44 parts Added Mar 2020 Updated 19 Aug 2023 31k views (#308) 5.0 stars (30 votes) 43k words (#84)
You can get used to anything, really.
I’d spent thirty years of my life getting used to who I was: painfully average, modestly competent, and socially awkward. A paper pusher, a bit of a homebody. Not super close to family, not too many friends. Acquaintances, mostly—work friends, primarily, and a few exes. Still in the closet.
That part came gradually. There had been a moment in college when I’d almost come out, but then Karl and I had broken up. Therapists had told me I’d become too complacent, echoing Karl’s complaint. So what if I’d rather stay at home and cuddle? No reason to go out. No ambition, but I was willing to work, so I did well enough at the office. Reliable and competent. But never exciting, never a go getter. Had I ever really tried hard? Didn’t see the point, I got along well enough as I was.
So yeah, it kind of stuck. So did the routine of work, after college, and before long I was wearing out the couch, and slowly buying bigger pants. I was just kind of used to it.
Out of boredom, I’d joined an online game, and found myself looking forward to the quests, the lore, the leveling up. My willingness to grind away was uniquely suited to that style of gameplay where slow and steady really did win the race, and where a bit of cleverness went a long way. Months went by and I spent ever more time there, finding satisfaction in the routine.
Turns out you can get used to winning, too. And I had. I was good enough to solo play though group quests, which suited me just fine. It was mindless fun, it passed the time, and my hours passed.
So, there I was contentedly meandering through what passed for a life.
…And then suddenly I wasn’t. I was blinking in the sun, laying on what felt like stone and grass. It smelled of turned earth, fresh grass, leather, some kind of metal….
“Awaken, and heed my summons!” Wait, what?
“I bind you, demon, bind you to my service!”
I felt weird, tingly, and not quite myself, my head was pounding. I sat up. Felt like threads snapped around my chest as I did so, but I paid it no mind.
“Who are you binding?”
“Dear gods, he shook off the restraints like they were nothing!”
“Brace yourselves, lads! He can’t get all of us!”
My vision finally cleared, and I found myself sitting in some sort of circle, surrounded by small, aggressive men. A thin, nerdy looking guy pointed a crystal topped rod at me, nervously chanting under his breath.
What the hell?
There were five of them in front of me. Thin, almost androgynous of build, looking much like the elfin inhabitants of the online game world’s Lianamar district. Lean, but muscled nicely, somewhere between twink and twunk. They were dressed in clothing that looked like a cross between the renaissance festival and Hot Topic’s discount rack. They had fear in their eyes and their body language, though also a bit of courage. Disturbingly well armed, some with swords and daggers, one with a nasty-looking bow, and of course the cutest of the lot with crystal-topped rod, the glow fading from the gem.
At their wide-eyed gaze, I turned to look behind me, but saw nothing—just a few more of these skinny guys, weapons held in protective stances. Then I realized.
They seemed afraid of me.
I mean, why? I was a dumpy middle-aged—-
Ever look at yourself, and your body image simply doesn’t quite line up? Yeah, it was like that, only in a big way.
Gone was my pale and flabby midsection; in its place, a thick and solid abdomen and deep adonis belt was inscribed on paper-thin, ruddy flesh. Above it, muscular pecs and pert nipples. I stared in wonder at my arm, itself a beefy work of art, with long, bulky-lean muscles and easily roused veins. I could almost feel the strength there, right down to my thick fingers. Hairless, but in the flickering light I spied some ink.
Below, it looked like the stout legs I’d imagined lumberjacks might have: thick, sturdy, carved hams stretched before me, with larger-than-expected feet at the ends. And between them, stirring like a dog whose master just called him, lay a rapidly expanding bulge.
“See! Its face reddens!”
Duh, I was embarrassed—I didn’t want to pop wood here while I was surrounded by fantasy twinks!
“Hold, demon! You are bound! You should be—”
“Whoa, whoa—I’m not a demon,” I said, but found myself shocked by the rumbling voice that I apparently now sported.
“He is within the circle of truth, Meider,” the one with the shaggy brown hair and the shiny medallion said. “Even if the binding failed, the truth circle should be in effect.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about. Truth circle? Where the hell are we? Who are you? How did I get here?” I asked.
“You are bound! By Hakar’s circle, if nothing else! It’s a foolproof means of binding any evil creature!”
“Ah, there’s your problem,” I said. “I’m not evil.”
They all stepped back warily when I said that, but nothing fancy happened.
“What happens if I tell a lie?” I asked.
“The circle will react and you will feel pain should you attempt it,” the one with the crystal rod said, in awe.
“Meider, was it?” I said. “I’m really confused now, I have no idea why I’m here, but I mean you no harm.”
His eyes grew wide. “Say a falsehood,” he implored.
“Um….I’m Gojira, king of the monster—aaaa!”
Yikes, that stung. Sure enough, a shimmering field. of reddish static flickered around me, and it felt like I’d stuck a finger in a light socket. Only, you know, my whole body at once.
“How can this be, Kendris!” Meider asked his friend. Kendris, the shaggy-haired one, gestured to his comrades to lower their arms but be wary. Then he approached.
“We slew the demon summoner mid-spell. Perhaps this is the result? Perhaps it brought something else, something unintended, to our world.”
“Demon summoner?” Oh, no.
“Yes, a fiend worshipper, who was intent on bringing his vicious master into our world to do harm. We stopped him,” he gestured at the slumped, bleeding robed form I’d somehow missed seeing. “Before he finished his master spell. Perhaps he misspoke when I slit his throat.”
“Yikes,” I said.
“What plane do you call home, stranger?” Meider asked as Kendris stalked around me, examining the symbols carved into the ground.
“Earth? I’m just an ordinary human.”
The field shuddered briefly and I felt a tingle. WTF?
“And this form, do you normally possess a form this….powerful?”
I looked down and nearly answered before remembering the liar’s penalty. “Not usually, no.”
“Then I ask your forgiveness, but please swear to us that you mean us no harm, and we will do the same.”
“I mean you no harm.” But I will reserve the right to defend myself, I thought.
Meider placed his hand inside the circle and looked me straight in the eyes. “So long as you mean us no harm, and pose no threat to our community, I mean you no harm.” He held my gaze, and nodded. “Your word is binding. What is your name?”
“Is it safe to give you that?” I remembered a few stories in which it really wasn’t wise to give your true name away.
“Ah, I apologize for any misunderstanding. What do you prefer to be called?”
“Eric,” I replied.
“Then, Eric, I am Meider and this is Kendris, and my brother and I will attempt to sort out what happened to you. If we can make it right, we will. Men, I think we are fine here, so you may continue with the clean-up work.”
Kendris, the burlier of the two, stretched out a hand in greeting, and offered to help me up. I accepted. And instantly I realized how different things really were, because my hand was nearly twice the size of his.
Standing up was a very different experience, suddenly.
As I got to my feel and caught my balance (abetted by Kendris’s surprisingly strong hand), I realized I stood a full head and a half taller than him, and that caught us both by surprise, though possibly me more than him.
I felt something brush my leg, and an odd sensation at the base of my spine. As I swung round to look, a serpent seemed to shoot through the air and hid behind me. And then I realized it was no serpent. I had a tail—long as a leg, and with a spaded tip. Much the same color as my own ruddy skin.
“Sorry, that’s… uh… new.”
“If you are normally a human, I would expect nothing less than surprise. You wear a form that… well, it is certainly not quite human.”
“You have no idea. At home, I’m very ordinary,” I said, reaching up to run my hands through my hair.
“Ahh!” I chirped, startled to find bone where I expected hair.
“No horns back home, I take it,” Kendris replied with a chuckle.
“Shit. I have got to be dreaming.”
“I am very much afraid not,” Meider said. “But come, let us play host and perhaps we can all find our footing.”
I glumly followed him, with Kendris trailing behind (watching me, no doubt, I could nearly taste his suspicion despite the apparently magical vow), and breathed deeply. This was unpolluted air, and apparently this form was allergy-free. Every scent seemed distinct and fresh, and unsullied somehow.
We walked through a line of guards, dressed in similar livery—I noticed coloration and wrist bands on the men that were echoed in the brothers’ garb—and through a camp that seemed all too familiar, especially once I spied a banner.
“The Jagged Crusade?”
“I thought you knew nothing of our world,” Meider said, a delicate eyebrow arched in suspicion. He ushered us into a lavish tent.
“I thought so too. But if this is the Jagged Crusade, you’re fighting the Hordes of Night, right? Near Bonifer Mountain?”
“You seem to know much.”
“Meider, on my world, there is a… a game we play, a sort of magical story simulation. I got really good at it. Good enough to be a ranked player. It can’t be a coincidence that I’m here.”
“I wonder. The summoner was rushing to complete his spell, attempting to bind a great demon lord to turn the tide of battle. Our team was dispatched to stop him, and we barely managed to do so—in fact, he seemed to complete the ritual just as he fell to the final arrows.”
Kendris leaned in. “As I said earlier, brother, perhaps he mispronounced something in his haste, or due to blood loss.”
“Possible. There are two parts needed—one is the summoning spell itself, but the other creates a form for the spirit to inhabit. It should take the form of whatever demon you intend to summon, so that the spirit and body align properly and ground the outsider to this realm.”
Meider pulled forth a massive tome and began leafing through it. “If we can find the form you match, that may be a clue.”
Kendris peered over his brother’s shoulder disapprovingly. “I thought you’d destroyed this book.”
“Of course not. It’s too useful. A unique source of knowledge of our foes. Ah! Here we are, does that look about right to you, Kendris?”
“Vanquillon? Yes, it looks like a perfect match.”
A sinking feeling spread down my spine. “Did you say Vanquillon?”
“Fuck. There was… there was a hidden quest, I’d just completed it. Clear out a pocket dimension of demons, and return with the Demon’s Sword. Thing is, if you acquire the sword, demons don’t attack you, they obey your commands. I just equipped it last night. So technically, at least on my home server, I am the lord of Vanquillon, holder of the Demon’s Sword.”
“I’ll give you two guesses,” Meider said, “as to which titles that fool probably used in the summoning spell.”
“Show me the picture, please. You haven’t got a mirror around.”
Yup, there it was, the demon I’d slain the other night. I remembered thinking, at the time, that some repressed queer artist had had particular fun designing this bit of muscle eye candy. In fact, the forums had a field day with him once the secret quest started to show up. Vanqueer-on, Lord of Sexy, was what he’d been dubbed in one chat room. Nearly seven feet tall, gorgeous, with a tail but no wings and sleek ram’s horns shooting elegantly back through his silky long hair. Hunky body that looked like someone added 50 pounds of muscle to a Hemsworth/Thor base and died it a ruddy shade.
And now, I was stuck in his body.
“I take it by your expression that you know of this name?”
“I do. I defeated that creature a few nights ago in my game. It was a beta test.”
Meider frowned. “This says that Vanquillon is a title given to whoever defeats the title holder.”
Kendris looked at me quizzically. “I assure you that is what this says.”
“No, I mean, shit, I defeated him, and so I hold the title.”
“You mean… human you defeated this demon? You claimed to be ordinary…”
“I am. It’s a game. I didn’t really fight him, I pretended to… it’s hard to explain. You have chess, right? It’s like that… sort of.”
“I think I follow. Your… avatar in the game defeated Vanquillon’s, in the game.”
“Hmm. Sympathetic magic. Symbols hold great power, and representations of things in ritual can tie to the thing referenced.”
Kendris mused aloud, “I wonder if he used a ritual to defeat him?”
“Yeah, I did, it was the Ritual of Asscrack, or something like that.”
I thought back—it was like an old school boss fight where you had to fend off the big guy while activating these ritual posts around a circle. You closed the circle and then cast the spell, before the candles burnt out. A lot of it was timing and avoiding his attacks while you worked. It was a tough fight.
Meider ran for another tome, flipping rapidly through the pages until he found a diagram.
“Does this symbol look familiar?” I squinted at the page Meider showed; the text seemed almost fluid but the diagrams were clear enough.
“…Yeah, it does. There were these five candles around the circle and I had to light them in sequence, activate a spell, and keep him busy in the center of the circle while dodging his attacks.”
“The ritual of Hazak. Also known as the Usurper’s Rite. It is designed for cases of possession, to evict some entity who has taken over a person.”
“But it was the banishment spell the game sent me after. I, well, my avatar, spent all day hunting for the ingredients.”
“Then you used the spell against someone in their own form? I’m sorry, but I fear that the Usurper’s Rite was never intended for such a purpose.”
“But it’s not… I mean, why would it work? I wasn’t really there!”
“Neither was the demon, and once you’re both at the same level of representational abstraction….”
Meider fixed me with an intelligent, piercing gaze.
“I am satisfied you mean us no harm. And that you are here quite by accident. I would like to help you, but I will need time to research this. It is fascinating.”
“So you think you can put me back?”
“If I can do so, I will. But I cannot promise that it is within my power.”
I must have slumped, but then I felt a warm hand on mine. It was Kendris.
“If my brother sets his mind to it, you have the best possible chance. But in the meanwhile, we must figure out what to do with you. You’re not exactly inconspicuous.”
I felt my emotions beginning to catch up to my predicament, and a tear began to well up in my eye. “I’m a monster. I’m a freak and stuck in another world.”
“Hey,” Kendris said. “Look at me. Really look at me.”
I did so. He was handsome; his shaggy brown hair reminded me of a carefree surfer’s.
“Good. Now. First things first. You should have the power to disguise yourself, your form, if you possess Vanquillon’s power. You need to focus on accessing that power, and altering your shape.”
“Are you sure about this, Kendris?” Meider asked.
“If he’s got Vanquillon’s form, we’d waste our time trying for force him into another shape. You know how shapeshifting works.”
“True. Any transmutation spell I placed would fight with his innate shifting ability, and that’s on top of his innate general resistance. I might manage a simple illusion but it wouldn’t hold for long.”
“Now listen, Eric. I’m going to ask you to concentrate on yourself. Touch your body with your fingers. Feel its edges. Close your eyes….and breathe deeply.”
I tried to comply. It wasn’t easy; there was a lot of me now, and it was unfamiliar. Hard muscle, broad flesh, silky skin that felt charged with sensuality. I felt my dick stir and immediately shut down any thought of that area; I had enough going on.
“Now, imagine the tingling you felt with your fingertips, but stop touching your body—just put your fingertips together and feel that sensation flowing to the tips.”
It was working…or I had a good imagination.
“You have power within you—- call upon it, feel it flow to your fingertips, just as the sensation of touching your body did.”
So far so good.
“Oh my,” Meider said, “Your little apprentice centering ritual seems to be working.”
“It’s how I learned,” Kendris answered. “Now Eric, feel that power in your fingertips. Hold it there. And now, imagine a human form, and keep that image in your mind.”
“Yeah, I have an image.”
“Excellent. Now, imagine the power flowing back through your fingers, up your hands, through your body—all the while replacing your form with the form you imagine.”
I could feel it! Fingers felt a slow buzz, and then a buzzing electrical sensation traveled throughout my body (including the tail!) and ended at my feet and the tips of my horns.
“Oh yes. Now imagine that you can hold that form for an hour,” he said. “That’s a start.”
“One hour… I can do this for one hour.”
“Ken, he might be a novice, but his natural energy is pretty strong.”
“Yes brother, this is about starting with the assumption of control. Eric hasn’t done this before, but Vanquillon has.”
“It feels done now, should I open my eyes?”
Success! I laughed aloud, delighted. Strong but sinewy arms stretched out before me, lightly tanned. Below, a trim physique and a narrow waist.
“How do I look?”
“It is a beautiful form,” Meider nodded. “Is this normally how you look?”
“My real body isn’t so…nice. I figured if I’m going to fake it, I might as well use a nice body.”
“So it seems,” Kendris said, marveling. “Amazing—both human and elven at once. Most attractive, though not all are so open-minded as we are,” he said, somewhat ashamed. “Such creatures are rare enough, but you could pass for either with little effort. Yes, that will do.”
“You’re too pretty to escape notice,” Meider said. “But garbed as you are, you may be mistaken for a camp-follower.”
“He’s about my size, I’ll lend him something,” Kendris said.
They didn’t know I was imagining Zac Efron and Orlando Bloom. Well, Legolas. I guess I wanted to fit in.
Kendris was gone for a few minutes, so I spent it annoying Meider. I felt surprisingly bold, and attractive.
“So, Meider. Apparently you’re a wizard or something. And apparently I can do magic?”
“Sorcery, in your case, most likely,” he said. “But similarly arcane in source. At least for this sort of thing. May I?”
I nodded and he reached out, touching me in sadly safe places, as if testing the spell’s success. Then he mumbled and passed a few fingers over me.
“I can’t even tell now. It’s as complete as I could have managed, given time and preparation. It’s a fundamental shape shift. Until you will otherwise or it wears off, you are this creature, physically. I find myself torn between wanting to explore this power and wanting to send you home.”
“We can do both.”
“We will have to. I am a master of the arts, but this is beyond my skill and knowledge. For now, I will need to work with you to test your limits—and then I may need to borrow your power to send you back.”
“Will that work?”
“I don’t know.”
“What if you defeat me and claim the title?”
“The thought had crossed my mind, but I have no wish to become a demon. And if I repeat the Usurper’s Rite where would your soul go? Clearly your consciousness is here in this realm; how would it find its way back to your body, back in your world?”
“I’m glad you’re smart, Meider. I hadn’t thought of that. It’s a very attractive quality.”
Wait, what the hell? Was I hitting on him?
“Did I hear correctly that Kendris is your brother? You seem so different.”
Yeah, you’re a cute twink bookworm, and he’s a hunky surfer bro. Both kinda hot.
“He is, but by another father. I am the elder of us. And Kendris is a moon-worshipper whereas I chose a less spiritual path. I put my faith in books and knowledge.”
“But you both seem in good shape,” I said. Teasing. Most unlike me.
He fidgeted a little in his seat. “Well, to some extent. He’s always been the more physical of us, but I have found that I enjoy running and swimming. And it has probably saved my life.”
The thought of him swimming came strongly to mind.
“Do your people swim in the nude?”
“What?” He was surprised by the question. Hell, so was I. A bit forward for me.
“Nude. Naked Swimming.”
“Oh, yes, in private. Do your people bathe in your garb?”
“We have special suits to hide our private parts from view.”
“Oh, yes, that seems wise.”
He was nervously refusing to meet my eyes.
Push more, he’s into it.
“I’ve never really done the nude swimming thing, or even a speedo or thong. Never had the body for it.”
“Undergarments, I take it?”
“Yes, sexy undergarments,” I answered ,before I could stop myself. “They reduce drag and show off your pleasing form.”
“Ahem.” Kendris cleared his throat. “Was I interrupting something?”
“What? Oh, no, Eric was just explaining some of his home’s customs to me.”
“You seem to really enjoy talking about it,” Kendris said, nodding bemusedly at both of us.
I looked down, and my minimal loincloth was strained to the point of no return. How embarrassing!
“My apologies,” Meider said, scooting away. He wasn’t successful in hiding the tent in his trousers, though.
“Not the first time your wand has had a mind of its own, Mei,” Kendris chuckled. “Here, Eric. Hopefully they will suit you.”
I quickly pulled on the trousers—a little tight in the bum, but then I was built a bit differently than Kendris—and was momentarily confused by the shirt. It wrapped and tied a little oddly, but he stepped over to help. It was a little tight but the effect was nice.
“You look quite presentable,” he said, with an odd look in his eye. “Now, be careful—I want you to think about the form you wear now, and see if you can hold the shape until nightfall. That’s about four hours away. But as for the other problem, you might want to avoid waving that around, if you can. You’ll frighten people.”
Blushing, I adjusted myself. I admit to guessing about the size, but hell, if you’re going to pick one, might as well go big or go home? So I was probably dealing with about 9 inches of cock, and it was evident.
“Sorry,” I said.
“Don’t be. At least it’s smaller than you were before,” he grinned. “We are spared the terrors of the demon cock.”
I chuckled at that. Thank god he had a sense of humor.
“I don’t believe you, Ken.” Meider shook his head. “Mind in the gutter as usual. Perhaps you can feed our guest while I continue my research. You can bring me back a pie and a pint.”
Kendris nodded flippantly and took my hand. “Come, Eric, and we’ll feed you, before anything escapes and devours us.”
I’ve already told you that I—- well, real-world, Earth-me—was, in a word, a schlub. Pushing 250 pounds at 5’8. I lumbered around rather than walking. I lounged. I worked, of course, but that epic fight last week had been a nearly 20 hour day—10 hours of real work and 10 more in that in-game quest. Lumbering and resting, and wheezing a little, had been an expectation so ingrained I barely thought about it.
But now…here, I moved with power and purpose. Lithe, in this form. Sexy. Strong, agile, hot.
And just below, that electric undercurrent that was apparently this form’s magical energy. If I willed it, I could alter that energy, and return to the other form. Vanquillon, a literal demon lord. Raw, chaotic sexual appeal and physical power, plus supernatural and magical power. I was still learning how it worked, but it was a lot more fun looking like a Legolas-meets-Zac-Efron morph. It was so easy to move, and apparently gracefulness was part of the package. and….I was hungry.
And Kendris had a very, very shapely butt. He walked ahead of me, wary-eyed as he measured the reaction of his fellows to the new arrival. If anyone noticed anything amiss, I couldn’t tell. Eventually we reached the mess tent.
If you thought fantasy elves were like Berkeley hippies, you’d be mostly wrong. At least not this crew. This was more like a health-conscious military hall. Greens and lean meats, and heaps of balanced carbs. Most of the stuff I recognized, but a few unusual shaped vegetables and some utterly unidentifiable cuts of meat gave away the alien nature of the feast. Good-natured bro types and naturally wiry, lithe, muscle abounded. The form-fitting but comfortable default garb, frequent presence of enticingly tight leather, and smiling earnest faces gave the place the relaxed feel of a college dining hall. But there was also an undercurrent of tension; these were warriors relaxing after a tough battle, not just bros chillaxing over food and drink.
“Eat, Eric. You must be famished.”
I realized I was. That energy I was burning to stay in this form had to come from somewhere, and I think some lingering sense of it being dinnertime back home was bugging me.
“Here, try the barley stew; if you like cooked grains. It’s particularly good. I’d avoid that cheese with the yellow rind unless you really like sour flavors. And if you like tart fruits, that dragon-egg fruit is quite good, despite the smell. Do you eat flesh?”
“Meat. I eat fish, but we’re far from the ocean here. But I understand the venison is good as well.”
“Ah, yes. I’ll eat anything.”
Turned out I really was hungry, and as I tucked in, Kendris sat across from me digging into his. He shredded some herbs over the barley stew and I copied him; the flavor wasn’t too far from thyme, but unique, and he was right about the stew. And the venison, and the mound of steamed greens. Delicious.
I was still eating enthusiastically ten minutes later when he was finished. He smiled and asked if I wanted more cider. I nodded, mouth full, and he walked over to grab a hunk of bread and a pitcher. I was afforded the pleasure of watching him go—and man, those tight leather trousers showed off an awesome butt.
“It’s a great view, isn’t it?” This from the auburn-haired elf at the table behind me. He looked a bit older than Kendris or Meider, but I had no clue how elves aged. Still, his eyes suggested experience and it was clear he noticed me staring.
“Apologies, stranger, if I offended. I’m Greth.” He opened his hand in a particular way that I assumed must be a greeting, and I mimicked it a little awkwardly. He seemed satisfied.
“Eric,” I replied. “Was I that obvious?”
