Putting out Fires
You’d think by now that Lyden would be accustomed to being used by beings more powerful than him. Unfortunately, Gaia has a mission for him, but not before she reveals two bits of news that may prove to be Lyden’s undoing.

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Chapter 29
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Putting Out Fires

I can’t believe I just had sex with Mother Earth, and now I have to go out there and have a meeting with her in front of everybody, I think inwardly as I walk to the door leading from my room.

Pausing before opening the door, I rest my head on my arm against the wall and freeze.

“I don’t know, she won’t talk to me either,” Brooke’s voice comes to me loud and clear. Somehow I can sense everyone except Jewkes, Thomas, and Ondine on the other side. I can’t see them, precisely, but I know where they are in the lobby outside. Apparently Gaia hasn’t made it out there yet.

Gaia. . . . Is this a new ability, after screwing her? If so, then that would mean she also has this ability, and nothing we say will be private from her. In fact, her ability is likely a lot stronger. That’s something I’ll have to keep in mind.

“I don’t like it,” Sheila says firmly, surprising me with her vehemence. “She was never what I’d call happy, but she’s acting like a beat puppy.”

“You’re one to talk,” Jennifer scoffs. “I remember how you used to treat your employees. You were harsh and unforgiving.”

“That’s how I recognize the behavior in Ondine,” my slave defends herself. “Besides, Lyden changed that in me. I don’t know why I never understood that about myself before, but with him, I can really be myself.”

“We all can,” Becky speaks up, and I sense her pacing back and forth in the other room. “Have any of you ever noticed that Lyden treats each of us differently, and yet he is always true to who he is? He never comes across as fake.”

“You mean how he tries to act smarter around you,” Brooke states, “or like a master with Sheila. It’s hard not to notice, but like you said, he isn’t being false with any of us.”

“Or how he tries to act tough with you, Brooke, while at the same time be caring,” Jennifer says. “I think I still make him feel uncomfortable at times, but he’s a good solid man. Don’t you dare tell him I said that!” That’s an understatement, I think, about her making me uncomfortable. I’m getting better at handling her lewdness, though. “He’s getting better at dealing with my powerful sexual wiles, though. I may have to up my game with him.”

The women laugh, even Becky, and I smile inwardly. What am I going to do with the large-chested woman? She’s quite literally more than a handful.

“What are you going to do about your pregnancy?” Brooke asks. Do I sense a bit of wistfulness in her tone? “Have you even talked to him about it?”

“Master made it clear that it’s my choice,” Sheila responds, and I perk my ears up. “I never really saw my life with kids before, and with all the craziness going on right now, I really don’t know what to think. Is it even a good idea to bring kids into this world right now?”

“I know Lyden will love them no matter what,” Becky says confidently.

“But what if they turn out to be real monsters?” Brooke interjects. “That’s the problem with having mixed race parenting. As long as it’s human with human, or mermaid with mermaid, there isn’t a chance of something freakish coming out, but when a generator and human, or mermaid, or whatever else. . . .”

“Stop it!” Becky shouts, startling even me. “Can’t you see what you’re doing to Sheila?” I sense that my slave is crying, and wonder what’s going through her mind at the moment.

“I’m sorry,” Brooke states, as she walks over to Sheila. “I wasn’t thinking. To be honest, I wish I was in your place. I’m a bit jealous, actually.” The redhead bends over and hugs my ex-boss. It’s quiet for a moment.

“None of this addresses what’s going on with Ondine, or what we’re going to do about him,” Becky states, and somehow I know she’s referring to Emmet. The man appears to be awake now, sitting on the opposite side of the room from the balcony where Blue is still sunning herself.

“Lyden won’t let him be harmed,” Jennifer says quietly.

“Perhaps we should just take care of him while Lyden’s getting cleaned up,” Brooke adds in with anger. “After the way they tortured me, I see no reason to let him live. We could toss him off the balcony, and claim it was an accident. Maybe he woke up terrified, and ran in the wrong direction.”

It hurts to hear the redhead speak like this. I know they hurt her, and many of them paid for that in our escape, but Emmet isn’t the one to take that out on. Surprisingly, I’m not the only one to feel that way.

“No, Lyden would know the truth, and as much as I hate him and his kind, Lyden was right when he said that he wasn’t to blame.” Becky’s voice is soft yet firm as she speaks; surprising me, as I’d expected her to be the most vehement in killing the Paladonic Healer. “The one responsible for killing Lisa is dead, thanks to Lyden. From what I’ve been able to gather, this man is a healer, not a killer.”

“Just because a shark doesn’t bite and eat you, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clear out any that come into your grotto,” Brooke says, and I realize it’s about time I went out there.

Opening the door, everyone looks my way. Becky smiles tremulously, while Brooke looks embarrassed. Jennifer just gives me a once over, then winks suggestively.

Walking over to Brooke, I surprise her by pulling her into a hug. She tries to pull away, but with my current strength after being with Gaia, she doesn’t stand a chance and finally gives up.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper to her. “I know they hurt you, and I haven’t really been much support since they did that to you. There is no excuse for me not treating you better, and I’m truly sorry.”

Brooke’s arms tighten around me, and I can feel my shirt growing wet with her tears. “Areth is right,” she mumbles against my neck, “you are a dolt. You had a lot of other things to worry about and deal with.”

“Yes, many other things to worry about,” a new voice chimes in, and I immediately recognize Gaia’s earthy tones. “Things like the destruction of everything we know, and how on my Earth you’re going to stop a being made of pure light that can control almost anyone it wants.”

Brooke uses my distraction to pull away suddenly, straightening her clothing as though she’d been caught doing something she wasn’t supposed to be doing.

“Gaia!” Areth yells excitedly, zooming over to the Pillar of Earth and fluttering around the dark-skinned woman’s head. When had the fairy entered the room?

