The Windsar Adventures Part 5: Ogre Battle

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5 of Windsar To the rescue! Sheru, Flintclaw, Luna, Harvas, and Tornan plan out their assault on the orcish camp, determined to conquer or perish. But will they get there in time?

Also, sorry for the dearth of pure sex in this one. I will make up for it in the next chapter, I promise.


The Windsar Adventures

Part 5: Ogre Battle

By Gideon Kalve Jarvis

The world of Therafim can be found online:

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Please note that all battles and other events are rolled out, creating an element of randomness to the flow of each story. The dice can be fickle, but so goes that gaming session. The rules used are drawn from the Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 games. I neglect to include character sheets mostly because I would prefer people not to laugh at my inept character building skills, and my occasional changes as the characters in question evolve in my mind.

Urgh...

Consciousness came back to Urla slowly, and it was not a welcome return in the least. The orcish woman's head felt as though she were wearing an adamantine helmet...and the dwarves who'd forged it were showing their displeasure for its theft through a constant hammering. Her eyes still slightly out of focus, her head hanging down, Urla blinked several times, trying to gather her thoughts as she stared down at her naked green breasts and even darker green nipples...and realized that she hadn't been naked, last she remembered. She certainly hadn't had a black-furred, wolflike face pressed against her naked skin, long, pink tongue lashing with slow, sensual ease over her bared breasts, making her moan softly in sleepy arousal, helping the pain in her head to quickly recede as her body focused on other, more pleasant sensations.

It was as a pair of firm, furry fingers gently stroked and then parted her big-lipped green labia, penetrating her with slow, sensual skill that Urla started to full awareness, baring her small lower canines as she cried out, her hips lifting, though whether to throw off her sexual assailant or to take him deeper in, she wasn't quite sure. She snarled like a wild boar in a trap as those fingers slipped out of her, regardless of her desires. If she'd been able, she might have done serious injury to the male that had dared to defile her like that, though whether it would be a result of battle or the ravishing she'd give him was, again, beyond her knowledge. As it was, however, she found herself bound with her back to the rough bark of a tree, wrists tied behind her back, ankles tied together, all to ensure that she didn't have a chance to escape.

"She's awake, Flintclaw," said the black-furred wolfen who'd been molesting Urla as she slept, giving the orc woman a happy grin, his wail wagging as he sat on his haunches by her side, not in the least ashamed of what he'd been doing. Urla gave the black-furred beastman a glare that she hoped would cause the wolfen to burst into flames. Since it failed to have this desired effect, she instead turned her attention to the towering, red-furred beast that had led the assault on her team.

If Urla had been 'into' males, she would probably have had her breath taken away for just a moment as her eyes played up the massive brute of a wolfen that stood before her. Though she'd fought wolfen before, Urla had never been to the northern reaches of Therafim, where she knew wolfen lived in their greatest numbers and strength. But she could tell, just by looking at the two wolfen nearby - an older one with grey fur, and the younger, black-furred one who'd been molesting her as she slept - that while they were bigger than the wolfen she'd killed in the past, they were nothing compared to this hulking god among mortals. He wasn't just big, either - he had presence. This male was a leader of males and a lover of females, a creature made to command and to be obeyed. Looking up at him, Urla knew immediately that this was a being meant to be loved or feared, a creature touched by the gods themselves. She had met only a few such beings, one or two of them orcs, and knew better than to count her continued survival as anything more than the luck of the gods themselves.

Next to the flame-furred wolfman stood the boyish-bodied, tan-skinned human girl Urla had taken prisoner with her squad. He had one huge paw wrapped around her waist, and while she was dressed in her breastplate and long, one piece tunic once more, her overlarge sword at her side, she looked as bashful as though she were still naked, squirming slightly in the grip of the commanding male, half-heartedly pushing against the side of his chest with her hands. The wolfen leader just grinned down at her and snugged her a little tighter against his side, before he looked to one side.

"So, what do you think, Sheru?" he asked, and Urla's head turned, catching sight of the gorgeous, blue-robed girl that had only recently been at the orc woman's mercy. "If you were lucky, you'd've ended up this greenskinned wench's sex slave. Unlucky, some chieftain woulda had a halfblood brat on each teat and a third in your belly. So...," he grinned toothily at Urla, and though Urla managed to glare back at him in defiance, she could feel her heart sinking, knowing she was doomed, "what should we do with her, now that it's her turn to be the spoils of war?"

Sheru, however, wasn't paying complete attention to the four companions standing around their bound prisoner. Instead, she was seated on her heels, frowning as she looked over the small pile of equipment, loot that Urla recognized as coming from her squad. Despite herself, Urla's eyes were drawn to the outline of the teenaged mage's perfect little bottom, clearly outlined through her robes, and immediately felt herself starting to grow moist between her legs (well, more moist than she already was, thanks to Blackfur), despite everything that she knew likely awaited her, or the eager eyes of the three male wolfen waiting to deal out justice upon her in the proper manner. Even the warrior girl, Luna, if Urla remembered right, seemed to know what was going to happen next, and she didn't seem to disapprove at all. For all Urla knew, the mocha-skinned teen would probably join in, and despite herself, the thought of her face being forced against the shiny-smooth pudenda of the girl wasn't at all unappealing. If what she'd heard about the wolfen love for using their tongues was true - and the black male's attentions to her hardened nipples were a testament that they likely were - this might not be so bad after all. Certainly nothing like an orcish gang-rape. Urla might even be allowed to eat out the bare pink twat of that gorgeous wizard...

"What is the normal thing to do, when you have taken a prisoner like her?" asked Sheru, not turning to look, instead focusing all but the bare minimum of her attention to the pile of orcish loot, a frown of concentration on her pretty face, partly shaded beneath her broad-brimmed wizard's hat. Urla realized that Sheru wasn't being at all facetious: she really had no idea what Urla's fate would be, by the commonly-accepted laws of savage combat.

"You wanna tell her?" said the red-furred alpha in Common, turning to look down at Urla with a smirk. "I can tell you're getting into the idea already. Healthy attitude, that. Makes it more fun for all of us."

"I am a spoil of battle," said Urla, taking her time to form the words correctly as she spoke, her head turned to face Sheru's back. "Like those trinkets in front of you. I have personally ravished more females than I have had springs of life, and almost as many males, violating them without letting them enjoy my female parts." She grinned proudly at this proof of her warrior's spirit. "Many she-wolfen have yelped like puppies beneath my phallus, or my fingers, or my tongue, saved from death at the arms of my comrades so that they could serve my lusts instead. I am a huthlar, and I would have eagerly made you squeal like a smooth, pink piglet." Then her expression turned sulky, rather than fearful or angry. "Now it is my turn to face what I have done to others. If I were given a choice, being taken by wolfen is better than by my own race. At least in this way, I will not have to fear a litter of brats." She grinned, then, turning to the black-fur. "And if these wolfen are as I have heard of their kind, it may not be so bad." She shrugged, turning back to Sheru, who was now turned to look at her, her expression one of shock. "It is the way of things for those that survive battle," Urla explained almost carelessly. "It is better than death, and I am strong enough to live through anything these males might put me through, as long as they do not intentionally try to kill me."

"A huthlar," said Sheru softly, frowning like a good student as she wracked the translation of the word from her brain. "A warrior maiden. An orc woman who forsakes her womanhood, and is instead treated like a male by all orcs."

"Most of the time," agreed Urla with a snort of laughter. "Sometimes males get randy and forget. So I break heads to remind them."

"But...but you mean that you've...and you expect us to...and we...," Sheru's eyes widened in comprehension as she looked to the naked, green-skinned female, and then to the expressions on the faces of her comrades, and then to Flintclaw. "No, that's just not acceptable." She rose to her full - and very unimposing - height, and marched over to Flintclaw, pointing at his nose with one finger of her small hand. "We are not going to rape our prisoners. It's inhumane!"

Flintclaw, who Urla surmised was the red-furred alpha wolfen Sheru was addressing, arched an eyebrow of his own.

"Look who you're talking to," he reminded her with a smirk, making Sheru flush in embarrassment at being caught making a speciesist remark...before his free hand went to his belt. "But I'll do it your way...for now."

Urla's body tensed as the wolfen drew a wickedly-barbed knife from his belt, and then flung it down at Urla. The blade sank into the earth between her legs, not far from where her ankles were tied. She almost immediately recognized it as her own, obviously taken as victory loot.

"You get a chance to escape now, orcwench," said Flintclaw as he turned his smirking face to Urla. "If you're still here when we get back, then you'll get what you deserve." His big paw around Luna's hip slipped beneath the loinflap of her tunic, and the teen gave a wide-eyed gasp as strong fingers gently squeezed the bare flesh of her toned bottom, easily gropable thanks to the skimpy thong beneath the girl's red-dyed leather loinskirts. "Bet Luna here'd enjoy mounting up with her first proper spoil of war, wouldn't you, Luna?"

Luna's cheeks turned a bright red at Flintclaw's lewd suggestion, and she looked down rather than answering or meeting either his eyes or those of her friend.

