Where Witches Walk

They stood on wet ground as the cool breeze of their
darkest hour swept past. Most of their numbers were
gone.

The free lands in the north had all fallen, swallowed
up by the black mass of the oppressive Kath’rahim army.
Only York stood against them now, one final free
people, stretched fabric-thin against a world’s worth
of steel.

For a year they had managed to hold the untold numbers
at bay. Under the leadership of King James Rawlings
III, they had used the swift striking movements a
smaller force could achieve, but a larger force could
not quickly respond to, as a tool of harassment. If
nothing else, they had hoped to maintain their own
independence. Now, not even that seemed possible any
more. The devil was at their doorstep, and the lock was
broken.

Kath’rahim, covering the southern part of the great
continent, had always been a dark and oppressive land.
Authoritarian and bleak, even their religious music was
known for its minor keys and moaning choirs. The people
of the large, desert-flecked nation obeyed their faith-
based leaders and worked as ants in a colony.

Kath’rahim, though, had also maintained a lack of
contact with the rest of the world. They had held
strong border defenses and refused significant trade
for as long as anybody could remember. Up until a few
years ago, most people had never actually seen a
Kath’rahiminer, and little was known about them.

And then the armies marched through the gates.

Unknown to the outside world, Kath’rahim had long been
suffering a drought that evaporated farmland and
starved families. In response, the emperors of what was
often called The Hidden Land had instigated a number of
programs that bought time, but solved nothing. The
newest ruler, a military commander and son of a wealthy
family named Guyen Tahlen, had seen something in the
faces of scared mothers and bony children nobody else
had: opportunity.

Using the famine as a rallying cry, he had whipped his
people into a frenzied belief that, because they had a
right to survive, they had a right to take fertile land
from the lands to their north. His armies swelled and,
before anybody even realized his ambitions, he was
standing at their doorsteps.

Of course, he’d had no intention of stopping with the
conquering of his neighbors, and once his men tasted
victory he had no trouble convincing them to continue
the fight. What finally made him truly threatening to
all who stood before him was his promise of protection
for the families of any men in his new lands who would
join his cause. His own defeated enemies had quickly
allowed him to build the largest army in written
history.

Tahlen did not hide his ambitions. He wanted the world.

James Rawlings, and his strong wife Nina, had guided
York’s ever dwindling numbers into battle time and
again. Together, they had managed to accomplish
something nobody else had in the face of Tahlen’s
overwhelming numbers: victories over the black swarm at
their doorstep. This, along with their passion for
freedom and humanity, had earned them the position of
being the people Guyen Tahlen hated most in this world.
He dreamed at night of the ways he would give them
pain. He made it clear to all that there would be no
end to their sufferings, should they fall into his
grip.

When he captured David’s half-brother, Nicholas,
fleeing north in a caravan he had gutted him in public
and sent his organs to his enemy king in a box. Guyen
Tahlen was a soulless creature.

The threat of suffering had never seemed more real than
it did now. The small army of York was split in two,
having just completed a successful feint and flank
maneuver on one of Tahlen’s smaller corps, and the hope
had been to reconnect before the large force could
react. James led one wing, Nina the other. He stood now
at the planned meeting point, high in the Aerothian
Mountains. The wind made a sound that could only come
from the world of the dead. Like a promise, or a
threat. He ignored it, scanning the horizon as he had
for the last six hours. Nothing.

“The scouts are back,” Gerald Lang, James’ oldest and
most experienced commander, was climbing up to the
lookout point. His awkward movements betrayed his age,
but his thick pepper beard and hawkish eyes made him
look every bit as tough as he was.

“They haven’t found anything,” James Rawlings’s eyes
continued their diligent hunt.

“No,” Lang sighed, reaching the point. “But there was
smoke in the direction of the Misean Rivers. Black
smoke, they said. Thick.” He watched his king’s face as
he said it. He had been advisor to James’s father, had
watched the boy become the man, and was as much a
concerned uncle as a reliable general.

“Then she’s lost,” James continued searching without
visible emotion, as though he hadn’t just resolved
himself to such a reality.

“Maybe not, my boy. Maybe not.” Lang put his hand on
the tall man’s shoulder. Neither looked at the other.
Long moments passed.

James tensed. “There’s a rider.”

“Where?” The old man squinted in the direction James
was looking. “I don’t see anything.”

James pushed away suddenly, leaping down the
mountainside towards the camp below. “It’s Piani!” he
shouted over his shoulder as he ran.

General Hane Piani was Nina Rawlings’s military
advisor. A loud, aggressive man with a tendency to get
into fights over trivial things, he nevertheless had
always been as gentle as a teddy bear around the queen.
On the field, he was a great match for Nina’s
mathematical eye; she maneuvered troops like she was
playing chess, and he guided them in their work like
each new breath was a fistfight.

As he rushed into the encampment, dirty and bruised, he
headed straight for the command tent. His horse, a fine
and strong animal, foamed with the effort of the long
run. Blood flecked its nostrils.

“My lord!” He howled well before he was actually in
hearing range. “My lord!”

He and James reached the command area within moments of
each other, both out of breath. “Where?” James called,
running.

“Gone,” Piani practically fell from his horse when it
stopped, holding his hand to a bloody tear in the side
of his uniform. “The witches…the witches are…”

James jerked to a stop, suddenly cold. “The witches are
neutral,” he said flatly.

“No sir,” Piani gasped, bent forward and looking ready
to collapse. “They fought against us. We…they captured
the queen.”

“Nina…” James fell to his knees. “Captured. She’s not
dead.”

“No, sir,” Piani swooned and shook his head, as though
dizzy. “But…”

“For the love of all things!” Lang rushed past James
and put his hands under the younger general’s armpits.
Only a slight limp showed the exertion of rushing down
the steep incline. “This man is wounded. Somebody call
a surgeon!”

“Nina,” James stared blankly at them. “He’s got Nina.”

Lang ignored him, buckling slightly under the weight of
the bloody figure he supported. Piani’s eyelids
fluttered as he fought to stay awake. “She’ll fight,”
he whispered. “She’ll fight for sure.”

Nina didn’t bother fighting against her chains. It
would be of no use, and it would only encourage her
tormentors. She had given herself up for dead the
moment on the battlefield that the witches had swooped
and captured her, and she would do her best not to give
them any other satisfaction.

She looked around. She was in a large tent, which she
was certain was placed at the very center of the huge
army. A thick fabric bisected the middle of the massive
structure. The room she was in was a command center;
the other was no doubt Lord Tahlen’s personal quarters.
She hoped she wouldn’t have to see them; she doubted
she’d be that lucky.

She was against one wall, a sturdy metal collar on her
neck sprouting chains that connected to wrist and ankle
bracelets. The chains were short, pulled tight, making
it impossible for her to stand or move. Instead, she
was forced into the awkward position of kneeling with
her arms pulled back, her chest pushed out and, thanks
to her torn dress, her breasts well more exposed than
she would prefer. Even whores would be embarrassed by
the display she was being forced to give.

Guards, massive men with alert eyes, stood at the
entryway and on either side of her. A big wooden table
was the center of everyone else’s attention for now.
Strategy was the game on their mind. Lord Tahlen was
among them. He towered over the others, pacing like an
angry lion. After some time he brushed his commanders
away. This left him alone with Nina, minus the silently
immobile guards.

“You look wonderful, my dear,” he chuckled, striding
over to her. His voice was deep, flat. He wore baggy
pants that clung snugly to his thick waist and an open
vest. A layer of fat coated his tremendous musculature,
and his stomach stood out before him. He was hairy and
sweating profusely. Beaded water ran down his lined
face and traced the curves of his massive chest and
stomach. His immense size and glistening sweat made him
an intimidating figure. His lined face and yellow teeth
made him disgusting.

“Wish I could say the same for you,” she spat.

He smiled down at her, making her uncomfortably aware
of her position. Then, without any sign of malice, he
drove his fist down on her left breast. She screamed in
shock and pain, and tried to twist away. This only
caused her bracelets to dig into her ankles. She ached
where he had struck her. He watched, amused. Then, he
turned to one of the guards in the doorway. “Bring the
girls.” The man moved immediately, and Tahlen reached
down to grip Nina’s golden curls. He yanked hard,
forcing her head back and digging the collar into her
neck. “You want to not be foolish here, my dear.”

“I thought it might help me fit in,” she snarled
through clenched teeth. If she could entice him enough,
maybe he would kill her now and it would be over
quickly.

“Don’t worry about that, sunshine,” he smiled down at
her, pulling her face closer, “you’ll do just fine.”
His smell made her want to be sick.

Just then the guard returned, with a small figure in
tow. Looking scared, afraid, and bruised was Cindy
Rawlings…the older of the two daughters of David’s dead
brother. Cindy was 11, her sister Jane was 6. They were
David’s only surviving relatives, now. Nina loved them
as if they were her own daughters.

“Nina!” Cindy shouted, as the guard pushed her towards
Tahlen. She stumbled and fell to her knees. Nina wanted
to reach out for her. She looked weary and weak, but
beyond the bruising she seemed to have avoided serious
harm.

“God, no…” Nina moaned. She became aware of her own
position, and was ashamed. She would have done much to
avoid letting the child see her in such an exposed,
beaten place.

Tahlen gripped the poor child’s hair, as he had Nina’s,
and yanked her up to her feet. “God, yes,” he stared
intently at Nina, letting go of her head. “I want you
to know that Cindy can get out of this alive. Do you
understand me? She can live. It’s up to you. Entirely
up to you.”

“I don’t seem to have any influence here,” she snapped.

“Oh, but you do. You see, simply by acting so bratty,
you have caused this to happen.” Casually, he gripped
one of Cindy’s fingers in his massive, brutish grip and
bent it casually in the wrong direction. The girl
screamed as it popped and twisted obscenely. Her entire
hand could easily have disappeared in his tremendous
grip. He didn’t even have to try as he broke her
finger.

“No!” Nina cried out. Her guts twisted with the wounded
digit.

Tahlen handed the girl back to the officer. She cried
over her damaged hand, clutching it to her chest. “Take
her to her cell,” he waved dismissively, “I’ll let you
know in the morning if she’s going to get to see the
doctor about that.” He turned back to Nina. Smug
certainty gave his face a kind of serenity that would
have been attractive, if she hadn’t known its source.
If he hadn’t just broken the bone of a child to make a
simple point. “So long as you make good choices, she
will be unharmed. I swear it. Every bad choice, she
gets hurt. Do something really stupid, and I might even
start in on her sister Jane.”

“Jane is here?” She hoped he was bluffing.

“Pray you don’t give me reason to prove it,” his face
held a challenge that tore the hope out of her.

“Why are you doing this?” She sobbed, knowing full
well. Tahlen was a man built on hate, and in his
lifetime he would never again find the kind of hate he
held for James and Nina Rawlings.

Tahlen walked back over, his feet touching her knees,
and lifted her chin up with one sweaty palm. “You and
your husband have caused me a great deal of irritation.
When I capture him, and I will capture him, I want him
to see you at my side.” Excitement flickered in his
eyes, and she fought the urge to shrink away from that
gaze. “More than that, I want him to see the swell of
your belly, to find your body heavy with pregnancy, to
know that, even if he were to win, you could never be
fully his again.”

Tears ran down her face. “Please…”

“Enough talk,” he released her face and casually
delivered a backhanded slap that left her rolling on
the ground. She tasted blood. “Prepare her for bed.”

As the guards lifted her up and began carrying her
towards the emperor’s personal sleeping chambers, a
chill ran down Nina Rawlings’s spine.

“I want your best suggestions on what is to be done. We
have to save the queen.”

David Rawlings looked around the table at his generals.
Most of them wouldn’t meet his gaze. They knew, as he
did deep down, that any attempt at a rescue would be
suicide. It would be the destruction of their cause in
the name of a vain attempt to rescue a marriage. But
they would not think to argue against him, either.

Except for two men. Hane Piani, still wearing the
bandages of his wounds, stared at his king. “You cannot
possibly be so foolish,” he grunted. His eyes glared
out from above his bent nose and narrow jaw.

“You overstep your rights, general,” David returned the
angry glare. “My decision is made, and you will abide
by it.”

“Then I will die,” Piani said matter-of-factly, “and I
will die for nothing.”

General Lang held up his hand. He looked older and
wearier, in the candle-lit dusk. “Let us not be
foolish,” he sad quietly. The sandpapered exhaustion
that eternally held his throat gave his words weight.
David Rawlings turned his lit gaze on his old friend,
and stared for a moment before softening his
expression. He looked down at his hands, folded before
him. In the silence, he opened his palms and looked
down at them. He studied the lines that marked them,
and sighed.

“This war is not over,” he said, “and we will not do
anything to rush its conclusion.” Relief flooded the
room. He continued. “I have fought, by your sides, in
the name of freedom and country. We have done this
together, and done well. So I will not lie to you now:
I no longer care about those things.” He looked hard at
each man in turn as he spoke. “None of this…not our
nation, our heritage, our sovereignty, nor our lives as
free men…none of it matters to me in the face of this
loss. I fight now for my wife. I will either save or I
will avenge her. Either way, I only care to survive
this war if she does. My fate is now linked to hers.”
They did not flinch at his conviction, but the weight
of his words were upon them.

He looked at his hands again, as though hoping to find
something there he could use. “If she is dead, I hope
to be as well. Soon. I do sincerely promise you that my
own quest will not interfere with what we have started
here. But we have been few, and are significantly fewer
now. They are still many.” In a sudden movement he
slammed both fists onto the table. Men jerked with
surprise, and when he looked up at them again all
emotion had left his face. “We must now plan for
something beyond war,” he whispered. “A war is a thing
we can not win. We must slaughter them as a farmer
slaughters cattle. We won’t win fights. We cannot win
battles. We cannot even survive them. So we will not
fight. Not as they are accustomed to. We will cut their
throats as they sleep and we will poison the water that
they drink. We now conspire to commit murder, however
we may.”

Nobody spoke.

Nina couldn’t keep her shoulders and back from aching.
But she still felt relief.

