True Chivalry Part Twenty Nine

First Chapter

Previous Chapter

Miranda led Shauna to the medical tent. They saw Janice immediately. She looked up from her book and nearly fell off of her cot.

She glanced at Shauna and meekly glanced down at the ground. Glanced back up for a split second and directly back down. Shauna wasn’t much better. She was staring directly at Janice, mouth open. Occasionally she made a move to speak and stopped.

Miranda sighed. “I’ll step outside. You can call for me when you’re ready to return to your people.” She excused herself from the awkward reunion.

Janice and Shauna hardly noticed her depart. They were too engrossed in looking at one another, avoiding each other’s gaze, grasping for the right words & keenly feeling their period of separation.

Janice was the one who finally broke the silence. “You look great,” she stated. “And you’re the new leader of the clan, I hear.” Her gaze went to the ground. “Your lover must be very happy.”

Shauna took several steps forward and knelt beside Janice. “You know that you were the only lover for me,” she whispered. “The only one I’ve ever had. Only one I’ve ever wanted. When I thought you were dead I almost…” she paused, searching for words she needed in that moment. “It was like a part of me died as well. I couldn’t even consider anyone else. All I wanted was to make Kiel and Torla pay for taking you from me.” She gently stroked Janice’s cheek. Her voice softened. “And then I find out you’re alive and well and that you haven’t taken a lover either.”

Janice pressed Shauna’s hand with her own. “I never stopped caring,” she whispered. “I just… I couldn’t stay there and let Kiel destroy me. I’m sorry. I should have found a way to…” She stared at the ground.

“I don’t blame you,” Shauna said. “I won’t even blame you if your feelings have changed. I won’t make you come back with me when the war is over. And if you do return, I won’t force you to become my lover again. But, if you desire it, I would still be yours.” She leaned in. “I’m going to try to kiss you now. If you don’t desire it, say no, push me away or hit me.”

She moved her face towards Janice’s slowly, puckering her lips. Janice could tell that she was being given ample opportunity to avoid it. She leaned her own head forward and met Shauna’s lips with her own.

It wasn’t long before they were fiercely embracing, tasting one another’s tongues. Janice leaned back on her cot with Shauna on top of her. She could feel Shauna’s hand going beneath her shirt.

Shauna stopped and pulled away. The pair were panting heavily.

“Forgive me, you’re injured,” Shauna said. She glanced around. “And we’re not alone.”

Janice felt her face flush. “I should be released and ready for duty soon. When I am… Would it be okay if I share a tent with you?”

Shauna kissed Janice’s forehead. “I’d like that. We’ll pick up where we left off today.”

She made her way out of the medical tent where Miranda was waiting. “You weren’t watching, were you?”

“No,” Miranda answered. “I thought about it until I heard you two moaning.”

“Well, we didn’t go so far as you may think,” Shauna said. “I’ve been told you’ve been a friend to her.”

Miranda nodded. “Janice and I have a lot in common. It’s helped us bond. Truthfully, I’m glad you still love her. She’s never stopped talking about you, regretting that she couldn’t stay by your side.”

Shauna smiled. She lightly punched Miranda’s shoulder. “Once she returns with me, I’ll extend an open invitation for you and her other friends, Dame Axtun and Sir Roderick Yerda, to come see her whenever you please.”

“Thank you,” Miranda stated. “Shall I guide you to your people’s spot in the base?”

“Of course,” Shauna said. “We can have a long chat. I’d like to hear about what things have been like for her. And I would like to get to know you. All three of you.”

Miranda nodded. “I’ll talk with Patricia and Roderick. I’m sure we can make some arrangements, once this whole thing ends.”

*****

Caroline was going over her plans for their morning conference when Ida entered her tent.

“Lady Swifthoof what…”

Ida silenced her. “We are betrothed. It’s only appropriate that I stay with you.” She found herself a soft spot in the tent to lie on. “Just don’t do anything while I’m asleep.” She curled up with her head against her flank.

Caroline tried to focus on finishing her notes. This little charade was going to be difficult. Especially with the attraction she secretly harboured towards the pretty centaur. But she was far too old to start carrying on like a young girl experiencing her first love. She’d just have to stay composed.

She glanced at Ida’s sleeping face and suddenly felt very young and foolish.

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The Borrowed Boat part Seven

Sakura tugged at the back of Bianca’s collar while Taura did her best to hold the witch back. She was furious and completely prepared to challenge Susanoo in spite of the overwhelming power difference.

“Bring her back!” Bianca demanded.

Susanoo laughed at her rage. And what will you do about it, Witch? Strike me with your full power, if you think it will help you. 

“Damn right I’ll strike you with everything I’ve got!”Bianca declared

“You mustn’t!”Sakura pleaded, pulling harder.

“Trickster is beyond you,” Taura stated. “Trust her to finish the trial.”

Yes, Witch. Trust your human lover. Here, allow me to show you what she’s going through. I trust it will be most amusing, should she fail.

Susanoo gestured and a shimmering image of Hilde appeared.