“Ah, to be as carefree as the fairies,” Gaia says wistfully, before turning back to face Brooke. “Young mermaid, things may well get worse before the end. I have no doubt, however, that you’re strong enough to handle it.”

“Thank you,” the mermaid says, bowing to the Pillar of Earth and blushing deeply enough to match her red hair at the powerful compliment.

Doors open and close as Thomas, Ondine, and Jewkes come out to the main room, as though there had been some kind of signal.

“I’m glad you’re out here,” Thomas states officiously to Gaia. “Would you be so kind as to get me a glass of water? I’m a bit parched.”

Everyone stares at the older man as if he’d lost his mind. It takes me a moment to realize that Mother Earth must have appeared to him as a servant as well.

“That’s the Pillar of Earth!” Ondine hisses in shock.

Thomas turns to glare at Ondine, before his eyes grow wide and he looks around at everyone else. Realizing his mistake, he turns and begins apologizing.

The entire scene bothers me, though. Has he been mistreating the mermaid and that’s why she’s so sad? I’m going to have to watch them.

Gaia laughs easily, before stating, “Relax, Thomas. You had no way of knowing who I was when I visited you. The generator and the officer both figured it out, though.” The way she says that last part is almost like a rebuke to the older man, and I see him grow sullen under the Pillar’s mirth.

“Everyone’s here as you asked,” Areth says, oblivious to the tension in the room.

“Yes, all except the religious one,” Gaia replies, her gaze roving across all of us. “She must step up into Marchosias’s role as the leader of her church. She has great power with her faith, but I don’t think you’ll need it for your next mission.”

“Next mission?” I ask, stepping forward. I don’t like the sound of this.

“There are a great many things we need to discuss,” Mother Earth replies evenly. “The least of which is what you’ll do for me, in order to garner my aid.”

“But if you don’t help us,” Becky argues, “then you’ll die as well. Aldol wants to destroy the Pillars in order to destroy both worlds.”

Gaia pierces the short brunette with her dark gaze for a moment before replying. “Says the one that came the closest to killing our prophesied savior, the generator.”

Becky’s cheeks burn with embarrassment, and I feel my anger begin to rise.

“That wasn’t her fault!” I nearly shout. “Aldol was controlling her.”

“I didn’t say I blame her,” Gaia says evenly, though it had sounded exactly like that. “I’m just making it clear that everything isn’t black and white. You require my aid, but I have a task for you. Completing it, will help us both, and hinder the outsider.”

“What do you want us to do?” Brooke asks, stepping up beside me.

“You?” she responds, arching one dark eyebrow. “I expect nothing from you for the moment. You can’t go where I’m sending him. I asked you to all come here so that I could protect you, while Lyden and my agent go to save the Pillar of Air. ”

Shocked silence echoes around the room for a moment, before Brooke gasps, “But TanaVesta killed Fujin!”

Gaia purses her lips for a moment before responding. “You are correct, but also don’t understand the nature of the Pillars. Fujin is dead, but his power remains.” Her voice comes out as though she is trying to educate little children, which I guess compared to her, we are. “You call the six of us that created this world, the six pillars, but that is only a small part of it. For obvious reasons that I won’t go into, we let you believe this. The truth is, our powers are more than just what we are. We wear the pillars as a mantle, much as you wear a shirt. In other words, my power as the Pillar of Earth is not because of what I am, but because I wear something that grants me the strength to keep this world whole.”

Becky whistles softly, understanding the import of Gaia’s words a moment before I do. If it were common knowledge that the power could be stolen, and that anyone could become a Pillar simply by obtaining one of the mantles, then chaos and wars would be fought constantly to get them.

“So, you want Lyden to recover the mantle of air for you? You want the extra power,” Becky states suspiciously, and I’m glad she’s thinking straight. I’m still trying to grasp the import of Gaia trusting us with this information.

“I don’t want it for myself,” the Pillar of Earth states softly. “I have another in mind for the power of Air. Someone who is with us now, but unknown and invisible to you at the moment.” For some reason her eyes rest on me for a second, and I shiver. She can’t be talking about Shemhazau, can she?

No, everyone here knows about me. She is referring to someone else, he tells me.

I look around the room, and notice I’m not the only one. Is she referring to whoever her agent is in this? She’d mentioned sending me with someone, and I don’t see anyone else here.

Then something else she’d said sinks in. Everyone else will remain behind, under her ‘protection.’ I wish I would have known some of this before our little entendre in my room a bit ago.

“What kind of protection are you offering my friends while I’m doing this for you?” I ask the dark-skinned woman.

She sighs heavily before answering. “I see you have the wrong idea. I know that the Knights and Daughters are both after you, and that even in our world, there is danger to them. I truly mean them no harm, and they’re not my prisoners. I simply don’t want you to be worrying over them, while recovering the Mantle of Air.” She must see the incredulity on my face. “To show I mean no harm, I’ll make you an extra deal. Recover the Mantle of Air, help bestow it on a new Pillar, and I will ensure Sheila’s children are not born monsters.”

My slave’s hand hovers over her stomach for a moment, her eyes wide as she looks up at Gaia. “You can do that?” The amount of hope or desperation I hear in her voice lets me know just how worried she was over the prospect, but my ears had picked up something else.

“Children?” I demand, emphasizing the last part.

“Twins,” she answers my question first, then turns back to Sheila. “And yes. I am Mother Earth, after all and have some little say in these things. But I warn you, I can only control to a small degree what they are when they’re born, not what you raise them to be.”

Tears spring to Sheila’s eyes, and there is no mistaking how much this means to her. I guess I know what her answer is concerning the children she’s carrying. My children.

Children. . . .

Shaking my head, I can’t believe I’m really going to be a father, and that it’ll start out as twins. Something inside me twinges at the thought, but Gaia’s knowing eyes bore into me and I realize she already knows what I’m about to say.

“Who is this agent?” I ask, both of us already knowing that I’m going on this dangerous mission.

