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Blackhawk Hall Ch. 06

Conclusion: The trap is sprung. Will the defenders of the Hall survive?
"The elf mongrel is in the Hall, and the half-breed moved on to fort up in the inn once they broke the charm over our dupes," Cordell reported.

Garvin, self-appointed Governor of Darius, frowned. "They moved forward after the attack? How much does that change things?"

Cordell shrugged. "Not much, really. They will be here tomorrow unless we throw everything we've got at them to slow them down. It's all a matter of what time."

"The clerics are ready?" Garvin asked.

Cordell nodded. "They're in position. Is our timing right?"

"It will do. Get everything we have out there between us and the good Duke, just in case," Garvin replied.

"I'm on it."

Cordell turned and left the building, leaving the Governor once again alone with his thoughts. He prayed that there were no more surprises, because failure was not an option. He knew he would be better off to surrender to the Duke than to escape and face his Master.

Shrugging the thoughts off, as there was nothing he could do about it, Garvin turned toward his appropriated bedroom. A buxom blonde awaited him there, eager to gain favor with her rightful ruler. He intended to give her ample opportunity to earn that favor.

****

Once she undressed, Christi guided Arilee to lie down, and then kissed Crystania. When their lips parted, Christi said, "As bad as I want your hands and lips on me, I want to watch you with Ari more. Make her feel good, Cris."

Crystania moved between Arilee's parted legs, the young woman's breath quickening in anticipation. Reaching down, Crystania touched Ari's folds and caressed them for a moment. "Does that give you pleasure?"

Ari shuddered and let out a little moan. "Oh, yes."

Crystania smiled and slipped her fingers between Ari's labia, emitting a sound of surprised delight when she discovered how wet the young woman was. Bringing her finger to her lips, she sucked the creamy wetness from it with a moan. "Your taste is so different from my own. It makes my head swim."

Christi leaned over, kissed the back of Crystania’s neck, and whispered in her ear, "Get a good taste. Make her come."

The sultry tone of Christi's voice sent a shock of pleasure through the half-elven woman's body. She immediately put her hands on the bed to lower her mouth to Arilee's sex.

A quavering yelp escaped Arilee as Crystania ran the tip of her tongue over Ari's nether lips. The yelp turned sharp and loud when the elvish woman's tongue parted her lips and plunged inside.

Christi stroked Crystania's back, whispering into her ear, "Make her come. Giving pleasure is just as good as getting it. You're going to love feeling her come under your tongue."

Crystania moaned into Ari's folds as she increased her efforts, urged on by Christi's sultry voice. Knowing her own body, and knowing how good it felt to her, she let her tongue caress Arilee's clit with each lick.

"Oh, that feels so good," Arilee moaned.

Christi moved to take Ari's right nipple between her lips, sucking it hard. Crystania's head moved up and down, adding the pressure to her lapping tongue.

Arilee stared down at Crystania's beautiful face between her thighs, and gasped out, "Oh. Oh, yes. Don't stop!"

Shortly thereafter, Arilee screamed as she reached climax. Crystania's eyes popped wide open, and she emitted a surprised yelp as she tasted Ari's nectar flowing over her tongue. Ari's body stiffened, alternating moans and screams erupting from her.

Crystania continued to lap up the sweet flow from Arilee, causing her to reach two more peaks of pleasure. Ari's gasps revealed evidence of discomfort mixed with pleasure, a signal Crystania understood meant that the young woman was becoming too sensitive to endure more.

"You are correct, Christi. That is just as pleasurable as being given release," Cris admitted, her cheeks flushed with excitement.

Christi moaned. "Well, you're free to give it another try with me. Please?"

Crystania echoed the moan and soon slipped between the thighs of the Duchess.

****

Cerebus grunted in approval, seeing his men in good spirits. The soldiers were all well rested, well fed, and ready to move onward to Darius. There, to bring an end to this farce.

Seeing that the men had their equipment together, the Duke ordered, "All right, ladies – let's move it out. We've got a bullshit Governor to remove, and I want it done today."

Cries of approval rose up from the men, and Mindblind opened the door to step outside, ahead of everyone else.

Several of the townsfolk were on hand to thank him for freeing friends and family members. Cerebus accepted the thanks with a few words, and then told everyone to keep their eyes open – and not to wander around much until he took care of things in Darius.

The men formed up into loose ranks, each staying near other men who complemented his fighting style, and whom he could depend upon to cover his back. Most of the tag-along farmers and townsmen who had joined the group meshed in nicely. Several of the newcomers found places alongside the more seasoned soldiers.

Mindblind considered that he should make a run through the entire Duchy at some point to set up informal militias that would complement the paid soldiers. Tax relief would be more than enough to encourage fitness of the units, and the people would defend their homes to the death, anyway.

A little formal training and some incentive would swell the ranks of able-bodied fighting men he could depend upon. With Drax on his border, and probably other enemies he didn't yet know about, Cerebus decided he would start organizing as soon as he returned to the Hall.

The fighters moved out double time, marching out of town, and then down the road toward Darius.

****

"Mindblind, the scouts are reporting movement in that big-assed hedgerow ahead. They couldn't see much without being spotted, but they think we've got a big ambush waiting for us."

Cerebus acknowledged the report with a grunt while staring into the distance at the natural fence of trees. "We don't have a lot of choice but to spring the trap, and let Ashtar fix them. How close are we to Darius?"

"Two hours, at the most," the Captain replied.

"Let everyone know we're walking into a trap, and let's move. I'll go talk to Ashtar," Mindblind directed.

"Got it."

The Duke walked over to where Ashtar stood. "The scouts say we've got another fight on our hands ahead – a big one. You ready?"

Ashtar smiled. "I am being ready, old friend. Let us be done with them, and be getting done with our business. I am being for my own bed."

"Couldn't agree with you more," Cerebus acknowledged.

"Missing Christi more than your bed you are being, I am thinking," Ashtar taunted.

Cerebus let out a short grunting laugh. "Damn straight."

The soldiers moved toward the hedgerow, anticipation of the ambush building with each step. When the attack came, Mindblind swore an oath. There were more than a hundred people running toward his men, including women and children.

