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Introduction:

Dreaming of Escaping
Captured by an overwhelming force, unable to talk, and facing an execution in the morning, Lyden despairs of ever being with his loved ones again. An escape plan hatches, but one will fall before freedom is reached.

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Chapter 27
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Dreaming of Escaping

“It hurts,” Brooke’s soft voice reaches my ears, and I sit up, looking around. “Oh, how it hurts!” The familiar blankness of my mindscape surrounds me, and I see Brooke sitting down, her knees drawn up to her chest as she rocks herself back and forth.

Walking over to her, I place my hand on her shoulder, and she jumps away from me, before looking around in surprise. Apparently she hadn’t known she’d come here. Did I bring her here? If so, I hadn’t done it consciously.

“Oh, Lyden,” she cries into my shoulder as she flings her arms about me. “They were horrible. I was able to fool them, until they threw me into a tank of saltwater. The way they jeered at me, and beat me. . . . Oh, Lyden, what are we going to do?”

I open my mouth before remembering my destroyed tongue.

Then shake my head, realizing that in here I’m whole.

“You’re okay, now,” I whisper, thankful to hear my own voice. Slowly I pat her head and back, until she calms down and pulls away from me.

“You don’t understand. They broke my feet and knees, laughing as I screamed for mercy!” She shudders as she hugs me again.

Anger boils up deep inside me at this revelation, and I send my mind out for my other friends, hoping to pull them in here as well. To my surprise, my father appears.

“Shemhazau?” I ask, not entirely comfortable calling him Dad out loud.

The man looks down at himself, examining his hands and chest, before looking back up at me, and laughing uproariously. Brooke stays huddled to my side, as she looks worriedly at the man.

“I guess whatever spell they have me shielded with doesn’t apply to this place,” he says, strolling forward and pulling Brooke and I into a hug. “Ah, you have no idea how good it feels to be in my old body, even if it’s in the Mens Mundi.”

“Mens Mundi?” I ask, not understanding.

“Mind world in Latin,” he explains. “That’s the name of this place. Oh, I know you call it a mindscape, and that works too. Either way, I already feel myself growing stronger. I was afraid I was going to expire in their little lab.”

Part of me feels guilty about forgetting that he has to stay in close proximity to me, or risk fading away, but I’ve had a lot on my mind lately.

“Is there any way you can break free?” I ask hopefully. If he can get out, then our escape will be assured.

His crest fallen face gives away the answer. “I’m being held by some sort of spell that keeps me locked in. I’m afraid you’re going to have to come get me.”

“Dang it!” I curse, stomping my foot. Is nothing going to be easy?

“You know, son. I find it odd, considering your current lifestyle, that you draw the line at properly swearing,” Shemhazau says critically of me. “A well placed swear word, or curse, can go a long way.”

“It’s a respect thing,” I tell him off-handedly, not wanting to get into it now.

“What’s going to happen to us?” Brooke asks, and the fear in her voice tears me apart.

“Come on, assassin,” my father says, surprisingly trying to build her up, “It’s not like one of your kind to give up that easily. You’re not dead, yet.”

I feel the redhead stiffen at the rebuke in his tone, before pulling away from me, and straightening her clothes.

“You’re right, Shemhazau, but my knees and feet are broken. I’ll be no help to you.” Her tone is formal as she addresses the man she’d once been ordered to kill.

Her injuries are going to make things nearly impossible to manage.

“And you’re going to let that stop you from trying to save the man you love?” he replies cheerily. If it’s possible, Brooke’s spine stiffens even more.

“No,” she replies in icy tones. “No I won’t.”

“Where am I?” a new voice breaks the air, and I turn to see Jennifer strolling forward, fully nude. Once again, I’m shocked by the sheer size of her chesticles, as they hang heavily on her chest.

“Very nice!” my father whistles at the sight of her.

She merely looks down at herself, and shrugs before striking a pose. “You like? Well, you can’t afford me, old man.”

I can’t help but laugh at her brazen attitude, or at my dad’s shocked expression.

“How did they treat you?” I ask, hoping she received better treatment because she’s human.

“Eh, a little roughly, but nothing I couldn’t handle. The bath at first was rather nice, and I didn’t mind all those men leering at me.” She leans in close as if to share a secret, but talks loud enough for everyone to hear. “Got me quite wet, to be honest with you. I was half-tempted to diddle myself when they finally returned me to my cell, but didn’t want to give them a free show. . . . Well, more of a show than they already had,” she finishes, looking down at herself again and hefting one of her large melons.

“You know,” Shemhazau says solicitously, sidling up to Jennifer, “I used to be the ruler of the succubae. I’m certain I could show you a thing or twenty.”

“Dad!” I shout, before I can think better of it.

“You’re his father?” Jennifer says, trailing one finger down his chest seductively, before pushing him gently away. “Sorry, I don’t do families.” She laughs as she turns back to me. “Thank you for giving me this body, Lyden. It’s so much fun!”

