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The trio faces the spider queen.
The Threads That Bind

Working together, Valia and Shannon freed the captured beastmen, turning the prison camp on its head. The released prisoners joined in the fighting to assist their saviors, liberate their fellow captives, and exact revenge on their oppressors. Though hunger and darkness had weakened their bodies, the sun nourished their spirits, and the call of battle urged them forward. They took up arms, wielding the weapons dropped by slain guards. Leading the charge was Valia, zooming through the facility and cutting down the fiends like she was hacking her way through the jungle.

Shannon was also engaged in battle, fighting against the spiders hiding from the sun. She carved down those who jumped, splitting the human heads with her sword. Others scurried across the floor, trying to surround her and close in, but crushing them with her hooves was no challenge. Despite her fortune in battle, her heart was heavy. She was clearing building after building, but had yet to find a single member of her tribe. She hollered their names, hoping desperately to hear her own shouted out in return. With each door she kicked down, her anxiety and frustration were growing. Her kin had to be here; they just had to be.

Eventually, the two women crossed paths in the midst of battle, surrounded by beastmen fighting against the fiends.


“My Lady!”

“Have you seen Noah? Heard any thunderclaps?”

“No, I was hoping you had. Does that mean he’s still in the palace?”

“If he is, then that means he’s either fighting or worse. Come on, let’s go find him!”

They raced towards the ancient dwarven palace, where Noah awaited their rescue in a large chamber in the depths of Carthace’s lair. The room was filled with webbing, lining every surface and stretching across the open space, freshly spun to return her territorial advantage after the alchemy wave. Noah lay suspended in the center of one such web, limbs spread and unable to move like a captured gnat. The threads, though flexible and stretchy, weren’t sticking to him with chemical adhesion, but felt more like magnetism, no doubt due to her power flowing like electricity down wires.

Even his fingers had been wrapped in webbing to prevent him from using more monster repellent or similar tricks, so his ring was useless, not that he had much dexterity in his hands after Carthace had stabbed his palms. Those wounds were a testament to her abilities, the speed and strength with which she had managed to subdue him. She was absurdly powerful.

“I hope you know that your death will not come quickly,” she said as she dropped down onto the web. Although the tip of each leg was like a dagger, she could step on the narrow threads nimbly as though she was descending a staircase. “It will be slow, agonizing, what you deserve for causing me so much trouble. I’ll feed on your pain as I feast on your flesh. But your friends, I’ll kill them first, so you can watch the light leave their eyes and hear their dying screams.” As she spoke, she patted him down, searching him for weapons.


“Is your stoicism supposed to impress me?” she asked, removing his sword and tossing it into the corner.

“Well you haven’t said anything that I haven’t heard others say. This isn’t my first time in such a situation. I have no doubts as to your desire to kill me, but after all this time, circumstances like this are rather… episodic.”

“It may not be your first time, but it will be your last.” She ran her hands over him, pausing repeatedly to reveal hidden daggers.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that too. I used to keep a mental list of all the threats and dramatic lines people have thrown my way, but I lost count after a while.”

She then put her pincers to his throat. “I’ve already restrained you, need I gag you as well? Or should I just cut out your tongue?”

“I wish you wouldn’t. I’m rather enjoying this talk. I’d like to know more about you, about the Profane and what you’re doing here.”

“You must be a fool if you think I’ll explain all our plans to you.”

“Maybe not your plans, but the end result. I’d like to know how this all started and where it’s headed. Take my life if you want, but at least let me die with my curiosity sated. Let me hear your story.”

Carthace gave a mocking chuckle, and after taking everything dangerous, she moved away. “We Profane are dying out. The power of Zyrga is fading from this world and us with it. Regardless of our generation, most of us have lost the ability to create new peerage. It used to be that our venom flowed as bountifully as our blood, enough to raise entire armies, but now it has become a finite resource. Even I can only create a few more servants in my lifetime.

If I were to bite you, you would become one of us, but you would only produce as much venom as I gave you with which to create servants of your own. Split it among two servants, and they would be only half your strength. Every generation gets weaker and weaker, and it won’t be long until every member of our race is utterly sterile.”

“I saw your children out in the prison. Are they not the result of your venom?”

“No, it is an ability that only I have. Born of my flesh, they are extensions of my will, but none of them even have their own venom. The ghouls you killed were the subordinates of one of my allies, each one a loss of precious venom and technical ability. Their lives were irreplaceable to our cause.”

“But is that not the point of the parasites? To replace them and replenish your ranks?”

“Their master, Curcio, discovered an Enochian facility where they experimented and created new forms of life, and used their magical technology to try to clone us. The parasites were the end result; sickly, feeble creatures with defective venom, but every day, improvements are being made. Once they have been perfected and their venom reaches permanence, we’ll be able to mass-produce full-powered Profane.”

“And I imagine world domination will be your next goal?”

Carthace once more dropped onto the web, bringing her face close to Noah’s with a maniacal grin. “I and my brethren have been preparing for exactly that. The nations of man, elf, and dwarf will crumble, and the armies of darkness will march across the globe, ending and corrupting all life. Somerset’s dream will come to fruition at long last, and this world will drown in blood and darkness!”

She then reached out and cupped his cheeks. “Our leader said that you will either join us or die. You refused Tysinger and ruined my prison, so I see no reason to extend the offer again. You’re going to die in my clutches, slowly and painfully. A shame, really, but at the very least, I’m sure you’ll be delicious.” She then perked up, sensing something through her web. “Ah, your friends have entered the palace. Soon, the fun will begin.”

“Then before they arrive, may I make one last request? I want you to lie to them for me.”

“Oh really? You want me to tell them that you fought to the very end, brave and heroic?”

“Not quite. I want you to say that you decided to let me go, if I could satisfy you.”

“Satisfy me?” she asked in confusion.

“You know, the way a man satisfies a woman?”

Her face contorted from shock. “What in the world is wrong with you?! Surely, you must be joking!”

“No, you’re supposed to be joking, that’s the point. You don’t have to mean it, just say it, say it’s your idea. You heard the stories about me, about my skill in the bedroom, and you want to know if they’re true. Then claim you’ve changed your mind and you’re just going to kill us.”

“And why would I go along with something so ridiculous?”

“Let’s just say that I lead an interesting love life, the nature of which my companions are at least partially aware of. If you present the scenario as I’ve described, I want to know how they’ll react. Will they realize it’s a bluff, or believe that this is just the kind of thing that normally happens to me? Think of it as helping perform a social experiment.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“The fact that my companions’ reactions will be absolutely priceless. You’re going to kill us anyway, so why not have some fun before you do?”

“You mean they can laugh at the hideous creature! You think this is the first time I’ve been the subject of a joke? Before I became a Profane, my life was spent being condemned and ridiculed for my appearance! Even among beastmen, I was considered a monster! Now nobody laughs, because I killed them all.”

