“You now have all the tokens you need,” Gaia whispers to me. “Now it’s time to face the Outsider, and your death.”
The lead weight that fills my stomach is enough to make me nauseous. I want to sick up. I want to go to my room and just go to bed, forgetting about all the troubles in the world. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to go up against either Outsider, Aldol and its new ally, and likely lose one or more of my friends. I’ve already given up too much. All of the blood, sweat, and tears. Lisa’s life, though I can’t directly tie that to Aldol. All of it seems to weigh me down in this one moment. It’s too much, I want to scream. I never asked for this!
“Everyone gather around,” I croak past a throat that doesn’t want to cooperate. I have to repeat myself to be heard over everyone else, but this time they look at me. Once again my voice flees as numerous eyes look to me expectantly. What am I even going to say to them? How about, thanks for everything you’ve already done, but now I need you to put yourselves at risk while I try to live long enough to take out the light monsters. Monsters that have made my life nearly unbearable.
Thankfully I have these friends with me to help me through.
Looking into Brooke’s loving eyes, Becky’s intelligent ones, Sheila’s trusting gaze, and even Areth’s excited ones, I know I can’t tell them that I can’t live past the final battle. None of them will understand the necessity. I have to die, so that there can be peace.
“Lysa,” I say, facing my daughter. I have to swallow the sudden lump in my throat as her mother’s eyes regard me. “I can’t thank you enough for the gift of these swords.” I gesture to the hilts with invisible air blades.
“Oh don’t be so formal!” Jennifer yells, and there are a few titters of laughter around the room. I can’t help but smile, glad that some of the tension has seeped away.
“You’re right,” I tell the woman whose chest could almost rival the Empire State Building for grandeur. “Now that we have these weapons, and the talismans we need, it’s time to take the fight to Aldol. I, for one, am tired of running from the Outsiders. It’s time we take the fight to them, and show it that these are our worlds. Prove to those creatures that we’re not going to idly sit by while it seeks to destroy everything we hold dear.
“All of you have already made sacrifices in one form or another,” I say. I can’t help but notice the looks exchanged between Emmet and Alloria, nor how the elf rubs her stomach. I hope those two can cope with what they did. I also don’t miss Areth rubbing her behind. “We’ve lost friends, our ways of life—“
“Lost weight!” Jennifer announces, and I nod to her point. The woman had once been overly obese, but now has the body any woman in the adult industry would kill for. I still wonder how that happened. I’ll have to look into it if I ever get the time.
“Some of us have even lost our sanity for a bit,” I say with a smile, before adding, “or maybe that was just me.” There are more laughs than I think the joke deserves, but I’m still grateful for them. I get a few odd glances from those that weren’t around for my episode with Muramasa. “Regardless, we are here today to prove that no matter what the adversity, the Outsiders cannot win!”
I’m surprised by the volume of the cheering that suddenly erupts as I finish my speech, until I realize that most of it is coming from outside.
“I hope you don’t mind,” Gaia says, gliding forward, “but I went ahead and broadcast your words to every place that had ears to listen, through my earth. It seems to have boost their moral. They’ll need it.”
I pull the short brunette into a tight embrace, her head resting on my sternum. “It already knew,” I tell her. Turning to the dark skinned Pillar of Earth, I ask, “Any idea where the best place to attack will be, or where the monster is?”
The corners of Gaia’s lips dip down, and I already know I’m not going to enjoy her answer.
“The Pillar of Fire is already engaging the Myrmidons in her lands. She doesn’t have the loyalty of her subjects as TanaVesta did, and she’s being hard pressed.”
“Angela’s in trouble?” I gasp, grabbing the grip of Murasame. “We need to help her!”
“Not so fast,” she warns, and I have to tamp down my anger at the rebuke in her tone. “Varun is also under assault. It seems the Outsider’s friend has influenced him enough, that he is laying waste to his own subjects. Both threats must be squelched if our worlds are going to survive.”
For only a second I’m tempted to say Varun can go to hell for all I care, but I know Gaia is right.
“Why don’t the Outsiders control you?” Becky asks. I swallow a curse, as I realize I’d never considered this.
“It’s the nature my mind, as well as that of all Pillars, takes that can protect us. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying your minds are weaker,” she tells the short brunette. “The very nature of the power we possess, changes us. Only if our minds have been weakened, as Varun’s was by TanaVesta, can the Outsiders gain purchase and control. Or when we are new to our powers.” She nods to Lysa, who is wearing her amber colored glasses. “I don’t know how it took control of the previous Pillar of Fire, but Angela and Lysa should remain safe as long as they wear those glasses.”
“What about the Pillars of Light and Dark?” Becky asks next.
Gaia laughs softly before answering. “They are even older than I am. Neither one will be susceptible to the Outsiders. That’s why Aldol had to work through TanaVesta at first, to weaken this world, instead of just commanding us to commit suicide. Its power can seem absolute, but some of you know it can be fought.”
I glance at Becky, hoping she doesn’t still feel bad about how Aldol had controlled her and almost killed me. From the steely determination in her eyes, I see her mind is working through other things, assimilating what the Pillar of Earth said.
“You might be surprised to find that Marchosias is fighting against the Pillar of Water,” Gaia adds in. I have to stop myself from swearing. I still hold a grudge against the demon for what he subjected us to in his nightmare world. “Also, many of the denizens of Darkness have come forward to fight for the Outsider in both realms. The Outsider has either lied to them, or is manipulating them towards its goals. Some of them relish chaos and fight for their own reasons.”
“Do you have any good news?” I snap, irritated more and more as things seem to be getting worse.
“We’re alive, and still able to fight,” Lysa says. I turn to my daughter, eyes wide as I realize how much like her mother she just acted.
“You’re right,” I tell her, trying to hold back tears of pride. Whether it’s from the time she spent in my mind, or some supernatural ability of hers, she knows how I feel. I don’t mind the blustering wind as she hugs me tightly.
“Gaia,” I state, turning to face the woman, “can you send some of your forces to buttress Angela?” She nods, and I smile, though there is no mirth in it. “If there are any that can help Marchosias, send those to him. I hate that monster for what he did, but as long as he’s fighting on our side, I’ll support him.”