“Ahem,” Brooke clears her throat. “I think there are more pressing matters to attend to.”

“Right,” Jennifer states, becoming serious, “how are we getting out of here, Lyden-Pooh?”

Lyden-Pooh? Really?

From her laugh, I know she’s just teasing me. Apparently she really was treated better than Brooke was.

“Are you kept together, or separate?” I ask, trying to get the conversation back on track.

“Separate,” Brooke replies.

“How did you end up getting captured?” I ask Jennifer, remembering that she hadn’t been there when I’d gone to save Areth.

“I saw the news reports, and thought you might be in the middle of it, so grabbed my rifle. When I saw your car, I went for it. They caught me just as I was getting ready to open the door.” That figures, I think. At least Ondine and Areth escaped. Ondine wasn’t there, and Areth should be safe in the Shadow World. Well, as safe as anyone is there.

“None of this tells us how we’re getting out of here,” Shemhazau states, making no secret of his ogling Jennifer. It doesn’t help that she notices and keeps posing for him. What a tease I created!

He’s right of course. Mentally I summon a chair, and sit in it, as I try to figure things out. We‘re all trapped in separate cells, no idea where the others are, and to make matters worse, two of us will be executed in the morning.

“I’m sure you can come up with something,” Lisa says, stepping into view. Trust her to be confident in me, when things are hopeless.

By the time Becky and Richard show up, no one else has any ideas, and I still haven’t come up with anything.

Thankfully, Jewkes’s mind had been hard at work, and he has a plan in mind that’s so crazy, it just might work. Okay, I know that saying is a bit cliché, but as we hammer out the details, I have to admit it’ll take a miracle to pull it off.

The only other option is imprisonment and death.

* * *

The rattling of my cell door wakens me, and groggily, I sit up. My body is stiff from having lain on the cot wrong, and being in the Mens Mundi all night doesn’t help. Despite this, a nervous energy seeps into me, as I contemplate what I need to do.

Of course, it would have to be Paladin Brock’s grinning ugly mug that I wake up to.

“Get out of bed, thing,” he greets me with an uneven grin. “I’m in a particularly good mood, wanna know why?”

I glance at him groggily, as I head for the door. I can feel my tongue is whole in my mouth again, but I’m not willing to let him know. My stomach rumbles, and part of me wishes that the Mens Mundi would feed me as well as heal me.

“Oh, that’s right. Your tongue doesn’t work anymore,” he mimics sounding sad about that, but his quick grin is back in a second. “I’m in a good mood, because it’s not every day that we get to kill two of your ilk. Too bad the one is a mermaid. I’d love to have a go at her, even if her titties are a bit small, but at least the one with the massive knockers is human. We’re going to have fun with her after we put you down.” He’s treating me more like an animal, than a . . . well, okay, so I’m not human, but I still don’t deserve this treatment. I know he’s just trying to goad me into attacking him, though his words still anger me.

I do my best to act defeated and downtrodden, shaking my head as if I’m despairing. I catch myself tapping my fingers on my leg as we walk, and have to forcibly stop. So many things can go wrong, and my palms are growing sweaty as empty cells pass by.

“Quit dawdling!” Brock shouts, shoving me with the barrel of his shotgun. Stumbling forward a few steps, I have to catch myself against a wall, before I can continue walking again down the wide hallway.

Part of me wants to turn and yell at the paladin for his behavior, but I resist, only letting a grunt escape my lips as I pick up my pace.

So many things can go wrong, I remind myself. Stick to the plan.

My heart is thumping so loud in my chest; I’m surprised that Brock doesn’t chew me out for that. By the time we exit through a new set of large metal doors—not as large as the wooden ones outside the audience hall, but still bigger than normal—I’m a nervous wreck. Any moment now, I’m certain that Brock will know that I have something planned, and shoot me between the shoulder blades. I know his finger is just itching to fire.

What if the plan doesn't work? Maybe the prophecy is wrong, or about someone else? Perhaps my life, and Brooke's, ends here.

“How was this one?” someone asks my guard while I attempt to get my eyes accustomed to the sudden sunlight.

“I’m surprised it hasn’t pissed itself, it’s been so scared,” Brock laughs, and it takes some serious effort not to laugh with him. He thinks I’m afraid of the execution! “Move it!” he tells me again with another harsh shove.

My eyes have adjusted enough to see that we’re in a large courtyard. A walkway is open before me, lined by men of every size and description. Men in business suits stand next to fully armored knights, which are chatting with men dressed in everyday clothes. I realize that the Paladonic Knights have infiltrated every aspect of society. I even see a man in rags that looks like he might be homeless. No wonder they were able to get Miranda out of jail. There are probably a number of judges and politicians here as well.

