The Knight and the Acolyte
Book Three: Barbaric Passion
Chapter Eight: Necromantic Dangers
Note: Thanks to B0b for beta reading this.
Thrak – Ruins of Murathi, The Federation of Larg
“Are you sure you're okay?” Faoril asked as she rubbed at my shoulders. “That stone looked heavy.”
“Fine,” I sighed, savoring the way her fingers massaged into my shoulders, easing the tension. “It was only a glancing blow. The bruise hardly throbs at all.”
“You need to be careful,” Faoril continued.
Her fingers dug deep into the muscles of my neck, easing the pain of the dislodged stone that struck me. I leaned back into her naked breasts while she worked, my legs stretched out towards the fire. After our first full day searching the ruins, we still hadn't found the sword. But there were still four more temples in need of searching before we branched out.
“It's the orc in him, Faoril,” Serisia said. The phantom of my wife knelt between my thighs, her cool hand stroking up and down my cock. Every time she reached the tip, she would play with my bone cock piercing.
I savored the pleasure shooting through my body when she did that.
“Yes, you're such a big, strong, mighty orc warrior,” Faoril said. Her nipples were hard against my broad back. “But that doesn't mean you can take a half-ton rock caving your skull in.”
“But it's such a thick skull,” giggled Serisia. Her pale face stared up at me, framed by her soft-brown hair. The bone piercings dotting my dead wife's face turned her gentle, feminine expression into something both mischievous and ferocious.
What an amazing woman she was.
I stroked her brown hair as Faoril's fingers dug deeper. Even without the loose rock glancing off my right shoulder and back, searching the ruins was weary work. But the touch of the two women helped to ease the strain.
“Where did you learn to do that with your fingers?” I asked.
“Xera taught me.”
My dick throbbed, picturing the tall and busty elf running her hands over Faoril's body. Xera's ears twitched when she was enjoying herself. I would love to fuck her, but the elf always laughed when I brought it up, boasting that her cock was bigger than mine.
It sounded like quite the boast. When she went in heat next, I would love to see if it was true. Maybe while watching her fuck Faoril or Serisia. I groaned, closing my eyes and trying to imagine the elf with that cock.
“What are you thinking of?” Serisia asked. “Because your dick feels like it's made of Valyan steel.”
“He's thinking of Xera massaging me,” Faoril purred. “Does she have a dick in your fantasy?”
“A dick,” I groaned, unable to banish the image of Xera and her dick
“How naughty,” Serisia giggled, then she leaned down and took a long, slow lick around the crown of my cock. Her hand might be cool, but her tongue was hot. I groaned as the spirit finished her lick at the crown of my cock, her tongue digging into my slit to gather up salty precum. “Why does a woman with a dick make you so hard?”
“I've heard that a scholar named Ersaz dubbed it the Erotical Illusion,” Faoril answered. “We seek novel experiences, and there is nothing more novel to us dual-sex races than one of the hermaphroditic. Lush, female bodies sporting the most male of body part. It's a powerful, contrasting, impossible image.”
“Maybe,” I groaned, the idea burning in my head.
“It's a hot idea for women, too,” giggled Faoril. “Trust me. Xera was popular in the Magery when she was in heat. And when she massaged me, she had her cock.”
I groaned, my dick throbbing as Serisia sucked it into her mouth. Her mouth bobbed up and down, her tongue swirling as she sucked. I closed my eyes, running my hand through her brown hair as I pictured Xera standing tall, her ears twitching as they poked out of her green hair, while a massive cock thrust from her groin.
“Gewin's mighty cock,” I growled.
My dick erupted into Serisia's mouth. The phantom gasped in shock. I never exploded so easily. Her mouth sucked hard, drinking down all my cum while I shuddered in Faoril's embrace. She hugged me, her lips nibbling on my neck while her soft hands rubbed at my scarred chest.
“Someone is excited,” Faoril purred as the last blast of my cum flooded Serisia's sucking mouth.
“Yes,” I growled.
Serisia lifted up her mouth. She straddled my body, her hot pussy rubbing on my still hard shaft, and kissed Faoril over my shoulder. Out of the corner of my eye, I witnessed their pink tongues caressing, passing my salty cum back and forth between them.
It was another hot sight.
My dick throbbed beneath my wife's grinding pussy as she moaned into Faoril's mouth. My cock ached. Her flesh was so warm, and it was intoxicating watching their tongue pass my cum back and forth like a tasty treat.
My hands grabbed my wife's waist. I lifted her cool body, my dick pointing straight up, then slammed the phantom down on my cock. My wife and I both moaned as her flesh engulfed my cock. She was tight, gripping my dick while my shaft's piercing caressed her pussy walls, adding another tingle of pleasure racing up my cock.
“Slata's cunt,” Serisia gasped after breaking the kiss with Faoril. “He is insatiable tonight.”
“Guys always enjoy watching girls snowball cum,” Faoril grinned. “It's something female mages learn early on in their apprenticeships. Saoria and I used to do that and make them...” Faoril sighed. “Las-damn her. Will that never go away?”
“What?” I groaned as she shifted back, allowing me to lay my head on her lap.