*****

Hilde found herself in… it looked almost like a warehouse. It was stacked with crates with pallets lying around filled with items. A thin layer of  dust covered the floor. But there was something off about the area. Hilde couldn’t quite explain it. It wasn’t exactly magic, but there was some kind of otherworldly presence and she definitely felt as though she was being watched.

Susanoo had mentioned trials. So, what was her trial here? She walked around, checking the area.

That’s when she noticed something. There was almost an echo when she walked but it sounded less like an echo and more like footsteps.

She stopped. So did the footsteps. She listened and looked around for any sign of the source. She seemed to be alone but was certain that she wasn’t.

*****

“What’s in there with her?” Sakura asked.

It is called a Tariaksuq. Susanoo answered. They are shadow beings who are masters of hunting. Here, allow me to show you. 

He gestured. Bianca could feel some kind of vision spell affecting her. That was when she saw it. Nearly two hundred fifteen centimetres tall. Mostly humanoid but with strange tusks.

Bianca had a bad feeling she knew what he was hunting.

“What does it consume?” Taura queried.

I suspect you already know the answer. Susanoo stated. But to make it clear. He hungers for human flesh. And his long strides allow him to gain ground, even though he only moves when his prey does.

“That’s not a test!” Bianca protested. “There’s no way for her to tell he’s there! Much less do anything about it.”

She has her luger. And there is one way to tell where he is. She’ll just have to do it quickly, lest his hands reach her pretty neck first.

“I don’t care if you do fancy yourself a god,” Bianca hissed. “I don’t care if you’re much stronger than me. If anything happens to her, I will definitely find a way to rend the flesh from your very bones and then I will grind those bones into fine powder.”

*****

Hilde took a few tentative steps forward. She watched behind her. There were signs of dust kicked up in the air. There was something back there.

She faced forward. Whatever it was could attack immediately if it knew that she was aware of it instead of just suspecting something was amiss.

She grabbed her compact and opened it, using the little mirror. She checked for the footprints. They were there. Far bigger than her own feet and uncomfortably close. Whatever it was, it would be on her in very short order.

She returned her compact to her pocket and carefully drew her luger.

She was scared, there was no doubt about that. She was also really starting to sweat. She was going to have to get it quickly. She’d have one, maybe two shots. She turned, jumped backwards and quickly fired.

The Tariaksuq, though she didn’t know that’s what it was, fell into her mid-lunge. Growing visible in its last breath.

She examined it, uncertain as to what exactly she was looking at. It looked like a very large, muscular man with tusks. She holstered her gun, wondering what the next trial was going to be.

*****

So, the human has fangs. 

Bianca breathed a sigh of relief.

Do you suppose she can survive against a deadlier opponent? Let’s find out. 

Susanoo snapped his fingers.

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True Chivalry part Twenty Eight

First Chapter

Previous Chapter

Cassandra went to check up on her daughter as soon as she heard the news.

“How is she doing?”

“She’ll recover,” Susan answered. “She just needs some time to rest and recuperate. Artura found her before the fire could reach her.”

“And you say Courtney pulled the arrow out of her own side?” Cassandra asked.

“That seems to be the case,” Susan answered. “Artura said she was the only Amazon in sight and there’s no way anyone would have taken care of it and just left her there.”

“True enough,” Cassandra said. “And Artura doesn’t lie.”

“She’s a tough girl,” Susan said. “Probably gets it from her mum.”

Cassandra nodded. “I have to go greet our allies. I’ll be back to see her for a longer visit after I’ve got that sorted.”

“I’ll let her sleep until you return,” Susan said.

*****

Cassandra was delighted to see the dryads, pixies and centaurs arrive. It more than doubled their fighting forces.

She was very surprised to see Caroline riding on a pretty, young centaur.

Didn’t know the old girl still had it in her,” Cassandra muttered.

She waited until Caroline was back on the ground before approaching.

“Let me introduce you,” Caroline said. She was blatantly avoiding looking Cassandra in the eye. “This is Nimble Lilac. She’s the acting war leader of the pixies appointed by Lady Rose herself.”

“Well met, Queen Klais,” Lilac said. “You can rely on our support.”

“I truly appreciate that,” Cassandra said, leaning down to look the pixie in the eyes.

“And this,” Caroline continued “Is Elkroot Thistle, appointed leader of the dryad soldiers.”

“We will follow your lead to the best of our ability,” Elkroot stated. 

Cassandra couldn’t tell whether the dryad was male or female. She held out her hand. “We know we can count on you. Your people are among our oldest, most trusted allies.”

“And this is Ida Swifthoof, new leader of the centaurs,” Caroline gestured to the centaur she’d been riding.

“I knew your predecessor well,” Cassandra said. “And I know we can count on your people. Especially given your apparent relationship with my advisor.” She managed to refrain from laughing at Caroline’s clear embarrassment.

“Well, a lot happened during our time together,” Ida stated. She hugged Caroline from behind.

