MoboReader> Fantasy > Maldene - Volume One

   Chapter 2 The Island

Maldene - Volume One By Mark Anthony Tierno Characters: 38823

Updated: 2018-04-10 12:02


"Who's alive?" asked Candol, as he got up.

He dusted off his priestly robes, collected his sword, and put his clerical sigil about his neck. Candol was of medium height and build, sandy-colored hair, and of a calm disposition. He'd been in the passenger section when the storm hit the ship, and had soon found himself floundering about in a wash of sea water, flotsam, and limbs.

As the tattered survivors began to get up from their sandy beds, Gamro was turning orange as it slid down past the northeastern horizon, while at the same time the blue of the smallest moon, Gamri, rose into the light of the newborn day.

"Not much left of the crew, I'm afraid, " remarked Starke, nominal leader of the mercenaries, as he got himself up and looked at the scattered bodies along the beach.

And a few less passengers, Kor-Lebear thought to himself, with the most sly of grins.

"Serves 'em right, " spat out one of the mercs, as he brushed sand out of his bushy beard, "they were a lousy crew anyway."

Candol went over to the nearest body and knelt down beside it. Seeing that this one was a sailor, dead eyes staring out to sea, Candol began his prayers to send the soul along its journey. After he was finished, he went on to the next and did the same. At the third one, he looked down, frowned, and then skipped on to another one.

"What's the matter Candol?" Eldar asked. "Why'd you skip him?"

Candol got up and responded, "He kept pestering me throughout the entire trip. 'Candol bless this, Candol bless that'- like my god Indra and I are a catering service! Well, his soul can just go find its way about on its own. Besides, he smelled bad."

Eldar smiled as Candol went on to the next body. That's the one thing about him, Eldar thought, he's just about as likely to help as not. His must be a very fickle deity.

For the next body he came to, Candol looked down at it doubtfully, thought a bit, took out a coin, and then flipped it. After looking at the coin-facing in his palm, he knelt down besides the body and began his prayers.

"Uh, if I may ask?" Eldar began.

"I wasn't sure about him, " Candol responded after a brief prayer, "his soul was borderline."

Eldar shook his head doubtfully as he began to wonder if that was Candol's way of keeping wayward worshipers on their toes. Not that Eldar considered himself all that religious as regards most deities, but you never knew.

Blag-ak then came lumbering up from another end of the beach, throwing seaweed off of himself after testing which were edible first. He poked around some of the bodies, looking at their heads as if trying to determine which might be good to add to his collection, when one of the heads he prodded at spat out sand and shouted back.

"Get me out of here!"

Buried up to the neck in sand, the head appeared rather small and childish, yet rather hairy and unkempt.

Apparently, Blag-ak reasoned to himself, this is a severed head that can talk. That would make it a really special head for my collection!

So thinking, he wrapped the head in his large hand and tried to pick it up.

It screamed and refused to budge.

That's funny, he thought, it's glued to the ground. I'll just try harder.

So thinking, he pulled hard on it, the head continuing to scream for a moment, ending with a rather sandy popping noise as the ogre suddenly found himself holding a three-foot person several feet above the ground by the head.

Oh darn, he thought to himself puzzledly, it's not a head.

"What you?" he finally said.

The person he carried looked rather like a hairy child, with hair on his feet and a long dark braid coming off of his head. His arms were a bit short, but his fingers long and nimble. He wore baggy clothes but with no shoes for the tough bottoms of his feet.

"Let me down, you overgrown pile of dragon excrement!"

Blag-ak dropped him as he wondered what an X-Kree-Ment was.

The small creature dusted himself off with amazing quickness, then smiled his way into a quick bow.

"I'm Quickfoot, at your service kind Sirs!"

"I don't remember you from the other passengers, " remarked Sabu, now ringing the excess seawater out of his robes.

"I, uh, was a last moment passenger. They didn't have time to put me on the passengers' list, and I stayed pretty much to myself, " he responded smoothly.

Eldar and Sabu looked at each other and responded in unison.

"Stowaway!"

"No, no, no. I assure you that-"

"That doesn't matter anymore, " came the rumbling voice of Bronto, "let's just worry about where we are!"

