Waking up the next morning I felt like a train wreck. Going at it late into the night could have possibly killed me. Sitting up in bed I found the women were already awake. Seven of them looked dumbstruck for some reason so I asked what was wrong.
“What did you do to Ruby?!”, Lilian said in a state of panic, “I have never seen her so giddy, and cheery before.”
“Uh…about that…”, I said seeing her in the front of the van cooking breakfast while humming.
Explaining what happened the seven of them glared at me. Forcing a nervous smile I suggested that we forget the event, and focus on the task ahead. Sadly, changing the topic had no effect on them. Making me swear to let them have the same experience I said it would have to wait till after the upcoming fights. Asking why they had to wait I explained that currently I was exhausted after giving it one-hundred, and twenty percent. With a sigh they agreed to cut me some slack. Coming back to us with a big smile she handed us all plates. Sitting on my lap she snuggled into my chest with her back.
Staring her down the seven women weren’t entertained in the slightest. I started sweating thinking that I was about to die. Asking her to please separate from me she shook her head with vigor. Saying that she was staying with her man she leaned back into my chest with a pleasant smile. Their patience snapped as they grabbed her violently pulling her off of me. A dispute quickly broke out as she defended her actions after last night. Not wanting to get involved I took a bite of my breakfast. As soon as the food touched my tongue my whole body shutdown. Falling over the women looked at me like I was playing around. Lilian then remembered who cooked the meal.
“Amber, heal him!”, she said, “Ruby may have poisoned him on accident!”
“My cooking isn’t that bad!”, Ruby said crossing her arms.
It took me thirty minutes to recover from that near death experience. By popular vote it was decided from then on that Ruby couldn’t cook unless supervised by someone. Sighing with relief as I laid back against the wall I smiled content with how things had turned out. I was so very thankful that the eight of them got along well enough that I didn’t have to constantly break up fights. Thinking it was all I had to worry about I fell into a false sense of security. Around fifteen minutes later someone started pounding on the side of the van. All of us got out to see who it was only to have the Heroines freeze in a panic.
Standing outside the van was the King, Thomas, and his girlfriend. Seeing them get out of my van the atmosphere was quite tense. Hiding behind us the Heroines peeked out at our guests. Thoroughly tired after last night I wasn’t in the mood to deal with him.
“I believe you have some of my men with you…”, the King said.
“No, I have eight women with me who are my partners.”, I said a bit groggy, “Go get on your horse, and leave us alone. Some of us want to relax before having to fix your fuck up.”
“The four Hero’s with you are members of my military.”, he said irritated.
“Listen motherfucker! These eight women are staying with me whether you like it, or not! I don’t have the time to be wasting with this meaningless discussion. If you want to fight over this I will gladly do so!”, I said drawing my sword as I glared at him, “If you don’t want to fight then leave.”
Before anything happened trumpets sounded in the distance signaling the arrival of our allies. Knowing already that they wouldn’t give the King of Atlas their real arrival time I had suspected they were a day out when we got the news. Clenching his teeth the King swore at the armies for lying to him. Quickly leaving the scene the three of them returned to camp. Not understanding the situation Ruby asked why he was so upset.
“In terms of power Atlas is the strongest on the continent.”, I said, “However, when it comes to influence Everwood is far superior. In terms of skilled soldiers the Regulos Empire is far superior to Atlas. Basically the King’s approach has always been quantity over quality.”
“So he is jealous then…”, Ruby said nodding her head.
“That, and he believes human’s are far superior to the other races.”, I said with a shrug, “I think each race has their strength’s, and weaknesses.”
Smiling Amber, and Almina nodded in agreement. Walking down with everyone we waited for their commanders to arrive. As they rode in I recognized them immediately thanks to their smug grins. From Everwood came my friend Lagas, a Wood Elf. Built like a dwarf except taller he was already in the seven hundredth year of his life. With eyes like a hawk, ears like a rabbit, and a sense of smell that would make a bloodhound envious he was a force to be well-respected. Even from this distance I could clearly see his ripped tan body guiding his horse perfectly.
