The incense filling the room was pleasant, swirling across the senses and making everything in the room feel so much more alive. Slaves wearing gold skirts and bared breasts wandered amongst the guests, carrying silver trays full of grapes, strawberries, shrimp, and chalices of wine. Silk curtains hung from the walls, over the openings that led to the various other halls and rooms of the villa, gave the party an even more plush and exotic atmosphere.
Just how the nobility of Goldulin enjoyed it.
Sarya though, taking a bite out of a ripe strawberry, a chalice of rich red wine held firmly in her callused hands, kept her eyes on the scene in the centre of the room.
An indentation in the floor was swirling with cool, clear water. A dais in the centre of the pool held a collection of women. Their gilded gold skin was nude save for the black masks that covered their upper face. Lustful eyes with black painted lids gazed out at the audience, simmering with heat and base intent. Their hair was gelled and styled in a sleek wave down their backs. The women were an undulating mass of flesh, their bodies writhing amongst each other, gasping softly as hands and fingers drifting over painted flesh. Lips and tongues caressed breasts, necks and thighs. Sarya watched them, entranced by their beauty and their skill in the craft of sexuality.
Four men stood at each corner of the dais, a rounded pillar at their backs. Their faces were hidden behind masks of ivory, neither eyes nor mouths showing, only carvings of such, all the same identical clamped lips and wide orbs lacking detail. Their otherwise naked frames were painted a stark white, almost like marble, and, in their hands, fluttered long sheets of silk that flowed between them, occasionally obscuring the sight of golden women between them, only their silhouettes showing for a brief second of teasing.
Sarya sipped her wine, ignoring the rigid cocks of the four men, standing proud and ready to service at a moment’s need, enthralled by the pure beauty on the dais. She watched as one raven haired beauty slowly slid a palm down a golden haired nymph’s breast. The second woman’s back arched, her golden nipples standing proudly, allowing her paramour to wrap silken lips around the stiff bud
A silk sheet passed before them, and Sarya could only see their shapes moving, slow and sensual, stirring a heat between her legs.
“Centurion. It is not often we get one of the common soldiery here amongst us,” a man’s voice said.
Sarya cursed him in her mind as she turned away from the sight to view the man approaching her. A slave trailed behind him, massaging his shoulders even as he walked. The man’s eyes rimmed with dark liner, though not nearly as dark as what curled around his wife’s striking blue eyes. She stood next to him, red lips curled in a smile as she took in Sarya. The warrior had no doubt she made quite the impression, standing in full armour that had been polished to a splendour for this event, but still held the gouges of battle in the chest plate and pauldrons. A red cape tied around her neck, denoting her rank, hung down her back.
“It is not often I get such an invitation either,” she said politely, wondering as to the nobleman’s intent.
“Ah, but you of all of us deserve it. Fighting those foul Kazdruk hordes on the coasts. I hear it was your cohort that won us the battle of Tamarin,” the noblewoman said pleasantly, and with a bit of a seductive purr to her voice. Sarya’s lips curled into a coy smile at the thought of peeling off that vibrant red and violet dress she wore, and tasting what lay beneath. She was a beautiful woman, and she might even sleep with her husband to get her.
Culture was certainly different here than most places of Goldulin she’d seen. At least, different since worship of Oan had spread.
“It was my cohort. I have some of the best Legionaries in the empire under my command. The Kazdruk are vile, and a ferocious enemy but they bleed and die just like anyone else,” Sarya said patting the hilt of the spatha sheathed at her hip.
The two nobles laughed, sincere laughs, and the woman’s fingers grazed Sarya’s forearm pleasantly. The man paid no mind to it, as the slave behind her reached her own hand into his toga, and between his legs. The woman’s eyes were burning with unbridled lust, and Sarya wondered if her husband would be involved tonight at all.
The thought seemed so heretical, and Sarya loved every second of it. This was true Goldulin culture, not the watered down version that the last few Emperors have shown to the world.
