A Kitchen-Wench by JimBob (~BBW, D&D-Type Fantasy, ~XWG )

Discussion in 'Fantasy/Science Fiction Archive' started by JimBob, Sep 7, 2013.

  1. Sep 7, 2013 #1

    JimBob

    JimBob

    JimBob

    Wondering Where You Are

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    ~BBW, D&D-Type Fantasy, ~XWG - In a world of sorcerors and swordsmen, what is the ultimate treasure and the perfect weapon? And what's to be done with her?

    A Kitchen-Wench
    by Jimbob


    Chapter I: The Gift of the Mists

    Hear that I am Valtag, swordsman and great leader of the Clan Aidgar. Know that when you hear this tale, I will be dead, though I am feared long dead. I have carved out my name in the broken skulls of men and the battered walls of fortresses, but only a parchment and the songs of the bold bards shall be my epitaph.

    Know ye first in this story - and in the hearing of it - that mighty Valdag was not made thus mighty by birth, nor through the spilling of blood, the despoiling of villages, the claiming of titles. I was born not of the warrior caste, but the serving caste of the Aidgar. In my youth I was Ask, son of Angul, of the little village of Lizard's Tail, and he and my mother ran the inn called The Shepherd's Delight.

    I was born as all of my caste are, as my father and mother were born and theirs before them: weedy and weak. The two peoples of our tribe were then as chalk and cheese, different in every particular. The warriors were born, man and woman, to fight and to excel at all they did. Theirs were the mighty bodies of gods and the mighty feats of demi-gods. The farmers and villagers were born, man and woman, to do as best they could. They provided land; we farmed it. They hunted animals; we cooked them. They went on quests; we sheltered them in our inns.

    None of the two castes of the Clan ever intermixed, not through law; we simply had no thought of doing so. No mighty axe-thrower wanted a weedy milksop in his household, nor did any brave bow-woman desire a little weakling in-between her sheets. We were happy, in our simple way. Happy.

    Ask, I was, Ask the table-scrap boy. From the time I could walk I filled the mugs, spread fresh reeds and rushes on the floor, cleaned the stables, and did utmost of other tasks. Mine was a hard life, and I learned from early on that to grumble about my tasks would earn me a sharp slap on the back of the head, but there were two simple pleasures. The one was to play on my simple Fife, on nights when Aidgar folk brawny and skinny alike were given to hearty, alcohol-drenched singing; the other I shall speak of at another time.

    Ask, I was, who never dreamed of holding a sword not made of wood. Ask, whose father was an innkeeper, and his father a farmer, and his father a boat-maker, and so on. Ask, who would grow to be a balding weakling and take a weakling wife and seed weaklings to the weakling line, ad aeternum, and such a sickening truth it was that I did not even lament it, for what else did I know?

    Until the day the wizard came to stay.

    A misty day it was, and in my elder days I do reflect on that. A misty day seems true for what followed - for mist is not to be found in Lizard's Tail, that day even to this. The mist cares not for what's in a fellow's purse or hung around his belt; good or evil can come out of it. Good or Evil, as came out of it that day.

    I had arisen early to begin my chores, and held up the pitch-fork to muck out the stables in the early hours of the morning. I was eighteen at the time, and a smart lad for my age, but even for all my wits I could not for the life of me see the hand in front of my face when I stepped out of the inn that morning, let alone the stables.

    And as I blundered about, through the grey uncertainty I perceived a figure of darker grey, tall and pointed, and making a peculiar rumbling sound. Fearing it some Jas-Ogre - as such creatures were known to swoop down from the mountains around Spring - I turned my pitch-fork out and cried aloud "Halt! Who steps in the fog this morning?"

    "Only a stranger come to seek lodgings." The voice was like a river; calm and flowing, with who-knows-what hidden beneath the surface. I waggled my pitch-fork.

    "Show yourself then!" I cried, "And be recognised!"

    The figure held up a hand, and the mists parted around it. It was human, alright; and the human figure that stepped out amazed me so that I risked dropping my pitch-fork on my foot. It was indeed a wizard, a true sorcerer. He wore the simple browny-yellow ascetic robes of one of the orders, emblazoned with inky black runes I could not discern.

    Around the edge of his pointy, wide-brimmed hat were tied umpteen little insects on strings, that jangled and seemed to emanate the very mists from out their mouths. Around his waist was tied a belt that similarly held umpteen herbs and potions.

    I caught a glimpse at his face. He looked to be in his early 50s, though I knew he could be up to thrice that age. His pleasantly ginger beard was stretched only around his chin and jawline, unusual for a wizard, as was his shaven heard. His face was wrinkled and solid as a rock, and he seemed surprisingly spry and jolly.

    Amazed and thrilled as I was, I kept my distance. I could see he was leading a horse, which led a covered cart probably filled with trinkets and gee jaws that could cause all sorts of mischief.

    "Give me your name," I said. "A wizard's name is as good a guarantee of his purse as any."

    "Wise lad," he chuckled, "Perceptive, too. Very well."

    He bowed low, removing his amusing hat to reveal his bald, freckled pate. "May the humble practicer of charms known only by the name Madrigern welcome himself to The Shepherd's Delight? Have you a little hole in the ground in which I may place my bones, and a dry ditch for me to park my horse and cart?"

    I did not answer at first, too spellbound to speak - and here let there be a little lesson, that a wizard's name might also be a charm in itself. Madrigern of the Mists, the keeper of the grey lore and tamer of Ogre-Mothers!

    Madrigern the mage, here at the second-best inn of the miserable cow's arsehole that called itself Lizard's Tail!

    With his chuckles chasing after me, I went to fetch my mother, my father having departed to buy fresh supplies at market. She wasted no time; while I housed his horse and cart in the stable-yard, she put together our finest bread and cheese, and a pint of frothy beer with a roasted turnip floating in it.

    "As he likes it," she explained.

    "How do you - " I was about to ask, but she hushed me as the mage sat at table, putting down his hat and taking a healthy bite of bread and cheese.

    "It has been a long time," he said to my mother, who blushed a little - spots of red blooming on her pale skin - "a long time indeed, Tishtig."

    She smiled, and to my surprised horror, leaned in for a hug, which he grandly returned. "You always spoke the truth, Madrigern. It's good to see you after so long. Should I be surprised you haven't aged a day?"

    "Not in the least," he said. "You have not introduced me to your son, though he knows my name."

    "I'm Ask, son of Angul," I retorted, hotly, "And capable of answering for myself."

    "Oh ho ho!" he replied. He had an odd habit of never failing to find something funny. "Such ferocity! I would not expect this from the son of Angul, weak inn-keeper in the lower castes. But from the son of Tishtig the pick-pocket, the bandit of the Haldarn Coast…"

    He patted my mother's head a tad patronisingly.

    I gaped, unable to speak. My mother was a quiet woman who spent her free hours embroidering tapestries and caring for the babes of the harvest-picking women. Her?

    "Her?" I said. "A thief?"

    She sighed.

    "It is true, young Ask," she began, "I will not burden you with the story of my falling-out with your deceased grand-parents. But I was driven from them, and could only find my way through dishonest means."

    She crossed her arms, ran a hand through her grey hair, and smiled. "And the charity of an old fox who knows no laws."

    He chuckled, a low belly-laugh that he drowned in a glug of turnip-sweetened ale.

    "A wizard cannot live on magic alone," he said, smiling through his seriousness. "He must sometimes supplement his income by turning to foolish rat-girls."

    They laughed, and I wiped at the tables awkwardly. Here was a world I knew I could never enter, and could only observe from the sidelines. For the first time, I felt - jealous? Deprived, perhaps? It has been so long since then, and I am so immersed in that world now that to recall my life before is to recall a dream.

    And, as in a dream, the strange and wonderful happened not long after.

    That night, the wizard caroused with our regulars - tired farmers and brutish warrior-folk alike, some of whom knew him well from old campaigns. In his deep booming voice, he sang old songs of the long land, accompanied by a stringed instrument of his own invention and the soft melody of my fife.

    My playing was interrupted seldom, except for when I was summoned to lay down fresh rushes and when my wandering eye was drawn to the fair warrior-womenfolk with their supple arms and their chain mail armour shimmying in the firelight. Even then, even so steeped in my caste as I was, my tastes in women were still…but I wander from my story.

    Towards the end of the night, Madrigern plucked my mother's sleeve and beckoned her and myself to the stable.

    "So," my mother said, the unfamiliar irony returning to her voice. "I suppose now you'll tell me why you're really here? That cart has enough supplies to keep you house comfortably in any forest."

    "You guess well, daughter of Kaleimeth the Unavenged," he muttered, smirking. "I have come because I have something that needs safekeeping, something that came into my possession recently."

    From out of his spacious cart he drew a large square cage with a heavy canvas over it.

    Laying his hand on the canvas, he explained, "It is a thing of contradictions - a present, and a burden. A treasure, and a grievous weapon. A blessing and a curse. That which builds empires and ruins kings, plants forests and topples towers. Behold!"

    He pulled away the cloth, revealing -

    A girl.

    She was huddled in the far wall of her wooden cage, clutching her arms around her legs and burying her face in her knees. A cascade of long hair stretched from her like a waterfall, dark blue and straighter than an arrow's path, and much unlike that of our Aidgar women. Her face was round as the moon, what I could see of it, not thin and angular like the girls I was used to. Her skin was pale as the moon too - paler; she was pure white, as driven snow, with dark blue blooms on the skin around her kneecaps, her cheeks, her elbows, the tips of her toes and other places. She was dressed in grey rags that seemed to have burned.

    I had never seen a lovelier creature, and almost said so. She seemed to bring the room into focus the way a stream will make small fish seem closer and bigger. I could swear the colours and shapes around her were more vivid the longer I looked. And as I looked, I noticed something else about her. Like a finely-made pillow, or a fresh pat of butter, or a baby…she was not wiry or muscular as every other woman I had ever met had been. She was…was…soft.

    I had seen pictures of the fattened rich, do not mistake me. I had seen artist's scrolls depicting the Lairds and Monks and Merchants and their wives, all round bosoms and puffy cheeks and double chins. But this was a subtle softness, a mild softness around her thighs, her bottom, her adorable face and the little roll around her middle. At eighteen, I found myself…wanting her. I was in love from the very first sight.

    "I have heard of things like this," said my mother, and her fear-dredged tone broke my reverie. "They bring doom to mortal beings."

    "A common misconception," replied Madrigern confidently. "This, my dear Tishtig, is as you suspect - a Vesh-Taen, a babe forged in the stars. She fell to Earth with her sisters this past winter, and though I saved her they were taken from me by Death."

    He shook his head.

    "Much as I have avoided him myself, I hate to see so many fall into his clutches, in their slow march. The grey hairs, the wrinkles…" he inspected my mother intently.

    "That thing is a weapon," my mother began. "A treacherous shapeshifter that will bring us - "

    "That GIRL is entirely INNOCENT," he interrupted with a roar, and for the first and only time I heard him speak with utmost seriousness. "She knows nothing of her kin being used, as torturers, lighthouse-keepers, harvest-burners and the scourge of armies. She is a lost young girl of eighteen years, with no knowledge of the common tongue. She is my present to you. And look! I have brought gift-wrapping!"

    He snapped his fingers, and mists poured out of the bugs in his hat. The girl did not move as the mists swirled about her, but her rags coagulated into a simple cloth dress that covered all of her plump body, to my relief - I was unsure of the strange feelings it had brought about in me. Her skin took on the bloom of the Aidgar, a rusty red-brown tinged with dark freckles; her hair became a curly bun, sensibly tied behind her head. Only her face and figure stayed the same, and for this I was thankful.

    "What am I supposed to do with her?" said my mother. "She will bring ruin unto our house, no matter what she knows. A kitten may be raised by mice, but it finds its claws sooner or later. And sooner or later, this little creature will learn to change into a lion, or worse!"

    "Not at all," he smiled sardonically. "She can barely change now. A shapeshifter is only as powerful as their mass - if she knew how, she could only become, say, a baby deer. Or a particularly lithe foal."

    He patted my mother's shoulder reassuringly. "She is harmless, for now, and I am giving you to her because I know you always wanted a daughter. Tell everyone she is the mute daughter of your mad cousin in the Port Towns. That's what I shall be telling them anyway."

    He held out a little purse. "This is my legacy for her; it will take care of my debt to you for looking after her. I have placed a charm on it, that there will always be inside three more coins than she could need when her hand is inside it. For others, it is always empty. One day I shall come for her, to take her from this place…or leave her to it."

    "What is her name?" asked my mother, looking cautiously as he opened the cage and drew the girl out. I noticed her eyes were bright, even in her masked state, but they held a fold at the corners, a strange and beautifying feature I had never before seen in a woman. All a mystery, she was!

    "Her name is Nell," he said, "And she will do fine as a lowly kitchen-wench. Won't we, Nell?"

    He chucked her under the chin, and she nodded sadly. He muttered a few more words in a tongue that sounded like leaves burning. He pointed at my mother, and she curtsied politely, causing my mother to coo with approval; he pointed at me, and she looked at me with a curious expression. I turned away, bashful.

    "You will look after her, young Ask, will you not?" he said to me in the common tongue. His satisfied purr told me he already knew I desired nothing more in the world than this enigmatic girl and her milky-soft form. I nodded, and excused myself to go and clear away tables. Her eyes followed me even as I stepped outside.

    +++​

    The next morning, grey as the last, I went with the Master of the Mists to tether his horse and wrap up his breakfast. He had a whistle to his lips and a new stick in his hands, lent by one of the town craftsmen, that he tapped in time to the tune.

    "Where will you go?" I asked.

    "I have some errands in the low country," he replied. "Then I must attend a council of dragons, ride to the rescue of five sage princes…who knows, I may not return here for many years. Why, lad?"