"Your orcfriends'll probably be in the thick of some heavy fighting soon," Flintclaw added, turning his attention back to Urla, even as he continued to casually stroke the smooth, tan flesh beneath Luna's long tunic, making the poor girl bite her lower lip, and making Urla very much wish she could see what was going on under that flap. "I recommend you go'n find somewhere else to be if you get free. Otherwise we might hafta kill you."

"No friends of mine," snorted Urla in derision. "Not even the ones you killed. Still," she shrugged, "they were a good team. I might have to kill you later for their deaths. It won't be personal, though."

"That's only fair," said Flintclaw with a chuckle, before he looked over at Sheru, who had stepped away from the others as soon as it was apparent Urla wasn't about to be raped, and was now doing her best to pay attention only to the scraps of armor and the weapons and other gear in the discarded pile that had once belonged to Urla's squad. "Looking for these?" he said, his free hand once again reaching out, this time, to the black-furred wolfen, who placed something onto the broad palm: the blonde girl's panties.

"Yes," said Sheru, turning, her bright green eyes lighting up at the sight of the pink silk undergarments, though she also blushed at seeing them in the paw of a male, obviously a fairly modest girl despite her present situation. "I'm glad you found them. Now, if you'll just..."

"Spoils of battle," Flintclaw said with a toothy grin, chuckling wickedly as Sheru approached, only to blink in surprise as he held the panties just out of her easy reach. "Besides, how do I know they're yours?"

"But...but they are!" said Sheru, obviously distressed by this turn of events, only to give a cute 'eep!' as Flintclaw lowered the paw holding her panties, bending slightly at the knees, and then slipped his furry fingers beneath the skirt of her robes. Sheru watched, wide-eyed with shock, as Flintclaw slowly lifted her robe, higher, and then higher still, first exposing her white leather riding boots, and then the smooth, bare skin starting at her knees. Just as even more was about to be revealed, Sheru reached down, pressing her hands, tiny by comparison, against Flintclaw's massive paw. Her eyes met his with a combination of fear and defiance: she knew he was stronger than her, but she wasn't going to let him push her around like some passive chattel.

For a long moment they stood like that, Sheru's wide, vibrant green eyes looking into the fiery blue ones of the wolfen alpha. And then Flintclaw's muzzle split in a wide grin before he laughed, his hand withdrawing, letting Sheru's skirts fall back into place.

"Take 'em," he said, holding out the undergarments, which Sheru quickly took before she stepped behind a nearby bush to tug them on once more, then returned to the group, looking flustered but determined to press on. "I've got your scent now anyway," he added as Sheru came back, the admission making the girl blush even more deeply than before. "Smooth and sweet, just like I know you must taste." He licked his chops, drawing out the motion to make Sheru squirm in embarrassment.

"We...we really ought to get going," Sheru said hurriedly, taking a firm grip on her gnarled staff. Flintclaw heaved a long, disappointed sigh, but then nodded.

"We'll do proper introductions while we walk," said Flintclaw, before the five new companions started off into the woods, soon vanishing from Urla's sight in the thick green vegetation of the Great Green, leaving the rest of the orcish gear behind.

Waiting a few minutes, making sure they were really gone and not simply taunting her, Urla sat, shivering slightly at the cool breeze on the bare green skin of her well-muscled body. Even her breasts weren't that big on account of the sheer amount of muscle she had, leaving her only just enough body fat to remain female, but not by much. She'd found this left less for stupid males to grope during a drinking binge, always a welcome relief. Finally, sure that she was indeed alone, Urla started to saw the ropes between her ankles against her knife, her legs very soon free once more. Of course, that left her wrists still bound, but Urla didn't hesitate for long, and quickly started to rasp her hands against the rough bark of the tree. It would take a lot of time and effort, but Urla had plenty of time, and her years of warrior's living meant she wouldn't get tired for hours, able to ignore the complaints of her body in even the harshest conditions.

"Maybe I won't kill you when we next meet," Urla muttered to herself as she worked, a small smile playing on her tusked features. "I've never had a male slave before. It might be fun."

*

"So that's why you still smell nice after being in the woods so long," said Luna with a giggle, while Sheru blushed furiously, having just admitted the real reason, outside of modesty, for why she wanted her panties back. "And why you never have to run to the bushes. I wish I had a pair that kept me clean all the time like that."

"It's something Nona made for all of my sisters in the Windsar Circle," Sheru explained, still blushing terribly. "She's the oldest of us, and she's sort of like our mother, since none of us have anyone else to call that, and she's often the one who does a lot of the laundry. She figured something like this would save her time and effort. It also keeps the rest of my clothes clean, not just my body, and, um," she flushed even deeper, looking down, "they can change appearance to suit the rest of my clothes."

"I'm more interested in that staff," said Flintclaw as they walked along, Luna and Sheru on Flintclaw's right side, Tornan in front, crouched on all-fours as the black-furred wolfen followed the scent of Luna's sister and her two friends, both Luna and Sheru occasionally risking glances at the young male's cute butt. Harvas hung in the back of the group, his spear out and ready for use, the older wolfen's ears shifting forth and back as he scanned the woods for possible ambushes from the rear. "You called it a Charles Staff, right? After this guy, your teacher, Charles Windsar." Flintclaw arched an eyebrow as he looked at Sheru seriously. "Much as I love talking about your panties, I wanna know what you can bring into a fight, Sheru. You didn't seem able to do a whole lot without it when you were up against those orcs."

"No," admitted Sheru, looking down. "I couldn't hold my staff very well while I was gathering fruit, and I didn't expect them to show up like that."

"Eh," said Flintclaw with a shrug. "It was one of those cub mistakes, from lack of experience. You're lucky you didn't end up dead, but hopefully you learned something that'll keep it from happening again."

Luna and Sheru both looked abashed at this, though Flintclaw's manner was dismissive, letting it blow over without too much confrontation. They had both indeed learned an important lesson.

"Yes," Sheru affirmed before continuing. "As for my Charles Staff, it was personally made by Charles Windsar, the greatest wizard in the world." Then her expression fell, causing Luna to reach over to stroke her friend's back, and even the boisterous Flintclaw looked solemn. "At least he was, until he was killed a few days ago. That's why I'm on this quest: to find my teacher's killer and avenge him. More than that, though: Master Charles was hunting for something, some great danger that threatens all of Therafim, and whatever he found is what brought his death. I have to continue his work. I'm sure it will bring me against his killers as well, but somehow I think completing his mission is more important. His staff allows me to use all the magic he knew, and it replaces my need for a spellbook; it was a sort of travelling spellbook for Master Charles, actually, and where he stored much of his magical knowledge for when he needed it fast - it doesn't have any of his magical power, though; just his knowledge. As long as I have it in my hands, I can throw any spell that I've personally mastered, and as I grow more accustomed to its use, I can even gain mastery, gradually, of every spell Master Charles knew. From what I've researched before I left on this journey, I believe I can call on greater magic, or use more magical power than I could normally handle in a single day, but it's very dangerous; if I'm not very careful, I could easily make a spell misfire somehow, and I don't think I'd like whatever happened then."

"Warning taken," said Flintclaw with a grim smirk. "So, what sort of power can you bring to bear? We're gonna need whatever you've got to throw when we hit those orcs in their camp. What you can bring to the table here will change whether this is a pure stealth mission, or if we're up for a frontal assault." His smirk changed to a toothy grin. "I prefer the frontal assault method myself."

Sheru abruptly stopped as Flintclaw asked this question, and her four companions also came to a halt a moment later, looking at her as she gripped the gnarled Charles Staff in both hands. She frowned in concentration for several moments, then looked up, blinking as she saw everyone's eyes on her.

"Um, sorry," she said, starting to walk again hurriedly, and the group started walking once more. "I...I feel I can summon up more power than I could when I started. All of the things I've been through seem to have opened up my mind a little more. I think I can summon large explosions of fire, if I understand what I felt in the Staff correctly. I know I can call out spells to put people to sleep, bolts of pure magical force or burning acid, and can also throw sticky webs to slow down enemies. If I need to, I can also turn invisible, or turn a few others invisible, though I can only do that so often. I can also make people think I'm their best friend, and be willing to do almost anything for me, for a while anyway. Finally, I can give anybody a charm that ensures that their next strike will hit, however impossible that attack might be."

"Hmm, that's good to know," said Flintclaw, rubbing his chin as he rested his large axe on his shoulder with the other hand. "Very good to know indeed. You need some rest time to recover your magic? All the spellcasters I know've needed some prep time like that."

"Yes," said Sheru, nodding. "If we can spare it, that is. I really need about eight hours to properly prepare my magic to full strength, including being able to use those fiery explosions I told you about."

"Those'll be pretty key to this plan, I think," said Flintclaw with a chuckle. He looked at Harvas, and the oft-silent older wolfen nodded at the unspoken question, as did Tornan when Flintclaw looked forward to the black-furred scout. "Yeah, we can make eight hours for you. We'll set up a cold camp a little bit further on and start working out some strategy. That work for you?"

