"Fate is not a game of chance" — Extract from 'The Games of Gods and Other Powers' by Scholar-Priest Bi-Tan, Grand Library of Aimsmouth.
The shutters of the Only Inn banged and clattered as winds battered Mount Orion. Storm clouds circled the mountain in a brooding ring and within them screamed the assembled storm host. Lightning flashed. Thunder sounded. Great bellows rung out.
The main door of the inn crashed open and Khor, King of Storm, strode in. He was a giant of a man, with wild brown-blond hair and eyes that crackled with electric energy. Tattoos of blue-white lightning covered every inch of his otherwise naked body — whorls on his sculpted pectoral muscles, jagged rings around his bulging biceps and marks of cult and the deep mysteries of storm down his chiselled stomach. A sliver of lightning pierced the head of his soft but massive cock.
A flurry of winds entered with him. They run riot through the room, knocking aside bottles, upending chairs, and sweeping up every loose piece of dust, paper and rubbish. Men and women were thrown off their feet and sent sprawling across the floor.
Only the round table at the very centre of the room proved protected against the storm's power. It say in a zone of calm, projected by the beings arrayed around it.
One of the table's occupants looked up. "You're late." The words came from a sour, pinch faced man. This was Malleus, Chancellor of the Dread College.
"Khor is never late!" boomed Khor. "Khor is as the wind!" Winds once more shook the room.
"And yet you are," said Malleus.
He crooked a finger and one of his acolytes, a pretty blonde girl wearing a form hugging black robe and shining silver jewellery, pushed herself off the floor and hurried over with a bottle. She poured and blood red liquid fell into Malleus' obsidian cub.
"Oh behave, Malleus dear," said the woman sitting to Malleus' left. She placed a hand on his arm and just her touch seemed to inject vitality into the sour man.
All knew the Queen of Summer.
She was a radiant beauty, with soft gold-olive skin that shone with an inner light. And there was a lot of that skin. She only technically wore more clothes than Khor. A necklace of white gold hung around her neck and covered part of her impressive cleavage; a bejewelled chain connected her nipples; and a thin golden belt encircled her waist and hung from her wide hips. Everything else was completely bare.
Between her legs knelt an initiate into her deepest and most personal mysteries. In any lesser company the initiate would have been a prize for kings to war over, with flawless bronzed skin and lustrous black hair, but next to the Queen she looked almost plain. Her tongue worshipped at the Queen's challis, licking, toying, pleasuring. The Queen rolled her lips in pleasure and moaned softly.
Beside the Queen sat the Crone, an ancient hag and First Witch. Her skin was like crumpled parchment but her eyes were hard like bog iron. Her hair was spun cobwebs. Her long claw like fingers drummed on the tabletop. She wore a formless black robe that hid most of her body.
Khor dropped his immense bulk into a seat next to the Crone. The simple wooden chair groaned under him. His cock slapped with a fleshy smack against the wood.
"It is so nice to see you again," purred Nyxanda from her place next to Khor, "and it is especially nice to see this again too." Her silk-soft fingers closed around Khor's turgid cock and squeezed it gently. She too wore very little: a bikini made from interlocking golden scales that only just covered the nipples of her huge breasts and a narrow thong of the same material. Everything else was pale purple skin.
"Demon whore," grunted Khor as his cock jerked.
She leaned in close and whispered, "And I'd have it no other way."
"Behave, behave," sung Delirium in his sing song voice. "What is behave? Up down, back forth, banana?" She cocked his head and her long white hair fell over his insane swirling eyes. The man-woman giggled.
The Crone glowered at Delirium, her ancient eyes narrowing. None could truly trust Delirium for she was insanity given form.
"Ooh," crooned Delirium as he turned to the woman on her left. "Play me a song. A song of ... A song of life, love and very bad things."
Euphony nodded her head and started to play. The song was everything Delirium requested, at once joyful and haunting, wonderful and full of life's greatest despairs.
Euphony's skeletal hands flew over her harp's string, plucking notes that spoke to her very soul. Faster she went and more magical the music became. Her story was an old one but still known to all present. She was the first and greatest musician, so skilful in her art that her music charmed even death. But her charm only lasted while she played and should she ever stop, death would claim her in an instant.
