Heads turned when the door to the servants' common in Blackhawk Hall opened and a blonde woman entered, looking somewhat unsure of what she was supposed to be doing. Her face bespoke youth, still having an unmistakable softness that would fade with age. She smiled nervously as all eyes in the room fell upon her, a deepening flush in the cheeks framing that smile served to make her look even younger.
Her figure contrasted with her face, obviously the body of a grown woman, although her skin certainly held the radiant glow of youth. At just over five and a half feet tall, she was dwarfed by the massive doorway to the commons.
Most of those in the room nodded to her with friendly smiles and returned to their leisure, but one older woman rose from her chair and crossed the room toward the new arrival.
She smiled and nodded a greeting when she reached the new face in the room. "I'm Sharon. You the new girl who starts today?"
"Yes, I'm Arilee."
"Good, let's get started then. The Duchess tells me you've managed to end up on the wrong side of exactly the wrong town without any means. As long as you keep up with your duties, you won't have to worry about having a roof over your head or food in your belly from now on. We're treated well and paid better. The Duke and Duchess haven't been high and mighty for long, and they still know what it's like to be regular folk. But, you’ve already found that out from the Duchess herself."
Arilee looked a little confused. "The Duchess?"
Sharon's smile showed her amusement. "That's your first lesson. The Duke and Duchess aren't necessarily what you might be expecting. That woman you met in the tavern that sent you here was the Duchess, Christi."
"I wondered why the man I was working for was so nice, when he's usually so rude."
Sharon laughed, "He was that nice because Christi punched him and broke his nose the first time she walked in that tavern and he started acting like an ass to her."
Arilee covered her mouth and laughed. "I wish I could have seen that."
"I'll ask Ashtar show it to you in one of his memory crystals sometime. He was there. That's another thing – get used to magic, because their Graces have a lot of powerful friends that use it. Try not to scream if someone appears out of thin air a few feet from you."
"This is going to be a little unusual."
"You don't know the half of it. Anyway, titles and pomp don't mean much to the Duke and Duchess. They would prefer you lose the graces
when there's not something official going on. Duke Cerebus goes by his childhood nickname, Mindblind, most of the time, when he doesn't have to put on airs because of his office."
"That sounds like a mean nickname."
Sharon gestured for Arilee to follow her toward a door. "It was meant to be. His sister thought it would be funny to call him that because he was the only person in the family that didn't have some kind of magical ability. He turned the joke around on her because he liked it, and started using it himself. She's grown up since then, so don't hold it against her when she comes to visit."
"I don't know if I can call him that without feeling uncomfortable. Is it alright to call him Cerebus?"
"That's not a problem. That's what Christi calls him. You won't be able to see it from here, but the Duke is half warrior-goblin. He's rough around the edges, and you wouldn't want to give him reason to be mad at you, but he's a good man. Physically, he's a heck of a lot stronger than most men, and has a bit of a point to his ears. His skin is kind of a grayish tan. It's hard to describe. Other than that, his mom bred most true in him, and he's actually quite handsome. It bothers him when people stare, so don't do it. It doesn't really take long to get used to his odd coloring, and it seems to help if you're warned in advance. That's him out there squaring off with the Duchess."
Arilee looked through the doorway into the courtyard and opened her eyes wide with surprise. "Are they going to fight with real swords?"
"More of the magic. Christi has a spell that lets her protect both of them from being hurt. It only lasts for a little while, but it lets them fight with all their ability and real weapons. Watch – it's always fascinating to watch them spar. Just remember what I've told you and come see me when you're done. I'll get you set up in your room and we'll get you to work."
Arilee nodded to indicate her understanding and turned back to the scene in the courtyard.
Arilee recognized the Duchess, although she was dressed far differently now than when they had met in the tavern. Her raven colored hair had flowed freely down to the middle of her back previously, but it was now tied in a ponytail.
Arilee had thought Christi was very beautiful when she saw her – strong and confident, but also very feminine. All of those qualities were enhanced by the clothing she wore now. The Duchess was dressed in a tight linen top that strained to contain her breasts and left her midriff bare. Arilee could see the defined muscles in Christi's torso, shimmering slightly in the sunlight from the sheen of sweat that coated her body. The short skirt she wore was of the same plain linen, and revealed a long expanse of the woman's shapely, well-toned legs. She held an ornately decorated sword at the ready, smiling at the man in front of her.
The Duke had his back turned to Arilee, a huge two-handed sword resting against his shoulder. Cerebus had a broad chest, and every muscle in his bare back was plainly visible from across the courtyard. The muscles in his legs were obvious even through the pants he wore, as well. His pitch-black hair was pulled up into a shoulder length ponytail, and Arilee noticed he didn't seem to have any hair on his body except for that on his head.