    I swallowed, thought of Nell's weird expression and strange form. "Why would she require all that money? Three more silver coins than she'd ever need? That'll last out her days. And what about this shape-shifting? Should we not be worried?"

    He smiled, genuinely rather than mockingly. "A wise lad, so I said. Wise indeed. I cannot give ye the visions of the future as I see them, but I will leave you with this: a shapeshifter is only as powerful, only as dangerous as their mass…and how they use it."

    With a grunt, he mounted his cart and patted his horse's rump affectionately. I stared up at him, uncertain of what he meant, of what this meant for me, of what might happen. All I knew was that, completely unexpectedly, I had begun to fall in love with Nell; and unbeknownst to me, begun the first step in a journey that would take me higher than I dared dream and lead to the greatest depths.

    Madrigern looked towards the sun, in the direction of the farmlands before us. The wizard breathed a heavy breath, full of forebodings.

    "Keep her fattened," he said. "Keep her fed."

    He rode away, and took the mists with him.

    (Continued in post 3 of this thread)

     
  2. Sep 7, 2013 #2

    blinkman8907

    blinkman8907

    blinkman8907

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    Really great start. I almost forgot I was on Dimensions and not one of the fantasy writing forums I frequent.
     
  3. Sep 7, 2013 #3

    booyahmanx

    booyahmanx

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    Damn good start, hope it continues :)
     
  4. Sep 7, 2013 #4

    JimBob

    JimBob

    JimBob

    Wondering Where You Are

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    Chapter II: The Wind in the Sails

    The seasons turned closely, like the spread of water-droplets on the oily back of a duck, or as the moss may spread over the face of a slumbering troll. I became more than an eighteen-year-old milksop; by the time I turned twenty-two, I had grown into a surprisingly lean young man, especially in the ranks of the weaker caste.

    This I blamed on my mother, who must surely have left a little of her wily thieving nature in my blood when I was sired. Perhaps she had drawn it out of her, and left it all in me; the visit of Madrigern was the last I heard of it.

    Instead, she set about teaching young Nell, grooming her into the ways of the Aidgar. Under her tutelage, Nell kept her hair in an unruly pony-tail explosion of curls, as girls her age did; with her vigilance, the girl quickly began to pick up the common tongue, and the tricks and tips of table-serving. Soon, the girl might as well have been her birth-daughter, let alone that of an unknown cousin.

    Nell was also twenty-two by now, and everyone loved her. She had taken to being a humble kitchen-wench as a duck takes to water (I am preoccupied with thoughts of duck, as that was the bird my last meal consisted of...but I shall return to this at another time), and becoming a serving-wench was only a small step up.

    Indeed, she was far more capable than I, and freed my time for more important tasks. The first being my unquenchable hunger for self-improvement; I longed for my body to ripple and flex with muscle as those of my Barbarian brothers and sisters, and spent the hours lifting rocks, felling trees, and running about the ruins of the many stone fortresses built by our ancient ancestor, Dyorack the Tooth-Taker.

    My second task - when I was not helping my father in his work - was the other simple pleasure I have spoken of earlier, in addition to my fife-playing. Ours was a business that ran on as many animals as any given child of the Aidgar could eat, and these were very many animals. My task was to muck them out, to keep them exercised, and to feed them.

    Here, then, from the youngest age, was my purest joy. In my elder days now, as I sit here in this accursed...but this I shall speak of later...I find it foolish to think of, but once my heart was not set towards the taking of life alone, but to its preservation. Grain for the chickens and pheasants, long pastures for the cows, table-scraps and whatnot for the pigs (and scraps of fallen enemy-flesh if they were lucky); these were my expertise. I knew how to massage the rippling skin of a sow to ease her pregnancy-pains, and how to supplement chicken-feed with fragments of snail-shell to ensure a good egg yield.

    Why did I do it? I hear the question echoed down by baffled folk who will hear this tale for the ages to come. Why, I ask you, does any man do anything? In part, because it was what was needed for survival. In part, because I loved it. There was I, wretched Ask, humble Ask, Ask the inn-keeper's son; and in my many years, only the animals could ever show they truly loved me, and needed me. Theirs was the looks of dependence and gratitude I craved, even as a child and at this time as a young man.

    For I meant one day to be a leader of men, whether a warrior or a farmer; all I desired was to provide, and to be esteemed in my generosity. I had designs upon the shields of chieftains and warlords, and I knew that my willpower and fate's whim were the only things that stood between me and my goal.

    They, and Nell. For Nell had become a fixture within my existence also.

    Ah, gentle Nell! Madrigern's gift of silver and his parting words to me had rung truly over these short years. From a slight, pillow-soft girl of eighteen, she had blossomed over time without the worry of starvation that typically assails our caste. My parents had kept as they always did, lean and little in an almost endearingly constant way; I had grown firm muscles under my simple tavern-boy's jerkin; and Nell had simply grown.

    She was unlike any woman I nor the villagers had ever seen. Each year had built a layer over her soft, supple body as the rings grow on a tree, from when it is a tiny sapling to a mighty oak. At this time, her limbs were stronger from the lifting, carrying and walking she did as kitchen-maid, but still encased in a layer of softness that swaddled their strength and kept it hidden. Her face, wide as ever, grew only the smallest hint of an extra chin; with the glamour the mage had placed over her, her swollen cheeks were often as jolly and red as apples, especially at busy supper-times.

    Her form was as a time-piece or hour-glass I had seen the busier merchants toy with when they passed through our town. Making use of an old leather corset my mother had obtained for her, she kept her waist relatively slim while softness piled itself in her chest and hips. Her bountiful bosom became, comically, a perch for any time she had to carry more beer or ale than her hands could hold (in a mug with a quaffing lid, naturally); many a young Aidgar man could attest to the bruises he'd obtained when attempting to steal a drink out of there without her permission.

    As to her hips, the fat sat on them as a high lady's bustly dress will flow around her from the waist downwards, swollen ripely and doing something terrible to the heart-beats of every man (and many warrior-women) who were lucky enough to see her in action. She was so different, so unique in a township of hard warriors and thin farmers that she became a secret attraction for customers; father once jokingly proposed renaming the Inn from Shepherd's Delight to Delightful Nell. I suppose it was all the more fortunate he did not. She wasn't to stay much longer.

    One night, on the eve of my twenty-third birthday (and Nell's; to save confusion, we held them together), a gaggle of strangers stayed at the inn whom everyone instantly knew to be pirates. It might have been in the way they held themselves, the way that they laughed, swore and drank in the manner of men who might die tomorrow. Then again, it might also have been that their clothes stank of salt and were crusted with seaweed, and that they all wore dreadlocks and many of them were missing limbs. In any case, they emptied the bar and banquet area soon enough. No sane villager wanted to get in his cups with a pirate, and warriors avoided them as much for the stink as for the treachery.

    "More wine!" shouted their Bosun, whose name I had learned was Bermar. "More seed-cakes! And be quick about it, my lucky lass."

    He grabbed at Nell's waist and patted her large rump through her simple yellow skirt, approvingly.

    She gave him a flirtatious smile.

    "I endeavour to please, m'lord," she said in silky tones, but turned to me as I tended the bar and gave me a quick wink. By this time, we'd spent more days together than can be counted, and were thick as thieves together (though, and I smile to recount this, she might have been a tad thicker).

    She straightened up, and turned to approach the bar; but in turning, her sizable rump smacked the sea-cur in his leering face. I heard him curse and mop at a bleeding nose, and feared he might get out his knife, but his friends merely laughed at him and congratulated the girl for rewarding a smack on the arse with a smack from the arse.

    Nell feigned innocence, smiling a little smile on her wide face as she brought their empty cups to me. They had begun to sing a bawdy song to the tune of the accordion, and I whispered to her as I poured the wine, "Nell, you stand up for yourself as best you can. But you mustn't let them exploit your good will like that."

    "Fie, my little gallant," she replied, amicably tweaking my nose. "You needn't rush to my defence. So I get a pat on my little bum from time to time. What do they get? Cheap field-dross wine at five coins a cup, half-portions for the price of double-portions, and..."

    She laid down a few rings crafted of bronze and silver, with jewels set in them. My mother had taught her more than just floor-cleaning and table-waiting.

    "Who's exploiting who?" she whispered, and gave me an affectionate peck on the cheek, before wiggling her way past empty tables. I heard the pirates cackle from their table and blushed when I knew they'd seen it.

    "Ah, yon lad at the bar must be made of parchment!" shouted a green-bearded scumbag with only four teeth.

    "Give 'im too much heat and he turns red! Perhaps ye'll kindle a fire with him if you did a bit of rubbing, kitchen-wench!" he stood up to perform some sort of foolish thrusting movement, but simply fell on his foolish face.

    "Peace, you rogue," Nell muttered as neutrally as she could. "Here's your wine and cakes, and anything else you'll be wanting?"

    "I could give you six-and-twenty answers to that," said another of them, "but I'll leave the vulgarity to my men."

    In his voice I read a touch of the refined gentleman as much as liquor and sea-tack. I peered at him through the firelight and saw his beard was trimmed and his form unhacked save for a few tips missing for his fingers; evidently a gentleman pirate, a richer man gone to the dogs and turned to treachery. Probably he was their captain.

    "Be ye looking for another job, my fine figure of a girl?" he asked, purring silkily and stroking his pipe with a finger. "There's always an extra space on board for a girl with strong arms and a song to sing at a cold night."

    "Fine figure indeed!" replied Nell, resting her hands on her ample hips. She could never be modest about her body; knowing the effect her enhancements had upon ordinary men gave her an odd sense of pride.

    "What would a lot of sea-dogs such as yourself want with a roly-poly butterball such as myself? Methinks you'd be up for a bit of licking..." she leered, eliciting cheers and laughs from the others in the crew.

    The captain, for so he seemed, said nothing and smiled not. Instead, to my horror, he drew out from his black greatcoat a single gold coin and a scrap of parchment. A casual flick of his wrist, and they landed together on her left breast, prompting a bigger cheer from his subordinates.

    "There's more than that besides," he continued, as she weighed the little gift in her hand. "If you feel capable, come to us dressed as a man - that's the only way the code of Pirates lets aboard a wench - and take up the position of ship's cook. We should have an opening soon. Ours is the Devil's Revenge. Ponder it awhile, kitchen-wench."

    "But cap'n, we hired a cook but three week ago, Orange Schmitty - " snivelled another of the men, only to be silenced with an elbow to the groin from another of the men. I pitied the unfortunate Orange Schmitty if Nell were to go abroad with these cut-throats. But she wouldn't. She couldn't. Could she?

    She had on a guarded expression when she returned to the bar, and said little, as if deep in thought. Her breath was heaving, causing her bosom to dance towards me dangerously; depositing her new gold coin inside her tight cleavage, she drew my embarrassed gaze up to her face.

    When I asked her - concerned, naturally - what was on her mind, she said nothing, only looked at me as she'd once looked on the night we first met. Her eyes seemed to hold a darkness in them that swirled and pooled and called to be touched; then she turned away from me, to ring the bell and announce the closing of the bar.

    With many a grumble and a belch, the pirates trooped out, leaving a foolish amount of silver at the table and gallantly kissing Nell's fingers as they departed.

    +++

    That night, as I lay beneath my thin sheets, I heard a rummaging downstairs in the inn. The chairs and tables had already been put away, I knew; so with foreboding in my heart, I slipped on a jerkin and went down with a candle.

    There she stood, and a peek into those black eyes told me everything I needed to know before I saw the extent of the rest of the damage. Her pretty hair was gone, trimmed into a boyish pixie-cut that emphasised her unusually pointy ears. She had removed one earring and any of her small traces of makeup, and wore a get-up that consisted of the clothing discarded by drunken warriors and merchants who passed through our inn, clothes that we kept for re-sale.

    "Do I look the part?" she asked, patting her middle. I could see what she had done. Rather than bind herself, as I knew from the tale-tellers was a practice performed by young girls to pass as men, she had constructed a false belly out of old corn-sacks stuffed with soft hay, packed under a man's shirt and jacket.

    Looking closer in the dim light, I found she'd made a false 'Mustache' out of some locks of hair and was not wearing a harness on her chest, letting her bosom spill out to the side as a larger man's might. To all appearances, from bandana to boots she was a fat, oafish lad gone to join the pirates.

    She saw my expression and nodded with satisfaction.

    "You're a girl of many talents, Nell," I whispered, setting down my candle with admiring shock.

    "Not for longer," she replied jovially. "From now on I'm a man of the sea, and my name is Nellson. You know? "Son" is very male, and I'm fond of "Nell", so it were easy to put 'em together. Heh, 'were'. I've got the patter down already. Eh, me hearty?"

    She spoke in as bubbly a tone as she ever did, but my heart was sinking further with every word.

    "Nell, you're needed here!"

    "Oh, hogswaddle. Your Mam can hire one of your real cousins to take on our jobs, Gods know they need the work."

    "But the life of a pirate - the, the drudgery - "

    "Did you see those scurvy buccaneers? I've even got the captain wrapped around my podgy thumb. I think you might have meant the luxury."

    Hurriedly, I thought of her appetite. "The food! All you'll get is hard biscuits, salt pork."

    "And squid, swordfish, shark fin, not to mention the foods of every port we come across. Imagine, Ask! Those foreign lands we always hear about at the tale-teller's visits! Wouldn't it be wonderful for us to eat rice and curry, or quail's eggs?"

    "But, but - " I strove in vain to think of new reasons. I could not bear for her to be parted from me, not in a hundred-fold ages, and besides, Madrigern had given her to my keeping!

    "But what about me?" I said, a tad pathetically it seems to me these days. "You'll leave me behind..."

    "Ah, my little warrior. That would never do." Striding toward me, her "belly" swinging to and fro, she patted my cheek with a wide grin spread all over her wider face. "Lucky for you I packed two bags, eh?"