"That should work perfectly," said Sheru with a smile.

*

Kneeling on a small blanket she'd spread on the hard ground, Sheru gripped the Charles Staff firmly but carefully, her face serious as she stared at the seasoned, gnarled wood, seeing things not seen by others. She was in a meditative trance, far, far removed from the place where her body knelt, her occasional blinking and the slow rise and fall of her chest as she breathed the only signs that she was still alive.

"I've never seen a wizard's trance before," admitted Luna, sitting cross-legged on the ground next to Flintclaw before she rose slightly and leaned forward, pointing at the diagram sketched in the dirt. "That spot there is where I saw the second watchtower."

"Bet she wouldn't even notice if I stuffed you full of wolfmeat," chuckled Flintclaw, sitting next to Luna, one clawtip scratching a circle to mark the indicated tower on the diagram, his other hand stroking Luna's bottom through the rear flap of her tunic. "After this is done, Luna," he said, looking at the red-cheeked, mocha-skinned human girl, "I'm going to make a proper woman of you. I think you'll have earned it by then."

While the group had made basic introductions and traded backstories, Flintclaw had especially focused on Luna since their first meeting. Luna had long felt she wasn't very pretty, always living in the shadow of her taller, stronger, more beautiful sister, Tia. Now that she was in the presence of a strong, powerful male like Flintclaw, his presence, his manner, everything about him catching her attention and not letting go, his attentions to her were deeply flattering. She knew that Tia had been with a few village boys, and even with her elf friend, Ballia, but Luna, as always, was forgotten, overlooked. After her experience with Sheru at the instigation of Urla and her orcs, Luna's whole body had felt strangely charged, more alive and energized than ever before, and much more receptive to the advances of this strong alpha male than Luna had ever thought she would be. Even in front of the other wolfen, Luna felt pride at having Flintclaw's attentions rather than shame or embarrassment. Well, maybe a little, though it was a lot less than when Sheru or anybody else was watching. With the wolfen, it just seemed natural, without any heavy judgment of her behavior, and she didn't feel a real need to be sorry for feeling so aroused at Flintclaw's touch.

"Only if you promise to be gentle," said Luna, swallowing her nervousness away before Flintclaw's hand shifted to her lower back, gently pressing her back down into a seated position. "I'm still kind of sore after that orc's tool went in me."

"Alpha Flintclaw's an awesomelover!" said Tornan enthusiastically, making Luna blush at his frankness as well as his energy. "Though he didn't tell you before, old Alpha Thallen wanted Flintclaw gone especially because all the she-wolfen wanted him to breed them. It's hard to be alpha when your own mates keep wiggling their rumps at another male."

"The gates, Torn," said Harvas, rolling his eyes. "Tell us about the gates, you silly, lust-struck pup."

"Oh, yeah," said Tornan, grinning sheepishly, before he filled Flintclaw in on what he'd seen on his own scouting mission.

Flintclaw, Harvas, Luna, and Tornan had all made a circle of the orc encampment, nestled into the base of the foothills that led up into the Granite Mountains. Luna, for all her training as a warrior, knew quite well how to be stealthy when the occasion required it, something she'd learned from her time in her sister's shadow, and the wolfen had welcomed her into their plans when she'd offered, eagerly hoping to impress Flintclaw. It seemed to have worked, and Luna's heart thrilled at the thought that she would soon be initiated into the full mysteries of adult sex.

As for the orcish encampment, the place was solidly defended on three sides by the rocky outjuttings of the Granite Mountains, with foothills leading up to the camp on all four sides making a perfect building site for wooden palisades and watchtowers. The camp inside was tightly run, with regular guard shifts and scouting parties sent out to keep tabs on the surrounding area. Fortunately, after all the excitement that had taken place recently with the deaths caused by Tia's group and also with the ending of Urla's elite band, there had only been one scouting party sent out, and the four companions had found it not too hard to skirt around them, since their exit from the main gate was rather obvious, as was their return a few hours later. It was now well into nightfall, a little past midnight, and the orcish camp was at its peak activity, since orcs love the darkness far more than the day.

"They're way too organized, Alpha Flintclaw," said Harvas with a worried frown. "Orcs are never this organized on their own, not even with an especially smart and strong warchief. Regular patrols? Steady watches kept during the day? Segregation of the tribes so that they don't squabble?" He shook his head. "This is something bigger than anything we've run into before, even when we had a full-sized pack. I'm not sure just the five of us are up to it."

That comment just brought a laugh from the flame-furred wolfen, who reached over and slapped his companion on the back.

"You worry too much, Harvas," said Flintclaw, before he rolled his shoulders in a mighty shrug. "If we die, we die. And death isn't really such a great thing in the end. It comes easily, and the harder you fight its coming, the more greedily it snaps at your heels." Then his expression turned serious, and Luna got the strong impression that what he said next was meant for her benefit and also Tornan's, since she and he were the youngest ones there. "It is only when you stop caring whether you live or you die that you become truly invincible."

"I've heard such things," said Sheru, her eyes focusing on Flintclaw as she lowered her staff across her knees. "I don't think I believe them, though; I really like living far too much."

"You'll learn," answered Flintclaw with a shrug. "Or not. It doesn't really matter for you, I suppose, since you don't need to get in close to kill someone. But if you're to look death right in the eyes, and then find it in you to laugh all the same, then you will know that what I say is true." He then motioned towards Sheru with a large hand, and the slim wizardess moved over to the diagram drawn in the dirt, her expression serious and attentive as Flintclaw started to point at the places on the map. "Harvas and I have come up with this plan," he explained. "We spoke while we were coming back to camp. I've filled it in more as I got to know more about the inner layout of the camp. There are a little under three hundred orcs for us to kill." He grinned as he looked at the assembled companions. "Don't mind the numbers, though: they won't matter soon enough. All that matters is if we win or if we die. I intend for us to win."

*

Gate Sergeant Gruck scowled as he looked over the camp from the base of the left side of the gate, not far from the watchtower on that side. He'd learned better than to voice his opinions from years of experience, but to him, this was the sorriest excuse for an orcish camp he'd ever seen. Not a single brawl had broken out during all the months they'd been gathering together. No rivalries were allowed to fester, no fights over females, nothing. And the state of women in the camp was appalling! That is to say, there weren't nearly enough of them to suit Sergeant Gruck. Orcish women were all right, but few of them were ever allowed to anyone who wasn't at least a lieutenant. As a sergeant, Gruck admitted he enjoyed his access to the human captives they'd been taking, but there weren't nearly enough of those. Most of the women, especially the younger and more attractive ones, had been taken by the ogre mage, Ralist, for whatever sick rituals he was enacting in the old ruins. The sergeant's eyes drifted to the eerie lights flickering from inside that cave, and he only just suppressed a shudder.

'Waste of good womanflesh,' he thought to himself.

Suddenly, Gruck's attention was pulled away from his musings, and he frowned, watching as one of the lesser orcs under his command wandered right past him, a blank, happy smile on his tusked face.

"Hey!" he barked at the orcscum, who just nodded at him pleasantly before continuing to the gate. "Hey, what're you up to, peon? You've got a lot of nerve being away from your post on the guard tower."

"I'm just doing a friend a favor," answered the orc, even as he yanked on the lever which pulled the great chain which slid the great bar on the main gate open. "She said she wanted inside, so I'm helping her out."

"Her?" asked Gruck, his interest piqued. "Who's the wench?"

"Some human," said the orcscum as he pulled at the gates, which then suddenly started to open on their own, pushed from the other side. "She was really pretty."

Sergeant Gruck's eyes widened as he realized, too late, what was happening.

"Alarm!" he yelled, only to discover as he swung his night-seeing eyes up to the watchtowers that the guards still there were stone dead, struck down by arrows. "Alarm!" he yelled again, turning to run towards the worg pens, kept close to the gate so that the wicked wolfbeasts could roam freely when they weren't in the large central area, feasting with every orc that wasn't being forced to stand watch. Gruck didn't get more than a few paces, however, before his senses reeled, end-over-end, and he suddenly discovered himself staring up at his now-headless body. The realization that he was dead only just barely hit him a moment before everything went dark.

"Thank you," said Sheru in slow, careful orc speech, smiling at the orc who was still standing trustingly by the gate, blinking in a little mild surprise at the death of his sergeant, though obviously not too terribly upset by it: the dead orc must not have been well-liked. "Now, would you be so kind as to go over there, and start a fight with one of the orcs wearing the red helmets?"

"Heh, beat some sense into a Red Noggin?" said the enchanted orc, who was wearing a black tabard with a yellow eye on it, with a tusked grin. "Been waiting to do that for ages now. Glad to do it for you, pretty girl."

With that said, the orc raced off into the main camp, where, before too many minutes had passed, the sounds of an angry brawl soon started. These sounds started to grow steadily louder and louder, and more and more orcs began to join in the general fracas at the center of camp, the great cookfires there making everything easily seen by the five companions standing in darkness.