The emperor hadn’t taken her last night. She doubted
that terrible event was far off, but it hadn’t happened
yet. He was letting her roil in her fear, for his own
amusement. It was working.

Carried to his quarters, she’d been stripped naked and
chained to the side of the bed, left to sleep on the
ground. Before the emperor returned, however, one of
the witch women had come and muttered a few words over
her. It was a fat, young witch Nina recognized. She was
named Cecile, or Cecilia, or something of the like. She
had spent some time in Nina and James’s own court. She
showed no recognition, now, as she cast her spell.

A single white line appeared on Nina’s collar, and she
had quickly discovered that it meant the emperor could
give her horrific pain with just an angry thought. No
need to beat her, just to think about it. She wondered
if that would actually stop him. When he’d entered the
room and stripped naked for bed, making a show of it
for her, she’d turned away only to be zapped with agony
worse than any fist could deliver. It felt as though
someone had a death grip on her heart and lungs,
twisting and tearing with abandon. It stopped only when
she promised to watch.

Although heavily muscled, his body was a long ways away
from attractive. Instead, he had the look of an angry,
murderous bull. His thick neck and wide shoulders alone
were enough to make him look like a monster of some
kind, but nothing was as hideous and frightening as his
manhood. As he proudly removed his pants, the blood
left her face. It did indeed look like something that
should belong on a bull. The huge pouch beneath it
rolled silently of its own accord. As he kicked his
pants away, it all slapped loudly and heavily against
his thigh. A rutting scent emanated from it, barely
noticeable from where Nina sat five feet away. Even
flaccid, the image was that of a weapon.

He’d walked over and placed one foot squarely on her
chest, between her breasts. He pushed her down onto her
back as easily as he’d broken Cindy’s finger. After
taking a moment to admire her nudity (she dared not
cover herself), he’d walked up. His feet moved on
either side of her body. He stopped when he was
standing directly across her breasts, her gaze on the
lewd display of his heavy, soft member and other
intimate areas. Fear chewed at her core. The same foot
again landed on her chest, so that he stood over her
like conquered land. The spot where he’d punched her,
near the top of her breast, ached. It was bruising
quickly. She silently thanked the gods that James
wasn’t here to see this, to witness her being dominated
by such a creature. Tahlen applied a little weight, as
if testing her ability to hold up to it. He stopped
increasing the pressure when she coughed once, and then
lifted his foot up so that it hovered over her neck.
For a moment she flinched against the expectation of
violence. Then, filthy
sweat-coated toes rested on her chin. He smiled down at
her, and placed his big toe on her closed lips.

“Tomorrow,” he’d said, “you will have to work harder,
if you hope to keep those darling girls alive.”

Then he’d slept. She lay all night on the floor,
praying for her husband and herself.

When she awoke he was already gone, prepping his army
for the day’s work. The siege required a lot of tending
to, particularly with such a large army, and he had
left her there chained to his bed.

Guards stood at the doorway. When she sat up, they took
her leash and lead her to the emperor’s large bathing
tent. It centered around a massive tub, dug into the
ground and cemented, big enough to be called a pool.
The water was almost three feet deep, but no more. Four
beautiful young women, wearing strange slick-looking
shorts and no tops, had guided her to the pool to be
cleaned. It somehow felt more uncomfortable to have her
leash in the hands of a half-nude woman than to have
the guards holding it. She blushed when one young
brunette’s firm breast had brushed against her right
arm.

The women had taken her into the water, surrounded her,
and cleaned her with their hands, cloths, and soft
sponges. The soap was clear liquid, and felt almost
like massage oil. They rubbed and caressed her, as the
guards laughed and made vile jokes. She knew she must
not pull away from the unwelcome attention. Her blush
grew deeper as the brunette leaned in, her breasts
pushing against Nina’s arm again, and whispered that
she should relax.

“We are here to help,” she whispered in Nina’s ear, and
kissed it softly. The shivering tingle that the kiss
caused was her own body’s betrayal.

She supposed that this was how the emperor bathed. The
girls were not shy, and were very thorough. It was
incredibly awkward to have their hands and eyes on her,
and even more terrible that the whole thing felt so
good. Not even her bruised breast was bothered by their
expert explorations. When they told her to open her
legs more, she had to close her eyes against the
humiliation she felt. She wished their fingers weren’t
so capable, so soft on her body. She wished she could
hate every minute of it.

She blushed her way through the invasion, only to find
when it was over that Anne Jall, the lead witch woman,
had entered the tent. Her black dress fit her mature
body well, making her look seductive and coy. But Nina
knew better: she was a murderous and unredeemable
creature.

The witches, few in number, had always had a reputation
for a violent and domineering manner. They were known
to favor women, and to be sadistic about their
pleasure. They had always stayed out of the affairs of
the world, however, until Anne Jall had aligned them
with Emperor Tahlen’s quest for world domination. Anne
herself was responsible for Nina’s capture, and Nina
promised herself now that one day she would see this
woman dead.

Anne looked at the bathhouse slaves rather than at
Nina. “The emperor commands,” she said, “that the new
pet be taught this work as you have been. After all,”
she smiled at Nina looking small in the waist-deep
water, “she’ll be bathing the master soon.”

Nina frowned as the girls nodded, moving away from her.
The one holding her leash clipped the chain to a bar on
the side of the pool. Another handed her a fresh sponge
and washcloth.

What was happening? She looked helplessly at the young
brunette. The girl was younger than Nina had first
realized. She winked at Nina and stepped away. Nina
felt foolish for even hoping she could expect anything
from the girl.

Anne smiled all the way through taking off her clothes.
Girls took each item from her to be hung up, and soon
she was fully naked. Looking away was useless, too: the
sharp burst of pain in her collar told Nina that the
witch could use it against her. “You must learn to mind
your manners,” Anne tutted as she strutted to the
shallow water.

Without her tailor-made outfit, the witch looked far
less striking. Her breasts sagged a little too much,
her stomach contained a paunch, and her wide hips gave
way to narrow thighs. Stretch marks tickled her lower
stomach. She descended into the bath, however, looking
for all the world like she thought she was the
definition of beauty. She moved to the middle of the
pool, a few feet from Nina, and held her arms out with
a smile. Crows feet spread out from her proud eyes.

Nina stood frozen. A small dose of pain hit her through
the collar, as Anne raised one impatient eyebrow. One
of the girls gently pushed her in the witch’s
direction, and followed with her. It was the brunette.

“Do not make me wait,” Anne said without looking at
her. “I don’t find the children as…adorable…as the
emperor does.”

“You don’t have to do this,” Nina pleaded.

“Of course I don’t,” she turned her head in Nina’s
direction, a mix of excitement and annoyance on her
face. “I am a free woman, a powerful woman. You’re the
one who has to do this. And you,” she reached out and
traced Nina’s jaw line with one bony finger, “have just
earned that little girl another break.”

This sparked Nina into action. She moved in, trying to
put her mind elsewhere as she began running the soaked
sponge over the older woman’s body. She did her best,
with the sponge and towel, to match the movements of
the bathers. What she forgot, the young brunette
reminded her of. She ignored her revulsion at running
her bare hands over Anne’s most personal of areas. The
witch woman smiled and hummed approvingly as Nina’s
hands slipped down to trace with the gentle soap the
line from her inner thighs to her hips. By the time she
turned to have her back done, she seemed to be reveling
in the scenario.

“You’re just not very thorough,” she shook her head as
Nina finished awkwardly washing her bottom. “I will
have to report this to his majesty. Clearly, you will
need much more practice with me before you are ready
for him.”

“I’m trying…”

“Shut up,” she leaned slightly forward, arching her
rear for easier access, “and go over that last area
again.” Nina reached out with the sponge, and Anne
slapped her hands away with a swift backwards motion.
“Inept,” she said over her shoulder. “Maybe if you can
see the area you’re working on better, you won’t be
so…hopeless.”

Nina swallowed heavily, trying to silently talk herself
into moving. The brunette leaned in behind her and put
her hands on Nina’s shoulders. She pushed softly
downwards, and leaned in so that her mouth was near
Nina’s ear again.

“Obedience,” she whispered, “keeps you alive.” Again,
she kissed Nina’s ear gently, and again Nina blushed at
the contact.

Nina swallowed again, and knelt in the water behind the
witch. Anne glanced behind her to see Nina’s sad face
even with her posterior, about a foot away, and without
warning took a step backwards. Nina fought the urge to
recoil as the woman’s rear moved to barely a third the
distance it had been from her face.

“And this time, dear,” the witch ran the fingers of her
right hand gently up the outside of her own thigh, like
this was sex, like it was a sensuous moment of
intimacy. “don’t waste time with the sponge or towel.
They aren’t made for such places. Do a good job of it
with your hands, or you can expect to be told to use
your tongue.”

Nina poured soap onto her hands, and shuttered as she
reached forward.

When it was finally over, Anne turned around and put
her hands on her hips. The older woman’s total exposure
was suddenly inches from Nina’s face. The shock of
suddenly having her lewd position becoming even more
alarming made her gasp, and she looked at the water. A
small part of her tried to tell itself this wasn’t
happening, and she pushed it away with disgust. This
was happening, and she would deal with it as she dealt
with any battle. She intended to survive, to see James
again.

She forced her gaze up, defiantly meeting the witch
woman’s eyes. She wiped all fear wiped from her face,
and folded her arms in front of her. Her little
rebellion was immediately diluted, however, as Anne’s
long fingers found the top of her head and gently
petted it. As though she was an obedient pet. Then,
Anne turned and sauntered cockily over to a sitting
area on the edge of the pool. Nina hadn’t noticed it
before. The girls, seeing her move, rushed and put
pillows on the seat area before the got there. She slid
onto it. The seat, wide enough for two and naturally
reclined, sat about even with the pool. This meant that
Anne’s legs dangled into the pool, and as the water
splashed lightly it made little forays up onto the seat
that lightly splashed her lower thighs. Anne smiled at
Nina’s confusion.

“Oh, you don’t know yet, do you?” She chuckled. She
turned towards the girls. “I want the emperor’s full
service. Now.” As they began moving, she obscenely
parted her legs, leaning her head back against the
headrest of the tall seat. “Bring the girl. She needs
to learn.”

Nina didn’t have time for anything but rising panic as
the bath girls came up from behind her and began
guiding her towards the witch’s open legs. She pushed
back at them, frantically wanting to get away. Pain
slammed into her from the collar, until she allowed
them to carry her forward.

Anne laughed with true amusement, running one hand down
her body excitedly as she watched the poor girl’s
horrified, quick approach.

“Innocent people will die.”

James grunted, not looking away from the map in front
of him. “Innocent people,” he said quietly, “are
dying.”

Lang pounded his fist on the table. James still didn’t
look up. “We don’t have to be responsible for it,
goddamn it!” On the other side of the king, General
Piani looked grimly at the map. He shook his head.

“We are running out of options. You know that,
General.” He looked up at the old man, with sad eyes
that were uncharacteristic for such a hardened soldier.
“The raids aren’t working. They’re looking for our
assassins, now. We,” he threw his hands out, “are
failing.”

“We choose to,” Lang still watched the king. “We choose
to die, my lord. These will be women and children. They
do not choose it.”

“They are dying anyway,” James grunted. “The whole damn
town is surrounded by the troops. How many of them are
dead already? How many of them have been raped? How
many will be starved to death even as they serve the
goddamn monsters who are killing them?” He pointed to
the spot they all had been studying. “They tell me the
poison is ready. There is enough. We can pour it in the
river here. By the time they realize what’s happening,”
he shrugged, “well…you tell me.” He leaned back,
looking years older than he had yesterday. The fire
that had leapt up during his speech to his men, the
warning of what lay ahead, and melted into a tired
determination to find more and more ways to hurt his
enemies. He knew he was pushing himself too hard, and
he knew that he was in danger of losing his own
morality. “How many of the enemy,” he sighed, “will
die? How many will be beyond help before they start to
blame the water?”

Gerald Lang stared at him, saying nothing. For a long
moment he watched his friend. Then, he looked down at
the map. “It works fast. Maybe twenty thousand. Maybe
more.” His shoulders sagged with defeat.

James said nothing. His point was made. Piani, however,
continued the discussion unaware. “That’s it, then.
Nearly half a corps with no battle to it. Most of the
rest will be so weak that we can sweep them. It’s too
good, General,” his tired eyes gave away his
uncertainty. This was a violent and vicious maneuver,
even for him. “We have to do this.” It sounded like a
plea.

Lang shook his head, but didn’t argue. “They will take
vengeance on our people.” He pointed to a spot slightly
east of the enemy in question. “Here. This town will be
wiped out. I promise it. We kill them as shadows, not
as men, and when we do that they kill our innocent.
It’s the only option we’ve left them.”

“They don’t need an excuse to become monsters,” James
whispered, but Lang was right. “I’m sorry, Piani. We
move tomorrow.”

Piani said nothing. The town Lang had pointed to was
his home. He still had family there. He’d known the
consequences of this attack. “We have to,” he repeated
quietly.

Lang looked carefully at the king, sitting there
stubbornly bringing about a hundred thousand corpses.
“What if that’s where she’s being held, James?” He
didn’t miss the small flinch. “We still don’t know.
Maybe Nina is there, and we’re about to poison her.”

James didn’t look up from the map. “We move tomorrow,”
he said. Then, he left.

Anne Jall moved with a relaxed confidence. Her hips
swayed jovially as she moved through the crowd, towards
the emperor’s posse. The glow of her climax was still
in her cheeks…it had been a good one, the thrill of the
event even better than when the emperor had given her
the king of conquered Agner’on for her very own. It
wasn’t just that she preferred girls, although all
witches did. She just preferred the captive to be as
unwilling as possible. She wanted to dominate them.

Which is why this had been so good, even though Nina
herself hadn’t been the one to service her. Nina’s
first rape was to be with Emperor Tahlen. Anne would
have to wait.