“This must be so foreign to you though. The only screams, ones of pleasure… or ecstasy,” the man chuckled gently with a slight lilt to his voice as the slave’s hand worked beneath his garb.
“I admit to questioning the wisdom of spending precious funds on such lavish parties when armies are bearing down upon us as we speak. They will be at the gates of Goldalin within the month, and victories are few and far between,” Sarya said bleakly, fingers curling around her sword, even as the woman’s fingers curled around the Centurion’s forearm.
“That is precisely why we need events such as this. It gives us hope, and with no hope we are lost. Besides… may as well enjoy some of life’s, pleasures,” the woman said.
Sarya smiled again, letting her fingers relax. “Forbidden pleasures it seems.”
“Only by some.” the woman dismissed. “The foolish and the zealous of an overbearing God,” she continued. Sarya laughed, flicking her eyes once again to the women.
“Senator Gracus, Lady Amilia… absconding to your chambers with my special guest already? I haven’t even had the chance to speak with her,” a sensual voice slid over Sarya’s mind, and all three turned. The Senator and Amilia both smiled and laughed and said their apologies to the empress before giving their thanks to Sarya and taking their leave.
Sarya, though, snapped her heels together and punched a fist to her chest in salute. Those of the gathered guests who saw it laughed, but most were too pre-occupied. One man was conversing with his wife in the corner, with a slave’s lips around his cock, while another slave ran his tongue between the wife’s slick thighs.
“Empress. I live to serve,” Sarya said firmly to the woman before her, Nera, Empress of Goldulin, dressed in an opulent purple dress, trimmed in gold filigree, that clung to her feminine figure, leaving the expanse of her breasts bare. Her hair was carefully coiffed, a long braid running down her back, with a perfect bun resting on the back of her head.
“Sarya please. You are my guest, and in this house… there is no need for such formality. Look around you,” the Empress said, her hand sliding gently around the villa’s room, a den of carnality and other pleasures of the senses. A woman poured wine over her husband’s chest before bending down to lick it up. At least, Sarya assumed it was her husband. She couldn’t be sure.
“Formality interrupts such pleasures, and you are a hero of the Empire, and deserve such pleasures,” Nera purred, and slid a hand between Sarya’s legs, pushing the knee length skirt of the Legion against her thighs as she forced her legs out of the position of military attention. Sarya blinked; she had of course seen the Empress before, only at a distance, but never would she have guessed that she was so… delicious.
Nera’s hand didn’t move for a moment, but then slipped under the skirt and crept higher.
“Let an Empress reward the loyalty of a brave soldier, with what she craves,” Nera purred, her fingers deftly worming their way through the wraps of wool Sarya had around her hips, and plunged into her womanhood. The Centurion couldn’t stop the low moan that spilled from her lips, even as she started walking, following as those fingers led her to the edge of the room, and through a set of curtains.
She was alone with the Empress now, and the situation began to slowly sink in.
“Empress-,” she started before being cut off. “Nera. In the morning you can again let Empress slip from those pretty lips, but until then, I am your lover.”
“Nera,” Sarya said, letting the word slide off her tongue like rich honey. “What of the Emperor. I could be executed, this is a sin to Oan,” she said, her heart pounding with lust, fear, and excitement. Nera’s fingers twitched inside her, continuing to guide her along the halls of the rich and powerful until they reached a quiet room, far from the party. The bed was covered in silk and made of fine wood, carved with nymphs along the head board.
“This is my personal villa Sarya. The Emperor does not visit. He thinks I kneel before Oan here, but as you can see, that is not true. He does not sleep with me except when he wants to attempt to father an heir. I take lovers here… and fuck Oan. I know you also do not worship that oafish God,” Nera purred, slowly removing her fingers from within the Centurion, and slowly sucking the first of two digits clean with a soft moan, and pressing the other to Sarya’s lips.
Sarya confirmed Nera’s statement by taking the woman’s finger into her mouth. The Empress grinned and reached up with her free hand, and unclipped a small brooch behind her neck. Smoothly, the dress slid down off her body, exposing everything to the Centurion, who licked her lips at the sight of pale creamy skin that must not have felt the touch of the hard sun in years.
