The goblins boiled from the ground in a tide of gnashing fangs.
I nocked an arrow, drew and loosed. The first goblin fell, black blood welling from the arrow wound in its chest. The second clawed over its brother, running on all fours, and leaped.
"Not on my watch, laddie," shouted Berk and swung a high blow with his hammer. Dwarf strength is a formidable thing, and the goblin's head exploded. Its body smashed broken against the nearest tree and crumpled to the ground.
I loosed a second arrow and almost in the same instant a third. Two more goblins dropped dead, wooden shafts quivering in their steaming flesh.
"By the Hidden Moons of Eglor!" cried Uialon and fire washed passed Berk and I. It burnt the goblins, driving them back, but by then the other burrows were opening.
The maw of a second burrow erupted in the trees to the left and then a third just behind me. The goblin hoard bore from all directions. Bestial, darting shapes moved in the trees. The dense foliage robbed me of easy shots. I spun, bow drawn, looking for something to kill.
Uialon sent a dozen glowing magical projectiles into the chest of a goblin. Berk bellowed war cries to the ancestor gods of his people and knocked back a big scarred monster, with only a single eye. And Adrian—
A goblin leaped straight down at Adrian from the gnarled branches of a tree, talon like claws bared and needle sharp fangs gleaming in a bloody smile. I shot without thinking, as only an elf could.
The arrow thrummed and took the goblin right between its beady black eyes. The beast fell twitching to the ground.
Adrian sent me one of his quirky smiles and saluted with his quicksilver sword before turning to meet the next member of the on rushing hoard.
The smile stayed with me, even as I sent an arrow into the heart of a charging goblin, and a wave of heat washed through my cheeks. Adrian. Adrian the warrior. Adrian my companion. Adrian my lover. Adrian my soul mate. I loved him more than life itself. I'd die to see him happy but today that wasn't required. Today I needed to murder instead.
More goblins fell, some to my arrows, some to Berk's hammer, some to Uialon's wizardry and some to Adrian's darting silver blade.
Finally it was over. We stood panting in a charnel forest of goblin corpses as the light of day slowly died. Broken bodies, burnt bodies, ruptured bodies. Noxious black blood dripped from weapons and pooled on the ground. Nothing lived save for the four of us.
"Foul varmints, aren't they," said Berk and gave the nearest corpse a kick with his armoured boot. It made a squishing sound and rolled half over, revealing a brown-green bestial face slashed half in two. He spat, picked a piece of exploded goblin from his beard and flicked it away.
Uialon made a sour expression. "They are a plague most vexatious. We have done a good thing by cleansing this burrow." Uialon was human but dressed in the style of an elven wizard — beardless, with his long silvery hair pulled back so as to flow down his back. He held up a hand and whispered a word under his breath. A silvery orb of light flickered into existence.
Under its ghostly light, the true carnage of our murder lay revealed.
Perhaps sensing my emotions, Adrian threw an arm over my shoulders and pulled me close. I nuzzled into him. His body was warm and smelled sweat and power. Humans burn hot compared to us elves, and I revelled in his heat.
"We should turn back," said Adrian and I felt the rumble of his words in his chest. "We can spend the night at an inn and begin our journey again tomorrow." His grey eyes swept over the goblins. "Perhaps this time we will have more luck."
"Lets," I murmured into his chest. "I want a proper bed tonight." I let my hand play along his chest and added in a whisper, "Perhaps we can even have some fun in it together."
Using the last of the daylight and Uialon's spectral lantern, I set to recovering my arrows and Berk moved from corpse to corpse, searching for anything valuable. Goblins weren't crafters, not even in the crude way of orcs or kobolds, but they would scavenge their kills for trinkets which pricked their evil little minds. A well established band might have grimy jewellery still smeared in its owner's blood or weapons yet new enough to be serviceable despite the wet and squalid conditions of a goblin borrow.
In the end, he didn't find much. This goblin burrow seemed new, which explained why the local villages hadn't warned us. While Berk scrubbed away at a twisted copper necklace and a knife mostly gone to rust, I held up one of my recovered arrows and checked the shaft remained true. The red light of the sun shone down the shaft and I smiled. Still good.
It was dark by the time we reached the village of Better's End. The others trudged down the road of packed earth. I had a bit more spring in my step. Call it an elf thing or call it Adrian still clutching me tight, I don't know. God I loved my man. He was far, far more than I deserved.