    She reached under the table, revealing two bags full of provisions, plenty for the night's walk that would get us to the port and the Devil's Revenge by morning. I swallowed.

    "Muh - me?! But Nell, I'm just the table-scraper, you're just a kitchen-wench, we can't run away like this."

    "I'm not 'just' anything," she replied, pouting a little. "And I'm running away with or without you. This town's a sleepy dump, and I'm tired of the warriors getting all the action while I just stand here watching my waist get wider. C'mon, Ask - "

    In spite of my strength, she pulled me closer to her by my arm. I sensed that she was stronger than me, and I hadn't known. "Don't you want to go on an adventure?"

    I looked at those solemn black pools, that inviting smile as strangely beautiful as ever, even with a thick false mustache above. I sighed, a little. I knew Nell was no flowery defenceless darling like the other girls of my caste, I knew she was strong enough to break the nose of any man who so much as laid a poorly-chosen finger on her. But if she did, I could always be there to knife him in the ribs and chuck him overboard afterward. And she needed to be taught how to act as a man. And she was a wonderfuk cook, even if mother hadn't shown her everything, and travel could only improve her skills. And, and, and -

    "Very well," I said. "Let me get my coat."

    Hugging me in a bear-like grip, she squealed with delight, causing me to tell her "Oi! A true man is not a squealer. A man takes good news with a hearty laugh or a daredevil grin."

    Perhaps I had read too many parchments about 'true men', but I liked being the teacher. She saluted and barked out "Aye, Sir!" in a gruff, unconvincing voice.

    "Save it for the captain," I said wearily, going upstairs to quietly change and leave a note for my parents.

    In a half-hour, we were on the darkened road, the only sounds following us being the echo of our footsteps and the jingling of "Nellson's" charmed purse. Behind us lay Lizard's Tail, ahead were the thousand tumbling seas; and wherever she went on them, I'd follow, my eyes fixed firmly on her wobbling behind.

    (Continued in post six of this thread)
     
  5. Sep 8, 2013 #5

    StickMan

    StickMan

    StickMan

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    Yes. More like this, please!
     
  6. Sep 9, 2013 #6

    JimBob

    JimBob

    JimBob

    Wondering Where You Are

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    Chapter III: With Scorpions In Her Head And White Light In Her Eyes

    Six years went by. I could not hold them back; who might hold years back on the ocean, where everything and anything floats away or sinks down to the lightless places, of coral and Krakens?

    Life aboard the Devil's Revenge afforded us a grander change of scenery from the drudgery of work at the inn. For one thing, as "Nellson", Nell's repertoire of unusual meals became a thousand times more varied and more versatile. Under the watchful eye of our gentleman captain, Daxsun of the Wine-Red Coat, she was given passage to ports beyond the dreams of serving-girls and became the permanent replacement to the unfortunate Orange Schmitty, last seen wandering the coast of the icy plains of Racksun with a small sack slung over his shoulders, a merry tune on his lips and a large cutlass sticking out of his nether regions. We ate baked eels and curried starfish, and so much else I wondered if the men would protest that they weren't getting their fair share of salt pork and dry biscuits.

    Though they were all rogues, I found them easy to get along with, Nell more so; she couldn't wait to join the roguish ranks. The cap'n wasn't such a bad fellow when you got to know him; a man of the rich gentry, as I'd believed, fallen on hard times and desperate to revenge himself against his scoffing relatives. I humbly submitted to him as a cabin-boy at first, but within a month had graduated to cannon-manager; and there the fun began.

    My exercise regime became improved a thousand-fold by work aboard deck. Rowing the jolly-boat, splicing the mainbrace, maintaining cannons, harpooning, repairs…by our third year on board I had become a swarthy man of the sea, and by the age of twenty-eight I might have been recognisable to my future followers as the oiled, massively muscular figure they all knew, the man who could crush skulls between his palms, a man I could scarcely be recognised as now…but the tale first. At this time, mine own dear mother might not have known me; I had developed a thick beard and long unruly hair, and wore the traditional pirates' gear of boots, black trousers, simple shirts, leather waistcoats and tricorn hats. Thus far, neither injury nor disease had taken my limbs.

    That last I had to thank Nell for, and especially for her fantabulous meals. For a rough pirate ship's cook, she was able to craft very much from surprisingly little; sauces and herbs became charms in her hands, and men began to give "Nellson" another name - "The Spell-Casting Cook". They all knew she was a woman, of course, but after one man had tried to take advantage of her in the night and ended up unwittingly eating three of his own toes in a stew, they decided to learn some respect.

    And as respect for Nell grew, so did her confidence. As her confidence grew, so did her skills in the kitchen. And as those skills grew, so did her waistline. Though she put in her own effort at maintaining the ship, she had none of the muscle definition I took on, and seemed to gain weight instead of even trying to lose it; yet I recalled what Madrigern of the Mists had said, that she was a Vesh-Taen, a child of the stars and in need of fattening.

    What do stars eat?, I often wondered, and wished he could have been there for me to ask him.

    Without the social mores of the Aidgar nor the slight strictness of my mother's watchful eye, Nell soon began to indulge herself. She developed a taste for foreign sweetmeats - caramel, raspberries, chocolate. She began to drink, and swear, and take a pipe or two with the lads. I kept to the company of the captain, myself, and thus was spared many of the uglier aspects of piracy; but soon "Nellson" was a very well-integrated pirate.

    Inevitably, just as Nell began cracking open the barrels to sup from their insides, her body began to grow barrel-like as well. Her hips flared out in her brown canvas trousers, so much so that she soon found tights and a great-coat to be a more limbs-freeing option. Those tempestuous thighs of hers flared out to become as large as her once-corseted waist, and so did her upper arms, still sat upon a core of muscle, blossom into the size of ham-hocks. Her hips rolled out in waves that rivalled the ones we sailed upon, becoming large enough to brush the narrow doorways of the ship's cabins.

    Rival to her hips were her breasts, now magnificently larger than any I had seen on a woman, warrior or no. She kept them rounded and firm with a specially-fitted bra from one of our excursions to a majestic city many miles from Lizard's Tail, and they sat neatly beneath her developing double chin, the roll of flab that her face was becoming swaddled in like a scarf. These and her hips still created twin focal points in her gain, like the hourglasses which became ever popular for those running out of their precious time.

    Added to balance them out in-between was a majestic belly, enough to bring out a smile in any old midwife. It swung to and fro within her colourful, voluminous button-up shirts, often popping one or two after a heavy meal. Though relatively smaller than the rest of her, it seemed to engage her greatest affections; that time she'd spent honing her figure in a corset was long over. After a year, "Nellson" was able to knock out half of the stuffing from "his" false belly, and only two months after that gave up on it completely, as well as the mustache, both of which seemed no longer necessary. So too was the short hair; soon "he" began to wear it in a long ponytail beneath a three-corner hat, as was the fashion with pirates, supplemented at times by a bandana.

    And all this she took on with the greatest cheer and aplomb, as if becoming wealthy and well-beloved in many circles with each new layer of flab. Was this the standard for Vesh-Taen, I wondered? To feed and feed themselves up until they became too round to move, only to hang there in the sky? I recalled the Mage's words, "Keep her fattened, keep her fed". I was glad I could obey them, even if I no longer needed the help.

    I thought this while watching her in her massively expanded kitchen below-decks. She was preparing a victory feast in our 6th year together aboard the Devil's Revenge, a banquet in honour of our recent raid of the Valturni pirate clans' galleons, making off with their stash of rubies and furs. I had spent the morning playing chess with the captain over a glass or two of his finest wines. She had of course been snacking throughout the entire preparation and indeed the entire day, and I came to keep her company. Now as she placed the roast suckling pig over a low fire to keep it warm, and spread a little vinaigrette over the salad, she settled herself down for a real treat.

    "Mm," Nell groaned, a little wooden stool creaking under her weight.

    "Big belly," she cooed in a sing-song voice. She patted it as if rewarding a pet, waggled and jiggled it on her lap, and it gurgled back to her.

    "Big boozums". She heaved them towards her chin, kissed the top of each one while winking saucily at me.

    "Big bottom. Biiiig bum. Big fat bum. Happy bum." She rocked backwards and forwards on her extravagant bottom end, teasing me crudely. I looked away, uncomfortable with this display.

    "Bum and belly and boozums, all blown up, all bigger and better, mmmah," kissing her podgy sausage-like fingers, licking grease off them. I mused that the sea had been kinder to her cavernous stomach than the polite manners once instilled in her by my mother.

    As if to prove my point, she sank her teeth into a slab of chocolate cake set aside for her personal use, belched three times in quick succession, and after licking her fingers again broke wind once. She laughed; not a girlish giggle as I'd grown to like in a woman but the deep belly laugh of a buccaneer proud of a stink he had made. She gulped down a small wooden mugful of goat's milk topped with cinnamon and fortified with rum, belched again, and laughed loudly, clapping her hands to belly as if applauding it.

    "I miss you," I said, morosely sharpening a kitchen-knife.

    "Then you're a bloody eejit," she cackled. "I'm right here, mate."

    "No," I sighed again, stroking my beard with frustration. "I miss you, Nell. I miss the girl who enchanted men's hearts and lifted their wallets. Not this…half-man who sticks them with knives if they look at her funny and grows soft on refuse, like a pig."

    In answer to that, gulping down the last of the cake, she thumbed her nose and made the snorting noises of a contented hog. "Oh, yah boo sucks to you, Mr. Beefcake. I'm enjoying myself for once in my life, getting to know the real me. I should be allowed some time to decide who she - or he! - is…how much of her or him there is."

    She followed this with a slice of cold gooseberry pie, scarfing it delightedly in mere seconds. "Mmm…I should see about actual Beef Cake. If served cold, that could be very yummy."

    She scratched idly at her backside while entertaining this thought.

    "And what about having an adventure?" I returned. "You'll need to lose some weight for one of those."

    "I've had plenty. Right…here," and she pointed at her tongue, waggling it down over her chin. It really looked unnaturally long and large for her mouth, weirdly so…but no, it snapped back into her mouth and I took it to be a trick of the light.

    "…Aaand here," she continued, affectionately massaging her ponderous gut, "And down here of course."

    She patted at her voluminous rump, then quickly let out another rippling fart, to which she responded with a bellow of laughter. So loud she had become in her laughter, it took a full minute for her to finish, and in that minute I was too busy blocking my ears to hear the report of gunpowder in the distance.

    I picked up the sharpened knife, tucking it into my belt.

    "Stay down here and don't get hurt," I warned her. She looked at me, in that way of hers, and a white light shone in her eyes and between her lips.

    "As you say," she murmured. I wish I could have spoken to her further then - wish to the Gods - but the call of battle on the deck was stronger than myself. Worse still, I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could rather than consider the strange dilemma I found myself in.

    In spite of everything, all the changes, I had stuck with her. In spite of it all, I still found her alluring…perhaps more so, and perhaps because of the changes. It terrified me, and I wanted not to think so. I had not acted once on my passions in the decade since we'd first met. Better to rush into battle and vent my frustrations there.

    "Valturni?" I roared in the ear of a rigging-man as he rushed through the powder-smoke of the deck.

    "Aye!" he replied. "Raiders trying to claim back wha's theirs! Cap'n's dealing with them at the helm!"

    I rushed past him, snatching a cutlass from the deck and heading towards the sounds of clashing metal and thundering gunpowder. Beneath me the boat heaved to and fro, and it seemed easy to tell why: the helm was spinning at a blurry speed, sending us on a wild course to ram the Valturni family galleon, the Silver Arrow. Though a faster vessel, the Devil's Revenge was crafted of flimsy timber, and would, I knew, splinter to pieces if it crashed headlong into our enemy's ship.

    At the helm Captain Daxsun grappled fiercely with a grey-bearded monster of a man and his cabin-boy protege, utterly preoccupied and unable to take command. Feeling the desperation of battle in me, I grabbed the boy and threw him in an arc onto the spinning wheel of the helm, impaling him blunt through his neck. He gurgled blood afterward, but his body stopped the helm's pass and allowed me to steer us somewhat to the starboard side.

    Too late, alas. Though the damage was reduced, our stern was scraped and battered by the stronger ship's tough bow, and our proximity only allowed for greater volumes of the Valturni's hired men to swarm aboard and ambush ours while our backs were turned. The spray of powder from the cannons and the noise of blades clashing grew chaotic, until no-one could be certain how the conflict was turning.

    Drawing my cutlass, I ran to the defence of Daxsun, now holding his own against three scurvy mercenaries. Cutting down one with a blow to the gut, I finished him off by slicing open his throat. The next I quickly parried, letting the Captain take control over the third, that grey-bearded greaser.

    "Took you long enough, lad!" he shouted, moving his sword with all the elegance a gentle-folk's fencing lesson might supply.

    "Are you saying you could have done without me, old man?" I returned, smiling a little in spite of myself. As conditions were I had no knowledge of whether or not we'd win that fight.

    With a quick slash, the Captain disabled his foe's wrist, then sliced open his throat. He nodded at me, noting my progress with my soon-to-be-eviscerated enemy with a practiced eye, then turned and called out into the smoke.

    "Port-side cannon! Begin firing positions! Tear her down, lads, tear her - " he was interrupted by the fresh roar of cannon explosions, from both sides, and I heard the ship take new damage. Cutting my Valturni foe's right leg at the knee and resting his own sword in his gut, I turned to receive orders.

    Ah, horror of sights, vision of the damned man. Our leader had been struck down in the hail of fire by a cross-bow bolt. It stuck horribly from his good eye-socket, erupting outward through the back of his head and fixing his face in its last state of confusion for all eternity. I had barely the time to close his eyes when I felt the boat rocked once more.