“To me, yes. Many of us have been waylaid by the charms of that posterior, but sadly, I fear it’s a lost cause. For all that Kendris has the eyes of an eagle when on the battlefield, he is, if I’m honest, utterly clueless about the effect he has on others.”
“I’ve met more guys like that than I care to think about. But then, there weren’t many guys who looked like that who were interested in me.” I’d said it before I even realized, I knew nothing of their customs beyond half-remembered game lore and fan theory. I hoped I didn’t stick my foot in my mouth.
“It’s the only failing he has as commander, in my opinion,” Greth said. “He fights like a devil, he heeds wisdom offered, and he uses his head. And the men here would follow their young commander to their death. But that is in part because most of them want to share a bed with him, and he remains unaware. I,” he said, taking a strong gulp of what I guessed was a sort of beer, “have been more direct, but he politely declined. Shame. A few of the lads remain a little heartbroken, but I’ve made it my business to smooth things over for them. Good for morale!”
This was not an earth-normal conversation. But as I looked around, the casual intimacy, the physicality of how men and women interacted here, was a lot more than at home. I’d missed the innocent hand-holding, shoulder stroking, and sheer proximity and openness of everyone in the room. Hands on thighs, and a lot more physical contact than I was used to.
“Where are you from, Eric?”
“A very long way away.”
“Apologies if I seem forward, but I know not all the tribes share our customs. Have I offended?”
“No, but I was a little surprised.”
“Oh, are you from one of the tribes where sex is taboo?”
“No, but it’s a lot less open than yours seems to be,” answered, as truthfully as I could.
“We are a dying people, and worse, we are at war,” he sad, a little sadly. “As such, pretense serves little purpose. We must take our pleasure where we can, and we share in our fate and leave good memories for the survivors.”
Whoa, that was a little maudlin.
“But you are young,” he said. “And such talk is best suited to the old.”
He didn’t look old to me. “And you’re an old man?”
“Hardly! But six score summers on, I’m not a young one!” He smiled, and I found myself charmed. He was easy to like. “How old are you?”
“How old do you think I am?”
“Well, if you are as I think, my guess may be far off. You don’t look more than 25 summers, but that may be lucky parentage.”
“I’m 36,” I said.
“Oh, well, that’s basically the same. Wait another 30 years and see how you feel!”
By then Kendris was returning with a pitcher. “Cider, Geth?”
“Pass—I’ve got a nice beer I’m working through, and I don’t like to mix.”
“Your loss,” he laughed, and then refilled my mug and his. “It’s here if you change your mind. Meanwhile, you should stop flirting with my guest.”
“Fine, keep him all to yourself. I’ll just have to settle for my usual bedmates,” Geth laughed, standing up. . He clapped me on the back. “Good luck, Eric. May fortune smile on your pathfinding efforts.”
“Kendris,” he said, with what had to be a salute, “I’ll take my leave now. Pleasure to meet you.” And then he left us alone.
“Honestly,” Kendris said. “So many of the old guard are incorrigible. I mean no judgement by it, but …. well, it may not be safe to fraternize. Not until you’ve got better control over your form.”
“Is there something wrong with it?”
Fuck, he actually blushed!
“Oh! No, not at all, it’s very nice,” he stammered.
“Should I try to improve it or change it?” I asked. Damn, it was like I couldn’t stop myself from asking suggestive or leading questions.
“I am no judge, but it depends on whether you seek beauty or power. As you are now, you exude beauty; as were earlier today, you cast a wide net of brawn and power.”
“So, I am sexy either way, apparently. Any preferences?”
Really. Of all the TV-tropes bullshit, the “your earth language is so confusing” nonsense was a particular annoyance of mine.
“As in, sexually appealing?”
“Oh, most certainly you are that,” Kendris smiled.
“Greth seemed to think you weren’t interested in that stuff,” I offered cautiously.
“Greth is a dear friend who loves to tease. What did he tell you?”
“Well, first he caught me staring at someone’s butt, and then he said you were clueless.”
“Probably told you half the company wants to share my bed,” he said. “But there’s only so much time, and I’m a busy man.”
I nearly sprayed the cider I’d just gulped.
His laugh was delightful, even if it was at my expense.. I found myself laughing ruefully along with him.
“Ah! Your expression!”
“Was this a set-up?”
“Ha ha! No, I just saw an opportunity. I am glad to make you laugh.” His expression changed. “And, I confess, it was a bit of a final test. True demons are not known for possessing an actual sense of humor. They laugh at pain and suffering, or enjoying reveling in power.”
“Glad I passed.”
“You did, and I got the unexpected pleasure of watching you.” He drank from his cider. “May I ask, how close is this to your native form?”
“Not very. I was thinking of two famous young performers I find attractive.”
“You have very good taste.”
Shit, he was flirting with me?
I’ve described Kendris, but I didn’t do him justice. As noted, he had a perfect ass, compact but strong-looking, supple and rounded but probably tight as a drum. He was probably 5’9 or 5’10, and built like a surfer—but a surfer who loved to do push-ups. His shoulders were broad and his arms were thick, but not body-builder thick. Wide shoulders and muscular arms, the sort you’d get if you spent most of your days swinging a sword or firing a bow. Like most of his people, his form began with lean muscle and narrow waist, and I guessed his added bulk was hard-won. He stood out among a tent-full of warriors. And that was with his clothes on. With his face, though, he’d be a star on a superhero show. Piercing blue eyes with a twinkle; artfully messy brown hair. It wasn’t as long as his brother’s, but the shaggy length worked for him. Cheekbones, of course, because, well, elf. And the ears were, if I’m honest, adorable. And somehow, a dimple, which I hadn’t noticed until just now when he grinned.
He lounged attractively as he nibbled at a hunk of bread, finding a reason to look away. I don’t think these folks had to worry about carbs.
I realized I’d probably chosen this form, borrowed from two attractive movie stars, just to try to fit in amongst the hotties.
Anyway, we were having a moment, apparently. And suddenly, I realized that I knew that he was interested.
Let me explain.
Back home, I was notoriously bad at picking up on signals. Oblivious, clueless, whatever—it was like any interest on my part rendered me unable to read the person I was interested in.
But here? I could tell, somehow. No, I take that back. I could tell that he was thinking about me and that he was curious. And almost separately, I could sense something else: sexual interest.
This was new. I scanned the room, testing whether it was just Kendris, but sure enough, I could, with a little effort, read the surface emotions of most everyone in the room. And yeah, I could also sense a bit of arousal, even when it wasn’t aimed at me.
“Eric, did I offend?”
“I had hoped I held your attention.”
“It’s not that—- it’s that…well, apparently I am becoming attuned to other abilities. It’s a little distracting.”
He arched a delicately angled eyebrow. “What is it? Please tell me you won’t suddenly set the tent aflame.”
I beckoned him closer and whispered. “I seem to have developed a sort of empathic ability.”
He made a face. A flush of embarrassment that didn’t require any sort of supernatural ability to read. “Oh…”
“Yeah. It was a surprise to me too.” I smiled a little naughtily. “Wish I’d had this ability at home.”
“We, uh, should probably get back to my brother. Meider will want to know about this.”
Man, he was adorable when flustered.
…cent;… …… …… cent;… …… …… cent;
As we walked back to Meider’s tent, my senses continued to expand. The tall female in the corner thinking about sex. The lean twins with a secret lust for each other. Half a dozen generic soldier-type bromancing in the corner, two of them afraid to admit mutual attraction.
Ever change a channel and suddenly the volume is way up for a commercial? And you dropped the remote and can’t change the volume? Yeah, like that.
“Ahh!” I said. A stray beacon of lust to the left lit up my senses like a flare. I saw a shy elf lass with an awkward demeanor, staring at another fine specimen.
Kendris grabbed me protectively and hurried me along. “I think haste is needed, friend,” he said, as we bounded the corner and entered Meider’s tent.
“I must not be dis—-” Meider spun round, testily, before he realized it was us. “Oh, what’s wrong?”
“I can sense too much,” I said, looking at him.
That…that was a mistake.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this.
Smart, skinny Meider was consumed with lust. Lust aimed in my direction.
“Meider, he has become empathic, and it’s overwhelming him.”
“Oh. Fuck,” Meider said. “well, first of all I apologize. Your form is very pleasing. And it is likely that your, well, Vanquillon’s natural form, has some supernatural attractiveness at play as well. All the better to enthrall souls, no?”
“How can I make it stop? It’s blinding. Deafening. But not…” I could barely think.
“We could try a binding circle,” he said. “It should keep your powers in check, but it will likely be uncomfortable.”
It took five excruciating minutes for the brothers to mark out a chalk circle with runes and symbols all around it, while I sat on a chair in the center.
“Are you ready?”
Meider hummed something I couldn’t quite grasp, and then suddenly I felt the tingling wash over me, forcing me from the Efron-Bloom shape I’d taken earlier, back to that of the hunky demon Vanquillon. Then the circle lit up, and it was like a gauzy blanket fell over me. Sight and sound and smell were dimmed noticably, but the empathic reading lagged a bit—and notably, Meider’s lust hadn’t dimmed when I shifted form. Then, the pain subsided as the veil settled. Everything was less intense.
“Is that better?” the thin elf’s voice, muffled, inquired.
“Yes,” I said, “But I can’t see or hear very well.”
“It’s a nondetection shroud, focused inward within a magical circle of binding. Normally, such a spell would prevent someone from being scryed—but in this case, I’ve bent that energy into the weaving of the protective circle.”
“It won’t last long,” Kendris said, “But it should give you a moment to breathe and regain control.”
An hour later, and Kendris’s patient coaching had helped me get a handle on my newfound ability. I could, with a little effort, keep it suppressed (I visualized a mute button), but it wasn’t too hard to turn back on. Adjusting the volume, so to speak, would take practice.
“Truly, your powers are growing,” Meider said, worried. “And that means you are reaching a state of compatibility with your form.”
“But that’s good, right?”
“I can’t be certain. If I read the weave correctly, your soul and this body are becoming accustomed to one another, which is helpful to some extent—because Vanquillon’s powers, uncontrolled, pose a real threat. But the other side of the leaf tells me that the more proficient you become with these powers, the more entangled your soul becomes. If unchecked, you may not be able to extract your soul safely to return you to your home.”
I looked down at my default demon-shape. It was undeniably powerful and sexy, but also inhuman. Did I dare to get too comfortable in it?
“I see by your expression you understand. Be wary of that power, Eric.”
Ever watch the old Get Smart show? Or the movie? There’s a thing called the Cone of Silence. The gag was that it was supposed to keep secret conversations from being overheard by nefarious foreign spies.
Problem was, anyone inside it had to shout to be heard by anyone outside of it, and it was essentially worse than useless.
Being in this magical circle felt like that. Kendris and Meider had encouraged me to meditate, drawing on our previous attempts to put me in touch with my newfound power, but to avoid actually using them, for fear of what we’d come to refer to as “entanglements”—the merging of my soul into the demon body I was stuck in. Too much, and I’d be stuck here. Too little and I’d lack the power to help free myself.
It was a hell of a situation.
Luckily for me, once I got the empathic vibe thing under control, it seemed safe to take down the circle and verify that my new senses didn’t overwhelm. Meider, possibly hoping for a little break from my relentless questions (I quietly ignored the fact I’d sensed his raw lust for me and knew I’d be a distraction), had asked Kendris to find me a bunk, and I shifted to Legolas/Efron form again. It only took a moment, and very little effort. I could tell that maintaining it would be simple. It was certainly less impressive and scary than the demon prince’s muscles and raw power look, but it carried its own risks—without the fear of Vanquillon’s obvious power, everyone’s libido was free to make itself known. Even with the low-level filter I’d mentally erected, I could sense spikes of lust here and there. My current form was good looking enough to rouse interest. And it seemed like a fair amount of jealousy, as I was following the hunky Kendris around like a lost puppy.
It seemed that the brothers were well known, and respected, in the camp, and assumed an air of easy authority wherever they went. Currently, we were headed to the quartermaster, but I’d picked up a little of it in the mess hall, and as we passed others.
“So is this an army thing, or a militia, or what?” I asked. “I’m curious about ranks and everything.”
“As I understand human custom, a militia seems about right. Similar, at least. Our forces are mostly independent, but united in purpose.”
“Who’s in charge, then?”
“Depends on the decision to be made. Some things require consensus, others do not. Sometimes it’s dated tribal custom from the old days, sometimes we vote, sometimes we simply follow the strongest leader.”
“As I understand the term, yes, of course. Being strong-willed and powerful leaders of smaller forces, by whatever custom, means that all the leaders jockey for position and influence. Fortunately, I am given fairly free rein because I have won many battles. And my brother’s requests are typically heeded because they need his power. He’s quite a strong mage,” he said, with a little pride, and perhaps a hint of jealousy. “Whenever we have been outnumbered, it has been Meider’s spells and tactics that have made for our victories.”
“I can believe it, on both counts.”
“In truth,” he said, in a lower tone that neared a whisper, “I believe there are many here who are at least my equal in battle, and whose skills exceed my own. But for whatever reason, I find eyes drawn to me when I speak, and other men and women listen and heed me.”
Probably because you’re just about the hottest man in this camp, and you’re genuinely decent, I thought.
“Being attractive probably helps,” I said, tentatively.
“I suppose it must,” he nodded, as if being complimented like that was the most ordinary thing. “But it is nothing I have earned by skill or effort. It seems unfair.”
“Do not tell me your muscles just happened.”
“Why not? Yours did, if I understand you correctly,” he grinned back. “No, those I have earned—I dislike being weak, and it was obvious from a young age that I didn’t possess the same aptitude as Meider does for the arcane. I focused on my body for several years, before the campaign.”
“Makes sense. But you seem smart, and you clearly picked up on a lot of what he said. Most of it went over my head.”
“In truth, I know the basics, but I understand much more than I can actually do, when it comes to magic. Theory is fine. But I lack the raw mystic energy to be the wizard he is. So he bounces ideas off me, and I flatter myself that I sometimes have ideas of my own.”
“Whereas I am apparently stuck with power I shouldn’t really have and don’t know how to use, but I have this amazing teacher who is good at coaching me in how to use it.”
Yeah, that got a hint of a blushing smile. Unfortunately, we’d reached the quartermasters’s lair, so I had to relent a bit.
I suppose it’s the nature of the beast that people who are in charge of supplies are either gruff-but-competent, or sly-and-weaselly. Those personalities seem most compatible with that particular combination of access and power. With this guy, it was the former.
Atypically for his people, he was stocky, almost pudgy, and thus stood out. But he was also the least attractive elf I’d seen all day—by which I mean he didn’t look like a CW actor or model. Aside from a little slant to the eyes and the overlarge pointed ears, he barely looked like an elf; more like an innkeeper. But he also looked like the sort of guy you’d have a beer with, wind up fighting over something stupid, and then stay friends with for years.
Gentis was his name, and his entire life’s purpose seemed to be to prevent supplies being issued unnecessarily. He grumpily received Kendris request, then groused as he sized me up with a length of ribbon. Our cover story was that I was an intelligence operative, working for an ally who wished to remain anonymous.
“I don’t know your proper rank at home,” Gentis said, “But I think it best to give you clothing as befits a noble or officer, based on what Kendris says.”
“Thanks,” I said. “What does that entail?”
“Pretty much this,” Kendris gestured down. “Well, under the actual armor. For that, I think a basic leather breastplate will be suitable.”
“Can we skip the actual armor? I’d feel stupid, and I don’t have any intention of fighting.”
“Sure if you want to ruin the look.” Gentis almost looked wounded. “What are your clan colors?”
“Put him in the sea-green and dark blue.”
He returned a moment or two later with a handful of tops and bottoms to try on, and I realized I’d wound up on a shopping trip. Oh well, might as well go with the flow.
Half an hour later, we exited. I wasn’t sure about the black leather pants, but Kendris assured me they fit perfectly and would become more comfortable as I wore them. They seemed tight. But the top was pure comfort, slightly form-fitting but with an agreeable give to the weave, and it moved like silk.
“It suits you very well. Though in truth, I believe your form would look very nice in nearly any scrap of fabric we found.”
He wasn’t wrong. I was objectively quite hot, in this body I’d landed in. Well, shifted to, I suppose. I’d have to be careful if I needed to be the demon lord again; I didn’t want to damage this outfit. Once I got over feeling like a barbie-doll fashion victim, it was probably the most comfortable thing I’d ever worn. And the underwear was also silk, and adequate to the job of holding my bait and tackle. Apparently I’d let my imagination run a little wild there—or the real models were quite gifted—and the result was a hefty pair of balls and a penis that was 7 inches soft. Gentis had rolled his eyes and grumbled as he produced some undergarments.
Unfortnately, while the clothing was fairly easy to obtain (along with a bag of grooming and hygiene items), Gentis was less certain about crash space, and would need time to see if he could free up a tent.
As he said that, I detected a spike in Kendris’ interest level, and sure enough, he began to very visibly ponder whether to make the offer I knew he would make before he did.
“No need,” Kendris said. “He is a guest; I can share my bunk space.” Gentis raised an eyebrow but then quickly shrugged.
“Thank you,” I said, as we left the quartermaster.
“As an officer, I have a tent to myself,” Kendris shrugged.
We wound back through the camp, until we finally reached his tent. He opened it and gestured for me to enter.
“Kendris,” I said, filling my voice with a seductive tone, “There appears to be only one bed.”
I was still unclear on … well, just about everything. Kendris had some sort of rank, either by blood or by accomplishment (and aside from his brother’s quarters, I had little to compare it to), that entitled him to a pretty swanky tent. Or maybe the default was a nice tent, I don’t know. It was maybe 10 foot square, with a sort of entry area as well. In Meider’s tent, there was a larger, sturdier space which I guessed was possibly a repurposed mess tent, but hey, what did I know?
Why was I worried about that when I should have been paying attention to the incredibly sexy man in front of me?
“Yes,” Kendris said, a little huskily. “I have not found need for more than one bed, and as you see, there is little room for much else.”
There really wasn’t, and the bed, if I’m honest, wasn’t all that big—just what seemed to be a simple wooden frame with some sort of stuffed mattress on it, and very basic sheets. A small desk, chair, and a large standing chest were basically the only other things in the tent besides the bed and a crate or two. A low bench, presumably for taking off muddy garments, was in the small entryway. But the bed was big enough for two, if you were willing to get creative. The tent was fairly warm, warmer than the outside was at any rate—though I noticed it without really feeling affected by it.
I smiled awkwardly at the hunky elf. “Good thing I can shift forms, though. I don’t think my other shape would even fit on the bed.”
“No indeed,” he replied, gesturing at the crates. “Set your bag there. You should have a standard issue night shirt there, but I never wear them. But you should get out of that uniform, for now. We have the night to ourselves and you might as well be comfortable.”
I raised an eyebrow, as he turned away and quickly shed his lightweight armor and uniform. I don’t think he was consciously putting on a show, but his body was a work of art, and merely moving it naturally would have been seductive under any circumstance. He was quickly in little more than his underclothes—like mine, a sort of simple brief that did little to hide his magnificent butt. Sadly, he hadn’t turned around yet.
I shrugged and shucked my uniform as well, though the fittings gave me a bit of a fluster. My form was still that of a hunky morph of Zac Efron and Legolas, but I’d retained some of the definition and raw power of my demon-form. Vanquillon was never fully gone, I guess.
At least I wasn’t hard, yet, but the slowly inflating chubby I had going was pretty impressive, as well as embarrassing. What if my shameless flirting was misdirected? I didn’t really understand the customs here, and….
No. Wait. I could tell. Vanquillon could tell, and thus I could. Even though Kendris faced away from me, as I sat awkwardly on the bed’s edge, my other senses tasted his arousal. Not quite a scent—though there was that pleasantly masculine, clean, honest scent already about him—but more a taste, one that didn’t have a flavor I had words for. Not quite emotion, but simply interest, arousal, lust, emanating from him. Curiosity. Nervousness. Hmm. the more I focused, the more I could make out the emotional content of whatever it was I was picking up on. He was, in a word, into it. Whatever it was, whatever I was or appeared to be. He liked it and wanted more.
I could sense him attempt to control himself, and the vibe I was picking up on diminished a bit—but not enough. Still, best to accept his attempt to control his feelings and interest, and try to be professional and courteous about it. Right?
“When you say we have the night to ourselves,” I led, leaving a pregnant pause at the end.
He turned around, and I confess to being a bit disappointed by his lack of a straining erection. Just a normal—albeit nicely sized—bulge in his pouch.
“I mean we have the night to get to know each other. You are from another world, and you overthrew a demon lord! I would learn from you what I can. But I also confess, you are unlike anyone I’ve met, and I find you intriguing.”
Wow, he was good at masking.
“Ah, I wasn’t really sure how to interpret…”
“You thought I wished to bed you?”
“Maybe? I don’t really know. This is all so new to me.”
“But I do wish you bed you. You are beautiful and interesting and I find you attractive. In either form, if I’m honest.”
I swallowed, harder than I meant to.
He smiled. “I can already guess. It is not considered seemly or proper to be so… forthright with one’s interest in physical matters where you are from?”
“Is it that obvious? I mean, no, my culture has all sorts of hang-ups.”
“Humans seem to be quite varied in our world; some are deeply religious or have other philosophical beliefs that get in the way of plain speaking. Elves, too, though I think our taboos are fewer. Possibly because we don’t breed true so often, and possibly because we live longer than you. Possibly because my own people have been fighting this war, in some form or other, for the lifespan of a normal human. But even among my own people I have a reputation for being rather blunt.”
I glanced down at his pouch as he sat opposite me.
“I have been a warrior for five decades, Eric. Lest you forget, my people don’t show our years as yours do. I’m nearly 80 years old and still considered young by my culture’s standards. I’ve had my share of lovers, I’ve missed some and lost some and found some again. I’ve always enjoyed variety; I’ve played with partners of all sorts, all genders and creeds. Mostly my own kind, and mostly males, but. not exclusively. But I’ve also learned that the older I get, the less often I get the opportunity to try new things.”
He placed a warm, calloused hand on my shoulder and looked me straight in the eyes-—his own, fierce and piercing like those of a hawk. “But there is time for that to happen naturally, if you are interested.”
I dared not look down; I knew my own barometer of interest was already starting to indicate what I really thought.
“For now, though, we have a quiet and intimate moment to talk honestly. The tent is shielded from casual eavesdropping, and it is warm, and I have a pleasant drink to share, if you wish.”
He placed his hand on my shoulder, and …well, I kind of broke down.
It was such a kind gesture, really. And all at once, the reality of my situation really came crashing down on me. Stranded here, no certain way back, only the vaguest plan forward. My body wasn’t even my own, and no matter the perks, that does something to you. If I got too comfortable, I risked my soul; if I didn’t make some progress, I’d be a powerless nobody unable to find my way. I was in real danger of losing my….myself.
I only realized I was sobbing when Kendris pulled me close and hugged me.
We stayed like that for what seemed like a long time, enjoying the warmth and simple comfort of human contact….well, as close as made no difference. So what if neither of us were technically human?
Finally, I released Kendris, and he me, and we sat looking at each other.
“Thanks. I guess I needed that.”
“If you hadn’t, I would really have been worried. If my brother sought further proof of your story, I will tell him that you are definitely not a demon. A true demon would not have had felt the world crash down on him as you did.”
“Wait, you can read emotions?”
“What? Oh, no. Not like your ability, at any rate. No magic. But I pay attention, and I know the signs. And,” he said, gently, “I have a little personal experience in that regard.”