This was our second visit to Better's End. We had passed through the village around mid-afternoon earlier that day, so we knew the layout. Uialon and his bobbing lantern led the way through the shadowed streets to a large stone and timber inn by the name of the Monk's Repose. A hundred years past, it had been a pilgrimage house for the local monastery. That monastery was gone now, little more than a ghost haunted ruin lurking on a nearby hill, but the inn still stood and maintained a tradition of strong doors, good food and soft beds.
The light above the door still burned and from inside my keen elf ears picked up the sound of laughter, drinking and song. Berk shoved the great slab of iron banded wood open and we moved inside.
The door and common room were separated by a narrow foyer, running left to right. The guest book sat on a white linen cloth inside a stone nook on the far wall. Above it hung the founding bull. We each went through the process of signing the monk's peace.
'Berk Berk's Son, ' wrote Berk.
'Master Uialon, ' wrote Uialon.
'Adrian of Redwine, ' wrote Adrian.
I went last. 'Ilmaquen vix Altorno va Airwë vo Mistë.' Translated into Common that means something like Dancing Rain from the line of the Red Lady of the Forest Tribe and the Starlight People. You can see why I tend to just go by Mistë. Such an abbreviation saves a lot of time.
The peace signed, we all stamped along the corridor to the inn proper. Berk was positively salivating with desire and rubbed his hands together. "Nothing like a little action to get the fires of hunger brewing, eh lass?"
In truth food was near the furthest thing from my mind. I wanted to go to bed, make love to Adrian until I forgot all about today and then sleep until morning. But from his face I could see Adrian was hungry and that was enough for me.
"Drinks and keep them coming," shouted Berk, nose just level with the bar top, and slapped down a palm full of coins. "We are bonafide travelers, you ken?"
"Yes, yes," said the barmaid, a rotund matronly woman, whose greying hair was held in a tight bun. "You'll be wanting food too, I'd wager."
"If you would please," said Adrian with a slight bow, hand resting on the pommel of his sword. It showed a silver lion head, the features worn soft by frequent handling. "We have had a full day."
We ate food by the roaring wall fire. It was some sort of mutton stew, the tastes harsh and brutal by the refined standards of elvish cooking but I had long ago grown use to such succour. Around us other travellers drank, ate and sang along to the slightly out-of-tune minstrel on a high stool by the bar.
There was talk too. I heard snippets of conversation, pulled at random from the chaotic noise of the inn. Farmer Bradshaw had built his cowshed from stone salvaged from the old monastery and now all his milk was sour. The house-girl up at Rock End's farm had run off with the butcher's boy to become adventurers. Brown John's wife was pregnant again despite John being dead these last six months.
I made an effort to leave the outside world alone and focus on my companions.
Berk alternated great gulps of stew and the dark local beer. Uialon was more dignified. He picked at his stew and the husk of bread that came with it like a fisher bird. The description suit him, with his reserved, dignified expression and hard aquiline nose, not to mention the way he'd suddenly spear out with his knife to skewer a choice morsel. I fell somewhere in between the two extremes. Eating, yes, but slowly. I made sure to enjoy the meal and company. The local beer even had something too it.
As the night aged, I grew bolder. I reached across Adrian and in doing so rubbed up against him, my athletic elf body pressed against his powerful human form. I scraped my chest down his arm and stole tiny kisses when I thought no one was looking. Adrian certainly didn't object to my actions and a somewhat lecherous grin spread across his face.
I flushed too and wore a smile of my own. How wicked was I? How bold? Could I be bolder still?
Heart pounding in my chest, I let my hand drift down his body until it settled on his crotch. For a while I just let it sit there, but there was more I could do. I started to push down with my fingers and I soon felt him responding to my ministrations.
Adrian grew hard beneath my hand. I could feel the steel of his cock and its heat, as if fresh from the forge. The cloth of his trousers did little to block my hand, and I rubbed up and down, up and down. I could see the results of my actions on Adrian's face. Tension grew there. He'd bliss out mid sentence. He'd leave a chunk of stew hanging mid way to his mouth. He'd—
He grabbed my hand by the wrist and dragged me to my feet.
"We're going to bed," he said. "We will see everyone tomorrow."
That said, he practically dragged me to our rooms up stairs. Not that I resisted much. Or at all for that matter.
I giggled as I skipped across the floor, shedding an item of clothing with each step. Green, brown and earth-tone cloth fell like autumn leaves onto the smooth boards of the floor. Next went my knife, unstrung bow and arrows. I was naked by the time I reached the bed and I dived onto it.