    In that smoke, in the confusion, with able pirates on both sides standing about waiting for orders…who might have known what happened next? Who could have foreseen that the Captain's hat, wide-brimmed and trimmed with his own bandana, would lie so invitingly close to my touch? Who could have envisioned me, tenderly reaching down to clutch at its brim with my dry fingertips…

    …Only to have it snatched away in the thick clutch of the leather-gloved hand of Nell?

    I looked up, aghast, as she loomed out of the smoke, as imposing and unwelcoming as a grey cliff. She had changed her outfit. Impossibly, she had donned a wine-red coat not unlike that of our gallant Captain, yet perfectly framed around her bigger body; and beneath it, the frilly shirt and tight leather trousers of a buccaneer, with gold-buckled boots and long heavy gloves. Two crossbows sat within her stressed belt, pressed against the cushion of her belly; another rested in her hand as she donned the Cap'n's cap, her long dark curls waving beneath it in the mist.

    Turning, she addressed the men.

    "Aye, ye foolish babes!" she bellowed at their stupefied and angered stares. "The Cap'n falls dead and long live the new Cap'n in his place! Ye've seen me hold me own in battle, and ye know yez all'd be dead if it weren't fer me a thousand times over! Now who's got the guts to challenge their new Cap'n for her rightfully-claimed title?"

    She drew a long, skillfully-sharpened kitchen knife from behind her back at this, brandishing it as well as any sword. Some of the men backed away; but the majority of them raised their weapons, cheered and rushed back into the fray.

    "That goes for you too, my pretty," she added, turning and prodding my chin with the toe of her boot. The act of bravado melted for a second; I thought I heard her stifle a belch.

    I gazed in wonder. Who might have thought of the cook, and an undisguised, rotund woman at that, becoming the ship's captain? It seemed the outcome of some wild adventure story. What next, a wondrous stolen Treasure buried on some remote Island?

    A man rushed towards her and she turned the full power of her weight on him, bouncing him away and overboard. Two more tried to take her from behind, receiving instead a crossbow bolt and a sliced throat from a loyal man of the Revenge.

    She smiled and patted him on the shoulder.

    "Mama's pleased with you," she told him, and quickly punched a Valturni man over his shoulder, then rushed into the fray. I caught up with her a minute later, at the head of a growing pile of bodies.

    "Nell! Captain!" I screamed, willing to go along with this strange impulse for a little moment. "We're not turning the advantage! They'll overwhelm us!"

    "Ye doubt yer Captain?" she screamed in reply, exaggerating her accent further. This was all a game to her, I could see. "You've not heard of the fearsome powers of Captain Nellie, the Blood Mother?"

    "That name is meaningless!" I shouted. "Titles have to be earned, not…"

    I trailed off as I saw her eyes slam tightly shut, an expression of intense concentration printed across her brow. That white glow built up behind them, and I seemed to see the Nell I knew again for a moment. Then it passed, and she diminished back into her pirate-persona.

    Something moved beneath her hat, and I saw it fall to the deck. My blood chilled; it had many legs and two wicked claws and a tail fastened with a barb at the end, and skittered like an ugly little imp over the wood towards some hapless lackey of the Valturni family, trying to find his severed fingers. A dart from the tail, and he howled in agony for a second before falling to an awful death.

    White-faced, I turned to Nell. She grinned at me; and as she did so, curls fell from the tips of her long hair and changed in mid-air, becoming straight, black and oddly wet, like the hair of that eighteen-year-old waif the Mage of Mists had brought to our door so many years ago; then swelling into thick blackened scorpions. By now her head was crawling with them as her hair receded into the pixie-cut that she had started with, and shorter perhaps.

    My teeth ground together with the fear and anger that surged through me. She had learned her "talent", the shape-shifting! And she had kept it from me! And, worse, grown her hair specifically to craft into a long weapon…I did not waste time wondering how long she had practiced with it for this day, focusing her will into the little strands of hair. What designs had she made on the Captain's position, for so long?

    "What are you doing?" I muttered, drawing close that she might hear me over the sound of the cannon's roar.

    "Losing some weight," she replied.

    She gave me that grin again, but this time there was something in her I did not recognise; or rather, I did recognise it in something else. A tiger we had once seen, on a foreign shore, being given ferocious dogs to fight for betting. It had been an ages-old creature, and ages-wearied, yet the thrill it took in dispatching its attackers one by one had been fearsome to behold.

    I read something of that fearsome bloodlust in this newly-grown Tyrant Queen, this Pirate Behemoth, swollen to greatness on foreign food and the unnatural power of the stars. Had it been a man, even a fat, bearded man, I might have bowed down in respect; fool that I was, in this woman - the woman I adored, oh fool, oh great fool - I found it repellant.

    But my feelings were immaterial at this point. The Valturni's hired crewmen were subdued in a matter of seconds, and the vast remainder of our crew had drawn out Chinquo Valturni, one of their lieutenants. "Captain Nellie" sheathed her knife and crossbow, cold rage printed on her face.

    "Ye've been beaten fairly and squarely, Valturni," she hissed in the fresh silence. The men began to grumble their agreement, but she held up a silencing hand. "Quiet! Mama speaks. Little boys keep their mouths shut."

    "Yeah?" said one young feller in the crowd, nursing a bloody cox-comb. "Or what, you grease-ball, stuffed-up kitchen-wench?"

    I growled a little, but she pushed me back. Grinning evilly down at the boy, who stood a half-head shorter than her, she replied sweetly, "If Mama Blood's boys act up, she might do all sorts things. Might have you keel-hauled, in front of your little wife at home. Might have you staked out in the sun so she can walk on your back, crack every little bone underneath her boots. Orrr, might stow you in the brig…or some place worse."

    She patted her belly and licked her lips for emphasis, and belched in his face. The man blustered, but we could all read the very real fear in his heart. Who knew the monster we'd been keeping alive all these years, down in the kitchen where she could spin her web?

    Turning surprisingly quickly for a bigger woman, she landed a kick squarely in the face of Chinquo Valturni, and as he writhed on the deck, stepped on his hand, easing her full weight onto him. I guessed she might have weighed the same as two average-sized men at this point, or slightly more than a grown fighter like myself. The steely-eyed, swarthy Captain gnashed his teeth and howled in agony, his ponytail brushing the deck like some absurd broom.

    "Ye'll be keepin' the deed to yer ship in a safe, as careful as any buccaneer may be," she growled, and moved her pressure to his arm as his hand began to turn purple with blood.

    "And ye'll be given' me the combination number, laddy," she added.

    "Nuh - neverrrr," he just managed to snarl in reply.

    "Oh, never say never," she said back to him, and hauled him up by his neck in one of her massive paws. Her jowls and double chin quivered with delighted fury as she bellowed once again, "COMBINATION, ye little sow's pizzle! NOW!"

    He sighed out a string of numbers as she choked him, which the crew began to mutter to themselves, keeping it memorised. Satisfied, Cap'n Nellie let him go in mid-air, and he thudded to the deck, sat stupidly like a rag doll. Then, falling onto one knee and clapping both hands on his shoulders, she opened her mouth. Widely.

    I have seen tapestries, read ancient scrolls of the lore of Dragons, that say they breathe fire to cook their enemies where they stand, boil an armoured man inside a cooking-pot of his own making. Nell, my once-sweet Nell, was far crueller. What let forth from her formidable maw was simply light - the unfiltered light of the Vesh-Taen, that lives inside their bodies, the white light twinged with blue that emanates from the stars.

    I saw Chinquo Vanturi's bruised face; then I saw a blackened skull; then a hole where his head had been, with a little dust-cloud blowing away from it. The trunk of his body swayed from side to side for a measured second, and then fell to the deck, spilling its red contents everywhere. Not even from the sharpest knife carving through the softest butter have I seen a cut so clean.

    Cap'n Nellie looked up at me, smiling, and licked some of the red spray from her lips with that uncannily long tongue.

    "Thus does the Blood Mother earn her title," she said, and I saw the scorpions had begun to clamber aboard her, rejoining themselves to form the ringlets of her hair again.

    She turned to the men, stood stupidly staring at the new wearer of the Wine-Red Coat.

    "Execute the remaining dogs! Take what ye can carry to the Silver Arrow! We'll sail it to the Vanturi home-town, and take what's theirs, and give the ship a new name! From now on, we sail on…" she paused, excitement dancing in her eyes. "The Kraken's Reach," she breathed, savouring the drama.

    The men gave their cheers and rushed over the side, taking as much jewels, furs and provisions as they could. In the rush, Nell strode confidently over to me and reached a hand around my waist.

    "And as for you, my handsome stallion," she added in her Aidgar voice, drunk with power - and not too long, I mused, until rum would follow. "We've come this far together, let's go further together. You've always been there for me, Ask…my solid rock in a churning ocean."

    The Cap'n's bluster was all gone, replaced by the tenderness of the girl I once thought I knew. "Be here for me still. Be my loyal bodyguard, my obedient pet beef-cake."

    She patted my rocky chest and giggled, but it was a nervous giggle. "Stay with me? …Please?"

    I looked in her eyes. No blinding starlight there, just that lovely inviting blackness…that beautiful mystery that kept me coming back to her. Kept me looking after her, as the Mage had intended. Kept me keeping her fattened, keeping her fed. Would I be needed for that any longer? Would I still love her as the rough, monstrous pirate Captain? Could I admit to myself I'd never found her lovelier than in this moment, Star-Child or no?

    "…Yes," I sighed, after too long a pause, putting my hand on hers. "We remain as partners, forevermore."

    "Ah, my dear," she sighed, kissing me between my eyes. "You bring the greatest happiness to Mama Blood. Now, let us be off this ship before we sink it."

    "Aye, Cap'n," I replied, letting her pull me away.

    +++

    That night, I packed away a measure of furs and jewels while the others caroused and caloohed to the moon in celebration of their victory. Then I shimmied down a rope to one of the capacious jolly-boats, enough provisions aboard it to get me back to the mainland.

    Not for me the life of a pirate, with this strange beast in place of the girl I loved, ruling me. I deserved better than that; no man deserved the humiliation of a woman ruling him, least of all some lowly kitchen-wench. To the deepest hells with her, and with her mongrel crew who corrupted themselves so, and with that foolish Mage who thought he could saddle me with her fore'er. Better to master my own fate.

    Yes, that was what I chose; to return and seek a new life, with my new skills, amongst the warriors I had so worshipped in my youth. I would rise to be a chieftain, and grow rich and powerful, and personally cut down all the pirates that had eaten at my beautiful Nell with their wicked ways and turned her into the bloated, roaring pirate-queen now calling herself "Nellie". For that, I would never stop carving my revenge.

    Thus learn, children, and lament. For though there were but hours between the birth of Captain Nellie, the Blood Mother, Master of the Twelve Hundred Galleons, and Valtag, high swordsman of the Aidgar and carver of the grassland plains, the two were forever doomed to be enemies. Thus the fortune-tellers put it; the day they allied together, the one would dine on the flesh of their foe, and die thereafter.

    Little I knew of this, as I rowed away in the shadow of the Kraken's Reach, far away from Nell and the sea and into the waiting fingers of destiny.

    (Continued in post 15 of this thread)
     
  7. Sep 9, 2013 #7

    JimBob

    JimBob

    JimBob

    Wondering Where You Are

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    (Thank you all for your encouraging words. This story is likely to go on...and on!...so stay tuned.)

    (Also: don't think that in *any* way you're meant to be taking Ask's side. He's not a nice person. Hell, he's an aggravating little twit.)
     
  8. Sep 9, 2013 #8

    booyahmanx

    booyahmanx

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    I really like the story so far, but find myself liking Nell less and less :\
     
  9. Sep 9, 2013 #9

    Vongola27

    Vongola27

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    This is a fascinating story you're crafting, one I can't wait to see continued! I rather like that as Nell gains, she becomes stronger and even uses her bulk to her own advantage; you don't see that too often in stories around here. And I think it's refreshing to have these two characters that are both flawed, especially in Ask/Valtag. I'm looking forward to seeing the inevitable conflict between him and Nell, even though I do hope that things will end well between the two of them.
     
  10. Sep 9, 2013 #10

    Ulysses

    Ulysses

    Ulysses

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    This seemed like a very intriguing line, but I couldn't make out what went on here. Sorry, perhaps I was a sloppy reader, but did she actually lose some weight while using her powers? Cos if she did, that might explain why her kind needs to grow and grow - so that in times of trouble they can "spend" some of their mass to vanquish their enemies?
     
  11. Sep 9, 2013 #11

    chicken legs

    chicken legs

    chicken legs

    yawn

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    Totally hooked on this story :bow:
     
  12. Sep 9, 2013 #12

    Vongola27

    Vongola27

    Vongola27

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    She loses the weight of her long hair, which turned into the scorpions that attacked the enemy crew. Interesting theory though, but it looks like anything they lose can be gained back with ease, like her hair.
     
  13. Sep 9, 2013 #13

    JimBob

    JimBob

    JimBob

    Wondering Where You Are

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    Yes, you have it exactly: I wanted to have a BBW character using her weight in combat situations, and taking advantage of it with the aid of superpowers (as I believe might happen in the "Capes and Cuisines" series if that ever continues). You see a lot of that on DeviantArt and elsewhere, less here.

    That too was intentional. I'm a big fan of "Breaking Bad" and "Hannibal", among other fictions, and I enjoy the idea of the characters being shades of grey rather than just plain 'good' or 'evil'.

    Well, I don't blame you. She's going off the deep end a bit...but all will be made clear, don't you worry. As I state above, there's not clear absolutes in this tale.

