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The clashing of swords was nothing new to Remel Seldago's dreams. He was, after all, one of the most decorated sword masters in the realm. The best, some said, at least when he was sober. Yet as streams of morning sunlight flooded through the shutter cracks of his second story room at the Stuck Pig Inn--a terrible name for an establishment housing some of the finest whores in all of Erna--he realized something was amiss, other than his throbbing headache. He was awake, he knew now, yet the sounds of steel on steel remained, and as the fuzziness of the prior night's ale continued to wear off he was keenly aware of other sounds; shouting, screaming, windows breaking, folk begging for mercy...the sounds of war.
Remel jumped from the large bed, the finest available at the Stuck Pig, naked as the day he was born, and rushed to the window, throwing back the shutters. It took a moment to comprehend what he saw. Scores of soldiers, clad in red and black armor with matching pointed helmets, the Lion of Southstar adorning their banners and breastplates. They were everywhere, pouring through the streets like a mad hoard of ants attacking a dead carcass, fighting with the City Guard, as well as the commoners, and burning houses and inns and anything else that could be put to the torch.
Reports had put the rebel army at least a week away, maybe more. How had they moved so quickly to descend upon the capital, and more importantly, how had they breached the city walls? Remel suddenly wished it were a bad dream, wished he would wake up any time now with a nice case of morning arousal, next to the whore who had shared his bed last night. Adelia was her name. Or was it Annabella? It mattered not at the moment. As a sworn brother of the King's Watch it was his duty to protect the king and be by his side in times of crisis. Judging from the chaos in the streets below and as far as he could see across the city, the time of crisis had arrived. He turned away from the window to dress.
A quick scan of the room only revealed the whore’s dress, yellow silk with black lace trimming, thrown lazily over the foot of the bed. It was only then that Remel noticed she was no longer in the room. "Just like a whore to leave in the dead of night," he muttered, and chuckled slightly, despite the bedlam outside, wondering where a naked whore may store her coin. He could think of a few places. She no doubt wouldn't forget her earnings...and gods did she earn them! He had paid dearly for her, but was with no regrets, as usual. Yet he was surprised she had left her dress. A memento perhaps? He grinned at the thought.
A high pitched scream, followed by the sound of glass shattering brought him back to the here and now. "Damn ale," he cursed, shaking his head despite the pounding inside. His wits were needed at a time like this, yet here he was, thinking of whores and dresses and muses.
He walked to the nightstand, trying to pull his tousled blonde locks into some sort of order, looking for his hair brooch. His scalp hurt, he noticed, and his memory was still a little foggy, but he thought he remembered his hair being pulled rather harshly last night. Upon further thought, it may have been the night before last, with Susanna…or was it Shavonna? He couldn't remember. In any case his hair was all in tangles. He brushed it from his face as best he could, tucking it behind his ears while he searched.
The nightstand was bare upon inspection, however, and his brooch was nowhere in sight. Devante Montero, his mentor and teacher, had made it special for him, a small, fine polished silver plate with his initial engraved on it, woven into the leather chord that held his hair. He checked the floor, thinking he may have thrown it off in haste, as he had his trousers, but the floor was empty, other than a few dust balls in the corner.
Remel furrowed his brow, slightly puzzled, noticing just how bare his room seemed to be. He walked to the bed and threw back the blankets, looking for his trousers, looking for anything he owned, but only found a few strands of red hair from his previous evening's companion. A quick scan of the wardrobe revealed nothing but his sword and scabbard, something he would need very soon, no doubt, and breathed a sigh of relief that it was not gone.
He searched the entire room, yet his clothing was nowhere, nor was his purse and his boots. Could the whore have stolen them, and his brooch? Why take his belongings, yet not his sword, the most expensive piece in the room? Women were afraid of swords, maybe that was the answer, but with his head pounding as it was it was hard to think of answers.
Still, he tried to make sense of it. His jerkin was made of boiled leather, with a gold-plated eagle--the sigil of House Flores, and his King, Nicolas--worked into the front, its eyes made of rubies. It would make a treasure for some. The possibility of a few loose gold coins in his trousers would make them worth stealing, along with his purse, and his newly made boots, with their steel tips and gold spurs would fetch near ten gold marks. His shirt was fine silk, along with his doublet...