“Saoria was my friend. Or so I thought. But when she passed the test and I had my...misfortunate failure, she didn't need me anymore.” Faoril scooted more, then straddled my face. “I am too horny to waste time thinking on her. Eat my pussy, Thrak. I love it when you do. You make me cum so hard.”
“Because you taste so delicious,” I growled as she shifted forward, straddling me. I pulled down on her thighs, her pussy brushing my lips.
“Oh, you're husband is talented,” Faoril gasped as my tongue swirled through her folds while her curly pubic hair tickled my lips. Her spicy flavor filled my mouth. “Thank you for training him.”
“He was an eager student,” Serisia gasped, her pussy clenching and relaxing on my dick as she rode up and down. “He was eager to learn everything at the University.”
Faoril giggled and then gasped as I shoved my tongue deep into her hot depths. My hands clenched her slim ass as she ground on my face. I moaned and grunted into her pussy as Serisia slid faster and faster on my cock, working her dripping pussy up and down while rolling her hips and swirling my dick through her folds.
“Mmm, yes, I love riding him,” Serisia gasped. “It's nice to be beneath him, but here, I get to control his cock.”
“I love the way your tits bounce,” groaned Faoril. “And these nipple piercings.”
“You have to pierce yours,” insisted Serisia.
Faoril gasped. I imagined my wife's fingers tugging on her nipple. Then Serisia let out a squeak of delight, her pussy clenching on my cock as Faoril must be returning the favor. Both women moaned as the rode my face and cock.
“They are fun to play with,” Faoril admitted.
Faoril shifted, leaning forward as she smeared her hot pussy on my face. The wet, smacking sound of kissing reached my ears. My dick ached as I pictured Serisia sliding her pussy up and down my cock while Faoril had her arms wrapped around my wife, kissing her hard.
“I love that sound,” I moaned between licks of Faoril's pussy. My hands squeezed harder on her ass, moving her pussy on my lips until I found her clit.
I licked the nub. She moaned into Serisia's mouth. My tongue swirled around the nub before I sucked her sensitive clit into my mouth. I sucked and nibbled on it while she squirmed, her ass flexing beneath my groping hands.
Her muffled moans grew louder. Her juices poured into my mouth as I kept nibbling and sucking. A violent shudder ran through her body. She heaved atop me as her orgasm burst inside of her. My dick throbbed in my wife's pussy as I made Faoril cum.
“Oh, yes,” Faoril gasped, breaking the kiss with my wife. “Slata's hairy cunt, yes. Oh, wow. Keep sucking on my clit. Oh, yes. I cumming again. Thrak, you wonderful orc. Oh, yes. Oh, damn.” Faoril squealed. “Serisia. Oh, suck my nipples. Gods, yes, that's wonderful.”
Serisia ground her pussy on my cock, only rising a few inches. She had leaned over to suckle on Faoril's nipples while grinding her clit against my pubic bone. Her groin slid through my wiry pubic hair as her pussy clenched and relaxed on my cock.
I moved my hands from Faoril's ass and grasped Serisia. I clenched hard and then slid her up and down my cock, working that hot, wet sheath on my dick. I ached inside of her. My balls boiled, eager to unload into her pussy.
“Too much,” gasped Faoril, sliding off my face and shuddering beside us on the blankets.
Serisia grinned as she leaned forward, draping her breasts on my chest. Her nipple piercings rubbed on my scarred skin as we kissed. She moaned, her pussy clenching on my dick as she savored Faoril's spicy juices.
Her tongue thrust into my mouth as she came. Her pussy massaged my cock. The hot, spasming tunnel of flesh sent jolts of pleasure down my shaft to my balls. I groaned, my hands clenching on her ass, then erupted into her hot depths.
I growled into the kiss as my hips thrust up. My cum boiled into the phantom's cunt. Serisia shuddered atop me. She fed off the cum. It was what let her stay corporeal and with me as long as possible.
It was also what would eventually drive her mad if she stayed too long. She straddled a fine line between love and madness. I did not know how long she could keep it up, but I would treasure every moment we had until she had to pass on to the next life.
We split up to explore the ruins after breaking our fast the next morning. Our second full day of searching. I was still sore from yesterday. We left our horses to graze on our hilltop camp as we descended to the temple square.
The temples of Murathi were mammoth and the square they surrounded could fit most towns in the world. The orcs that had constructed Murathi out of the huge stones they quarried had been ambitious. And the temples were works of art.
They had stacked the stone high and formed large, vaulted rooms. After the first day we searched, only for a few hours since we arrived after midday, Faoril had gushed on the architecture and she, Thrak, and Serisia had spent the evening talking about the marvels of it.
The orc was an enigma. He was better educated than Sophia, and she was raised with the finest tutors and then further instructed by the priestess of Saphique.
Of course, Sophia hated learning, so maybe that was why she didn't know as much.
“Be safe,” Xera said as she headed off to the next temple she planned on searching.
“You, too,” Sophia said. The acolyte and I would search another temple while Thrak and Faoril, assisted by Serisia, would take the third.
The day already grew hot. The myth of the orc lands as being always locked in winter were preposterous. Summer had come and it was just as warm as it was in Secare but with the bonus of having more flies.