"Heh," chuckled Flintclaw. "You were right, Harvas: Yellow Eyes and Red Noggins don't mix." Then he motioned to his wolfen companions, pointing to each side, sending Harvas and Tornan in opposite directions, flanking the central mass of orcs, staying in the darkness, away from the revealing fire. He finished his nonverbal commands by reaching out to Luna, his hand gripping her around the waist and pulling her next to him. "Stick with me, Luna," he said with a wink. "We'll see plenty of action soon. Nothing sexier than a battle goddess, after all. And Sheru," he said, looking back at the golden-haired wizardess, "cover us."

"Okay," said Sheru, swallowing nervously, but nevertheless following a few yards behind Flintclaw and Luna as they advanced towards the knot of worgs crouched on the outer rim of the confused melee. Most of the worgs looked annoyed at the fighting, and a few looked bored. One or two of the younger ones were excited and seemed to want to join in, but they had the sense to mind their elders and stay out of it, at least for the time being. Sheru reached out with her power, touching the mind of the nearest worg, one that didn't look too tough to her, and quietly put it to sleep, its body slumping to the ground, unnoticed by the others, who just assumed that their companion had gotten too bored to bother staying awake. There were a good baker's dozen of the worgs, intended to be the crushing cavalry spearhead of a full orcish charge, and Sheru knew she wouldn't have enough magical power to bring them all down. She just hoped that what she could do would be enough, even as she quietly sent another of the words into a fitful slumber with a few softly-uttered words of power, this one closer to her, to make sure she wasn't noticed for as long as possible.

On the edges of the conflict, Harvas and Tornan were busily engaged in the work of silent death, picking off orcs that strayed too far from the central knot of brawlers in the same way that they had killed the sentries at each watchtower. And standing just outside the light of the fire, Flintclaw and Luna watched, Luna slightly behind Flintclaw and in his shadow, obviously uncertain of herself as she gripped her greatsword in both hands, while the towering, flame-furred male stood with shield and axe in his clenched paws, ready to deal out death the moment the time for it came, his manner confident, even a little cocky, and very eager for the excitement to start.

Suddenly there was a bellow of fury, and the fighting stopped just as quickly as it had started, a good two score of orcs lying limply on the ground, unconscious or, perhaps, dead, depending on how rough the brawl had been. From the edge of the firelight, a truly massive, green-muscled warchief stepped, surely the chief of the entire orcish band, the one who had united them by sheer force of will and might. He began to berate his underlings with a will, reaching into the mass and bodily launching several of the smaller orcs through the air. Then, finally, his attention came to a rest on the Yellow Eye orc that had started it all, the smaller orc looking up at the warchief without fear...and then hitting him straight in his broad, piggish snout with one heavy fist.

"Now, Sheru," said Flintclaw with a toothy grin, his whole body tensing for action.

With that single word, Sheru called up her powers and let them fly forth, a tiny glowing bead flying from her hand right into the middle of the main mass of orcs. The warchief saw the bead land, his eyes widening for a moment, before his surprisingly fast reflexes carried him in a leap to the ground. The orcs around him weren't so lucky, as they were quite suddenly engulfed in a conflagration that tore through their ranks. Fear and panic reigned as the orcs milled around in a confused, shouting mass, uncertain of where their enemy might be, or even what sort of foe they were facing. It was in the midst of this confusion that Sheru launched a second ball of fire from her hand, once more into the main body of orcs, which burst in a maelstrom of flaming death, sending charred bodies flying to all sides. More arrows flew from the darkness as Harvas and Tornan drew in closer now, their longbows singing loudly with the speed of their rhythm of fire-and-reload.

Then Flintclaw was charging into the fray, howling like a wild beast, the cold, savage tone of his voice filling his foes with terror and his allies with power. His axe began to cleave quickly through orcish heads, necks, torsos, and limbs with impunity, his entire body giving into the joy of battle and bloodshed, heedless of the many minor wounds that soon started to cover his body as he hurtled forward, meteoric in his attack. Luna wasn't far behind, her sword gripped in two hands as she fought to keep Flintclaw's back free, lashing out at any orcscum that tried to close in after Flintclaw had plowed forward, her slim, small body a quiet-but-deadly counterpoint to Flintclaw's unstoppable presence.

Sheru watched, awestruck, at the battle playing out before her, her green eyes trying to take it all in, to follow the ebb and flow of the raging tides of combat. It was only a matter of a minute before Tornan and Harvas had expended their arrows, and soon the black and grey wolfen were charging to join their alpha. Tornan's approach was swift and agile as he vaulted over and ducked around the press of orcish bodies, his single-edged sword and long knife cutting into green and purple and red flesh as he went, clearing a pathway for him through the carnage. Harvas was more cautious in his approach, using his spear to keep the orcs at a distance, jabbing and then advancing by degrees, until he was able to turn his back towards Flintclaw, the four companions now in the center of the ring of orcish death that continually closed in, trying to overwhelm them in wave after wave after crashing wave.

Suddenly a great warcry rose up from the orcs as their leader stormed forward, massive two-handed axe raised high above his head. Sheru's temporary daze in the heat of combat cleared as she saw Flintclaw turning to face the brute, who was presently heading straight towards Tornan, the red-furred alpha trying to realign their circle of four so that he would be the one to bear the brunt of the attack rather than the younger, black-furred male. It was going to come too little, too late, though, as even Sheru with her untrained eyes could see. The musclebound orc might have several deep scours of black across his body, where the fire of Sheru's magic had touched him, but he was still deadly, and Tornan looked so small and vulnerable compared to the terrible berserker's frenzy of the orcish warchief.

No, it wasn't going to end like that. Her resolve set, Sheru raised her hand, pulling power from her staff into her body, and then ran forward as fast as she could. There were far fewer orcs at this time than there'd been at the start, bodies piled up all around the battling foursome, and Sheru was a good runner, able to dart past those few warriors that tried to accost her. Extending her hand, which shimmered slightly, she touched Tornan's shoulder. Instantly, the black-furred wolfen vanished from sight, just in time for the warchief's greataxe to pass through the area where Tornan had last been, the lack of sounds of pain or the spurting of blood immediately indicating that he'd missed. The warchief roared in frustration at losing his prey, and wheeled on Sheru, who was already stumbling back, her eyes wide in terror as she realized the full consequences of her bravery just a little too late.

But then Flintclaw was there, roaring an answering challenge as he turned the downward swing of the warchief aside on his large shield, the clang of metal-on-metal deafening, then countered with a blow to the raging warchief's ribs, spraying gore onto the thirsty ground.

"Go free the prisoners," snarled Flintclaw at Sheru, motioning with his muzzle towards the tent that the warchief had recently vacated in his attempt to stop the brawl among his followers. "We'll handle this."

Sheru had time to nod, albeit uncertainly, before her eyes widened once more. The warchief looked the equal of Flintclaw in physical might, even as wounded as he was. Actually, his injuries seemed to be all that was making the fight fairly even, and Sheru got the impression that even the god-blooded wolfbeast would have been hard-pressed to defeat such a foe at full strength. But then, as the two began to trade blows and blood back and forth, both taking terrible injuries that would have felled lesser mortals, severing limbs and breaking bones before a final coup de grace could be administered, a new and unplanned development entered the field of play.

Not having Flintclaw to support them, Harvas and Luna had to handle the onrushing, emboldened orcs all around them on their own, and it soon became obvious that they had relied heavily on the wolfen alpha's aid to make their headlong charge into battle work. Even when Tornan reappeared a moment later, sword and knife cleaving through two more of the orcs, sending them sprawling to the dirt, clutching their severed throats, the odds were obviously stacked against them. While backing away, Sheru sent a bolt of acid at an orc that had been coming upon Luna's rear, making a large part of his back just dissolve, exposing muscle and bone beneath, but she was almost out of magical power, and she knew it just wouldn't be enough.

It was at this moment of crisis, as all seemed to hang in the balance, that shining arrows began to rain down from the darkness, striking down orcs on all sides. Sheru gaped for a moment, following the path of the arrows as best as she could, and then nodding as she realized what was happening: elves! There were elves somewhere nearby! Her hope was tempered, however, as she realized that, although the arrows seemed to have been coming down in a deadly storm, there actually weren't so many of them coming as she'd first thought. There couldn't have been more than two or three archers out there in the darkness. Still, it was support, and Sheru knew it might just be the factor that would turn the tide of battle in their favor. Filled with this hope, Sheru turned and ran towards the tent of the orcish warchief, in hopes of saving a few lives even if the fight should be lost.

*

At least they'd let her wash off the worst of the cum on her body. This was the only consolation Tia had as she slowly rode the warchief's hips, feeling his massive green cock spreading her open so very widely. Even after the orcish orgy earlier in the day, the warchief was still huge inside of Tia, and without the effects of the lovefruit wine to make her lose herself to passion, she really felt it.

