GGCE 23 – Undercurrents

“Please don’t…” The wolf sighed and resigned himself to breaking the news “Ha’vie doesn’t want to be connected to you to which you’d have to ask her. Athena… Er… Is starting a dragon cult that worships you.” Avery froze after hearing that. “Why do I have a cult…?”

“Well… Athena… Believes all should bow before you… It may be the dragon thing, but that is what she is currently doing.” Both of them watched Navara as she finally managed to get away from Grandma Sanzin. Just when Navara turned around and saw the big wolf, she froze. While her mind was in the middle of processing what she saw, Avery broke the reboot cycle. “Hurry up. It’s getting late.”. Navara looked at her then back to the wolf, then back to her. “When did…?”. Avery let out a soft laugh that wasn’t as joyful as before “Little white here is an old friend.” She patted the shagged fur on the top of his head with a breathtaking smile.

. . . . . . .

“Has our… Guest done anything that we should be concerned with?” The Emperor’s weak voice fell upon the court. His sunken withered face did a discourtesy to the mighty golden robes with black panther fur trim that he wore. After witnessing the might of that girl himself, he aged quite a bit from the fright. He had left the capital that very night in fear of what might happen should she choose to pick a fight with him personally, only to return this morning to find everything was more than fine.

Thus, the first order of the day was to call the morning’s first court. The officials tried to give their morning greetings and well-wishings, but the Emperor was rather impatient as he waved them away and gestured for his Minister of Agriculture to take the lead since he seemed the least flustered by the sudden request for a report.

“Yes, Your Highness. Lady Avery has been busying herself with fulfilling quests at the Monster Hunter Guild with the Fox-kin’s Representative and the Third Prince. Sometimes she walks the halls with the First Prince. Aside from that, she had brought in a lion-sized grey wolf that she claims is her mount.” The Minister was a plump middle age man with a clean-shaven head and face. Dressed in a fine brown silken robe, he listed her actions off the top of his head. His voice was calm as a peaceful pond with a body like a plump bear as he stood close to six-and-a-half feet tall.

“Hmph.” The Emperor grunted as he settled into his throne. His dignity had been wrecked when she humiliated his High Magnus that night and yet she was just pranced about?

While he was scared of her at the moment, he was hoping she would recognize his authority now that she had been around for a while. “Is the Third Prince trying to cozy up to this Venerable? That damn brat seems to not know his place.” Emperor sneered. “If I may, Lady Avery came with the two princes into the Captial and they were already on good terms.” The Minister reminded him with a roll of his eyes as he bowed.

The Emperor was once that mighty ruler of their great empire until the day of the Empress had passed during childbirth. Now, the man was an empty shell of the ruler he once was, often drowning himself in wine and women while only concerning himself with only the most pressing matters. Even then, he would hire more people to handle those issues for him rather than handle them personally – leading to an over-staffed government.

While he sympathized with the man, he was of the mindset that Emperor should stop downing in his grief as it had been close to two decades since yet his grief seemed to plague him more and more.

The Emperor glared at the Minister for answering with the truth. What was he supposed to do about that damn child of his then? Pushing those thoughts aside he asked his final question. “Why is she here?” The minister looked up at him. “She has told me she was just here to relax for a while before heading out.” The Emperor nodded. “Then we’ll have to deal with that Third Prince before she decides to help him. Speaking of our guest, where is she?” He asked as he stroked his beard while sitting back in his throne

. . . . . . . . . .

A cold breeze danced around thirty-some wagons and carriages as they rolled down the large dirt highway with the Imperial Capital out in the distance as the sun beat down on them. Avery sat on Fenrir, a thick black cotton blanket embroidered with a golden dragon under her. Navara rode beside her on a brown horse adorned with white splotches on its chest and a red cotton blanket embroidered with golden lilies – her favorite flowers.

The blankets themselves were gifts from the First and Third Prince, the black from the First and the red from the Third respectively. Originally, Desmond had given Avery an elegantly made brown riding saddle to attach to Fenrir, but Fenrir was livid at the thought of them putting a saddle on him “Like a common horse.” When the princes heard this, Desmond felt embarrassed at his lack of thought. Prince Randal then gifted her a black riding blanket after remembering the riding blanket Desmond had gifted Navara on her last birthday.

Navara was happy that they both were “Riding natural” as she called it. Avery couldn’t say much about the gift as it pleased the wolf itself and was easy on the eyes. But black? She wore black riding leathers with a loose fitted grey shirt that complimented the large waterfall of snowy hair that ran off her left breast, however, she began to wonder if they were just assuming she only liked black as a mainstay. Purple or red would have been fine too…

She dismissed her complaints towards the color choice since the palace maids had worked hard to have it gifted the night morning. She turned her attention back to the caravan that was escorted by a mixture mercenaries and monster hunters. The joint-quest was an outcome of the manpower shortage the Heavenly Sons mercenary group had. Thus they employed, at their guild’s approval, Monster Hunters. Only ten of the hundred guards were hunters and the only two females in the group were Navara and Avery.

