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Old 01-09-2017, 07:11 PM   #1
Benny Mon
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 37
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Default And Eat It, Too (~BBW, SSBBW, ~XWG, Stuffing, Sex)

~BBW, SSBBW, ~XWG, Stuffing, Sex

And Eat It, Too

by Benny Mon


Prologue

It was the seventh straight day of the storm. Or maybe the seventh straight night: Sur honestly couldn’t keep track of the time of day anymore as the storm obscured all signs of sunrise and sunset. It didn’t help that he was sitting at the narrowest point of a mile-long pass that threaded through the Barahar Mountains. With the other soldiers stationed in this pass, Sur spent his days (or nights) facing west, alert to any sign of traffic through this tiny road. No one was permitted to cross the mountains in either direction, and the road was the only way to do so. But Sur’s task was uninspiring: no one had attempted to take this road for hundreds of years, leaving the Kingdom of Lajjar east of the mountains undisturbed by any foreign power, friend or foe. Sur may have been bored, but he didn’t complain: his presence in the pass helped protect the peace and prosperity that Lajjar had enjoyed over the centuries and that showed no signs of going away.

Still, the storm had made the past week particularly dreary, and as he stared into the drizzle Sur tried hard not to remember the fact that he had several more months to serve in the pass before he could return to his home. He dozed, passing in and out of wakefulness for several minutes, and suddenly thought he saw a stone topple from the wall of the pass several hundred feet ahead of him. He snapped up and peered closely at the spot, but he could see little through the weather. It’s probably just the rain, he thought, but he was unnerved. He stood up slowly and notched an arrow to his bow, inching forward. No one had taken this pass for generations, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that there might be someone up ahead, around a bend in the pass. He wanted to call to his companions, but any noise he made might alert the intruders, so he continued forward instead, staying close to the wall of the pass.

He stopped at the bend, and at first all he could hear was his breath. But after a few very long moments, sure enough, he picked up the sound of wheels--Chariots?--and the smack of tramping feet. The noise dislodged another loose pebble or two. He knew it--an army was approaching. He tried to cry out to his companions, but his voice had left him and he only rasped into the rain. His hands trembled violently, and after a moment’s deliberation he stuffed his arrow back in its quiver and drew a dagger from his belt.

Just in time: the first figure rounded the bend in the pass. Sur’s adrenaline took over as he snatched the man and pinned him to the wall. He was hooded, so Sur couldn’t see his face as he held his dagger to the man’s throat. His voice found him again. “Call off the other men,” he yelled at the man, “or face the wrath of Lajjar!”

Sur saw the man’s smile through the darkness of the hood as he responded, “As you wish,” and then, more loudly, “Hang back! I’ve been taken!” In the heat of the moment it didn’t occur to Sur how surprising it was that a man from another land, separated for centuries from Lajjar, would understand his words and respond fluently. But at the sound of the man’s command a dozen soldiers, armed and armored, burst around the bend, weapons drawn but frozen in obedience to the man’s words. Even in the rain their red plate armor shone richly and brilliantly. Just then, several Lajjari soldiers ran up behind Sur, screaming and notching arrows pointed at the enemy soldiers. Everyone held their ground, but a single wrong move would have sent the scene spinning into combat.

The hooded man smiled again and said to Sur, calmly and quietly, “This isn’t how I expected to be welcomed back home.”

The hairs on Sur’s neck pricked up. Keeping his dagger at the man’s neck, he slowly pushed back his hood, and what he saw--the arch of the man’s eyebrows, the green flecks in his brown eyes, the broad, strong nose, square jaw, the tight bun in which the man’s hair was tied at the base of his skull--was unmistakable. The dagger fell from Sur’s fingers and planted itself in the mud, followed quickly by Sur’s knees. He clasped the man’s ankles pitifully in obeisance and penance, choking out breaths but finding no words.

One of the red-armored soldiers spoke for him. “All hail Sadesh Wasim Metheli Melekia III, the Returning King of Lajjar!”

Sur, realizing he was touching his king without permission, sprang backwards and landed on his ass, but the king ignored him, simply stepping away from the wall and moving forward in the pass without replacing his hood. King Sadesh had been the most beloved monarch in the history of the kingdom. He had ruled with both justice and mercy, and it was under his reign that the kingdom discovered a new fertilizer that drastically augmented the agricultural productivity of the realm. And, yet, five years ago the king had disappeared without a trace. Everyone assumed he had been murdered, and though they could never be sure of the culprit the royal family put on a show trial and executed several of the king’s servants. His brother Garun had acceded to the throne, and while not as beloved as Sadesh, he had maintained peace in the kingdom and expanded the use of the fertilizer. Though all were deeply saddened by Sadesh’s apparent death, most had made their peace with it and expected to live out their days under Garun’s rule. And, yet, here was Sadesh once again, unmistakable in his resemblance to the many images that had once covered coins and flags throughout the kingdom, if a bit thinner than it had been. Where had he been? Who were these red-clad soldiers who accompanied him?

The rest of the Lajjari soldiers parted to let the king pass, and the red soldiers--several dozen in total, Sur could now see--followed behind, orderly and silent. And then a vehicle rounded the bend, not a chariot but a massive carriage, two or three times as large as an ordinary one, pulled by four horses and driven by another red soldier. The windows of the carriage were mostly shuttered but for one on the left side, which was only covered inside by a curtain. Sur still couldn’t see much, but a lantern evidently hung inside the vehicle, as something illuminated an absolutely massive silhouette. He couldn’t tell who this person was but figured their size explained the size of the carriage. But he had little time to glean more as the carriage rolled on into the mist and rain, leaving Sur and his companions staring ahead into the dark.
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Old 03-25-2017, 02:56 PM   #2
Benny Mon
 
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Default Chapter 1

Chapter 1

The city of Qala, capital of of the kingdom of Lajjar, sat at the heart of the Amman Plateau, a vast, lush expanse wedged into the greater Barahar Mountain chain. Qala was the only Lajjari city to speak of--hamlets and towns dotted the plains that covered the plateau, but none matched the density and scale of the capital. So long isolated behind the mountains, there was little commerce in Lajjar, so the small merchant corps in Qala existed mostly existed to funnel the agricultural produce that wasn’t consumed by the landed nobility from the plain to the city. But the military presence in the city was substantial: Lajjar kept its soldiers in peak condition not only to protect against the Western threat that never came, but also to manage their eastern border, where mountains gave way to steppe, and nomadic bands and royal patrols clashed in skirmishes and raids. The Lajjari thought so little of the nomads--no cities, no settled life, almost no agriculture--that they still thought of their kingdom as perfectly isolated, untouched by any other civilization. The nomads were a threat, but hardly an existential one.

Deep within the castle, however, the royal staff paid little mind to distant military matters. Hundreds of servants scurried through the corridors of the massive building at the center of the city, daily preoccupied with keeping this city within a city afloat. The grounds staff tended the trees and vines that plastered the outer walls and the hanging gardens nestled high in the towers and balconies of the castle; dozens of others maintained the bedchambers and other private spaces, washing clothes, changing beds, sweeping floors and stoking fires. And it was impossible to miss the procurement team, over one hundred runners who darted back and forth between the castle and the noble residences distributed throughout the city. The nobility who owned the kingdom’s countryside estates were absentee landlords, enjoying the luxuries and fashions of city life while delegating the management of their estates to esteemed managers. It was the job of the procurement team to visit each noble residence every day and collect the tribute they owed to the royal family--tribute that, over the course of the year, amounted to a tenth of the produce of the estates’ farms. Next to soldiers, procurement runners were the most visible population circulating through the city, driving oxen pulling wagonloads of potatoes, wheat, apples, plums, pears, figs, berries, and sugar beets to warehouses and processing centers around the city. Breweries and distilleries transformed the roots and grains into rum and beer; mills ground the wheat into flour. The castle itself maintained stockyards and pastures in and near the city to raise dairy and meat. And as each foodstuff nearly completed its transformation from raw material to finished product, the procurement team again rushed through the capital, ferrying these ingredients past the giant oak doors of the castle and through the sandstones halls, with manually operated counterweight elevators depositing them in the heart of the castle: the Kitchens.

Tahar, the head chef of the Royal Kitchens, beamed with pride as the runners ushered their deliveries out of the elevators and into the complex of rooms that constituted his domain. They bowed in reverence to him, and as usual he let them linger on their knees a second more than was necessary, for the Royal Chef was in Lajjar one of the closest confidants and advisors of the King and Queen. Outside the military, he was, perhaps, the most powerful commoner in the castle. But soon enough he recalled them to their feet, his round, full face grinning with condescension and benevolence. As in all of Lajjari society, Tahar’s high position in the social order meant greater access to food, everything from necessities to luxuries, and his direct command of the Kitchens only reinforced that access. His power and prestige were evident in his round cheeks, his slight neck rolls, and the modest belly pressing gently against his long golden tunic. Even so, Tahar was hardly obese--his work kept him on his feet all day, and excessive indulgence would in any case be effeminate: such was the province of ladies.

“Anything to report?” he asked the procurement team’s Captain?

“Alas, Your Excellency,” the lean captain replied as he rose to his feet, brushing flour from his knees, “more vagabonds from the countryside than ever. We seem to find more and more of them on our streets with each passing day, and today a band of them tried to rob a crate of plums from one of our wagons. A few off-duty soldiers passing by just then defended us, but had they not been there, we might have lost the whole wagon.”

Tahar’s eyes narrowed slightly. Since the estates had begun using the fertilizer developed under King Sadesh (may He rest in peace), their productivity had skyrocketed, and as a result they needed fewer and fewer peasants to work their lands. The aristocracy increasingly drove these surplus tenants from their estates, but the vagabonds gradually made their way to the city, where they had little work and less food, and were now, apparently, resorting to theft to stay alive. Of course, Tahar had an especially balanced assessment of the situation: his knowledge of his supply chains was detailed and immense, and he understood the dynamics that drove the newly landless into the city. Most, even and especially the nobility, simply saw them as a sudden and inexplicable nuisance. Tahar knew better, but he had little sympathy for the vagabonds. They were now interfering with the networks that sustained his power in the castle and in the city, and something would have to be done about that.

