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To Embrace the Dragon

xanaphia

Hier kommt die Sonne
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Messages
2,997
#1

The Godslayer has given her a gift, but she only sees a curse.

Clara risked her life and freedom to protect her home town, however, instead of congratulations, she is met with resentment and jealousy. Her fellow paladin questions her loyalty; her childhood friends feel abandoned.

Her attempts to reconcile fall flat, but when a remaining group of stray demons attack her friends, Clara rushes into the rescue. Her rage bubbles to the surface, transforming her into something else entirely. A being with talons, and scales, and large, leathery wings.

No longer human nor fully a dragon, Clara is left bewildered by the changes and isolated from her loved ones. If she can learn to control the rage within her, she can reclaim her human form, and return home. Otherwise, she must abandon her humanity, and embrace her inner dragon.​

 
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xanaphia

Hier kommt die Sonne
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Messages
2,997
#2

It Starts with a Kiss

Clara whooped with joy as she bounded to her feet! After two months of running and worrying, it was finally a time for triumph, and celebration. Monsford was safe. Her friends and loved ones were mostly safe. She was safe, and free, and… "We'll be Paladins!" she exulted, hugging Sue. "We..."

"Go tell your friends, then!" Sue snapped, shoving her away. And your fiancé! I'm sure they'll be happy for you!"

Stunned by the reaction, Clara stood in shock as Sue spun and raced off into the darkness. Sue had a twenty-pace head start before Clara took off after her, “Sue! Sue wait!” As they ran away from the campfire, Clara expected to lose her in the darkness, but she was able to keep track of Sue’s silhouette.

“Go away!” Sue called back, the words caught in a sob. As they ran away from the campfire, Clara expected to lose her in the darkness, but she was able to keep track of Sue’s silhouette. Eventually, Sue stopped, and Clara stopped a few steps behind her. After fretting for a moment, Clara placed a hesitant hand on Sue’s shoulder, but she turned with a burst of anger.

“I feared you dead! I came out here, into the demonlands to find you, and make sure you were okay. And, while I was worried sick, about you, you took on as many lovers as Afodisia!” Sue accused, her words choppy and sharp.

“Well, I am her avatar,” Clara explained, flashing a sheepish smile. Sue didn’t share her amusement, responding with a sound that was part scoff, part sob. With a deep breath, Clara tried again, “Sue, I am sorry if you feel…betrayed. I never wanted to hurt you. But I was beginning to fear that I would never return to the temple, and then I return to Monsford to find a demon army on the brink of invasion. So I did what I was supposed to do, and offer to sacrifice myself as tribute to Lord Verrier.

“I didn’t want to die without ever knowing what sex was like so I… I slept with my childhood friends, and let them show me what it felt like, to be loved. You have to believe me, Sue, I never thought I would survive, much less see you again.”

Sue stayed silent, save for a few sniffles. “So…you were with both of them? What was it like? Did you figure out how two girls...?” Her cheeks flushed scarlet

Clara smirked lasciviously at Sue, and her quest. “Well, I could tell you,” she pulled Sue closer now, until their bodies touched. “Or I could show you.” The evening was cool, with a gentle breeze blowing off the still-thawing river, but Clara suddenly felt like she was burning up.

Sue shivered, and bit her lip. "Show... me?" she breathed, shivering again. Still, she leaned a little closer, mimicking their games in their room late at night. "...how?"

Clara cupped her face, caressing her cheeks. "Well..." she whispered, leaning closer as well. There was hardly any distance between their lips; the simple act of speaking caused them to brush together. "It starts... with a kiss..."

Sue moved the last, tiny fraction of the distance. Their lips met and, for a long moment, it was a simple, chaste kiss. Like the first one they'd ever shared, when they were barely into puberty and still unsure of boys and kissing. She hesitantly slipped her tongue against Clara's lips. It played over the surface, then slipped between them as Clara uttered a sighing little moan. Sue echoed the sound, her hands caressing Clara's face now, then sliding backwards and stroking through her hair.

"Not... not bad..." Clara managed as they parted, struggling just a little for breath. Then she smiled as Sue pulled her back, her kiss bolder and more aggressive. This time tongues dueled lazily, advancing and retreating as the two girls explored one another with their hands and bodies. Sue pressed into Clara, hands trailing over the layers of cloth between them. Clara, for her part, managed not to be jealous of Sue's slightly more feminine build. Not with the gentle swell of her breasts and her hips in her hands.

