This is my take on the good old fantasy genre. It's T/G mixed with Hack and Slash, 2D cardboard cut out characters and a couple of obligatory pop culture references. It may not be as quick paced as other stories as I tended to work primarily on the action bits rather than focusing completely on the T/G stuff. Be warned that this is a little violent and racy, so if you believe that you are mentally unhinged, now is a good time to put that straightjacket on. Oh and if you're underage, sod off.
By the way there is potential for a riddle themed series which I'm exploring. I might even have a few out before I finish this beast, but I don't know where these puppies will live. They don't seem to belong where I usually submit my crud but I guess I'll figure something out.
Okely dokely then, enough twaddle.
The young noble sat down at the table and brushed the roads dust from his pants. Signaling for a serving maid, he rested his head in his hands, ignoring his guardian who sat down beside him. As he massaged his temples, the veteran bodyguard coughed and whispered in his ear.
"We should continue on tonight to your fathers fort, milord. It isn't safe for you here!" the older man said with urgency. He was an aging warrior monk assigned to protect the impulsive young lord, but his task was often made difficult by the youths headstrong and reckless attitude.
Irritation played at the edges of the youths mouth. 'Who are you to tell me what to do?' he thought. The blue-blooded young man held back his comment, turning instead to inspect the lovely young serving wench that was waiting at their table. She was a fine lass, with straw blonde hair and an ample bosom displayed to excellent advantage in her corseted dress. He admired her merry and attractive face perched on her slender neck then let his eyes take in the full extent of the lass' well-developed body.
"May I help you?" she asked in a demure voice. Her eyes lingered on the young man in a most bold fashion, completely at odds with her tone of voice.
"That depends on what you have to offer," the aristocratic youth replied, deciding that it had been a good idea to delay their arrival at his fathers castle. He hefted a large bag onto the table. It clinked most satisfyingly. The girl smiled in response, eyeing him in a most unladylike fashion.
'Ahh, it's hard when you're wealthy and well-bred,' the aristocrat thought to himself as he grinned back at the girl.
The monk frowned in disapproval at his young ward but made no comment.
Later that night the young nobleman was enjoying the imaginative services of the talented young lass. He ran a hand over her smooth taut skin and cupped one of her bountiful breasts in his hand as she rocked backwards on him. He loved the way her white even teethe were set in a moan of pleasure.
"Where have you been all my life?" he asked as she bent down and kissed his hand.
"You can have my body forever, if you want," she said, a mischievous grin on her face.
"That would be wonderful," he gasped, reaching his orgasm. The young mans mind suddenly approached a precipice of pleasure, then darkness engulfed him.
* * *
Someone was shaking the young lord awake, quite rudely. "Go away," he muttered. It was too early in the morning to get up, but the intruder seemed most determined.
"What have you done with him you little tart. I'll flay you alive if you don't tell me," the warrior monk said murderously. Gripping painfully by the hair, someone remorselessly pulled the nobleman from his bed. The young man let out a yelp of distress as through his haze of suffering he dimly realised that there was something wrong.
"Loxim, let go of me god damn it!" he ordered as he was yanked roughly to his feet, his voice sounding hoarse and wan to his ears. He felt like he had a horrid hangover, but could not recall drinking that much the night before. Disorientated, his mind wrapped up in cotton-balls, the callow man felt completely unfamiliar with himself, his movements awkward and clumsy. It was almost as though he was wearing wet clothes, his weighting all awry.
Reaching up to remove the monks violent grip, the aristocrats arm brushed something on his chest. Curious, the lord looked down and tried to sort out the incongruous view he was seeing - breasts which rose and fell with his excited breath. In panic his eyes sharpened with tunnel vision upon the large, heavy mammaries which should never have been there.
Loxim continued pulling on the nobleman's hair, "tell me where he is!"
The young noble squealed in pain from the Monks brutal treatment. Realising that finesse may be needed, Loxim pushed her back on the bed. The monk began pacing the room angrily, trying to think.
The aristocrat struggled to sit for a moment then looked at his body again. He knew exactly what he was observing, but it could not be possible. He looked at Loxim in confusion, then back down at his body. On his right breast was the hickey he had given the serving wench the night before. The woman he had slept with...
Placing his hands upon a breast, he squeezed the soft yielding flesh, discovering that it was real and not some nightmare. Experimentally he touched a nipple and the caress produced a quiver of fear in the pit of his stomach. Reaching down between his legs, the aristocrat confirmed the impossible, his alarm growing. The delicate smooth mound and small flaps could be nothing but a woman's. He was no longer a man but a woman.
The young lady's breathing increased in pace and became slightly erratic as panic overtook her mind. She felt sick to the core and could sense her stomach and throat beginning to convulse. The girl reached under the bed for a chamber pot but couldn't find it. Seeing the open window, she stood with the intent of being sick out of it. As she gained her feet, the monk grabbed her by the shoulders, preventing her from moving. She struggled weakly in his grip, trying to contain her nausea.
"You're not going anywhere young lady," Loxim said, misinterpreting the girls intention.
It was too much for the girl. With a wrenching liquid sound, she threw up all over the warrior monk.
Loxim took this with good grace, knocking her away back onto the bed. The monk then wiped off his tunic. He wished that he could admire the girls form but the pressing concern of his lieges disappearance was most important.
She lay on the bed, weak with fear, looking at her large breasts, narrow waist and long legs. The girl held her hands in front of her, completely aghast reality sinking into her mind slowly. "L-l-lox-im," she asked, "w-what's happened t-to me?" Her hands were small and thin, as was the rest of her, except for her wide child bearing hips and her very generous cleavage.
"No, the question is what is going to happen to you if you don't tell me what you've done with my charge," Loxim said.
"I-it's me, F-fontleroy. The serving girl, s-she stole my body!" the girl bleated. She motioned down at her body as if her naked female form explained everything.
Loxim couldn't help but look at the well endowed woman's body, but scoffed at her story, shaking his head. The monk was in a tricky situation if he didn't present the duke's misbegotten brat today. It would almost be worth the distress to see the snot-nosed, stuck-up little worm reduced to the status of a serving wench, but Loxim knew that mind transfers were impossible, a thing of legend. 'Just like the changed,' a nagging voice said in the back of his mind.
"R-really, i-it is me. R-remember how y-you caught me that time with the stolen c-crown?" the girl prompted hopefully. "H-how you covered it up?"
Loxim considered this statement with dread. The guttersnipe wouldn't have told this misdeed to anyone as it could cost him his life. If the young noble had really been swapped with a scullery maid, then the monk was in serious trouble. Loxim had some rapid thinking to do.
The young lord was now one of the changed, Loxim realised in disgust. The monk couldn't help shuddering as his skin crawled in distaste.
"W-we need to tell my f-father, he'll s-sort this out," the nubile girl said, her attractive face a mask of worry.
"That's the last thing we're going to do! You're one of the changed now. You know what that means don't you?" he paused as this fact sunk into the girls head, "I need to organise some mercenaries..." Loxim said, turning from the girl.
"What about me?" She held her thin arms in front of her mouth in concern, barely covering her large nipples and milky white breasts.
Loxim decided that he preferred the young lord much more in this tight little package. Being stuck as a simple barmaid might teach the little runt some humility. "You'll have to stay here until I get your body back, milady," Loxim said with a flowery bow, suddenly enjoying himself despite the direness of the situation. "Now be a good serving wench whilst I'm gone, and whatever you do, don't tell anyone who you are!"
Darax crouched on the tree branch, watching the party of goblins pass beneath him. They were close enough for him to smell the fetid odor of their warped bodies.
Goblins were small feral humanoids with rodent-like characteristics. They were much quicker than humans and were generally savage, cruel creatures. Stupid, but possessing a vicious animal cunning, they were unpredictable foes. Goblins were a personal dislike of Darax's.
In the monks opinion the filthy creatures were worse than the rats they were created from. They multiplied in their dens deep in the wastelands, often massing into raiding parties which swarmed out to ravage the small unprotected human settlements on the fringe of civilisation. These particular brutes were on a small expedition, out to capture more human slaves and booty, something which Darax could not allow. As he surveyed their raiding party he noted that they seemed to have one female captive already.
Listening to their stilted animalistic conversation, he could not help but swallow bile of nervousness and disgust as he prepared to attack, drawing his knife and unsheathing his forearm blades. His unusual forearm weapons were blades which started at the wrist and traced down the outer arm, protruding about a foot from the elbows. They were small weapons but highly effective if used by a skilled person in close quarters combat.
Taking a controlled breath, Darax dropped to the ground in their midst. His knife danced in his left hand with anticipation as he landed in a crouch. The goblins turned in surprise at the figure which had appeared suddenly, taking a nervous step backwards.
"Free your prisoner and leave!" Darax ordered, not really expecting them to obey. Darax's one weakness was his personal code. It prohibited him from killing these animals without giving them the chance to slink back to their dark holes.
Unsurprisingly, the creatures roared shrill howls of glee, drawing their rusty swords and crude spears as they focused on the single man. To the simple goblins a lightly mailed human armed with a knife and small forearm blades was hardly a significant threat. The monsters had never seen the odd weapons which Darax wore. Had they known that the blades were the traditional weapon of an adept warrior monk the goblins would have been more careful.
The nearest goblin thrust forward surprisingly fast with his blade. Darax was quicker. In a fluid move the man sidestepped and dropped to his knee lashing out with his elbow, then rolling. The creature clutched its stomach in surprise then fell to the ground, gutted. It squirmed trying to staunch the expulsion of its entrails.
Another monster jabbed forward and tried to hit the nimble man with its corroded sword. Darax blocked with one arm blade, changing the direction of his tumble, moving nimbly towards the monster. The warrior stabbed the Goblin in it's exposed knee with his other blade and was away before the creature collapsed to the dirt track.
Three more beast men came at the monk in something approaching a coordinated attack, complimenting each other in their wild slashings and jabbings. The fighter was forced into rapid defensive movements, blocking, parrying and dodging as he established a rhythm to their attacks. Darax could continue such defensive action until a weakness in their united front made itself available. Unfortunately five more of the beast men were maneuvering around the monks flanks to attack from behind.
Realising with some urgency that he needed to take the offensive, Darax began a desperately fierce attack on the three Goblins before him, scything like a spinning dervish through their ranks, heedless of their attacks. The basic tenet of the monks fighting style was that the best defense was a strong offense and he was happy to demonstrate this principle to these monsters. The changed direction of the fighters onslaught confused the creatures for a moment, long enough for him to close the distance between them.
The urgency of the moment caused Darax to ride the edge of berserkness, entering a surreally slow mental mind-set yet frantically paced physical state. Using close quarters techniques he attacked one monster, elbowing it in the chest and stabbing with his knife at its face. The dagger skewered the Goblin through the eye and continued deep into its brain, the attack so fast that the monster never knew what hit it.
Just as the monk was finishing his deft attack, one of the five foes that had tried to flank Darax lined its spear up with his unprotected back and prepared to throw. Sensing danger, the warrior pulled his blade from the brain damaged Goblin and hurled it blindly at the back-stabbing Goblin. There was a hollow thud as the dagger landed squarely in the chest of the would be assassin. The goblin dropped its spear and clutched the blade pulling the weapon from its chest, screeching all the while like a rodent. Going out the blade cut through a major artery and gouts of blood sprayed from the open wound. The creature desperately tried to halt the outflow of its life blood in vain.
Darax didn't even hear the noise as he leaped sideways, propelling the brain-dead Goblin into another monster with a double booted kick. At the same time he launched himself horizontally from the crude attacks by two other beasts.
Rolling to his feet, Darax concentrated on another animal in a spinning and dicing maneuver, deflecting sword and spear strokes with one bladed arm, then using his other cutting arm to pierce the creatures throat, chest and anything else that he could. The goblin could not even follow the blurred motion of the monks weapons, let alone ward off the attacks. As the second butchered creature toppled to the ground the monk sprang upon a third monster.
The four remaining Goblins that had tried to flank Darax realised that they needed to overpower the man using their weight of numbers, so they too joined the fray, abandoning the attempt to flank him.
Again Darax became a flurry of furious movement, blood spraying and sparks flying as the five attackers tried to penetrate his defenses. Darax easily deflected all of the monsters attacks by using a combination of blocks, parries and evasive dodges, then without breaking stride the warrior went on the offensive. The monks attacks were a series of carefully arranged swift feints intended to place the monsters at a distance.
The swordsman's stratagem was successful on four of his five assailants. However one unusually large and dogged foe blustered on regardless of Darax's threatening maneuvers. Knowing intuitively that this was the leader, Darax realised that he had to convincingly defeat the large brute and make an example of the creature before its underlings joined the conflict again. Putting conscious thought from his mind, Darax stepped deeper into the trance-like state of combat.
The leader was quick and strong and obviously knew how to handle a spear very well, but to Darax his movements were slow and simple. Knocking aside two attacks, the monk closed in on the chief, easily surmounting the basic defenses the boss presented by the shear fury of his assault and scoring two deep cuts on the beasts chest for his efforts.
Undaunted the Chief tried another stabbing attack with its lance. Darax easily side stepped the thrust and as the spear whipped past he gripped it below the blade and cut the weapon in two. The monk then spun and scissored his arms on its neck, following through with an upwards strike with the blade of the spear. There was a sickening wet thump as the creatures decapitated head impaled itself upon Darax's lance.
Darax, his face drenched in blood, grinned and cackled maniacally as he began to lose himself in the conflict. He turned to face his opponents but instead looked into the eyes of the captive girl. The serene calmness he saw there somehow stopped him from stepping into the abyss of berserk bloodlust. Darax dimly realised that the chief was now undeniably dead and that reason was still an option.
The four remaining goblins that had just attempted to attack the monk eyed him warily. They looked at the head of their boss on the pike then surveyed their five other allies which had been decimated by this rabid and apparently dauntless assailant.
Breathing heavily, Darax reiterated his previous demand. "Leave or die," he threatened, blood seeping from a gash above his eye. The warrior now easily resisted the bloodlust which assaulted him. The insane demon that wanted to vent its frustrations on the remaining creatures was kept well in check.
The semi intelligent animals stood hesitantly for a moment, their rat-like faces twitching nervously as they slowly concluded that this human could make good on his threat. Then as one they turned and fled, leaving their injured and dying comrades.
A smile played on Darax's lips as he watched them escape, the monk quite happy with the turn of events. He looked absently at the skewered head, then threw it on the ground. That was the problem with Goblins, they only understood savagery. Darax turned to look at their prisoner.
The Goblins captive was an extraordinarily beautiful girl. She appraised him with an open and calm expression, so unlike most people that witnessed his inhuman prowess. The dark skinned woman wore black leather pants and a tight leather jerkin which accentuated her small breasts and lean frame. Shoulder length raven hair framed her graceful face, her eyes a cabalistic brown.
"You are one of the changed," the girl said in a rich exotic voice, looking into his quicksilver eyes. The iris of each eye was a lustrous metallic colour, startlingly alien to behold, the only outward sign that he was descended from the changed. Darax's eyes had shifted to this strange hue when his physical abilities manifested themselves at age nineteen. Unfortunately such a simple trait marked him clearly as one of the changed.
Pinching the wound above his shimmering silver eye, Darax let out a breath of relief and nodded. The blood stopped flowing and the cut slowly began to mend, much more rapidly than a normal humans. This was just one of the benefits of being descended from the changed. At times though Darax wished that he had been born a normal, his physical augmentation separating him from the bulk of humanity. It was a rift of fear, ignorance and prejudice which had caused him much pain and loss.
By law, anyone descended from the changed was to be put to death on sight, as were their progenitors. This harsh edict caused Darax to eke out an existence on the Fringe, the harried perimeter of human civilization. It was here that he observed the human communities from afar, taking out his frustrations on the bands of ranging monsters which inhabited the badlands and ventured too close to civilization.
At times Darax wondered why he didn't just let the creatures attack the settlements, let his enemies destroy each other, but in his heart he believed that he could somehow demonstrate to the people that shunned him that he was their equal. Vindicate his existence by his actions and force them to see the error of their ways.
The way this girl had reacted to him was reassuring, but something held the warrior back. Darax could not trust himself around people. He knew that his ferocious changed nature was difficult to control in times of mental stress so he kept a safe distance from the girl. The monk had been close to people before and had always ended up hurting them. No, it was much better to remain aloof from people.
Ignoring the girl, Darax began to examine the creatures, deciding that he had better pick them clean of what few valuables they possessed before a real predator arrived. As humanely as possible he killed the goblin that he had gutted, then turned to the one he had knee capped. The beast was unconscious, but it's wound was not mortal so he dressed the injury then disregarded the creature.
Rifling through the deceased monsters possessions, Darax pulled out some talismans and other useless junk until he came across a strange object on the largest corpse. This goblin was the headless leader of the warband and the object was a sealed tube of some odd flexible glass.
"That is mine," the girl said forcibly, holding her head up proudly as though she were not tied up and at his mercy. Darax looked at her again. Willowy thin with a dark complexion and dusky soulful eyes, she had a cockiness about her that he found attractive. The lass was probably a gypsy judging by her clothes. Her lightly toned and limber body suggested she was a dancer or perhaps an acrobat, common professions for those of her nomadic heritage.