He stood and poured each of us a tankard of some strong and pleasant wine, and we both drank deeply.
“You see, my brother and I were also ripped from our homes, orphaned by this endless campaign. Multiple times, actually,” he said, and his …lets call it emotional vibe? shifted to what I saw as sadness. “Our city fell, and our parents with it. My brothers and I fled with an uncle, who raised us for a time, until the demons took him from us as well. And last year, our brother Hallver fell to the Burning Hosts. I know well the taste of loss and of missing a home you may never see again.”
“It really just hit me,” I said, by way of apology. “I’m sorry for losing it here.”
“That is why I brought you here. I would be pleased to play, if you wish, and I know that it can one feel grounded and alive. But so too can a kind glass between strangers who share a loss.”
“I’ll drink to that,” I said, hoisting my cup. “To finding comfort unexpectedly.”
He looked at me quizzically.
“What, you don’t toast or raise glasses here?”
He held the expression for a moment, looking for all the world like I’d committed some perplexing faux-pas, before finally breaking into a smile and chuckling.
“You son of a….”
He laughed, and swigged the rest of his tankard.
“I like you, Eric. I like your humor, your sadness, and the body you wear is certainly to my tastes—though the ears are more human than I typically prefer. I never really thought about it, because I don’t spend much time around them, but I prefer the larger ears. No wonder humans have such dull senses.”
“I think I might be able to fix that,” I said. He wants anime-style, big ol’ ears? Throw in a dash of the boy from Zelda….
“Oh!” He said surprised, nearly spilling his drink.
“What, did I mess it up?”
“No…no you did not,” he said, appreciatively. “They suit you.”
He reached up to touch them, and that’s when I realized that while a human might enjoy the odd earlobe-nibble or caress, for an elf? Ears were basically an erogenous zone, or at least they could be. There was so much surface area, so many nerve endings….
I moaned a little before I could stop myself.
“Sorry—- you um… I…”
“I didn’t realize,” I said.
“Nor did I,” he said. The silence and tension hung for a moment or three, as I realized touching another elf’s ears in such a sensual manner might be pretty transgressive. For a brief moment I was reminded of the Ferengi, Star Trek aliens who had sensitive ears, but luckily, the goblin-like aliens shared little else with these beautiful elves.
“So tell me of your life, at home,” he said, refilling our glasses and lounging beautifully across the bed. God, he was beautiful. I felt my arousal kick in, now that the trauma had abated to make room for it.
“Not much to tell,” I said, honestly. “Most of it wouldn’t make sense here. Though I suppose you have bureaucrats everywhere, even here.”
“Truly, an army runs on its supply chains. They always demand a trail of paper and parchment to prove need.”
“Well, I do something similar for large merchants. I guess I build elaborate filing systems and processes to control those things.” It was as near a description for my job as I could.
“Meider would enjoy that, I suspect. He loves paper and books, and systems of thought.”
“Well, I was pretty good at it, and had a comfortable life. But honestly, it was empty, and I had no real challenges or ambition. That’s why I played the game.”
“This is a magical simulation of our world, you say?”
“I’m not really sure, but it sure seems similar to yours. There are many such games, and I’d play when I got home.”
“Not for a long time,” I said. “Too long. It was a sad ending.” It had been 10 years since I’d dated anyone. I hadn’t really talked about it. Maybe the wine had loosened my inhibitions.
“A few, but my closest friends just had a child and that left little time for our usual fun. My family and I aren’t really close. Mostly I just worked, then came home and played games.”
He nodded. “The healers say that it is unhealthy to spend too much time alone. If the need weren’t so dire, I fear my brother would never leave his tent. But he at least takes regular exercise.”
“I was a fat slob. Well maybe not that bad, but just….settled. Flabby, pudgy, spoiled, and weak. More lonely than I realized, I think.”
“But here, I’m …I’m not. I’m not that person here, or at least I don’t need to be. Here, I can be powerful and interesting and sexy.”
“You are indeed,” Kendris said.
“But it will all end, sooner or later. Probably just when I get used to it.”
“You would rather stay?”
“…I don’t really know, Kendris. I don’t have anything desperately calling me back home. In the day I’ve been here, I’ve probably done more living than in weeks of my own world.”
We talked for a good hour after that, letting the wine drive the conversation, and gradually becoming more open and intimate. It felt like a really, really good date, something I hadn’t really felt in nearly 15 years. Kendris was charming, worldly, earnest, open, blunt, funny, and hot as fuck. He was clearly into me but did not want to rush things.
I’d veered between being exceptionally horny and super honest for the last hour, and hoped the blanket hid my ferocious boner. Yet, it was a profound and deep “getting to know you” chat.
He told me more, but parts of him remained a mystery. I knew, intellectually, that he was at least partly trying to suss me out and see if I was a threat. But I also knew that he was smart and intuitive, and he quickly accepted me for who I was. And eventually, he interrupted our small talk with a blunt question.
“Eric, you find my form as pleasing as I find yours, yes?”
I blushed. “Yes, of course I do.”
“I don’t have to be a demon lord to sense your interest in me. Sexually, I mean. Am I misreading this?”
He leaned in, full of warm sweet wine-scented breath and smelling of earthy, living, masculine flesh.
“No,” I answered, before I could second-guess myself.
“Then let me tell you that I desire you. You are handsome of feature, and I like you. Would you let me pleasure you?”
Well, how could anyone refuse that?
I mean, if a hunky elf with surfer hair wants to pleasure you, you go with it, right?
Well, unless you’re an idiot.
Have I really described the wonder that was Kendris? No?
Take a basic surfer. Keep the sun-kissed long shaggy brown hair and lean muscle as a baseline. That easy stance that conveys both power and utter chillness. Then add killer cheekbones and eyes and ears like something out of Legend of Zelda. Those eyes were fierce and hawklike, deep brown but flecked with gold. Made sense, I guess, since elves had amazing night vision; they had a bit of that reflective eye thing going on from certain angles. Imagine pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth, maybe. Not quite that bulky, but carved out of smooth perfect flesh. And he smelled amazing, like some sort of fresh herbs, a little spice, a bit of leather and boyish musk…
And this work of art was kissing me, tentatively at first, but then with real joy as our tongues explored each other’s mouths. His strong hands caressed me arms and shoulders as our passion rose. And I nearly blew it then, because it had been so da,mined long since I had made out with anyone, I got distracted and lost the rhythm. He leaned back and smiled.
“If I had not believed you before, Eric, I do now. Your nervousness is rather charming, and not something I believe a demon lord could fake. Nor, I feel, could any human who looks like you do now so accurately play the part of someone out of his depth.
“I haven’t been with anyone in a long time,” I said, sheepishly.
“Nor have I,” he said softly. “But I dare say we shall enjoy remembering the dance and finding our footing.”
With that he shrugged out of his undergarments and revealed himself fully.
Freed of the cloth, his cock jutted out like a divining rod, average and a little on the thick side, but beautifully shaped. Inwardly, I chuckled, because god only knew what I expected. It was just a normal, uncut cock, and the dusting of silky strands that surrounded it were immaculately groomed. It suited him, a little thicker than you might expect, but nicely made.
It occurred to me in that moment that I had no clue what my own dick looked like right now, because I didn’t really know what Zac Enron or Orlando Bloom had under their jeans. For that matter, I might have subconsciously reproduced my own bait and tackle. (I’ll spare you my sad tale of a low-side-of-average joystick. Old me had never been terribly impressive, but also never really disappointed.)
I could feel my penis throbbing it’s way to erection, and moved my hands down instinctively.
“Don’t cover yourself, Eric, please. Here, let me….”
he gently moved my hands away one by one, and then with a practiced deftness, undid the fattening on my undergarments, and my rod sprang free.
Oh. Wow. Apparently either ihad a very good imagination, or one or both of models was very lucky indeed.
Nine graceful inches of cock pushed rudely up and out, with some reasonably impressive balls below. Uncut—and that seemed more surprising than the size and shape of it. So shocked was I, that my eyes darted up in fear, only to spy delight in Kendris’s eyes. I barely registered that before my demon senses blasted me with my lover’s arousal. I could feel his hunger for me, maybe even before he felt it himself, and then he dove forward and engulfed me with his wide mouth and began giving me one hell of a blowjob.
his expertise was astounding; he played me like a flute, teasing and coaxing me to the edge, only to gently apply the brakes. Kendrick literally had me writhing, helpless in my own arousal, for a good ten minutes before i blew my first load. He drank deeply of me, and wasted nothing.
Remarkably, I felt reinvigorated by an act that, back home, often signaled the end of the night, and heralded sleep.
“Thank you,” I said. “That was amazing…”
“I seem barely to have taken the edge off your lust,” he said, smiling.
“No,” I said. An odd feeling of dominance found its way into my voice, not that I noticed it just then. “No. My turn.”
I pushed him gently back on the bed—honestly it wasn’t a particular comfortable bed by my usual spoiled standard, but it was better than the army cots he had expected—and spread his muscular arms wide. I felt a confidence I’d rarely known. He was mine and I would have him now.
In my own world, I’d been a pretty average guy in the bedroom. On those rare occasions when I had a partner, I was not usually the instigator. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the sex, because I did, but I suspected I wasn’t great at it. Not that I’d had complaints, but the most someone had ever said about it was “that was fun”. I wasn’t inventive or imaginative that I could recall, but I was at least the sort of person who tried to pay attention to the little noises, and responses, and breathing changes of his partner. So at worst, I was competent enough—but at best, I was “fun”. Occasionally I’d get a little flirty but I just wasn’t the “first move” type of guy I dreamed of being. Never had the looks or confidence or charm for it.
Here, however, I was in a lithe, attractive form, and that form was really the body of a demon lord, one attuned to lust in particular. And all my own instincts and sensations, which had been around a 4 or 5, were amped up to 9 or 10. Those little urges, those ideas, I’d had—stuff like “I bet his dick would quiver if I licked just there” or “that nipple needs to be brushed with the tip of my finger”—were way more accurate. And my body was way better at the sensing and responding, too. It was like I’d gone from a guy who could play a few chords on a guitar to Eddie Van Halen overnight.
I felt surprisingly dominant—like this hunky elven lordling, this powerful leader of his militia, was a challenge to conquer. But it felt right to play that role, and to use what I had to ensnare him. Seduce him. He seemed responsive to it.
“I’m going to taste you now,” I ordered him, as I slithered down to inhale his shaft. It was almost surprisingly easy.
I wanted to please him as he’d pleased me—and as I set about the task of blowing him, I realized that I could recall every move he’d made when sucking my cock. And I knew—knew—I could use those techniques like I was born for nothing else.
At first, I simply repeated his efforts, but as I continued I allowed inspiration to guide me—first remixing his techniques, and then using my enhanced awareness of his arousal and nearness to leave him squirming, moaning, and taking deep shuddering breaths as I thoroughly lit up his pleasure centers. He had a particularly fine set of nipples and they appeared hardwired to his cock, so anytime i wanted to rev his engine, I’d give a tweak or nibble and his dick would leap back to fullness. But if I sensed his nearness, I’d find another trigger to let him gasp for air as his urgency diminished. Basically, I teased him and edged him with foreplay for what seemed hours, edging him until it was purest torture to keep it going.
And then suddenly, I felt something else. A sudden, wordless need to actually torture him. To break him. To leave him in want and need and never to provide relief. It was a harsh, fierce urge, and it surprised me enough that I lost the rhythm and control I’d built up, and he suddenly reached out with his hands and gripped my Link-from-Zelda ears, and then shot spectacularly.
His back arched and every hard-won muscle and naturally lean frame competed to show off his perfect body to me, as he thrust his crotch skyward and tensed his perfect ass. Twelve hearty shots I won from him, five going right into my open mouth, two into his, and the rest all over the room. And as he released his overwhelming arousal washed over me with the psychic equivalent of his spectacular orgasm, and I too released again. Boy did I.
I hadn’t even noticed I was hard until a split second before my own girthy tool erupted again. Every bit the equal of his massive blast of cum, it doused us both.
And then I had the oddest sensation of fullness, of sated appetite, of perfect contentment. And like most men from time immemorial, I passed out.
And ten minutes later, I awoke, and we did it again…and it was even better.
I had, if I’m honest, never had a lover as objectively gorgeous as Kendris. He was a gentle work of art, an honest and talented lover, a skilled warrior whose body was sculpted to perfection.
But there was something else going on, and once I woke in the morning, and extracted myself from the sticky wet mess of our sheets, I realized that something was related to Vanquillon. Certainly the attunement to Kendris’s every movement was somewhat related to my ability to sense lust.
I mean Vanquillon’s ability. I was just borrowing it, along with the shape I wore and the tirelessly virile body I’d appeared in.
But it was just crazy how powerful and perfect that sex was—and I knew with a supernatural certainty that Kendris had felt the same. Again, probably because Vanquillon’s power worked that way.
Kendris himself was already up, and as I wiped the worse of the sticky mess off myself, he re-entered the tent clean and mostly groomed, but shirtless and with a large bucket of soapy water, the steam rising from it.
“I bring you a gift,” Kendris said, smiling, and full of energy. He set the bucket down and leaned over to kiss me. “Well, an offering, at least. I fear we made a bit of a mess, and I suspect you don’t want to go looking for the bath house in your current state.”
“Good morning to you, too,” I said wryly. “Sorry about the mess.”
“I’ll have to speak to the quartermaster about getting some spare sheets.” He had a smile that would win awards, and he was bursting with happy contentment, and a little arousal.
“You may need to burn these,” I chuckled.
“Eric,” he replied, “Last night was possibly the best sex I have ever had, the most enjoyable coupling with another that I can recall. And then the next time was even better. I would face the sour looks of a dozen quartermasters for such an evening.”
“Awww, thanks,” I said. I stood—no need for modesty—and began to scrub up while Kendris watched.
Inwardly I blushed—I wasn’t used to making people this happy, nor being the object of lust, but… I could definitely get used to it.
For a moment, everything was great.
I was grinning stupidly as I washed up, until I became aware of an undercurrent in my thoughts.
I should fuck him again, plant my seed in him, that way he is marked as mine. He will know only the taste of my essence and no other….
What the hell?
Even now, I can smell his arousal. He desires me above all others. He wants my flesh within him, and he wants his flesh within me. Take him now!
I must have stoppped scrubbing and Kendris’ keen senses picked up on it.
“Are you well, Eric? Does something trouble you?”
“Fuck,” I whispered. “Fuck.” My penis began to fill with hot blood, boiling to take him. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t—
Names do not matter! What matters is here, now, this carnality, this lusty moment.
“Kendris, help me,” I squeaked.
“What must I do?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I keep having intrusive thoughts….”
“What kind of thoughts?”
I gripped his arm with strength I’m pretty sure was well beyond that of misters Efron and Bloom, and the heat in my groin was intense.
“I need to fuck you. I need…”
“Is it the demon within you?”
I couldn’t speak now, my erection was taking all my focus, and all my will was barely keeping myself from pouncing on my new lover.
He looked down at the growing and elongating bulge at my crotch, at the obscenely large bait and tackle there—notably larger by a good third than last night—and nodded, concerned.
“I’ll get Meider,” he said, prying my fingers from his forearm.
“Hurry, can’t fight it long.”
He nodded, then grabbed an amulet. It glowed at his touch and a whispered word, and then suddenly Meider’s face appeared, half translucent, a few feet away.
“What is it?”
“Mei, it’s Eric. The demon—”
“Say no more, I am prepared. Keep him there!”
Four words. And I didn’t even hear them.
As Kendris warily maneuvered his way clockwise around the cramped space, I stalked about the tent like a predator. And then the bookworm came in and said four words.
“_____ _____ ___ ______!” Meider intoned them quickly and distinctly, but I could not even comprehend them. It felt like when someone hits that specific tone in bass that makes your bones rattle. My head vibrated right up the base of my spine, and then nothing. I found myself flat on my back.
And then, the intrusive thoughts began to subside… but my enormous erection did not.
The brothers exchanged worried glances, and then the mage pulled forth a phial, and proceeded to shake its contents onto me. It stung a little, but like peroxide does; no pain, and an odd sense of being cleaner.
“That was a bit harsh. If your magic hadn’t worked, that would have really injured him,” Kendris said, crossly.
“If it hadn’t worked, us injuring him would be a lesser worry. But look! The bottled angel tears seem to have helped him shake off the attack.”
“What happened?” I asked.
Sitting up was an unexpected challenge, because my dick was in the way.
It had been nine, or a little more, but now it was scaled up to a good fourteen or so inches and nestled between my pecs.
Less than 36 hours ago, I had been an exceedingly ordinary man. Ordinary job, ordinary life.
Now I was a soul trapped in the body of a demon lord in a fantasy world, currently assuming the form of a really hot (and now big dicked), empathic mashup of Legolas and Zac Efron, with a bit of Link from Legend of Zelda thrown in around the ears. I was torn between wallowing in dissociative terror and reveling in the power and raw sexuality of my current form, and fighting for control of the demon whose body I was currently stuck in.
Oh, and I’d just nearly lost it, and somehow grown my dick from a girth nine inches to a monstrous 14 or so.
“Fuuuuuck,” I said, helpfully.
“Yeah I’m me,” I said. “That fizzy stuff was angel tears?”
Meider nodded. “Yes, and were you truly the beast, you’d have been in terrible pain. Angel tears are like holy water direct from the divine tap. Distilled divine compassion. Pretty toxic to a demonic soul.”
“Told you,” Kendris said.
“Indeed you did. I should have trusted your judgement. But then, I see Eric is struggling for balance in his current state.”
“The angel tears shocked him back to himself, I suppose?” Kendris asked.
“I think so. I think they at least shocked the demonic body’s attempt to corrupt him.”
“Ahem.” I said. “He is here and sentient and would like to participate in this discussion,” I said, testily.
“Of course. You are the primary affected party ,after all. But unless you’ve put in years studying theory, and spent the last decade in a crash course in applied demonology, I’m not sure you’re going to have much to contribute.”
“Meider! A bit harsh, don’t you think?”
The bookish brother put his hands to his head and sighed.
“Sorry,” he said. “Eric, my apologies. I know this situation is not of your making. But you are a thundercloud on the horizon, and I fear you may burst if we do not take precautions and seek to understand what you have become.”
We talked a bit more—mostly me describing what the episode had felt like for me, with a bit of jargon exchanged between the brothers thrown in for good measure. Surprising all of us, I picked up the sense of things quickly, magically speaking.
But as we talked, two things distracted me.
First, my spidey-sense ramped up with new insights regarding both Meider’s fear and curiosity, and Kendris’s compassion and interests. And both brothers were attracted to me sexually.
And second, I remained erect, almost painfully so, as my libido expanded to fill every gap in my thoughts. It was tough enough to keep my hands away from it, but when it occurred to me I might be able to suck myself, it became a real struggle to avoid trying just that.
“Do you sense anything else?”
It was probably the thirtieth time Meider had asked, and I was reaching the end of my patience with it. But then again, I was preoccupied.
“Are you asking whether I can feel the tingle of magic in my veins? Hear the blood pound in this ridiculous dick? Taste the fizzing drops of angel tears in my mouth half an hour later? Feel the power this body? Smell the arousal pouring off both you and your brother even now?”
The bookish elf cast his eyes awkwardly away.
“Or do you mean, can I feel the mana in the air, or the ley lines by this tent, or the flow of energy in the spell you’re casting?”
I stared daggers at his wriggling fingers.
“Because yeah, I can, apparently. But mostly what I sense is my own desire, my libido, and I think I’m going to go crazy if I don’t do something about it.”
“Eric—” Kendris began, but I cut him off.
“That’s the thing. What I am sensing now is not Eric. It’s what I’m stuck with, this body, this power. I know I shouldn’t give it everything it wants. But if—”
“If you deny it completely,” Meider said, understanding at last, “then you might lose control, just as sure as if you gave in completely.”
“Exactly!” I was on the verge of panic. I’d supped just enough at the table of power to like the flavor, and I feared what that might mean. But if couldn’t starve myself either.
And my newfound need was a wave, crashing on my shore and eroding the sea wall.
“Then I think you will need to deal with your immediate need, so that you are more yourself, and my brother and I will need to try to help you find balance,” Meider said calmly. He nodded, and Kendris nodded at me, with a strange look in his eye, before following his brother out.
Fuck, I thought. My libido was out of control already, or very near to it. Only one thing to do.
Sure enough, the massive head of my massive dong fit perfectly in my own mouth—though it’s probably more that my mouth adapted to my need.
Yes! It is our perfect form, our desire made flesh. It is whatever form we need to express our lust.
“Get out of my head!” I said, though the words were slurred by a mouth full of cock flesh and a tongue otherwise occupied.
I cannot, the voice replied. We are entwined, mortal. My essence fills you now, as your soul fills my form. You know this. The elf mage told you, but you knew already.
Who else? Now if you want any relief, and peace, you must …blow your load? Yes, that is the term in your mind. Release your life essence through the mighty wand you’ve crafted, and consume it.
Damn it! My tongue had a mind of its own, and was doing unspeakably delicious things to my dick. I tried to resist, but I couldn’t—it felt soooo goooood…. Both my hands found my pole, and as I stroked it, the pungent scent of my precum filled my nostrils. My glans slid further down my eager throat, held there by a tongue that meant business.
And when you have sated your body’s needs, we shall talk….
For probably ten minutes, I deep throated my own cock, using my enhanced demonic abilities to tease and torture myself to the very brink…..and then finally allowed myself the release I so desperately needed.
At that exact moment, I felt a wave of magical energy—as I said, apparently I could now sense that shit—pulse out from me and ripple outwards. And then, of course, I passed out.
The grey swirling void surrounded me, but I sensed I wasn’t alone.
You are not….
Vanquillon, I said, Show yourself.
I am here. Will this suffice?
Just then, the void shimmered and coalesced into the familiar form I’d defeated in a video game days ago. Though…
Why can I see pixilation?
This is the form you first saw.
Makes sense. We are talking in our minds?
“I can vocalize as you do, if you wish,” he said.
Unmistakably he, of course. The demon’s form was built to entice anyone interested in sex, and it was a demonic take on a very conventionally attractive male. Pity that I was limited to the graphics of my game, which hadn’t scaled up as well as—
“Easily fixed,” he said, and suddenly he was real.
“…uh, okay, cool trick,” I said. Only then did I look down at my own (human) body; shamefully doughy and distressingly familiar.
“We are in our mind. We see, or show, what we wish, if we but choose. But your mortal mind cannot grasp what I truly look like, nor can you hide your own true appearance from me.”
Made sense. I fixed my mind on my college days and suddenly that’s how I appeared. Normal sized dong and all. Well, maybe a little bigger.
“You learn quickly, Mortal.”
“I try. Now what?”
“I believe the term is exposition,” he said, squatting to sit cross legged opposite me, casually draping his huge barbed penis over his muscular thigh.
“Okay then,” I said, copying his pose. “Spill.”
As the elf explained, your home is a different reality. So is mine. Both of us were drawn here, to this world, this reality, as part of some power play, and here we are bound.
In my world, form is an expression of will and desire, and my people are—to borrow your terms—demons. Our natural state is unrestrained id and manifest desire. We feed on each other’s emotions, and in return we are sustained by theirs. Our ecosystem is self-contained.
A few of my kind have explored other realms, however, and in doing so became addicted to the unique nectars mortals produce. Our affinity for mastering energy flows permitted us to almost effortlessly use what you call magic, and some found this power too enticing to leave behind. Soon they drew others to feed, and they did not comprehend, or did not care, about the damage they did.