“Very good, Captain,” Tahar finally replied. “I’ll inform the King and request that he double patrols during procurement runs. You may go.” The captain bowed and quickly, efficiently led his team back into the elevators and up to the main floor of the castle.

Still troubled by news of the theft attempt, Tahar forced himself to put away such concerns for now and looked around his kitchens. Already his staff was at work, gathering ingredients for bread and pastries, soups and roasts, porridge and cookies. They worked doughs at counters and fired ovens for baking and cooking. A few men were present to tap and transport barrels of rum and beer and to tend to other tasks that required greater strength, but most of Tahar’s staff were women--including Almarka, the Royal Sous-chef, who approached him now. While she wasn’t part of the King and Queen’s inner circle like Tahar, she was still one of the most powerful commoners in the castle, and also, unlike Tahar, a woman--and so forth both reasons, she was even fatter than her superior. Her clothes were somewhere between elegant and practical, several layers of a shear mint fabric layered to make her pants - loose-fitting, as was the style among elite Lajjari, to exaggerate the shape of her legs. Indeed, her thick legs were hardly the largest part of her body, and her bountiful, round belly strained against the tight waistband of her otherwise loose pants. A broad length of white fabric twisted around her torso several times, draped elegantly over her shoulder, and tucked into itself in the back, leaving her somewhat chubby arms bare and exposing a triangle of flesh--her smooth, soft, rotund belly--above the waistband. She bounced toward Tahar as she approached, her pants flowing, her hair tied neatly into a bun that sat atop her head, her round, full cheeks bouncing with every step.

“Chef,” she said as she reached him, remaining on her feet but bowing slightly. Her exposed belly bent into soft folds against her waistband as she moved.

“Rise, Almarka,” he replied. “How goes the preparation?”

“Well, Chef,” she replied. “The staff is working diligently, and we haven’t had trouble expanding our usual production. All the food will be ready for the queen’s Name Day Feast tonight.”

“Very good,” he murmured. He glanced around the room: most of the staff was active in other chambers of the kitchen, though one scrawny woman lingered, scooping flour into two large buckets connected by a horizontal wooden bar. He looked back at Almarka and lowered his voice: “And have you conveyed instructions to set aside several dishes from the main feast?”

Almarka’s blush was evident, even through her dark brown skin. She patted her belly nervously. “I have, Chef. My personal staff believe it’s a separate feast for the queen to indulge in at bedtime.”

“Very good,” Tahar muttered, and his face flushed too. His eyes followed the remaining servant girl as she hoisted the wooden crossbar over her shoulders, laboriously carrying the flour out of the room. He could barely contain himself now: he grasped the somewhat shorter but much wider Almarka, his grip sinking into the sides of her belly, and pulled her close. She felt his erection push into her soft flesh of her belly as he kissed her passionately, briefly, and let her go. Her corpulent body heaved as she took heavy, excited breaths, her legs feeling unsteady beneath her.

“Just as I instructed you,” he resumed, seeking steadiness himself. His eyes gleamed: “I can’t have my sous-chef wasting away under the labors of overseeing the kitchen. She must share in the prosperity of the kingdom!”

Almarka grinned, her cheeks spreading to make her face even rounder than it already was. “As you command, Chef.”

Two young men marched through the chamber again, carrying a spit to which a slaughtered pig was tied. They didn’t seem to notice anything, but quickly more and more of the staff hurried through in both directions, continuing the great work of preparing the Queen’s feast.

Tahar immediately regained his composure. “Until tonight, then, Almarka?”

The sous-chef was still flustered, but she pulled herself together as best she could. “Until tonight, Chef.” And with that she scurried off again, her shoulder blades shifting her back fat up and down briskly as she walked.

* * *

And so night came, and the feast began. Tahar led an endless procession of servants through the corridors of the castle from the Kitchens to the Great Hall, each carrying a platter or pushing a cart loaded with the most ornate, richest food one could imagine. They approached the giant, gold-encrusted doors to the Hall, flanked by two guards, and Tahar hesitated, trembling slight now not with desire but with anticipation. This was one of days of the year when he shined brightest, when he took up the bounty of Lajjar and crafted it into a feast unmatched in history. The Lajjari Court had always prided itself on the richness and sophistication of its meals, but with the agricultural gains of recent years they had exceeded all past milestones. Feasts became larger and more elaborate, meals grew in size and taste and richness, new dishes were invented to make use of the new wealth of food. And Tahar was the master craftsman, the conductor who envisioned the whole, who commanded and coordinated all the individual parts and united them into a brilliant whole. The feast the kitchen staff carried behind him was like nothing the kingdom had ever seen, and he was personally responsible.

And so the world must know: he nodded, and the guards pushed the doors, and slowly but surely they swung open onto the front of the Hall. One table ran from the doors to the throne at the back of the hall, and seated along it were the host gathered for this momentous occasion. The army’s greatest generals, long absent from the battlefield and round with age and indulgence, bantered with each other and tossed back goblets of beer. A handful of the kingdom’s wealthiest merchants and their wives were interspersed among them, dressed in flowing finery and sipping on their beer even as the generals gulped it down. Closer to the head of the tables sat the nobles: men dressed in flowing tunics of bright colors, trimmed in gilt or silver, and women clad in long, single lengths of broad fabric that twisted around the from ankle to shoulder, tucking into themselves in the back and forming a dress of sorts. It was a rare occasion that brought the entire nobility to the court, yet the Queen’s birthday would do it.

As he surveyed the scene, Tahar couldn’t help but notice that the new bounty of the kingdom--and his eagerness to make full use of it--had had its effect on the bodies of the people joined together that night. The Lajjari elite had always valued obesity, especially in women, but they had never been so fat as they were under the new prosperity. The generals were little changed, but the merchants who shepherded the new produce through the kingdom were now thick and round--formerly the province of nobles and generals alone. The noblemen themselves sported double chins and bellies, their faces shaved clean and their tunics worn tight to ensure that all would know. Their wives were fatter still, thicker in every part of their bodies: legs and arms, bellies and breasts, backs and shoulders and faces. The swathes of fabric that wrapped around them once accentuated this roundness, but now they had a hard time containing it, with pudgy bits poking through the gaps in the wrap. The closer to the head of the table, the larger these ladies became (though the men seemed to plateau at some point), their chins and jowls and neck rolls dominating their faces more and more. But Tahar needed no reminder that no one had prospered more under the new bounty than the Queen herself, Muzara.

She was the fattest queen the kingdom had ever known. Already quite large even by Lajjari standards when Garun, the brother of Sadesh (may He rest in peace), was merely the Crown Prince, she had taken full advantage of her royal prerogative when her husband took the throne. She and Tahar were a tacit team, each an ally in celebrating the glory of Lajjar through these abundant feasts. If Tahar saw these feats as the mark of Lajjari greatness, Muzara confirmed it by consuming that greatness in massive quantities, incorporating it and embodying it in her own person. She was the glory of the kingdom in the flesh, and as long as she remained massive Lajjar was great.

That greatness was on full display tonight: to show it to the court, and to make sure there were no obstacles between her gluttony and this feast, the queen wore only two pieces of fabric, a golden sash tied around her hips that only just covered her sex, and a second bound around her breasts. Each sank somewhat into the bountiful flesh it encircled, for her legs were elephantine, and her hips only slightly wider than her thighs. Her belly was round and puddled on her lap, but her breasts were by far the largest part of her, only barely restrained by the sash as they blossomed from her chest. They were of a piece with pillowy fat covering her collarbones, the massive arms that looked like giant sausages, the rings of fat circling her neck and her fact. From her bellybutton, indeed, the queen only became wider as you went up her body, culminating in gigantic cheeks and a double chin that took up as much space as the cheeks themselves.

Tahar’s eyes wandered to the king, seated to Muzara’s right: he was the fattest man in the room, but not by much, and he paled in comparison to his queen. They sat at a table perpendicular to the long feast table, and on either side of them sat the queen’s attendants, a dozen young women who were chubby or fat in various proportions, clad in golden robes that hugged their curves but revealed very little. They chatted amongst themselves and occasionally gazed admiringly at the queen, as did her king, who evidently had little to say at the moment. But the queen noticed none of this: she was guzzling down a huge goblet of beer, trying her best, Tahar knew, to stave off her hunger until the food arrived.

And so it had. The king noticed right away, always solicitous of his wife’s comfort and satisfaction, and he rose to his feet, silencing the room.

“We gather here,” he boomed, his voice as deep and rich as the feast itself, “to honor the Name Day of my queen and celebrate the bounty of the realm. On this day, we enter the two hundred twenty-eighth year of our splendid and prosperous isolation. Unmolested by foreign powers, Lajjari civilization has flourished, of which the abundance in which we take part today is the surest sign. Your former king, may He rest in peace”--and here everyone bowed their heads for a moment--“gifted us with the greatest prosperity we have ever known, and it has been my duty as his brother and as both leader and servant of the kingdom to protect and extend that prosperity, to ensure that you taste the harmonious meeting of heaven, earth, and mankind that is Lajjar. And so we waste no more time: partake of this feast with full knowledge of the greatness of your queen and the glory of your kingdom!” The crowd cheered.

At this, Tahar wasted no time in sending his small army of servants down the length of the table, depositing dish after dish before the guests. The queen’s table received the greatest share, of course, and Muzara dug into it with abandon: she put away buttery rolls and creamy soups, generous cuts of pork and beef, peppers stuffed with meat and meal, pies filled with apples and berries and covered in whipped cream, all the while nursing her chalice of beer. Once this flurry of activity was underway, Tahar took his place near the head of the long feat table: Almarka, in fact, handled most of the work of orchestrating this complex feast, while Tahar got to savor his handiwork firsthand and occasionally appreciate the queen’s gluttonous enjoyment.

As the queen dug into a wedge of cheese that one of her (relatively) slimmer attendants had handed her, the king called Tahar to his side. Muzara remained oblivious.