“I would be asking this no matter what you looked like. Besides, you may be powerful, but you certainly don’t frighten me. Had we met under different circumstances, an exotic girl like you would be a gilded page in my book of lovers.”

Carthace was taken back by his boldness. “Such pretty words, and all to play a joke on your friends.”

Noah could hear fighting in the adjacent hallways. His experiment aside, he could implement his plan once Valia and Shannon arrived.


“My Lord!”

The two reached the chamber, finding Noah hanging in the web over their heads and discovering they had limited space to move. Threads were spread throughout the room, like security lasers protecting a museum’s treasure.

“So you two are the ones causing such a ruckus outside. At the very least, you’ll provide a delicious meal,” said Carthace, crawling along the ceiling with her long hair hanging down.

“Monster!” Shannon cursed before shooting an arrow up at the fiend. Carthace knocked it aside with the back of her hand, not even registering it as a threat.

“How rude. You break into my home, steal my possessions, and then attack me? I’ll have to teach you some manners, girl.”

“I’m here to save my tribe, to free my friends and family who were enslaved by the Profane!”

“So you threw your lot in with Uther. Surely, you see the contradiction.”

“Noah, are you all right?” Valia asked.

“I’m a little hung up at the moment. Worry about yourselves, she’s no pushover.”

“She should worry about me,” Valia cursed.

She crouched and then leapt straight up, shooting through the air like a rocket, courtesy of her magical strength. As she flew, she drew her sword, wrapped in mana, and used it to sever every thread around her. Carthace attacked in midair like a jumping spider, swinging her bladed legs with incredible strength. Valia managed to fend off most of the slashes, but the force of the blows knocked her back, and she was slammed against the wall, surviving only thanks to her steel body enhancement.

Valia jumped again, dodging several threads shooting towards her like striking snakes, but a line from Carthace wrapped around her ankle, and she was once more slammed into the wall. Before she could get back up, several more threads were thrown across her, forming a net that kept her pinned. She pulled against them with all her strength, but unlike ropes or chains that would snap from the force, the webbing stretched to absorb it, holding her like quicksand. Moreover, being wrapped in the webbing disrupted her magic, weakening her with each passing second.

Carthace closed in on Valia, crawling along the threads across the open space, but before she could deliver a finishing blow, an arrow shot past her face and struck the wall, releasing the payload in the glass sphere at the tip. Drops of acid splashed on Carthace, making her hiss in pain and turn her attention back to Shannon.

“Impudent brat!” Carthace hissed.

She sent a volley of threads raining down on Shannon, leaving no room for error. Shannon abandoned her bulky centaur form and returned to her humanoid body, proceeding to dodge the lines while countering with arrows. Carthace avoided each projectile, able to move through the air however she wished by climbing on threads. She could balance on them and swing around to spin and twist however she wanted, all while countering with her own attacks. Though Shannon put up a good fight, she was completely outmatched, and the numerous threads soon pinned her to the floor.

“And to think, Tysinger and the Pack supposedly had so much trouble against you three. How disappointing,” Carthace said as she lowered herself onto the web where Noah lay.

“We have our good days and bad days.”

“Perhaps there is still room for you to impress me.” Carthace put her hand on Noah’s chest. “I’ve heard stories about you, and I want to know if they’re true.”

Noah stifled a laugh. To think she was actually saying the lines. Hearing her, Valia’s eyes widened. “Oh no, no, no, no, no,” she muttered.

“I have the legendary Noah all to myself, so why not see if your bedroom skills are as good as they say?”

“BULLSHIT!” Valia then shouted, nearly making Noah choke on his sealed laughter. He had never heard Valia swear like that.

“Val, I think I’m in trouble here, and I could really use your support.”

“First Elisandra, then Shannon, and now this?! I want to know what devil is throwing all these women at you!”

“I’d sure like to know too. This is pretty far from how I was expecting my day to go.”

“After we get out of here, I’m putting a fucking chastity belt on you that not even the horniest gods can remove!”

“You might have to, because this is getting weird.” ‘Worth it, totally worth it,’ Noah thought, but all good things had to end. Now it was time to slay Carthace and get out there. Yet that thought was erased from his mind when Carthace leaned down and kissed him deeply. She wasn’t gentle with him; she went at it, sending her tongue down his throat while panting lustfully. This wasn’t part of the plan.

“Hold on a sec, what are you doing?” he asked through the kiss.

She leaned back, biting her lip with a smile. “After what you both have said, I can’t deny that I have grown rather curious.” She removed her dress, exposing her ample breasts; round, full, and beautiful. She then spread her leg-turned-pincers, flashing her human gate, glistening in anticipation. “Besides, forcing your lover to watch me have my way with you is really putting me in the mood.”

Noah wasn’t in any position to stop her; he could only lie there as she ripped open his shirt and began kissing and licking his chest. Her hand slid down and grasped his member. “Oh my, you really are hard. This is going to be a lot of fun.” He was about to speak, but she silenced him by smothering her face with his tits. She pulled his cock from its fabric prison and jacked him off while he sucked on her nipples.

Up above, Valia was rolling her eyes and groaning in annoyance, wondering if this was what the rest of their journey would be like; watching her lover getting laid. How had this become her life? Down below, Shannon was gazing with wide eyes and her mouth hanging open. Carthace’s webs had her glued where she was, but she leaned in all directions, trying to find a better angle to watch from.

Carthace was panting in bliss as Noah’s tongue massaged her nerve endings, as though sucking the malice out of her. She didn’t expect the sensations to be so powerful, the same with the feel of a rigid cock in her grip. The heat from his muscular rod sank into her hand and moved up her arm like she was lowered into a warm bath. His manly scent also affected her, sending shivers up her spine every time it penetrated her nose.

She moved down, staring at his member and the drop of precum oozing from the tip. This paused fight no longer mattered to her, nor did the destroyed prison or escaped captives. All that mattered was her desperate need to taste Noah’s manhood, to let it defile her mouth. She was a member of the Profane; morality, virtue, and decency were as unnatural to her as the sun. Though usually more reserved and private, a chance to satiate her repressed carnal desires had presented itself, and she was going to enjoy it without reservation or hesitance.

She ran her tongue up the shaft, feeling her mind cloud from lust, and swiftly took it into her throat. Her head bobbed as she sucked with gusto, finally releasing ages of pent-up sexual desire. Despite her sharp teeth, she avoided leaving any scrapes and had Noah sighing in bliss from her technique, encouraging her further. Valia and Shannon, along with watching, could hear the lewd slurping of suction forming and breaking, with Carthace loudly gagging as she choked herself with Noah’s cock.