Considering that this came from a six-and-a-half-foot tall Human almost as wide as Quickfoot was tall, the arguing stopped rather suddenly.

The only one apparently unimpressed was a small, lean, sandy-haired young boy, dressed in a tight-fitting jumpsuit with a short cape. Kilgar was up on top of a nearby rock, looking out into the inland distance, and began pointing.

"I see a castle over there, " he shouted with a slight trace of his half-lilting half-almost-singsong native Destir accent, "and it doesn't look deserted."

"What's with eagle-eye over there?" one of the mercs whispered to Filmar. "The kid's sight can't be that good."

Filmar just shrugged, and finished re-fastening his sword at his side.

Filmar, quiet and non-talkative, was tall, well muscled, and fair of face and hair. He seemed to almost exude a certain calmness and inner secret, and kept his conversations to an absolute minimum.

"Forget the castle, " shouted the mercenary named Lur-Klakar, "look at those!"

He pointed towards the edge of the forest along the beach. Standing amongst some of the tairu-colored trees stood a group of very beautiful females, eight human and two elves, all scantily clad and with an alluring aura that could get a statue to straighten up and take notice. Every curve of liquid-smooth flesh was perfectly sculpted as if by some master artisan, with their sheer colored gowns each draping just precisely correct.

"I WANT one!" shouted the merc Tinweril as he got up and leapt towards the nearest one.

The other mercenaries, about half a dozen or so, tried to divide up a few of the other girls, as one helped Quickfoot up, leaving the small one to pant heavily at her feet like a puppy. Bronto had two of them, one arm around a human and the other around an elf, with nobody wanting to argue about it. Eldar shrugged, thought something about any port in a storm, and politely approached one of the elven maidens. Kor-Lebear and Sabu soon found themselves each with someone, while Candol had just remembered that his cult didn't have any chastity vows and went for one. Even young Filmar, despite his father's warnings had soon caught the smile of one of the maidens.

Only Kilgar, too young to want what the others did, yet old enough in the teachings of his people, stayed cautiously on the edge of the group, away from the hormonal activity.

The girls were indeed young maidens, appearing to be no more than about fifteen to seventeen, with an aura that oozed femininity incarnate and would reach out and play tag with one's hormones. They carried themselves with the perfect compromise between innocence and world-wiseliness.

"So, we have guests, " came a deep voice from the forest followed by its owner, a fat jolly-looking type dressed up like some sort of noble. "Who among you is leader?"

Starke looked up from his interest in the hills and valleys of his new companion and spoke, "I, Starke, am in charge. We have just been shipwrecked and are in need of care and passage off of this island. Who might you be?"

The newcomer brought his large belly to an upright position, almost by sheer force of will, and answered, "I am Boalar, owner of this island and the castle inland. And these are my, um, subjects, " he motioned with his hands towards the females.

"Lovely kingdom, " young Bronto smiled, squeezing his two prizes closer.

"How do you become a citizen?" Eldar smiled gaily, his fingers slyly working their way up the arm of a young elven maiden.

Sabu, meanwhile, was sheepishly trying to explain the intricacies of magic, math, and astronomy to a lovely female youth, while Filmar was shyly introducing himself to another.

Finally, remembering his manners and honor, Starke stood up, straightened his clothes, sword, and dagger, brushed out his long Ho-Chi-Min mustache, as well as some of the sand off of his tanned yellow-brown skin, and faced Boalar at stiff attention.

"Lord Boalar, will you be kind enough to give us shelter?"

"I'll do better than that. Come, you shall feast this night!"

Starke gave a curt bow and then motioned his mercs to gather up, the girls following them like flowing water caressing their bodies. There seemed no dissent about the potential of the offered hospitality, as everyone else followed behind the mercs.

"Wait a tid, " shouted Kilgar, looking around, "where's the ogre?"

"I think I saw him over there, " Eldar pointed, with a half-dreaming look still in his eyes.

Blag-ak was seen engaging in his rather grisly hobby of collecting unwanted heads off some of the dead sailors' bodies.

"What are you doing?" shouted Sabu, simultaneously intrigued and taken aback at the action.

"Souvenirs, " was the gruff reply.

Filmar grimaced in disgust, but kept quiet about it.