"What... what's next?" Sue asked, looking slightly dazed.

Clara shook her head, clearing it, and glanced around. "Now?" she repeated with a grin, taking Sue's hand. "Now we go find somewhere a little more... private."

Hand in hand, they made for Monsford and stole into the first house they saw, but Sue hesitated before the threshold, “Are you sure?”

“Most people retreated to Kirstad, and won’t be a back for a few more days. We won’t leave a trace that we were here,” Clara assured her, pulling her into the cottage. They were kissing again, fumbling at the belts and buckles of their armor. Despite not looking, it came off easily, from taking it off each other so often back at the temple. Never while kissing, however. Next came off the padding, until both girls just wore their tunics and breeches.

Clara stopped kissing her for a moment, eyeing the furniture, before deciding on the bed. A half laugh left her lips. A bed, this would be a first for her. She pulled Sue over towards it, and then on it, cuddled up to one another as they sometimes did on cold nights at the temple.

Clara moved her head along Sue’s cheek and over to her neck, kissing and biting along that smooth column of muscles. Soft sighs turned into moans as Clara’s kisses deepened, teeth scraping over sensitive skin. Clara’s hands went under Sue’s shirt, trailing over her tight stomach to caress her firm breasts. Pulling back, Clara met Sue’s gave, seeking permission without words. Her response was to bite her lip, then nod, and she didn’t fight it as Clara pulled her shirt up over her head.

Moonlight cast stark shadows over Sue’s skin, pale light highlighting her crimson flush. Clara’s stroked her thumb over Sue’s cheekbone and smiled. “You are so beautiful. I’ve, uh, been so jealous of that, in the past but…” It was Clara’s turn to blush. A small, nervous giggle left her lips, before she leaned in closer, “Well, I guess it’s honest to admit I am still a little jealous…”

Clara held Sue’s gaze as her lips once more made the journey down her jaw and neck. Then there was new territory to explore, like her long, slender collarbone, and the gentle curve of her breasts. They were a pleasant weight in her hand, and yielded to her fingers, except for the nipples that grew harder and thicker. Erect, they called to her mouth, and both women sighed together as Clara wrapped her lips around one.

Countless moments were lost as Clara worshipped Sue’s breasts. Inspired by Sue’s building cries, Clara developed a rhythm. One hand cupped one side, while she licked and sucked the other. Her remaining hand became bolder, sliding down her stomach and pushed between the leather of Sue’s breeches and her skin. Fingers moved into her pants, teasing her over her small clothes.

Sue writhed under Clara’s touch, bridging her hips to meet Clara’s touch. Heat radiated off her and drew a pinkish glow over her skin. Clara rose up over her, and took a hungry kiss from her lips.

The kiss broke with a gasp, and Sue arching her back, "Clara."

"Yes, Sue?" Clara purred, pressing her palm against her friend's mound.

"Goddess... Clara..." Her eyes rolled back into her head "I... I..."

"You...?" prompted Clara, rubbing and pressing her palm against Sue's dampening crotch. "You what?"

"I... would you..." She uttered a wordless sound of pleasure as Clara bent her head and bit at her nipple before licking it slowly.

"Would I what?" Clara prompted. "What do you want?"

"T... t... touch me..." Sue asked, face scarlet now. "Down... down there..."

Grinning, Clara let her fingers slip between Sue's smallclothes and her skin. "Down here?" she purred, tracing Sue's damp slit with a fingertip. "Touch you down here?"

Sue bucked her hips against Clara's touch. "Yes!" she cried out, still blushing but no longer caring. "Please!" Clara's mouth found hers, a slick tongue parting her lips as gentle fingers spread the lips of her sex. Sue gasped into Clara's kiss as one finger ran the length of her slit and circled the bud of her clit before stroking back.

"Tell me what feels good, Sue," Clara murmured against her lips. "I want you to enjoy this."

Clara worked one finger in and out of Sue’s slick sex, slowly caressing her silken walls. Each clench gripped her digit in molten silk, and Clara arousal mirrored Sue’s. That desire drove Clara to stroke deeper, faster, drawing more pleasure from Sue and more longing from her. “Clara, Clara…” Sue’s moans were a sweet rhapsody of ecstasy, breathy rasps in concert with the wet swish of flesh in flesh. Clara’s thumb played over Sue’s clit, and breathless cries transformed into squeals.