Once she had fully savored his flavor, her lust had reached the point of no return, and she moved onto his lap. “Know that if you finish before I do, I swear, I’ll rip your heart out and eat it in front of you.”

She guided him in, whimpering as she reached the base. She began bouncing on his lap, using the springiness of the web to her advantage. She rolled her head back, moaning as she rode Noah like a mechanical bull, her breasts heaving with each rise and fall. Noah was enjoying it just as he was, feeling Carthace’s insides quiver around his cock, basting him in her arousal. Besides, she wasn’t the strangest creature he’d ever fucked. He just wished his hands were free so he could massage those beautiful tits and hold her waist.

After only a couple of minutes, Carthace stopped bouncing, crying out in euphoria as she climaxed. Noah wondered if she’d had enough, but the look in her eyes told him she wasn’t even close to done.

“Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. I could do a lot more if I wasn’t restrained like this. Or are you afraid of falling in love with me?”

“Fine, I’ll extend your leash a bit. Don’t disappoint me,” she purred as she snapped her fingers.

Noah felt a change move through the webbing, like its consistency had suddenly been altered. He was no longer trapped; the threads had released him shackles opening. The webbing around his hands loosened, and he pulled them off. The holes in his palms had stopped bleeding, though they ached horribly. Regardless, he’d just have to play through the pain. Even he couldn’t resist taking this further.

As Noah sat up, he pulled out of Carthace and sent his fingers up into her, vibrating his hand in a relentless barrage aimed at her G-spot. The intensity of his digits shocked Carthace so intensely that she reared back like a spooked horse and ended up falling on her back with her eight legs in the air. Noah carefully avoided the razor-sharp limbs and got on top of her. Straddling her arachnid abdomen, he leaned over and kissed her.

While their tongues swirled, he continued finger-blasting her, making her scream bloody murder as he pushed her over the threshold of madness. His arm was moving so fast that it was almost a blur, and over the sound of Carthace’s moans was the squelching of her womanhood on the cusp of an explosion. Finally, she arched her back as she released a jet of clear fluid from her pussy, while at the same time, her arachnid abdomen expelled webbing like a can of silly string.

Overhead, Valia couldn’t help but smirk and nod. She knew that scream, having heard it both from herself and Elisandra. Noah’s magic fingers could make any woman squirt like a fountain. She knew how frightfully intense those feelings were, what it was like to have her mind bleached by a world-shattering orgasm. Unfortunately, she was starting to get turned on. They were supposed to be fighting this she-beast, but at the moment, she didn’t object to watching Noah bend her to his will.

Below, Shannon was fighting with everything she had not to touch herself. Despite everything she had witnessed in the prison, all the tortured souls she had rescued, seeing Noah at work was twisting her in knots. After hearing and watching him make love to Valia so many times, she had been conditioned to react. More than that, seeing him pleasure someone else made her feel like her fantasies weren’t out of the question. She wanted her own turn. She wanted to experience it all.

With Carthace gasping for air and wiping away tears, Noah removed his fingers and moved down, only to make her moan once more as he displayed his oral skills. She was dripping wet from her last climax, and Noah drank up her arousal without reservation. She wrapped her pincers around his neck as though they were still normal legs and ran her fingers through his hair, all while her moans echoed through the chamber. Her breasts trembled with each shuddering breath, and her arachnid limbs clawed at invisible enemies.

After thoroughly savoring and memorizing Carthace’s womanly flavor, Noah returned his cock to its rightful place and thrust into her like a machine. Her lower body made it challenging to find a place to put his legs, but the springiness of the web worked to his advantage, letting him rise higher and drive deeper. The two took turns on top, rolling across the web with Carthace holding him tight. Due to her lower body, missionary and cowgirl were their only options, but Noah made it work. He even gave her spinneret some attention.

Finally, after making Carthace climax one last time, Noah released everything he had, pumping the fiend full of hot semen. She gasped for air and struggled to stand as Noah’s seed dribbled out of her pussy. “My, my, you really are something special. Tell you what, I’ll be willing to forgive your transgressions as long as you swear fealty to me. Become my slave, obey me, and you shall rule at my side when the Profane take over this world. There is so much more pleasure for us to enjoy.”

“Considering the situation, but that sounds like a pretty good deal. Spare my friends and I’m all yours.”

“Very well, I’m in a merciful mood.” Carthace extended her arms to him. “Come to me, my darling servant.”

Noah got to his feet and walked over to her, albeit on shaky steps atop the webbing, and the two shared a passionate kiss, which ended when Noah conjured a knife from his ring and slashed her throat. He had been trying to cut her head off, but his wounded hand barely had the strength to grip the blade.

Carthace staggered back, pouring blood and screaming in anger. “You bastard!”

“If it’s any consolation, what I said about you being a gilded page was true. I truly wish we could have met under different circumstances and gotten to know each other. However, I’m here on a mission, and I can’t let you continue what you’ve been doing.”

He then dropped down through a gap in the web and landed on the floor beside Shannon. He conjured a healing potion from his ring, pulled the cork out with his teeth, and drank it down, closing the holes in his palms and restoring his strength. He then tossed a scroll to Shannon, containing the alchemic formula he used in the generator room.

“Cast it!” Shannon stared at him, still stunned by everything she had just witnessed. “Shannon!”

“Oh, uh, sorry! Yes, My Lord! Molecular Deconstruction!”

She opened the scroll and channeled all of her mana into it. Her energy surged from the parchment and into the webbing wrapped around her, then continued through all the threads in the chamber, causing them to disintegrate. Valia was freed from her silken straightjacket and dropped to the floor, along with Noah’s weapons.

“Your dick is still out,” she said dryly.

“Cut me some slack, I was just violated by the Profane. I feel so dirty.”

“Uh-huh, sure. Shannon, how about you?”

Shannon was freed, but she had dropped to her knees, drained of all her mana. “I’ll… I’ll be fine, but the scroll turned to ash.”

“I’ll kill you all!” Carthace shrieked from high above their heads.

“If she didn’t mean it before, she sure means it now,” said Valia. “Get your gear, quick!”

As Noah went to retrieve his weapons and armor, Carthace clapped her hands together. “Silk Storm!” Countless balls of thread began shooting from her spinneret at high speed, unraveling as they flew. They ricocheted off every surface, losing none of their energy as though immune to the laws of physics. The silk would stick every time they hit something, but the ball would continue bouncing, creating a new web that quickly filled the room.

Noah had almost reached his sword when one of these ricocheting threads bounced off the floor at an angle and grazed his shoulder. That slight touch was all it took to lock him in place, stuck to the webbing like an insect. He conjured a knife from his ring and slashed at the thread, but despite his skill with a blade, it simply stuck to the web. Noah was forced to abandon his shirt and keep going.