"I'll be damned!" Remel groaned through gritted teeth, pounding a fist on the empty night stand. "The blasted woman left me with only my sword!" In another time he would have found the situation amusing. Devante, who after his father died when Remel was young, had been the only father figure in his life, had often said his drinking, womanizing and gambling would someday lead him to be shirtless and poor, with only his sword to warm his bed at night. But at a time like this he found no humor in it. He needed to be by Nicolas's side as soon as possible--no doubt where Devante would already be, the ever consummate professional he was--yet he'd look like a complete fool running to the castle naked, even if he made it that far with the carnage in the streets.
A loud thud shook the door to his room nearly from its hinges. Remel spun around, grabbing his sword and unsheathing it in the process. “Prick,” he called it, which seemed fitting, naming his sword after the only thing he liked to stab with better than it. Another thud followed, along with a mumbled curse on the other side. A final thud brought the door crashing into the room, followed by a soldier in red and black armor, sword and shield in hand. He took the room in at a glance and focused on Remel, naturally, since the room was as bare as Remel’s ass at the moment. A smile broke from under the man’s half-helm.
"Oh, I’ve truly seen it all" he
said with a chuckle. "The regal and honorable naked soldiers of
Remel didn't respond to the taunt. Instead, he took his fighting stance, albeit naked, feeling more than a little uncomfortable and exposed. Sure, he'd fought with no armor on occasion, hung over frequently, but never naked. Unfortunately he had no choice at the moment.
The soldier advanced on Remel, lazily, anticipating an easy kill, and took an overhead hack when he was only a few feet away. Remel quickly sidestepped, letting his enemy’s blade just miss. A good sword master always let his opponent think he was close to a kill. It was an easy escape, one he'd made many times, yet naked he realized just how close he'd been to losing his manhood--or any reason to live for that matter. Normally it was safe and tucked away in his trousers. Yet naked it was flopping about like a fish out of water, easy prey for even the worst of swordsmen. The thought made him shudder. There would be no time for games with this fellow. Remel ducked his opponent’s next move, a backhanded slice meant to take off his head, took the man's shield with his free hand and rammed into his exposed chin. Teeth, blood, and a mumbled curse spewed from his mouth all at once. Remel wasted no time. His sword sliced through the man's neck and bone like a warm knife through butter, ending the curses and screams as he fell to the ground with a thud.
Smoke began to pour through the windows, heavy and black. It was a shame. The Stuck Pig was a fine inn and deserved a better fate. The man Remel had killed was fairly small, but he had the idea to steal his clothes, or at least his trousers and boots. That is, until flames began to engulf the window treatments and ceiling beams. There would be no time to discard the man’s armor, unclothe him, and clothe himself.
The heat of the increasing flames intensified quickly. It had been an especially dry summer and the flames consumed the dry wood like a starved dog. Remel cursed, resigning to the fact he would have to survive the ordeal naked, and made for the door. At the last moment the yellow from the dress caught his eye and he looked back, pausing, thinking. Maybe he didn't have to flee to the castle naked. It was almost unimaginable, but he strode quickly to the bed and picked up the dress. The silk felt soft in his rough, callused hands and still smelled like whatever her name was. There was a pair of matching yellow slippers under the dress, along with a set of white, cotton stockings. He paid them no mind and instead looked over the dress. Annabella--or was it Adelia--wasn’t overly tall for a woman, yet she wasn’t short either. He was fairly confident he could at least get the dress on. How it would look on him was another matter. That he actually cared how it looked on him was a matter he would take up with himself another time.
The heat continued to intensify. "Naked or dressed like a woman," he muttered, sweat streaming down his face. Could one option be less embarrassing than the next? He pulled the dress over his head. There was no more time for thought. It was tight fitting under his armpits, and there were two saggy areas on the chest that he couldn’t quite fill out. No man could have filled them out…well except for maybe the king’s fool Mattwitz, who had the unfortunate nickname of “fat tits” among the castle servants.