With both hands tangled in Clara’s hair, Sue took a needy kiss. Clara drank down her moans and savored the sounds of her pleasure, pushing a second finger in to send Sue over the edge. Trembling muscles squeezed her fingers, but she didn’t stop, prolonging Sue’s climax until she was left whimpering.

Both women were sweating and breathing hard in the aftermath. “That was…” Sue started, before breathing in deep and releasing a contented sigh, “yeah, wow. Amazing.” They shared a lighter kiss, more lips than tongue, with noses and foreheads touching.

Finally, Clara slid her fingers out of Sue, and brought them directly to her lips. Holding Sue’s gaze, she sucked the musky flavor of passion off. “You taste delicious.”

Sue bit her bottom lip, and for a moment, Clara thought she was still feeling shy. Then her hand darted forth and gripped Clara’s wrist, pulling Clara’s hand to her mouth. With a moan, she sucked what remained of her taste from Clara’s fingers. “Do you taste this good?”

Clara laughed, and pulled her shirt over her head. “Why don’t you find out?”

“I… don’t know what to do,” Sue admitted, looking down for just a moment, until Clara began tugging down her own pants. “Could you show me?”

Clara smirked as she tugged her friend’s pants and small clothes off. “Yeah, I could show you a thing or two.” Clara straddled Sue backwards, aligning their faces to each other’s slits. “Just like this…”

Clara started first, licking the length of Sue’s sex, and enjoying the way her friend shuddered beneath her. Until it was her turn to shudder, with Sue parting her lips with her thumbs and tracing her opening with her tongue. “Goddess, Clara sighed, sagging into Sue a bit more, “Just like that.”

Sue, as it turned out, was a quicker learner. The first few licks were exploratory, her hot tongue slipping deep into Clara’s soaking channel. Before long, however, she found Clara’s weakness, sucking on her throbbing clit while two long fingers pushed in and out of her cunt. Getting Sue off had left her incredibly aroused, and now pleasure consumed Clara.

If nothing else, however, Clara had learned how to give pleasure, while receiving it. So, even as her body begged for release, she savored Sue, experimenting more with fucking her tongue into Sue’s depths. The thick muscle parted her tight walls, soaking Clara’s cheeks and chin with Sue’s lust.

Clara succumbed to her orgasm first, but Sue wasn’t far behind, both women quivering around and against the other. Clara’s muscles weighed a thousand pounds and moved like jelly and she twisted to lay beside Sue, and slumped down in an exhausted heap.

“Thank you, Sue…” she murmured, not sure if she were even still awake, “Thank you for coming for me…”
 

xanaphia

Hier kommt die Sonne
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Messages
2,997
#3
Transformation
Exhausted from the long day and the more pleasant but equally tiring night, the two girls burrowed under the quilts of their borrowed bed and drifted off to sleep. Sue slept soundly, lost in the dreamless darkness that followed exhaustion. Clara, for her part, tossed and turned and found that sleep brought dreams...

"Wait," she called, desperation in her voice. "Don't go! Please!"

None of them heeded her. Oh, they listened. Thora looked back over her shoulder, dread in her eyes as Sigurd hurried her along. He didn't attempt to look, just increased his pace. She tried to follow them, but found herself moving slower and slower. "Please!" she called. "It's still me! It's Clara!"

Still, they ignored her. They plunged into a stream of fleeing men and women, joining others that she recognized. There was Sue, gripping a sword and watching her, terror etched in her features. There was Aunt Ingrud and Uncle Arthur, herding their children and focusing their attention away. "Please!" she called, "please don't..."

A lance of flame struck the crowd moments before a bat-winged shadow flickered over the crowd. The sinuous black shape of the Godslayer banked, belching acidic flaming death into the panicking mob. Clara screamed for him to stop, screamed until she was hoarse, but he ignored her. Finally, like a great bat, he settled among the smoking corpses.

"WHY?" she screamed at him, tears dripping from her eyes.

"They are merely human," he answered. "They hold you back. Limit you."

"I'm human TOO!"

Verrier cocked his head at her, amused. She followed his gaze, looking at herself. At the great white and gold scaled bulk of her body, at the arms that stretched outwards as mighty wings. "No..." she whispered, starting to shake. "No. No. No, it can't be. NO!"