"Well, come on, we're leaving."

The ogre sulked, but complied as they got on their way.

"I wonder what he does with those things, " Sabu muttered to himself.

"There's something about this that I don't like, " whispered Kilgar.

"Ah, shut up kid, " Tinweril replied, "it's just us adults at play. You'll understand when you grow up."

In all, the survivors numbered Bronto, Sabu, Eldar, Candol, Kilgar, Kor-Lebear, Quickfoot, Filmar, and Blag-ak, as well as Starke and his mercs, and three straggling sailors, now following ten maidens and their lord towards a castle.

Kor-Lebear merely kept towards the rear and thought.

Time soon found them enjoying a magnificent feast, with pleasing entertainment and the beautiful girls all around. They were in a large high-ceilinged hall of stone walls and tree-trunk-thick wooden beams, with intricate tapestries hanging on the walls, a wide beautifully carved staircase at one end of the great hall, and numerous doors and adjoining passages spaced all around the large room. All were seated at a single large sixty-foot long oak table, each person in a large comfortable chair. Sitting amongst them were the girls that they'd met out on the beach, with even more women serving them with trays of food. The table was laid out with all manner of seemingly endless food, all served in silver bowls, with the wine coming at an endless rate. It was a chauvinist barbarian's paradise.

"This, I like, " Starke was smiling, trying to feed his stomach with one hand and his desires with the other wrapped around one of the girls.

"Well, how do you like my humble accommodations?" inquired their host while finishing off his third tankard of wine.

"Just perfect, " purred Kor-Lebear, looking at all of the rich furnishings with a keen eye for value.

"Almost makes you want to stay, " said Thorlan Felgernon, one of the mercs.

Blag-ak took up the entire end of the long table, chewing on a piece of meat the size of a large pig in one hand and using an entire keg of wine as a cup in the other hand, a large pile of discarded bones lying around him. The mercenaries were digging into their food about as much as they were the women. Bronto was drinking and laughing, one of the girls tending to his pleasures. In short, all were eating and making merry.

Quickfoot had one hand stuffing food in a continuous stream down his mouth, and the other stuffing silverware just as continuously down his pockets. At the same time, though, Candol was amusing himself by using his spoon to propel berries carefully at Quickfoot's now increasingly purple-stained nose.

Kilgar was stirring restlessly in his chair, glancing around furtively, looking out of place and apprehensive.

"Tell me, " said Sabu, swallowing a mouthful, "how came you upon all of this? I mean, that tapestry over there alone must date back to the early era of the of The Great Human Kingdoms back in the time of-"

A sharp elbow jab by Eldar interrupted his friend, "Don't mind him, he does that sort of thing all the time."

Eldar smiled then downed an entire mug of wine in a single swig while squeezing his serving girl's breast with his free hand.

Lord Boalar leaned back patting his belly. "It's quite alright! The secret is wealth, my good man, " he replied, "wealth, knowing the right people, and a need to get away to the finer things in life."

"But, how came you upon so much? Such a lovely little island, so out of the way; and the women-" Sabu persisted.

"All you have to understand, " smiled Boalar, "is that it's all here, I use it to relax and enjoy life with, and that I like to share my good fortune with others."

Sabu was about to pursue it further, but the girl tending him began to massage the tension out of his shoulders, drawing a smile upon his lips and causing him to decide that she was definitely much more interesting than their host's financial activities.

"Well, I know that I'm going to enjoy it here, " said Tinweril, arm around a very alluring young female as he got up from the table. "If I don't come out in about three rises, I may need a healer, " he laughed as he went out down one of the hallways, with his chosen girl, towards the bedrooms.

The sailors and two of the other mercenaries had already gone off, taken by the radiant beauty of the women. Bronto was staring, entranced, at the girl that he had wrapped around himself.

"I'm with him, " he said, staring glassy-eyed at the one he had, "it's just been too long."

Kilgar leapt from his seat and over towards Bronto.

"Wait, " he tugged at his massive arm, "it's all wrong. We've got to get another boat and leave."

Bronto just lazily shoved the kid out of his way, like the wind moving a flower petal, "There's plenty of time for all that later, " and then he too left.