She understood Sharon's inability to describe the Duke's skin tone as she looked at him. It was almost as if he had a deep tan, but it looked somewhat faded like a painting that had been exposed to too much sunlight. It was unusual enough to attract notice, but not so much so that it felt like it was holding Arilee's eyes. She also saw the points of the Duke's ears sticking up through his hair. Arilee had seen a half-goblin before, and the Duke really didn't even look like one except for his ears.
Christi's voice echoed through the courtyard, deep and possessing a husky timbre that could only be described as sensual, "Ready?"
Cerebus brought his massive sword down into a ready position. His voice was deep, and had a quality that Arilee could only define as an ominous whisper, even though he spoke at a normal volume. "We'd better get to it, or they'll be trying to drag me off for something before we even finish."
Christi smiled, and there was a mischievous glint in her liquid brown eyes. "I believe we're tied right now. I plan to be on top again in a few minutes."
"We'll see about that."
Arilee gasped as Mindblind lashed out with a horizontal swing of his sword. There was absolutely no restraint in his attack. He was doing his best to hit the Duchess with his enormous weapon.
Christi slid backwards and dropped down to one knee, just out of reach of the blow. She immediately sprang forward, sword leading, as her man's blade continued its swing.
Demonstrating some of the tremendous strength Sharon had spoken of, Cerebus halted the progress of his heavy weapon and brought it back in line to block Christi's stab. Steel rang on steel with a loud, musical clang, followed by a rasp as the weapons disengaged.
Christi pulled her weapon in line, and again stabbed at her man. There was nothing to indicate she was pulling her blows in any way either. The Duke seemed to be expending more effort to halt the swing of his sword this time, but still managed to deflect the strike of Christi's bright steel.
The line of his parry this time was designed to lead into his next attack, and Christi danced backward upon recognizing the tactic. The diagonal overhand strike of the massive weapon very well could have cleaved her in two, had she been there when the blow landed.
Once again, Christi sprang forward around Mindblind's blade as soon as she had avoided it. This time she slid down, hooked his right ankle with one of her shapely legs, and used the momentum of his swing against him. He lost his balance and Christi used her strength to perfect advantage to topple him down on one knee.
He almost brought his sword in line – but not quite – to deflect Christi’s stab. The weapon stopped upon contacting his skin, repelled by some unseen magical force.
"Yeah, yeah – first blood to you. Skullroller's not exactly my weapon of choice for close quarters one-on-one."
"You chose it," Christi taunted, and laughed as she strode back to her starting position. The Duke watched the play of her bottom beneath her skirt as she walked, and Arilee blushed when she realized she was doing the same. The things that were going on beneath that linen cloth were beyond any words Arilee could have used to describe them.
The Duke stood up and stretched, giving Arilee a look at his face for the first time. He had a square chin, thick eyebrows, and somewhat deep-set eyes. The words that emerged in Arilee's mind were ruggedly handsome
. His vivid green eyes locked with hers for an instant, and he nodded to her before turning to face off with the Duchess once more. Arilee drew in a deep breath, and realized it was the only one she had taken while looking over the Duke. He was handsome, strong, and seemed almost dangerous in a way. He was exactly the kind of man her mother had warned her about, and she now understood why, as her body responded to her thoughts with a slight shiver.
"Looks like we've got an audience," Cerebus said with a chuckle.
Christi smiled as she brought her sword into a ready position. "New girl. Found her in the 'Appy Ogre. Not the place for a pretty young woman on her own. I'll tell you about it later."
"Good enough for me," Mindblind responded as he planted his feet for the next round.
The Duchess didn't quite give him time to set his footing, instead stepping forward and slashing at his near forearm.
Mindblind let go of his massive sword with the targeted arm, moving it out of the way. While Christi tried to recover, he grabbed her wrist and pulled hard, sending her hurtling behind him, off balance.
Gripping his sword in both hands once more, he spun around with his blade in a wide horizontal sweep. Christi had to continue to dance backwards, knowing her smaller weapon couldn't even deflect his sword with that much force behind it.
The Duke pulled against the momentum of his follow-through, lifting the sword into an overhand strike. Christi had to drop and roll toward him to avoid the massive weapon. Mindblind managed to reverse his swing, pull it back in close to his body, and kick out before the Duchess could regain her balance and footing.
Christi's breath exploded from her in a loud blast as she fell heavily to her side. She just managed to roll onto her back when Cerebus leapt atop her, knees on either side of her trim waist. He pressed the edge of his sword against her neck and said, "Point," with a smile.
The Duchess coughed once, still trying to catch her breath. "How long have you been saving that trick? I didn't think even you could hold up that damn thing with one hand."
"Just got it down. I about broke my wrist off and almost sliced my leg open a few times before I got the balance right."
