We Few Against the Rising Dark
Chapter 1

Copyright© 2015 by Tom Frost

Fantasy Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Around Tierra, the lights are going out. Humans cling to civilization and battle seemingly endless hordes of goblins. Even if they can win that impossible fight, the waters are still rising and the twisting rains bring fresh horrors. Daniel and Claire have grown up a world apart, but the choices they make - whether to fight the rising darkness or embrace the chaos - will determine whether humanity fights its way back from the edge of annihilation or vanishes once and for all.

Caution: This Fantasy Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa   Consensual   First  

Daniel Szubarla was three days' ride and a long morning's hike out from Kovar Remeny when Eli finally showed him the Outrider's secret weapon. He'd been told of its existence on the first day of his apprenticeship and that he'd know what it was once he took his oath. That oath-taking had been three days before he'd left the relative safety of the city walls and almost a week ago total and he was trying not to get impatient. Still, it felt like he wouldn't be a real Outrider until he knew about the weapon.

It wasn't that anybody had said he was anything other than a real Outrider. He was partnered with an older man, but he was an actual partner. Last month, he'd been following a pair of Outriders around and his job had been to learn and assist. Now, it was to observe and report, the same as Eli. Still, it wasn't that much different from learning and assisting. Nobody was going to take his word for what he found unless Eli backed it up.

It did feel good when Eli introduced Daniel as "one of our new Outriders" to one of the farmers whose hospitality they'd relied on to get this far. But a few of them had thanked him for his service, which was awkward as he hadn't actually done any real serving yet.

This was real service, though. He and Eli hadn't seen another living soul since they left their horses back at the picket and headed out into the wilderness. They were scouting, looking for any signs of goblin activity. They hadn't found any yet, but they were still close to the picket.

That hadn't stopped Daniel from being diligent in using the skills he'd spent the last six years training in anticipation of this day. He'd moved silently, looked for telltale signs of passage, and kept his ears open. He'd also kept an eye on the weather, which was much more important out here where you had no place to duck into if the twisting rains came and you needed to get a tent up or shelter in place until they passed. The weather had sadly remained perfectly pleasant, robbing him of any chance to demonstrate his preparedness.

He and Eli had eaten a lunch of bread and soft cheese and washed up in a small stream before heading up into the foothills. Some of the goblin scouts could pick up a scent as easily as a dog and even strongly-scented foods could alert them to your presence. The Outriders were there to observe, but also to remain unobserved.

They'd taken up positions on a rise looking down into a green, wooded valley that stretched to a horizon farther than Daniel had ever seen. Even apprentice Outriders didn't venture too far from the fortress during their training. Two and a half days of his three-day ride out had been through unfamiliar territory. He'd studied the map of approved human habitations around Mount Kistestvere for years, but this was the first time he got to see all those little towns and farmsteads he'd only known as names.

Once they're reached the top of the rise, Eli had sat down with his back to a tree and brought out his pack like he'd done a hundred times already on this trip. Only this time, he said, "All right. Everything from here forward is an Outrider secret. You don't talk about it outside the company. Even the captain doesn't know all of it. You ever report to him directly or one of the officers, you tell them what you found, but not how you found it."

Daniel gave a slow nod, hiding his eagerness. "Is this about the secret weapon?"

Eli reached into his pack and paused. "I'm going to show you the secret weapon, but it's about a lot more than that. There are some things it's better off without everybody knowing. And there are some advantages we'd lose if the goblins knew about them. So, we tell as few people as possible."

Daniel really wanted to see the weapon, but he couldn't help ask, "Who would tell the goblins anything? They're the enemy, right?"

Eli nodded. "They're the enemy." He handed Daniel a stoppered clay pot that fit in the palm of his hand. "That's yours. Take care of it like you need it to stay alive. Destroy it if you think you're going to be killed or captured."

Daniel frowned down at the vessel. "What's this for?"

"That's the secret weapon." Eli retrieved a second pot and drew out the stopper with a soft pop, then gestured to a nearby tree. "Sit against that, facing the valley, and open it."