“Lyden, you can’t!” Brooke states, turning me to stare into her green eyes. “It’ll be too dangerous. Why can’t she send an army in to get it? Have her send in a bunch of her golems, but don’t go alone into her realm!” By ‘her’, I know she’s referring to TanaVesta. “I’m sorry, Sheila, but you don’t know how dangerous the Pillar of Fire is.”

“Because this requires precision that an army of golems can’t perform,” a mellifluous voice states. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking forward to working with a human-lover either, but Gaia says I can’t do it alone.” Turning, I see a thin woman standing next to Gaia, long chestnut brown hair pulled back into a ponytail drapes over one shoulder. Her clothing looks to be made out of supple tan leather showing her midriff, and there is a longbow strapped to her back along with a full quiver. The most striking part about her, however, besides her unearthly beauty, is her long pointed ears.

“I thought all the elves died centuries ago,” Ondine states, and then closes her mouth when Thomas looks at her. I’m definitely going to have to have a talk with her later to find out what’s going on.

“I am the last,” the woman states, her voice somehow both sad and at the same time, full of conviction.

“How are you going to be able to help Lyden?” Becky asks. I detect a strange note in her query, and turn to see that she appears to be slightly taken with the elf. Remembering how she’d acted the first time she’d directly met Brooke, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

“I know where the Pillar of Fire is keeping what we seek,” she answers evenly. “I will guide him there, and then he can do whatever he needs to, to get it.” The way she refers to me, makes me think she already dislikes me greatly. When her eyes land on me, I have to revise that statement. She doesn’t dislike me, she loathes me. I can almost feel the hatred pouring from her.

She’d called me a human-lover. Sometimes I forget that I’m not human, despite all of my abilities. It’s hard to ignore decades of growing up believing something.

“I don’t like this,” Brooke and Becky say at almost the same instant.

“I know,” I tell them, then look past her to look at Sheila. If I hadn’t already decided to do it, the look of hope my slave gives me then, would have decided me. “We don’t have much choice, and if we can create a new Pillar of Air and stabilize this world, then I have to try.”

Blue raises her head, growling softly. I turn to face her, wondering what she must think of this whole thing.

“I agree,” Gaia says thoughtfully, before turning back to face us. “That’ll make an excellent disguise.” She laughs softly before clarifying, “Your dragon has agreed to escort you there, provided you—let me see, how did she put it?—return to your more attractive form.”

I immediately see the benefit in this. As a dragon, I’ll fit right in, in TanaVesta’s demesne. Then I look at the elf, and have to ask, “What about her? She’ll stand out.”

“Oh, I’m sure you know what to do,” Gaia says evenly with a gleam in her eye, and I do.

It takes a moment before the elf realizes, and I wonder if she’s going to mutiny, before she finally drops her head, and nods. “The mission is more important than one person’s aversions,” I hear her mumble.

“With that in mind, I have a gift to help you on your way,” Gaia states, waving her hand to the side. The ground begins to shudder, and a moment later, a bright shiny metal substance breaks the surface, rising to stand as tall as Blue, and almost as big around.

“That can’t be!” Brooke gasps, looking at the pile of metal ore. “Adamantium?”

I can almost feel the energy pouring from the pile, wondering what I’m supposed to do with it. It’s too large to carry, and too unwieldy to do anything with.

“Use this for your mass when you change forms,” the Pillar of Earth informs me, “and I don’t think you’ll regret it.”

Walking forward, I tentatively reach my hand out, and it feels like a bolt of lightning courses through my arm as I come into contact with it. “What’s adamantium?” I ask my redheaded girlfriend, yanking my hand away from the power of the metal, and sucking gingerly on my tingling fingers.

“The rarest of materials,” she answers in awe. “A handful is enough to buy every government on Earth, with enough money left over to build bridges across the oceans. I didn’t know this much existed.”

“That’s because this is all that has ever existed,” Gaia states calmly. “I’ve been saving it, and this seems like a good excuse to finally pull it out.”

“But why?” I ask, awed by this immense gift.

“Because I can,” she responds placidly, and I look back up to meet her dark eyes. “Now, get going. You have a lot to do, and I have preparations to make for when you return.”

Stepping forward, I let my hand hover over the powerful metal, not wanting to touch it, until I have to. Turning, I hold my hand out towards the elf. “What’s your name?” I ask as she reluctantly walks towards me, a sneer across her beautiful features.

“I’m on this mission to accomplish something,” she tells me coolly, “not to become friends.”

It takes some effort not to roll my eyes at her behavior.

At least she’s good looking, Shemhazau says to me.

Leave her alone, dad, I mentally reply back, knowing he’ll be able to interact with her after the change.

As soon as the elf’s slender fingers touch mine, I close my eyes and lower my other hand to the adamantium, willing my body to transform. At first I think nothing has happened. Not only is there no drain on my energy levels, but I actually feel more energized. When I open my eyes, however, I find that I’m towering over everyone else in the room.

“Areth!” Brooke states annoyed, for some reason looking right at me. “You know you can’t go with him.”

Craning my long neck around, I try to look for the little fairy, but don’t see her. I notice that my scales shine a little more than usual, and chalk it up to the adamantium that must have supplied the energy for my transformation.

“Oh, drat!” the pixie’s voice sounds in my mind. When had she. . .? Shaking my head, I close my eyes again, and force her out of me. “You’re no fun,” she complains as she flits back over to the Pillar of Earth.

“You won’t last in TanaVesta’s domain,” Brooke states consolingly. “It nearly killed me to be there for more than a few hours.”

“But he needs me!” She complains. “Think of all the trouble he’ll get into, if I’m not there to help.”

“Like bringing a dragon to Earth in the middle of a city?” Becky asks solicitously, making the golden woman blush prettily.

“This is eerie,” the elf’s voice sounds in my mind, drawing my attention back inward.