For the most part the dress felt comfortable. He took a few practice cuts with his sword to test it out. With no undergarment he still felt vulnerable around his manhood. "Damn it all," he swore, grabbing the cotton stockings. It would certainly be an added embarrassment, but he needed to be comfortable to make his way to the king. He pulled on the right stocking quickly and forcefully, ripping a hole through the foot in the process and did the same with his left, before pulling them up to his waist. He yanked the ripped bottoms up over his knees. Adelia, or Annabella, or whatever her name was, must not have had as long of legs as he remembered. The stocking were uncomfortably snug all over, especially around his manhood, forcing him to adjust himself three times before he was able to make them tolerable.
He took another practice swing, more forcefully this time, and was rewarded with a splinter in his heel. He pulled it free and threw it across the room, happy that it would eventually burn with the rest of the inn. The slippers looked too small, but he'd already put the dress on and the stockings. A pair of slippers couldn't be any more embarrassing, he thought…until he put them on. After a brief moment his toes broke through the end on his right foot, followed shortly thereafter by his left.
Before he could take them off a burning rafter crashed down onto the wardrobe, sending it up in flames. It would only be a few moments until the whole inn caved in. Remel scampered from his room and made his way down the steps as quickly as he could, sword in hand, still getting used to his new garb, and still adjusting himself periodically under the dress. The damn stockings rode up whenever he moved. Soon he was free from the devastation of the inn and into the streets, where he met the devastation of the city.
There were hundreds of small battles everywhere, all part of the larger siege of the city. Red and black armored invaders tried to cut down any living soul they could see, while the city watch, the king's soldiers, inn keepers, smithies, and any other commoner who could wield a weapon struck back, defending their home. From the looks of it the invaders had the upper hand.
Remel soon found himself surrounded by three men, the Lion of Southstar adorning their breastplates, blood already slick on their blades. He brushed back his hair with his free hand, something he realized he would have to do often without his brooch, to his dismay, sword ready in the other, and took a defensive stance--a sword master never went on the offensive when faced with larger odds than two-to-one.
"Are you lost sweet thi -...," one of them started, but stopped when he saw Remel's face, and sword. "What in blazes?" he finished. "Damn ugliest woman I ever saw."
"All the better to kill her quickly," his comrade added, and they descended upon Remel.
Gaspar Romera loved his king dearly, as one should in his position as the king's secretary, yet he utterly hated moments like this, when he was forced to serve as the king's eyes in the time of war. So it was with great despair when King Nicolas ordered him to survey the damage that Lord Pascal and his invading Southstar army had inflicted upon the city through the powerful looking glass atop the castle’s tallest tower.
"Tell it to me truthfully Gaspar," the king said, hands clasped behind his back, voice somber. "Leave nothing out." His eyes, drooping and baggy from years of stress, were closed and wet at the corners, his face weathered and wrinkled. At sixty years of age he truly looked eighty, but Gaspar supposed that would happen to any ruler during an extended war, and this one had lasted eleven years.
"Well, your Grace,” Gaspar said, surveying the gloomy scene, “it seems the south side of the city is taking the brunt of Lord Pascal's attack. Although a new offensive is taking root to the west as well. I believe the Stuck Pig has just gone up in flames."
"Damn," the king swore, opening his tired eyes and pounding a fist into his palm. He wore a robe of fine purple that once must have fit him snug and proper, yet now hung from his limbs loosely. "Damn it all! Where are Babin and his army? I sent word to them weeks ago, they should have been here by now!"
"Would you like to take a look, your Grace?" Gaspar offered, stepping aside from the looking glass, hoping.
"No, damn it,” the king protested, waiving a hand as if swatting a fly, “you know my eyes aren’t good enough, Gaspar. Don't be foolish."
Two sworn brothers of the King's Watch flanked him. Where the remaining seven were was anybody’s guess - probably trying to survive the onslaught with the rest of the city folk. It seemed as though Southstar's army had come from nowhere that morning, taking the city by total surprise and breaching the walls in short time. Lord Dory Babin and his ally army were said to be nearing the city, but if they didn't arrive soon the city, and the reign of House Flores--the longest of any in the history of Erna--would be doomed.