Millennia of playing had reduced her fingers to polished white bones, but her charm maintained the rest of her youth. She appeared a young woman of perhaps twenty five, too hard of faced to be considered truly beautiful, even in company that did not include the Queen of Summer, but not ugly, no never that.
The only person at the table not taken in by her music was the Old Emperor, the King That Was and first lord of man, who had ruled the world when it was yet young. He was an ancient man, more than matching the Crone in age, with heavily lined skin and hands covered in blue veins.
Or so it appeared.
Hidden behind the Old Emperor's rheumy eyes and concealed from even the powers gathered at the table was Mor, the world's greatest thief who had stolen the Emperor's place, role and face for the night.
"Now we are all gathered," said the Crone in a voice of crunching paper, "we shall begin?"
There was no question as to the game. They would play Fate. When beings such as these met to play, all games were games of prophecy and prophecy was as much curse as precognition.
"Deal your cards, hag," said Khor in the voice of rolling storms.
Eyes hard, she lifted the deck in her reed thin hands and shuffled the cards. They were old and puissant like her, made from stiff paper and painted thick with oil paints. Faces flashed by — ghastly and beautiful, holy and profane, erotic and chaste.
She set and cut the deck. She dealt the cards. Three cards thudded down before each player.
Khor picked up his and frowned at what he saw. Others took similar actions.
Malleus wore a small smirk. The Queen of Summer wore a benedictive smile. Delirium was manic and despondent by the moment. The First Musician strummed on her harp, seemingly unconcerned by the cards in her free hand. The Old Emperor's face was hard and lined. Nyxanda preened, chest pushed out so her massive breasts strained against her metal bikini top.
"First bets," cackled the Crone and looked to the Queen of Summer on her left.
The Queen laughed like falling water and beckoned an initiate forward. The initiate was a young, beautiful man with long blond hair and a white toga that left half his sculpted chest free. He held a small chest made from lustrous wood, polished until it glowed. He knelt before the Queen and cracked the lid. From its shadowed depths, she pulled out a single platinum rose.
"A rose from my garden," she said. Dew still clung to the stem.
The other players nodded. Khor grunted. It was early in the game and the bets were understandably small. Such items formed the vulgar currency among beings of power. For all that, the rose was worth a king's ransom.
Malleus offered a vile of potent demon's blood.
Delirium laughed and conjured a bottle of wine made from the grapes of madness. Impossible colours swirled in the liquid's murky depths.
Euphony strummed a string with her skeletal hand and caught the note out of the air. It struggled and wriggled in her grip. "A note pulled from the Music of the Spheres, that which shapes the destiny of all beings, even powers as great as those gathered here."
The Old Emperor reached into his aged decaying robe and withdrew a handful of ancient stone coins, each one made, earned and spent in blood. He dropped them to the table one by one, each sounding like a falling tombstone.
Nyxanda produced a tiny vial containing the concentrated juices of Dark. Her eyes smouldered as she held it, full of forbidden pleasures. She was first daughter of darkness and a child of the eschatonic seed. When it came to smouldering erotic eyes, few could match her.
Khor jabbed a finger. Winds swirled in the room and a miniature whirlwind formed where he pointed. When it abated, a bottle sat on the table. Within it brooded a trapped storm cloud.
The Crone nodded her head and accepted the bets. She took up the cards and dealt the World for all to see.
First down was the Fortress, a looming black stone castle. Next came the Lovers, this card showing the Queen of Summer entwined in erotic embrace with her twin brother, her equal in fairness but lost long ago to the Impossible Infinities. Finally she dealt the World Ocean.
The players studied the cards. It was a strange hand. The Lovers should surely help the Queen but the Fortress and the World Ocean ... Too much could change.
The second round of betting started.
The Queen of Summer added a golden apple to her platinum rose.
Malleus withdrew and dropped his three cards into the Underworld, unburnt. The players all looked. The Scholar was no surprise, no one else would be dealt that card while he remained at the table, but the Tower, that was a stranger draw. What could it mean? The third card was the Night, too wide in scope to pin down.