Eli did as he was told and looked down into the pearlescent white substance inside. "Does it ... make you invisible?"

Eli shook his head. "Where'd you get that idea?"

Daniel's smile was chagrined. "I had a bet with Arpad. He thought it was some kind of sword that detected goblins. I thought it might be like an invisibility ring or something."

Eli couldn't hide his smirk. He'd always been a patient teacher and there was a chance he might even be Daniel's father, but every once in while, he gave off a hint of exasperation at his young charges. "Well, you both guessed wrong. Sit back, get a little dollop like that..." He demonstrated, taking a glob the size of a pinky nail. "close your eyes and rub it on the lids. Keep your eyes closed until you start to see again."

Daniel frowned, but did what he said. He'd learned to do what he was told by older Outriders. Anybody who didn't learn that washed out of their apprenticeship long before this. The lotion was cool and minty and tingled a little as he rubbed it over his eyelids, applying it as evenly as he could.

At some point, the lotion stopped tingling and started to feel warm, then hot for a moment - just long enough to be startling before Daniel was seeing from a perspective a few feet over his own head. He drew in a surprised intake of air.

"Keep your eyes closed," said Eli. "But look at me."

Daniel's perspective swung around to his right and he was looking at a space where the air seemed slightly thinner than anywhere else, floating a couple of feet over Eli's head. Daniel found himself "looking" up and down, then letting his perspective swing in a full circle.

"All right." Eli gestured towards the valley with one hand. "Now, follow me."

The thin space in the air above Eli's head shot forward down the hill in front of them and, after an instant's hesitation, Daniel's perspective followed him, trees and brush flashing by on both sides too quickly to be more than a green blur. Just as abruptly, the scene stopped moving around him again.

"Don't worry," said Eli quietly. "Unless they've got a shaman with them and they're looking for us, they won't be able to see that we're watching."

Daniel laughed. "I think I won my bet. We are invisible."

Eli gave a hissing shush. "Keep it down. It's hard enough to split your focus between watching one place and listening at another. We don't want to get snuck up on while we're doing this."

Daniel nodded, a completely useless gesture since Eli's eyes were closed, but decided to let his silence be assent. Eli seemed to take it as such. "Tell me what you see."

Daniel looked around, down in the valley. Their perspectives were on the edge of what looked like a small, neatly-kept village. The houses were tiny and made of green wood, but the paths were clean and clear. A fire burned at the center of town. There was some sort of meat on a spit, but he couldn't identify it on sight and the magic of the Outrider's secret weapon didn't allow him to register smells. Plus, a man crouched in front the fire, obscuring his view.

"We're out past the picket," said Daniel. "There shouldn't be a village here."

Eli said nothing, waiting for more. Daniel thought he should get a closer look and his perspective shifted forward. He stopped it jerkily, but Eli still said nothing, so he moved his line of sight more slowly and deliberately. There was something about the man at the fire pit that seemed wrong somehow. He seemed to be of normal height, but his shoulders were too broad and his legs too short. He had the proportions of a dwarf.

And as Daniel's perspective swung around, his body back up on the hillside stiffened in alarm. "Goblins..." he whispered.

Outrider apprentices rarely if ever got to see goblins in the flesh until they took their oaths. They rode out to check on and repair shelters and water filters, to make sure nobody was collecting water in an unauthorized cistern, and sometimes to help rebuild a farm that had been destroyed in a fire or a raid. Once, Daniel had gone out in the aftermath when one farmer had, in spite of all the precautions they'd put in place, gotten caught out in the twisting rain, lost his mind, and murdered three neighboring families before he'd been stopped.

He'd seen the body of the murderer before it was burned. One shoulder was higher than the other, the muscles of the arm grown to massive proportions. His skin had turned a mottled green-gray and his feet grown to split his boots with vicious, yellow claws where his toenails had been.

Something about the memory caused him to look closer at the man cooking and realize he was a man, not a goblin at all. Yes, his proportions were wrong and his skin was closer to green than it should be, but Daniel knew better than most what goblins looked like. Eleven years his people had come out of the caves beneath Mount Kistestvere and established Kovar Remeny, goblins still populated his nightmares sometimes three or four nights a week.

