© Copyright 2004
This is an erotic fantasy. The characters and the situation are purely imaginary, and this story is not intended to be a guide for actual behavior. Any similarities between this story and actual people, or between this story and actual events that you should be ashamed of, are purely coincidental. If it is illegal for you to access and read erotic fiction, or if you don't like sex stories, then stop now.
This story is copyright 2004 by Russell Hoisington. You may post freely to non-commercial (free) sites, or in the "free" area of commercial sites as long as you do not remove the author information or make any changes to this story. This does not mean that it is in the public domain, nor does it mean that I give permission for you to use it in spam advertising. I reserve the right to determine what is "spam advertising" by my definition, not yours or anyone else's.
Thank you for your consideration.
The left flankman, Private Ham of Greenwood, gasped for breath as the survivors of a company of goblins fell back to the north in disarray, with fewer retreating than lay before the Danlier's Cerulean Foot Regiment. Opposing battlemages continued to neutralize either side's magic, leaving sword and muscle and fatigue to decide the ultimate victor. The Horde of Evil was slowly but steadily losing the war of attrition. After a quick prayer of thanks that he remained uninjured, Ham dropped his pack, gulped from his waterskin, and fished out a handful of nuts and dried fruit. No telling how long (or short) a time the enemy would need to regroup.
A shouted word dropped from the wooden observation tower behind the lines of the Cerulean Foot. It was picked up by the exhausted fighters and passed toward either flank.
Ham began chewing as the word reached him. He glanced back at the tower. The lookout was down, and the draft horses were moving the tower to the rear. He glanced to the far northeast where five huge shapes had lumbered over the crest of a ridge. A cold hand clutched his heart. He gasped and passed the word to the right flankman of Craig's Loden Foot Regiment. He crammed as much food as he could into his mouth and threw aside what remained in his hand. He shouldered his pack and unsheathed his sword, preparing to run for his life. You had to make sacrifices in wartime, but suicide for no purpose? He couldn't believe Sir Willam would order a stand against suddenly overwhelming odds.
Breathing deeply, sucking strength into his body, he turned and eyed the wooded hilltop where the Knight-Paladin's headquarters tents occupied a clearing at the military crest. Surely Old Silverwings was now out of tricks and it was time to flee.
Knight-Paladin Willam of Stokes-on-Fourche strode wearily from his command tent, the upswept silver eagle's wings on his helmet flashing in the sun. He flicked a speck of debris from his gleaming white tabard, then looked northeast to where Lieutenant Tomson was pointing.
"There, Sir," said Tomson, his constricted throat causing his voice to squeak. "War mammoths."
The shaggy beasts lumbered southward toward Sir Willam's Serenity Brigade, the center regiments of the Forces of Good defending the critical Shepford Valley approach into the Free Kingdoms of the south. The Knight-Paladin said nothing, but put a calming hand on Tomson's shoulder. His military aide was a man not easily frightened. He glanced toward the tent where his warmages huddled. The blue-white flashes escaping at the bottom of the tent walls told him that they were fully involved with countering the spells of the Horde of Evil's own sorcerers.
The Knight-Paladin sighed. He could think of only one option. He didn't want to do it, but it seemed that the Vile Lord's Horde had left him no choice. He turned and seemed surprised to find his staff huddled in the tent's doorway, staring at the approaching beasts with wide eyes and gaping, speechless mouths. Waving with the backs of his silver gauntleted fingers he shooed them back into the tent like chickens into a coop. "Now you've seen them. You have work to do. Get to it."
"Tomson," he said in a quiet voice, "ask Ayelin to join me and bring in Bjorn." The Lieutenant blinked, shuddered, and ran toward the warmage's tent. Sir Willam turned to watch the approaching creatures and pray that his men would hold position long enough for him to win what was already being called the Gateshire Forest Campaign.
The Knight-Paladin turned at Tomson's voice and looked down between the two bearers at the large, reeking, hairy man sleeping on the litter. The creature was shaggy as an ape. His curly red hair and beard were matted and tangled. He wore nothing but a once-white breechcloth, now yellow and brown, a steel collar, and steel wristbands, each plain except for loops where heavy securing chains had been attached. Beside him lay a huge bastard sword, plain except for two words forged into the blade in liturgical script. Sir Willam closed his eyes and prayed.