Make yourself at home, I tell her while walking to the balcony where Blue is waiting for me.

“Two last things before I forget,” Gaia says, walking over to me. “It’s about the outsider and your succubus, Angela.” Why do I have a feeling she didn’t really forget?

“Yes,” I ask, or try to, remembering too late my forked tongue.

“That trick you used to scare the outsider away while rescuing the mermaid was a very dangerous thing to do.” I raise one scaly eyebrow at her, not quite sure what she’s referring to. “You attempted to absorb some of its power. Instead, you were absorbing it. Had you succeeded, the outsider would have taken over your body with ease, and you’d no longer be here.”

I shudder, remembering the desperation I’d felt as I’d begun to black out down under the water. Instinctively I’d reached for the power coming from the light creature, and suddenly it’d gone. I hadn’t understood why at the time, but now I do. Mentally, I tell myself I’ll never do that again.

“And Angela,” Gaia continues, “she’s working for TanaVesta. I don’t know what her motives are, but she went to the Pillar of Fire after leaving you, and abased herself, asking for forgiveness. I’m not altogether certain why TanaVesta took her back into her graces, but I think it’s safe to say that if you run into Angela, don’t trust her.” Even with the speculative way she talks, I know she’s certain about her facts. “I take no joy in telling you this, but you need to know. TanaVesta is working with the outsider, as you know, but Aldol has taken an interest in the succubus’s sexual prowess. It has been interested in sex ever since it tried to kill you through sex.”

Looking around the room, I see sad eyes trying to console me. Brooke and Becky step forward, and I can easily see their intentions in their beautiful loving eyes.

I can’t take their pity. Turning away, I dash past Blue, spreading my wings wide and leaping from the balcony. The Earthen city passes below me in a blur, either from my speed or the tears stinging my eyes, I’m not sure, and I don’t really care. I’m not even concerned if Blue is following, just wanting to get away from those pitying eyes.

I can’t fly, though I desperately wish I could, and the ground eventually comes up to meet me just outside the city walls. A thump besides me lets me know that Blue has followed. I refuse to look at her, as I move in the direction of TanaVesta’s demesne. I don’t know what I’ll do if I run into the succubus, but I’ll face that event if it happens.

“What’s the deal?” the unfriendly elf asks me.

I thought you didn’t want to be friends, I mentally snap back at her.

“I don’t,” she replies coolly, “but if I’m going to be working with you, then I should know what to expect.”

Don’t worry about it, I snarl, and proceed to ignore her as I crawl over the terrain, using the strength granted to me by the adamantium to cover the ground quickly.

Blue keeps taking to the air, looking back at me, and then landing before repeating the process. It’s obvious she wants me to fly.

I CAN’T FLY, I telepathically send to her.

I expect the dragon to laugh, or ridicule me in some way, figuring it would be par for the course today, but instead she simply lands and walks next to me for a while. After maybe moving a half mile, she nuzzles the wing on my right side and then backs away. When I ignore her, she repeats the gesture, this time spreading her wings and flapping them for a second.


Blue snorts, sending out a gout of smoke in the process.

“Maybe a dragon can teach you what you couldn’t teach yourself,” the elf’s voice says soothingly. Her attitude is so different from her behavior from before, that I actually listen to her this time.

What could it hurt? I ask myself, not expecting a response. Besides, it’ll take my mind off other issues.

“Your pride, but I’m guessing you don’t have much of that left right now.” And there she is, coming back with her usual hatred.

I’m not sure if I do it just to spite her or for some other reason, but I spread my wings feeling the slight wind move across the thick membranes, and push hard off the ground.

Air moves across my body, and I flap my additional appendages powerfully to keep me aloft. Unfortunately, that sends me into a spiral, and it’s only with the last minute aid of Blue that I don’t pile drive right into the ground.

Echoing laughter rebounds in my head, but I ignore it. The other dragon lands gracefully next to me, and thankfully she isn’t laughing. At least, I don’t think she is. It’s kind of hard to tell with her draconian features.

Blue spreads her wings, flapping them gently, and I know she wants me to mimic her. I do so, but when she growls at me, I stop. She repeats her previous gesture, and this time I try to time my movements with hers. Up, one, two, three. Down, one, two, three.

It dawns on me, that I’d been flapping too hard. I remember what Angela had tried to teach me the first time I’d become a dragon, and shake my head. Maybe flapping strong and fast works for a succubus, but it’s different for a dragon.

Or had she been working for the Pillar of Fire back then, making sure I never learned the proper way to fly? Was everything she’d done an act?

NO! I can’t believe that. Something had to have been real, between us.

Careful, son. The mind of a woman is never an easy thing to read. The voice of Shemhazau reaches me. The mind of the ones we love, even more so, but I have no doubt that she truly loved you.

Loved. Past tense. . . .

Where did you come from?” my other passenger demands. “Why are you looking at me like that? Stay away from me old man!”

I chuckle inwardly, knowing the elf can hear it, as I picture the shade of my father hitting on the ornery elf.

Another growl in front of me reminds me of what I’d been doing a moment before, and I meet Blue’s large eyes for a moment before shoving hard off the ground, wings tucked tightly to my body. As soon as I reach the apex of my leap, I unfurl my thick leathery wings, and slowly, gently, flap them up and down on a three-count. I can feel the air catch beneath them, and even though I wobble a little bit, I stay aloft. Another careful movement of my wings and I actually rise a little bit.

Blue joins me in the air a moment later, and this time there is no mistaking her grin. Even though it shows her sharp fangs, I find myself grinning back at her, giving a strong beat to my wings in my joy, and then frantically trying to recover from my mistake, before whooping—well, it comes out more like a joyous growl—in joy as I regain my lost altitude.