Next to him was the first prince of the Regulos Empire, Darvain. His father was a Lionman, and his mother a very sweet Tigerwoman. I had met his family during my travels, and clicked with Darvain just by eye contact. Both of us were extremely good friends so I was excited to be working with him. Taking after his father almost completely the only signs you could see of his Tiger blood was three small lines on his right shoulder. Picking up dust behind him I noticed he wasn’t alone. Having been at least two years since I saw him last I assumed it may be his children.
“Well look what the Cat Sith dragged in.”, Darvain said with a hardy laugh, “When my father heard you were leading the expedition into Flamoria he was on board one hundred percent.”
“It’s been a while, James.”, Lagas said in a calm tone, “I hope you still like Elven ale. My King sent three kegs for you.”
“HECK YES I DO!!”, I said with a big grin, “It’s great to see you both in good health. How is your family, Lagas?”
“Keeping busy. Arwana is back home with my seven energetic children.”, he said, “Have any of your own yet?”
“Heck no!”, I laughed, “I want this damn world to settle down before I bring kids into it.”
“I understand that completely.”, he said with a nod, “My people live in terror due to how close the Decay are to our land. It would only take, but a single slip up to cause our land to come under attack. My King sends his gratitude for pushing the Decay back as far as you already have. The people have relaxed more now that we can have four days notice of an attack instead of two.”
“Well I am glad they are happy.”, I said, “I think we have had our fun for now. Let’s go over the information I have, and make a plan.”
“Gladly.”, both men said with a nod.
Leaving the women to chat with Darvain’s personal guests the three of us met in George’s command tent. Calling him in we sat down of a pint of Elven ale to discuss battle plans. Looking over the maps we had George marked down the nest location as well as the traps the Decay already had made. While they didn’t appear like it to most the four of us knew that the Decay did have intelligence. Since the four of us were in agreement with that it was much simpler to make a plan of action.
“So on the Atlas front we will only have five thousand troops…”, George said with a sigh, “The King is making three thousand stay here, and taking the rest with him to the capital.”
“Typical.”, Lagas said, “Your King’s hatred for non humans is very well-known.”
“Except when he can get laid.”, I laughed telling them about the orc woman.
Both men started laughing hearing about it. They said she must have been quite disappointed in his performance to not make him stay with her.
“All jokes aside how many troops do you each have?”, George asked.
“I have three thousand strong.”, Lagas said, “Another two thousand will join us in three days.”
“I brought seven thousand men with me.”, Darvain said, “Each of them is ready for a fight. All of us are ready to rip them apart for killing my grandfather.”
While Atlas hadn’t helped Flamoria try to take back their lands Everwood, and the Regulos Empire honored their vows. Even though it cost them many lives both countries were proud they helped Flamoria. Now that they had a chance for payback against the Decay they were ready to fight. Nodding with a grin I laid out my plans.
The last nest we needed to destroy was three days away by horse, or five days by foot. Along the way we were sure to encounter pockets of Decay that had no nest to hide in. Taking this into account I decided to take the mountain route since they wouldn’t be able to hide from us. Agreeing that it would be the safest route everyone is in agreement.
“Lagas, I would like you to take a portion of your men as the Advanced Party. Stay no more than a day ahead of us. Should you encounter any Decay take them out without hesitation.”, I said.
“I think that is doable.”, he said with a smile.
“Your not going to have us standby while they are off fighting, are you?”, Darvain asked.
“No, as I know you very well your crazy enough to do even the most dangerous jobs.”, I said, “I have a task that I can only entrust to you. Currently two Behemoth class Decay are somewhere between us, and the nest. No matter how safe our path is should we encounter them things will get ugly. Feeling like hunting them down for us?”
Licking his lips he readily agreed to take the job. He said his men would love to hunt them down. I informed both parties about the river being back to normal now after we blew the dam up. It didn’t change anything, but I wanted them to be aware of it.
“Now, for the rest of us we will wait here for confirmation that the mountain path is secure. At that point we will head out through the mountains to the nest. Darvain will punch through the forested area to meet us for a pincer assault.”, I said, “The elves that remain here will be among them using their archer skills to make the enemy easy pickings for Darvain’s men.”