Thus did we earn the ire of mortals, who found our power useful, just as we found their essence adddicting. Over time, some of us found preferred flavors, scents, forms, and other mortal trappings. For me, it was always the fresh essence of life, which can be expressed as Sex fluids. But the form doesn’t matter; it’s always the content, the emotion and sensation at the time of arousal and release, that feeds me. You call it lust.
For others, it may be other flavors. Fear. Envy. Gluttony. Wrath. Pride. Avarice. But also, mercy. Compassion. Hope.
“I get it,” I said.
Of course you do. Though we generally harvested these essences in secret, eventually we were discovered by mortals, and thus found ourselves reflected in your popular culture, mythology, and of late, games. Some of us found it amusing to see ourselves through your eyes.
But some had supped deeply and feared discovery, while others craved the thrill of it.
We underestimated the mortals on some planes, and were ensnared. For tempers to succumb to temptation is delicious irony, but there we are.
Two things occurred recently. First, a sensitive human on your world allowed me to enjoy him in his dreams, and enough memory remained to inspire his art. Eventually, your game needed a last-minute event encounter, and the artist provided his memory of me, even a bit of the rituals he’d seen when our minds mingled. Were your world more inclined to magic, as you call it, then your vgame might well have invited a feeding frenzy of my kind. But the details were close enough to resonate on the psychic plane.
And second, on the elves’ world, a human learned how to compel and bind us.
The rest, as you say, is timing and luck.
“Yeah, that fits. But how did it conflate us?”
The body was woven here; without it we are insubstantial. But the spells to pull me in also caught you. But where your kind default to a body, my kind do not. Still, the wizard wove well, and this form is my current preferred default. It would be mine alone, but for your presence here.
But last week, when your game went online, a bit of my essence was drawn to your world. A digital form suited me. But that first launch day instance, when you defeated my digital avatar, a bit of my true name was Wrenched from me, and applied to you.
In my weakened state, I lacked the power to draw on the essence of others of my own kind—only the abundant energy your kind produces could restore me.
Well, it was quite a tale, but it made a certain amount of sense. At least based on the rudimentary understanding I had of how magic worked, gleaned from fantasy novels and game mechanics and hours with the elf wizard. But it was more than that.
Yes, you sense it too. This shard of me that lives within you? That echo of my true self? It is already becoming part of you. You’ve begun to absorb my skills and my aptitude for sensing and manipulating energy. I don’t even know if it is possible for me to deceive you.
But know that it is not a … one way street? This bit of myself entwined with you also has access to some of your skills and abilities, your knowledge.
“So what does that mean?”
I cannot say. I don’t know what that will mean for either of us, or for the larger part of myself that remains home. Usually my kind are passengers with limited communication. Or at their worst, they are able to overwhelm and possess your kind.
“Wait, does that mean that my soul is still at home? Am I just an echo of Eric?” I wasn’t enjoying these thoughts, but hey, this was more interesting than the existential crises we covered in lit class years ago.
As far as I know, it isn’t really possible to do that with mortal souls. Not without destroying them, at least.
“So now what?”
Now, we must learn to work together, or we must fight to survive.
The swirling mists in my mind faded, and I returned to the real world, or what passed for it these days.
I opened my eyes and saw the concerned faces of the two elven brothers above me. I managed a weak smile.
“I confess, I’m torn between envy and pity,” Kendris said. “That looked painful.”
Meider wrinkled his nose. “It was certainly….exhaustive. Do you feel more yourself?”
For a split second, I feared my mouth was still full, but it wasn’t, so I answered.
“I do feel more myself. But,” I said, sitting up, “I also feel different.”
“Well… for one thing, the demon’s still in here…”
As I explained the highlights of the strange conversation I’d had, Meider scribbled away in his notebook, while Kendris seemed more focused on me. My new empathic sense told me both of them were more curious and concerned than aroused, which was a relief, honestly. For the first time in a while, I wasn’t overwhelmed by libido—mine or others’—and I felt like I could think clearly.
Meider leaned back and traced a sigil in the air, the blue lines fading quickly, and nodded, satisfied.
“That explains much. Though it also asks many new questions. But I am ahead of myself; how are you, Eric?”
“Honestly? I feel pretty good. Mentally, emotionally. My head’s clear. I can read both of you pretty well with my empathic sense, but I am not slammed with everyone’s. The noise is manageable now.”
“Good to know,” Kendris said. “Because one thing we figured out after you were… suitably distracted… is that your libido is somehow contagious. And thus, we were able to focus better, as well.”
“How long was I out, I wonder?”
“About twenty minutes, but as you say, the ‘noise’ dropped considerably while you were out.”
“That’s not all that changed, though,” Meider said. “You may want to look down.”
For a moment I worried, but my body was back to “normal”. No megalithic cock to manage, just the one I’d settled on unconsciously when I crafted the body I wore. Still hunky Legolas/Efron with a bit of Link thrown in around the ears.
“I suppose I got a bit carried away before.”
“Certainly an imaginative use of shapeshifting,” Kendris smiled. “I am glad you didn’t try that last night.”
I blushed. Meider rolled his eyes.
“At any rate…I’ve just checked your aura and it feel much more balanced. But it also seems more difficult to sense the presence within you.”
“I know we can’t take him at face value, and I can’t explain, but it felt true to me. It’s not all of him—it’s just a bit, and I think with a few precautions we can figure this out.”
I could see the suspicion, particularly in Meider’s eyes whereas Kendris I read as more wary and cautious. But it was enough.
“Trust, but verify,” Kendris said. “Even with our longtime allies, we take steps to secure our agreements.”
I thought back to recent events.
“Maybe the angel tears? They seemed to help.”
“Good idea. I’ll craft something for you. Angel tears are not exactly easy to come by, but I may be able to stretch what I have.”
We breakfasted together, Kendris and I, while Meider took his in his quarters. I couldn’t really tell whether it was because he was eager to get back to his books and potions, or because he was giving Kendris and I space.
“I must say, Eric, this has been the most unusual two days of my life,” Kendris said.
“Sorry,” I said.
“Do not be. Whatever the source of your abilities, they certainly made for creative and fulfilling pillow time. And beyond that, I find you interesting, and I like you.”
“But I must also tell you this. I’ve spent my entire adult life fighting the demonic forces of our enemies in the campaign. If there is any change in your detente with Vanquillon, or if you feel yourself slipping in control, then you must let us know. If you do not do so, or if something changes where we cannot trust you, make no mistake. I will kill you myself. I cannot allow someone I care about to fall to evil.”
I nodded somberly. “I understand.”
“Good,” he said. “Now, we have a moment, and I am meant to watch you until Meider finishes his tinkering. I feel you could be best restrained here, in my arms.”
But just as I got settled, we were interrupted.
“Kendris, my apologies for disturbing you, but you are urgently needed,” came a voice from the anteroom. A moment later, a sharply dressed soldier stepped in and handed a missive to Kendris, who read it with a frown.
He sighed briefly and gently disengaged with me.
“I must go. Alone, I’m afraid.”
“Understood. I’ll find your brother in a bit.”
It probably says something about Kendris—clearly a military leader of no small rank—that he just left me in his chamber, unguarded. As I’d learn, he always trusted his gut—but he also always had a backup plan, just in case. Still, it struck me as odd that he was okay with it.
Or maybe I was just second-guessing myself. He probably had wards of some kind in place; he’d spoken of the tent being shielded from casual eavesdropping.
Looking around, there seemed few personal items other than what he carried with him. I thought back to what the older elf had said in the mess tent, and what Kendris had told me of his background. Seemed likely my new lover was a bit lonely despite his obvious appeal. Maybe I was safe because I wasn’t a local, wasn’t one of his people… and wasn’t likely to stay long enough to get too attached.
For the moment, the stack of papers on the field desk held little interest to me. No, it was probably better to go pester the bookish brother.
He too has his charms, my inner voice mused.
No, it wasn’t my inner voice, it was the demon.
Yes, and still your inner voice nonetheless, if you wish to be precise.
“Not now,” I said “I can’t complicate things and I need to keep my head clear.”
But you’ve sampled the… the jock? Surely you wish to taste the scholar?
Fuck, I really did. And I knew Meider felt the same.
No. No, I needed his expertise more than a distracting fuck, and I had Kendris to play with. Why risk that by sleeping with his brother?
I nearly missed the assumption that I could easily bed the mage. Caught it just in time.
“Dammit, Vanquillon,” I said. “I don’t need any pushes from you.”
Come now, Eric. You and I know that we both want the mage. And if we consciously choose to pursue him together, it can be a test of how we reach that common ground we talked about…
A fit young-looking guard was stationed outside the tent. He regarded me with wary, intense eyes.
“Sir? Where do you wish to go?”
Or we could bed this one.
“Hush,” I said inwardly.
“What’s your name, soldier?”
“Deniven, sir. I’m told to stay with you.”
“Will you take me anywhere I wish?”
“Within reason, sir.”
He takes orders so well. Look at his broad shoulders and narrow waist, how the material of his top clings to him….
“Can we stop at the mess tent, and then take something to Meider? It must be close to lunchtime now.”
As we walked, I noticed that Deniven kept me just within his peripheral vision, often beside me but occasionally choosing to have me proceed him. But as I attempted to read him with my empathic sense, I got very little. Almost nothing, in fact, which I found intriguing.
“Deniven, may I ask something personal?”
“I will answer as I feel appropriate, sir.”
“Do you find me attractive?”
“I know you heard the question.”
“I did sir. I just wasn’t sure how to answer,” he said. “You are handsome and somewhat exotic looking. Many in the camp have spoken of your presence and, if I may say, they are jealous you seem to have captured the attentions of Kendris. Many would share a bed with either of you.”
“I have little interest in such things. It’s nothing personal, of course. I respect Kendris, but when I have felt sexual attraction, it’s typically been with women.”
“Ah,” I said. So there were some limits to this body’s powers. I concentrated a little further, and found something, a thread to tug at.
“Older looking women, in particular?”
He blushed. “I’d prefer not to discuss my personal affairs sir.”
I resisted the urge to tease and nodded a quick apology.
“No harm, sir.”
No, not at all. I had learned something after all. Kendrick had found a nearly asexual soldier, with a particularly narrow interest, to guard me. Another test, and probably a wise precaution.
We could easily take that form, you know. The poor lad is unlikely to see much action here with that fetish.
I ignored Vanquillon’s echo, and his numerous other suggestions, as best I could as we filled up a small platter. Instead, I practiced tuning out the other noises and scents. Much easier now.
You’re welcome. You’re adjusting well.
But I remained curious, and began to feel around with my new senses, metaphorically sniffing around the young guard. He seemed completely at ease in my presence, yet his eyes rarely left me, and I had no doubt he’d be hard to shake if I wanted to try.
“So, Deniven, Kendris has been a little vague about your chain of command here.”
“I know you’re a militia of sorts. Who’s in charge? Do you have officers and regular military structures?”
“In the Campaign? Not as I think you mean, sir, though I did serve in a more disciplined unit, back in Elfhome. We were fighting humans and the commander trained us in their military traditions. I find the structure comfortable. Here, however, decisions seem more communal, but less clear. If Kendris or one of the other lords needs a strike force, he recruits them either directly or through his own retainers.”
“Is that how he found you?”
“Ah. Sir, he found me after liberating several of us from a human camp after a border clash. I vowed to follow him as thanks. Now the same humans who captured me are our allies,” he said thoughtfully. “I fought beside my captor last week, and he took a wound for me. The world is confusing.”
“So it is.” Poor guy had no clue how confusing it really was for me, but at least I wasn’t alone in struggling here. I could read this part of him, with effort—he was honest and uncomplicated as they come.
“May I ask you something?”
“I do not wish to offend, but your bearing and your obvious rank seem at odds. Is it true you are a spy from one of the other camps?”
“Let’s say I’m from quite a long way away, and find myself unexpectedly involved in your struggle.”
“I took you for some sort of logistics expert,” he said. “You seem to watch the most mundane operations carefully.”
“Trying to learn what I can. I can’t say much more, but you’re close to the mark.”
That seemed to satisfy him as we bundled up a box of refreshments for Meider. But I noticed a few sharp eyes, and felt some curious intents as we left. I could sense the lust rising within me as well.
That desire is always, always going to be present, Eric. It’s part of us, part of me at a fundamental level. You can feed this body anything you like but unless you feed on lust, you’ll starve. You have to embrace that at some point.
I knew he was right. And in a pinch, apparently, I could be self-sufficient on that front.
Not indefinitely. I’ve never tested the limits, but probably once every 17 cycles is the bare minimum. In your terms, every 6 hours or so, you’ll need to at be satisfied, and I wouldn’t go more than one full day without external satisfaction, or you may become unstable. But it would be healthier to partake in such actions 5-10 times each day, if not more often, and maybe half of them need to involve others. Or you might reserve a partners essence and consume it later. Mortal essence is potent for our kind—good that a teaspoon full can satisfy, as they dont produce much else.
“Sir? The mage’s tent.”
I waited just outside while Deniven let the mage know I was there. The lad swiftly emerged and held the tent flap for me. I nodded thanks.
Missed opportunity, but perhaps later. It would be good practice to learn other forms.
Cute. But probably, annoyingly, accurate.
“Ah, Eric, please join me.” He was sat at his cluttered desk, making notes. “Apologies for the clutter. I hear Kendris was called away. Did you need something?”
We need him, my personal demon’s echo said. Hush.
“That is a loaded question, Meider. Honestly? I need help. Ideally a way to verify what I am learning from this… entity. To sort truth from lies.”
“Ah,” he said. Was that a hint of disappointment in his eyes? “Well, I don’t have much practical knowledge about your situation. It’s fairly unique, though I think we have at least some theories to work with. I’m still researching, but for the moment I’m trying to craft something that might help you control it.”
“The angel tears,” I asked.
“For a start. But the underlying essence is what I think might help you keep things in check. It’s a matter of balancing the energies infusing you—dampening them a bit may give your own soul some breathing room.”
“That makes some sense. It’s like adjusting the PH. Like chewing chalk to settle an acid stomach.”
Meider looked shocked. “That might work!”
Shit, did I just invent Tums on this world?
“You have a stomach issue?”
“No, but I am familiar with the folk remedy. Typically we mash up chalk with a Bantaya fruit, to make a paste. It helps coat the stomach and offset the acidity. But it’s not a stretch to apply that principal here, and it just might work!”
“So, what, you’ll make me tea with angel juice?”
“Not quite. Ingesting it might have bad side effects. But externally? We might have options. We have used items such as silvered chains or cold iron to shackle creatures like lycanthropes or fey. But we don’t need to trap you, we just need to boost your innate resistance, offset the demonic influence… if we could lace your clothing with something, I really something of divine origins, we might…”
Okay, everyone has that one really creative, or really smart, friend, right? The one who loses days while working, who gets super excited and chatty when they’re hitting their creative stride? They smile without realizing it, they gesture and bounce around, they get super caught up in the moment. A nerd who talks about his favorite show, or some fascinating-to-him bit of tech, or something like that, can be incredibly endearing. Their eyes light up. Kind of remind you of puppies, all excited and wanting to share the joy theory feel at some new scent.
Meider was like that. Adorkable.
“If we wove some angel hair, or some foo dog fur, into a garment, and infused the garment with magic… it could use several divine substances to power the weave.”
“Like a faraday cage?”
He paused, confused. Shit, no faraday here to name he cage.
“Sorry,” I said. “Local reference. Energy can’t pass through it. Usually a mesh of some kind?”
“What? Oh, yes! But more, it would focus the divine energy into you, if we do it right, and that’s what you need. And,” he nearly barked with joy, “and if I am right, it should also prevent you from reading as a demon. The tricky part will be tuning it..”
I watched him for a while, occasionally answering a rhetorical question as he ransacked his cases and boxes for what he needed. He had less-sculpted muscles than his brother, but his eyes were almost hawklike in their intensity. And his nose was cute….
Meider was honestly a joy to watch work. Like watching a chef or some other craftsman, he so completely knew his environment, that it was a pleasure to see him interact with it. He had this quiet intensity as he worked, broken up by thoughtful pauses and skimming reference books, then enthusiastic moments of inspiration and delight. He almost immediately forgot I was there until I moved so he could get something from the cabinet behind me. For myself, I kept busy looking at a book of maps I found, and noted that it was pretty damned close to the world I knew online.
Look how attentive and focused he is, my demon-self mused. THAT is a lover who will focus on your needs. And at home, don’t you say that it’s the bookish types who surprise you?
I did say that. Nerds don’t expect sex so they worked a little harder for it. But I wasn’t sure that it applied here.
Books have little to do with it—it’s the ability to focus completely, and to learn, that aids them in their sexual prowess.
Probably true enough, but again, a distraction. The mage was chanting quietly at the far end of the room now.
“Eric, please try this on,” he said, passing me a woven mantle. He’d stitched some arcane patterns into it, and incorporated some silvery-white strands. When I looked more closely, I could almost see the net of eldritch power it held.
Try now, said my newly cooperative copilot.
Shit, I could see the lines of power, and sense the magic within the garment.
“This is a prototype, but I think we might be onto something. Mind putting it on?”
I did so, and it was like I’d thrown a heavy blanket around me.
“This feels weird,” I whined.
“Yes, but it works,” Meider said. “You barely register as an outsider anymore; with a full garment, you’d probably be practically invisible!” He made some notes. “Oh, wait, weird how?”
It muffles our ties to the astral plane, so the conduit that feeds our powers is slightly muffled as well.
I relayed that to Meider, who thought for a moment and then consulted a nearby tome. A traced air-rune later, and he grinned at me. “Looks like it’s interfering with your ability to draw power, and thus I can’t read it. Try shifting?”
I thought for a moment and willed myself back to Vanquillon’s normal form, but it wasn’t quite as easy to get there.
“Yes! There, the power draw is blocked and reflected, probably because foo dogs are astral-native and I used foo dog hair…”
I’ll spare the details of how the next few hours went. Lots more of the same, with Vanquillon trying to convince me of the merits of hooking up with the mage, and Meider making a fair bit of nerdy progress. Eventually, he produced a garment for me—a blousy shirt not unlike Kendris’s—and I put it on.
Ever been listening to your radio in the morning—the same 20 songs in the same order, broken up by the DJ’s chatter and traffic reports? I’d gotten particularly good at ignoring my alarm, to the point that if I woke and knew I really didn’t have to be anywhere, the thing that would actually wake me was the radio suddenly stopping.
Vanquillon’s shade had been chattering away in the background. I’d been tuning him out.
Then the shirt did all that for me, and it suddenly got quiet in my mind.
Still there? I thought tentatively?
And very faintly, from a distance: Yes.
I tried thinking a little more forcefully.
Yes, I can hear you. I don’t like this.
Still, we were learning something. I hadn’t quite realized how much background noise there was for me, until the constant level of chatter was muffled.
I hadn’t realized, hadn’t internalized, that I was a thing. A misfit soul, horror-bound to a monstrous creature from beyond, trapped in a world I didn’t know and might never escape. My immortal soul—to the extent I vaguely believed stuff that got ingrained at church when I was kid—was entangled with this lust monster.
The horror and panic just grew and grew, and images swirled in my mind. I could taste the metallic bite of human blood, suddenly, and feel the lust in the air, and I realized that I didn’t know whether those memories were mine or Vanquillon’s, not anymore, not after all the fucking I’d done since I’d arrived and the deal I’d made and….
Yeah. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t remember my own form. I couldn’t remember my fake Efron/Bloom body. I couldn’t remember what Vanquillon looked like.
I was dimly aware that Meider was shouting something, and with much effort, I turned to look at him, and then down where, my hand had reached out and grabbed him, literally, by the balls.
I warned you… Vanquillon’s shade said.
Foolish boy. You may have will to resist the call, but this form was made for lust.
As if from a distance, I could sort of feel that my hand was groping and stroking Meider’s crotch, and my other hand was grabbing his neck and pulling him roughly into my embrace.
I say “sort of feel” because it was like trying to touch-type while wearing snow gloves or mittens. You know the keys are there and muscle memory does much of the work, but you can’t really feel the individual keys properly. And my body was effectively on autopilot.
I’m very much afraid that you have lost the battle for now.
“I suppose you win,” I thought angrily.
For now, the demon’s echo said. I cannot lie to you—you would sense it through the binding of our essences—and I keep my bargains. But for now, yes, I win. I am best suited for the moment. Because our body is very close to breaking free of our control.
“What would happen?”
The mage would almost certainly die, and we might never regain control of this body again. We would be helpless passengers forced to endure as our body becomes nothing more than an animal slave to carnal appetites. I could withstand it, but your mind would snap. And without a guiding force, those appetites will cause destruction.
I grew suspicious at that. “Why do you care?”
Because you are my feeding ground, and one doesn’t needlessly slaughter one’s sustenance.
A series of horrifying images flashed in my mind: a terrifying monstrous shape, rutting through Meider as a razor-edged four-foot spiked penis fucked him. Devouring the sexual organs from within thanks to my shapeshifting ability. Creating multiple sexual ports of my own as I debased myself with all manner of creature. Rapid-fire they came, an overwhelming and shameful display.
Literally anything you can conceive of, I have done—no sexual deviancy goes too far for a creature like myself. They are meaningless in our world. But you and I are chained and I cannot have you… attached like a lifeless vestigial twin, resisting my very existence out of misplaced spite and anger. Neither of us wants to recklessly fuck the world to death, and I would regret the waste. But we must be in agreement or we will not be able to wrest control.
Demons, especially seduction demons, can be very persuasive.
“What must we do?”
Cast aside your inhibitions, first. And then, we must unite in purpose and seize control. And to do that, we must steer into the lust before we can wrest control.
Which meant we needed to fuck Meider… together.
Precisely—his willingness should satisfy your concern for consent. You know he wants this, almost as badly as you do. But we must be as one as we do this, or we lose the moment.
Magic is real, y’all.
Obviously, I know that all too well now. But t that particular moment, I suddenly understood it.
The universe—all of reality itself—is so unbelievably immense that there are vast regions where physics as we know it simply fails to apply itself properly. It’s like a particular patch is unfinished and only sketched in. You can almost imagine a “finish this later, it goes more or less like the bit next door but with more gravity” sticky note stuck to it.
And magic is basically born there—it’s the real stuff of creation itself peeking through where the bits that we know are simply sketched in. Quantum stuff, lay lines, whatever—they’re basically thin bites in the fabric of the universe. But using magic is simply a matter of borrowing from those bits, taking advantage of what amounts to a rounding error in the math that holds reality together.
Anyway, that’s magic.
And that’s what I was learning, apparently through osmosis, as I sat a passenger in my own body as Vanquillon assumed control.
Enjoy the lesson, but be ready. I’m taking control of our body, but you will need to watch for my signal and become in sync with me.
Meider looked confused. He looked down at my—our—hand as it grabbed his balls through his trousers and gently fondled them.
“Eric, what,” he began, but we shushed him with a stroke and a grin.
“We both want this,” my body said. “And now things have become calm…”
“Calm how?” he asked. I…we…gently stroked upward, and his body eagerly responded. Meider’s pulse was racing.
“The background noise has stopped,” we said, continuing to stroke. “It worked. And I want to express my gratitude.”
“I see,” Meider said huskily. “W…uh…wait, did you not share my brother’s bed?”
“And?” I carefully, sensually, undid his trouser, and revealed his manhood. He was already erect thanks to my… our… efforts, and stood just shy of seven inches. A patch of neatly trimmed body hair provided decoration.