I can hear the pathway close behind us as we walk towards a metal pavilion in the middle of the courtyard. Brooke is already there, her red curls sitting lank on her head in the sunlight. She’s been strapped to a makeshift carry, keeping her upright. Shouldn’t she be healed up after last night, like I am? Our plan doesn’t call for her to be healthy, but looking into her green eyes, I’m worried that she’s still suffering.

Someone jeers as I slowly climb the steps, and I can sense Brooke’s hopeful gaze on me. More jeers follow, but my eyes are locked on a very large man, his hairy chest bare to the sky. A black hood covers his face, and a long shiny sword is in his hands. I have little doubt that the blade is made of silver. As far as I know, I have no aversions to silver, but a sharp blade is still a sharp blade. Another much smaller man is leaning over the weapon, muttering something and pouring water along its length. I can sense an aura of power around him, and I’m surprised to recognize Emmet.

Two loud thumps break through the sound of the crowd, and I look up to see the Grand Meister on a platform leaning out over the crowd, up on one wall. The sight of the rest of my friends with him is comforting, despite their worried looks. Unfortunately, my sword isn’t with them. How am I going to find it? Neither is Miranda.

“Lyden and Brooke,” the Grand Meister intones, and his voice carries across the open space with ease, “you have been found guilty of entering this world that humans rule by right. Of creating havoc and chaos, and of causing the deaths of numerous true humans.” He pauses for dramatic effect, before asking, “Do you have anything to say for yourselves?”

I open my mouth, and try to gargle angrily, not an easy thing to do, before shutting my mouth. I have to keep up the ruse about my tongue.

Brooke tosses her head defiantly before responding. “You call yourselves human, yet act like animals. Those deaths were not our fault, and we’ve done nothing to be condemned like this, without any true trial. You’re all a bunch of bigoted fools, killing us only because of what we are. Racists of the worst kind—“ Brock steps forward, cutting her off with a sound slap to the face.

This is my cue.

I don’t have to feign anger, as I roar, stepping forward, and throwing the man off the platform with a little too much zeal as he flies ten feet and crashes into a group of knights in armor. Emmet tries to grab hold of me, as I grip the ropes holding Brooke up and snap them with ease. Finally, I’m able to let my strength show after being in the Mens Mundi for so long with everyone else. I shake the healer free of me, as Brooke takes a step away on perfectly healthy legs.

“I thought I’d never get them to interrupt me,” she says, dazzling her beautiful smile at me. I hadn’t liked this part of the plan, but understood its necessity. First impressions of the event would look like I’d gone crazy at her being attacked, and our other companions should remain fairly safe for a bit, but the next step in our plan is the trickiest. We need to act fast.

Hugging the mermaid to me, I concentrate on the form I want, and hope this works. Jewkes and Shemhazau had been pretty sure last night, stating that since I could pull out just my wings, I should be able to partially change into a dragon in other ways.

The only thing telling me there is a change is that I suddenly feel heavier. Opening my eyes, I look down, and see that Brooke is gone. So are my clothes, and my human skin. Solid brown scales, tinged with blue, shimmer as they cover me from head to toe, I can feel the weight of my wings on my back, and for some reason I feel taller and heavier than I think I should be. I ignore that, as I look up to the balcony that my friends and the Grand Meister are on.

The ruler of the Paladonic Knights meets my eyes, and what I see makes me hesitate for only a moment. He is not afraid. I squat down, ready to leap for the balcony as guns fire in my direction. My scales are proof against them, even Brock’s blessed shotgun, as I launch myself into the air, spreading my wings to help guide me.

Terrible pain lances through my right foot, and I look down to see the executioner with his blade coming back around to swing again if he gets the chance. Blood trickles from a clean slice along the bottom of my foot.

“What the hell is happening?”a male voice rings out in my head, filled with pain.

“Who are you?” Brooke asks worriedly at the same time I ask, “Emmet?”

I thought I’d shaken him off me, but he must have grabbed me at the moment I changed forms. Dang it! I don’t have time to change back, kick him away, and change again. I guess I have one more passenger than I intended.

I land carefully on the balcony, cautious of my wounded foot, in time to see the Grand Meister grab Lisa, placing a dagger against her throat. Everybody else rushes to me, doing what he or she can to touch me in some way. Naturally, Jennifer grips my large scaly cock in one of her strong hands.

“You surprise me, Lyden,” my enemy says, his voice still calm despite me towering over him. “I’ve never known a creature from your world to care about humans enough to risk themselves to save them.”

“Let her go, and I won’t kill you,” I say, trying to match his calm voice, and failing miserably in my fear for Lisa and my anger at the way we’ve been treated. Lisa’s eyes are large, and I can see a trickle of blood seep from where the blade is pressed firmly against her throat. He means business. As talented as she is as a martial artist, I can’t see how she’s going to escape this on her own.

“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” the man continues to talk evenly. “You see, I know that if I let her go, then you’ll either break your word and kill me, or flee. Either way, I can’t let that happen.”