“We are being invaded by evil Sarya. And humanity will not stand in the light. Only in the dark can we thrive. So long as I live, Goldulin will live.”
Nera grinned, and pulled her finger free, starting to work on disrobing Sarya. Each piece of armour, each indication of rank, joined the Empress’s dress upon the floor, until Nera was pushing Sarya onto the bed, running a tongue slowly up her thigh, teasing her way to the Centurion’s womanhood. Sarya groaned.
“I know who you whisper to before battle, I know whose name you utter in the dark Sarya. It is why I invited you here tonight, to partake in her bounty. To show you the Goldulin that will live again. Tonight you will not whisper her name… you will scream it,” Nera purred from between Sarya’s thighs.
Sarya looked down between her breasts, across the rippling expanse of her stomach, at the woman to whose husband she had sworn her life. The woman who represented Goldulin. A saint to the eyes of the people, and saw the fangs of a vampire protruding from her lips.
Sarya didn’t have time to react before those fangs bit down into her thigh, piercing her flesh, letting blood flow into her lover’s mouth. Nera’s tongue slid over the skin that had been pierced, and her hand slid down to entwine in the Empress’s hair, and moaned to the ceiling.
Looking over the city of Driftafay, Sarya let her eyes open. She had been afraid that Lillium’s visage would taint such a sweet memory, her fingers gently drifting over the twin, pale pink scars upon her thigh. The power of a succubus could be strong.
She glanced over her shoulder at Isilda laying naked upon her bed, and for a moment wished she was painted gold, and wore a mask. But Nera was gone, Goldulin had fallen. Now there was only the Kazdruk, who had taken everything from her.
And Lillium. Sarya would see the woman dead, and every last Kazdruk dead upon her blade for what they did to her people.
Sarya would have her reckoning, even if it burned the world to ashes around her.
Night had long since fallen, and the columns of marching soldiers had set up their tents and cook fires for the night. Soldiers nursed their feet from the long day of marching, while the cavalry units tended to their horses. Sentries stood at their posts, firmly grasping their spears and staring
with vigilance out into the night as guards patrolled the perimeter.
Standing in tight Elvish breeches and a tunic that drew the eye, Lelthina was already missing the fine silk of her dresses, the caress of it across her skin. The heat of the sun that hung above their heads during the day, making sweat trickle down her back and itch in a most uncomfortable way, only to grow chilled when sun set to darkness, was not how she wanted to spend her time.
Yet, what lay at the end would be worth all the discomfort. The horrible food and raw thighs from the saddle. Every step would be worth it.
Her attention was taken from the glow upon white canvas tents by the screech of a hawk fluttering in from the night sky, drowning out the low sound of soldiers’ conversations. Flexing her hand in the thick leather glove she wore, Lelthina held out her arm. The hawk’s talons dug into the leather as it landed upon her forearm.
Cooing softly, and offered the raptor a strip of hare meat. It snapped up the sliver of flesh in its beak with the viciousness of a hunter as Lelthina carefully slipped a hood over the hawk’s head. Her eyes drifted down to the small scroll held in a brass capsule tied to its foot. With the hood on, the hawk easily let her remove it, as a glove bearing servant came out from her tent to take the beautiful avian from the chancellor.
Unveiling the parchment strip was quick, the snap of the brass capsule quiet in the fire lit camp. Her eyes slid across the words written there, and nodded once to herself.
Brushing an errant hair from her brow, she never could get it bound just right out here, she turned from the view of the camp and the glow upon the white canvas tents, and towards the large pavilion that was Telva’s quarters and war council. She moved quickly, purpose driving her, sweeping the flap of the tent aside as she entered. The war council had been dismissed much earlier, and Lelthina came across the Elven Princess, topless upon her bed. A servant was above her, gently massaging her shoulders.
Telva opened a single eye, but did not command the man above her to cease. It bothered the chancellor, doubtlessly the effect Telva wanted, but it reminded Lelthina too much of the Goldulin, or the Kazdruk even, to be at all appropriate.