“Well, it’s just that—well, we’ve never shared like this before,” he said. I answered him with a smile.
“Don’t worry,” we said. “If you want a threesome, I can be ready very, very quickly when he returns.”
If Kendris had the body of a buff surfer, then Meider had the body of a swimmer or gymnast. Leaner than his brother, the mage had enviable abs and tight, clean lines to his body, with a very solid, lean core. He lacked the pec and arm definition Kendris had, but was still a very fit man, and he was very turned on. I’d even noticed he throbbed a bit when I suggested a threesome.
A moment of doubt stuck in my craw.
I hadn’t suggested that. We had. Vanquillon and I.
Mostly Vanquillon, actually. Eric was lucky to have one partner and dared not get greedy.
How much of that Eric was left?
Must you wallow? We are nearly there. My unwanted copilot sounded theatrically pained.
Fuck him. I needed to make sure I knew where the lines between us were. One guy at a time. And I’d found Kendris first, right?
You worry too much, Vanquillon’s echo said. This is just carnal lust, and it’s at least as pleasurable as any other good meal, if you allow it to be. Observe.
I watched, detached, as my—our—body went to town pleasing Meider. A thousand tested techniques were at our beck and call, and the undercurrent of lust and that strange power allowed us to read Meider’s body and quiet noises as clearly as the letters in the Hollywood sign back home.
The mage has formidable mental armor, Vanquillon said. But his defenses are geared toward an attack, a threat. And I have no need to cause him harm, nor even to dominate or control him. Just pleasure.
I realized then that I could sense the walls around Meiders mind, and feel their spiked and barbed outer edges—the psychic equivalent of barbed wire and thorny vines, surrounding solid stone.
But I also sensed that we were drawing something out, pulling the lust out like taffy, on the psychic wavelength. And when we did extract enough of it, it pulsed twice, as if in warning…
That’s it, the demon said. You sense it now, too. It’s potential, which means it is potential food.
My mouth watered. Well, not really, but mentally? Yup. I could taste that essence. I wanted to taste more.
Suddenly my consciousness shifted, and I had a ringside seat to the physical aspects of what I was doing to Meider—the things my tongue was doing alone would provide all the wank material I needed for weeks. I felt my hand reach around and cup his butt, felt my finger gently probe his ass as my mouth moved to engulf his dick.
Felt my mouth adapt, drawing on my shape shifting ability, transforming my—our—mouth into a tunnel designed purely to bring pleasure to the mage’s dick. I felt the musculature realign. And suddenly my own pleasure thresholds shifted as well.
Don’t get distracted. Keep your goal firmly in mind. Ware the timing! Oh, right.
I was ready I could see his body language change as orgasm approached. Then, one final trick.
My finger became my cock and plunged in, aiming for his prostate. I could sense the power there, the exact physical sensation needed.
Now! The demon bellowed in my thoughts, but I was there already. Together we felt the mage begin to blow his load, only for a thick probe from my cock-finger to heighten the effect.
Meider blew a wad somewhat larger than I’d pulled from his brother, and considerably less than my own magical form’s capacity to produce. The mage had a ridiculous expression on his face, his eyes glazed and unfocused. He was practically leaking magic everywhere, to my enhanced senses, but most of it blew into me
Drink it in, Vanquillon said. That’s pure essence. His soul is strong, and his magic potential as well. Youth and power are an intoxicating flavor.
Damned if he wasn’t right.
We’d done it. My copilot and I had manage to synchronize our control of our body as we drank of Meider’s magically-charged essence, and my senses were overwhelmed.
Back home, I’d once had way too much coffee on a dare. Like 12 espressos, black, in an hour. And then three Red Bulls. I’m lucky I didn’t kill myself, because my heart rate was through the roof and I was buzzing for hours.
Another time, I’d gotten almost blackout drunk—to the point where I knew that I was out of control, but I was speaking nonsense and any stray thought was entertained and spoken and acted on. I wobbled around stupidly for probably fifteen minutes before a friend led me to the bathroom and I puked out most of it, then he fed me a bottle of water and sent me off to sleep.
What we did felt like both of them at once. There was a sense of invincibility, of buzzing high on energy…but also a feeling of being utterly out of control.
I loved and hated it at the same time.
YES ride this wave, feel that glorious energy suffuse us!
I was laughing…or was it Vanquillon? Who was laughing? Did it matter?
Fuck this was like a prolonged orgasm, we were still riding that wave and fuck I was feeling Meider’s spasm of joy and fuck it was feeding back on itself. I had plugged into a live wire with my scholarly friend, and his boundless energy (and likely a bit of repressed libido suddenly roaring to life, courtesy moi) shot into me with increasing focus, while my own shapeshifter finger-cock blasted into him.
If I had a battery, it was now utterly, fully, charged. And the warning message was popping up warning of the danger of overcharging.
Time slowed to a crawl.
You could consume it all, if you wished, Vanquillon said. Drink deep and sate yourself on this one. Allow it to fill you, to provide power for what you can become. This is the beginning of what is possible. This feeling can be endless…
Wow, to feel like this all the time, to be always on the cusp of that amazing feeling….
Shit! No! I knew, instinctively, what the cost would be—and I wasn’t about to sacrifice this sexy boy to my suddenly demonic appetites, no matter how …incredibly amazing they might feel.
But Eric, you aren’t the only will to be reckoned with here.
Can it, I thought. How do I stop this feedback? It was incredibly hard to focus, with all that power and lust coursing through my every atom.
What if I don’t tell you?
Then I will find a way to evict you and starve myself to death. You’re just a shard of a memory. I’m still me. Now TELL ME.
For a moment, I hoped he wouldn’t, that he would push me just a little further and I could give in and feel this way forever. It wouldn’t be my fault then, and I wouldn’t need to feel bad about what I’d done. The sort of power he hinted at, the sort that Meider and Kendris had feared and fought, was true power. I’d never had anything like that before.
But I knew enough, remembered enough, to fear what it would do to me. What it was already doing.
Tell me now, I thought. If he is harmed by this…
Fine, Vanquillon said. As you wish. There will be other opportunities for you to fully feast. He sounded almost disappointed in me.
Cut the feedback NOW.
Ugh. First, you’ll need to stop actively fucking the boy. Extract yourself physically and just.. you know. Take a breath.
It took another effort to stop the rhythm we’d found. My shapeshifter finger pulled free, but remained cock-like as I panted. My mouth loosed my lover’s cock, my enhanced tongue dancing one last time around its delicious length as it left me. Meider twitched and passed out, but the flow of magic and essence stopped, and I could sense the ambient energy shift a bit.
I leaned back on my haunches, realizing that I’d shifted almost fully to Vanquillon’s default form as we’d rutted. If Kendris or anyone else found us like this….
I’d barely thought it before I felt my form shift back to my other default—the Orlando/Efron one. Faster, easier than before.
Man, I felt amazing. But Meider, still breathing heavily as he came down from the mother of all orgasms, looked less, somehow.
What’s wrong with him?
You’ve drunk his essence, Eric. What did you think would happen? See within your own field….
I looked at my own body, and shifted my perception a little—and throughout my body, sparkling currents ran from my white-hot genitals to my pulsing heart to my recently-cock-like finger. As I stared at it, marveling, I realized I could “see” the flavor of the mage’s energy—it matched the feeble essence leaking out of him, and the echoes of that energy throughout this space. But his own energy seemed dimmer than it should, and I knew why.
How do I put this back in him?
Meider moaned and shuddered, smiling in his sleep.
If…if you MUST, you simply open the pathways and release it while touching the mage. Will it so, but …you’ll want to err on the side of caution. I do not normally use the energy that way. You’re on your own here.
I placed my hand on his chest, and opened the same mental pathway I’d felt when drinking the energy, and felt the sudden permeability of our essences. The lust that connected us made it possible, as Vanquillon had explained. I just had to return most of it. But did I really want to give up that bit of him I’d hoovered up?
No, I did not. But I needed to, or I’d fall into the trap that I knew Vanquillon had to be setting. I could very easily have crossed a line tonight. I would need to be more careful…but now I knew what it felt like, and had a better sense of how to manage it.
Slowly at first, energy trickled into Meider, but then it became a steady, controlled flow. Controlling it was like trying to stop peeing, in a way—once you start, it’s not so easy to stop. But oddly, that metaphor gave me a mental image to work with, and I just needed to work on control. And when it felt like I’d returned most of his essence, I cut off the flow and pulled away from the physical contact. Still, my fingers lingered on his firm and supple pecs, and I couldn’t resist a quick brush of a nipple. He shivered and opened his eyes.
“By the stars, that was… intense.” Meider said.
“For me, too,” I said, truthfully. “How long had it been, for you?”
“Too long. I’d forgotten. But I suspect that it was intense because of, well, what you have become, rather than because it has been a few years since I truly laid with another.”
I nodded, unwilling to say more just yet. I was still wrestling with how I felt about all this.
“Did you share those talents with my brother?” the mage said, as neutrally as he could manage.
“Some. Not all. I’m still discovering how all this works.”
Meider looked around. “There is decidedly less mess than I would have expected.”
“I guess that’s a perk of all this.”
“I shall want to quiz you at length at some point—your observations and a record of your feelings would be incredibly valuable for research.”
“Nerd,” I said. He looked at me quizzically. “It’s a mostly derogatory, but sometimes affectionate, term for a scholar. Usually one who gets super focused on something to the detriment of other skills.”
“Then I accept the term, from you.” He leaned in and kissed me. “You taste good,” he breathed.
“Another perk, I guess.”
“It’s so odd—I feel like I’v been emptied and refilled. I feel refreshed.”
“Me too,” I said. It was true. I just wasn’t quite ready to explain precisely why we both felt that way.
I reclined indolently on Meider’s mattress, with him cuddled contentedly at my side. He had a pleasant smell, and allowed me to play idly with his hair. I smiled; he must have been fully sated, to stop with the questions. I could almost hear the silence in his mind, which I imagined was constantly thinking—evaluating options, reaching for information, making logical connections. He had a lot on his mind, I was sure, both him and his brother. It was probably rare for him to just… be for a moment.
Something that, until a few days ago, I’d have been right to think of myself.
That was… remarkable, I thought at Vanquillon.
Indeed. I confess, supping on a mage—a true mage like this one—is a powerful tonic.
Do you even have tonics? I mean, if you subsist on energy…
WE have sampled your kind many times, and there are some who find other delights of the flesh as enticing. I’ve tried them all, and I do enjoy your drugs and alcohol—via others of course. You’ll find this body does not suffer the vulnerability to such poisons, but you can enjoy them vicariously. So yes, I know what a tonic is. And now thanks to you, a …gin and tonic?
I found myself inclined to chuckle, but then pondered the difference in this conversation—this internal monolog—versus others. There was something different about it.
It’s inevitable, Eric. That moment of unity brought you a step closer to my mind, but it also drew me closer to yours.
Before I could ponder that one too much, I sensed someone near the tent entrance—someone other than my favorite guard with the fetish for older women.
“In here,” Meider replied, rolling reluctantly out of bed and pulling a silky robe across himself.
“Meider, you must come quickly. Your brother needs you.”
“Have I time to dress?”
“Only just. And forgive me, is it… Aric? You too have been requested.”
We quickly pulled on the necessaries—my new mantle was like wearing earplugs—as the soldier awaited just outside. I noted Meider grabbed several books and shoved them into a satchel, grabbing a wand and a dagger as he strapped on his belt. He moved quickly, and I suspected the urgency was not just something I picked up on.
“Do you think your brother meant to interrupt us?”
“What? Oh, no,” he said. “He’d have enjoyed that far too much to send someone else.”
“I thought you said he was probably okay with this.”
“I don’t think our dalliance is a particularly big concern for him. No, if he sought to interrupt us, it would be to amuse himself. He has occasionally teased me for my taste in bed partners, as I have him for his.”
“I guess you both have questionable taste,” I quipped, “if you both found me beside you.”
“If anything, that proves our tastes run more similar than either of us would like to admit.” He smiled. “Now let’s make haste, before that poor boy outside worries too much.”
We rushed across the camp to a large open canopy, which stood atop a hill with a wide open space around it. A dozen or more figures were there, both elf and human, and of all sexes and hues. All had in common a military bearing, a sense of confidence and importance, as well as sturdy, well-earned musculature hinted at by uniforms and broad cloaks.
I could sense the tension from the moment I saw them—perhaps some part of my ability to pick up on lust registered their lust here—but it was a lust for bloodshed, for justice, for vengeance. It felt oily and thin in my mind. Luckily, the mantle was muffling those senses.
However, other senses had apparently been awakened—that weave of magic I’d mentioned? I could sense that, a bit, too.
“Those people seem to have a lot of magic about,” I whispered to Meider, who gave me an odd look.
“You are correct—but we’ll discuss later. We’re too close now to explain, but those are our clan lords and ladies, and those of our human allies. Whatever’s happening is momentous. I suggest you remain silent as to your origins.”
“Ah, Meider, I see you’ve brought our spy with you.”
Ah, so that’s the cover story.
“They are here. Now explain the delay and what purpose they serve,” a gruff male voice said. It came from a heavily muscled, heavenly armored human. I could read him in an instant; arrogant, powerful, and disinclined to hear other views. He was sat in a way to emphasize his size and bulk, and spoke as though his voice was the one that mattered.
And all around him were people—elves, humans, women, men—of similar demeanor. Kendris appeared to be the youngest of the bunch, though it was hard to tell, really.
“Simple. As you see, Eric is a half-breed, and with little effort could pass for human or elf. With a bit of my brother’s magic, he would pass unnoticed in either of our camps. And he has other abilities that could be most helpful in rooting out any hidden threats.
“I’m not convinced of the threat just yet,” a tall, scarred female elf said. “We’ve enough to fight out there without seeking turmoil with our allies. Surely our wards and protections would detect the presence of any demonic entity in our midst?”
Meider put a hand up in my direction; I let him speak. He was quick on the uptake.
“I can say with certainty that at least one was summoned within our perimeter, just in the foothills to the north. We were just in time to interrupt the summoning of a lesser abyssal power.” A grumbling of alarm spread quickly among those assembled.
LESSER? my copilot thought at me. That’s harsh. At worst, I am considered in the middle tier of our people’s estimation of power.
Shh, nobody cares. He’s downplaying the threat.
Ah, that mood you get when the voice in your head is grumpy about something inconsequential.
“It’s true. We slew the summoner just as he was about to complete the spell, and something went awry.”
“Yes, but do not worry. We are certain the threat has been dealt with,” Kendris added. “Would you agree?”
I squirmed a little. “I’m still… monitoring the situation,” I said carefully.
“I don’t follow. Do you have special expertise?”
Meider interrupted. “Eric has a special sensitivity to such things as a circumstance of his birth. We are working together to make the most of that.”
“And that is why this… half-breed is here?”
Ah, this is the asshole, as you’d say, Vanquillon commented.
I couldn’t stop myself from a chuckle.
“What do you find amusing, half-breed?”
“I’m chuckling because you’re such a bigot, right here in the midst of a camp full of elves you clearly despise. Are you angry because you’re stuck working with them, or just naturally a racist jerk?”
Shit, did I really just say that out loud?
There was silence for a moment, then a few raised eyebrows and sly grins. The burly warrior’s face reddened and he looked like he might just explode.
“Well, Eric,” said an elegantly attired elf. “It seems that whatever other qualities you may possess, you do not lack in bravery. Or perhaps you don’t know who you have just spoken rudely to.”
“I don’t know who any of you are. I’m here because of Kendris and Meider.”
“That is Vortis. Surely you have heard of his battle prowess?”
“Nope. But I don’t care, rude is rude and earns a response in kind. He might be able to beat me up, but I won’t apologize to him for calling him out on his attitude.”
Kendris, if I’m honest, looked pretty nervous. I’d shown up at his invite and proceeded to insult an ally during a war meeting… not the best way to move forward…
Ah, my copilot said.
“Vortis, you were being rude,” a younger, very confident woman said. She sat to his left, and looked every bit as tough without sacrificing any femininity. “We’re among friends, and it serves no purpose to antagonize an ally.”
He grumbled, and said nothing further.
“If we are quite finished,” a calm-voiced elf said, “Let us proceed. Kendris, I leave the task of securing our camps to you and your brother and your…friend,” a silver-haired male elf sat opposite Vortis, taking up space with equal authority despite his slighter frame. “And I suggest that you avail yourself of this as well. Surely it is better to be safe.”
“Agreed,” one of the elder humans replied, stroking his bushy white beard. “We shall assign two of our legion to assist. I think in this case it will serve us best to look out for anomalies in each other’s camps, and fresh eyes may spy what familiar ones miss.”
We were excused from the rest of the meeting, and Meider and I walked quietly back to his tent before we spoke much.
“You risked much,” Meider said.
“Guy was a complete dick,” I said. “He clearly hates elves and anything that reminds him of one. He’d be a liability if that got in the way of more serious stuff—no matter how strong he is.”
“I wish we’d had time to brief you on what to expect, but there was no time. Kendris had to trust me to figure it out, and you to play along.”
“Sorry if I made things awkward, though. It’s just….we went in blind and had to improvise. The more he asked the better the chance I’d slip up.”
The tent flap opened suddenly, startling both of us.
“That was a brilliant move,” Kendris said. “That Vortis is an arrogant bigoted asshole, and if his raw power is the only thing keeping the assassin’s dagger from his throat.”
“That, and several enchanted pieces of armor, a curse, and a lot of experience,” Meider said. “But all his prowess in battle and raw strength do not serve him well as leader—his men do not love him.”
Kendris smiled. “But he is not loved by his peers either—and nearly everyone in that room enjoyed seeing him sputtering as you skewered him!”
“It just poured out of me without much thought. I really can’t stand people like that,” I said. I remembered a dozen bullies back home. “His kind only respond to strength. Show you have it, and you rob them of theirs.”
Kendris looked at me as if seeing something new. “Your demeanor has changed.”
“You seemed more forceful and confident,” he observed, speaking with care. “And I have some question as to the source of this confidence?”
“I hate bullies. I’ve been on the receiving end, back home. I don’t like them and long ago I stopped allowing them to control me.”
He exchanged a glance with his brother, who shrugged.
“If you’re worried about the other issue, then the big news there is we’ve reached a better understanding. Between that and Meider’s handiwork,” I paused, not sure how to put it. “Well, let’s just say I feel less pulled in multiple directions.”
“I am relieved,” Kendris said. “But things have become more complex, as you no doubt realize.”
“Indeed,” Meider said. “A little warning would have been nice. I thought the meeting was tomorrow?”
“I was surprised as well—Vortis’s doing, of course, the man is a menace. I think he’s annoyed because my forces outmaneuvered his when last we clashed.”
“Really.” That would be impressive.
“I said outmaneuvered, not outfought. He is a proponent of direct confrontation and overpowering the enemy. That’s not my style and I denied him that fight.”
“What is your style?”
“I don’t glorify battle, for one thing. Bloodshed is a necessary evil, not something I enjoy.”
“You are good at it though, brother.”
“Yes, but there is a difference between being skilled at battle, at using your forces carefully and achieving your goal with a minimum of carnage and destruction, and taking joy from stomping on the necks of those you fight. I don’t waste the lives of those I lead unless there is no other option.”
“Admirable. So you’re smarter than him, even if he’s stronger,” I mused.
“I am a cleverer fighter, and I choose where and how to strike to take my target down without being an animal. Vortis simply uses brute force and low cunning. He is a canny judge of weak points and sees through most feints, but his own weaknesses elude him. He is too fond of humiliating his opponents, of taking pains to wipe out a foe rather than defeat him, too careless of civilians and farmland. He sees nothing but honor and glory and pride.”
“You…you really don’t like this guy.”
“I do not. There are better ways,” Kendris said, his passionate denouncement still sparkling in his eyes. “But even so, he is very, very strong and skilled in combat. He would likely best me, if we faced off one on one.”
“I don’t know, I like your chances. You’re pretty nimble,” I teased.
“Don’t underestimate him, Eric. I speak as one who has fought him. He is a dangerous enemy. And you scored a small victory in your little spar with him, but I hope it doesn’t have an unexpected cost to you.”
Kendris picked up what seemed to be an apple and began to peel and eat it. Meider stood.
“Well then, we’ve just promised to use our new friend as a demon detector. And we’ve agreed to allow two humans to join us and committed to survey both our camps.”
Shit, we had agreed to that, hadn’t we?
“He’ll probably make sure one of them is either a mage, or a priest. Either way, the chances they’ll pry into Eric’s situation are pretty high.”
“You’ll start in the morning,” Kendris said. “And our camps are large. It will take some time, but I am worried about Eric’s ability to assist without giving away his unique circumstance.”
Ah, he’s talking about me, Vanquillon chuckled. I was worried he was so enamored of you that he forgot about me, your dark side.
Sarcasm isn’t useful right now, I grumbled.
“I’ve thought about that. The mantle will definitely keep things in check. And he seems able to stay in this shape indefinitely, without any indication he’s anything other than a mostly-elven male. Our cover story is that a circumstance of birth and inborn talent makes him able to sense demons.”
Nobody asked if I wanted to do this, Vanquillon grumbled.
I am pretty sure I don’t need you to do that anymore, I replied. I’m getting the hang of sensing things.
“I think I can manage it, but we should test first. Do you have any ideas for that?”
“In fact, I do,” the mage replied, and began digging around in his chests and cabinets, then ushered the two of us out into the bedchamber.
“He’s being clever and he knows it,” Kendris said, in a loud sotto voce.
“He’s being a nerd,” I said.
“So,” Kendris said. “I suppose I should apologize.”
“No, you have a job to do,” I said.
“I meant for how that played out, I didn’t want to put you in greater risk. You’re still figuring things out.”
He sat on his brother’s bed—the sheets were still rumpled, and he looked at them with narrowed eyes. I realized with a mix of horror and interest as he wrinkled his nose at the scents and stains we’d left behind.
“Ah,” he said. I couldn’t read the look in his eyes.
“Um, about that,” I began.
“There is no need. I am too tired right now to be annoyed with either of you. And on some level, I expected it—just not so soon.”
“You expected it?”
“Eric, you’ve dropped a substantial boulder in our little pond. Whether you realize it or not, you’re extremely attractive in this form, and half the camp has been lusting after you. You’re inhabiting a creature made for lust, with your own frail human soul holding the reins. You’re a stranger here and it’s only natural to seek comfort—and you only really know two people in this whole place.”
“You’re not angry?”
“No. Slightly disappointed, I’ll admit. I’d hoped to have you to myself at least a bit longer. But I know you were attracted to my brother—he’s always had a certain charm. Terrible taste in bedroom partners, so far….”
I laughed. “He said something to that effect, and that you’d probably tease him about it.”
“His tastes appear to have improved, if he invited you to join him.”
Oh man, this was hot. I hadn’t fully believed Meider, but sure enough, his brother seemed mostly cool with the idea that they’d shared a partner.
“Well, if I’m honest…I wasn’t fully in control then. I don’t know how much of it was me seducing him, how much was my…copilot… how much was mutual. It could have just been a side effect of this body.”
“Eric…you are more than that body. You’re an exotic visitor from afar, new to our world. You see things differently, you possess knowledge we’ve not thought of yet, and you may be able to give us insight that could win this campaign. Of those things, only one depends on the form you’re in.”
I didn’t know quite how to respond to that, and found myself feeling rather shallow. I felt like I was blushing.
Now who’s seducing whom? Vanquillon thought at me. You can’t possibly fall for this.
“You’re saying you like me for me and not just because of my body?” I teased. It was almost a defense mechanism.