Kilgar went over to Eldar, who was busy chewing on one end of a bread stick while an elven female was at the other end chewing her way towards his lips.

"Eldar, " he whispered harshly, " I just know that something's wrong."

Eldar wiggled a couple of fingers at the boy, causing him to be flown towards the other end of the room with a gag appearing in his mouth and ropes around his hands and feet.

"Don't mind him, " said Sabu, hand casually massaging a girl's leg while he finished off a mug of wine, "he's still growing up. When he hits puberty then he'll understand."

"Perfectly all right, " their jolly host replied. "Just feel free to enjoy ALL aspect of my hospitality; me and the girls get so few visitors around here."

Several moments later found an empty table, remains of a half-eaten feast on it, and most everyone having gone off to enjoy the pleasure that a long time at sea can make even more enjoyable. Even Blag-ak had found a few females willing to try him out.

No one had noticed the discarded gag and pile of untied ropes off in the corner where Kilgar had been.

There was one other who hadn't gone off with someone. While Quickfoot had caught the eye of one of the girls, the little woodling's appetite for more food and silverware quickly overrode his desire for flesh. As such, he had found his way to the kitchen with the speed and accuracy of a bloodhound on the trail of a female breeder in heat. He'd lodged himself in one of the cupboards, jamming a cake into his mouth while simultaneously trying to put a porcelain plate up his shirt, his pockets occasionally jingling with the sound of his dinner-time acquisitions.

Sounds of footsteps outside of the cupboard caused him to stay very still as he heard approaching voices in the kitchen. He listened, catching snatches of it.

". . .How's the feast going?" from the voice of the host, Lord Boalar.

"Fine. . ., " a female voice, ". . . coming along okay. . . be ready for everyone soon. . ."

". . .best feast yet, " Boalar's voice again, ". . .everyone enjoy it. . . plenty for everyone."

Quickfoot's ears pricked up. There's going to be another feast?, he thought, Wow, maybe I can get first serving this time. As the voices faded away into the distance, he began to open the cupboard just a little bit to see what the next culinary pleasures were to be.

Off in a wide hallway of the castle, lined with bedrooms, all doors of such closed to prying eyes, was the stealthy form of the boy Kilgar, his movement not making any sound of passage, keeping to the shadows more out of habit than anything else. He was creeping down the hallway, thinking to himself.

Something about this setup still doesn't seem right, he thought to himself, and they're all too busy with those stupid girls to see it. Just because I'm still a kid is no reason to not listen to me. They could learn a few things from my people.

He looked up and down the hallway.

Yeah, I kinda miss the desert and my people, he thought sadly, but not letting a trace of emotion enter his face, but I have to think about what's now. So, with the practical-mindedness of his people, even in one so young, he shrugged it off and went over to the nearest door to listen.

Sounds of intense pleasure, groaning, and love-making between a man and a woman.

Sounds normal enough for that sort of thing, I suppose, he thought. He listened some more.

The sounds went on for a few moments more, then dimmed down to silence. Kilgar was about to move on when-

Sounds of munching and the chewing of flesh, tendons and vital organs being reduced to meat and protein, broken only by an occasional male murmur of pleasure. Flesh being ripped from the bone, the swallowing of blood and life. Finally, the crunching of bones, the sucking of marrow, and the consumption of the last vestiges of life.

Total silence.

Then, the soft sound of a female cooing and purring with pleasure and satisfaction, at the finish of a good meal.

Kilgar's eyes widened as he quickly crept away from the door.

That isn't normal, he thought, I knew there was something wrong here. I've got to find the others.

He quickly and silently sped down the corridor.

Quickfoot leapt down out of his little cupboard, landing quietly onto the floor, the top of his head barely coming up to the top of the large central kitchen table. There were other cabinets, a large stove, racks of pans and knives, the door he'd come in from, and another one labeled "Pantry". He pulled himself up on top of the table for a better look.

Old bones, a dirty plate, a large cutting knife, and some red stains.

"Well, the food's not in here, " he whispered to himself, "but maybe I can use this sometime."

The cutting knife disappeared into one of his pockets.

He looked at the other door, "Maybe it's in the pantry; I'll just have a look."