The sheets were clean and soft. I rolled onto my back and squirmed my naked butt against them. From that position I looked up at Adrian. From his grin he liked what he saw.
He growled as he moved forward and almost ripped his clothes off. Belt and trousers fell to the ground and then he was on me. His fingers twisted with mine and his weight pushed me down. His cock scraped against my inner thigh. Then he twisted. Using his superior mass he flipped me round so I was on top.
"If you're so frisky," he growled like a great jungle cat, "you can ride me."
Gods, I blushed and sort of looked a way. I could feel his cock against my ass. Being on top ... Being so open and vulnerable ... Those weren't things I normally liked but he was right on one thing, I was feeling frisky.
I leavered myself up so I sat across his stomach and looked down at my hot sex rubbing against his sculpted abs.
"Don't look," I whispered, but not so loudly that he might hear and actually do what I suggested.
I looked up into his face. His fierce grey eyes were locked on mine. His dirty-blonde hair lay scattered on the white pillow. His hard chest and harder stomach glimmered with sweat.
"I love your nipples," he said and reached up. His rough calloused hands rubbed over my tiny breasts. His fingers tweaked my nipples. He pulled them and squeezed them. I groaned and rolled my hips in a grinding motion. My Adrian was so powerful. So strong. So ... So human.
"I love your breasts," he said as his hands rubbed over my chest and I blushed again.
"No you don't," I said. "They're tiny."
Tiny was, if anything, an over statement. It would be more accurate to say I simply didn't have any. I had the tits and hips of a boy, meaning I was utterly flat, save for my large puffy nipples.
That wasn't uncommon in the wider elven race — we tend towards the sylphic and lean bodies of dancers — but my family, the Airwë, the Red Women, are an exception. We are touched by the Goddess Sito. We carry her blessing of fertility and harvest. Women of the Airwë are wide of hip and great of breast. We have many children and carry them easily. We are mothers and growers. Lovers and passionate wives. All except me. In a family of white, I am the black sheep.
Adrian deserved someone better than me, but right now I was all he had and I would do the best I could.
I threw my head back and bared myself to him. If he wanted to play with my tits he could, even if they weren't worthy of him. At the same time I shuffled back a bit, lifted my hips and slipped his long, hard cock into my aching sex.
And gods did it feel good.
I moaned as the hard length of burning flesh sunk into me. It made me feel alive. My body sung an erotic song of sensual pleasure. My long, thick nipples burnt and I ground myself against Adrian's cock.
Adrian moaned too, though his was more of a manly grunt.
"You're so beautiful, Mistë," he said.
That wasn't true, but right then I didn't care. I fucked myself against Adrian, up and down, and at the end of each down I ground my hips against his.
It was fantastic. I felt alive. I put my hands on his shoulders and I could feel his singing arousal too.
I fucked and fucked until I came my brain's out and then fucked some more. I fucked until Adrian spurted himself deep inside me, pulled out, sucked him back to life and then fucked him some more.
It was late in the night when we finally stopped. Under the moon's glow, we cuddled together and let sleep take us away.
I lay next to Adrian's sleeping form as the first light of dawn filtered through the window. The warmth of his body filled the bed. He looked so peaceful asleep, like an angel. Awake, he was a tiger. All power and strength. Now ... Now I loved him even more.
His sandy blonde hair fell over his eyes and I brushed it aside. I gazed at him. Was he dreaming of me? Did our nights of passion replay inside his mind.
Had he been an elf I could have peered into his mind and read his soul. With a connection as strong as ours I could have called to him from half a continent away. But he wasn't an elf and I was glad for that. He was human and I wouldn't trade that for the world.
As silently as I could I rolled out of bed and dropped to the floor. In the golden light of dawn I stretched. Light rolled over my lean but powerful body and felt like hot water combined with Adrian's smile.
My bow lay unstrung against the wall. I picked it up and ran my hands over the smooth powerful wood. There was strength there. If only I could be as strong as my bow, perhaps I would be worthy of Adrian.
Moving on tip toes, I scurried about the room and retrieved the scattered articles of my clothing. My jacket could do with a wash so I left it off and just dressed in my leggings and loose blouse.
Decent again, I slipped out of the door and headed for the common room. Perhaps the inn had some nice fresh fruit. Adrian would enjoy fresh fruit for his breakfast.
I padded softly down the hall. As I got closer to the common room, my keen ears picked up the chatter.
Most of it was the normal sort.