Thus far, we’ve been mostly alone up here, but I can hear knights yelling and clamoring as they try to reach this spot where their Grand Meister is in trouble.

The pain in my right foot lets me know that I’m not immune to all their weapons, and I realize the powerful man is stalling.

Lisa realizes it as well, and as our eyes meet, I can see her intentions.

NO!” I scream, lunging forward at the same time she twists in his arms and thrusting an elbow into his gut. The movement also causes the sharp blade to slide across her throat, and her life’s blood seeps out while the Grand Meister doubles over, coughing.

Thankfully everyone else lunges with me, having been prepared for anything, and as I pull the dying blonde into my arms, I finish my transformation into full dragon, tongue and all.

The platform shudders as I furiously step forward, and with a quick snap of my jaws, I swallow the Grand Meister’s head.

“No!” another voice echoes in my mind, and I mentally shut Emmet away, fashioning a metal prison in my mind for him. After so long with Muramasa, trapping the man’s consciousness away is an easy thing.

My throat hurts, and I can feel a trickle of warmth slide down my chest, but I know that Lisa’s wound won’t kill me. What had been a deep cut for her, is but a shallow scratch in my present form.

“Lyden . . .” Lisa’s voice sounds sweet in my head, “how?”

“This is so weird,” Jennifer says. “I know how good it feels to have you in me, Lyden, but I have to admit it hurts to be in you. My neck and foot are killing me.”

I mentally block the voices out, as I see someone coming into the back of the platform. Sucking in deeply, I bellow out flame, immediately burning to a crisp whoever was there, and setting the whole wall aflame.

Son! My father’s voice fills my mind, and I look around, thinking to find him close.

“Where are you?” I try to ask, but a dragon’s tongue isn’t designed for human speech.

I’m still trapped, but my mind is free somehow. I can sense you above me. It must have been the Grand Meister, or something about him that was blocking communication with my father outside of the Mens Mundi.

Without hesitating, I launch myself from the balcony, smiling as little knights scatter before me. Bellowing out more flame, I clear a path to the doorway, and I’m thankful for the large doors and pathways as I barrel through, following my father’s guidance.

I have to slim down a bit to make it through two flights of stairs before I finally burst through a brick wall, into the room with Murasame. Four men in robes who honestly look like wizards, surround the sword, chanting in a singsong voice. A bluish glow surrounds the two-toned blade as it floats above the ground between the wizards. As the dust settles from my entrance, none of the wizards move, or stop their chanting.

“I had a feeling you’d come for your evil weapon, monster,” a tenor voice rings out, and I whip my head to the side to see Miranda standing there, with nothing less than a double bladed axe on her shoulder. The edge of the blades reflect the light of the room, and I’m afraid this weapon might hurt me, much as the executioner’s sword had. “Move a muscle, and I won’t hesitate to kill you.”

WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? I mentally demand of her. LET ME TAKE MY SWORD, AND I’LL LEAVE WITHOUT HURTING ANYONE ELSE. She might be able to hurt me with her axe, but not before I fry her.

“Ha, like your promises can be trusted.” She raises her weapon high, and charges at me. “Now die!”

Pursing my draconian lips, I do my best to control my fire, regretting the fact that I have to kill her. She has been a nuisance in my side, sure, but that alone isn’t enough reason to end her life. Molten hot flames engulf the woman, draining my energy some, and to her credit she doesn’t even scream.

In fact, a second later, I have to dodge quickly to avoid having my skull split in two.

“What the fuck?” I hear Jennifer demand mentally, reminding me that there are passengers in my head.

“The Sisters of Respite are immune to most otherworldly abilities,” Emmet’s voice states a moment later. I remember having difficulty reading her when she’d interrogated me, and now I know why. “I have no problems dying in here, if it means your death too, monster.”

Somehow his voice doesn’t sound like he really means it. In fact, it almost sounds like he’s saying it, only because he knows he’s supposed to act defiantly.

Miranda swings at me again, and I lose a talon on my right paw as one of her blades severs it cleanly off.

Howls of pain echo in my mind, and I flip around, catching her with my tail. She only stumbles back from a grazing blow. How has she gotten so agile?

She stops attacking long enough to look at the other wizards. “Well, come on. Help me kill it!” She doesn’t waste any time in seeing if they obey, but a moment later a chunk of ice slams into my flank, knocking me off balance, and I barely avoid having my neck opened wider than it already is.

“You can’t leave the circle,” one of the wizards bellows. “This sword is too—ungh!”

A flash of light precedes a small explosion, and all the humans are knocked flat from the shockwave.

Ah, it’s good to be free! Shemhazau’s voice rings loudly in my head. A purplish spot interferes with my vision from where the blast had been, but I know the sword is no longer trapped. A quick glance at my remaining talons shows that they’ve changed to reflect the chrome and midnight black coloring of the blade. Apparently the sword’s magic allows it to join with me, without me willing it. Muramasa had been like that.