“You’ve outdone yourself, Tahar,” the king grinned.

“You’re too kind, Your Highness,” and Tahar bowed briefly.

“All is well?” asked the king.

Tahar nodded. “Yes, Your Highness, though the vagabonds show increasing disrespect for your rule and your glory. The largest attack yet was mounted on some of our procurement runners today. It appears to have been well coordinated and was only stopped by some passing soldiers. I fear an organized sedition against your rule is taking shape.”

“An attack on one wagon is a small affair,” replied the king. “How are you so sure?”

“I would take no risks, Your Highness. The smallest threat is a threat nonetheless.”

Garun nodded. “You are right to be cautious. I questioned you to test your thinking, but in fact I agree with you. General Ayumeth has gotten wind of rumors, rumors that the criminal element of our city denies the legitimacy of my rule and calls for a new king. Only with this attitude would they be so bold as to attack royal procurement runners. Do what you must to put this down.” He sighed, and rubbed his brow with his thumb and forefinger. “The inheritance of my brother is mixed. With this bounty comes a curse as well. I have managed it as well as I can, but the vagabonds, they blame the wrong man.” Tahar remained silent. He knew better than to intrude on such delicate introspection.

Just then, a number of things happened at once. A loud cry went up outside the windows of the Great Hall: Tahar couldn’t tell for sure, but it sounded like it was coming from the streets outside the castle walls. Just moment later, a messenger burst into the hall and dashed toward the very General Ayumeth the king had just mentioned. Ayumeth listened for a moment and his eyes went wide. He stammered, and then spit out, “Impossible!” and stood away from the table. By now the group understood something was amiss. Some kept eating, tentatively, but even the queen put down the bun she was currently inhaling, her mouth just barely hanging open, framed by her massive jowls. Ayumeth strode to the head of the table to convey the message to the king, but Garun frowned and uttered one, short, uncharitable laugh. “Nonsense! What could be the meaning of this? Surely it’s a rumor begun by the seditious forces in our city.”

Tahar couldn’t hold back anymore: “Your Highness,” he implored, “what has happened?” General Ayumeth turned to the Chef, ready to explain, but he was cut off by a large gasp from the crowd. Tahar spun around and saw a remarkable scene, framed by giant doorway onto the Great Hall:

There stood Sadesh Wasim Metheli Melekia III. Tahar’s king. Sadesh was unmistakable in his strong, square features, the green flecks in his eyes, the broad shoulders, though he was somewhat leaner and more muscular than Tahar remembered. He stood there as though raised from the dead, but undiminished and as alive as the last time they had seen him. A red hood hung behind his head, and he was clad in brilliant red armor, streaked in rain and mud yet brighter and more beautiful than anything Tahar had ever seen. A large, straight sword hung sheathed at his side, and around his right arm was tied a band of fabric marked with the seal of Lajjar: a white grain of wheat set against a golden sun, with green grass below and blue sky above. It was impossible to read his expression: there was no joy in his face, but neither was there suffering or anger or resentment. He was calm, detached, and yet entirely present and supremely confident.

Just behind Sadesh stood someone almost equally remarkable: a woman as tall as the resurrected king but many times wider, easily the fattest woman Tahar had ever seen. She had red eyes and olive skin--lighter than the skin of most Lajjari--with high cheekbones and rounder cheeks, and a strong but gentle chin that just barely defined itself against a generous but proportionate double chin. Her neck broadened at the base to a pillowy chest and generous arms, but by far her largest features were her enormous belly, gigantic ass, and massive legs--which nonetheless tapered to narrower, chubby ankles and chubby feet. Each leg looked the size of one of Muzara’s attendants, and it was remarkable that this titanic woman could stand or move, and yet she did so with grace and poise. Muzara herself was probably only half the size of this woman and much more graceless and awkward. But to either side of the king and this mysterious woman was a soldier clad in red armor, one holding a platter of cheeses and the other a goblet of some dark red drink. The entire scene was like a sacred portrait, a god and goddess and their angelic attendants posed in divine stateliness and power, framed by the door. The enormous woman helped herself to cheese as they stood there, an action that jolted Tahar from his shock.

The entire room was frozen. No one was eating, the servants stood frozen as though petrified, and the guards at the door had fallen to their knees and prostrated themselves before Sadesh. Soon the table followed suit, even the largest lords and ladies awkwardly bringing themselves as close to the floor as they comfortably could. Muzara simply remained sitting, her mouth now fully ajar, and Garun, filled with a thousand contradictory emotions, hesitated before falling to one knee. General Ayumeth moved to prostrate himself and pulled Tahar down with him.

“It is thus,” he muttered to the Chef. “Your king has returned.”

Last edited by Benny Mon; 03-25-2017 at 08:09 PM. Reason: copy editing
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Old 03-28-2017, 04:37 PM   #3
danvighar
 
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Just read this and wanted to say it is very intriguing and I look forward to more. Appears to be a nice historical fantasy-fiction setting, not heavy-handed with the setting. Comparisons to Howard's Conan novels come to mind in both the setting itself, and the way you deftly paint the highlights and let the setting itself fill in the background details, so far.

(And oh wow, I have over-used the word 'setting' in the above paragraph, but I think my intent is clear enough...)

Last edited by danvighar; 03-28-2017 at 04:38 PM. Reason: pointing out my own lack of word choice...
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Old 03-31-2017, 12:35 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danvighar View Post
Just read this and wanted to say it is very intriguing and I look forward to more. Appears to be a nice historical fantasy-fiction setting, not heavy-handed with the setting. Comparisons to Howard's Conan novels come to mind in both the setting itself, and the way you deftly paint the highlights and let the setting itself fill in the background details, so far.

(And oh wow, I have over-used the word 'setting' in the above paragraph, but I think my intent is clear enough...)
Thank you! I haven't actually read the Conan novels, but it's nice to be compared to a classic.
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Old 12-11-2017, 01:04 PM   #5
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Default Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Later that night, Tahar would be able to recall little of the rest of the feast. He knew, of course, that as King Sadesh recalled everyone to their feet, many stammered, others burst into tears, and others sat in stunned silence. But Tahar could not say what the shocked nobles said to each other, what General Ayumeth whispered into his near next, what Sadesh said that returned everyone to their seats. But he remembered with crystal clarity everything the new, fantastically fat woman did, the woman clad in a pristine white dress that fell just above her knees in front, into a small train in back, and to her chubby wrists in the sleeves. He recalled her striding calmly, purposely, smoothly to the front of the hall: her long dark hair flowing behind her, her enormous thighs pressing and brushing against each other, every inch of her fat body trembling and shifting as she walked, Sadesh trailing her. He remembered Garun clearing the head table with obseqiousness and evident perturbation, and Muzara’s attendants waddling around to pull their stunned queen--was she yet the queen?--away from her seat. He recalled servants scrambling to push several chairs together, as nothing--not even the queen’s throne--was large enough to accommodate this newcomer. He recalled her settling herself on these four seats, which could only just accommodate her bulk. Her hips spilled over the seats, the rear of her ass pushed up against their backs, and the ass itself lifted her higher--a foot? two? more?--than she otherwise would have sat. Her enormous single belly strained mightly against her dress, keeping her even farther from the edge of the table than she sat above the chair.

But it didn’t matter, for, as Tahar remembered best of all, her servants--not just the two beside her when she entered, but a small army of red-armored attendants who followed her into the hall--engaged in a complex choreography of feeding this remarkable woman. Sometimes they would pass her a piece of cheese or a sugared slice of fruit, and she would pass it between her lips as effortly as though they had practiced this handoff ten thousand times. She munched steadily away on each piece of food they gave her, not greedily but heartily and never flagging, her arms and cheeks and neck continuously jiggling as she worked. But before long she seemed to tire, a slight flush rising to her cheeks and jowls, and she let her arms fall. Even then the servants continued, feeding the food directly to her, interspersing it occasionally with long gulps of beer. She consumed thick slices of bread slathered in butter, rich soups, huge bites of savory puddings that saw her mouth and eyes widen simultaneously as she took them in. She chewed and swallowed countless delicate slices of lamb and of beef, each dunked in a rich gravy before being offered to her lips and taken between her teeth. Whatever fatigue she may have felt, she never slowed down. There was nothing desperate or hasty about her eating, but it was clear that she was focused on the food and on nothing else. She was an artist who had trained her whole life in the art of eating, an animal statelier than all others and hungry long past the point of self-preservation, a glorious star growing as it sucked down the astral material around it and orbited by the many servants who worked in tireless and perfect adoration of her.

It didn’t take long for her to finish the food originally intended for Muzara, and without missing a beat Sadesh handed his own plate to the servants, who conveyed its contents to the enormous woman’s mouth. One nobleman, long one of Sadesh’s dearest supporters, immediately sent a servant with his own plate, following it to the head of the table and bowing to the woman as it was presented to her. Tahar judged the figure an unctuous coward, desperate to avoid offending Sadesh, but however anyone else felt, he had set a precedent: soon every lord was sending his plate to feed the woman in the white dress. But while she accepted all these offerings without protest, she curiously rejected the plates of the noblewomen, spending the effort to raise her hand languidly. Her soldiers, quickly cooperating with the castle servants, worked to fill the plates even higher with food and return them to the ladies seated at the table.

Eventually this stunning display of gluttony came to an end, and with it Tahar’s memory of the feast. He couldn’t say who he had talked to next or how long he had even stayed at the feast. All he knew was that now, long after this remarkable event had concluded, he stood before Garun’s chambers--his old chambers, the chambers of the Crown Prince, as he had offered the King’s chambers to his brother. Tahar could only replay the events of the evening over and over again in his head, obsessing over every detail, envisioning with stunning vividness the way this woman’s subtly plump lips had accepted every bite of this feast he had intended for Muzara--and more. It was like nothing he had ever seen, and yet he was deeply disturbed by the whole event.

The doors to Garun’s chambers swung open, and two soldiers, wearing chain mail under surcoats emblazoned with the Lajjari coat of arms, stood to either side as Tahar entered. Tahar fell to one knee before the past and present crown prince and kissed his rings before rising again. “My Prince,” he muttered.