“We should go help Marchosias,” Brooke says, indicating Ondine and Arethusa. “We can act as your eyes and ears there.” She pauses for just a moment before a twinkle enters her eyes. “That is, if you’re okay with that, General Snow.”
“I don’t think—“ Thomas begins to argue, no doubt about staying with Ondine, but I cut him off.
“Remember what my father taught you, Thomas,” I tell him. “If there is a way for them to take you safely into their domain, go with them. Otherwise I could use your military expertise back here.” My father had told him that Ondine was the type of woman that needs to know her man is there for her, supporting her, not stopping her.
My old coworker looks from me, to Ondine, and back, before swallowing visibly. “I didn’t make it very high in the ranks before getting out of the service,” he states, “but I’ll help out however I can.”
“Thank you,” I tell him, before turning back to Gaia.
“We’ll go help your succubus,” Jennifer pipes up before I can say anything. “Come on, old man,” she elbows Jewkes in the ribs. “If you perform well enough, maybe I’ll let you get a better look at these tits you can’t stop staring at!”
From the police captain’s face, I can’t tell if he’s looking forward to the prospect, or unhappy about getting busted. Of course, he’s also married, so who knows.
“Blue,” I turn to the dragon sunning herself on the balcony, “go with them, and keep them safe.” The dragon snorts in response, smoke coming from her snout, but stands up and waits for them. The randy woman and the hook-nosed man each pick an air blade from the pile to add to their rifle and shotgun, and then climb onto the dragon’s back.
“I hope that’s your hilt poking me in the back,” Jennifer laughs. Before Jewkes even has a chance to respond, they’re off. I really hope I see them again.
I turn to look at Becky, Sheila, Emmet, Alloria, and Gaia. Sheila has been so quiet, I’ve nearly forgotten about her. I’m torn for what to do next.
“If we can take out the one in Water’s domain first,” Becky says, coming to my rescue, “can we use that against the fire ants?”
“The realms are on opposite sides of this world,” Gaia says. “But that one should be the weakest one.”
“Then I’ll head there first,” I tell the room.
“I wish to go with you, Master,” Sheila says subserviently.
I look into her brown eyes, and hate that I have to turn her down. “I would take all of you if I could, but you won’t be able to breathe under the water. Stay and help the efforts here. I want all of you to wear the Blublocker glasses Jewkes gave you.”
“As you wish, Master,” she says in a way that sounds more like, “But I still want to go.”
“I have summoned some Rocs to get you there,” Lysa says. “They will be the quickest way to fly. Even faster than your dragon form.”
“How are rocks going to fly?” Thomas asks, confused.
“You’ll see,” she says with a soft laugh I hope he doesn’t hear. Already I see the enigmatic ways of the pillars starting to come forth in her. A moment later, we hear a loud screech outside, and two massive birds land on the balcony. The two large avian creatures barely fit on something that Blue was able to rest on comfortably. Their wings are easily large enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if they are capable of lifting elephants into the air. “These are rocs,” Lysa says unnecessarily.
“Gawk later,” I tell the man, trying to hide my smile at his reaction. “Gaia, can you set Thomas up somewhere, where he can watch both battles?”
“I can’t see most of what’s happening in the water,” she tells me. “But I can show him what I can see.” She waves her hand in front of her. The floor shifts, changing into small representations of hills, and mountains. I can make out TanaVesta’s, or rather Angela’s, mountain peak in one rainbow shaped area. Creatures are moving around, also in miniature, and I realize I’m looking at the entirety of Fire’s domain. Across from that is an oppositely bent rainbow strip. This one has fewer creatures on it, and I can only guess that most of Varun’s forces are swimming, where Gaia can’t see them.
For but a second, I see a bright spot in Water’s half of the map, and know it must be the other Outsider. Even though I know it won’t be there by the time I arrive, I still rush to the back of the nearest Roc and hop on.
“Thomas, Gaia, I leave everything in your hands. Becky and Sheila, please offer what help you can. Lysa, please take care of yourself. Emmet, Alloria. . . . Please try not to kill each other.” I don’t wait for a response as Areth lands on my shoulder. The other two mermaids climb onto the other Roc, and we take off. We hold on tight to each other, as the massive birds take flight.
Even when flying in my dragon form, I don’t move as swift or as smooth as the Rocs do. In less time than I would have thought, and definitely not enough time for me to get mentally prepared, the huge birds begin circling in the air, skimming just over the water.
“Areth. . . .” I trail off, not sure what to do with the fairy. I don’t dare send her to Marchosias, considering his anger with her before, but I don’t know if she can breathe underwater, either.
“I’ll take care of that big meanie demon,” she tells me. “He can’t scare me, now that I’m free to be with you.” She gives me a chaste peck on the cheek, and then a not-so-chaste nibble at my earlobe. Despite how odd her words seem, I understand. With her maidenhood broken, yet still free to move about, the demon can’t hurt her. At least, he’d better not!
“Take care of yourself,” I tell her. She zips up to give me a another quick peck on the cheek, but I turn my head in time for her whole face to land between my lips. As she splutters, I tell her, “I love you.”
Her whole body glows for a few seconds, before she flutters away. Before she’s out of earshot, I hear her yell, “You’d better survive down there, dolt! There are some perverted things I want to do to you when we’re done!”
Despite myself, I blush as the two mermaids regard me. It doesn’t help when Brooke adds in, “Damn straight you’d better survive. There are more than just a few perverted things I want to do.”
“He does seem rather good at them, doesn’t he?” Ondine muses a moment later.
I dive into the water before I see Brooke’s imagined scandalized face. Thankfully Ondine wasn’t touching any earth, so I know Thomas hadn’t heard that through Gaia.
I create my dragon’s tail to propel me through the water, and open my lungs to the water, as I did last time I entered this domain. I haven’t been swimming enough to get used to how weird it feels at first, as the liquid fills and cools my chest, slowing my breathing. I ignore it, swimming for the spires of Varun’s castle below us. I marvel at how just a short time ago, I couldn’t stand to be in any water deeper than my knees, but now I’m swimming to the bottom of a massive ocean.