She sat bolt upright, screaming the last word. Gasping in the darkness, she explored herself with her hands. Flesh. All of it still familiar human flesh. She was still human. Still herself. Still Clara.

She was nearly dressed before Sue woke up, sunlight catching golden streaks in her blonde hair and the pink blush on her skin. Pushing back against the terror of the dream, she sat beside her on the bed and offered a kiss on the cheek, “Morning sleepyhead.”

Sue yawned big, and blinked a few times before she registered Clara’s appearance, and what it meant. “You’re dressed already?

“Yeah, we really should get moving. Thora and Sigurd can handle themselves well enough, but they aren’t Paladins, like us,” Clara explained, smirking to herself as she said the word paladin. Lady Aurianna and Lady Justine both agreed to their promotion. That was all she wanted to focus on, the pride of her upcoming advancement. Not the dreams that still flooded her vein with adrenaline and questioned her humanity. “Why don’t you get dressed while I grab us some breakfast?”

The trip back towards the mountain was, paradoxically, going to take less time. Monsford had been unable to spare any horses, since the few that had survived were needed to help drag rubble and generally assist with cleaning up. As a result, they were on foot. But both of the girls bore the Mantle of Afodisia, granting them strength and stamina greater than any ordinary human. They could keep up a walking pace that would carry them at the speed of a trotting horse and maintain that pace for hours without needing rest. Really, the only reason Clara had bothered with a horse the last time had been for the sake of simplifying carrying her supplies.

"How do we find them?" Sue asked, and Clara thought she detected a note of bitterness in the other girl's voice.

"This is the main western road," Clara answered, pointing. "Or, it was. Until the Sarn was flooded. We just parallel the river, heading upstream, for about sixty miles. Roughly halfway to Kirstad. Then we look for the tribute road, and take it west towards the mountain."

"Are you sure they'll be there?" Sue sounded skeptical.

"Not completely. But traveling on horseback and wolfback, with Sigurd's arm still healing? It would make more sense to follow the roads then to strike out cross country. And it's been... a day, since I got to the mountain? Two?" She peered towards the mountain. "I'd bet they spent a day or two trying to find a different crossing, then started back. So, we'll find them on the road. I'm certain."

Despite herself, Sue found herself curious. "What... what happened to Sigurd's arm?"

"He got it broken by a wolf, when it tried to eat him." She held a hand about shoulder height. "Big bastard. Big as a horse –the wolf, not Sigurd." Then she giggled, and smiled a sly smile. "Well, maybe Sigurd too..."

Sue rolled her eyes, grunted, and focused resolutely on the road.
***​

Thora looked up sky, wondering if they would see him again. The massive black and red shadow and blocked out the sun as it flew over, leaving in the morning and returning at night. They agreed it could only be Verrier. Whatever Clara had done to spur the dragon into action, and whether Lord Verrier arrived in time to protect any of the town, the answers to those question lied in Monsford.

Still, the trip back towards Monsford took a sullen turn for the teenaged couple, as they wondered whether Clara had survived meeting with the dragon, and whether she was brave or selfish to leave them behind.

At least it started off that way, until the group same across signs they were not alone. Animal carcasses, drained of blood littered the forest road. Nothing natural could have done that.

Nothing but demons. As the sun grew low in the sky, the caught sight of the overhead threat. A group of succubi, practically naked and wielding tri blade weapons. With five demons and only three of them, the couple and their wolf could only flee the flying scouts. They would have stood a chance with Clara, but they were alone now.

Sigurd lay back, peering up at the stars through the branches. "Do you think she's still alive?"

"I hope so," Thora grumbled. "So I can kill her."

There was no shelter to speak of on the Tribute Road, and little cover. But with flying demons about, they needed something. And so, they'd piled branches against the windward keel of a large stone and crawled beneath them, wrapped in their cloaks and blankets and huddled together for security. Sleep wouldn't come easily, the both knew.

"I miss her too," Sigurd murmured, shifting a little and trying to find a comfortable place for his broken arm.

"I don't want to talk about it," Thora growled through gritted teeth. She wiped at her eyes, fighting against a wave of sudden emotion. "Not now."

Carefully, Sigurd rested his wounded arm in her side and did his best to hold her comfortingly. He said nothing, though. What was there to say? And so, they lay for a while, brooding together on the hard-packed earth and trying to sleep.