“It is a very nice body,” Kendris said. “And you can do so many interesting things with it.”
Imagination. Underrated as a quality in warriors.
“Wait,” I said, feeling more Eric than Vanquillon or Elf Hottie. “I’m enjoying this sparring, really, but I cannot stress enough how important it is that I understand the dynamic here.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve got a lust demon whispering in my ear, and I like both of you anyway. I don’t know where Eric ends and this body’s native powers begin. I don’t want to …to cheat….”
“Hah!” Kendris was delighted. “You remain yourself, even now,” he said. “Few in your circumstances would ask the question, and fewer still would care much about the answer. But it truly matters to you.”
“Consent matters where I’m from,” I said, feeling a little put upon. “I really like both of you, and…shit, I don’t know if polyamory is a thing here, but I never even considered it back home. Not that it was ever really an option for me.”
“Is sharing sexual partners considered taboo where you’re from?”
“It’s kind of a grey area? It’s definitely transgressive to have multiple partners in the same family at the same time.”
“Ah, probably a human thing.”
“Hey,” I said.
“Eric, please understand. We live a long time and we spend more of it in a pubescent state than you do. We also don’t breed true as often, and cannot risk inbreeding. Our numbers are small. It’s pretty common for siblings of the same sex to explore each other once they come of age. And the pool of possible partners is fairly limited—mores since this damned campaign began. We have fewer hangups about that—though when it comes to males and females, our rules may be stricter than you expect.”
“So you and your brother…”
“Oh, certainly—but not since we were rather young. In a few cases, we have even partnered with the same person, but never at the same time, for propriety’s sake. Neither of us were mature and experienced enough to avoid causing problems. But we are siblings, and we enjoy teasing each other about our terrible taste in partners.”
Fuck, now I had the thought in my head…. just the contrast in their looks and styles, in their bedroom techniques, man… what would it be like with both of them.
That is entirely your doing, my copilot said. You conjured that image, not me.
Kendris looked at me as though he was seeing something new.
“You tilt your head a little to one side when you and your shadow communicate.”
I could sense Vanquillon’s surprise as well as my own.
“Yes, I believe so. It’s not so obvious, but I’ve spent decades learning to read the body language of my opponents.”
This one is quite observant, Vanquillon said. No wonder he is a fierce and cunning warrior.
“So I’m your opponent now?”
“I hope not. But as I told you—I must remain vigilant, on guard against demons in particular,” he said. “And in your case, at first I wasn’t sure what to make of you. Now, I watch you because I enjoy it.”
He said it so matter-of-factly, and either he had no clue how he came across or honestly didn’t care. Or he was a serious player. Either way it was seductive.
“Eric, sometimes you are too easy a mark. Worry not. I doubt anyone else would notice. I have a particularly keen eye for it, and we’ve spent most of the last day together, and you’ve been close to me and under scrutiny for much of it.” He leaned back on his side and discretely covered the wet spot with a blanket. “Given time, I’d like to see more.”
“You are such a charmer,” I replied, sliding over next to him. “I’d ask what you see in me, but you keep telling me. I’m not used to that.”
“You should be.”
“You know I don’t really look like this, right?”
He raised an eyebrow.
“I mean, if you could change your shape, I can’t imagine you’d want to. My original form back home isn’t quite so well made.”
“Show me,” he said, simply.
I thought about it…it seemed risky.
Of course you could do it, but why would he want to see your weak, flabby human form?
Fuck off, V, I thought. He didn’t understand and was probably just stating a fact. But of course, the damage was already done.
“I don’t know if that’s such a great idea,” I said, hesitantly.
“Please. I won’t judge you, but I would like to know the real Eric better.”
I found myself torn between feeling it was safe, and feeling terrified. If I were honest, I’d happily leave the original me behind in favor of this magical body I now had.
It should be within your power to do so, Vanquillon said. You humans and your worries about how shapely your forms are.
I had self-esteem issues, body image issues, at home.
Pointless. You have the body you have. All mortal forms are equally disgusting and amazing. Each beautiful in their own ways, all flawed in their own ways.
Easy for you to say, I thought. You can change your shape at will, but your default is sexy anyway.
I don’t really have a default form, Vanquillon said. My shape has never been fixed; it is what it needs to be to fulfill my function.
Which was why he didn’t really understand.
Either do it or don’t. Your whinging is getting on my nerves. At worst, this mortal may be slightly disappointed.
You know what, fuck it, he was right.
“You’re doing it again. Have you reached an accord with your shadow?”
“Yeah. But try to hide your disappointment.”
I pulled up a memory of myself in the mirror, and carefully fixed it in my mind. Then I envisioned it molded around me, and I felt my form shift again. This time, the raw sex appeal of Orlando/Zac/Link form faded to the dumpy, middle-aged me from the real world.
I had to force myself to stop freaking out when I realized his lust hadn’t shifted much at all.
Kendris looked at me with a strange expression. He had a hell of a poker face.
“Say something,” I said, quietly.
“What would you have me say?” Kendris said.
“Just say you’re disappointed, and move on,” I mumbled.
“I’m sorry,” Kendris said. “I can’t do that. You are much as you described.”
I gestured down at my shameful flab. “Now you see why I—”
“Eric, this is your form, is it not?”
“Did you think I would be upset that you are not corded with a laborer’s muscles, or lean like a warrior? Were you concerned that your manhood would be lacking, though you’re not a breeder?”
I nodded dumbly.
“But…” he said, clearly perplexed. “You said you were a designer of logistical systems, yes? Of communications?”
“And you spend many hours sitting at a desk, scratching at parchment and pouring over books, yes?”
“Well, sort of. There are tools, but it’s essentially the same thing.”
“Then why would you expect to look like an athlete or warrior?” he asked. “Your eyes hold intelligence and warmth. Your face speaks of worry and more years than I’d thought, though I confess it can be hard to tell with humans.”
Oh, Vanquillon said. He’s a romantic type. Interesting.
Why hasn’t his arousal changed? I thought at my copilot. Unless he’s into flabby pasty desk jockeys where’s the appeal?
Perhaps he has a perverse side, but I don’t think so. Vanquillon seemed intrigued. Perhaps he honestly looks past your form?
“You’re doing it again,” Kendris chuckled. “Tell me, what were you expecting from me? I told you, Eric. I’m drawn to you, not to your body alone. I appreciate you showing me what you look like in your world, but your form matters little to me.”
“I’m not considered attractive at home,” I admitted. “I mean, I’m just average at best, and I’ve let myself go.”
“Go to pot, to seed. I mean I wasn’t taking good care of myself. Bad eating habits, lack of exercise, stress, the works. I haven’t been with someone in a long time, and haven’t looked for anyone. This body doesn’t compete with guys 20 years younger and in better shape.”
“And that is the source of your shame? Regret over not maintaining some idealized form?” He was clueless in a way that only the sexy can manage. “And for this you cut yourself off from your peers, and from sexual companionship?”
I nodded again.
“Would it help if I said that it doesn’t matter, at all, to me? Because it really doesn’t. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find the other forms appealing in their own way, but…” he paused, looking for the right words. “But I built my body over years of effort; it makes a difference for my survival to be physically fit and strong. You built yours over years of a very different sort of effort, to different results. But it’s still you. Your eyes, no matter the shape or color, remain the same as well.”
I found myself crying.
I’ll have to remember this, Vanquillon said. When we next seduce a vulnerable intellectual, those words will help.
But V, I said, He’s still attracted. It really hasn’t shifted, unless I’m misreading.
No, you have the truth of it. he said. It’s quite interesting.
“Eric, why are you crying?” the hunky elf reached up a finger to wipe my cheek.
“I can’t remember being made to feel attractive when I looked like this,” I said.
“A training regimen and better eating habits would help if you wanted to shed some of your fat,” Kendris said. “But most men in similar trades fail to get properly exercise, and many eat when suffering from stress.”
“At any rate, don’t be ashamed. It’s a useless emotion for such things—become determined if you wish a change when you return home. You may find your cares are lessened as your confidence increases.”
“I could have used a coach like you back home.”
Kendrick looked at me oddly, and I felt that pulse of attraction again.
“Is your world so cruel?”
“It is when you’re attracted to men,” I said, “because youth and beauty and fitness are so highly valued.”
“Then I am sad for you,” he said.
I didn’t know what to say for a moment or two, but the sudden approach of Meider at the tent flap startled me. It probably says something about me that I instinctively shifted back to hot elf guy.
Meider was brimming with excitement. “Here,” he said, handing me a stout wooden baton. it was carved with signs and symbols and runes.
the moment I touched it, I could sense the mystic power within. and the runes began to faintly shimmer and glow.
“Neat?” I said. “What’s it for?”
“It’s a demon detector,” he said, in a slightly cagey way.
“No, it’s a modified training rod. It’s something I used as an apprentice to help me learn focus. But if you pour a little magical energy into it you can make the runes glow,” he said.
“And I’ve added some of my own design…if you can get them, and only them, to light up, then you can use this to signal me when you’ve found anything. Meanwhile, it’ll help you learn focus!”
“Won’t the other mage recognize this as a practice rod or whatever?”
“Possibly, but it won’t matter. Lots of mages use external foci for their wizardry.”
“Given its shape,” Kendris said, “one might mistake it for some other sort of device.”
He wasn’t wrong. The thing was roughly the size of a policeman’s truncheon, some 20 inches long and the natural shape of the wood near the base resembled an uncut dick. It was clearly just the shape of the wood and the placement of a knot, but still.
“Oh, very mature, both of you,” Meider said irritably. “Look, we need something that can be a physical, external signal. It’s a show to hide the fact that Eric isn’t really going to be using anything other than his inner senses to search for demons.”
“Yes, you are—but there’s another reason. Once this is attuned to you, even with the mantle on, so long as you hold this, you can use it to direct your power and senses. That’s basically what it’s for.”
Like an antenna, I thought. Or a periscope.
Fascinating, Vanquillon said. Your world has so many interesting things in it. But the simplicity of a slightly enchanted tree branch holds such wonder.
Yeah, because magic isn’t a thing on my world.
“You’re doing it again,” Kendrick grinned.
“What? Oh.” I blushed. Why the hell did I blush? Did he see through me so easily?
Meider ignored that exchange and pointed at a handful of runes, newer ones. “These are the ones I just added. Basic crafting work, but they’ll do.”
“What’s the significance?”
“None whatsoever.but between us, we can assign meaning. See? Use this one to warn me of danger, this one to get me to help you, this one…”
The next hour was spent training me both to channel energy into the rod and then to selectively light the runes. Kendris excused himself pretty quickly after our conversation, ceding the floor to his excited, nerdy brother. “But I’ll be back to share a meal with you both, once I’ve checked on a few things.”
Honestly I got caught up in Meider’s enthusiasm, and didn’t pay much heed to his departure.
This is literally child’s play, Vanquillon said.
Easy for you to say, I replied. Meider studied for years to master this sort of thing, and you’re just a natural, but for me, I’m learning something new.
I think you just like hearing this one talk about it.
He wasn’t wrong. Fuck. I was falling hard. For both of them. For Meider’s raw enthusiasm and intelligence, for Kendris’s bluntness and decency.
I’d miss them when I finally went home.
But of course, I couldn’t help myself. Or maybe ourselves?
“Tell me,” I said, my voice suddenly a seductive purr, “do you find the grip matters with this rod?”
Ugh. Even I rolled my own eyes, internally, at that. But it seemed to work well enough….
Meider chuckled. “Depends on what you’re trying to achieve,” he said.
“Is there a particular grip you prefer?”
“I’ve always found the grip matters less than the person holding it,” he smiled.
Fuck, this was hot. Corny, but hot. I mean, dumb wordplay, silly sexy innuendo, goofy stuff….but it was doing it for me.
Most interesting, Vanquillon said. He seems to react more to inanity. Not with arousal, not directly…
No, with fondness, I realized. Fuck, fondness was possibly better.
“Intent matters, too, though,” Meider said. “So…what is your intent? What are you trying to achieve?”
I was about to respond in kind when it hit me.
Shit, what was I doing? I was getting comfortable here. I was letting myself fall in love with two hot guys….that I’d then have to leave behind. Fuck.
“I’m sorry, did I say something wrong?”
“no…no,” I said, gathering my wits. “It’s just…this is too much fun.”
“I enjoy it too.”
“That’s the problem. I’m enjoying myself,” I sighed. “You are fighting for your lives out here. I’m a visitor and eventually I get to leave and go home to my boring life.”
He actually laughed out loud—a clear, pleasant laugh that seemed unburdened by the responsibility he bore.
“Eric, Kendris was right about you. How could I have ever feared you were succumbing to that demon you bear?” He gently grabbed my chin. “We’ve been at this for years now. Do you think we never have fun? That we never take time to appreciate the moments of normality?”
“By the spire, Eric, it’s all that keeps us sane.”
He pulled me to sit next to him on the bench. I struggled to catch up, mentally.
“Eric, you must realize that the struggle we fight isn’t just about slaying evil cultists and the horrors they summon. It’s about maintaining our sentience against those forces who would reduce us to base instincts. Terror. Rage. Despair. Those cultists believe we are pure when we surrender to them, when we embrace nothing but our animal instincts. They bathe in blood and fear and rage and hopelessness, in lust and greed and excess and vanity. They let it define them.”
Lust isn’t so bad, Vanquillon murmured.
“But our civilization is ancient—it’s been eons, literal eons, since my people struck a balance of our animal instincts and our higher ones. We won’t let it be undone by base cultists, or by creatures of the id,” he continued. “Do you know why we first came into conflict with the humans? Because we saw ourselves in them—but a version of us less tempered by experience, by hard-won victory over our base instincts. Brutes, savages, jealous cretins who wanted what we’d worked to earn.”
He sighed. “We made so many mistakes at first. Humans are so adaptable, their cultures so diverse, that it felt like chaos to us. And frankly, humans felt threatened by us, and when we competed for resources—well, when they settled our lands and encroached on our borders—they saw us as foes. But I fear we were no less guilty. It took the direct threat of the demon cults to both our peoples to make us all see the sense of it. As you saw today, those scars haven’t healed fully just yet. But at least now we have a common cause, and we’ve begun to listen more carefully.”
“And the one thing that humans—with their short lives and intense drive—have taught us, is that life is precious, that moments of happiness need to be celebrated.”
He took my hand. “A common love story for humans is of adolescents discovering love amidst the first rush of hormones…full of heat and passion and intensity, and ending tragically. Do you know what elves see as romantic? Growing old together, shaping a life over the centuries, becoming inseparable until only time itself can end their love. But lately, as we’ve fought together against the darkness, the stories we tell each other are becoming intertwined. This war robs us both and shows different lessons to each, and so elvish tales of aborted potential now gain an audience, while human bards sing of love that transcends time and rises above the base need to procreate while young.”
I wonder which romantic nonsense he prefers, Vanquillon said.
“Myself, I see the allure of both, but fear neither is more than a fantasy. The reality is that our lives should not be wasted fighting, but learning and loving. We could learn so much from each other, now that we’re not enemies.”
“As Kendris will no doubt tell you, when I first came into my power, I thought of nothing but gaining new skills and knowledge, and made little time for anything other than the struggle. And for my efforts, I grew in rank and in power. But I felt empty inside. I neglected part of my nature—part of all our natures—in an attempt to keep myself pure and free of possible demonic taint.”
“That’s just it—it wasn’t boring at all. It was exhilarating. But I was draining my soul, as surely as a demon would. Those cultists preach of casting aside our discipline and control and embracing our base instincts. But we aren’t made that way—we’re id and ego at the same time. Denying our urges limits us as surely as refusing to control them.”
“What I’m saying, Eric, is that you needn’t fear your base instincts. In fact, you need to express them sometimes. Our pillow time was delightful and different; our discussions have been wonderful. And if we made a breakthrough and you had to leave tomorrow, I would miss you. But I wouldn’t mourn the time we had, and in fact, the memory would help me stay, well, myself, rather than a soulless creature of war.”
“Did you read my mind or something?”
“No, my skills don’t lend themselves to that, or I would have been surer of your allegiance at first. You and your copilot are entwined in a way that prevents what skills I possess from reading you properly. But I don’t need to be a genius to extrapolate from what I have learned of your character so far. You fear attachment, both for my sake and my brothers, as well as your own. Do I miss the mark?”
He had me there. “No, that’s pretty much what I was thinking.”
“I’m not so bad a judge of character—and I won’t admit it to him, but neither is my brother. Your human soul remains strong, and it’s what I suspect we both find alluring.”
“Is it really right to waste so much time trying to untangle me and send me home?”
“I promised you that I would try,” he said. “but of course, the decision is yours, should we find a way. I daresay I shall learn much in the process. It won’t be time wasted, on those terms alone. But it will also be time spent with a person I like, and that’s a rare enough pleasure when at war.”
God, he seemed so young before, and now he was giving life lessons—the sort you gain over decades of life experience. And he was right, of course.
I realized I was crying softly, and Meider leaned forward to wipe the tear. “Now don’t you start, or I will,” he said, standing up.
“For what? Do you think yourself beneath the offer of help, or above it? No?” he teased. “Then allow me to give you what I can. You have given me much to consider, and we’ll learn still more. I’m enjoying the thought of teaching you. But I also enjoy your body and our bed play. We have no debts between us,” he said. “And we are allowed to have fun while we may.”
When he leaned forward and kissed me, it was different. And so was my response.
Something had passed between us, some deeper understanding. Something I wouldn’t have guessed was possible given how short a time we’d known each other. But there was something real going on.
And so his kiss was not the lusty, passionate scrabble of our first time, but rather an appreciative, gentle, caress of the lips. No dancing of tongues for dominance or foreplay—just an exchange of affection between two people who felt something for each other.
How do you like that flavor, I said, a little smugly, to my copilot.
I think I prefer the full-throated lust, Vanquillon thought back.
But this is not bad.
We finished our moment of tenderness, and Meider stood up again to face me.
“Now,” he grinned, “let’s see if you can make that rod do tricks.”
A few hours later and I had the knack of it, and we also determined that my magical reserves, so to speak, were pretty deep.
“It makes sense, I suppose, because your body is effectively a magical vessel for a demon.”
“It’s the demon that provides it?”
“No, all creatures possess the energy in various degrees. Your body is simply adept at working with it. Most gifted are like that; it’s a physical gift as much as anything else. But like any other predilection, you must train yourself to become comfortable with working those muscles.”
“Am I learning this, or is my body, and my copilot, doing all the work?”
“I’m not entirely certain where those lines are drawn. Earlier I sensed two very distinct essences, which limited your ability too draw on your innate power. But since you’ve found a balance, as you say, it is more difficult to distinguish,” he said, thoughtfully. “It’s not as though there are many others in your situation. The closest would be possession, but that’s a demonic soul overpowering and occupying your body, not what’s happening with you. The abyssal essence corrupts mortal bodies and burns through their essence. But your physical form bears little evidence of the internal conflict now. If I look particularly hard, I can almost make out the slightly out of sync vibrations.”
“What happens when we synchronize completely?”
“I don’t know.” He rubbed his earlobe absentmindedly. “I have little more than guesses—to call them theories is a lie.”
“Your guesses are probably pretty solid, though, so let’s hear them.”
“My first thought is that your dual essences would duel for dominance, and one would overwhelm the other. Given your lack of experience with magic, I suspected it would be Eric who was subsumed. In that case, we’d have to kill the vessel.”
“Nice,” I said, dryly.
“Necessary. My brother wasn’t joking about the threat you posed, if it were not Eric who won.”
“And your next guess?”
“That you might fall to Vanquillon and we would not know. That has been a source of real concern. We don’t know Eric well enough to note changes in personality. And thus, we’d err on the side of caution.”
“Another thought was that you—that Eric—might prove too selfish or frightened or aggressive to work with us. Or perhaps too unaware of the demon’s influence.”
“I’m sensing a theme here,” I said, troubled. “In each case, you’re prepared to kill me.”
“My brother, blunt soul that he is, said that he told you he was prepared to kill you if need be.”
Yeah, and we still fucked and made love anyway.
“Yes he did. And I believe him.”
“That is best.”
“So how do I avoid death at the hands of the brothers I find myself growing so fond of?”
“You can start by being less flippant about it,” Meider said irritably. “Neither of us were keen for that end. Both of us shared our attraction with the other, and realized it would pain us to do so.”
“I’m relieved. How do I stay alive?”
“You walk the edge of a knife, and the stakes include your mortal soul. The more you synchronize with the demon, the stronger your connection with the body you inhabit, and the greater your ability to manipulate magic becomes. But if you go too far, you may never separate that essence from your own. If I’m honest, my hope was to find the way to send you home before you got too enmeshed with your copilot.. But that has progressed farther than I assumed it would.”
“So the better I get at this stuff, the worse it is for me?”
“In so many words, yes. And at that point, we’re relying on our own instincts to sense your fall.”
Comforting, to be sure, Vanquillon grumbled. I wonder what happens to me, then?
“So you’re just…going to know, somehow, that I’m not me enough anymore?”
He looked at me with real pain in his eyes.
“It’s either that, or kill you now before you fall,” he said. “It would be the simpler, smarter, solution to ensure our safety.”
“I’m glad neither of. you are monsters.”
“On the contrary. We’re all monsters in war. We just remember that that’s not all we are.”
“Yeah… I understand that challenge all too well.”
I’d spent a while with Meider, but he still had tomes to pour over. And so I found myself trudging back across the camp to Kendris’s tent, trailed by a different guard. This one, I sensed, went for a muscular, bara-esque look.
Easily remedied, Vanquillon reminded me. Besides, it’s been hours since we fed.
“Mind if we stop by the mess tent?”
Whatever the proper term was, his expression told me that I hadn’t hit on it.
“I’m hungry, can we go where we can eat?” I said, patiently.
“Oh! Of course. My apologies, sir, I am not familiar with your idioms.”
I shot him a look as he led the way back to the chow wagon. The kitchens. Whatever.
That is yet another well-crafted, aesthetically pleasing ass, Vanquillon said.
Yeah, I’d noticed.
I’d also noticed that the guard—I’d have to get his name—looked basically like a Vulcan with better hair. He wore little in the way of facial expression, as far as I could tell, but he had the legs of a wrestler, and his upper body seemed pretty thick as well, at least by elf standards. I admired his relatively meaty form as I followed him.
“So what’s good today?” I asked, surprised to see my guard line up next to me to fill a plate.
“Do you like meat? There is moon elk, and they’ll grill it fresh since it’s not very busy. I’m getting some of that myself,” he said.
The guard’s name was Lind, and he was kind of a dud, personality-wise. He wasn’t unkind, or rude, or anything like that. He was just disinterested in small talk. He had a job to do, and he wasn’t inquisitive. And my guess is he wasn’t inclined to be chatty even without being uncertain about how I fit into everything that mattered to him. So we exchanged minimal conversation while we ate—the grilled moon elk was really delicious—and I prolonged my eating to scan the largely empty tent. It was good practice, letting my mind work through tuning my senses, while I ate on auto-pilot.
There were a few kitchen staff here, but there were only a handful of us in the tent, and none seemed particularly interesting. Nobody stood out in terms of attractiveness, despite the lean muscle that seemed the default here. Most seemed tired, eating out of necessity; all seemed preoccupied with their own thoughts.
“If you’re finished, I can walk you back to Kendris’s tent,” Lind said. Something in his tone suggested a bit of envy, since I was bunking with his leader, but it didn’t run too deeply. Lind wasn’t lusting after Kendris, or me, for that matter.