Garun waved a hand languidly and didn’t responded, only staring out the window into a cloudless night full of brilliant stars. He didn’t have to say anything, at least about the fundamental predicament: no one had expected Sadesh’s return, and it had thrown the world into chaos.

“My Prince,” Tahar began again, “...my King--”

At this Garun started and turned to his chef. “I do not know what to make of my beloved brother’s return,” he said, “but I do know that it is not clear who the King of Lajjar is right now.” Unique among the world’s realms, and a point of pride for the Lajjari, Lajjar’s monarchy was not hereditary but elected. Sovereignty lay with the nobles as a whole, and they chose from among their body a king to serve for life. In the event of sudden death, a king’s brother might assume the throne on an interim basis until the nobles could vote in a successor; sometimes they kept on the brother as the new king, as had happened for Sadesh. But never had a king that all assumed--all knew--to be dead returned. Did the kingship lay with Sadesh? With Garun? With someone else altogether? The nobles had agreed to meet first thing in the morning to decide formally, but given the reception that Sadesh had received from the room, Garun feared that his own days on the throne were numbered.

Rebuked, Tahar did not know quite how to proceed. “My Lord,” he ventured, and when Garun did not interrupt, he continued, “I am as overjoyed as any that your revered brother breathes yet, but...who is this woman he brought with him? I understand little about her.”

“You are not alone,” Garun responded, “but my brother assures us he will explain all tomorrow, before the assembled nobility.”

“Surely, my Lord. And I would hardly impugn the judgment of your revered brother. And yet...her arrival interrupted the Name Day Feast of your adored wife--interrupted the culmination of all that we--that you have achieved this year. My opinion is nothing before you, my Lord, and yet I fear that something has disturbed the order on which Lajjar rests. I cannot dispel this fear.”

Garun squinted slightly, as though in pain, but hesitated before he spoke. “I value your opinion, Tahar, and I am not sure my wife can forgive Sadesh this...remarkable surprise. But my first obligation is to my kingdom, not to Muzara….”

“If I may be so bold, my King, Queen Muzara is the kingdom, and you are its protector and ruler, just as you are hers. I do not know if you fear that unseen ears may overhear this conversation, and hence choose your words carefully, but truly you have nothing to fear. That your revered brother is alive is plain to see, but I mistrust this woman who returns with him. And we do not even know what has passed in your revered brother’s life over the past five years, or why he was even absent at all. This is unprecedented, and it comes at a moment when Lajjar prospers, when you reign over the greatest prosperity the realm has ever known. Just know, my Lord, that I remain your steadfast servant, as I, too, serve the kingdom first and above all else.”

“You are loyal, Tahar,” Garun smiled warmly, “and good. I do not know what we will learn from my brother tomorrow, but whatever comes I am grateful for your constant service. Get some sleep, my Chef, and let us meet again here at sunrise.”

Trembling slightly with emotion, Tahar composed himself enough to fall once again to one knee. “Of course, my K--my Lord.” He rose to his feet and stepped back into the hallway. His mind still spun as he walked. How could Garun, his King, remain so calm, when he did not even understand what had walked through his doors? And though he might not have been able to admit it to himself, Tahar feared not only for his king but for himself: when Sadesh had vanished, his own chef was among those tried and executed for his murder. Being the Chef was usually an enviable position of great power and security, but in this new world Tahar now walked around in, it also appeared to be one of great vulnerability.

He stopped at the quarters of the runners, the servants who carried messages throughout the castle, and called a small man out into the hallway. “Summon Almarka to the Kitchens,” he told the man. “We have work to do in preparation for tomorrow.” And the man was off in search of Sadesh’s Sous-chef.

* * *

Tahar was sitting on a wooden table in the Kitchens when the door opened--but it was a runner, not Almarka and not one Tahar recognized, who stepped into the room. “My Chef,” said the man, kneeling.

“Rise,” Tahar replied. “What are you doing here so late?”

“Please forgive this intrusion, my Chef,” the man replied, “but I have come to collect the food that our king who has returned requested for his chambers.”

Tahar gripped the edge of the tables. “Do you mean to suggest that work has taken place in my Kitchens without my knowledge?”

“Y-yes--no!” the man stammered, and then he froze.

Tahar’s knuckles grew white. “And what has our king requested?”

The man wordlessly unfurled a small scroll and held it out. It was totally covered in dishes: stuffed duck, loaves of bread and wedges of cheese, candied fruits, countless puddings… Tahar snatched the scroll from the cowering man and, without raising his voice, asked, “And who has overseen all this work?”

“I,” responded a lighter but slightly husky female voice, and Almarka stepped out of an adjacent room of the Kitchens, wearing just what she’d had on earlier in the day. The runner Tahar had sent for her scurried out from behind her and out of the Kitchens.

Tahar’s right eyebrow rose. “You?”

“Yes, my Chef,” replied Almarka, her eyes cast humbly at his feet. “I merely obey the wishes of my King.”

Tahar’s gaze lingered on her a moment longer and then returned to the first runner. “Very well. Collect the food and go.” No one spoke--Tahar seated on the table, Almarka hesitating in the threshold--as the kitchen staff rolled two trays of food into the elevator and disappeared. Tahar stepped over to the doors to the Kitchen and locked them one by one. He and Almarka were alone.

“It is not clear,” he said without looking at her, “just who the King is at the moment.”

She stepped up to him anxiously, her soft hand on his shoulder. “Tahar, I am as unsure as you. Please trust me. I feel as though our late King has risen from the dead,” and the necromantic implications sent a shudder through her body. “And I do not trust his companion. And yet….”

Tahar turned his head to her. “And yet?”

Almarka’s eyes thrilled. “She is remarkable, is she not? The Queen looked like a maid, like a servant beside her! And what tailors could have made that white dress? It was as large as a tent, and yet it fit her body like a glove.”

“It is unnatural,” he replied. “And insolent. How dare this woman present herself before our Queen? So she is huge--what is such bounty when it is not derived from the bounty of our kingdom?”

“Tahar, is it not jealousy that speaks in you? Unnatural,” she pshawed. “Would you not thrill to see Muzara so large?”

He flushed a little at the thought.

She pressed her advantage: “And with our queen so large, would you not dream of me as large as our Queen is now? None may exceed the size of the Queen, but a larger Queen would mean more room to grow for the rest of us?”

His eyes ran quickly up and down her body, and quickly he stepped toward her, pressing into the sprawling flesh of her belly, his left hand on the soft small of her back, his right pulling her round face to his in a passionate kiss. She moved to undo the bun atop her head, but he stayed her hand; he wanted nothing to obscure the soft rolls of her neck, which he covered in kisses. They stumbled back through several chambers of the Kitchens until they pushed into one of the rear rooms and closed the door behind them. The food Almarka had set aside earlier was spread along a table, the meats kept warm on the shelf of an oven set into the wall, its low flame lighting the room. Tahar, impressively strong for a man of his station, hoisted Almarka onto the table right beside the food and tore away the fabric that formed her top, leaving her breasts exposed and the top half of her smooth, round belly straining over the top of her pants. He picked up a palm-sized pastry and stuffed it into her mouth. The first bite was slow, her eyes closed in all-consuming pleasure, her teeth crunching into the pastry as her tongue coaxed it into her mouth. But quickly she scarfed the rest of it down in two more bites before her lips met Tahar’s again.

Even now, Tahar could not keep the returning King from his mind. As though in a vision, he saw the King in the royal quarters, standing at the foot of the bed as his strange, enormous companion almost filled it entirely, just by sitting on it, one of her incredible calves just hanging off the edge while the other leg jutted in front of her. Sadesh picked up a cheese-stuffed olive from one of the rolling trays beside him and approached the woman, popping it into her mouth. Unlike Almarka, she didn’t slow down, but her pupils widened somewhat, and Sadesh slipped in a second, and then a third, as she methodically chewed and swallowed.

Tahar’s mind returned to Almarka. As his left handled fondled her breast, which rested softly on her belly, he tore a fatty, dripping drumstick off a roast duck and held it to his lover’s mouth. She tore away the glistening skin and chunks of meat, barely chewing as she inhaled the food.

“Sadesh cannot be allowed to assume the throne again,” he breathed.

“Mmm,” moaned Almarka as she ate.

“If the Assembly restores him tomorrow, we must work to undermine him.”

Almarka grabbed a flask of rum and downed it in large glups, “What you say is treasonous,” she gasped between gulps. “It departs from all loyalty and tradition.”

He silenced her with another pastry. “Our king’s return departs from all loyalty and tradition. If he is indeed alive, he is under the sway of that woman”--he flashed back to the King’s chambers, where Sadesh pulled a string at the back of the woman’s dress, causing the whole thing to fall away, and allowing the king to massage her massive, pale belly while she downed an entire pitcher of beer--“the first foreigner to set foot in Lajjar in more than two centuries. We cannot allow her to dig her claws deeper into us.”

Almarka swallowed the pastry and crumbs flicked off her lips as she replied, “Surely you’re right, but we cannot destroy her without first learning the secrets of her size. It must be ours.”

“It must be Muzara’s,” he said, laying another strip of duck on Almarka’s tongue. “It must be the Kingdom’s. And Garun must sit on the throne uncontested once again.”