“So I gather,” Cassandra stated. “I’ll let you all get settled for tonight. The leaders of all our groups will have a conference at first light to discuss our next move against the Torlans. Rose and Rachel can show you all to the accommodations we’ve set up for you. They’re temporary, but they should serve you well enough. Although Caroline can show you to hers if you’d prefer, Lady Swifthoof.”

*****

While the Amazons were welcoming their allies, so were the Torlans. The Pyre clan marched into their base camp, greeted quickly by Maximilian and Miranda.

“You must be Mistress Shauna,” Maximilian stated. He bowed deeply. “Thank you for cooperating with us.”

“There is no need to thank me,” Shauna stated. “I simply made a deal that should be in both our best interests. These are my unit leaders, Izuki & Reo.”

“Pleased to meet you both,” Maximilian stated. “This is my Vice Captain, Miranda Pienta.”

“Ah yes, I heard your name mentioned,” Shauna said. “So good to meet you, Miss Pienta,”

“Likewise,” Miranda said. “Janice has spoken fondly of you.”

“If it’s all right with you, I would like to meet with you and your commanders as soon as possible,” Maximilian interjected.

Shauna nodded. “Izuki and Reo will go with you. They can report back to me and I can make any final decisions. Everyone else can begin setting up their tents for our stay. Miss Pienta, if you would be so kind as to show me where Janice is. There are… urgent matters I would speak with her about.”

Miranda glanced at Maximilian. “Yes, I can show you to our medical tent. Janice should be there now.”

“Medical tent?” Shauna asked.

“I’m afraid she was injured during a scouting mission,” Miranda stated. “She’s in no danger, but she is resting to fully recover from her wounds.”

“All the more reason for me to see her,” Shauna said. “Please, lead the way.”

Next Chapter

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The Borrowed Boat Part Six

The tunnel was dark and grimy. Fortunately, Hilde had a torch. And she’d just gotten new batteries for it.

It looked like a sewer, but it thankfully didn’t smell like one. It smelled more like a reptile enclosure. Likely from the kappa coming through. Not that Hilde was going to lean next to Taura and take a good long sniff in order to compare.

“I don’t get it,” Bianca said. “Why does something with this level of power need Taura’s people?”

Taura looked up at her. “You misunderstand. Trickster doesn’t need. Wants.”

They reached the end of the tube. There was a wide open space that looked like a stereotypical idyllic stream. Complete with large, lush fruit bearing trees and vegetation. Hilde noted several other tube entrances encircling the space.

“A magical space?” Hilde wondered.

Bianca nodded. “Yeah. I can feel the power behind it.”

“It’s almost like an exhibit, isn’t it?” Sakura asked.

“Right. It’s like it was designed just to house the kappa,” Bianca agreed.

“And they go to various areas through these tubes,” Hilde said. “The question is why? It can’t just be to have them jump out and scare people. It’s too much work. Besides, you could get more of a reaction from kappa sightings in Japan where people are more likely to recognise them.”

“It can be tough to figure out the motivations of beings at this level,” Bianca stated. “I’m sure you’re right and there is something to it but I couldn’t begin to guess what with the information we have now.”

“Guys, something’s wrong with Taura,” Sakura cried out.

Hilde and Bianca turned. The kappa was staring ahead, blankly. Hilde followed her gaze. There was nothing there.

She waved a hand in front of Taura’s eyes, trying to get a response.

The group was startled by the crack of thunder. A cloud rapidly formed over the stream, thunder crackling around it. Out of the cloud, a being emerged.

He had a long, dark beard, bushy eyebrows and a pronounced Roman nose. He was very tall, over two hundred fifteen centimetres tall. He looked almost human save for his eyes. They had ever shifting swirls of gold, grey and white encompassing the entire eyeball.

Taura knelt down, prostrating herself.

Bianca grasped Hilde’s hand, tightly. Hilde could feel her hand shaking but tried to take comfort in the contact.

“You must be the trickster we’ve been told about,” Hilde said. She could hear her own voice crack.

And what business does an ordinary human have in the company of a witch and a fairie? His voice boomed and seemed to come from everywhere at once. Speak quickly lest a flay you where you stand.

Bianca hurriedly positioned herself between Hilde and the Trickster. “My lover is a detective and we’ve taken on the case of finding Taura’s friends. That enough of an answer for you?”

You’re courageous to stand before me like this. Out of respect for your brave heart, I will allow you to give me your names.

“When asking for someone’s name, isn’t it customary to introduce yourself first?” Hilde asked. She knew it was a clichéd line, but the information could prove invaluable.

I have been called many names. But you may refer to me as Lord Susanoo. 

“Hildegard Elizabeta Müller,” Hilde said. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Bianca Hexe, likewise,” Bianca stated. She stayed between Susanoo and Hilde.

“I’m Sakura,” Sakura said.

“Now that we’re all introduced, perhaps we could persuade you to release Taura’s friends?” Hilde asked. “Surely, a being of your obvious power doesn’t need them.”

