What Must Come
Gaia reveals something that shakes Lyden to the core. She also sends him on his next mission: to get talismans from each Pillar; Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Light, and Darkness. Impossible tasks followed by an impossible request await the generator.

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Chapter 31
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What Must Come

Thomas was still angry with me when I brought him into my Mens Mundi. The fact that Ondine had revealed his inability to get her off didn’t help, and it took both Shemhazau and me to calm him down enough to listen to reason.

I still feel guilty for sleeping with his woman, but as I sit on the edge of the stream in my mind, listening to my father—the one-time ruler of the succubae—give him advice on how to please women, I let some of it go. I’m just glad the older man was finally willing to let go of some of his pride and listen.

“Well, I’ve done all I can for now,” my father’s voice states right behind me. “I don’t want to overwhelm him all at once, and honestly, if you’d just bring in some women for him to try out. . . .”

“No,” I state firmly. He’d tried arguing that talking is all well and good, but he needs to practice. I can see his arguments as an opportunity to be a lecherous old man. Besides, I can’t bring Ondine into my Mens Mundi without feeling awkward, any of my women are off limits—I know, I’m a hypocrite—and I’m not willing to bring some stranger in here. Jennifer may be willing, but I don’t even know how I’d go about asking her that.

“Well, he seems like an eager student, so it’ll only take a few hundred years to teach him everything I know.” I don’t know if he’s just bragging, or being serious. I’m not sure if I want to know that much about my father.

“Then I’d better get up and get to work,” I state, standing and skipping a rock down the stream.

“You sure you don’t want to bring someone else in here?” he asks me. “I’m sure we could have some fun with Jennifer’s large tits. I think she’d even be into doing it. Sex is a great stress reliever.”

I ignore him, pulling myself out of my Mens Mundi, and waking up.

Suit yourself, he tells me as I walk out of my room.

My eyes go straight to Emmet as I close my door behind me. I’ve come to a decision about the balding healer. Before I can get to him, however, Brooke and Becky are right there. I notice that Gaia is nowhere to be seen.

“What happened?” the short brunette asks me.

“Ondine still refuses to talk to us, but at least she looks happier,” Brooke throws in next. I wonder that they don’t put two and two together. Looking into Becky’s eyes, I see that she has, but I’m thankful she stays quiet.

“Thomas isn’t a bad guy,” I tell them. “It was all a misunderstanding.”

“I’m glad my name has been cleared,” the referenced man states, obviously annoyed that there had ever been any question.

We exchange nods and understand that the matter between us is settled.

I finish moving over to Emmet, who stands to greet me.

“He cast a spell to put Thomas to sleep after you went into your room with Ondine,” Areth says, landing on my shoulder. Thankfully her next question is whispered. “Did you go in there and do perverted things to the little mermaid?” Maybe the fairy is learning some tact.

“I know,” I state before I can think better of it, ignoring her other question.

I hear someone ask “How?” behind me, but I ignore it.

“You could have used the chaos of the situation to try and escape, but you didn’t.” I don’t make it a question, but a statement of fact.

“Somehow I felt that the chaos may have ended in violence, and I didn’t want that,” he tells me evenly.

I examine the balding man, trying to figure out his angle. For the most part, he’s been the perfect prisoner. Considering his order’s penchant for wanting every creature from this world killed, I’d expected him to be a bigger handful. I’m also a bit surprised that he wouldn’t want violence to break out.

“Brooke, may I see your sword, please?” I ask, holding my hand out, but not looking away from the Paladonic Healer. The man flinches as I feel the grip hit my palm. When I realize she hasn’t let go, I turn to look at her.

“Don’t,” she tells me, and I can see the uncertainty in her gaze. She’d wanted him dead right away, from the way his brethren had treated her, but for her to try and stop me from doing it now, says something.

She lets go when I nod to her, and I turn back to face Emmet. I can see a trickle of sweat slip from his large forehead, but he remains standing tall as I bring the shimmering blue blade around. Moving quickly, I grab his tied wrists and free them on the edge of the sharp blade. He stares at me in shock as I do the same for his feet.