So saying, he scurried down off of the table and across the room. Passing another rack of knives he paused, thought about how nice they looked, and then grabbed three more before continuing on.

He carefully creaked open the door to peek inside. All he saw was dim lighting and row

s and rows of shelves.

All filled with lots of food.

The door swung shut as the small creature almost vanished into the room. He was walking down the middle looking up and around at this paradise of food.

"There's enough here for ages, " he exclaimed, "but I've got to get it before they see me."

Seeing a particular favorite, he leapt up to the third shelf to grab a piece of bread, bounced from there directly across the aisle to the opposite shelf for another morsel, then onto the floor and down the aisle for something else. His food-inspired bounding and leaping would seem to be only matched by a grasshopper in heat.

Finally he came upon a more open area marked by a line of frost with ice beyond. He carefully poked his finger past the icy line, then drew it back quickly as it began to get cold and frosty.

"Must be some sort of magic to keep it cold. I don't like magic, but I wonder. . . Hey, this must be where they keep the perishable stuff. Maybe I can find some meat and milk in here."

His baser instincts having easily overcome his brief fears, he sped quickly onward into the cold. Inside were some long covered packages hanging on large hooks.

"Wow, jackpot! These must be sides of beef or something. Boy, am I hungry!"

He went over to the nearest one and peeled open the covering as he looked up hungrily.

Dead eyes staring forever outward from a human face, large hook thrust through the chest, hanging there naked but with his entire right side missing, cleaved off with the professional quality cutting of a skilled butcher. It was not a side of beef, but a side of Man.

Quickfoot screamed and leapt back at the same time. Fear and terror dashed across his face at lightning speed. For a few moments his mouth just opened and closed, without anything coming out, before he managed to speak.

"Cannibals! They'll eat us all. Oh, I don't make a good pot-pie."

He backed up out of the frozen area, still muttering fear-driven expletives to himself. Finally he turned around and began to run as fast as fear could take him. He dashed out of the pantry door and into the kitchen. He leapt over the table and towards the other door-

-To see one of the pretty girls standing there, just having entered, and now looking over at Quickfoot rather puzzledly.

He didn't give her time to think about his presence. While still in midair from his leap over the table, he twisted his body, and ended up soaring down through between her legs, sliding out into the corridor beyond, rolling to his feet, and then turning that motion into a fast blur down the corridor.

In other words, he resembled a bat out of Hell.

Kilgar crept along with his knife out now. A wickedly curved blade with an ornate handle, it was of a type used by his people quite often. Now he walked along with it in a continual defensive position. He was now no longer just a small wiry youth, but a killing machine resistant to the fears of Man. He may have been only part grown, but he was all Destir.

He came up to the door that he'd seen Eldar go into and listened. He heard sounds of pleasure and the rhythmic creaking of bed springs.

Good, he thought, there's still time.

He quietly tried the doorknob, but it was locked. So, he began to pry at it with his knife, soon hearing a satisfying snap, then grabbed the door handle, quietly turned it, and. . .

A bedroom, ornate cloth hanging on every wall, bed with four decorative posts, with Eldar on his back on the bed, eyes rolled back in pleasure, elven female on top of him, clothes and sword on the floor next to the bed, his hands firmly grabbing choice parts of her anatomy.

Except that the female now had sharp fangs, long claws on her fingers, and a look of intense hunger in her red glowing eyes, as she bent down to bite a large chunk of flesh out of his neck.

Bedroom door now flying open, as a small blurred boyish figure comes leaping through, streak of sandy-colored death with a pointed knife at the tip, the blur shouting as it lands on the girl's back.

"Eldar, look out!"

Kilgar landed on the fiend's back, knife plunging through her upper back, momentum carrying them both off of Eldar, as she screamed from the pain in her back. As green blood oozed out of her, Eldar began to blink his eyes, gradually becoming aware of events.

Kilgar took out his knife and made ready for another stab as the naked fiend grabbed around at Kilgar, her wound even now almost healed, and tossed him by the neck across the room. Eldar reached for his sword on the floor, Kilgar tumbling nimbly in the air to land in a crouch facing her from across the room. Eldar slashed out with his sword.

