Torturous Alliance - Kristine Lichtlider - ebook
Opis

DESCRIPTIONReturn to the Northern Kingdom, where naked slave girls are chained for your pleasure...if you can avoid getting stabbed in the back. Black Templar Bruno Cromwell is back, and he never seems to run out of dragons to slay or fair maidens to ravish. Meanwhile, in the south, Dragon Slayer Seamus must contend with a fire breathing monster...if he can avoid being distracted by the sweet slave flesh of his naked wizardess...EXCERPTA beam of sunlight pierced through the early morning fog, striking the red tresses of a most unusual woman marching up the Bishop Vanya Road. As her tresses sparkled like jewels in the harsh midday sun, she shouldered her two handed sword and loosened her cloak.“By the gods, it's hot!” she said to the sky and the road and the scraggly trees, because it seemed she was alone on that dirty stretch of road, more of a bandit infested series of potholes.Sabia was the youngest of thirteen children. Her father had been a great hunter before arthritis stole his power and speed, but left his cunning. Fortunately, his twelve sons and solitary daughter more than provided for their extended family. The Tresea Clan, the Harvesters, roamed the icy tundras and frozen wastes and learned to fight by battling off bandits, monsters, and white bears who could outrun you, outswim you, and outfight you if you were on your own.By the time she was ten Sabia could track, kill, and skin one of the white bears. Her family fed well on the smoked meat, drank deeply of the rich bearfat, and wrapped themselves in pelts so soft they seemed made of the soft white clouds themselves.Then the Templars had come, and enforced their rules on the Tresea Clan and other White Northerners. Sabia lost her family during the violent revolts and now sold her sword to the highest bidder.Since she'd come to the South, Sabia learned the climate was much warmer than her own. Thus, she'd taken to wearing only a light ring mail jerkin and kept her long, muscular but still feminine legs bare. A pair of sturdy boots kept her toes safe from stones and snakes, and she still wore the headband with her clan's sigil proudly on her forehead, which also served to keep her beautiful hair out of her pale green eyes.Sabia had taken coin this day to carry a message to one Oblittero the Adequate, a wizard of some repute. Stories say her had a coach pulled by terrible Hell Ponies which could spit fire and run on the very air.They also say he believed his face was too beautiful to be seen by the world, and kept it sealed behind an iron mask. His appetite for gold was said to be second only to his appetite for women.Sabia wasn't worried. She knew she was beautiful, but also knew that she could cut a man in two before he could blink. Sabia had fought wizards before, and as long as you didn't let them get you downrange you had a fair shot of victory. The fact that she was expected also served to put her at ease.She stopped next to a tree bent like an old beggar and took a deep pull on her waterskin. Her pale flesh was glazed with sweat, and her freckles were swallowed by a red flush from the heat. There, in the meadow behind the tree, lay the crumbling tower said to be the wizard's hideaway.“Oh, please,” she said with a sigh as a pair of skeletons staggered up, clumsily gripping rusted swords. With a twist, she unsheathed her sword and cut one of the skeletons in two with a smooth motion...

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS
czytnikach certyfikowanych
przez Legimi
Windows
10
Windows
Phone

Liczba stron: 247

Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS

Kristine Lichtlider’s

Kingdom of Pain 3

Published by Lot’s Cave

Kingdom of Pain No.3

Torturous Alliance, © 2016, by Kristine Lichtlider

All Rights Reserved

All Characters In This Book Are Age 18 Or Older

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only and may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this ebook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this ebook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to the Lot’s Cave website and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