Deciding that now is as good a time as any, while everyone else is laid out flat, I turn my bulk around, and head for the exit.

Somehow, Miranda beats me there. Agile and fast, she must have some serious training to be able to fight like this with her weapon. Why had it been so easy to capture her when she’d tried to assassinate Jewkes and me? She’s still holding the double-edged weapon in her hands, blocking my path.

I DON’T WANT TO KILL YOU, I telepathically tell her, BUT I WILL IF YOU LEAVE ME NO CHOICE.

Grimly she holds her weapon ready, tightening her grip, and I know I have my answer.

I inhale deeply, knowing my fiery breath can’t harm her, but intending to blind her with it before my attack, when unexpectedly she crumples to her knees.

I stare at her innate form for a moment, unsure of what just happened, until I see a golden glow zoom in and pick up a large rock by the unconscious woman’s head. Well, large in Areth’s hands, at any rate.

“Ya miss me?” the tiny pixie asks cheerily.

“Areth!” I try to say, once again forgetting my forked tongue.

She flutters over to the axe, and I see her place her hand on the shaft. To my utter amazement, it shrinks down to her size, and then she blurs towards me, landing on my head, before stating, “As much as I’m enjoying this reunion, I think we’d better get out of here. I can’t fight everyone with this enchanted axe.”

Enchanted axe? That explains Miranda’s prowess as a fighter.

I do my best to step over Miranda, but between missing toe, the pain in my right foot and the cut along my neck, I accidently nick her with one of my chrome and black claws. An odd shiver runs up my body as a spot of blood wells up where I scratched her arm.

“Oh, that’s good!” Shemhazau moans into my mind, and I feel a new flood of energy course through my veins. This isn’t like the energy I get when someone has an orgasm, but something entirely different. The sensation settles into my scales, and almost makes them feel tighter, like I’m too big for my skin.

Shaking off the sensation, I rush out of the hole I’d made in the wall, around a corner, and directly into a knot of knights. They’d obviously heard me coming, or were just that prepared, as the front row has a shield wall up, and long lances poke out above the barricade. They begin to slowly advance towards me, and I bellow an experimental gout of flame at them. Their tall tower shields block and deflect my fire, and I have to back up, to refrain from getting poked.

Then I notice the heat coming from the metal blockade, and blow harder, heating up their shields as they continue towards me.

“You’re going to kill them!” Emmet shrieks from his prison in my mind.

“If we don’t kill them, they’ll kill us,” Brooke angrily informs the man.

“No, there’s another way!” I can tell he’s desperate now, but I don’t relent on my attack, until I have to suck in more air. Their shields are a cherry red color now, but they’re not stopping. “You can put them to sleep,” Emmet continues to call to me. “I know the spell, just repeat after me.” He begins to make a series of sounds consisting of hums and ahhs, reminiscent but different from the spell that’d kept my sword in limbo.

“You’re just trying to get us killed,” Brooke snaps at the man, and I hear a mental sound like someone slapping bars.

“No, this is the spell!” he pleads with the mermaid and continuing his strange song.

Ignoring them, I put all of my effort into my next flame breath, but feel winded and tired.

“Stop it!” Jewkes cries out, and I can hear him yawn. “You’re putting us to sleep!”

I have to blink to clear my head, but the man does as he’s told, and just in time, as my tail bumps into a wall. I’m running out of room to retreat.

“Any other bright ideas?” Areth asks me, hefting her new axe, unaware of the battle inside me.

SING, I command her, mentally sending her the sounds Emmet had been making, and doing my best to make the sounds in my own throat. Luckily my tongue’s not needed for these sounds, and I see the knights stop in confusion as Areth’s and my voice comes together. Micro-moments later, they slowly slump to the ground, some of them even snoring softly, overwhelmed by our combined power.

KEEP SINGING, I order the fairy atop my head as I leap over the knights, and start heading up the stairway. No one else appears, until we exit back into the large courtyard.

A line of men, seven wide, stands before us, dressed in casual clothing.

“It’s the seven!” Emmet wails piteously. “We’re doomed!” Apparently he doesn’t want to die after all.

Ignoring him, I pick up the sleep spell/song with Areth, concentrating on putting these men to sleep.

“It won’t work. Three of them are casting spells already to stop any magical attacks, three others will be preparing an attack, and the last one gives the orders,” Emmet informs me, and I stop singing. A well organized attack unit. Marchosias had been right when he’d said they were dangerous.

Just to test the theory, I send a column of flame at them, and then stop immediately when a powerful gust of wind sends it back at me. Luckily I appear to be immune to my own flame. At least, externally.

I don’t see any swords, spears, or for that matter, any type of weapon that can pierce my hide, and decide to charge right at them.

Something tingles along my body and eyes open wide in shock as I knock them aside like bowling pins. Four of them go down, and only one gets back to his feet, but by this time I’m already climbing the sides of the courtyard, the open sky above me.