"Not a goblin, a twisted man," Daniel said, still quietly. "I didn't know there were twisted men outside of the picket."

There was no humor to Eli's laugh. "That's all that's left outside of the picket anymore - just goblins and twisted men as far as the eye can see."

"There are the Calderans," Daniel protested. "They're outside of the pickets."

"Fair enough. But the Calderans are about as far away as it's possible to be - across an ocean on another island, surrounded by their own ocean of goblins and twisted men. I know you love those books of yours, so you must know what an ocean is."

Daniel did know what an ocean was - a vast plain of water even bigger than the valley they were now observing, unfiltered of the silver-gray sludge that turned men into monsters and too salty to drink even if you could filter it. That men had gone to great lengths to cross it in the past struck him as pure madness. He let the image form in his mind of goblins spread out from horizon to horizon as far as the eye could see and felt his heart speed fearfully at the idea. He felt himself grasping at any hope he could. "With their magic, couldn't the Calderans just blast their way through the goblins to us?"

For a few, long seconds, Eli didn't answer. Then, he said, "When the rains started and the waters rose, we had to make a forced march all the way to Kistestvere from ... some place that's now a thousand feet under the sea, I'm sure. There was a man in the Company we called Big Ed. I once saw him take a dozen men down when we used to fight men and nearly that number when we had to fight dwarves. Against goblins - the kind of short, wiry little bastards we faced in the early days, he was like a god. At that point, he was fighting with a ... wait."

Daniel listened up on the hillside first. He couldn't help but notice that his legs were starting to stiffen up and his ass was getting sore. But, then he realized there was something going on in the village down in the valley below. The man who'd been cooking had stopped and was now on his knees, bowing respectfully as a massive gray wolf padded into the circle of firelight. Astride its back was a man-shaped figure, but it wasn't a man. In the same way Daniel knew the man at the fire wasn't a gobin, he knew the goblin riding the wolf wasn't a man. And he wasn't one of those "short, wiry bastards" Eli had mentioned. He was enormous, powerfully built, and had a deadly, graceful symmetry that said he'd been born with the shape he now wore. As he dismounted, more people emerged from the houses around the village, gathered around the fire, and knelt facing the newcomer.

"Open your eyes," said Eli, a real hint of urgency in his voice. Daniel did and the village dissolved, replaced with the green canopy around where they sat. Eli rose stiffly and stretched, looking down into the valley as if he could keep watching from their vantage point, but there was no sign of habitation from this angle.

"Come on. We need to head back to Kovar." Eli was already reassembling his pack.

"Already?" Daniel stretched out his legs. "I thought we'd be out for at least a week."

"The Captain will want to know about this immediately," said Eli. "Nothing we learned in the next week would be this important."

Daniel followed obediently, shouldering his pack, and heading back towards the trail they'd followed to get this far. "I don't understand. Who was that?"

"He's a shaman - and a First Orc." Eli walked quickly as if he could get them home tonight by the sheer power of his legs. "And he shouldn't be anywhere within our riding. The first orcs are supposed to be north and east of here with Kistestvere and Kirali Hegyi between us. They're on the move and coming fast."

Daniel trotted to keep up with him. "What are the first orcs? Are they especially tough?"

"Tough and smart and strong." Eli searched for the turn-off to the next trail. It looked like he'd momentarily lost his bearings, but that was impossible. Most of being an Outrider was learning how to be aware of everything all the time. "Fortunately, there aren't very many of them and they usually keep to themselves. They don't work with other goblins and they certainly don't work with twisted men."

The sun was low on the horizon when Eli explained more. As they crossed over the old stone bridge that had been there since before the rains, he seemed to relax a little, looking back over his shoulder for pursuit less often. "The first orcs don't consider themselves goblins ... or even orcs really. They use completely different words for themselves and other orcs - 'jenchi' and 'orok.' For the whole time we've been here, they've stayed away and we've been happy to let them. They're harder to kill than a man and they don't bunch up and come at you in a screaming, disorganized pile like other orcs. They tend to understand strategy and tactics, which is something we frown on our enemies knowing about."