Christi was very aware that her lover was hard. She could feel his cock pressing against her chest as he sat on her. She was wet too, because sparring always aroused them both. Their eyes locked for a moment as the sexual energy passed between them.
That energy was obvious even to an observer, and Arilee tensed as she felt her nipples harden.
A quiet laugh brought Arilee out of her trance. Sharon was standing behind her with a tray, which she sat on a table near the door. "Exciting, isn't it? They'll stop playing around now and really go at it. They'll call it a draw though, because they haven't had any arguments lately. Neither of them tries hard enough to go one up unless they're mad about something else. When they call it a draw, grab that tray and take them a drink. They'll need it. Christi requested that you be assigned to her specifically, so may as well get started now. I'll get you in your room later. Just stay near the Duchess in case she needs anything. Ask anyone else if you need to know where something is."
"They seem to be fighting so viciously. It's hard to believe they're married."
"Well, they aren't technically yet – but soon enough. They let off the stress of their relationship out there. It seems to work, because they don't get into many heated arguments. They save their passion for the matches and the bedroom."
Arilee blushed at that last statement, both from the frankness of the words and her own thoughts while she watched the couple.
Sharon laughed. "You may as well get used to that. We're all pretty plain spoken around here. We say what's on our mind, and don't mince words. They're getting set again. Watch this last round – you haven't seen anything yet."
Arilee turned back to the courtyard just in time to see the pair leap into action. She stood open-mouthed with surprise and awe as the couple attacked each other with what looked like pure murderous intent.
The Duke swung his weapon in huge arcs, forcing its surely great weight exactly where he wanted it with a speed and skill Arilee didn't think could be humanly possible. His lover danced, leapt, and tumbled like an acrobat, just out of reach of the blade – leaping in to strike like a cobra with every potential opening.
The Duchess slid under a horizontal strike, fell to balance on her free hand, and kicked up hard into the Duke's knee. His breath exploded from him in a loud snarl from the kick, but he did not drop his defense. He cleanly parried the following strike of Christi's sword.
Christi must have been just as surprised by his ability to resist the pain of that injury as Arilee was, because she didn't quite recover enough after her failed strike to avoid Mindblind's kick following the parry. He planted his weapon into the ground, loosing a sidekick that sent Christi hurtling backwards, and exploded the breath from her lungs.
Somehow, the Duchess managed to keep moving and recover from having the wind knocked out of her. In the few moments it took Cerebus to recover from the kick and raise his weapon once more, Christi was again on the attack.
On and on it went, sweat running from both combatant's bodies in streams. Both scored hits, but neither declared a point, even though Arilee thought the injuries those hits would have caused without the magic would have made it difficult for the injured to continue to fight.
No holds were barred, with punches and kicks thrown into the battle just as often as weapon strikes. While the magic upon them protected them from the blades, it appeared to do little to block the force or pain of those unarmed blows.
No communication Arilee could see passed between them, but the couple simply stopped at the same time, facing each other. Duke and Duchess panted for breath, wiping sweat out of their eyes, and let their weapons fall out of defensive postures.
"D-draw?" Mindblind suggested through gasping breaths.
Christi nodded and leaned down to put her hands on bent knees. "Draw."
Arilee snapped out of her trance and remembered what she was supposed to be doing. Picking up the tray, she hurried out into the courtyard toward the recovering warriors.
Christi stood up straight and smiled when she saw the blonde approaching. "Cerebus, this is Arilee. She'll be replacing Gwen."
"That's right – Gwen went and got hitched didn't she? Welcome, Arilee. Take good care of my girl here, and just holler if you need anything. If anybody gives you any trouble, you let one of us or Sharon know, and we'll take care of it."
"Thank you, Sir. Drink?"
"Sir?" Cerebus said before breaking out into a deep laugh. Seeing the flash of worry on Arilee’s face, he said, "It's okay – everybody does it at first. You'll grow out of it in time. It's a damn sight better than Master
. It took Gwen forever to stop saying that."
The Duke took one of the metal cups and brought it to his lips. Christi took the other and drank as well. She then said, "I'm sure Sharon told you, but we don't put much stock in the trappings of our Duchy. He's Cerebus or Mindblind, and I'm Christi unless we're in the Great Hall, forced to pretty ourselves up for visitors. If that warthog from the 'Appy Ogre gives you any trouble, make sure to tell me
Mindblind almost spit his water as he laughed. "You didn't rough him up again, did you?"
"No, but I should have. He hadn't noticed I was there, and I saw how he was treating her before I went up and informed him he needed a new barmaid – immediately."
The Duke laughed again. "You're lucky Christi came across you when she did. Relk is notorious for taking advantage of anybody who works for him. He'll work the help like slaves, and he'd have eventually made you do worse things. I've thought more than once about running him out of town on a rail."