Delirium laughed, added a Pinch of Passion to his wine of madness and cast all but one of her cards into the Underworld. The Sun and the Moon, a strong combination by any normal measure but he wasn't known for reasoned play. The Crone dealt her two replacements.
Euphony, the First Musician, folded, and her bone fingers plucked a song like tears from her harp. She burnt her cards, placing them face down in the Underworld. With those threads of fate burnt, she wouldn't be drawing them again any time soon but their were advantages to secrecy.
The Old Emperor met the bets with yet more bloodstained coin and dropped the Thief into the Underworld unburnt. The Crone dealt him a replacement. The Old Emperor picked up the card with his old-age worn hands and gazed long and deep into its face. Good or ill? He gave not a single sign.
Nyxanda folded and burnt her cards. Her fangs showed as she smiled. Her tail twitched.
"Khor matches puny bets," muttered Khor almost under his breath. He glared at his bottled wind and a second container appeared beside it. This one contained lightning brewed in the stills of hurricanes.
With the bets laid, the Crone moved onto the next public card: the Ethos.
She picked up the deck and the thick cards rubbed loud against her old dry hands. Her iron eyes scanned the players at the table one by one. Only after examining the last power, did she deal the card.
The card showed a young shepherd, just on the cusp of true manhood and beautiful in the way of some boys. It was a game changing card, a defining card. The Youth was a greater archetype and written deep into the fabric of the world. To be dealt as Ethos could be no coincidence. The powerful destinies being gathered by the remaining players were already taking root.
The Queen of Summer again beckoned forward her initiate and a withdrew a silver pear. As she held the strange metallic fruit in her long fingered hand, she closed her eyes and moaned. Her great naked breasts heaved and the chain between her taught nipples jingled. The female initiate between her legs had clearly done something very pleasant. Indeed, after a few moments, she reached down and patted her intimate on the head. "Such a good girl," she crooned. "And such a skilled tongue."
"Not yet time," sung Delirium and dropped his hand into the Underworld. Wrack, Ruin and Devastation, another fantastic hand so carelessly discarded.
"Delirium, dearest," said Nyxanda in a voice of honeyed poison. "Are you quite sure you understand the rules of this game?"
Delirium turned her gaze upon Nyxanda and the madness swirling there made Nyxanda recoil.
"Oh, Shaitan," said Delirium. "I am the only one who does."
The Old Emperor once more reached into his robe and withdrew a handful of dragon's fangs. He added them to the pile made by his coins.
Khor came last. He glared at his cards, jaw grinding. After a few moments he added his bet. To his bottled wind and distilled lightning, he added thunder pickled in storm brine. Next he dropped a card from his hand into the Underworld and the Crone dealt its replacement.
The players still in the game looked closely. Heartbreak lay atop the Underworld, the card showing a beating heart riven in two.
The Crone once more picked up the deck and dealt the final public card. Between the Underworld and the Ethos, she laid down the River with a heavy smack.
This round the River was the Broken Portal. The card showed a castle gate smashed to kindling.
All were silent as they tried to work out the effect of the card. In Fate, unburnt cards in the Underworld could still effect the game, amplifying wanted effects or deadening unwanted. A strong River, like the Wall of Swords or the Fortress, would render the Underworld near impotent. A weak river like the Broken Portal on the other hand...
One final round of betting remained.
The Queen of Summer retrieved the last item from her chest. A peach of bronze gleamed in her hand, still wet with the dew of her garden. A single still living green leaf sprouted from the top.
Khor eyed it hungrily.
The Old Emperor folded and burnt his cards.
That just left Khor. He looked into the flushed face of the Queen of Summer. Even now she bit her lip, eyes wide and dilated, as her initiate licked at her sex. She moaned oh-so-sweetly.
Khor summoned a fourth wager. With a clunk, a chest of cloud seeds landed on the table. It was a prize perhaps worth more than the round warranted but Khor didn't care.
"Play your hands," said the Crone and smiled a toothless smile, "make your destinies."
The Queen of Summer laid her hand down first. She played the Ship, the Chains and Bridal Ribbon.