He stopped walking and looked back at Daniel to add import to his question. "Did you ever wonder why we drive the twisted men out beyond the picket instead of just killing them?"

"The Captain says it's because they're still men, even if the rains changed them." Daniel frowned and thought about it. "Of course, we still kill other men when they do wrong. He had no trouble executing Janos Szuezak for stealing food last year."

Eli turned and resumed walking. They were on a rocky, uphill slope that looked back on most of where they'd walked today. The valley was already an indistinct green blur in the distance. As he often did, he let Daniel think things out for himself. It made Daniel not want to disappoint him. He searched for any reason why it would be better to have the twisted men alive outside the picket instead of quietly dead. Finally, he asked, "The twisted men we saw in that village ... do they usually cooperate with the goblins?"

Eli smiled. "No. They usually fight the goblins as hard as anyone if they come within three days' walk of here."

Daniel was so pleased at getting the right answer that it took him several seconds to stop smiling. He got a clear image of the twisted men back in the village not just welcoming the first orc shaman, but kneeling before him in obeisance.

He stopped dead in his tracks, "Fuck."

Eli nodded. "Fuck indeed. If the first orcs and the twisted men are working together, that's more than enough trouble. But if the goblins get wind of it, they may come in force as well. And that would be extraordinarily bad."

The way Eli had described the goblins out past the picket as an ocean made Daniel think of descriptions he'd read of storms at sea, massive walls of water taller than the Kovar crashing down with unbelievable force, breaking up boats and drowning men. He tried to push the images that flashed across his mind's eye down, but they became increasingly vivid instead - a wall of gnashing teeth and long, spindly arms with yellow nails rising from the floor to the ceiling of the Great Hall of the tunnel complex under Kistestvere where he'd been born and spent the first six years of his life in. He knew it hadn't been like that and it was hard to distinguish what had really happened from the dreams that had plagued him ever since, but he was pretty sure the goblin horde had climbed halfway up the walls in places, five times the height of a man standing.

At some point, he'd stopped walking and stood shaking in the center of the path. Eli's hand was on his upper arm. "Come on. We've got a plan for this. If the Captain believes the goblins will come in force, he'll have the farmers harvest everything that's grown enough to be eaten, pull back the pickets all the way to the outer courtyard of the kovar, and fight them until they give up. Most goblins are basically cowards. Once you show them how much easier it is to go elsewhere, they generally pack up and go. If we can discourage them quickly enough, there will still be time to plant another crop this year. It's been getting warmer every year."

Only a small part of Daniel was listening. The rest was imagining an endless plane of goblins coming in waves, trying to climb the outer walls of the kovar, their bodies piling up until they could climb over one another and take the outer courtyard. Eli's reassurances sounded distant and tiny and false. Still, he wanted to believe them.

"What then, though?" he demanded. "We drive them back. They go somewhere else. We stay here, surrounded. What's the point if we're just going to die anyway?"

Even though Eli was remarkably limber and dextrous for his age, he was still almost fifty and, right at that moment, his face showed every one of those years. "Even before the rains, we were all going to die eventually. Everybody does - even the elves. What was ever the point of fighting not to? You fight so you don't die today and you deal with tomorrow when it comes."

"Gods and saints." Daniel spit on the ground. "That is the darkest fucking thing I've ever heard you say."

"That's why we don't tell people outside the Company everything. The truth is pretty grim. We fight because there might be a chance to get out of this mess in the future. And the only way we're ever going to get to take that chance, we need to stay alive for it. But I won't honey-dip it for you. Between us, the Cenwulf, and the Calderans, we're most damned near the last humans on Tierra. After we're gone, it'll just be goblins and monsters."

Somehow, hearing it laid out so starkly made it easier to take. They would fight and they would survive to fight some more or they would die. He forced his breathing to slow and nodded his gratitude.

"If it makes you feel better, it might all be moot if the oceans don't stop rising," said Eli. "Even if the goblins do win, they could still all drown in the end."

