Seed of Surrender
A Smuthunter Story
“Do you know where we are…”
Halden felt the promising tension in the large, levered trigger to his crossbow and focused on its promise of sharp, sudden release. It was a comfort to know he could loose the bolt and it would punch through a shield, or make short work of any brigand’s mail, but it didn’t help him with the sad fact he and Farrow had gotten lost.
“…because I know I don’t.”
They were both dressed in the blue and black livery of castle Gray Staff, home of the lords and ladies of the Black Hawk dynasty, but Halden wore the green sash of a scout soldier. It marked him as a hunter, a woodsman, and a pathfinder, but it may as well have been the red sash of his patrol partner, the mark of a skilled line fighter, and not much more.
“Quiet, complaining won’t bring us back to the road any faster,” Farrow was like that, always chatting, always grumbling, nothing more than a man at arms besotted with the soldier’s right to gripe. Halden was certain he’d heard every word he’d ever heard spoken in the common tongue anywhere also at some point come out of the big spearman’s mouth, and much to his own surprise, they’d all been used in the right meaning and context.
He wasn’t an idiot, no, he was a smart man that never shut up about dumb things.
“So, how much do you get paid in extra duty wage with that fancy scarf?” Farrow spoke the second half of question in between chews of dried meat that unfortunately did not shut him up.
It was dark, not so far past sunset that it should be this dark, and not so far out from the castle that the road should have fallen away, but there they were.
“This is my watch, I put in a request for the night watch,” Halden liked Farrow well enough, but it wasn’t in a favorable comradely kind of way, “I assume you volunteered for the extra duty coin?”
Farrow spat out a piece of gristle, “Just like you took the night watch to try and leapfrog into being a proper ranger.”
The words stung, not because they were untrue, but because Halden thought himself a better sort of man than to be a hypocrite. But, Farrow summed him up far too well in that counter-punch.
They walked on in silence.
“I suppose… I suppose that’s…” he was about to own up to it, when they stepped into a clearing. Halden blinked, the moon was bright, and low, it looked too low in the sky, and it was the wrong color. It was still white, but it was tinged with blue, like it caught a hint of the ocean and bathed in it.
“Uh Halden… where are we?”
Farrow was a tall, broad shouldered, powerful man who walked with a swing in his gate, and knuckles that were the color of plums as often as they were not. Like Halden he had the dark hair and dark eyes of their people, but his skin took to the sun better, and a half dozen or so children in and around the Castle Gray Staff had his look. He wasn’t unflappable, but he was pugnacious, and he was brave.
“Because, what the fuck is up in the sky?”
“It’s the moon Farrow,” Halden left out whether or not it was ‘their’ moon. “Listen, don’t eat anything or drink anything we didn’t bring with us, and… I don’t know… don’t get out of my sight okay?”
The forest around the castle sat at the edge of a much larger one, the Wither Wood, one that reached out for miles upon miles, down to the mountains and hills of the south, and out to east, towards the new and the old empires. Stories told of its western edge shifting and changing, blocking the southern road that ran along the western shore, and every fortnight the woodsmen from the township of Gray Staff would trim the edge around the keep and the township in a massive undertaking.
Every fortnight new and fully-grown trees would return in places, stumps gone as though they were never there. It was a bounty, and a curse, because while the wood was always strong and plentiful, as certainly as new trees would come, folk would disappear, lost entirely in the woods, sometimes so fully that even their memories would be taken from friends and family.
Some spoke of an evil Dryad queen, a woman whose top half blossomed from a flower, and who feasted on the essence of men she lured into her domain, while others believed it to be wild beasts, or phantom highwaymen, but Halden’s mind always went to the Fey, and the thin the veil between his world and theirs.
There was too much magic in the forest, and too many inconsistent tales for it to be just one thing. And, if there was an evil flower woman in the forest, it wasn’t a dryad, dryads weren’t half flowers, those were aluren, a different kind of fey creature.
Halden scratched at his beard, and felt his finger tap the trigger, “We should, we… Farrow? FARROW?”
The big man was gone.
Something sweet wafted up his nose. It smelled like moonlight, and the quiet heat before a kiss. It made his eyes tingle and his lips wet. The sweetness almost had a sound to it, it was like music that existed outside of sound, and it made his head spin. One second he was close behind Halden, the next, he was four steps down the strange path of black stone that unfolded at his feet.
Farrow didn’t see the trees bend behind him, of the stones sink back into the earth as he passed, he just took a deep breath of that intoxicating scent and kept walking forward. His mind feel quiet, and his body felt warm, like his skin was tingling under the touch of the blue-white moon, and he smiled.
There was something soft and delicate at the end of the path something warm and sweet, something that only he would truly appreciate, because no one could feel as wonderful as he did, no one could appreciate this potent color that wafted through the deep dark night and filled his nose with a lover’s touch.