"Keep them back. No serious injuries," Mindblind shouted to his men, and then muttered, "Wiggle your fingers fast, Ashtar."

The attackers quickly fell upon them, screaming incoherent battle cries as they attacked. Mindblind smashed the first man who approached him in the face with his shield. The man was well armed, and the combination of the man's physique and stance told Mindblind that he probably could prove dangerous with his blade if given an opportunity. When the man awakened, he would have a knot on his head, but better that than either of them dead.

The Duke cursed when he saw one of his men take a deep cut to the arm from a woman with a butcher knife, even as he had to fend off a ten-year-old attacking him with a club.

The sound of Ashtar completing his spell was like music to the Duke's ears. The expressions of the attackers instantly turned confused, and his men ceased fighting without the need to shout orders.

Cerebus started to shout out an explanation to the confused townsfolk, but saw Ashtar collapse. His Captain also noticed the wizard’s fall, and took care of the confused locals while Mindblind pushed through the former battlefield.

Kneeling down, Cerebus supported the mage as Ashtar weakly tried to rise. "Ashtar, what happened?"

"Too much magic I have been using, with too little rest. Not being my strength is charm magic, and very hard it is," Ashtar replied, closing his eyes tightly for a moment.

"Dammit, Ashtar, I told you to tell me if you needed to rest."

Opening his eyes again, Ashtar wanly smiled. "A little vain I can be, I suppose. Thought I could be enduring I did."

"Is there any way you can help me talk to Christi?"

Ashtar reached into a pocket of his robe and withdrew a small clay disk, which he handed to Mindblind. "Breaking this will be calling Crystania. To Christi you can talk through her."

Just then, Mindblind heard one of his men cry out. Looking up, he saw the man holding his head and those around him looking off toward the trees. When he glanced up at the trees, he saw the branches whip. More of his fighters shouted when the stone-hard fruits of the tree, hurled by the snapping branches, thudded into them.

Growling a curse, Cerebus helped Ashtar to his feet and shouted, "Get all these people away from those damn trees!"

****

Christiania sat up in the bed, a loud gasp on her lips. The sound and motion startled Christi and Arilee awake as well. When the two managed to focus, they saw Crystania rising from the bed.

Christi yawned, "What's wrong, Cris?"

"Ashtar is in danger. He has broken a charm that I have given him to summon me when it is needful. I must find him immediately," Crystania replied.

Christi sat up and reached for Crystania's robes. "Cris, slow down. You aren't even dressed."

Crystania looked down and realized she was naked, having fallen asleep exhausted – but very content – in the bed with Arilee and the Duchess the night before. She accepted her robes when Christi handed them to her, color rising in her cheeks.

"Give us a minute to get dressed, too. Let's get some clothes on, Ari."

The three women quickly dressed, and then Crystania cast her spell. She located Ashtar and opened a magical window so that she could speak to him. Mindblind stood over the mage, staring off to the side, when the image appeared in the mystic portal.

"Cerebus, what happened to Ashtar? What's wrong?" Christi asked.

The Duke started, his hand reaching for his sword as he spun to see the three women through the window that had appeared next to him. "Damn – can't you put a bell or something on that magic? Ashtar exhausted himself. I've got a hundred confused people milling around here, and the gods-damned hedge apple trees are bloody attacking us."

Crystania scowled upon hearing the last. "I will come at once. I can aid Ashtar, and the corruption of the trees must not be abided."

"You're needed there, and I've got nothing but a pack of men out here, Crystania. Just magic him back to the Hall," Cerebus argued, nodding toward the weary wizard resting at his feet.

"I can endure. The trees must not be used so," Crystania reiterated.

"We'll be fine, Cerebus. You need her. Just make sure the men understand," Christi added.

"Okay. I'm not in a mood to argue, and I'm tired of being attacked by living catapults," Mindblind conceded.

"I will gather my things and be there shortly," Crystania said, and then dismissed her magic when she saw the Duke's nod of acknowledgment.

Arilee walked up and hugged Crystania. "Please be careful."

"You should at least wash up a little," Christi suggested, "If you're anything like me, you're probably a bit sticky."

Color rose in Crystania's cheeks, and she smiled, saying, "You are right. Thank you both for taking the heat, and for sharing yourselves with me."

"Thank you," Ari said, and then giggled when she realized how excited she had sounded.

Christi laughed in response and then said, "Go get cleaned up, and get out there to help Ashtar and Cerebus. We're going to go get in the bath. You make sure that Cerebus knows that if he needs me out there, this place can run itself for a while."

"I will," Crystania replied, and then went to her room to prepare for her magical journey to the side of the Duke.

****

"The elf mongrel is there," Cordell reported with a wide smile.

Garvin breathed a sigh of relief, and then smiled as well, "Have the mage inform the Master immediately, and then let's get ready. We've got to have everything ready when he gets here. I don't really want to be sitting unprepared when he storms into town looking for my head."

"Understood," Cordell responded, and then spun on his heel to obey.

The illegitimate Governor also turned, walking back into the chambers he had appropriated to smack the rounded bottom of the woman lying in the bed. "Get up. I've got things to do."

The blonde sat up with a pout and stretched, causing her large breasts to jut out. She reached out and laid her hand over his loins. "Couldn't I just have a little taste before I go?"

She started pulling down on the waist of his trousers without waiting for an answer. He did nothing to discourage her as she pulled them down and slurped his slowly hardening manhood between her lips.

****

The short, ragged man walked into the darkened room and bowed before his Master. "Word from Darius. The elf-woman is in the snare."

"Excellent. Prepare to throw the Hall into chaos. We act now, while the time is ripe," said the lean man behind the table. He rose and pounded a fist on the table before him. "I have waited too long."

"We all have," growled the servant.

The dark-cloaked man moved out from behind the table, coming to stand before his servant. "You have taken care of the other little inconvenience we encountered, I trust?"

"Of course. He won't be troubling us any more."

"Excellent."

****

Christi stood up from the table, she and Ari having just finished breakfast after washing away the evidence of the previous night's lovemaking. A wide smile decorated Christi’s face. "I have a present for you."

"For me?"

"Yes, for you. It's something I stumbled across, and I think it will be better suited to you than anyone else," Christi explained, as she walked over to a chest of drawers.