'What is an entertainer doing out here?' He wondered, but he kept his question to himself. "You seem brave young one," he said condescendingly. He drew his knife and cut through the captives bindings then passed her the strange container. "I'll take you back to a settlement, you'll be safe there."
"No, I am going into the badlands. I have a mission."
Darax grinned tightly. This girl would not last very long in the savage, monster rife wilderness. Goblins were likely to be the tamest thing she would encounter.
"Perhaps I should clarify. You're going back or you will die."
"No, I am going forward," she said, enunciating each word slowly and clearly.
"Very well then, good luck," Darax said curtly, turning on his heel and leaving. When he reached the edge of the clearing, he quickly circled around behind the girl, to observe what she did. She opened up her cylinder and pulled out a strange map, studying it carefully. The girl then started on a course which would take her into the heart of the badlands.
* * *
Against his better judgment, Darax paced the girl for the entire day, studying her from afar, slowly being captivated by her beauty. She was entrancing, a willowy and refined girl that seemed to be delicate and fragile, but with a strength and physical aura that spoke volumes to his trained eye. This girl was not as weak as she appeared, but he could not fathom what was driving her so determinedly towards certain suicide. She was a mystery that begged to be solved.
As the girl approached a fork in the path, the hairs on Darax's back rose, sending him a chill of danger. Breaking from cover Darax sprinted towards the girl, desperately hoping he was not too late.
"Get down," he yelled as he unsheathed his blades and crashed through the undergrowth. A tree branch suddenly moved, the large and roughly corded limb swinging towards the girl. She dropped to the ground with scant time to spare, the huge mass missing her by a mere handbreadth.
Another appendage began a downward descent with enough momentum to crush the defenseless girl completely. Darax leaped, his whole body stretched taut, knocking into the girl. They tumbled together out of the limbs path. Pulling the girl roughly to her feet, Darax dragged her desperately away from the killer tree, a monstrous hybrid of plant and animal. The creature lashed out incredibly fast with one of its skeletal, bark encrusted claws. Darax hacked just as rapidly at the limb, green ichor gushing from the wounds. There was a strange keening sound as the tree screamed its pain. The attacks ceased for a moment, allowing the duo to escape from the creatures killing area.
Breathing heavily, Darax turned to her, "now do you understand me?"
The girl nodded, her face white from surprise.
"You must return to civilization, this is no place for you!"
"I have to keep going. Come with me. Protect me, please?" she begged.
"I won't. There are creatures further in that even I can't defeat," Darax replied.
The girl nodded, a thought occurring to her. "How did you know it was not a tree?"
"I sensed it. It's just something I can do."
"My name is Masquet Fasch. Sorry I didn't thank you before," the girl extended her hand.
Darax looked at her smooth and relatively unblemished hand, taking it in his weather beaten and scarred palm, "Daraxion Ng Lithgor, but my friends call me Darax," he wondered why he said that. He'd had no friends in a long time.
"Pleased to meet you Darax."
* * *
They made camp in a clearing near the killer tree, satisfied that nothing would approach the monster at night, the proximity of the hybrid beast affording them some protection. Masquet grumbled about not having a fire and eating cold rations, but Darax refused to draw attention to themselves this deep in the badlands.
"I'll stand watch first," Darax offered, having no intention of letting her guard him.
Standing his vigil, he listened as Masquet fidgeted in her makeshift bedroll, producing what sounded like an alarming amount of noise to his extremely sensitive ears. He preyed that they would not be investigated by one of the many nocturnal predators that populated this area.
After half an hour, he heard light footfalls as Masquet approached him. "What do you want?" he asked, scanning the woods.
"I am scared. I thought I would talk to you."
Darax gave the perimeter of their encampment a cursory glance then turned, his face taking on an expression of open mouthed surprise as he discovered the girl standing beside him without any clothes on. Naked she was everything that he had imagined her to be. Graceful and lightly muscled with the faint hint of power in her body that he had suspected. She had a youthful innocence about her that bewitched him. Her dark milky breasts were small but perfectly formed, large nipples standing out in erect attention from the cool night air. The wind blew her dark locks gently.
"Do you ever wish that you had been born a normal?" she asked, moving towards him.
"Yes. It would be nice to belong, to have a life and friends again," he said wistfully, 'to not be hated and despised for what I am,' he thought to himself, but bit down on the rancid thought. Self pity did not become a warrior.
The darkly attractive woman nodded in understanding, kissing him gently on his weathered chin. "Well, imagine for this one night that you are a normal, that what we are about to do could be yours forever," she whispered in his ear, biting it playfully.
Turning to face the girl, Darax cupped her graceful chin in his hand, hardly believing his luck. His intuition told him that this girl was quixotic, too good to be true, but he ignored the twinge of concern, his desire over riding his caution. Darax tilted his head downwards and kissed her eager mouth, taking her back to the temporary bed he had created for her.
Removing his gauntlet and blades the monk placed them carefully beside Masquet, then lay down with her. Though not a virgin, it had been a long time since he had been with a woman and the pleasures seemed strangely new. Her body was very limber and he marveled at how beautiful it was. He ran his hands over her smooth skin and nuzzled her ear, soft moans escaping her mouth at his deft touch.
She pulled his pants down and smirked, the beguiling grin of a temptress as he slowly entered her. "Yes that is it," she coaxed in his ear. He pounded away slowly, relishing the small grunts she gave each time he slid further into her.
As he reached his climax, he sensed a threat as a shudder coursed through his body, his mind aflame with pleasure and a delectable pain.
For a moment, reality cracked, its clear pristine surface fragmenting to become sharp jagged blades, fractured splinters dropping away from his fleeing sanity. These edges spilled over and through him, cutting his awareness of himself into a dissected and brutalised consciousness.
The pain was so intense that he passed out, but not before he looked at the body above him and saw his face smiling back at him.
Darax slept fitfully, remembering and reliving his last day in the monastery. The day his 'changed' heritage had caught up to him in a disastrous turn of events.
Like all of his dreams it was distorted and ambiguous, pervaded with a sense of inevitability. He remembered seeing his parents burned at the stake, the death of his best friend in his arms and returning to the monastery with some vague idea of revenge. Then the smith giving him the package and saying that all was not lost, it just seemed that way.
He remembered running, always looking over his shoulder, running ... and the souls of the dead chasing him.
* * *
Darax started awake from his endless dream, groggily realising it was daytime. He groped for a moment, searching for his blades beside him, but they weren't there. The monk never slept outside without his weapons. Feeling a pang of alarm he knew that something was definitely wrong. Searching his memory he distantly recalled a girl, goblins, a killer tree and... something terrible.
Feeling sluggish and weak, he sat up, the action setting of alarms in his mind. His whole body felt uncoordinated and unfamiliar, as though he'd been bedridden for a month and was just starting to move. Perhaps he'd been drugged. Reaching up, he brushed something from his eye. Hair. Long dark hair. His wrist looked wrong as well, much too thin.
Sitting upright he examined his body, memory returning. This flesh was not his, it was Masquet's! He had been swapped by a mind thief. Masquet, if that was her real name, had stolen his body and in one fell swoop granted him his greatest desire and robbed him of everything. He had his wish of being a normal, but now he was a she!
Running a hand over her naked flesh, Darax's skin goosebumped in pleasure. She was now very lean and thin, small breasts, incredibly narrow waist, long legs and nestle between those legs...
Darax did mental back-flips as she tried to rationalise what had happened to her, but the danger of her surroundings was more pressing.
Picking up the clothes that Masquet had worn, Darax put them on, ignoring the swell of her pert breasts and the curve of her waist. This done, she searched the clearing for signs of Masquet. There were none. She- no he, had gone, fled no doubt into the heart of the wastelands with Darax's superior male body.
Pulling on her boots and hurriedly eating some left over dry rations, Darax considered her options but her mind constantly came back to the incongruous body she wore. Breasts. They felt so damn big, even though she knew they weren't. Darax could not begin to imagine what she would do with this unreal female body, especially with everything else that it implied. It gave her butterflies in her stomach just thinking that she was no longer male and that her body could carry and bear children.
'First things first,' Darax reminded herself. She knew that she had to get back to the safety of her small dwelling so that she could properly deal with her dilemma. That was her first priority.
There was a cracking sound behind her and Darax turned to see the four Goblins she'd let escape the day before. They were standing at the edge of the clearing, watching her with murder in their dark beady eyes. It wasn't just murder, she realised in fear, it was lust.
Darax observed them slowly advance for a moment, then turned and ran. Fortunately the body she wore was fit, but the creatures were gaining rapidly. She sprinted a circular path her breasts bouncing strangely as she ran, then the girl paused holding her hand up to stop their approach.
"Advance no further or you'll regret it," Darax said, a tremor of anxiety in her voice.
All four goblins grinned, hardly believing their luck. They walked straight towards the attractive, hefting their weapons confidently. They realised that they now had no boss stopping them from taking advantage of the woman's body.
Darax watched the Goblins fearfully, hoping she could handle the situation. Unarmed and physically weaker, she doubted that she could defeat these monsters in combat. Fortunately though, these creatures were not particularly intelligent.
There was a cracking sound as a large dark limb whipped downwards, gripping one of the goblins around the neck and lifting it up into the barbed branches above. The goblin screamed as the serrated upper growth began the grisly work of turning him into fertiliser. The three remaining goblins scrambled in fear as heavy limbs pounded at them, crushing two to the ground. The pair struggled for a moment before they were again cruelly bludgeoned by a hefty limb. After this their movement ceased.
The last creature managed to escape the death zone, breathing heavily as it looked up at the sinuous branches which dripped blood. It gave a startled yelp when a blow landed on its back, knocking it into reach of the carnivorous plant. Limbs like spears lanced down and impaled the stumbling creature, lifting it aloft.
There was an inhuman warble of contentment which slowly faded into the rustle of leaves.
Darax wiped her hands, hoping that the stench from the creature would come off and congratulating herself for her swift thinking. She picked up the goblins rusty sword and turned, starting her hike home.
The trip back was enough to fry her nerves. Jumping at the slightest noise and imagining lurking creatures in every shadow. Her muscles were constantly taught, strained in anticipation for an attack which never came. When finally she returned to the hidden cave she called home, she barely had the forethought to lock the crude but sturdy door behind herself before collapsing in exhaustion on her mat. Darax wondered how Masquet had managed to go as far as she had alone before sleep overtook her.
When she woke, Darax pulled off the sweaty and soiled clothes which she had donned that morning and examined her new unclad body. The previous night she had made love to it, the most natural thing in the world, but now she found the body startlingly alien. She was most definitely beautiful, which at once scared and relieved her. 'Better to be a pretty woman than a hag,' she thought. The sleek lines of her body and youthful smooth face were phenomenal and she could not deny that there was a strange thrill in possessing these qualities.
As she contemplated her new form, she wondered if she needed to get her body back. For a moment she considered returning to civilization and assuming a new identity, but three things prevented her. The first was that Masquet could create untold havoc in her former body. The second dilemma was that she was not entirely comfortable with the idea of living the rest of her life as a woman, with all the social and physical changes that this implied. The final problem was that the body she wore may have been stolen. The last thing she wanted was to be caught and executed for being a body thief.
Resigning herself to going after her body in the morning, she decided that for the time being she would make the most of a bad situation. Crossing her legs, she lit a lamp, the orange light playing off her dark smooth skin erotically.
As she ran a hand thoughtfully over her taught stomach and the curves of her small breasts. Her breasts felt quite large, filling her small hands and being a noticeable weight on her chest. As she toyed with her breasts her nipples became erect, a sensation which Darax found strangely pleasurable.
The sensual caress on her bosom aroused her curiosity and she her hand snaking down to explore the folds of her womanhood.
The sensations she discovered there were new but also strangely similar to those she had experienced as a man. She pulled back the hood of her clit and teased it carefully, a warmness developing in her crotch. Idly she slipped a finger into her moist crack, playing with herself. A shiver of pleasure ran along her spine and she pushed another finger into her moistening vagina. With her other hand she slowly massaged her breasts, her nipples erect and sensitive, jutting out into her eager hand, a new source of gratification which she had never even dreamed of.
She felt a rush of pleasure and squirmed, imagining what she would like to do with this body, how she had slept with it the night before. She was curious as to how her body would feel with a man. Judging by the pleasure she was getting from just her hands, a partner would make the experience all the more enjoyable.
She lazily played with herself for some time, then nodded off to sleep again.
* * *
When she rose in the morning, she dressed in some of her old clothes. Her thick shirt hung like a tent over her, her rounded breasts hardly noticeable. Masquet's confining and body hugging clothes had enhanced the feminine lines of this body, whilst Darax's large heavy tunic and pants hid it quite well. As she moved about in her clothes she realised that she had never noticed how uncomfortable and rough her garments had been.
After playing with her tunic and rolling the sleeves up, she found that her attire was unsuitable. Her shirt was much too large to be useful, hardly staying on her small, narrow shoulders. The pants were too long and hung like a billowing canopy from her hips. Her old belt didn't even have enough notches on it to allow it to go around her reduced waist. She tried to make it go around her waist twice but it was too short. She rolled up her pants but they kept falling down, causing her to trip on them.
Looking at Masquet's clothes, she realised that she had very little choice but to continue wearing them. She slipped back into them.
It was disconcerting, but her body reacted strangely to the caress of the taut leather fabric. It was almost sexual in nature, the way the material clung to her. Realising that she had to become more familiar with her body, she concentrated on ignoring the pleasurable sensations. After a while, her clothes did not provoke such an erotic feeling.
Unperturbed, she put on some of her old worn armor, thinking she would feel less vulnerable if she was in her familiar protective clothing. To her chagrin, the mail seemed much too large for her also. She had to tighten the armor straps as much as possible, but even then the mail didn't sit well, digging into her small breasts and not holding firm against her shoulder, chest and waist. She was now too slight in the upper body and most definitely the wrong shape. Even her arms and legs were much thinner making her grieves unsuitable.
She discarded the now useless armor.
Breathing a deep breath to fortify her courage, she hefted a shovel and went to a tree near the entrance of her cave and started to dig. It seemed to take forever, but her thin hands weren't as soft as she'd thought. It took a bit of getting used to her breasts swaying and bouncing under her tight tunic every time she put her weight behind the shovel, the sensation quite a new experience.
The shovel clunked on a box which she cleared off then rapidly pulled from the hole.
Opening the lid of the lead-lined container, she was greeted by the reassuring sight of her prized possessions, twin arm blades, magically imbued with the mystic energies of earth magic.
Dweomered items were like lodestones for trouble. The constant scrying of the fire mages for magic items prevented her from using them, lest she attract undue attention. Hence the lead shielding. At this time however she needed them. Besides if she moved around enough the warlocks would not be able to focus on the weapons. It was only when she was stationary for a long period that she had difficulties with them.
She clipped the blades onto her arms, the bands shrinking to fit her slight forearm, the grieves molding around her arm like a second skin. The thin grieves were supple and pliant but unbreachable by any weapon. They were the strongest armor she had ever encountered.
The blades extended about a foot in front of each clenched fist and almost half a foot from each of her elbows. As such they were longer at the hand end than the blades which Masquet had taken from her.
Swinging her arm she smiled as the weapon hummed slightly cutting through the air. Physically she was no longer as impressive as she had been. However, with these twin blades and the armor they afforded, Darax needed only to rely on her skill and the magical sharpness of her weapons to see her through any conflict.
Briefly Darax went through a number of weapon exercises, her supple dancers body feeling almost natural as she worked through the familiar body motions. Increasing her tempo however, she started to notice inconsistencies which she could not ignore. Her body was just that little bit different. Her upper body strength was greatly reduced and her widened hips felt wrong, but she compensated by altering her stance. As she landed on her feet from a leap, she realised that something had to be done about her breasts. They bothered her immensely the way they jiggled and bounced whenever she did any rapid movement.
Darax concentrated on the weapons for moment and they faded from sight. Now she looked like she only wore finely crafted grieves. The blades were no longer there, visually or physically, having shifted to some other dimension. All she had to do was concentrate and they would return. One of the magical weapons strengths was that the blades could be used when invisible, making it difficult to predict attacks. The invisible blades tended to put the fear of god into enemies as well.
Now that she was finished she removed her top and sponged her body down. She then strapped her small breasts as best she could to prevent their movement. It seemed a shame to confine them but she didn't want any distractions just in case she had to fight.
She dressed again in Masquet's clothing, gathering some of her own and stuffing the spare garments in her pack along with some thread and a needle. Maybe she could alter her clothes. She picked up Masquet's dark green cape and slung it around her neck. Packing some rations, a grappling cord, a mirror, the rusted goblin sword and a direction stone she considered herself ready. Sealing the entrance to her cubby, she departed.
* * *
"I don't get it," Garlek said. He was a big rough fellow, heavily armed and armored. "Jerrik says we should follow the mans tracks, but we came after Ariel's female body, not some mans!" The burly mercenary scratched his scarred nose as he talked and seemed to be quite irritated. His entire face was crisscrossed with white scars, giving him a mottled appearance.
"Garlek, you know as well as me that the thief was going into the heart of the badlands. Obviously the bastard stole the unknown mans body, so that's where we have to go!" Beray, a squat bald man said, hefting his axe to accentuate his words. He too was a warrior for hire.