Instead, Nina had been forced to stand next to one of
her legs, near the hip, and hold that thigh up. The
brunette, well-versed in this service, held the other
leg so Anne could relax and still be accessible to the
two girls who explored her body and teased her
erogenous zones until finally one had knelt down and
given her release. She’d watched Nina the whole time,
and made the girl look back into her eyes as the mouths
and hands worked on her wet, sagging body. The message
was simple: this will be you, soon enough.

It had made Nina sick to be there, her hands wrapped
around this woman’s upper thigh, hands that had been
there under heavy breasts and between soft hindquarters
as she cleaned the horrible woman’s body like a slave.
She’d gasped at a slight burst of pain when, as Anne
reached forward to run a finger down her breast and
she’d instinctively pulled away, the collar lit her
insides. The witch woman’s excitement smell was awful.
When it was all over, Anne had shooed the other girls
away and kissed Nina on the forehead before making her
dry and clothe her.

Her pleasure taken, she now brought the emperor his new
toy. One hand casually pulled at the leash as Nina
followed behind her, head lowered in shame. Nina had a
skirt on, rustling and loose, but her breasts were
exposed to the lecherous stares of the troops. And
stare they did.

“Ah, Anne, so glad to see you,” Emperor Tahlen smiled
as they approached. “I trust we have no reason to harm
the children?”

“Just one finger, my lord,” Anne yanked hard at the
chain, so that Nina stumbled into the midst of the
generals and couriers. “Although I do hope to get a
chance to test her further.”

“Later,” he swept a hand dismissively. “There is work
to be done.”

An irritated look swept her face at the dismissal, but
she nodded, handing him the leash. He took it, and
tugged downwards one time, hard. Nina fell to her
knees, at his side like an obedient dog.

“Do you know what day today is?” He asked, looking down
at her.

“No,” she admitted, looking around. Mostly she saw the
men standing all around her, openly admiring her chest.

“Today is the day that I make you mine. Fitting,” he
waved his hand out over the massive army before them,
“that it’s also the day my plans go into motion. Plans
that will mean the end of everything you ever knew, and
will deliver to me your dearest husband.”

“He would rather die than be captured.”

Pain slammed into her, through the collar. She screamed
and fell to the ground.

“So would you have,” he said ominously.

It was done. There was nothing more to be said.

David Rawlings sat near the river banks. He had
insisted on performing the act himself. He would not
allow the murder of innocents to fall on the shoulders
of men who fought for him. Piani had assisted by
opening the crates, and they had worked silently for
several hours before it was finished.

David looked over at his general, who sat beside him on
the banks looking sadly at the water.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and meant it.

To his surprise, thick tears began falling down Piani’s
hard face. He didn’t sob, or move. He just wet the
ground in front of him without talking.

James put a hand on the man’s shoulder, and watched the
sun set. “You didn’t let me down,” he said. He wasn’t
sure why he said it. It was spoken before he had time
to think. But it must have been needed, because Piani
wiped the tears from his face and shook his head.

“I let them take her,” he said. “I did that.”

“No,” David’s jaw clenched. “We will not blame
ourselves for the sins of others. Anyway,” he waved his
hands before them, “we have sins enough of our own.”

They stayed there long into the night. The velvet sky
faded into dark, but the stars never gave out.

“Take me into your mouth.”

Nina knelt naked by the side of his bed, chained again
to the post. He stood over her, his organ slightly
engorged. It pointed down at her breasts, pulsing
slightly as his eagerness grew and it became swollen.
Again she was struck by what an inhuman, beastly organ
it was. Even his testicles were like angry fists,
clothed in spiky hair. Her eyes watered as much from
his masculine, musky scent as from the panicked fear
that chewed deep inside her. She looked at the first
bead of arousal that leaked from his mushroom tip,
steeling herself, willing her body to get this over
with. But it was too much…she felt immobile. Helpless.

He watched her for a moment, and then sighed. Suddenly
his hands gripped her body in the dark, and he casually
lifted and tossed her onto the bed. He threw her hard
enough that the chain caught, and the collar choked at
her. She coughed and sputtered as he yanked her legs
open and climbed up onto her.

“Tomorrow,” he said huskily as his hand explored her
most intimate places, “you will learn to be very sorry
for that hesitation.” He gripped her hips, now fully
erect and fear-inducing. The outlines of thick veins
crisscrossed the soft skin. It was impossible to
imagine anything as terrifying as the sight of that
fleshy monster pointing between her legs. He breathed
heavy with the excitement of the rape. “But for now, I
merely wish to enjoy what’s mine.”

She squeezed her eyes tight in fear, waiting, but a
moment passed and nothing happened. When she opened
them, she saw he was applying some sort of grease or
gel to his appendage. As his muscular hands massaged
the slick substance onto his tool it began leaking the
clear, sticky arousal in earnest. Some of it dripped
onto her hip, and it was cold.

“I can’t risk ruining the one part of you that’s worth
a damn,” he laughed as he finished preparing. “Not
before I get a baby out of it, anyway.”

She felt the anguish of her situation overwhelm her,
and a sob escaped her lips.

He laughed. “That’s good, dear,” he shuffled forward to
her entrance, and his grip on her hips tightened
painfully. She could feel the pressure of him against
her, and he tensed his hips. “That’s good.”

Days became weeks, and the weeks became months. Still,
they fought.

The number of enemy dead climbed daily, as did the
civilian losses, but nothing changed. The men of
James’s army no longer moved with determination.
Instead, they moved with dead eyes and numb,
expressionless faces. Their shoulders sagged. Their
faces grew drawn. These men would never truly be free
of the actions they committed in the name of victory.

James knew that, but he felt no urge to save them. He
felt no urge to save himself. Only her.

They were moving, now, to the south. Having gone around
the massive army, he now aimed to get at their supply
arteries even as a small force under Piani made enough
noise up north to convince them that the threat was
still in that direction. If it worked, he could cause
many casualties from starvation. The enemy was too
numerous to survive off the land. If it didn’t work, he
would just find another way to kill them. And then
another, and another, and another.

He might never see Piani again. Or, he may see him
within the next week. Neither thought affected James
any more. They were dead men. That day by the river was
already becoming distant past, and so was any notion of
peaceful living.

It had been so long since Nina was taken away from him.
He ever wondered where she was, what was happening to
her. If she was in pain. He clenched his jaw. Even if
she was still alive…he shuttered, and pushed the
thought away.

Alive or dead, she would be avenged.

She wanted to feel nothing. To be numb. To give up.

She couldn’t.

Nina stood naked in the water, cleaning her rapist’s
hairy, muscled body. Massaging the sponge over his
gargantuan, soft sex, rubbing soap between his back
cheeks, running her hands through his coarse chest
hair. He stood proud through it all. The tender
soreness between her legs was cooled by the water. She
had already experienced the soft touch of the bathing
girls, and had shared a small smile of recognition with
the young brunette. It was something positive to cling
to.

It had been weeks since he first raped her. He didn’t
seem to tire of it, of her. He had indeed made her
regret not accepting him into her mouth. For
hesitating. She shuttered at the memory of the
punishment. She hoped the girls were alright, now. She
hadn’t seen them since.

These days, she never hesitated. There was no end to
the uses he found for her body, and she never fought
him. There was no place on his body her lips and tongue
were not familiar with. His taste was as pungent as his
smell, and it had taken terrible time to learn how to
adjust her techniques to his massive size.

She always waited to cry until night, after his thick
seed was inside her and his member was tired, when he’d
kicked her back onto the floor and fallen asleep. When
he wouldn’t know.

She was not defeated. She told herself that often. She
was James Rawlings’s wife, and leader of a free nation.
Of free and good people. She could not be bested by
these brutes.

Still, as she dipped her hands in the water and ran
them up his left leg, defeated is exactly how she felt.

As she finished cleaning, she wondered whether today
would be one where he would hoist himself into the
high-backed seat for further attention. She hoped not.
His bitter, volumous release made her want to vomit.
She didn’t dare.

Today she was safe, it seemed. Tahlen left the pool and
began to dress without her. She looked at him with
confusion, still chained to the side of the pool, still
in the warm waters. Normally she was expected to assist
him. He turned to her as he finished dressing.

“I have much to do today,” he told her, folding his
thick arms in front of him. “I have no time to
entertain you.” She almost laughed at the
ridiculousness of the statement, but even the laughter
would have felt like a form of crying. He continued,
“We found the enemy to our rear, last night, and
butchered them in the early morning.” She looked up,
her eyes wide. James…

“Oh, don’t worry,” he continued, “your fool husband
escaped with a few of his more loyal followers. But
that’s what I’m up to today…hunting. While I’m gone,
I’m giving you to someone who has earned a reward.” He
smiled at her nervous confusion. “While you slept this
morning, Anne Jall came by at my request to inspect you
with her power. I’ve had her checking…if anything had
taken, as it were. And by god if she didn’t discover
this morning that you’re pregnant.”

No.

Nina felt her legs give out. Her knees hit the bottom
of the pool, and the water covered her to her breasts.
Her hands clutched her lean stomach. For the first time
in weeks, she cried in the daylight.

“Yes,” he went on casually, “this is quite a problem.”
He tapped a finger against his temple. “See, I can’t
have you doing anything foolish. I don’t want my child
harmed. So Anne is going to help you find your…inner
loyalty to me. And in return, you will serve her until
I return.”

Not Anne. Not the witch. “No. Please. I won’t…”

“I know you won’t,” he smiled. The doorway to the tent
parted, and Anne walked in with an expression like a
child opening a large present. She nodded to the
emperor.

“Your majesty.” She began undressing without shame.
Nina supposed he’d seen her nude before. He expected
much from those who served him.

Her dress fell to the floor, leaving only her slip. He
looked at her body with unveiled distain. “Remember the
work first.”

She smiled at him. “Oh, the spell is done. All that
remains,” she held up one hand and snapped her fingers.
Red light burst through Nina’s vision, and she gasped.
Then, it was gone.

“Interesting,” Tahlen muttered. “And the effects
are…devotion?”

“Not exactly,” she finished undressing and began wading
into the pool. “She doesn’t feel any differently
towards you or anyone else than she did before, but she
is now physically incapable of disobeying your orders.”
She walked over to where Nina knelt fighting her tears.
She stroked the side of the smaller woman’s face,
smearing tears on Nina’s cheek. “She will still hate
every moment of it. In fact, she may hate it even more.
Sometimes I…accidentally…increase their displeasure.”
She chuckled and petted the kneeling girl. As lewd as
it was, having this woman’s hips directly before her
and having one of her wrinkled hands resting on her
head, Nina’s will to fight was gone. The last pieces of
her ability to defy them was gone, her cause lost. “If
you wouldn’t mind,” Anne said over her shoulder to
Tahlen.

“Nina,” his voice boomed in her mind. Was that an
effect of the spell? “You will do nothing to bring risk
to my child. Furthermore, until I return, you will
everything that is necessary to please Anne Jall. You
will obey her completely, and without pause.”

The echo died away. Nina felt no different. Maybe the
spell hadn’t worked…but she knew better than that.

Above her, Anne positively purred. “Thank you, your
majesty,” she tightened her grip on Nina’s hair and
pulled her face towards her body. Nina didn’t fight it,
though the repugnant sight and smell of the old woman’s
sex made her shiver. She had no ability to fight them.

Tahlen had no interest in the scene. “You’ve done
well,” he said over his shoulder as he left.

Anne looked down at the quiet, shivering creature whose
nose was being gently tickled by her trim pubic hair.
“Look at me,” she whispered, the excitement
overwhelming. Little green eyes looked up into her own,
scared and desperate. “Now kiss.”

Lightening shot up her insides as Nina’s lips pressed
softly to her sex. Even more arousing was the purity of
the sadness that swept those eyes beneath her. “Good,
good.” She flexed her hips slightly, and felt the
pressure of that mouth against her. She looked around,
and found one of the bath slaves. It was the teenaged
brunette. “You,” Anne said to the young woman, her
hands still on Nina’s head, “tell me…how often do you
get to…indulge yourself?”

The girl’s eyes lit up. “Never, mistress.” He cheeks
flushed excitedly. Nina felt disappointment mix in with
the disgust and fear. This girl, as close as she had to
a friend, was as eager to abuse her as any of them.

Anne clicked her tongue. “That’s a shame. It really
is,” she backed up towards the high-back seat, pulling
Nina along by the grip in her hair. “Come over here and
give this slut guidance. You have a talented mouth.
Teach her, and after I’ve seen stars maybe you can see
what it’s like to take a ride in the seat.”

She hopped up into the seat, as the girl eagerly came
down into the water. Nina wanted nothing more than to
fight, or to kill herself before they could do more to
her. But from the moment the emperor had given his
command her will was no longer her own.

The girl leaned over her, fingers tightening in her
hair, and flicked her tongue against Nina’s ear. “Open
your mouth,” she whispered.

Nina did everything they told her to.

“You’re not actually considering accepting, are you?”

James Rawlings, last king of York, final remaining free
state in the known world, looked at the generals
huddled inside his tent. His tattered clothes, unkempt
hair, and week-old beard made him look every bit as
defeated as he felt. Worry lines had sprouted like
fresh scars during the eight months since his army had
been chewed up in a surprise attack. Eight months of
running away. “Do you have an alternate suggestion?” He
asked quietly.

Most of the men had the decency to look awkward. But
Piani pounded his fist into his other hand. Having
looked rough and violent all of his adult life, he
showed the least wear and tear from the long campaign
of anybody in the group. But, as James knew well, even
he was suffering much in this war.

“We keep fighting,” he delivered each word like
swinging a sword. “We’ve cut most of their supply
arteries…”

“And they just redraw the routes,” Lang’s deep voice
and thick accent cut through. “What good is that?”

Piani turned on him. “It slows them. It gives us time
to find weak spots.”

“Son,” the old man shook his head, “they have no weak
spots.”

Piani half looked ready to call him a coward, but even
in his rage he wouldn’t dare. Finally, he looked away.

“I’ll not surrender,” he said almost to himself. “I’ll
not.”

“Nor I,” James promised. They turned to look at him.

Piani blinked. “Then why…”

“Because,” James interrupted, “I will not pass up any
opportunity for new information about our enemy.
Because I know that Tahlen wants to have his victory on
the field, not through assassination. Because…” his
eyes moved with intensity around at the people in the
room, “…I will not refuse an opportunity to learn
anything about my wife.”

