Zane felt the weight of the air changing as he shouldered his pack and started to walk down the dusty path into the valley. Behind him, his horse was already galloping away, making great speed towards what could only be greener pastures in every regard.
There was a heaviness to the air, the weigh of loss, like the sky itself was grieving. Between that, and the way his horse had started to become skittish, it was how the young warrior knew his path was the right one.
Animals that were not raised from birth in the shadow of the Demon King’s reach felt most keenly the presence of his evil in ways no human could, and those that were raised within the wicked expanse of his realms were often ill tempered or simply devoid of any quality.
It was strange, that his wickedness felt like something less, and not like something more.
Behind him, through tall grass and deep rivers, through castles of stone and muddy roads, was home. With any luck, his horse was galloping that way even now. Zane hadn’t named the beast, growing up on a farm he knew better, but name or not the faithful stead’s presence would be missed.
Behind him too were countless battles fought and won. Each against some petty foe, or some fierce servant of greater darkness, one and all sworn to the tyrannical Demon King.
Destiny had beset Zane, tasked him with vanquishing this vile shadow, and with every battle there could be no doubt he was truly chosen by fate.
With every slash and thrust his arm had grown stronger. With every bruise and cut, his body grew harder. With every ambush and pursuit his eyes and ears grew keener. And behind it all, his will and his purpose become intertwined, bound as one irresistible force that knew no fear, broke no cowardice, and whose light of goodness could not be dimmed.
Zane, humble though he was in both his upbringing and his pride, charged onward, dauntless as the summer sun. He was very far away from his family’s farm, very far away from the comfortable boredom of everyday life.
Yes, here, as the air grew cooler and the light lost its luster, here at the edge of this valley, all alone, the young hero sensed a darkness more true than all the foes and all the fiends he’d banished, or left bloodied, broken, or slain.
All of Zane’s companions had been called away one by one.
Some had been taken by death, some by other quests and noble obligations, a few were crippled too badly in body and in spirit to face battle again wounded even beyond the reach of magical healing, others still were shackled by the practical needs of so many newly liberated lands, and though he’d been alone on his quest before, it has been quite a while since the farmer turned warrior of prophecy found himself wholly without a companion.
Fate had brought him allies along the way, and he trusted to it again as he began his decent into these dark, unknown lands.
Zane carried with him no great items of power, not even a single tool of any minor enchantment, and it was not for a lack of want.
One by one, in calling after calling, other heroes of the lands had risen, taking with them arms and armor of power, enchanted helms, magic rings, enchanted tomes, and every heirloom of war and splendor that could be imagined.
For their part, some saw not a few moments of triumph, some even continued to wage battles against the darkness in lands they had come to by both necessity and fortune, but most had fallen into the darkness of defeat, or the darkness of time.
So, Zane carried not but his well worn mail, a notched and scarred shield of wood whose iron band was jagged now as any saw, a hunting knife gifted to him from his town elder, and the same simple long sword he’d taken from the first wicked bandit he slew. This was all he carried along with the supplies a life on the road required, still, he walked with his head held high down into the lands of the enemy.
Past the valley, and somewhere in the desolate wastes on its other side, was the ruined city, and there in its heart was the Demon King. Though some scholars had offered possible names of this lost place, and others offered possible paths and routes, none, those who called Zane friend and called themselves wise, and those foes who had faced the hero and lived to tell, could speak with certainty on the matter.
But the stars and rivers of fate and destiny guided and carried him, so as ever, he persevered.
The armies that had arisen in the wastes and marched out to press the good and free peoples of the realms had finally been broken, and in wave after wave, they had been pushed back and back until their conquests were greatly undone. All that truly remained under the Demon King’s sway was those kingdoms he’d first enslaved, and whose leaders he had cowed into obedience. The valley sat between two such places, and his hope was to find a sympathetic ear, or to spark a fire in the hearts of those who remained there.
All other paths had been blocked by war and siege, and by battles he knew belonged in the hands of others. So it was that he traveled alone, as an arrow flying towards evil’s wretched heart.
By nightfall of his first day of travel, into the valley Zane had come to a hamlet with its few buildings clustered on both sides of the road. He saw the remains of a once occupied garrison as well, the abandoned parade ground where that force would have mustered, and the wide shallow fire pits that would have served their needs.
Save for this, there were no signs of any true military presence, and only one guard stood alone in a small watch tower just off of the road.
“Halt stranger, state your business.”
Zane continued to walk forward as the guard shouted to him. Not wishing to seem nervous, he offered a wave of his hand to the guard, “Well met, my name is Gorn, and I seek logging this eve.”
Gorn was the name of a bandit leader in the low lands, one who’d died over a year ago, he was not someone anyone was likely to remember or miss. It was also the first name that came to the young hero’s mind, and under the scrutiny of the guard he’d become doubly thankful for his choice to shave off his golden brown locks and abandon some of the other trappings he’d become more associated with.