Perhaps not. But who are you to entreat a God? Susanoo’s voice boomed. Then again, this may be an opportune test. Very well, Hildegard Elizabeta Müller, companion to magical beings. I shall test you. Should you pass three trials, I shall order the kappa to return. Should you fail, we will have a penalty game. 

“And if we refuse?” Bianca chimed in.

You misunderstand, Witch. These trials do not involve you. And refusal, is not an option. He gestured and Hilde was swallowed up by a mist, vanishing from Susanoo’s magical space.

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True Chivalry Part Twenty Seven

First Chapter

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Artura carried Courtney over to Susan and her Vixen unit.

“Arrow wound, and she hit her head,” Artura stated.

“We’ll patch her up quick as can be,” Susan said. “We’re just fortunate she wasn’t caught in the fire.”

Artura nodded. “Better get back to it.”

“Artura, did you remove the arrow?” Susan asked.

“No,” Artura answered. “Found her like that beneath a tree. Possible she did it herself.”

“I suppose…” Susan said. “Doesn’t seem likely with that head wound though. No one was with her?”

“She was the only Amazon there,” Artura answered.

“Guess she must’ve done then,” Susan muttered.

Artura quickly made her way back to the front to help combat the blaze, and avoid answering more specific questions.

*****

“Lady Ida… the Amazon,” Caroline could sense the implied question in the guard’s voice.

“I should get down,” Caroline said. “I can walk.”

“Caroline, you don’t need to,” Ida stated. “We may have been waiting to make an official announcement, but it’s clearly out now.” She looked at her guards. “Or were any of you confused?”

“Not at all, Lady Ida,” he said.

“Then continue your duties. We need to treat our wounded and pursue those damned ambushers,” Ida stated.

“Understood.” They hurried to their duties.

“Ida, just tell them you only picked me up to protect me,” Caroline whispered. “They’ll understand.”

Ida shook her head. “You don’t understand our ways. If we both survive this war, I’ll claim that the feelings we shared have flickered out and demand separation. It’ll be humiliating, but we can both move on. Until then, just pretend you’re my betrothed.”

“But I…” Caroline began.

“Please,” Ida entreated. “Promise me. If for no other reason then for the sake of our alliance.”

“All right,” Caroline agreed. “I don’t mind being seen as your lover. Truthfully, it makes me seem a very fortunate woman.”

“Flattery is appreciated,” Ida stated. “Just stay on my back until we reach your encampment. And do try not to look too embarrassed.”

Caroline couldn’t promise anything in that regard.

*****

Bernard and Alicia flanked Ferdinand Beras on his way to the front line. He wasn’t going to stay long. He had to return to the king.

He noted the recently wounded soldiers getting attention from clerics. He found Maximilian taking a tour to check up on the wounded.

“Captain Jhunta, I must thank you for sending these two as my guards.”

“Of course, Sir Beras,” Maximilian answered. “The way you secured the cooperation of the Pyre clan was most helpful. Have you given thought to my request?”

“Well, we must speak about the other matter,” Ferdinand said. “I do have an answer for you.”

Maximilian nodded. “Bernard, Alicia. You two are dismissed. I would speak with Sir Beras in private.”

Bernard and Alicia watched them go.

“Think they’re about to get engaged?” Bernard asked.

“I don’t really care. I’m going to find something to eat,” Alicia stated.

*****

“You’ve worked with the pair of them,” Maximilian stated. “Which one has the greater leadership qualities?”

Ferdinand thought for a moment. “Bernard was very helpful, but it’s only because he idolises the dozen. He struck me as more of a follower than a leader. Alicia showed more initiative. I would suggest that she be granted Sir Pienta’s former position on a temporary basis.”

Maximilian nodded. “Very well. It will be as you suggest.” He thought for a moment. “Will you need an escort back to Torla?”

“Probably not,” Ferdinand said. “But I’ll take a half dozen soldiers for one. Just in case the Amazons are keeping an eye out and manage to sneak a small squad to our rear or some highwaymen have decided to take advantage of the situation.”

“Doesn’t hurt to take precautions,” Maximilian agreed. “I’ll arrange your guard.”

*****

The Pyre clan’s preparations were quick and efficient. They got together outfits that would better disguise them in the forest, split into three units and their soldiers began their trek towards the battlefield.

They reviewed Amazonian tactics and weaknesses as they went. After all, striking their weak points would be the key to ending the war as quickly as possible.

Shauna personally led the troops overall. She granted command rights over each unit to her most skilled warriors. The first unit would be led by her right hand, Izuki. The second unit would be led by her left hand, Reo. The final team would be led by her personally.

Among the three of them, the Amazons and their allies were sure to fall. Of that, they were certain.

Next Chapter

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The Borrowed Boat Part Five

Sakura flew ahead. Hilde, Bianca and Taura were in Hilde’s car, following. After all, fitting three on Bianca’s broom wasn’t exactly safe or comfortable.

Sakura waited for them to park and get out of the car.

“We can get into the back room easily,”Sakura said. “We just have to go through the door, make our way along the wall and go in.”

“I could help hide Taura,” Bianca stated.