She returned with something wrapped in silk, and handed it to Arilee.

Unrolling the bundle, Arilee gasped when she saw the dagger within. It was trimmed with gold, set with stones, and fine scrollwork decorated the blade.

Arilee took out the dagger to examine it closer and asked, "What are the stones? I've never seen anything like them."

"They're both forms of chalcedony – like flint. I know you've seen that before. These are quite a bit more valuable, though. The red one is a fire agate, and the black one is an onyx. They're actually the source of the dagger's power. The enchantment on the onyx cuts through magical shields, and the agate has the power of fire," Christi explained.

Ari's eyes went wide as Christi described the dagger's power. "I can't take this, Christi. It's too valuable."

Christi wiggled a finger at the young woman. "Yes you can – because I think it was made for you. I can use it, but the better you are at magic, the more of its powers a person can use. I've never been able to activate a single enchantment from the fire agate, and I bet you'll be able to. It will be more useful in your hands than mine, and I want you to have it."

"It's so beautiful," Ari remarked.

"Yet another reason it should be yours."

Arilee could tell Christi was going to insist, and she was flattered by both the value of the gift, and the faith in her ability to use it as both a weapon and a magical object. "Thank you, Christi."

A knock sounded on the door, and Christi crossed the room to answer it. Arilee saw Kronk when the Duchess opened the door, and he said, "Young Joshua is here to pay court to Ari."

Color rose up in Ari's cheeks, causing both the half-ogre and the Duchess to chuckle. "Send him up.” Christi paused and looked to Arilee for confirmation. “If that's okay with you, Arilee?"

Arilee's cheeks grew even more red as she said, "Yes, please."

Kronk nodded and returned downstairs to fetch the young man. Christi walked back over to the table and said, "Well, looks like you'll get some use out of your room today, at least."

Ari's entire face went red at that remark, and she gasped.

Christi laughed and waved a hand in front of her. "I only meant you would be talking with him in your room, but it looks to me like you might have other ideas."

"I guess I was thinking about that. You're making me all naughty."

"And you're turning me all civilized," Christi retorted. "Go meet your young man. I can get along fine. Have fun."

****

Crystania walked toward the hedgerow, the green missiles hurled by the whipping branches bouncing off of a protective shield of magic surrounding her.

"The trees will be troubling us no more very soon. Very much in tune with nature is Crystania," Ashtar revealed.

"You look a helluva lot better," Cerebus observed.

"The potions Crystania has given to me have been restoring my strength, and my magic as well," Ashtar explained.

"Good, if you do that to me again, I'll tie your beard in a knot."

Ashtar laughed and said, "Keeping that in mind I shall be."

Crystania now stood a few feet from the trees, just out of reach of the branches that seemed to strain for her. Mage and Duke watched as she began to gesture, the soft sound of her chanting lost in the wind and the creaking of the trees.

Spreading her arms wide in a slow, sweeping gesture, Crystania's magic took effect. The malevolent animation of the trees ceased as her hands moved. The trees once again swayed only from the hot breeze when the wizardess completed the gesture.

Crystania walked back toward the Duke with a smile and said, "They have been freed from the foul magic forced upon them."

Mindblind nodded. "Thanks, Cris. Now we can get moving to Darius again."

"I shall continue with you, to aid Ashtar and hasten your return to the Hall," Crystania insisted.

"Let's move, then. I want to get you both back into the Hall to counter whatever damn magic is popping critters in there, as soon as possible," Mindblind told the two mages, and then shouted to his men. "Form up! We march, now!"

****

"You seem a bit distracted," Arilee observed.

Joshua shook his head and smiled, "Yes, I'm sorry. I come to enjoy your company, and then don't return the favor. It's quite rude of me."

Ari smiled back at him and reached out to grasp his hand on instinct. "It's okay I..." She stopped and screamed then, as a goblin appeared in the room next to the bed.

Joshua leapt up and drew his sword, slashing the goblin across the throat before it could focus through the disorientation of teleportation. Arilee snatched up her new dagger and drew it at the same time.

A moment later, the door burst inward, revealing Christi with a drawn sword. "Are you okay?"

"We're fine. It just startled me," Arilee answered.

Kronk's voice rang out from down the hall. "Christi, we've got monsters everywhere – real trolls, goblins, and orcs!"

Christi cursed, "Trolls – son of a bitch!"

"You should go to your chambers and prepare a defense, Duchess. This is no nuisance attack. Trolls and orcs are a dangerous threat," Joshua suggested.

Christi frowned and spit out, "Damn that."

"Duchess, you should stay away from this fight," Kronk agreed, the use of her title meant to convey the depth of his concern.

Christi growled, "Fine. You two get down there and help, though."

"I won't leave you undefended, Duchess," Kronk argued.

"I doubt she needs my protection, but I will stay. Go, lend your strength to the defenders," Joshua said.

Kronk considered the offer for a moment, and then nodded with a grunt. He turned and ran back toward the stairs to join the battle in the Hall.

Christi growled, "Men.” She then stepped out into the hallway and said, “Come on – we'll fort up in my room. I have plenty of extra weapons in there, and it has some protection against magic, too."

The three hurried down the hall and into the Duchess' room. Christi turned to lock the door behind her, and to activate some magical sigla on the door as well.

"Is it really that danger..." Ari began, but her words suddenly trailed off.

Christi turned just in time to see Ari slump to the floor, unconscious. Joshua had a wide smile on his lips as he reversed his grip on the sword hilt he had just used to rap her on the head.

"You son of a bitch!" Christi screamed, bringing her sword to the ready.

"You let me destroy too many of your defenses," Joshua laughed, and then spoke a few words while pointing at her.

Christi struggled against the crimson bands of energy that wrapped around her, snapping her arms tight to her side, and forcing her to drop her sword when the blade bit into her flesh. The weapon fell through the bands to clatter on the floor, completely unobstructed by the magic.

Joshua's appearance shifted, and Christi snarled as another familiar face appeared in place of the young man's features. The hollow cheeks, the close-set eyes, the beak-like nose – and most prominently – the scar on his cheek identified him. "Telamont... I knew one of Drax's lapdogs had to be behind this."