That had been easier than I’d thought.

Lightning crackles, and fireballs fly past me, but their aim must be off, because none of them strike me. I must have scared them more than I thought, for them to be this bad, I think.

“It doesn’t make sense,” I hear Emmet say in confusion. “They are the elites.”

“Lyden’s not a bad guy,” Becky says in my mind. “He doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but you people won’t leave him alone. All the deaths and injuries today are on your head!”

Emmet clams up, and it only takes me a couple more moments to reach the top.

Looking around, I’m surprised to see trees and mountains in all directions. Looking back at the courtyard I’d just climbed from, I’m shocked to see it’s vanished. Rocky ground covers the spot where I’d just climbed up. Tentatively I reach one paw out, but a needle of ice flies out of the ground, and I jump back. Not gone then, but an illusion to cover it. How much of this forest is illusion, covering the Paladonic Knight’s Base?

Without wasting any more time, I crash down the hillside, knocking trees out of my way, and leaving an obvious trail behind. I’d seen a road off in the distance, and an unmistakable orange dot parked on it.

Lisa, are you there? I ask inwardly, as Areth cheerfully cries “Wee!” on top of me.

“I’m here, Lyden,” she says softly, almost sadly.

Are you okay? Is there anything I can do for you? Relief that the blonde is all right floods through my system, happy that I’d been able to get to her in time.

“Maybe not,” Becky says to me.

What do you mean? I demand, knocking over a rather large tree in my headlong run. My right foot is throbbing, and I can feel the muscles growing stiff around the wound, but I refuse to slow down. I might be out of their base, but I’m not safe yet.

“We’ve been talking,” the petite brunette informs me. They had? Was I too busy fighting to hear it? “When you brought us all in, we shared the pain of her throat. Even now, we know your neck is bleeding. When we separate—“

No! I scream at them. I won’t let that happen.

“Lyden, we know how weak you’re already growing. We can feel your fatigue.” Lisa’s words are soft and cajoling. “We can feel everything you’re feeling. Even your love for us.”

Her words are unfortunately true. More than just my rear paw is growing stiff. I’d expended a ton of energy to transform all of us, and then kept it up as I attacked and defended my way to Murasame, and then escaping. Even now, I can feel my pace growing slower as I try to reach the Orange Bubble.

“When you changed back yesterday, the wounds you received from that blue dragon were still on you.” Lisa sounds as if she’s on the verge of tears. “My wound will be there when I come out. I knew what would happen when I elbowed him, Lyden. I was trying to give you a chance to get away without me. To save yourself.”

No! I won’t accept that! I can’t leave anyone behind. My eyes grow bleary with tears, but I refuse to stop. I won’t lose you!

“I can feel how much you love me, Lyden, and I thank you for that. We knew the dangers of this plan last night. Let me go, Lyden.” Her voice definitely hitches at the end, and I see my car not too much farther ahead of me. I also hear helicopters coming up on us from behind.

But shouldn’t you be healing up while in me? I ask, desperately hoping for something.

“It’s her body’s mass you absorbed, son,” Shemhazau’s voice breaks in. “Our souls aren’t mixing right now.”

Dammit! I swear angrily, trying to pour all my anger and hurt at the situation into that one expletive. Dammit, dammit, dammit! I repeat, still not feeling any better.

Can I spread the wound around, so that it doesn’t kill anyone, when we separate? I ask, needing a better answer.

“If it had happened while we were together, then yes, but. . . .” he trails off. He doesn’t need to finish the statement. The wound in my foot can be split up among us or given to one, but her throat had been slit before we joined together.

As soon as I reach my car, I realize I have a problem. I’m too big to fit through the door. Not only that, but I’m so tired from using my strength and from the loss of blood, that the act of changing back will knock me out. I don’t even know if I have the strength in me to shrink my mass down enough to go in.

I hesitate for only a moment, hearing the helicopters growing closer, before screaming out in anguish, my head reared back and white-hot flame shooting into the sky. Closing my mouth, I drop my head in defeat and change back into a human. My last thought before passing out is making sure that Emmet takes the full wound from my foot and hand.

* * *

“You really like to sleep, don’t you?” Lisa’s voice floats over me, and I open my eyes to look up into her beautiful blue orbs.

“You’re alive!” I gasp, sitting up and pulling her thankfully towards me.

Laughing, she collapses into my arms and hugs me tightly.

“Oh, Lyden, I’m so sorry. I love you so much, but I only have a bit of time before I must go,” her words are half mumbled into the side of my neck.

“Huh? I don’t understand. Go where?” I ask, thoroughly confused.

She pulls away from me, searching my gray eyes, and I see a tear break free from hers. Only then do I look around, and realize that we’re in the Mens Mundi.

“But how are you here? Are you still inside me, or did you come out with everyone else?” I can feel a lump forming painfully in my throat as I try to control my voice.