A Lot’s Cave Novel

CONTENTS

Prelude

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Dramatis Personae

~~~~~~~~~

Author’s Note

Taboo Exotica

BDSM Erotica

Other Novels

Kingdom of Pain

THE STORY SO FAR

Welcome to the Northern Kingdom, where swordfights and political intrigue are nearly as common as naked bound wenches waiting to serve their masters (or mistresses.) Bruno Cromwell, Knight Templar, is dispatched with his squire to the small village of Ravensford, where he encounters Faerie woman Aven of Still Hollow. Bruno learns of a rebellion brewing and takes steps to put a stop to it, with some meddling by an Imperial Assassin named the Grey Death.

Meanwhile, in the south, a petty dragonslayer—who hunts dragons the size of chickens—is put to the test when he must contend with a full grown, fire breathing monster. Aided by powerful but enslaved wizard Stella (who is never allowed clothing) he must contend with both supernatural forces and the machinations of city politics.

And in the city of Fort Drakken, oft-chastised noblewoman Katherine of Mannix must deal with a marriage proposal no one saw coming….

Chapter 1

The dragon dragged its limp prey away, barely noticing the minor damage done to its mouth. The meal would not satisfy it for long, and its sensitive nose could detect many more of the soft, slow moving animals that shuffled about on two feet on the surface. On an instinctive level, it knew that it was not yet strong enough to hunt them openly. So it crept to a dark alcove deep below the city and stretched out a body over twenty feet long to sleep off its repast.

Within the beast, the blood of the human fugitive and Fennik mingled with that of its past victims. The dragon began to change once more, the puny grape sized brain in its skull swelling as new tissue was generated.

The dragon slept on, oblivious to the profound changes going on inside its body.

A beam of sunlight pierced through the early morning fog, striking the red tresses of a most unusual woman marching up the Bishop Vanya Road. As her tresses sparkled like jewels in the harsh midday sun, she shouldered her two handed sword and loosened her cloak.

“By the gods, it's hot!” she said to the sky and the road and the scraggly trees, because it seemed she was alone on that dirty stretch of road, more of a bandit infested series of potholes.

Sabia was the youngest of thirteen children. Her father had been a great hunter before arthritis stole his power and speed, but left his cunning. Fortunately, his twelve sons and solitary daughter more than provided for their extended family. The Tresea Clan, the Harvesters, roamed the icy tundra’s and frozen wastes and learned to fight by battling off bandits, monsters, and white bears who could outrun you, outswim you, and outfight you if you were on your own.

By the time she was ten Sabia could track, kill, and skin one of the white bears. Her family fed well on the smoked meat, drank deeply of the rich bearfat, and wrapped themselves in pelts so soft they seemed made of the soft white clouds themselves.

Then the Templars had come, and enforced their rules on the Tresea Clan and other White Northerners. Sabia lost her family during the violent revolts and now sold her sword to the highest bidder.

Since she'd come to the South, Sabia learned the climate was much warmer than her own. Thus, she'd taken to wearing only a light ring mail jerkin and kept her long, muscular but still feminine legs bare. A pair of sturdy boots kept her toes safe from stones and snakes, and she still wore the headband with her clan's sigil proudly on her forehead, which also served to keep her beautiful hair out of her pale green eyes.

Sabia had taken coin this day to carry a message to one Oblittero the Adequate, a wizard of some repute. Stories say her had a coach pulled by terrible Hell Ponies which could spit fire and run on the very air.

They also say he believed his face was too beautiful to be seen by the world, and kept it sealed behind an iron mask. His appetite for gold was said to be second only to his appetite for women.

Sabia wasn't worried. She knew she was beautiful, but also knew that she could cut a man in two before he could blink. Sabia had fought wizards before, and as long as you didn't let them get you downrange you had a fair shot of victory. The fact that she was expected also served to put her at ease.

She stopped next to a tree bent like an old beggar and took a deep pull on her waterskin. Her pale flesh was glazed with sweat, and her freckles were swallowed by a red flush from the heat. There, in the meadow behind the tree, lay the crumbling tower said to be the wizard's hideaway.

“Oh, please,” she said with a sigh as a pair of skeletons staggered up, clumsily gripping rusted swords. With a twist, she unsheathed her sword and cut one of the skeletons in two with a smooth motion. The skeletons were coming up from the ground, but she wasn't worried. She'd fought undead many times before.

