Stretching out my sore body I looked out the back window. It was currently daytime maybe around 11am. Raising my head slightly I found myself surrounded by eight women who had been obviously crying for sometime. Stroking Amber’s cheek she stirred slowly opening her exhausted eyes. Seeing me it wasn’t even a second before she was on me.
“Ouch!”, I said in pain, “You know how badly I get messed up after using my blessings. Keep that in mind would you please.”
“Shut up!”, she said kissing me repeatedly, “I heard how reckless you were fighting a Titan class single-handedly. You should be thankful you aren’t more seriously injured.”
Hearing the discussion everyone else was quick to wake. Getting an ear full from them I was then showered in a hailstorm of kisses. Before I could do a thing they demanded I make this up to them. Asking what they wanted they demanded a week’s vacation after this where we would do lots of couple things together. Liking the sound of a vacation I agreed without confirming what all they had in mind. Helping me get dressed we left the van headed for George’s tent. Seeing me the men started cheering obviously someone had over sold the story of what happened. Walking into the tent Darius, Jarvis, Darvain, Lagas, and George all looked over at me.
“About time you woke up you lazy bum!”, George said.
“You go fight a Titan class by yourself, and then fight several hundred normal Decay.”, I said shaking my head with a grin, “After that then you can call me a bum.”
“Nah, I will take your word for it.”, he said dodging the offer.
“Glad to see you up, and around again.”, Darvain said.
“I am still in rough shape, but a few days rest will fix me up.”, I said.
Everyone agreed that right now rest, and healing was what our men needed right now. Turning to me Darius asked a question I knew that would pop up.
“So about your blessings…why didn’t you tell anyone you were blessed by the God of War?”, he asked.
With some assistance I took a seat, and explained myself.
“Think about it. If word got out that one of the summoned human Heroes wasn’t blessed by any of the six Goddesses what would happen?”, I said, “Do you think the higher-ups in Atlas would let me walk around freely? I kept it under wraps to protect my comrades. If word got out about my blessing they would be targeted along with me.”
George nodded in agreement. Having witnesses many non-believers burn at the stake he knew the punishment we would receive.
“What is your other blessing?”, Lagas said, “Heroes always have two.”
“In addition to the God of War’s blessing I received the Goddess of Annhilation’s blessing as well.”, I said.
Looking at me in shock the five of them, and the four Heroines were in shock. To wield two very powerful divine blessings was a shock to the demihumans in the room. This was great news for all of them because in their minds it made me closer to them. George wasn’t the kind of person to worry about it because he only cared about coming home every night. So long as he could do that he was happy. As we were about to go over things a cute fuzzball ran past her father. Jumping into my chest she squeezed me as tight as possible.
“Mister James!!”, she said bawling her eyes out, “I thought you weren’t gonna wake up!”
Patting her head gently she looked at me with a smile. Thanking her for being worried about me I then thanked the eight women as well. Looking away from embarrassment I laughed softly. Supporting Dola with both arms she took a bold step, and forced her lips to mine. Caught off guard her family, and I could only look at her wide-eyed. Parting lips she hid her face in embarrassment.
“Dola!”, Darius said still in shock, “Be mindful of where you are!”
“No, he will be my husband! You, and Momma do it all the time! Why can’t I with Mister James!”, she said puffing her cheeks out.
“Well…because we are already married!”, Darius said firmly, “You aren’t married so you can’t do that.”
“Then I want to get married, and have babies!”, she demand.
“Absolutely not!”, both he and I said.
“You are far to young to be having children!”, Darius said.
“I won’t touch you like that till your of age in your country.”, I said, “That age is sixteen, and it won’t happen a second before that!”
Before we could talk her down anymore Jarvis threw his two cents in the ring.
“Darius, weren’t you and Emily married at nine?”, he said with a grin, “Father married at five.”
“That’s different!”, Darius quickly said, “Father became King when his father died suddenly. There is no reason for her to marry when she doesn’t need too.”
“Come now! Your daughter wants to marry him so let her.”, he said, “If she wants to mate let her.”
“That’s easy for you to say! It’s not your precious daughter’s womanhood on the line!”, Darius said.
“Are you saying you don’t trust him to cherish her?”, Jarvis asked.
“No…I trust him completely with her happiness. It’s just I want her to be older so she can make a better informed decision.”, Darius said, “Once she gives herself to him she can’t leave him. You know our laws just as well as I do.”
“I know that. That’s why I think your wife should talk to her about it. Her father telling her now will only lead her to do it behind your back.”, Jarvis pointed out.
“I…I can’t live with that.”, he said resigning himself to his wife’s decision.
Sitting on my lap Dola decided to listen to our conversation.
“So it is definitely a spy then?”, George said looking at me.
“No doubt. The fact that all parties encountered ambushes means someone squealed on us.”, I said rubbing my chin, “Question is who squealed, and why.”
“I suggest we check our own men to ensure that they are really all there.”, Lagas said, “Doing it as one army would be far to difficult.”
“I agree.”, Darvain said, “We should just split it between us in here to do. We know our own men best after all.”