Kneeling nearby, Balia had her wrists bound behind one of the poles that held up the tent, facing the bed of furs on which the warchief was forcing Tia to provide him with amusement. Knowing she was surely pregnant by the orcs that had raped her, something the boar-faced shaman had confirmed not long after she'd awoken, naked and bound in the warchief's tent, Tia had momentarily considered killing herself. But as the shaman had mentioned before, Tia had something to live for: as long as she did as she was told, Balia would be allowed to live. Tia wished that Balia didn't have to be positioned so close to the site of her humiliation, or that the orcs could have at least let Balia wash off some of the worg spunk on her naked body and in her short green hair, but at least she was still alive.

Tia's riding the warchief while he lounged on his bed was suddenly interrupted by the sounds of conflict outside. Shoving the crimson-haired human aside, Warchief Gorewolf had pulled on his furs and snatched up his huge axe, storming out to see what the commotion was about. Still feeling her body's abuse from its recent stretching and repeated violations, it had taken Tia some time to start regaining her senses sufficiently to start thinking about escape. While there weren't any readily-visible weapons, there was a glowing brazier nearby, set on a short stand, and with this, she soon burned through Balia's ropes, the elven girl tumbling forward into Tia's arms. Gently setting her limp friend on the bed, Tia frowned as she looked over the room, trying to think of some way out of this mess.

The answer to that question suddenly presented itself in the form of a loud explosion from outside, coupled with the sounds of screaming orcs. Someone was attacking the camp! There must have been a mage among the attackers, too, judging from the sudden mass carnage that Tia could see engulfing orcs left and right just beyond the partially-open flap of the tent.

Hoping that a stray burst of magic wouldn't hit the large tent, Tia rose and hurried to the flap leading to the rear of the tent, where the rest of the female captives of the orcs were kept.

"The orcs are being killed outside," she told the fearful women and girls huddled there in the darkness. "Someone's attacking them, and I think they might save us." She raised her hand, though, before hope could rise too high. "We need to get ready to run at any moment. Be sure to get whatever you have together, and the stronger ones need to help the ones that have been hurt or are pregnant to get out of here. We might not get another chance at..."

"Your chance has passed," said the voice of the shaman from behind Tia, before she felt his grip on her arm, yanking her back into the warchief's living area. She shoved him back, proving her superior strength to his own, but then paused as she saw that he was flanked by two of the orcish sergeants, their heavy, wickedly-curved, two-handed chopping blades in hand. "I thought you might cause us trouble, bloodhair," the shaman explained with a smug look. "When the warchief returns, he will be sure to give you an appropriate punishment. Or, more likely," he turned to look at Balia as the green-haired elfgirl lay on the bed, her body limp as she had entered the elven healing state, "your elf friend. I think cutting off a few of her toes should demonstrate the foolishness of your thoughts of freedom. You are home now, bloodhair. Accept it, and perhaps you will find peace."

Muscles tense as Tia weighed her options, her fists clenched tight in readiness for a fight she knew she had little chance of winning, the redheaded warrior paused for a long moment, her eyes locked with those of the shaman.

The standoff, however, was suddenly interrupted by the opening of the tent flap behind the shaman. He half-turned, then blinked in surprise, as did Tia, as they both saw the small, slim, blue-robed girl that had walked into the tent. The girl, for her part, looked just as surprised, and more than a little afraid, to see the orcs in there.

"Um, sorry for interrupting," the blue-robed girl said with a shy smile. "I'll just find my own way out."

She started to retreat, only to have the two orcish sergeants start towards her, reaching out and seizing hold of her arms, yanking her forward roughly, the staff that had been in her hands dropping to the ground near her feet. The shaman snorted in derision and motioned to the orcs, who shoved the poor girl to her knees, which in turn made her hat fall off, baring her golden-haired head.

"This is the best that your would-be rescuers have to offer?" the shaman said, looking briefly at Tia, before turning his attention back to the kneeling wizard girl on the floor of the tent. "Though I admit, she will make fine breeding stock."

So saying, the shaman reached down, stroking first the girl's cheek, and then her chin, just above the high white collar of her blue robes. Both his hands reached down, then, grabbing the front of those robes.

"If you have magic in your blood," the shaman said with a tusked grin, "I'll seed your womb myself. That way, the brats you pop out are sure to have a double portion of power."

"I think I'll pass," said the girl with a gulp as the muscled orcs holding her wrists blinked in surprise, the slip of a girl suddenly pulling her slender wrists free of their grips, their greater strength giving them no help in holding onto such slender limbs when she'd caught them by surprise like that. Her hands immediately went to the staff on the floor next to her, and he brought it up, smacking the shaman in the chin, making him exclaim in sudden pain (though not much, since the strike hadn't been terribly strong, the girl obviously not much of a fighter). Before the orcs on either side could grab her again, this time with more attention than before, the girl raised her staff above her head, and bolts of magical force burst out of either end, striking the orcs with deadly force, sending them sprawling to the ground, choking on their own blood.

"I'll kill you for this!" the shaman snarled in fury, baring his tusks as he pulled a heavy cudgel from the belt of his furs and started towards the much smaller girl before him, deadly intent written large on his features. Before he got more than two paces, however, the shaman gave a loud cry of pain, clutching at his head, as Tia brought the brazier down with all her considerable strength on the back of his skull, the force of her blow enough to shatter the animal skull he wore, and the bone of his own skull beneath it besides.

Standing in darkness now, since the brazier had been the only light source in the entire tent, Tia kicked the body of the shaman, then set her foot firmly on his neck, ensuring that he wasn't going to get up ever again.

"Take that, you filthy pigskinned..." Tia began to say with a sneer of righteous fury, before her words were cut off with a sudden flare of light. Shielding her eyes with a hand, Tia saw that it was the girl, who had risen to her feet in the darkness, the top of her staff now glowing with a clear blue fire that didn't burn with any heat.

"We'd better get out of here," said the girl, walking towards Tia, before she suddenly stopped and blushed. "Um, I think we'd better get you some clothes, too. I'm Sheru Windsar, by the way. If you're Tia, I'm here with your sister, Luna."

"I'm Tia all right," answered the crimson-haired woman with a bright smile. "And Sheru, I've never been so happy to see someone in my whole life.

*

With a final death rattle, Warchief Gorewolf tumbled backward to the ground, Flintclaw's axe buried in his chest, a host of arrows bristling from his back and sides and limbs. All around, the air was suddenly quiet, orcish corpses a significant part of the landscape, the crackle of the great central cookfires the only sounds to break the night's stillness.

"We...we won," said Harvas, his eyebrows going up as he slowly raised his spear, wincing slightly at the nasty wounds that had been cut across his right thigh, both forearms, and, from an especially lucky orc, a cut along his side, at the point where his scale armor's shirt met its accompanying trousers. "I feel like troll dung, Alpha Flintclaw, but I think I'm still alive."

"Heh, likewise," agreed Flintclaw, breathing hard, the bright metal of his shield and war axe stained in brighter blood, his fur spattered in gore, both his own and that of countless foes, its stain darkening his fur's normal fiery color, making it stiffen and stick together as the blood clotted. He seemed endlessly tired from his exertions, as though the sudden end of the battle had also ended his seemingly limitless, godlike in fact, strength and stamina. With no new enemies to fight, Flintclaw was as mortal as anyone else. "How about you Luna, Tornan? Holding up all right?"

Luna was breathing hard, her breastplate and blade both stained in the same blood that covered them all, but she seemed unhurt, the wolfen all around her having done all they could to keep their bodies taking the blows that might have struck her down. She just grinned at Flintclaw's question, giving him a silent thumbs-up, unable to talk right then from the combination of heavy exertion and post-battle shock that she was still working through. When Flintclaw reached behind himself to give her loincloth-covered bottom a squeeze, she was still healthy enough to blush, though, confirming her all right status.

Tornan looked himself over, casually noting the minor cuts he'd taken, his agility and Sheru's timely intervention having saved him from the worst of it.

"Could be worse, Flintclaw," he said with a shrug and a smile. He then grinned as he looked behind Flintclaw, towards the gate of the encampment, where three slender figures were now approaching. "Hey, here come our elf friends!"

While Tornan was completely without fear, and Luna seemed heartened by the approach of the elves, a race which all humans tended to look up to as something more than themselves, Harvas didn't relax, and Flintclaw visibly forced himself to raise his drooping axe and shield once more, putting on a show of continuing strength. After all, their last meeting with elves - these same elves, if Tornan's reaction was any indication - had ended on a less-than-friendly note, and neither of the older wolfen wanted to stake their chances against elven goodwill, as they knew the race to be almost as fickle and mercurial as the fey to which they were so closely related.

Not pausing for a moment, not even seeming to care that the two light fuchsia-skinned females to either side of the golden-haired beauty in front were the ones that had filled his alpha full of arrows only a few days past, or how they glared at him as he approached, Tornan pulled the slender, pale-skinned elfgirl to his chest, kissing her with youthful enthusiasm. At first the elfgirl, who was slightly taller than a human woman but not as tall as Tornan, made a soft sound of surprise at this unexpected greeting, her delicate, long-fingered hands raising to push gently against Tornan's furry chest, her bright blue eyes growing wide as Tornan moved his muzzle, making it obvious that his tongue was invading the cupid's bow of her sweet elven mouth, his black-furred hands stroking her almost naked back. The two fuchsia-skinned females, obviously the personal bodyguards of the elven priestess, glared over the masks covering the bottom halves of their faces, starting to draw the slender silver blades at their sides. But then they relaxed slightly as the high elven woman started to kiss Tornan back, moaning softly, sweetly, into the press of his surprisingly skillful if willful lips and tongue, though their expressions remained as stern as ever.