Over the next hour, Blue shows me how to use thermals to lazily gain altitude, before gliding over to another, saving on energy. With the adamantium in me, I don’t feel a need to conserve energy, but I know she does, and it would look odd for a dragon to fly nonstop in a straight line. I still have to pretend to not be Lyden Snow the Generator, but a regular brown dragon instead.

Well, a regular brown dragon, carrying the last elf in existence, and all of the adamantium to boot, into the lair of the monster that is helping an even worse monster try to destroy two worlds. Did I mention that one of my girlfriends was working with the monsters? Why are things never easy?

We make better time now that we’re airborne, and when we cross the border into Fire’s domain, it seems like we are in one nonstop thermal, making even better time.

Almost too soon, I spot the top of TanaVesta’s mountain, the flaming roof of her pavilion standing out with its four thick pillars and stadium seating.

We land off to the side of the seating, and I’m glad to note that the Pillar of Fire herself isn’t here now. My eyes land on the spot where TanaVesta and I had had wild sex in front of her entire court, and shudder, remembering what had followed afterwards.

Where to? I ask internally.

“Go through that opening over there,” she tells me, and somehow I know she’s referring to a large hole off to the side. Walking over to it, I see that there is a ramp leading deeper into the mountain peak.


To my surprise, she nuzzles my neck for a moment, before nipping playfully at my snout, and then turning away.

“We could use her to watch our back,” the elf states.

I won’t use her, or anybody else, I reply sternly. She volunteered to help us, and I don’t want her in any more danger than she needs to be.

“I still think it’s a mistake,” she responds, but there is a note to her tone that I don’t recognize. It almost sounds like respect, but I know that can’t be true.

Stepping onto the ramp into the mountain, I’m glad to see torches here and there, lighting the way. Following the directions coming from inside my head, I soon begin to recognize our surroundings.

My suspicions are confirmed when we enter a large chamber that is unmistakably TanaVesta’s. A large boulder still sits on the far wall, covering a hole that leads to the bed where I’d been raped countless times. To my right is a large opening, leading out to the open air and freedom.

“What are you doing?” the elf demands of me. “The Pillar of Air’s mantle is behind that boulder, not out there.”

She doesn’t understand, though. I know what’s behind that boulder. Torture. Pain. Horror. Humiliation. Bliss and pleasure almost beyond any I’d ever experienced before those horrible two days.

“Whoa, whoa!” the feminine words come to me, but I can’t seem to focus on them. “I didn’t know. What she did to you was wrong, but she isn’t here now.” Her words of compassion seem so wrong, that it finally breaks me from my daze. “All we need to do is go in, grab the mantle, and we’ll be gone before she ever knew we were here.”

Yes, I think I can do that. Just get in, and get out. I had no idea that being back here would affect me so much, but I’ve been through a lot since then, and I can do this.

Slowly, as though at any moment the Pillar of Fire is going to leap out and start forcing herself on me again, taking bites out of my flesh, I approach the blocking boulder. I let out a deep breath of relief when nothing happens when I place my chrome and black tipped paw on the boulder and give it a gentle nudge. It moves easily, though I cringe at the noise it makes as it moves out of the way, revealing a dark opening on the other side.

The thought that it still smells like sex strikes me, but I shrug it off as I poke my head inside.

“You see Angela, I told you someone would come to take the mantle, and here is the thief now.”

The new voice exudes raw power, and I can feel the solid rock beneath my paws crumple as my talons dig in, pure fear filling my veins.

“You were right, my Queen,” an all too familiar voice says, and I can feel my heart break at the sound of obeisance in it. “What should we do with them?”

Slowly, as though I’m afraid of what I’ll see, even though I already know I’ll see her, I pull my head out and turn towards the voices. TanaVesta stands proud in her red dragon form, about three times my size. Angela, in her true Asian-black form is standing next to her, eyes locked on me.

I see recognition enter Angelica’s brown eyes, as they grow large, and know that at any moment she’s going to give me away to her current master.

“Thieves must be made an example of,” TanaVesta states, and at least for now she doesn’t recognize me, “but not before we find out who he is working for.” The way her forked tongue licks her lips sends shivers down my long spine. In my fear, it doesn’t even occur to me to wonder how she can talk with a forked tongue.

“Let me out!” the elf screams in my head. “I’m no use to you in here. Let me out so that I can at least die fighting.”

Die? Somehow the word triggers a response in me, allowing me to unclench my claws. Fighting is the only option right now, not dying. I’ll never let her treat me like that again! NEVER!

The ground cracks as I shove off of it, jaws open wide and aimed for TanaVesta’s throat. I know I should have gone after the succubus first since she’s weaker, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Even though I know I’m leaving my flank open to her attack, I’m hoping to be quick enough, to surprise them both.

A large red blur catches me from the side, as TanaVesta effortlessly bats me aside; laughing at how easily she’d defended herself.

“Pathetic,” she scoffs at me as I use my tail to regain my balance, and land, sliding along the floor. My talons dig furrows in the ground as I slide to a stop. My head is ringing, and my right wing won’t move right. “I don’t suppose he’s willing to give us any information. He looks to be from the dumber kind of dragons. I hate to even think of them as the same as me.” Her tone is level, as though she’s just talking about the weather. “Or is he even a true dragon? Oh well. Watch, Angela, as I burn him to a crisp.”

The large red dragon inhales deeply, and I look to the opening on the far wall. To reach it, I’ll have to go through the Pillar of Fire, but to reach the entrance I came in through; I’ll have to go through Angela.

I know the decision I should make, but can’t. Why hasn’t she given me away yet?

Just as I’m about to leap at the red dragon, her flame breath catches me, pouring from her sharp-toothed maw with enough force to blow me backwards. As the flames and heat surround me, I scream, knowing that I’m already dead. Even though there’s no pain, I assume that my nerve endings have already been fried.

It only takes me a moment more to realize that her flame isn’t touching me. Or more accurately, the flame is all around, but the heat of it isn’t affecting me.