“Understood.”, George said, “In the meantime, James, get some rest to recover your strength.”
Agreeing without question I let myself out. Following after us Dola demand she stay with me. Looking at Darius he gave her permission. Falling into bed I wanted to go back to sleep. Before I could though a certain someone was exploring the van.
“So where is the babymaker?”, she asked looking under the seats.
The nine of us were a bit shocked she was already wanting to do this. Thinking back on her mothers personality I understood where this was coming from. There was a reason he had thirteen children. His wife was, while being extremely gentle, was a freak in the sheets according to rumor. Knowing that I assumed that all of her children would end up similar, but this was ridiculous.
“Dola, you know your father said you had to talk to your mother first.”, I reminded her.
“She said yes after speaking with you.”, she said searching for what in her mind was a babymaker.
“Well as no one, but you heard her we have to ask first.”, I said.
“Momma said to take control if the man wouldn’t do like we said.”, she said, “She told all of my sisters that as well. Brittany mated with someone before, and made a baby with him. I want many babies with you.”
“I am glad, but you are too young to have babies with me.”, I said.
“No, I have already had two cycles!”, she said proudly.
Closing my eyes not wanting to think about it I looked away. If she found out how babies were really made I’d have to kick her out of the van till she was sixteen. Giving up on the search she asked to take a nap. Liking her idea I accepted as she asked to sleep on my chest. As it was safer than making babies I accepted hoping it would make her forget. Four days later we reconvened to discuss the findings.
“It was definitely one of my men.”, Lagas said, “We caught him sneaking out of the camp.”
Taking a small gem out of his pocket he placed it on the table.
“He killed himself during the scuffle, and we found this after his body turned to ash.”, Lagas said, “It appears to be a magic crystal.”
“I see.”, I said narrowing my eyes as I examined it.
“So we found our leak then.”, George said.
“One of them.”, I said.
“You mean you think there was more than one?”, George asked.
Looking at Darvain I asked him a question.
“What happened to your scouts that were supposed to have scouted the area where we encountered the Titian class Decay?”, I asked.
“We believe they were killed when they were found out.”, Jarvis said.
“A Cat Sith was found out in the forest by a thirty foot Titan class Decay?”, I said, “That must have been one blind Cath Sith to not have seen it from a ways off.”
Thinking about it Darius saw my point. Cat Sith were known for their stealthy attributes, and amazing tracking skills. There should have been no way for them to have been found under normal circumstances.
“You sent them out after separating from Lagas, and I. That leaves only your men, and a small amount at that.”, I said.
Aside from the dead scouts only nine other people knew. Darius, Jarvis, and Darvain weren’t responsible, and neither were any of the other brothers. Asking them if either of the remaining two had been acting out-of-place Darvain seemed to remember something. Whispering to his father for confirmation he informed us of something. Apparently before sending off the scouts the logistics officer covered them in some kind of spray that was supposed to mask their scent.
“I haven’t heard of anything like that.”, Lagas said.
“The hell were those scouts smoking to believe such a story!”, George said covering his face in shock.
“They were simply following orders.”, Darius said clenching his fists, “Darvain why don’t you bring him, and that spray here for us. Make sure he knows it’s a priority.”
Nodding Darvain returned ten minutes later with the officer. Scared shitless due to everyone eyeing him down he spilled the beans.
“I misplaced some weapons on the trip here…in exchange for keeping quite the armory master made me give the scouts the spray!”, he said bawling his eyes out, “I didn’t know it would get them killed! You have to believe me!!”
“Where is the armory master!”, I snapped, “If he is the culprit he could easily destroy our weapons rendering us defenseless!”
Rising to our feet we ran over to the armory to find the place in shambles. Giving orders for all the men to search for the armory master it wasn’t long before he was found trying to take off on horseback. Dragging the man into the center of camp we started to beat the answers out of him. Before he could talk though his body turned to ash like the elf had before. Picking up the stone I called one of the Cat Sith over to examine the stone.
“There is no doubt about it. This is an Ancient Submission Stone. Before the slave collars were made five hundred years ago slaves were forced to swallow these instead. They function almost the same as the collars do except instead of dealing pain when going against the master it kills them.”, he said handing me the stone.
“Is there a way to search for them?”, I asked.
“Yes, I know the spell to detect them.”, he said chanting the spell.
Looking around we spotted four other men in the crowd who instantly made a run for it. Shooting their knee caps I crippled them. Knocking them out instead of interrogating them I turned to Lagas.
“If we remove the stones first we can beat them into talking afterwards.”, I said.
“I will have one of our mages extract the stones.”, he said with a firm nod.
After successfully removing the stones from them they willingly spilled their guts. Having sold themselves to feed their families a merchant shoved the stone into their mouths. Not knowing what it was they swallowed it, and that was all it took. Since then they have been following orders the merchants left for them.
“How many months back was this?”, I asked.
“Seven months back.”, they said.
“Tracking the merchant then is impossible.”, I said with a sigh of disappointment.
With the leaks patched now we were ready to begin our second offensive in reclaiming part of Flamoria. Before handing out more orders though we swept the camp for any other possible enslaved soldiers.