"Thank you, I had no idea. He was just the only one who would offer me work except – you know..." Arilee looked down and blushed profusely.
"Fightershaven is no place for a girl on her own, unless she's got a sword in her hand and knows how to use it. The place started out as a rude mercenary camp, and it really isn't much better than that even now," Mindblind said before draining the last of his water.
A soldier approached from within the hall. "I've got the bunch that survived ready for you to talk to, Mindblind."
"Good. They worth a damn?"
"I've never seen a more sneaky bunch of heartless bastards in my life."
"Exactly what we need out on the border countering Draxnog's murderous scum. Let's go tell them how it is. Maybe a few of them will survive to actually enjoy having their sentences commuted in five years."
"Most of them are hard luck cases. If they survive, the honest work will probably straighten them out. The real scum ended right back on the gibbet pretty quickly."
Christi laid her hand on Arilee's arm. "Come along. The boys have work to do, and I need a bath. I'll show you to your room. It's right near ours anyhow."
"Yes Ma..." Arilee trailed off when Christi gave her an amused look, and so she instead replied, "Okay."
"Much better," Christi said with a laugh, and led Arilee back into the hall. She had Arilee hand off the tray to another servant once inside, and then led her to a staircase a short distance down the hall from the servant's commons.
The pair ascended the stairs, and a man at the top stepped back up out of the way when he saw them coming. He looked even more muscle-bound than the Duke – thick-necked, with a face so square that it appeared almost unnatural. "Your bath is ready, Christi." His voice was deep and guttural, and Arilee could see a pair of short tusks when he spoke. She had an even better look at the tusks when he smiled.
"You're too good, Kronk. This is Arilee. She's going to be taking Gwen's place. Arilee, this is Kronk. If you need a bath drawn, or need anything heavy moved, he's the one to call."
"Pleased to meet you," Arilee said with a bright smile.
. Charming to an orc-faced clod – I like you already."
"He's got a heart of gold, so don't be intimidated by him. We don't pay much attention to racial prejudice around here, for obvious reasons. Thank you again, Kronk." Christi blew him a kiss when she finished.
The half-ogre gave them another toothy smile, and then started down the stairs.
Christi pointed out doors along the hallway. "Your room is right here by the stairs. Our room is at the end of the hall. You can't miss it – they went crazy decorating the door. We have our own kitchen next to our room, and storage rooms off it. If we ask you to fetch something, odds are it will be there. We don't like to bother anyone if we can help it. They have enough to do downstairs, keeping this place up."
The Duchess gestured for Arilee to follow. "The bath is right down here. Feel free to use it if you want. Just let us know you're in there so Cerebus doesn't accidentally walk in on you, and embarrass you. You're going to like this."
When Christi opened the door to the bath, Arilee could not help but gasp. The bathing pool would let four or five people stretch out comfortably within, never touching each other. Arilee could not believe the steaming pool was on a floor above ground.
"It's sealed and heated by magic, otherwise it would be useless. Unfortunately, it still has to be filled the hard way. That door over there leads to the balcony where Kronk hauls up the water barrels to fill it. Be careful of the drainage channel below the balcony, because when this thing drains out of the pipe into that channel, it turns into a raging river for a minute or two."
"It's amazing," the stunned blonde woman remarked softly.
"I saw something similar to this once, and it was my one dream. When they started refitting this hall for us, Cerebus had them make it for me. Ashtar suggested we build it up here for privacy and used his magic to make it possible."
A quick movement of her deft fingers popped the button on Christi's skirt. She kicked off her shoes and then let the skirt fall to the floor, "Why don't you join me? It makes more sense than you standing out here listening."
As much as Christi's backside had drawn Arilee's eyes to it in the skirt, it was even more difficult to ignore clad only in a pair of light panties. That covering slid to the floor almost immediately after the skirt, leaving the raven-haired woman's perfect, heart-shaped ass bared to Arilee. Her fascination only deepened as Christi bent over to pick up both articles of clothing and hurl them into a basket near the door.
"Will you join me, then?" Christi asked as she turned back toward Arilee and pulled off the tight linen top she wore. Her breasts were perfectly shaped, and just slightly larger than what many men called a 'perfect handful' when they didn't think women were listening. The tips of her perky globes were a pink almost bordering on red, surrounded by circles of very light brown. The hair on her mound was thick and as raven-black as that on her head, but trimmed very short. Around her lips, she was trimmed so short as to appear almost completely bare.
It was only when the Duchess spoke again that Arilee realized she had been staring the entire time the other woman had been undressing, and had not answered the question. Embarrassment consumed her and she covered her face with her hands, "I'm sorry, I..."