I don’t stop to take stock of why I’m still alive, or why I’m immune to her immense magical blaze, but instead restart my leap, heading straight for the source of her fire. Inhaling her heat as I go, I turn it back against her, breathing my own fire directly down her throat.

TanaVesta screeches in agony, falling back and staring at me in shock. I land hard on the flooring, unable to guide my decent with a bad wing, but keep my eyes on the larger dragon. Unfortunately, she’s still between the large exit and me, though the smaller one is now clear, with Angelica behind me.

The succubus!

Realizing I’m in a bad situation, I lash my tail out, hoping to come into contact with her. I hear an, “Oomph,”, and a moment later the succubus vanishes, her mass added to my own. She’s impotent to hurt me physically now.

“What are you?” my powerful enemy demands, and I can see fear in her eyes now. “What have you done with my bed servant?” Her voice is a little raw.

Bed servant? What the hell? Then I remember Gaia’s words about Aldol using them for sex. Apparently TanaVesta hadn’t minded it so much.

“Lyden?” Angela’s voice sounds internally. A moment later I can hear the elf and succubus fighting, my father happily cheering them both on.

It takes only a spare thought to form my human tongue. “You once kept me locked up for your own pleasure, beast. I’ve come back for revenge.”

“The generator?” Her eyes grow large as she comprehends who I am, and then to my surprise, she starts laughing. “I’ve missed our time together, generator. Tell you what, give yourself up to me, and I promise to let you live. Who knows? I may even be gentler with you this time.”

“Lyden, who is this woman?” I hear Angela grunt in my mind, but I ignore her.

“I have a counter-offer,” I state, trying to mimic the elf’s tone of derision that she’d kept using on me. “Give me Fujin’s Mantle, and I’ll return the succubus to you.”

TanaVesta’s eyes narrow as she regards me for a moment. “No.” The word is a simple one, but filled with finality. “I’ve grown fond of her over the last little while, while Aldol has forced me to use her sexually, but if I lose the mantle, it’ll mean my death.”

Her words confuse me for a moment—I didn’t know she could grow fond of anyone!—and the red dragon uses that to her advantage as she launches herself towards me. I have just enough time to move my neck out of the path of her fangs, but not out of the way of her talons. They sink into my sides painfully, easily piercing my tough scales, and I scream in agony. Desperately I claw back at her, and barely note that my dual-toned claws easily part her hide as well.

New energy floods into me, as my Murasame augmented talons absorb her soul. Unfortunately, she’s powerful enough, that the strength pouring into me isn’t enough to counteract the damage she’s causing me, nor is it enough to drain her before she kills me.

I can hear the elf and succubus screaming out in shared pain, as I try to redouble my efforts, but even with the adamantium in me, I can feel my strength slackening. I’ll be long dead before I take enough from the Pillar of Fire to kill her.

When I feel her teeth sink into the back of my neck, I know all is lost. I barely even notice the loud shriek that echoes off the cavernous walls of her chambers, as blackness begins swallowing my vision.

My body grows lighter as I mentally release the elf and Angela. I won’t take them down with me.

“Lyden, no!” someone screams, as I feel my blood seeping out in a pool around me.

Odd, I think. Even in the realm of Fire, I’m surprised I can feel so cold.

* * *

Water from the nearby stream burbles happily as I sit in a cloth camping chair, and stare at the trees around me. The tent where I’d spent those last precious moments with Lisa sits behind me. The scene is almost the exact same, except that the sun is setting, and someone has built a fire.

It seems fitting, that I should see this, I think, before I finally pass away. It’s peaceful out here.

I wonder if Lisa will come for me? The thought sends a stab through my heart, but I remember her telling me to be strong, and I try to hold my head up higher. No one can say I hadn’t been strong after her passing. I’d done all I could, and it hadn’t been enough, but I’d still tried.

A twig snaps behind me, and I spin around. Blonde hair vanishes behind a tree, and I jump to my feet to chase after Lisa. I’m confused at why she’s here, but maybe it’s to take me to the afterlife.

“Lyden?” A different voice states right then, and I turn to see Angelica standing on the flowing water’s edge.

“What do you want?” I demand, wondering if she’d been killed too. Despite my feelings of betrayal by her, I’m saddened that she hadn’t been able to escape TanaVesta’s wrath.

I can see that my tone hurts her, but I do my best to ignore the tear that breaks from her left eye. Probably just another ploy of hers. How could I have been so stupid, as to believe she loved me? She is a demonic creature. As soon as she’d left me, she’d gone back to the Pillar of Fire. The one person who had tortured and hurt me the most, and if TanaVesta is to be believed, the succubus had gone and become her sexual plaything. Even though Aldol had played a part in that, I’ll bet the succubus enjoyed it.

“I’m so sorry I hurt you,” she tells me, but I turn away, trying to catch sight of where Lisa had run off to. Why had she run away? “Shemhazau explained what had happened,” she continues, her tone imploring me to turn and face her.

“I told you if you ever left me like that again, we’d be done,” I state firmly, refusing to turn around.

“You don’t understand,” she cries out in anguish.

Angrily I turn to face her, rage fueling my words. “I don’t understand? I don’t understand? I loved you more than a demonic creature like you will ever understand, and you spat on that and abandoned me. Not only that, but you went to fuck the one person that has caused me the most pain and grief since I met you.” Tears pour from her eyes at my venomous tirade, and I can tell she’s shivering, but I don’t relent. “So tell me, succubus, what exactly don’t I understand?”

She’s remains silent under my glare for a moment, before she takes a shuddering breath and answers. “I still love you.” I scoff, but she continues. “I didn’t go to TanaVesta to hurt you, Lyden. After you killed my, or rather, your father, I didn’t know what to do. I knew you wouldn’t take me back, and I’m terribly sorry for the pain I caused you. But I still wanted to help you.”