The wizard scowled and cast another spell, paralyzing Christi's lower body to prevent her from escaping. He then released the bands spell and freed her arms. "I owe you for this, bitch," He said, pointing to the angry scar on his cheek. "You and that half-breed."

Christi struggled against the magic holding her, feeling a slight tingle in her legs, which told her that she was winning the battle. She knew that she had to keep the wizard distracted long enough to fight off the magic, and attack. "Not my fault that you're on the wrong side. I knew Joshua was too good to be true."

"He was – the noble idiot. He resisted my charm, ruining a perfectly delightful twist that would have left him devastated by killing his little girlfriend and the Duchess. Well, for as long as your half-breed man let him live, anyway. No matter. She will believe that she brought the man who killed you here, and her torment will suffice, I suppose," The wizard bragged.

"I can see why Draxnog likes you – you're a degenerate just like him," Christi taunted, now able to barely wiggle her toes.

"I wish I had delayed my plans long enough to get between that one's legs, and that I had time to take what I want from you as well, but I'm afraid this distraction will only last so long. So, you die now. I want to savor this, bitch."

The wizard again chanted, and Christi's eyes went wide as she felt unseen hands close around her throat. The invisible hands slowly squeezed, cutting off her breath. The wizard walked forward, and grasped the front of her blouse to tear it open. He stared into her eyes as his magic continued to tighten around her.

Blackness swam at the edge of Christi's vision as he tore away her skirt as well. He laughed in her face, the sound distant and echoing in Christi's ears as consciousness started to slip away from her.

Suddenly, the pressure vanished, and Christi sucked in a gasp of air. She grabbed her throat and coughed, struggling to draw enough air into her lungs. She faintly heard a thump, and felt something against her legs. When she was able to open her eyes, she saw Arilee standing in front of her, a dagger dripping blood clutched in her hand.

Looking down, Christi saw the wizard Telamont lying at her feet, a wet spot spreading across his dark robes, and a very surprised look on his face.

Arilee dropped her new magical dagger – which had cut through his defensive magic – to the floor. Christi moved away from the dead wizard, to take the other woman in her arms. Arilee softly sobbed as Christi tried to comfort the shaken woman.

****

Crystania and Ashtar had to free townsfolk from charming magic all the way through town. Despite sharing the duty, both magic users looked nearly exhausted, and it greatly concerned the Duke.

Now within sight of the building that served as the seat of government here, Mindblind could see a group of well-armed men standing in front of it.

Ashtar studied the men and said, "These are not being charmed by magic."

A wicked smile spread across Cerebus' lips as he raised his sword. “Good. After all this bullshit, I'm itching for a fight. Let's go, ladies. We have a Governor to remove from office."

Mindblind's men charged forward, all as eager as he to engage in a fight where they could actually fight back. The forced restraint throughout the trip, taking wounds that they would have otherwise never sustained brought the soldiers’ blood to a boil.

Battle cries rang out as the two groups clashed. Mindblind blocked a sword stroke on his shield, and then immediately smashed the metal into the man's face. When the man stumbled back, the Duke slashed him, opening his belly. Cerebus’ opponent crumpled to the ground, trying to keep the coils escaping from the cut inside, where they belonged.

Screams and death rattles erupted everywhere in the chaos. The Duke squared off against a man wielding a sword and dagger, blocking the dagger with his shield and parrying a thrust from the man's sword at the same time. Mindblind wiped his blade into an offensive strike, but his opponent deflected the blow with his own sword and stabbed out with the dagger again.

The attacker was not properly balanced, and when Cerebus turned to the side, the man's back was exposed. The Duke smashed the bottom edge of his shield into the back of the man's neck, dropping him to the pavement, and then ran him through.

The battle rapidly turning against them, the men facing the Duke began to toss down their weapons and throw up their hands in surrender. A few continued to fight, but these were quickly cut down. Those who surrendered were checked for hidden weapons, and then placed under the guard of the villagers who had joined the Duke during his journey.

Many men had sustained wounds – especially amongst the untrained villagers who had joined the cause. Healing potions produced by Ashtar and Crystania, and prayers from the town's cleric ensured that none of those who fought under Cerebus' banner died that day.

The Duke’s men had spread out to surround the building even before the fighting began, and so Cerebus knew that whoever was inside was trapped. Once the needs of the wounded and the securing of the prisoners were complete, Cerebus brought his Captain and a small group of handpicked men to stand before the front entrance of the building. Crystania and Ashtar also stood behind the fighters, prepared to use magic if necessary.

Mindblind kicked in the front door, splinters flying and one of the hinges breaking loose from the force of the blow. As he stepped into the building the Duke shouted, "Knock-knock, asshole!"

When no attack or answer greeted him, the Duke briskly walked through the building. He kicked open doors, finding each room as empty as the main hall.

Finally, upon kicking open the door to the bedroom, he found someone. The woman screamed and covered her nude body with a blanket when the door burst open.

"Who are you? Where is he?" The Duke demanded.

"I-I'm Clarine. Please don't kill me," the woman sobbed.

Mindblind restated the second half of his question, "Where is this so-called Governor?"

The woman cringed and replied, "He left a few hours ago. Who are you?"

"I'm the Duke," Mindblind replied.

The woman's eyes opened wide, and then she smiled, letting the bedclothes drop to reveal her naked body once more. "The Duke? You look like you've had a difficult journey. Why don't you let me take your mind off your troubles for a while?"

Cerebus rolled his eyes. "No thanks. I'm not partial to another man's leavings. You should get out of here and back to wherever you belong."

The woman gasped and made a face that revealed her disbelief that he would refuse her beyond a shadow of a doubt.

As the woman dressed, Cerebus asked, "What did this man who called himself the Governor look like?"

"He was blonde, strong, had a big dick, and a scar across his chest," the woman snapped back.

Recognition dawned on Cerebus' face and he questioned, "From his right nipple to his hip?"

"Yes," was the reply.

Mindblind growled. "Garvin. Christi gave him that scar. I knew Draxnog was behind this, and it makes sense the damn coward ran before we got here. Let's get this mess cleaned up and get things back in order. I bet the bullshit at the Hall has something to do with this. Ashtar, Crystania – get back to the Hall as soon as you're able."