A young man, seemingly at ease in his surroundings spoke up in a clear and capable voice, "Beray's right. We need to get the thief, then my body." The mans voice sounded a little effeminate. He had the look of a wealthy young nobleman, attractive and expensively dressed but a little soft and pampered. This apparent weakness contrasted greatly with the tempered strength of his voice.
"So it's decided then. We go after Ariel's body last," Jerrik stated. The man possessed a light build and a dark olive complexion. He was clearly a gypsy.
When Darax had returned to the meadow where the mental exchange had occurred, she had received a surprise. Five men were inspecting the clearing, obviously searching for tracks. Darax had mixed emotions about the group. As one of the change she had conditioned herself to be an outcast, fearing the company of normals yet longing for it at the same time. As Darax listened to the conversation her optimism grew. She was a normal now. With this small reminder she decided to approach the group.
Stepping into the clearing she waved to the team. She advanced towards the party confidently, until the fifth figure who had remained silent turned to Garlek and spoke. "We go on. We must get the abomination back to my lords son."
Darax felt a chill of recognition at the voice. It was Loxim, one of the older monks from the monastery. She was now in the clearing and could not flee, that was certain.
Garlek frowned towards Darax and all eyes turned to watch her.
Hiding her apprehension as best she could, Darax continued into the clearing, turning her eyes from the monk. Jerrik noted the momentary slowing of Darax's stride and saw the fear flicker over her features, then glanced speculatively at Loxim.
"I'm coming with you. Masquet stole my body as well," she said, arms held up in truce.
Loxim brought himself to attention, his hands comfortably resting on his sheathed sickle blades as he appraised the young girl confidently. "Who are you? More importantly, what were you?" Loxim asked, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. Very few humans lived in the wilderness as it was generally regarded as a haven for the changed.
"A woodsman who bit of more than he could chew," Darax replied evasively. She knew that she was not fooling anyone, but that didn't really matter. "My name is Xar," she said, making the name up on the spot.
"Well Xar," Garlek leered, "mighty fine piece of chewing if I do say so."
Darax took an immediate dislike to the disfigured Garlek.
* * *
Darax was busy altering a pair of pants to fit her reduced form when Ariel approached and sat down beside her. Darax had been unsurprised to discover that the young man had been the previous owner of the body which Darax wore, and that Jerrik was Ariel's brother.
Ariel reached into her pack and pulled out a bundle of clothes, "these were mine, but you can wear them if you want. I'd be very surprised if they didn't fit."
"Thankyou." Darax said, holding them up to inspect, them looking at Ariel for ulterior motives. The low cut tunics were more revealing than she would have liked but they were also of very high quality. "So Ariel, tell me how you lost your body," Darax stated, putting down the clothes. She looked at the attractive man in the dusk light. "Tell me the truth, and I'll tell you more about the man we're chasing."
"Well," the man blushed a little, "the former owner of this body was a rich man and looked like he could spare some money..." Ariel paused, looking around the camp to make sure no one heard. Only Ariel's brother Jerrik seemed to be listening. The others were getting ready to sleep or eating.
Judging by the hushed answer, it was clear that there were two main factions in this expedition, that Loxim and his two retainers were working with Ariel and Jerrik out of necessity only. Darax could sense Loxim's disgust around herself and Ariel, brought on by the fact that they were now 'changed' and therefore tainted. Neither group was enamored with the others presence, but at the moment they had mutual goals.
There was also something else about Ariel's reply that bothered Darax. "So you aren't a dancer like I first thought," Darax said. She looked at Jerrik, his leanness and the way he moved very similar to Ariel's. They both were graceful and very controlled. Darax's suspicions fell into place, "was he a mark?"
Ariel nodded imperceptibly. "We are part of a troupe, but my brother and I occasionally gather funds in other ways," Ariel said circumspectly.
"You're thieves," Darax said in a neutral voice. She was not surprised, but was a little disappointed that her traveling companions lacked morals.
"We only steal from those that deserve it," Ariel said to justify their actions, "it's more for the challenge than anything else. We are quite good."
"Getting back to Masquet," Darax guided the conversation.
"Masquet was staying in the town we were performing in. He came across as a wealthy young noble, dripping money. We were planning on robbing the prick. I was to sleep with him, then afterwards I would rifle through his belongings and flog anything of value. Unfortunately halfway through our intimate encounter, he swapped minds with me and then fled town while I was out cold. He left me stuck in this body. The next day Loxim turned up with his retainers, Garlek and Beray. Apparently Masquet was fleeing from them. He had stolen a young nobles body during sex, trapping the noble in the body of a serving maid..."
"So if we want our bodies back, we have to sleep with him?" Darax asked in concern. This would mean she had to sleep with a man. She was not sure that she was ready for something like that. It was bearable being a woman, but-
Ariel nodded, "I'd say so. I'd appreciate it if you took care of my body by the way. Now what about you?"
"Well I saved Masquet from a band of Goblins and when she refused to let me take her to safety, I followed her. After saving her again from a killer tree, I camped with her and... one thing led to another and...," Darax coughed nervously.
"I see," Ariel said. "So your former body. Is it normal?"
"No, I was one of the changed. I'd say our party of six normals and my old body are evenly matched. I reckon that if it comes to combat, Masquet may not survive the encounter, but neither will all of us. But it isn't all bad. Masquet doesn't seem to be experienced in combat situations, so we could probably out-think him."
"Are you running from anything?" Jerrik interjected, looking at Loxim pointedly. Apparently Jerrik was very observant, a good quality in a thief Darax realised sourly.
"I'm not running, I just haven't been found yet. There is a difference," Darax said, "you should know that, being thieves." There it was again, the gulf between her and everyone else.
Jerrik grinned, chewing his food. "Well you should know that my sister was a horny little tramp. I wouldn't be surprised if it goes with the body, so you probably are too," Jerrik said.
Ariel knocked Jerrik off the tree stump he was perched on then kicked dirt at him, swearing and abusing his brother.
* * *
Darax slept lightly, her body tired from the strenuous march that day. Fortunately her old habit of being alert at all times was still with her. A footfall landed near her and there was the rustle of clothes, the metallic sliding sound of a weapon being drawn.
Rolling over casually as though she were asleep, she opened her eyes a fraction to see Garlek standing above her, a needlelike knife in his hand. He leant forward, holding the knife under her breast and whispered in her ear, "hello my pretty." His rank breathe made her flinch. The burly man pushed the blade closer under her breast, grinning in the darkness.
Darax slowly lowered her arm under him and returned his cruel smile as she willed her forearm blade to slowly materialise. The would be defiler yelped and jumped back, looking down at his torn pants. They were neatly incised right at the crotch. He hastily retreated to his bedroll, staring in fear at Darax's empty hand, uncertain where the blade had come from.
Darax looked across at Ariel in his bedroll and saw him sheathing his sword silently. He had been feigning sleep also. She nodded in recognition to the young man, then turned to go back to her rest.
Garlek kept casting fearful glances at the girl for the rest of the night, unable to close his eyes, convinced that she was a demon that would use her invisible weapons on him as he slept.
* * *
The next morning Garlek was grumpy and surly to everyone, except Darax. He was unfailingly polite to the young woman, his previous condescending nature all but gone.
They followed the trail left by Masquet easily. It led unerringly to the unexplored heart of the badlands. The vegetation started to take on a more twisted and unnatural appearance the deeper they went, and ominous sounds threatened from the distance. For the rest of that day they traveled cautiously but they came across none of the ferocious creatures that populated the wilderness.
* * *
"God, I hate cold camps. What I wouldn't give for some hot food and a fire," Darax muttered as she ate more cold rations. She was quite sore from the days hike. Her body was very fit and in excellent condition, but she was unfamiliar with it. This caused her movements to be uneconomical as she overcompensated for her changed frame. She still tried to walk like a man, but her hips were now slightly different. That and the fact that her old body tended to block out physical discomfort and adapt and heal much more rapidly caused her to push her body harder than she should.
Darax massaged her shoulders as she tried to loosen up. Firm hands slipped onto her neck and started to apply pressure to her aching muscles. She leant back into the kneading hands, a groan of relief escaping her mouth as she forgot about her worries for a moment.
"Right here?" Ariel asked from behind, running his hand down the small of her back then rubbing upwards in a hard, deep stroke. His hands slipped under the back of her tunic and ran along the smooth skin underneath.
She grunted in the affirmative, savouring the play of her tender sinew as Ariel expertly focused on each muscle in turn, massaging it strenuously in his hand till it tingled warmly with painful pleasure. Afterwards Darax felt drained, her skin quivering from the attention.
"Let me know if you want more of that again," Ariel said suggestively. Darax sat for a moment dumbfounded then turned to the others who were watching her with grins on their faces.
"I'd be happy to help," Garlek said, his familiar leer creeping over his mottled face again, the previous night forgotten.
"Shut up you pig," the squat Beray threatened, picking at his teethe with a knife.
Darax hastily pulled her shirt down over her back, her face flushed with embarrassment. There was also a niggling in her stomach and she wondered what Ariel had meant by his comment.
* * *
Darax kept thinking about Ariel's terse remark for the rest of the night and found that she couldn't sleep. She stared at the vague silhouettes of the trees above, the light from the waning moon making it a pitch black night.
Curiosity getting the better of her a few hours past dusk, she roused herself from her bedroll and sat down next to the slumbering Ariel. "So, is the offer still open," she asked, knowing that he was awake.
Ariel's lips slowly turned into a lazy grin and he lifted his bedroll blanket to allow her to climb under. Darax glanced around the camp briefly then climbed in, thankful that there was no fire to betray her actions.
They kissed slowly at first, uncertain how far each intended to take the encounter, both dubious if they were happy with their implications of their new bodies. Darax could feel Ariel becoming excited. In fact their bodies were close enough together that Ariel could feel Darax's erect nipples through the fabric of her shirt.
Darax groped blindly in the darkness and the confining blanket, running her hands over Ariel's body as he held her firmly in his arms. She felt so small, her thin, lean body so much tinier in comparison to Ariel's bulky torso. There kissing became more intense as Ariel began to run his hands over Darax's willowy body, massaging it as he had done earlier, their intimate embrace making the stroking much more erotic.
Darax started to reach down to open Ariel's britches. She could feel herself becoming hot and moist as she fumbled with his pants under the bed covering. Ariel's penis sprang free and she ground her pelvis against it, rubbing herself through the crotch of her pants.
"Turn around," Ariel whispered in her ear, "you'll like it best from behind."
They struggled briefly under the blanket as she rotated, placing her back to him. He pulled her pants down with some difficulty as they tried to coordinate their movements. Ariel then slipped a hand under her shirt and started to play with Darax's breasts and nipples with his left hand, the other leisurely stroking her inner thigh and playing with her pubic hair. He brought the head of his penis to the lips of her vagina and left it sitting there as he started to tease her clit with his hand.
Darax tried to bring herself down onto Ariel's erect member but he backed away, "not yet," he murmured as he continued to excite her nipples and run his other hand over her stomach. He wanted to know what it felt like to enter Darax's moist and inviting cunt, but was also enjoying having her in his control, the way she desperately wanted what only he could give her.
Growing frustrated, Darax moaned, "please? I really want it." She had never begged before, but Ariel was pushing all the right buttons, as though she knew Darax's body inside out, which he did.
Ariel pushed the head of his penis slowly into her and smirked when he felt her body stiffen with an intake of breath. He pulled out, enjoying the game, the sensation very enjoyable. He decided that maybe he should stop playing and start acting.
"Put that dick in me now or I'm leaving," Darax said, uncertain if she could hold up her end of the ultimatum. It didn't matter, Ariel ploughed into her in one sharp motion. He had never known such exquisite and immediate pleasure before. Her snug vagina seemed to grip his penis, a smooth yielding compliment to his newly discovered manhood.
Darax let out a breath of surprise as she felt the member fill her, her back arching in pleasure. She lay on her side as Ariel screwed her from behind, rocking her hips as her body started to move of it's own accord, reacting instinctively to the delightful organ which was moving in and out of her. Ariel continued to play with Darax's nipples and clitoris, enjoying the way she squirmed and yelped with pleasure in time with his hands. Darax reached down and could feel her engorged labia and the penis which was sliding in and out of her sopping cunt.
"Yeah, deeper," she said, unaware that the volume of her voice was increasing.
Her whole body was suffused with pleasure as Ariel came deep inside her. Her vagina spasmed and contracted as the warmth in her loins spread over her entire body in wonderful waves of ecstasy.
As the glow faded, she sighed, rolling over to thank Ariel. He was fast asleep and no amount of prodding could raise him, which was most out of character for the light sleeping thief.
"Keep it down would you! You want to bring a horde of trolls down on us?" Loxim whispered venomously. Darax wiped herself off and briefly considered returning to her bedroll. There was really no point now, everyone knew what they had been up to. She rolled over and snuggled up against Ariel's chest. The young mans arm came up and held her in a comforting embrace, playing absently with her long dark hair, a very familiar action. Darax slowly drifted off to sleep, more content than she had felt in a long time.
The next morning, Darax awoke and pulled her clothes back into position. She looked over at her fellow traveling companions. None of them could prevent themselves from grinning knowingly at the couple. They all tried to wear bland faces but were all fully aware of the nocturnal exploits of the two bedmates.
Ariel wore a slightly bemused expression for the whole morning as though he had just experienced a religious awakening. Losing his male virginity had not been like anything he had expected.
Darax was equally mind-boggled, but she managed to hide it better. However, whenever she glanced at Ariel she felt the alien and quite disgusting tingle of puppy love. What was most incredible though was that she no longer felt alienated. She was no longer a freak, one of the changed. She felt accepted by someone for what she was, something she had never even hoped for.
Bit by bit her mental and emotional defenses were being eroded, having never been constructed to deal with this sort of attack.
That day they came across a path which seemed to lead in the exact direction they were heading. They briefly debated the risks of following the track, and decided that in the interest of speed, they would take the crude road. It was not until late afternoon, when they were thinking of finding a suitable place to make camp that they came across an old deserted tower. The spire was an ancient, crumbling ruin with vines growing over it. The growth on the structure was disquieting, as though the tainted forest was purposefully trying to smother all human impact. At the base of the turret was a the remains of a large hall, with part of the roof still standing.
The party examined the structure. "Looks like a good place to make camp," said Garlek.
Ariel frowned, uncertain. The others were equally indecisive. "It's still a few hour 'till dusk we could travel further today," the woman in the nobleman's body said.
"What are you, a pack of girls? No offense intended Xar," Garlek said, slapping Darax on the rump casually. He continued pawing her posterior, a grin on his face.
"None taken," Darax said in a deadpan voice, eyes narrowing dangerously.
Garlek quieted and removed his hand, memory of the other night returning. He advanced into the ruins, drawing a large burred greatsword, holding it in his powerful hands. A rotted door led to the tower, clumps of rock like turds lay on the ground, the odd bones of animals mixed up with the skeletons of humanoid creatures interspersed. There were four old statues in the corners of the ruins, covered in vines and bird droppings. The stone paving had scorch marks all over it as though a mighty battle had taken place long ago.
Garlek strode confidently into the centre of the decayed hall and turned, shrugging his shoulders. "Nothing to worry about."
The others were not so cocky, warily entering the decayed hall. Darax looked at the statues carefully and noticed a glint where the eyes were on one of them. "We should leave, there are guardians here. Don't go any further Garlek."
Garlek looked at the girl and screwed up his face in disdain. "Like I'm gunna let a skirt tell me what to do?" he replied.
Darax shook her head and drew the rusty sword she carried. She was conscious of Loxim watching her carefully. There would be no chance to use her arm blades, not unless she wanted to give away her hidden advantage and perhaps even her identity.
As Garlek crossed an invisible line, the statues came to life with a rustling sound. The strong thick vines which covered the statues snapped and tore like cobwebs. Darax recognised the statues as a some form of golem, a very powerful but generally slow magical creation of mages, most often used as guards. The worst thing about these magical constructs was that they were immune to mundane weapons. The Golems lumbered silently from their pedestals towards the party, selecting targets at random. A fine mist sprung up outside the bounds of the hall, encircling the group in a force field, cutting off all avenues of escape.
"Bit of more than you could chew Garlek," Darax muttered, dropping her useless sword blade. "Magic! Only magic can defeat these things," she told the others, "be careful as well, they may have strange powers."
To validate her warning, one of the creatures clenched its fist, a ball of magma growing in its palm. It threw this at Jerrik, who dodged it barely in time. The molten rock landed on the ground, a distressing amount of heat emanating from it as it cooled. The projectile looked like a molten pile of steaming crap.
The vines which grew on the creatures started to smoke as the internal heat of the constructs soared. Jerrik shouldered his shield, advancing on the monster, his sword glowing slightly. Ariel held a throwing dagger and short sword which also glowed.
Darax had no time to wonder where they had acquired these weapons, the advancing golem requiring her complete attention. The monster's fist clenched as magma gathered. With no choice but to fight, Darax rushed towards the creature, hoping her new body was up to the task. The creature threw the lump of lava.
In a supple move she ducked under its molten missile and rolled to the constructs flank, coming up in a crouch and elbowing upwards with her invisible blade. A stream of molten rock gushed from the wound as she leaped sideways. Here magical blade armor protected her arms but Darax could hardly avoid a few drops landing on her leather boots. Her footwear smoked then caught fire immediately.