"It's so good to see you again, Eärlindë," said Tornan as he broke the kiss, then followed it up with a quick lick to the elfgirl's cheek, making her giggle. "Not just 'cause it's you, either: you really saved our pelts."

"We were trying to find you, Tornan," Eärlindë, the high elven priestess with whom Tornan had developed a friendship, and perhaps more than friendship. "After what happened at the end of our last meeting, I just had to see you again, and apologize."

Flintclaw smirked as he recalled that last meeting. When Flintclaw and his pack had travelled south, fleeing from their old pack, after many minor adventures they had eventually ended up in the Great Green. Not wanting to cause any disruption to the elven community where he and his packbrothers intended to set up shop while they looked for Threetails, a great sage Flintclaw had heard could tell him of his destiny, Flintclaw had approached the elven priestess who was also the leader of the community. Tornan, lovesick horndog that he often was, had quickly fallen head over paws in love, or maybe lust, with the heavenly beauty and kind nature of Eärlindë Nénharma, which was the full name of the elven leader and priestess, and over the next several days had begun to see her quite frequently while Flintclaw and Harvas continued to ask around and try to find leads on where Threetails might be found. Finally, on the night when Flintclaw intended to set out, having found as good a set of directions as could be managed for such a dangerous and cunning creature as Threetails, Tornan had gone, with his packbrothers in tow, to say goodbye to Eärlindë, with Flintclaw and Harvas waiting outside the temple. Much to his surprise, however, it turned out that he had walked in on her as she was taking a ritual cleansing bath. One thing had led to another, and after a while Flintclaw and Harvas started to wonder what was taking Tornan so long. Entering the temple themselves, they followed their noses until they discovered Tornan and Eärlindë in a passionate embrace, most of Tornan's clothing now gone. It hadn't taken too much for Tornan to convince the high elf to allow his packbrothers to join in, and soon they were licking her, each of them running their tongues over Eärlindë's body, tasting her sweet skin and sweeter juices, while she writhed and kicked and squealed like an adolescent as she was given pleasure in ways she'd never known in her century of life among the elven people, the noises she made almost as sweet as the taste of her body.

It was unfortunate, it turned out, that Eärlindë was a screamer. All elves are highly sensitive, whether it be to pain or to pleasure, and a scream brought on by a series of orgasms tends to sound about the same as one brought on by torture. Thus it was that Fieryat and Ambrae, the moon elf guards who stood constantly ready to answer Eärlindë's least request, heard their mistress screaming her head off, stormed into the sacred bathing chamber, and discovered her in the grip of three brutish members of the lesser races - beastfolk at that, and mangy wolfen besides, one of the most savage and uncouth races to be found, outside of the vile races like orcs and goblinoids, of course. Assuming the worst, like any good bodyguard, the twin moon elves drew their bows and opened fire. If Flintclaw hadn't had as good reflexes as he did, and wasn't so incredibly tough besides, those arrows would have surely severely injured Harvas and Tornan, and perhaps even killed them. As it was, Flintclaw knocked the bows from the hands of the twins with a great swipe of his pawlike hand, while Harvas and Tornan yanked down a tapestry on top of them, and the three wolfen fled as fast as they could, Tornan's eyes meeting those of Eärlindë for one last time before they vanished into the night, the twins soon rousing the watchguard in hot pursuit, a pursuit that lasted for days until they had finally given up.

Which, of course, brought them back to the present. Somehow Flintclaw suspected the high elf wench wasn't just there to apologize to Tornan, but he was smart enough to know when to keep his mouth shut...at least part of the time, anyway. Besides, it was more fun checking the high elf hottie out than it was talking to her. Like most elves, Eärlindë didn't have the same concept of modesty that most "civilized" humans did. After all, besides the fact that they were a race that were highly magical in nature, and their special sanctuaries tended to not have too extreme variations in temperature, elves themselves were surprisingly resistant to the elements, so clothing wasn't nearly as important to them in that regard except at the far extremes. Besides the concerns of climate, elven culture regarded their bodies as living works of art, and each elf was a rare and precious creature to be cherished. It was only natural, then, that they would want to show off their bodies as much as possible, while still retaining an occasional nod to modesty for sake of basic propriety. Understanding this, it wasn't too surprising to Flintclaw to observe that Eärlindë was wearing on her lower part what, among humans, would have been a pair of pearlescent white panties, or perhaps the lower half of a two-part bathing suit. A closer look, however, revealed that it was actually white-enameled metal, perfectly contoured to fit snugly against the elf's pubic region. At least it didn't show off any cameltoe, or else Flintclaw might have started to make raping elves into a habit. On her upper parts the elven priestess wore a shimmering breastplate of purest mithril, with blue enamel added for decoration and to reduce its glare. The thing was, this breastplate was pretty much just what it sounded like: a metal coating that managed to cover Eärlindë's breasts, hugging them like a second skin, leaving most of her midriff completely exposed. Actually, it didn't even manage to cover all of her breasts, as Flintclaw soon noticed, contoured strips along each side having been cut out of the breastplate to expose more lovely skin, and also make the already ridiculously light piece of metal even lighter. Around her upper arms and upper legs billowed a silky, transparent cloth, looking very pretty but doing less than nothing to cover up the long stretches of creamy, bare elfskin, though Flintclaw had more than a suspicion that this shimmering weave was probably more protective than steel, knowing what he did about the elves and their love of subtle magic.

Fieryat and Ambrae weren't much better off, at least in the cores of their bodies. Their arms and legs, at least, were sheathed in thick metal, light elfstuff that had been carefully treated to not reflect light that might give away the moon elves' position. They each wore masks that covered the lower halves of their faces, though Fieryat, the one who had first fired at Flintclaw on seeing him (and he wouldn't forget her scent, even if she did look just like her twin) also wore a hooded cloak, throwing her face into shadows, while Ambrae just let her dark purple hair dangle in a long, intricate braid behind her, both of them having strangely luminous green eyes. As he'd noticed before, though, the armor covering the central portions of both elves' bodies revealed a lot of smooth, fuchsia-colored skin, consisting only of a metal halter and a finely made, broad loincloth that went down a little past their knees, fore and aft, its front and its wide belt bearing metal at strategic intervals to turn aside blows that managed to get past the outer defenses of their arm- and leg-guards. Somehow, Flintclaw doubted that either of them were wearing anything under those loincloths, and the thought made his mouth start to water. All elves, after all, tasted delicious.

Pulling his attention away from the platinum blonde elfgirl and her light purplish-skinned bodyguards, Flintclaw grinned as he looked over the devastation they'd wrought, shaking his head.

"We really made a mess, huh, Harvas," he commented dryly, to which the older wolfen just chuckled.

"Hey, it's Sheru," said Luna suddenly, her breath finally returned as she pointed. "And Tia's with her!"

Immediately Luna raced over to where Sheru was just leaving the massive central tent of the orc warchief, the tall and muscular redhead and green-haired elfgirl right behind her. Thankfully, both Tia and Ballia had been able to find their equipment among the loot the orcish leader had accumulated, including their clothes, which the shaman seemed to have collected for his own, personal use. As Luna raced up, throwing her arms around her chainmail-clad sister in joy, Sheru held up a second staff, about the height of a walking cane and made of a bright red, smooth-polished wood, something else she'd found on the shaman's person. Smiling at the happy reunion between sisters, she idly whispered something to her Charles staff, then pressed the smaller staff to her taller one, the smaller staff smoothly and silently merging into the larger one.

Flintclaw just watched and waited, his eyes flicking up and down the bodies of the chainmail bikini-wearing redheaded warrior babe and the elfgirl with the long, straight green hair. He supposed the elf called Ballia was a wood elf, judging from the green hair and her rather short height, only a little bit taller than Sheru, but she certainly had the bust of a high elf, to which her leather halter top clung quite nicely. Her tight, short cut breeches, which barely got to her thighs, hugged a tiny wood elven bottom, though, which Flintclaw decided cinched her ancestry as more wood elf, something to keep in mind just in case some cultural concerns came up. He supposed it probably would at some point, considering he had three different elven subraces around now. All he'd need was a dark elf or two with their fine onyx arses, and he'd be at once a very happy and very unhappy wolf. Happy because of the many flavors of tasty elfgirl to nibble on. Unhappy because they'd probably be constantly sniping at each other, verbally at best, literally at worst.

"Harrin wasn't with the other prisoners," said Tia as Luna released her from their tight and joyous hug, turning to look at the others, seeming to naturally assume a role as a leader. "The orcs said something about her still being alive, though."