    My sincere apologies for not making it clear. The "losing weight" line was just a pithy quip, throwing Ask's words back at him. True, her mass decreased from the hair loss, but not to a significant degree. As to the nature of the stars' children, well...let's wait and see, shall we? ;-)

    Thanks for your kind words, everyone. Stay tuned for the next chapters, they'll be excellent! (Though the next one might be a little Nell-lite.)
     
  14. Sep 9, 2013 #14

    Vongola27

    Vongola27

    Vongola27

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    It will indeed continue, as soon as I finish the project I am working on right now. Once that gets knocked out, I'll pick back up with Capes and Cuisines for the foreseeable future!
     
  15. Sep 10, 2013 #15

    JimBob

    JimBob

    JimBob

    Wondering Where You Are

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    Chapter IV: Storms Always Seem Calmer From A Distance

    "You're not going to win."

    Thus spake the ice-bearded Baron of the Rising Province, on the day I ransacked his citadel. The towns surrounding it had been plundered by his own men many times over, and the city itself reduced to a cannibalised ruin. Long ago the necromancer's charms given to the old man to guarantee him the speed of an eel and the strength of a boar had worn off, and now he lay bent over before me, arms tied behind his back and barbed chains around his neck.

    "These are the words of a fool at his deathbed," I replied, stonily. I had developed a fondness for delivering proverbs of my own making when I knew myself to have won a battle. "Promises he cannot keep."

    "This be my curse upon ye, Valtag!" screamed the Baron, froth spilling over his beard. "One day you too will be helpless and alone, and ye too will see yer enemy towering over all you worked for and all you are! I speak of none but the - "

    I kicked him over the edge, bored of hearing yet another pompous overlord trying to curse me with a dying breath. They all thought it terribly clever, and they all decided to include the infamous Blood Mother into the story thanks to our famous rivalry.

    The Baron screamed like a pig as he fell, and hit close to every gargoyle on the immense wall surrounding the citadel of Orter Piwn. It might have been amusing, if you were not used to such a thing. I was not, and so I did not join my men in bidding the Baron farewell.

    "Citizens!" I roared over the other side of the wall. "Yours is now a city added to the bountiful empire of Valtag. Farm well and trade well with my other properties, and you shall be bountifully rewarded, this I swear!"

    I raised my arm to my chest, then to the wind, palm upturned, in my classic salute. What little was left of the starving townspeople cheered dismally. The day was grey, and storms were approaching. But we were far from the sea, and this gladdened my heart.

    Why bother describing to you my appearance? Countless times you might have heard of Valtag the swordsman, his plaited beard, his tree-trunk-cracking arms, his thunderbolt gaze. Whole sagas have detailed the patterns of my crafted leather armour and told of my gathering together of mighty armies and forging of powerful weapons. I shall not bore you with such common knowledge. Instead, let me clarify a few things the tale-tellers continue to get awfully wrong.

    Firstly, I was not trained in my swordplay entirely by Captain Daxsun. Instead, I built upon the foundling skills he imparted upon me when I became a journeyman of the plains, finding work under the superb sword-crafter Viltanimus the Magnificent. He it was who improved my strike, gave me the knowledge of the weight of the sword, the grip of the hilt, how to duck and parry and turn my own arm's weight into the stroke of an executioner's axe.

    He I studied with for a full year and a half's span, after which he taught me everything he thought it right to know. Within that time, I became the finest-performing apprentice to the greatest swordsman to be found across the seven secret corners of the world.

    Naturally, when the time came to move on I poisoned him in his sleep.

    Within the towns far away from the port I began to recruit my army. I no longer trusted men of the sea, for good reason; they could all be in the pay of my fresh enemy, from whom I heard nothing though I could easily guess at her scorn. Nevertheless, while I stayed inland she had no recourse to battle me; the Pirate code only provides for attacks on land within a one-mile distance from the shore. The rumours are true: all travel I took from then on in the dead of night, on the back of a trained Dog-Banshee bred especially for my personal transport.

    Men and women disenfranchised from their towns joined my cause, bearded dwarves and mossy-backed trolls too. Many was a hairy barbarian two snaps from becoming a berserker in my troops, and just as many had we of proud amazons, grown powerful as providers for their families or defenders of their villages. All were promised a place in the empire of Valtag, and not (as some have said) for gold and the promise of sleek women to line our beds. Though I was aware of many in my company, male and female alike, who were eager for such a goal.

    My first quest as Valtag, that name which means "Steady-Eyed", took me to overthrowing the leader of a horse-training tribe, possessed by greedy little goblins. While my new friends freed their horses, I garrotted him in his sleep, letting the goblins pour out of his mouth into the fire and away from my own open orifices. But let it be known that it was not an easy kill: though many curse at me for robbing an old man of his life, the old tribe-master had died the year previous and the goblins moved on to his son.

    Finally, let it be known here and now that my three-month-long stay at the Monastery of Magrapalis, that remote location, was not due to a weariness at my blood-thirsty ways, nor a need for sanctuary against assassins sent by Sea-Queen Nellie. No, this was in order to consult the abbot on one or two matters.

    She was a wise woman, short as a ten-year-old, older than fifty but with a face that seemed as fresh as thirty. But in the true fashion of the abbots of old, she had grown her hair from a very young age to commit to the job; and now, in one long rope-like plait, it was spun around many hooks over the four walls and ceiling and around her little body from the waist downwards, creating the illusion of a spider retired in her own web.

    Many of the unisex order of Monks in Magrapalis Mountain practiced similar feats of the body. Indeed, committed young acolytes given to debating would on rare occasions challenge each other to a duel: fingernails at dawn, with the survivor to be determined after thirty to fifty years of standing perfectly still and making sure to eat plenty of spinach, kale and oranges to promote growth.

    Kneeling before the abbot, I asked her in hushed tones the questions I had been longing to answer. The first being: "Will the Aidgar clan ever be united under my rule?"

    "Oh, that's an easy one. Yes, yes already!" she replied, displaying a little less than the patience for which she was known. "Get to the question you're dying to ask."

    "Very well," I said, gritting my teeth. "You have heard the prophecy regarding myself and the Blood Mother, Captain Nellie of the Kraken's Reach."

    "Was that your next question? Because I wasn't expecting another brain-teaser", she sarcastically replied. "We've all heard it. On the day that Valtag finally clashes with Mama Blood, the one shall feast on the flesh of the other and thereby die. Old news, my boy. Old as…those kinds of fish which grow especially old, you know the ones I mean."

    "My question is this, old woman: is this what must be, or what can be avoided? Is there any way a warrior of the plains might deserve a better life than being the last meal of a human sow?"

    "You don't mince your words, do you, boy?" she tutted disapprovingly. "I'm afraid this decree is not born out of entrails or the flight of birds. It is the reading of the stars which foretold yours and Nell's end. And we both know when the stars demand the fate of a Vash-Taen, their own babes, that decree cannot be countermanded nor avoided."

    My heart sank. I had hoped the Gods might hear my plea and allow me to re-write my passage over the black bridge of death. If not by the sword of a warrior, at least by one of the men in Nell's employ, rather than at her greedy chomping teeth…I shuddered to think of myself gnashed between them, if the stories of cannibalism aboard the Reach held true.

    As if reading my mind, the abbot softly interjected: "Mind you, it is a vague saying, and such things are easily re-interpreted. Besides, I doubt she has yet decided to eat people. The Vash-Taen are more inclined to inanimate food."

    "What can you tell me about them?" I pleaded. "Are they all like her? Can I appeal to them to reign her in?"

    "Tush, young laddie, you expect me to know such things, busy as I am here!" she spread her arms to indicate the reach of her immense web, toes wiggling inside her snug hair-cocoon. For a short, peculiar religious woman, she was quite beautiful, and it showed when she gave me a child-like smile. "This is the first and only Star-Child to find her way into plain sight in all of history! I can't think what that daft coot Madrigern hoped to achieve, leaving her hiding in the hands of a bungler such as you. Trying to make one of those things a mere Kitchen-Maid…have you seen what she's wearing these days?"

    I had indeed seen the latest tapestries. Swelling with command at her conquest of the Twelve Galleon Families and their fleets using only her stolen vessel and crew of hopefuls, she had eaten her way into becoming the biggest Pirate captain on the high seas, literally and figuratively. In celebration of this victory, she had had parts taken from the white coats of all twelve Pirate-Fathers of the families after walking them off the plank, and fashioned them into a flowing white jacket of her own, complete with green curling tentacles emerging from its hem to reference her ship's name.

    This was completed with even tighter leather pants and the few shirts that could fit her; crude as the hand-held illustrations had been, it was evident that she continued her unnatural appetites. Her belly made short work of any belt-line, swallowing it out of sight, and the top of her shirt fared no better in attempting to hold back the avalanche-like movement of her tremendous bust. Her hips had grown wide enough to rest a mug of ale or a loaded crossbow upon them, and to allow her arms to stick out at an angle at rest; and within her adorably, deceptively cherubic face her jawline had become almost swallowed amongst her chub, only the pointy end sticking out in an allegedly adorable fashion.

    In all of these the famed Mama Blood, mad Titan of the waves, was depicted atop a cannon or a freshly-slain foe, perhaps chewing on a turkey's leg or picking her teeth with a cutlass and grinning that ferocious predatory grin. I feared for that day we might clash, not knowing which would emerge the victor. I feared her devouring me, and in my private horror, I feared more her dying afterward. She still held that place in my affections, though I wish I could deny it her.

    I thanked the abbot for her advice, and proceeded with my third question - but such matters are not important now and will become related over time. I shall not bore you further with the machinations and mathematics commonly manufactured in the minds of Magrapalis' finest Monks.

    +++

    It was the wisdom of the abbot that came to mind, her lovely yellow hair and pleasant humming, when five years later I finished my conquest over the Baron of Orter Piwn and the Rising Province. The final battle was finished with a city-wide celebration and feast, after which I was offered the thanks and loyalty of all the merchants and journeymen in the city, which I took with the dignity and enthusiasm appropriate to a swords-master.

    Yet as I returned to my personal tent that night in the fields surrounding, a weariness had settled over my bones. More so when I found that I had been followed by one of my finest lieutenants, Sarrana the Spear-Thrower. She was a dusky girl, dark-skinned and dripping with powerful muscle; her pert breasts and lean abs should have excited the attentions of whatever warrior dared compete for her attention, and she practically threw it at me. Yet I found no way to return her affections.

    I was not some blushing virgin, you understand; I had often paid long and mutually affectionate visits to the prostitutes of the villages and courtesans of the high towns, finding little difference except in variety of dress and steepness of fee. But in a girl such as Sarrana, I found plenty to admire in size, but…too much hardness to bring about my passion.

    "My lord?" she asked, stroking her mahogany-black hair and unbuckling one strap on her warrior's metal breastplate, with little subtlety. "Have you heard the news from the sea?"

    "More of it?" I sighed, lighting my pipe with one of the Baron's old maps as I reclined on a horse-hair cushion.

    "They say Captain Nellie has drawn herself into the shadows to plot the downfall of all who oppose her - you especially. They say that she has taken to cursing aloud at your name. They say she keeps your portrait clutched in her bosom, and bites and chews off the fingers of any man who even brushes that area - "

    "It is not noble to recount rumours, Sarrana," I replied curtly, tipping my head back to blow a mushroom cloud of smoke above. "Even if they concern our deepest enemies. We must endeavour to be better than that."

    "But my lord - "

    "Enough. I can see your desires printed on your face. I have not changed my mind; I want no part in them. Show yourself out."

    She pouted at me a little, then strode out, wounded by my stoniness. Left in the smoke and surrounded by trophies of my previous campaigns, I mused over the years before and to come. A warrior such as myself deserved a fine legacy…and soon, with the armies I had amassed, the bounty of the Aidgar…but something was missing. Something central to my life.

    I straightened up, sat at my campaign table and began to draw a map. Imbecile that I was, I had begun to miss my family.

    It was time to go home.

    (Continued in post 18 of this thread)

     
  16. Sep 10, 2013 #16

    Vongola27

    Vongola27

    Vongola27

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    I'm going to go out on a limb and guess the trip home is not going to go very well. Call it a hunch.

    Love the new chapter, and I like that while you do all this world building, you still find time to make mention of how big Nell is getting. Can't forget the target audience, can we?
     
  17. Sep 10, 2013 #17

    JimBob

    JimBob

    JimBob

    Wondering Where You Are

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    But of course, dear boy. Bums on seats, that's what it's all about, bums on seats! You'll notice I'm endeavouring to try and sneak the title into each chapter as well to prevent it from becoming irrelevant to the action. That and mentioning Madrigern once as well - he must have snuck some extra clause into his contract, the dastard.
     
  18. Sep 11, 2013 #18

    JimBob

    JimBob

    JimBob

    Wondering Where You Are

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    Chapter V: A Dip In The Lake

    We travelled alone through the plains of Aulace for many months, our revery broken only by the song of bards and the noise of prowl-pups hunting their prey in the night. The way between the Baron's citadel and Lizard's Tail was long and arduous, and I had taken only my seven best men for the ride, the rest (especially Sarrana) left managing my new properties.

    Though I had united many of the cast-off lands that had once split from Aidgar ownership (just as my great enemy had drawn together the families with dominion of the sea), you must understand I was not supreme overlord of all the world. Clan Aidgar was, and remains still, the greatest of feudal families; but we cannot own it all, and friendly alliances are maintained with our more genial neighbours.

    Such a one was Lady Thida Alyssa, of the Seven Ruby Mountains, Grand Mistress in the Tower of High Truths, whose land we crossed on the third day of travel. One more day and we might have crossed over that land and reached our goal; but the signs in the sky all indicated that Gaunts were following the next rain clouds, and so we would be forced to do battle with them if we camped out on the grassland at the foot of the mountains.

    And so it was that a messenger was sent ahead to plead shelter for us with Lady Thida, and so it was that a messenger of much stronger legs was sent back to give us her answer "Yes", the first one having been taken in for a good meal and a bath. Spurred on, we made our way to her palace.