The Heavenly Sons were an up-and-coming mercenary group who hadn’t taken any jobs that outside the capital. They weren’t used by any prominent players in the capital so they built up their reputation on dealing with guarding small shops and hunting down bounties. The Viscount often hired different companies for his needs, particularly reputable mercenaries. Unfortunately for the group, they had already botched their first major contract by taking a contract without even having the agreed amount of heads and the Viscount was not a man who liked those who took contracts from him without having the means to fulfill them.

Albion hired them at the recommendation of his lesser partner who handled small shops. Getting a recommendation was any company’s good fortune that led to more business but that also meat they couldn’t take any jobs that they couldn’t handle. Getting a contract from a prominent nobleman would mean they could step into a higher realm of jobs if they finished it without a problem. Their misfortune laid in the fact that they signed the contract without having the manpower. Even though they hired monster hunters to pad the numbers – it still wasn’t their trusted members. They already failed in the Viscount’s eyes.

Navara skin crawled as she felt eyes licking at her rear and moved closer to the snowy-maiden. Fenrir also sensed the ill-intended stares of the men behind them and shot them a menacing stare, but their eyes still nipped at the two girls

“Lady Avery.” A man’s voice called out to the girl from carriage on the other side of her. Her head turned begrudgingly toward the owner of the voice with a weary smile. “Lord Albion.” She sweet voice chirped. Viscount Albion was a chubby man with slicked back black hair and tanned skin which barely fit through the carriage door’s window as he stared expectantly towards Avery. “We’ll be stopping in a few hours to set up camp. Would you like to join me for dinner? As they say, beautiful women make meals taste better.” Albion said with confidence and delusional pride.

His voice was what one could expect of a cocky nobleman. He was the caravan’s leader and the ruler of the fief that bordered the vast beast-kingdom that was Navara’s homeland. As such, he was well acquaintanced with the vixen and recognized her on sight when they met back in the capital. After the two had their awkward obligatory greetings, Avery was introduced and thus she was treated very well by the man. However, their statuses were kept between the three at the maidens’ requests.

“No thank you. Navara and I are fine.” Avery politely declined as she watched his expression cramp at the rejection. He nodded stiffly before sitting back down, closing the window the delicate looking window closed and pulled a red curtain over it quickly. Avery heard the muffled curses that spewed out of the noblemen’s mouth before he heard a yelp from his servant that accompanied him.

“I think you pissed off our boss. We might get a bad review when we get to the border town’s branch. Why not just humor him with just a meal?” Navara leaned in and spoke with a hushed tone so the surrounding men couldn’t hear. “I don’t like two-faced people like him. He told us he treats people well but then turns around and abuses his servants. I saw one earlier drop his cup of whiskey then proceeded to have his personal guard beat her.” Avery huffed with repressed rage when as she remembered that scene.

“Love can conquer flaws.” The fox-girl said with a mocking smile. “No thank you, I already have a love in my heart and he’s a much kinder man than that disgusting excuse of a person.” Avery rolled her eyes as she pushed Navara’s face away playfully. “Even if I didn’t like someone, I wouldn’t lower my standards to a beast like that.” Avery huffed. “Even if I didn’t have someone I liked, I wouldn’t go for an asshole like that.”

Navara’s eyes gleamed with heavy interest as her face was pushed away by Avery’s tender palm. Her tail flapped side to side as she smiled deviously, primed for girly gossip. “Oooo! So our beautiful young girl here is already a love-struck maiden! Do tell, who’s the lucky man?” She leaned in again but noticed the vigor that Avery had suddenly left her as she looked sadly looked up to the sky. “Not in this world anymore most likely.” The conversation took a dark turn that the fox was not prepared for. For a long while, only the sounds of the beasts pulling the wagons along with the heavy breathing of the horses could be heard.

“I’m terribly sorry for asking…” Navara looked over her new friend, hoping she wasn’t mad at her for bringing up the topic. Avery only looked to the sky longingly like a widow who lost her husband. “May I ask I know who the man was?” She asked softly. Avery didn’t hear her though and the question hung in the air in vain. Lost in the noise of Avery’s sea of memories.

The procession went on in silence beside the rattling of cargo as tens of hooves thumped against the dirt road. The caravan eventually broke free of the thick forest as the trees thinned out to give way to vast plains lush with green grass and very few wildlife opening grazing across it. Trees grew here and there but were different from the trees that lived in the forest. Grey mountains rose in far in the distance, capped with white snow. The mountain marked the border between the two nations and was the destination of the group.

The sun waned and eventually lowered towards the horizon to mark the end of their first day. The sky faded into a dark-cobalt that grew darker by the minute before being adorned with sparkling gems called stars and a single distant full moon. The group proceeded until they came to their first stop which was a large watering hole used by merchants for resting their mounts. While the Empire was vast in its own right, the Capital itself was fairly close to its western border, thus their journey would only last a minimum of four days – should nothing happen.

All around the watering hole was packed dirt where travelers before them had made camp. Thus, the caravan occupied nearly three-fourths of the campground and that was with them neatly arranging themselves by backing in the carriages. When everything had been squared away, the servants lead all the animals to the water to rest while the mercenaries went about setting up their fires and stations for the night. The Heavenly sons had three wagons full of equipment and rations and parked them closest to the road where their leaders and the noblemen would be resting.