She felt a hand on her shoulder and fought past the desire to keep her eyes closed. She looked up at the Duchess, who was smiling and looking directly into her eyes, "I thought I caught hints of this in the tavern. Are you attracted to other women?"
Tears welled up in Arilee's eyes, "I'm so sorry..."
Christi put a finger to Arilee's lips for just a moment, "Shh, that's something else we don't pay much attention to around here. I feel the same way, and I'm attracted to you too, actually. Let me guess, you're attracted to men, but you've always found your eyes wandering over other women and been scared to death by it?"
The blonde woman nodded her head and Christi smiled brightly, "You don't need to be afraid of those feelings here. Many of the women here in the Hall share your feelings, and those who don't feel that way understand and will not judge you for it."
Arilee sniffled and wiped her eyes, "It scares me; it just feels – wrong."
"That's only because you've been resisting it," Christi said with a crooked grin, "Please, join me in the bath, at least then we'll both be naked and on an even footing. Besides, I let you give me the once over, so it's only fair you give me a peek."
Christi's grin and casual manner helped dull the embarrassment and self-recrimination that had threatened to consume Arilee only moments before. She found that she was smiling as well, and hesitantly started to disrobe. Christi climbed into the bathing pool and sank into it with a deep, contented sigh.
Still quite self-conscious, Arilee stepped toward the tub when she had finished disrobing. Christi smiled at her and said, "You're beautiful. You have nothing to be ashamed of."
The Duchess drank in the sight of Arilee's nude body. The blonde woman's breasts were not quite as large as hers, but were very rounded and surely firm. Arilee's nipples were also darker and smaller, and the hair on her mound was a full natural carpet slightly darker than the hair on the woman's head.
Arilee stepped into the pool and settled down opposite Christi, echoing the earlier sigh of contentment from the Duchess.
"Any time you want to talk about things like this, just come to me. I understand what you're going through, and I won't judge you one way or the other. It's right for me, but it might not be for you. We're going to be spending a lot of time together, so we may as well be friends."
"It just seems a bit odd thinking that way of your ruler."
"Pshaw, we're not rulers, there's no way to rule
this Duchy. We just work within the rules, such as they are, that have been in place for decades. We're just patching up the leaks that have always led to chaos in the past. We've kept the place intact, and actually started civilizing it a bit in the last two years, but we've managed it because we're not trying to rule. We settle disputes amongst those who have held that position long before we arrived, and encourage a little more co-operation than they had been used to.”
"Do the people approve of you as a ruler – being a woman, I mean?"
Christi picked up a cake of soap and moved up onto the shallower edge of the pool to wash while Arilee was speaking. "Didn't you live in the Duchy before you came here?"
"Yes, but it's much different away from here. Even the other large towns seem more..."
"Normal?" Christi suggested with a laugh.
Arilee nodded her head and started to explain more, but a sudden change in Christi's demeanor gave her pause.
Christi stood up quickly and stepped out of the bath. She bent down to a small wooden chest nearby and opened it. "Arilee, get ready to run and hide. I felt something and I hear some sort of..."
Arilee screamed when some horrible green-skinned creature appeared out of thin air next to Christi.
The monster stood around four feet tall, and was covered in a coating of dirt. It revealed a mouth full of pointed teeth when it made a loud, nerve-wracking yipping sound. It had a filthy mop of coal black hair atop its head, and a long matted beard of the same hue. Muscles bulged in its wiry frame, and every finger and toe ended in a yellow claw that looked razor sharp. The creature seemed disoriented for a moment, but then raised its club into the air and issued a snarl of challenge in Christi's direction.
The Duchess lashed out with a kick, catching the creature in the groin and dropping it to its knees. A follow-up kick splattered the creature's nose across its face and caused it to slump to the floor unconscious.
A second monster – even uglier than the first – appeared across the room near the door. Christi reached into the box again, withdrawing two large daggers from within. She quickly interposed her body between the snarling creature and Arilee, reaching back to hold out one of the daggers to the frightened blonde.
"Take it. Just slash at them if they come near you. They're stupid as hell, so just slash and back away carefully until I can help you, if one gets too close. Don't drop it, whatever you do!"
Her hands closing around the dagger, Arilee backed away in the bathing pool as far as she could from the creature, which suddenly charged Christi. Just as the nude Duchess expertly dodged a clumsy club stroke and stabbed the monster in the throat, another appeared nearby.
The creature barely had enough time to recover from its disorientation – and not nearly enough time to put up a defense – before Christi jerked her dagger free of one creature and stabbed it into the back of the new one. In the moment it took Christi to make the attack, yet another of the creatures appeared.