    We found ourselves greeted at the front steps by a grey butler, a stick of a man with a face like dried fruit. He invited us into the pagoda-like structure with a silent bow, and I slipped him a few silver coins for his respect.

    The Lady Thida held my respect from the day I first heard of her; like me, she was the child of an inn-keeper, and unlike me, a successful one. Even more impressive, her mother had found her success all alone, abandoned by her husband for the clammy embrace of Death. But her own saga - which by now, I'm sure, you know very well - brought her fame and riches in her old age.

    It was these that gave Thida the chance to mingle amongst the lords and ladies of the Ruby Mountains, and here she took the opposite course from mine; rather than frontal assault and conquest, she clambered her way to the top through subterfuge, bribery, seduction and many marriages in which the prospective husband was found to have died perfectly naturally of some disease less than a week later.

    Clan Aidgar found her a rival worthy of respect, because of rather than in spite of being a woman; unlike my nemesis, she had gained power in the traditional feminine manner, using her wits, her charms and her scheming intelligence.

    The Lady was now in her late forties, some twelve or so years my senior, and able to provide well for her guests. We were met by smiling girls and boys eager to serve us, giving us revitalising massages in their hot-spring baths and soothing our appetites with delicately-cut meats dipped in sweet oils.

    Finally, as my men went with a girl, boy, or one of both on each arm, the grey butler handed me a wax tablet signed simply "Thida Alyssa". My host wished to receive me in person, and without formalities. Tying on my cloak and fine tunic, I ascended the many stairs to her roof-top chamber.

    Lady Thida's palace was one of many winding chambers and staircases that led through an anthill-like structure, being set as it was inside the heart of one of the great Ruby Mountains themselves. Even for a man honed as I was in the art of war, the journey to the very top, to her living quarters, was a dizzying and tiring one.

    The Lady stuck to the principle of having all who wished to speak with her come directly to her door; in seven-and-twenty years, she had freely eaten, slept and conversed only in her personal chamber, only venturing outside behind a long veil and within a sedan. Hence you will appreciate my apprehension about being given a personal audience with her.

    When I arrived at the door to her chamber, ornate and spread with jade markings, I found myself eager to please, and began to straighten my tunic and catch my breath; but the doors swung open, unlocking themselves, and I heard a voice made darkly smooth with years of seductive purring and smoking long pipes murmur "Come in as you are, or not at all, Ask son of Tishtig."

    Smoothing out my whiskers, I obeyed her command, shutting the round door behind me.

    The room I was greeted with was a testament to the fine architects in Lady Thida's employ, a cornucopia of visual delight. One enterprising young woman or man could carve out seven decades or more of life in that room alone. At its far left end was a walk-in wardrobe brimming with outfits, jewellery and shoes to delight the senses; next to that lay a long oval table, perfect for dining or discussing policy, accompanied by a stone fireplace and a full compliment of plates, knives and forks.

    In its centre lay a lushly carpeted living-area, the walls covered with ancient scrolls and moving-lantern projectors, the soft chairs and cushions spilling out onto the carpet so that many guests might lie around over them (and if the rumours of the high Lady's unfathomable erotic appetites were correct, many had; some before being executed the next day to preserve secrecy, heading to the garotte or the high drop with satisfied smiles still printed across their faces).

    The area to the far right was dominated by a fold-out screen, covering the bed-chamber wherein I guessed the lady hid, attempting to adjust her appearance. And, grandest of attractions in this beauteous room, the entire oval structure was illuminated solely by the widest window I had ever seen, carved out of the burgundy-tinted ruby of the mountains themselves, bathing all around the chamber in a sensual, royal red-purple as the firelight blazed and the light of the night poured in. The moon was hidden that night, and I remarked so.

    "True," came the deep, silky voice of the Lady from her hideaway. "The stars are all there is left to shine on my modest lodgings and my meagre kingdom."

    "The stars..." I mused, my natural anger at the thought of them tinged with a little sadness at the course of my life.

    "I am sorry, Ask. Do you mind if I call you Ask? I had forgotten your strange history with the heavenly bodies and their children."

    "It is a pleasure to hear my true name in the lips of one so esteemed by my Clan, and myself. Do not hold off on a subject for my sake; I am more than willing to discuss the Vash-Taen, learn more of them and their ways. Every new piece of knowledge aids me in knowing how to defeat them."

    "You think yourself a brave man," she said, over a sound that was akin to shuffling.

    "I am a brave man," I replied, "No matter what any may say of me."

    "Do you care to test your mettle?" she said, swiftly opening the door to the screen, standing there in her glory.

    She had aged well, like a flower that seeds itself only close to the snowy mountain peak and dies there. To my private delight, I found her not the elegant swan-like lady depicted in the portraits I'd seen throughout her palace. Like the Queen Ant she had emulated in her race to power, I found her swollen in the middle. Perhaps this was the result of travelling only be sedan, or of the fabulous meals afforded by her wealth, or some inherited trait.

    Peculiarly, her body was relatively slim (though not by any means skinny nor muscular) around her head, neck, shoulders and arms; below that, she rounded out into two breasts as plump as ripe cooking apples and a figure that was all belly, rounded and quivering in the way of a swollen wineskin. She had on her beautiful figure a dress of deep purple, with gold trimmings and loose lilac sleeves; these complimented the manner in which her arms were forced to her sides by her rounded belly, resting like wings on its surface. Her long skirt billowed behind and in front of her beneath that belly, covering her legs completely so that an illusion was created when she moved: beneath her waist she looked as if she were floating. The gold V of the outfit's chest accentuated her small-but-impressive bust, and a line of gold links skirted the long circumference of her waist. I could see this was a colour and shape that pleased the lady; her ears and neck were hung with golden hoops, and gold bangles hung from her wrists.

    The Lady's famous beauty had been preserved here, possibly by the sharp mountain air. In spite of her advancing years, I saw little to indicate her being older than twenty-four, save for some grey hairs and the slightest hint of wrinkles in her eyes. That river-straight hair, tied in a sensible ponytail, was of a deep chocolate hue, though her eyes shone with hazel. Her smile, though full of power and indulgence, held in it the slightest traces of embarrassment and hope. I imagined she might not have been near a man of equal power to hers in a long while. To complete the ensemble, she was in fact two heads shorter than me; had I not known better, I'd have thought her an enchanted pumpkin brought to life with fairy-magic by the real Lady Thida Alyssa to toy with me. But that smile, that full-lipped, knowing smile, was genuine.

    "My Lady Thida...I find your beauty unparalleled in the race of men. Yours is a truly unique power over the hearts of all who may appreciate great art in its time."

    She nodded, satisfied, and lifted a hand that had been resting on the dome of her belly for me to grace with a kiss. As I did so, I felt the weight of my cloak leave my shoulders; it had been lifted by a mechanical hook suspended from the ceiling on a metal track.

    "Clever, are they not?" she said, taking on a more casual tone. "My people have progressed many years in the art of mechanics. I need not lift a finger - "

    As she spoke, a set of crafted puppet-like hands descended, flipping open a mirror that she might adjust her lipstick. " - because they use mirrors and charms to read my emotions. It's all in the tone and - " she swung her hips seductively, causing me to gag a little, " - body language."

    She laughed - a merry piping sound - at my blushing, spluttering act and made a calming gesture. "Know that your reputation proceeds you, Valtag of the Aidgar - and Ask song of Tishtig. Madrigern was right to speak well of you, though he swore me to silence of the nature of his visit."

    I thought better than to ask her further about Madrigern, simply replying "If my reputation proceeds me, know that you outdo yours, my Lady - your beauty and your manner are both the stuff of legend."

    "Perhaps you ought not to emphasise the word 'stuff' if you want to stay in my good graces," she teased, drumming a soft slender finger over the gold rings set over her deep belly-button. "But no matter. Come, let us dine."

    Her little hand closed over two of my fingers and she drew me to the oval table, which was already being set by a blur of wooden puppet-hands. I followed awkwardly, not knowing how to react around a woman so small and yet so in-control.

    "We were talking of the Vash-Taen?" she said, confidently filling the silence as a well-cushioned chair was brought to meet her sizeable rear.

    "In-indeed we, oof, were", I replied as a slightly harder chair befitting my warrior's status was drawn up sharply behind me, at a right angle to the lady's seat. "What do you know of them?"

    "Only what has reached my library in the past few years," she said. "If you'd like to hear it."

    And so I began to discuss with her what is rumoured of the life cycle of the Vash-Taen, or Star-Children. Over an elegant beetroot soup with oiled croutons, thick-cut rare steak in a wine sauce accompanied by sautéed potatoes and fried vegetables, and sweet pumpkin-seed bread from the furthest, richest farms in the shadow of the Ruby Mountains, she told me all of the lore that could be trusted.

    The Vash-Taen, it seemed, were formed in the sky at the moment a star is formed, hence their name; and they exist in some twisted relationship with those heavenly bodies, though the nature of such is unknown. Yet sometimes they are cast adrift from their parents; and some may fall forever through the cosmos (a theory states that they are the famous "shooting stars" that sometimes grace our horizon), or fall into the ground, scattering livestock and burning grasses. Little, however, is known of what becomes of them afterward - save that they may be fashioned into weapons or great sources of energy.

    "It was said by my mother's mother that the grand city of Tarquos was powered by a *urp*, excuse me, star's child before it awoke and caused the place to become rubble, a thousand years ago.", said the Lady softly over a seventh deep cup of the finest beer I had ever tasted; a strange habit for a lady, I thought, having assumed she would only take fine wine. I had taken three tall glasses and thought better of drinking more, for its potency; but she seemed only a little tipsy after a barrel's worth. Perhaps she had learned how to store it in her own "barrel", that beautiful round orb at her middle which I saw was straining at her purple dress. She noticed my wandering eyes and giggled.

    "D'you like it? It was my Mother's. She became very *rrurp* fat all over when she was a rich lady, and needed a cane to get around. I *burp* excuse me, I had it taken in when I came to power. Thought when I was a *burURP, urp* child I'd use it as a tent. Now I wear it only in the finest of company. I *urp* swore that I would become like her - and more - in every respect except her size. I use oils, poul*urp*ses - I'm sorry, poultices and fine masseurs to keep my limbs trim." She stroked the silken-gloved wooden hand affectionately as it refilled her glass, and drained it. "But nature catches up with us all, and now I become a bloated great beer-barrel, *urp, burp*."

    She patted her tummy as if reprimanding it. "Greedy thing, *URP*. But I have learnt in twenty-seven years of *burrrp* solitude to forget about appearances. When I take my lovers here, they must learn to like all of me, or have none at all. *burp*."

    "I don't think everyone should have to learn," I replied, quietly gripping the table.

    She placed one finger over her lip, coquettishly. "Oh? *brarp*. Why's that, young Ask?"

    In order to explain, I leapt over the table, flipping it on its side, and held her in a deep kiss. Her arms wrapped around me, her belly pressing its firm bloated surface against my chest as she returned the kiss and nibbled a little on my lip for good measure.

    Wordlessly I heaved her into my arms, a foolish task for a non-warrior. Though her shape meant I had to hold her at arm's length, she was still able to stroke my beard affectionately as she loosened her hair, sending its long chocolate tresses downwards over her shoulders and resting on her perky, sizeable bottom. Breath heaving in both our expansive chests, I nimbly bore her across the long red-purple room to the screen in front of her bed. I noticed by now it was pouring outside the crystal window, a thunderstorm on the way.

    With many a ladylike burp and wild giggles as if she were being tickled, the lady fell on her downy bed - another golden circle - as I fumbled to undo the buckles on my leather tunic, releasing my sculpted chest and hardening manhood. She herself stripped away her Mother's once-voluminous robe, unleashing her restrained, unnaturally rounded figure like a cork leaving a pressured bottle.

    We gazed at each other's body with the lust that only the rich and powerful can reserve for each other. Thida burped once more, and I leapt upon her, kissing her neck with all the restraint of a drunken man, on my journey down to her breasts. These I teased subtly, tweaking the right nipple between finger and thumb and nibbling playfully on the left. Then, pulling away, I cupped both together - tiny in my hands - squeezed them, and twisted the nipples in opposite directions as I buried my face in her cleavage. She squealed with delight, running her hands over my shoulders.

    I kept kissing downwards, over the jiggling dome of her magnificent belly, rubbing it softly in my hands, massaging the beer and food within, finding the swollen hardness of her stomach. Concentrating when I reached Thida's belly-button, I stuck the tip of my tongue inside and then coolly breathed on it to give her the contrasting sensation. "Oh, Ask," I heard her whisper.

    When I had finally kissed my way over Thida's underbelly, I found I had reached that place that men call "the cloister", "the stable", and other crude names; though I have always thought of it as "Paradise". Gripping her left hand in my right and resting my left on her right thigh, I kissed at her vulva left and right, opened her up like an orchid and pressed my tongue deep into her, tight from her relative smallness and made tighter with her great bloating.

    Encouraged by her moans, I went deeper, letting the softness of my beard and moustache tickle her inner thighs and rub against her vulva again. Occasionally, I darted the tip of my tongue onto her clitoris; then I made it thin again, darted inside and opened it wide, filling her deeply. My hands found her soft behind, drawing it closer to me; then they reached up to massage her gut again, and grasp it as I pushed deeper and deeper inside her.

    When she had reached a shuddering climax, we rested a span; then she pulled me closer to her, kissed me so that she could taste herself on my tongue, greedy even for her own scent, and pushed my far more powerful body onto the bed. Against her I felt weak as a pup, perhaps due to the beer. In my ear Thida whispered, passionately, "Ask, I want you to fill me up."

    "You made a fair attempt at that, Lady," I replied, slapping her belly; she squealed.