“Chancellor, I assume you bring news from Phano,” Telva said softly, her tone relaxed, soft, sensual even. If Lelthina had been interested in women, this scene could play out to be a very enjoyable one. As it was, she simply pulled up a chair beside the princess to speak with her.
“I have. He is inside the walls of Driftafay, and has found pockets of loyalists. It seems Sarya’s fear mongering has not been as effective as she thinks.”
“Humans are always so quick to grab at whatever scraps of power they can find. They are rather foolish that way,” Telva said with a smirk, her gaze finding Lelthina. “And that’s how we’ll always keep them in check. Tantalize with little, insignificant bits of influence, and they’ll lap from our hands.”
Lelthina said nothing, but nodded her head politely. Telva’s insights were nothing she didn’t already know well. The chancellor held her own smile; the Princess was a child playing at games she couldn’t comprehend and thought herself a master.
“But of course,” Lelthina said before leaving from the tent to leave the princess with her pleasures.
“Thorlgruz,” Aela whispered as she looked upon the cathedral. It had been a marvel of architecture and engineering. A beacon of worship for the faithful of Oan. A beautiful piece for the nobles of the land to be overly proud of.
When the Kazdruk had taken it, the anger and despair had flowed through the words of priests, pilgrims, and the common folk alike. It had stoked a fire of resistance through much of the lands that many Kazdruk commanders had not anticipated, slowing their advance to a steady crawl.
The priestess had never seen it, and now that her eyes were upon it, the tales of its marvel and beauty were utterly outdone. Though, she knew the desecration of the Kazdruk had more to do with her elation of its sight than what it had once been.
Yannifer let out a small sigh, hinting at sensual memories playing across her mind. Of course they would; it was here that the Harbinger had made her a concubine. Gave her empty life meaning.
The ramshackle village that had sprouted up around the cathedral had helots marching with firm discipline, spears resting on their shoulders. Large Kazdruk masters lashed the whips across the backs of empty eyed and emaciated slaves who toiled without any hope left in their bodies. Aela looked at them with pity, these poor souls who did not embrace the truth, who had refused to accept that their beliefs had made them weak, had led them down this path, and now left them as withered husks of what they had been.
But it was only pity that Aela felt, not sympathy; they had brought this sentence unto themselves.
As the two moved through the town upon their mounts, they earned suspicious glances from the helots, hard stares from the Kazdruk, and nothing at all from the slaves, who merely continued their toil, laying stones for road, fixing and upgrading once temporary huts, and carrying the resources from stockpiles upon their backs.
They reached the great doors of the cathedral, once carved with holy scenes, and now replaced with a darker one, carved with vistas of Kazdruk glory. Lust and bloodshed dug in exquisite detail. A shiver ran down both women’s spines as they gazed upon images of heavy breasted Kazdruk whipping slaves across their backs, some of the Kazdruk sporting thick erections. Aela took note that there were no helots in the carvings, despite the two live ones standing guard on either side of the door.
Their barbed halberds slid downwards, crossing before the entrance.
“What business brings you to Thorlgruz?” they demanded, and Aela looked to her companion. The Elven concubine slid from her mount and bowed slightly to both helots.
“I am Yannifer, first concubine to Baroness Lillium, who has sent me to gather some of her belongings from her chambers.
“Do you have proof of such?” the one on the left asked, to which Yannifer turned, parting the straps wrapped around her form to show a symbol inked into her flesh upon her lower back. The sigil of Lillium. The guard on the right straightened his halberd and stepped forward, his fingers running over the symbol, before firmly grasping the concubine’s rear while the other watched her face.
Yannifer’s expression did not change, even as the exploring hand dipped beneath more of her straps, running along her flesh and between her legs. Two fingers slipped into her slick cunt, and here her expression changed, a slight moan slipping from her lips.