Rolling and dragging her leg, she put out the fires as quickly as she could whilst distancing herself from her opponent. The wound Darax had given did nothing to hinder the inexorable advance of the hulking obelisk. Darax realised that she was at a distinct disadvantage, her close quarter weapons being unsuited for a creature that spurted molten rock when wounded.
"'Ware the wounds, the statues blood is deadly," she yelled, grimacing at the pain in her leg.
Meanwhile Garlek was screaming in terror, running in headlong flight from the creature that had chosen him. In his mindless fear, he charged rashly into the wall of force that imprisoned them, a crackling of energy hurling him backwards to the cobbled ground. Smoking from magical burns, he climbed frantically to his feet and kept running.
Ariel and Jerrik were playing a vicious cat and mouse game with their Golem. Jerrik would let the creature advance on him then Ariel would steal in behind and stab in the back. When the magical creature turned to attack Ariel, Jerrik would hack at it from behind. They had wisely shielded their extremities with their cloaks when they attacked, preventing burns. This was only a temporary solution as their capes were swiftly becoming cinders and soon they would be totally useless.
Beray and Loxim were finding their weapons completely ineffectual against the statue that had chosen them, and had both suffered some painful burns. They seemed to be evading the monster adequately though. As Darax watched however, the construct hit Beray squarely with a lump of magma. The short compact man desperately tried to clean the molten rock off himself, collapsing in agony as his skin smoked and crisped. The smell of seared flesh was horrid and Darax averted her gaze from the charred black patches of Beray's flesh.
"We need something to permanently injure these things!" Ariel yelled frantically.
"At least you can puncture their skin," cried Loxim, watching the monster advance on him, looking away from his wounded companion.
Darax sized up the Golem which had chosen her. It appeared to be an ordinary statue, except for its eyes, two sapphires which smoldered with an incredible energy. Looking at the twin orbs, Darax wondered if they were the source of the creatures power. There was only one way to find out.
Squatting with her shoulders rocking and her blades swaying back and forth, she again wondered briefly what the limits of her body were. The golem advanced, its arms outstretched, dripping molten lava. Only one way...
With all the force of her legs, she leaped towards the golem, landing with one foot on the reaching hand. She continued her sideways movement rolling onto its broad biceps. The solid and unstoppable creature slowly tried to reach her, but she had too much momentum and was too quick.
Slicing with her blade, she rent the stone about the gems as she tumbled over its shoulder, landing behind the creature, her shirt trailing wisps of smoke. She spun to look at the creature, kicking molten rock from her burned boot from when she had stepped on the molten hand..
The two precious stones fell to the ground with a barely audible tinkle. Moments later molten rock spurted from the incision, the statue freezing motionless in place. "Go for the eyes!" she shouted, grinning in triumph. She was so elated that she didn't even notice her burned shoulder and side, turning instead to see how the others were faring.
Loxim seemed to be doing badly, so she moved towards him with the intent of helping. "Get out of the way," she yelled, as she attacked from the side, jumping up and slicing with her elbow blade. The weapon cut through the rock as though it were butter, but she hardly heeded this as she kicked off the golem to distance herself from its death throw. Again magma spewed from the wound, but fortunately Loxim was prepared, retreating from the scorching shower of rock.
Seeing how Darax had dispatched Loxim's Golem, Ariel and Jerrik quickly subdued their foe, Jerrik prying one of the red jewels expertly with his sword, then Ariel following suit with her adroitly thrown magical dagger.
Garlek still ran from his golem, screeching in horror. "It's hard to get good mercenaries these days," Jerrik said to Darax. The thief puffed heavily, a wry grin on his face.
She nodded in sympathy. "Shall we?" Darax asked.
"Yes, lets," Jerrik responded. Now that they knew how to deal with the creatures, it was amazingly simple to remove the eyes, especially since the golem was single-mindedly pursuing Garlek.
Darax went to check on Beray. He was horribly burned and disfigured, the wounds appearing to be mortal. She doubted he would last very long in his condition.
Whilst she was doing this the other members of the party examined the entrance to the tower. Since the force field had not abated with the death of the creatures, they had to go on.
"Trapped," remarked Jerrik clinically as he examined the entrance. Seeing no reason to dispute his finding, the others wandered back to inspect the smoldering statues and see how Beray was.
"The wounds are very severe," Darax whispered to Loxim redundantly.
"I'll see what I can do to ease his suffering," Loxim said.
Darax nodded and limped away. With her adrenaline rush over she was conscious that her foot was badly burned from jumping on the molten creatures hand. She paused to collect three of the eight gems, reasoning that she had earned them. That left five to be divided between the others. Jerrik and Ariel took two each, Loxim took one and Garlek got none, being considered undeserving.
Playing with one of the jewels in his hand, Jerrik noted that there was a small rune inscribed in it. He read it aloud and the gem started to glow brightly. Jerrik swore, throwing the brightly glowing orb away - towards the trapped door. "Get down," he yelled.
Sensing that there was something amiss, Darax dove for the ground, knocking down Loxim. There was a tremendous roar as the gem exploded, sharp rock fragments and dust hailing down on everyone. Climbing to her feet, Darax brushed herself down.
"Whoa! Impressive weapon," Garlek said closely examining one of the gems that Ariel held.
Looked at his bauble with disdain. "A true warrior doesn't rely on magic. Xar this magic firework is most becoming in your soiled hands," the monk said in a cruel voice, dropping the gem at Darax's feet.
Seeing no point in leaving the item behind, Darax stooped down and picked it up. She looked at her four gems and carefully memorized each rune, then put the magic explosives away in separate places.
As the dust cleared from the ruins, it became apparent that the door was no more, affording the party a view of the towers ground floor. It was obvious that their escape lay in that direction, so Garlek, Jerrik and Ariel advanced and peered into the antechamber while Loxim and Darax started to silently bandage Beray's wounds in a futile effort to prolong his life.
There was an air of tension between the two monks as they went about their work. Not only did Loxim abhor the changed, but now that he had seen Darax fight he had started to suspect her true identity. Darax could sense his palpable mistrust and was concerned how he would react when he deduced the truth. She maintained a wary eye on him whilst trying to see how the others were faring.
Coughing from the dust, Jerrik discovered that the entry room was full of marble statues of diminutive but very attractive women. They were all exquisitely carved and lounged in states of complete undress. There was ten of these lifelike figures throughout the room.
Garlek, Jerrik and Ariel carefully filed into the room, weapons drawn. A staircase led upwards to the floor above. Jerrik prodded one of the statues with his sword, but there was no reaction. On closer inspection it was apparent that they were not all human carvings. There was an elfin statue and two very well endowed but quite ugly goblin figures. "They aren't Golems, at least I don't think they are. There is something about them... but I don't know what it is," he said, his brow furrowed.
Garlek, exuding cocky bravado and attempting to put his cowardice behind him, walked up to a very well endowed human sculpture and caressed it, running his hands over its stone breasts. He paused, a curious expression crossing over his features. His face seemed to be frozen in a comically surprised cast.
There was a strange cracking sound and the female statue Garlek was touching became surrounded by an eerie blue nimbus. Incrementally, the statue transformed from rock to flesh, right before Ariel's and Jerrik's eyes. Meanwhile Garlek's body started to change to rock, his clothes unaffected. A simper escaped the female statues lips, her face clearly startled as it watched Garlek's features turn to stone.
Where moments before Garlek had stood, there was now a remarkable stone likeness of the man which gripped a small but extremely attractive young woman by the breasts. The girl pulled away in shock, the statues fingers snapping like brittle chalk. As the two thieves watched in surprise the statue that had been Garlek teetered then fell to the stone floor, shattering with a dull thud into large chalky lumps.
The young woman looked at the broken body in shock, then down at herself. "This isn't real. Someone tell me this isn't real," the girl said with a voice a few octaves higher than Garlek's. She looked at Jerrik in horror, then stiffened as her mind underwent a subtle change. Her eyes seemed to be fixated on Jerrik and she walked slowly towards him.
"What does my master desire," she asked, kneeling submissively at his feet.
Jerrik and Ariel looked at the girl in surprise, awe and horror. The statue had been very lifelike, but the animated girl was incredible. Large breasts with prominent nipples, a thin waist and firm, lovely buttocks which tapered down to long and very sexy legs, she was most fantastic. She had a sensuous face, innocent yet at the same time mysteriously wicked. Possessing a perfectly alabaster complexion which subtly matched the marble of the other statues she was more a piece of art than a person.
"Darax, get in here. We may have a problem," Ariel said. As Darax entered her eyes widened at the voluptuous and sensual women that knelt there. "That's Garlek, I think," Ariel explained.
Darax took off her cloak and wrapped it around the girl at Jerrik's feet.
"Thank-you mistress," the women said.
Darax went rigid in alarm. "Is that still you Garlek?" she asked curiously.
"Yes, mistress," Garlek replied looking up at Darax and batting her eyes, "I am sorry for the way I have treated you. It was inexcusable. If there is anything I can do to make it up to you?" She grinned making it clear that anything had a very broad gamut. "That's if my master permits..." Garlek said smiling hopefully at Jerrik.
"Um, no, that's fine," Jerrik muttered in confusion.
The female monk had mixed feelings about Garlek's transformation. Darax knew that this couldn't have happened to a more deserving person, but realised that being turned into a submissive slave was still a terrible thing to happen to anyone.
"I think it's a safe bet that touching any statue is a bad idea," Ariel said. Darax and Jerrik were in agreement on this, as was Garlek, who nodded her head. This action baffled them.
"How do you feel?" Darax asked Garlek, trying to discover why the girl would agree that this is a bad thing.
"Wonderful," she replied, a grin on her face.
"Tell me the truth," Ariel said, gripping Garlek by the shoulders and pulling her to her feet, peering intently into the strange girls eyes.
Jerrik nodded, "tell her," he said. The thief realised that all commands for this woman had to come from him.
Garlek's face screwed up in misery. She was able to answer truthfully now that she had been commanded by her master. "I want my body back. This body is monstrous. I've never seen such huge tits as I've got! The worst thing is that this damn prison is forcing me to be nice to everyone. I have to be agreeable. It's terrible, I'll do anything I'm told. Get me out of here!" she wailed.
"Anything?" Jerrik asked, a sly grin on his face. Ariel elbowed him in the ribs.
"Yes, especially for you my master," Garlek said, grinning sweetly. Underneath Garlek was terrified, praying that Jerrik would not take advantage of her. Another part of her mind, which up until now she had not possessed, imagined ways of pleasing Jerrik. These were quite inventive and varied, causing Garlek no end of worry.
"What's happened?" Loxim asked as he entered. The others filled him in. "Damn, this is terrible," he swore, taking a step back from Garlek as though she were a plague victim. Loxim definitely had a phobia when it came to dealing with the changed.
"Yeah, it's a real pity," Jerrik said, his voice dripping sarcasm, barely suppressing his amusement. "But this may be a way to save Beray..."
The members of the party looked at each other as the idea sank in. They could save the mans life, but at what cost? They eventually agreed that trapping him in a female body would be better than letting him die. The party decided on the less well endowed elfin statue for the injured man, all the other statues being similar in appearance to Garlek's. The elf was very lightly muscled and slightly taller than Garlek, but had quite ample cleavage. They hoped that it would not have the same mental modifiers as Garlek.
The only objector was Loxim. He was unwilling to allow someone a new lease on life if it involved dabbling in magic. The others over ruled him however. "If we catch up with the mind thief we can force him to give Beray a human body."
Loxim agreed very reluctantly but noted caustically that someone would have to end up in the elfin body.
"There is something we should consider," Jerrik said as they carried Beray's shallowly breathing form into the room. "When Garlek came too, she latched onto me as her master, the first person she saw. Do we want to pick Beray's master?" Jerrik asked.
"I'll do it. Beray is my retainer and as a monk, I can restrain myself," Loxim volunteered, albeit very reluctantly. He felt responsible for Beray and Garlek as their employer, but was loathe to break the law regarding the changed. He felt that his association with this evil sorcery would taint his soul but he also could not back out of his duty to his men. If he had no other choice he would have to kill Beray and Garlek rather than let them return to civilisation. The others did not dispute Loxim, unaware of his secret agenda.
Beray was incoherent when Loxim pushed him into the statue. As the marble elf turned to flesh, the woman's eyes opened and awareness returned. It took Beray a moment to realise that she was looking at her face. An anguished scream escaped her mouth as she saw her former body turning to stone. "What? How?" She asked. She looked down at her naked body, realising that it was female. She turned questioningly to Loxim, the body she wore forcing her to recognise Loxim as her master.
"How can I protect you milord," she asked smartly, coming to attention in a clearly military pose. Her breasts bounced with her sharp and precise movements. Inwardly Beray was confused. She had suddenly found herself in a female body, and was forced by an overwhelming imperative to follow Loxim's orders to the death.
"Beray, we had to save you, and this was the only way we could, " Loxim explained. "Garlek has become a woman and so have you, but I promise I shall do everything in my power to return you to male bodies or else... end your suffering."
"Thank you, milord," Beray said curtly, a bit worried by the last comment but unable to voice her fears. The others returned and were trying to be supportive to the new woman as possible. The elfin woman looked down at her naked female body, the thin elfin form very svelte, the large breasts quite peculiar jutting out from her very reduced torso. One look at the fawning and submissive creature which Garlek had become made Beray very glad that she had received this body and not one like Garlek's.
"Could I have some clothes please, milord?" she asked Loxim, the honorific coming without thought.
With some effort the party stripped the stone bodies of their clothes, then both Beray and Garlek dressed in their old apparel. The garments hung loosely over the woman's dramatically altered bodies.
Garlek started fidgeting immediately and had to remove all the clothes. "They tickle too much," she explained, panting from excitement. The clothes did more than tickle. The clothes had felt so good on her sensitive skin she had become aroused. The caress of the fabric had fired Garlek's carnal appetite to the point where she felt as though she would throw herself at the next person she looked at.
"Do you have something I could wear Darax?" Garlek asked hopefully.
Darax shrugged and went through her pack finding nothing appropriate but finally producing some material, "Maybe we can make you something later?"
Garlek settled with just wearing Darax's cloak for the time being. This did little to reduce her nakedness but it did provide some modesty whilst allowing her to control her raging ardor. She still felt a constant bubbling in her stomach and realised, to her horror, that she was ready and willing to submit to the first person that commanded her to. She even started to desire someone to command her to submit to them.
"Well, now that's done, I think we should search upstairs, very carefully," Jerrik said. The band headed upstairs, Jerrik checking for traps. Half way up he held up his hand in warning. "Don't stand on this step, it's trapped." Everyone took his advice. When the party reached the landing at the top of the stairs they discovered a small chamber. As Jerrik entered he paused, then continued, choosing his path very carefully.
"Halt intruder," a voice said. Jerrik stood stock-still. "If you wish to continue, you must answer this riddle." The thief looked around apprehensively, uncertain where the voice was emanating from.
"Two brothers, the complete opposites, chase one another. Evenly matched, they meet only rarely, a fleeting moment, which is over in an instant," the voice sing songed then paused. "Who are they and when do they meet?"
Jerrik's mouth worked. He could not think of the answer. "Um, a key and lock when the lock is opened?" he said hopefully.
Darax swore, she had known the answer but some force had held her tongue. Jerrik prepared to dodge an attack. The disembodied voice said, "Shirak," and Darax and the others watched in horror as Jerrik started to turn to stone. It was quite rapid, the thief becoming a white marble sculpture, clothed in his unaffected garb. The statue of Jerrik rose and floated out the entrance and down the stairs. "You'll make a wonderful receptacle once I re-sculpt you," the voice said.
"Brother!" Ariel said, his eyes wide.
"Master," wailed Garlek starting to follow down the stairs, her large breasts bouncing. The girl felt dizzy for a moment and paused in her pursuit. Garlek realised that now that her master had been turned to stone she was free. A cry of excitement formed on her lips as the curvaceous woman gained full control of her mind. She turned to the others, a grin on her face. As her eyes focused on Ariel she felt light-headed again and underwent another mental shift as magic bound her mind. Garlek's eyes became vacant in an instant and her grin turned into an expression of lust as she looked at her new master. In a small corner of the bimbo's mind Garlek groaned at the irony of her situation.
Meanwhile Darax limped into the room and said the answer, "night and day. Dusk, dawn or an eclipse." She searched the room for signs of an invisible mage but could detect none. There was an oak desk with scrolls strewn across it, a well used velvet lined chair, a book case crammed with ledgers and a magical lamp, but no visible person. There was a closed door that led from the room but nothing to suggest the location of the wizard.
"Correct, but I did not ask you that riddle," the voice stated, a little laugh echoing around the room. "Now for you, a different riddle.
"A man is chased down a path by a tribe of orcs. He comes across a two headed troll standing at a fork in the road. This particular troll is a Skitz. One head always tells the truth, the other always lies. The man knows that one of the paths leads to a dead end and the other leads to escape, but doesn't know which is which. He only has time for one question for one head before the orcs catch him. What question does he ask?"
Darax grinned. This riddle was too easy. "He asks one head what direction the other head would say led to escape. Then he would go in the opposite direction."