“The pub looks busy,” Hilde noted. “Someone could bump into her. Let’s try entering through the back. Besides, this trickster she told us about could be a magic using creature. We don’t want to alert them any more than necessary.”

“Then how are we going to get in via the back?” Bianca asked. “You gonna pick the lock?”

“Exactly,” Hilde said. “It may not be something I like doing, but I can.”

“Is it not improper to enter in such a fashion?” Taura asked.

“Maybe, but we don’t have much choice,” Hilde stated. “If it makes you feel better, I promise, we won’t do anything to hurt the proprietors or their business. We just want to find your friend.”

“That may be acceptable,” Taura stated.

Sakura landed on Bianca’s shoulder. “How come she’s so concerned about things being ‘proper’?”

Bianca shrugged. “May be a kappa thing,” she whispered back. “I don’t know. She’s the first one I’ve met.”

The group headed to the back of the pub. Hilde started her work with the lock pick. It took her less than ten minutes to have the door open.

There was no sign of another kappa.

“Sakura, check up in the rafters,” Hilde said.

“Is this the wrong pub?” Bianca wondered.

“It’s not!” Sakura declared. “I remember it clearly. It was here for certain.”

Hilde knelt down and examined the floor. “She’s right, look at these scratches on the floor. Taura, could you put your claws against them like this.” She demonstrated with her own hand. Taura complied. “See? Made by the same type of claws.”

“But where could they have gone?” Bianca wondered.

“Not up here,” Sakura said.

“Could they be camouflaged?” Hilde wondered.

“But why would they hide from me?” Taura asked. “We are comrades.”

“I don’t know,” Hilde said. “How about Bianca and I leave. Maybe they’ll come out for you. If they do, give us a signal and we can come back inside.”

She and Bianca hurriedly left the building. They waited.

Bianca wrapped her arms around Hilde. “It’s chilly tonight. Keep me warm.”

“If we can solve this case quickly enough, I’ll take you back to the hotel and really keep you warm,” Hilde stated.

“Promises, promises,” Bianca said.

They waited for nearly an hour without hearing anything from inside. Finally, they went back in.

Taura was sitting awkwardly in the middle of the floor, fully visible.

“No luck?” Hilde asked.

“It seems they are not here now,” Taura stated.

“Then let’s look for some clues as to where they went,” Hilde said. “Just look around, see if you can spot anything out of place.”

They split up and looked across the area. Hilde spotted some more claw marks on the floor and a couple tiny scales. She was collecting the scales when Bianca came over.

“Found something?”

“Nothing too big,” Hilde stated. “Some more claw marks, couple scales. Though it is strange that this and the spot that Sakura saw it are the only places with claw marks.”

“It could be significant,” Bianca said “Maybe… Wait.”

“What is it?” Hilde asked.

Bianca held up a finger. “I need to concentrate. Give me a moment.”

While Bianca was focusing, Taura and Sakura both wandered over. They watched her intently.

“There’s magic at work over here,” Bianca said. “It’s very well hidden, so faint I almost missed it. But it’s there.”

“What kind of magic?” Hilde asked.

“A disguise spell, I think?” Bianca sounded uncertain. “Whoever cast it, knows how to leave very little trace. They’re probably very, very powerful. We’re talking almost Krampus level.”

“That bad?” Hilde asked. She still remembered their encounter with that monster. She did not look forward to fighting something on its level. Or even close to it.

“Trickster,” Taura stated.

“I’m guessing you can’t dispel it?” Hilde asked.

“Nope,” Bianca said. “If I had my sisters, the three of us might be able to. But by myself, not a chance.”

“We just have to find the thing being hidden and the magic will dissipate,” Sakura said. “Easy.”

Hilde bent over the spot. She felt along the ground, carefully. There! It felt like a faint bump. Almost like a slight indent. She grabbed it and pulled.

A trapdoor came very suddenly into view. There was a wet, stone tunnel beneath them. It almost looked like a sewer.

“Well, let’s go,” Hilde said. “Maybe we can get out of this without fighting Taura’s trickster.”

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True Chivalry: Part Twenty Six

First Chapter

Previous Chapter

Miranda carefully cradled Courtney in her arms. Her lungs were starting to fill with smoke. They were in the midst of the flames. On one side, the Torlan soldiers were retreating. If she carried Courtney that way, she might be able to avoid the rearguard and get her to safety. But if the rearguard was still close… They would take Courtney as a prisoner or worse.

On the other side, the Amazons would be fighting the fire. She might be able to drop Courtney off somewhere safe and get out. But if she was caught… She hurried towards the Amazons’ side.

If they caught her, so be it. Courtney was injured and needed a safe place.

She felt like she was baking in her own armour, it was so hot. But she pushed through. She could hear the Amazons nearby shouting out orders and trying to contain the blaze, but she couldn’t see any. She found a spot away from the flames and knelt down to examine Courtney properly.

Courtney’s hand reached out. “Shouldn’t have come for me,” she muttered.