    "Ooh, haha *rrURP*. No, my silly little man. There's still...space," she said as she slid onto me, dragging her nails down my chest. Ye gods, but she was tight...I had felt it less on my tongue than I did over my manhood. I felt also the weight of her massive belly fall onto my own battle-sculpted, scarred abs.

    At first, she was satisfied for me to merely thrust into her, holding onto her swollen little breasts for grip, and so creating a steady rhythm; but as I began to go faster, she grinned pleasantly and began to showcase a little trick of her own. Bending backwards, she lifted her belly with both hands; then let it slam down onto me, pushing herself harder onto my manhood and me deeper inside her with every weight-assisted thrust.

    This went on for an age, our beer-addled minds producing assorted gasps and moans as we explored each other's bodies in every way we could, in every position possible with her unique anatomy. Finally, we two lay sweating and wrapped in her voluminous sheets, not quite pressed in a close embrace but still gazing satisfied in each other's eyes.

    "Mmm...*brurp*," Thida said, and I smiled a deeper smile; that little flaw of hers was really adorable. "Why not marry me, Ask?"

    I could tell she was not asking seriously. "It would be a tragedy for the one to die before the other, given that you are older and I am more reckless. Besides, you would break my heart; I know your appetite is too bottomless and your palate too wide to ever settle for one man."

    "Good answer," she replied, "*urp*. Besides, I have enough to eat as ruler of the Ruby Mountains, let alone the Aidgar territories." She began to arise, with some difficulty due to her rounded midsection; eventually I helped to roll her to her feet. "Now, I must take a scented, *rrup* bath before I sleep, and have my massage so that I keep 'trim' - in certain places." She pinched the soft skin of her upper arm with a sarcastic expression.

    "I shall stay here," I said, "And allow you to use your facilities first."

    "Ah, good boy," she said, ruffling my unkempt hair. "There will be, *burp* a pot of honey tea outside the door by now, and two cups. I suggest you drink some if you wuh-*BURP* want to avoid a *urp* hangover."

    She toddled off into the bath chamber behind her bed, her podgy figure shimmying and shaking with every step, leaving me pondering as I watched her go.

    I had very much looked forward to our encounter, though I couldn't expect it to be as enjoyable as it had been. That having been said...there was a certain something empty in the way it went. Something was lacking.

    Recalling my sessions with the soft, skinny girls I'd coupled with over many a campaign in the last ten years, I knew I had always been able to physically enjoy it, seeing it as medicinal as well as mildly pleasurable - for the good of my mental health and my frustrations. This, though...with the Lady's beautifully strange figure...this had appealed to something base and fundamental to my nature. And yet, and yet, it had been...lacking. It felt as if...

    As if I had longed all my life to dive to the bottom of the sea, and not realised it until I had swam in a mountain lake. That was what it felt like, as if I'd scratched the surface. What remained, then? What should I do to remedy this need, this desire that I felt deep inside me? Appoint myself the Lady's new major-domo, marry her in secret and supervise her meals until she could never leave her bed? Find myself a Trollwife and attempt to bear her scummy aroma? Or...or return...to her?

    Rather than think the unthinkable, I gathered together the covers of my bed and prayed that my dreams would not play upon this theme. Even when the Lady returned to bed smelling of lavender, I said not a word to her and embraced her only gently from behind (though I had to arch my back a little).

    +++

    The next morning, I breakfasted on many a rich sausage, egg and golden-fried toast with the round lady, and we shared witty conversation as befits our station. Dressed as finely as if it were my hour of glory, I bid Thida the fondest of farewells, kissing the top of her head as we both stood. She burped, adorably, from her breakfast beer, and laid a soft kiss of her own on my whiskers.

    "Be gentle with her when you find her, Ask," she said, as if she had been a party to my innermost thoughts. "You and she will have a lot to discuss."

    "May legions of the winged messengers of love sing you to your rest, Thida," I replied, bowing on one knee before her.

    "Ah, you charmer. Get away before I have you and that bewitching tongue of yours caged in here for my convenience."

    I kissed her hand once more and went to make the long journey downwards to my men, each of whom I had no doubt was in a higher spirit than I, though I was at least a little glad to be headed home.

    Many hours later, as we rode the dirt rode towards the village, we found a cadre of Bards camped at a decrepit milestone, plying their trade. I sent a lieutenant to their chief to see if they could soften the knots tied in my weary soul.

    "But of course, my lord," he said, giving me his cheesiest grin. "Such as we poor artists live only to serve. Perhaps you'd like to hear our most popular piece? It tells of that Mad Titan, called the "Blood Mother" by some, Captain Nellie, who it is said was able to cleave herself from one Lady into six when she staged the coup on the Twelve Galleons, and since then has no, stop, what are you - "

    By the time I'd finished strangling him with his own lute, the twin archers in my employ had cut down the rest. We stacked the bodies in a pile, set them alight, and rode on. Lizard's Tail lay only beyond the next hill.


    (The Lady Thida Alyssa's dress is borrowed from the final stage of This Splendid Piece by DA user ~idacknowledged and commissioned by ~Ulyssexx, and I am indeed heavily implying that she is the daughter of the woman pictured therein...at least, in the world I'm depicting. This piece inspired the entire saga, so I felt I had to reference it in some way. Thanks, the two of yez!)

    (For her figure, think the final stage of This Lovely Piece by the fantabulous ~axelrosered - but apply to it an extra 27-years of stress-eating, beer-gulping, and spending all of her time sitting on her butt and/or doing it with anyone fit enough to climb to the top of her grand mountain palace.)

    (Erm...hope you enjoyed! This one was FUN to write.)


    (Continued in post 20 of this thread)
     
  19. Sep 11, 2013 #19

    Vongola27

    Vongola27

    Vongola27

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    I think this might be my favorite chapter yet, if only for the rich amount of detail you give to Thida Alyssa and her domain. The descriptions are so well-defined, it was like I was seeing it happen before my very eyes as I read! I also really enjoyed Thida, who bore a resemblance to both Ask and Nell in many ways, and had a unique body type to her as opposed to being simply fat all over. That you use this to explore Ask's thoughts on his desires and turn it back to Nell was great; that you show he is still conflicted in the final scene was fantastic. It might have been a dastardly thing to do, but damned if that was not funny.

    Great job, and I cannot wait to see where the story goes next!
     
  20. Sep 13, 2013 #20

    JimBob

    JimBob

    JimBob

    Wondering Where You Are

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    Chapter VI: Let Me Have About Me Men That Are Fat...

    Hear now my name. I am Valtag, swordsmaster of the Aidgar, high conqueror over the plains and the mountains, master of all I dared to claim. It was I who slew the Yellow Worm in the Well of Zanrees with its own wing. It was I who broke the bone of the mad Baron of the Rising Province on every stone in the wall of his high citadel. It was I who carved out a peace amongst the lands of the Aidgar and made them whole. Hear now my story, for it is here that the end of it begins: at the apex, the greatest point of my victories.

    This is the story of how I fell in love.

    This is the story of how I died.

    We travelled along the road for a great while on the last day, pleased by the auspiciously clear blue sky and the calm manner of our horses. The dust spiralled behind us as we rounded the nearest hill, and I heard my keen-sighted bowmen call "Ho!" for having seen the town. As we came over the hill, we found…

    A sprawling metropolis.

    My comrades looked at me, puzzled; I had painted for them an entirely different picture on our long journey between the citadel and here.

    "Ho!" cried my second-best archer. "Not to question your judgement, my lord, but is it at all possible we may have taken a wrong turning entirely? Perhaps Lizard's Tail was on the left fork, not the right?"

    "You'll be silent, you cursed fool," I yelled back at him, drawing a knife. "If ye had any wits about you, you'd have noticed the left fork lay undisturbed entirely, with weeds about it. If your near-sight was as good as your far-sight, you might have noticed that."

    With a flick of my wrist, I tossed a dagger at a sign that lay just within my peripheral vision. It was a wooden sign mounted on a metal stand, and bore no writing. The only message to grace its surface was a painted reptile, ugly and red-marked, busily consuming its own tail, forcing the tip of that appendage down its own throat.

    Glaring at the offending idiot, I spurred on my horse down the hill towards Lizard's Tail. The others followed their leader, as they knew naturally to do.

    With clouds of dust at our horse's heels, we entered the newly-founded streets of what had once been a sleeping country village. Cobbles were laid down where once there had been grass, and now horse-carts travelled fast through the hustle and bustle of the crowds, where once had been only a couple of milkmaids and their cows being led to pasture.

    How long had I been gone, I wondered? What had happened to me in that span of time I knew - I had been made better - but how could I have been so blind to what went on in my birthplace? Once there had been a balance. The Warrior Caste brought home the spoils, the Village caste farmed and provided. We had been as husband and wife in the uncivilised days of old.

    I saw no such clear division in Lizard's Tail, the grand city of the valley. This place swarmed with people of all creeds and castes - dragon-keepers, dwarfs, minor mages, elf-mixes, merchants. Not only travelling merchants, but those that had set up shop, too; the streets were lined with eating-houses, bakers, shoemakers, perfumiers - perfumiers, in the sleepy hamnet where once a man was judged by the freshness of the scent of animal dung on his tunic!

    Though I noticed another, smaller group more subtly integrated into the populace. There was some form of...organisation to the place now. However, I found it better to be silent about their presence for the time being. I had every reason to suspect treachery, but it would be wiser to suspect it aloud when behind closed doors.

    Yet I need not go into finer detail on the richness of Lizard's Tail, for many of you must live there by now, and others have all heard of it at least once, and perhaps visited. Nowhere can be said to be more splendid, nor more influential in the fate of the greater Aidgar empire. We are the eye of the great beast that sleeps on the land, and we are forever looking to expand our reach.

    "You've been sending money home then, Master?" asked Twyd One-Hand, my second-in-command. "The economy of the place seems to have grown on your spoils. All the better for us."

    I nodded grimly. Better to do that than admit I had no idea whether or not it was true. I had sent messengers to and from the place now and again, I admit, and had made the necessary arrangements to keep my family from starvation, but surely that had not been so great a nest-egg as to alter the fabric of the place entirely.

    That would be answered presently. I had one of my men ask a small child the way to The Shepherd's Delight.

    An hour or so later, we came upon the familiar wooden entrance, and my heart swelled to see the familiar wooden sign swinging in the wind, its red-skied picture given a fresh coat of paint. There the resemblance to my childhood home ended. Like the rest of Lizard's Tail, it had grown magnificently, almost as if the old inn were a seed that had only to bloom into a grand tree when given the proper care and conditions.

    The walls were now of solid granite, the fine white kind, decorated with finely-crafted gargoyles. Beautiful banners advertising the inn's fine dining and cosy bedrooms were hung from them, alongside clear-crafted windows. The door itself was set in an ornate arch, with iron-embossed hinges and knocker. Looking up, I saw the roof: the height of ten men and crowned with rich red tiles probably imported from the territory of the Ruby Mountains. I judged the entire expanse to be the size of a small castle, big enough to hold 400 men and women without one having to sleep in the corridor.

    I felt no need to bang my fist upon the door; instead, I pushed it gingerly open in the hope of finding a familiar sight behind it to make sense of this dizzyingly expanded world. Instead, I was greeted by an ornate blackwood desk behind which sat a plump girl of perhaps nineteen.

    "Seven to dine, or to dine and sleep?" she said brightly, taking up a wax tablet.

    "Uh...the latter," I mumbled, disappointed. I went to remove my heavy fur-and-leather coat, but she chirped "No need!", and I found it taken up by a young man of similar age. Many well-dressed inn-boys and inn-girls in smart blacks went on to lead our horses to stable and lead us to a table in the great feasting court at the centre of the castle-like inn complex. After days of riding and eating hard meat and grains, my men were glad of luxurious treatment.

    In spite of not receiving a fee, the waiters and entertainers were all too glad to give us their full show. Seated across circular tables spread with elegant white cloths, on padded chairs with finest horse-hair cushions, we were offered a dazzling array of fine dining options, not excluding all the most basic vegetables and a few foreign imports, as well as copious amounts of bread and cheese.

    "You host us well without talk of payment," I said to another pretty girl - a waiter - whose figure was an exaggerated pear, with a deep silver ring set into her lip. She grinned enthusiastically.

    "There's no need for payment, o Ask son of Tishtig. We were told to expect you and lay on a feast for the son of our establishment's founders."

    I glanced at the disturbance among my men around the table. They were trusted men to whom I had already imparted my humble origins; but they knew there was bound to be trouble if such knowledge had been made public. I swigged a cup of mead, turning over this information in my mind. Before us were being set small lumps of fried chicken with an elegant yellow sauce for dipping, one portion to each man. "And what else were you told?" I hazarded.

    "Only to give you the royal treatment in return for blessing our humble dwelling, on behalf of our current employer."

    "This would be the one who now runs The Shepherd's Delight," I added, "The one who seems to be able to see the future and peer into the hearts of men. A mage, is he?"

    "Oh no, sir. We are run by the patron of the town, our secret benefactor. Lady Llenadria, the magnificent. Surely you have heard of her?" The smile that the waiting-girl gave me was at once unsettling and familiar.

    "I have not," I growled. "Pour some more mead and then that will be all."

    "My lord," she curtsied, pouring and then scurrying off. I called Twyd One-Hand to my side.

    "You might have noticed something very different about these people," I said to him quietly.

    "Aye," he replied. "Nothing like that could get past me. There are no law-makers - not warriors, nor mercenaries - only persons such as these waiters, dressed all in black from fingertip to toe."

    We had noticed their strange garments. They wore tight leather one-piece suits, that covered the round patch of skin on their cheeks and all of their body below - as Twyd had said, from fingertip to toe. They seemed to occupy some middle-level of authority; a silent obedience and deference could be read in the villagers' reactions to them, but they were by no means some tyrant militia.