“Does it matter?” she asks me, pulling me back to her. “We’re together for now, and that’s all that matters.”

“But won’t you heal, since you’re here?” I ask, still not willing to accept the facts.

“It’s already too late,” she tells me softly, shaking her head. Suddenly she pushes me away and looks fiercely at me. “Are you going to sit here and waste what little time we have together moping over what can’t be changed, or are you going to take advantage of it?” She pauses for a brief second before raising one eyebrow and adding, “Or of me?”

“But I am—“ she presses her fingers to my lips, silencing my protest, and then uses the pressure against them to shake my head.

“You need to move on, Lyden,” she informs me firmly. “I won’t have you moping around like you did after Angela left, or your father died. Do you hear me?” I open my mouth to reply, but she keeps her fingers against my lips. “Do you hear me?” Her fingers force my head to nod in agreement, until I grip her wrist, and pull her hand away.

“I love you, Lisa,” is all I can get out before I choke up, and that painful ball lodges fully in my throat, cutting off anything else.

“I know,” she tells me, pulling my head to her chest. “I love you too. You have always been so kind to Becky and me. Take care of her. She’s going to take my passing really hard as well. You two will need each other over the next while. You need to be strong, Lyden. Promise me you’ll be strong.” It’s not a question, but an order, and I nod my head, still unable to speak as tears copiously pour from my eyes.

“Good!” she continues. “Now then, I really don’t want to waste any more time. Get naked.”

Shocked, I pull away, swallowing hard to try and speak. “I-I don’t think . . . Now really isn’t the right moment. . . .”

“Haven’t I taught you anything?” she demands of me, standing up and removing her shirt. “If you always wait for the right moment, it’ll never come. You have to make it happen; and quite frankly, the last thing I want to remember us together by, is you making me scream out your name in ecstasy. Now are you going to get undressed, or are you going to ignore my final request?”

Even though my heart is still heavy with the thought of losing her, I can’t help but smile at her uplifting attitude. Trust Lisa to be able to cheer me up, and push me on when I’m down. The world is going to be a darker place without her.

Shaking my head to clear it of the gloom that I know will only disappoint the martial artist; I stand up and remove my shirt, before remembering that I can just think my clothing away. Lisa giggles as I become suddenly nude, and I find her mirth infectious. I just can’t help but smile as I see her beautiful blue eyes twinkling with a combination of joy, desire, and an undeniable pleasure at just being with each other.

“Things are controlled with our minds here, right?” She asks me, and I have to look up from her firm breasts to answer her.

“Yeah, we’re in our minds, so imagination seems to be the only limit,” I tell her, thinking of her body slowly floating through the air towards me and grinning at her shocked expression as her feet leave the blank floor.

“And this is what you picture?” she asks me, recovering quickly from her surprise and waving at the emptiness around us.

Blinking, I realize I’d never really thought about it before. My surroundings have never been that important to me, always more concerned with whom I’m with.

Lisa lands softly in my arms, and I tilt our world so that she’s lying on top of me. Laughing, she kisses me softly on the lips, but the kiss doesn’t stay soft for long. Hungrily, I press my tongue against her lips, until she opens up for me. I can feel her cheeks turning up in a smile as her arms slip under my neck and she straddles my hips, pulling us tighter together.

“How’s this?” she asks me, breaking the kiss but still holding me with her slender body.

“You’re an awesome kisser,” I tell her honestly, not entirely sure of what she’s asking me.

“Well, thanks, but I was referring to around us,” she giggles again, and she feels delightful, our nude flesh pressed against each other.

Looking around, I see what I should have seen when she pulled away. A large tan tent surrounds us, and we’re lying on a blow up mattress with red blankets. I can hear running water in the distance, and the clean scent of nature fills the air.

“My dad used to take me camping all the time,” she answers my questioning look. “Since he died, I’ve never been back, but I miss it. I’ve never told you this, but you remind me of him in some ways, with how kind you are, and how respectful you are to everyone. I just thought. . . . I just thought it might be nice.” I don’t know what exactly to say in response, touched by her words, and I see her growing uncertain at my silence. “I’m sorry, it was a foolish—“

I cut her off with a firm kiss, pressing our lips together, before pulling away. “It’s perfect,” I tell her, smiling. I almost add that I wish I could have had the time to take her fishing, but decide not to ruin the moment.

The air mattress squeaks as Lisa molds her body fully to mine, her cheek presses to mine, and happily I hug her to me. I truly feel at peace for a few moments, as we do nothing more than hold each other tight. I know that the future will come, and more hardships will happen, but right now, right here in this tent in the Mens Mundi, I’m at peace.

“Lyden?” Lisa’s voice is soft as she speaks directly into my ear, her sweet breath tickling my earlobe.

“Yes?” I ask, my eyes closed and enjoying the sound of the running water outside.