“Don’t be ridiculous. You know I had to,” Miranda chided.

“Head hurts,” Courtney said. “Stomach too.”

“You fell from the tree. You probably have a concussion,” Miranda said. “Stay awake, keep talking to me.” She looked at the arrow in Courtney’s side. It hadn’t hit anything vital, thank the Gods. “I’m going to get the arrow out. This is going to hurt.” Miranda carefully began her work.

“Never answered my letter,” Courtney said.

“I know,” Miranda said. “I am sorry. I just… I couldn’t find a way to send any messages without it being seen. Courtney, stay awake.”

“Just glad you still care so much,” Courtney muttered. “Is it bad?”

“It’s not too serious,” Miranda said. “Just have your medics treat it so it doesn’t get infected.”

“Why’s it so hot?” Courtney asked.

“There’s a fire,” Miranda answered. “It’s not too close, don’t worry.”

“You should get away,” Courtney said. “If you’re caught…”

“I’ll take that risk,” Miranda said. “I’ll try and get out after your friends find you, okay?”

“You’ve always been good to me,” Courtney said. “Ever since we were little.”

“We did become close very quickly,” Miranda said. “Ever since that Dryad told our fortunes.”

“This is the threat she was talking about, isn’t it?” Courtney muttered. “The one that can tear us apart?”

“Timing’s right,” Miranda said. “But don’t worry. We’ll both get out of this. Our peoples will find peace and things will go back the way they were.”

“That’s be nice,” Courtney muttered.

“Courtney, are you over here?” A voice rang out. It was very close.

“This won’t be our last meeting,” Miranda whispered. “Over here!” she shouted. Then she turned and ran.

Artura watched her go from the treetops before dropping down to retrieve her subordinate.

*****

Francis’ plan was simple. He led his group on a flank attack, drawing out the elite guards just enough for his archer’s arrow.

Fortunately for Caroline, her horse chose that moment to rear up, taking the arrow for her. The poor beast collapsed on the ground, leaving her bruised and picking herself up.

Ida put her longbow down and scooped up the Amazon, placing her gently on her back. “Stay close to me,” she whispered. She retrieved her bow and began firing back.

Caroline tried to avoid returning the glances from the centaurs around her. She wondered how Ida was going to explain this to the others.

She’d definitely have to apologise for falling from her horse.

*****

George glanced around the battlefield. The Amazons’ allies were rallying and would begin a counter attack shortly. He sent the signal to fall back. They’d done their job. They’d dented the reinforcements without taking too much damage themselves.

*****

Going through the flames to return to her people wasn’t easy. Miranda was hot, singed and had more than a few burns.

She managed to catch up to her unit. They’d stopped to rest a safe distance from the fire.

“You get what you needed to do done?” Aiko asked.

“I did,” Miranda stated. “Was I missed?”

“I told the Captain you were staying with the rearguard,” Aiko said.

“Thank you,” Miranda stated. “You’re a good friend.”

“Hey, I owe you,” Aiko stated. “You’re the one who gave me this command. Besides, I wouldn’t stand in the way of something that important. Come on, tell me everything.”

Next Chapter

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The Borrowed Boat part four

Hilde and Bianca managed to get the kappa into their hotel room without being seen. Which wasn’t very difficult with Bianca’s magic.

“Anything come to your mind when you hear about a trickster figure?” Hilde asked, looking at her lover.

“Well, we’re talking about an Eastern trickster. Probably from Japan. So, I should ask you that question,” Bianca answered. “If it were a European trickster, I would say it could be a Satyr or a fox that was exposed to magic or a shifter.”

“It could be a fox,” Hilde said, thoughtfully. “In Japanese mythology, there are fox spirits called kitsune that are known for being tricksters.” She looked at the kappa. It seemed to be watching the camera footage curiously.

Hilde quickly switched the footage off. “Is the trickster you were talking about a kitsune?”

“Trickster is beyond kitsune,” The kappa answered.

“Anything else come to mind?” Bianca asked.

Hilde crossed her arms and shook her head. “Tanuki can also shape shift and stuff, but I’ve never really seen them referred to as tricksters. Certainly not as being above kitsune.” She glanced at the kappa.

“Trickster is not tanuki,” it confirmed.

“Well, maybe we don’t need to know what the trickster is,” Bianca said. “We just need to find the other kappa, right?”

“True, but forewarned is forearmed,” Hilde said. “And I’d really prefer to know what we’re up against.”

It was that moment that Sakura chose to return.

“Hi, I made three happy couples!” She declared. “Oh, we have a guest.” She held out a tiny hand to the kappa. “I’m Sakura, nice to meet you.”

The kappa bowed. “I am called Taura.”

“Great to meet you, Taura,” Sakura said. “So, what are we doing?”

“Right now, we’re looking for more kappa like Taura,” Hilde answered. “There are five others who were brought here. We don’t know why or where they are.”

“Well, if they all look like her, I saw one hanging out in the back room of a pub,” Sakura said.

“You saw one?” Bianca asked.