“Are you sure about this, Lyden?” Jennifer asks me. “It was his people that killed Lisa.”

Hearing my dead lover’s name sends a jolt through me, but I shove it away. “This man has done nothing to hurt us. He hasn’t necessarily been on our side, but I won’t kill a man for something his friends have done.”

“While I agree with you on that,” Jewkes states, assuming his police role, “I have to wonder. We’re at war, and anyone who isn’t our ally should be considered dangerous.”

“No,” I say, holding my ground. I hand Brooke’s sword back to her hilt first, and then place my now empty hand on Emmet’s shoulder. “I can’t spare the time or effort to return you to Earth, but I won’t keep you here against your will, either.”

His eyes narrow as he considers my words. “I’m a dead man if I go out there on my own,” he tells me. “I’m still a prisoner.”

I nod, knowing that what he says is true. As a human, if he were to leave here without any protection, some supernatural creature or another would take him. After that, who knows what’d happen to him.

“Yes, I suppose you are, but I won’t have you treated like one anymore. Besides, so are Becky, Jennifer, and Captain Jewkes, by that same logic.” He chews on his cheeks for a moment, considering my words.

“They’re here by their own choice,” he states after a moment.

Some of my patience slips. I’d been trying to offer an olive branch to the man, and he’s treating it like a slap in the face. “They’re also here because your people will kill them if they return to Earth.” I state a bit heatedly.

“We don’t kill humans,” he argues back.

“Like Lisa?” Becky joins in, her eyes hot. I wonder if I’m going to have to get between the two of them.

The man deflates, however, before I have to act. “I’m so very sorry. What the Grand Meister did was wrong and goes against everything I’d been taught.” There is true sadness in his voice as he apologizes.

Becky just turns away from him, going to her room. I know I should go comfort her, but I need to take care of this situation first.

“And I’m sure they taught you that any creature not human needs to be killed?” I ask him gently.

“Anything not natural,” he agrees, and then looks up sharply, realizing what his words might mean here.

“You were taught wrong,” I tell him, squeezing his shoulder. “There are some that are dangerous, but not all of us.”

He nods thankfully, and I wonder if I’ve just converted the man.

I turn away from him, allowing him to think over things on his own. I head straight for Becky’s door, but Gaia’s voice stops me.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done, generator, and I fear little time to do it.” Turning, I see her on her dais, the strain around her eyes and in her posture speaks volumes.

“No rest for the weary, I take it,” I state sarcastically.

“Oh, I highly doubt you’re weary,” she smiles knowingly at me. Considering the strength I received from Ondine’s three orgasms earlier, I can’t argue with her. Thomas gives me an odd look, but I ignore him. I still feel guilty about what I did.

“What do you need from me now?” I ask, trying to move the subject forward. I see Thomas lean over and ask his mermaid something—when had she come out?—but she just shrugs. Becky leans in and says something to him, and suddenly he looks relieved. If I’d had any doubts that she knew what’d happened, they’re gone now as she gives me a conspiratorial smile. What did I do to deserve her?

“The last step,” the Pillar of Earth states, missing nothing that goes on around her, “will be the most dangerous, short of fighting the Outsider directly. Thankfully, you already have a head start.” I wait for her to continue, getting slightly annoyed that she won’t come right out and state what she wants. “You need to get a token from each Pillar. Something that’ll represent their strength or power. I believe you already have something from the Pillar of Light?”

I remember the horn pendant the Angel Michael gave me, and my hand goes to my chest. I had completely forgotten about it, and even though I know it hasn’t been on me since then, my fingers find it beneath my shirt. Where does it go when I don’t think about it? For some reason that thought bothers me. What if I go to use it and it’s not there?

The dark skinned woman waves to the floor next to me. I look down to see a chunk of adamantium with a loop to place it on the chain next to the horn. A tingle seeps into my fingers as I pick up the precious metal. It takes me only a moment to place it on the chain and the chain back around my neck. Its weight sits comfortably against my chest. I wonder when it’ll disappear again.

