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Chapter Fifty-Nine: Predators & Prey

Posted in Book Three, and Of Astral and Umbral

Chapter Fifty-Nine: Predators & Prey

 

‘Shit!’ I leapt away from the creepy Elf kid and shifted into a defensive position, holding Eoraso in front of me.

The torrent of Nalithor’s rage exploded through the room with enough force to make the Elves stagger. Before they could recover, Nalithor’s spear carved the one who had attacked me in half. Shadows coated the edge of his blade, cutting through whatever twisted magics had reassembled the child.

A simple glance at my nylziis was all it took for me to understand he’d lost himself to the role of Balance—or at least some part of it. The sound of an amused chuckle made me look off to my left, finding Sihix leaning back against a nearby wall. He watched Nalithor’s rampage with a smirk on his face, looking not at all bothered by the destructive whirlwind of power radiating from my nylziis.

‘Who am I kidding? I’m not worried either.’ I settled the flat of Eoraso on my shoulder and moved out of Nalithor’s way. A portion of his darkness separated from his aura and drifted over to me, creating a small dragon the size of a dog. It sat by my feet and tensed, turning its head in search of threats. ‘So, our instincts can kick in with a threat to either one of us as well. Not just unstable magics or distribution of power.’

I took a step forward, intending to go investigate the large crystalline flower at the center of the room, but Nalithor’s dark creation blocked me. Sighing, I crossed my arms within my sleeves and resigned myself to watching Nalithor’s rampage. The wild, delighted grin on his face was contagious. He somehow managed to look enraged and ecstatic all at once.

Nalithor’s spear tore through the three offending Elves several times, sending pieces of their bodies skidding across the floor. Each time the parts were infused with corruption and reattached to the closest body, and not always to the original they belonged to. Under other circumstances I might have hesitated to attack children, but I couldn’t honestly call those creatures that.

Either they were something else, or they were already dead.

‘Perhaps dealing with the crystal will end them?’ I nudged Nalithor’s thoughts.

His mind felt like a blank wall of rage but a brief hesitation mid-swing indicated he must have heard me. His power engulfed the individual pieces of the Elves, locking their detached parts within prisons of shadow. Nalithor strode toward the crystal containing Lehrr and the dragon.

When he came to an abrupt stop, I frowned to myself. He didn’t seem to know how to break it. I considered reaching out to him again but stopped. Sihix appeared to be testing Nalithor specifically, meaning my interference could skew the results. I didn’t want my actions to somehow result in the Lari’xan deciding Nalithor wasn’t worthy of being mine.

‘Still, Nalithor is an intelligent man. Even in his rage he appears analytical.’ I gnawed on one of my knuckles while looking between Nalithor and the downed Elves. The corruption was trying its damnedest to revive them but the pieces couldn’t escape my nylziis’ shadows. ‘I would have torn into the magics binding Lehrr’s heart and that dragon by now, yet he’s taking the time to study the magics despite the seething rage he feels.’

I glanced down toward Nalithor’s feet, confirming that each of his elements were leaving their mark in his footprints. The air around him rippled with the force of his exerted power and rage but the pressure of it never reached me. Switching my vision made me purse my lips. He was keeping it all in a condensed aura around himself. No wonder even the air seemed to tremble.

“How cute, he thinks that’s enough to keep you from joining in.” Sihix chuckled, earning an annoyed look. “Well? Aren’t you going to help him? Hmmm?”

“You’re too obvious.” I shifted my attention back to Nalithor and studied his posture, the movement of his tail, and the growing dance of elements around his feet. His dark creation still refused to let me move anywhere, eliciting a small sigh from me. I wanted to help in some way but I wasn’t sure how to.

Power rushed outward from Nalithor when he placed his hand against the surface of the crystal. He said nothing but seconds later a crack appeared beneath his fingers. His Brands of Divinity pulsed brighter before a second explosion of power left my nylziis. Lehrr’s crystalline heart shattered into glittering particles of dust. Both Lehrr and the dragon dropped to the floor, unconscious, but Nalithor wasn’t done.

The third and final shockwave of power obliterated every trace of corruption and death from the room. Corpses, blood, bones—everything was consumed by Nalithor’s darkness. His power seemed to pause when it brushed past me. Before I could react, my nylziis appeared in front of me and his spear pierced the stones next to my head.

