about such weapons, until we see the edge of the tree line.

Even after we get out of the forest, we continue walking, well after the sun has gone down.

====================
Chapter 19 is already posted, go read it now!

Why are you still here? To leave a comment? Well, okay, I don't mind if you do. Chapter 19 will still be there when you're done.
17 comments

Anonymous readerReport

2014-03-21 04:30:53
At the final mention of Jenny of the Large Pennies the editor didn't catch the mistake. It says Penny of the large Pennies. At least it doesn't say Penny of the large Jennies.

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