Behind him, Valia grabbed the weakened Shannon and pulled her to the side, dodging the flying threads. With each passing second, these threads were taking up more and more space, and riding them like a rollercoaster on a track, Carthace swooped down and attacked with her razor-sharp legs. Valia pushed Shannon out of the way and fended off Carthace’s slashes, but the power and speed were beyond her expectations, and she received several cuts that broke through her armor and steel defenses.

“Lady Valia!” Shannon exclaimed, seeing her mentor stagger back in pain and blood loss. She raised her bow and launched an arrow at Carthace, but by swinging around on her web, she easily avoided it. As long as one of her legs touched a thread, the laws of gravity and inertia seemed to hold no sway.

Now armed and armored, Noah returned to Valia and Shannon as the elf downed a healing potion. The three were crouching to avoid the threads. “Are you all right?” he asked.

“Don’t worry, I’ve had worse,” Valia replied as her wounds closed.

“She’s coming back!” Shannon exclaimed.

Carthace once more dropped in on them, swinging all eight of her legs like a tornado of blades. Noah and Valia defended against the onslaught as best as they could, but they had little room to maneuver, and though they were able to block the Profane’s attacks, the force behind it pushed them back into the threads, leaving them stuck.

“Zodiac: Teez!” Valia cast. An aura of mana engulfed her glade, and with a flick of her wrist, she severed the threads binding her, then did the same for Noah. These threads could resist regular steel, but a mana-wrapped blade could cut them like a razor through yarn. “Zodiac: Avagath!”

Valia extended her field of awareness in all directions, and as the flying threads entered her reach, she’d reach out and sever them, creating an open space to keep the trio safe. Carthace once more swung down while slashing and stabbing with her legs. Noah attempted an invisible attack while using his clone as a decoy, but his attack was merely repelled by her swinging limbs, hitting with the force of a runaway car. It seemed like invisibility wouldn’t help him in this fight. It didn’t matter if he could avoid detection when she was too fast and too fortified to hit.

Carthage again swung down, and this time, Noah formed an illusory handgun and fired three rounds. The mana bullets hit their mark and made Carthace stagger in the air, distracted by her survival instinct screaming she had just been wounded, and in that brief window, Valia slashed her from shoulder to hip. The wound was deep, but far from fatal for a Profane of her caliber. She spun around and slashed with all her legs, wounding Valia and giving her an opening to climb back up out of reach to heal.

“You are all certainly skilled, I’ll give you that,” said Carthace. “However, no amount of skill can free you from my domain.” She again clapped her hands. “Web of Nightmares!”

Another bundle of threads shot from her spinneret, bouncing off the walls while leaving a trail like her previous attack. However, these threads smoldered with a black aura and didn’t flex or sway in the air. As they closed in on the trio, Valia moved to cut them, but the moment her blade met one of the threads, she cried out and was thrown back as if she had been electrocuted.

Several threads crazed Shannon’s back, making her scream in pain as deep cuts crisscrossed her flesh like she had been whipped, and Noah dropped to one knee as a thread slashed his leg. The sting hit him with unexpected force, making him feel like his soul had just been poisoned, except blood streamed from where he had been hit, and the affected tissue had turned black as if gangrene was already setting in.

Seeing her lover and protégé wounded, Valia’s patience, already frayed by pain, reached its limit, and anger took over. “Get back here!” she shouted, leaping towards Carthace like before.

She slashed at her neck with full killing intent, but Carthace had the advantage in the air and leaned back to avoid the slash. She countered with several swings of her own, and though Valia blocked them all, Carthace turned around and aimed her spinneret at the elf, then shot her with another barrage of glowing threads, stabbing and slashing her like a wall of spears and knocking her back down to the ground. She landed on the floor beside Noah, narrowly sticking the landing but hemorrhaging blood from her numerous wounds.

“In all my years, I’ve never fought an opponent like this before,” Valia panted before drinking a potion. “Her movements and technique are out of this world. I can’t get a read on her.”

“She’s like Tysinger, but with eight swords instead of one. She also has the home-field advantage, but I know how to turn it against her. Can you throw me straight up and then catch me?”

“I hope you know what you’re doing.” Valia held out her clasped hands, giving Noah a leg-up, and then launched him towards the ceiling.

“Die!” Carthace shrieked as she zoomed towards him on her webs.

Noah conjured a scroll and unrolled it. “Molecular Construction!” The spell activated, but there was nothing to show for it, no flash of light or dramatic effect. However, just as Carthace was about to strike him, she stumbled and missed her mark. Noah fell back down, and Valia caught him.

“What did you— oh!”

“What is that smell?!” Shannon exclaimed.

“Ammonia, made by combining hydrogen and nitrogen. Normally I need a source of water, but here in this enclosed chamber, I can make due with just the moisture in the air. Speaking of which, ammonia is lighter than air, meaning it’s all rising towards the ceiling. As bad as it is down here, it’s infinitely worse for her up there.”

Over their heads, Carthace was struggling to find clean air. In actuality, she was breathing in Noah’s mana, imitating ammonia, but it was enough to deceive her senses, and just like the monster repellent Noah used earlier, the pungent stink was overpowering her and sapping her strength. Noah stepped up his attack and began bombarding her with flashbangs. Her eyes, which had not seen sunlight in centuries, felt like they were melting in their sockets from the blinding radiance, and the deafening clap bounced off the walls and hit her again and again like a slap to the face.

With three of her senses completely overwhelmed, Carthace lost her hold on the webs and began to fall. She flailed her legs, trying to find a single thread she could latch onto, but couldn’t focus enough to hold on. No longer able to dodge, she was an easy target for Shannon, launching arrow after arrow. Carthace hit the ground with enough force to kill an average person, but her Profane body was too powerful to be broken by something so simple. Still, several arrows were lodged in her abdomen, and she had multiple chemical burns caused by acid splashes.

“Don’t give her time to heal!” Valia shouted as she led the charge.

She and Noah attacked Carthace from opposite directions while Shannon rained arrows, putting their foe on defense. Carthace fended them off with her limbs as best as she could while still trying to recover from Noah’s sensory barrage. Left distracted, there was no way she could fend off all three, and Noah and Valia’s swords left their marks. Again and again, their blades gouged her flesh and spilled her black blood, but her wounds were healing almost as fast as they were inflicted.

Soon enough, Carthace steadied her senses and went on the offensive, becoming a spinning wrecking ball of blades. The trio kept their distance, unable to get past her killing range, until Noah formed an illusory shotgun and blasted Carthace. The mana buckshot threw her off her balance and broke her rhythm, allowing Valia to get behind her and drive her sword into the center of her arachnid abdomen. Despite her raised pain tolerance, the wound left her screaming in agony, and Noah closed in for a stab.