The only warning I have is Brooke’s gasp, before something bites painfully into my tail. I spin around in the water, and see something that looks like a cross between a great white shark and a crocodile. That’s all the time I have for impressions, as I see the thing open its jaws, revealing numerous rows of sharp teeth, and prepare to bite me again. I’m able to move my appendage away in time to avoid the chomp and grip Murasame, ready to draw my sword out.
Brooke beats me to the kill, her blue wavy blade invisible in the water. In less time than I can think, the monster’s shark-head is floating away from its body.
“That blood is going to draw a lot more of those,” Ondine says. I realize that both mermaids are topless above their long fish’s tail. Turning, I see that my tail is bleeding profusely from the bite, mixing with the blood of the croco-shark creature.
“Since the tail isn’t really a part of you, can you heal it?” Brooke asks.
Shaking my head, I say, “No. If I were to change the tail, my rear end would just end up with the wound.” Then something Gaia had said occurs to me, when she warned me about going up against Aldol. I might not be able to absorb the Outsider’s energy safely, but what about the ambient energy in the water? Can I use that to close my wounds?
Closing my eyes, I concentrate, trying to pull the energy of the water into me, to heal the damage. Gasping, I open my eyes and shiver. The water around me turned into a thin layer of ice! I’ll have to remember that, and be more careful, I think as I break myself out of my little cocoon.
“I didn’t know you could make ice,” Brooke says, shocked and rubbing her arms to keep warm. Both mermaids’ nipples are hard as a rock in the cold water.
“Let’s go,” I say, giving her a warm kiss to get her moving. We don’t have the time for me to explain why pulling energy from the water turned it to ice. I was never good in physics class in college, anyway.
The sounds of battle greet us long before we reach Varun’s castle, even in the almost murky depths of the water. Lights flash as two groups magically battle one another, and swords clash as others are wounded and dying.
“Where would Varun or the other Outsider be?” I ask Brooke, but it’s Ondine that answers.
“They should be in the main courtyard.” Looking at Thomas’s girlfriend, I still have to admit that the Blublocker glasses don’t do her justice. Both women are beautiful in their own right, but the glasses almost add a comical air to them. Not the image we want to have going into battle, but better safe than sorry.
“Lead the way,” I state, waving my hand.
As we get closer, I pull Murasame free of his scabbard and immediately feel more confident.
Careful, son, Shemhazau’s voice fills my head. If you wound anyone with me, you’ll gain their powers.
And I should be careful about that? I mentally ask him back.
What if their power drives them to constantly kill or harm those around them? Also, I don’t know how well my sanity will hold up, as I continue to fight Muramasa and Masamune for dominance. Every kill you make, might make it harder for me.
I hadn’t thought of that. For just a second, I’m tempted to re-sheath the blade, but I keep him out. Murasame is my best weapon right now. I’ll do my best not to make my father’s existence any worse than it already is, but the fate of two worlds is resting on us. Like I said before, better safe than sorry.
Whatever you do, don’t use it on Varun. Not only will that transfer all of his power as the Pillar of Water to you, but it will most likely kill you. You’re not completely aligned with water as an element. That will also make it impossible for anyone else to become the Pillar of Water, for his mantle will become useless.
In other words, I need to be careful!
A group of mermen are guarding the water between what I think might be the courtyard and where we are now. Upon seeing us, they rush forward, ready to meet our attack. We’re outnumbered, three to five, but we don’t slow as they come on.
I hear Ondine’s name mentioned from the opposing side, and realize they must recognize her. My hope that this means they’ll let us pass is dashed, when two mermen attack me. Even with the skill Marchosias gave me in his nightmare world, added to what my sword imparts, I’m hard pressed to defend myself without killing them. My parries are slowed by the water, making things even more difficult. They have no skill or finesse in their attacks, simply hacking and slashing in an attempt to get through my impervious defense. Their movements aren’t hampered, and I wonder if it has something to do with them living and training in the water.
One of my attackers stiffens, and a moment later boiling air pierces the other man’s chest. Looking past them, I see Ondine pluck an air dagger from the first one’s back before pulling her longer blade free of the second one’s chest. As she sheaths her blades, I marvel that her blades had been invisible while out of the water, but very noticeable while under the water, whereas Brooke’s is now invisible down here.
Speaking of Brooke. . . . I turn in time to see her wiping her blade on one of her attacker’s tail, cleaning it off.
“You fought well,” Brooke compliments the other mermaid. “Once this is over, you should apply to be an assassin.”
Ondine laughs, shaking her head. “I wasn’t always this good, and they underestimated me.” I wonder when she gained the extra skill. Has she been practicing? “Besides, I don’t want to use one of those blades. Plus, I only had to take out one. Unless you count the two that Lyden couldn’t handle.”
The women laugh at my expense for a moment. I let them. Goodness knows there will be little enough chance for laughter for the next little bit.
* * *
The three of us are breathless as we finally reach the courtyard. It felt like every time we turned around, there was another group ready to attack us. Where are all of the creatures fighting on our side? Luckily none of us have been seriously injured, only Brooke and Ondine are sporting various scratches. Nothing has been able to break through Murasame’s defense, despite the hardship of fighting underwater.
The sight of ten mermen surrounding a huge seahorse statue and a glowing colorful ball of light pulls all thoughts of previous battles from my mind.
The mermen shout when they see us, but I notice that none of them are carrying swords.
“Spellcasters!” Brooke shouts out her warning as one of them lifts a hand, aiming his open palm at me.
A ball of light shoots across the intervening space, too fast for me to dodge and strikes me square in the chest.
The force of the impact knocks me back . . . a couple inches. I look down at my chest, and smile as I remember that I’m mostly immune to magic. The look on the other merman’s face is priceless as he stares wide-eyed and open mouthed.
“KILL THEM,” a massive voice bellows. I swear the water shudders at the sound. Looking up, I see that what I’d taken for a statue is in fact Varun. He’s noticed us. The colorful light next to him is flashing in the way I know the Outsiders communicate.
I turn to Brooke and Ondine, worried that they might fall under the thing’s control, but they smile at me behind their glasses.
“That’s weird,” Ondine states. “It feels as though I should be able to understand it, but it’s all garbled.”
“Welcome to my world,” I tell her.