“Make love to me,” her request shocks me only by its simple sincerity. She’d already made it clear she wanted to have sex, but the way she asks me this time, I know what she’s after.

Gently rolling us over, I plant soft kisses along her neck and up her jaw line, until I reach her tender lips. Her hands slip between us, until she can grasp my hard phallus, and I moan quietly as her fingers begin a steady rhythm up and down my length.

Moving my hands around her sides, I use my elbows to support my weight, until my fingertips brush along her nipples. Breaking the loving caress of our mouths, I slide down her body, and squeeze her firm breasts together, using my thumbs to turn the nipples inward, and latch onto both stiff rubbery nubs.

Her hands move to the back of my head, her fingers digging into my hair, as I tease her sensitive areolas with my teeth, tongue, and lips. Her hips start to grind against my stomach, and I press my torso against her to give more friction, enjoying the increase in the volume of her moans.

Her breathing grows heavy, and I know she’s coming close, so I release one breast, and move my hand down to her already wet crotch. Her clitoris is easy to find in her aroused state, and the second I apply pressure directly to it, she gasps and shudders, climaxing.

Lifting my eyes without letting go of her nipple, I smile at her, and slip my middle finger into her tight hole. She sucks in her bottom lips at the pleasure I’m giving her. Transferring to her other nipple, I slip my ring finger into her, and she begins to buck against me, closing her eyes and moaning softly. I use my thumb to rub her clit, and just as my wrist starts to get uncomfortable in this position, I feel her inner walls clamps down, and her voice fills the tent with her wails of bliss.

While she’s still shuddering from her orgasm, I move the rest of the way down her body, until I can plant my mouth on her still quivering sex. My tongue immediately delves into her pouring hole, tasting her juices from the source, and driving my own levels of lust higher.

Wrapping my arms around her legs, I suck hard on the sensitive nub at the top of her vagina, and pull her body back, while simultaneously getting into a sitting position. Her shoulders are now resting on my calves, her back pressed up against my chest, and her ass under my chin, while I sit and continue to taste her pussy. Moving my hands down, I massage her breasts, enjoying their soft firmness, while I continue to alternate between shoving my tongue as far into her as I can, and nibbling gently on her clit.

“Oh, Lyden! Holy shit, you eat me out better than a woman! Oh, oh, oh LYDEN!” Lisa cries out. The power of her climax and the strength in her core muscles is such that she’s able to force me to lie back, and we end up tumbling off the air mattress.

Laughing, we pick ourselves back up, and I go to hug her, but she pushes me back onto the mattress.

“Enough foreplay, my love,” she tells me hungrily, crawling up the mattress over me. “We need to fuck, and I need to feel you inside me.”

“Anything for you,” I tell her honestly.

When her face is above mine, she drops her head and pelvis while arching her back, both sets of her lips making contact with me at the same time. Her tongue dives forcefully between my lips, and I meet it with my own as they dance playfully at first, but growing more insistent as her slit slides up and down my cock without penetrating her.

Timing her movements just right, I tighten my lower muscles and drop my hips, then drive forward and penetrate her to the hilt.

Ungh, oh fuck,” she grunts, breaking the kiss, dropping her slight weight fully onto me, and hugging my head to hers. I drop my hands to her tiny rear, and pull her up slightly, while dropping my hips again. I hold like this for a couple seconds, only a couple inches inside her, then shove her down and thrust up, making her grunt again.

Her arms tighten around me, and I move mine up around her waist, but keep up the movement with my hips. Our bodies are tightly pressed together, only a slight sheen of sweat lubing us as we slide against each other in our lovemaking.

“I’m coming close, Lyden,” she moans to me. “Cum with me, please. I want to feel you fill me up.”

“Anything for you,” I repeat, a tear breaking free from my eye.

Picking up my pace, I concentrating on her pleasure, and trying to drive my own enjoyment higher. I feel that familiar tingling in my stomach, and know I’m about to explode. Just because I know it no longer matters, I also think on making my sperm potent and virile. I want to give her everything I can in these final moments together.

Her velvety inner folds alternate between caressing and gripping my cock as she cries out incoherently, and I let loose with rope after rope of my semen, pouring it into her along with my love, and sorrow at her passing.

Bittersweet are my feelings, as I convulse beneath her, my scrotum tightening, forcing out my seed, into a slowly fading Lisa.

“Don’t be sad, my love,” I hear her whisper to me from what seems like a great distance. “You have made me very happy, and I need you to be strong, because there are still many others who need you now.”

That painful lump is back in my throat, and all I can do is nod. I refuse to blink as the martial artist that has always cheered me on and been able to lift my spirits slowly fades away.

Not until she is completely gone, do I close my eyes, roll over, and weep.

========================
Author’s note: Garbonzo has once again done a great job at not only finding my grammatical errors, but making this story richer and less confusing.

Sorry about the two week wait between chapters, but you can go read chapter 28 now on my blog. Why wait?
29 comments

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