There was traveller news: "Did you hear, King Pyth has marched on the spawning pits of Agathor."
There was local gossip: "I hear Old Jack is thinking of selling his place and moving to Slice."
There were the normal lies: "I killed over a hundred acid breathing trolls in the jungle-forests of the southern Vind!"
Then I heard a burst of laughter and my entire world changed.
Like a spark in mine gas, panic flared in my chest. I sprinted forward, dodged around a slow moving guest, kicked off the wall, used the power of my leap to fly head first down the stairs, rolled at the base and sprung upright just as I entered the common room.
I froze, not moving, not breathing, not even thinking. A susurration spread through the room as everything and everyone fell away. Only two people were left: me and Almáriel.
Our eyes met, hers a burning green. Our minds touched.
'Cousin, ' she said in the words-without-words.
I didn't respond. I couldn't have. It had been so long since I'd spoken mind-to-mind. It had been decades since I'd even had the opportunity, since I'd met an elf who shared the necessary bond of blood or friendship. Even if I hadn't been out of practice I doubt I could have reached out to her. The shock, the horror, of her being here was too much.
I pulled back, ripping away the connection she had made and returning to the real world. She lounged next to the bar, one hand languishing on Berk's shoulder.
"Get away from her, Berk," I said in a hushed whisper.
She looked between my dwarf friend and me, fake astonishment on her face. "Berk, darling, you didn't tell me you knew my dear cousin Mintë."
"Mintë," said Berk, words slightly slurred by drink. His eyes were red. I doubted he'd gone to bed at all. "I kind of like it."
Gods no. My knees went weak. Tears stung at my eyes; I wanted to die. I left home to escape that nickname and the judgement it represented.
My name was Mistë, not Mintë. The words were similar but so very far apart. Mistë meant the beauty of falling rain. It was a noble, graceful name, full of nature's wonder. Mintë meant small woman. Small. And applied to me it could only mean one thing. The blush reached my tiny breasts and seemed to intensify there.
"You have been gone from home for simply too long, cousin dear," she said. "We worry about you."
Footsteps came up behind me and a hand closed on my shoulder. I looked back. It was Adrian, hair a mess, shirt undone to show his hard sculpted chest.
"And who is this?" said Almáriel, eyes sparkling with delight. She sashayed forward, wide womanly hips swaying, the deep valley of her cleavage very much on display.
"I'm Adrian," said Adrian. "Do I know..." He waved his hand between Berk and I.
"It is fantastic to meet you, Adrian." She swished passed me and laid her hand on his muscular shoulder. "I am Ilmaquen vix Altorno va Airwë vo Almáriel, though you can just call me Almáriel. I'm sure Mintë, sorry I mean Mistë, has told you so much about me."
Almáriel and I were about a height with each other, which meant she was half a head shorter than Adrian. She made the difference work for her and stared up into his slate grey eyes.
"I can't say she has," said Adrian, looking confused.
"She hasn't!" Almáriel was all fake shock and long fluttering eyelashes. "Why cousin, dearest, I could almost think you are ashamed of me."
Berk waved a drunken hand. The last dregs of drink in his mug sloshed. "Our Mistë ... Um Mintë? No Mistë, right. Our Mistë doesn't talk about her family much."
Almáriel tisked and shook her head. In a mock whisper she said, "I think our Mistë is ashamed of us. Well, I am Almáriel, daughter of Ettewen, sister to Esciel, who is of course Mistë's mother. It has been so long since I had seen dear Mistë that I just had to come catch up."
"Well, catching up's been great," I lied, "but I'm afraid we don't have much time. We are leaving on an important mission as soon as we are up and fed."
"Oh that's simply terrible," said Almáriel. "And after I came all this way. Is it an awfully important mission?"
"Tis a mission from the King!" said Berk and slammed an empty mug down on the bar. "More beer!"
"My that does sound important. But perhaps..."
"Well, I suppose, if it is not too much trouble, I could spend a few days travelling with you."
"A pretty thing like you?"
"I promise." She gave a vulpine grin. "I know how to take care of myself."
"Well," said Adrian. He broke free of Almáriel and wrapped me in a reverse hug. "Company is always good and family is important. What do you say, Mistë?"
"I..." I couldn't explain. How could I tell Adrian of the mockery and ridicule. I couldn't explain how I was less than my kin, defective. He was already too good for me. If he knew that, if he knew how truly low I was, he could never love me.
Tears stinging my eyes, I nodded my head. "Of course she can join."