****

With assistance from the thieves in the city, one of the city watch found Joshua's body hidden away beneath some construction leavings, several hours later. Arilee was beside herself with grief, and so Christi sent her back to the Hall.

When Crystania summoned up the strength to return to the Hall, she discovered what had happened, and used her magic to inform Cerebus and Ashtar. Mindblind had already found a solid man to serve as Governor in Darius, and so left him and his men to deal with putting things back in order. Ashtar transported them both back to the Hall.

They buried Joshua in an honored place amongst the soldiers of the city who had lost their lives in battle. Arilee was teary-eyed and distant throughout the ceremony, and retreated to her room almost immediately after it was complete.

Christi tried not to press too hard, but did her best to convince Arilee that Joshua's death was not her fault, and that he would not want her to shut down completely with grief. The young woman appeared to recover a little as the hours passed, but the progress was slow.

Christi was just about to go to Ari's room the second morning after the funeral to try to talk to her again, when a knock sounded on her door. When she answered it, Ari was there with a wan smile on her face.

"I have everything else ready, but we still need to pick out your dress."

"Oh, Ari – you didn't have to deal with that right now. It's not that important," Christi said, wrapping Arilee in her arms.

When Christi released Arilee from the hug, Ari explained, "It helped me take my mind off things, and I told you everything would be ready in a month's time. I'll be okay. I just want to do what I told you I would do, so you can be wed, and not make the Queen cross with you."

"Arilee, you are a treasure. I'm so glad I walked into the Ogre that day and found you."

Again, Arilee smiled. The smile was weak, but it was genuine, "Shall we go get you a proper gown?"

It took most of the day to pick out a style, and get Christi's sizes. Christi kept pushing for gowns that were simple, and a little provocative. Arilee kept leading her back toward more traditional and ornate dresses, citing the fact it was a State Wedding, and that the Queen expected certain things.

In the end, Arilee found a seamstress who managed to combine both women's ideas into something both were happy with, and who was willing to make a promise that it would be done in time for the wedding.

The final preparation for the wedding complete, with plenty of time to spare, Christi felt as if a great weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Arilee still was not herself, though – continuing to fight off the sadness of Joshua's death.

When the pair returned to the Hall, Christi asked her to come upstairs and join her for some wine. Arilee accepted, though she sipped her wine without a word.

Christi walked over and laid her hand on Arilee's shoulder. "Ari, you can't let this take your life away. Joshua wouldn't have wanted that. He would have known what Telamont was planning when the wizard tried to charm him. He fought, and won that battle for you – for us. Don't take away that victory by hiding away."

Arilee sighed, and then closed her eyes. She growled and said, "It just makes me so angry, that he was used like that. I don't understand how people can be that way – why they do things like that. I killed that evil man, but it didn't take away my anger. I'm mad that I didn't get to know Joshua better, too. I never know whether I'm going to be growling or crying any more."

"You need some stress release. How about a sparring match with Cerebus?"

"He will be fearful of hurting me. It wouldn't be much of a match," Ari speculated.

Christi laughed and retorted, "After you've shown him what you're capable of, he'll rise to the task. He's competitive, and it's not like he's afraid to fight a girl. He knows a woman can be just as dangerous – if not more so – than any man. My spell will protect you both from any real wounds, but I have to warn you that you'll probably have a few bruises before it's over."

"I don't know if that would be such a bad thing right now."

"I'll go let him know. You need this, and I'm going to enjoy seeing the surprise on his face," Christi admitted.

****

"Careful with those, I'd like them to keep working," Christi shouted across the courtyard, and then laughed.

Arilee called out, "Point!"

Mindblind knelt on the ground, nursing the pain in his groin from Arilee's kick, and breathing hard. He mastered the pain and slowly stood back up. "Okay, you've been training this one hard while I've been gone."

"You're lucky Crystania hasn't had time to teach her any more magic," Christi taunted.

"No more playing around," Cerebus warned, bringing his sword and shield into line. "I don't like losing."

Arilee brought her sword up as well, and asked, "Are you going to fight, or talk?"

The Duke laughed. "I like that. You'll get your fight."

Arilee was the first to attack, launching an attack to his shield side. Cerebus blocked the blow with his shield, and then hooked the foot flying toward his opposite side on his weapon wrist and hurled it upward.

Ari landed on her bottom, her sword dropping out of her hand when she hit the ground, the wind blasted from her.

Mindblind put the tip of his sword against her chest and said, "Point," a moment later.

Christi instructed, "I warned you about that, Arilee. He's not surprised any more. Fewer risks – more studying him."

The Duke helped her up and said, "If it's any consolation, she lectures me the same way."

"Don't go easy on me," Ari requested.

"If you want a fight, you'll get it."

The pair set once more, and this time the Duke led the charge, swiping at Ari's head. The woman recognized the strength behind the blow, and knew that any attempt to parry it would be risky. She dived to the ground instead, lashing out with a kick.

Mindblind was hardly off balance, but the recovery from his swing forced him to do no more than avoid the shin kick, spinning all the way around to face her when she popped back up. He blocked a swipe of her sword just in time. He smashed forward with his shield, just recovering in time when she dived out of the way again.

Arilee popped to her feet, slashing with her sword. The Duke caught the blow on his shield, and answered with a blow of his own. Arilee’s feet weren’t properly planted, and she had to backpedal to get out of range of the blade. The Duke pressed his advantage, his blade ringing off the young woman's weapon as he kept her moving backward.

Ari stumbled over a small rock, and Cerebus launched a kick to her midsection before she could recover. The air blasted out of her lungs, and she fell hard to the ground again, sucking in a loud breath.

Mindblind wiped sweat out of his eyes. "Point. I say we call this one a draw. I know you can't be feeling too good right now. Not to be crude, but my damn balls are still aching. You've got quite a kick. You kept your blade in line really well, considering how off balance you were."

Christi walked up as Ari nodded her head in agreement, and the Duchess helped her rise. "You work out some of that stress?"

Ari smiled – a real smile – and replied, "Yes. It felt good to let out a little of that anger."

"It never hurts to practice with different people. Cerebus fights a lot differently than I do. You should probably do it more often," Christi advised.