Step by step he wandered along the smooth black stone, gliding along its mirror surface until it came to an end, terminating in moonless darkness deep beneath the canopy. Farrow blinked in the dark and realized he couldn’t see, but as he did, he felt something in his mind, in his skull, a soothing pressure that gently pushed into him and spread. It felt like tendrils of warmth, of a pleasing song echoing in his ears, and teasing his tongue like honey.
An image started to take root in his eyes, a vision was blossoming, growing, spreading, colors and lights imposed on the darkness, blinding him to his blindness as he took a deep breath and felt his lungs fill with that same lover’s kiss. He trembled as yellow and green danced on his skin while streaks of pigment, like rays of moonlight wove together before him.
She was beautiful, she was voluptuous, irresistible and bursting with life and love. She was perfecting in every way, but as he walked towards her, he couldn’t see her face, not past the luxurious cascade of dandelion yellow hair, and the twisting dance of shadow.
Farrow reached for her, and felt her hand close around his wrist, and for a second he saw eyes, one violet, and one rose red, deep and dark as paint, beautiful as spring dawning across the land, but they were gone as her lips parted and she blew him a kiss. Fragrant, warm, and loving, the song he inhaled told him to come closer, and he did.
She reached for him and took his other wrist in her hand, before bringing them together over his head, and grasping them there with one hand. She was strong, and tall as he was, growing taller, her fingers longer, wrapping about his wrists as her free hand unbuckled his belt and pulled down his trousers.
She blew him another kiss, blowing on his face like a lover, intimate, close, and too familiar, but too sweet to resist as he felt her pull his cock free.
“Oh,” Farrow thought as a warm slickness teased the tip of his cock, “I’m already hard.”
It was a dream logic that entwined his mind and body, he was inside her, but they were standing up, and apart, and he was looking into beautiful eyes that came into his vision again, but they were formless, and she held his crossed wrists, but he also knew that he was bound and tied, and she was speaking to him, but her words smelled so sweet, and she was singing to him, but she was also speaking, and he only heard the music when he breathed her in.
Her voluptuous body should have been pressed close, but Farrow only felt ropes tighten around him, pulling him down on this his back, twisting around his ankles and pulling him deeper into the darkness until she was gone, but that wet, slick warmth remained, pumping him harder and faster until his eyes closed in gasping, shuddering breaths as the world went from black to white to black again.
Farrow dreamed of her, and dreamed of how hard he remained, still full and thick, able to go again, and again, and again, as long as she kept him there, milking him. When another climax rocked his body, Farrow felt the warmth in his head behind his eyes, and the pleasurable softness that enveloped his cock leaching something from him, draining something from his intellect like roots suck up water, and when he came a third time, he felt a deeper part of himself spurt free.
Slowly the Siren Vine drained him of his memories, his identity, and his physical essence until with one final orgasmic groan, the vine took his life from him, and sent his energy through the earth, through its long tangled lengths, back to her, where she drank Farrow’s existence, and grew stronger from his energy.
His body remained there for a time, the bright yellow flower remained attached between his legs, while the spores that took root inside his brain kept the body in a semi-stasis, allowing it to continue to produce its seed, gushing into the hungry plant, burning through the body’s reserves until it became a dried out husk.
The spores from the flower caused hypnotic synesthesia, marked by the flower’s color, and by the will of one who could speak to and master the devious blossom.
As the flower detached itself, the withered corpse would slowly fade back into the human realm, and carry with it the spores in its brain. The journey back through the veil would destroy the shriveled carcass, but carry enough of the spore across, and while it would not be the same on the human side, it was still a link that she could use…
Halden drew his blade and hacked away at the wiry, tenacious branches and vines that hung across his path. It might have been a game trail, or a slues but it wasn’t traveled regularly by humans, and he had no idea how Farrow had passed through here, but the big man clearly had.
There were bits of his garb torn on branches, and a strange patchwork of boot marks on the ground that came and went, like the earth had swallowed up most of his passing, but not all of it.
If one could walk out of the realm of the Fey, the scout figured that path was in the opposite direction he was heading, but he also knew if he turned to leave then Farrow would never make it out, or worse, he would come back years later, or come back changed, or wrong.
So, Halden fought his way through the dark and alien wood, following half a trail, guided by the eerie blue tinged moonlight. It was slow going until he almost fell out of the tight and claustrophobic trees and on to a wide, hard packed dirt road. He looked to his right and saw nothing more than more road, but to his left he saw the road wind up a very slight incline towards a massive castle surrounded by gargantuan trees, both of which seemed to be a part of each other, and the cliffs that jutted up behind them.
The road led up a gentle rise, and as the scout peered about for some sign of his friend, the blue white light made him blink and revealed a scuff of boot heel dented into the softer earth at his feet, and then the outline of deeper boot-print near a muddy patch just half a stride away.
If Halden had any doubts that the castle was the only obvious direction, the orientation of these tracks dispelled them.
The Fey were dangerous, he knew, but they were not without their own rules and customs. They could, if one was both wise and considerate, be approached for bargains, and for deals. And while a Fey would be tricky, and had no love for honor as a bold and persistent thing, they abided the rules, seeing all as much more akin to a game that could be won, if the other player were not careful.