I smacked one, a big, black thing larger than the tip of my thumb. How did they survive the frigid winters?
The square before the massive temples was covered in grass peeking out of the smaller paving stones. There were parts of the square where dirt had washed down from surrounding hills, forming small rises of pure grass that spread like tentacles of a massive kraken towards the center of the square.
It was impossible to say which temple was to Pater. None had any markings that indicated which god was worshiped where. We believed the piece of the High King's sword would be in the Temple to Pater.
“You are descended from the god Pater,” Sophia suddenly blurted out as we passed into the entrance.
“What?” I asked as I looked around. “Of course I am. All humans are descended from Pater and Slata when she birthed the duel-sexed races during creation.”
I scanned the temple. It was dark, lit by shafts of brilliant sunlight streaming through small holes in the roof. Dust danced thick in the air, illuminated by those shafts. The ground was covered in dirt washed in through various gaps in the stone walls while the air smelled stale, musky.
“No, I mean, you're a descendant of the High King, and he was Pater's bastard son.”
“Pater had a lot of those,” I shrugged. “I'm sure you have some of Pater's blood in you. He is a randy deity.” I laughed. “The god of fatherhood has to produce many offspring. Most of the gods are his children, even his wife Slata and your goddess. And he fathered angels, demons, lightning born, the muses, and dozens of heroes.”
“I know, but you have more of his blood than an average human is all,” Sophia countered. Then she sneezed. “Ooh, I hate being in here. So much dust.” She sneezed again.
“What?” she demanded.
“You look so cute when you sneeze. Your nose twitches and your face scrunches up.”
“Well, I'm glad my—” her words cut off as she sneezed again. Her eyes watered as she sneezed two more times. She straightened, wiping at her reddening eyes. “I'm glad you're enjoying this.”
“Come on, I think that's the altar.”
The army of undead orcs I had animated stumbled before us into the ruins. I stood on the hilltop where Angela and her band had made their camp. Their horses had bolted at the first scent of the undead. Their whinnies of terror almost sounded like children screaming.
It reminded me of some of my experiments. Children had a great deal of vitality and were fascinating to vivisect.
The simulacrum knelt nearby as I readied my spell. She watched as I drew a five-pointed magic circle in a flat spot, furrowing the hard ground. Then I scratched in the arcane markings, focusing on life, with air and earth for binding the spirit to my will.
My circle ready, I stepped into it and drank a vial of pussy juices. Magical energy boiled inside of me and unleashed my magic. It flowed out of me into the circle. Black light glowed around me. The circle would project my spell farther and enhance it.
The magic lashed out into the ruins to find the phantom, racing past the slow march of the undead orcs who only now had reached the large square before the ruined temples. My magic quested, searching for the ripple in reality the phantom left behind—a trail.
My magic found it and veered to a temple on the east side of the square. It penetrated the stone. The phantom ghosted alongside her husband and Faoril. The mage would have to be the first target of the phantom's rampage. She was too dangerous.
My spell slammed into the spirit. She could not resist. Necromancy was my specialty. Her pure screams of fear and pain echoing through my spell were so satisfying as I stripped away her humanity and let out the true nature of a phantom—anger at those who still lived.
I smiled as I ended my spell. She would rampage now. The woman's soul was a fool for ever becoming a phantom.
My cock was hard. I left the circle, eager to see the carnage I had unleashed.
I studied the temple, my eyes looking for anything that might lead to a concealed passage. I had worked carefully through the temple for the last hour, ignoring the dust filling the air and coating my naked body.
I bent down at the altar, a massive stone slab hewn from the same dark rock. My fingers caressed the tool marks hammered into the surface. The place was a mix of the crude and the remarkable. The stones were rough hewn and maneuvered in place by brute strength, but the construction was refined and advanced, forming a structure that seemed as well built as the cities I had witnessed in the Magery.
My finger ran along the bottom of the stone where it met the floor. I felt no gap or movement of air.
I sighed as I straightened up. My ears twitched. I froze. Had I heard a man speaking on the wind.
I slowed my heart and focused on my ears. The sound was faint, a murmur making unintelligent sound. Magic was on the air. A mage worked spells. I didn't recognize the voice. It was not Faoril and it didn't have the gravelly growl of an orc. The cadence of the speech reminded me of Fireeyes, but this voice was deeper than the dead warlock.
I glanced around. Light streamed through a hole in the wall over my head. I nimbly climbed up the stones, clutching my unstrung bow in one hand. My quiver of arrows clattered together as I worked my way up the wall, my fingers and toes digging into cracks and indentations in the stone.
I reached the top. The sunlight was bright to my eyes and I winced as they adjusted. A foul scent of death washed over me. I grimaced and breathed through my mouth as I climbed higher up the temple's walls, my eyes scanning for the source of the reek and the magic.
Halfway up, the shambling corpse of an orc stumbled beneath me, followed by another. My stomach wanted to revolt. Necromancy danced in the air. No wonder the voice reminded me of Fireeyes. This was sort of thing that foul man would have done.
I was glad my arrow had killed him.
I quickly strung my bow as the corpses stumbled beneath me. The wood creaked as I bent it to attached the string. Then I drew an arrow and fired it at the first zombified orc. The arrow embedded in his shoulder.