Spar me.” Nalithor leaned down to look at me but his gaze was still hazy.

Here?” I asked, blinking at him.

His response was to grab me and fling me across the room. Gritting my teeth, I summoned light armor around myself and landed feet-first against the opposite wall. When he appeared next to me with his spear already swinging down, I parried his strike with Eoraso and then lashed out with darkness to root his feet in place.

“Oh? You thought I was serious?” Nalithor’s lips brushing against the side of my throat startled me.

‘When did he get that close?’ I bit back a shiver and looked over his shoulder, growing still when I caught movement. My nylziis seemed oblivious and continued lavishing my throat with affection. When I growled at him, I felt his fangs prick my throat but he didn’t break my skin. ‘You didn’t kill those things good enough.

‘What…?’ Nalithor grew still, his darkness shifting as if to search the room.

When his power reached the reconfigured Elves, he disappeared from my side and cut them down yet again. I breathed out a heavy sigh and rubbed my throat with one hand to rid myself of the lingering sensation of his lips. If those creatures were still alive I couldn’t afford to be distracted. I called Eoraso to me and hefted it in one hand. Nalithor shot me a look that said he didn’t need my help but I intended to be ready regardless.

‘Well, he’s certainly got more control than you do,’ Sihix commented casually.

‘Shut it.’

‘He’s under the sway of his role yet he can still communicate,’ Sihix continued like I hadn’t said anything. ‘I expected much from him, but this comes as a surprise. The puppy portion of him was much wilder. Would this be “hubby’s” more tempered side at work?’

‘Humph. How should I know?’ I tracked Nalithor carefully, taking in his movements. The predatory grace and precise movements were still there but a distinct violence had joined them. He tore into the childlike creatures in a bestial manner, sending their blood spraying every time and again. ‘Hmmm, their blood is repelled like it belongs to a beast.’

‘More crude experiments,’ Sihix scoffed, making a dismissive motion. ‘I don’t take kindly to my children being used in such a way.’

‘They seemed normal when we ran into them at the springs,’ I murmured, gnawing on my lip. ‘Was that really just a ruse? I’d imagine this sort of corruption would take quite a while to set in.’

‘You saw them before coming here?’ Sihix turned to me abruptly and narrowed his eyes. ‘At the springs?’

‘Yes, Nalithor and I were getting ready to leave when they arrived—’

Before I could finish my sentence, Sihix was gone. I made an irritated noise and turned my attention back to Nalithor, watching as he killed the twisted Elves repeatedly. Nothing he tried seemed to work—different weapons, different magics, nothing. Even with the corruption seemingly gone, they continued to revive.

‘Hmmm, Lehrr and that dragon are still passed out.’ I frowned to myself and looked over at them. Both appeared to be breathing normally but the fighting going on around them somehow failed to elicit even a grumble.

‘Your focus should be on me. Nalithor reappeared in front of me and gripped my chin when I took a startled step back. He traced my lower lip with his thumb while his gaze slid down my throat, to my chest, and lower yet. Despite his back being to the regenerating creatures, his darkness continued to cut them down while he examined me.

“What…?” I fell silent again when he pressed his thumb over both my lips.

“You’re going to help me,” Nalithor stated, glancing toward the creatures out of the corner of his eyes. “My violent little pet needs to be let off her leash. If anyone can figure out how to kill something that should already be dead…I’m quite certain it would be you.”

“How am I supposed—” I began, but Nalithor cut me off with a kiss. His power, rage, bloodlust, and desire tore through me and forcibly tore down every little precaution Sihix had put in place. Even with the suppression gone, Nalithor kept me pinned and released a low growl when I tried to pull out of his grasp.

“Behave.” He spoke by my ear and allowed his darkness to surround me. The threatening appearance of his power made me hesitate to move. “We are going to kill those creatures. You’re not allowed to attack anything else. You’re not allowed to run off on your own.

“If you disobey I will hunt you down.”

Another pulse of his power rushed through me before he took a step back. The smirk on his face made me want to punch him. How could I even think of disobeying him after a display like that? I knew he was the greater predator between us. Even if having him hunt me was fun, I got the impression that a hunt started by disobedience wouldn’t be so pleasant.

‘Even so…’ I looked past Nalithor at the crawling pieces of Elven corpses. “I honestly have no idea what to do about that.”