“You have more than earned that token of my power. You now have two of the six tokens you need,” Gaia continues speaking. “It will take the combined efforts of all six to destroy the Outsider and the forces it’s brought into this world.”

“Wait, what forces?” Jewkes asks. “I thought the thing was alone.”

I see others around the room nodding their agreement with this statement.

“The Outsider came alone,” she informs us, “but it has gained allies along the way. Also, while this world was weakened by the loss of two Pillars, it brought another of its kind here.”

Her words suck the air from my lungs. I feel as though I’d just been punched in the guts. There were now two of those things here? I’d hoped that Aldol would have been busy trying to find out what had happened to TanaVesta, but now I find out that it had worked to bring another of its kind here to help destroy our worlds.

“Who would ally with it?” Becky asks.

“King Aeacus, ruler of the Myrmidons,” she states flatly. “As soon as he saw that his queen and lover, TanaVesta, was dead and Angela in her place, he fled. The Outsider found him, and they are now working together.”

“But the succubus just barely took over,” Jennifer says. “How can you possibly know that already?”

Gaia turns her formidable gaze on the large-chested woman, and though it never reaches her weary eyes, she smiles.

“I know everything that occurs. Anything that happens while something is touching my soil, I know.” Gaia pauses and for a wonder, I see Jennifer gulp and turn a bit red. Her eyes flicker towards me, or at least I think they do. They moved so fast. “Yes, Jennifer Lansbury. Even that.”

I want to ask what that exchange was about, but Ondine speaks up, and my mind is taken elsewhere. “Lyden will never get something like that from Varun. He’s so paranoid these days.” I see Thomas try to hush her, but she places her hand on his shoulder and looks him in the eyes for a moment. A second later, he nods and turns to face Gaia. Hopefully the time I’d spent with her is helping them, and it looks like some of the nonsexual advice my father gave him has seeped in.

For some reason, the Pillar of Earth looks to Brooke, waiting for something. After a couple of uncomfortable seconds, the redhead bows her head and reaches into her shirt. She pulls out a worked silver necklace with a pendant in the shape of an aquamarine seahorse dangling from it.

“It was Commander Douglas’s,” she says, her cheeks nearly as red as her hair. Even after everything that’d happened between her and her old commander, including her killing him, I’m surprised to hear her call him Commander Douglas. “I found it in his hut after I, I mean, we. . . .” She trails off, and I move over to hug her to me.

“It’s okay, Brooke,” I tell her softly, having no idea why she would try to hide this from me.

Her arms hold me tight as her head rests on my shoulder. “I was afraid you’d be angry with me for wanting to keep it,” she says. “You were still under Muramasa’s influence, and considering that he killed your mother, I was afraid you’d lose it and send me away, or worse.”

Considering the way my mind had worked back then, while the evil blade had whispered to me, ‘or worse’ could have meant killing her.

“I understand,” I let her know. “He meant a lot to you, before . . . well, before everything else happened. May I borrow it when the time comes?”

She nods against my neck, and I feel relief. The relief doesn’t come from knowing that she’ll let me use it when the time comes, but rather that I now have three of the six talismans I’ll need to fight Aldol and its allies. With Angela and Lysa being two of the remaining three, I’m sure they’ll be willing to give me tokens of their power.

That leaves only the Pillar of Darkness.

I shudder, as that thought occurs to me. If God, or the worshipped equivalent of God, is the Pillar of Light, does that mean that Satan is the Pillar of Darkness? Thankfully I’ve never met the creature. His reputation isn’t exactly stellar.

Letting go of Brooke, I turn back to face Gaia. “The sooner I get to the Pillar of Darkness, the better,” I state a lot more boldly than I feel.

“I would have words with you in private, first,” she tells me. Before I have a chance to say anything in response, she melts into the ground.

“Lyden, you can’t go see the Pillar of Darkness,” Brooke states, gripping my arm.