The corpse didn't even feel it as it stumbled forward.
My weapon would be useless against this. But I could raise an alarm and alert my companions. I drew in a breath and shouted.
“Did you hear that?” I asked Angela as she knelt before the altar.
“Hear what?” she asked.
“I don't know. I thought I heard a yell.” I frowned, glancing at the entrance to the temple. “Should we check it out?”
“I think I found something,” Angela gasped. “There's a tunnel beneath the altar. I just need to pry up this stone.”
I turned back from the entrance and peered at Angela as she grasped a large floor stone. It ground against its neighboring stones as she pried it up and heaved it to the side. A hole opened below. It was dark and an earthy musk rose from the depths.
“There's a tunnel,” Angela grinned. “I think we've found it.”
“What about light?” I asked as Angela dropped into the tunnel.
“Can't you make a light with your magic?” Angela asked as she stood in the tunnel. It was narrow and the roots of plants poked through the side.
“Umm...?” I frowned. Could I make a light? Was there a spell that did that? I think there was. I slipped my hand in my robe and rubbed at my nipple. I could control my breast and make my milk flow at will. I shuddered as my finger grew sticky with my breast milk. I held my hand up. “Saphique, let my blessed milk shine the way.”
I gasped in delight as the beads of milk staining my fingers glowed with a soft, pink light. I dropped down into the tunnel, the light spilling around us. I held my finger up high as we pressed through the tunnel.
It was tight and narrow. Thrak would have had a hard time squeezing through here. Even Angela and I had to duck. I bet an orc would have to crawl to fit through here. The sides of the wall were earth with paving stones over our head.
“There's something ahead,” Angela gasped in awe. “It's reflective.”
I peered past her. There was a stone block at the end of the passage, an altar with something glinting atop it. I frowned, struggling to see. The piece wasn't that large, forming a T. It was made of a silvery metal and set with a large ruby.
“Is that it?” I asked. “That doesn't look like a sword.”
Angela picked it up and shuddered. It nestled in the palm of her hand. Awe filled her eyes and her red hair flashed with fire for a moment. The energy washed around me and mixed with my light. For a moment, the pink burned red before the energy passed us by.
“It's a piece,” Angela whispered. “The handle and the hilt.” She touched the ruby then the branching arms of the crossguard. “The pommel is missing, and the blade, but we've found the first piece.”
“Only four more to go.” Excitement beat in my heart. If this small fragment held such power, what would the entire sword contain? “You can kill Dominari with this. You're going to succeed, Angela.”
Angela hugged me.
Journeyman Mage Faoril
A shiver ran across my skin. I lifted my head and swept my gaze around. My hand shot for my robe pocket and seized a vial of cum. My senses came alive. I felt magic. Had an orc shaman found us? Was it a survivor of the Ghost Wolves seeking revenge?
Serisia screamed, “No!”
The phantom convulsed. Her flesh became translucent for a moment, then flicked back to solid as she screamed. She fell to her knees, her back arching. Thrak, on the other side of the ruined temple, whirled around, his hand going to his ax.
“Mine!” Serisia snarled, her voice twisted and gravely. “My husband. He's mine.”
I downed my cum as the phantom swelled. Her face grew ugly, twisted, with only vestiges of Serisia buried in there. Her hair turned black and brittle. Her breasts sagged and grew wrinkly as her long limbs became as twisted as I spider.
“That is my husband you are stealing!” Serisia snarled as she swung a clawed hand at me.
I sent out my magic, swirling air to grip her and lifting paving stones to shield me. The magic rushed out of my body, commanding the elements as the crazed phantom shrieked her rage. Her hand went translucent and phased through the wind and rocks.
Then became solid and struck me.
Pain exploded across my side. I tumbled through the air screaming. The rock wall of the temple rushed at me and—
Faoril slammed into the wall with a loud, meaty thump then fell limp to the ground. Blood matted her head and hair, pouring out to pool half-exposed stone floor. The twisted phantom of my wife turned on me, her eyes blazing red.
“Do you think I would let her usurp me!” she raged, her voice echoing through the temple as she stalked towards me. “You are my husband. She cannot have you. No one can.”
“Serisia,” I shouted, my heart screaming in my chest. “Please, what are you doing?”
Her hand swept out at me. I dived to the right, rolling across the paving stones and came up in a crouch. She swung again. I dashed to the right, ignoring the flare of pain as her sharp claws tore at my flesh.
She swelled, growing to easily twice my height. “No woman can have you. You're mine! You belong with me! You do not deserve life without me.”
My heart sunk. She had succumbed to her madness. I never knew it would happen so swiftly. I thought there would be warning signs. Time for Serisia to realize her danger and move on before she became a monster bent on killing those she loved.
My heart broke as her swiping hands ripped at the ground behind me as I raced to Faoril. My wife was truly gone. She would never recover from this. All I could hope for was an exorcism, to drive her back to the Astral Plane where she might find peace. She stayed too long. I held onto to her too tightly. I brought this upon her. I destroyed my wife with my selfish grief. I kept her tied to this world, anchored here. The dead didn't belong in the world of the living. I never should have let her become a phantom.