He flashed back to Sadesh once more. He imagined, he saw his returning King laying the last of the food, a hunk of cheese, between the strange, enormous woman’s lips, and she sucked it down like it was water. Almarka had barely eaten half a plate of pastries and a few hunks of meat from a duck, yet in his mind the strange, enormous woman had already consumed the two trays of food Sadesh had ordered. Tahar’s brow furrowed in lust and fury as he pulled at Almarka’s pants, already too tight and further strained by this indulgence, and her belly finally burst the band. He pulled them away as she leaned back, full and helpless, as the mountainous, strange woman leaned back slowly and majestically on Sadesh’s bed, the beams creaking, huge waves rolling through her belly as she reclined, as Tahar entered Almarka, as Sadesh bent over and parted his companion’s impossibly massive thighs and brought his lips to her sex, as Tahar thrusted urgently, as Almarka covered her mouth to stifle her screams of pleasure, as Sadesh’s massive companion twisted only a little, as only the slightest gasp escaped her lips but her chunky yet elegant fingers clutched the sheets desperately, as everyone but Sadesh Wasim Metheli Melekia III climaxed simultaneously.
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Old 12-13-2017, 12:08 PM   #6
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Default Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Faint, morning light had only just begun to fill the windows of the castle as Almarka rolled a tray of food down the corridor (several meat pies, a bowl of candied berries, a pitcher each of tea and of milk). Normally the Sous-chef never had to leave the kitchen, let alone deliver a meal herself, but these were not normal times. Sadesh has requested this breakfast for his companion, and Almarka could not pass up any opportunity to see this woman face-to-face. Certainly, she hoped to learn the secrets of the woman’s shocking obesity. But even if she had had no agenda, Almarka could not resist the stranger’s mysterious pull. She had seen none like her, had never even dreamed of someone so large. Nervousness churned her stomach, and desire stirred between her legs. This was dangerous territory, but tantalizing all the same.

Two of the red guards stood outside Sadesh’s chambers, and they stood aside and pushed the doors open as she approached and rolled in the breakfast, her generous but firm buttocks bouncing tightly as they followed her into the room. There was no mystery, no waiting: Sadesh was absent, probably making his case to the Assembly at that very moment, but his companion sat before Almarka. The woman was seated on the bed, the only surface that would hold her, the bulk of her legs and buttocks and belly spread out like the base of a mountain, rising from the sheets to the peak of her beautiful features. A white bodice enclosed her sprawling midsection, while her whole body was overlaid with a draping, gauzy fabric wrapped around her much like a robe. She sat at the edge of the bed, bending it noticeably, her thighs and belly hanging off and her meaty calves and delicate feet and ankles dangling. A mirror had been moved in front of her, and with a brush--was it her brush? Muzara’s brush?--she sat combing her long, dark hair. At the edge of hearing, Almarka detected the sound of the woman’s breath, a slight, quiet panting passing through her half-pursed lips. She seemed a bit winded, whether from moving into this position or simply from moving her massive arms to brush her hair, but she bore it with grace and composure. Without stopping, she turned her red eyes wordlessly to Almarka.

The Sous-chef felt her legs weaken, and her grip tightened around the handle of the cart to steady herself. “My…” she began, but didn’t know how to continue. “My Lady.”

“No,” responded the woman, her voice as clear and bright as the morning light. “I am Heskaya, Princess of the Riverine Kingdom of Geta.” She spoke with an accent, yet all her words were comprehensible.

“Your Highness, a thousand pardons,” Almarka replied, furrowing her belly as she bowed deeply and began to regain her composure. The red eyes were still on her as she rose. “Lajjar is humbled and honored to have you as its guest.”

The corners of Heskaya’s mouth turned up in a muted smile. “I am pleased.” No more.

Almarka hesitated, then rolled the tray up to the bed, and Heskaya wasted no time in scooping up a pie and a fork and steadily shoveling bites--not too small, not too large--into her mouth. Almarka moved to step back but, surprisingly, Heskaya stopped eating and placed a hand on Almarka’s shoulder. The Sous-chef shuddered at the touch of this hand--fat in the palms, but tapering gracefully to delicate fingertips--on her body. “Please,” said Heskaya, “stay a moment. Join me on the bed. Have you breakfasted?”

“My--Your Highness, I do not deserve this generosity. I must return to the Kitchens to supervise--” She cursed inside at her stupidity, ruining her opportunity to spend time with this stranger.

But Heskaya saved her as she cut her off: “Nonsense. Has the Sous-chef no liberty to move about the castle? You have brought me my breakfast, and your staff will make the rest as they do every day. Join me. I desire companionship, and you are the only woman in this realm who has not looked upon me with disgust or hatred.”

With envy, thought Almarka. With awe. She felt as though she lacked all will of her own as she took a seat on the bed next to Heskaya, as the foreign princess urged her to pick up a pie and eat. Heskaya, too, resumed the river of food entering her own mouth. Almarka tentatively placed a bite in her mouth, then another, then another, careful not to keep pace with her enormous companion. But Heskaya frowned.

“Clearly you are a woman of appetite,” she said through a mouthful of food--and yet somehow with perfect clarity. “Do not hold back. Already your body shows the beginnings of beauty. Feed it! Cultivate it. Let me be not an obstacle but an inspiration.” Almarka began to speed the pace of her eating, feeding herself as she would when alone. Heskaya again smiled that cautious smile. “Very good,” she said, shifting her bulk slightly toward the Sous-chef, placing her hand on Almarka’s back, then her belly. The Sous-chef blushed and stopped abruptly--no one but Tahar touched her like this--and scrunched her legs together. But the foreign princess’s fingers sunk into Almarka’s belly as she said, “Don’t stop. This is your birth rite. Eat. Give in.” And the last of Almarka’s defenses fell away as she began shoveling pie into her mouth, eating faster now, like she only ate when Tahar fed her.

Heskaya leaned back again and held the pie tin to her mouth, guzzling down the dregs, before placing it on the tray and starting in on the next one. For several minutes, the two women sat there in silence, Almarka working her way through the first pie, more slowly through a second, Heskaya plowing through a third and a fourth in the same time, sipping tea and guzzling milk between each one. Almarka couldn’t quite bring herself to finish half of the second pie--she had no more room--and Heskaya, sensing this, took it from her hands and devoured it herself. Almarka looked up at her in wonder, Heskaya red eyes returning her gaze while she steadily finished Almarka’s pie, then picked up the last.

“You dream as I do,” the foreign princess said as she ate. “All women do, whether they know it or not, but you are one of the few who know it. There is a bond between us that I will not forget.”

Almarka could barely move or talk her belly was so full, so tight, so she squirmed into a more comfortable position and asked, “Your Highness, if I may be so bold...who are you? Really? Why are you here? I am more gratified by your arrival than I thought possible, yet your presence remains a mystery.”

“All will know in time,” the foreign princess replied, “but I am pleased to make you one of the first.”

And she told her story. Beyond the mountains that protected Lajjar from the rest of the world, past their peaks and foothills, lay a marshland and a pair of entwining rivers that nourished the Riverine Kingdom of Geta. There may once have been a time, centuries ago, when the two kingdoms exchanged goods and people--the similarity of their languages suggested as much--but that time was lost to the memory of both kingdoms. And they shared more than language: in Geta as in Lajjar, female obesity was prized as a sign of wealth and status and of the flourishing the of the realm. But the similarities stopped there: in Geta, men spurned the slightest hint of adiposity, valuing fit, martial physiques, even if they never knew a day of military service. Heskaya sneered a bit at the soft bodies of the Lajjari nobility. To her, they were disconcertingly effeminate.

But she, of course, was the finest specimen of Getayin beauty their kingdom had ever known. Kept fat in her childhood, her body bloomed in adolescence, seemingly growing with every massive meal she consumed. The royal tailors were forced to make her new garments nearly every month as she swelled larger and larger. These earliest years of her adulthood were the period of her fastest growth: she went from a respectably fat child to a stunningly obese woman in a matter of two years, surpassing in size even her mother, the fattest woman in the kingdom. Her gain slowed somewhat after that, but she never stopped growing.

This ought to have been a joy to her family, but there was a problem: her growth was contagious. Every maid who attended to her, every noble lady who paid her a visit (but never any men, common or noble) seemed to catch the same bug and to eat with unprecedented abandon. Her parents could practically see these visitors ballooning in their presence, and it dismayed them to no end: it threatened to the supreme size their daughter had achieved. That she was far ahead of anyone else in size thrilled them, but the idea that those near her began to catch up with her, that even commoners began to swell as though they were high-ranking ladies, terrified them. Over the years, they began isolating their daughter from the women around her, assigning her only male servants and making excuses to those who called on her to prevent them from visiting. By her twentieth Name Day, she dwelled in almost perfect isolation, rarely leaving her chambers, visited only by her parents and by the occasional suitor they brought along--to whom, inevitably, she turned a languid, enormous cheeked and paid no attention. Her appetite began to flag, though this was of course a relative matter--she still ate more in a day than any woman in the castle, her mother included. Her gain slowed to a crawl, though it did continue to creep up, pound by pound over the months.

Her only real companions became the guards who ensured her isolation. Though they could not disobey the orders of the King and Queen, they became deeply sympathetic to Heskaya. They knew her only as a kind, generous soul and came to see her as wrongly imprisoned by her parents. She confided in them her loneliness, her dream of sharing her passion for gluttony and indulgence with any women in her presence. It was in mutual gourmandise that she experienced communion with her fellow women, that the bonds of friendship and companionship ran deepest. The guards, clad in the red armor of the kingdom, felt the princess’ pain deeply. But they did not know what they could do.

The years passed this way. Slowly but surely, she continued to grow--even isolation could not stifle the transcendence to which her gluttony elevated her. By the end of her third decade, she had grown as heavy as a small cow. And on her Thirtieth Name Day, she sat alone in her chambers, reclining on an enormous chair and biting lazily into a slice of candied peach, when she heard the guards shuffle outside and the door open. In stepped an unprecedented man: a traveler’s cloak (worn but rich), brown skin (darker than that of the Getayin), a square jaw and a face with handsome angular features, alert brown eyes with flecks of green. Sadesh, King of Lajjar.

* * *

The full Assembly of Nobles, not a soul missing, erupted again into a cacophony of shouts. “My--My King!” cried out Lord Hatha, a short man in a ridiculously large green headpiece. His voice rose above the others. “You have told us enough of the story of your consort. We understand the nature of her kingdom, the travails of her upbringing. But we do not understand why she is here today, or why you left!”