Sabia chopped again and again, her sword reducing the skeletons to splinters. Her jerkin was soon ripped beyond repair, bits of it held on by the barest of threads. Frantically, she slashed and chopped, but the more she destroyed the skeletons the more they sprang up. An arm would clatter over to a ribcage, which would shimmy to a pelvis and attract two legs, and then a headless skeleton was pawing at her flesh, tearing long pink scarlet streaks with their dirty nails. Sabia was borne down to the ground by the sheer weight of their mass, their grasping hands and biting mouths….

“MATTAI!” said a voice with masculine power and authority. The skeletons on top of her ceased to move. Sabia struggled to escape, managing to her to one knee.

“Enscona,” said the voice again. Sabia felt the skeletons shifting all over her, twisting into impossible forms that looked not the least bit human in construction. Soon she was held in a crucifix position, splayed out and helpless before the newcomer.

He stepped into the light, and the first thing she saw was his mask. Shined to a gleam, it acted as a mirror, allowing her to see herself in a distorted view. Sabia gasped, for her jerkin was gone and she was naked before this horrible man in a mask.

The wizard, for who else could it have been, gathered his purple robes up with hands that seemed like her grandfather's. The eyes that peered from beyond the mask seemed sharp and eager like a hawk's, but the eyebrows perched above them were pure white.

“Well, what have we here?” he said in a purr. Sabia gasped as he ran his hand down her cheek and pulled her red tresses away from her eyes. “There, is that better?”

“Release me!” she said boldly. I am Sabia the Windblade, and I am here to deliver a message. You were supposed to have been expecting me.”

“Messenger, eh?” the wizard said. “Let me see…”

Sabia squirmed as he ran his hands down her armpits and over her ribcage and hips. He appeared to be frisking her, which was ridiculous since she was naked as the day she was born.

“What are you doing?” she said in rage.

“Searching for the message, my dear,” the wizard said. His voice echoed strangely behind the mask.

“I don't have it on me, your damn skeletons ripped it to shreds,” she said, trying to ignore the fact that the wizard's gnarled, aged hand was running up the inside of her thigh.

“Hmm, but there's one place I haven't looked,” the wizard said. Without preamble, he thrust his fingers into her twat. Sabia was not turned on by being helpless—she preferred to be the dominant one—so she had no natural lube to work with. His finger was as rough and jagged as it looked, and she screamed in pain.

“By the gods, you are a filthy man!” she roared. “Why, if I were free I would throttle you! I would stomp you into the dirt!”

“Hmm,” the wizard said, withdrawing his fingers much to her relief. “Strong, great stamina, and you have these magnificent things...”

Sabia screamed again as he mauled her breasts with his aged claws. He was not gentle, pulling her nipples harshly and laughing at her misery.

“I think you should make an excellent Hell Pony,” he said, nodding to himself. “But first you must be broken.”

“Wait, I know the message, they made me memorize it-”

“Oh, I'll take their gold to fry their enemies with my adequate magic,” the wizard said. “I didn't need you to tell me what that old fool Davros wanted. Now, let's make you a little more presentable for your breaking in...”

Oblitero made a fist and the skeletal arms holding her shifted shape again. Soon she was bent over a hard rail of bone, arms bound behind her by the grasping hands of dozens of dismembered skeleton hands. Her ass was thrust into the air, and her legs held wide apart by more of the wizard's ghastly minions.

Bony fingers grasped her hair and pulled her head back. They forced their way into her mouth and pried her jaw open until she feared it would crack. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to will herself to wake from this nightmare.

“There's no escape, my dear,” Oblitero said soothingly “you belong to me now, and you cannot do anything without my permission. I did not tell you that you could close your eyes, for example.”

He spoke a word of power, and her face tingled. Her eyes opened of their own accord, and she could not avoid taking in the sight of a zombie clawing itself out of the ground. Its face was half rotted away, its ribcage exposed and a horrid wound in its thigh still bore maggots.

“Look at his cock, my muscular beauty,” Oblitero said, and Sabia had to obey. She could not even blink. The zombie's cock was a fetid mass of purpled flesh, with flies buzzing about the rotted testicles, which writhed as if with a life of their own. Somehow, it was still erect even in death, and she wondered if the wizard's magic or her own bad luck were to blame.