She raised her hand to block, and his sword pierced her right arm and buried itself in her throat. Before she could retaliate, Shannon planted an arrow between her ribs. Gripped by pain and fury, Carthace jumped straight up, freeing herself of the trio and wrenching their swords out of her body. “To me, my children!”

The sound of scuttling legs reached the trio as an army of spiders appeared, crawling out of holes in the walls. They began launching silk threads, trying to fill the room once more with webbing, but their attacks were falling flat due to the illusory ammonia in the air assaulting their senses. Those lower to the ground were having better luck, but Valia, retrieving her sword, managed to fend off the threads with her cutting enhancement. Holding an illusory machine gun in each hand, Noah fired off storms of phantasmal bullets in all directions, stunning the spiders long enough for Shannon to dispatch them.

Watching them fight, Carthace realized that victory was slipping from her gasp. She had to escape and find a place to hide until nightfall. She rushed towards the exit, but moving at super speed, Valia cut her off. “You’re not going anywhere.”

“Elf bitch!”

Carthace tried to force her way past Valia with a flurry of slashes, but Valia blocked them all. “You had me for a loop at first, I’ll give you that, but after fighting you for so long, I’ve wised up to your patterns. There is a reason why I’m called the Sword Goddess.”

She pushed Carthace back towards Noah and Shannon, who attacked her from all sides. Slash, stab, hack, their blades tore through her defenses, and try as she might to fend them off, not even eight legs was enough to turn the tide of battle. Finally, Valia inflicted the deciding blow. Zooming by like a bullet, she clipped Carthace across the waist with her sword, separating her upper and lower body. Carthace fell to the ground, with her arachnid extension writhing aimlessly before all eight legs curled up like a fist.

Shannon stood over her, holding her sword to the woman’s throat. “With this, my people are free. All that’s left is to finish you off. I’ll rejoin my kin, and the horse tribe will once more gallop across these lands, unburdened by your evil.”

At her words, Carthace began to laugh. “The horse tribe? Oh, you poor baby. The horse tribe is long dead.”

“What?” Shannon gasped as the blood drained from her face.

“How long do you think we hold prisoners before we give them parasites? We had been stalled recently and become engorged with test subjects, but normally, their fate is decided within the first few days of arriving. If they bond with it, they become one of us, forever a servant to the Profane. Most, however, react badly, and they become food for those who survived. Your friends and family went mad in the pit and devoured each other! Their remains were ground up and used to feed the growing parasites!”

“You lie! That can’t be true!” Shannon tearfully screamed.

“Shannon, I saw it,” Noah said softly. “I saw how the parasites are raised, what they are fed. I saw how they’re attached to their hosts and what it makes them do.”

“The few of your tribe that survived the process are now part of the Pack! They’re roaming the countryside, slaughtering, enslaving, and devouring any poor soul that crosses their path, all for the glory of the Profane! Even if you find them, there is no turning them back, no undoing what’s been done to them and what they have done to others! Your tribe was doomed the moment those chains were put on them!”

Shannon dropped her sword and staggered back. “No, no, no, no, no, no!” she cried with her hands over her face. Valia rushed over and held her, trying to offer comfort.

Carthace watched her crumble and crackled gleefully as Noah approached. Despite seeing the sword in his hand, she grinned wickedly. “Hello, lover,” she said, her final words before Noah separated her head from her shoulders. Throughout the room, all the spiders curled up and died. The battle was over, but could it be called a victory?

“Valia, get Shannon out of here. She needs fresh air, and the freed prisoners outside need guidance and organization.

“What about you?”

“I still have a few things to take care of down here. It may take some time, but don’t worry about me.” Valia led Shannon away, leaving Noah to his own devices. Once they were gone, he crouched down beside Carthace’s severed head. “Ah, you really were beautiful,” he said, brushing aside a lock of her hair.

He then conjured a syringe from his ring and stabbed her through the eye, driving the needle into the center of her brain. He pulled back the plunger, filling it with black liquid. Pure Profane venom, as fresh as it gets. It was such a powerful substance, he was sure he could find a use for it. He then pulled out a rolled cloth and opened it up to reveal several surgical tools, including scalpels, forceps, a bone saw, and other devices for dismantling bodies. He went to work on Carthace’s corpse, harvesting valuable materials. This was a better haul than the wyverns he butchered on Kisara Island.

After he had collected everything of use from her, he set off to scour the palace for any intel on the Profane, anything that might offer insight on their path towards world domination. He also helped himself to various tools and pieces of magical tech that he could use for his own creations.

He finally stepped outside and took a moment to enjoy the sunlight before turning to the next problem. The barren lands surrounding the destroyed prison were filled with liberated captives, all wounded, hungry, and searching desperately for their friends and loved ones. They were free, but the fight for survival had only just begun. They had nothing but the dirty, shredded clothes on their backs, and they were in the heart of autumn.

Looking around, Noah found Shannon sitting on a boulder. She was no longer crying, as her red eyes and puffy face told him she had run out of tears. “Your wounds look pretty bad. Drink this,” he said, giving her a potion. She received the bottle with stiff fingers, but didn’t open it. Noah conjured his green cloak and wrapped it around her, then sat down.

“Right now, I’m supposed to be telling you that everything is going to be all right, that you’ll survive this and you aren’t alone, but I’m not going to do that. You don’t have to be strong or hopeful. Go ahead and give in to despair, be as miserable as you want. Unclench your jaw, relax your shoulders, and just let it all wash over you. If you want me to comfort or cheer you up, I will. If you want to wallow and feel sorry for yourself, you go right on ahead. Right now, the only thing that matters in the world is how you feel and how much it hurts.”

Shannon collapsed like a felled tree, resting her head on Noah’s lap while staring off into the distance. Noah sat with her and stroked her hair, listening to her intermittent sniffles and weeping.

The trio spent two days trying to help the freed prisoners. Keeping enough fires burning through the night was a herculean task. They scavenged what they could from the prison—weapons, armor, clothes, provisions, but most would rather sit in the wind rather than take shelter in that stony hell. On the third day, the various tribes and clans, each decimated by the Profane’s experiments, went their separate ways.

The nomad groups had cultivated food highways across the countryside, and once they found their ancestral paths, they could begin to rebuild. The other groups, farmers and hunters, set off to rebuild their destroyed villages or find new ones to call home. The Pack had left plenty of ghost towns scattered across the land. Noah gave each group alchemically crafted gems to barter for resources.

Though he didn’t say it, Noah half-expected Shannon to join one of the nomad tribes. They weren’t her kin, but they lived the same lifestyle she was used to. Instead, she remained by his side, but without her usual bright eyes and smile. She was silent and despondent, clinging to him like his shadow. Often, he would feel her tugging on his shirt, afraid of letting him go.