In words of power unspoken, she told a tale. Of lovers young and passionate. Of a quest to prove love. Of a young man who journeyed across the sea to find a prize worthy of his lover. Of the trials he faced. Of the imprisonment he suffered, bound for years in the dark tower of a dark fortress. Of freedom at the hands of a thief. Of his return and joyous reunion that mended hearts broken. And in that union marriage.
She let out a breath as she finished. Though she'd said not a word, all gathered could see the story in the cards, in the interaction of her hand with the World, Ethos, River and Underworld. Power pressed out from them. This prophecy, or perhaps curse, was potent indeed.
Khor put down his cards one at a time.
First came the Host. "They came from the sea, " he said in a low almost skaldic voice and his power crackled like lightning along the cards. "A horde of destruction, of violence, of plunder."
He played a second card: Battle. The card showed armies fighting. Swords flashed, axes swung, spears stabbed. "They raided for many days and armies rose to oppose them. They broke those armies. They broke the fortresses. They broke the towns."
He played his final card: the Hero, the terminal archetype. Even captured in oil paints, the hero's face never stayed the same. He wore a thousand faces, ever changing, ever shifting. "A hero arose. His heart was fire. His lover burnt at the horde's hands. Her death fuelled his broken heart. By night and day, by moon, star and sun, he fought them. And finally, he won. He won the land but only wrack, ruin and devastation remained.
"So is the prophecy of Khor, King of Storm."
The two prophecies seeped into the cards but only one could last. They pressed against each other, fighting, growing in power as they battled. With a crash of thunder the Queen's collapsed and Khor's surged to victory. Its power sung in the cards and already the world changed to accommodate it.
"The King of Storm is victorious," said the Crone, though all present could see. She picked up the cards on the table and shuffled them back into the deck.
The Queen of Summer wore a slightly petulant frown but made no comment. Khor gathered up his prizes and had his winds secret them away.
With the first round done, the Crone performed her final act as dealer. She drew the first card from the deck and turned it upright for all to see. The Harp. That could only mean one thing. Crone passed the deck to Euphony. She would be dealer this round.
Euphony smiled a wan smile as she took the deck. Her curse was to never stop playing, so even while she cut and shuffled with her right hand, she plucked a haunting melody from her harp with her left.
"Will all present play?" she said, voice distilled harmonies.
Everyone nodded or otherwise marked their assent. Khor grunted and bit into his bronze peach. It crunched between his teeth and crumbs of fruit dropped to his bare chest. The juices spat and crackled as they hit his lightning whorl tattoos.
"So it shall be," she said and began flicking out cards. They flew from her bone white skeletal fingers like arrows from a bow.
As Euphony dealt, Nyxanda, first daughter of darkness, leaned over and rubbed against Khor's side. "Big and skilled," she said in a hushed whisper that reached every corner of the room. "Just how I liked them." Her eyes sparked. "And so very, very big. Would you like to share your fruit with me? I'm sure that we could ... Enjoy it together." She rubbed his inner thigh and then his cock proper. The immense organ stirred.
"Demon whore want prize," he grunted. "Demon whore should play better. If want, Khor fuck hard. Maybe skill like pox."
Nyxanda hissed and turned away.
Once everyone had their three cards, Euphony turned to the Old Emperor. "Will you place a bet, Emperor?" she asked.
The ancient man slowly nodded.
"I pledge the service of Old Powers — the dark things in caves." He placed a totem on the table. It was made from stone, a crudely shaped figurine with a great gaping mouth. Unseen shapes moved behind his rheumy eyes." He burnt all three of his cards and drew replacements.
Nyxanda looked long at her cards but finally shook her head. "Woe is me," she said and fluttered her full, smoky eyes at the table; her gaze turned sour when she reached Khor, though. "I do not like the feel of my cards this round." She placed the cards in the Underworld — the Tower, the Hanged Man and the Virtuous Savant.
"Khor gives service of thane," bellowed Khor. "Khor promises a year and a day's service of Black One Eye, Killer of Storms, Slayer of Mountains, Razor of Cities!" Bet placed, he swapped two of his card. Discarded were the Miser and the Broken Crown.
"Crone?" asked Euphony. "Will you play?" Her harp hand plucked a haunting refrain.