They stood silent for a moment. Flickering light from
the dying fire cast shadows around the room.

“Son,” Lang said sadly, “It’s been well over a year
she’s been gone. You’d best be praying that she’s
dead.”

James met his gentle eyes with fiery ones. “In my
weakest moments,” he said, “I do.”

With a wave, he dismissed them. None of them saw the
lone tear he allowed to fall to the dirt floor.

It seemed impossible. From the time Tahlen’s escort
guard lead him past the first tents, to the time they
reached the center of the great camp, James walked past
endless humanity for hours. It scared him…these were a
far cry from his scattered troops. They were well-
equipped, and clearly still well-fed. They didn’t even
bother to watch him walk by; he was no longer any
significant threat to them.

The massive tent at the center, heavily guarded and
ornately decorated, was awe-inspiring just by itself.
He thought of his own ragged covering, a tight fit even
with his small group of generals. The structure before
him could probably bunk an entire company.

A light push at his back encouraged him through the
opening. He walked in, trying to look confident and
unaffected, and waited for his eyes to adjust to the
low light.

When they did, he saw Emperor Tahlen.

Standing large in front of a large wooden table laden
with maps, he watched James enter with his hands on his
hips. He was shirtless, his massive frame glistening
with sweat and looking almost inhuman. Even his biggest
guards couldn’t compete with his bulk. He nodded at
James with a yellow-toothed smile. His right hand held
a tight grip on a metal ring.

The chain from that ring hung down, and on the other
end of it was Nina.

James’s breath caught in his throat, and his vision
blurred until he feared he would pass out. He shook his
head, unable to breathe.

It was her. She knelt silently at Tahlen’s feet,
wearing only a string of diamonds that hung on her
hips. A stretch of soft blue fabric barely three inches
wide hung down from that belt, hiding her most intimate
place, but aside from that three inches her entire body
was exposed.

James felt pain in his hand. He was clenching his fist
so tightly, he was drawing blood. He tried to gain
control of his emotions, but couldn’t. There was no
controlling himself in the face of this.

Nina was visibly pregnant.

Only a few months from delivery, by the look of it.
Lord Tahlen, conductor of genocide and murderer of free
will, had planted his seed in James’s beloved wife. Had
grown his child in the love of James’s life. In the
woman he could not live without.

“No,” he closed his eyes.

“Oh, yes,” Tahlen smiled even bigger, loving this.
“She’s a fine bitch, my friend, I’ll grant you that.”
He tugged casually at her leash, turning her head to
the side, and ran his other hand under her chin,
massaging her lips with his thick thumb. A dark
lipstick coated those lips. Without hesitation, she
gently kissed his digit.

“You monster,” James spat, “you raped my wife!”

“Don’t be foolish,” Tahlen shrugged. “Look at her. Do
you see anything but love and affection in those eyes?”

James felt his heart trying to tear itself free from
his chest. Tahlen was right. She was kissing his thumb
and rubbing her face against his filthy palm with utter
contentment. Her left hand was absently rubbing the
back of his calf.

“This is a trick,” James said as much to convince
himself as to accuse Tahlen. His eyes kept returning to
the swollen belly resting on her soft thighs.

“Nonsense, my boy,” Tahlen casually moved his hand back
behind her head and, without looking, gripped her hair
and yanked her head back. James stepped forward, rage
driving him, but the huge guards on either side gripped
his arms and held him fast.

Tahlen reached down and unlocked Nina’s collar. Then,
he took the only weapon at his belt, a large curved
knife, and handed it to her. Finally, he threw the
chains that had held her to the side.

“Stand up, darling,” he commanded. Immediately she
stood, but remained at his side. James was struck, with
her standing, how monumentally tiny she was compared to
the bull-like emperor. Tahlen stood proud by the small
woman with the massively swollen belly and milk-filled
breasts. He looked around the room. “Everybody else
leaves. Now.”

“Sir…” one of the guards started, but he interrupted
him.

“Now,” he growled. “And furthermore, if these two
should leave this tent without me, you will safely
return them to their own troops no matter what.”
Startled looking men exited the structure quickly. Only
James, Nina, and Tahlen remained. James’s mind raced.
What was going on?

“Nina,” Tahlen continued, “go to your husband.”

She looked at him uncertainly, and moved with quick,
little steps to James. He reached out for her, but she
ignored his movement. She showed no emotion. When she
reached his side, she turned to watch Tahlen.

Tahlen followed her over, sauntering. He stood before
the couple, massive and intimidating. James had no
choice but to look up in order to look him in the eye.

“Darling,” Tahlen addressed Nina while watching James,
“if you want to, you can stab me now. I won’t try and
stop you.” He held out his arms, defenseless against
the blade. “You can kill me, leave safely, and live
happily ever after with your husband. Or…” he smiled,
still watching James, “you can hand me the knife and
return to your place at my feet.”

She didn’t even hesitate. In a second’s time, she had
handed him back the knife and knelt down next to him.
James felt the last of his will give out. For a moment,
he contemplated rushing the emperor. He wouldn’t stand
a chance, but it would mean death’s release. He looked
at Nina, to see her one last time.

He saw the bruise.

It was faded, hard to see, on her right shoulder
towards the back. It had clearly been large when it was
made.

Realization hit. He was being foolish, allowing himself
to be easily manipulated. It was true, his wife had
spent more than a year as this monster’s plaything, and
it was true that she now carried his child (pain chewed
his gut at the thought), but that didn’t mean that any
of this little display had meant a thing.

How could Tahlen get her to do this? Think fool, James
told himself. Think!

The witch women. Of course. This was no defeat. This
was a con.

“I can see,” he said to Tahlen, “that nothing is safe
from a man like you.”

“You see true,” the man stroked Nina’s head with one
massive hand.

“And you have taken from me the only thing that really
mattered. You have taken it completely,” he looked
openly at the swollen belly for good measure, ignoring
the pain it caused him. “I have little reason left to
fight.”

“You are…surrendering?” Tahlen looked skeptical.

“I cannot do that,” James admitted. “And I do not think
you would want it.”

Tahlen said nothing.

“Am I wrong,” James arched one eyebrow, “in thinking
that it is important to you that the world see you
claim your victory with one final battle? That you want
for there to be no question remaining of your total
dominance?”

“You are an astute man,” Tahlen looked at him through
narrow eyes, evaluating.

“And I am a proud man. But I am no fool. I have an
offer. You may have your victory, at a time and place
of your choosing. You designate it, and my army will
stand before you. On open ground, we cannot win.”

“Why, though?”

“I want to think that, by giving you what you want, I
may encourage you to give me what I want.”

“You can’t have her,” Tahlen growled, his grip absently
tightened on the small head beneath him.

“No,” James looked at her. “It’s too late for that.”

“Then what?”

“I want you to promise that your men will immediately
and permanently stop their harassment of the people of
this land. You have many countries. Leave the families
of my men, the people they left behind, to live in
peace. To live under your rule.”

Tahlen shrugged. “And yourself?”

“We both know that I have to die, for your victory to
be complete.”

“We do,” Tahlen said without emotion, as though they
were discussing the weather.

“I am prepared to lead my men in their final charge, to
die in battle, if it means that my people will be
safe.”

Tahlen looked carefully at him, appraising the offer.
“I accept this offer. But I want you to understand
that, if you attempt to double-cross me, the people of
your country will suffer for it.”

“What can I possibly do against such numbers as I have
seen today?”

“Nothing at all.” It was not a boast.

James nodded. “I’m sorry to say that I agree.”

“Then it’s a deal. Expect to wait at least a month
before I contact you with a time and place. Keep your
army hidden and, by all means,” Tahlen grinned,
“continue to snap at my supply lines. It’s a wasted
exercise, but it would be a shame for the world to
think you had just handed it to me so easily.”

“Don’t pretend this has been easy,” James shot back,
anger flashing in his eyes. “It’s been a fight, for
both of us.”

Tahlen shrugged. “I admit you have been my most
difficult opponent, and for that I congratulate you.
But I hardly think I’ve lost nearly as much to this war
as you have.”

James watched him silently, tears pooling in his eyes.
“I suppose not.”

“You should go, now. My men will escort you to where
your own party of guards waits. You will find them
unharmed. I will send word to you about this final
‘confrontation’ shortly. In the meantime, I have other
things to attend to.” He took the hand that was not
resting on Nina’s head and hooked his thumb inside the
waistband of his trousers. He pulled slightly, causing
them to lower just enough for James to see the
beginning of his dark, thick pubic patch. The muscles
of his lower stomach twitched with excitement, and his
other hand slipped down from the top of Nina’s head to
the back, ready to draw her to him. He gripped her long
hair tight. James looked away in disgust. He felt his
body try to vomit, as though expelling his breakfast
would be tantamount to expelling what he had just seen.
He held it back, though. He turned, dizzily, and moved
towards the door.

“Oh, James. One more thing.”

He paused, woozy on his feet.

“I want to add another item to our deal.”

“That’s not happening.”

“Oh, I think it is. Turn around.”

Slowly, James turned, terrified he might see his wife
engaged in some lewd act. Instead, he saw they hadn’t
moved. He did, however, see Nina looking longingly up
at the dark hair reaching over the partially lowered
pants.

“You see,” Tahlen continued, “I forgot to mention
something…” he snapped, and a guard entered with two
children in tow.

James gasped. Cindy and Jane, caked in dirt and
sprouting bruises but otherwise looking healthy, were
pushed to the ground by the vicious-looking guard.

“What…what…” James stuttered.

“The addition,” Tahlen continued casually, “is this: if
you do as you have promised, I am willing to consider
letting them live. I will even have my men find a nice
family for them to join. They will not be harmed any
more than they have been, on my life.”

James stared at their fearful faces. “In return for?”

Tahlen smiled, and nodded down towards Nina’s eager
eyes. “The girls will live. They will be safe. But in
return,” his smile grew larger, meaner, “I want you to
watch this happen.”

The world shifted beneath him. “No,” James sputtered,
“please, no…”

Tahlen shrugged. “Guard, bring the girls down to the
slave pits. Give them to the slaves to do with as they
will.” The guard gripped the small girls’ arms.

“No!” James shouted. “Alright, alright…” he had to
struggle to even say it. “I’ll stay. I’ll stay.”

Tahlen grinned. “Good, good.” He turned to the guard.
“You may return the girls to their cells, for now. Send
in two of my guard” As they left he both released Nina
and pulled his hand away from his trousers. Two armed
guards entered the room, watching James carefully. “Get
comfortable,” Tahlen said to James, as he stared
lustily down at the prostrate form beside him. “Grab a
chair. But,” he said warningly, “you will watch.” His
fists clenched and he turned to stand before her. He
towered over the pregnant woman; her small face looked
up at him with devotion. “Begin,” he said, his voice
husky. Her hands reached up, looking tiny on his body.
She gripped the top of the trousers, and pulled.

“You agreed to what?!?” General Piani threw his hand up
to his face in exasperation. “Is this a joke?!”

“No. Yesterday, I told Emperor Tahlen that we would
meet him in open battle, so that he may defeat us. I
aim to show up for that battle.”

Stunned silence met him. Then Piani moaned. “Why?!”

James Rawlings, even more haggard, defeated, and weary
looking than ever, moved his gaze around the room. Even
Lang looked like James had just stabbed him in the
heart. Maybe he had.

“It gives us time,” he said simply.

“Time to do what?” Lang asked quietly.

James sighed. “My friends, I have just seen things that
will never allow me peace again, no matter the outcome
of this fight. I have suffered much, and not without
reason.” He pointed east, keeping his eyes fixed on his
men. “Emperor Tahlen is a wise man, but his cunning
falters in the face of his lust. Even though he wanted
me to believe that my wife was his willing plaything,
he couldn’t deny himself the pleasure of beating her
for even a short period of time. He reveals himself in
these ways. By allowing him to make the choice, to say
when and where the battle occurs, we are defeating
him.”

“I don’t follow this logic,” Piani muttered.

“Simple,” James said. “Tahlen’s wants outweigh his
strategic thinking. He wants a grandly displayed
victory, a crushing blow against the cause of freedom.
And he wants everyone to see it. So that means two
things: first, he will want the battle to occur on the
plains of Aeroth.”

“Why there?”

“He wants it to be easily visible, but he wants it to
look real, too. It is highly plausible to imagine that
he might chase our main force out onto the plain, where
we would take up defensive positions on the slopes of
the Aerothian Mountains.”

“He would take high casualties, there.”

“But he would win.” They nodded silently. He continued,
“He would win and many people would witness it. Just to
be safe, he will wait three months. That should be just
enough time for him to gather together a collection of
governors and representatives to see it happen. The
faster word spreads the better. He will call them to
him with promises that his final campaign is about to
begin, and they can come and watch history unfold.”

“You sound awfully sure of this, son,” Lang said,
though he sounded suddenly hopeful.

James smiled sadly at him. “I am, old friend. We know
where the fight will occur, and we know when. I fully
intend to use that information to get my wife away from
that beast.”

“One question,” Piani looked slowly around the room,
“what about the witch women?”

Twelve weeks later the witch women were dead, killed by
one of their own.

Anne Jall stood over their corpses, a strangely jealous
rage still coursing through her Smoke hovered around
the room, making her eyes red.

There had been twelve witches in this world, as there
had always been, all having sworn allegiance to this
army. Eleven bodies covered the floor in the large tent
they had been given for their communion, practices, and
bathing purposes.

Anne looked around the room. There was no doubt they
were all dead. They had never been as powerful as she,
not by half. They never had a chance.

She had killed her own.

There, in the center of the room, was the source of her
jealous rage.

The slave Nina Rawlings, pregnancy over and waist
narrow, knelt wearing her usual diamond belt. Her
terrified eyes wide and her soft lips trembling, she
watched Anne with intense fear. Her chin was wet and
her hair messed from the woman who had been standing
over her moments ago. She looked beautiful, as she
always did.