“Tear into them however you like,” Nalithor stated, making a vague motion with one hand. “Clearly my methods didn’t work. Perhaps your approach will reveal something new.”

Nalithor shot me a questioning look when I still hesitated. Even if he had dealt with Sihix’s suppression, the corruption in the room was gone. Working myself into a frenzy seemed next to impossible, and I doubted Nalithor could force me into one either. He pursed his lips and looked from me to our prey and back, appearing lost in thought.

‘There’s not enough “wrongness” left for you?’ Nalithor questioned.

‘Not enough to make me lose control like you seem to want.’ I glanced at him briefly before looking back to the creatures. ‘Your frenzy is diminishing too, isn’t it? We’re going to have to come up with some other way to deal with these creatures.’

‘I would much rather take you back to bed,’ Nalithor muttered, crossing his arms.

‘We’re in agreement there.’ I laughed and hefted Eoraso. ‘I’m going to dismember them again. Trap their limbs away from their bodies for me, won’t you? I want to try something.’

‘Perhaps if you ask me nicely.’ Nalithor pivoted to glance at me out of the side of his eyes. He looked rather displeased about the prospect of remaining in this place any longer.

Please trap the filthy insects for me?” I purred, drawing my fingers down Nalithor’s stomach. He shivered but didn’t relent, so I took it a step further and coiled my tail around his. When my fingertips reached the band of his low pants he caught my wrist and growled.

“Seduction is your answer?”

“Of course. I intend to have you after this is over.”

“You…are so difficult.” Nalithor released a heavy sigh and placed his hand on my head. “Decimate them.”

“How about another kiss first?”

“Is this really the time?”

“It’s always the time. Not like they’re going anywhere, either.”

“I think I’ll leave that for part of your reward.” Nalithor nudged me in the direction of our prey and smacked my bottom. “Get to work—I’ll cooperate.”

I scoffed and flourished my sword as I walked away from him. While it was true his Balance-induced state seemed to be ending, his gaze was still unfocused and he wasn’t quite as susceptible to my touch as he had been earlier in the day. His aura shook in the air as if to indicate he was barely keeping himself from tearing into the foreign creatures again.

‘Foreign creatures… More like former Elves. Not as foreign as I’d like them to be,’ I considered. The closest one swiped at me with its bare hand but I easily dodged before cutting the offending arm off. Not even a scream. ‘How boring.’

Each time I lopped off another arm or a leg, Nalithor used his darkness to trap the limbs high in the air above the floor. Even then the bones sprouted extra protrusions in an attempt to “crawl” back to the closest corpse, but they had nowhere to go. They couldn’t walk on air.

Nalithor remained close to me, never straying farther than a few strides away from me. When I rose Eoraso over the chest of one of the childlike monstrosities, Nalithor stopped me. One of his hands came to rest on my hip and the other gripped my wrist, forcibly keeping me from plunging Eoraso downward.

‘Something smells off,’ Nalithor murmured, though he didn’t attempt to move back.

‘It’s the same smell I detected earlier. I think it’s coming from them.’ I turned my head slightly when I felt grip tighten. ‘Do you think it’s some kind of venom or poison?’

‘What gave you that impression?’ Nalithor stroked the underside of my wrist with his thumb absentmindedly while he stared at the limbless corpses. ‘If we can’t find a way to kill them we may have to do something a little…inhumane.’

‘Fine by me. But let’s try to kill them some more.’ I grinned at my nylziis but he didn’t seem pleased by the idea. ‘If they’re just twisted experiments like Sihix said they are, then they’re likely dead—or worse—already. I don’t know about you, but I don’t sense much in the way of sentient thought from them.’

‘Back at the springs, they…’ Nalithor released a heavy sigh. ‘Puppets, perhaps?’

‘What puppet master would think that you and I are married?’ I murmured, tilting my head in thought. However, I caught the brief expression of hurt that crossed his face. ‘Ah, I didn’t mean it like that, Nalithor! It’s more that, if the Jivyador are involved, wouldn’t they know that you and I aren’t yet—’

‘Unless they were trying to bait an answer out of us again.’ Nalithor’s brow furrowed, any hint of his prior hurt disappearing. ‘If they are the work of the Jivyador, then they’re going to believe that I’ve chosen you as my goddess. We will have to make sure that any new faces we come across when we return to Dauthrmir aren’t the Jivyador’s pawns.’