“We have not seen the Baroness for some time. Nor Mistress Aeltha. Already the Kazdruk are scheming of ways to take this land for their own. Make your business quick inside, The Giver of the Black is not favored amongst the servants of Yuldasha’s host. Most see her as an arrogant upstart,” the one on the left said, while the other ceased his fun.
“The baroness will remember your loyalty,” Aela said with a nod as Yannifer stood and adjusted her perverse garb, ensuring the whip was still tight around her waist, even as juices of her lust slid down her thighs, unhindered by anything beneath the skirt of straps.
The helots both nodded, even as the horny one licked his fingers messily. Yannifer and Aela walked past them and into the great hall that dominated much of the structure. Aela had never seen the place, but it had changed much from when Yannifer was here last. The rubble and ruined pews had been cleared away, though blood and cum still stained some of the marble tiles upon the floor and stone blocks of the walls. Kazdruk statues now lined the walls, and a massive obsidian carving of Yuldasha, naked slaves at her feet, dominated the far end, where a altar sat dark with blood.
“The followers of Morkate and the Kazdruk are not so different,” Aela whispered quietly to herself as she took in the sights, tall candles replaced with the familiar violet torches, bodies hanging by shackled feet along the marble pillars. Some were no longer living, and the pitiful moans of those left certainly did not suggest much longer for those still cringing from death.
Yannifer licked her lips, the sight of dark decadence stoking her lust, her sadism. Aela set a hand upon her shoulder, squeezing gently.
“We must be quick, before our true intentions are discovered. Lead me to Aeltha’s chambers,” Aela said, and the elf nodded in reply. They found a small doorway off to the side, plain, and from the dust beneath it, unmoved in some time. Yannifer set her hand upon the handle, some spots of rust spreading across the metal. She pushed the door open slowly, looking over her shoulder despite the cathedral currently being empty.
Her hand came away dusty.
“A good sign,” Aela said as they slipped through the opening. They found the back hallways and rooms there, cobwebs dangling from the ceiling, dust motes floating through the rubble strewn corridors. There were a few hoof prints in the dust, but they seemed old.
Yannifer led the way, brushing cobwebs out of the way as they made their way towards Aeltha’s chambers. Yannifer stopped in front of another doorway, pushing it open slowly. The rust on the hinges creaked loudly, before they were able to slip within.
The chamber of the great Kazdruk sorceress was in much better shape than the rest of the back rooms. While there was some dust upon the furniture, and the bed looked pristine as if it hadn’t been slept in for months. Shelves crammed with books, loose pages with Kazdruk runes scrawled across them cluttered desks, a dusty mirror stood in the corner. Yannifer stood near the door, one hand upon the whip as Aela began to search, fingers dancing across parchment and leather bindings.
“Someone has been in here, many times, since Aeltha’s departure.”
Yannifer glanced over to the priestess who was flipping through a large tome, eyes pouring across its contents. She idly wondered how the woman was able to understand the harsh Kazdruk runes, but it was not her place to ask. Instead, she kept close to the door, ears attuned to any movements. She did not believe the helot guards would betray them, but this was the Kazdruk; it never suited to believe you would not be betrayed.
Aela’s sharp gasp caught Yannifer’s attention. The concubine looked to the priestess, who was gingerly lifting a book of black leather, and thick parchment, from a box hidden hastily beneath the sorceress’s desk.
“The grimoire of Aeltha the Sorceress,” Aela explained, eyes wide, wonder in her voice as she began to flip through the pages, eyes drinking in the forbidden knowledge scrawled within.
“Does it have what we need?” Yannifer asked, and the priestess grinned.
“Yes. And the path to having another ascend.”
The fire snapped, and a log shifted, sending a towers of embers swirling around the branches arched over their heads. The knights of Oan rested upon their bedrolls, armour carefully nestled in saddlebags beside them. All three were silent, staring into the flames as their horses nickered quietly on the edge of light.
It had been a week since they left Driftafay to search for the wolf kin. Each of them had heard stories whispered about such a creature when they were children, the priests pretending not to listen as youth dabbled in fantasy.