"Keep looking, Gaspar," the king ordered, now pacing and muttering from time to time.
With a sigh Gaspar put the looking glass back to his eye. The view was still of the Stuck Pig and its surrounding area. He was just about to scan further to the south when a mane of blonde hair caught his attention. A woman with muscular arms was surrounded by foes, wielding an impressive sword, and quite noticeably holding her own.
"Your Grace," he said, watching in fascination, "you would not believe this, but there is a woman fighting the enemy outside the Stuck Pig." He noticed the woman often reached under her dress, but for what she was grabbing for he could not tell.
"A woman you say?" the king replied, stepping closer.
"Yes your Grace, and in a beautiful yellow dress.” Gaspar watched her reach under the dress again, appearing to yank at something before she cut into another foe. “And it seems as though she must have some sort of weapon under her skirt."
"All women have a weapon under their skirts, Gaspar," the king replied, and chuckled, despite his mood.
"But this must be a legitimate weapon, your Grace, and it’s impressive. She reaches under her skirt often as she's wielding her sword, and her foes keep falling all around her."
"Impressive indeed!" the king boasted. "I swear, the folk of this city never cease to amaze me, Gaspar. A woman warrior fighting an invading army. This will be one for the stories.” He turned to one of the King’s Watch. “Jorg, run and fetch my bard. If we survive this day he will want to put this to song.”
“Yes your grace,” the man replied, slipping into the castle.
The king resumed his place next to Gaspar. “Tell me of her bust Gaspar."
"Flat as a butcher's board your grace, and rather muscular for my liking. Nice calves however, and beautiful, flowing blonde hair. She has a strength and elegance about her that is certainly arousing."
"I love blondes," the king said, “speaking of arousals. I would prefer a larger bust, but I can forego that if her legs are as nice as you say. Elegant and fierce, I like what I am hearing! Too bad my eyes have gone on me Gaspar, I would like to look upon her.”
“You might get the chance, your grace.” Certainly with the way the woman was slaying her enemies she would have more than a good chance of survival. If only Babin and his army would arrive.
“Would that I could be so lucky, Gaspar. Hopefully she'll have a plump bottom,” he said, making two cups with his hands, “to go along with those legs. If she survives the day, I would like to get to know this lady. I’m not too old to take another wife."
The king continued to babble about bosoms and bottoms and legs while Gaspar continued to watch as foe after foe fell to the woman's blade, entrapped and enthralled.
The roaring fires surrounding him had Remel sweating like a traitor in a torturer's chair. The silk dress clung to his body as he continued to battle one invader after another. His head still pounded, but that was something he’d grown used to over the years. He adjusted himself after beheading another man, leaving him next to the other fifty or so he had slain, cursing the tight stockings. He had never felt so uncomfortable fighting in all of his life.
"Better than naked," he kept muttering, trying to convince himself. He couldn't tell if the clinging dress, the too small slippers, or the stockings were the worst. "Definitely the stockings," he said, readjusting his manhood for what seemed like the hundredth time. Half his hair was plastered to his sweaty face, the rest seemed to be frazzled in every direction, but he had no time gather it. It seemed the enemies were endless.
Just as he positioned himself to face another set of foes loud trumpets blared from nearby. Remel paused for a moment and backed away as the sounds of hoof beats drew nearer. A second call of trumpets sounded just as a full cavalry of soldiers rounded the corner to the street Remel and his foes were on. The soldiers were clad in green, the sigil of House Babin--a trio of hummingbirds--on their breastplates and banners; a most welcome sight to Remel. “Move aside my lady!” their leader shouted as Remel scampered to the side like a woman in distress, more literally than he would have ever imagined. He thought he heard another man mutter, “Hairiest tits I’ve ever seen,” as they passed, but it could have been his imagination. He leaned against one of the only buildings on the street not burning, and watched as the cavalry ran through the Southstar host, demolishing them in their wake before continuing towards the south end of the city, the sound of their hoof beats receding as they went. The street suddenly seemed desolate compared to only moments before.