As Tia spoke, several other women began to make their way out of the tent, clothed in whatever scraps they were able to find. Most were older women, middle-aged or slightly younger, still in their breeding years but obviously more experienced. Sheru's head turned, her eyes meeting Flintclaw's, and they could tell they were sharing the same thought.

"Was your friend, Harrin, a virgin?" asked Flintclaw, turning to look at Tia, even as Sheru's own eyes started to sweep through the camp, carefully avoiding lingering too long on the carnage. Tia and Ballia shared a nod, and Flintclaw's expression was grim as he heard it. "She's probably been taken by this guy, they call him Ralist. The orcs we ran into earlier said something about a sacrifice."

"Light and Chaos," whispered Tia in horror, invoking the primal gods of Therafim in her distress. "We've got to find where she's been taken, fast! Who knows what's happened to her in all the time we've been trapped here."

She left the fear that Harrin might not even still be alive unspoken, and so did Flintclaw, even as the eyes of all the others turned to the red-haired and red-furred pair, looking to them for guidance. They, meanwhile, turned their eyes towards Sheru, who was pointing towards a large cave set in the side of the mountain, up an ancient flight of carved stone stairs.

"There," she said, gripping her staff tightly, her face setting along with her determination to press forward. "She's in there." Then the blue-robed wizardess turned to look at the others around her, her face filled with worry as well as hope. "There's something going on up there. Something powerful and dangerous. I can feel it from here. It hasn't finished yet, though. I think that means, whatever is being done, it hasn't taken the lives of the girls the orcs gave to Ralist. We've still got some time."

"Then let's quit wasting what we've got," said Flintclaw with a snort. "C'mon," he said, turning to Luna and Tia as the sisters stood side-by-side, "I'll race ya."

*

Her stonesense had tracked the passage of a good eleven hours that she'd been in this dark place. Judging from how far the glowing runes had climbed up the liths ringing the central altar, the golden-haired Harrin doubted she'd get more than another hour, at the most. Many of the other captives had fallen asleep, or at least into a fitful doze in their uncomfortable positions, bound with their backs to the smooth-polished slabs of stone, but Harrin's dwarven endurance was still holding strong, even though her wrists were rubbed raw. For the longest time, all her efforts had been pretty useless against such seamless rock as her naked body was bound against. But as the glowing blue runes had ascended each of the liths, they had carved impressions into the stone itself, and Harrin finally found the friction she needed to make some headway. It wasn't much, and her ropes were still too thick for her to simply break them, but it was enough for her to still hope.

The gradually increasing light had also restored something Harrin had missed: proper sight. Her darkvision was certainly handy, of course, but proper lighted vision was really the only way to get some fairly important details. Details such as that, directly opposite her in the circle, was a male, bound and naked just like her. In fact, this was the only male to be found in the entire circle. Also like her, he wasn't human, but that was where the similarities stopped. The bound, helpless male (who, Harrin realized with a moment of introspection, must be a virgin as well to be included in this ritual) was a hairy brute, and huge in size, so that even while kneeling his head reached halfway up the lith. He must have been orcish, as indicated by his dark, almost black, green fur, but his size hinted at ogrish ancestry as well. Most prominently, the brutish-looking male had a pronounced porcine muzzle, with long, curved tusks, which combined with his ample body hair made him look very much like a wild boar.

It was only a matter of time before the huge male noticed Harrin, studying her the same way she was studying him. She was just grateful that the altar on which the blue-skinned Ralist was lying helped to preserve her modesty, as well as helping her not to see things which she didn't feel comfortable seeing just yet. It was as she continued to saw at her bindings, however, that she felt a gentle nudge in her mind.

'I want free too,' it said, and Harrin knew right away that she was hearing the thoughts of the purple-furred orog. He was some sort of psion, like her! 'You free me?'

'How can I trust you?' Harrin thought back, and sensed that she was heard, though the mental impression was faint, indicating the boarish male didn't have much strength left. Instead of an answer in words, which she sensed were not the male's strong suit, she got a sudden rush of picture-based impressions, snapshots of moments that told the story, utterly stripped of the deception that could come from artful words. What Harrin saw, she knew to be the honest truth.

The creature's name was Arag. His father had been a war boar, one of the crossbreeds between the porque, the porcine beastfolk, and the orcs, a coupling that was so common that it attracted less than no notice. His mother, on the other hand, had been an ogre, a captive his father had dominated and raised as a slave. Unlike most ogres, however, Arag's mother had a gentle heart, and when his father couldn't beat her merciful tendencies out of her, he killed her. Arag was six when this happened. Despite seeing what happened to the merciful among the orcs, however, Arag retained scraps of mercy inside of him, his heart never truly taking after the martial demands of his people. His immense physical size and strength allowed him to get away with more than most, as did the fact that he was a male, even though he was still fairly young. Of course, being soft-hearted, he'd never taken advantage of any females, as opportunities for consensual sex had been rare, especially as the tribes were gathered into a horde under Ralist and the warchief, Gorewolf, and he never took part in rape. Finally, the soft heart his mother had given him proved his undoing, and he had been caught trying to help a few of the human women escape. Ralist had sensed his virginity, however, and instead of having him slain out of hand, the ogre mage had decided to make use of Arag.

Most of Harrin's own powers were dampened by the writhing mass of magic that filled the room, the circle of standing stones making it almost impossible to use any magic or mental abilities that weren't a part of Ralist's ritual. Despite this, however, she managed to share her own story with Arag, much as he'd done, even as her hands never stopped working, rasping against the glowing, rune-covered rock behind her. Being young for a dwarf, the equivalent age of Tia and Ballia, there wasn't much to tell for her either. She'd been the daughter of a dwarven diplomat, of the citadel dwarves of the Granite Mountains, who'd been sent to deal with the officials of the witch city, Nemminus. She'd come along to learn how to better deal with the many races that lived on the surface, to learn their ways and associate with them in a friendly fashion. It had only been natural that she should fall in with Tia and Ballia, both of them also from single parent families, and both of them also eager to learn more about other races as well as the rest of the world. Tia's drive to improve herself and grow more capable as a warrior always struck Harrin as astonishingly dwarflike, and it always made her feel warm towards the tall and muscular woman with the fiery mane. They'd even started to take up adventuring, that popular pastime of so many of the thrill-seekers that populated the world of Therafim, and had managed to make a minor name for themselves, at least around Tia's home town, where they'd managed to clear out a bandit menace and a goblin infestation. Harrin supposed, with clarity of hindsight, that their successes had likely been what made them overconfident, sloppy, and caused them to fall into the clutches of the orcs, ending in Harrin's present predicament.

'I just hope my friends are still alive,' Harrin finished, looking down.

The dark, piggish eyes of Arag looked at Harrin from across the room, and the looming male nodded.

'I will help you,' he sent to her mind, an effort she felt was likely the last exertion he could make psychically, before his own hands started to move, faster and harder than Harrin's possibly could, thanks to his much greater strength. The pair then let their entire focus center solely on getting free, to somehow snatch victory from the jaws of utter defeat. Their entire mental conversation had taken only a few scant minutes, the communication of mind-to-mind having gone at a rate incredibly faster than mere speech, and with vastly more detail. Still, the time would be tight, and there was none to spare. Harrin could already feel the first blue rune starting to sear its way onto her body, right on her left shoulderblade where it touched the lith, and had to clench her teeth to keep from making a sound. Few of the human girls around her had nearly as much self-restraint, their pained cries clearly telling Harrin that time was running out fast.

Suddenly, however, the soft hum of magic and the even softer rasping of rope on stone was utterly drowned out by the sound of a loud crack at the top of the chamber, followed by a sound that was much like the rushing of a whirlpool. Looking up, Harrin saw the place where Ralist had first entered the sacrificial chamber start to glow, and then the hole to instantly reappear. Harrin could vaguely see faces above her, faces she hoped were friendly, but the hum and glow of magic in the chamber was too much for her to make out details of face or voice.

When the portal appeared once more, Ralist suddenly leapt up from the altar with a cry of rage, his face livid with dread fury. The moment his body left the altar's surface, Harrin felt the searing mark of the run on her shoulderblade fade and then disappear, some of the runes behind her on the lith also receding, even as the cries of pain from the human girls around her also receded, replaced with fearful sobbing and the gentle voices of those trying to comfort their fellow-sufferers.

"I was so close!" he bellowed to the faces peering down at him from the ceiling. "You've cost me an hour's work, you pathetic fools! I'll make you pay, and then I'll finish the ritual anyway! You've gained nothing but an hour, and lost your lives!"

Leaping up, the ogre mage's magic caught him in midair, hoisting him upward with astonishing speed. The faces above vanished, and soon Harrin heard the sounds of a terrible battle raging. She looked at Arag, who simply looked back at her, his face now showing the same signs of hope that she knew were on her own face. Then she and the porcine orog started to saw the ropes behind them even faster, determined to make use of the time they'd gained.