"Correct. I love riddle games. I could play these all day. Now you ask me a riddle."
Darax could sense a man in the room, even if she couldn't see him. Sweat beaded her forehead as the female monk strained her senses to find the source of the voice. Then an idea struck her. "Sure. What do I have in my hand?" she asked as she casually slipped her hand into her pocket.
"That isn't a riddle," the man muttered in confusion. "You forfeit!"
"Fine, but this is the answer," Darax said, producing something from her pocket, throwing it and whispering what sounded like a prayer under her breath.
The thrown object was not even close to the invisible sorcerer, landing behind his desk. "Shirak," the wizard said dismisively. In a moment Darax had turned to stone. Curious, the wizard turned to see what exactly the young woman had thrown. His eyes widened when he saw a brightly glowing gem. He knew it well. It was one of the gems which he had enchanted...
There was a blinding blast of light and fire swept out of the entrance. The wizards room was turned into an inferno with flying debris from the disintegrated desk crisscrossing the room. As a statue, Darax was only a little scorched by the blast. However the invisible mage had no such protection and was blown into the wall, ripped to pieces by splinters of timber.
With the apparent death of the sorcerer his spell was broken. Darax suddenly found herself standing in a room filled with smoke. Her clothes were torn and burned, but otherwise she was unharmed. Darax rapidly started to strip off her apparel, as the cloth smoked and seemed likely to catch on fire. The others looked into the chamber and spotted Darax stripping. They also saw the charred remains of a man clutching a wand. Strangely the wizards corpse started to turn to stone.
"Killing mages gets you excited does it Xar?" Ariel joked.
Downstairs, Jerrik found himself suddenly in the room full of statues, ready to jump an invisible attack. He stopped himself from dodging at the last possible instant. Turning, he let out a breath of relief as he saw the beautiful female statue he would have leaped into.
"Well done Xar, you destroyed most of his library," Loxim complained as he searched through the tomes. The monk was unwilling to stare at the stripping woman, focusing instead on the tomes. The books seemed to be accounting ledgers detailing the mages dealings with the creatures of the badlands. The warlock had a thriving business, creating guardians, slaves and various specialised bodies for whomever was willing to pay his exorbitant prices.
Loxim eyed Darax with open distaste. The monk had grown even more suspicious of the woman, deciding that she had handled herself too well in the fight with the Golems. Only a high order warrior monk fought like Darax...
Darax decided to do a bit of exploring. She tried the door which led from the blasted office and found an immaculately neat bedroom.
"I just looked outside. With the death of the mage, the energy field seems to have vanished," said Jerrik as he came up the stairs. "Our hearty band of adventurers can leave anytime tomorrow, but I'm certain that the mage has a cache hidden somewhere. I'm going to find it! Oh is that a bed room? I've got dibs on the bed!"
Loxim shook his head, wanting to have nothing to do with the mages treasure, instead inspecting the ledgers. After some time he made a comment. "There is a mage in the direction we are going. He makes a lot of purchases and is always very punctual in his payments, except..."
"What?" asked Ariel.
"Well he hasn't picked up his order this month. It could be a coincidence or maybe not," Loxim finished.
* * *
It was not until almost dusk that Jerrik found the wizards treasure. A small hidden panel on the roof that looked like a stone tile. He climbed into the cubby and started removing the loot. The thief passed down bags full of exotic ingredients, vials of strange liquid, a spell book, a number of rune engraved weapons and two bags which chinked very satisfyingly when hefted.
Opening the bags, they discovered that the mage had very courteously tagged all the items with descriptions. Darax sniffed a healing potion and then sipped it experimentally. Immediately she felt better, her burns starting to diminish. She drank the entire elixir and all her wounds healed before her amazed eyes. She passed the full healing potions to the other injured people who quaffed them with much appreciation. Loxim abstained, even though he had been burned in the fight with the Golems.
The weapons were all obviously magical, but they did not suit Darax so she let the others divvy them up. Loxim once again refused to have anything to do with contraband magical items, but the others could see the benefits of the equipment. There was a short sword which Beray took, a pair of throwing daggers which Garlek claimed and finally a strange discus-like weapon with sawed teethe on the outside edge which Ariel acquired.
Darax did find a "fire ring" which she put on. It shaped to her small finger and seemed to have no detrimental effects so she left it on. Playing with a one of the mages candles she discovered that it made her and her equipment immune to the effects of fire.
Jerrik took a "magical sack" which was larger on the inside than the outside. Finally there was an anklet which was marked "mind clearing". Garlek tried it on, and immediately she seemed to change.
"God, thank heavens. If I had to master or mistress one of you again, I think I would have gone insane. Has anyone got some clothes, I think my bodies libido has been suppressed. At least this cape doesn't bother me but I'm not really happy about walking around with just Xar's cloak." Apparently the item freed her from the enforced slavery of her body.
"You want something to stop yourself from sagging, big guy?" Jerrik asked mockingly.
"Piss off," Garlek said.
"Careful now. I don't think I'd have any problem getting that anklet off you," Jerrik said lightly.
"You wouldn't!" Garlek said in a high voice bringing her hands up under her large breasts.
"Yeah, just like you wouldn't bother Xar in the middle of the night," Jerrik replied.
"What do you mean?" asked Loxim, his face crinkled in curiosity. This was news to him.
"Oh, Garlek got a bit amorous with Darax the other night. She tried the old knife at the throat foreplay bit. Most tasteful really," Jerrik said in an even voice. "I think you need to earn that anklet Garlek and right now I believe that Beray is more deserving of it. What do the rest of you think?"
The others agreed and the anklet was passed to Beray.
Searching through the cubby, Jerrik found a small satchel. Inside were a number of costumes, apparently intended for the statues. There was some finely crafted elfin mail which Beray tried on and a web-like thong and corset which Garlek seemed to think was intended for her.
Once the mail was on Beray could not help but laugh. "This stuff is ridiculous. It's for show only!" she said. It was true. The two piece mail suit barely covered her large breasts and the bottom half was pressed tight around her hips, showing her rounded firm buttocks in all their magnificent relief.
"I think it might be magical," Jerrik suggested. He ran a knife along her skin but some invisible force kept the blade a hairs distance away from the surface.
"Well maybe not completely useless, but I still feel ridiculous," Beray complained.
"Do you feel warm?" Jerrik asked.
"All right, so it acts as clothing as well! It doesn't change the fact-"
"Just deal with it!" Darax said.
"And what about your outfit?" Jerrik asked Garlek.
She smiled and wiggled in the outfit, her plentiful breasts swaying with her motion. The ensemble seemed to be made from an almost sheer red silk which hardly disguised her assets. "It doesn't tickle and it's warm," she said happily. Turning to Ariel she whispered, "and it comes off so easily." Garlek gave her new master a little wink. "Don't you love the way it contrasts with my new pale skin?"
* * *
The wizard watched the party through his scrying crystal. It was not often that someone out smarted him, so with grudging respect he decided to let the party go. The mage looked down at the diminutive form he wore. At under half a foot, he was a shrunken version of his former self. It was fortunate that he took precautions such as this miniature statue which he now inhabited.
This body had been fashioned for the eventuality of him being killed. At the moment of death his mind would be transferred into this statue. From this small body he could watch any invaders and choose to either to attack, wait or escape through the small tunnels under his tower.
The wizard regretted the loss of his Golems, the two female statues and his small treasure horde but overall the encounter had been a good lesson in humility. Besides he could easily make more statues and his really valuable items were all stored in a much safer place than the roof.
* * *
That night Garlek prepared dinner for the party, merrily going about her work and assisting in whatever manner she was asked. She strutted around, showing her body to excellent advantage and seemed to fawn all over Ariel. This confused the young man a little as he was reacting to her body involuntarily. Jerrik was a bit miffed about the attention his sibling was receiving and begged Ariel to pass control of Garlek back to him.
Darax agreed with Jerrik. "It's really only fair Ariel. Jerrik will make sure that Garlek learns how to treat woman right." Secretly Darax was jealous that Ariel was paying too much attention to Garlek. Her comment was intended to separate Ariel from Garlek. Darax had believed that there was something going on between herself and Ariel, something more than just sex. With Garlek the supervixen slave hanging off Ariel's every command, Darax felt like she was invisible. "He won't go easy on her like you might," Darax argued, hoping they she sounded reasonable.
Deep down Garlek prayed that she didn't get Jerrik. Ariel would probably not take advantage of her, but Jerrik would probably be a quite demanding.
"Oh, all right, but you owe me one big brother," Ariel said,
"Sure thing Sis', " Jerrik replied.
"And don't think that I don't know what's going through your mind Xar," Ariel reminded Darax. "Garlek, Jerrik is your new master. You shall no longer take orders from me," Ariel said simply.
Garlek felt the all to familiar shift in her mind as her focus of worship shifted to Jerrik. Inwardly the busty woman groaned.
"All right Garlek my friend," said Jerrik. "Now about that 'anything I desire'..." he ran a hand over her smooth thigh and whispered in her ear. The scantily clad woman smiled in anticipation, ready to fulfill any request made of her. The nubile body which Garlek wore seemed to tingle where Jerrik had touched her, sending shivers of pleasure coursing through her small body.
The suppressed intellect of Garlek tried to assert dominance over the girls mind, but the small amount of physical sensation was extremely enticing making the mental battle short-lived. Garlek started to wonder what it would be like as a real woman in this body. Running a hand over the soft flesh she knew that her body had only one purpose and was starting to anticipate exactly how much pleasure she could receive.
* * *
Jerrik looked at the wizards bed. After sleeping on the ground for the past week, anything would have been better, but this was wonderful. The bed was fantastic, but the sex goddess lying on the bed waiting for him was even better. Jerrik felt a momentary pang of guilt about taking advantage of Garlek in her condition, but he quickly quelled his conscience.
Jerrik sat down next to the girl on the bed and ran a hand over her alabaster skin. She shivered at his touch on the bed, a feline smile on her face. The thief was amazed at the beauty of the girls form.
Garlek looked up at her master, willing him to command her to do what she had been thinking about all night. Garlek tried to fight against the controls on her mind but there was no point. She was not even sure if she wanted to fight any more.
* * *
When it was Loxim's turn at guard, Darax climbed from the bedroll she shared with Ariel and quietly approached the monk. She knew she had to deal with Loxim eventually and it would be better sooner rather than later.
"Hello Loxim," she said by way of introduction.
"Let me tell you a story," Loxim said quietly without turning.
Darax stood calmly, half expecting what she was going to be told.
"I had a younger brother in a monastery named Jarred. He wanted to follow in my footsteps. Jarred spent a lot of time with another monk, a very gifted warrior named Darax. Darax was a good man, but one day he snapped. You see he was a freak, a disaster waiting to happen. He was one of the changed. He killed my younger brother, nearly killed another monk called Kargesht, then attacked the Sifu. Darax fled when the monastery started to rally its defenses against him, killing a number of monks in his escape. I've been looking for him... for a long, long time now." Loxim's voice had gone deathly quiet.
The silence hung between the two monks, a heavy malevolent calm.
Darax thought over what she had just heard, weighing her response. She could deny her past or she could tell the truth. It would be easy to concoct some story, but something stopped her. Her code. In the end she was unwilling to live a lie.
"I'll tell you what happened, Loxim. I loved Jarred like a brother and you're wrong about me killing him. You didn't know Kargesht. He hated me. I don't know why but he hated me with a vengeance. He was jealous of my skill I suppose. He plotted against me. Kargesht is devious and spineless. Knowing that he couldn't defeat me in open combat he challenged your brother Jarred. But Kargesht went too far and killed Jarred. My best friend.
"I was furious when I saw Kargesht murder Jarred and I attacked him in a rage, bare handed. In the assault my full abilities as a changed manifested and I nearly killed Kargesht, beating the scum to within an inch of his life. I went tell the Sifu, but my eyes had changed to silver..." Darax drew a breath, reaching the hard part of her story. "The Sifu attacked me and called in reinforcements when he could not best me. It was very unwise. He should have just banished me, but he wasn't to know.
"I was uninjured when four senior monks charged into the room. They attacked mercilessly with kendo sticks, offering no quarter. I was unable to meet their attacks that came from all directions. Beaten and battered, with imminent death approaching, my mind snapped. I berserked. If I berserk I loose my reason, but sadly not my skill. I killed my brothers as if I were a cornered animal, but I have no memory of doing it. All I remember was coming back to full awareness in a room filled with dead monks. I fled and have been running ever since. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about what happened.
"I don't deny killing the monks, but I do regret it. It must have been easy for Kargesht to blame me for the death of Jarred, after all I am a freak, but believe me. I did not kill Jarred."
Loxim listened to Darax's story with a skeptical ear. The older warrior knew that anyone that would kill their fellow monks was capable of anything. Darax had openly admitted killing her brothers. If she expected forgiveness she was mistaken. Now that Loxim's suspicions about the girls identity were satisfied he could issue his challenge. "Once we have caught this mind thief, you are dead. Remember - I'm only working with you to get my lieges body back. After that we are enemies. I formally challenge you."
Darax nodded. She would rather not kill Loxim, but if he was going to try to kill her, then she had no choice. "So be it." She returned to her shared bedroll and moved close to Ariel. She could not sleep and lay staring at the sky, watching the clouds chase by.
Jerrik stood in the shadows, weighing both sides of the tale he had just heard. His gut instinct told him that he should believe Darax over Loxim, but it was worrisome to learn that Darax's body was so powerful. To single-handedly defeat a four warrior monks without a weapon sounded impossible. It made dealing with Masquet all the more daunting if it were true.
The next morning the party broke camp early. Traveling down the trail they made good time and, oddly, they encountered no monsters. About mid afternoon they mounted a small rise that afforded them a stunning vista of the area. Directly ahead of them, perched on a cliff, was a huge castle. Even from this distance they could make out the splendid minarets, spires and columns which were all exquisitely detailed.
As they approached the structure a sense of dread permeated the party. Instead of being beautiful, the fort began to look ominous, it's symmetry and design pointing towards an occult purpose, something dirty and obscene. The detailing became more visible, looking more like exposed bones and sharp claws than a gothic castle. The building gave the impression that a huge beast had died on the cliff and then been built upon, a monstrous skeletal carcass encased in stone and knitted together by some insane builder. This was where Masquet had gone.
They cautiously approached the entrance, a raised portcullis giving them a clear entrance into the castle grounds. They all paused, eyeing the arrow slits and battlements. The place looked well tended, but apart from being spotless there was no sign of life.
"I'm not sure if we should go in," Beray said, her voice high with worry. Having already lost so much, she was growing unwilling to continue.
Loxim said, "I paid you good money though, and I know I'm not turning back. If you want to try and make your way back without us..."
Darax nodded as did Ariel.
"I'm with my sis- sibling," Jerrik said.
"Whatever my master wishes," said Garlek. Inwardly she was resigned to whatever happened to her. She no longer had a real say in anything.
Beray looked at the others with a mortified expression. She obviously had no real choice either.
They filed carefully into the courtyard, looking around the interior warily. An eerie wind blew through the square, the silence of the enclosure deafening. There was a sudden rattle of chains and everyone's eyes were drawn to a cage hanging from a cantilevered pylon. Sitting in the cage was a Kobold, emaciated and wan, eyeing them with listless eyes from under a covering of rags. It took a moment for them to realise that the creature was alive.
"Cut it down, we may get some information from it," Loxim commanded his retainer.
Beray looked at her employer and grinned, "I'm not your slave, do it yourself."
"I'll go it," said Darax. She took a running leap onto an outcropping and scaled the wall. She then jumped nimbly across to the cage, which swung from her added weight. Using her blades, Darax cut through the large padlock and opened the door. The Kobold looked at her stupidly then at the exit. It stood and lowered itself to the ground.
"Thankyou," it said in thick guttural common. "Owe my life, I do. Anything I do?"
"Tell us about this place," Loxim said.
"Place of magic. Me and my brothers serve great warlock. One moon ago huge explosion, me think it kill wizard. Then one night ago evil man with killer weapons attack. Some flee, some surrender, many die. Me leader. Make example of me, did evil man. Left me to face evil red orb, not in darkness. Seared by heat. But Orag strong. Survive me did," Orag the Kobold explained proudly holding his clothes tightly around him.
Darax appraised the creature. Scaly and short, descended from amphibious frogs, Kobolds avoided the sun, being nocturnal by nature. The sun dried out their skins and blinded their large bulbous eyes. Hanging in a cage in the sun all day would have been a terrible torture. Kobolds were not as bad as Goblins in Darax's books, but they were not the most trustworthy of creatures either.
"How many brothers do you have?" Jerrik asked. He had a bad feeling about this place.
"Hundreds, but now none. Me no longer part of Clan. Me want revenge. You kill evil man?" Orag asked hopefully.
Loxim grinned a tight smile. "Yes the evil man will die, but not yet. Can you guide us?"
"Orag know many secret places. Orag help," his large mouth grew into an eager smile. He pointed to a doorway, "this way. You follow, yes?"
Orag led them through the door and down a tight circular stairway which plunged deep into the bowels of the earth. Their was the dripping sound of water which echoed of the walls. They continued downwards for an eternity, coming finally to a large cavern at the bottom of the stairs. Orag held up a cautioning hand.