“I'm sorry, Serisia,” I yelled as I bent down and scooped up Faoril's limp body. She still bled, so she was still alive.
“You love her more than me!” Serisia bellowed.
Her words hurt more than her claws.
I burst out of the temple into daylight. A horde of shambling corpses of the Ghost Wolves I had butchered in my rage faced me. Terror seized at my heart. How could my victims be here? I recognized them all. I had killed them all. Their bodies bore the unmistakable wounds of the ax on my back.
I hated the rage. I hated what it made me do. How it made me kill even those who had broke in fear and fled, no longer threats. Many of those corpse bore wounds in their backs, cut down while fleeing.
“I will kill you both!” Serisia snarled. “I will drag you into death and punish you, Thrak! You are my husband! How dare you love that whore more than me! You will both suffer!”
I dodged as one of the orc corpses swung at me with a rusty sword while Serisia barreled after. I held Faoril in my left arm, cradling her limp body to my chest as my right hand drew my ax. I swung it one-handed, cutting through my victims as I fled my wife.
I would not let Faoril be further harmed.
I boosted Sophia up and she scrambled out of the tunnel. My heart beat with excitement. I had found the first piece of my ancestor's sword. Hope lifted my spirits. I would conquer Dominari. Such power beat in the pommel. Even in my belt pouch, I could feel the pommel brimming with energy.
“Angela!” Sophia screeched and suddenly dived. Something moved above her. A foul reek, like a corpse that had been left to lie in the sun for days, assaulted my nose.
I jumped and snagged the top of the tunnel. My armor clanked as I hauled myself out of the hole and drew my sword. Sophia raced away from a shambling orc. She let out another scream as the orc swung a rusted ax at her.
There was something off about the orc. It stepped into sunlight streaming through a gap in the temple's wall and I grimaced. Its swarthy skin was bloated with rot. Dried blood caked its body from deep wounds left by an ax. He looked like one of the orcs Thrak had killed when the Ghost Wolves attacked us.
“It's a zombie,” Sophia shouted, racing back towards me.
She dived past me as the corpse of the orc raised its ax and swung in a heavy, clumsy stroke that left it completely open to attack. I parried and swung my blade, biting into its bloated side. Foul air reeked out, the belly deflating like a punctured waterskin.
I fought the urge to vomit at the stench.
“I need you to enchant my blade, Sophia,” I shouted as the corpse soundlessly attacked again. Sparks lit up the dark ruins as I deflected its blade. “Zombies aren't affected by regular weapons.”
“Right,” Sophia muttered as she cowered behind me. “I have to touch your blade to do that.”
“The tunnel. Let's see how stupid it is.”
Sophia ran away from me. I blocked another attack and kicked out, catching the zombie in the stomach. I pushed it back. The corpse stumbled, fighting to keep its balance, then I turned and rushed towards Sophia. I lapsed over the tunnel's mouth and landed, whirling as the zombie charged after.
It didn't notice the hole.
It crashed into it, half-plugging it with his mass, one leg down the hole, the other bent and twisted at an angle from it's body above the hole. The zombie scrabbled, struggling to pull it's body out of the hole.
Sophia, her robe half open, covered her hands in her breast milk. The creamy liquid smelled sweet, momentarily banishing the reek of the orc. Sophia smeared the milk on my blade and chanted, “Saphique, the Virgin Goddess that loves all women, bless this weapon so it may protect its bearer. Let this sword shine bright, a beacon to defend all women.”
A pinkish hue suffused my sword. The orc pulled its reeking body out of the hole. I swung. My blade passed through its body. The dark magic animating the corpse ended and it fell in to pieces before me. I glanced out of the temple. More of the zombies roamed the temple plaza.
“Come on,” I shouted.
Sophia pulled out her enchanted dagger. It glowed pink, signaling danger. Maybe I should make her carry it around more often to give us warning. I charged towards the entrance, Sophia following. Thrak, Faoril, and Xera were in trouble.
I burst into daylight and hewed my sword through another zombie.
My bow was useless. And I doubt my knife would fare much better.
The zombies I struck scrambled up the side of the temple after me. I climbed higher and reached the roof, racing towards the front of the building. I needed to find Faoril or Sophia. Their magic would be needed.
I reached the edge of the temple and gasped.
In the temple plaza below, Thrak cut his way through the horde of zombie orcs, the limp Faoril clutched in his arm. He swung his ax in powerful arcs. His weapon was as mundane as mine, but it was brutal, hewing through limbs and torsos, leaving a pile of writhing bits as he fled from something even worse.
A twisted spirit ripped up paving stones and hurled them across the plaza at Thrak. They crashed about the orc, exploding with sharp cracks. The thing was twisted and monstrous, towering half the height of the temple I stood upon. It was a wizened, twisted woman.
“Serisia,” I whispered in horror.
The magic whispering on the wind came from the spirit. The necromancer who sent the zombies had harnessed Serisia and twisted the poor, sweet spirit into madness. She raved as she tried to kill her husband and Faoril.
Footsteps crunched behind me.
I whirled and reflexively fired an arrow. It took the zombie in the chest. No blood leaked out. The zombie didn't even flinch or notice my arrow. It and a second dead orc, half its skull missing, advanced on me. I cast my gaze around. Angela burst out of a nearby temple followed by Sophia. The knight's sword glowed pink and cleaved through a zombie with ease.