I pretended to slowly savor my cider, but I was now tuning my senses to Vanquillon’s department. Surface sensations, glimpses of strongly felt images or emotions, came into focus as I fine-tuned my lust-sense.
Oh, he was distracted. Primarily by a beefy human warrior he’d seen earlier. I’d seen the fellow earlier, as part of the human delegation’s retinue. That guy was definitely going to turn a head or two; he had to be well over 300 pounds of muscle and hair and masculinity. And Lind was into him.
We’re not his type, Vanquillon said. But we can be. You need to partake soon, after your efforts learning to channel your energy.
Frankly, he wasn’t my type either, though his butt was definitely going into my mental catalog. Fresh off the smart and sexy Meider, and still impressed by Kendris’s depth and decency, Lind’s shortcomings were al the more obvious.
Let us make a game of it, Vanquillon suggested. Once you’re in Kendris’s tent, escape and approach him as that guard. It will be good practice for your shifting.
A few minutes later, I sat in the empty tent, on a bed whose sheets still bore Kendris’s pleasantly masculine scent. And a moment later, I concentrated on the face and body of the beefy human soldier that had captured Lind’s attention.
First, the guy was probably 6’5 or better. Thick, muscular bara build; dense hair everywhere; a well-groomed black beard. The guy was built like a blacksmith.
I could feel my form changing—growing taller, bulkier, hairier. Meatier. And, fuck, hornier, too. All that testosterone that came with this form was constantly seeking an outlet. The obscenely thick penis between his legs hung flaccid over some big nuts, too. Had to be at least a 14-incher when hard.
Was I daydreaming about fucking the person I’d just turned into a clone of?
Distractions, Vanquillon warned. Go now and fuck him. Seduce him and breed him and drink of him.
Hang on, you pest, I thought. Let me get used to this….huh.
As I said, your form is an expression of your lust. It’ll respond as you need it to.
Then I’ll need some clothes.
Then will them. They’ll be part of you, so be cautious.
I opted for a simple undergarment, basically a soft shirt and trousers, which stretched across the bulges and curves of this beefy bod in ways that left just enough to the imagination.
You are getting the hang of this, Vanquillon smirked, satisfied.
I grunted in response, and reached out with my senses looking for—ah, there he was. Not just right out front, but walking around the tent. I took the opportunity to step outside—nobody else within immediate range—and timed it so I appeared to be walking toward the tent, nonchalantly.
“Halt,” Lind said, spotting me as he rounded the tent. And then he did a double-take when he realized who it was, or rather who I appeared to be. His eyes widened, and his pulse quickened. A delicious spike of arousal poured from him.
“I’m halting. Who are you,” I said, surprised for just a moment, as the voice that emitted from me was a bass rather than my normal tenor.
“I’m Lind. And you are in the wrong camp,” my guard replied. His hand gripped his sword tightly.
Shit, he’s tense rather than turned on, I thought. Gotta diffuse this before it goes south…
“Yeah,” I said, playing up the big dumb guy act. “Got lost. Camp’s bigger than I realized. Didn’t mean to offend, just…”
“You should not be in this part of the camp.” Lind glowered a bit.
“But I’ve been trying to find a cure for this,” I pointed down at my oversized crotch. “I heard your mage is very good.”
“He’s very busy and has asked for no disturbance until morning.”
“What about the half-breed?”
“Sleeping off dinner in that tent,” he said.
“Then who are you guarding?” I asked. No response. My humor was wasted on these people.
But it produced the desired effects.
Momentary confusion over the joke and his now uncertain duties.
Realization the hunk was hotter in person than at a distance. Spike in arousal.
Now reel him in, Vanquillon said.
The guard’s arousal was almost palpable to me now—I could taste it, smell it, hell for all I knew, I could roll it between my fingers. Whatever arousal was, it seemed to have physical components as well as, for want of a better term, psychic or magical ones. I was picking it up from multiple senses. It was just a little spicy.
“It seems to me,” I said, “that your main duty is keeping watch on that tent, while your half-breed sleeps, yes?”
“Yes,” Lind said. His eyes roamed my borrowed form, his gaze caressing my bulky muscles and bristling hair.
“Then I don’t want to distract you from that duty,” I said, feigning kindness.
It is probably too late for that, Vanquillon said.
Lind opened his mouth for what, in others, might have been a witty retort, or a flirty one, but in him, he simply opened his mouth, and then thought better of it.
“Yet I see that I am already a distraction,” I said. Man, this voice of his was a low rumble that would have suited a bouncer. “But I’m not sure how to find my way back without your help. Perhaps, we could help each other?”
“Help …. each other?”
“Sure. I can watch the tent, and you can watch me,” I said, shamelessly bouncing a pec. “And once you are less distracted, you can tell me how to leave your part of the camp.”
“We are allies, yes? I’ve met few elves and fewer still were allies,” I lied easily. “But I confess I am intrigued by you. That is likely why I was sent to your camp. Not all of my fellows feel that way. So… Should we not make the effort to understand one another?”
Poor Lind. His limited imagination meant he was good at singular focus. But this body’s effect was to channel that in a single direction. Guarding me was probably a good use of him because he’d be a terrible sentry.
You’re misreading him, Vanquillon said. His arousal is very specific to this form, and it’s being primed by our power.
What? Oh, right. What the hell was that? Was I reveling in the power I had over him?
Think later. You have but a moment to close this transaction in your favor, the demon’s echo said. It is a good learning experience for you, but do not get too full of yourself or you’ll scare him off. You must learn this or you will starve.
I blinked a few times to clear my head. Vanquillon’s presence seemed less… frontal, I suppose. He’d never be fully gone, while I was here, but apparently he could pull back a fair amount. He was leaving this seduction to me. And goodness knows, the feeling of hunger was growing stronger. He was right; I needed to make a meal of this poor fellow.
But how to do it? I considered what I knew of Lind, the hapless and unimaginative guard, and quickly shifted gears. He needed a concrete offer and reason to say yes.
“May I be blunt, soldier to soldier?” Lind nodded dumbly in reply, so I smiled kindly.
“I have seen you before, and my wandering was not entirely without purpose. I am happy to have found you again. And unless I’m very wrong, you would also be interested in finding a connection. Perhaps we can—soldier to soldier—find a little rare comfort in each other?” Ugh, was I laying it on with too many words for this taciturn guard?
Lind actually blushed a little. Wait, was he shy? “I have duties.”
“Over there, I see a little alcove between crates where one might keep an eye on this tent while finding a bit of relief, hidden from public eyes. And,” I added, “we could take turns so that one of us was always watching the tent.”
Close, Vanquillon said. But too wordy.
I raised a meaty arm and threw it over his shoulder. “Come, friend, it’s only a moment.”
“…Just for a moment, after I check around the tent,” he finally grunted, his eyes still darting between my oversized chest and my considerable bulge.
“I’ll be waiting,” I said.
A moment later, Lind returned to find a burly, naked human waiting for him between stacks of crates, and his jaw visibly dropped. (I may have added an inch or two to the bait and tackle; Lind screamed size queen to me.)
Excellent. Now take your prey.
I did, of course. I picked him up easily, and flipped him over so he could still, technically, see the tent, then I took him into my mouth and pulled the first orgasm from him almost before either of us could really enjoy it. But it was just a start. As his strong fingers roamed my borrowed form’s contours, I moaned quietly, deeply, and allowed myself to feel the moment. His touch went from tentative to demanding rather quickly, and soon I returned the gesture with a bit of creative groping of my own. And things… well, progressed from there until he had both our dicks in his large hands, obviously shocked by my size and utterly turned on by how much bigger I was than him. He had to be packing a solid 8 inches, with a long and tapered head, but I was at least three inches longer, and with a much fatter head and a thick, unruly patch of hair cushioning my oversized bull-balls.
He was entranced but surprisingly hungry, and suddenly I realized he needed to either stick his dick in me, or vice versa, to feel sated. And so, I pinned him quickly and impaled myself on his thick pecker. And then, the real feeding began…I could feel the lust transmute and drank deeply. His masculinity was strong, and his tastes simple—but he was strong and uncomplicated, and while it wasn’t my thing normally, it was enough. The minute I connected that dot, the floodgates opened and as he shot his load in my thick bara-ass, I drank deeply of his lust and probably a bit more of his true essence. But I was also aware of it now, and shut it down after what felt like a few solid gulps of this new lifeblood. I wanted to stop while I was in control of the process, so I wouldn’t harm him.
That was very nice, my copilot said. Control allows you to feed on him later. He will be none the worse, and we have supped well on his lust.
To his credit, Lind did his level best to be attentive to me while also frequently monitoring the tent. At least later I could honestly say that he kept me under close observation all night, and he never saw me leave the tent, nor anyone enter it.
Which was a blessing—because as we were standing up after our copulation, a whistling shriek flew over our heads, and a fiery explosion filled the tent where I was supposed to be sleeping.
Maybe it was the increasing sense of synthesis I felt in this body. Maybe it was just how the transformation worked. But whatever the reason, I somehow managed to stay “in character” even as I reeled in shock.
My hapless companion, however, was about to panic—I suspect only his training kept him from freaking out.
Why wasn’t I freaking out? No time.
“I’ll get help, you check your charge,” I shouted, and ran off before Lind could respond. I hazarded a glance as I rounded a corner, and saw him racing toward the flames. Shit, if I didn’t do something quickly, he’d probably race in to try to save me.
Why not use this moment to make your escape? my shadow asked. It’s a perfect cover.
I’ll admit, I considered it. But Kendris and Meider would be upset, and they were also my only chance of getting back home. And it seemed unfair to Lind, who was probably already blaming himself.
Fine, Vanquillon thought. I doubt we’d find so fertile a hunting ground anywhere else.
A moment later, restored to my default sexy elf-guy form, and coated in ash and soot, I pulled myself through some bushes about 20 feet from the back of the tent, making sure to scrape myself up pretty thoroughly as I did. (Elves tend to avoid the usual military approach of clearcutting an area for camps; they set up their tents around the landscape.)
Poor Lind was being restrained, still trying to rush in to save the man he’d been sent to guard. Three guards were already tossing water onto the flaming tent, as a grim-faced female elf began to chant.
Then my boys showed up. In my mind’s eye, they ran toward the tent in slow motion, their faces distraught and worried.
“Eric!” Kendris shouted when he saw me. “We feared the worst!” His expression was one of giddy relief.
“He lives?” Meider shouted. “….One moment,” he barked, and then made several swift gestures. Suddenly the fire routed massively into the air, spiraled in a long stream, and passed harmlessly into a bauble Meider held in his left hand.
Your wizard friend has excellent technique. He’s stored that explosive potential away for later.
Really? I mean, it was cool and all, but we had bigger worries to contend with.
The rest of the evening was a blur. Meider was kept busy dealing with putting out other fires, and then doing this world’s equivalent of a forensics sweep. Kendris had gathered a few critical trunks and boxes and salvaged the most important things from the ruined tent, and sent a few trustworthy guards to carry them to his brother’s quarters. Then, he questioned everyone quickly and efficiently.
My cover story was that I’d stepped out intending to evade my guard and go relieve myself, and just luckily avoided the explosion. Lind, for his part, was feeling miserable but perked up when he saw I’d survived. He and several witnesses saw the fireball fly over the camp to strike our tent. Kendris was initially angry with the guards, but I managed to talk him down from that by pointing out that nobody got into the tent, and I’d barely gone three steps before I saw the fireball streak toward me. There was nothing Lind or anyone could have done.
“I’m sorry. But Kendris, your tent! Your things!”
“Most of my important things are warded,” he explained. “But the bed, the clothing, and my guest were not!”
“I’m okay,” I insisted. “And it’s likely you were the target anyway. It was your tent….”
He frowned. “Possible. But you are the new factor. We’ve been here for weeks, and no enemies are near. And,” he said suspiciously, “Lind mentioned talking with a human guard. I confess, part of me suspects our so-called allies are responsible…”
“Kendris,” I whispered, “that human guard was me. I was the one distracting Lind.”
I don’t know which was worse. The brief flash of disappointment and betrayal I picked up from Kendris, or the shame I felt at not controlling myself better. I certainly didn’t want poor Lind to suffer, nor the human whose form I’d borrowed.
“Ah,” he said.
But Kendris wasn’t some fickle and jealous young lover; his flash was really just that. He sighed, and the moment passed—almost a little too quickly. And then his mind turned to what it was best at: thinking strategically and weighing options.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I—”
“Don’t,” he said. “We haven’t the time for recriminations or explanations. Your carnal visit probably saved your life, but it makes things awkward.”
“Because Lind believes he was derelict in his duties and it has shaken his confidence. Because he described a man in our allies’ retinue who will no doubt be surprised that he was in two places at once, and may suffer for it. Because that blast soared over our camp from the direction of our human friends’ camp, and many here saw it. Which means it likely was one of our allies.”
I frowned. It seemed too obvious to me.
Now that’s better, Vanquillon said. If I wanted to disrupt an uneasy alliance, or at least ramp up the tension, an attempted assassination of a leader is an obvious gambit.
Yeah, and the attempt was all that was needed, if all you want is to frame someone.
Frame… yes. Interesting term, but I see the shape of it. Yes, if the goal is sowing the seeds of distrust, then it doesn’t even matter that nobody was harmed. I wonder whether your lover is smart enough to see that.
“Kendris, don’t you think this is just a little too convenient?”
He arched a perfect eyebrow and gave me a quizzical look.
“I mean, if someone really wanted to kill you, that was a pretty brazen move.”
“Ah, I see what you mean,” he said. “I was mentally reviewing possible motives. Vortis is an obvious one—he does not like working with our kind—but this doesn’t seem consistent with his character.”
“He has no subterfuge in him. He is very brutal and straightforward; he values strength of steel and sinew, and what he prefers to think of as a fair fight. No, if he wanted to settle scores, he would have been happy to do so without resorting to magic.”
Agreed, Vanquillon said. Yeah, me too. Subtle as an outhouse, that guy.
“Any others with a beef?”
“Sorry, idiom from home. I mean, who else gains from doing this?”
“You’ve met most of the leaders. There may be some internal political scores we’re not aware of, but I would judge most of them to be honorable. There are no obvious villains.”
“Leaving only the people too smart to show their bigotry in public,” I said. “We have those at home, too. And they usually take the coward’s path. They love to worm their way into the leadership of armies and police.”
“It shames me to admit it, but there are some among my own people who may hold such hate in their hearts.”
All mortals have those sorts.
“So what now?”
“For now, we control information, and use what we know to tease out the culprit,” he said. “So first, stick to your story. Nobody else knows of your ability to change shape, barring my brother and myself.”
“Good to know—but wait, what about the people who were with you when you captured me?”
“…Meider thought it best to alter their memories.”
“He can do that?”
“That is also something best kept between us.”
I wasn’t sure I liked that thought.
“Eric, it had to be done, and Meider is quite skilled at it. They remember only the death of the summoner, the disruption of the circle, and the ally we brought back. Anything else can be safely attributed to the energy released when we disrupted the summoning.”
I confess, I had wondered about that.
Yeah, but I hadn’t. That seemed a little worthy of concern.
“What about Lind? And that guard?”
“I think we’ll let that play out. It will become obvious fairly quickly that it wasn’t actually the human guard. But if it becomes an issue, we use it as further evidence of the threat. It may make our job easier as we scan the camps.”
I nodded my understanding, and we returned to find Meider still engrossed in his investigation. Kendris pulled his brother aside and presumably caught him up, while I made myself useful figuring out how much of Kendris’s stuff had actually survived.
Turned out most of Kendris’s stuff survived—as he’d said, the various containers were warded—but most of the clothing and linens were lost. The brothers were tied up with the investigation, and I found myself dispatched with a hastily written list, and sent to get more from the quartermaster.
I don’t like him, Vanquillon said. Nothing I can sink my teeth into.
Hmm. Even a lust-demon had limits.
Still, my curiosity pulled at the shirtsleeve of my mind like an impatient child.
I reached out with my new senses and… I guess “felt around mentally” is about as close as I can get. Mr Spock doing a sensor sweep wasn’t too far off—yeah, I’m a nerd, so what? It’s the same sort of broad-spectrum pass, right?
Gentis, the quartermaster, exuded “regular guy” vibes, in the same way that the guy behind the counter at a deli in Manhattan would. He wanted people to come in, ask for reasonable things which he had available, exchange some papers, and leave. He also seemed the sort who, if something wasn’t available, he’d check around when he could, but he was usually busy. In other words, he had a job to do and he wanted to get on with it. As it was a military posting, he didn’t have to coddle anyone.
In our previous encounter, he’d almost seemed annoyed by my form; I realized that I’d chosen a particularly attractive form and stood out, even among the local population of fit military boys. He’d seemed focused on his job, then, too; he didn’t need the distraction I provided.
And here you are about to bother him again. He’ll love that.
Nothing. Wasn’t picking up any interest as I entered the tent and waited patiently for the two guys in front of me to do their thing. Well, not from Gentis—the two soldiers seemed to be a couple but did toss me an appreciative gaze.
I wonder whether he’s just ace, I thought.
Asexual. Not really into sex.
Hmmm. Possible. I don’t know these people, but I don’t think that’s all that common in your world.
My people don’t normally live more than 90 years. Maybe it’s more common here because they live so long.
No, the sense I got from our conversation with the brothers was that they have plenty of sex, but don’t breed true that often. Otherwise they’d overpopulate. Still, perhaps both are a factor. Mortals are fascinating, the way they’re part of an ecology but imagine their drives are somehow separate from their function….
I left that comment unanswered; Gentis beckoned.
“This whole list?”
“Yes,” I said. “Kendris sends his apologies, but the tent was destroyed.”
“Oh, that was his tent? I heard the explosion.”
“I almost got roasted by it,” I admitted. “I’m staying with Kendris, remember?”
“You seem to have escaped unharmed,” he said. (Nope, not a tinge of jealousy—just a bit of curiosity, and that barely detectable. For all the world it seemed he was making only the legally required small talk.)
“I got lucky and stepped out to relieve myself.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “So you are blessed with luck as well.” He harrumphed as he consulted a thick stack of forms and a book full of ledgers. “I won’t lie, it’s going to take a while to replace this stuff. I assume you’ll bunk with the brother for a night or two?”
“It’ll take at least a day to sort out a new tent, but Meider should have space for you in that big work tent. I’ll send over a bedroll or two until we get you new digs. As for your clothing, I’ll have to work on that, too.”
Because your proportions are a little larger in the basket than most.
I chuckled. “Sorry for the trouble. Honestly, would you mind going just a little bigger on the trousers?”
“I can measure again,” he said, uncertainly. “But we may need to tailor a larger pair.”
You could use this opportunity to have a little fun…
At this point I feel like I should confess something.
You know how in Back to the Future, Marty McFly has a history of being manipulated into doing stupid things when people call him chicken?
I’m like that with challenges. At least, a bit.
So when I say I was a schlub whose primary outlet for de-stressing was online gaming? I mean that’s how I channeled all my competitiveness. When I was a kid, I played board games and card games for keeps, and would pour my allowance into video games at the arcade. But it was in MMOs where my competitive streak really consumed me.
In order to negate or at least mitigate that aspect of my personality, I stopped playing PVP games against other players, and channeled my aggressive competitiveness into achieving story goals. I obsessively chewed through plot lines and chased down side quests and leveled hard. I tended to solo—that way I was competing against myself and beat an ever-evolving game.
Yeah, that’s precisely how I became the first guy to take down Vanquillon in the game.
I think the bit of him that lived in me picked up on it, and I think that’s why I took the bait here.
I’ve described Gentis as a bit of a working-class, stocky, pub-landlord type. And so it seemed on first impression, when he was compared to the likes of Kendris and Meider and the hunky elf-militia I’d met at that point. But that’s unfair to him, really.
Yeah, a bit of a dad-bod, but not remotely unhandsome. An odd mix of friendly and grumpy.
He also didn’t have any obvious lust to key off. So it was a challenge.
What does he want? I wondered.
Everyone wants something. And everyone has a secret lust they hide, even from themselves. Men like this, they tend to deny their lust, box it up, replace it with other passions.
Workaholics, I thought. Hell, I was one myself.
The old me, at least. So what had brought me out of my shell?
As I reflected on my own situation, I had a bit of a revelation: being overworked, unfit, and feeling unappreciated at work had probably left me feeling unworthy and under confident about my prospects. And it was easier to just shove those normal desires into a corner and ignore them.
Gentis was a functionary, a logistics grunt, amongst an army of hot men who ignored him unless they needed something. He was simply part of the machinery of the camp, and I’d lay dollars to donuts he was often taken for granted.
Ah, I see, my copilot thought. Make him feel appreciated, and you’ve got a chance.
So when he returned with part of my order, I asked some questions about his work, about the logistics of outfitting the group. He was hesitant to reply at first until he realized that I was bunking with Kendris and seemed to have his trust.
It was almost child’s play to engage him in talking about his work and the challenges of keeping the camp running. With my own background, I was able to ask questions and deduce things about how he managed it pretty quickly, and his answers shifted from standoffish to collegial.
Get a man talking about himself….
No, that’s not it. It’s making an unappreciated person doing vital work feel appreciated. Taking an interest in them.
I’d have discarded him as prey by now, Vanquillon said. I prefer a more…physical approach. But your slow seduction seems to have cracked his shell a bit. Almost enough to….
I got the flash of insight almost immediately as Vanquillon got it—it was not just your run of mill fetishes. Oh no.
He was, as it turned out, into the transgressive nature of being fucked helpless by a sexy demon.
“Anyway,” Gentis said, “I guess you’d know more than I do about that.”
Shit, my focus was elsewhere.
“About, you know…” he said, conspiratorially. “The demon. The one supposedly infiltrating the camp. Aren’t you the one who can sniff it out?”
How the heck did he know about that?
“Ummm…” I said. Great. Masterful performance there, me.
“Don’t worry, I’m not supposed to know anything. So of course, I don’t. I’m just speaking hypothetically. I know you’re a consultant and I know you’ve got some sort of special expertise.”
I managed a blank stare.
“We’re here to fight demons,” Gentis said. “It’s not that hard to figure out.”
“If…” I said, leaning into his personal space, “if that were the case, obviously I couldn’t say much.”
“I don’t see much real action,” he admitted. “I’m good at, well, this. And because I am, I’m better used here than in combat or intelligence. But I always wondered what they’re like…” he breathed “…up close.”
How very intriguing. It seems you were correct. See how his pulse quickens as he thinks about that forbidden—
“Well,” I said, “It depends on whether you’re talking minions or leaders. The minions tend to be focused on one sin or another, and it shapes them, but they’re all the same basic body type, like us. Glutton demons are fat; cruelty demons have these jagged edges everywhere; anger and violence demons might be wiry or massively muscular.”
“…and lust demons are probably obscene,” he guessed. “Huge genitals, that sort of thing.”
“More or less. But the leaders, the powerful rulers, the demon lords and ranking powers, they’re a bit different.”
“Yes. First, they’re not as single-minded; they think and plan and understand and manipulate. And while they may have one of the baser ‘types’ as a foundation, they’re far more complex, and far more like us.”
More like us, at least, my copilot added. Wait, how did you—
Yeah, I’d started talking and realized that I knew a fair amount of the lore already, from playing the game and reading all the color text. But I realized too that I was tapping into Vanquillon’s knowledge.
Beware, Eric. You risk us both if you reveal too much.