And then the wolf growled.

"Shit!" Sigurd whispered. "Do you hear that?"

The sound grew louder –the shrieking cry of a harpy on the attack, and distant voices. Distant voices that sounded faintly familiar...

***​

"I told you we should have stopped for the night!" Sue shouted, gripping her sword hilt and watching the star-strewn sky.

"All right, all right," Clara replied wearily, keeping her back against Sue's "I..."

"Plenty of cover in that spinny about five miles back," Sue continued. "We could have had a warm dinner..."

"I know, all right?"

"...and gotten a good night's –crap! Here one comes!"

They whirled, and Clara let fly with a fist-sized stone. It missed the harpy by inches but spoiled the demon's aim. It pulled out of the dive, screaming in anger. Clara drew her mother's sword. "Right. Next time, I promise I'll listen! But for now, can we concentrate in killing these bitches?"

Sue tried to concentrate on the battle, but it was hard to see where they were coming from. Hard to pull herself away from her anger. This was all Clara’s fault! Just because she was so eager to get back to her other lovers. Now they had to fight a group of flying succubi at night. Demons who had gotten the drop on them, fighting on their terms, instead of terms that would have been advantageous to the paladins. EUGH! She wished the stupid demons would just carry off Clara, and leave her alone. Except Clara would probably fuck with them too, just like her mistress slept with the traitor.

Sue let out an angry cry as she swung at the diving demon, missing her attack in her fury. She wasn’t used to fighting so heatedly. Everything just made her so mad right now! Clara, the demons, the other couple they were out here to save, even herself. Mad that she slept with Clara last night, and here they were, racing off to rescue the rest of her lovers. Dammit, Clara used her to keep her bed warm, and then ran off to find someone to keep her warm tonight.

Another succubus swooped low and hit Sue in the back. Her armor protected her from the claws, but not from the strength of the blow, knocked the air out of her.
***​

“Thora,” Sigurd whispered, as they crouched low to investigate the commotion. “It’s Clara! She is fighting the demons with another woman.”

“Another woman? It’s barely been a couple days and she already replaced me?” Thora growled, putting her armor back on.

“I think she is a paladin, too,” Sigurd tried explain, helping Thora with her armor, “We should help them.”

“I’ll help them! You’ll just get in the way, with your broken arm,” Thora snapped, irritably lacing up her boots. Sigurd stiffened, visibly hurt by his fiancée’s words.

“Don’t take your anger at Clara out on me!” Sigurd countered volume increasing, “I swear you care more about her than me!”

The fighting brought the attention of a succubus, who came in low to hack at Thora’s head. Sigurd pushed her down to the ground, covering her body with his own.
Hope pounced then, catching the demon out of the air and latching onto its shoulder. The succubus struck back, hacking at the wolf to get free. Hope responded with a yelp, and renewed fury, ripping the other arm right off.

“Are you okay?” Sigurd asked, trying to get up with using his broken arm, or hurt Thora.

Thora just nodded, suddenly embarrassed by her anger. Embarrassed, but unable to push it down or focus on the fight. She picked up her warhammer, and helped Hope finish off the demon pinned beneath her.
***​

Clara cleaved at a harpy, who beat her wings back just in time for Clara’s swing to go wide. Goddess dammit, weren’t all the demons supposed to be dead? Did her and Lady Auri- Ari, did they kill them all when they took out Hydranes? Why were there still some left? And why did it have to be flying demons? Dammit, why didn’t they pack a bow and arrows? Why did Lady –errr, Justine have to use them all up? She helped kill Hydranes and Yarost’cherev! How were these bitches making her look so foolish?

Another attack missed it mark and Sue went down. Dammit! They faced down a demon lord and lived! Would they really perish to these things? She couldn’t go down like this. She was the Avatar of Love and War! Lord Verrier’s betrothed! But the thought didn’t bring as much comfort as resentment. These weren’t her choices. Things forced on her by the Gods. She just wanted to live a normal life, like a normal teenaged girl. But the goddess called upon her to be a paladin, and the dragon called upon her to be his mate. It wasn’t fair! What about what she wanted? Sue, Thora, Sigurd, Willam, Monsford. A simple life, as a human. Not as a dragon.