*

Sheru had drawn a spell out of her staff as the group had gathered in the worked stone of the cave's interior, and cast it down into the circle of runes that had been carved into the floor. The ten companions had moved warily into the strange chamber, all of them, even the fearless Flintclaw, unnerved by the hideous statuary on the walls. They depicted scenes of men dying in droves, struck down by the power of a ghastly power from dark, other planar realms, while women were enslaved to its power and forced to endure suffering more hideous than any of them had ever imagined was possible. They were scenes of things that only the immortal, ageless agents of suffering and wickedness from Hell or the Abyss could have thought of, creatures whose entire lives were devoted to devising such torments, except that these torments, instead of being limited to souls past the grave, were being enacted on living beings.

Besides the carvings, however, the high-ceilinged chamber was remarkably simple. There was a side passage that led into what was obviously the living quarters for a very large individual, someone almost twice the height of a full-grown human man, but this they largely ignored for now; there would be ample time for looting later. What drew their attention immediately was the wide circle of runes on the floor of the cavern. Sheru's training in ancient and arcane scripts came in handy as she interpreted the circle to be the magical seal of a door leading downward. No sooner had the party realized this than both Flintclaw and Tia urged Sheru to do what she could to open it up. The spell she had pulled from the staff was one to disperse magical energy, nullifying enchantments and incantations of all sorts. It did its job perfectly, and in an instant ten faces were peering down into the bright, eerie blue glow of the chamber beneath them.

Almost as quickly, they all dove back, getting out of the way just in time as the horned head of the massive, well-muscled ogre mage, Ralist shot up into the room. The blue-skinned giant, who was naked from head to toe, his skin covered in many strange and intricate runes that they all somehow felt would serve him just as well as stout metal armor, held out a massive hand, and instantly a huge blade whirled end-over-end from his chambers, landing hilt-first in his eager grip.

The fight was short, but desperate, brutally swift on both sides, for though Ralist was sorely outnumbered, he was still a terrifically powerful foe, and even with ten-against-one, he was a danger to them all. He proved this dramatically by opening his mouth and belching out a searing cone of deadly ice shards and instantly freezing temperatures, which tore into Flintclaw, even as he put his body between the freezing death and Luna and Sheru, both of whom had ducked behind him at the first sight of the ogre mage, and Harvas and Tia dove to either side, catching an instant's flash freezing, but getting off fairly lightly. The flame-furred male wavered, his eyes glazed, his fur crusted in heavy ice, but he raised his axe all the same and snarled an answering challenge.

Eärlindë, the twins, and Ballia immediately scattered, taking his attention to Flintclaw as a chance to surround Ralist as their elven bows sang the song of flying death, arrows biting into blue-skinned flesh, making blue blood flow in rivers. Tornan soon joined the swiftly-darting archers, using up his last arrow in the process before he drew his sword and long knife and stalked cautiously towards Ralist, ready for an opening past that deadly giant blade.

Sheru held back as Flintclaw charged straight ahead, letting Harvas and Tia take the flanks, while Luna dove between the tall male's legs, rising to her feet behind him, turning and cutting into bare blue flesh with her two-handed sword, while at the same time her sister and the veteran wolfen took chunks from Ralist's right hip and left upper thigh. Ralist caught Flintclaw's axe on his huge blade with a fencer's agility, then bore down with all his weight on the mighty godborn alpha, pushing him slowly back, even as every vein in Flintclaw's body stood out prominently.

It was at this moment that Sheru took the opportunity to act. Raising her hand, pulling power from her staff and through her body, giving it motive force with her own life's essence, she flung a gout of torrential fire from her fingertips and right into the upper body of the ogre mage, sending the towering male reeling back, screaming as he clawed at the ruined sockets of his burned-out eyes.

"Leave my friends alone!" Sheru yelled as the giant reeled back, and then gave a startled cough, spitting up blue blood, as Tornan took that moment to leap up onto Ralist's shoulders, his twin blades sinking into the giant's neck from either side, crossing in the middle.

Even as Tornan struggled to pull his sword and long knife free, Ralist wasn't dead yet, wasn't quite finished fighting, as his desperate gurgling indicated, the flesh of his neck quickly starting to seal up, staunching the profuse bleeding in seconds. Desperate now, the blinded giant gripped his blade with both hands...and then his body began to fade, dissolving from view before their eyes. Too soon, nothing was left but a thin blue vapor, which quickly started to dissipate.

"No," said Tia in a fury as the vapor began to flow towards the cave mouth, her blade igniting with the fury of her conviction. "No! You're not escaping, not after what you did to us!"

Stepping forward with a decisive thrust of her flaming blade, Tia plunged the tip of her steel right into the middle of the vapor. Instantly, the vapor coalesced into a vaguely humanoid shape, letting out a ghastly, ear-splitting scream. This was Ralist's final deathcry, for the flames soon licked their way through the ghostly shape, eating it up like a fireplace devours a piece of paper, pieces of the giant disappearing almost at random, until nothing was left but a fine ash and the massive sword he'd used, which clattered heavily to the floor of the cave.

The fight finally ended, the last foe slain, Flintclaw slumped to his knees at last, blinking dazedly.

"Did we win?" he asked, his eyes unseeing.

"Yes, Flintclaw Firewind," said Eärlindë as the elven priestess approached, placing a hand on his shoulder. "It's over now."

"Good to know," said Flintclaw with a tired smirk, before his eyes closed, and he slumped, unconscious, to the floor of the cave.

Bonus Content

Now that the powers of the Charles staff have been mentioned, it seems appropriate to put down its abilities in game mechanics format. The following magic item has been generated using the Pathfinderrules. Despite being called a staff, and otherwise functioning like a masterwork quarterstaff, the Charles staff is actually a wondrous item, since it does not use charges. Please note that this item is somewhat more powerful than would normally be allowed to a character of Sheru's level in an actual, reasonably-powered campaign, but it works for story purposes, and the level discrepancy should correct itself once a few more levels are gained by all involved.

Also note that Sheru says that she learns spells from her staff based on what Charles Windsar knew when he was alive, but in the item description below, no such retention of spells is mentioned - quite the opposite, actually. This is just a story-based reason for how Sheru learns new spells each level, as normal for a wizard, rather than researching them herself from scratch. Her ability to draw on additional spells from the staff is likewise a story element, as an explanation for if I miscalculate how many spells she can cast per day, and if I want to utilize any interesting failure mechanics.

Staff of Spontaneous Spellcasting

Aura: Moderate Transmutation. Caster Level: 7. Slot: None. Price: 15,120 gold pieces.

Description: This five-foot staff of gnarled, naturally shaped formed hardwood usually has a rough "c" shape on top, much like a shepherd's crook. More elaborate versions of this staff may be smoothed and polished or have a gemstone set inside the crook at the top. Staves of spontaneous spellcasting are also known as Charles staves, after their original creator, Charles Windsar, premier archmage of Therafim.

When a staff of spontaneous spellcasting is in the hands of a wizard (or any other arcane caster who normally memorizes spells), it allows that wizard to cast spells spontaneously, rather than having to prepare spells in advance, much like a sorcerer (including the full-round requirement to add metamagic feats to a spell).

Additionally, the spell acts as a travelling spellbook, allowing up to 100 pages worth of spells to be stored inside of it with the use of a command word. These spells can be copied out onto scrolls and into spellbooks as normal, so long as the present owner of the staff allows it, and can be used for memorization of spells if the present owner wishes to use it for that function (but see the staff's weakness, below). When the staff gets a new owner, all spells that were previously contained within the staff are lost, though the new owner may place new spells within it to replace them. The staff can only be used to spontaneously cast spells that are scribed inside of it, and wizards who have a staff of this sort often carry a backup spellbook or two so as to trade out spells within the staff as needed. Spells cast using the staff require all somatic gestures, components, and foci as normal.

While it is not considered a charged staff in itself, with the use of another command word, the wizard using this staff can cause it to absorb a single other staff, which is then contained inside of the staff of spontaneous spellcasting. This second staff functions in all ways as though it were being wielded normally, including number of charges and ability to be recharged, until it is removed or replaced with another staff. Any command words needed to use the secondary staff stored within the staff of spontaneous spellcasting must still be used to activate any of the secondary staff's powers.

Finally, the staff of spontaneous spellcasting is specially designed to become the bonded item of a wizard. If the staff is made a wizard's bonded item, then it counts as an unenchanted masterwork item for determining the cost of any additional abilities placed into it. These additional abilities all have their normal costs.

There are two significant flaws to a staff of spell storing. The first of these flaws is that the wizard using the staff can only spontaneously cast spells from slots that have not been used for memorization yet. If a wizard chooses to memorize some spells, but to leave other spell slots unfilled, then the unfilled spell slots can be used for spontaneous casting, while the filled ones can only be used to cast the spells memorized. A wizard might choose to do this because of the second flaw of the staff of spell storing, which is that it must be equipped in the hands (or appropriate appendages) of the wizard in order to work. If the staff is not in the hands of the wizard using it, such as if someone uses the disarm combat maneuver on the wizard, then no spell that the wizard has not memorized normally can be used until the staff is back in the wizard's hands.

Requirements: Craft Staff feat, Mnemonic Enhancer. Cost: 7,560 gp.