    "You may also have noticed they are all fat," I added, growling darkly.

    "Aye, that I did. The ones out there, every man or woman of them is sleek-headed, and especially in here. Y'heard that Kitchen-Wench say this be the home of the benefactor of this city. Did you see the size of her, great wobbling blacmange of a girl, all belly and bum? I don't doubt she sits at her master's heels at suppertime, to get the more scraps."

    "Here is the soup!" The girl had emerged unexpectedly behind us, holding a platter of bowls, spoons and a soup tureen that wafted an inviting smell over our table. As bowls of the brown, bubbling broth were handed out I grew more suspicious.

    "Is it not custom to serve soup before the meal begins? I can recall this was the way things were done when I served here." In true warrior fashion, I quickly gulped down a bowlful of the stuff - not bad, though the taste lingered oddly on the tongue after the first swallow, as if not too keen to leave. I decided not to finish my second bowl completely, though I saw my men lose interest in other parts of their meals to greedily slurp it down and then help themselves to more.

    "You have not served here for a long time," a voice called from a walkway above the open eating-area. "Our practices have changed, as they are wont to do from time to time."

    I turned to ask our kitchen-wench who had said that, but saw she had dropped to her knees and was sat upright with her head bowed, her arms rested on the front of her expansive thighs. As she bobbed her head forward, a few stray red hairs revealed a blue marking on the back of her neck, and the blood in me chilled. I turned upwards, teeth grit horribly.

    Descending the reinforced stairs was Llenadria the Magnificent, accompanied by two young men as plump as a couple of sausages. I tell you, she truly lived up to her name, in size and in her clothing. Clothed in a tightly-clinging lizard-green sleeveless gown adorned with white ribbons and yellow-gold jewellery, she seemed the very model of a Spring Queen, fertile and abundant in her splendour. Pinned below her left shoulder was a brooch bearing the insignia of Lizard's Tail, the picture we had seen on the sign outside of town; she wished all to know how truly she was in control of the town. Her black hair, dyed with red streaks, coiled in two long rope-like braids around her arms like twin snakes or twin tails. To show her dominance, she had become the lizard.

    Her form was even more impressive. Well outside of the weight of three large warrior-men, she balanced her titanic gut - for this was the most obvious feature of her corpulence - on a specially-fitted harness. Given that it jutted forth in front of her as if to lead the way, it required support, and so it was given a special stirrup with a single wheel beneath, to trundle along ahead of her as she moved to-and-fro. Rested atop that monument to greed and overindulgence were a pair of breasts crammed with enough puppy fat to give sustenance to a full wolfpack, and they were followed behind by an arse wide enough for half a dozen children to have ridden on had they been so impertinent.

    Here was a woman never in need of a scarf, for her beaming face was swaddled in as many double-chins as might ever keep her from growing cold, her packed cheeks and plump lips adding to her smile and her swollen eyelids giving it a touch of slyness. Two barrel-like upper arms quivered like the wings of cherubs from out of her sleeveless gown, and beneath the overhang of her belly and the pouring waves of her skirt were legs grown so plump the calves had draped over her ankles, obscuring any sight of her feet save the very tips of her toes.

    She was immense. She was astounding. She was an unbelievable sight, perhaps in excess of a quarter-ton.

    She was also Nell. Whom else?

    I returned that fox-like grin - absurd on one so swollen - with a growl of cold rage, but in return she lifted a single sausage finger up in warning. (A difficult task in itself, being that they were so big as to be squashed together like the 'fingers' of a cat's paw.

    "My dear Ask," she drawled in an affectedly caramel-smooth accent, probably borrowed from some high lady. "I had wondered when you would visit our humble city and humbler dwelling again. My, ah, 'crew' and I bid you fair welcome."

    It struck me why I had thought the kitchen-wench so familiar. She was of the Valturni family, and bore their mark on the back of her neck. As she stood I noticed a continued innocent smile printed on her features; she had seemingly no knowledge of what was happening or how we knew each other, and neither did my men. After a rich meal, they were in no shape for fighting, and I doubted the "Lady" would send her corpulent cronies against us unless she were to drop them on us from a short height.

    "Might I..." I hesitated, attempting to sound as courteous as possible. "Might I speak with you alone, my dear host, in order to convey the sincere thanks of myself and my men for your generosity?"

    She winked, sticking out her tongue. "How could I refuse such an offer? Allow my men to show you to my office when you finish your soup. It's right next to...the bedroom."

    She shuffled her elephantine form around with apparent grace - the belly-wheel helped - and strode luxuriantly through a wide door into the corridors of her private kingdom.

    "Master, do you think she was...?" Twyd asked.

    "It is no matter," I replied. "Drink up your soup as she requested. I must speak with her Kitchen-Maid." With a rough arm, I took the voluptuous maiden aside to a shadowy area of the once-inn's courtyard eatery.

    "You are of the Valturni family and we both know it," I muttered under my breath, my massive hand squeezing her soft arms. "What is your name?"

    "Nngh - unh - I'm Seditia, daughter of the once-master of the galleon called Emerald Beast. Why do you ask, Ask? Traitor to my Queen, what do you plot?"

    "Treachery is like a disease," I grinned back, "easily passed from carrier to carrier. Have you any wineskins about you?"

    She peered at me with uncertainty. "Yes...many in the back. Why do you ask? It will take more than wine to befuddle my Mistress."

    "I'm counting on it," I replied. "And if you do as I say, you can count on being the only captain of the Emerald Beast before the day is over. If you do as I say..."

    +++​


    An hour or so later, I was led by a chubby young man with a face like a bearded baby to the grandest room in the inn, my men having been led away to their rooms by many comely black-clad girls and boys eager to waggle their buxom bottoms or breasts in front of an appreciative eye.

    "She has been long waiting," the man said, pushing open the door. "We all have. We all love you as she does, and know what has to be done." He was smiling disturbingly. "I must take that."

    I looked down at the object in my hand. "You will not part a man from his wineskin. I could not speak to your lady without a drink between us."

    "Let him keep it," boomed the voice of the Lady Llenadria through the doorway. "He'll make a fuss otherwise, will young Asky."

    He bowed to me, the leather in his suit creaking, before waddling back down the corridor. Hesitantly, I entered the massive chamber, door shutting behind me with a creak.

    "I lied," came the voice of Nell from the shadows.

    "About many things, many times," I replied. "Please specify."

    "What I lied about is my bed-chamber standing next to my office," she whispered as many candles flickered into light at the far end of the echoing room. "See, my bed-chamber is my office. Lucky for you, Asky."

    She was seated on an array of endlessly soft cushions and blankets and surrounded by translucent curtains, with various dipping sauces and finger foods placed on tiny tables within easy reach. Her long hair was gathered into a high beehive over her head with a few pink roses set in it, having regained its midnight-blue, river-straight style; and the wizard's charm was reducing on her skin as well, it grew paler and more illuminated. She was dressed in a new outfit of two pieces, in bright reddish-pink and caramel yellow.

    The one was a skintight pair of sleep-britches, the legs only reaching the middle of her thighs, each twice as wide as man's head, and the waist (ending in a giant ribbon) only barely reaching over the second fold of her belly. She had on layers of makeup, many earrings set into her ears reflecting her pirate nature - and even one set deep inside her navel, as if its insides had grown a golden layer of lint. The other was a vast red-pink robe made of many others stitched together and trimmed with the finest white flannel; this did nothing to cover her breasts, both twice the size of a man's head with nipples as thick as his thumb, lying proudly over her belly and quivering like a jelly with every movement.

    She dipped a chicken wing in an orange sauce, stripping it away with her teeth. "Are you just going to stand there, or take off your tunic?" she asked, and belched. Not for her the genteel beer-belly-burps of Lady Thida; she made the sound of a monster lying satiated in her cave.

    "Then it is as I feared," I muttered, squeezing the wineskin. "You have truly succumbed to madness."

    "There's a fine line between madness and genius, they say," she replied, chewing on half a blueberry muffin. "But they both cross over a thicker line - good fortune. Of which I am blessed." She shifted a little, and I realised she was breaking wind; then she continued. "You heard of my coup on the Twelve Galleons?"

    "Over and over across the land. They said there were six of you commanding the ships." I sat on a cushion far below her pyramidic bulk, gazing up with some slight respect at her swollen face as she consumed a plate of sausages.

    "That there were," she replied. "I have learned well how to manipulate my form as my kind are known to do. You knew I was a Vash-Taen, I take it?" she peered down at my expression with genuine curiosity, then nodded. "Just making sure you're up to speed, Asky!" she grinned. "I found a way to make six smaller daughters out of the one Mama. Then it was a simple matter of seizing control of the Valturni with my mad skills."

    "Yes," I said, "Those skin-suits of theirs...and their crews, I assume...what is their purpose?"

    "Clever, aren't they? My own invention, of course. My control over my form is limitless - even when I'm not explicitly connected to it," she explained, before tearing into a turkey leg drizzled with ginger sauce. "When it is torn from me, a part of my body has only to wait a while before growing and multiplying, with me, my will, my imagination inside it. I can grow a new me from a fingernail, orrr...I can have a tannery and tailor make me some special suits, with special blue hairs lining the inside..." she teased a few of those hairs in her fingers. "Presto chango, a little army of slaves with their wills and bodies pleasantly 'edited'. I think they should always be plump and happy, so they always are. Isn't that great?"

    She hiccuped, absent-mindedly, and smiled as if at a child at my aghast expression. "That's why there's no news of the Blood Mama retiring. I took a few lovers amongst my first mates, who weren't adverse to suckling from Mama's teat." She hefted her globular mams in her hands as if judging prize fruit and vegetables. "Now all I do is send out a few bottles of my milk every now and then, to keep the connection strong when they float far away...and those lucky girls (and boys!) get to be Cap'n' Nellie for a while longer. Til they pick a successor, of course. Then the successor suckles the fake-Nellies and..." she shrugged, sending ripples through her form. "The cycle continues."

    Red clouds danced before my vision, poison lightning spurted from them, but I knew my last-minute plan relied on keeping her distracted. I edged closer, began to stand up. "Where's my mother and father, you wretch?" I growled. She smiled condescendingly.

    "Oh, you don't think me that heartless, do you Asky? They were glad t'have the place taken out their hands. Last I heard, Tishtig the Thief has come out of retirement in her old hunting grounds, and her dear husband has become the broker. All a bit funny, the circles we travel in, eh?" She traced a finger around her navel at that, absent-mindedly.

    As her gaze turned downwards, I carefully placed the wineskin next to a tray of fried shrimp and drew out of my boot a long knife. Gripping her chubby wrist (I could not even hope to get two fingers around it), I raised my hand -

    Nothing happened.

    My arm froze in mid-air, not even shaking from the exertion of willpower I poured into it. Nell the Magnificent stared up at it with a smug expression printed across her wide face.

    "Oh, Asky. You really think you're the good guy here, don't you? Valtag the destroyer, Valtag the life-taker, Valtag the power-eater. You betrayed me to swan across the kingdoms claiming your worthless clan's land, while I did what we should both have done. I brought justice to the high seas and money to our hometown. I built this, all of this, and took the profits." Looking into her eyes, I saw neither madness nor malevolence; only a black film covered them, and black vapour arose from her breath.

    "I built this city, and I built myself to be its grand leader!" she screamed at me, the noxious blackness filling my vision as I stood, paralysed. below her belly, her legs began to morph into an array of thick black-and-blue tentacles that spiralled around my own limbs, forcing the knife from my grip and holding me high above her. "How dare you challenge me in such a dishonourable fashion! In my own bedchamber! In the midst of my supper!" Her voice was louder than dragons in that great hall, her hair flowing around her head as if submerged in water. "What must I do to make you understand, Ask the wretched?!"

    "You...you must..." I sighed. "You must give up, Nell."

    "What?!" she roared, seeming far larger than I'd ever taken her for.

    "Please, listen. Beneath this monster the pleasant Kitchen-Wench I know is listening in there. You have heard the prophecy. If you dine on my flesh, you will die afterward. This is certain. Do not do it, Nell. I could not bear to have you destroyed..."

    I trailed off, looking at her smile. She was caught in a wave of glee, the childish glee I had grown used to in my days as the lowly table-scraping boy, and furthermore it was a glee that expressed itself in the pleasant, piping laughter of Nell the Kitchen-Wench, who I had known in those days. Her form receded; her tentacles grew smaller and became legs once more, her hair tidied itself into its rose-pierced beehive form.

    "Oh Ask," she said, regaining her caramel tone. "How can I eat your flesh when you've beaten me to it?"

    I stared at her, aghast and agape. My suspicions had been confirmed. She had brought the prophecy into her own hands.

    "Well I say 'flesh', she added, "But it's more like a broth made with a few of my hairs in the mix, not to mention a good pint of breast milk and some skin flecks for good measure. It's potent stuff, that soup; I've been spending this entire conversation using it to plump up each one of your men. They'll be looked after by my servants of course, the big fat piggies. But what use is a cruelly farmed piggy at your table when you can have a noble boar instead?"

    She grinned evilly. I began to feel a searing pain rock my form - my teeth, ears, fingers, toes, all began to stretch and meld unpleasantly, and my skin burned. I heard a bubbling sound inside me, and began to belch and break wind uncontrollably, much to my consternation. The room span before my eyes.

    "That's right, my little Ask," I could hear that maddeningly seductive voice coo in the distance. "Now it's your turn."

    Bent over, I could not help but groan, as I felt my stomach, my chest, my cheeks, my limbs, my rump...as if slowly filling with liquid...begin to swell up.

    I reached out. Panicking, I tried to call for help, but found I could only squeal.

    Black and bristly hairs were forming over my plumpening hand...

    (To Be Concluded!)

     

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