Sadesh stood before the Assembly, seventy-eight lords arrayed around him in the seats of a small amphitheater at the heart of the castle. He stood alone on a dais at the center of this circle, beside the throne normally held by the king. Garun sat in the chair he had occupied before his election, when he was merely a noble. And Tahar observed the entire proceedings from above. A secret stairway led through the inside of the walls to their top, where pillars held a great dome above the chamber, and open air flowed between the pillars and down to the amphitheater. Tahar was able to sit behind one of the pillars, peeking down and listening without anyone noticing him. He was strictly forbidden from being here, but Sadesh’s return had overturned all the ordinary rules of play. Tahar’s loyalty to his kingdom, to his king, Garun, meant that he had to violate procedure. He needed to know what Sadesh had to say.

Sadesh, now more lean and muscular than before but still with a trace of a paunch, looked back up at Lord Hatha. “Yes, you shall have my story now.

“Five years ago, my rule was at its apex. Under my direction, the kingdom had developed a potent fertilizer, and we cultivated the land like never before. But our prosperity soon grew hollow, for I was forty years old and had no wife to partake of our bounty, to recognize the heights of my achievement in the contours of her flesh. I was ashamed.

“And so I decided to leave, silently, alone. There were two paths before me. I might find a fitting wife and return triumphant, more fit than ever to lead our realm to greater heights of prosperity. And if I failed to find such a wife, I would not be missed anyway. Lajjar deserved a ruler who could manifest the success of the kingdom back to itself.

“Not even the Mountain Guard who protect our borders knew of my departure. I slipped away into the Great West and became the first Lajjari to venture beyond our kingdom in over two centuries. I wandered for four years, and it would take me years to recount to you all I have seen. I followed the mountains south and rode camels with the desert nomads. I reached the coast and followed it west, spending my nights in the strangest villages you could imagine. I sailed with pirates through the Archipelago at the End of the World. And as I finally made my way back east through the Heartland Plains, I heard a rumor of a great princess, more glorious and beautiful than any the world has ever seen, viciously imprisoned by her cruel parents, barred from flourishing as fully as she might. I followed the skein of these rumors east, back toward the mountains, until I reached the marshlands, and Geta. I presented herself to her parents as a nobleman from a distant land, showed them my signet ring as proof of my high blood.

“I spent months earning their trust. They thought me an exiled lord, respectable enough to welcome but alone in the world, without friends. They thought I sought refuge in marriage to their daughter, to assume the power of their kingdom. In Lajjar we would mistrust such a man at once, cast him out of the kingdom. But the rulers of Geta saw my apparent isolation as an asset: I was not yet entangled in the complex politics that surrounded the isolation of their daughter. I could be enfolded into their scheme, fully indebted to and reliant upon them. I could propagate their line while propagating the imprisonment, and the prestige, of their daughter.”

Sadesh smiled, shook his head. “Of course, it is the Lajjari who are wise. Geta should not have trusted me. One day I asked the King and Queen for Heskaya’s hand in marriage, and they agreed. And the very next day, she and I were on the road, accompanied only by the Red Guard who had stood beside her so faithfully, grown so fond of her. I will not tell you now how I effected our escape, but suffice it to say that the monarchy of Geta does not understand either. They do not know I have whisked her away. They do not miss me. Lajjar is under no threat of attack. And the Princess Heskaya now lives among you. When we are married, we will wed not only her to me, but the prodigious energies of her appetites to the productive power of Lajjari agriculture. And we will not be ashamed of her gregariousness, of her ability to spread her appetites to those around her. This is a gift, and we would do well to be grateful for it. Geta is a lesser kingdom than we. They did not recognize the tremendous boon that is their daughter, but we will not make the same mistake.”

Through all of this the Assembly mumbled and muttered nervously, lacking the boisterousness of just minutes ago. They did not recognize the names of the lands Sadesh had listed, could not fathom how he could have carried out the secret escape of a woman as titanic as Heskaya, did not understand what had inspired the king to undertake such extraordinary action to bolster his anxieties and shortcomings. They had only his word to go on, and that was little. They were overwhelmed, at a loss as to what to do.

“I do not believe,” said Sadesh, his voice rising, “that I require a vote to retake the throne. Election is for life. In all my years of wandering, I have never ceased to be your king, and I do not require further approval from the Assembly to resume my place in the life of the kingdom. And yet….” He looked down to his feet. “And yet, I know that my actions have brought confusion and turmoil. And so, as a gesture of generosity, I will permit you a vote, to demonstrate to me and to the kingdom that your confidence has not flagged. And I will permit my brother his say, before any vote is taken.”

Sadesh stepped off the dais and looked across the amphitheater to Garun. His brother looked diminished in his chair. He looked weary and confused, but resolved. “I must admit,” he said, rising to his feet, “that I grasp very little of what you have just related. But I know one thing: that my first loyalty is to my kingdom and my king, and, as you say, you have never ceased to be my king. And so I will step away from the throne and cast the first vote in favor of your kingship. You have my confidence, my loyalty, and my love.” And one by one, the remaining lords rose to their feet, joining Garun in a swelling chorus of affirmation. A grin spread across Sadesh’s face as each man rose, and when they had finished--a unanimous vote--he took his seat on the throne, and Garun placed a silver circlet on his head.

Tahar turned his head away. He remained crouched behind the column, but sagged against it, staring into the hills and fields beyond the city walls, a cold wind blowing against his brow.

Last edited by Benny Mon; 12-13-2017 at 12:08 PM. Reason: formatting
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Old 12-20-2017, 12:22 PM   #7
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Great story can't wait for more!
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Old 01-28-2018, 10:19 AM   #8
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Default Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Almarka’s body bounced and jiggled as she rode a Procurement Team wagon down the streets of Qala. Her body had grown in the months since Heskaya’s arrival: while Tahar had had fewer opportunities to sneak away and feed her, Heskaya continued to invite the Sous-Chef into her room for small feasts, and Almarka herself had never been a dainty eater. Before, she had been solidly fat, but now she looked slightly overblown, a notch above her previous weight. She tried to take in the sights as the wagon rolled forward: it was fall, and the trees were turning as the air grew chillier. But with every bump in the road she lost focus and her body jiggled in several directions at once. She grabbed a nearby rail to steady herself but could not control the multifarious undulation of her fat.

She wouldn’t have made a trip like this on her own, but she had promised to be Tahar’s eyes and ears in the arteries and capillaries of the city. A strange job for the Sous-Chef, to venture into the city on routine procurement runs, but these were strange times. Sadesh once again sat on the throne of Lajjar, and Heskaya of the Riverine Kingdom of Geta was his Queen. Almarka’s Queen.

Almarka’s world had been upended. When news of Sadesh’s reinstatement had spread, the city had erupted in joy--reportedly even the countryside thrilled to the news--but the castle Kitchens became unnervingly quiet. Tahar had sunk into a malaise, and Almarka herself worried whether she would keep her job--she had only secured a position in the kitchens upon Garun’s ascension to the throne. Somehow, she did, even as the rest of the senior staff, including Tahar, were replaced with old Sadesh loyalists. Perhaps Heskaya had lobbied to keeper her on. Tahar now worked for Garun as Head Chef, managing his meals in the castle and in his city residence, while his replacement as Head Chef turned out to be one of the Queen’s Red Guard, a man named Hatsukh. Hatsukh was implausibly talented in this position, every bit as good as Tahar had been, which he attributed to his time working as a baker before joining the royal guard in Geta. But Heskaya let Almarka know that, while this was true, Hatsukh had also developed a friendship with the Getayin royal kitchen staff over the decade of her imprisonment, learning her tastes, communicating them to the kitchens, gradually picking up skills of his own and using them to bring her midnight snacks. This was an unusual man, a paragon of the entire Guard’s devotion to Heskaya.

And then there was the wedding. Almarka had never seen something so opulent, not even Muzara’s Name Day Feast. Heskaya wore a white dress - sprawling, and yet somehow elegant, as always - that fell in straight lines from the widest points of her massive belly, with elaborate lace sleeves covering the vast tracts of her arms. Following Lajjari tradition, Sadesh, in full, red regalia, crowned the ceremony by feeding her a fermented red cherry, sweet and intoxicating, before a crowd of nobles, their families, and most renowned notables of the castle and the surrounding city. And then the city feasted for three days. Not just the castle - the entire city. It was customary for the nobility to join the newly weds in a daylong feast after a wedding, but Sadesh expanded the affair, inviting the notables for the first time, extending the feast to three days, and in fact feeding the entire city. He hired scores of new chefs, hundreds of new staff, and sent countless meals out into the city for commoners. No one went hungry. Long-time city-dwellers feasted on bread and roast meats; the city’s merchant class laid out opulent tables for their families; the noblewomen assembled in the castle slogged through course after course; and Heskaya, sitting at the center of it all, only stopped eating when she slept - which she did but rarely over those three days, and not at all the first night. Sadesh ate little more than a normal man would and mostly kept to drink. His noble peers, however, ate with abandon.

Almarka was jolted from her reverie as her belly flew into the air at a bump in the road. She remembered little of the feast anyway: she spent the majority of it drunk as a fish and stuffed with bread and cheese, due in no small part to Tahar, who hadn’t yet had to cede his place. Almarka placed her hands on her belly to steady it. In many ways, the festivities had been a sign of things to come.

Finally, the wagon pulled up to the back of a building, nondescript. Almarka lowered herself carefully to the street while the procurement team leapt into action, carrying sacks, baskets, and barrels of food into the building. She waddled in behind them.

Inside was a kitchen, one of hundreds of new sites throughout the city, that felt as busy as the Royal Kitchens on a feast day. The procurement team bustled about, dropping off the new supplies, while chefs and sous-chefs directed the work of the rest of the kitchen staff. Almarka recognized them well by now: these were just a few of the chefs Sadesh had hired for his wedding day. He’d kept them all on permanently. But they weren’t enough to staff kitchens outside the castle by themselves, and so Sadesh had turned to a more radical solution: the eastern nomads. For as long as anyone could remember, Lajjar had maintained a defensive policy toward the nomads who roamed the plains east of the Lajjari plateau, protecting the kingdom’s border and defending against raids. The new policy was more aggressive: the army began taking in raiders as prisoners of war, enslaving them and forcing them to work as servers and low-level cooks in the kitchens of the castle and the city. The King had also increased military recruitment, all but conscripting common men into the army. It was a departure from the previous balance of power, a risky foray into a new world, all to support these kitchens.