"Huge beast guard here. It not killable," he whispered, "if sneak carefully, then pass it we will." Looking into the room, they could make out crushed skeletons and ruined armor. Obviously the Kobold was telling the truth.
Jerrik pointed to a strange rounded opening that sat in the middle of the expansive chamber, a strange light emanating from it and covering the chambers cathedral-like roof in a rainbow of colours. "what is that?" It looked unnatural, a glazed hole in the middle of the natural rock, seemingly created by some awesome magical power.
"Bottomless pit, place of magic. If caught by beast it better to jump in there. Beast kill you slowly..." Orag muttered fearfully.
They started quietly across the chamber, fearful of making noise. The cavern was huge and if it hadn't have been for the bones and the fear of the monster, the party would have paused to admire its beauty. Halfway across the vaulted cavern Garlek stood on a skull causing it to shatter, the noise echoing loudly around the chamber. Everyone stood stupidly for a moment until they heard a load roar, then they started to run to the other side where the exit lay.
Darax looked towards an alcove where a massive creature stirred in the darkness. From what she could see of it, it was easily as big as an elephant. As it stepped into the light, Darax knew it was much larger. Thick plates of horned armor shielded the massive gray creature. It snorted in challenge and charged towards them, much faster then the quickest of the group.
Gauging the distance they had to go, Darax realised that they would not all make it. Everyone was in a tight knot, making them perfect prey for the hulking creature. Turning on her heal, she ran sideways from the group slightly towards the beast. The behemoth noticed her break from the pack, but continued its charge on the larger group, reasoning in its simple mind that the more it killed, the more food there would be for it to eat.
As it barreled past Darax, the monk jumped at its flank and lashed out with her blades in a flurry of attack. She placed all her strength behind her assault, slicing and hacking furiously at the thick armored hide. The weapons barely made it past the solid chitinous skin of the beast, but her attack certainly changed the hulking monsters focus. Feeling a dull pain for the first time it could remember, the beast ground to a halt and turned its full attention upon its small attacker.
Without pausing, Darax sprinted for the well, scooping up a discarded and very battered shield as she passed a corpse, a desperate gamble forming in her mind.
Darax ran towards the bottomless shaft, the gray horned beast charging close on her heals. She briefly considered a futile attack on the creature but decided against it. Instead she dove into the vertical passageway, dropping just as the behemoth charged over her.
Intending to use her hands to stop her descent, she was surprised when she discovered the chute to be completely smooth. She twisted upright but had too much speed to press her legs against the sheer walls.
Above the creature snorted in triumph, knowing that there was no escape from the drop except through death.
In a reckless venture Darax reached into her pouch and pulled out what felt like two sapphires, the wind too fast for her to see it properly. She uttered the memorized runes and threw the rocks downwards with all her might, swinging the shield above her and gripping onto the arm strap for dear life, praying her magical ring would work. The shield was almost the same size as the tunnel and sparked as it ground along the smooth sides.
The crystals exploded within moments of each other with twin deafening roars, immediately followed by a searing updraft. The expelled energy in the small confines of the shaft blasted into the shield, forcing it upwards like a bullet. Darax gripped the handle for dear life as fire snaked around the edges of the shield.
Darax's momentum was suddenly reversed. Riding on a cushion of super heated air, Darax shot up the narrow tube, the shield acting like a parachute. Fortunately the woman did not feel the heat, her 'fire ring' protecting her from the blaze. The shield strap and her clothes however were not protected by the magic ring and caught fire, the strap snapping in her hands as it turned to a cinder. Once the shield had shed Darax's weight it continued upwards at a much greater velocity.
Unable to see anything through the scalding updraft, Darax battered along the wall, weightless but no longer riding the cushion of air. She managed to get her back against the wall then press her legs against the other side, supporting her body just as gravity regained it's hold on her.
The monster at the top of the shaft heard a double explosion and snorted in confusion, peering downwards into the hole. It could make out a bright light for a moment and there was the rushing of air. It shuffled its huge feet, trying to get a better view. Something was coming back up...
The creature roared in pain as the superheated air from the blast cauterized its face. It pulled back, but not before the shield was shot like a missile from the shaft. The shield flew through the sizzling flesh of the monsters eye, cracking bone as it continued into the creatures dense skull, liquefying the beasts brain. The behemoth keeled over sideways, shuddering reflexively in death.
Meanwhile in the bottomless pit, Darax started her long ascent to the top.
* * *
"What the hell did you think you were doing," scolded Ariel as Darax climbed from the chute.
"Saving you!" Darax explained.
"Well next time don't! Jesus that's my body you're wearing," Ariel yelled. The young man was unwilling to admit that he had been worried sick when he had turned to discover Darax taking on the huge monster single-handedly. His emotions were confused, but the source of his fear had been a concern for Darax, not the female body she wore. Ariel knew that the party would have suffered serious losses if Darax had not acted as she had, but the knowledge did not make Darax's actions palatable. Like most men he was reacting irrationally to his emotions, forcing them into illogical avenues and he didn't like the new way of dealing with his anger one bit..
"I'm glad you care about me," Darax huffed, taking Ariel's dressing down at face value.
Ariel continued on regardless, "I'm serious! Do you have a death wish or something? What you did was completely reckless."
"Sorry! Next time I'll cover my own arse."
"If you two are finished? We have a slight problem," Jerrik interjected, pointing at a horde of Kobolds which had appeared at the entrance to the cavern. There were so many of them that they could scarcely count them and the mass looked very hostile, brandishing weapons menacingly as they congregated.
Attracted by the explosion, the Kobolds had come to see what was happening. Seeing the dead behemoth they roared in pleasure. In their simple way the Kobolds realised that with it's death, they no longer needed to fear it. This beast had prevented them from entering the wizards caverns, now there was no guardian, just weak humans!
"Oh, Oh," Orag muttered as the pack of Kobolds charged. Their Kobold ally turned and ran for the exit which the party had been bound for previously. The others followed closely on the short Kobolds heals. Out in the open they would be cut to pieces, but in the confines of a corridor they stood a chance as they could present an even front.
Jerrik reached into his jerkin and pulled out his remaining crystal, chanting the rune and throwing it into the charging mass as he made his way through the exit. The fiery blast killed about twenty of the creatures, thinning down their front ranks but doing nothing to slow their charge. The frog-like creatures bounded over their fallen comrades with complete disregard, grinding the dead bodies underfoot, completely intent upon the party.
"Shit, shit, shit," said Garlek with every stride, her large breasts bouncing painfully in time with her running. Her body was designed for a number of purposes, but running was not one of them. She felt as though whoever had created this body had made it with the express purpose of it being caught! The last thing she wanted however was to be the sexual plaything of Kobolds.
Following Orag, the party sprinted down the tunnel and started to take what seemed like completely random turns at every intersection. They managed to lose the chasing horde by having a slight lead, but this would only last as long as the group kept running.
Meanwhile the Kobolds started to split up into smaller groups at each intersection, beginning a completely random search for the intruders.
As they slowed to gather their breath, everyone drew their weapons, aware that it was only a matter of time before they were discovered again.
"Where are we going?" asked Loxim Orag in a whisper.
"Away from tribe." Orag replied.
"Great!" Loxim said in exasperation. "Where are we?"
"I don't know," Orag replied, "what you angry for, we safe."
* * *
Masquet looked at the dead body of the Behemoth. The mind thief had left too many loose ends behind him when he came here. He had been confident that no one would follow him into the badlands, and that if they did it they would have arrived after he cracked into his masters lab.
About a month previously Masquet had been sent to infiltrate a petty lords demesne to take it over. But the night he had taken the young noble, he had felt the compulsion to continue with his task gone. His mental link with his master was severed which could only mean that the high wizard was dead. Being the mind thief in closest proximity to his master, Masquet had headed straight back.
Masquet reasoned that if he could break into the wizards inner sanctum first and gain the control crown, then he would command all of the other mind thieves formerly under the high wizards power. There were a great number of mind thieves.
So far Masquet had only managed to gain entrance to a room full of magical statues. Masquet had been unable to locate the masters lab and had been unwilling to try his mettle against the behemoth.
Masquet nodded at his cadre of five guards. They had all once been Kobolds, but now occupied the gorgeous bodies of elfin women. Masquet looked at the beautiful women with a smile on his face. One of the benefits of being a mind thief was that he could sleep with whoever he wanted to and only had to exchange when he desired it. He very much liked the idea of having five willing slaves at his beck and call.
The body thief had listened to the reports of his guards. They had told him that the party had included Orag and that there had been five humans and an elf. This was distressing news. Kobolds unfortunately could not tell the difference between humans, but Masquet guessed that the party had probably included the two thieves he had duped, the monk who's body he now wore and perhaps the nobleman and his retainer.
Nothing he couldn't cope with, but he had to get them before they found the high mages lab.
Beray dodged the Kobold attack, her limber elfin body moving instinctively out of the path of the spear thrust. She whipped her sword across the Kobolds pike, knocking it aside then lunging forward with her shortsword, skewering the frog-like beast through the chest. With a surprised expression on its face, it croaked, falling sideways to the ground.
There was some good things about her body, Beray realised. It was quick, very fit and it seemed to have an intrinsic knowledge of the finer points of swordplay. When she had been a man, Beray had relied upon her strength with an axe to bash her way through the defenses of her foes. Now she relied on finesse, speed and agility. Although moving rapidly tended to remind her of the large breasts on her chest, Beray could not dismiss the results of her swordplay.
Two Kobolds armed with pikes charged Loxim. The monk spun his sickle blades in opposing directions, flicking his weapons speedily sideways to knock the twin spears to his left, then rolling his body along the shaft of the polearms and hacking into the exposed backs of the pair of Kobolds. The monk pulled the blades towards himself, leaving a deep incision in each Kobolds back. The curved blades allowed Loxim to reach places where straight weapons could not.
Turning the blades in his hand Loxim garroted one Kobold and lashed along the arm of the other. The second Kobold dropped its spear and clutched its wounded arm, whilst the other gripped its severed jugular as it wilted to its knees. With two deft strikes the second creature was vivisected and impaled through the heart. When the monk turned his back on them, both Kobolds were dead.
The others dispatched their foes just as easily, even Garlek who generally cowered at the back of the party. The voluptuous woman had used her throwing daggers very efficiently, the unerring magical blades proving most useful from the rear of the band.
So far the party had encountered three small bands of Kobolds and dealt with all of them without any casualties. Some minor cuts had been taken, but otherwise they were unharmed. All of the members in the band knew that their luck would not hold if the Kobolds attacked en masse.
Orag seemed to have found some familiar passages and was leading them in the direction of safety. Finally he came to a dead end. The frog-like creature grinned at the dismay on everyone's face. They were certain that the Kobold was hopelessly lost.
Holding his hand against the wall, the creature pushed through it and disappeared. The others followed uncertainly. On the other side they found a magically lit room with a well paved floor and a single door. "This great wizards place. Much magic. We safe here. Only Orag know this place," the Kobold explained. "But me never go further. Know not where doors lead, but might be trapped."
"Well there's only one way to find out," said Jerrik grinning, "Garlek, open the door."
"Yes master," the girl replied obediently.
"Wait a second, she didn't have a say in this," Beray objected.
"All right then. Garlek stop," Jerrik ordered.
The girl stopped, quite relieved. Wizards were not the most trusting people and there was bound to be traps on all the doors. Garlek was not very happy with her current body, but she was certain the traps would probably have worse implications than what she was stuck with at the moment.
"Shall we Ariel?" Jerrik asked, producing some picks from his pack and a small bag. He started to lay down more equipment on the ground. Mirrors, lenses, metal cord, incense burners and all manor of exotic paraphernalia.
"What are you doing?" Loxim asked angrily. He had finally deduced that Ariel and Jerrik were thieves. They also seemed to understand the occult, much to well for his liking.
"Leave them alone Loxim," Darax suggested, watching the duos preparations with great interest.
They lit the incense which burned into a strange blue haze. Using the lens Jerrik examined each door. "Runes of warding. Traps. Transformation spells. Whoever set these up is good," the thief commented, cracking his knuckles then picking up the steel twine. Jerrik approached the door and swung the wire around the handle, pulling it taught, careful not to touch the knob himself. The thief then slowly turned the handle using the cord as a lever. "Pity we're better," Jerrik said modestly. "Ariel?" he prompted.
Picking up a pouch Ariel pulled out a handful of fine glassy dust. "Diamond dust," he explained as he threw it at the door then picked up the lens and examined the portal. "It's clear."
Ariel then picked up the lockpicks and carefully started working on the lock whilst Jerrik held the metal cord. After fidgeting with the mechanism for some time there was an audible click. Ariel gingerly pulled the picks from the lock then examined it again with the lens. He nodded to his sibling. This went on for some time in this vein, many of their actions completely inexplicable to those that watched.
By the time they finished the two thieves were quite exhausted. They had a brief breather then climbed to their feet. Without any further ado, Jerrik opened the door. Inside they saw a colonnade with eight extravagant full length mirrors along the walls and an elaborately carved doorway at the end.
"Who'll go in there?" Loxim asked.
"Don't look at me, I only know about locks and traps, not mirrors," said Jerrik.
"I will go," replied Beray. The others looked at her without comment. There was likely some traps in this gallery as well.
Beray walked down the corridor, admiring the grand looking glasses. It was like a hall of mirrors at a sideshow carnival, the surfaces sinuous and bizarre, giving off distorted reflections. She stared carefully at the first mirror as she passed it. In it she saw a reflection of herself which was not quite right, the mirror warping her appearance in varying ways as she moved. It took her a moment to realise that the mirror was casting back a male image of her body. She retained enough of her features that she was still recognisable but it was still disquieting to behold.
The next speculum she passed reflected a human girl, not an elf. The next mirrors gave reflections of monsters. One an image of a floating mermaid, another a Kobold version of herself, then there was a rat-like goblin image and a pasty yellow skinned troll. All the reflections mimicked her actions completely.
The final two mirrors showed her reflections which were physically warped versions of her elfin body, but otherwise unaltered. One was a short, squat image, the other a tall extended likeness. As she examined these carefully, she realised that the images were not mimicking her. They were examining her with a chilling intensity.
As Beray watched, the faces of the two distorted replicas slowly turned into fearsome leers, their eyes blazing red with ravenous evil. Turning in fear, Beray ran back down the corridor as the twisted dopplegangers stepped from the rippled glass and drew their weapons. The tall gangly simulacrum held a huge sword and hulkered down the hall, the short hunched one barreling after with a stubby blade.
"Help," Beray yelled as she exited the corridor, the monsters close on her heals. Intent as they were upon Beray, they did not notice the rest of the party as the ran into the room. Darax cut at the exposed throat of the short doppleganger as it ran past. At the same time Beray let out a scream and clutched her throat, as did the other duplicate. The original Beray and her two copy cats fell to the ground with grievous neck wounds, the images and the original somehow linked together. The mortally injured duplicates started to fade into thin air.
"Get a potion of healing, quickly," Jerrik shouted as he cradled Beray's head, applying pressure with his hands to her throat.
In a daze Darax watched as Ariel poured one of their potions into the girls mouth. Beray coughed and sputtered as she drank the elixir, the wound healing. It was a close call though, proof of which was the dark pool of blood on the ground.
Darax looked down at her clean weapon. Up until now she had self righteously thought that she could do no wrong, but she had nearly killed one of her companions.
"What's wrong?" Ariel asked, sensing that Darax was upset.
"Nothing," Darax muttered. She had attacked instinctively, but her instincts had been wrong. Up until now they had never failed her. This might happen to other people, not to her though.
"Well done," Loxim said in a sneering voice, heaping acid upon Darax's mental turmoil, "you nearly killed her."
Ariel's face twisted into a grimace of anger, "shut up you!"
"No, he's right," Darax said.
"Everyone of us would have done the same thing, you were just the quickest. You weren't to know what would happen. Hell we have more important things than self pity to worry about now. Get your arse in gear woman."
Darax's face creased in irritation at being called 'woman', but the dressing down put things in perspective for her. She reminded herself that she was now only human and that she was allowed to make mistakes.
"Tell us what happened," Jerrik said.
Pale and bloodless, Beray sat against the wall, "I think that it was because the images could see me. It was only when I looked directly at one of them that it changed into a monster. Put a blindfold on and they won't see you and you'll be able to pass."
"What about the door at the end? It might be trapped," Garlek asked in a high voice.
"That's just something we'll have to deal with," commented Jerrik. He started to walk down the corridor but paused at the mirror that reflected a female image. "What do you think these do, anyway?" Jerrik put his hand on the mirror and it sank inwards, the female reflection drifting out from the mirror, the two forms overlapping. The thief tried to withdraw his hand but couldn't, he could only go forwards. "Um, I think I have a problem here," Jerrik said nervously. As he struggled he sank deeper into the glass.
Ariel came along and tried to pull him out but Jerrik was well and truly trapped. "You know I always wanted a sister," Ariel said trying to break the levity of the moment.
"That's not funny," Jerrik said, perspiration beading on his forehead.