“He's going to fuck you,” Oblitero said. “And I…”

He fumbled with his robes and pulled out a cock that was impressive in size. Had it not been nearly covered in gray curly hairs it might even have been attractive. Unfortunately, it smelled like an old man and Sabia knew where it was going…

She cried as the swollen zombie cock thrust its way into her twat. Sabia tried to beg the wizard to stop to kill her instead of this, anything but this, but she could not speak with her jaw pried open.

Then the wizard slipped his member down her throat, so deeply she could not breathe. He kept it there as she squirmed, hands grasping uselessly behind her as the zombie thrust away, groaning like a sick puppy eating cheese. It was all too much, and she couldn't even close her eyes. She feared they would dry out, if the wizard didn't let her blink soon.

He gave her moisture a moment later, when he released himself all over her face. Her eyes strained to shut, tearing up in an attempt to get the thick jizz off her face.

“The zombie's about to come, too,” Oblitero said, putting his cock away and sitting on a nearby stump. “Whew, I'm not a young man anymore, or I'd really work you over. You are a beautiful woman Saliva, Sabio, Labia...You know what, I'm just going to call you Cockgobbler.”

Sabia screamed her throat raw as the zombie released itself on her. It pawed at her hair, emiting sounds like a dog trying to comfort its owner.

Oblitero chuckled at her plight, stroking her cheek gently like a gentle lover. Sabia could not move enough to pull away. As tears poured down her face, he grinned, using his ragged nail to catch them. He brought them to his dry lips and sucked like a greedy infant.

“Your tears are so wonderful,” he said with a sigh. “I do so love the taste of misery. If you'll excuse me, I have a date with your employer. Do make yourself comfortable in my absence.”

Sabia could only weep as the zombie continued to pound her pussy. Oblitero said a few words of arcane language and created a shimmering purple haze, roughly man sized. He stepped through it and left Sabia to her horrid defilement.

Chapter 2

Davros stared hard at the smooth slate slab on the table before him. Images adroitly scrawled with a chalk rock depicted Ravensford village and a gross rendering of its streets. The Templar residence was clearly marked, as was Thurston's farmstead. Nearby stood Thurston and Crown in his One Eye Bruce disguise. Their faces appeared grim in the flickering light of candles and torches as the old soldier went over their plans once again.

“Two days hence, on Endsweek,” said Davros “Mayor Thirsty shall deliver the conscription edict to Sir Cromwell, with our new additions.” He glanced over at Crown, who nodded modestly.

“Your skill at mimicking handwriting is...impressive, Bruce.” said Thurston, frowning.

“It is nothing but practice my dear boy,” said Crown with a chuckle “a few extra words here, a change of punctuation there, and it will seem as if the Templar's sole purpose was to enforce the conscription order.”

“Then,” said Thurston, eager to discuss his favorite part of the plan “Davros and his men attack-”

“And yours as well, Thirsty,” said Davros in a harsh growl.

“-we shall attack the Templar and lay him low, freeing us from his black sk- from his tyranny for good!”

“Do what must be done, Mayor,” said Davros with narrow eyes “if you betray us, they will not find enough of you to cremate with a candle.”

Thurston shuddered in spite of himself, despite his being over a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier than the old man. Something about the old soldier made him uneasy, as if Davros could read his cowardly, selfish thoughts.

“We must be careful,” said Crown “to avoid causing overly much harm to the good folk of Ravensford, in particular their kindly priest Father Cornelius.”

“Of course,” said Davros “we do this for the people, not for revenge.”

He cast his gaze upon Thurston as he finished the statement, causing the man to blanch once again.

“Gentlemen,” said Crown, bowing low to Davros “we shall away, then, and see you in two days.”

“How are we to get back to Ravensford in that short a span?” said Thurston incredulously.

“You may borrow steeds from my quartermaster.” said Davros.

Thurston sneered at him.

“You mean that toothless lout who smells of whiskey when the sun has just kissed the horizon?” said the mayor. “Quartermaster indeed! Look about you, old one! Your fortress is a ruin, your soldiers common criminals, and yourself too feeble to lift that iron rod at your side, let alone thrust it though someone's chest.”