The new monster appeared on the far side of the room, and held a crude spear. Christi cursed and charged the creature. She knew she could dodge a throw with little trouble, but suspected that Arilee might not be so skilled or lucky. Yet another creature, wielding a rusty short sword appeared next to the spear wielder.
Arilee trembled and looked all around her – frightened beyond belief, but also fascinated by the Duchess dispatching the creatures with such speed and efficiency. The nude woman had not taken a single scratch, but the blood of the creatures she had already killed decorated her skin with macabre spatters. Arilee tightly clutched the blade Christi had handed her, concerned for both of them as the Duchess charged two of the creatures.
She need not have feared, because Christi hurled her dagger and stuck the spear-wielding creature in the throat. The other creature made the mistake of looking at its gurgling companion when the dagger struck, and Christi was upon it before it turned its attention back to the threat before it.
Again, Christi lashed out with a perfectly aimed kick to the groin. As had the previous creature, this one crumpled to the floor with a groan of pain, dropping its weapon. Christi scooped up the rusty blade, almost catching it before it could touch the floor, and ran the creature through with it. She bent immediately to tear her dagger from the other creature's throat, and then dropped into a crouch to scan the room, holding both weapons at the ready.
No more creatures appeared, but Christi was far from ready to relax. Too late, she remembered the first creature that she had only knocked unconscious. It had regained its wits – and club – and had risen up behind Arilee.
"Arilee, look out!" The Duchess screamed as she charged toward them. She knew she was too far away, and at this angle, she couldn't risk a throw of her dagger for fear of hitting Arilee.
Arilee turned and screamed, seeing the creature rising up behind her. Somehow, the instructions Christi had given her managed to boil through the fog of fear, and she flailed with her dagger at the creature. A slash across one of the creature's wrists caused it to drop the club it held with a cry of pain. Bright fountains of the creature's lifeblood spurted with each beat of its heart. The creature screamed in pain and swooned.
Christi started to hurl her dagger when the monster's staggering put it in a position where she could safely throw, but she recognized that the creature was dead anyhow. It had already lost enough blood from the spurting wound to become disoriented, and would die within a few more heartbeats.
The creature fell forward as it lost consciousness from the lack of blood. Again, Arilee screamed, as it seemed the creature was coming for her. On instinct, she stabbed the creature in the chest as it fell forward. When it slumped over the edge of the bathing pool, Arilee stabbed it again and again, screaming in fear and anger.
"It's dead, Arilee. You're okay. I don't see any more of them."
The blonde woman pulled the dagger free of the creature's back with trembling arms, and then backed away from it. The water in the bathing pool was tinged red with the blood of the monsters, and Arilee's body was covered in blood as well.
The door burst open at that moment, revealing Kronk and the Duke. The pair of warriors entered and quickly scanned the room for enemies.
Christi hurled her dagger into a cabinet when the two men entered. "We got them all Cerebus. What in the bloody hells is this – some kind of joke? Who would waste the energy to break our wards and then teleport Wood Trolls
Cerebus appeared to suddenly recognize that both of the women were naked. Kronk had already turned to stare at the wall, and Cerebus concentrated his vision on Christi to preserve Arilee's modesty as much as possible. "The whole bloody Hall. We've got the things stinkin' up every corner now. Ain't a soul took a scratch though – if you two are all right?"
"We're okay. They were only Wood Trolls. It would have taken at least twice as many to be a threat to two unarmed, naked women."
"Kronk, go fetch a washtub and stick it in our room. The ladies need to clean up and this isn't the best place to do it right now. Get some people up here to clean this damn mess up. I'm going to go check things out, Babe. You just worry about Arilee."
Christi nodded her understanding and the two men left. She then walked over to Arilee. "Are you okay?"
Arilee looked a little confused, but seemed to snap into focus after a second or two. "Yes."
Christi gently prodded at Arilee's tightly closed fingers to release the dagger. "You can give me that now. It's over. Those were some good stabs and slashes. Have you trained to fight with a dagger?"
"No, I just... I don't know what I did. I don't remember."
"We'll have to do something about that. Come on, let's go to my room and throw something on. We'll get washed up, and then we can talk." Christi kicked one of the monsters on the way out of the room. "That's for ruining my bath, stinking vermin."
Once both women had washed, they dressed in light cotton shifts that Christi produced from a nearby armoire. A short while later, the two women sat sipping wine in the couple's private sitting room. The Duchess gave Arilee time to relax and get a bit drunk, so that the blonde could put the fright of the attack behind her.
"This wine is so good," Arilee remarked.
"It had better be – it's Boldheart Red. If Thakkor sent us second rate stuff from his own private stock, I'd kick him in the shins the next time I see him."
"Thank you for protecting me from those things. What was it you called them?"