We left around mid day, with fresh food, cleaner clothes and a new companion.
Uialon hit things off with Almáriel. They walked together, chatting about magic, elves and various academic things.
That left me free to travel with Adrian. I stayed as close to him as I could, as if my mere presence could guard him against Almáriel. He didn't seem to mind and took my increased attentions as a good sign. It was lucky none of my companions were women. She would surely have noticed the root of my actions.
Finally, though, Adrian ran ahead to discuss the route with Berk and Almáriel dropped back to talk with me.
'Quite a hunk, isn't he, ' she said mind-to-mind. Only the faintest quirk of her lip betrayed our conversation. I wasn't anywhere near as reserved.
A scowl split my face. 'Uialon?' I said with a sinking feeling. The mind word came stiffly but I managed.
Almáriel smiled like a fox. 'There's no way he could be satisfied with someone like you, you know. Come now, Mintë. I am being reasonable. I am willing to share.'
Rage blasted threw me. "You touch him and I will kill you!" I shook with fury and only after a few seconds did I realise I'd drawn my dirk, the blade pressed into her stomach.
She laughed. She laughed like this was some big joke.
I wanted to cry. I did cry. Tears running down my cheeks, I spun and ran away.
Almáriel made good use of my absence and distressed state. I watched through tear stained eyes as she all but hung off Adrian's arm. She laughed at every little thing he said. She batted her eyes. She swung her wide, womanly hips and proffered her full meaty breasts.
It made me feel sick. It made me want to kill her. It made me want to cry. Her words kept echoing through my mind. There's no way he could be satisfied with someone like you. There's no way he could be satisfied with someone like you. There's no way he could be satisfied with someone like you.
They were terrible, hateful words but I knew they were also true words. I looked down at my own boy thin body and up at Almáriel's marvellously sexy form, so full of Sito's blessing. She was right; Adrian could never truly love me over her.
We passed through the site of the goblin attack and this time didn't turn back. The corpses lay much as we'd left them, their black blood too toxic for all but the most hardy of carrion scavengers.
"You must be so brave," crooned Almáriel as she lent on Adrian's arm. Her eyes stared up at his like a puppy dog's.
He chuckled, slightly uncomfortable, and rubbed the back of his head. "Goblins aren't so bad. And I had help. Your cousin is the best archer I've ever met."
That comment leapt through my veins like liquid light. I stood upright and tall for the first time in ages. I might not be worthy of him, but perhaps Adrian could love me all the same.
The first thing I did when we stopped for the night was grab Adrian by his hand and drag him to a secluded section of our camp, where the shadows of several large trees would give us some privacy. "Come on," I said, face set.
"Um," he replied and threw a glance at the rest of our companions. "What are we doing?"
"You are going to fuck me," I said. The word sparked like spice on my tongue.
I shoved him to the ground and then dropped to my knees after him. The ground was wet but I didn't care. I ripped open his belt and pulled his cock loose.
The cock felt alive in my hands, full of promised power. It was long but still only semi-hard, so I gobbled it into my mouth and sucked for all I was worth. Tongue twirling, I bobbed up and down. His thick musky scent filled my mouth and nose.
Once he was hard, I pulled my mouth off his glistening cock and lay back on the grass.
"Fuck me," I said.
"Um?" he said.
He took the hint and moved on top of me. His cock speared my sex and I almost came right then.
"Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me," I chanted and he did exactly that.
He pounded into my body. My worthless body. My skinny, boyish, titless body. His penis split me apart. It battered my insides. I sung with pleasure I didn't deserve.
Adrian's face hung above me, mouth half open as he grunted with effort. I couldn't look at him. I didn't deserve him.
I closed my eyes, scrunched them shut and tried to will away the pain, but it didn't work. An unwelcome visitor invaded my mind from the depths of my own repressed thoughts.
I saw Almáriel in all her glory. She was naked, skyclad before the Goddess Sito. Her sex sat between her graceful legs, which were framed by her wide hips. Her great, perfectly formed breasts were high and perky. Her skin was silk smooth and so very pale, as if never kissed by sun light. Her copper-red hair fell down her back in a waterfall wave.
Adrian was there. He kissed Almáriel, pulling her perfect lips and vulpine face to his. Their faces mashed together, hot with passion. Adrian was ravenous, like a hungry tiger. He was finally with a woman worthy of him.
He shoved her back onto the soft ground and Almáriel let out a burst of deep, heartfelt laughter. Then he was on her.