Anne Jall preferred women, and sometimes enjoyed men.
But she did not desire either. Instead, Anne Jall’s
sexuality centered solely on Anne Jall. An unapologetic
self-worshipper, she cared only for her own wants and
desires. This basic philosophy had made her a perfect
match for the emperor’s approach to life and politics,
which focused on acquiring power and everything that
came with it, so she had been happy to join with him.
She had no desire for the power itself, only for
getting what she wanted. With a witch’s notoriously
strong sexual appetite, her spoiled approach to life
frequently centered on her own sensual pleasure.
Occasionally, men were fun as playthings, but a well-
versed tongue was always preferable, and women had such
soft velvet tongues.

Though she found other individuals sexually attractive,
what she really felt was that the idea of being
pleasured by some people was more exciting than most
others. Sometimes this was due to their ability,
sometimes their personality and, occasionally, their
appearance. Anne Jall liked to make strong people
worship her like a goddess. She liked to make beautiful
people adore her aging figure. Nina Rawlings was both
of these things.

So, when she had returned from a journey to the south
to learn that, in the time she had been gone, Nina had
given birth to the emperor’s son and swiftly recovered
(with a witches assistance), Anne’s body fluttered with
the memory of her emperor’s promise. This slave was for
him and Anne to use, only. They would share with no
one. And when the child was born, he would grant her an
entire month to indulge herself with the new mother’s
body.

Instead, she had learned from one of her maids, the
girl had been given to the other witches to use
communally two weeks after the birth. That meant that
Nina, property of Anne Jall, had been serving the
hungry desires of eleven fools in the communal witch
tent. And she had been doing it for nearly a month.

Anne had rushed to the tent, livid, to see one of the
unworthy fools using this thing that was hers by all
rights. Nina had been on her knees, facing away from
the door, in front of a naked, fat younger witch named
Cecile. Anne felt rage at the sight of that foolish
bitch’s flushed face and open mouth as she pistoned her
hips against the kneeling woman. Wordless moans had
burned Anne’s ears, as Cecile’s fists held Nina’s head
tight against her and her fat thighs tensed with her
movements.

Anne had always seen Cecile as something of a brat, but
kept her alive because she was easy to manipulate, to
control. But she was a vastly inferior witch, and a
fool. Seeing her writhe in pleasure and rock against
Nina’s lips had exponentiated Anne’s rage.

Still, she didn’t fully understand the anger that had
ignited in her, or why she had immediately struck them
all dead. All she knew was that she couldn’t stay. The
emperor would now see her as a threat. He would be
right. She would leave, and she would take what was
hers.

She had to move quickly. The lead elements of the army
were already approaching the enemy on the Aeroth
Plains. She and the other witches would be expected to
join the battle within the hour. Probably, the dumb
whore who had left her scent on Nina’s breath was using
the kneeling slave as a way to exorcise her pent up
excitement about the upcoming fight. For a witch,
battle and sex were not so different.

There wasn’t much time.

She strutted over to Nina. Beautiful, helpless Nina…of
course, she had seen the queen at her best, and knew
that this was a dangerous and strong-willed woman by
nature. Even now they hadn’t been able to take that
away from her, only circumvented it. The thought of how
strong this woman was, deep down, aroused her. She
shook her head to focus.

“Listen to me, girl,” she said, framing the younger
woman’s face with her hands and letting her power flow
in through the connection. Nina stared fearfully at
her, unable to disobey. “You are going to sleep. You
will not awaken for two days time. While you sleep, you
will forget everything you know. The people, places,
and events you have known will be gone from your mind,
never to return. Only your first name will you
remember.” Nina looked up at her, unblinking,
motionless, and horrified. “You will feel, from that
moment on, a great and powerful obedience and devotion
for only me. You can still hate me, child…in fact, I
encourage it, I command it…but you will also feel a
great desire to submit to me, to please me. It will be
more important than anything. Everything else in your
world will be small against the intensity of your
hatred, and worship, of Anne Jall.”

She cut off the flow of power, releasing the girl’s
head. Immediately, Nina fell to the ground, breathing
shallowly.

It was a dangerous spell, and there was a great
probability that the slave woman was now dying a quick
and thoughtless death. Oh, well, thought Anne. If I am
without her, at least it won’t be for sharing her lips
with fools.

She snapped her fingers, and the collar opened. It fell
to the floor, powerless now. She had one more task
ahead of her, before she collected her new property and
left: Emperor Guyen Tahlen had lied to her, used her,
and he would die for it.

To hell with his revolution.

“Now.”

Arrows tipped with fire fell upon the plains, amidst
the approaching mass of humanity. Hitting the ground,
they immediately ignited the underground trench filled
with the alcohol-like brew designed by General Lang.
Flames burst among the lines, like hell itself was
coming to claim the soldier. They died slowly, with
great commotion, begging for help or death and
screaming their last. Their friends continued on.

More than half of the assaulting force still approached
the small York force, and it remained sizable. But at
least there would be no hope for reinforcements soon.
With the high ground working in their favor, James
Rawlings’s men would cut them down.

“So far so good,” General Piani grunted.

“Damn good,” Lang laughed, proud and alive. “We’re
chewing them up.”

Piani nodded, but pointed at the huge lines in the
distance. “There’s a lot more work to be done before we
can even begin to get hopeful.”

“I agree,” James said, watching the fight carefully.
The command post sat just back from the main lines, but
on the steep base of the mountain that left him high
enough to see everything that was happening. “But we’ve
got a few tricks left. We may not even have to take
this fight to the caves, if we’re lucky.”

“Lucky is right,” Piani muttered. “I hate those goddamn
things.”

“They’re safe,” James shook his head. “Safe enough.
What I don’t understand,” he pointed to the confused,
disjointed movement of the enemy troops in the
distance, “is what’s going on there. Not even a force
this big is too complicated for a man like Tahlen to
control, we’ve seen proof of that. It almost seems here
like the individual corps are moving independently of
one another. Like this isn’t one massive army, but
instead is a dozen normal-sized ones.” He thought for a
moment. “Like nobody’s in command.”

“Maybe it’s a trick of some kind,” Piani offered.

“I don’t think so,” Lang shook his head. “Tahlen
wouldn’t attempt a complicated trick here. That might
make him look bad in front of the spectators.”

“Agreed,” James said, still watching carefully as the
huge lines moved. “Wait. Look to the right. Is that one
retreating?!”

“By God, it looks to be!” Piani whooped. “What on earth
is happening? That wing didn’t even engage yet.”

James looked at him ominously. “And where,” he cocked
an eyebrow, “do you suppose the witch women are?”

She shook her head, confused, and sat up.

Where was she? What was going on? It was dark. She was
on the floor…why? She couldn’t remember.

That was it. That was it exactly. She couldn’t remember
anything. No. She remembered her name. Only that. Nina.
Nina who? That was less clear. It almost seemed to fit
her memory that she had no last name.

Her eyes adjusted to the light, and it became clear
that she was in a large room, like a hotel. It was a
nice room, from what she could make out; the kind
wealthy people might stay in. Was she wealthy?

She stood up, carefully. Embarrassment ran through her
as she realized what she wore. A belt laced with
something hard wrapped low around her hips. In the
direct front and back of it, a thin fabric hung down to
her knees. The fabric strip covered her intimate
places, but not well. It couldn’t have been more than a
finger length wide. Did people actually see her wear
this? She put her hands to her backside. The fabric was
so narrow that it slipped down between the cheeks,
effectively revealing her entire rear to the world. The
belt hung low and thin enough that, had she had any
pubic hair, the top of it would have been visible to
the world. Which lead to the question: why didn’t she
have any pubic hair?

She traced one finger down the curve of the muscles
that lead from her hips to her inner thighs. She felt
exposed. Never mind that her breasts were completely
uncovered; if she moved the wrong way she expected that
anyone watching her from the front would get a view
between her legs that would be embarrassing to show
even her husband.

Husband. Did she have one? What man would have a woman
for a wife who dressed such as this, even in private?
Not even whores would wear such a thing. She looked
around the room. In the bed, big enough for two, she
could clearly see a figure under the covers. She
squinted, but nothing was revealed. Was this her
husband? Why was he in the bed, and her on the floor?

She reached forward, nervously, and tapped at the
figure’s shoulder.

The torches suddenly lit of their own accord, startling
and blinding her. She staggered back. As she shook her
head and let her eyes adjust to the brightness, she saw
the figure sit up in the bed.

Sitting on the edge, naked, was a middle aged woman.
Nina blushed, uncertain whether she should worry more
about covering herself or averting her own gaze.

The woman looked upset. “What do you want?” She
demanded.

“I…I…do you know who I am? What I’m doing here?” Nina
carefully examined the floor, not wanting to humiliate
herself further.

“Is this a joke?!” The woman snarled, even angrier.
“You woke me up for fool questions?”

“No, please…” Nina wanted to run.

“Look at me, girl.” A strange feeling tickled Nina’s
middle, and she was surprised to discover that she
wanted to look, suddenly. She wanted to please this
strange woman. It scared her to think of it.

She looked up. The woman sat there, brow knitted, hair
tangled. She showed many signs of her age, although
Nina suspected men would say she was far from ugly. Her
breasts sagged a bit, but not a lot, with light stretch
marks lurking near their top. Her stomach was small,
but a fatty paunch lurked in the space between her
navel and feminine areas. Her legs were thin, with a
few days’ stubble on them, though her pubic mound was
well trimmed. Nina blushed at the thought, but was
mostly terrified that it seemed so normal, so natural,
to observe this woman’s body in such an intimate way.

“What do you remember?” The woman barked, lazily
scratching her lower belly.

“I…I’m Nina. Is that right?”

“Yes,” the woman watched her carefully. “Is that all?”

“I…I guess so.”

“Well, Nina,” the woman seemed pleased, suddenly, “I
guess that fall stirred your brains even more than we
thought. Do you remember the fall?”

“N…no…”

“I suppose not. Well, tell me what you feel right now.”

It was an odd question. Nina thought…”I feel a strange
feeling,” she admitted. “Like…when you told me to
look at you…I…”

“Obedient.”

Nina blushed. “I guess.”

“Good. At least your personality wasn’t affected. You
are indeed obedient to me. You are my slave.”

Nina’s jaw fell with shock. “No, that can’t be…”

The woman’s face turned dark. “I assure you it is, and
you will find soon enough that I don’t appreciate such
sass. I never have, not from you.”

“But…”

“Fetch me that water,” the woman waved towards the
counter, where a tall glass of water stood waiting.

Immediately, Nina felt the same urge to do as she was
told. It didn’t feel good to obey…not really…but it
felt necessary. It was more like blinking. If she tried
not to, she couldn’t succeed for long.

Quickly, she retrieved the water for the woman and
walked towards her. She was embarrassed to be so
exposed, as she saw the woman’s eyes on her. But even
more horrible was the total openness and casual
commonality, of her new (old?) mistress’s nudity.

The woman drank the water, handed her the glass, and
Nina returned it to the shelf.

“Good girl,” Nina’s mistress said absently. Nina
blushed. There was a small, potent response to the
affirmation there, under her skin. But there was
something else, something stronger…

“I hate you.”

It shocked her so much, hit her so fully, that she
blurted it out without thinking. The older woman only
smiled.

“You always have, my dear. Come,” she opened her legs
and pointed between them. Nina desperately tried to
avoid looking at what the woman was revealing, even as
she lost the fight against the urge to obey.

She sank to her knees, and the woman held a foot up to
her. “Rub it,” she commanded. Nina began massaging the
foot, and the woman moaned. “Good girl,” she said
again. And again Nina felt a mix of mild pleasure and
intense hatred. “The thing is,” the woman continued, as
Nina fixed her gaze on the foot in her hands in order
to avoid seeing anything further, “pleasing me is the
most important thing in your world. Neither of us knows
why. Never have. We stopped trying to figure it years
ago. I don’t really care too much for you either, but
you know that. Or you did yesterday. I don’t really
care much for anybody, except me. You stupid bitch,”
Nina tensed at the insult. The woman laughed down at
her. “You’re a thing to me, a worm. I’m better than
you. But you’re convenient, and you desperately want to
please me, so I let you. My name is Anne Jall. I am a
goddess to you, and you are nothing to me. As it should
be. All that matters,” the other leg came up over
Nina’s shoulder, and the ankle hooked behind her neck,

is that you continue to please me.” Nina winced, fear
curling in her stomach. The ankle applied pressure,
drawing her down towards that fearful place where
Anne’s thin, hair-speckled thighs met her body. Her
obedience wouldn’t let her fight it. Panic rose in her
chest. The other foot left Nina’s grasp. Suddenly hands
were in her hair, pulling her towards the woman’s soft
folds. “Lick me,” she commanded.

Raw hatred filled Nina. It was stronger than any fear
or disgust. The coldness in the older woman’s voice,
the raw indifference to Nina’s state, made her livid.
She desperately longed to kill this woman, to make her
death last for days, even weeks.

But more than that, she wanted to lick her mistress
like she’d been told to. So she did.

Emperor Tahlen was dead, his forces divided and his
generals engaged in civil war over quickly shrinking
gains. Conquered free nations were rising up again in
rebellion, and the surviving army of York was leading
the way.

But the war was far from over.

Somewhere in the fog of victory, James had managed to
delegate the many tasks ahead to other men. As they
moved excitedly, swiftly, to finish saving the world,
he was packing to leave.

She hadn’t been there. Nobody knew what had happened to
Nina. All he had been able to learn was that she had
disappeared the first day of the battle, about the same
time the witch woman Anne Jall had murdered her own
people and the emperor. Anne Jall was missing, now,
too, and that was not likely to be a coincidence.

“You’ve got to stay, lad.”

James turned towards Lang’s voice, and smiled sadly.
“You know I can’t.”

“Where will you go, though? They could be anywhere.”

“South, I think. Anne Jall almost certainly has my
wife, and she would want to stick to the places she
knows best. Kath’rahim seems a safe place to start.”

“Son,” Lang put his hand on James’s shoulder, “if you
were any threat to her, I think she’d have killed you
already.”