Remel gained his breath for a time, adjusted himself again, pulled back his hair as best he could, and started for the castle, cutting through alleys when possible, avoiding the main streets at all costs. The Babin host may have crushed the enemy by the Stuck Pig, but he had no knowledge of the rest of the city, and there was the matter of not wanting to be seen. He needed to rid himself of the damn dress he was wearing…and the slippers…and the blasted stockings.
In five blocks Remel arrived at another inn he frequented, the Wishing Well, thankfully still intact, and went to the rear entrance--as befitted a regular patron. As he rounded the building he came face to face with the whore who had entertained him the previous night…and subsequently stole his belongings. Her red hair, green eyes and freckles were unmistakable. She had a sack strung over her shoulder and Remel thought he knew what it contained. They both stopped in their tracks, staring, mouths open.
“Adelia,” he finally said.
“It’s Annabella,” she replied, not kindly, dropping the sack from her shoulder.
“You stole my clothing!” he roared.
She looked him over. “You ruined by dress…and my slippers!” she yelled back, a hand on her hip while the other waved an anger finger at him. “And I stole nothing from you, fool! You asked me to wash your clothing, re-bind your hair brooch, and shine your boots. Why would I steal from you? You pay better than any other patron in the realm. Fool!”
Remel wanted to answer, but he didn’t have one. If he had a gold coin for every time he said something he couldn’t remember the next morning he’d be the richest man in the realm. He stared at her for a few moments, mouth open, at a loss for words. Finally she started laughing hysterically. “Not only are you a fool, Remel, you look like one too,” she said between bursts of laughter.
Remel’s jaw tightened in anger and humiliation. He was embarrassed, sore, tired, hungover…and in a dress. He wanted to yell and scream. He wanted to hit something, to stab something. That is until he looked to the side and saw his reflection in the inn’s large picture window…and couldn’t help but laugh himself. The dress was entirely too small. The lace shoulder drapings that were meant to hang closer to a woman’s elbow barely spread over his shoulder. His hairy chest poked through the strings meant to tighten around a woman’s breasts. And the torn slippers…it was all too much. They continued to laugh until tears streamed from their faces. Finally Remel wiped them away and put a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m assuming my belongings are in there?” he said, nudging the sack at her feet with his slippered foot.
“Yes,” she said, putting a hand to his face, “all washed, polished, and rebound. Now get out of my damn dress.”
Remel stripped as she began taking his belongings from the sack. It was a moment of pure jubilation as he removed the stockings. He was fully naked again when the back door of the inn burst open. Remel reached for his sword, now propped against the inn, and spun to face whoever it was, but lowered his blade when he realized it was two brothers of the King’s Watch.
“Remel?” the first through the door said, Niko, the youngest of their brotherhood. He was followed by the man Remel wanted to see less than any other at a moment like this; his advisor and mentor, Devante.
“What is the meaning of this?” Devante said, steely gray eyes piercing as ever, set to either side of his large beaked nose. With his white hair he looked like an eagle staring down its prey. The oldest of their lot, and by far the most seasoned, he had taught Remel everything he knew about swordplay and life itself; except for whoring, drinking and gambling. Those traits were from Remel’s father, Devante claimed, who had died when he was only a boy. He knew Devante did not approve of his life choices, yet the man was utterly loyal to him, and their father-son relationship kept Devante mum when it came to most of Remel’s torrid habits. “Here the rest of us are,” he continued, “either protecting the king or fighting in the streets and you’re in an alley behind an inn, whoring around?”
“It’s not what is seems!” Remel protested, cupping his manhood with one hand. Yet how would he explain today’s transgressions and expect these men to believe him?
“I’m disappointed in you, Remel,” Devante stated, and he looked it by his expression. Remel regretted that look, and always had. “The king will not hear of it, I put my word on it, for your father’s sake.”
“I’m truthful, Devante! I put my honor on it,” Remel continued, he had to make them understand. It was true that Remel whored, and quite often. He gambled excessively and drank entirely too much. A tavern brawl or three happened from time to time, except for last week, when he participated in five. But to question his loyalty to the king was one thing he couldn’t, and wouldn’t take. His bad habits had never gotten in the way of his duty. “I believed this woman stole my belongings last night,” he said, pointing to Annabella with his free hand. “I’ve been fighting today in the dress she left in my room.” He picked it up and held it out for them to see.