Crown sucked in a great gasp of air as Thurston wound down, casting a wary eye towards Davros. The old man bore the brunt of the insult with good grace, even smiling slightly at the vitriolic mayor.

“Perhaps we'd best pick another leader, then,” said Davros “one far younger and wiser, yes? Someone like yourself.”

Thurston's eyes went wide.

“I did not mean-” he began.

“Oh, but you did,” said Davros, standing up straight and nodding to two of his men. The burly fellows busied themselves with moving the stout oak table from the center of the circular chamber. “Lend my good friend Thirsty a blade, will you One Eye?”

“Ah,” said Crown, “very well.” He unsheathed his simple thin bladed longsword and offered it to Thurston. The mayor shook his head rapidly, fixing Davros with a pleading gaze.

“Forgive me,” he said “I spoke out of turn. Of course you are fit to lead.”

“You say the words,” said Davros “but I don't think you mean them with all your heart. Take the sword, Mayor, or be cut down an unarmed man.”

Thurston took the sword, as well as a sympathetic gaze, from Crown. He awkwardly hefted the weight of the sword, apparently heavier than he was expecting.

“This is madness,” he said as Davros unsheathed his own blade. “Madness!”

“I like to play with madness, sometimes,” said Davros, “defend yourself!”

The old man telegraphed an overhead swing, which Crown knew was deliberate. The counter for those who had been trained in swordplay was simple, to hold the sword horizontally before the blow. The mayor had never held a blade longer than a foot before, and tried to scamper out of the way. Davros recovered his blade easily, using the downward momentum to pass the hilt behind his back to his other hand. Crown smiled, realizing the old man was showing off.

The maneuver impressed Thurston, who backpedaled until his head bounced off the hard stone wall of the tower. Wildly, he threw his sword, which skittered to the floor three feet from the approaching Davros.

“How rude, to treat One Eye Bruce's sword so,” said Davros, tsking merrily. “And stupid, to divest yourself of your only weapon.”

As the old man approached, metal greaves creaking, Thurston fell to his knees, hands clasped as if in prayer.

“Spare me,” he said “I spoke out of turn, I know they say I have a penchant for doing so! You are a worthy leader, I swear upon my father's bones!”

Davros did not speak, just thrust the tip of his heavy short sword under Thurston's chin. His head was forced upwards until their gazes locked.

“If we did not need you, Thirsty,” said Davros “I would skewer you where you stand. Your kind is the problem with our kingdom today. So willing to spill other people's blood, and yet so attached to your own you'd let a thousand men be slaughtered before you'd part with a single drop.”

He slid the sword backwards and sheathed it in a smooth motion. Thurston cried out as the razor sharp edge cut a deep, clean slice through his flesh. He clasped his hands to his face, feeling the sticky trickle of blood. It took him several moments to realize that Davros had not cut his throat.

“Let's be off, good Mayor,” said Crown, helping the man to his feet and offering him a clean cloth to hold against his wound. The assassin noted the hard glint in Davros's eyes, and realized the old soldier might yet slay the man.

“Will you aid us when the hour is at hand, Bruce?” said Davros as they were about to exit the room.

“Oh,” said Crown with a sly smile “I'll be around.”

Davros watched the strange pair leave. He truly did not care for that simpering fool Thurston, but One Eye Bruce seemed to have a good head.

A faint tinkling, like crystal breaking, caught his attention. One of his lieutenants gasped as a masked man in purple robes stepped out of thin air to stand before them.

“By the Allfather!” the lieutenant gasped. “It's Oblitero!”

Davros grabbed the man by his collar and slapped him.

“Of course it's Oblitero, you fool!” he sneered. “Who else could help us?”

“Who else indeed?” Oblitero said, his lips twisting into a grin beneath his grotesque mask.

Aven slowed her walk into the village, scowling at the plume of smoke coming from the chimney of the priest's hut. She had begun to hope that the wicked man would not return, had been swallowed up by a bear or wolf. Disgustedly, she made for the dwelling, hands clenched into fists. She would put an end to his charade once and for all. There were many ways to get a man to talk without causing him permanent harm...

She started to knock on the door, then changed her mind and rudely shoved it open. White smoke spilled out of the open doorway, causing her to hack and cough. Undaunted, she entered the hut and peered through the hazy air until she found the priest. He was wearing an eye patch for some reason, and was dressed as a simple pilgrim. He smiled widely at her as she took the center of the floor.