Arilee nodded, still having a little difficulty catching her breath.

"Go get in the bath. I'll join you in a little bit," Christi suggested. Arilee nodded and turned to leave the courtyard. The Duchess walked up to her man and kissed him. "Surprised you, didn't she?"

The Duke inclined his head and responded, "Yeah, she did. You would never expect that kind of fire in a little slip of a girl like that. She does have a hell of a kick on her."

"Still hurting a little? I taught her that. She learned it well," Christi said, reaching down to cup his crotch in her hand. Her eyes popped open a little wider and she said, "Hmm, that's interesting. I would think it would be a little difficult to get hard with crushed nuts."

The Duke shrugged. "You know how it is. All the adrenaline, and her nipples poking at that blouse are a little hard to ignore."

Christi moaned, and then let out an aroused laugh. "Oh, I know – believe me."

Cerebus, knowing his woman, could tell from those words and her tone that she and Arilee had shared more than a few battles. "Is that so?"

She pulled his head down and kissed him, and then huskily whispered into his ear, "Once she's had a little time to recover from losing Joshua, maybe I can show you some other things I've taught her. I think you'll like them too."

Those words prompted the Duke to grasp Christi's hand and pull her toward the armory.

She didn't resist in the slightest.

****

Over the course of the next week, Arilee slowly pulled out of her depression. She talked more often, and returned to helping the Duke and Duchess with their daily routine. She constantly made sure everything for the wedding was in order, not letting any of those commissioned to provide something slip off schedule.

Ari had just finished helping Christi send Cerebus off in his state robes to the audience hall when she turned and asked, "Will you come with me to the grave? I need to say goodbye, and I don't want to be alone."

Christi hugged her and replied. "Of course I will."

The pair made their way to the tomb, and Arilee knelt down in front of the marker stone. The Duchess stood behind Ari at the grave, her hand on the young woman's shoulder. For several minutes, Arilee just knelt and caressed the stone. She only said, "Goodbye," aloud before rising.

The young woman turned and fell into Christi's arms. The Duchess held her, a few soft sobs shaking Ari in her arms. With a final sniffle, Arilee stepped out of the hug and smiled.

Christi asked, "Better?"

Ari nodded. "I think so. You're right – he wouldn't have wanted me to give up."

"Let's go home."

****

As the wedding date approached, Arilee’s recovery accelerated. Two days before the ceremony, Christi's gown arrived. The Duchess rolled her eyes at the frills and lace, but a stern look from Ari was all it took for her to try it on.

The gown was very traditional, save for a low neckline, an open back, and the lack of a train. Christi walked to the mirror with a look of resignation on her face. As soon as she looked in the mirror, her defeated attitude drained away, replaced by surprise. "Gods – I'm beautiful," she mused.

Arilee smiled and said, "You never noticed that before?"

Christi turned and pursed her lips, offering Ari a playful scowl. She then turned back to the mirror. "I've just never even put on anything like this. I always thought I would look ridiculous in something...” She paused, searching for a word. “Nice."

Ari walked up behind the Duchess and peeked over her shoulder. "You look radiant, and Cerebus is going to need someone to close his mouth when he sees you."

Christi turned and said, "Thank you, Ari. I know Alicia is going to like it."

"She does."

The pair turned toward the door and found the Queen standing there. "You must be an enchantress of the highest order, to have somehow civilized this girl I've been working on for so long," Alicia said with a crooked grin.

Christi smiled and held out her arms, walking toward her friend. Alicia put her hands up in front of her and rebuked, "No, no – I am not going to let you wrinkle your dress and use it as an excuse to wear something frumpy or scandalous. Take it off, and then you can hug me."

Christi laughed as Alicia closed the door behind her and locked it. She then walked over to where the Duchess was removing the gown with Ari's help. "What were you thinking – putting on your gown with the door unlocked? What if Cerebus had seen you?"

Arilee gasped and covered her mouth. "Oh dear. I was just so excited that I didn't even think about it."

Christi rolled her eyes and continued undressing. The Queen shook her finger at her friend and said, "It is bad luck. I don't care whether you believe it or not. That's why I'm here early – to help make sure that you get married without something going wrong. Thakkor will be along on the day of the wedding. Crystania brought me. I made him ride."

"Great – now I have two taskmasters," Christi grumbled as she laid the dress gently across the bed.

Alicia turned to Ari and said, "You must be Arilee, whom I need to thank for finally putting her into a gown and pointing the way to the altar."

Arilee bowed and said, "Yes, Your Majesty, I am Arilee."

Now it was the Queen's turn to roll her eyes. "We're in the Hall. Until the wedding, I'm just Alicia. All of Christi's rules apply to me here, and to Thakkor as well. No titles, unless absolutely necessary."

"Okay – Alicia it is," Ari responded.

Christi finished pulling on her blouse and walked over to the Queen, hugging her. "I'm glad you're here, Alicia."

Alicia clapped her hands after the embrace. "Let us make sure everything is in order, so I will have time to sneak into town to find a room."

"You can have my room," Arilee offered.

"I don't want to put you out. I will be fine in the city," Alicia responded.

"Please, I insist."

Alicia smiled and said, "Very well. Thank you. Now tell me everything, so that I can sigh and dream about the wedding until it happens."

****

"Point," all three women cried in unison as they stood over the Duke with swords pointed at him.

The sun was setting, but the summer heat was still oppressive in the courtyard. All of the combatants were drenched in sweat, their clothing clinging to them and dripping. It had taken nearly an hour of hard fighting to win the three points, despite a three-to-one advantage. Cerebus had fought hard, sparing no effort. He had revealed a couple of new surprises, allowing him to score two points of his own, despite the overwhelming odds.

Alicia sat down hard on the ground. "Gods – that felt good. Thakkor will never give his all when fighting me – when we manage to find the time."

"I tried," Mindblind grunted as he rose to his feet. "It's getting a little embarrassing, having my ass handed to me by girls. At least I got in a few licks this time."

All three women slapped him – playfully – at the same time.

Alicia stood up and said, "I am going to get in the bath. You are out of luck, Cerebus. You will have to wait. I’m pulling rank on you. Come join me – Ari, Christi?"