“Well, they have goals, and fears, and proper senses of self,” I replied. “The minions are nearly mindless, corrupted flesh. Almost a side effect of the presence of a demon lord. But as they interact with our world, they become more individual, and far more dangerous.”
“They’re not from here; their forms follow their function here, and the essence that powers them determines that function.”
“I have heard they… feast on our sins.”
“To an extent. They feed on our life essence but they are drawn to life forces that echo their own tastes. So a demon bred for violence revels in bloodshed, and gains strength from it, while one powered by gluttony might consume his foes. Some draw on fear, or stoke the fires of envy.”
“And the ones driven by lust?”
“They become more and more capable of enticing that lust from mortals. Any fantasy you might haven they could become, so long as it triggers and sustains your lust.”
I glanced down as my other senses noticed his straining erection.
“So if you wanted a mate with large breasts, or fancied darker hair or shapely feet or muscle or cock, a sufficiently empowered lust demon might be able to satisfy your desires.”
“….any? Any desire?” He whispered.
Yeah, I felt it too. Gentis was really repressed, shamed by his odd desires. Images of massive, prehensile, barbed cocks invading him, of tentacles probing him, of massive breasts heaving above him, and more—all of it competed and mingled in his fantasy. Smells, tastes, sights, sounds, textures—all of them woven in a chaotic pattern of carnality. All of it just below the surface for this fellow, simmering away in shame. No wonder he was grumpy.
But my talking about it had triggered something, brought it all to the surface, and his sudden flush of lust hit me like a powerful ocean wave. I staggered back mentally, and felt my own form become slightly more tenuous.
Eric, no! You must control it, not allow it to control you!
I could taste his lust, and my body ached to obey its wishes. My cock lengthened painfully, stretching obscenely down to my knee. A buzzing feeling, almost like being drunk, danced around my too-sensitive extremities. I wanted to drink deeply of this man. But i knew it was not the time to act.
He is brimming with desire. If you take from him, you might last for days without harming him or revealing yourself. But you must do so safely.
How the hell was the demon calmer than me? I was fighting my own desire and felt I could drown in my own hunger.
Simple, Eric. You wear our flesh; I have the experience you do not at managing its demands. You are in imminent danger of losing control right now.
I should leave, I should flee, I couldn’t risk everything for a taste of this man’s lust.
Oh, Eric, allow me.
Almost gently, I felt Vanquillon impose his own control over things. I probably could have fought it, but I was terrified of losing control.
“Gentis,” I heard my voice say in a sexy purr. “Why such a keen interest in the lust demons?”
Gentis instinctively shut down the lust he was broadcasting (well, for those of us equipped to sense it), and in its place stood a bit of shame and embarrassment.
“I do hope you won’t dream about them,” my voice said. “Well, I’d better collect these things and go back to the tent…”
I left him there. Vanquillon ceded control as we exited the tent.
So that’s it. Blue balls.
What? No, you idiot. This is no different than the control of an erogenous zone. Stoking and banking his psychological lust works much like doing controlling his physical lust. Temporarily thwarted, his urge will grow now that it has a focus and an outlet. By the time he retires to sleep, his fantasies will overwhelm him.
And then we will feed properly.
And hour later, I’d stowed the gear I’d picked up; neither brother was in the tent. At Vanquillon’s prodding, I reached out with my new senses, and sure enough, I could scent Gentis through all the noise of the camp.
He is drifting off to sleep, He will be nearly asleep when we arrive.
I was already walking toward his tent, wearing a far more generic face far more average than my usual one. My stomach growled in anticipation.
The quartermaster lay on his cot in a gauzy night garment, a thick fireplug of a cock rudely thickening and stretching from his stocky waist. He’d just fallen asleep and already his lust-filled mind was generating new perversions.
My copilot helped me draw energy and mute the tent somewhat, though that was increasingly easy after the practice the boys had put me through. I could also sense his raging lust.
I stalked my prey. There’s no other phrase that really captures me sneaking cautiously into the tent, kneeling by the cot silently, and reaching out at long last to touch his body.
The moment I touched him, it unleashed a reality-bending wave of pure depravity that filled me like the largest buffet I could have imagined.
And I could feel my body’s form begin to shift in response…
Oh my, this is…
Extreme? Yeah. This guy’s a total perv.
Well, it was certainly unexpected. Gentis had some very unusual fantasies.
My face was first to change, my eyes and nose swallowed by a wave of flesh and my mouth widening to an obscene, toothless, grimace. My ears closed over but I could still hear a muffled heartbeat—I wasn’t sure whose—as the wave of change passed through my neck, and into my torso. There, my arm-bones reduced themselves to jelly, as thick veins writhed along their length; then the entire torso shifted and sagged a bit; my hands were next, fingers folding back only to melt into my forearms and disappearing, and then my palm pushing out into a spongy and disturbingly familiar shape.
Below, my already-large cock lengthened rapidly until it was the same length as my legs—each of which had mutated to become a twin of my meter-long cock.
My entire body had become a writhing mass of cock-tentacles, capable only of touch. I extended my tongue, hoping to test whether my taste had survived, but it too had become a cock.
A wet and squelching noise shuddered through me. Somehow this biologically improbable form could produce copious pre-cum, and I could taste it within and everywhere it touched my skin.
Well, that is an interesting twist. You’ve let him overwhelm you…it’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it?
I wanted to respond, but my mind was blitzing out on the sensation of having all my skin made of super-sensitive penis flesh; focusing on anything else was nearly impossible.
You’ll be fine once you take him. You’re already his very odd fantasy. But maybe we can erect a sound barrier, so we aren’t disturbed.
Hah. I’d just turned into a nightmarish cock-beast; I was already disturbed.
Despite all my other senses being reduced in my current state, both my lust-sense and my senses of touch and taste remained fully intact. I knew Vanquillon was telling the truth—once I’d satisfied Gentis’s dream and fed a bit, I’d be able to reassert my own shape.
Well, not my original shape, but the one I’d been wearing for a while now.
Until then, this would have to work.
Gentis was generally considered by his peers to be: diligent, competent, grumpy, and necessary. Not one of them, least of all the quartermaster himself, would have listed “imaginative” or “perverted” in that inventory.
But he had, from time to time, had disturbing and recurring fantasies about being taken by a creature beyond his understanding—and somehow that had gotten tangled i his mind with an obsession with big dicks. We all have odd passing fancies, brief moments of wondering about taboo or otherwise unspoken sexual desires.
So no one was more surprised, or harder, than he was when he woke to the touch of a creature spawned by his hottest fantasy. Instead, he assumed he was still dreaming, and became sleepily enraptured by the monstrous aberration before him.
And then he attacked it with gusto, attempting to lick and suck and fuck the creature with all his might.
In practice, of course, the creature was willing and active in the sex, finding multiple ways of achieving penetration and closeness with its astoundingly weird form.
I woke in my own form, in Gentis’s arms. He wasn’t yet awake, but I felt myself brimming with energy.
You drank deeply of his fantasy.
Is he all right?
Nothing sleep and bit of self-realization wouldn’t correct, Vanquillon said.
Perhaps it was that I’d drank so deeply of Gentis’s fantasies, but I felt amazing. I smiled and stretched—man, I was getting used to this sexy elf form—and carefully extricated myself from the burly quartermaster’s arms, and stole back to the tent where….
Where the brothers awaited. I’d gone out to collect supplies about four hours ago.
I wonder what welcome we’ll find, Vanquillon mused. Do you think they’re the jealous type? I mean, aside from being willing to share you between the two of them, how do you think they’ll react to your detour?
“Stop toying with me, V.” I felt bad enough without the copilot teasing me.
But I was teasing, Vanquillon said. And it wasn’t my intent to strike a nerve so deeply. I certainly don’t profit by it.
He didn’t understand of course. He knew the mechanics of lust and desire and sensuality, but he didn’t really understand what it was like to realize you’re falling for someone, and that you’ve hurt them. Or at least, I feared I’d hurt them.
Idiot. Stop mooning and fretting, and face the situation.
I hate it when he’s right.
“Ah, I told you he’d return eventually,” Kendris called to his brother, with a bit more salt in his tone than I’d grown to expect. “Did the quartermaster detain you?”
“He did,” I said, truthfully.
We said nothing as i sorted the garments and toiletries into piles for him and me, and Kendris busied himself unrolling two bedrolls. I noticed him hesitating as he unrolled the second, uncertain where to put it in the rather cramped space we’d squeezed into.
“It’s a tight fit. Shall I put yours in here? Or would you prefer to see if my brother’s bed has room?”
That’s definitely jealousy. He’s quite cross.
Really. Like I needed a lust demon to tell me that.
Sigh. Best to bite the bullet.
“I’m sorry, Kendris, I—”
“Perhaps the quartermaster can find space for you in his chamber. I assume he has already measured.”
“This isn’t your best side, Kendris,” I said archly.
His eyes glared back. There was real hurt there.
“Shit, no. I’m sorry, Kendris…. I need to clear the air here.”
“Yes. I’m sorry I hurt you. I didn’t plan on it, but you weren’t here and I needed to sate the hunger safely.”
“This is my fault?”
“Fuck. No, that’s not what I meant.”
“Did your lust overtake you? Did your rutting put the camp at risk? Should I summon Meider to bind you?”
Sounds like fun.
“Dammit, Kendris, you know I’ve been struggling. You’re the only people who know what I’m dealing with here. But you don’t understand the demands of this body. And you told me that I needed to sate it or I’d put us all at greater risk.”
“Are you trying to convince me, or yourself?”
“Both,” I said, sighing. “For that matter, the real me has had more sex in the past couple of days than in my whole life. But I really am sorry.”
His expression remained dark.
“The quartermaster is sleeping deeply and getting real rest. He’ll be better for it in the morning. But Gentis was struggling with pent-up lust and he’s all the better for having had the release. Frankly, so am I. But that’s all it was. You know that’s all it was.”
The hurt and suspicion in his eyes grew less intense, but it didn’t go away entirely.
“Fine,” I said. “I’ll sleep on the floor as penance.” I did my best guilty pout, and his expression softened.
I did sleep on the floor.
Very soundly, and untroubled by dreams.
When I awoke, and sat up, I found Kendris was sitting on the opposite side of the bed, facing away.
“Good morning,” I ventured.
Kendris sighed, still facing away.
“Cold shoulder, huh. Suppose I deserve it,” I said.
“How is only your shoulder cold?” Kendris asked.
“It’s an expression,” I said. “You’ve literally turned your back to me and refuse to meet my eyes. This indicates you are unhappy with me.”
“What? Oh, I thought you had slept badly,” he said, with no hint of attitude in his tone. “I was just going over reports.”
Sure enough, he gestured with a handful of papers filled with neat and graceful script.
“So you aren’t mad at me?”
“I’m annoyed with myself. Yesterday was rather trying, and I was exhausted when you returned. I acted petulantly, and for that I apologize.”
“No, Kendris, I was the one who slinked off to bang the quartermaster after we had decided on sharing a bed. I’m not sure how things work here, but at home a couple would ideally set up mutually agreed rules if they aren’t going to be fully monogamous.”
“Communication is considered important here, too. In our culture, we have perhaps a dozen different terms for our relationships. One of them roughly equates to ‘fondness with uncertain status’, which I believe is where we stand. You owed me no explanations. The wrong assumption was my own.”
“I don’t really know how to respond,” I said. “I’m more used to passive aggressiveness or awkwardness when it comes to relationship complications.”
“Then I am sad for you,” Kendris said. “But I didn’t want to burden you with my reaction.”
I sat pondering this for a bit while Kendris busied himself sorting the supplies. Was his bluntness a him thing, or an elf thing? Was it a side effect of longer lifespans and different attitudes toward sex in general?
Possibly, my copilot thought back. Perhaps it’s just cultural and amplified by Kendris’s tendency to be straightforward.
You don’t know?
This is my first time in this world, too.
You may want to smooth things over before you lose access to a regular source of sustenance.
If you want to survive, you need to see to your basic needs.
I hate when you’re right.
Despite clearing the air between us, I still felt a little guilty for my sluttish behavior, and I could tell Kendris also blamed himself for his reaction. Things remained a little awkward, but not aggressively so.
Meider picked up on the tension immediately and gave both of us space for as long as he could, but eventually pragmatic concerns forced his hand. The three of us sat at one of his cluttered tables, working out signals we could use once our escorts from the human camp arrived.
And none too soon, for the guard announced their arrival sooner than we’d hoped.
As soon as I turned to look at them, I began to worry.
First, they were both extremely attractive—James, the older of the two, was stocky and sturdy, and well kept. My guess was he’d shaved that morning to look presentable. He had a pleasant baritone voice but wasn’t a big talker. He also had intelligent grey-blue eyes that seemed to take in his surroundings with clear focus.
The younger, Steven, was a gorgeous twink, all limber sinew and spikey brown hair. Lean and tight, with an eager and open face that suggested youth and energy. He had a puppyish quality to him, and I thought his gaze lingered on me a bit longer than the others.
Hmmm. Curiosity and sexual interest there. Watch your step with him.
Meanwhile, in a suburban condo…
Vanquillon: In hindsight it seems obvious: when I released some of myself into the dreams of that human, I went a little overboard. His keen mind saw more of my own than I’d intended. That in and of itself was intriguing; the analytical and logical scrutiny with which he’d itemized the specifics of my being placed him among the most intelligent and perceptive people I’d encountered. Not merely analysis, but also real creativity, artistry. And so a tiny fragment of myself had remained to watch him work.
What a remarkable advancement of the art of story he wove. There was adventure, danger, and sensuality on the canvas he painted. Though the medium was beyond my understanding at first, I could sense him weaving a tale—a story in which the audience did more than merely imagine themselves in it, but in which the tale responded to their actions.
For seven weeks I lurked in his mind, feeding off his dreams and learning about his world. Though he sat for days like a scrivener in a monastery, doing little more than prodding a clicking grid as he stared at a box of light, I saw him for what he was: a bard of sorts. And like wizards and tricksters, he used words to create something magical.
He was under such pressure, a pressure to conjure something incredible out of thin air to satisfy his overseers, that he wore himself to exhaustion. I soon came to understand that the grid he poked with nimble fingers was simply another way to write words, and that the words he wrote took many forms. Some were to consider the tale, or the options for others to interact with it. Others were written to carve illusions and magic into being.
Of course, he would not have recognized it as magic—to him it was somehow both a dreaded chore and a passionate endeavor, depending on whether he was…what’s the term he used? “In the zone.”
The longer I stayed, the more I fed, the more of me he sensed subconsciously. My very presence leeched memories and ideas into his mind, but I wasn’t aware of it at first, or at least I didn’t fully understand what that meant. Not at first. I only knew that he needed a release I could give, and in doing so provide me with the essence I craved.
And so for two full cycles of this world’s singular moon, I rode the man. Sergio was the name he used, but it didn’t matter. He was food, if interesting food. And so I satisfied my hunger nightly with this fellow, never realizing that he’d begun to recreate, in his illusions, a facsimile of the entity he unknowingly shared his mind and his bed with.
At some point, he’d etched enough of the complex spell into his mechanism that he seemed satisfied. And for the first time in a long time, I felt a sense of wonder at what he’d wrought: a convincing facsimile of a world—a world of dimly lit crypts and flickering torches. And then, to my shock, shimmering into that world was a facsimile of… of me.
At least, it was one of my preferred forms. And as I wondered what a “cut scene” was, I watched as my doppelgänger became more and more accurate, and as the scene evolved, I realized that it had all the required components of a particularly dangerous, unpredictable, ritual of binding.
And then, suddenly, it was too late. I felt myself drawn into the thing, enmeshed in Sergio’s little box of wonders. I spent some time completely disoriented, barely able to subsist on moments of frustration or elation as he tweaked some parts of his spell.
When we fail to find sustenance, my kind goes dormant for a while. Strong emotion will awaken us.
And so it happened that suddenly thousands of echoes of myself shimmered into being at roughly the same time. The influx of emotions from so many sources, overlapping and echoing, left me reeling, but I steeled my resolve.
As I have since discovered, I was being fed by hundreds of thousands of peoples’ passions. It was like being plugged into a storm, and through that power, I gained an understanding of what Sergio had done to bind me here, in this plane and on this world, within a video game.
In short, his duplication was as accurate as his technology could achieve. So much so that his work was not too dissimilar to knowing one’s true name. He never had to speak the words; writing them down and carving them into crystal, while my image and my name lay ready in his mind, was enough—not much different, really, from the sorcerers who used runes or scrolls to weave spells. And those miniscule echoes of me appeared in thousands of homes where hordes of hormone-added pubescents and repressed adults greeted this game with passion and wonder. I waited.
And then, it happened: someone found the secret content, played it, and won. And as he did, I felt something tug and pull at me.
When I came to, I found myself in a human chair, blinking in surprise as thousands of echoes lost their connection. I felt so confined! Claustrophobic!
I sat up, and found myself in a body that limited my ability to move and sense and feel. Halfway through his allotted span of years, if I correctly divined, and average by the measure of his kind.
I’d never fully possessed anyone. I tried, and failed, to alter my form. I tried to leave.
I was stuck in this terrifying place. Stuck alone, with no way home.
Not alone, at least. Mind telling me why I’m stuck watching you drive my body around?
His name was Eric. And his world was tiny.
And I was trapped in his physical form, unable to extract myself from it. Limited. Confined.
And not, as it happened, alone. An echo of Eric remained, still somehow tethered to his body even if the bulk of his essence was simply not here.
Between us, we agreed on some basic facts about our situation, and he seemed to accept me at face value. Which left us with one huge practical concern among others.
To my surprise Eric had some rudimentary understanding of magical concepts: resonance, symbolic meaning, the power of names, and so forth. His mind was fairly analytical and open. We quickly deduced that it was fairly likely that Real Eric was wherever the missing part of me was. If he was on my world, he would likely go mad.
But there was a good chance that that tug I’d felt shortly before I awoke was an attempt to summon or bind me, and if so, that’s likely where Eric was. With any luck, he had a piece of me to help guide him as well, because summons typically involved some sort of binding form, since I lacked a typical body. There were many variables, but the hope and theory was that if either side of this mess found a way to undo it, the essences would probably return where they belonged.
As for our doppelgängers, either they’d figured out at least as much as we did, together, or things might have gone terribly wrong.
Eric broke down our situation.
Find a way to reverse it.
Try to avoid arousing suspicion.
Stay alive and retain our distinct selves.
In the end, I would need to keep up some pretense at Eric’s life, so he had a life to return to. That limited research time, but he was, as he put it, not in any hurry to resume playing his game. But there were hazards in that approach, and his default level of isolation was both a hindrance and an asset—there were few people who might be persuaded to help maintain the illusion, but that also meant fewer social situations that might reveal it as well.
I’m just saying, calling out from work is only an option for so long. If I stop working, they stop paying me, and I lose my house and my stuff. And what I do is so specific that you won’t be able to fake it. We need to find a way to share that knowledge. I’m going to hazard a guess you can’t type or read English, either.
I wanted to prioritize trying to find some learned sage to help extricate us from this distressing entanglement, but Eric’s arguments—namely that there were no such things because magic wasn’t really a thing in his world, and that he needed to keep up appearances or he risked being locked away—were persuasive.
We could try to reach out to the people behind the game, but it’s just been released, or at least this expansion was. So probably half the developers are still on fixing bugs in the release and the leads are on vacation. I don’t think we’re going to find him.
Then we must pursue all options. Your computer has access to all this world’s knowledge, you say?
Kind of. Most of it’s available but there are a lot of dead ends, and too much bullshit.
By which you mean that the truth may be difficult to locate amongst the misinformation and distraction.
Heh, yeah, well, that’s the internet for you.
Time doesn’t quite mean the same thing to beings like me as it does to mortals. Is mortals even the right word? It’s hard to describe what the passage of time means to me, but perhaps the easiest way is that it largely does not matter, except when it does. While I’m feeding, for example, I’m in the flow of time as much as those I feed upon. I share their sense of it. And now, I was stuck.
My frustration with the situation aside, Eric—or his echo, as he began thinking of himself—was handling things as well as might be hoped. In his mind, a lifetime of science and fantasy fiction and games had prepared him to accept the circumstances. Or perhaps it was because the Eric I felt was only part of the more complex real being whose form I wore.
Even so, I could sense his worry and almost panic over a situation he had even less control over than I did, which is to say practically none.
Stop doing that.
Grazing on the emotions in my head.
I can’t help it. I feel hungry, and that is my sustenance.
But you’re in my body. Did it occur to you that what you’re feeling is not you, but the needs of my stupid mortal flesh?
He was right, of course. And it wasn’t the first time I’d been confused by the needs of this flesh. The mundanity of eating, breathing, drinking, sleeping, relieving myself of waste… all of it was something rather unfamiliar, and certainly something I’d never experienced with the same urgency as I did now. I didn’t like it.
Me neither. Just wait until you get gassy, or get heartburn. Oh, and since you’re stuck with my “mortal flesh”, you also get to enjoy the middle-age aches and pains, the mild asthma, and all the other stuff.
I’m familiar with how your bodies work. I am rather good with certain parts of them. But being able to ride the wave of arousal is not the same as waking up from slumber and racing to the bathroom, or being shocked by a particularly sharp back spasm.
Luckily for us, once Eric and I figured out what he called “back seat driving” for certain mundane tasks, most of it was covered in muscle memory. His body was used to doing most of it, and required little direction once nudged toward the goal. Preparing a meal was a bit awkward, but the results were a fairly new concept to me. Taste and smell are incredibly strong senses, and I realized that I’d only ever really used them in conjunction with lust. And yet here I was, eating something called peanut butter and jelly, and finding it unexpectedly satisfying.
As Eric predicted, his work demanded his attention. Numbers, apparently, were needed for Dave and Rebecca to finalize something. And once again, muscle memory helped considerably, and as I sat before his screen, he was suddenly in control, without any conscious choice. And so I simply watched and tried to learn.
I was experienced at this form of occupation. And on the surface, the gestures and routines were not too dissimilar to what the creator of the game had done. Something called “logging in”, tapping the symbol cubes with fingers in the correct patterns, and so forth.
I soon realized that Eric was wrangling with magic of a sort, too—he etched number-signs into a digital slab and used them to predict the future. For hours he did this, ignoring the needs his body raised. I began to appreciate his dedication.
Hardly dedication—it’s skill and a healthy dose of fear. I’m decent at what I do, but loads of younger people would do the same work for maybe two-thirds of what I bring home.
This obsession with currency… sometimes it’s just the money, sometimes it’s what the money represents.
Of course it is. I’m doing okay, but a few months without income would break me.
You don’t use it to care for yourself, only to sustain your whims, I thought. You buy toys and consume entertainment, and you eat far more than you should.
Welcome to America. We work really hard until we’re exhausted, then we do almost anything to restore the balance, and then we get sick because we don’t make time for real food or a little exercise. Do that for long enough and you look like me.
Eric had a pretty poor self-image. I could see in his mind’s eye the unflattering comparisons to athletes and entertainers; the regret and shame over his own form ironically kept him from working properly to improve it.
“Is that so bad? Would you fix the things that bring you shame, if you could?”
Of course it is, and of course I would.
“Then help me to sate my own hunger, and I will help you make some adjustments. That will help address your sense of self, and help me to attract more to feed on.”
…Seriously? I mean I won’t kill anyone or hurt them, he said.
“I can see we have had some…bad press? I do not need to kill to feed, but I do need energy to help you with your concerns. Merely being proximate to a large source of lust will fill me. You don’t even need to engage in anything yourself.”
Holy…Well we are in luck, V. Because this weekend is Pride…
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