Almarka walked through the kitchen, edging awkwardly through small passages past nomads hard at work, and then stepped through a set of swinging double doors into the dining hall, the reason for this entire project. The ceilings were low and the room long and wide, filled with dozens of women--not noblewomen or even the wives of generals, but common women, the wives and daughters of laborers and craftsmen and clerks. Many were still skinny, a large minority were visibly plump, and a handful were genuinely fat, but all were stuffing their faces as though they hadn’t eaten in weeks. It was like nothing Lajjar had ever seen. It was a revolution.

Sadesh and Heskaya had announced the new policy at the end of their long wedding celebration. The time had come, said the returning king, to bring his old work to fulfillment. He had guided the kingdom to discovering the fertilizer that made them so prosperous, but they had not known what to do with their newfound prosperity. There was too much food even for the nobility to consume, and the outlying estates needed fewer and fewer laborers to produce it, sending a steady stream of landless, unoccupied peasants into the city. At the same time, Heskaya now graced the realm as its Queen, and her generosity, her need to share plenty and gluttony with those around her, was truly boundless. She inspired the king to share the ever-growing produce of the kingdom not just with the nobility but with every family, no matter how lowly. Hence, the public kitchens: a means to spread the wealth. They would assuage the social unrest that the influx of peasants had caused and maintain the power of the nobility and the King, who sat atop this system of benevolence, directing it and taking credit for it. Sadesh declared it a fulfillment of Lajjar’s glory, not a departure from the old ways of doing this but their perfection.

Of course, it was a departure in some ways, too. Heskaya’s vision of communal gluttony trailed after it the gender norms of her old kingdom, where obesity was exclusively feminine and men sought trim and martial physiques. On the one hand, common men, already skinny, embraced this new fashion wholeheartedly, walking the streets with a new pep in their step. The drafting of more and more men into the military to fight on the frontier only reinforced the trend, and the common man’s investment in it. The nobility, on the other hand, were slower to get in line, slower to lose weight and adopt the physique of the king. At first, this made those who resisted the king’s new program easy to identify, and Sadesh marginalized them by assigning them responsibilities in the distant countryside. The rest quickly realized that corpulence was too visible a marker of resistance and chose to slim down, too. And that made things murkier: those who feared the new systems, who saw the public kitchens and the rising obesity rates as an encroachment on their sacred privileges, became harder to identify. But their resentment continued to bubble beneath the surface.

Almarka just stood there and surveyed the room, unnoticed by diner and nomad alike. Her eyes lingered over a middle-aged woman who shoveled soup into her mouth and then sat back in relief; then a girl on the verge of adulthood, plumper than even just a week ago, knawing away at a leg of lamb; then the wives of two clerks from a nearby warehouse, distractedly nursing cups of beer while their hands unconsciously settled on their small, newfound bellies. The thought crossed Almarka’s mind--not for the first time--that even if she had lost her job in the castle, she would still be able to grow fatter by eating here. But she would lose Tahar that way, too. He would never speak to her again if he thought she endorsed this new project. And it wasn’t like she needed it, either - the new queen continued to invite Almarka to dine with her in her private quarters. Sometimes they talked about their childhoods, sometimes about the differences between Lajjar and Geta. And they both continued to grow. Almarka had already had new clothes made in the months since Heskaya arrived, and she suspected she would need a fresh set before long. Of course, Tahar wouldn’t exactly approve of this growing bond, either, but she saw him now so rarely there was little time to discuss it. The man would only be satisfied by a return to the status quo ante. In his eyes, the new queen was evil, the public kitchens an abomination.

Still, she thought, plucking a wedge of cheese from a tray just being carried into the room, no harm in snacking as long as she was here.

* * *

Halfway across the city, back in the central district, Tahar walked the halls of Garun’s private residence. Garun had shared it once with Sadesh, years along, long before he was king. Each brother had had a separate country estate, but they stayed together in the Melekia urban residence, one of the largest in the city. Tahar had been with Garun even then, just a mid-level chef but one quickly earning the trust of this future king. But Garun and Tahar had lived in the castle for years, and returning to the Melekia house felt wrong, like brushing hair against the grain. The house felt large and empty.

Tahar was now Garun’s Head Chef, and from time to time he prowled the halls of the house, making sure his staff adhered diligently to their responsibilities. He passed now by Muzara’s chamber, the door half open. She was sobbing--she had sobbed every day since the end of Sadesh’s wedding. Tahar could hear the voices of several of the serving staff in there with her, comforting her and offering her various sweet delicacies. Tahar had insisted that the kitchen turn out meals just as glorious as those Muzara had eaten in the castle, and he truly outdid himself: Heskaya would be jealous of Muzara’s diet if she knew what was being served in the Melekia house. And Muzara accepted these offerings with gusto, eating her feelings, growing even larger. Tahar could see just a fraction of her huge body through the half-open door; her neck and shoulders were now so fat they looked like they would strangle her. But her throat still allowed constant sobs to leave her lungs, and copious quantities of cakes and creams to pass into her belly. Two endless streams.

Tahar moved forward, rounding corners and peeking in rooms until he reached Garun’s study. He knocked on the door, again half open, and Garun waved at him to enter. It pained Tahar to see the former king these days: the man had fully embraced the new fashion, restricting his diet and engaging in military training exercises that left him looking thin, haggard even, though not much more muscular. He sat at his desk, an ink pen in one hand, a blank page before him.

“How are you, my Lord?” Tahar asked. The new style still pained him every time he addressed Garun.

Garun placed the pen back in its well and turned his chair around. “Fine,” he sighed. “Preparing a response to Lord Hatha. Tahar, will you close the door?”

“Of course, my Lord.”

Garun leaned forward and lowered his voice. “Still Hatha is not content. I have assured him that there is no political activity in the kitchens, no challenge to our rule. Your eyes and ears in the city have told you as much, no?”

Tahar nodded.

“But he does not believe me. He still thinks these kitchens are a first step toward the chaos of democracy, that the people will not stop at eating this food but only be satisfied when they can command it.” He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. “I do not agree. I trust my brother. I trust your eyes and ears. It almost pains me to say it, but Lajjar has never been more glorious. I only wish it could have come at my hands…”

“My Lord, if I may, you should trust yourself more than you do now. The glory of the kingdom has indeed come at your hands! You took the great discoveries of your brother and brought them to fruition. The nobility, the Lady Muzara - they had never seen greater heights. You are right to trust your brother the King, but I do not trust the foreigner Queen. She has brought us a dangerous experiment that is still young. We cannot yet know its effects.”

“Tahar, you have always been loyal to me, but I am no longer the King. My brother is our rightful ruler, and your ultimate loyalty must be to Lajjar. Not to me.”

Tahar remained silent, biting his lip, almost as plump as he had been during his time in the castle. Garun said things like this more and more, even as he seemed to waste away. Tahar didn’t know what to do. He said as much as his station allowed, and he would not speak out of turn. But Garun seemed to be losing his resolve and his independence. It was as though Heskaya was feeding on him, body and soul, and he slowly faded to nothing as she grew larger and more solid.

“You are in a difficult position, my Lord,” said Tahar. “Lord Hatha and his allies remain displeased with Sadesh’s rule, and they see you as the rightful king. They want you to lead. They will not change their minds. But King Sadesh thinks you his closest ally, sees your loyalty, your willingness to sacrifice everything you had as the clearest validation of his return to the throne. You are wise, and kind, to try to reconcile these factions, but it is clear now that this cannot last; you cannot continue in both roles at once. Sooner or later, someone will be disappointed.”

Garun looked Tahar in the eye, earnest, disarmed. “You are right, of course, my dear Chef. You do always see these things clearly. I must make a choice.”

“Think carefully on it, My Lord.”

* * *

Time passed. Fall wore on, and the leaves turned from red and gold to brown, and they fell. The winds grew colder. The first snows couldn’t be far off. Almarka continued to visit the public kitchens, usually the same kitchen, but she couldn’t quite say why. Tahar asked for reports less and less, as there was little to report anyway. But still she went. She watched the middle-aged woman continue to drink down bowls and bowls of soup, her aging almost reversed as her wrinkles and loosened skin were plumped with newfound fat. She watched the girl become a woman, her limbs and cheeks growing rounder and rounder as a growing crowd of young men charmed and courted her. She watched the two clerkwives spend more and more of their days at the kitchen, their bellies and bosoms growing with every visit till they filled their laps and pushed them ever farther from the edge of the table, forcing them to lean forward as they delivered heaping bites of food to their mouths. But most of all, Almarka grew. On top of her visits with the queen, she began taking meals during her kitchen visits, ostensibly to test the quality of the food. She sat in the kitchen itself, steadily munching on breads and butter and roasts, watching the chefs and cooks and servers mill about tirelessly, filling her ballooning belly and the bellies of the women of the city.
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Old 02-07-2018, 08:50 PM   #9
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Default Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Far from the city of Qala, over a week’s ride to the east, the sun was rising on Lajjar’s eastern border, where mountains approaching from North and South both gave way to low, rolling hills that separated Lajjar’s fertile soils from the steppe beyond. It was a cold, distant sun, all light and no heat, that shone on the nomads gathering in the hills, reflecting off their dark, ruddy skin. They were two hundred men and women, all on horseback, some of the best warriors of the Acchan nation. Not many months before, there was little Acchan nation to speak of - the nomads all shared a language but lived in small units of extended family, no more than twenty at a time, capable of supporting themselves independently through hunting and raiding. But Lajjar’s aggressive new slave raids had forced the families to band together in a larger coalition - against the might and aggression of the great kingdom to the west, they only stood a chance when they stood together.