After the freed prisoners departed, Noah returned to the generator room in the prison and made some alterations to the machinery. He typed in the final calculations, then pulled the activation lever and stepped back. Runes lit up throughout the room, and energy bolts filled the air, but an alarm was ringing, unlike before. The generator was compiling a massive reservoir of power, but it wasn’t going anywhere. It was just building, reaching ever closer toward critical mass.

With his job done, Noah turned and fled the palace as fast as he could, hearing the alarms ringing behind him. He got outside and kept sprinting, wanting to get as far away from the facility as possible. Finally, the generator exploded, sending a wave of power surging through the palace and shooting out into the sky like an erupting volcano. The force of the explosion shattered the underground architecture and fractured the bedrock, causing a complete collapse of the entire structure.

Boulders fell from the ceiling in the parasite nursery, rupturing the tanks and killing the beasts as gravity sought to fill the open space. On the surface, buildings were crumbling as the ground fell out from under them, and Noah narrowly escaped through the front gate before the entire facility collapsed in on itself. Never again would the Profane be able to use this place. All the technology and resources vital to their operation were destroyed and buried, forever out of reach, yet that couldn’t undo the damage that had been done.

The trio now began their journey back to Welindar, but without the hurried pace they had used before. Noah still rode on Shannon’s back, but she no longer had it in her heart to gallop. Days passed, and she barely spoke a word.

They made camp on a brisk evening, wanting to build their shelter before the storm clouds overhead released their payload. They combined their tents to keep the rain out and huddled together as the cool drops pelted the mylar. They had bedrolls and blankets to keep warm, but Shannon, lying unresponsive, seemed to suck up all the heat. Valia lay beside her, holding her close.

“I know what it feels like to lose everything. A long time ago, I lived on the island of the dark elves. Our tribe was peaceful, ignored by the outside world and blessed with the bounty of the sea. I remember my mother used to make this delicious bowl of shrimp, rice, and coconut milk, the perfect meal after a day of swimming. I learned how to swim before I learned how to walk.” Valia chuckled from the nostalgia, then paused before she continued.

“Then, one day, we noticed a dark cloud on the horizon, growing ever larger, coming from the mountain on a neighboring island. My brother and I sailed out to investigate. I still remember the sight of that great pillar of smoke rising from its peak, painting the sky black. Rivers of molten rock were pouring down its sides like a weeping cyst and putting out clouds of steam as they reached the sea. We kept a safe distance, or we thought we had.”

Noah sat beside them, listening to the story.

“The eruption had just about peaked when a deafening explosion went off. I swear, I felt my bones rattle from the intensity and thought the world was ending. The shockwave was so intense that it tossed our boat into the air and shattered it into pieces. My brother and I fell into the water, disoriented and racked with pain, seeing lightning crackling in the black clouds overhead. We surfaced and clung to whatever debris we could find. We looked back to the mountain just in time to see it split in two, fractured by the eruption. Half of the mountain slid into the sea, creating a wave like no other, threatening to pulverize us.

By combining our powers, my brother and I narrowly managed to survive its passing, but the wave didn’t simply fade away into nothing. It crossed the open sea and washed over our home. My brother and I swam back to our island, hoping against hope for survivors, but when we got there… everything was gone. The wave had swept the island clean like a giant broom, leaving barely a single tree standing. We couldn’t even bury anyone. My parents, my friends, my home, it was all erased. All I had left was my brother, and the two of us cried harder than ever in our lives.

I didn’t think I could endure the pain of losing everyone. My heart felt so broken; I couldn’t believe it was somehow still beating. But all that happened a long time ago, and I’m still here after a lifetime of adventures because I wasn’t alone, and neither are you. I know how much it hurts to lose everything, and I know how hard it is to come back from it, but I also know you are strong. Noah?”

Noah paused. “A lot time ago, I was living in a small village with my wife and our three kids. I was a farmer. It was peaceful, a lovely place, until a gang of marauders rode into town and attacked us. The other men and I fought as best as we could, but I got shot in the hip, gut, and shoulder, left barely able to move. The marauders tied up all the children, then built a bonfire in the center of town and tossed them into the flames. You cannot imagine the sound babies make when thrown onto a fire, the way they scream.

We men were strung up, left the suffocate, while the marauders took turns with the women. I spent my final moments kicking at the end of a rope, watching my wife getting gang-raped beside the bonfire where our children were burned alive. Yeah, I know what it’s like to have your heart gouged out and everything taken from you.”

It was silent in the tent for several moments, with neither Valia nor Shannon knowing how to respond. Valia had expected him to say something encouraging, or at least tell a less horrific story.

“Your brother, he’s the one you’re trying to find, right?” Shannon whispered, sounding like she was dying of thirst.

“Yes, that’s right. A magic experiment broke his spirit and drove him mad, and for a while, I thought I was going to face the endless ages of time with no one at my side. But then Noah came along and is helping me track him down and return him to the man he once was. I’m not alone, because Noah was there for me, and you aren’t alone, because we are here for you.”

“But you’re just going to leave me and go back to Sylphtoria. You said it yourself, eventually we’ll all have to go our separate ways, and when that happens, who will be there for me?”

Noah lay down beside her and caressed her cheek. “We don’t know what the future will bring or where our paths might lead us. The day may come when you find your purpose in life and decide that where we’re going isn’t where you’re supposed to go. You’ll turn to us and say, “I’m staying,” “these people need me,” “there is good I can do here,” or “I think I’ve found where I belong.” Going our separate ways doesn’t mean being abandoned; it means finding the place we’re supposed to be and having the strength to walk our own paths. But until such a time comes, you’re with us, and we’re with you, and that’s all that matters.”

“We’re taking you with us to see the world, what lies on the other side of the horizon,” Valia murmured. “Your old life may be over, but you have a new life with us. You’ll see and experience things you never dreamed of, and learn who you are and what you’re capable of, and we’ll be beside you every step of the way.”

Finally, Shannon smiled, and a lone tear of joy fell from her eye. “My Lord, My Lady, thank you. I want to serve you always.”

Noah moved closer, sandwiching Shannon between him and Valia, and the three fell asleep, with the storm outside unable to interrupt their serenity. Shannon was in much better spirits in the following days. Though she still mourned her lost tribe, the tragedy was somewhat liberating. Now, she could devote herself entirely to Noah and Valia. The only future that mattered was her future with them, and her loyalty did not go unnoticed.

“I think it’s time to let Shannon into the fold,” said Valia, and she and Noah prepared breakfast. Usually, Shannon would insist on doing such things as a proper servant, but Noah’s cooking trounced her pride. She was busy fetching water, giving them a chance to talk.

“How do you mean?” he asked.

“You know how I mean.”

“I do, but I want to hear you say it.”

Valia sighed but with a smile. “It doesn’t seem right to tell her she’s with us, but to keep her at arm’s length, especially when we know how she feels. I think she deserves… intimate comfort.”