By the time the camp was set up, night had come in full. Moonlight illuminated the plains fairly well with shadows infesting where the moon’s light could not reach. Fires burned in pits all around the camp as the guards began taking their shifts. Avery and Navara were given a carriage to rest in by the road next to the Viscount, but they rejected it again and opted to rest with the Servants by the watering hole. Fortunately, they found a female only carriage where the Viscount’s steward assigned its occupants to be their servants.

To the servants’ dismay, the girls’ rejected them after the steward left “I’m good. I rather do things on my own.” Avery said while looking at the servant girls. “I am of the Fox-tribe from the Beast-kingdom. We like to care for ourselves. Just rest for the night.” Navara nodded at the servants. “But the steward-” One of the three servants spoke up fearfully only to be stopped by Avery. “If it makes you feel better, just follow us around and help when we need it. How about that?”

Avery didn’t want to put them on the spot, but she also couldn’t get used to having servants. She tolerated it in the palace since it wasn’t her lodging and they had to be cleaned. Not that they weren’t in the palace, she did not want some stranger hovering around her. After a few back and forths, the snowy maiden began to miss her maid who had gotten used to her lax temporary master. She may have been brazen after being allowed to do whatever so long as she wasn’t in the way, but she was receptive and quick to answer any of her wishes should any arise.

The servants before them looked at the two like they were foreign beings from outer space, unsure if the girls were trying to catch them putting off their duties. Regardless of how they felt, the girls stood firm in their wishes and exited the large carriage to for some fresh air. The carriage rested a few paces away from the edge of the packed dirt. Tens of bison-like beasts rested on the bank of the watering hole while some mulled around eating the oats put out in wicker baskets. The landscape itself was bathed in silver light that was almost dreamlike. Avery took the sight in, a view that was never so beautiful in the game. A piece of her was happy that the world was now real…

However, Navara had a mind to ruin the peaceful atmosphere. “All these rock bison. Tsk. The viscount really is drowning in gold.” She said spitefully as her eyes scanned the beasts. “What’s wrong with the beasts?” Avery looked at her. “Rock bison are used to pull heavy loads and are more resilient than horses by ten-fold. If horses had been pulling the wagons all day, we wouldn’t have gotten this far. Their asking price is in gold rather than silvers” She aired her complaints about the nobleman.

Just as she was ready to complain some more, a few male voices erupted from behind them as several mercenaries were on patrol around the camp’s perimeter. They approached from their left as they joked and horsed around with each other. The girls themselves were faintly illuminated in the moonlight as they stood unmoving as angelic statues. The group wasn’t quite paying attention as they patrolled the camp’s edge and had not seen the girls standing in front of them by their assigned carriage.

“You think that white-haired girl will be sleeping with that boss?” A man asked. “If not, I wanted a piece of that ass. I bet she’s a virgin by the way she walks!” The group laughed as Avery’s eyes narrowed at them. “I want that little fox slut!” A deeper male voice laughed out. The group hadn’t been paying attention to their surroundings, too engrossed in their fantasies.

The group walked into the two girls, bouncing off them like unmoving walls. The group rebounded and caught themselves before they stumble. “What the-” One of the men scowled before he noticed the two girls before them. Their surprised washed over them and they forgot how the men, who were at least a head taller and meatier, bounced off them.

“Speak of the devil and the devil shall appear, or should we say girls?” His scowl quickly turned into a wicked smile as he stared down at the “Delicate” girls. “Done sucking the rich man’s cock and out for a stroll? How about taking a stroll with us then? We could even entertain ya and show you what real men are like.” The man said with obvious evil intentions. The group quickly morphed into lustful beasts who drooled at the sight of the pair like horny teenagers.

The servants quickly fled into the camp before the mercenaries could turn their lustful desires towards them and left the girls outnumbered. The men looked at them like a predator would view its prey, but the girls only looked at them with deadpan expressions as they looked at the unbelievable cliche behavior that they believed would only happen in stories. Yet, it unfolded before them.

Seconds died of old age and minutes mourned their death as the men waited for any response from the girls. Disgust, acceptance, or even outright them ignoring them and walking off, but they just stared at them with those unamused eyes. The brutish men were now slowly becoming uncomfortable themselves as the silence dragged on. The men questioned the pair’s mental state before they questioned their own. Many thoughts ran through the mens’ minds before eventually one cracked own the pressure.

“What? Cat got your tongues?” He laughed awkwardly at his own question. He wasn’t sure who it was meant for anymore. It was the first time this had ever happen and he didn’t know how to handle it. “No, but I’m a fox. We consider tongues a delicacy in our tribe. However, we also have a tradition of cutting off the manhoods of men who harass women and force feeding it to them.” The vixen smiled evilly as she stared down the men.

All the men felt their manhoods quickly shriveled back into their body, almost turning the men into women. The air around Navara became thick with bloodlust as the men still looked like they wanted to continue their sexual advances as they looked at each other for help. “Guess we’ll have to try out my customs on you. I haven’t seen a man’s delicate part before so bear with me. I might cut off more than I need too.”

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