The Crone masticated her toothless gums as she cradled her cards in her dry old hands. "Oh yes, oh yes indeed I will. I am a wizened hag, old and weary, but I yet have my vassals, oh don't I yes. Why just this day, the Queen of the Ichthyophagi and Troglodytae offered up to me her first born child and all I needed do was curse the painted whore who sought her crown. That child then. Blood of kings, blood of sea, blood of stone."
She discarded one card, the Burning Eyes, and cackled over its replacement.
The Queen of Summer pulled the initiate from between her legs. "Rise, Lybie, rise."
"Mistress," she whimpered, lip trembling. A sheen of sex juices made the olive skin of her face shine.
"Oh hush, you," said the Queen and kissed her initiate's forehead. "I shall try my hardest to win." She looked towards the table. "I wager my initiate Lybie. She is skilled in many of my magics and talented in the arts of love."
"It is acceptable," said Euphony as she plucked at seemingly random strings. "Chancellor?"
Long shadows brought out strange lines on Malleus' pinched face. He burnt his cards. "I shall follow our demonic companion and forgo this round. There is an ominous pallor about it."
"Very well. Delirium?" said Euphony. Strange disharmonious notes entered her music that threatened its very structure.
Delirium let his head roll from side to side. Her eyes swirled with impossible possibilities. His neither male nor female face appeared wrecked in indecisions.
"I shall," she said. "I shall ... Have a drink I think!" He flipped over the back of his chair like an acrobat and padded towards the bar.
Euphony gathered up Delirium's cards and put them in the Underworld unburnt. They were the Starving Man, the Oases and the Turncoat. Prophetic indeed.
"I shall now deal the World," said Euphony and laid out the first grouping of public cards. Each hit with a sharp crack as her bone fingers pressed it down.
First was the Black Forest. The heavy oils showed great brooding pine trees, growing so thick that no light touched the ground inside.
Second came the King's Road. The card showed a long and well maintained road winding through the country.
Finally was the Axe. The card depicted a great iron axe, half impaled in a tree.
"Emperor?" asked Euphony.
"I again pledge Old Powers — the never-seen monsters of the forest." He withdrew a second totem, this one made from the thigh bone of some great animal and covered with tiny tool marks.
He discarded two cards from his hand, the maximum allowed during the second round of betting and burnt both. The First Musician dealt the replacements and his eyes narrowed slightly at what he saw.
Khor squinted as he stared at his cards but finally chucked his entire hand into the Underworld.
"Khor doesn't like the wagers this round," he muttered to himself.
Discarded were the Western Sky, the Lion and the Black Storm Cloud, a potentially potent combination but perhaps not for this World.
"Crone?" said Euphony.
"Yes, yes," said the Crone. "I pledge three favours from the Sisters of Night, the secret coven who rule at the heart of that decadent state Lemuria."
Smiling slightly, the Queen of Summer burnt her cards and placed them face down in the Underworld.
"Mistress!" wailed Lybie. Tears clung to her large smoky eyes.
"No more talking, dear." She pushed Lybie back between her spread legs. "I have a better use for your tongue and you're mine for a little longer yet."
"Ethos," said Euphony, "the actor. The subject of our prophecies." She drew a card and laid it next to the World. The smiling face of the Child looked out, a messy haired boy with rosy cheeks.
The Crone and the Old Emperor were silent as they considered the card. An archetype like the Youth, the Child would define the fates to come. To go against its nature would be to weaken the working and surely lead to defeat
"I pledge the third Old Power — the shadows in deep water." He withdrew a fish-bone talisman, the individual bones connected by hand beaten river copper. It swung in his ancient trembling fingers, the bones appearing to swim like a living fish.
He discarded a card and for the second time that night placed the Thief unburnt into the Underworld. Murmurs travelled round the table. Euphony supplied a replacement.
Euphony turned to the Crone and her music rose in a rising terminal, mimicking a question.
"Old and haggish, I may be," said the Crone, "but rich in other things I am. By blood, bone and older debts, I bind to the winner of this hand the monster Rrendel, slayer of heroes."
Euphony nodded. "And so the final card." She drew it and placed it face down on the table. "The River defines course and action in prophecy. The River accepts or rebukes the Underworld. The River can destroy and create." She flipped the card with her bone fingers and pushed it to the table with an audible click.