Daniel gave him a dirty look. "How the fuck is that supposed to make me feel better? That means if we win, we might all drown too."

Eli shrugged. "I don't know. We've been very adaptable. Maybe we'll grow gills."

They were inside the pickets when Eli looked up at the sky. "Looks like rain."

Daniel looked up, alarmed. He saw only pale blue with a few innocent, white clouds. "I don't..."

"We should stay at the Bruhn farm tonight, out of the weather. They've got a daughter your age. She might want to help you remember why it's worth fighting to live another day." Eli didn't break stride.

"I..." Daniel's jaw worked up and down, but he couldn't make words immediately.

"Nobody questions when an Outrider says it looks like rain." Eli strode up the road. "Even if we're sometimes overcautious. They bring in the livestock, close the shutters, and give you a place to stay. And you did join the Riders to impress women, right? We all do."

"I..." Daniel frowned. "No, actually. I joined because we get to fight goblins. I was very young at the time."

"And stupid," Eli pointed out. "Fighting goblins is messy, unsatisfying work, made somewhat tolerable by the fervent gratitude of an adoring public."

Daniel looked around to see who might overhear, a habit born of growing up first in a cave, then in a fortress where everyone lived on top of each other. Out here on the road, there was no one, but he still lowered his voice. "Do you really think she might want to..." He found himself blushing.

"She might." Eli led his horse down a fork in the road different from the way they'd ridden out and Daniel's followed. "Unless of course you have a girlfriend already and you want to stay faithful."

The last part came out as enough of a taunt that Daniel felt the need to defend himself. "Actually, I have been talking to Piri Marek a lot lately, but she'd hardly qualify as a girlfriend."

"Nice thing about surviving this long is the women," said Eli. "When we first forced the iron dwarves to give us those tunnels under the mountain, we were seven hundred sixty-two men and ninety-one beddable women if you stretched the definition of 'beddable' good and far. Even a simple, illiterate farmer's son like me could do that kind of math. Now, thanks to refugees and births, it's barely two men for every woman. You and your friends don't know how easy you've got it."

Women felt anything but easy to Daniel, but he couldn't imagine how much harder it had been when there was one woman for every eight or nine men. "How did you handle having so few women?"

"A lot of buggery." Eli was very matter-of-fact. "A bit of dwarf fucking. Some of the boys even tried having a go-round with the goblins, but as it turns out, they've got sharp teeth and very volatile personalities."

"You fucked the dwarves?" Daniel was horrified.

"Not me personally," said Eli. "Your mother was my woman back then and I gave her all the pretty gems and gold I won fighting under the mountain so she'd stay that way for a while. I didn't see any reason not to. She seemed to like them and it's not like you can buy or sell things here, so the gold wasn't doing me any good."

Daniel's mother had never bothered to hide the arrangements she and Daniel's older sister had with many of the men of Kovar Remeny. There were at least a half dozen men who might be his father instead of Eli and his sister Gizella saw at least twice that number. They were hardly alone in that. A few of the highest ranking men had wives, but most enjoyed the company of women as best they could.

"If you had a woman of your own, you must have been pretty important to the Company," Daniel offered.

"I was, actually," said Eli. "Although, when I met Editte, I was just another sell-sword and she was just the daughter of a washerwoman who tagged along with the Company. Women weren't so rare back then. I could have fought to keep her to myself, but a lot of men who tried that sort of thing found themselves abandoned in enemy caves or just got their throats slit while they slept. Learning not to be so ... possessive about things proved a wiser path."

Daniel had a million questions he wanted to ask, but they were approaching a wooden gate across the road and a man dressed for farming was coming up on the other side waving to them. Eli sat upright in his saddle. "Look sharp now, young Outrider. You want to make a good impression tonight. I recommend a bit of false humility, a strong, silent demeanor, and absolutely no discussion of dwarf-fucking."