“You heard her,” I reply, waving at where Gaia had been. “I need something from each Pillar.” I know I don’t have to explain to her why I don’t need to head to Air’s or Fire’s domains.

“But that’s where all the scary creatures of night live,” Areth says worriedly, leaving my shoulder. “No one goes there, unless they live there.”

“Can the Pillar of Darkness come to us?” Becky asks.

“I’ll find out,” I tell her, hoping that might work.

“I don’t like her wanting to talk to you in private,” Jennifer says, coming up to us. I remember the exchange between her and Gaia, and wonder if she’s afraid I might find out what that was about.

I look around the room, meeting everyone’s gaze, before heading for my door. For some reason, I have a terrible feeling about this conversation.

As soon as the door closes behind me, I’m assaulted by the dark woman. Her nude body plasters to mine and her lips seeking my neck.

“Hurry and get undressed,” she orders me. “I’m weak and need the energy.”

“I’m not really in the mood,” I tell her, trying to pry her hands off me. I’ve already had sex twice today, and despite how sensual I know Gaia can be, I’m not feeling it right now.

“You’re going to need the energy too, considering where you’re going,” she tries to convince me.

“I think I have enough,” I state, pulling her hand out of my pants, only to have her grab my wrist and press it against her tit. “Besides, can’t we summon the Pillar of Darkness here?”

She finally pulls away from me, shock evident in her brown eyes.

“He never leaves his realms. Never.” Her words carry enough finality in them that I know better than to argue.

“Well, what about sending an emissary to meet with, or some kind of middleman?” I press.

She looks at me shrewdly for a moment, her bare chest rising and falling slowly as she thinks. “Only Eris stands high enough to deal with, instead of Him. I can arrange a meeting with her, but I need something from you first.” Her hand drops to her pussy, spreading her legs and rubbing her crotch vigorously. I have no doubt about what she’s requesting.

“I’m telling you, I’m not really in the mood,” I tell her, but I’m mesmerized as I watch her slip her social finger into her wet snatch, then slowly draw it back out. A slim string of her juices connect her finger back to her twat.

“Are you sure I can’t convince you otherwise?” she asks me, her voice low and sultry. I look back up to meet her eyes, and know I can’t hide the bulge that is growing in my pants.

“I’m willing to let you try,” I attempt to sound hesitant, but we both know it’s only a matter of time before I’m pounding into her wet slit again. Slamming my cock into her, just as two of her fingers are doing right now.

“Well, get undressed then,” she tells me, making a wet noise as she pulls her fingers out of her. I watch as she brings her shiny fingers up to her lips and cleans them off with her tongue.

I don’t waste anymore time, before undoing my pants and letting them and Murasame drop to the floor.

The dark skinned Mother Earth moves quickly to kneel in front of me, grinning and taking my thick phallus in hand. “Looks like I don’t have much convincing to do,”

“Are you going to convince me, or keep talking?” I ask, chagrined at having been manipulated so easily.

Her eyes sparkle as her grin widens. Opening her dark lips, she swallows the head. I can feel her tongue working the rim and moan softly at the pleasure coming from her skill. Bending over, I grab one of her ponderous breasts, fingering the nipple. Her head begins to move up and down my shaft, slowly taking in more and more, until her nose hits my pelvis. She holds there for a few moments, before pulling back, and gasping for air. Some of her spittle runs down my length, and she uses her hand to jack me off.

I moan again, when she continues moving her hand, and joins her mouth back to the action. She sucks hard on my knob, and I’m overcome with lust, finally completely capitulating to her feminine wiles.

Slipping my arms under her armpits, I pick her up, and literally throw her back onto the bed. I’m not worried about hurting this powerful woman. Using my super-speed, I dive between her legs, lapping up the juices that had been dripping down her thighs only a moment ago. Once I have one thigh clean, I move to the other one. By the time I’m done, there is a steady flow dripping down her crack.

Once again, I marvel that her sexual juices taste like a mountain stream. I move in for her cunt, nibbling lightly on her outer labia, and making her squirm. My arms work up under her legs, and I sit up pulling on her, lifting her so that she never leaves my lips. Her shoulders are now in my lap, and her legs draped over my shoulders.