The Liminal Warden. An indomitable guard to the edges of all things and a strong River, to be sure. The Underworld would have little effect on the coming prophecies. Before those prophecies could be made, though, there was one final round of betting.
The Emperor sat still as stone in his chair, ancient robes loose around his decrepit body. "I pledge the kingship of wolves," he said.
The shock was palatable.
"Too much," hissed Nyxanda. Even to the first daughter of darkness and child of the seed eschaton, this was a shock.
Malleus, Chancellor of the Dread College, looked at the Emperor from darkly questioning eyes.
Euphony turned to the Crone. "Will you match this bet?" she asked.
The Crone narrowed her bog iron eyes. "Evil, cunning man," she said in a low whisper to her cards. "We have duelled of old but to barter this?" She looked up and said, "I pledge my place as polemarch of ravens."
Euphony nodded slowly and tension entered her music. "Crone, Emperor, make your destinies."
The Old Emperor moved first. In a voice of graves, he said, "To know the past is to know the future so I shall speak legend.
"I remember when men were young. The world was a dark place, then, and we were prey not hunters."
He placed down the Hunter card, showing a fearsome warrior armed with a throwing spear.
"The land was a single great forest and we huddled around fires against its terrors. Dark things moved and lived beneath the trees. They lived under the earth, beneath the water and in the sky. And we learnt that only blood could keep them at bay. I was king so I commanded the blood. I decreed the sacrifice."
He placed down the Sacrifice. The card showed an offering burning before a statue of a great god.
"Once every year, when the sun was low and the day was at its shortest, I commanded my subjects come to me. They came at my word and at my command. They came with their families, with the young and the old, the strong and the weak, the great and the common.
"And from among those gathered I chose a sacrifice. That year, the year of the Red Sky and the Ice Rains, I chose a child. The blood needed to be strong. The blood needed to be pure.
"My warriors brought him to me. They were powerful and there was no escape. We placed him on the stone and as the sun failed, I brought down the axe. His blood fed our protections. His blood paid our debts. His blood let us grow. His blood averted ruin."
He placed his last card down: Ruin. The card showed a village raised and set aflame by unseen dark terrors in the night.
Prophecy finished, the Old Emperor slumped into his chair. His old bones were tired and he watched through milky eyes as his prophecy moved through the cards. It was slow and sluggish, and to the senses of the assembled powers, weak.
The Crone cackled to herself as she readied her cards.
She placed down her first card, the Plague.
"A pox to drive the child from his home,
"A road to take him far from hearth and stone.
"A dark forest to contain a cure,
"Or is it only a lure.
"A black witch to make a threat,
"And powers potent to make him fret.
"But to get her magic to cure the pox,
"The child will need be cunning, like a fox.
She placed down her second card — the Spellbook, the card showing a leather bound tome of arcane knowledge.
"He goes to her cottage and is welcomed in,
"But is it truth or does she want his skin?
"He spies her arts and he spies her lore,
"And in her books he learns far more.
"But the witch finds out and sets pursuit,
"And all the child can do is run from her brute.
"Through forest, road and village he flees,
"Until all he can do is stand and wheeze.
She placed down her third card — the Saviour, a glittering knight in silvered armour.
"But a saviour comes, a woodsman true.
"And using his axe cuts the brute clean through,
"And with his stolen knowledge of magic,
"The child cures the pox and averts a fate truly tragic.
The Crone's completed prophecy swept away the Old Emperor's like chaff in the wind.
"The Crone has won," said Euphony as she gathered up the cards on the table and set to shuffling the deck. "To her go the spoils."
The Queen of Summer drew Lybie from between her legs and pushed her towards the Crone. "To your new mistress, now. Go!" She swatted the girl on her shapely rear.
For her part, Lybie jumped at the contact and scurried over to the Crone. She knelt before the hag and lowered her head. A cascade of black ringlets fell down, baring her olive neck.
"Mistress," she said. "How might I please you?"
The Crone slowly rose from her chair on bony legs and stood hunched over Lybie.
"Rise, girl, Rise."