Another attack slashed as her back, ripping her armor in twain. Clara howled in rage now, fury overcoming her senses, and even her humanity, for the moment. Something burst from the wound, large leathery wings like Verrier’s. Like the dream she had, almost a week ago, when she dreamt Aurianna was a traitor. There wasn’t time to question it, or be concerned. All Clara knew now was that the succubi didn’t stand a chance.
***​

Sigurd hacked and stabbed at the harpy with his sword, putting his own increasing anger into each blow. Damn her! He was glad she was all right, but maybe it would have been better if Thora had gotten hurt. Take that attitude of hers down a peg or two. Make her remember that Clara wasn't the only one she should be concerned with. Hell, he hadn't abandoned her less than a day after pledging himself to her...

Hope tore a chunk of flesh from the thoroughly dead harpy and swallowed it. Moments later the dire wolf was retching it up, vomit splattering the mangled demon corpse.

"Fuck!" Sigurd snapped. "Your fucking wolf just puked on me! Why the hell did we keep it, again?"

"She's been more use than you!" Thora snapped back. "She's still some use in a fight, even after getting hurt!"

Licking her chops, Hope suddenly stiffened. A low growl sounded as the great, shaggy head swung back and forth, sniffing.

"Some use?" Sigurd shouted back. "You'd be fucking dead right now, if it wasn't for me and my - what the fuck?" The last happened as, with a snarl, Hope wheeled and bowled him over as she launched herself across the rocky ground.

***​

Sue pushed herself to her feet, gasping in a desperate effort to refill her lungs. Damn, but that had hurt. She looked around wildly, trying to spot the next attack, raising her sword with nerveless fingers as she did. And then she froze at a blood-chilling sound. An inhuman roar of anger, far more like the deafening cries of the battling dragons than the shrieks and cries of the succubi.

Her heart seemed to stop when she realized where it had come from.

Clara.

She was in the air, carried aloft on great gold and pearl scaled leathery wings. They should have been terrifying, should have given the dark-haired Paladin a demonic look, but they didn't. Instead, Sue could only see a dread and terrible avatar of war in her friend –a figure of wrath and vengeance, with a naked blade that shone silver in the moonlight.

The moment was broken by a harpy, diving at her with a spear. She batted the shaft aside with her own sword and then leapt, wrapping her arms around the succubus in a brutal parody of an embrace. The demon screamed in her face as its wings beat, lifting them both from the ground, and Sue tightened her grip with bone-cracking force. "You aren't getting away that easy this time!" she laughed, smashing her forehead into the succubus' nose.

Sue and the succubus she was clenching went down, Paladin and demon hitting the ground at the same time. Sue was quicker to get up though, hacking at the wings of the harpy, ensuring a much closer fight this time around. The demon retaliated, slashing blindly with her spear, but Sue saw through the move, back stepping before stomping her boot on the shaft. The weapon cracked under the force, and the succubus stumbled back as her broken weapon broke free. Sue finished her with potent thrust through her heart.

As she sought out her next opponent, something whooshed in the darkness. Something big, moving quickly with a singular purpose. She readied herself for an attack she couldn’t quite see, but it ran past her, a massive wolf as big as a horse. Just like the one Clara had mentioned, before. But, where was it going? Looking up, Clara seemed to have the rest of the rest of the harpies under control, so Sue followed the charging lupine.

***​

“Hope!” Thora called, not too loud, out of fear of attracting more attention from the demons. It was little use, the wolf had a mind of her own. Once she and Sigurd were out of cover, they saw it, the great golden wings flapping into the starlit sky. The being wielded a broadsword, and stuck down the other demons with overwhelming power. Even in the dark of night, Thora knew who it was.

“Clara...” she whispered, looking upon her friend and lover with wide eyes. Anger had turned into horror, as the girl radiated rage out of every pore of her body. Before her was an amalgamation of both Verrier and Afodisia, a child born of their fury and burdens.

Sigurd caught up to Thora now, and witnessed the same thing, complete with the dismay at her awesome and terrible form. What had happened upon the mountain? And was it better, that Clara had left them behind?

***​

Flying was breathtaking. Clara had a taste of it before, as she clung to Lord Verrier’s neck as he soared over his kingdom, but this was different. This was of her power, at her own direction. Now it was her turn to twist and dodge the incoming attacks, mocking her attackers all the while. She hacked one demon in half, diseased legs twitched as they fell to the ground. Another swiped at her, howling her rage at the draconic paladin. Deflecting the blow, Clara drove her shoulder into the demon, knocking her off balance before cleaving her torso in from shoulder to hip.