“You’ve come far enough for nothing then, turn about and be on your way. You’ll find no passage and no peace in these lands.”
“I’ve coin that says otherwise good sir, come, can we not barter as men of both iron and of gold?” It was an offer that had gotten him into and out of many tense situations, one he’d learned long ago from his first companions, a band of good hearted mercenaries who had helped forge him into all he’d become.
“Ah, so you’re knowing the right greetings then, “ the guard slid down a rope and walked towards him, “follow me my friend, we’ll see to a proper conversation by the light of the fire.”
Not three steps into the hamlet proper, two more guards fell in beside him. They were wearing the tattered regalia of men hard used, and what their uniforms lacked in splendor their drawn blades made up for in gleaming cruelty. The blood red argent of their horned skull patches told Zane these men were not simply local ruffians, they were or had been soldiers in the Demon King’s army.
“Let’s have your coin, and we’ll see about what we can get for your life stranger.” They were hard words, cold and even, these men were not trifling brigands.
“You’ll find death is a sore trade,” and faster than his foes could have predicted Zane’s blade was out, his shield raised, and battle was joined.
It was no great pleasure to take a life, but when the odds were so fully against him, he had no compunctions about it. And hardened though they were, they fell with little fanfare and even less suffering.
“Well done brave warrior,” a woman’s voice floated in the coming night, it was familiar, soft, inviting as a warm hearth on a snow filled evening, “such a grand show of strength, alas at such a terrible cost.”
She had stepped from one of the buildings, or perhaps appeared from their long shadows during the battle, and while she was still several strides away this dark cloaked figure was closer than Zane desired.
“You’ve taken three of my men from me, ones I truly could not spare, and I doubt you’ll willingly pay me their due will you?” She stepped closer, just out of the reach of his blade, and her words were distracting.
Not in their content, no their threat was obvious, but in their tone. It was a voice he could have sworn he’d heard before, and as he thought on it, despite their clear purpose there was a hidden meaning to them as well, a quiet promise of peace, a way to settle this misunderstanding…
Two wicked sabers black as a moonless night descend on him and his body moved with the thoughtless elegance of wild animal in the hunt. His shield deflected them both and his sword answered before his eyes could clearly see what he was facing.
Her cloak still hung over her body, taking the shape of a robe glinting as though it were made of soft black leather, but her hood had fallen back to reveal lustrous red hair, pale eyes that glowed with a pale and inviting pink light, and curved horns that were purple in the waning twilight.
She was fast and graceful, batting his strike away while fixing his gaze with her own. “Come, do you not deserve to offer yourself for the lives of my men? Is it not a fitting trade, your one life is not truly worth three is it?”
His gaze fell into hers, into the glowing light, the too inviting beacon of her eyes, and her words struck a chord with him, how fair was it truly? Perhaps he could make amends to her, not with his death but…
Again, his reflexes worked against her beguiling speech faster than his thoughts could, and again her attacks were turned aside, followed this time by a more vicious barrage of his own.
Magic had woven itself into his quest for good and for ill, and never was it more subtle and more obvious than what he faced now. From two steps away, he would have seen clearly what she was, but within this creature’s presence her magic was obscured from thought and reason.
But then again, so was his.
Fate and destiny were not simply ascribed to him out of hope, and though he was without artifacts of legendary purpose he wasn’t without power. His sword and shield worked as one with his body, his senses took in more than he saw and heard, and that made him faster than his own thoughts.
Whoever this new foe truly was, this demoness, perhaps force of arms would banish her, and if the violence of the moment could best her, then perhaps the press of sharp sword and keen purpose could compel some cooperation from her. She wasn’t the first fiend from the other realms he’d met, and despite their wickedness they weren’t so different from ill hearted men and women.
Of course, he’d still have to best her, and as their blades crossed, as his shield turned away malicious stabs and furious cuts, it became clear that it wasn’t a given he could.
After a series of furious weaving cuts, the demoness spun back, and as she did her robe seemed to fall away, twirling as she spun in and out, stabbing, slashing, and parrying, the purple black fabric seemed to cling to her and gleam like leather, then fall away revealing more of what was and wasn’t underneath.
She was hardly clothed, covered only by a thin, translucent tunic that was clasped by a bright red ruby at her neck, and slit to reveal her stomach, and her massive breasts.
They were the size of her head, and as she moved, those breasts bounced in a gentle rhythm, creating a sense of music where there was none before. So it was that as she fought her body fell into a dance, and every step become more predictable to him, watching her breasts, watching her chest show him what was coming next, seeing her eyes leading her own dancing body into his parries, encouraging his strikes, and as easily as she moved, as easily as her impossibly large breasts moved with her body, he matched her dance step by step.
Then it was too late, his sword was down, his shield drooping, his eyes were beguiled no longer by the grace of her movements but by the hypnotic jiggle of her chest…
Yeah that was a long preview, I know, but just you wait to see what happens next!!!
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