“Why, hello my dear,” he said “I was just going to come and fetch you.”

“You have a fire in your chimney, priest,” she said, blinking her eyes in the stinging smoke.

“I'm afraid not, my dear Allison,” said Crown with a grin “you see, the fumes are actually emanating from my stew pot, filled with a solution of witch hazel and wolfs bane.”

Aven swooned, finding it hard to hear the man's words. He seemed to be speaking from far away. The floor rose up to meet her, and she barely felt the impact on her cheek. With fading vision, she noticed the faux priest move across the hut to shut the door.

“As soon as you bedded the knight, I knew your heart would turn treacherous,” said Crown as he slipped off the eye patch. “And thus concluded that you would have to be...distracted from the day's bloody work.”

Aven tried to rise, actually getting her torso propped up on her shaking forearms. Crown kicked her hand ad caused her to tumble back to the wooden floor.

“You are strong,” he said “most faerie would be blissfully dreaming by now. Very well.”

Using a length of thin rawhide, he pulled Aven's hands behind her and lashed her wrists together. Grunting with exertion, he dragged her largely inert form to his high backed wooden chair. Using more of the twine, he securely lashed her ankles to it. Running a strip through her teeth, he wound the twine around her head and forced her to sit leaning forward by attaching it to the supporting strut of the chair. Her eyes sullenly watched him as he dragged the iron pot near her perch, shoving it close so the fumes would continuously waft over her face.

“Now, then,” he said, running his hand down her cheek. “What shall we do with a helpless little faerie woman?”

Aven muttered behind her gag as his hand slid down her neck and lower still. His hands were surprisingly strong as he pinched her nipples through her jerkin.

“Hmm,” he said “your nipples harden. You must be a true slut, to get off on such rough treatment. I'll bet you just want me to fuck your faerie pussy, don't you?”

Aven tried to focus, but she was so tired, everything was swirling together. Dimly, she was aware that he was playing with her body, sliding his fingers up her twat, but it was all she could to to keep awake.

“I really should kill you, just to be safe,” said Crown “but I remember some of the old ways, and it has been said that to kill a faerie is to kill your own fortune. So I bid you farewell, my dear.”

Crown kissed her on the top of her head, which elicited a weak groan from her gagged mouth. Whistling, the assassin closed the door to his hut tightly and made his way cheerfully to the church. There were likely donations to be collected from the strong box, after all.

Bruno scowled at Thurston as the man handed him the royal missive. His eyes narrowed further as they fell upon the red, scabbed over line on his chin.

“Cut yourself shaving, Mayor?” he said as he unrolled the parchment.

“Yes,” said Thurston, hand reflexively going to the still painful cut. Silently, he promised a painful death for Davros when he was rightfully in power.

Bruno ignored the man's scheming gaze, instead reading the conscription notice with a grave expression. He wadded up the parchment in a tight fist, turned from Thurston and slammed the front door of the residence.

“Sir Cromwell?” said Thurston, daring to rap upon the door “I do believe the edict says it must be read immediately-”

The door flew open and Bruno stood seething at him. He grabbed the mayor by his shirt and dragged him up off of the ground.

“I know my duty, fool,” he said “and I will carry it out presently. This is a conscription notice, and I must appear publicly as a knight to issue it. Breathe not a word of this, farmer, or you will cause a panic.”

“My lips are sealed, Sir Cromwell,” said Thurston with a smirk he could not hide.

Bruno dropped the man back into the dirt and reentered his dwelling. He stalked past Hector as the lad kneaded bread dough, not offering a word of explanation as he began buckling on his armor.

“Let me help you, lord,” said Hector, dusting the flour off his hands to assist.

“No,” said Bruno “I can put on my own armor, squire. You stay here, in the residence, and do not leave until I return.”

“Sir Bruno?” said Hector as the knight finished his preparations. Bruno even donned his metal helmet, meaning he expected trouble of the sharp and pointy kind. “I'm coming with you.”

“No,” said Bruno, turning to regard the lad. “This is not the kind of danger that an extra blade can protect me from. This will be a battle of words, of wills, and I am not certain that I can triumph. That is why you will stay here, in case you need to get word back to the kingdom. Understand?”

“No,” said Hector “what is happening, Sir Bruno? I've not seen you...worried before.”