"Either you stay there forever or finish what you started," Ariel said, "here I'll help you decide." With that Ariel pushed his sibling all the way into the mirror. For Jerrik it felt like he was submerged in cold icy water, his entire body tingling as it shifted through the magical looking glass. For a moment he felt as though their were two of him, his normal self and a shorter busty female version of him. However as Jerrik exited the magic glass the thief was very clearly female with only the slightest vestige of her former self. Jerrik was almost a twin of Darax except shorter and much more amply endowed.
Jerrik looked down in dismay at her body. The mirror had even altered her clothes to fit snugly around her curvaceous body. She knew just by moving her legs that there was something missing between them. Her cleavage was also something of a surprise being very large.
"Welcome to the club," Beray said in a droll voice, "it's a kick ain't it."
With dry mouthed fear, Jerrik moved her hand towards the mirror, hoping that the surface would be porous and not solid. Her hand touched the cold unyielding glass and she felt her hopes plummet. She knew that there was a cruel hand of fate out their somewhere.
"You know, I think I might try a mirror," said Beray. She stepped into the one that reflected a human female and emerged appearing human. She still retained her very pale marble coloured skin and was of a similar build with a delicate cast to her appearance but her eyes and ears were now clearly human.
Beray considered entering the mirror that would make her male again, but for some reason she hesitated. She was curious to see what it would be like to use this body and discover the thrills of the opposite sex. If she didn't like it, she could come back to the mirror later.
Jerrik looked at Garlek. The female thief knew that Garlek desperately wanted to enter the mirror and regain her masculinity, but could not ask her mistress. "Step into it if you want to." Garlek could hardly restrain herself, stepping into the mirror and gaining the body of a short but well muscled man.
"Thank you mistress," the enslaved man said gratefully, "I shall still serve you in any way you desire."
"Lets not go there, all right?"
"Well?" Ariel said to Darax nodding at the mirror.
"It's your body. I don't want to change it into a male one if there is no chance to reverse it. I plan to get out of this form and into my old male body anyway. Only if all else fails, I'll try this mirror," Darax stated. She was actually quite happy with the current state of affairs, but was uncertain how Ariel felt. The monk waited expectantly for her lover to make his decision.
"I think I'll do the same," Ariel said, a smile on his face. He winked to Darax conspiratorially and she smiled back in relief.
Meanwhile Orag walked into the Kobold mirror and emerged as a well muscled human. Silently he crept to the end of the corridor and, with his eyes covered, he opened the door. As everyone turned to see what the noise was, Orag stole into the room beyond and picked up a crown on a pedestal. Orag promptly put the band on his head.
"God, do you know how irritating it is to talk like a Kobold. I really must thank you for your help. Now I command you all to obey me, fall to your knees," Orag said.
Everyone looked at Orag with mixed expressions of concern. Nothing happened though. "Obey me! You are now all simpletons. Step into the mirror and become woman. Worship me with your bodies. You crave me!" Orag ordered. The crown started to glow with his command, but for some reason nobody in the party felt a compulsion to obey him.
Slowly Orag fell to his knees in supplication. "I obey you all, my masters." He stood and walked towards them like a zombie, past the guardian mirrors which he did not look at. He walked lifelessly down the arcade and into the mirror which he had commended everyone to step into.
The woman which emerged was very attractive and curvaceous but had a completely vacant expression on her face. It appeared as though the crown had reversed all of Orag's commands back upon the conniving Kobold.
The woman started to remove her clothes revealing the full extent of her body. Firm large breasts with equally sizable nipples swayed freely as she disrobed. She then threw her body at the closest person to her, which happened to be Loxim. The monk tried to shake her off as she clutched onto his leg and began licking up and down his thigh. Loxim looked down at the woman in horror, speechless.
"I'm guessing that Orag just tried to betray us," Ariel said looking at the empty headed but undeniably beautiful woman that he had become.
"Didn't do a very good job of it, did she. Although she does get points for enthusiasm," Darax stated dryly. Orag seemed to have become a raging nymphomaniac, judging by her flagrant disregard for her nakedness and the way she was reveling in her newfound femininity.
"Stop that!" the monk yelled in anger at the servile sex starved woman. She was merrily trying to unbutton his pants. At the rebuke she immediately ceased, her face turning into a disappointed pout. She played with her breasts in frustration but this was short-lived as her eyes focused on Beray. She didn't care if it was man or a woman that she was with, after all these people were her new masters.
"What is that by the way?" Darax asked trying to change the subject by pointing at the golden band around the woman's head.
Ariel went forward and retrieved the crown and examined it. There was a large glass bulb in the centre of the headpiece which glowed with a similar colour to the glass in the bottomless chute. "Probably the wizard possessed a powerful crown. Judging by what happened, I would guess that this isn't it. Most likely it's a trap left by the wizard for unwary fools like Orag," Ariel speculated. Holding the crown Ariel sensed that it was somehow, sentient with an aura of evil about it. He could not enunciate his fears though, the crown prevented him.
Darax nodded in agreement. Anything which caused a person to act like Orag was had to be cursed.
Ariel continued looking at the jewel encrusted gold band, his mind feeling an alien touch upon it as the sentience pawed through his memories. Ariel scratched his face in thought, words suddenly appearing in his mind. He was compelled to say them. "The crown must be one of those 'reverse order' magical items which only affect the wearer. I've heard stories about these accursed items. Apparently they're not completely useless. If you use the right phrasing it could even be useful."
"What do you mean?" Darax prompted.
"Well, if Garlek commanded Jerrik not to obey her, the reverse would happen. In effect it would prevent Garlek from being Jerrik's slave," Ariel explained. Inwardly he was struggling to say that the crown was evil. It was dampening his mental control in some way. "Maybe we should do that?" He nudged Jerrik.
Jerrik, who had been examining her generously endowed cleavage, looked up blankly at Ariel. The female thief was in such deep shock that Ariel had to repeat his suggestion twice before Jerrik absorbed what her sibling was saying.
"Yeah that sounds like a good idea to me. I think Garlek has learned her lesson," Jerrik said distantly, "go ahead and make the order if you want."
"Wait, I think that Beray is more deserving," Loxim interrupted thinking that if he could free Beray from his service then she would not be so unnatural.
Beray nodded and took off her anklet, feeling the compulsion to obey Loxim set in immediately. Ariel passed her the crown. As he did so his memory of the crowns mental manipulations faded. He did however feel that he should protect the magical item at all costs.
Loxim sighed, "order me not to obey you and for me to be completely free willed then." He hated working with magic.
Beray slipped the crown over her head and said, "Loxim cannot obey me and is completely free willed."
Unfortunately neither the evil crown nor the complex ties of magic between Loxim and Beray would allow the command to work as simply as that. Since Beray was a magical pawn of Loxim, the crown took the command to have come from Loxim. This had the effect of freeing Beray and enslaving Loxim to her.
"How may I serve you?" Loxim asked promptly, coming to smart attention.
"I'm free now, but Loxim isn't!" Beray said.
"Thanks for testing that thing before me Loxim," Jerrik said as she passed the anklet to the warrior monk. The monk put it on and regained his mind.
* * *
"You are sure now?" Masquet asked.
The Kobold nodded, "went into dead end and not come out."
Masquet grinned in triumph. Orag must have led the party to the wizards lair! The mind thieves prize was close at hand.
* * *
"Orag, tell us about yourself," Darax ordered.
"Please mistress, call me Cindyl," the girl pleaded sweetly. Whatever intelligence Orag had possessed had been erased by the crown, leaving nothing more than an empty-headed bimbo in the Kobolds place.
"Cindyl, tell us who Orag was."
"Are you sure you don't want to play?"
"Maybe later. Tell me, who was Orag?
"Orag was the magicians apprentice, but he misbehaved. As punishment the wizard turned him into a Kobold and made him live with the Kobolds. Kobolds are yucky."
"Tell us about the wizards crown."
"I want to play!" Cindyl said with growing frustration.
"Don't misbehave or I'll have to slap you!"
"Do you promise?"
"Cindyl," Darax said as sternly as possible.
"Oh all right. The crown is strong. The wizard keeps it hidden. It can shape thoughts," the girl huffed. Her eyes widened as a thought entered her bubble headed skull, "hey it can make people like me! That would be fun. I'd have some playmates," she said this with such high pitched enthusiasm that Darax winced.
"What else," Darax coaxed. This was like extracting teethe.
"It makes people mind thieves and controls them as well."
"How many mind thieves are there?"
Darax frowned. Hundreds of mind thieves in the right positions of power would be able to control vast areas of the civilised lands. The monk looked at the other members of the party as the ramifications of the situation became clear. They had stumbled onto something huge. There was a power vacuum waiting to be filled and the person who controlled the crown would fill the void and rule the world.
"Are you done?" Cindyl queried happily.
"Not yet. What about the mirrors, what do you know about them?"
"You can use them every day," she said starting to play with Darax's thigh, creeping upwards between the monks legs. Darax slapped away the bimbo's hand.
"So I only have to be a girl for twenty four hours," Jerrik said with relief.
Cindyl nodded in reply, "but it's lots of fun being a girl. Imagine what you can do! Nice clothes, perfume and no worries. Well are you going to slap me now?" Cindyl asked expectantly, turning her firmly rounded posterior towards Darax. Shrugging, Darax obliged, shaking her head at the squeals of pleasure which emanated from the bimbonic sexpot with each spanking.
"Shhh," said Jerrik, holding up her hand, "what's that noise. It's coming from the entrance."
Darax paused in her whacking and looked at the wall they had come from. She heard it too.
"Quick, into the room at the end of the mirror hall."
Everyone jumped up and ran to the end, careful not to look in the dangerous mirror.
Jerrik paused and reset the traps on the entrance, then came down the corridor also.
* * *
"Are you ready?" Masquet asked the milling Kobolds.
They nodded eagerly.
The Frog-like monsters ran into the room ready for battle, only to discover it empty, the single doors leading onwards firmly closed. The first Kobold to grip the handle let out a ribbit of surprise as the magic on the door bound it in rippling cords of energy. The Kobold struggled to break his grip but the magic had caused his muscles to contract upon the handle.
The other Kobolds watched in horror as one of their number started to dwindle away on size. In moments the Kobold had been reformed into a warty female of their species. With mottled green skin and a seductive frog-faced visage she was to die for (well for Kobolds anyway). One Kobold ran a hand along her lumpy thigh and along her wet scaly skin, marveling at the abbrasiveness of her skin. This Kobold was highly attractive to the male Kobolds, the epitome of the female frogman.
Looking down at the slinky and slimy form she now wore, the Kobold croaked in horror, quite unthrilled with the large mammalian breasts she had.
"Open that door!" ordered Masquet, brandishing his weapons menacingly. Since the frogmen did nothing, the mind thief quickly whipped his weapons across two of their number, killing them.
Kobolds are generally stupid beasts, but they knew danger when they saw it. Faced between being transformed into females and the death dealing of a raging warrior, they put pride before the fall. They could hardly move quickly enough to satisfy their master. The door was opened, but over ten Kobolds were transformed into females.
Masquet looked through the door at the hall of mirrors. He nudged one of the Kobolds to enter. The Kobold did as he was instructed, walking down the corridor. He paused at a number of the mirrors, intrigued by the strange reflections he beheld.
At the last two mirrors he paused for to long, staring at the menacing creatures on the other side. He turned to run, but not before a pair of hands reached out and gripped him, drawing his struggling form into the mirror. There was a gargled scream, then silence.
Masquet paused and scratched his chin in thought. He hoped he had enough cannon fodder to get through the mages defenses.
"There has to be a secret door!" Ariel said as he desperately probed the walls, pushing, nudging and pulling anything and everything he could. Jerrik tried to search as well, but unfortunately only half her mind was on the job as she was still trying to mentally deal with her altered body.
On the other side of the door they had just come from there was a scream of terror, then silence.
"Found it," Ariel yelled as he pushed down on a tile in the corner..
The seams of a door appeared in the wall. With a gentle push by Jerrik the door opened slowly. Inside was the ruins of a lab. Whatever had happened here had been catastrophic. On one wall was the silhouette of a figure. Apparently the blast had been so tremendous that it had totally obliterated the wizard leaving only an outline of his body. A small pile of jewelry was all that remained of the archmage.
As the party began to enter the next chamber, the door behind them opened and a terrified Kobold charged in behind them chased by a gangly duplicate of itself. These simulacrum fell upon the Kobold and stabbed it with a sword then dragged it kicking and screaming back into one of the mirrors.
Looking down the corridor Darax saw milling Kobolds. Behind these was her former male body, urging the Kobolds on. Locking eyes with the mind thief, Darax felt a chill of terror as time slowed down. She knew how powerful that body was. If he caught up to them before they found the crown, they didn't stand a chance.
"Hurry up and find that crown, I can see Masquet. It's only a matter of time before he gets here," Darax said, struggling to close the secret door. It wouldn't budge.
Jerrik was searching through the pile of jewelry but could find no trace of the crown. "Maybe it's in his room!" Jerrik shouted as she ran through one of the two doors leading from the lab. Ariel scooped up one of the mages rings and then passed through the second door reasoning that they stood more chance of finding the crown if they separated.
"Find it dammit! I'm going to close this door. If I can't do that we'll have to fight Masquet," yelled Darax.
Two more Kobolds started to pace down the corridor, weapons outstretched, their hands clutching fearfully as their eyes roamed the mirrors.
"It's a pity they don't know that they shouldn't look in the mirrors," whispered Garlek.
Darax's eyes widened in alarm. Garlek had been very quiet, but Darax knew that Masquet possessed super human hearing in his stolen body.
"Don't look in the mirrors," ordered Masquet in a loud voice immediately. "Get them. I want them alive!"
"Idiot," Beray scolded in a scathing voice, her eyes like daggers as they raked over Garlek.
The two Kobolds knew how to take orders and paced cautiously ahead without looking sideways. They walked straight past the guardian mirrors and into the next room. Masquet grinned indicating to his small horde that they should go ahead.
Stepping towards the pair of Kobolds, Loxim began to deflect blows with his sickle blades. Focusing on one of the Kobolds with a double attack, Loxim whipped a blade high across the frog-like monsters brow blinding it with blood, the other blade slicing a moment after through the soft flesh of the monster's throat. The monk was preparing to take on the other creature when he saw the charging mass of creatures and wisely decided to retreat.
The throng of creatures thundered down the corridor whilst Loxim, Garlek and Beray formed a defensive circle around entry to the lab, swinging their weapons threateningly, determined to make a stand.
Darax held her last gem in her hand. She knew that it could take out a fair number of the monsters but was fearful of breaking any of the mirrors, especially the mirror which altered an individuals gender. She knew that one of those mirrors was Jerrik's only chance at regaining her male body. Looking at the mass of charging Kobolds though, Darax knew that she had no choice.
Saying the magic rune on the jewel aloud, Darax threw the gem over the front ranks of monsters. It bounced off one surprised Kobolds shoulder and fell to the ground. Then it detonated. There was in excess of thirty Kobolds in the hall of mirrors and the blast obliterated five of them immediately. It also shattered two mirrors, releasing the magical power stored in the reflectors in a blinding fury of cascading glass and electricity. The released power was so great that it crossed over to the remaining mirrors which started to explode like a Chinese firecracker, one after another. The Kobolds had nowhere to hide as they were hailed with jagged chunks of glass from all directions, electricity reaching out and frying everything in the corridor.
The magical energy overflowed from the confines of the room and wrapped around Beray, Loxim and Garlek for a moment. They were knocked back by the energy blast and toppled to the ground. They lay stunned for a moment then climbed to their feet and examined their bodies. Fortunately the transformation magic released had not affected them.
The air smelt of burned ozone and charred flesh, the corridor like a charnel house.
* * *
Masquet scowled looking into the smoky hall. He only had twelve Kobolds and his small cadre of elfin women remaining. Whilst his forces outnumbered the party, he knew that they were fairly evenly matched unless he took the field. This he was unwilling to do.
As he looked down the corridor he sensed something evil lurking. From the ruins of the mirrors at the far end of the corridor stepped two black creatures. These were the minions enslaved in the warding mirrors. With the destruction of the mirrors, they were now free. One demon was a towering fiend, the other a short hell spawned beast. They looked at each other, their black squid-like faces gurgling in obscene laughter at their good fortune.
The demons were still hungry even though they had recently eaten the souls of a number of Kobolds. After such a long imprisonment they felt the fiery hate for all things living well up in them. Best of all was the lovely smell of human flesh in the air. They would soon devour human souls.
* * *
Loxim smiled grimly at the carnage before him considering it a fitting end for such travesties of nature. Beray and Garlek were also exulting in their victory and turned to one another, smiles wide on their faces. However the two creatures which stepped into the swirling smoke stole the victory from the "men's" hearts.
Without having ever seen such creatures before, the three knew these were demons. There was a chill to the air and an evil emanating from the fiends which overwhelmed them. They stood paralysed for a moment as the monsters advanced. One monster fixated upon Beray, the other focused on Loxim forcing them to stand motionless. Garlek stepped backwards, looking with absolute dread at the creatures whilst Loxim and Beray dropped their weapons and walked mindlessly towards their doom.
Darax looked at the beasts also, her mind seizing in horror. Seeing the blank way Loxim and Beray advanced towards the monsters, she knew that she had to distract the stygian fiends from her allies to break the monsters mental grip upon them.