A gleam of metal death as a fanged head was sent flying across the room, separated from its body at the neck. The body spouted up a fountain of green blood and orange fire as the body fell back over the other side of the bed onto the floor.

Kilgar ran over to Eldar, who began to quickly dress himself.

"They're man-eaters. We've got to get to the others!"

"I agree. Sabu's across the hall and Bronto's next door. You get Bronto, I'll get Sabu."

Eldar smiled to himself before running out, "Now this is what I call some decent after-dinner entertainment!"

Kilgar nodded and sped out of the room.

Where he bumped into Quickfoot running down the hall, screaming at the top of his lungs. As they untangled themselves from each other, Quickfoot was still babbling.

"Cannibals! Demons! Fiends! They'll eat us all up. Oh I don't want to be someone's dinner. Besides, I'd make too light a snack. I-"

Kilgar slapped him into emotional soberness.

"Yes, we know! Now get down the hallway and find the others so that we can get out of here."

The little woodling seemed to lose his fear and come round, as he realized that without the others he wouldn't make it out of this place alive. He got up and began to speed off down to the next room, softly muttering about cannibals not about to make him into a pot-pie.

A slice of magic steel and a doorknob goes flying, its attendant door then kicked inward. Revealed within was Sabu, his robes in disarray as he lay on his stomach on the bed, girl sitting on top of him, massaging his shoulders with fingers that are just now producing claws out of them, fangs beginning to protrude, claws going for the neck.

Metal soaring through the air, to impale from the back a full foot through the front chest. Eldar runs up as she tumbles over screaming and down onto the floor, taking his sword out of her, and then coming down to end her screams by severing her head with his sword.

Sabu rolled over and looked up questioningly.

"Demon-kabobs anyone?" Eldar smiled, as green blood dripped from his sword.

"Eldar? What's going on-"

He glanced down to the headless clawed body, now spouting flame and blood, and at the fang-toothed head rolling slowly to a stop.

"Oh, I see."

He got to his feet and looked at his rumpled clothes. A snap of his fingers and they straightened themselves out.

"We've got to find a way off of this island, " Eldar said, wiping the guck off of his sword. "Is there an extra boat around here? He must have one for himself."

Sabu closed his eyes and concentrated for a few moments before opening them again.

"There's a dock on the southern shore of this island, " he finally responded.

"Good, then we're outta here!"

They both rushed out of the door into the hallway.

"Bronto, move it!"

A small rock impacted off of Bronto's massive arm, the only way Kilgar knew of to roust him quickly. Bronto awoke to see the promise of a fanged death a mere inch away from him. He reacted instinctively, reaching for the neck and throwing her with a single hand across the room. She landed spread-eagle, hard against the stone wall, with a simultaneous crunch and splat as most of her bones are crushed by the impact while green blood fanned out from her backside to cover most of the wall. She began to slide down the wall, in a slick of her own blood, as her body suddenly exploded in a burst of orange fire.

Bronto looked at the burning mess and then over at Kilgar standing in the doorway.

"Sorry I didn't believe you kid, " he rumbled as he began to get up to quickly get his things, "from now on, I do."

Kilgar just nodded and sped out of the room, Bronto soon following behind.

Starke was having the time of his life, necking with his girl, both sitting up on a bed.

"Oh, baby, yeah. I've known lots of women before but you're completely different."

"You have no idea how much, " she whispered just as she bit into his shoulder, taking out a chunk of flesh.

Starke screamed, tried to break free, but her hands pinned his arms at his sides with a strength unnatural even for a full grown man. He struggled uselessly as her gleaming teeth came in for his throat.

Two large knives came whizzing through the air, one to land in the back of her neck, protruding through the throat, the other in the small of her back. She dropped him and looked around to see Quickfoot cowering in the doorway, a third knife ready. She took but a single step, and then collapsed, writhing, onto the ground. Starke looked up at Quickfoot, still a bit dazed, blood coming from his shoulder, and then grabbed for his things, pulling out a battle horn.

"I've got to warn everybody, " he looked over at Quickfoot. "I owe you my life. Now go warn the others."

He mouthed the horn, letting loose its cry of warning.

A bedroom door explodes into flame, quickly followed by a fanged female being flown to the ceiling and pinned up there, clawing and screaming.