Growling like a starving man finally able to feast, I shove my tongue into her hole, making her cry out as she has a minor orgasm.

My hands move down to her breasts, and our eyes meet. “You wanted this?” I ask, swiveling my hips against her back. She can’t miss my throbbing prick poking her. “You’re going to have to wait until I’m full.”

I let her ponder on that for a second, before I dive back in. This time I concentrate on her clit, shoving my chin into her slit. Using my tongue and teeth, I pop the sensitive nub back and forth, tweaking her dark nipples, and enjoying her gasping moans while her legs twitch. Every time I pop her clitoris, her legs spasm.

“Oh . . . my . . . YES!” she screams, and I feel power flood my system. I have to hold on tight to my sense of self, as the Pillar of Earth’s orgasm washes over me. Hopefully I don’t take too much from her, before I can return it with interest. I know how hard she is working to support this world while my daughter and Angela gain control over their abilities.

Pulling my head back, I spread her cheeks and spit at her puckered brown hole.

“Mmm, you want my ass, do you?” she asks me coyly. “As I recall, you didn’t last too long last time I let you back there.”

I let her down and move up her body. Positioning my rod at her rear entrance, I lock eyes with her. “We’ll see who lasts the longest.”

Despite my words, I wait for her ascent before pressing forward. Her slicked up anus slips easily around my girth, eliciting a moan from both of us.

I take my time, slowly moving in and out of her, until I have my entire length seated in her colon. The irreverent thought that I can tell the difference between her sphincter and a hole in the ground crosses my mind. A tight, rippling, pleasurable hole trying to milk my cock.

“Now fuck me, young generator, and make me cum!” The lust I see in her eyes is the same as the last time we’d screwed.

Reaching forward, I fill my hands with her ample bosom. I pull my hips back, until only the tip is still inside her warm colon, then slam forward, using my ability to amplify her pleasure, and smile as her eyes roll back into her head. I don’t let up, pounding into her rear orifice, and driving her bliss ever higher with each thrust.

I know she’s trying to hold back, but she doesn’t stand a chance. “No, not yet. . . Oh, earthquakes! I. . . Oh. . . Oh,YES! I’m. . . Aaaahh!” When she finally cums, her pussy squirts out her cum like a geyser, blasting against my pelvis. At the same time, I see images of both the Shadow World and Earth. Volcanoes are erupting, mountains crumbling, and Hawaii gains a new island.

When reality returns to the present, I realize that I’d stopped moving. Gaia is desperately trying to catch her breath. Her eyes are closed, and despite her dark coloring, her skin is flushed with the afterglow of her climax.

“I think it would be best, if you don’t try that again,” she whispers. She twists her hips and I know she wants to be on top. We roll together, and she looks down at me, still slightly breathless. “Now you just lie there, and let me do the work. I think you’ve more than earned it.”

She leans forward, and presents her right breast for my mouth. As I suckle from her nipple, I can feel her insides massage my cock, making me moan into her breast at the pleasure of it. Her hips swivel against mine, and I can feel my prick stirring up her internal organs. Despite her request that I just lie here, I let my hands drop to her hips, guiding her movements for my maximum pleasure.

Without any warning, my mouth fills up with milk, making me gasp, but her hand on the back of my head doesn’t let me pull away.

“Drink up, generator. My milk will keep you strong and healthy. I have rarely ever bestowed this gift upon anyone, but I want you to have this. Drink, and know that you are very special.”

The combination of her milk pouring down my gullet, along with the warmth that’s flowing through me, and the feeling of her rippling along my shaft sends me over the top. Grunting, my whole body locks up with each volley of my spunk, and I fire it off inside Mother Earth. Despite the bliss filled haze overwhelming my mind, I somehow manage to ensure I’m shooting blanks.

As I come down from my own heaven, she finally releases my head, and sits up.