Sophia enchanted the knight's sword. Could she bless my bow?
I scrambled down the side of the temple, the zombies following clumsily.
I smiled as Angela emerged from the temple, her sword enchanted by divine magic. She hewed through a zombie with only one arm then pivoted and slashed through a second. She was skilled and had great stamina. I had witnessed her prowess once before.
I would not make the same mistake twice. I downed a vial of the simulacrum's pussy juices and lifted my simulacrum and myself up onto a nearby temple to have the high ground. Angela yelled, waving towards the orc barbarian. He carried the limp body of the mage.
The phantom had already been worth the effort expanded to summon her.
Without the mage to interfere, I could safely unleash the elements. Fire gathered in my hand, then I hurtled a ball of crackling heat at Angela. The knight pivoted and dived, her armor flashing as my magic crashed into the paving stones and set fire to the dry grass growing through the cracks.
I frowned. She had quick reflexes.
I hurtled more fire, the air dancing around the balls. Angela dodged and weaved as my fireballs exploded around her. How did the blasted woman move so well? She had speed, stamina, and agility, and the strength of her sword was unmatched.
She glared at me as I sent a wind whipping at her to bind up the bitch. She slashed her sword at precisely the instant before my wind would have struck her. The sword's enchantment parted my spell and the wind exploded.
It threw her back, but she landed in a roll and came up.
There was more about her. I sent out life magic to probe at her, a divining spell. I was missing something about this female knight. My magic wrapped around her as I continued hurling fireballs while directing my zombies to swarm her.
The god Gewin wreathed her. She had participated in a ritual. A powerful one, and the warrior god had blessed her limbs and skill, increasing her reflexes and strength. I would have to use even more spectacular magic to take her down.
I down another vial.
“Master,” the Simulacrum said behind me. “The elf.”
My eyes were drawn to Xerathalasia. She raced along the temples, chased by a pair of my zombies, and rushed towards Sophia. The acolyte cowered behind a piece of fallen ruin. A primal growl escaped my lips. Pain flared in my chest and belly. This body had never felt the elf-bitch's arrows, but the agony and humiliation of dying to the elf was seared into my soul.
I sent my magic at the elf. Angela could wait.
“Can you enchant my bow?” I shouted as I raced towards Sophia. She huddled behind a stone, watching fire rain down from a nearby building. The necromancer stood atop there, a naked, bald woman beside him.
A simulacrum. Her face appeared familiar. Was it the same simulacrum that had been with Fireeyes? Why would she be here? Why would another mage want to kill us?
“I can,” Sophia nodded, her hand darting inside her robe to fondle her breast.
A wind ripped across the plaza. The grass bent. The necromancer's voice screamed on the wind. I gasped as it struck me like a solid object. The world spun about me and then I crashed into the side of a temple.
A bone snapped in my leg. Agony flared as I crashed to the ground. My hands clenched about nothing. I had lost my bow in the tumble. I pushed myself up, glaring at the warlock standing atop the temple. Fire billowed in his hand as he stared at me.
Even from here, his eyes burned like coals. Like Fireeyes's. Somehow he had found a new body, younger and stronger, to inhabit. And he wanted me dead.
I forced myself to dive into the temple's half-collapsed entrance as the fire burst outside, the heat rolling over me. I screamed, crawling deeper and deeper into the temple as the stones cracked and groaned. Fire washed through the walls. The stones glowed cherry red.
I ignored the fireballs slamming into the temple. The heat rippled across the battlefield. I hoped Xera was still alive. But I had to get Faoril to Sophia. She was the only one that could heal her, and we desperately needed her magic.
Behind me, Serisia gibbered, no longer coherent. She was utterly consumed by her madness as she rampaged after me. Stones crashed around me. But I was almost to Sophia. I swung my ax and cut down a zombie between us.
I only hoped it wasn't too late to—
The world exploded behind me.
Danger hurtled from every direction. Poor Xera might be dead. The mad mage on the rooftop kept hurtling his fire down. The heat washed over me as I huddled, my dagger gripped in one hand. Thrak, carrying Faoril, raced towards me.
Behind him something foul hurled stones. The face was twisted and ugly, but I could see traces of Serisia's beauty. My stomach sank. Poor Thrak. I had hoped this would never happen. But phantoms always went mad in the end, turning on those they loved out of jealousy.
I shoved my hand into my pouch and pulled out the ampoule of holy milk I had made after meeting Serisia. My body trembled as the spirit loomed large, racing closer. Thrak dodged a stone, then cut down an orc zombie.
A fireball exploded behind him.
I screamed as Thrak and Faoril were thrown forward. They landed hard, Faoril rolling limply across the ground and lying on her back. The entire side of her head was covered in blood. She was badly hurt before the fireball threw her.
“Mine!” Serisia gibbered, froth pouring from the spirit's mouth.
Her clawed hand reached out and seized Thrak as he struggled to rise. The orc roared in pain as the spirit's claws sank into his flesh. She lifted him up into the air, her mouth open wide. It was full of teeth.