It was said, spoken softly in the guardhouse, and more loudly so around the hearths at the taverns in town, that much of Gray Staff’s most recent woes, the Dreaming Fits, had come from some great failed ambition to cheat, or out play a Fey barging.
The Dreaming Fits were why Farrow had the chance to volunteer at all, most of the guard had recently been in, or were still deep within the throes of the strange illness. A deep sleep would descend upon the afflicted, much like a sleeping spell, and there they would remain for days upon days, until their bodies grew weak and thin, as though their dreams devoured the reserves the of the flesh. When wholly ravaged by thirst and hunger, the body teetered on death, the dreamer would awaken.
The disease seemed to only strike the hearty and hale, those with the vigor of youth and strength, or those whose years hung easy on them. None had yet to die from the affliction, but some had taken harm while caught in the jerking, thrashing of their dreams, the fits that came and went at various times, making men and women move as dogs do in their dreams, and giving the sickness its name.
No, none had died while in slumber, but not all recovered either.
So patrols were undermanned and stretched thin, and all manner of men at arms were stretched even thinner. Halden wondered as he walked towards the castle, struck near senseless by its size, shape, and structure, mouth agape as he realized the crest of the hill was not hard earth but a massive tree stump that sat as a base to the castle, that perhaps he was dreaming now. Perhaps he had fallen into the Dreaming Fits and that he was not truly following a road under foot, but that he was lost in slumber, a prisoner of the disease.
A few paces after he’d made up his mind to go to the caste, Halden blinked and found himself at its open gates. The space between where he had been and where he was had seemed to have folded on itself, because his front foot came down where he was, and he felt his back foot rise and travel through heavier air, a feeling like pulling his foot out of deep mud.
The scout dared not take a step through those gates, though he knew he had to. But, having some sense, he looked about and studied the fantastic and impossible fortification.
Vines spilled out of the arrow slits and murder holes in the walls, and the ceiling of the gatehouse, marked by blossoming, tantalizing flowers of all colors. One of them, a thick, long vine caught his eye as it seemed to pulse, or throb like a vein, and he watched a new bub begin to blossom out of it into a brilliant yellow flower.
He saw the sparkle of a pollen cloud burst from it in the moonlight, and knew these vines, the hundreds of them with the flowers, were the source of the sweet scent that had caught his attention, and if perhaps he wasn’t dreaming, then maybe, just maybe the scent had been guiding him here, like a soft pressure on his mind.
His crossbow wouldn’t do much good against a living mass of vines, or an evil tree, or whatever might be inside, so he pulled the bolt free to place it back in his quiver, then loosed the trigger and slung the weapon to his pack.
The short sword in his hand was more like a forester’s tool, a wide single edged bladed that was without a point, and he hoped its weight and his arm would make it formidable enough.
The fragrances in the air tickled his nose, and he caught hints of sweet and strong scents, but long ago his nose and part of his face had been broken, and nothing ever quite smelled the same or as strong after he healed. His boots stepped on flower petals, some old, some new, none that would have been in season in his world, and many that he had never seen before.
“Farrow? Farrow! If you can hear me, I’m in the courtyard, call out to me, or come down, and we can leave, we can make our way home.”
It didn’t matter who or what heard him, it didn’t matter who or what ruled the castle, Halden would do his best to manage things without violence, and then his best to do whatever it took to get out.
“Hello? Whomever’s abode this is? Whomever rules this castle, I’ve come in search of my friends and…”
“You don’t need to shout,” a woman’s voice, delicate and musical as a song drifted up from behind him and made him jump. “…I’m right behind you.”
Pale, hauntingly luminous violet eyes glowed at him out of the dark, and her voice seemed to call the moonlight down onto herself. All around her the small carpet of flower petals had been forced away, and thin wide tiles of black stone were scattered about. She was surrounded by a massive blooming violet flower the same color as her eyes, and within its inner bloom, her body rose out of a soft red blossom.
She was green, skinned, but it was almost unnoticeable in the unnatural moonlight, and her deeper darker long green hair, adorned with blue roses looked closer to black in the darkness. She wore long green gloves that looked as though they were made of leaves, and the same leaves as clothes covered her nipples, but did nothing to obscure her voluminous breasts, which were larger than her head, an defied gravity and nature both in their size and how the jutted from her chest.
Two more blue roses sat at her hips attached to vines that led to a leaf between her legs, that covered her womanhood as the others covered her breasts, and she smiled at Halden has he drank her in, his arm raised, his blade catching the blue white glow, but kept in check by his own cooler head.
He knew what she was, and he wondered if perhaps this castle was the heart of the Wither Woods, or that maybe others had passed in and out of the Fey realm thinking they had remained in their world. His damaged nose had likely saved him from her spell, but the Fey were known to be cunning and resourceful, with only the least among them bound to only one approach.
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