Farmer and Mrs. Bruhn were good, sturdy farm-folk in that indeterminate age group between thirty and old. They had strong, powerful, arms and legs, broad shoulders, and broad smiling faces. It was hard to believe slender, blonde Agnes was their daughter. Where the parents might be mistaken for very tall dwarves, the daughter was like a goddess, all long limbs, gentle curves, and soft, blonde hair. Daniel fell in love before she'd even opened her mouth and he couldn't take his eyes off her as she glided back and forth through the door that divided the farmhouse's front room and its kitchen, fetching and carrying dishes.

Everyone must have seen him staring and Daniel was sure Mr. Bruhn was going to take him to task on it any minute. But it was as if his oath to join the Outriders had some magic attached to it that made fathers keep their peace.

"We only have this room for you to sleep in," said Mrs. Bruhn. "I hope you two don't mind sharing."

"My partner can have it." Eli sopped up gravy from his plate on a biscuit before shoveling it into his mouth. "He's just had his first successful outriding and I'm used to sleeping with one eye open to watch the horses. I'll stay in the barn."

"Well, if you don't mind, I can bring you out some blankets so you'll be more comfortable," said Mrs. Bruhn.

"That would be most appreciated," said Eli, tearing the remains of his biscuit in half again.

"Roof on that barn leaks," said Mr. Bruhn. "You'll want to stay on the north side much as you can once the rains start."

Eli nodded. "Good idea."

Agnes sat back down again. She'd been placed on Daniel's right, sharing a bench. Every time she rose or sat, she laid a hand on his shoulder. Daniel was sure people had touched that shoulder before, but it had never felt as good as it did when Agnes's thin, delicate fingers curled around his muscle. Every time she did it, Daniel flexed the muscle so it would feel hard and manly.

"Papa, could I take a walk out to the south gate before we have pie?" Agnes asked in her soft, melodious voice. "I think there might be a loose stile we need to fix before we let the goats run around out there again."

Mr. Bruhn frowned. "If there's rain coming, you should stay in the house. You can check the stile come morning."

"The rain's not expected until much later. We have a couple of hours at least." Eli didn't miss a beat. "If you're worried for your daughter's safety, my partner could escort her."

Daniel held his breath, sure Agnes's father would say no. Instead, the old farmer said, "Well, if it wouldn't be too much bother after your rideout."

"No bother at all," said Daniel. "The Outriders are here to serve."

After that, there might have been one more dish, but Daniel couldn't say whether he ate any of it or not. He was ridiculously aware of Agnes now - how close her thigh was to his on the bench, how her chest rose and fell with each breath, the smell of her, the swift, little glances she made at him out of the corner of her eyes. As soon as they were excused, Daniel was up off of the bench, offering Agnes his arm. She rose at a slower, more dignified pace that was absolutely maddening at that moment. All Daniel wanted was to be alone with her for a little while.

And then he was. They were out the back door and headed down the path that presumably led to the farm's south gate, Agnes's hands wrapped around Daniel's bicep. He wondered if there really was a loose stile on that gate somewhere or if her words had been pure invention. He still wasn't completely sure her intention had been to come out here alone with him at all. She might be entirely innocent and just need to do one less chore before bed.

As they passed near the barn, Agnes led him off the path and sat herself on a bale of hay before gesturing that Daniel should sit next to her. Neither one of them had spoken since leaving the house and for several minutes, neither one did now.

Agnes finally broke the silence. "I didn't see any signs of rain today at all. I'm surprised. I usually spot them before my parents."

Daniel nodded, mind racing to explain. "The signs are very subtle. sometimes. We're trained to spot them so we don't get caught out on the trail."

Agnes leaned in closer to him, looking up at the sky. "Can you show me?"

Daniel froze for a few seconds, trying to figure out what the fuck he was going to say now. There were no signs of rain at all. Finally, he pointed to one corner of the sky. "Do you see that cluster of three of Li's Tears near the horizon? How they're wavering? That indicates a ... uh, disturbance in the air."

Agnes considered the bright bodies, each looking four or five times bigger and brighter than a star. "And that's what made you think it would rain?"

Daniel nodded slowly before a thought occurred to him. "No. That wasn't it because it was still daytime and those hadn't risen yet. It was a ... similar effect around the sun, sort of. It ... came and went. We're not sure if it will rain at all tonight, but it can't hurt to be careful. Right?"