He opened his eyes. He had not heard his beloved Ayelin approach, but that was her way. She was staring at Bjorn, her beautiful face ashen but her voice controlled. Eighty years of countering the magicks of the Horde of Evil would instill such strength of will.
His head tilted to indicate northeast. "War mammoths..."
"I see them." She glanced at the front litter bearer. "Carry him inside."
The bearers were all too eager to be away from this strikingly beautiful witch who commanded such deadly power. They would rather fight Bjorn bare-handed than remain in her sinister presence.
Sir Willam gazed deep into her amazing eyes, light blue irises surrounding pupils of lapis lazuli. The eyes of a battlemage. Words knotted in his throat. When she closed those eyes and began murmuring he swept his own over her in an appraising glance while removing his right gauntlet. The brown hair which fell behind her shoulders to mid-thigh was dull. Her simple ankle-length robe matched the lapis lazuli of her pupils. It had not been changed in the six days since the battle had begun, nor had it been slept in. The robe's only adornments were two small patterns of interwoven gold and silver threads where the hood attached at either side of the neck closure. They indicated her specialty and her rank amongst the warmages, and they were dull. He knew that was an indicator of her physical condition to her brothers and sisters in magic. He did not need their power to know that reviving potions worked only so long against fatigue toxins. Her once flawless face had tiny lines at the corners of eyes and mouth, and her reactions were slightly, but noticeably, slower to his accustomed eye.
She opened her eyes. "They will strike at the juncture of the Loden and the Cerulean, behind a wall of goblins about to crest the ridge and move ahead. We have adequate, but little, time."
He took her slender left hand in his right. "Send me someone..."
"No." Her remaining strength and resolve gave steel to her voice. "I cannot."
She pressed her right fingertips to his mouth. "I must do this myself. None of the others have the strength. The energy loss would kill her."
Fear swept the Knight-Paladin's face for the first time since the Gateshire Forest Campaign had begun. "Nor have you! This might kill you, Ayelin."
Her fingers caressed the gray-flecked, short black beard at his chin. "I have no doubt that the transfer would kill any of them. I will not sacrifice another if I can do this myself."
He fought to keep tears from collecting. "But I need you, Ayelin, and I need you to lead the battlemages. You would sacrifice yourself?" His voice softened and the tears came. "You would sacrifice us?"
A hint of a smile flickered as her fingers stroked a narrow gap in his armor above the covered scar. "Bardstown Bridge."
Where Sir Willam had personally led the heavy cavalry charge to rescue two surrounded companies. Where Sir Willam had found the point of an enemy lance. Where Sir Willam had been so severely injured that Lieutenant Tomson had begun funeral preparations on the advice of Ffolkestone, the senior healermage.
When he sighed his resignation she sealed the argument with, "If I sacrifice us, I do it for them."
For them. During one of their now-infrequent nights together, as he recovered from his ecstatic release and held her soft, warm body to his in the pale moonlight, he had looked at the afterglow adorning her lovely face and had casually mentioned, "in another reality, perhaps we could wed." She had gone strangely silent and withdrawn at the comment. After some gentle coaxing she revealed that in another reality they had indeed wed, and that she had given him three strong sons and a daughter who together would usher in almost two centuries of prosperity, and that their children's names would be known to historians for millennia.
At first she had been reluctant to tell him that particular reality would come to be if the Forces of Good overcame the Horde of Evil and destroyed the Pillar of Chaos in the Vile Lord's tower far to the north. None of this around them would be or would have been. Somehow, through a process she could not explain in words he could understand, history would change eighty years ago and would be forever different. It was at that moment that he understood the true stakes of the war: a hundred thousand now-dead men would not have died, and he would have his beloved Ayelin as his wife.
Sir Willam's shoulders sagged and he brought her fingertips to his lips. "I do wish you had a different spell to awaken, strengthen, and control him," he said and kissed them again.
Ayelin gave him a weak smile. "Do you not think we've been looking for another? Surely, my love, you cannot think we enjoy this."
Sir Willam motioned her ahead of him into the tent as he pulled on the gauntlet. "No, I do not. Nor do I envy you in the least."
Lieutenant Tomson had rigged a privacy curtain to the left of the entrance in the large tent. Sir Willam nodded his appreciation and escorted Ayelin behind it.