“The last she heard, I’d made it clear that I’d given
up on saving my wife. Defeating the imperial army
doesn’t change that impression.”

“But if you do find her…”

“Then one of us will die.”

Lang sighed, and squinted to the south. “That’s a lot
of land, my boy.”

“I’ve got a lot of time. And more than enough money to
get by.”

Lang nodded. “Who will you take?”

“You need as many men as you can hang on to. I’ve got
three of my best guards with me. That’s enough to keep
brigands at bay, but not enough to create trouble.”

“And the baby?” They had found Nina’s child in the care
of the Emperor’s maids. It was a healthy, beautiful
baby boy. James supposed some had suspected he would
kill it. He couldn’t even think to…that little boy was
the only part of his wife he left.

James smiled at Lang. “Piani is going to watch over
him, until we return.”

“Hane Piani? The Hane Piani?!” Lang feigned horrified
shock.

James laughed. “The secret softy, I suppose.” He became
serious. “General Piani feels a great responsibility in
all of this, and he ought not to. Further, he lost the
last of his kin to this war. This will be good for both
him and the child, I think.”

“I won’t be seeing you again, I suppose.”

James sighed. “Not without a miracle, old friend.”

He climbed up onto his horse. He wasn’t taking any
guards. He had to move too quickly to waste his time
with followers. But Lang didn’t need to know that. He
jerked the reins, and headed south.

It never seemed to taste any better.

She swallowed, and again, to the soundtrack of his
grunts. Afterwards, she waited to disengage until he
pulled away. She just held it in her mouth, letting it
shrink. She knew her mistress would want her to do as
good a job as possible, and that meant letting him
decide when. Unceremoniously, he took her head in his
hands and pushed her away. She fell back on her hands,
looking up at him. His taste remained in her mouth. She
ran her arm across her chin, wiping off the drool. The
fat man lifted his trousers, coughed in a thick way
that suggested disease, and turned to leave.

The other man was waiting outside. He grinned as the
door opened, revealing three missing teeth.

“How was it?” he asked. He was thinner and taller than
the other man, as well as younger. Still, only patches
of hair remained on his greasy scalp. He scratched at
his unshaven neck, and she saw a large wart decorating
his fingers.

“How do you think?” the other man grunted. “Best deal
we ever made.”

“You have her do anything, you know…” the man looked at
her with a lecherous interest that made her nervous,
“…real dirty?”

The fat man coughed again, and spit on the floor.
“Depends on what you’d call dirty.”

The skinny man clapped his hands and laughed. “I gotta
get started. I’ll talk to you more after. This bitch is
gonna do things my wife would never dream of doing.
Things even that whore outside won’t do, no matter the
money.”

“Huh,” the fat man grunted indifferently. “Just don’t
break it. Don’t wanna mess this deal over.”

The skinny man was walking towards her. “I wouldn’t
risk that for nuthin’. You tell the owner of this meat
that the stupid whore out front gave me…”

“Shut up,” the other one snapped. “She don’t need to
know.”

“True enough. So one hour each, every other day,
right?”

“That’s how it is.”

“For as long as they stay?”

“Yup.”

He gave her that cold, calculating look again. Fear ran
through her.

“She say how long that’d be?”

“Till January, at least. Probably longer.” The fat man
coughed. “Waitin’ out the winter, I’d guess.”

The skinny man waved his friend off, and turned towards
her. With the larger man gone, his chest swelled a
little bit as he looked down at her. Small men like to
feel big, and she suspected that’s exactly what he was
going to use her to do.

She hated her mistress so very much. In the months
since her memory had gone, they had moved frequently.
This was far from the first time mistress had used
Nina’s body as collateral in finding lodging. “Why
spend money,” she explained, “when people value skill
so much more?” So mistress lived and ate well on the
agony Nina suffered from servicing these slime balls.
She would use her strange powers to cure any disease
Nina caught from the filthy pigs that used her. Nina
also suspected that Anne had sterilized her, because
her woman’s time never came. Anne’s would, and she
would use her power to dispel it. Nina’s never did.

Anne seemed to revel in humiliating Nina, but mostly
she never tired of indulging herself in the younger
woman’s sexual services. She was relaxed, content. She
had started to gain noticeable weight. Most of this
accumulated on her stomach, hips, and rear. Each of
these were places Nina had frequent occasions to
examine up close. Anne’s legs remained slight under her
growing frame. Just like the deposits the men left with
their veiny organs, Nina found that Anne’s taste never
became any more pleasant, no matter how often she
experienced it.

As disgusting and loathsome as she found her mistress
to be, Nina knew that she could never be free of her.
This was her purpose in life, serving Anne Jall. It was
the only thing that she wanted to do. To rub Anne’s
muscles and serve her breakfast and bathe her and carry
her things and allow men into her own body so that
mistress wouldn’t have to take two night’s rent out of
the purse of money she carried, which had enough in it
to buy two hundred buildings such as this. Nina wanted
to murder Anne Jall, but instead she knew she would
make a thousand skinny, diseased men feel big in any
way they desired if it was what her mistress commanded
of her.

An hour later, she returned to her mistress’s quarters.
Anne was sitting in the large cushioned chair, wearing
her hair up. She was reading a large book of some kind.
The blue blouse and dressy skirt Nina had dressed her
in as she stood waiting (she said it was too cold these
days not to wear something, though she kept Nina in her
tiny belted fabric) made her look regal.

She looked up at Nina, and frowned.

“Wash yourself, slut. You smell like a whore’s
undergarments.”

“Yes, mistress,” fury pounded at Nina’s temples. Kill
her, hurt her. Just march over and do away with the
bitch.

She removed her one garment, and climbed into the bath.
The water was cold, left over from her mistress’s
morning dip. Nina knew this before she’d climbed in,
though, because she was the one who had to scrub and
clean the old bitch, and massage her shoulders until
she felt like getting out. Anne watched over her book
as Nina soaked in her dirty bath water, and the sight
gave her a tingle of pleasure.

“Silly bitch,” she said sternly, “you’re face is one of
the dirtiest parts of you. And that’s the part I will
be needing later. Dip your whole self in.”

Nina clenched her jaw. She knew Anne only wanted her to
do this so she could see Nina submerged in her dirty
bathwater.

Still, Nina obediently slipped under. The chilly water
made her shoulders twitch, and her fingertips numb.
After a moment, she came back up.

“Good girl,” she heard as she wiped the water from her
eyes. She wanted to scream.

She would have killed herself already, but even that
was denied her. Her death would inconvenience her
mistress, and she couldn’t do that. She couldn’t even
dream of anything but mistress.

“Did you do a good job today?” Anne asked as she went
back to reading.

“I think so,” Nina said, shivering, waiting for
permission to get out of the tub.

“Tell me about it,” the woman seemed distracted, but
Nina knew she was listening.

“The fat one is normal enough. He reminds me of the one
from two towns ago.”

“Heanington.”

“Yes,” she nodded.

“And the skinny fellow?”

“He has…stranger tastes.”

“You were gone a long time.”

“Yes, mistress.”

“I bet you’re thirsty.”

Nina wanted to cry.

“Have a drink, dear.”

It was a long time since she’d given up fighting Anne’s
commands. She slipped down into the water, and slurped
at the unclean, freezing liquid.

This was getting him nowhere.

Maybe, it had been impossible from the start.

James ran his hand through his hair. Defeatism was not
a familiar feeling to him, and he didn’t care for it.
He shook it off.

He had spent the last few months exploring the border
towns of the southern lands, focusing on larger
communities. He figured Anne Jall would have a hard
time getting comfortable in a small town. Maybe he was
overthinking.

Every town he came to, he tried to imagine them there,
walking the streets or hiding behind some closed
window. Was Nina there? Had she been, once?

No. He didn’t think so. She must be further south.

Part of him tensed at that. He was, after all, the king
of the one nation that was truly seen as the enemy,
here in Kath’rahim. He was pondering moving down into
the belly of the beast. It was unlikely he’d be
recognized, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t risk.

He would do this for her. He would.

James Rawlings saddled his horse and, with a small
glance back north, towards home, began his trip into
unfamiliar territory.

The fat man’s name was John. In the two months since
mistress had brought her to this place, he had stopped
being so easy to please. It started after he had run
his skinny partner, Dale, off in what he said was a
monetary dispute. With Nina all to himself for the full
two hours, he’d started exploring. He liked to drag it
out, now. Often, when Nina showed up in the back office
where the men worked on her, he would have two or three
friends with him. Usually men, but John had taken to
bringing his wife with him, too. If four wasn’t enough
to satiate his obsessions that night, he would take to
offering money from strangers to “get in on the deal.”
Nina shuttered at the horror of pleasuring so many
ugly, sweaty, gross men. Drinking them down, feeling
some of them release themselves inside her. Her body
contorting to accept them. She could not take her own
life, but death was welcome to do it for her any time.
If Anne would let it.

John’s wife, Marro, hated the whole thing at first. She
was surprisingly thin, waifish almost, and tragically
ugly. Poor thing probably didn’t have any other options
besides old John. Nina almost laughed at the thought.
As if she ought to be pitying others for their lack of
choice.

Marro had suffered through two sessions, with John
insisting and telling her to “Relax! You don’t even
have to do anything! This little bitch loves to do it
for you, you’ll see. Show her how you love to do it,
bitch!” Nina actually felt guilty as she worked,
knowing the skinny redhead was mortified by the entire
event. It somehow made the whole thing more humiliating
than it was. After the second such session, Nina’s
mistress had overheard John complaining that his wife
needed to learn to enjoy herself. Anne had offered
“assistance,” and the very next day Marro had become
worse than any of the men. She had thought of things
for Nina to do that even mistress hadn’t. When Nina had
given her reports on these acts, Anne had flushed with
arousal and insisted on trying them for herself. She
seemed just as pleased with the results as John’s wife,
and Nina sunk further into hell.

Marro and Anne had become close friends, and Marro
spent long hours up in the mistress’s quarters with her
and Nina. Both women seemed to live to find ways to
exercise their power over the girl. Both had laughed
and handed Nina over when John peeked his head in the
door and observed that there were “two fine and
beautiful horses in the hotel stable, both well-trained
boys in need of some attention.”

It was nearly lunch time. Nina was fantasizing, as she
often did, of the different ways she would kill her
mistress.

Nina was under her mistress’s skirt.

She was sucking and slurping at the sex that was her
world. Nausea swept through her. Juices coated her lips
and chin, and it was hot and humid under the billowing
skirt.

Anne sat in her chair, head back and legs open, as the
girl worked. Her eyes were closed as she moaned. “Such
a good girl,” she muttered. She loved to say that. She
knew it made Nina furious.

Anne continued to gain weight, though she was still far
from obese. As she got bigger, she grew more and more
fond of making Nina explore and pleasure her entire
body. The more unattractive she grew, the more it
excited her to force Nina to treat her like a perfect
goddess. Her morning pleasure, though, was usually more
like this. Relaxing, prolonged, and straightforward.

Anne didn’t think it strange that, after killing her
fellow witches in a jealous rage, she found herself so
willing to share Nina with others. When Nina serviced
the dirt-caked men downstairs, she did it for Anne. It
was just another way of serving her mistress.

Anne was very happy any time she could find another new
way to play with her toy.

She whispered a little spell she particularly enjoyed,
which increased her secretions several times over. She
heard the noises under her dress get sloppier, wetter,
and felt Nina’s mouth clamp down upon her. Anne smiled.
Her pet had been through this before, and knew what was
expected of her.

Anne lifted her skirts. She liked to watch her toned,
beautiful slave drink down her juices. To see those
small green eyes closed in concentration as that little
throat worked to take in the mistress’s sacred fluids.
Like a form of worship.

Feeling feisty, she whispered the spell again,
compounding it. It thrilled her to see Nina’s eyes open
wide in surprise, to hear her choke and gag against the
growing flood of female secretions. To watch that
throat work fast, harder, even as her mouth filled
again and again.

Anne rolled her hips against that little mouth, and
moaned.

Marro, sitting in the other chair, watched with
excitement. “It’s like she’s nursing at your body. Like
you’re feeding her!” She giggled.

Anne’s heavy breathing briefly became a staccato
chuckle. “I am. I want to fill her up.” She lifted one
foot and ran it along the slave’s bare back cheek. Taut
and smooth, it stuck out towards the entryway. The thin
fabric of Nina’s lone costume piece hung between her
buttocks. “I want to fill her up with me.”

She moaned, and arched her hips against the suckling,
feeding mouth. She could feel the fluids flowing out of
her body. Nina continued to focus only on accepting
every drop of the tangy juice, creating a heating
suction. Finally, it became too much, and Anne screamed
out her pleasure. Then, at last, she undid the spell
and allowed the small woman to pull away.

Nina was indeed a small woman, now. Marro’s constant
questioning about the power of witches had led to some
fascinating experiments. First they had come up with
the idea that Nina shouldn’t be so close to Anne’s
height. In truth, she was already short against the
nearly 6 foot woman. But it seemed appropriate for her
to be smaller, to be less, than her owner. Besides, one
jealousy Anne had hidden from Tahlen was his ability to
tower over the girl, creating such an awesome spectacle
of control. So after some work Anne had managed to
reduce Anne’s size slightly, keeping her proportions
the same but shaving 6 inches from her. Anne also kept
Nina’s slender, toned beauty tightly controlled, so
that she was small even for her new four foot ten inch
frame. The men seemed to enjoy her tininess.

Marro was a strange match for Anne. She was mousey,
thin and curveless. But where Anne was now fat and
saggy, Marro had a dancer’s spry movements. She had a
natural grace that a man would have found sexy. Of
course, Marro’s unfortunate looks would ruin that
initial feeling. Anne had no interest in Marro
sexually. Marro wasn’t a strong person.

What Anne did like was letting Marro pretend to be
strong, at Nina’s expense. So, as usual, when Anne’s
pleasure was finished Nina washed her face and then
immediately knelt before Marro. She looked up
obediently, ready to do whatever she was told…the only
sign of her true feelings the hardness in her eyes.