Agnes's smile was faint and brief and disappeared in the time it took to lower her head and raise it again to look at him. She took one of his wrists in both hands and placed it on a patch of bare skin at her waist, above her skirt, but below where her blouse ended. "My parents are good people who want to do the right thing, but they won't wait forever for pie." She gave her hair a little flip and tilted her head back fractionally before closing her eyes. It took Daniel a couple of seconds to be sure, but he finally leaned in and kissed her.

She kissed him back, and let one hand curve around the back of his head to curl into his hair. That went on for a while, but something was bothering Daniel. He finally broke the kiss to ask. "What did you mean by that ... about your parents wanting to do the right thing and ... uh, pie?"

Agnes looked him in the eyes. "Everybody knows why the Outriders stop at a farmhouse on a clear night with no sign of rain."

Daniel found himself blushing in the darkness. "You do? And ... you don't mind?"

Agnes took his wrist again and guided it up onto her ribs, under her blouse. "I mind less than I did when I thought it might be both of you. Your partner's kind of ... old."

Daniel's hand froze where she put it. He looked her in the eyes. "But, I ... That wasn't what I thought was happening. I mean, I thought maybe you would like me and we could ... but ... I didn't expect..."

Agnes tilted her head and considered him. "What are you trying to say, Daniel?"

"I..." Daniel forced his thoughts into some kind of order. "Do you want to be here with me?"

Agnes closed her eyes for a few seconds before speaking. "I have a young man I'm going to be betrothed to soon as long as I'm not carrying anyone else's child. If I am, we'll have to wait another year, which means I'll stay here on my parent's farm for another season and not get to start my own." She laid a hand on Daniel's shoulder. "But there are plenty of things I can do for you that won't get me pregnant."

Daniel rubbed his forehead to forestall the headache he felt coming on. "No, that's all right." He looked in Agnes's eyes and thought he saw, of all things, the sting of rejection there. "I didn't know that was what Eli was doing. I ... only want to be with you if you want to be here. There's somebody at home I want to be betrothed to now that I'm an Outrider and I would hate to think of her being with someone because she thought she had to. You're ... so beautiful you make my teeth hurt, Agnes. Your betrothed is a very lucky man."

Something in Agnes's eyes softened and her face gained a modicum of what Daniel realized he'd now been looking for and not seeing - genuine affection. She picked a few stalks of hay out of the bale they were sitting on and crumpled them in her hand. "Yours is a very lucky woman, too." Then, her hand was in his hair again, but this time, she was deliberately tangling the crushed hay in there.

He batted her away instinctively. "What's that for?"

Agnes reached for him again. "That is so it looks like we got up to what everybody in that house thinks we should be getting up to out here. Noble gestures are all well and good, but if my parents think you left here unsatisfied, I'm the one who's going to hear about it for the next year."

Once he knew what to look for, the knowing glances that passed between the Bruhns were much more obvious to Daniel. He'd thought the father a bit of simpleton, but he was just playing a part like everyone else. Once they returned with hay tangled in their hair, a few choice stains on their clothes, and their lips swollen from kissing, he went from taciturn to almost jolly in his relief. Even Eli seemed to be in higher spirits although he barely stopped eating pie long enough for Daniel to get a clear read on him.

Daniel seemed to be the only one not exactly happy at that point. He'd done the right thing, which was frequently the opposite of happiness, but then Agnes has kissed him - repeatedly. She'd really seemed to enjoy kissing him too and their hands had roamed over each other's bodies for a bit before she finally pulled away.

She'd said the kissing was so they'd look like they'd been kissing and nothing short of a bee sting would give the face that look. Daniel wasn't so sure. As explanations went, it seemed on par with his "wavering around the sun" bullshit from earlier. But, he was hardly going to complain if a pretty girl wanted to kiss him like that.