A column of force interrupts any further talking as it slams into us, and immune or not, I’m still forced backwards. The two mermaids seem to be in worse straits, and I curse myself, remembering that they aren’t immune to magic at all.
Well, if I can absorb external energy to my own uses, can I absorb this spell? A moment later, the spell fizzles out, and the three of us right ourselves.
“Your magic is useless,” I yell to the mermen, hoping to let them flee.
Then I notice the glow behind their eyes. They have no choice in what they’re doing.
Using my tail for propulsion, I speed forward, using the power I gained from absorbing that last spell to move even faster.
A dome springs up around the group. I slam into it, rebounding away. I curse my stupidity.
An idea occurs to me, and I pull Murasame from my hip, bringing the blade down hard on the barrier. It shatters like broken glass, and all ten mermen collapse with it, knocked insensate by the backlash of power.
Only Varun and the Outsider stand before me.
The Outsider flashes again, and I can see Varun growing angrier as he towers a good ten feet above me.
“I CAN’T! HE IS IMMUNE TO MY POWER,” the large seahorse shouts in response to whatever the Outsider told him.
Somehow I can sense the Outsider turn to regard me as Brooke and Ondine swim up to my back.
“How did you know that would break their shield?” Brooke asks me quietly.
“Because my sword absorbs abilities and powers. I didn’t think it would—Oomph!” I grunt as a bright light slams into my chest. I’d have gone flying—swimming?—if the mermaids wouldn’t have caught me. As my vision clears, I realize I’m struggling just to breathe. There is a hole the size of my chest, burned out of my shirt. The Outsider’s laser hadn’t hurt me, so much as its impact had, knocking the breath out of me. Why can the Outsider still affect me, when other magic can’t?
Looking back up, I see that the Outsider has fled, leaving us to deal with Varun.
The seahorse is obviously panicked, as he starts throwing various spells at us. Unfortunately for him, I easily absorb them, regaining my breath.
“Stop it, Varun!” I command the Pillar of Water. “You’ve lost. If you don’t want to die as well, then give up!”
He doesn’t quit, however, and seems to only grow more frantic.
“Brooke, Ondine, get out of here,” I tell my companions.
“You can’t kill him,” Brooke states, fear choking her tone. “Lysa and Angela are still too weak. Killing Varun will only weaken this world more.”
“I’ll meet you on Marchosias’s island,” I state, refusing to look at her. “Get her out of here, Ondine.” My voice leaves no room for arguments and the two mermaids flee.
Varun tries to attack them, but I block all of his efforts. The seahorse focuses on me again, and finally stops throwing spells my way. Instead, he physically attacks. The creature swims ten feet taller than I am, and is easily more powerful. His curled up tail lashes out at me, but with all of the power gained from his spells, I easily sidestep it. Reaching out, I grip his tail in my hand. Even at the end of it, I can barely get my hand around the tip. No dirty jokes here, please. I can feel the tiny bones that comprise the flexible appendage break and shatter under my powerful grip.
Varun screams, but I refuse to let go. Instead, I concentrate hard, pulling in all of the ambient energy around the Pillar of Water, but not from the Pillar himself. The seahorse’s screams grow more ragged as first frost, and then ice, begins to form on his shiny scales. Cold surrounds me, but I do my best to ignore it, as the ice thickens, trapping the creature within.
I don’t know how long I stay there, drawing in power and locking Varun in the ice, but when I finally stop, my arm is encased in the frigid ice up to my elbow. A solid wall of frozen water extends from one end of the courtyard, to the other. Immobile, but somehow I sense he still lives, is Varun. The absurdity of trapping the seahorse in his own element isn’t lost on me, but hopefully this will slow him down enough for me to take care of the light monster.
“I don’t know if you can hear me,” I tell the crazed creature, “but I want you to know I’m not your enemy. That other creature was. When I’m done with it, we will see about you.”
With those ominous words left in the air, I use the smallest fraction of the strength flowing through my limbs to break my arm free of the ice that goes up to my elbow.
Turning, I speed-swim out of the courtyard, moving as fast as I can. This place is freaking cold!
I run into Brooke and Ondine as I leave the castle, and scowl at them for not getting away.
“Before you get mad,” Brooke cuts me off before I can speak, “we stopped because it looked like that other creature went for the island, and we didn’t want to—Oh!”
I don’t waste any time, grabbing each woman around their naked waist and propelling us through the water. With all my gained energy, we make great time. When I see the ground begin to slope upwards, I aim for the surface. I break through with enough force to go airborne, and quicker than the speed of thought, I transform into my dragon form, absorbing the women with me, and sending out a shockwave as I pull in air around me to make up my mass.
Water droplets drip from my wings as they catch the air. I can see the beach on the island, and realize that the rain has stopped. Is this because I locked Varun up, or did he die in that ice cube? I shudder to think of the consequences of the latter.
I don’t have time to consider it further, as I see Areth and Marchosias in his snake-tailed, winged wolf form fighting along with a group of determined Grindylows. Slowly pushing them down the beach are towering Cyclopes, swinging huge clubs and throwing boulders. Why are the Cyclopes fighting for the Outsiders? With only their one eye and at this distance, it’s impossible to see if they’re being controlled.
“I hate when you take me out of the fight like this,” Brooke says, but I ignore her. She’d become a part of me when I transformed.
I bellow out a roar, enraged that anyone would dare attack one of my women. When I land on the beach, the Cyclopes stare at me for a brief moment before raising their weapons and coming for me.
I can see that Areth is yelling something, but can’t hear her over the one-eyed monsters coming for me.
Any powers I need to worry about when killing them? I ask my father, with the mermaids listening.
“Is that why we had to kill all those other mermen back there? And here I thought you finally sucked at something,” Ondine teases me.
No, son. Unless you count it an ability to be big, ugly, and great at tinkering.
“You could stand to be a little less attractive, Lyden,” Ondine jibes. “I really think you’re too good looking for your own good.”
“I think he’s just the right kind of good looking,” Brooke comes to my defense.
Good, I think, in reference to my father’s words. I tear into the front line of the beasts. With each swipe of my powerful claws, I feel myself growing stronger. Their clubs bounce harmlessly off my scaled hide, and even the boulders only bump me about, without causing any damage. With each blow of my claws, the monsters go down, until the remaining ones flee back into their cave. Well, some flee, some limp, and one crawls back to their home.