Slowly Lybie stood. A hopeful expression showed on her face. It disappeared when the Crone drove her taloned fingers through Lybie's chest and into her heart.
The Crone changed. Her paper thin skin gained a healthy glow. Her hair, once spun cobwebs, turned black and lustrous. Her face tightened and the wrinkles disappeared. White teeth broke from her bloody gums. Her breasts grew pert. She stood straight, back unbent for the first time in decades.
The very opposite happen to Lybie. She jerked as the colour drained from her face. Her body spasmed as her very vitality was robbed from her. She collapsed to the ground, barely breathing, her body a near desiccated husk. Her youth was gone, stolen.
Over her stood the Crone-no-longer. Now she was a witch in the prime of life and power.
"Was that really necessary?" asked the Queen of Summer, a slightly exasperated tone to her voice. "If you only wanted her youth, I could have supplied someone just as young and saved myself a skilled servant."
"Yes," said the witch. "The time when a meagre meal might revive my youth are long past. Only those of power will satisfy me and even then, only for so long. I will exhaust her youth in a day and then be the Crone once more. But for now I am the Witch Queen again."
The Queen of Summer huffed but didn't push the point.
"Might I suggest a short break," said Euphony, "before we continue for the next round? I think such will serve to sooth nerves." On her harp she played notes like running water.
"A fine suggestion," said the Witch Queen, "but first?" She pointed to the deck.
Euphony finished collecting the cards and shuffled one handed. After a few seconds, she dealt and flipped the top most card: the Scholar.
All eyes turned to the Chancellor of the Dread College.
"Malleus," asked Euphony, "will you deal the next hand?"
Malleus nodded. "I will," he said, and the table broke for their break.
The Only Inn stood alone on the flattened summit of Mount Orion. Too high for all but the bravest or most foolhardy mortals to reach, it was the province of powers and was stocked to match.
Its kitchens were managed by a minor hearth goddess of the Theolalic tradition; its cellars contained casks, bottles and amphora gathered over multiple millennia; its beds were lined with spider silk sheets and stuffed with the fantastical feathers of sun, moon and star birds; upon the walls behind the bar were carved the recipes for every drink ever concocted; and the barman himself was an artificial construct created by the long gone Sobak people.
"Khor thirsty," boomed Khor as he strode towards the bar. The aids and attendants to the assembled powers broke before him. "Khor buy best ale in biggest mug."
"You could drink," said a breathy voice by his ear, "or we could enjoy ourselves."
The voice belonged to the Crone-come-Witch Queen, a First Witch of fearsome potency. Khor turned and leered at her newly invigorated body. Her lips were the colour of dogwood berries and just as poisonous. Her large pert breasts strained against her formerly formless black robe. Forced to contain her newly voluptuous body, it didn't quite do the job.
The Witch Queen idly waved a hand and her robe disappeared into mist, leaving her completely naked. She was spectacular, every inch of her arsenic white skin smooth and unblemished. Her long midnight hair fell to the small of her back and a small patch of hair of the exact same colour guarded her sex. Her nipples were large, sharp and hard, and the same shade of dark red as her lips.
"I will not have this body for long and it would be a shame not to make the most of it," she said in a black cat's purr.
Khor growled. His cock grew hard and thunked against his stomach. The bolt of lightning through the tip shot sparks.
"Now this does look tasty, yes," said the Witch Queen and slowly dropped to her knees. She took the meaty member in both hands and felt the heft of its weight. "When I was a girl ... Well, it is strange the things you miss."
She lent forward and licked the head.
Khor, King of Storm, stared down at the Witch Queen with hungry eyes and grunted in pleasure. Even as her tongue navigated his girth and length, he reached forward and rested his large meaty hands on her skull.
The Witch Queen took the hint, made a ring of her lips and forced the huge head between her jaws. Her tongue worshipped around the cock invading her mouth.
To Khor that was good but not good enough.
"Khor fuck puny woman," he said and fucked his hips forward. The Witch Queen struggled for a moment, gasping, but managed to swallow his assault. Her throat bulged at the intrusion.