“Phew,” she sighs. “Despite myself, I had another small orgasm at the end. You truly are a talented young man, Lyden.” Her slight laugh sends shivers through her voluptuous body, and making me moan as my over-sensitive prick is still inside her.

She leans forward again, this time pulling off me, and planting a soft kiss against my lips.

I get up, and clean our combined juices from me, while Gaia relaxes on the bed. Pulling up my pants, I look at the Earth Mother. Pure power and strength is flowing through me. I feel as though I can take on Aldol by myself right now, but remember that Gaia had said I would need the strength of all six Pillars.

“One last thing, before you go back to your friends,” she says. Looking at her, I can see that some of the tension around her eyes is gone. The energy she received from our coupling is obviously already helping her. Not all of the strain is gone from her eyes, but most of it is for now.

“I’m really not up for another round,” I tell her seriously. I’ll be lucky if I can get it up again within a week!

She laughs, sending delightful ripples through her flesh once more, but even that does nothing for me. “No, this is about something else.” She grows serious, and I can feel my heart pounding in my chest, suddenly wary. The ambience of pleasure is replaced with gloom. “This is about how you must die, and why.”

* * *

Numbly, I shut the door behind me.

“What did she say?” Brooke asks, hugging me to her.

“Huh?” I ask. “What?” I can’t tell them what Gaia just told me! Even if she hadn’t sworn me to secrecy, telling them that I have to die when this is all over doesn’t seem like a great way to start this next mission.

“About having the Pillar of Darkness meet you here,” Becky says, giving me a strange look.

“Oh, that!” I exclaim, somewhat relieved. “He won’t come here,” I tell them quickly, to cover my lapse. “But she can set up a meeting with Eris, so we won’t have to go all the way into Darkness’s realm.”

Three sets of eyes grow wide at the mention of Eris’s name.

“What’s wrong with that?” Thomas asks Ondine, seeing what I saw.

“Eris is nearly as bad as the Pillar of Darkness,” she says. “Maybe worse.” Turning to face me, I see fear in her eyes. “Lyden, she was once known as the goddess of chaos, vengeance, and strife. Meeting with her can’t be a good thing.”

“I’m assuming you’ll want all the firepower you can take,” Jewkes says, stepping forward and patting the pistol at his side.

“I am here for you, master,” Sheila states contritely. “Just command me.”

“I’d like to offer my services too, if I can,” Emmett adds in, and I see more than one untrusting glance turn his way, but he ignores them. “I’m not worth anything offensively, but if the shit hits the fan, I may be able to offer some protection with my magic.”

“That reminds me,” I say, still trying to distract myself from Gaia’s ominous words. “When I went up against TanaVesta, her fire didn’t affect me. Now that I think about it, magic hasn’t had much effect on me for a bit. Any idea why?”

I look around; meeting everyone’s eyes, but no one seems to have an idea, until I get to Emmett.

“It sounds like what the Daughters of Respite can do. They seem to be almost completely immune to any magic. Is there any reason you might have gotten it from one of them?”

I rack my brain, trying to think of something, and I recall being back in the Paladonic Knight’s mountain home. I had been in my dragon form, Miranda Olsen knocked out as I tried to step over her. One of my chrome and black talons had scratched her and something had washed over me at the time, settling into my skin. Could that have been it?

“Even if you’re immune to magic,” Brooke states, “that won’t entirely protect you from Eris, and it doesn’t offer any protection to the rest of us.”

“The generator’s choices are few,” Alloria says, startling us. Where had she been hiding? “He can meet with the Pillar of Darkness deep in his own territory, or meet with Eris near the border. She has already agreed, by the way.”

She has already agreed? That was fast!

“I won’t go any deeper into that territory than I have to,” I state firmly, brooking no argument.

“She had conditions, though,” Alloria says, as though I hadn’t spoken. I glare at her, knowing that she’d held back this information. She smiles slightly in response.

Watch her, son, Shemhazau’s voice fills my mind. Elves were always wily creatures, but this one seems to be a real bitch. While I don’t like his terminology, I can’t argue with his assessment.