“The king,” said Bruno incredulously “in his infinite wisdom, has decided to conscript from the peasant population. I am to deliver the edict that twelve of Ravensford's young men must report to the capital for service.”

“Madness,” said Hector “already tongues wag of revolution from the man's ludicrously high taxes! Why would he do such a thing?”

“He intends to wage a campaign in the Blood Wood,” said Bruno “and break our long truce with the faerie.”

“By the Allfather's beard...” said Hector “The faerie will not tolerate it for an instant! It will be war...”

“And he needs soldiers to wage that war,” said Bruno “hence the conscription. It could be worse; He has only asked for a dozen and not for a hundred.”

“Be careful, Sir Bruno,” said Hector.

“Be safe, boy,” said the knight, offering a smile to the squire. “Likely, I will not face much worse than harsh words and grumbling.”

Hector watched as the knight strode from their residence, making for the town square.

“Then why are you armored?” he said, placing a palm upon the glass window.

Thurston swung open the door to his barn, an angry scowl creasing his handsome features.

“You are loud enough to wake the dead,” he said in a harsh tone.

The barn was nearly full to capacity, but not with livestock or hay. A dozen of Thurston's closest relatives and friends milled about, most of them clutching crudely improvised weapons made from farming equipment. Davros and six of his men were there as well, a stark contrast with both their better equipment and more somber manner. The mayor stalked up to the old soldier, emboldened by the presence of so many allies.

“You only brought six with you?” he said in a hiss “I thought our risks were to be equal, oh great commander.”

Davros sneered at his disrespectful tone, but his words were calmly spoken.

“These six,” he said stiffly “are veterans one and all, and are worth a hundred of your ilk. Has the Templar spoken to the townspeople yet?”

“When last I saw,” said Thurston with a dark grin “he was heading to the town square, pretty in his shining armor.”

“We had best move quickly then,” said Davros. He raised his voice to a thundering level, drawing the attention of the unruly fellows that Thurston had gathered. “MEN! Today we stand up to the king, and tell him; enough! Enough of his taxes...”

Many voices cheered in agreement.

“Enough of his edicts, forcing us to have one of the black skinned southerners in our midst.

Thurston led the rallying cry with great enthusiasm at the mention of his hated rival.

“And now we say, enough sacrifice! We have given up the very food from our tables to fuel his greed, and now he wants blood-the blood of your sons! What shall we tell him?”

“ENOUGH!” shouted the men all at once.

“Have I wondered into a circle of knitting spinsters?” he said “what shall we tell him?”

“ENOUGH!” thundered the mob, making Thurston's ears hurt.

“Onward, then!” said Davros, mounting his horse. His men followed suit, keeping their mounts at a canter so as not to outdistance Thurston and his fellows.

“I regret that you must die, Sir Cromwell,” said Davros under his breath.

Bruno did not bother to dodge out of the way as the chunk of horse filth sailed through the air and impacted against his chest. The acrid smell stung his nostrils, but he did not allow the roiling anger in his belly to color his words.

“The edict goes on to say that I shall be the arbiter of those conscripted,” he said as a rotten tomato bounced past his feet. “All young, able bodied men are to report to the Templar Residence on the morrow for the choosing. That will be all.”

He rolled up the parchment as another fetid missile dashed against his shining leg greave. When the town crier had rang his bell and caused a gathering of Ravensford, the knight had felt a knot growing in his belly. He had hoped to see Allison among those gathered, for just the sight of her gave him comfort, but he could not spot her freckled face amid the throng.

Bruno thought about stopping by the Hammer to look for her, but the mob at his back hurling insults and projectiles made him think better of it. Instead, he turned onto the wide main street and headed for the residence. He had just crossed the bridge over the babbling creek when he noticed the riders heading for him. Their armor was military grade, but all heraldry had been buffed out. However, Bruno's eyes widened with recognition as the leader kicked his horse into a brief gallop, telling his allies to hold their position by simply raising his mailed fist.

“Duncan,” said Bruno, staring up at the rider as he stopped a few feet away “is that you, old man? What in the world are you doing out here in this Allfather forsaken wilderness?”

The knight's smile faded when he saw the hard set of Davros's jaw.

“Sir Cromwell,” he said “it has been...too long. Know that whatever occurs today, it does so without any rancor on my part.”