Candol looked up, and then over at Sabu standing in the doorway.

"I guess that's one for you, " Candol said sleepily, shaking off the girl's enticing effects. "How's about I buy you a drink at the next bar we're at?"

"Good enough, " Sabu smiled.

Eldar worded his warning in the simplest manner for a limited intelligence that he could possibly imagine.

"Blag-ak! Kill!"

Out in the hallway, Kilgar saw one of the demonic females exploding out through a stone wall, across the hallway, and then imbedding in the opposite wall. He saw the female do a brief but fair imitation of a wall mural and then explode into flame, while Blag-ak's angry cry rang out.

In one room, Kor-Lebear was occupied with a girl, but unlike the others he was also up to something else. During their lovemaking, while one hand had been on her breast, the other had been secretly popping gems off of her discarded dress, removing small gold trays from the nightstand, and collecting any other available valuables.

In the midst of all this, came the sound of a loud battle horn being sounded. As the girl looked up at hearing the sound, he pulled out a dagger from his side and swiftly slashed at the neck. When green blood fountained out, he quickly rolled over off the bed and onto his feet.

"Nothing personal, " he said quietly and controlled, "but I just don't like any witnesses."

He had just cleaned and put away his dagger when he heard a rapidly approaching cry.

"Danger, danger!"

Quickfoot came running in, screaming, knife ready. As he rounded the door and came bursting in, he looked down at the body.

Green blood was soaking into the sheets as orange fire slowly consumed the body.

The small one looked up, "Oh, I guess you know already."

He paused a bit and then sped out, once again shouting his warnings to all within hearing.

"You mean, " Kor-Lebear quietly said to himself, "we're supposed to kill them?"

He smiled.

As some were freed so they got to others, like a spreading bonfire. Some weren't gotten to in time though. The remaining sailors and some of the mercenaries were just so much luncheon meat by the time they were reached. Starke had a makeshift bandage on his shoulder and Tinweril had one around his left forearm. Filmar had been saved by his virtue; he'd been found caught between wanting the girl and remembering his father's words to him, the girl still trying to seduce him when her head came flying off at the tip of Bronto's massive sword.

They were now all in the original feasting hall that had earlier seemed so much more friendlier.

Blag-ak had gone around and collected the severed heads of the demonic girls that they'd gotten to, and now had them hanging at his belt with his others.

"I still wonder what he does with those things, " Sabu said, glancing over at the heads.

"It's too quiet in here, " Kor-Lebear hissed.

"Where to now?" Candol spoke up.

"There's a harbor to the South, " Sabu answered.

"Good!" Starke took charge. "We head for there. Let's go."

As they began to head for an exiting hallway, Kilgar shouted.

"Look!"

Coming down one of the hallways towards them were more of the demonic girls, some armored male guards brandishing swords, and their host Lord Boalar in the back shouting orders.

"Let's move it!" Tinweril shouted.

Swords were drawn as they started to run for an exit.

Blag-ak pulled one of the heads from his belt, whirled it over his head by the hair, and then let it fly. It screamed through the air and then impacted upon the head of one of the males in armor. Both heads exploded from the impact.

"Now I know what he does with those things!"

Bronto went over to one end of the huge sixty-foot table. With a mighty heave and cry, he sent it flying down the hallway towards the onrushing group. It sped into the ones in the lead, taking them with it as it continued to rush onward.

"Strike!" yelled Bronto.

At the same time Sabu put forth both his arms, pointed, and began speaking in his magic tongue.

"Thestool Rekto Veemer Flamir!"

A stream of fire shot out from his pointed hands, down towards the table, now centered across the hallway, and impacted upon it. The table burst into an explosion of flame and wood, blocking the way of those that would kill them.

"Not bad, " Eldar admired, "perhaps you can teach me some of that."

"Can we leave now?" Quickfoot asked timidly.

In answer, they all ran out towards the castle exit.

Down corridors and out towards a portcullis. They rounded a corner and suddenly came face to face with one of the women; naked but now with fangs and claws, hissing at them as they came, eyes glowing a bright red. Eldar was in the lead as she slashed at him. Eldar ducked the swipe as he took a small packet out of a pocket. Whirling, and without breaking stride, he slammed the object into her mouth and then ducked and ran past.