“Sounds like you’re whoring me out,” Noah teased.

“I’ve decided I don’t mind sharing you with Shannon, she certainly is eager for it.”

“And how do you think Elisandra will feel when we return to Sylphtoria with Shannon?”

“When we explain it to Elisandra, I’ll take all responsibility. If she doesn’t accept her as your concubine, well, like I said before, Valon will most certainly be banned from ever returning to Sylphtoria, and I’ll have to remain with him in exile, in which case, I’ll take Shannon with me. Besides, after watching you give it to that spider woman, I’m going to stop pretending that ours is a normal relationship. If history has shown us anything, it’s that women are going to keep falling into your lap. I’m not going to waste energy fighting it, but I do want to implement some rules.”

“I’m listening.”

Valia got to her feet and stood over him, leaning forward. “First rule: I’m at the top, and Elisandra is a very close second. Any conniving witch that tries to usurp us is getting put in the ground. Shannon knows her place, I like that.”

“It’s strangely arousing hearing you talk like that.”

“Second rule: You’re not allowed to actively seduce or pursue anyone. If nature takes its course, so be it, but I don’t want to see you giving it a nudge.”

“Stay on the receiving end, got it.”

“Third rule: for Elisandra and your child’s sake, you can’t get anyone pregnant. You can’t leave an army of unwed mothers scattered across the country, each one waiting for you to come home and take responsibility, and I’ll take drastic measures to make sure that doesn’t happen. Are we clear?”

“You make me sound like a cheating deadbeat, but yes, we’re clear.”

“Wonderful! I predict the three of us are going to have a lot of fun together.”

After eating breakfast, they resumed their journey. The weather was superb, one last flash of warmth making the trio sweat. Around midday, they slowed to cross a babbling brook. “Oh, the water is nice,” said Shannon, splashing through the creek. It was shallow and slow-flowing, letting the sun heat it to a decent temperature.

“Really? Let’s stop then,” said Valia. “I think we could all use a chance to bathe. Noah, you still have that spider woman’s scent on you.”

“Agreed. I’m pretty ripe.”

He and Valia dismounted, and Shannon’s eyes widened as they removed their clothes.

“Shannon, come on, join us,” said Valia, standing nude before her.

“Are you sure?” she asked nervously, switching from her centaur form to her humanoid form.

“It’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Besides, you said you want to serve Noah with your body. Let him enjoy the view.”

Valia’s words left Shannon shaking from head to toe. Was this really happening? Was Valia giving her the all-clear to act on her burning desires? She had resigned herself to the role of the platonic servant, but it seemed her loyalty was to be rewarded. Still, the idea of undressing left her nervous. She couldn’t hope to compare to an elvish beauty like Valia. However, their smiles encouraged her. She slowly removed her dress and undergarments, standing nude before them. She had modest breasts and a slender figure, but was a feast for the eyes.

“See, you’re beautiful. Noah, don’t you agree?” Valia asked, standing behind her, with her ample endowment pressed against Shannon’s back.

Noah approached confidently, with Shannon blushing like a hot ember and her tail swishing excitedly. “Yeah, very nice,” he said as he cupped a warm breast, causing a nervous squeal to slip free.

Noah and Valia returned to the creek to allow Shannon to process everything. If they moved too far too fast, she seemed like she’d faint. Noah pulled out some soap, and the three went to work cleansing themselves of the filth of battle and travel. Though far from a hot bath, the water was pleasant, and they enjoyed the peace. Shannon found it difficult to focus her gaze anywhere but Noah and Valia’s naked bodies. She kneeled in the stream, trying to control her thoughts and emotions, and at that moment, Valia snuck up on her.

“My Lady!” she exclaimed in shock, with Valia holding her arms.

“I recall you saying that you wanted to try serving Noah with your mouth. How about we give that a try? Noah?” He appeared and stood over Shannon, letting his erect cock cast its shadow across her awed face. “Well? Go ahead and show your devotion,” Valia purred.

It took Shannon a moment to gather her courage, and then she obediently opened her mouth and swallowed Noah’s member. Despite cleaning himself in the stream, all the soap and creek water in the world couldn’t remove the manly flavor filling Shannon’s senses. The feeling of her virgin mouth being dirtied by her lord’s member was like a sweet drug, instigating her further. She began bobbing her head back and forth, sucking greedily on Noah’s cock the way she always saw Valia do it.

“That’s it, good girl,” Noah hummed, resting his hand on her head.

His praise made her ears twitch, and she doubled her efforts to please him. Receiving head from a skilled companion like Valia was always wonderful, but there was something to be said about a first-timer. Shannon’s inexperienced movements, adorable attempts to prove herself, and innocence fading with every drop of saliva falling from her lip tickled Noah’s sense of conquest. He wanted to further dominate her soft mouth, to dirty it forever and mark it as his property.

Beside them, Valia observed Shannon’s sophomoric efforts while biting her lip. She never paid much attention to it when they were with Elisandra, but watching Noah with other women aroused her in a way she couldn’t describe. The idea of sitting on the sidelines and playing spectator used to offend her, but she found she loved a good show once it started. She wasn’t without jealousy, but that jealousy fueled the fire of her lust. If she was going to watch these women fool around with her man, she wanted to see them get thoroughly dominated, and the sweet, innocent Shannon was no exception.

“Don’t you dare go easy on her. She needs this,” she growled.

Noah obliged, grabbing Shannon by the sides of her head and shoving his cock deep into her throat. The sudden force made her jerk in response, and her instincts told her to escape, but Valia held her still. Noah skull-fucked her without mercy, hollowing out her throat to become his private toy. Shannon let him have his way with her, regardless of how rough he was. If anything, the power of his thrusts encouraged her. If she could not endure his lust, she was a failure as a servant. Tears streamed from her rolled-back eyes, and saliva dribbled onto her breasts as Noah had his way with her, and she loved every moment of it.

He eventually stopped so they could both catch their breath, pulling out of her and leaving her gasping for air, with several threads of saliva stretching from his pulsing cock to her mouth. “My Lord,” she panted, “am I still a good girl?”

“You’re perfect, Shannon.” Then he shoved his cock back in her mouth and continued brutalizing her for their shared pleasure. After a couple minutes, he spoke again. “I’m about to cum. You know what that means, right? I want you to catch it all in your mouth. Don’t spill a drop, and don’t swallow until I tell you to, understand?”

There was no way to answer him; she simply let his member rampage in her throat until he finally stopped, and she felt semen fill her mouth. He pulled out of her and lifted her chin. “Show me.” She opened her mouth, letting him see the white pool. “Good, now swallow it.” After what he had just inflicted on her, the muscles in her throat were exhausted, and the sticky, viscous fluid didn’t go down easy, but she managed to consume it all and then opened her mouth, showing she had obeyed him.