Niko snickered until Devante hit him with an elbow to the ribs. “Honestly, Remel,” he said, “you’ve been too much in the bottle today if you expect me to believe a story like that. As I stated, the king will not hear of it. Dress and be back to the castle quickly. I believe we have won the day, but I will need a full report from our generals.” With that the two men were off, leaving Remel and Annabella alone.
“I believe you, Remel,” she said, handing him his trousers.
“I know you do,” he replied, more humiliated than ever.
“Shall I call on you again tonight?” she said, smiling provocatively.
Remel slipped on his tunic and tied back his hair, relieved to finally have it out of his face. What he needed tonight was a good night’s sleep, along with a fresh set of clothes, and his dignity.
“I’ll bring a friend this time,” she replied in her most sultry voice, and when he did not answer, “and a bottle of the city’s best wine.”
Remel chuckled, knowing the wine would be bought on his coin from last night, finished clasping his jerkin and began to walk away. He stopped a few paces later and turned back. Who was he kidding? He could never decline an offer like this. “Meet me at the Silver Pike at midnight.” He left her there smiling, tattered and dirty dress in hand, and headed for the castle.
“All rise for the King!” the king’s secretary piped. Gaspar was his name. A gangly youth, skinny and tall, with a mop of tangled auburn hair that contrasted his pale complexion and a large Adam’s apple that looked as though he’d swallowed a walnut. Remel thought him rather ugly, with his horse face and big teeth, but in his position as the king’s secretary he believed the youth had no trouble finding a lady to lay with. Most men determined another man’s stature in life by the money or power they could amass. Not Remel. He determined another man’s stature in life by how many women they could bed. And judging from his own life so far, the only position more lucrative than his as a sworn brother of the King’s Watch was the king himself. But king was a position Remel could never attain, so he deemed his life as a colossal success. Unless word spread that he was prone to wearing dresses. That would certainly put a damper on his stature.
The large double doors of the throne room opened. Many prominent lords, ladies, and other members of the court were present, waiting anxiously, filling the room to near capacity. Even the king’s fool Mattwitz was there, standing behind the throne in his black and white motley…and his large breasts.
Remel and his brethren lined the walk way to the throne, clad in their polished armor, swords at their sides, helms tucked under their arms. Across from Remel stood Devante and Niko, the former of whom had given Remel several stern looks since they had taken their positions.
The king entered, followed by the last two members of the King’s Watch. Some had been caught in the fighting today. The rest had remained in the castle to protect the king. Luckily the castle had not been breached, however, and none of the King’s Guard had sustained serious injury, other than Remel, of course. The embarrassment of fighting in a dress had injured him dearly.
The king took his position on the throne, smiling widely, squinting to see everyone in attendance. It was widely known that the king was nearly blind, yet it was something not discussed often. “We have won a great battle today!” the king proclaimed, followed by cheers from the crowd. “As we speak our enemies are fleeing for the hills west of the city. Lord Babin and his forces, along with half of our army are giving chase. At best they will catch them before they reach the safety of the mountains and demolish them completely. At worst their forces are already decimated to the point where they are no longer a threat. It is a great day indeed. It seems this long war has ended, finally.”
Again a chorus of cheers erupted. Remel and his brothers remained statuesque, as was their duty. The king waited until the masses quieted before he continued, and turned to his secretary, “Have we had any word, Gaspar, of the woman?”
“No your grace,” the boy replied, remorseful. “Not even a whisper.”
The king seemed disappointed. “It seems we have a mystery warrior in our city,” he continued, “possibly a martyr, pray she is not dead. Gaspar and I witnessed this warrior ourselves today. We personally saw her slay more than two hundred Southstar invaders on her own!”
Rumblings started among the listeners. “Her?” they were saying, or “she?” or “a woman?”
“Yes, yes!” the king continued, cutting through the murmur. “This warrior was a lady. A lady sword master! And beautiful as well. Gods was she beautiful. Tell them Gaspar, you speak of it more elegantly than I.”