"Wood Trolls. They're dumber than dirt, but vicious. Your average stray dog could kill a pack of them, so we were never in any serious danger. You gave a pretty good accounting of yourself, as I said. We should put you through a little weapons training. I would have never thought you would need it here in the Hall, but today proved me wrong."
"I don't think I would do very well," Arilee said as she took another sip of the wine.
"I'm not trying to flatter you. You held that knife very well. Either it's skill from some more mundane task such as cooking, or you're a natural. Either way, it couldn't hurt to learn a little bit of technique. You don't look the type, and that can be as deadly a weapon as the blade in your hand. You can't stop what you're not expecting."
"I'll try, if you think it's a good idea."
"Good. Now, what you will be doing is essentially my personal servant. All that means is that you're specifically assigned to me, not that you have some special duty to wait on me hand and foot. It just means that I would prefer you to be nearby, in case I do need you. I like to have someone I'm comfortable with around that I can develop a friendship with. I think I have that in you."
"Thank you, Christi."
"There you go. You didn't even have to think about it that time. The girl who preceded you, Gwen, was a good friend, and I miss her now that she got married and ran off on me. Her leaving left a void in more than Sharon's daily schedule."
Arilee looked like she was about to ask a question, but quickly took a drink and tried to cover it up. Christi could guess what she was about to talk about, but had already decided to take things slowly on that subject with the younger blonde woman.
Mindblind walked into the room at that point. "They've got everything cleaned up. There were dozens of the things inside the Hall, and dozens more out in the town. Only a couple of minor injuries out in the town. Ashtar popped in a minute ago, too."
Christi looked at her lover with obvious disbelief. "Everything is cleaned up?"
"Yeah, we've got to have those ladies come up here to clean every so often. I've never seen anything like it. Kronk and I just had to step back out of the way. It was like watching a busy anthill the way they scurried around. Once they walked out of a room, you couldn't tell there had been anything there."
"It wouldn't hurt, I suppose. We keep a pretty clean place, but we brought everyone on because they have certain skills, and it is a little silly not to use those skills every once in a while."
Cerebus sighed, putting a forefinger and thumb to his temple. "They just hauled in some street rat that tried to take advantage of the chaos to boost some knickknacks – and damn near killed some merchant's daughter. I've got to go play judge now."
"Give me a hand getting the dress-up clothes together for Cerebus please, Arilee. I'll show you where they are, because this is likely one place where we'll need you. We have no fashion sense whatsoever, and couldn’t care less. We need someone with an eye for good taste to keep us from offending the high and mighty."
The pair soon had Cerebus dressed in a ceremonial robe and wearing his circlet of office. He grumbled, tugged at the robes a bit, and then kissed Christi before proceeding down the stairs.
"He hates this. If it were up to him, they would hurl anybody who tries to kill a defenseless woman straight over the edge of the Great Crater and shoot flaming arrows at them on the way down. He has to try to follow Thakkor's lead though, toning down the atrocity common to punishment that this nation has known for so long. He'll need to calm down when he's done, so we'll probably go spar again. After that we'll probably be indisposed
for a bit." Christi said the last with a mischievous wink.
Arilee laughed and blushed. "I understand."
"Good. Go get settled in your room, then head downstairs and get something to eat. You'll pretty much have the rest of the day to yourself. I'll send for you if we need you, but we should probably be able to get by."
"I am hungry."
"I know. I could hear your stomach rumbling from here."
Christi's frankness and calm demeanor helped Arilee to forget the frightening experience in the bath. Both women shared a laugh, and then Arilee left to follow Christi's advice.
Cerebus knelt over Christi, each clutching the weapon wrist of the other. Mindblind had the advantage of being on top, but Christi's knee poised below his groin said without a doubt that his advantage was easy enough to erase.
Mindblind had taken an initial advantage of two points in the beginning, but Christi had battled back to even the score. This last round had lasted ten full minutes before the couple arrived in their current position.
The lovers had been in that position for several moments, looking into each other's eyes. "Draw?" Christi purred.
Cerebus released her arm, and Christi did the same to his. When he stood, the evidence of his arousal was obvious to Christi, and it echoed her own desire. He held out a hand to help her up, and when she took it, he pulled her up hard and tight against him.
Christi moaned and kissed him hard. She turned to walk into their personal armory, which was attached to the courtyard so that they could quickly select weapons for a match, or change them between rounds.
The Duchess hung her sword on its peg, and then turned to see her man doing the same. He crossed the room to stand in front of her, hunger burning in his eyes.
Grasping the neckline of her blouse in his strong hands, he pulled and popped every button in one smooth motion, revealing her breasts. At the same time, Christi jerked down his trousers. Duke and Duchess both kicked off their shoes while Christi shrugged off her blouse and Cerebus wriggled out of his trousers. He stepped forward and jerked down her skirt, fully revealing her body. She had not bothered to put on panties, knowing where their spar this evening would lead.