Sakura nodded. “I was helping some young workers realise their feelings for each other. They went to a pub after work, so I followed. I worked a little subtle magic to give them some mood music over the jukebox. When one spilled his pint on the other, they went in the back to get him dried off. I followed to help set the mood.”

“And you saw a kappa?” Hilde asked.

Sakura nodded. “It jumped out at them and ruined things before it could get to a good part. I had to really buckle down to get things back on track.”

“Strange,” Taura said. “It’s not proper behaviour to jump out and frighten humans.”

“Do you have any companions who would do something like that?” Bianca asked. “I mean, surely you have one mischievous friend.”

“Not like that,” Taura stated. “Actions like that are… troublesome for us.”

“Can you lead us to that pub?” Hilde asked. She looked at Bianca and Taura. “We’ll figure it out when we get there.”

“It’s not really a problem,” Sakura said. “I do have an amazing sense of direction.”

“Then we’ll go right away, before it has the chance to get too far away,” Hilde said.

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The Promised Day

Illyana stood, pressing her fingers together nervously. Drake perched on her shoulder. He seemed curious about all the preparations. But not curious enough to fly around.

“Mum, do I look okay?” Illyana asked.

“For the seventh time, you look lovely,” Luc stated. “Honestly, I’ve never seen you act so concerned about your appearance.”

Illyana pressed her fingers together. “Well, it’s a special day,” she said. She paused for a moment. “Any word from Aiko?”

Luc almost shook her head. “No,” she stated. “Wherever she is, we haven’t heard from her.”

“I suppose she’s still in mourning,” Illyana stated. “I don’t blame her. So am I.”

Luc kissed Illyana’s forehead. “Life has to move on,” she whispered.

“If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be doing this,” Illyana said. “It’s just… I always imagined him being by my side on this day. Helping calm my nerves. Wishing me all the happiness in the world. Although he would have said it in some bizarre, wordy way.”

“Probably,” Luc agreed. “Something like ‘I trust you have carefully considered this step and that it will be instrumental to your future joviality.'”

Illyana burst out laughing. “Something like that,” she agreed.

“Well, if it makes you feel better, there are quite a few of Athena’s priestesses in attendance. We’ve also got both elven and vampiric nobility.”

“At least Lyn came. I’m looking forward to seeing her,” Illyana said.

“Well, your hair is now perfect,” Luc said. “Let’s get out there. We mustn’t keep your bride waiting.”

Luc led Illyana to the Academy’s garden. There was a makeshift archway lined with roses On the right side, Bastion stood with Illyaa’s close friends from the Academy, her aunt Lais, Lynai, Callie, Tynan & Gabriel.

The minotaur was trying to wear a suit that was noticeably too small for him.

On the left side, Sylvie’s comrades from the Temple were arranged. Including both Inés and Serena. Her parents had also come. Luc recognised them immediately since her mother looked very much like an older version of her.

The altar was pure marble. Luc had crafted it herself using magic.

A priestess sat behind it. Ready to perform the ceremony. Illyana had met her, briefly. She was the head of the Temple where Sylvie had trained, Diana.

“How does Sylvie look?” Illyana whispered.

“Her gown’s trimming brings out her eyes, making them seem sparkly,” Luc answered. She has quite a gallant, fetching look.”

Luc led Illyana to the right of the altar. In her hand, she held a bouquet of wild flowers. When Illyana was in place, she faced her.

“Daughter, you have ever been my treasure. And now, on this blessed day, you will join our house with another.” Luc made sure to project as she spoke, letting her voice carry to the crowd. She gently placed the bouquet in Illyana’s hand. “Let this be the symbol of our house. May you keep it well and see it thrive.”

Luc bowed and moved to the side.

Sylvie came up next. Her parents carried a bouquet of multi-coloured roses.

Her mother spoke first. “I always knew you were a special child. All you’ve accomplished in your time serving Athena has only confirmed to me just how great your potential is.”

“My baby is getting married,” her father cried. “This is the day I’ve always been waiting for. I’m so happy.”

“Honey, calm yourself,” her mother said. She cleared her throat. “Let this bouquet symbolise our family. May you carry it with you and bring prosperity to it.” They handed their bouquet to Sylvie. Then they too moved to the side.

“Now,” Sylvie whispered.

She and Illyana walked forward. Placing their bouquets side by side on the altar.

“Gently, right there,” Sylvie lightly guided Illyana through the process. Acting as her eyes.

“This is a blessed day for all of us,” Diana said. “It’s a momentous occasion for these two great people and we, their friends, family and comrades have the distinct pleasure of witnessing it as they undergo Hera’s vow. Illyana Fensen, will you declare your love for this woman?”

“I will,” Illyana said. “Truthfully, I developed a crush on Sylvie while we were still studying together. She was so kind and sweet but I thought her feelings for me were just those naturally born of her kindness. When I learned she felt the same, I had trouble believing that she could love a blind woman. And I made her wait another year. Yet all my insecurity, all my self doubts… She cut through them and my feelings for her have only grown. And I just know that they’ll continue to grow as we forge a path together from this moment on.”