Finally, one by one, each of them acknowledged they'd had their fill of pie. Agnes was first, followed surprisingly by Eli. Apparently, under these circumstances, he ate fast, but not to excess. Mr. Bruhn was next and headed upstairs. Daniel didn't have to fake the yawn that came a few seconds later and Mrs. Bruhn directed him to palette of straw bedding in one corner of the room on which she'd spread a pair of blankets. Daniel stripped down to his smallclothes and sank onto the bed, turning his face towards the wall so his arousal wouldn't be quite so obvious when Mrs. Bruhn came back from washing the dishes in the kitchen.

He thought he'd have trouble falling asleep as painfully aroused as he felt. But four days on the road capped by a night in a real bed soon caught up with him. He fell asleep to Mrs. Bruhn tunelessly humming in the next room.

If this detour had been meant to take Daniel's mind off of goblins for a while, it worked after a fashion. When he slept, he dreamt of Agnes. But the dream still took place in the caves beneath Kistestvere. And Agnes in the dream might not have been Agnes at all. In fact, she might have been a goblin. Daniel never got to see her teeth in the dream, but he had a feeling she was hiding how sharp they were. Somehow, that didn't matter. He still wanted to have sex with her.

When he woke up, it was full dark out and someone was kneeling on the edge of his bed. He looked up, expecting to see Agnes, but it was Mrs. Bruhn who was drawing him over from his side to his back. He must have slept for a few hours because she was dressed in a thin, white nightdress and her hair was down around her shoulders. It gave her a softer, younger look than before. Before Daniel could ask any questions, she had the waist of his shorts in both hands and was drawing them down over his hips.

"My daughter is too clever for her own good by half." She patted his thigh, indicating he should lift his hips and he did. "A nice night with a good-looking Outrider that nobody would blame her for and she turned it down so she can hurry up and be a farmer's wife?"

She pulled off Daniel's shorts and, with practiced ease, drew off her own night dress in one motion, leaving them both naked. With no preamble, she threw one leg over him, straddling him at the waist. His cock was trapped between his leg and the back of her thigh and it felt amazing and exciting. By starlight, he could almost imagine she was beautiful - a few rolls of fat around her waist, an ass like two great hams, and arms muscled like a warrior's, but she also had a pair of big, pale tits each nearly as big as his head. As she leaned forward and gripped Daniel's cock in one hand, he took one nipple experimentally in his mouth, sucking on it. Her skin was salty and still smelled faintly like apple pie, but with a faint undertone of freshly-turned earth.

When he teased her nipple with the tip of his tongue, Mrs. Bruhn cradled his head in one hand and reached around with the other one to grip his cock. Daniel was already so hard, he was afraid that any attention there might end things before they began, but she only squeezed, firmly and slowly. Breathing hard, Daniel tilted his head enough to kiss and lick her other nipple until her breath was also coming quickly and she gave a pleased little shudder. Then, she was lifting herself up and positioning him between the warm folds of her flesh.

He was so hard, sliding his cock between her thighs felt like plunging a bar of iron into a forge. Inside of Mrs. Bruhn was the hottest, tightest place any part of Daniel had ever been. He raised his hips to bury himself even deeper and she rose and fell to join with him.

For a very long time, they moved together like that, neither speaking, the only sound their heavy breathing. Daniel was glad he hadn't said out loud to Agnes the things he'd thought earlier - about wanting his first time to be with someone he felt a real connection to. Having kept those thoughts to himself made this seem slightly less hypocritical.

As for Mrs. Bruhn, she seemed entirely content to ride up and down on Daniel's shaft, hands kneading the firm muscles of his upper arms, tits almost smothering him as he sucked each one in return. When Daniel remembered to look up, her head was back, her eyes closed, and her body seeming to vibrate in the starlight.

He stifled the sound his throat wanted to make when he came, burying his face between his lover's breasts. For her part, she rode him for another minute until he shrunk out of her. Then, she rolled onto her back, gathered up her nightdress, and rose to her feet before putting it on. For a minute, Daniel stared up at her, wondering what he should say at a moment like that while she looked down at him, smiling enigmatically. In the end, neither of them said anything before Mrs. Bruhn turned and crossed the room to the ladder that took her upstairs to where her husband slept.

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