Christi turned and bent over, placing her hands on the table in front of her. She looked back over her shoulder, flipping her ponytail over the opposite shoulder with a deep, excited breath. She then leaned down a little more, tensed her buttocks, and emitted a low, animalistic growl.
Mindblind growled as well, and then stepped forward to grab her hips. He did not need to look as he pushed the full length of his cock into her already saturated depths. The couple knew each other's bodies as well as they knew their own. Christi grunted as he stretched her wide to admit him. He remained buried to the root for only an instant before he withdrew to shove his now slick member back inside her.
Christi pushed her ass back at him with every powerful thrust of his hips, the sound of their flesh clashing making loud slapping sounds that echoed in the small room. Small grunts of pleasure from both Duke and Duchess joined with that rhythmic beat, adding to the symphony of their lust.
Releasing her hips, Cerebus put his hands on Christi’s shoulders and pushed her down on the table. Christi gasped as he increased the tempo of his thrusts to a furious pace. A rivulet of her juices mingled with the sweat dripping from her every pore to meander down her thigh. Cerebus continued his rapid assault on her dripping sex for a short while, and then used the convenient handle of her ponytail to pull her back up.
Christi put her hands under her again, and her breasts began to swing from the power of his thrusts as soon as the globes were clear of the table. A mixture of growls, hisses, and moans escaped her as she once again thrust her hips back every time his erection crashed into her depths.
He raised his right hand and brought it down sharply on her rounded ass, drawing a loud, "Oh, yes," from her. He continued to smack her ass for a dozen strokes, never losing the rhythm of his hips. When his hand returned to grip her hip once more, he increased the pace of his thrusts, adding speed to the already relentless pounding he was giving her pussy.
"Oh yes," Christi screamed several times, and with the last, her orgasm took hold of her. Her screams warbled as he continued his assault on her clenching depths. Her eyes rolled up in her head, and every muscle in her body tightened.
She just kept coming – screaming her pleasure to the wall before her. The torrent of her juices squirted out around his hard thrusting manhood, adding a squishing sound to her screams and the cacophony of bodies meeting with powerful force.
Cerebus buried his cock inside her, reveling in the feeling of her pussy squeezing him even tighter as she edged down from her climax. When she regained some of her breath and her composure, he pulled free from her.
Christi let out a gasping scream as his cock withdrew. Her gaped opening released streams of her wetness to drip on the floor below and run down her legs. Cerebus grasped her shoulder, and she stood to spin around to face him.
With inhuman strength, he put his hands under her bottom and easily lifted her from the floor. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and her legs around his waist. He guided her over his erection and impaled her upon it with the same practiced skill as when he had previously penetrated her. Her eyes and mouth both opened wide as he once again filled her with hard cock.
He thrust up into her, pushing down on her hips at the same time, looking into her eyes, and growling in pleasure. After a few strokes, he laid her back on the table and pushed her knees up toward her chest, never slipping from inside her as he did so.
Once again, he relentlessly slammed his cock into her, beginning to show the signs of his own approaching climax. Christi came again with a loud scream, lashing her head back and forth on the table with each thrust of his hips.
Her orgasm still had her firmly within its grip when he pulled from her with a loud grunt. Placing her hands behind her, Christi levered her body up from the table and dropped to her knees in a single fluid motion. She squeezed his tight balls and engulfed his pussy-slick cock in her mouth.
Two sucks from her hot mouth brought him to the edge. His fingers twined into her hair, pulling strands from the restraining tie of her ponytail, and he growled as he filled her mouth with his seed.
Christi cried out around his spurting cock as her orgasm refused to let her go. She sucked and swallowed every drop of cum he had to offer while kneading his jewels in her hand.
Arilee stood just beyond the doorway, her mouth and eyes both wide open. It had occurred to her that it would be good to anticipate their needs, and so she had brought drinks for the couple to quench their thirst after the sparring contest. She had looked into the door just as Cerebus had penetrated the Duchess the first time. Arilee only snapped out of the trance the scene had put her under when Cerebus pulled from Christi’s mouth with a grunt.
Arilee quickly moved out of the doorway, hearing Christi moan in contentment from the aftershocks of her orgasm and the overwhelming taste of his semen flooding her mouth. Ari crossed the courtyard back to the door that led into the Hall, feeling the breeze caused by her movement blow across her soaked panties.
She had never in her life been as acutely aroused as she was at that very moment.
**** My bio contains information about the timeline of these fantasy stories that share the same world.
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with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
<a href="https://www.lushstories.com/stories/supernatural/blackhawk-hall-ch-01.aspx">Blackhawk Hall Ch. 01</a>