Marro looked down at the quiet, tiny creature. She
tapped Nina’s full belly with one foot, and Nina let
out a small but strongly-scented burp.

The two sitting women roared with laughter. “Must have
been quite the meal,” Marro chuckled. She reached down
and tussled Nina’s hair, like a child. “You’re such a
good eater.”

Anne bit her lower lip, and shifted in her chair. “Tell
me it was delicious.”

Nina turned to look at her. “It was delicious,
mistress.”

Marro looked at Anne, confused. “You’ve never wanted
her to say that before. I thought you liked for her to
hate it.”

Anne shrugged, eyelids half closed with pleasure.
“Maybe I’m getting soft.”

Marro didn’t say anything for a moment. She looked from
the middle-aged, purring woman to the humiliated
creature kneeling before them. “You could make her like
it,” she said at last.

Anne grunted. “Why would I do that?”

Marro shrugged. “It’s something new. Anyway, I think
maybe you want her to like it. Not just to obey you,
but truly worship you.”

“Don’t be stupid.”

“No, I mean it.” Marro clicked her tongue. She stood up
and undid her skirt. It fell to the floor, leaving her
blouse and underdress. She hoisted the undergarment up
to her waist. As per usual, Nina leaned in and began
kissing her thighs, awaiting permission to do more. In
her mind, Nina was fighting the rising panic caused by
the conversation. Please, let them not take her mind
away from her. She couldn’t bear to imagine a life
where she truly loved and adored these monsters. She
pressed her lips against a bony hip.

“Hmm,” Anne looked thoughtfully up at the ceiling. “It
might be interesting for a while. Just as a change.”

Marro nodded, turning around to face the wall. Nina’s
lips continued placing soft kisses, now on the backs of
her legs and on her hind cheeks. “I think so,” she
said. “Not forever, but just to see.” She leaned
forward slightly, placing one hand on the back of the
chair. Then she casually reached back with the other
hand and found Nina’s face. Nina was kissing her left
rear cheek, and Marro gently pushed the small face into
her back crease. She met no resistance.

Anne looked over at them. Marro had her head thrown
back, her back slightly arched, a contented smile on
her ugly face as she talked. Nina’s face was partially
buried in Marro’s backside, but Anne could see the jaw
movement and occasional cheek-indenting suction as she
made out with the thin woman’s rear. This was one of
her favorite things to watch. She shrugged. “Just for a
while,” she muttered, and then let her power flow from
her source and into Nina’s mind. “Focus on what you are
doing,” she whispered. “Until I say otherwise, you love
this. The body before you is as perfect to you as a
goddess, and you love and worship it fully.” She leaned
back, and smiled as a great moan lifted up from the
working slave. Nina began writhing as she sucked and
licked between the cheeks. Her hands reached up and
massaging the flesh before her.

Marro gasped, and pushed softly back against the
freshly passionate tongue. Her hand reached back again,
cupping the side of Nina’s face as though to feel the
movements of her face as she worked.

Anne watched, aroused and thoughtful. This was creating
quite the pleasurable visual. “Anything else?” she
asked.

Marro’s eyes were closed, her body moving rhythmically.
“Remember Tom Paine?”

Anne grunted. Tom was a friend of Marro’s husband. He
was old and he had a thing for girls who only barely
old enough to be wed. Anne had used her powers to
reduce Nina’s age for a night, so she could watch the
queen as a teenager being taken by an old man. “You
want that?”

Marro’s hand left Nina’s face and softly cupped her own
back cheek. She was in heaven. Anne felt her own
passion rising again. “You are still too young,” she
said, “to feel the need to be worshipped by youth.”

Marro groaned. “Please,” she pushed again against
Nina’s face.

Anne whispered the spell, and Nina lost 15 years of her
age. In spite of what Anne had said, Nina’s youth and
tiny size made Marro look old indeed.

“Is that all?” she asked bemusedly. She thought she
just might have to try out this new Nina, too, before
undoing the new work.

“I want to flow into her.”

Anne humored her, using the same spell she’d used for
herself.

“Tell her she loves me.”

Anne did.

“Tell her I’m perfect.”

She did.

“Die.”

In a sudden movement, Marro pushed away from the chair
and swung around. In her hand was the large metal
candlestick that had set on the table. She drove it
against Anne’s temple. Blood erupted from her head, and
the old woman collapsed to the floor. Marro stood over
her and drove the object down again and again upon the
witches head. Anne didn’t move once to protect herself,
she’d been out cold from the first blow.

The sounds became wetter. At last, Marro stopped. She
stood there, in a blouse and underdress, blood on her
feet, looking down at the last witch in the world. She
breathed heavily, nervously. Nothing moved.

When she was certain her work was done, she turned back
to Nina. The small, young creature looked up at her
lovingly, lips puffy and loose from their work. Marro
smiled.

She moved light and dance-like, tiptoeing excitedly
over to her new toy. “We will have to leave this
place,” she said. “Immediately.” She lifted her
underdress up to expose her sex and smiled down at
Nina’s flushed face. “One last kiss before we go.”

Nina leaned in, swamped with a feeling of love and
passion she hadn’t known in a very long time. Above her
stood a goddess of the earth, a statement of perfection
so impossibly complete that nothing else would ever
compare.

It was a big town, but James knew where to look. Only
the finest hotels would be considered. Anne Jall liked
the finer things in life.

He turned his horse in the direction of the largest one
he could see. As he made his way, he looked around him.
This was the furthest south he’d been, and he was
amazed to see how similar it was to his own land. The
architecture was different, heavy with clay brick and
open windows. But in this hot climate, that made sense.
The only people who seemed at all different from the
northlands were a wild-eyed woman who walked out of the
hotel as he pulled up, and the small girl she had with
her. He watched them for a moment. They acted strange,
hurried. The girl had a cloak and hood covering her,
but there was something about her that reminded him of…

It was silly. He shook it off. Still, they were an odd
set. The taller, scrawny woman climbed up on a horse,
but the girl walked alongside her, holding gently on to
one exposed ankle. The youth looked up at the skinny
blonde with such intensity that, even with her face
shadowed by the hood, she revealed her love for the
older woman.

In the north, women didn’t ride astride horses. They
were heading in that direction. He turned away, back
towards the inn.

Stepping inside, he looked around at the patrons.
Nothing special. Just rich people looking bored. Then
he picked up a bit of conversation from the back room.

“My stupid wife is up there again, with that witch.”

Cold iron ran through James’s veins. He rushed to the
back room, pushing past several people. A fat man, the
voice’s owner, stood in a large office. James grabbed
the fat man’s collar.

“The witch,” he said, and the man drew back from his
wild look and steely gaze, “which room?”

“The…third floor, end of the hall. Who are you?” The
man frowned, shock wearing away to irritation.

“I,” James looked up above, as though hoping he could
see through the floors above and find his target, “am
her death.”

Anne Jall knew she was dying. She felt no sensation
when she touched her face, and her fingers came away
thick with dark blood and chipped bone. She couldn’t
get up, her left eye was blinded, and breathing was
difficult. No magic would come to her.

That bitch had betrayed her. She’d given her more than
she could ever hope to deserve, and in her own
arrogance had been as easily destroyed as each of the
witches she slaughtered not so long ago. Anne was the
last witch alive, and she would soon be dead.

The door burst open. Large feet stomped into the room,
and froze. She coughed, tried to talk, and spat up
blood.

The man knelt down beside her. It was James Rawlings,
bearded and furious.

“Where is she,” he demanded.

“Gone,” her swollen lips were numb, and her words were
only half formed.

“Where!” he slammed his fist down beside her head. She
looked up at him and laughed. It was a wet and gagging
sound.

“I am already dead, fool. And I deserve it. I am fat,
slow. Easy to kill.” She laid her head back down, deep
welling sorrow filling her soul.

“Did she run away from you?”

She looked up at him. She thought of Marro with Nina,
and jealousy filled her.

Jealousy. She laughed again.

But she could help him, and she thought that if he
would kill Marro for her she was willing to let him
have Nina as a reward.

“Listen,” she coughed. “I have a…gift…for you.” She
pointed at her own finger, where a simple silver ring
rested.

James Rawlings looked at it with suspicion. “What is
it?”

“Witches…protect themselves…from their spells. Protect
them in case something goes wrong. So long as she wears
this…she will be immune to the spells I placed on her.”

“Why should I believe you?” He drew back, eyes darting
around the room.

“A woman named Marro deceived me, and she now owns the
woman who was your wife. Marro has killed me, and now I
only want to know that she will die as well.”

He studied her face, and finally nodded. With no hint
at gentleness, he pulled the ring from her finger. She
coughed, and spat more blood. The world was slowing
around her.

“What does Marro look like?” he asked.

“Blonde. Tall. Skinny. Like a dancer. Ugly, though,”
she smiled up at him, then clucked. “Your wife is
changed.”

“Changed?”

“Small. Small. I have remade her to Marro’s desires. A
fool. I’m a goddamn fool!”

He grabbed her shoulder, hard. “What does she look
like?!”

“She will appear young…much younger. And short. And
listen…”

He leaned in.

“She is in love with Marro. True, pure love.”

“Impossible.”

She smiled again. “Not where witches walk.”

The smile drifted softly from her face, and he was
looking at a corpse.

James stood up, and thought. Where was he to go now?
How could he hope to find…

His eyes widened. Seconds later he was hurtling down
the stairs and out the door of the inn.

The blonde and the girl in love. He’d been so close.

He looked north, towards the edge of town. Too much
time had passed. He ran for his horse. He knew, now,
exactly what he was looking for.

“Will your husband miss you?”

Marro smiled to herself as she rode. “I suppose so,”
she said to the girl who walked alongside her horse.
“Maybe not as much as he will miss you.”

The girl frowned, and thought about that a moment.
“Will you miss him?” She asked. She sounded
worried…jealous?

Marro felt very content, excited. She had never been a
pretty girl, and had been forced to settle for the
first man who came courting. She’d been much older than
her sisters had for their marriages. Heather had been
16 for hers, Suzanne a year younger than that. Marro
had settled for John at the too-old age of 22.

Marro had known, too, that she was something her
husband settled for as well. In the thirteen years they
had been married, it had always been apparent that he
felt the same way every other person who met her had:
she was ugly.

At least there were no children. They never spoke of
that, but it was clear that at least one of them was
unable. Marro never wanted children. Not with him.

Being coerced into John’s play with the slave Nina had
been horrifying. Marro had no interest in girls
whatsoever. Anne had helped solve that with a little
spellwork, as well as greatly intensifying Marro’s
sexual appetite, for John and for herself. And now
Marro had Nina, and Anne was dead.

This beautiful young girl thought ugly Nina was the
most perfect thing in the world. She would never need
to feel gross or unwanted again.

Of course, that was only true if they weren’t caught.
By now her husband must have discovered the witch’s
body. Marro looked back in the direction of the town,
hidden behind hills now.

“Let’s go this way,” she said, turning the horse east.
Nina obeyed silently. Marro looked down at her. “There
is a town in this direction, and we will be there by
nightfall. When we arrive, we’ll buy a nice room. And
then, little girl, I think I would like for you to lick
all the sweat from my beautiful body.”

Nina looked up, eager and hopeful. “Yes, ma’am!” she
positively squealed with delight.

Marro winked at her, was pleased to see her blush
deeply in response, and then looked ahead. As they rode
silently, she fantasized about all the wonderful things
life was about to bring.

James rode yet another horse into the ground. It
collapsed just outside the next town, its spirit gone
and its body beaten.

He’d been such a fool. Riding north, that first hopeful
day, he hadn’t paid any attention to his surroundings.
He’d gotten to the first town the next night, killing
his first horse. It was hard to learn that they weren’t
and had never been there. He’d immediately bought a new
horse. Then he’d ridden back south, more slowly and
carefully, and found their tracks. Stupid. Should have
seen them the first time.

The tracks led him to another small town. They’d been
there, for a day, and continued east. The problem was
that going further east brought you close to three
larger communities, and it could take days or weeks to
explore even one of those places.

He slept as little as possible. He hunted, fretfully,
through each town. Finally, after almost a fortnight,
he’d gotten a lead.

They’d gone north. The blonde lady bragged about buying
a place in the old capitol to some bartender. She had a
lot of money, he said. More than enough.

The capitol was a massive city. A million people, or
more. He could spend a year and never find them. He
would.

He saw it on the horizon, growing slowly. His new horse
was dead, and James Rawlings was ending his great
journey on foot.

It wasn’t quite as dirty without an audience, but Marro
got by.

After all, it was still incredible sex.

When they’d arrived, she had been tempted to buy a
mansion. The gold in the witch’s purse was enough to
live like a queen for a lifetime. But Marro didn’t need
riches; she had love. Besides, she didn’t want to draw
attention to herself. Her small house was enough…and
Nina kept it clean and tidy for her.

Marro arched her back, like she always did, and put one
hand on the back of the chair. Like she always did.

The other hand found the small face that was planting
loving kisses on her rear, and nudged it towards the
crack. Like it always did. As always, it met no
resistance.

She sighed happily as the girl kneeling behind her
eagerly began pleasuring her backside. You couldn’t get
tired of this, really. It was too perfect for that.

Sometimes she did get upset, though. When she saw
herself in the mirror, ugly and gross next to Nina’s
youthful perfection, it made her sad. It reminded her
that she was a phony. She had too much time on her
hands, and she drank and ate too much. Nina had that
effect on her owners, it seemed. The fact that Nina
would find her to be the very definition of beauty no
matter what had made her lazy, too. She no longer
shaved her legs or armpits, or trimmed her pubic
thatch. She rarely left the house anyway, so she’d
allowed the leg and pubic hair to grow long and thick.

She was uglier than ever, yet this gorgeous young
creature was diving into her posterior like it was
heaven.

She moaned against the girl’s work, listening to the
feasting sounds. Was this really all there was to her
life, though? She moaned against the pressure of a
tongue. Was this enough?