“What are her conditions?” I ask when it doesn’t look like she’s going to continue on her own.

“You can’t take any more than three other people with you,” she says, keeping her brown eyes locked on mine.

“Do I get to choose?” I ask, trying to keep my voice as level as hers.

“No,” she says. “The Paladonic Knight, the mermaid assassin . . . and me.” Despite her voice staying calm, I can tell she’s not happy about being included. “She’s promised safe conduct to and from there, as long as we promise no violence.”

“I don’t like it,” Brooke says worriedly. “She can’t be trusted, and why these conditions?”

“It’s obvious, isn’t it?” Becky asks, stepping forward. When we all look at her blankly, she starts to look embarrassed. “Well, I mean, if she used to be the goddess of vengeance, who among us are most strongly driven in that direction?”

I see her point now, but I wonder how Eris could possibly know that much about us. Could it be something with her being the Pillar of Darkness’s confidant?

Emmett, despite his recent change in attitude, was still a Paladonic Knight; the epitome of racial haters. Alloria is the last of her kind and very much a hater of humans. Even Brooke has a lot in her past. After over 140 years, I’m sure she wants vengeance somewhere.

“When do we leave?” I ask, deciding quickly. It needs to be done, and if I second-guess everything, then I’ll never get the tokens of power I’ll need to take out Aldol.

“Lyden, are you sure?” Brooke asks me, fear evident in her eyes.

“I am,” I lie.

A sudden whinny from the balcony makes us all turn in that direction. Despite her bulk, Blue moves into the main room, barely avoiding squashing some of my friends.

“Oh, look!” Areth squeals like a teenage girl. “Horsies!” The tiny golden woman flits over to where four dark black equines stand waiting. As she gets close, though, one of them snaps at her, and she flies to my chest, gripping my shirt. “Mean horsy!”

“Nightmares,” Alloria says unhappily. “Our rides have arrived.”

“Don’t go with the mean things,” Areth orders me, but I carefully hand her off to Sheila. There is uncertainty in my slave’s eyes, and I try to nod reassuringly to her.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” I tell everyone as I walk to one of the midnight stallions.

“I was hoping for a bit more action on this trip,” Jennifer complains loudly. “Just don’t fuck this goddess too hard!”

Jennifer’s vulgarity breaks the tension, and everyone but Richard and Emmet laughs lightly. The police captain just looks stern. “I didn’t come on this trip to be constantly left behind,” the hook-nosed man states.

“I’d take you with me if I could,” I tell him. “Rest while you can, though. I have a feeling things will get a lot more exciting for you after we get back.”

I don’t wait for a response before leaping to the back of the horse. Before Marchosias’s fantasy world, I’d never been near a horse, but now I seem to know just what to do with the equine. I had been half-afraid the thing would nip at me, but it just turns and launches us off the balcony. I have only half a second to hang on and feel my stomach in my throat, before I hear the nightmare’s hooves clatter on the open air.

“Wait for us!” Brooke shouts behind me, but I’m not in control of this flight.

We fly west and a little north, over open plains filled with various creatures, most of them unrecognizable. All too soon I see a shadowed area. There is light all around us, except for a spike of dimness that stabs into Earth’s domain. A shiver runs down my spine as we cross this odd border, and turn north towards deeper darkness. In the murkiness, it takes me a moment to realize we’re getting closer to the ground.

Landing, the four stallions continue moving until inky darkness surrounds us.

Silence reigns, even the nightmare’s hoof beats are entirely muted. Uneasiness festers in my stomach like rancid meal.

After a few minutes, or maybe a lifetime, I notice a soft glow directly ahead. As we approach it, I turn to speak to my invisible companions, but no sound escapes my lips. I’m not sure if there is something wrong with my vocal cords or if it is somehow due to this strange place. The eerie silence lends credence to the latter, but what if my ears are not working either? This doesn’t make me feel any better.

As we come closer to the light, I can make out a single woman standing by a lamppost. Long black hair flows from her head, and strange tattoos adorn her pale skin.