The last harpy seemed to sense this was the end, fleeing in the opposite direction to escape with her life. Clara would be damned if one of these bitches would get away, propelling herself forward with all the speed her great wings could muster. A two-handed backswing took off the sucubus’ head, the body flying forward a few more feet before it’s death caught up with her. Surveying the surrounding around, she caught sight of Sue, following behind Hope, and Sigurd and Thora huddled into one another, just below.

Clara touched down before Thora and Sigurd, wings furling against her back. The euphoria of battle still sang through her veins, but the expressions of her friends was... troubling. "What's wrong?" she asked, stepping towards them. Both flinched back, and she stopped. "It's me...". Before they could answer, there was a flicker of firelight and a crack like thunder A howling sound of agony followed on its heels, and Clara whipped her head around.

"Hope!" Thora shouted, alarm in her voice. She threw herself into headlong flight, racing in the direction of the wolf's cry. Gritting his teeth, Sigurd followed after. A moment later, Clara's wings spread wide and she hurled herself into the air in pursuit of her friends. "Sue..." she whispered, sudden dread closing her throat. "Sue!"

***​

Chasing a huge wolf might not have been the stupidest thing she'd ever done, but it was close. Sue leapt a large rock that the dire wolf bounded around, coming to a neat landing on the top just in time to see the wolf launch itself at something she didn't quite recognize. Something mummified looking, with skin like leather. Something that sang an atonal dirge that clawed at her mind and made thinking difficult.

Clara probably knew what it was. Clara knew everything, after all. Stupid bitch.

The demon sidestepped and lashed out, a line of fire lancing into the wolf's side. It stumbled and howled in pain and rage, and the sound momentarily cleared Sue's thoughts. The Dark
Choir! No wonder she'd started seeing Clara for what a self-centered...

She shook her head. No! That was the Choir, not her! She wasn't weak, not like the others. Not like Clara's little bed-toys. She was a paladin, damnit! Drawing her sword, she leapt at the demon.
***​

Thora stopped in her tracks as she came upon the three demons, hurling infernal magic at her wolf. Taller than any man and as skinny as a skeleton, there was nothing natural about their countenance. Their skulls dripped with diseased pus and their skin was black as frostbite. Jaw opened impossibly wide, gleaming with row of jagged, broken teeth, and a maddening moaning seeped from their maws. Thora froze into the presence of their horrific visage, feeling her courage leave her.

It was the pained yelp of Hope that brought her out of her trembling, and the wrathful cry of a blonde girl, wielding a long sword and shield. Fingers gripped her warhammer, hammering it into the frail kneecap of the one fighting Hope.

An impossibly long arm and long claws returned the attack swiping across her torso and shredding her armor. Thora brought up another blow as the demon readied another attack, taking off the arm before it could strike. Its remaining fingers crackled with green flame, and discharged at her. Thora threw herself aside, just dodging the magic, and cowered as she began to doubt herself once more. Hope latched onto a leg, distracting the fiend just long enough for Thora to find her courage, and an opening, smashing her warhammer into its chest and splintering its ribs.

***​
Sue blocked the unholy fire directed at her, bracing her shield and praying to the Goddess. This wasn’t nearly as terrifying as fighting Hydranes, or at least it shouldn’t have been, but when she faced down the demon lord, she had four paladins at her side. And it was day time, which helped so much! Being able to see her enemy, track their movements and ready counter attacks, it all made all the difference.

Still, she was a paladin! Lady Justine had said so. Killing demons was her duty; she couldn’t let something like darkness stand in the way of that. So Sue cleaved into her foe, her sword finding a bony, deformed thigh. It sent the demon down, but it wasn’t done fighting, swiping with its claws. Her sword stuck in the bony outgrowth, so she abandoned it, grasping her shield with both hands. The sickening thud of steel crushing bones sounded, drowning out the terrible song, and the demon fell. Following it down, she smashed her shield into its already cracked head, over and over again. Black blood splattered her and the ground. When its skull was no more than ebony mush, she yanked her sword free, and shards of femur splintered off.