Rulu gripped her reins restlessly. Her broad hips and meaty thighs spread a little when she sat in the saddle, but she was lean, muscular. She had known little leisure in her life, a promising hunter in her youth and now a budding warrior. She was twenty years old but had only been fighting the Lajjari for six months - the slave raids had started mere weeks after she began training for her new role. But she was a natural, and everyone who rode with her, who looked at her now with her black hair pulled into a bun and her body covered in close-fitting leather armor, was that much happier to be riding with her. They had that much better chance of survival.

On the horse to her right, her buddy Dosum rubbed his hands in the chill morning air and looked over at her playfully. “I’ve heard their new Queen needs a hundred hands feeding her all day, every day. And that’s why they’re taking us.”

She glared at him. “This isn’t a joke. At this rate every Acchan will be enslaved in three years. If we don’t stop them now, we’re done.”

Dosum looked down, the hint of a smile still on his lips, and brushed off his palms like they were dirty, though they weren’t. “I know. People really do say that, you know. Or that she eats them. Or that they’re going to take our land and need to clear us out first.”

“They can’t grow anything out here,” scoffed Rulu.

“I know. I have no idea what they’re doing with us. I’m just trying to keep laughing a little bit, you know?”

She did know, but she hadn’t brought herself to laugh for a long time. “I don’t know if we can learn our lessons fast enough,” she said. “The new queen terrifies me. I think she’s changed things for good. I don’t know if we can go back to the way things were.” And while she’d never say it to her brothers and sisters, she wasn’t sure she wanted to. Rulu may have been one of the most promising hunters the Acchan had seen in a generation, but her life had been hard, full of work and action. Her spirit was empty. She was mastering the Acchan way of life, and still she found it wasn’t worth it.

Dosum looked back, no longer smiling. “What choice do we have?”

Their conversation was abruptly cut off when Jalpum, who led the entirety of the two hundred assembled warriors, cried out “Here they come!” And sure enough they saw the approaching Lajjari contingent, dozens of horsemen in plate armor riding steadily toward them. The Acchan warriors couldn’t make out their faces but saw a fog trailing above their heads, their breath visible in the cold morning air. Normally the Lajjari would press through the hills into the steppe beyond, terrorizing the first Acchan encampment they found and rounding up as slaves those they didn’t kill. But today, for the first time, they would find a band of Acchan in the hills, a larger contingent than they had ever encountered. The nomads formed into ranks and files and waited for the inevitable clash.

It didn’t last long. The Acchan outnumbered the Lajjari three to one, and without metal armor they were half again as fast. Archers in the rear disposed of a handful of Lajjari while they were still at a distance, and then the rest rode into the fray with swords drawn and long spears hefted. Rulu hacked with her sword, laying out one man and then another, more nimble and more experienced than her foes and less seized by fear. She could see the fear in their eyes as they toppled from their mounts, but she never lingered: she would double back to fell her next victim. Minutes later the Acchan looked over a secure victory: the ground was littered with Lajjari corpses, but there were at most a dozen serious injuries among the Acchan, nothing a sling and some rest wouldn’t heal. Several warriors tended to their wounded brothers and sisters while others rounded up the enemy horses who hadn’t fled. Most just cheered and cried, the blood still rushing in their veins.

“Jalpum!” Rulu cried out to her leader, riding up to him. “It doesn’t have to stop here. Those soldiers came from somewhere - a fort, a village. We can ride on and do some real damage to the kingdom, take some prisoners of our own!”

Jalpum shook his head, his short black hair bristling in the wind. “It’s too risky. We don’t know how many soldiers they have out there, and we have injured men and women to tend to.”

“Hardly any! And a few of us can stay behind to tend them. But when will we have a better opportunity? They’ll never expect us less than they do now. There are hundreds of us. We can do this.”

He looked at her, saw the intensity in her eyes, and nodded quickly. “Ok. We’ll try. But we fall back the moment we’re at risk.”

Jalpum called out to his men and women, rallied them for another push. Rulu turned her mount in a circle and then pushed on with the rest. They rode past the hills and onto the Amman Plateau, their horses hooves’ kicking up the fertile black dirt. Before long fields came into view, fenced off rows where beets grew in warmer weather, and they hurdled the fences and pressed on, streaming in parallel rows through the ploughed fields.

And then a village came into view. It wasn’t much, no larger than one of the beet fields itself, but it was the first time Rulu had ever seen a Lajjari settlement of any kind. A handful of permanent wooden structures sat at the center, surrounded by thatched huts on all sides where, she assumed, the peasants lived. There was a military encampment in a larger square where the resident army company kept its horses and other large equipment, including a pen that held a dozen captured Acchan, with only a dirty rag around each of their waists. And there was a small wooden building just beyond, larger and sturdier than the huts, though it looked like it had just been built.

All this Rulu took in in an instant as they rode into the village and sent it into a panic. There weren’t many soldiers left behind, twenty at the most, and it only took the deaths of two at the tips of Acchan arrows to send the rest scrambling onto horses and fleeing the village. About a third of the Acchan warriors chased after them while a few liberated their imprisoned brothers and sisters, and the rest set to taking apart the village. Peasants scrambled in all directions, wailing like they were mad, as the nomads hacked apart their huts, pillaged their granary, and probed at their black, powdery stores of fertilizer. Rulu wondered where they would go as they poured out into the surrounding fields. She knew they would have no village to return to when the Acchan were done. What she did know was that the Acchan would not kill them. They would not do to Lajjari innocents what the kingdom had done to them.

The front door of the newer wooden building burst open and a man of a very different sort burst out: chubby, middle-aged, and bearded, clad in flowing green robes. His expression turned from anger to fear as he grasped the source of the commotion, and he ran back inside, slamming the door behind him.

Rulu couldn’t resist. She leapt from her horse and broke down the door, only to see a remarkable sight. The chubby man was desperately rooting through a small, beautiful armoire, and the whole building - just one room - was full of such beautiful furniture: a writing desk, a table, a bed. It was a simple room, clearly thrown together for this man’s benefit not long ago, and the furniture had probably been made elsewhere and transported to this remote destination. But the truly remarkable thing was the third person in the room, the most incomprehensibly fat woman Rulu had ever seen. In fact, Rulu had never seen a single fat person, and now she was treated to what she imagined had to be one of the fattest ones in all of Lajjar. She sat on the bed, which sagged visible under her weight, and wearing a white garment that was probably supposed to be a dress but seemed little more than a shift on her enormous body. Her thighs were like barrels and jutted away from her at awkward angles, leaving tiny feet to wiggle at the end of massive calves. Her thighs also forced up her belly and breasts, a little smaller but no less impressive, and her huge, fleshy arms were rippling wildly as she flapped her arms in panic and screamed endlessly.

The man started at Rulu’s arrival, stumbling back and accidentally toppling the draw he’d opened to the floor. Each person just looked at the other two, unsure of what to do.

“I can’t believe you brought me out here!” screamed the woman as she finally found language again. Rulu tensed, ready for action, but hesitated. She didn’t speak Lajjari and had no idea what the woman was saying.

You’re the one who wanted to come!” yelled the man. “‘To see life on the frontier!’”

“It’s all Sadesh’s fault anyway,” she grumbled. “If he hadn’t sent you to supervise this shithole district we wouldn’t have been--”

“Shut up!” yelled Rulu, losing her patience, and at the sudden noise the man and woman fell silent. And then Rulu saw it: out of the drawer had fallen a short curved blade, and it lay on the ground between her and the man. “So that’s what he was looking for,” she muttered. In a split second he lunged forward toward the blade while Rulu sprung toward him and began to draw her sword. Time slowed down, and she thought she was going to beat him, angling to the right and extending her blade just ahead of his reach toward the ground for his own.

And then a tremendous explosion rocked the building, light and heat pouring in through the windows and ripping through a wall, shattering glass and sending everyone flying toward the opposite wall. For a moment Rulu’s head was spinning, but when she collected herself she realized the man’s body was directly on top of her, run through with her sword, lifeless. She heaved him off her and looked over at the woman on the floor beside the bed: her light brown skin red from the heat ,and scrapes here and there from flying glass, but otherwise intact.

“You’re lucky,” said Rulu. “All that fat probably saved you. Any less and that glass would have cut through your vital organs.” The woman didn’t even acknowledge her, even more confused and terrified than before.

“But you need to get out,” Rulu said. The woman didn’t budge. “GO!” This she understood: she pulled herself to her feet and waddled out the door with as much haste as she could muster. Rulu watched her go, heaving her bulk barefoot through the village square, massive ass cheeks and thighs rumbling as she advanced stiffly and slowly. The last few straggling villagers coalesced around her and tried to help her along as they too fled. Rulu hated this woman, but it wasn’t because of her riches or her corpulence. Rulu hated her because she knew she didn’t deserve the life she had. Fatness nourished by slavery and conquest wasn’t fatness worth having. But the woman also planted a seed in Rulu’s mind: another life was possible. Life didn’t have to be an unrelenting series of hunts and raids and skirmishes. It could be full of fine and beautiful things, of leisure and softness and indulgence. Rulu resolved then and there never to stop fighting Lajjar until she could take their ill-gotten wealth and make it her own. She realized for the first time something she had known all along: that this Lajjari woman and all her noble peers were living the life that Rulu was meant to live.

She turned back again to the center of the village, toward the source of the explosion, and saw scorched earth where one of the wooden buildings used to be. Dosum was approaching it cautiously on his horse, which lowered its head to smell what looked like incinerated rags.

“What happened?” she yelled to him, and she ran over to check it out herself.

“I...I don’t know,” he said. “This was the place where they kept their fertilizer. One of the villagers just ran up to it with an oil lamp and tossed it in, and then there was that huge fire. Not much left of him now”--he gestured at the blackened rags--“and our men and women were far enough away that they old suffered some minor burns. But...Rulu, I think we just learned something really important. This fertilizer is a weapon.”

Rulu’s eyes went wide. “Do you think they know?”

Jalpum rode up and inserted himself into the conversation. “I’m not sure. But we know. You were right to bring us here, Rulu. We still need to figure out how to safely make use of it, but we’ve just gained a new weapon.”

Rulu looked back at the charred ground and tightened her fists. She knew they could win this war. “I guess we need to find some more fertilizer.”
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