‘Not going to chastise me for possibly blowing our cover with the Jivyador?’ I asked before tugging my hand from Nalithor’s and plunging Eoraso into the creature’s chest. He released an aggravated sigh and I giggled at him. ‘Your grip loosened.’

‘I have no intention of chastising you, or hiding our relationship from the Jivyador.’ Nalithor flicked my hair stick lightly before moving out of my way. ‘We can’t live our lives in fear of the Jivyador and still expect to be able to do our jobs—let alone be able to pursue each other.

‘You’ve already proved that you can slay them with Eoraso, and the Godslayer can take care of them as well. If worst comes to worst, you and I can cleanse the world of their presence ourselves.’

‘Sihix must have said something to him,’ I thought to myself, stealing a glance at Nalithor’s resolute expression before smiling and turning my attention back to my prey.

There wasn’t even a hint of fear in the Elves’ expressions. No sign that they felt pain. Their eyes were as empty as a doll’s.

Power shimmered around Eoraso’s edge and slid slowly down the blade until it pierced the Elf’s flesh. My skin erupted into goosebumps the moment Eoraso’s power delved past the first layers of flesh. Nausea hit me like a wave. It took almost all of my self-control to keep myself from withdrawing.

‘How can their wrongness be contained internally?!’ I withdrew Eoraso and then plunged it into the stomach of the same corpse.

Again and again, I pierced the corpse with my sword until nearly every surface was covered in slits left by my blade. No matter where or how I attacked it, Eoraso’s power and mine couldn’t penetrate the corpse. It didn’t even feel like biological matter despite the spilled blood and organs at my feet that said otherwise.

‘Stop.’ Nalithor caught my arm when I raised the sword again. ‘What got this manner of reaction out of you, my dear?

‘It’s just so…’ I shuddered and shook my head hard. ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about these creatures. What if these regenerative nuances can be applied to Chaos Beasts?’

Nalithor stiffened, his grip tightening painfully on my arm. I said nothing more, allowing him to process the thought in relative silence. The corpse at my feet coughed several times, spluttering blood, but was incapable of movement without its limbs present.

‘Eoraso’s power is ineffective?’ Nalithor inquired after a moment.

‘Aether can’t seem to penetrate them.’ I shook my head. ‘What about…what was it called again? Vralsium? You said that’s a rather pesky substance, didn’t you? Do you think it might negate whatever is making them immune to death?’

‘I’d argue they’re already dead.’ Nalithor shot me a sideways glance.

‘They’re not dead enough! I retorted.

“You two still haven’t figured it out?” Sihix’s question was laced with agitation, but I still pivoted to look at him. His demeanor instantly shifted when he saw my expression. “How do you deal with her making expressions like that, Nalithor? I’m not sure we should’ve allowed someone to look so pouty and lethal at the same time. She’s adorable.”

“This is serious.” I growled at Sihix but Nalithor pulled me back.

“She’s difficult in a pleasant way, at least, unlike a certain Lari’xan I know,” Nalithor responded, startling a laugh out of me. “Where have you been, Sihix? We could use your help with those two over there—and likely with these creatures as well.”

“Arianna mentioned that you saw the three Elves at the springs. I wanted to make certain they hadn’t done anything to the village’s water source,” Sihix spoke as he strode over to us. He looked down at the one I had mutilated and grimaced. “I see, even Eoraso and that many wounds did nothing?”

“I dismembered them dozens of times, as well.” Nalithor sighed in exasperation. “No matter how many pieces they’re chopped into, they return to the nearest body and puzzle themselves back together.

“Arianna is concerned that this experiment may lead to a new variety of beast.”

“All the more reason to find a way to kill them, then.” Sihix frowned deeply and examined the corpses, then glanced at me. “Let me see Eoraso.”

He didn’t even wait for me to hand him the sword before plucking it out of my grip. I bit back my irritation and crossed my arms, waiting to see what the Lari’xan was thinking. Without warning, Sihix swung the sword through my throat, but the blade turned into shadows the moment it neared my skin. Before Nalithor or I could react, Eoraso turned fully into darkness, wrapped around Sihix’s throat, and hissed like an angry snake.

I stared at the Lari’xan in disbelief. What in the hells did Eoraso think it could do against an actual Elder?