The boy stepped forward and cleared his throat. “She was one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever laid eyes upon,” he said theatrically, looking past those in attendance, as if picturing her again.
“We,” the king interrupted.
“Sorry your grace,” Gaspar replied, distracted from his far away stare, and having the decency to blush. “The most beautiful woman we have ever seen,” he continued, again looking through them all, “in a fine yellow dress only suitable for a princess.” Remel felt his heart drop, as well as his jaw, and quickly shut his gaping mouth. “Her hair was of a blonde so golden you would have thought the sun radiated from beneath her scalp.” Remel was glad his hair was tucked under his armor. “With arms just tone enough to wield her blade better than any man in the realm. No offense to you all,” he said, nodding to Remel and his brotherhood.
Remel swallowed hard. If word got out that he was the woman the king was referring to he would never live it down.
“None taken,” a few of the King’s Guard murmured, but Remel could only look across from him, to Niko and Devante. Niko had a wide grin across his face that Remel would have loved to slap off. A sideways glance from Devante set him straight, however. Devante set his gaze on Remel again, eyes slit with suspicion as he looked him over, and then they went wide with what seemed to be a mixture of wonder, amusement, understanding and embarrassment. Remel began to feel sweat trickle down his back and swore he could feel more eyes upon him than just Devante’s, or maybe it was just his imagination, but either way, he wanted to get away. He needed a drink, a set of dice, and a fine woman or two by his side.
“What she lacked in bust,” Gaspar continued, “she more than made up for with the rest of her frame. Her legs were long and fair, muscled to perfection. The King and I flinched at every sword stroke dealt her way, lest her marvelous figure be tainted, but she deflected them all, and body upon body of our enemy began to pile at her feet. Pure elegance radiated from this lady, this mysterious, dangerous and beautiful lady.” Poetry was a strong suit for the boy, Remel reflected, feeling the urge to vomit as he continued. “The smoke from the burning buildings blocked our view before we could see her fate. We know not if she lived or perished. All we are certain of is it seems as though she single handedly blocked the advancement of an entire enemy battalion in the west side of the city.”
“Put word out, all of you,” the king broke in urgently, “in regards to this lady. I will offer a reward for any man, woman or child who can locate her whereabouts. A very handsome reward.” Murmurs continued through the crowd, excited whispers and discussions about a female warrior and her legacy and a handsome reward. “That is all for now, my good people,” the king continued. “There is much devastation and hurt in our great city that needs mending. Please, gather your resources and put them to good use. And damn it, find me that lady sword master!”
“Hail, hail!” the cheer went up.
“Hail the King! Hail House
Remel didn’t share their enthusiasm. He was sore to the bone and tired…and mostly embarrassed. All hope of Adelia, or Annabella, or whatever her name was being the only person to know about today’s transgressions was thrown out the window by the king’s secretary and his poetic version of Remel’s figure. He knew Devante would not spread word of what he knew, but was not so certain about Niko, whom he may have to pay a visit to before the night was over. His reputation may depend on it. He could live with titles such as “gambler,” or “drunk,” or “whoremonger,” but he would not want the moniker “cross-dresser” added to the list.
Soon the throne room emptied and the king gave orders to the King’s Watch. Remel was relieved and given orders to report to the west side of the city until midnight, which suited him just fine, after all, that was around the time he would have two beautiful women and an excellent bottle of wine waiting.
As he exited the room a strong grip caught his arm and spun him around. Devante stood before him with a grim set to his jaw, and looked Remel up and down, no emotion whatsoever showing in his demeanor. He only grunted and shook his head. Ashamed, Remel pulled free of his grip and began to walk away. Before he made it far Devante called out to him.
“Remel,” he said in a flat voice, and Remel grudgingly turned.
“Yes, Devante,” he said, defeated.
A slight grin came across his mentor’s face. “I always knew you were a pair of tits away from being the most beautiful woman in the realm,” he said with a laugh and merriment in his voice that Remel had never known him to have. Remel felt the flush on his face as he watched the man return to the throne room.
He needed a drink, more than ever.
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