I look around, not even breathless after my exertions, trying to find the Outsider.
“Lyden!” I hear Areth scream in terror. My blood grows cold at the sound.
Turning my head on my long neck, I see Marchosias still in his animal form, the golden fairy between his teeth.
“LET. HER. GO!” I telepathically order the demon, but when he looks at me, I can see the glow behind his eyes. “IF YOU THINK THAT CONTROLLING HIM WILL STAY MY HAND, YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH I WANT TO KILL HIM,” I think at the controlled demon.
Marchosias blinks, and I see the glow fade from his gaze. A second later he yawns in confusion, looking just like a dog, and Areth drops from his mouth. When she hits the sand and doesn’t move, fear courses through my large body, immediately replaced by rage.
“Don’t do anything foolish,” Brooke admonishes me, but I block her out. In fact, I change back to my human form, just so I don’t take her into this battle.
Naturally, I forget to form my clothes.
Marchosias takes one look at me, Murasame already in my hands, and howls as he flees. That’s okay. He’s not my target right now anyway.
“Brooke, Ondine, look after Areth. I need to put someone’s lights out.” The North Pole has more warmth in it than my tone does right now.
Closing my eyes, I carefully pull in energy from around me. Will this work? I’m still getting used to this new ability. Or is it an old ability, with a new twist? I’m able to sense a greater pool of power further inland. I don’t hesitate before super-speeding in that direction.
When I catch up to the Outsider, it has two Cyclopes and one Grindylow guarding it. The three creatures charge me, heedless of their own danger. By the glow in their eyes, I know they’re not doing this of their own free will. Only the Grindylow survives, as I strike him in the back of the head with the grip of Murasame. Two one-eyed heads go rolling past me, however.
“Give it up,” I tell the light creature. “You cannot win this.”
This time, I’m anticipating the bolt of light that spears from the thing. It almost seems like child’s play, as I step to the side, leaving my two-toned blade in its path. I hear my father’s screams as the Outsider’s energy flows into my blade, but I try to ignore it. The attack lasts less than a second. I point the blade back at the creature, willing all the new energy out. At first nothing happens for a few seconds, and Shemhazau’s voice continues to scream in my head. Then there is a wrenching sensation from my gut, and light balls up at the tip of my katana-like blade. It elongates and soon I see that it has taken on the form of a small dolphin. Quicker than thought, the dolphin powers forward, swimming through the air. Its nose pierces the center of the Outsider. There is a puff of acrid smoke, and then nothing.
“Really?” I ask, feeling underwhelmed. That was an awesome killer move, and all I got was a puff of smoke?
I turn and move to sheath Murasame, but freeze halfway. My stomach sinks as I look at my blade. It’s no longer chrome and midnight black colored, but a very dull gray color. “Dad?” I ask the sword, willing it to answer me. “Shemhazau? Answer me!” Tears spring to my eyes as silence greets my request. Maybe it’s just dirty, and he can’t speak through it, I think. But as soon as my thumb touches the dull blade to wipe it clean, it crumbles to dust.
In my rage to destroy the Outsider, I destroyed what was left of my father as well. The grip that once belonged to Murasame falls from my nerveless fingers, but my knees hit the ground first. Despair threatens to overwhelm me. I had known my father for a short time, and it wasn’t enough. Sure he had embarrassed me, and at times I’d thought he was annoying, but now that he’s gone, I realize just how much I loved him. And now I have killed him twice.
“Lyden!” Ondine’s voice screams out. “We need you!”
They need me? Why, so I can get them killed as well?
“NO!” I scream at myself, reaching to get out of my despair before I fully succumb to it. “No more! No more of my friends will die today.”
I rush back to the beach, and find what I at first think is a bunch of demons in Marchosias’s form, until I realize they’re just overgrown wolves. Brooke and Ondine are standing over Areth’s inert form, doing their best to hold them back. Three already lie dead at their feet, but already I can tell that the two mermaids are growing weaker. Blood seeps from a nasty scratch on Brooke’s pale arm, and I see a dark stain marring Ondine’s side.
Before I can move forward, Marchosias is at my naked side.
“Those are werewolves, generator,” he warns me, crouching down and getting ready to pounce. From the direction of his snout and where his snake-tail is pointing, I know he’s not about to attack me. “Beware their bite.”
The demon moves like lightning, streaking across the ground. I’m not far behind him. I take just enough time to drop to all fours and transform into a dragon, using the sand below me for mass. Part of me can’t help but wonder at how easy it’s become for me to change forms. I no longer even feel pain when I transform.
My talons are back to their normal brown color.
Even without my father augmenting them, they are terribly sharp, and rend the wolf flesh easily. One tries to bite my foreleg, but Marchosias’s tail sinks its fangs into the beast’s neck before it can reach me. I ignore the fallen monster as its mouth begins to foam and it goes into its death convulsions.
I’m able to return the favor a moment later when a werewolf leaps for Marchosias’s back, while his tail is killing another wolf. My tail sweeps out with enough force that I hear ribs break on impact. There is a sickening thud when the monster’s head slams into a tree.
Without warning, I’m left with no one else to attack. What few werewolves remain are retreating back into the forest.
“Change, pup, or I’ll rip your fucking throat out!” the demon growls behind me. Turning, I unexpectedly see that he has a wolf held down on its back. A moment later it changes into a well-built man in his mid-to-late twenties.
My first thought is of the women, and I rush to them, catching Brooke as her knees give way beneath her. She’s covered in blood and gore, and I have no idea how much of it is hers, and how much is theirs.
“Did they bite you?” I ask, worried for her.
“Is Areth okay?” she asks weakly instead.
Despite my concern for the redhead, I turn to where Areth lies motionless in the sand. Only she’s not entirely motionless. Her wings are torn and bent at bad angles, but she’s breathing the slow breath of sleep.
With tears already filling my eyes, I turn back to the woman in my arms, and nod. “Good,” she whispers. “I just need a little nap, and then I’ll be ready to go some more.”
Her eyes close, and despite the pale color of her skin, she is breathing easy.