She stepped away, turned, and leaned back against the
far wall. She put one foot up on the foot rest, lost in
her thoughts. But she knew she didn’t need to give the
order, anyway. The small girl scooted forward on her
knees, and Marro absently hooked one hand around the
back of Nina’s neck, under her hair. The girl moved in,
mouth open and face upturned, and went to work in the
valley hidden underneath the thick pubic hair. Both
women moaned.

Probably there ought to be more to it than this. It was
so easy…so free from challenge. Was it possible for
that to be such a terrible thing? She looked in the
direction of the kitchen window, across the way, at the
other houses nearby. Houses inhabited by families.
Families who fought and argued and struggled to get by.
Maybe. She rocked her hips against the rolling
pleasure. She felt Nina’s nose in her coarse dark hair.

Still, how could she hope to have those things without
losing what she had? Marro would never go back to being
ugly again. Never go back to being ashamed. Heat built
up in her loins, and her hips began more insistent,
aggressive movements. Nina’s nose was now pushing
against her lower stomach.

In a way, she missed Anne. Not a lot, but mostly in the
way they had shared this. It was an intimacy of sorts,
and one that was far more mutual.

She grunted as the first small orgasm rippled through
her. She pulled Nina away, and realized she was
gripping a fistful of the girl’s hair so tightly that
she had ripped a number of strands out. It must have
been painful for her. She let go, waving the strands
off of her palm, and looked down at the wet face. How
could she find a way to share this, without losing what
made it great? She used her fingers to scoop her juices
off Nina’s face and into her mouth. Nina moaned around
the fingers. Sighing, Marro sauntered thoughtfully back
over to the chair. She knew Nina was crawling after
her, staring lovingly at her disgusting body. She sat
back, legs open, and watched the young girl crawling
towards her. Nina’s chin was dripping with feminine
juice, her tongue licking her lips as she reproached
that which was the center of her universe. One of
Marro’s pubic hairs was wedged between her teeth.

How can you not want to share this with someone? Nina
dipped her head, and Marro hummed at the returned
sensation. How, she wondered, could she replace Anne?

Of course, the answer was obvious: what Marro needed
was an unequal partner. One more lonely and
unattractive than she. Someone who would be willing to
share in this rather than be alone. Someone she could
still control, someone who would never be a threat, but
with whom she could share Nina’s abuse.

And, she knew, Nina would be the easiest way to acquire
such a creature.

Eleven months in this place. It was almost beginning to
feel like home.

James spent every day the exact same. From his small
hotel room near the city’s center, he would pick a
direction to go hunting in. He kept meticulous track of
all of the places he searched, and when he had last
been to them, but it wasn’t helping. He was getting
nowhere. Maybe they weren’t even here anymore.

He shook his head. He wouldn’t believe that.

The only place he’d never searched was what locals
called the Business District. It was a joke, that name.
The Business District was the largest sex district on
the continent, a massive string of establishments that
catered to every possible desire known to man.

The prey James Rawlings sought already had her every
desire met, and would have no need of such a place. And
she had made it clear, he felt, that she did not want
to share her toy. He was sure that there was nothing
for him in the Business District.

He stepped out into the sunlight, aiming northeast, and
began his daily ritual. As he walked, he talked quietly
to Nina. Telling her it was okay, that he was coming.
Wherever she was.

Nina walked nervously down the street in the heart of
the Business District. The dress she wore she would
never have wished to be seen in, save by her One True
Love. It showed too much of her breasts, and legs. But
Marro had insisted, had given her a mission.

Nina found the place she sought. The Firm Hand had a
reputation as a place that catered to aggressive, less
feminine lesbians. Nina’s job was to find one that met
with Marro’s expectations, and seduce her. She
shuttered at the thought. Having her True Love sharing
her with some woman was devastating, but she knew it
would make her mistress happy.

This wouldn’t be the first time. Marro had already sent
Nina to several of the ordinary lesbian bars over and
over, night after night, looking for the right one.
Nina was a young, small, beautiful woman in a den of
wolves. The women hit on her and tried to seduce her
with hungry eyes. But she was looking for something in
particular.

Sometimes she found nothing. Sometimes she drew hopeful
and was left disappointed. Once, Marro had sent her to
an S&M lesbian bar, and Nina had met a dominating, tall
woman with graying hair and acne scars. She’d thought
for sure this would be the one. The woman had led her
out to the narrow alley between the bars, and told her
she would not be going anywhere with Nina until she
proved her talents were worth it. So Nina had nervously
knelt, pleasuring her there on cold cement. Gripping
the strong legs with her small hands, lapping at this
strange, grunting woman. When the tall, ugly dominatrix
finished her climax, she had smoothed her billowing
brown leather skirts and simply walked away,
disappearing into the crowded street. It had been the
only time Nina had ever lied to Marro…she couldn’t bare
the thought of telling such a story. To admit having so
thoroughly failed.

Six times she’d managed to snare a candidate, get them
home, and tentatively tested the relationship waters.
Each time, the women’s initial excitement at having
control over such a perfect young woman gave way to
jealousy or discomfort. The longest any had stayed was
two weeks. Nina didn’t miss any of them, though she had
enjoyed not having to make these trips.

She drew a deep breath and entered the bar. It was a
sad looking place, smoky and dirty. Although it could
easily hold a hundred people, just 13 women sat spread
throughout, mostly alone. None of them were
particularly attractive. Some were tragically
unappealing. They all looked up as she entered. Some of
these women dreamed of the day a girl like Nina would
walk through those doors. For them, the night had gone
from being boring and ordinary to being a great
competitive hunt. Every other woman in the bar had just
become competition.

Nina nervously walked up to the bar. The butch,
monstrous woman behind it appraised her.

“You ain’t old enough to drink, is you missy?” It
wasn’t really a question.

Nina was terrified. Only her love of Marro kept her
from running. Wonderful, beautiful Marro. She focused
her thoughts on what her lover wanted her to do. She
shook her head, wide-eyed, and sat down on the nearest
stool.

The butch bartender leaned forward even further. “You
prolly ain’t even old enough to wed, I’d say.” She
looked lewdly at Nina’s exposed cleavage. “What are you
doin’ here?”

Nina stared at her, unable to speak. Her mouth opened,
but nothing came out.

“Leave her alone,” a gruff female voice said. “Don’t
scare her away.”

A woman sat down next to Nina, and immediately Nina
felt she may well be the one. A foot taller than Nina,
clearly nearing 40 with a sad dopey look to her, the
woman was definitely ugly enough for what mistress
wanted.

“Thank you,” she tried to soothe her nerves and smile.
“I’m Nina.”

“Hello, Nina. I’m Por.” The woman smiled, revealing
crooked teeth. She had brown eyes and hair, the
beginnings of a double chin, and large breasts. “Why
are you in a place like this? It doesn’t suit you.”

“I…” she had done this before, but not in such a scary
environment. She looked around at the hungry faces on
the other women. She panicked. “I’m in love with
someone,” she blurted out.

Por looked disappointed. “Oh,” she said.

“She wants to share me.”

Por looked at her for a long moment. “Share you.”

Nina nodded. “I used to serve two, now there’s only
one. She thinks it’s lonely, with just me. She likes
to…” she blushed, humiliated.

“I see. A rich bitch?”

“I don’t know. Our home is small. It’s near the
market.”

“So a kinky thing, aren’t you? Why here, though? You
could do a lot better. Hell, you’re maybe the best
looking thing I’ve ever seen.”

Nina wasn’t prepared to lie. “It…it has to be somebody
ugly.”

Por flinched, and looked away. “Do you think that I fit
that bill?”

“Yes,” Nina said honestly. “I’m sorry.”

Por was silent for a moment. Then she frowned. “Fuck
you, little girl,” she said quietly. Nina pulled away
nervously, but Por grabbed her arm. “Do you know that I
have never, ever been in a real a relationship? I’ve
had sex, dull and passionless, a few times. Women who
settled for me, for a time. But nobody has ever loved
me.” She took a drink. “Do you love your mistress?”

“I do,” Nina tried to twist away from the firm grip,
tears in her eyes.

“So,” Por looked at the smaller woman, “will you love
me if she commands it?”

“Yes,” Nina whispered up at her.

Por downed her drink in a gulp. “Then let’s go. I can’t
wait to meet her.” She stood up, not loosening her
painful grip on Nina’s arm. The two of them left the
bar.

“What do you think?”

Por smiled back at Marro. The two of them stood facing
each other in the candle lit room, in their
undergarments. Nina knelt between them. Marro had been
showing Por some of Nina’s talents. Nina noticed that
Marro had shaved for the occasion.

“She knows your body well.”

“It’s beautiful to her,” Marro shrugged.

“You’re no looker,” Por responded. Marro smiled.

“Does that matter? Is it beauty that is so important,
or is it the feeling of beauty?”

Por grinned, “I’m in. Something this generous, well…”
she looked blankly towards the door for a moment, “I’m
a lonely woman, and it’s hard to pass up friendship or
sex.”

Marro shrugged. “This is just a trial run, mind you. If
you turn out not to be the right fit…”

“Then you tell me and I’ll make any changes I gotta
make to be the right one. I mean that. I’ll do what I
have to, to make this work.”

Marro nodded approvingly. Then, she walked over and
sank down into the chair at the far end of the room.
“Go on then,” she waved her hand, “let’s see the show.”

Nina looked up at her unattractive new mistress. Por
was not really particularly large…she was just
awkwardly built…but she was larger than Marro, and Nina
felt so small beside even that woman. Like Marro, Por
had a layer of fat around her middle. She walked over
to Nina, looking down a moment, and then reached out
and shoved the girl onto her back.

Squatting, she sat on Nina’s stomach. She didn’t bother
supporting her weight, and the breath was driven from
Nina’s lungs. Por’s knees squeezed at the smaller
girl’s hips. Leaning forward, she initiated a
slobbering, drooled out tongue-filled kiss that made
Nina uncomfortably aware that Por’s breath smelled of
alcohol. One awkward hand groped at Nina’s breast, and
Por hunched her back more and scooted her knees
slightly forwards as she continued the messy kisses.
Then she pulled her mouth away and leaned in to Nina’s
ear.

“Might as well do a good job of it, baby.” Then she
scooted her knees forward until she was sitting on
Nina’s upper chest. She lifted her underdress and
looked down at the girl. “Tell me it’s beautiful,” she
tapped one finger in the place she meant, like Nina
didn’t know.

“It’s beautiful,” Nina said emotionlessly.

“Liar!” Por struck Nina’s cheek hard. Nina yelped, half
expecting Marro to come to her aid. But her mistress
just watched, grinning, as the larger woman inched
forward and Nina’s head disappeared between her thick
thighs. Por dropped her undergarment over what little
of Nina’s head could be seen poking out below her, and
settled herself into a comfortable position.

Months passed. Nearly three years had come and gone
since he’d seen his wife. Desperation at last drove him
to the Business District. And, on his second day there,
he found someone who knew her.

The large woman behind the bar described her as shy,
scared, young and almost impossibly beautiful. She’d
left with one of the regulars. This was months ago,
maybe. Neither woman had returned since. She’d
overheard a bit of the conversation, sure, and if he
had some money…

He did. The girl said she lived in a small house near
the market.

He felt revitalized. All was not lost.

Her jaw ached. Her tongue was tender and tired. Her
face hurt.

Por was hardly as insatiable as she liked to act, but
her presence had become a driving force for Marro’s own
arousal. Just as it had been with Anne, so it was now.
The two found great delight in finding new ways to use
and abuse her. With Marro it was not an issue…in fact
Nina saw it as sensuous, wonderful lovemaking. With
Por, the very same acts were grotesque and humiliating.
She hated Por.

The morning ritual never changed, so today started like
any other. She woke before the two women, cleaned
herself and prepared breakfast, then bathed them after
they ate. Marro bathed quickly. Por liked for Nina to
kiss and lick at her neck as she rested in the warm
water. Then they all moved to the living room.

Marro was the one with the power, and thus she always
went first. She was, as ever, predictable. She would
stand bottomless, her blouse on to help keep warm, and
Nina would adoringly kiss her stomach and thighs.
Eventually she would turn around, put her hands to the
chair or tall center table, and Nina’s kisses would
then fall on the backs of her legs and on her buttocks.
At last, she would gently guide the small face to her
true bottom, and she would talk with Por about the
day’s agenda as Nina lovingly serviced her tush. Later,
she turned around. She made a much greater show of her
thick sexual secretions, with Por around. Both women
liked to watch as Nina swallowed again and again.

Por would sometimes abstain from the morning
festivities. But when she took part, she was more
insistent than Marro. She would piston her hips against
the tightly-held head or, more often, ride atop Nina’s
face until she screamed her pleasure out. This morning,
she had not abstained, so Nina was sore and tired.

Nina was alone now, home by herself while the other
women shopped, and usually that meant that she would
not answer the door.

But she was lost in her thoughts, her hatred for Por,
and had pulled it open before she realized what she was
doing.

The man who stood there, bearded and crazed, stared at
her.

“Nina,” he said. Fear ran through her.

“Who are you?” She started to close the door.

He pushed hard, throwing it open and knocking her down.
Before she could get back up, he was grappling with her
and grabbing her hand and she felt a ring slide on her
finger…

Probably, Guyen Tahlen would have been glad to see the
way that Anne Jall had died. Similarly, Anne Jall would
certainly have enjoyed watching the deaths of Marro and
Por. It would have pleased her to know that Nina
Rawlings cut both women down, and left them twitching
in their own blood.

Nina, truly Nina now… a normally sized adult woman, a
strong fighter and queen of a nation…rested her head on
her husband’s shoulder. She had the memory of all that
had happened to her, thanks to the ring that sat on her
finger. She knew what she had suffered, and she know
that it would always be a part of her.

But she also knew, from the permanent smile that had
rested on James’s face the last few weeks, that she
would not have to deal with it alone. And she would
never have to worry about his ability to deal with it.

“The last three years,” she had admitted to him in one
of many bouts of tears, “will follow me for the rest of
my life.”

“So,” he had responded quietly, “am I.”

Love… true love, not forced or faked… was what lay
ahead of them now. They rode slowly north, their suffering
over. Their future ahead of them… a life’s worth of
beauty.

So long as she never, ever lost that ring.