At this moment Ariel returned to the room after a fruitless search for the crown. Taking a look at the fearsome creatures, he reached to his belt and grabbed the bladed discus. Twisting his body he threw it with all his strength at the shorter monster. The discus let of an ear piercing shriek as it cut through the air, the blades along the edge spun by some magical force, letting off an almighty whining sound.
The noise was enough to distract both monsters for a moment as they looked at the discus. The small monster futilely held up it's pincers to block the saucer like weapon but it may have well been trying to hold back the tide. The discus cut completely through the creatures thick hide covered claws without slowing and continued into the hell spawned beasts face, imbedding deep within the monsters skull before the bladed edges stopped spinning. The creature howled and clawed at its face as it's body faded from sight, taking the discus with it. The creature was not dead, just banished back to the netherworld.
Loxim and Beray were momentarily freed and hastily retreated from the single remaining creature, tripping over their weapons as they did so. They both paused to pick up their discarded weapons as they backpedaled.
The tall demon looked at its departing brother for a long time and then at Ariel, pure hate throbbing from it's aura. Ariel stood completely ensorcelled in an instant. The remaining demon and the other nameless fiend had been hatch mates, paired together for life. The only way it's partners banishment could be atoned was through dismembering this human. Giving out a blood curdling roar that came straight from hell, the demon charged towards Ariel.
It batted aside Loxim and Beray as though they weren't even there, loping towards the frozen figure of Ariel. Loxim flew across the room and impacted with a sickening thud into the wall. He collapsed to the ground, his neck at an odd angle. Beray was more fortunate, merely knocked back by the incredible force of the beast, lying in a daze on the ground.
A flash of fear hit Darax in the stomach as she interposed herself between her lover and the demon. Completely intent upon Ariel the monster expected to power through the woman's defenses as it had with the two men. The demon went to push her aside but as the demons crab-like pincers moved towards her, Darax stabbed and hacked then leaped into a sideways roll. Her blades cut through the demons shell and caused the fiend to pull it's claw back and pause in its charge to reconsider it's foe.
Suddenly free, Ariel stepped slowly away from the creature but the fiend lashed out in a casual backhanded blow and clobbered him, knocking him like a ragdoll across the room. It stared at the small woman before it. Using its magical vision it saw that her blades were quite powerful and could slip between dimensions. Such weapons could kill a demon, not just banish it back to the abyss.
Injuring the demon had angered it more than the departure of it's hatch mate. Breathing deeply it murderously vowed that the amount of blood which this puny female human would spew would paint the entire room. The demon also promised itself that it would torture this woman's soul for an eternity, slowly consuming her essence in agonizingly small bites. Thinking such evil thoughts, the beast brought it's mental powers to bear upon the female monk.
Darax felt an overpowering command to give up, submit to the satanic creature. As it stared directly at her, the midnight pools of its eyes forced her to come towards it. Her mind was like putty in the demons hands as she proceeded towards it. She could sense the creatures desire for her, an evil loathsome hunger that she could not fight.
A small part of Darax's mind panicked. She had been in bad situations before, but never had she been so defenseless... except once. She started to laugh against her volition and the demon experienced surprise. The woman should be completely within its power. She should not be able to laugh. But she was laughing, a high deranged chuckle that was slowly escalating. Uncontrollably now, an insanely crazed guffaw flowed from Darax's mouth. The demon tried to grip her mind, to crush her thoughts but her mind was like quicksilver in its grip. It was as though their was nothing their but some rabid animal.
Like once before, Darax slipped completely into her berserk state as madness engulfed her. The demon assumed that the woman's mind had cracked and reached quickly towards her, intending on impaling her upon its claw. Like lighting, Darax dropped to her back, her hands crossing above her body, catching the pincer in between her palm and her forearm blade. With the strength of the insane she crushed through the hell creatures exoskeleton and twisted, ripping off its claw.
The demon growled in pain as without pausing it gripped her leg with its functioning pincer and lifted her. Incredibly quick the demon spun and threw Darax at the wall.
Even through the crushing grip of the demon, Darax managed to flip in the air to land feet first against the wall. Her crushed leg nearly gave out as her weight came down on, causing her to grunt like a feral animal as she propelled herself to the ground in a barely controlled roll. In her maddened state though, Darax ignored her pain as she forced herself to stand.
The demon eyed the girl cautiously now, one claw hanging useless at its side. It considered charging and crushing the girl, but the little hellcat was too quick for that to work. By this stage Beray and Ariel were becoming conscious.
Promising that it would avenge itself, the Demon spun and ran down the hall. It came across Masquet and his troops. Angered it started to decimate the mind thieves forces. It threw itself against the weapons of the Kobolds and elves with impunity, immune to the blows of their mundane weapons. Only magic or magical weapons could injure a demon and these creatures had neither.
As the Fiend made its way through the Kobolds and Elves, Masquet swung around behind it and ran down the corridor towards Darax and her party. As he made his way into the room he grinned. Loxim was clearly dead, Ariel, Beray and Darax were injured and Garlek was cowering in fear behind the ruins of a table.
Sensing that he held the advantage he grinned, "surrender or die," he ordered. He couldn't quite understand what had made the demon run, but he dismissed such simple concerns.
Darax replied with a feral grunt, advancing towards Masquet. The Mind thief grinned assuming that this apparently weaponless woman had lost her mind as a result of the ordeal of losing her masculinity or encountering the demon.
Snarling like an animal, Darax leaped at Masquet, her invisible blades going straight for the mans chest.
In his superiority, Masquet reached forward to catch the woman's hands, moving so much faster than Darax that in comparison she seemed to not move at all. As he reacted to her attack Masquet sensed something dangerous about the woman but he discounted his premonition. He tried to grip her arms but instead forced his hands straight into her blades.
Letting out a howl of surprised pain he pulled back his hands and tried to move out of her path, long deep cuts appearing in his chest. He looked at his mutilated palms and injured chest. As he gaped in surprise Darax continued her wild assault, stabbing him again in the chest rapidly with two punching blows.
Although the mind thieves body could shut out the effects of pain, he was badly injured and as a result moved a lot slower. Masquet was also quite terrified. He desperately tried to attack the wild girl as she pressed her advantage but she anticipated his slowed attacks, her invisible blades already in place and blocking the crude assault. Had Masquet continued raining attacks on his slower foe he would doubtless have broken through her defenses, but at the moment he was not thinking. Unseasoned in battle, Masquet was too scared to think. Totally unprepared for the invisible blades of his foe, Masquet turned to run, but staggered and slipped on the blood slickened floor.
With a mad wildness Darax jumped on his back as he stumbled, wrapping one arm around his head as she rode him to the ground. She raised her arm high above her then brought in down elbow first on the back of his head. Masquet shuddered as a blade imbedded itself deep within his brain. He stayed prone on the ground, quite dead.
Darax rolled off her foe and kicked him, making sure he was deceased. She looked around the room but saw no more threats so she sat down, picking at the tiled floor with her blade.
When the others came too they found a nearly catatonic Darax digging at the ground with her weapons. Ariel stepped up closely to her and crouched down on his haunches.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"I killed him. I lost control again and I killed Masquet. I'm sorry Ariel, we're stuck like this," Darax said.
"That doesn't bother me. You did what you had to," Ariel tried to comfort Darax by putting an arm around her. Darax leant on his shoulder feeling small and lost.
Darax had assumed that her bouts of insane fighting had resulted from her changed body. Faced with the fact that it was part of her mind and not her body, Darax was forced to acknowledge her flaw. What really worried Darax was that she could not control her actions when she went berserk. Her survival instinct scared her. She could kill anyone if pushed into a corner. She irrationally decided that she had to go into an enforced exile, otherwise she might hurt those she cared for.
Looking at the dead body of Loxim, Darax felt a cold emptiness. The narrow minded bigot had been partly right. She was an abomination. She would kill anyone to survive. Friends, foes and strangers alike. She was not physically one of the changed any longer, but she was still a monster.
"I can't stay with you, not that I know I can't control myself," Darax said morosely.
Ariel looked down at Darax and shook his head. "Don't you blame yourself, damn it!" Ariel said. " Don't be such a bloody martyr! Get off the cross woman, somebody needs the wood! You did what had to be done, we'd all be dead now if you hadn't. "
Darax snorted in amusement, her head resting against Ariel's chest. She had done what was needed to survive, it was true. It felt bad and she had made a painful discovery, but she had to move on. She would be stupid to turn her back on Ariel just because she was worried about what-ifs.
Jerrik returned to the room at this stage and shook her head. "I can't find it anywhere. The crown is too well hidden. Hey, what happened to the mirrors?"
* * *
The demon prowled the corridors, picking off the measly Kobolds and devouring their souls. It's wounds had healed through the absorption of these energies, but the fiend decided that there were more easy pickings than the woman it had just gone up against. It left the ruins, vowing revenge at some later time. After all, it was only a young demon and had plenty of time. The more souls it devoured, the more powerful it would become.
* * *
Jerrik looked down the corridor, her mouth open in shock. "What happened? The mirrors, where are they?"
"The mirrors are gone, but we're safe now. Loxim is dead but Masquet and the Kobolds have been taken care of. That just leaves a demon," Beray said. She was also a bit worried about the loss of the mirrors and had started to doubt her decision to remain female. Now that her options had been drastically reduced she also wanted to get her hands on the crown.
"Some one killed the mind thief! How is my sister supposed to get her body back now? And what about Darax and the noble."
"Settle down Jerrik, we'll deal with it. Darax and Ariel seem quite happy with their situation and the noble, ... well who cares. I met the stuck up brat once. He deserves whatever hand fate has dealt him," Beray said. "Let's just try and find this crown."
They searched for the crown late into the night but did not find it. Little did they realise that they already had it.
* * *
The evil energy in the 'fake' crown brooded. It controlled two, but they were not the strongest. It had made contact with one but that individual had not used it and was therefore still free. What it wanted was control over everything.
* * *
That night Garlek slept with Cindyl and received quite a shock. As he was sleeping with the woman he felt a tearing wrench and found himself looking up at his body. He was a woman again!
"I'd just wished that you could feel as good as me and I was in your body. This is good," Cindyl said moving in and out of Garlek.
"Get me back in my body, now," Garlek ordered as she looked down at the breasts on her chest. She had just gotten rid of the damn things and here they were back to haunt her. No matter how good it felt in her, she was a man and was not willing to have sex with a man.
"Not until I'm done," Cindyl said, the vacuous look gone from his eyes.
"Orag?" Garlek asked nervously.
The man above her nodded and then slipped something over her head. She suddenly didn't mind so much what was happening to her as the crown sapped her of her will.
Orag grinned. He was male, was sleeping with a woman and ... he had the crown didn't he? He knew that he was in danger, was vaguely aware that something was controlling his thoughts, but it did not matter. He was enjoying himself, glad that he was not stuck in the woman's body. All he had to do was slip the crown onto everyone else's head. After he finished with Garlek.
* * *
Darax started awake and looked around. She had just had a strange dream. She was almost tempted to dismiss it, but something about it had been almost prophetic. She climbed from her bedroll beside Ariel and rummaged in her pack for some glove. The gloves were important. She couldn't touch it. Darax crept silently to where Garlek and Cindyl were making love, Cindyl now wearing the glowing crown as she rocked up and down on Garlek.
"I'll take that," Darax said, grabbing the crown in a gloved hand and kicking Cindyl's body to the ground. She knocked her out cold with a hard blow to the chin. She then did the same to Garlek before he could stand. As she turned she saw Beray entering the room.
The woman charged but Darax overcame her simply, clapping her hands over her ears then elbowing her to the chin. Beray felt a jarring blow then darkness claimed her.
Darax looked at the crown and smirked. She had sensed that the thing was evil by some odd premonition and holding it in her gloved hand she could feel the palpable malice of the object. Looking at the glowing glass head stone, Darax knew instinctively that it was linked to the glass chute. Following the guide of her dream she left, hiking through the dark twisted labyrinthine tunnels to where the behemoth had caught them. She held the crown above the glowing chute and could almost hear the crowns protests. It promised her riches, power, a male body. Everything, but nothing she wanted.
She let go of the magical crown, dropping it into the pit, watching it fall from site. After an interminable time there was the distant thunder of an explosion which shook the ground, then silence. Within moments the hole in the ground melted and sealed over, becoming normal rock again.
* * *
Ariel leaped awake and looked around. He felt as though a fog had just been removed from his mind. He stood and wandered around the room and into the lab. He found Garlek and Cindyl unconscious and naked on top of one another. Beray was also out cold.
Sensing that something was wrong, Ariel raced to where his sibling slept, nudging her awake. "We have trouble," he said simply.
Jerrik quickly strapped on her sword and followed Ariel into the next room.
They found Darax there prodding the others into consciousness.
"It's over. I found the crown and I've destroyed it. I had this dream..." Darax tried to explain. "The mind thieves are no more. Everyone is trapped in the bodies they have now. Me, you, all of us. Even the mind thieves are stuck in whatever bodies they were in. "
"How do you know all this?" Jerrik asked skeptically.
"It sounds strange, but I had a dream, honest," Darax said, "someone told me in my sleep. That's all I know. In the dream I found out that the crown has been around for centuries as has the dead wizard. Somehow his spirit seeped into the crown when he died. It was only a matter of time before the wizard regained awareness and took control of things again."
* * *
The diminutive wizard congratulated himself. It had been very lucky that everything had fallen into place. The dream at the end had been very difficult, the crown's magic obscurring the sending but... well now things were fixed.
The wizard and his crown were a thing of the past, a major thorn in the riddlemaster's side now taken care of.
"Hurry up woman. Fetch that beer to the table," the inkeep said.
The well endowed woman hefted the large jugs and carried them to the table, panting from the exertion. She wiped her hands on her dress and looked at her distended stomach. She could hardly believe that she was with child and was a little worried who the father was. In all probability it was herself.
After four months she had given up all hope that Loxim was going to return. The obviousness of her pregnancy had raised other concerns as well. As much as she hated to admit it, she needed a husband. Her stomach crawled at the thought, but if she was going to retain a semblance of respectable life she needed to get married. It grieved her to admit that she was going to be a man's women, a possession and child bearer, but her alternatives were worse.
Single mothers were viewed with disgust. The concern that the child was a bastard was a big enough problem but having a child as a single mother was not tolerated in the least. The inkeep had already informed her that she would have to leave if she didn't get married and had suggested that he be the husband. She had laughed in his face at the suggestion.
After a month of suitors presenting their cases, she was inclined to think that the older proprietor had been the best of a bad lot.
As she placed a plate of bread and cheese on the table, the door opened and a man and woman entered. They had the dust of travel on their clothes, but the murmur at their arrival made her look again. She stared open mouthed at her body.
The man walked straight up to her and frowned. "Have we met before?" he asked.
"You're in my body!" she said quietly.
The man nodded and turned to the innkeeper, "room please." He said taking her by the arm and guiding her upstairs, his female companion following.
They entered a room and closed the door behind them.
"My names Ariel, and this is my friend Darax," he said. The girl nodded.
"Fontleroy ef Dan the third," she said.
"We met Loxim. He's dead. We're stuck in these bodies, just like you," Ariel explained.
"Yeah the mind thief stole Ariel's female body and I ended up in it. The mind thief died in my male body. I'm sorry," Darax said.
The girl looked down at her body, the permanency of her situation sinking into her mind.
"We were thinking. Ariel could return to the court as you and you could go with him and coach him. I'll become his guard and ... friend."
"Let me get this straight. You've both changed gender and ... and," she stuttered.
"Sleep with one another," Darax finished unashamedly, "we want to get married. There is no way to get our bodies back, but we don't really mind. This is permanent and we intend to make the most of our situation. You can either stay here or come with us. The choice is yours."
The girl hesitated for a moment then nodded. Maybe her chances of marriage were better in the castle. They couldn't be much worse. She realised that she may not even need to get married, but that would be a waste of her body.
* * *
Orag looked down at the spell book, trying to decipher the runes. They were slowly coming to him. It would only be a matter of time before he could cast the transformation spell. Until then he had three very anxious and attractive girls to take care of.
Beray was busy cleaning up the lab, salvaging what she could. She was becoming more comfortable in the female body she wore every day and had decided that if Orag failed to interpret the dead wizards spell she would return to civilization as she was now. What she would do then she was not certain.
Jerrik came back into the room accompanied by Garlek. They were in the middle of an animated conversation. "I don't know, I don't think it looks right," she held up the piece of clothing she had been making.
"Trust me, it looks fine," Garlek said, dimples in her cheeks.
"Not too revealing?"
"Who'll notice here? It's just us girls."
"What about me?" Orag asked.
"We were thinking about that," said Jerrik. "Since you are the only man about here and are much stronger than us... we were wondering if you could help."
"Sure," said Orag his chest swelling in pride. Three beautiful woman and one man. The odds were in his favour. "What do you need done."
"We think we've found something in the fort. A secret hatch. There is a statue on it and we're not strong enough to move it," Garlek said sweetly.
"Not a problem, which one is it?"
"The one of the naked elf."
"I know the one. I'm right on it," Orag said, rolling up his sleeves self importantly. He strode out of the lab, a man with a mission.
"I can't wait to see his face when he returns," Garlek said.
"What do you mean his face?" Jerrik asked, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth.
That's it for now folks. Any more of this one and I'll go crazy.