“What’s wrong with her?” I ask Ondine. I try to check Brooke over, but can’t see any terrible wounds.
“It’s her assassin’s blade,” the other mermaid responds wearily. “Every time she kills with it, she feels that death. I’ve heard that it’s supposed to make them colder inside. Deaden them to the carnage they’re sometimes asked to perform.” She plops down next to me and rests her head on my shoulder. I dearly hope that Thomas isn’t watching this right now. “She’s killed a lot today.” This last part is filled with a deep level of respect.
Why would anyone want to subject themselves to that? For that matter, why had Brooke? She was always so gentle while I was growing up, but she had grown up wanting to be an assassin. Remembering that she’d killed her old mentor with that blade and the sacrifices she’s made for me makes me respect her more.
“We’ll want to be getting off the beach soon,” Marchosias says. I look up at the demon, now in his massive human warrior form, and see that he has the naked young man tied up in vines.
“Our debt isn’t settled, demon,” I tell him, then wearily get to my feet. “Or should I call you Reverend Chilton?”
“No,” the too-attractive man chuckles deep in his massive chest. “AnnaBelle has done a great job of taking over for me.”
I shake my head at his words. “Lead on. I’ll follow.”
I see him glance at my naked hip, where Murasame once sat, but he says nothing. If this is a trap, I’m too worn out to avoid it. I lean over and gently lift Areth, placing her on Brooke’s blood spattered stomach. I’m sure the pixie won’t appreciate it, but I don’t care either. Lifting Brooke up into my arms, I follow after the demon and his prisoner.
“Why were you pretending to be a reverend, anyway?” I ask as we trudge through the sand.
“A demon can’t want to do some good?” he asks me, and I shake my head. “Well, I was. I understand why you hate me, but I strive for balance. I do a lot of harm, so I try to do a lot of good as well.” He chuckles again and then adds, “And being this good looking tends to get me into the pants of a lot of religious women.
I wonder if AnnaBelle ever slept with him, but I can’t picture it and keep the thought to myself.
Apparently he has a back door into his cave, because we don’t pass the place where the Cyclopes live and work. When I realize that we could have taken this way out the last time I was here and avoided the trouble with the one-eyed beasts, my ire grows, but is quickly snuffed. Who cares? What’s done is done.
The demon’s lair is just as crowded as I remember, but he clears a spot on a large bed, where I can lay the two slumbering women down. The sheets get covered in gore, but that only makes me smile. I know it’s petty, but that’s all I have in me right now.
Ondine stumbles her way to a chair, and is soon snoring.
“Touch it!” I hear Marchosias growl. Turning I see one of his glowing ball traps floating between him and the other man.
“Fuck you, demon,” the man spits in Marchosias’s beautiful face.
For his part, the one-time preacher only smiles. “Touch it, or I will personally visit your sister. Trust me when I say she won’t enjoy my attentions.” I wonder why Marchosias doesn’t force the man to touch it. Does it have to be touched of their own free will?
“You can’t harm her,” the man sneers. “The Daughters of Respite killed her when we were children.”
Marchosias waves a hand, and I see the picture of a little girl form in front of him. The image slowly ages, until I gasp, recognizing the very plain looking woman.
“Miranda?” I hear him ask in shock. Then his eyes grow steely and he lifts his bound hands to the glowing orb. It flashes, and I see the man grimace in pain. The ball shoots up, hauling the man into the air until he’s hovering three feet over the ground, by his arms.
“That’s Agent Olsen’s brother?” I ask the demon, still stunned. I remember peering into her past, and seeing the attack on her family by werewolves. Miranda had been rescued by the Daughters of Respite, and later became one, devoting her life to killing supernatural creatures.
“Yes,” Marchosias says, grinning widely for some reason. “You might be interested to know that she is a werewolf also.”
“That can’t be!” I exclaim, not able to reconcile the plain looking woman as a supernatural creature. “The Daughters of Respite would have killed her.”
“They killed our parents,” the man dangling from the light growls. “Why would she join them if she survived their attack?”
Now I’m thoroughly confused!
“I thought the werewolves attacked your family, and kidnapped you,” I say.
“Ha! We were out camping because it was my turn to join the pack. Miranda was sent inside so that she wouldn’t be scared. She didn’t know about our family secret yet. When those bitches attacked, the alpha male ordered us to retreat. I disobeyed as long as I could, but I was too new. I saw my parents get struck down and change back into their human forms. I saw one of those bitches enter the trailer that my sister was hiding in. I couldn’t stay to hear her death cries.” His voice is defiant as he speaks, but I can see hope in his eyes.
“I can attest that she still lives,” I tell the man. “Why the Daughters did what they did, I can’t tell you, but she still lives.”
“Lyden,” Marchosias says quietly, coming up to me. “Look at him.” The demon’s voice is low as he speaks to me, and I have to strain to hear him. I can see the werewolf’s eyes locked on us, and suspect that he has some kind of superior hearing, so I wonder who the demon is trying to be quiet for. “Werewolves have many traits in common, but the one I want to draw your attention to is his appearance. All werewolves are attractive. It has to do with their wild natures.”
Like you? I think, but don’t say. “But Miranda is the plainest looking person I’ve ever seen!” I gasp.
“Keep your voice down!” he hisses at me with a slight glance at the floating man. It’s then I realize he wants the man to hear everything. He also wants the man to think he’s eavesdropping. What game is the demon playing at? “Something about what the Daughters of Respite do to make their members immune to magic stopped her from changing. It also blocked her from becoming the gorgeous piece of flesh she could have been.”
I remember how one of my talons had scratched her, and I’d gained that immunity from magic. Thankfully it hadn’t interfered with any of my other magic. Did I take that immunity away from her, or just siphon it off? I’m not sure which one of those thoughts I’m hoping for.
“Where did you last see her?” His voice drops even lower as he asks me.
“She was in the mountain where the Paladonic Knights had held me prisoner,” I tell him, keeping my own voice just as low.
I see the powerful man’s shoulders shaking, and it takes me a moment to realize he’s laughing silently. “I heard about that mess you left them in,” he tells me, clapping one powerful hand on my shoulder. “They’ll think twice before ever taking on a generator again when his friends are in danger!” I don’t like having him touching me in any way, but I begin to suspect what he’s doing.