Khor clenched his ass, withdrew his cock until the head pulled against her lips from the inside, and then slammed back in. He moved with all the force of a raging storm and great swathes of his cock disappeared into the Witch Queen's clutching gullet. Her cheeks bulged and the hot wetness of her throat clenched down. The Witch Queen gave back just as good. She battered forward with her head and forced the cock deeper still. Drool fell from her mouth and chin. In the brief moments the cock left her mouth, it shone with spittle.
"Quite the fuck minx, isn't she?" said a husky voice by Khor's ear. It belonged to Nyxanda — demoness, first daughter of darkness and a child of the eschatonic seed. "When she was young, she whored herself before my mother's court. Cocks, cunts, tentacles, things you can't imagine, anything for power. She nursed on my clit more times than I can count."
Nyxanda set her sharp teeth against Khor's earlobe and bit down hard. Blood swelled around her fangs and Khor slammed himself almost balls deep in the Witch Queen's gasping throat. Nyxanda unlatched her jaw and licked her blood smeared lips.
The power of storms raging through him, Khor set up a hard rhythm as he punish-fucked the Witch Queen's throat.
As he did, Nyxanda stepped around Khor. Metal clattered against wood as she unlatched her golden bikini top and thong panties. They fell away from her body to reveal her demonic form in all her glory. Her skin was pale purple and her released breasts, huge, taught and round. Her hips flared wide and her legs were long and toned. Even barefoot she walked on the balls of her feet, as if wearing the highest of heels. Her long sinuous tail swished behind her. Her sex was bare of hair but not bare of hypnotic, entrancing power.
She knelt behind the Witch Queen and reached around the woman's body. Her hands found the witch's hanging breasts and squeezed them tight. Her fingers deformed the flesh, biting deep, and the Witch Queen groaned around the cock filling her throat.
"Paint the bitch," hissed Nyxanda. She let the witch's breasts drop and took hold of her head. She held it tightly between her hands, pointed dead forward.
Khor clenched his jaw, pulled his rock hard cock from the Witch Queen's throat and exploded. His lightning tattoos blazed blinding white, the lightning bolt through his cockhead spat sparks and a stream of cum plastered the Witch Queen's face. Nyxanda held the witch in place, so she couldn't even move away.
And the cum just kept on coming. Blast after blast left Khor's twitching balls and shot from his volcano like cock. Cum dripped from the Witch Queen's face, every inch covered and sodden with sticky white goo. It filled her eyes and covered her nose, It pooled in her open mouth and dripped in gooey strands over her lips and down her chin.
Finally Khor stood panting as the last few drops fell from the head of his cock.
"Yes," hissed Nyxanda. She leaned forward and drew her forked tongue up the side of the Witch Queen's face.
For her part, the Witch Queen was out of it, eyes dazed and mind fuck drunk. She didn't resist as Nyxanda dragged her to one of the small tables in the room and dropped her onto it.
"Now fuck her," said Nyxanda. She pulled the Witch Queen onto her back and spread her legs. With two purple fingers, Nyxanda spread the witch's alabaster cunt to show the pink inside.
Khor, King of Storms, gave his cock a few pumps in his meaty fist and grabbed the Witch Queen's legs. He threw them up over his shoulders, positioned his cock so the head split her cunt and pushed inside.
The Witch Queen moaned as the pleasure cut through the fog clouding her mind.
"Fuck me!" she murmured. Then louder, "Fuck me!"
Khor slammed in and out of her clutching cunt. Her body writhed and bucked under him. Each thrust sent her tits bucking and bouncing.
"Khor fuck puny witch," he muttered as his great powerful hips worked.
"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" she cried.
"Less talking, more licking," hissed Nyxanda and dropped her dripping cunt onto the Witch Queen's cum plastered face. She rolled her hips until she found the witch's tongue and then groaned with pleasure. "Mmm. This takes me back."
Khor, Nyxanda and the Witch Queen weren't the only powers indulging in the physical pleasures.
Without Lybie, the Queen of Summer had turned to more masculine pleasures and rode her male initiate like a horse-mistress of the Anomandie steppe breaking a young stallion. His young pretty body bucked under her as she fucked up and down. Her great breasts shook with her effort and the chain between her nipples chimed like bells. He sweated, panted and groaned.