Serisia prepared to eat her husband.
I threw my ampoule of Holy Milk. It was blessed by Saphique. It was potent stuff. It could break curses and exorcises spirits. The bottle glinted as it twisted through the air. It reached the arch of its height and begin to plummet.
My stomach sank. I didn't throw it hard enough.
It was the only one I had. Why didn't I make more. I had the spare ampoules.
I tensed as the ampoule hurtled towards the ground. My stomach curled. I held my breath, not even flinching as a fireball burst nearby. Serisia's mouth opened wider as she pushed her struggling husband entire upper body into her cavernous opening.
The glass struck the spirit's shin. It shattered. Pink light flared as the milk washed over the spirit's leg. Serisia let out a howl. Black energy appeared around the spirit, billowing like an inky, foul smoke. The pink light crashed into the smoke. The smoke swirled around beams of radiance, struggling to consume it.
But Saphique's light burned majestic.
My eyes scanned for Angela. I had lost her trying to kill the elf. I had no idea if Xera was even dead. I hoped she was. I threw a fireball at the orc then kept my search. Serisia's gibbering grew triumphant as she seized him.
“Where are you, Angela?” I snarled. “Do you see her?”
“No, Master,” the Simulacrum calmly answered.
“Las-damn her. Where could she have gone.”
Smoke drifted across the plaza from the many fires my magic had started. It obscured some of the ground. I sent wind to sweep across the plaza and gather up the smoke. What was hidden was revealed. Angela wasn't hiding in the smoke.
Magic exploded from Serisia. Pink light flooded across the plaza. My control over the Phantom vanished, ripped away by the Goddess Saphique. The spirit let out a last, maddening gibber, and then she billowed away to the Astral Realm.
My eyes spotted Sophia where she huddled. The bitch had exorcised Serisia.
Fire crackled on my fingers. I knew who had to die next.
The pink light engulfed me.
<em>I'm free, Thrak,</em> Serisia whispered in my mind as I fell to the ground. <em>I'm so sorry. It wasn't me. The voice made me do it. But I'm free. Sophia did it.</em>
I grunted as I crashed into the ground. I looked up, tears burning in my eyes as the monstrous, twisted thing that had been my wife billowed like steam. The pink light wafted it away. The steam diffused, fading into nothingness.
<em>I love you, Thrak.</em> Serisia's voice was so faint. <em>I am glad for every heartbeat we had. I know she'll take care of you. Love you. I'll be waiting for the pair of you. Watching... loving...</em>
“No!” I screamed, my hands reaching up, trying to grab the fading mist. But you couldn't clutch vapor. The mist spilled out from between my fingers before vanishing. “No!” My fist slammed into the ground. She was gone.
Truly. Irrevocably. Gone.
Journeyman Mage Faoril
I jolted into consciousness. My mouth stained with sweet, creamy milk. I bolted up, staring at the wide-eyed face of Sophia. Energy suffused my body. I was alert and strong. There was no pain in my body. The soreness of the last two days of searching, the lingering ache from days spent riding a horse, to the massive blow to my head that had plunged me to unconsciousness had all vanished.
Sophia held a vial clutched in her hand. She had used a potion on me. There must not have been time for the acolyte to use her healing magic.
“Where's Serisia?” I demanded, trying to get my bearing. I was outside. Fire crackled across the plaza. Zombie orcs lumbered towards us. Thrak was nearby, sobbing on his hands and knees as he punched the paving stones, blood matting his side.
“Exorcised,” Sophia answered. “Listen, there's a mage. He's throwing fireballs down at us.”
Sophia pointed at a man who threw a fireball. The air hissed as it streaked right at us. I sent out my magic. Stones shuddered as a wall of earth ripped up before us. The fire crashed into the wall, flames licking over the top.
“Who is that?” I demanded.
“I have no idea,” Sophia countered.
“Stay here,” I told her. I pulled out another vial of cum and downed it, adding to my reserves of power. “I'll deal with the mage.”
Sophia emphatically nodded her head, her green eyes trembling.
“And...find Angela. I don't know what happened to her.”
“I will,” I answered.
I strode out from behind the barrier. Another fireball streaked down. I summoned the wind, catching the ball and deflecting it into a pair of zombies. Their dead flesh burned like wax candles, consuming the zombies.
Smiling, I lifted into the air. I did not recognize the mage. He was Thosian and young, with a face tanned by the sun. He had broad shoulders and the frame of a man who spent his days laboring in the field instead of one who spent his time in study.
And he had a Simulacrum.
“You're him,” I gasped. “Fireeyes.”
“I am,” the man answered, a grin spread across his young face.
He found a way to transfer his soul. Greedy excitement filled me. “How did you do that?”
Fireeyes laughed and sent his magic crashing into mine.
I heaved myself up onto the roof of the temple. When Fireeyes stopped attacking and switched to Xera, I took the chance, darting down the side of the temple and reaching the back. Then I climbed. It was hard. My fingers ached, two bleeding from the rough stones.
I had ignored the pain and made the top.
The mage dueled with Faoril, who flew on the winds. Fire and wind exploded between the two, filling the air with ear-splitting detonations. My ears rang. I flinched against the powers unleashed. The building trembled beneath my feet.