“Thank you for the gift, My Lord.”

“From now on, every time I finish in your mouth, we do that routine. Remember, you can’t spill a single drop, and you aren’t allowed to swallow without my permission. Got it?”

“Yes, My Lord. I’ll do whatever you want me to. Use me however you see fit.”

“Good. For now, we’ll just focus on training your oral skills. I’ll teach you everything else later. Until then, Valia, I think you’re overdo for some attention.”

Valia stood up with a smile. “I worried you had forgotten about me.”

“Never. Shannon, would you mind helping me get ready?”

She eyed his member, now flaccid after his release, and nodded happily. “Of course, My Lord.” She once more began servicing him, trying to build him back up to full mast. She loved the sensation of it slowly growing in her mouth, for it was proof of her efforts bearing fruit. As she worked, Noah and Valia shared a long, sloppy kiss while Noah stirred his fingers between her legs, finding her already soaked in anticipation.

Once Noah had regained his erection, Valia led him over to a boulder, where she laid back and spread her legs. Noah took her with all the strength and passion she was used to, fucking Valia vigorously and leaving her incapable of controlling her voice. Shannon kneeled beside them, awaiting the chance to serve her lord while enjoying the view. Valia’s magnificent breasts heaving with each thrust was an alluring sight, and Noah’s deep grunts and focused breathing sounded like a ferocious animal smashing its way out of a cage, making Shannon feel so small compared to him, so vulnerable.

Soon, she would be on the receiving end, having her body rocked its core as Noah dominated and subjected her to his explosive libido. Watching the way ripples moved through Valia’s flesh from his thrusts, hearing how she moaned, smelling her arousal mark Noah like perfume, the envy and anticipation drove her wild, but she had to be patient.

In time, Noah stopped and pulled out of Valia, leaving his seed dripping out of her. Shannon quickly closed in, returning Noah’s deflated member to her mouth. The taste of his manly seed and Valia’s elf nectar filled her senses, both salty and sweet. She thoroughly cleaned him, leaving not a bead of cum behind. She eventually released him, again gasping for air.

“Hold on, your job isn’t done yet,” Noah said. He spread Valia’s legs, flashing the creampie he had left behind. “I told you, you can’t waste a single drop, right? Valia?”

“Go ahead.”

Shannon didn’t say anything; she simply buried her face between Valia’s legs and went to town on her. Valia rolled her head back and panted as Shannon ate her out like she was starving. Her cunnilingus skills paled compared to Noah’s, but an inexperienced girl was special in her own way. After a couple minutes, Shannon pulled back, her face sticky with her lord and lady’s sinful essence.

“Did I do a good job?” she panted.

With warm smiles, Noah and Valia rested their hands on her shoulders. “You were wonderful. I’m glad to have you with us,” said Noah, making Shannon smile.


Once again, the leaders of the Profane gathered, and this time, Curcio was on time. If anything, he and Tysinger were early.

“Is it true? Has Carthace been slain?” he asked, standing among the smoke effigies of his compatriots.

“We have been unable to collect her remains, but her prison has been left in ruins. Not a single thread of webbing has been found,” said Scyler. “From our reports, a dark elf was witnessed slaying her troops and freeing the prisoners.”

“Valia Zodiac, which means the Wandering Spirit was there as well,” said Tysinger.

“They’re well beyond being a mere thorn in our side. They’ve completely upended our invasion plan,” said the white-haired female ghoul.

“They’ve only postponed it. I was promised an army that would level Uther, and I will not be detoured by excuses.” The icy words came from a man at the end of the room, conjured from smoke from the others. He was the only non-Profane among them, a man with long hair and a scar over his eye.

“You would do well to remember who you are talking to, Liege. Your money can’t buy power. It can’t make you any less of a fragile sack of meat,” the split-jawed ghoul warned.

“Is that not what I’ve been doing all this time? Funding your operation? Supplying your labs? The venom in your pawns’ veins might as well be melted gold from my coffers. But if you can’t protect your assets or deliver on your promises, perhaps I should look elsewhere.”

“Let us not say anything we may regret,” said the succubus.

“Calm yourself, Liege,” said Curcio. “You’ll get your army, we’ll just have to “look elsewhere,” as you say. I’m on the verge of creating a new breed of parasites, one that will make recruiting in large numbers much easier. It will simply take a little preparation. One thing that will be required is control over Welindar.”

“Finally,” a deep voice growled.

In stepped a towering beastman, wielding a vast arsenal of honed muscles. His absent shirt showed the numerous scars that adorned him from past battles, and how he carried himself spoke of a long trail of victories. He was partially-transformed, with rounded feline ears high on his head and a striped tail swishing behind him. He had white hair and an ambitious gleam in his eyes.

“The Wandering Spirit and the prince have made a mess of Welindar in my absence, no thanks to those defective parasites. It seems I must show the people the natural order of things and remind them that only the mighty are fit to rule.”

“You would do well not to mock my work, Kaisen,” Curcio grumbled.

“Tch, I agreed to help you under the condition that I would receive a perfected parasite, free of flaws, to help me reach the pinnacle of strength. So far, all I’ve seen are ugly beasts that can do little more than squash small fry. One of your upper-rank is dead, her fortress reduced to dust, killed by the man who escaped your clutches before. Perhaps the Liege is correct, and he and I should look for new partners. Even the Wandering Spirit turned you down because he knew a bad deal when he saw one.”

Moving with inhuman speed, Tysinger drew his sword and swung at Kaisen, only for the beastman to catch the blade. His hand was wrapped in mana like a thick glove, protecting his palm and forming scythe-like apparitions extending from his talons.

“Ha! Trying to cut my head off? The Profane truly are a disappointment if that’s the best you could do.”

“What makes you think I want to cut your head off? Then you can’t suffer.” Tysinger then leaned forward, pushing with seemingly little effort, and Kaisen’s smirk withered as his own strength failed to hold him back. The serrations on Tysinger’s sword cut his palm, and as his blood touched the metal, the blade came alight with crimson mana, burning like flames. “You are little more than arrogant child pretending to be an adult, a foolish beast who thinks that because he stands at the top of a small hill, he rules the world.”

“That’s enough, Tysinger. You’ve made your point,” said Scyler.

“As you wish,” Tysinger replied, sheathing his sword. Kaisen looked at his palm and the blood streaming from the wound.

The tall, lanky ghoul laughed mockingly with his raspy voice. “If you believe yourself to be so powerful, prove it. Conquer Welindar before the Wandering Spirit returns. Try providing results instead of just demanding them.”

“Very well, I will devour the prince like a deer and the people will bow to their rightful king. I’ll make the entire city into my throne.”
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