Eldar shouted back as he ran past, "Chew on that, ugly!"

She angrily reached with a claw to take the object out of her mouth.

And promptly exploded, bits of her flying all over the hallway. Pieces of her burst into flame as they landed. Some green guck splattered across Sabu's robes as he wrinkled his nose in disgust. Eldar laughed as they continued to run.

Sabu muttered as he tried to brush off his robes and keep up at the same time, "You could have chosen something a bit less messy, you know."

"Then it wouldn't have been any fun, " Eldar shouted back to him.

Nearer they approached the gates, when suddenly three large men clad in chain and platemail stepped out to block their way. Filmar was towards the front as, still running, he pulled out his sword and then leaped in front of the three.

A flash of blade. Steel connecting steel as Filmar stabbed one in the chest, then whirled around to slice off the head of the second guy, ducking to avoid the anticipated blow of the third. He ended with a sword strike to the groin of the third guard.

"Where'd you learn that?!" Lur-Klakar asked, as they caught up with him.

"From my mother, " he responded, as he quickly wiped his blade off on one of the bodies.

"This guy just gets weirder every moment, " Sabu said to himself.

They ran out of the castle and through the woods as fast as they could. Through brush and bramble, around trees, and over boulders. It was a run for life. Finally they came out of the woods and onto a beach area with a wooded dock, small pier, and two ships.

"Quickly, into this one, " Starke pointed.

They heard shouts and the sound of enemies running their way, soon seeing more of Lord Boalar's forces approaching through the forest.

Everyone began leaping onto the deck of the ship. Sails were hauled on and ropes grabbed for. The ship was untied from the pier.

"They're getting closer!" Eldar shouted from the deck.

"This one's mine, " Candol said calmly.

He went up to the head of the ship and raised his hands towards the sky.

Lord Boalar's forces came bursting through the woods and were now running along the beach directly towards them.

"Oh mighty Indra, " the wind began to pick up and blow, "preserve us from those that seek to kill your servant."

They came closer; the wind blew as clouds formed overhead.

"Listen to my cry!"

Thunder rumbled all around.

"Strike them down!"

A loud crack of noise sounded as a pillar of flame shot down from the sky and into the midst of the onrushing horde. Bodies and sand exploded as survivors screamed in sudden pain and agony.

Candol relaxed his arms and faced the others, "That ought to slow them down a bit."

Thorlan looked at the burning biomass, "Right, " he said slowly and unsteadily, "now does anyone know how to move this thing? We're all out of sailors if you hadn't noticed!"

"No problem, " Sabu smiled.

He pointed to the sails. They suddenly unfurled themselves and then filled with wind, taking the ship slowly out of the harbor.

"What about the other ship, " Starke pointed out, "They could catch us in it."

"Let me take care of that, " Eldar said, "us Elves have a bit of magic too, you know."

With that said, he pulled out some small pea-sized red balls from a pocket. He then blew on them, muttered a few silent words, and then threw them into the air in the direction of the other boat. As they arched upwards, they turned into numerous small balls of fire that then sped down to land on the other ship. The sails became engulfed in flame, the deck beginning to split and crackle with fiery life. Smoke rose up towards the sky as secondary explosions began to reduce the ship to burning splinters.

"Not too bad for an amateur, " Sabu smiled.

"That'll show 'em, " Eldar smiled back, "although maybe I should have used a bit more; the explosion didn't quite seem spectacular enough."

Lord Boalar was standing on the beach, two of his girls on either side of him, watching angrily as the ship sailed out of the harbor and away from the island.

Dark stone room, clad only in black fearsome drapes. Stone table, large crystal ball on its smooth surface, two dark figures leaning over it from baroquely-carved stone chairs. Two figures watching as the crystal shows a small ship pulling away from a small island. An atmosphere of black, terrible, terror seemed to hold the room hostage.

"They survived our storm, " one low voice hissed.

"And made it out, " another low voice responded.

"Do we tell Him?"

"No! We don't disturb Him over such a trivial group and a problem not yet ripened."

"But, they might make it to the island! And find-"

"Then they shall die there! We can handle them ourselves."

"Then let us plan. . ."

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