The time of innocence was long since past.
“We need to find her soon,” Morris muttered, eyes flicking up to dance between his two companions, neither of whom could find his gaze which soon returned back down.
“I know. But she’s good, and we are not trackers of any sort,” Duncan replied, tossing a stick absently into the fire.
Viviane said nothing, just felt the heat on her skin. It had seemed such a good idea when she was speaking with Sarya, but now out here, out of her element, she felt lost. Alone even with her companions. The thought if they felt the same flittered through her mind as Morris’s attempt at conversation sizzled away into silence.
“You are all rather stubborn,” a woman’s voice cut into the small clearing from the darkness of the trees. Immediately the three knights were up, their swords sweeping from their scabbards as they put their backs to the fire.
“Put those away, there’s a handful of crossbows aimed at you,” the voice said, a figure emerging slowly from the shadows. A tail flicked behind her, and the firelight caught the points of her canine ears emerging from her mane.
“The wolfkin,” Viviane said softly, sliding her sword back home. The other two glanced at her briefly, before following suit.
“I am. Was arrested for it too. And now here you are, hunting me, when the Kazdruk are hammering at our doors!” she said, face contorted in anger with those final shouted words.
“We are not hunting you. We were looking for you. For help,” Viviane said, holding out her hands; she could only hope Kira would see it as a peaceful gesture.
“You stand ready to execute me, now you want my help?”
“We had nothing to do with your trial,” Morris said, and Kira’s gaze snapped to him, eyes narrowed.
“Trial. There was no fucking trial,” she spat, before letting out a long slow breath, her hands clenched into tight fists at her sides.
“Why do you need my help?”
“To stop Lillium,” Duncan said, his eyes never wavering from the trees, looking for the crossbows pointed towards him.
Silence reigned again for a few moments as Kira looked between them all. The fire crackled, and somewhere in the woods a twig snapped. Viviane refused to look though Duncan’s head snapped in that direction.
“Either you people have finally opened your eyes, or something’s happened in Driftafay to change your attitude so completely. I’m guessing you have a plan,” she said finally, and Viviane could hear the tension slowly releasing from crossbows in the shadows around her. Had those people been helots, the quest would have ended before it began properly.
“We do, join us by the fire so that we may discuss it.”
“Better idea, you come with us. Come and see the refugees forgotten. My army,” Kira said turning and starting to move into the woods.
The three knights looked at each other for a moment, before scrambling to douse the fire and prepare their horses for the journey.
Isilda knelt naked in the basement of her brothel. Sarya was above, in the palace, and Isilda had snuck down here, as she had been bidden. Around her candles burned softly, flickering lights casting shadows across the room, at the other women gathered around her, all nude, marks of crimson upon their bodies.
The woman from the outside, the refugee from the farms stood before a makeshift altar in the basement, intricate symbols drawn on her flesh from the blood of a sacrifice. The same blood marked the other women circling the room. The woman stepped close to Isilda, holding a bowl gently in one hand.
“Do you Isilda, accept Morkate as your goddess? To guide you through blood, into pleasure?” the woman said.
“Yes,” Isilda cried, holding her arms out wide.
The woman dipped a hand into her bowl, and placed a crimson handprint upon Isilda’s breast. The blood was warm, sticky. It felt, good.
“Do you accept Lillium as the harbinger of Morkate’s will? Aela as the mouth, lips, and tongue of Morkate?” the woman intoned, hand already slipping back into the blood.
“Yes,” Isilda cried once again, tilting her head back, and the woman smiled. Wet fingertips ran from Isilda’s temple and around the outside of her eye. They smeared across her lips, and Isilda accept them between, tongue rolling across the offered digits.
“Then rise, our sister, our lover,” the woman intoned, and Isilda slowly got to her feet, thin trails running down her skin before she joined the circle to watch as the next prostitute stepped forward to accept the touch of their new goddess.
In the darkness, where candlelight could not reach, red eyes stared at the ceremony. A shadow flickered with the barest of movements, swallowed into nothingness.