“Huh, so it hasn’t been meddled with after all.” Sihix reached up to his throat and pulled Eoraso’s darkness away with ease. He shook the darkness a few times and it turned back into a sword. After, Sihix glanced at Nalithor with an annoyed expression. “Stop with the growling, Adinvyr.”

“You attacked my ayraziis.” Nalithor snarled, shifting me behind him. “I should take your head!”

“Nonsense, I’d just grow a new one.” Sihix flapped his hand dismissively at Nalithor without bothering to turn to look at him. Instead, he crouched next to the mutilated corpse and prodded it with Eoraso several times. “Well, any ideas on what we can do to rid ourselves of these creatures? I had expected the two of you to have killed them by now.”

“I don’t mind stabbing them some more.” I placed a hand on my hip and grinned.

Nalithor and Sihix exchanged a look then looked back at me, both of them shaking their heads. I opened my mouth to argue but Nalithor placed a hand on my shoulder and pulled me a few paces away from the corpse.

“If we can’t find a way to kill them, then we’re going to have to lock their different pieces into containers until we can,” Nalithor began in a frigid tone, earning a broad grin from the Lari’xan. “Under normal circumstances I would say that we should take their pieces back to Dauthrmir. There, we would be able to enlist the academy’s scholars and have them look into the matter. I doubt this is the last time we’ll see such creatures.”

‘Hey, let me stab it a few more times!’ I tugged on Nalithor’s sleeve and looked up at him, pouting. ‘Or one of the others. They’re not filled with enough holes yet.’

‘Bloodthirsty little thing you are,’ Nalithor mused. “Shouldn’t the all-knowing Elder have an idea for how to deal with these twisted creatures? You must know something about them if you’re willing to call them experiments.”

“Of course I know how to kill them,” Sihix replied with a shrug. “However, that doesn’t help you or the mortals. Take the small one back to Dauthrmir with you. I’ll take care of the other two.”

“The small one…” Nalithor heaved a heavy sigh and ran his hand through his hair. “I don’t think that will go over well. Arianna?”

“Well, you’re going to have to have your Vulin take the pieces for you,” I pointed out with a grimace. “They’re small, so the smaller the packages the better. That said, I still think vralsium might be the key—or at least help with transportation. Those ‘legs’ they sprout look quite sharp. They’d probably break through a wooden box.”

“Ah, good girl!” Sihix beamed at me. “Vralsium will help, yes. I can provide the boxes for you. Nalithor, call those fluffy servants of yours.”

‘One of these days I am going to beat that cocky attitude right out of him,’ Nalithor muttered irritably. He glanced at me when I failed to suppress a snicker. ‘How about you go check on Lehrr and the dragon? I thought they would have awoken by now. Ceilail was awake when you freed her, after all.’

‘Sure,’ I answered simply and walked across the room.

Once there, I crouched next to Lehrr’s unconscious body and prodded his cheek a few times. Nothing. The rhythm of his breathing seemed steady, as was his heartbeat. His aether swirled around him in a languid manner but looked vivid. There wasn’t anything to make me think something was wrong with him—and it was much the same for the dragon.

I nudged them with my darkness next but still nothing. Frowning, I examined the pair and took in their condition. Despite the stance Lehrr had been in within the crystal, I didn’t see any sign that he’d been in combat prior to his heart trapping him. His clothing was immaculate and his skin wasn’t bruised or torn anywhere that I could see.

“Well?” Nalithor questioned, startling me into looking over my shoulder. He was mere inches away from me yet I hadn’t heard his footsteps at all—and he looked amused with himself.

“They seem alright,” I began, rising to my feet, “but they don’t seem inclined to wake up. We’re going to have to figure out a way to get them out of here. Lehrr should be easy, at least, but our dragon friend over there…”

“I wonder how he got down here in the first place,” Nalithor murmured.

He strode over to the dragon and placed a hand on its haunches, closing his eyes for a moment. Darkness radiated from his hand and surrounded the creature, searching for something. After a few minutes, Nalithor’s power dissipated and he crossed his arms, a frown settling onto his face.

“No luck?” I grabbed either side of Nalithor’s waist and peered around his arm at him. He glanced down at me and then chuckled before shifting his arm to capture me by the shoulders.

“You still wish to hunt?” Nalithor asked with a knowing smile.

“Where to?” I grinned at him.

“It’s no wonder Djialkan is frustrated with the two of you,” Sihix commented dryly, pushing Nalithor and I apart. “The two of you can leave the remainder of your work for later. I have something I want to look into before you wander off to fix Yiltanys’ domain.”