Christi nodded and said, "We'll be up in a minute. We'll put the weapons away."

Alicia handed over her sword, and then immediately turned to head inside the Hall to the bath.

"I'm going to go dunk my head, at least. Let me know when you're out of the bath," Cerebus requested before handing over his sword and leaving the courtyard as well.

Christi had noticed where Arilee's eyes had frequently strayed throughout the end of the battle and the conversation afterward. She smiled, knowing just how hard it was to look away from the bulge in Cerebus' pants when he was aroused. "Let's go put these away," she told Ari, daydreaming about being with both her and her man.

****

A knock sounded on the door as the three women were dressing in Christi's room after their bath. Christi knew Mindblind's knock, an impatient double rap that was unmistakable. She shouted, "We're all still naked."

"Throw me some clothes in when you get a chance. I'm hitting the bath," the Duke responded from the other side of the door.

"Okay."

Alicia yawned as she pulled on her blouse. "I should have just put on nightclothes, because I'll have to change again in a moment. I am for bed. I have not had such a strenuous workout in quite some time."

"Goodnight, Alicia. We'll probably be in bed soon," Christi said as she pulled on her own blouse.

Alicia walked down the hall and closed Ari's door behind her, casting a spell that would muffle sounds coming from outside the room. She knew her friend, and she knew the look that she had seen in Christi's eyes as she chatted with the two women in the bath. There would likely be very distracting sounds coming from down the hall tonight, and Thakkor would not be here to help her deal with the nature of that distraction.

Arilee picked up the sweat-soaked clothing from the spar in the courtyard and then turned to the Duchess. "I'll go ask Sharon to put me up in a room downstairs. Do you want me to lay out some clothes for Cerebus that you can take to him?"

Christi walked over to Ari, desire obvious in her eyes. Ari felt a tingle run through her body as the other woman approached, and it only grew in strength as they kissed.

Christi sultrily whispered in Ari's ear, "I have a better idea for sleeping arrangements."

Ari quivered as Christi caressed her breast while looking into her eyes. Ari drew in a deep breath, desire long suppressed by her grief flaring to life within her.

The Duchess leaned in once again, running her tongue over Ari's earlobe and moaning. She then whispered, "I saw your eyes on Cerebus' cock. I want to see it inside you, making you come."

Arilee gasped, raising her hand to caress Christi's neck, her breath coming in quick bursts as her arousal built.

Christi moaned, "Do you want it?"

Ari softly replied, "Yes."

Christi purred and pulled the other woman toward the bed. She jerked off her own clothes, and then slowly peeled off Arilee's clothing. The blonde moaned from her touch, her body twitching to push her hips and breasts forward as the Duchess revealed her.

The two women sank to the bed, lips locked in a kiss, and their bodies tightly pressed together. They continued to kiss, tongues roving over each other, while their hands stroked the other's body.

Duchess and servant caressed each other, their hands and lips teasing with quick touches to the most sensitive spots, building a passion within them that was steadily growing harder to ignore.

At last, Christi could wait no longer. She moved between Arilee's legs to flick her tongue over the woman's labia. Ari stroked the Duchess' hair as the tongue washing over her built pressure within her, begging for release.

The door opened, and the Duke – clad in a towel around his loins – stepped into the room. "Christi, I thought you were going to..." he began, and then noticed what was going on in the bed.

The Duchess sat up from her position between the softly moaning Arilee's thighs, her face coated in the woman's juices. "You won't be needing any clothes for a while. Come here."

Cerebus closed the door and walked toward the bed, the front of his towel steadily moving away from his body. Christi immediately resumed her lapping of Arilee's pink folds.

When the Duke reached the edge of the bed, Christi glanced over just long enough to grasp the towel and pull it from her man's hips. Grasping both Ari's hand, and Cerebus' erection, she pulled the two together, prompting Ari to open her eyes and gasp. Arilee wrapped her hand around his throbbing organ, her fingertips barely touching around his girth only when she squeezed.

The feeling of him in her hand pushed Arilee over the edge, and she screamed as the pressure within her released in a flood of ecstatic pleasure. Her hand squeezed tight around him, even as her other hand scrunched up the bedclothes. She continued to scream as Christi's tongue kept her coming.

When Arilee recovered her wits, if not her breath, she looked over to see a drop of pre-cum welling up from the thick shaft in her hand. Christi leaned over and picked up the clear droplet on her tongue, and then climbed over Arilee's body to share it with her in a long, sensual kiss.

Christi moaned into Ari's ear, "Are you ready to feel him inside you?"

Arilee shuddered as a powerful aftershock gripped her and she gasped out, "Oh yes."

Christi purred and moved off Arilee. "Tell him you want it."

Arilee immediately breathed, "I want you inside me."

Christi made the gestures and mouthed the words of a spell, frowning when she saw the violet glow between her tummy and her hand. She was dangerously close to being fertile, and the spell couldn't tell her whether it would be a moment or a day before it happened. Ari finally realized that she needed to release the Duke's cock from her hand if he was going to move when Christi cast the spell a second time.

Christi moaned, and Arilee echoed it when a cool, blue glow shown over Ari's tummy.

Cerebus climbed onto the bed, and Ari parted her legs, breathing heavily in anticipation. Christi reached down and grasped her man's cock when he was in position, rubbing the swollen tip over the young woman's wet folds.

Ari watched the Duchess tease her lips with Cerebus’ thick cock, almost feeling him already inside her. Christi pulled forward on Mindblind's manhood, guiding him past her labia and inside.

Arilee yelped as he penetrated her, stretching her lips wide, and gasped out, "So big!"

Christi leaned down to tickle the other woman's clit with her tongue tip, hoping to distract Ari a little from the initial discomfort of having such a big cock inside her for the first time. It appeared to work, because Ari's body relaxed as the Duchess' tongue swirled over her bud.

Cerebus rocked his hips in slow motion, pushing just a little deeper into her tight canal with each thrust. Ari yelped as he slipped ever deeper into her velvety embrace, "Oh, oh, oh, Oh gods!"

At last, he hit bottom, his smooth balls pressed up against her, and Ari released an animalistic growl of pleasure.

Christi purred, "Does she feel good?"