“I like the plan.”, Lagas said, “When will we start to mobilize?”
“Once your men arrive we will move forward with the operation.”, I said, “After a long march I am sure all the men would like a break anyways.”
“Yes, three days is sufficient to give my men time to gather their strength.”, Darvain said, “Let me ask, where will you be during the main event?”
“Who the hell do you think is going to lead the charge once we bombard the hell out of the nest?”, I asked, “George is too old to move very fast. If we left him to it the fighting wouldn’t start for another year.”
“Shove it you bastard!”, George said in response.
The four of us started laughing at each other before leaving the tent. By this time the King had already taken his men out of camp, and back towards the capital. Watching the so-called King of Atlas runaway we only shook our heads in disappointment. As the sun started to set we rejoined my lovers as they talking with Darvain’s companions.
“By the way, Darvain, who did you bring with you?”, I asked.
“About that…”, he said with a cramped smile.
“Mister James!!”, a small child said running up to me.
Running up to me with her small tiger tail was Darvain’s youngest sister, Dola. Having met her when she was only four I was happy to see her in good health. Kneeling down I caught her as she jumped into my arms. Nuzzling into my chest the now seven year old girl was giggling with joy. Patting her head softly I turned to the slightly embarrassed Darvain. No matter how anger the Beast King, or his sons got Dola could easily wash their anger away with her bright smile.
Looking over to the fire I recognized several more faces. Turning to him I asked him why all his siblings were here. Saying that the Beast King thought this was an excellent chance to get some combat experience in they were all here because of it. Sadly, Dola had come for more personal reasons.
“Mister James! You are still going to marry me when I am old enough, right?”, Dola asked with pleading eyes.
Six of the eight girls stirred hearing that till Amber told them she had asked previously. Back then, and to this day none of us thought it would lead anywhere so I previously said yes. Now looking at a slightly more mature Dola I gave her my same answer.
“If you can convince your dad that I can make you happy, yes.”, I said stroking her hair.
“Yay!”, she said hugging me tightly.
For such a small girl she certainly had a strong grip. Taking after her mother completely she was the split image of her in her youth. I knew that when she came around marrying age every man in her country was going to seek her hand in marriage. To have the honor of being asked by her personally I felt very special. After carrying her over to the fire again like the princess she was I realized the second, third, fourth, and fifth brothers were giving me sour looks.
“What’s the problem?”, I said setting her down.
“She is a princess not your plaything.”, they said.
“All of you will show him respect!”, Darvain demanded, “Father sees him as an equal, and so you will respect his view. Both mother, and father are aware of how Dola wants him to pay attention to her. You may not want to remember, but he was given permission by grandfather and father to do so!”
“Doesn’t mean he is strong enough to be recognized by us…”, they muttered.
“Why you!”, Darvain started to say.
“Calm down.”, I said with a grin, “I know the one way to get them to show me respect, a Parthonia.”
Hearing me mention it the four ignorant brothers laughed at me.
“You think you can take us in single combat?”, they laughed.
“Of course not…I can take the four of you in one fight.”, I said, “That is unless you are too afraid to fight me.”
Before Darvain could warn them they agreed. Shaking his head like he was about to watch them make fools of themselves he gave up. The four agreed to my challenge, and it was decided that the Parthonia would take place tomorrow afternoon. As the four of them walked away Darvain asked if it was really necessary for this.
“Who was the thick-headed brother when Dola first demanded I princess carry her?”, I responded.
“Well in my case I was stupid thinking I was tougher than both my father, and grandfather.”, he said, “I should have known better after watching you beat them without breaking a sweat.”
“Haha, well the four of them need to learn where they stand in the army.”, I said, “I’d rather earn their trust through action than have you preach to them about it. I think we both agree the results will be much better if it’s dealt with in the arena.”
“I suppose your right. Tradition dictates that they can’t hold a grudge against you should you beat them. After a thrashing I am sure they will respect you without an issue.”, he said.
Nodding in agreement we laughed as Dola sat herself on my lap. Looking at her enviously the eight women hoped she would move soon. Seeing their gazes Dola made sure they knew she wasn’t going to budge for a while.