“So you went to work for my enemy?” I yell out in disbelief.

“I went to spy on our enemy,” she counters me. I don’t miss the fact that she calls TanaVesta our enemy.

“And what, sleeping with her was all part of the plan?” I try to load all the derision and scorn I can into that statement, and I’m still surprised when her hand flies out and slaps me across the face.

“I’m a succubus,” she reminds me, “but I had no choice in the matter.” I raise one eyebrow in disbelief, while rubbing my sore cheek. For being dead, that slap had hurt. “I found out that ever since Aldol had controlled Becky while the two of you screwed, it’s been obsessed with sex. Apparently it had never experienced anything like it before. The thing would control one of us, and force us into having sex. It was never my choice, Lyden. You have to believe me. I never betrayed you!”

I turn my back on her again, but this time because I don’t want her to see that I’m starting to doubt my own arguments. Everything she’s saying could make sense. How useful would it have been to have a spy on the inside?

“I thought you could resist Aldol’s control,” I state, remembering how she’d been able to hold back from attacking me while we’d rescued Brooke. I’d thought it had been because she’d loved me at the time.

And maybe it still was.

“I can resist harming you,” her voice reaches me softly, and I can hear her footsteps crunching the ground behind me. I can’t bear to turn and face her yet. “I guess I just wasn’t emotionally invested enough to resist doing things with TanaVesta.”

Despite myself, I chuckle slightly at that. I’ll bet she didn’t struggle too hard. Like she’d reminded me, she is a succubus, after all.

Her dark-skinned hand rests lightly on my shoulder, but all I can do is bow my head.

“I tried so hard,” the words seem to pour from me, without any conscious effort of my own. “I wanted to protect everyone, but I failed. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you, as well.”

“Lyden,” Angela’s voice has an odd edge to it. “You’re not dead, at least, not yet. You saved us, though I don’t know what’ll happen now that two pillars are dead.”

Confused, I finally turn to face her fully. Despite all my misgiving and fears, I know her words are true.

“But how?” I ask, gripping her slender but strong shoulders in my hands.

“A blue dragon came in from nowhere, and wrapped her tail around TanaVesta’s neck. She was able to strangle the Pillar of fire and pull her off of you. Apparently you weakened her enough, that the other dragon was able to finish her off. I don’t know how you were able to get a dragon to follow you, but you never cease to amaze me.” She places her hand on my cheek, gazing lovingly up at me.

The touch feels so wonderful, and the look in her eyes so inviting, that I know I have to pull away, or be lost to her again.

Stepping back, I say, “Angela, I can’t. Not again. When you left, it tore me apart. I lost something inside, and it hurt terribly. I can’t risk that again.”

“What if I promise it won’t happen again?” she asks me, and I can almost hear the desperation in her voice. Or is that just me, hoping to hear it?

“Like last time?” I ask, hating myself for saying the words, but also knowing that they must be said.

“I understand,” her voice is soft, and barely reaches my ears. “Shemhazau explained to me what happened to you since I left, and I know the pain I caused can’t be easily forgiven.”

Something doesn’t seem right with that statement. This is the second time she’s mentioned talking to my father.

“When did you have time to talk to my father?” I ask. “You weren’t in me long enough, and I pushed you out as I was dying, or passing out, I guess.”

“After you passed out, and I convinced that elf—I didn’t know any of them were left in the world—that I wasn’t a threat and perhaps the only one that might save you, I came here. He stopped me before I could approach you right away. He was very disappointed in me.” I can see that those words cost her, and remember that she’d seen him like a father. “He explained everything that's happened. He didn’t know how you’d react to me, but I had to try.”

I remain silent for a while, thinking everything over. She had kept secrets from me, but looking back now, I realize most of them hadn’t been hers to reveal. She’d abandoned me when I needed her, but what I didn’t think about at the time was how badly she’d been hurting. She hadn’t betrayed me by going to TanaVesta, but had hoped to help me in some way.

I can’t forgive her for everything, but I can’t punish her for everything either.

Apparently she’s reading my thoughts, for suddenly she’s hugging me tightly, her tears staining my shirt. “I’m so sorry, Lyden,” she repeats over and over again.

Wrapping my arms around her, I pull her to me, the hole in my heart suddenly a little less empty.

“I take it you’re here to help me heal?” I state the obvious after a bit, the sound of the stream burbling in the background is the only other noise.

“That elf is holding a dagger to my throat,” Angela says evenly. “If you die, then she’s vowed that I’ll follow.” Angela laughs softly, before adding, “Your dragon seemed to agree.”

I’m shocked that the elf would feel so strongly about my life. I wonder what’s changed?

“Well, then I guess I’d better wake up, and greet the world.” Letting her go, I stretch out my arms, as if just waking up.

“Do we have to so quickly?” she asks me, holding to me even tighter, refusing to let me go just yet. “I think we should make sure you’re as healed as possible first.”

I have to laugh, knowing what the dark skinned succubus is driving at, but I turn sober a moment later.

“Angela, look—“ I start to say, wanting to let her down easily, but she cuts me off.

“I know,” she says, pressing a finger against my lips. “You won’t take me back, and I don’t blame you. We hurt each other pretty badly, but . . . but are you really taking me back, if we do it one more time for old time’s sake? Even if it’s only in our minds?”

“Would it only be one more time?” I ask, trying to hide my smile.

“I promise not to make you do anything you don’t want to,” she states while stepping back and I see that her clothes have already vanished. She hefts a breast in one hand, her nipples already stiff and poking out, while grinning at me mischievously. Her other hand traces down to the juncture between her legs, and she gasps slightly, seductively, as her fingers begin to rub against her sex. “In fact, you can just stand there and watch, if that’s what you want to do.”