“Welcome, friends,” she says as we enter the sphere of her light. Her voice is soft and sultry with a seductive quality to it that I don’t miss. I’m immediately on my guard.

“Eh,” I hear Brooke’s voice next to me, and I turn to see her rubbing her throat. “I can finally speak.” I am glad that I wasn’t the only one.

Brooke’s eyes are wide, and she keeps turning to look into the impenetrable blackness behind us. I don’t blame her. There is an itch between my shoulder blades, as though something is out there, watching us.

“Thank you for agreeing to meet with us,” I tell the goddess, trying to keep my voice level. It still quavers with uncertainty.

“I admit that I have wanted to meet you for some time, Lyden Snow,” she informs me, walking over to the nightmare I’m riding. She reaches for the stallion’s muzzle, but just before she’s able to make contact with it, the blasted animal vanishes and suddenly I’m landing hard on my rump. Eris frowns slightly, but offers her hand to help me to my feet. Her fingernails are pitch black, almost as dark as the gloom around us.

I take it without thinking. Brooke’s shouted, “Lyden, no! Don’t!” comes too late. As soon as my fingers touch the goddess’s soft slim hand, the world seems to spin. Anger, spitefulness, and a general sense of wanting to destroy anything I can get my hands on, including the exotic woman before me, swamps through my body. Before I’m able to act, she lets go, and I’m returned to myself. Dizziness replaces the other emotions, and I almost topple back over, barely catching myself.

Brooke’s arm goes around me, and I lean into her to stay upright, pulling solace through our shared love.

“Sorry about that,” Eris says contritely. “They never let me touch them.”

Having experienced her touch first hand, I can understand why!

“I’m okay,” I tell Brooke and stand fully upright. Looking around I see Emmett and Alloria dismounting. As soon as their feet touch ground, their nightmares vanish. I turn back to Eris, trying to act more confident than I feel. “You know why we’ve come?” I continue when she nods, an odd smile painting her features. “What must we do, to gain a token of the Pillar of Darkness’s favor?”

“I’m so glad you came to me for that, instead of going all the way to Him,” she states, her voice full of the confidence I wish I felt. Even with Murasame on my hip, that one small taste of her power really shook me. “I love the man dearly, but He would have made things a lot less pleasant.” She giggles then, and I can sense a hint of madness behind it. “And a lot less fun.”

“Speak plainly, Goddess,” Alloria commands. “If the Outsider kills off the Pillars, then your master will die as well. It is in your own self interest to provide what we need.”

I flinch at her tone, hoping Eris doesn’t get offended and decide to forget about us, but at the same time I agree with the elf.

Eris’s smile only grows bigger. “And that is why I agreed to this meeting, dear elf. If it were entirely up to me, I would simply give you what you want, but the world doesn’t work that way.” If it weren’t for that smile on her face and the gleam in her eyes, I’d almost believe she was sad about being unable to help us immediately. “It has to be earned.”

“W-what would y-you have us d-do?” Emmett speaks up for the first time, and I realize the man is terrified. Looking at this from his perspective, I can understand why. In a way, he is a representative of a group of men that have made it their life’s mission to kill every creature like the ones surrounding him. Somehow his fear makes me feel slightly better. I’m not the only one worried about what might happen.

Eris’s responding smile shows all of her white teeth.

“You must do something that you may regret for the rest of your lives. Each of you will have to do something that you are loathe to do. Do this, and the talisman representing my lover’s power will be yours.” She turns to Brooke, and I feel the redhead’s hand firmly grip mine. “Starting with you, mermaid.”

Authors Note: Just three more chapters, and this story will be done. I know I do this at the end of each chapter, but I really have to thank Garbonzo for all of his hard work and efforts. He was the one to put together the blog. He takes time out of his busy schedule to edit these chapters, to make them what they are. I really do appreciate him!

If you can’t wait for chapter 32, you can read it on the blog now. The link to my blog is in my forum signature. You will find the forum here:
It is the PleasureTrove blog at blogspot.

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