"Damn, yeah," Mindblind growled, starting to withdraw. Arilee let out a squeal as his shaft pulled from her, coated in her cream. She groaned as he slid back inside her with a single, smooth thrust.

Christi let out a chuckling little moan as she watched Ari's face tighten in ecstasy. She continued to flick her tongue over Ari's bud, occasionally sucking it between her lips. Mindblind increased the speed of his thrusts after the first stroke that had opened her up, and he started to groan, reveling in the tight squeeze around his cock.

Arilee's cries of pleasure quavered as her pleasure mounted. Cerebus thrust into her at a measured pace, far slower than he normally would as he approached orgasm, but Christi could tell from the sounds he was making that he was drawing near to climax.

Heat infused Arilee's body, emanating from the firestorm in her loins. Her skin grew flushed, and then an electric shock snapped into being at the point where the Duke's swollen helmet was penetrating her again. The shock continued to follow him until it reached her depths, and then shot up her spine. Ari came with a warbling broken by Mindblind’s thrusts.

"Fill her up," Christi ordered, still lapping Ari's throbbing bud, her fingers rubbing and stroking within her own sex to dull the ache caused by watching her man give Ari such pleasure.

Ari's eyes shot wide open as Cerebus hips pumped faster, driving her to even greater heights of ecstasy. When he slammed into her and growled, his thick cock pulsing and spurting hot cum into her depths, the strength of the spike in her pleasure caused her vision to grow dark.

When she could see again, she found Cerebus leaning over her, groaning as he throbbed and twitched with each rhythmic contraction of her walls. Christi screamed as she came on her thrusting fingers, curling up and holding the digits deep within her.

Cerebus had to withdraw, unable to endure the continuing squeeze of Ari's walls around him. Christi moaned, seeing the combined cream seeping from between Arilee's still quivering folds. With a devilish grin, she slurped Cerebus' cock between her lips, sucking him clean as he gasped. He eventually pushed her away, bringing a chuckle to her lips.

Moving between Arilee's legs, she lapped up the dollop of cream there, and then looked up into Ari's eyes and huskily asked, "Did he feel good Ari? Does his hot cum feel good up inside you?"

"Oh yes. He's so big. It's so hot," Ari answered between pants, and then moaned, pinching her nipples as a wave of pleasure rippled through her.

Christi slipped back between Arilee's thighs, lapping up her man's cream from the woman's depths until Arilee screamed in orgasm again.

Both women joined together to suck steel back into Cerebus' manhood as soon as Arilee recovered from her climax. He was hard within a few moments of the two women’s hot mouths working on him.

Christi got on her hands and knees and growled, "Take me."

Mindblind moved in behind her and took but a moment to get in proper position, before slamming home with a loud grunt.

The Duchess let out a broken groan, and then said to Arilee, "You're going to love it when you can handle him really fucking you hard. It feels so good. Rub my clit, Ari."

Arilee reached under Christi, finding the Duchess’ bud and rubbing it in slow circles. The Duke's heavy jewels bounced off of Ari's hand with every hard thrust into his woman's depths.

Christi let out a particularly loud, gasping scream and then growled, "Spank my ass."

Christi cried out every time his hand fell on her bottom, timed to coincide with his cock slamming deep inside her. She was near the point of no return when she demanded, "Give it to me. Fill me up."

"But your spe..." Mindblind started to grunt.

Christi cut him off. "I don't care. Come inside me."

Cerebus stopped spanking Christi's reddened ass, instead tightly gripping her hips to add more power to his thrusts. Ari's juices flowed freely from her as she watched the arousing, almost primal clashing of the bodies in front of her.

Christi released the loudest scream Ari had ever heard as she came. A moment later, the Duke echoed it as he jammed his cock home one last time and spurted his seed against the entrance of her womb.

He jerked free from her not long after, unable to handle the pressure of her clenching walls. Ari almost immediately moved beneath the still coming Duchess, who lowered her hips to the waiting woman's mouth.

Christi came again on Ari's tongue, and both women chuckled when they heard the first snores emerging from Cerebus. The two women wearily urged him to roll over to stop his snoring, and then collapsed to the bed, their heads both lying on his muscled torso, and drifted off to sleep.

****

"Then I now proclaim this union blessed of the gods. Let what they have wrought, no man put asunder. Kiss her already, brother."

Alicia scowled at Vladamir as he departed from decorum at the last moment, but forgot all about it as the couple kissed, sealing a marriage long coming.

A cheer erupted throughout the Hall, and the courtyard beyond where the magic of Ashtar and Crystania let those gathered there watch the ceremony as well.

Thakkor stepped forward onto the dais, shaking his Duke's hand and stealing a kiss from the bride before he turned to speak. "As much as We hate to delay the celebration and inebriation to come, there is an important matter which must be attended to now."

The King gestured toward Ari and said, "Please step forward, Arilee Elers."

Having no idea what was going on – utterly surprised and thoroughly embarrassed – Ari hesitated. Alicia walked up behind her and whispered, "He won't bite. Go on."

Arilee timidly walked up the steps, to demurely curtsy when she came to stand on the step below the King.

"Let it be known that this woman has done a grand service for this land. It is only through her service – and friendship – with the Duchess of Cratel that we are able to celebrate this day. By her hand, a foul sorcerer intent upon ending Christi's life was lain low, and We would bestow upon her an honor that in some small way repays this service," Thakkor announced to the crowd, looking down at Ari and smiling when he had finished.

Looking back to the crowd, the King announced, "Thus, the lands in the north of this Duchy, known as Dalebord, and in possession of the Crown, shall now be given unto her with all the rights and privileges inherent in the ownership. Congratulations, Baroness Arilee."

Ari stood wide-eyed, her lips slightly parted, in utter disbelief of what she had just heard. With those words, she was now nobility.

Christi stepped down and hugged her friend, whispering when she released the young woman. "Say thank you, Sweetie. Think about it later."

"I am honored, Your Majesty," Arilee said to the king, and curtsied again, still awestruck.

Thakkor took off his crown, and then announced in a loud voice, "Let the celebration begin!"

A great cry erupted from the crowd as the new Baroness descended the stairs, side by side with the King, Duke, and Duchess, to join the celebration.

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