My cock strains painfully against the front of my pants as I watch the seductress masturbate before me, until I remember I can mentally adjust myself. Even so, I can feel my willpower draining, as Angela begins to moan, pinching one nipple between forefinger and thumb, and slipping the middle two fingers on her other hand into her snatch. She drops her head while lifting her breast up. Her tongue slips out, flicking her nipple and making her moan again.

“Oh, Lyden, I’ve missed you so much,” she croons, her eyes closed and her head tilts back slightly as she enjoys her own ministrations. She bends her knees, spreading her inner lips, making sure I have a great view of her pink flesh. “Wouldn’t it be so much better if you came over here and replaced my fingers with your tongue, or better yet, that hard cock in your hand?”

Surprised, I look down and see that at some point, I’ve become naked, and began to slowly stroke myself.

Would it really be so bad, to be with her one last time? I ask myself. As long as it’s clear it is the last time, I think, knowing I’ve already lost the battle. I should have known better than to try and match wills with a succubus.

In the blink of a thought, I rip her hand away from her pussy, dropping to my knees in the soft Earth and replacing it with my lips as I taste her sweet nectar.

“Oh, Lyden, YES!” she screams, her knees buckling as her juices pour from her honey pot, and I have to wrap my arms around her legs to keep her up.

“This is the last time,” I state as I gently let her down, laying her onto her back. She gives me a look that betrays the lie, but for now I have to believe it.

Deciding to return to my previous task, I brush my lips along her inner thigh, relishing the way she quivers in anticipation. Kissing my way up, this time I avoid her crotch, as I place my lips all around her sex, but not quite on it. She hunches her hips up, trying to get me to make contact with her sensitive labia as I kiss her crinkly pubic hair, but I resist. I know it may seem small, but for now it’s the only revenge I can get for her seducing me.

I allow the backs of my fingers to tickle up her sides, until they reach the swell of her breasts. She moans in frustration as I gently blow across her coochy, my hands tracing circles around her nipples, but not touching them.

She’s panting now, and I know she’s on the verge, her fingers grabbing my hair and trying to force my mouth where she wants it to go. I relent, finally, going straight for her clitoris, while simultaneously grabbing at her nipples.

Her back arches as she screams in relieved bliss, her hands gripping painfully at my hair, but I continue sucking and nibbling on the sensitive nub between my lips, until she pulls me away, her eyes blazing with desire and lust, but her breathing still heavy.

“I love . . . what you’re doing . . . down there,” she tells me between pants, “but if I don’t . . . feel your powerful . . . cock in me soon, I’m going to lose it!”

“If you ever try seducing me like that again,” I grin at her, as her juices drip from my chin, “I’ll make sure to stop before we go all the way.”

“I thought this was the last time?” she asks me, her eyes twinkling with mirth.

“Shut up,” I growl, as I crawl up her body. She has the sense not to tease me further, as I press the head of my prick against her sweet opening. With only a little pressure, I feel her flower open up to me, and let out my own moan as her velvety insides slowly enfold my member. My penis conforms to her tight canal, and in this form, hers doesn’t try to match mine. Still, it feels like I’m stretching her, she feels so tight. When my scrotum finally presses against her rear, I stop and look down at the half Asian, half black woman beneath me. She looks so innocent and sweet, her eyes wide and full of love, her lower lips sucked between her teeth, and her ample bosom pressed against my chest, but I know the succubus is anything but innocent.

“Oh, you’re taking all the fun out of it,” she pouts, reading my surface thoughts.

For answer, all I do is pull out all but the tip, then drive back into her with enough force to move her up slightly on the beach, the sound of our skin slapping together lost in the sound of the water in the stream.

“Oh, fuck I’ve missed you, Lyden.” Her arms wrap around my neck, pulling my head down, and our lips meet, her tongue forcing its way between my teeth.

Our moans are slightly muted now, muffled by our kiss, as we continue to screw. Our hips find a rhythm, me pistoning into her, while she moves in counterpoint. I allow my weight to rest on her, so that I can bring my hands back to her breasts, rolling her dark stiff nipples between my fingers.

Her legs suddenly move around my thighs, holding me in place with unexpected strength, and she shudders beneath me, her whole body locked in powerful waves of ecstasy. The muscles of her pussy ripple along and around my schlong, driving my own passions higher with how great she feels, but I can barely move with her legs around me. Knowing there is more than just one motion at my disposal, I tighten my own nether muscles, making my rod jump inside her.

“Oh, God,” she cries out, breaking the kiss, but pulling me tightly to her body.

I continue making myself twitch inside her, until she relaxes her grip on me, and I pull out of her. She tries to keep me in her with nothing more than the strength on her kegel muscles, making every inch that slips from her depths feel like heaven, and making me want to shove myself back into her. I resist the temptation though, and finally I slip from her, the squelch of her empty cunt is covered by the sound of her disappointed moans.

Rolling onto my back, I’m slightly surprised that I’m slightly out of breath. I hadn’t realized how much willpower it took to pull out of her.

“All aboard the Lyden Express,” I say to the woman next to me, and she literally blurs, she moves so fast. There is no mistaking the feeling of her labia sliding around the tip of my cock, or sliding down every inch, as she impales herself on my manhood, however.

Lifting my head, I latch onto one of her dangling breasts, my arms going around her to pull her tighter to me. Angela’s hips are moving against my groin at a frantic pace, my phallus whipping her cum into a creamy mess as it coats our genitals.

With nothing more than a simple thought, I concentrate on her pleasure, willing it to increase exponentially, until she’s quivering, moaning, and cumming non-stop above.

It’s then that I finally drop my seed into her sucking cunt, making sure it’s as potent as it can possibly be.

Special thanks to all those that wrote in with advice. I try to incorporate all that I can, while staying true to the story.

Please leave a comment below, and let me know what you think. I love reading REAL comments.

And of course, this story wouldn’t be what it was, or where it is, without the aid of Garbonzo. Give him a high-five the next time you see him!

Chapter 30 is available right now on the blog, so what are you waiting for?

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