“What now?” Nalithor sighed, bringing his fingers to his temples.

“I’m not convinced that this was all there is to the corruption in my domain, Sihix replied, furrowing his brow. “This chamber appears cleansed, certainly, and the corpses of my people are gone. However, things above ground haven’t changed much.”

“Well, dark and light are considered to be the strongest usable elements,” I pointed out, ignoring Sihix’s self-confident smirk. “If someone really wanted to fuck things up, dark, light, aether, and crystal would be the ideal elements to attack. We should probably assume that the attacks here are more complex than what I found in Ceilail’s forest.”

“And you poor dears have to do it all on your own!” Sihix gasped dramatically and clutched his chest, shooting us a mock-pained look. “Whatever will you two do without Chosen to assist you?”

“Subtle.” I rolled my eyes at the Lari’xan before turning to look at Nalithor. “Shall we head off, then? Or are you still considering a hunt?”

“There’s plenty of prey left in the forest for us to hunt,” Nalithor answered with a devious smile.

“Oh no you don’t.” Sihix grabbed both of us by the back of our clothes and shot us an annoyed look. “You two are going to take these two back to Lehrr’s house. I’m sure the puppy remembers the way there. I expect you both to return to Nalithor’s house afterward.”

“What? Why?” I pouted. “I didn’t even get to kill anything fun since those fucking things don’t die!”

“I want the two of you to get more rest, for one,” Sihix began in that lecturing tone of his. “Second, you two moving around will make it more difficult for me to do my work. I can’t have your bloodlust scaring off my prey.

“Now, get going.”

Sihix disappeared again, leaving Nalithor and me to sigh in exasperation.

“How are we supposed to lug that dragon anywhere?” I placed my hands on my hips.

“The only option is magic.” Nalithor grimaced. “Carrying the two of them all the way to Lehrr’s place will be rather draining. By the time we’re there, rest truly will be my only option.”

“I’m here to help, you know.” I arched an eyebrow at him but he shook his head.

“I want you to go back to the house,” Nalithor informed me as he enveloped Lehrr and the dragon in darkness. “You should find a journal, pen, and ink near my side of the bed. Document what all happened today and what we found. We can see about dinner when I return.”

He leaned down to kiss my forehead and then disappeared with his two charges in tow, leaving me to glance around the room in silence. I felt a little surprised that he trusted me to return to the house on my own without finding trouble for myself first. After all, I wanted to hunt more.

‘More problems than just this place, huh…’ I studied the room once more and then dispersed into shadows myself. When I reached the surface, I stepped out of the base of a tree and adjusted my clothing absentmindedly. Sihix had, without a doubt, suppressed my senses again. I couldn’t detect anything within the forest—not even my nylziis’ power. ‘What a pain. Nalithor brushed away Sihix’s meddling quite easily, but I didn’t even notice when it was put back into place. Granted…unleashing me didn’t do much.’

The corner of my eye twitched as I shoved the thoughts from my mind. Soon enough, I found my way back to Nalithor’s little house and rummaged around in the end table on his side of the bed. Regardless of my displeasure, he had at least thought of something to keep me occupied. And, if it didn’t take me too long, I could start cooking dinner before he got back.

After I was done with the journal, I set it aside and tapped my fingers against the desk. Nalithor had yet to return, leaving me feeling agitated. Perhaps I couldn’t find myself something to kill, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t anything for me to hunt. After all, despite all the interruptions, I still intended to have my nylziis.

‘We’ll see if he can ignore this!’ I pulled off my kimono and replaced it with a short, translucent nightie. It matched the undergarments I had picked out earlier in the day, and he had certainly seemed to like those. ‘Hmmm, hair? Maybe I’ll let some of it hang down and keep the rest pinned with the ornament he gave me. He seems happy that I like it so much, so may as well use that to my advantage.’

Satisfied with my appearance, I made my way through the house and into the kitchen. Cooking a nice dinner seemed like a good way to repay him for the amazing breakfast he’d cooked in the morning, plus it would help me battle the urge to go looking for trouble. I still wanted to hunt, and I also wanted to track down Nalithor. I didn’t like that he was taking so long.