I drew my sword and advanced on his back.
“Master,” the Simulacrum shouted as I advanced.
My stomach tensed. I charged, raising up my sword.
The mage never turned, focused on his duel with Faoril. The pair poured all their magic into killing each other. My boots crunched on the stone. My armor jingled. The mage kept ignoring me. I had a perfect shot at his back.
It wasn't honorable. But this man was dangerous. He may have killed Xera. If he noticed me, he would rip me apart with his magic. I was lucky to survive the onslaught at a distance. I had never moved with such dexterity before.
Gewin's guidance had been on me. The blessing I received the night before I departed on my Quest had kept me alive.
“Master!” There was something approaching urgency in the Simulacrum's voice. Emotion crossed her face.
She bent down and came up with a dagger. Without a word, she rushed at me, lunging with the sharp weapon.
My sword swung. I cut the naked simulacrum down. She fell in a spray of blood at my feet. I leaped over her and thrust my sword through the back of the mage. He stiffened and let out a gurgling gasp. He threw a look over his shoulder.
“How?” he gasped, blood bubbling on the corners of his mouth. “Where?”
I kicked him off my sword. His body fell and landed hard on the paving stones below, bursting like a rotten melon.
It was quiet around the fire. We had found the first piece of the sword, but no one wanted to celebrate. Sophia sat cuddled up to Angela as the pair both stared into the fire. Thrak was alone, his eyes red with grief, and Faoril was buried in Fireeyes's book.
How much vitriol did the warlock have to steal another man's body after he died. What did Angela do to receive this man's enmity? Why had he hunted us across the Magery? He was dead, hopefully for good, along with his Simulacrum.
But we would never discover his motivations.
“So that's how he did it,” Faoril suddenly announced.
“What?” I asked.
Sophia and Angela sat up, glancing at Faoril. Thrak didn't move.
“Fireeyes,” Faoril said. “He used what he dubbed a phylactery, a container that held his soul when he died.”
Faoril paused and then opened a pouch. She pulled out a pair of pendants. The pouch had belonged to Fireeyes. We let Faoril attend to his belongings. Angela let out a gasp, her eyes locked on one of the pendants studded in garnets.
Its twin was about Angela's neck.
“This one,” Faoril said, touching a pendant with a large, black gem set in it. “I think his soul is in here, waiting for a vessel. The Simulacrum must have smuggled the amulet away and then found her master a new host. I think that's what caused the spiritual disturbance Sophia felt weeks ago. It was Fireeyes's soul warring with the soul of the poor man he possessed.”
“Destroy it,” Thrak rumbled.
Faoril tossed the amulet into the fire. It roared brighter and brighter as Faoril poured her magic into it. A scream raced out of the fire. The flames momentarily burned blackish-green, and then they completely extinguished.
“No more Fireeyes,” Sophia whispered.
“Where did you get that broach?” Angela asked, her cheeks pale.
“From Fireeyes, of course,” Faoril asked. “Don't worry. It's destroyed.”
“No, the one you didn't throw in the fire.”
Faoril frowned at the second necklace, encrusted with garnets.
“Angela has one just like that,” Sophia gasped. I nodded in agreement.
“Lady Delilah gave it to me,” Angela whispered, pulling out its exact match from beneath her armor. “What does that mean?”
King Edward IV – Shesax, The Kingdom of Secare
I paced outside of my wife's bedchamber. Her moans echoed inside along with the midwife's muffled voice. How long did labor take? It had been hours. Almost the full day had past. The sun had already set. Night wearied on.
I reached the end of the hallway and turned to walk back.
Lady Delilah stood before me. I started. Where had she come from?
“Your majesty,” the magnificent woman bowed, her red hair curling about the shiny pauldrons of her armor. “I have found him.”
“What?” I asked, my mind struggling to focus. “Oh, the next assassin?”
“One more subtle than Fireeyes,” Lady Delilah purred as she strolled up. “One that will kill Angela at the right moment. So stop your worrying.”
I glanced at the door to my wife's bedchamber. That was hard. My son was being born while the very threat to his life and rule, Angela, was out there questing to find the pieces of her ancestor's sword. Why didn't I just have her killed instead of listening to this mad plan to begin with?
“Who?” I demanded. “Who is this assassin?”
“A changeling,” Lady Delilah answered with a smile. “You know how well they are at deception and seduction. My contacts tell me he is in the southern Magery. Right along Angela's path once she finishes her business in the orc lands.”
“You mean, once she has found the first piece of the High King's sword?” I growled.
“One out of five. Relax, your majesty.”
“How can I relax when—”
The door opened and the midwife stepped out, wiping her hands free on a cloth. “You're majesty, you have a healthy son.”
Through the door I could hear his wails. Excitement beat in my heart. I walked past Lady Delilah and stepped into the room. My wife, her face wan, held a small bundle wrapped in cloth, his pink face peeking out of the swaddling.
“My son,” I whispered as I moved to the bed, awe beating through my heart. He was so tiny. I sat on the bed, leaning over to look at him. His eyes were closed but his mouth opened wide. “Henry. One day you will be king. And no one, especially not an upstart knight, will take that from you.”
END of Book 3