“It’ll probably be months before their defenses are back up to snuff,” I whisper with a grin.
Marchosias nods at me again, nearly knocking me to the ground with another powerful clap to the shoulder. “Good, good,” he says, speaking at normal volume now. “Go ahead and get some rest while you can. I’ll watch over our guest. I suspect your battles aren’t over yet, and you’ll need to be ready.” His eyes go to my naked hip, and I feel even more naked than I already am. Numerous times he’s tried to punish me for trying to trick him, and it had only been the wicked blade Muramasa that had gotten him to leave me alone the last time. Apparently he knows what I’m thinking. “You have nothing more to fear from me, generator. You may not possess your sword any longer, but I’ve learned my lesson about going against you. Besides, until the Outsider is destroyed, it would be suicidal to do anything to you.”
I remember him telling me that he couldn’t kill me because of the prophecy before sending my friends and me to the nightmare world. I hope that I can trust his words, now.
My jaw cracks as I try to fight back a yawn, and fail. If this is some trick of his, I’m too emotionally drained to see it. I glance up at the werewolf one more time, before shaking my head and walking back to the bed with the two women on it.
* * *
The stream in my Mens Mundi burbles as I find myself sitting outside the tent.
Something slaps the back of my head before I can answer. I crane my neck around to see a full-sized Areth standing there, arms folded. “It took you long enough, dolt!”
I can’t help but notice that their war-torn bodies are now healed.
Brooke squeals as I grip her small waist in my right arm, stand up as fast as I can, and use my left arm to pull Areth to me. She struggles for only a moment before melting into my embrace. “I’m sorry,” I whisper to both women. “It seems the world is a lot more confusing than I’d thought.”
“Yeah,” a new voice chimes in. “What were you and the demon whispering about anyway?” I turn to see Ondine lying in the stream, water flowing over her naked shoulders and along her fishtail. Apparently she’d only been fake sleeping.
“Oh, I was hoping to have some fun!” Areth pouts. “What’s she doing here?”
“You two aren’t the only ones that need some healing,” Ondine smiles. “Go ahead and have your fun, I don’t mind.”
“What’s she talking about, concerning Marchosias?” Brooke asks, changing the subject.
“I think we just aimed a very dangerous arrow,” I tell her cryptically.
“You’ve been hanging out with too many powerful creatures!” the redhead complains.
“I can’t argue,” I tell her ruefully. I almost add that I can’t wait until this is all over so that I can rest. The rest I’ll get, though, won’t be the relaxing kind.
Brooke frowns at me, and I know she can sense some of my mood, so I cover it by kissing her. Her lips are firm and unyielding at first, but my insistence pays off, and a moment later she opens up to me. Our tongues meet and mingle.
“Don’t forget about me!” Areth’s face presses in, and we’re soon sharing a three-way kiss.
Both women break away at the same time, making me gasp at the sudden emptiness at my lips.
“Want to help me with this?” Brooke asks the fairy while simultaneously groping the bulge in my pants.
Areth’s face burns red, before she drops down and begins working at getting my pants off. I realize this will be the first time the fairy has been with me and someone else. I wait until she has them unbuttoned, before making all of our clothes vanish. I love the control I have in my Mens Mundi! Areth glares at my little prank, which allows Brooke to seize the initiative and swallow the knob of my prick into her mouth.
“Hey, I thought you wanted my help!” Areth complains. A second later I feel her tongue on my scrotum and moan at the feeling of two mouths working on my pleasure.
Brooke sucks hard on the end, letting it slip free with an audible pop, before joining Areth at the base. My meat is too thick for their lips to meet, but they try as they move their mouths up and down my shaft. The sensation is truly unique, and one I know I will never forget.
Their heads reach the end, and they share a passionate kiss. I take the moment to imagine a blanket beneath us, and kneel down next to them. As the two continue to make out, I gently lay them back and spread their legs. Brooke’s hand is pulling Areth deeper into the kiss, while the fairy plays with the mermaid’s tiny nipples.
Reaching forward, I place my thumbs on their clits, gently rubbing at first, but increasing the pressure as their moans increase in volume. Areth is the first to cum, but Brooke follows soon after. As both women squirm and writhe in pleasure, I lean forward, planting my lips against Brooke’s labia, and slipping the middle two fingers of my hand into Areth’s tight hole.
Brooke tastes just as sweet as always, as I run my tongue into her slit. While my right hand is busy rubbing the front wall of Areth’s cunny, I start popping Brooke’s clit between my teeth. I feel Brooke’s fingers dig into my hair and her hips hunch in time to my ministrations. Areth’s hand grips my wrist, increasing my tempo.
I feel the fairy’s inner walls tighten around my fingers as my hand gets soaked in her juices, and she pulls my hand out of her as she shudders in bliss.
Slipping my arms under Brooke’s legs, I roll us both over, until she’s sitting on my face. I look up her slim body, as she hunches over. She moans softly, her eyes tightly closed, as she starts playing with one small breast.
I feel Areth’s slim hand grip me, and her tongue swirls around the head a moment later. I begin to moan in time with Brooke, and when her juices soak my chin, I have to fight hard to keep my own orgasm from following her.
I lose when Areth moans around my prick.
I grunt, launching my load down the throat that belongs to that talented tongue.
“Ondine! What are you doing?” I hear Brooke demand as she gets off me. Looking down. I see that it was Ondine that belonged to that skilled mouth, and wonder how she got so much better, in such a short amount of time. Areth is between her legs, which is why she’d been moaning. She must have changed back into her fully human form at some point.
Ondine doesn’t look embarrassed at all, as she scoops up an errant drop of my seed, and licks it off her finger. “You looked like you were having so much fun. I had to join in.”
“The more the merrier,” Areth adds in. Her face is covered in the mermaid’s juices, and she goes back to eating Ondine out, making the mermaid moan in appreciation.
“But what about Thomas?” Brooke demands, still scandalized. Ondine glances at me, as if asking for permission. Brooke doesn’t miss it. “You mean you two have already. . . . So when you asked her into your room. . . . Does Thomas know?”