“A good, honest, declaration,” Diana said. “And you, Sylvie Fortunio? Will you also declare your love?”

“I will,” Sylvie said. “Though I fear my eloquence may be inadequate.” She took a meaningful pause. “The depths of my love, my passion for Illyana are boundless. I spent so long in her company, wishing only for the courage to convey my feelings. Now… Now I believe I’m finally worthy and I know I can and will make her happy. Because I love her, with everything that I am.”

“A fine, honest declaration,” Diana said. “I evoke the name of mighty Hera, queen of Olympus, and grant you the marriage you so rightfully deserve and greatly desire. May Aphrodite continue to bless you and may you never forget the feelings you have conveyed this day. You may embrace.”

Sylvie gently placed a hand under Illyana’s chin and guided her forward, kissing her.

“We’ll save the more passionate stuff for when we’re alone,” she whispered.

Their guests cheered them on.

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True Chivalry: Part Twenty Five

First Chapter

Previous Chapter

Aiko and Miranda brought their units close together for a tighter defence. They had to make the Amazons’ final push look good. If they even slightly suspected that the Torlans weren’t trying to defend their building site, it could destroy their comrades’ chances at getting their mission accomplished safely.

While they were working on defence, Maximilian’s soldiers began spreading the lethal oil.

It didn’t take long for the Amazons’ forces to rally and make their next strike.

Miranda and Aiko stayed close together, both remembering the unit leaders who had targeted them before.

*****

Caroline’s horse trotted alongside Ida. Centaurs considered it rude for honoured guests or allies to be anywhere but the safest place possible in their formation. For Caroline, that meant being kept beside the queen and her elite guards.

She couldn’t claim to dislike it. Ida was very easy to talk to. And Caroline wasn’t just going off of her attraction to the younger woman. Ida made a point of engaging in strategic talks with her during the march.

Caroline wasn’t sure if it was out of desire for some strategic insight or courtesy. Not that she was against chatting with her for either reason.

They were interrupted by a loud horn bellowing.

Caroline knew the signal. The guards reacted before she could, taking a tight formation around her and Ida.

Ida drew her longbow. “Stay down,” she said. “Let us handle this.”

Caroline looked out towards the centaurs’ makeshift defensive line. Two, possibly three Torlan units were striking. There were thousands of soldiers moving against them.

Ida beckoned one of her guards. “Send word to the pixies and dryads,” she ordered. “Bring them here.”

It was the right call. They were marching nearby in their own columns. Wouldn’t take them longer than twenty minutes to arrive.

*****

“Remember, don’t push too far,” George ordered. “We have to damage them, not slay them all. It’s pointless if we get ourselves killed in the process. Be prepared to pull back on my mark.”

Francis wasn’t listening. He had his own plan to grab glory. He’d managed to find a couple dozen soldiers in George’s unit who were also eager to gain accolades.

“I see the Amazonian advisor.” One said. He shook his head. “It’s no good. She’s too far back and there are too many centaurs around her.”

“Then we’ll have to force them to pull back and get her that way,” Francis said. He pat a dark-haired woman on the back. “You just need one clean shot with your arrow, right?”

She nodded. “Get me that and I’ll cut her down.”

“There you have it,” Francis said. “We do that, we get a good taste of glory. And I know just how to do it.”

*****

Rachel and Rose watched as their soldiers went into battle. “Looks like our targets are staying close together,” Rachel noted. “You want to try to focus on one together or should we both pick a different one?”

“Maybe we should leave them be,” Rose noted. “Their formation is starting to crack. They’re going to have to retreat soon, I think.”

“Seems an excellent reason to go after the commanders,” Rachel argued.

Rose shook her head. “We beat the leaders just before they retreat, we may find ourselves in a more prolonged battle. I don’t like keeping dangerous opponents like them around either, but the more efficiently they can retreat, the better for us. Besides, I’m confident that I can beat Miranda the next time I face her.”

*****

Miranda swung her blade, deflecting some arrows that came down towards her.

Her own troops responded, shooting their own arrows up at the trees. Several Amazons fell out. One… one she thought she recognised.

That was when the order to retreat came.

Miranda grabbed Aiko’s arm. “Get my people out of here. I have to check something.”

“But the forest is…” Aiko stopped, detecting the desperation in Miranda’s voice. “Okay, just be careful,” she said.

Aiko hurriedly rallied the troops and started pulling them back. Miranda was quickly separated from the others by the flames Maximilian unleashed against the forest.

The Amazons didn’t even think of pursuing the Torlans at that point. They started by pulling back in an orderly fashion. Then thy began the work of trying to contain the blaze.

Miranda’s armour was heating up. She managed to get to the trees that the archers had fallen from. She’d been right. Courtney was lying on the ground, forehead bloodied with an arrow in her side.

She was still breathing, thank the Gods. Miranda had to get to her and get her to safety, before the fire finished the arrow’s work.

After that, she had to somehow get away from the Amazons alive.

Next Chapter

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