Eventually my focus shifted fully to preparing dinner. It wasn’t anything quite as fancy or complicated as what Nalithor had made us for breakfast, but the nip in the northern air had given me a taste for stew. There weren’t many ingredients left in the pantry, but I found plenty of things to use in my dish.

‘Hmmm, I guess dessert will have to be a simple tart,’ I picked through the remaining fruits in thought. Everything that remained were ingredients I was used to, ones native to X’shmir. I had hoped to use fruit from Draemir in the tart, but it looked like that was out of the question. Instead, I settled on apples. ‘Maybe I’ll make a caramel sauce for it? Looks like there’s enough sugar left…’

The sensation of something hot and smooth snaking down the front of my panties startled me into dropping my mixing bowl with a squeak. A pair of arms wrapped around my waist and a breathy chuckle by my ear were the only things that stopped me from whirling around with a weapon.

“Mmm come here, you,” Nalithor purred as more of his tail slid into my panties.

“H-hey, careful! I’m trying to cook here!” I protested as his mouth came to the side of my neck. He ignored my protest and slid one of his hand up and under my bra while continuing to nibble at my throat. “Since you took so long—”

“Dinner can wait.” Nalithor growled, pulling me a few steps back from the counter. “I, however, have waited all day. Are you really going to claim you weren’t hoping to entice me with this attire of yours?”

“Well— Ahhh, stop that! Play fair!” I gasped when he rolled my nipple between his fingers. “At least let me put everything away first!”

“Consider it done.” Nalithor made a motion with his freehand, turning down the heat on the stove and returning everything but the stew to the pantry. I tried to use the opportunity to wriggle out of his grip, but he wasn’t having any of that. His tail slipped into me, making me stagger and gasp again. “Let’s get you out of this…”

Nalithor ran his hands up my torso, dislodging my nightie and soon pulling it over my head. Next, he flicked the bell on the front of my bra and chuckled before pulling the clasps on the back undone. He took his time pulling my bra off, letting his fingertips and claws graze my skin. The fleeting moments of contact made me so incredibly frustrated.

“Are you really just going to leave your tail—” I didn’t get to finish before Nalithor turned me towards him and pulled me into a deep kiss. When he finally pulled away, I didn’t have any remaining arguments. I just looked at him and his amused smirk for a moment before speaking again, “Your clothes are in my way.”

“I could say the same to you,” Nalithor replied, hooking one of his fingers under the hem of my panties. “Is that your only complaint?”

“For now.” I tugged at the front of his kimono and shot him pointed look. “Bedroom?”

“I’m not waiting that long.” Nalithor slowly withdrew his tail and watched my reaction with a confident smirk. He tugged the hem of my panties again and let the waistband snap back against my skin before pulling off his own clothes.

I attempted to dart out of the kitchen but I didn’t get far before he caught me by my tail and tugged me back to him. Nalithor backed me into a wall, his predatory gaze taking in my nude torso before coming to rest on the panties that were still in the way. When he raised his gaze back to my face, he smirked.

“Remove them yourself or I’ll rip them off—your choice.”

Nalithor lifted me fully off the ground the moment the rest of my clothing was off, but it appeared that the bedroom was still not on the agenda. He pinned me to the wall and kissed me with so much desire it took my breath away. His mouth soon roamed to my throat, his fangs piercing my skin. I shivered and let my hands roam down his torso as he drank from me, but soon a thought crossed my mind that made me grin.

I snuck my tail upwards while he was distracted and coiled it slowly around his manhood. The tightening of my scaled tail around his dick startled a moan out of him, causing him to withdraw from my throat. His flushed expression was well worth whatever manner of revenge he might come up with.

“Impatient, aren’t you?” Nalithor growled at me.

“You’re the one that said going to the bedroom would take too long,” I countered with a smirk before running my claws down his chest and giving him another firm squeeze with my tail. “If you take too much longer to decide what you want, I’ll have to go—”

“Remove your tail.” Nalithor narrowed his eyes at me and lifted me higher. “Unless you think you can fit both.”

“Both?” I stared at him for a moment. When I realized what he meant, I quickly removed my tail and moved it out of the way. “There’s no way in the hells I could fit both anywhere!”

“We’ll have to work on that…” Nalithor murmured, pulling me into another kiss before I could question him. “I’m going to take my time with you tonight. We haven’t yet had the chance to properly savor each other. Interruptions, companions, crowded places…

“Nothing will get in our way here.”

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