“He’d kill Lyden, if he knew, I think,” Ondine states. “Please don’t tell him. He’s been getting better in the sack, thanks to Lyden’s help, but he will never be Lyden.”
“He does have a certain perverted skill, doesn’t he?” Areth adds in, but Ondine just guides her back to her pussy.
The truth is, it was my father’s advice that was helping him. Thinking of my father brings back the memory of how I’d destroyed him.
“That’s fine and all,” I pipe up, trying to shove my depressing thoughts away. I don’t have time to deal with it now, though I probably never will, “but who’s next? I don’t think you three are done yet.”
“But you just. . . .” Brooke trails off as she looks at my crotch. My rocket is still standing at full attention.
“You’d be surprised what I can do in this world,” I tell her with a smile.
Brooke recovers quickly, and she jumps into my lap. “I want that thing inside me,” she tells me, sealing it with a kiss. Her hips move against mine, until I feel someone’s hand grip me and guide me into the redhead’s tight hole. We both groan at the connection.
“How many others have you been with?” she whispers into my ear.
“It doesn’t matter,” I tell her. “I love you, and that’s all that matters.”
She doesn’t look too convinced, but she refrains from saying anything else.
I let my head drop down to the blanket, and just concentrate on slowly working my way deeper into the mermaid on top of me. She suddenly clenches, and I see brown hair behind her a moment before I feel Ondine’s tongue on my scrotum.
My view is cut off, as Areth plants her crotch on my face. Brooke’s chin presses to mine a moment before I feel her tongue join mine in the fairy’s cunt. My arms slip around Brooke’s waist, and I hug her to me, as I pace myself. She feels so wonderful, wrapped around my schlong, and Ondine’s talented mouth switching from me to Brooke heightens my enjoyment. Thankfully I’ve already gotten off once, or I wouldn’t last long.
“Ungh,” Brooke grunts. “Where did you learn to do that? Oh, yes. Shove your fingers into my ass, Ondine. Oh, damn, that feels good with both of you filling me up. That’s it. Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Right there. . . . Oh, yes!”
I pick up my pace, hammering into her from below as she cums, soaking my crotch as her coochy massages the full length of my rod.
“I’m next!” Areth announces, hopping up from my sopping wet mouth. It takes both Ondine and Areth to help Brooke off me. Her legs have turned to jelly.
I want to change positions this time, and have the fairy lie down on her back. She’s already so wet, that my conforming prick slides to the hilt in one thrust.
“Areth’s surprisingly good at eating pussy,” Ondine states, squatting over the woman.
“That’s because Lyden’s pervertedness is, mhph—“ Ondine grins at me, but it turns into another moan as Areth begins her magic.
I lean forward, pulling one of Ondine’s breasts into my mouth, while moving my hand down to the mermaid’s clit.
“Oh, fuck!” Ondine cries, as she pulls my head tighter to her chest.
My hips are jack-hammering into Areth, and I can hear her muffled grunts with each impact.
“I love you,” I hear Brooke’s voice in my ear a moment before she plants a soft kiss on my cheek. Her hand gropes my rear a moment later, as she urges me on, pounding into Areth.
The fairy’s cries of bliss can be clearly heard, even as muffled as they are, and I’m not sure how many orgasms she has before I feel her feet plant themselves against my chest and she shoves me away.
“Enough!” she cries, panting and working her way out from under Ondine. “Make this tasty mermaid cum like that, pervert. I can’t take any more.”
Ondine considers me for a moment, before saying, “I want that beast in my ass.”
Who am I to argue with that statement?
She gets on all fours before me. I look down, seeing that I’m already plenty lubed up, but realize that if I weren’t, I could just imagine myself as being slicker than a politician down there. Actually, now that I think about it, there isn’t much difference between a politician and a big prick. Both can get you into a lot of trouble.
Brooke spread’s the other mermaid’s small rear, and I aim my pole for her puckered hole. She grunts when the head slips in, but otherwise remains quiet. Already I can feel her sphincter contracting around me, trying to coax my semen out, but I hold back, taking it slow.
Carefully, I work my way deeper into her colon. Apparently I’m going too slow for her, as she lurches back, taking all of me in one swift movement.
“Shit, that feels better than I thought it would,” she gasps. From the way her insides spasm, I suspect she’s having a small orgasm. “Thomas likes to do this, but he only lasts a few seconds.” She turns to look at me, a fierce expression on her face. “Fuck my ass, Lyden. Fuck it hard and make me cum!”
“You heard the mermaid,” Brooke croons. “Make her cum.”
I grin at the redhead, grabbing the back of her head and pulling her into a passionate kiss. My cock begins to slip out of the other mermaid as Brooke pulls my hips back. When just the head is still inside her, I slam forward, making Ondine grunt and moan.
Areth comes out of her post orgasmic haze and crawls under Ondine. I break away from kissing Brooke, and look down at the golden woman, whose face is now between my legs. As I pull my hips back, I see her grin up at me, and then furiously attack Ondine’s pussy with her mouth.
“Oh, shit,” Ondine intones as her sphincter clamps down on me. I can feel my own climax approaching now, and pick up my pace, trying to drive Ondine’s climax higher first.
“I want to taste your cum,” Brooke whispers in my ear. I nod, leaning towards her, and suckling one of her tasty nipples.
Three more strong thrusts, and I pull out, letting my ejaculate spray across Ondine’s back and rear.
Brooke drops down and begins cleaning her fellow mermaid up with her tongue, while I sit back and try to catch my breath.
“You’d better get this back up soon,” Areth tells me. When had she moved away from Ondine? Her hand begins working on my length. “You really are turning me into a perverted woman,” she says with a hungry grin, and then drops down and sucks my phallus between her lips.
Watching Brooke lick my cum off Ondine while Areth blows me makes it all too easy to stay hard. I don’t mind, however, as it takes my mind off what faces me when we wake up.
Author’s Note: I know I always take this place to thank Garbonzo for his hard work, and I’ve often stated that he’s outdone himself, but I REALLY mean it this time. He put in a lot of hours on just this one chapter, to make sure it wasn’t rushed, but up to par. He truly came through on this chapter.
Well, one more chapter to the conclusion. Thank you for all those that have stuck with me thus far.