***​
One fiend remained, and Clara wanted nothing more than to rip it open with her own hands. Charging with the great speed her wings allowed, she tackled the demon into the tree behind it, likely killed it. Not good enough for Clara, however, as she dug fingers into its rib cage, and muscles bulged as she began to pull. Her efforts were rewarded with a shower of viscera as murky heart and lungs burst their infernal prison. Caked in black blood, she stood over its corpse in triumphant, and howled into the night.

“We won!” she screeched, turning to face her friends in celebration. But there was not cheer on their faces at they looked upon her. Only shock, and dread.
All of them stared at her Under the light of the moon, ichor glistened on her chest and face, and even splattered the large golden wings on her back. Clara stared back at them, the triumph in her eyes slowly fading as she took in their expressions. She could see as clearly in the darkness as if it were noon, and the shock and terror on their faces was perfectly obvious.

"Sue," she said, managing to make her voice sound normal as she stepped forward.

"Sigurd. Thora. It's... me. It's Clara." But they gave way before her, stepping back and watching her with fear in their eyes. "I'm still..." she whispered, pain and fear in her voice. "I... I'm still... still... me."

She raised a hand, seeing the talons caked with clotting black blood for the first time, eyes wide with shock as she turned them this way and that. She stopped when she saw her friends - the people she loved - had flinched back and raised their weapons. "I'm..." she whispered again, tears stinging her eyes, "I'm still... still..."

She couldn't finish. Her throat felt tight. Constricted. And her heart ached in her chest. And her tears blinded her to everything but the terror in their eyes. She threw her head back, giving voice to a roar of pain and rage, then spread her wings and threw herself into the air.

***​

They stood in silence for a long minute, watching the winged figure disappear into the darkness. Finally, Sigurd broke the silence.

"Well, shit." He sighed, and carefully sheathed his sword. "We really fucked that one up, didn't we?"

Sue watched helplessly as Clara flew off, feeling her friend’s distress at their inability to understand her transformation. Clara flew towards the mountains, and it wasn’t long before they lost sight of her, their eyes much weaker in the darkness of night that Clara’s. With a sigh, Sue turned towards the couple.

“We have to follow her. She feels abandoned by us,” Sue insisted.

“She…abandoned us first,” Thora countered, under the lingering effect of the infernal song.

“Dammit, don’t you understand she did that for you!” Sue yelled, frustrated by Thora’s insolence, “She was trying to spare you her fate, and you can’t even forgive her? Be thankful she loved you enough to sacrifice herself for you!”

Thora stiffened, and sniffled. “But...but…we promised! All of us! We…didn’t want her to be alone…”

“Then don’t let her be alone now,” Sue ordered, firm in her tone. Looking over at Sigurd, the teenaged couple nodded and turned towards the paladin.

“Let’s go after her.”
 

xanaphia

Hier kommt die Sonne
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Messages
2,997
#4
Sanctuary
Sigurd paused, resting his hands on his knees and breathing deeply. They'd been at this for two days now, following craggy trails and narrow switchbacks and even scaling a cliff wall in an effort to follow the path that Hope indicated. That cliff, in particular, had been a bitch. They'd had to tie ropes around the dire wolf and drag a panicking half-ton predator up the wall. Good thing Sue had been along, because he and Thora would never have managed.

Sue had also been able to finish healing his broken arm. Fortunately, it had turned out. Because they'd had to climb a fucking cliff.

"Come on!" Sue called from further up the trail. "I think Hope's picked up her scent again! Hurry up!"

"I'm gonna strangle her," Thora muttered, catching up. "Little Miss Chirpy Perky Bitch is gonna die."

Sigurd chuckled and shook his head. Thora loved the wild, but also loved sleeping late and creature comforts. Sue, on the other hand, sang cheerful songs at first light and talked endlessly about the virtues of sleeping rough under the stars –as long as there were no flying demons about. "Be honest," he teased. "It's all going to end in hate fucking, isn't it?"

"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" Thora snapped back.

"Hell, yeah," Sigurd laughed, adjusting the straps of his pack. He fell in beside his fiancee, and together they crested the rise. Sue waved to them from a hundred yards up the trail, and Hope looked back to greet them.

"Up here!" Sue called. "I think we've found her!"

Glancing at each other, the two lovers broke into a jog. From where Sue stood they could see water tumbling down a cliff face, washing the trail away as it poured down to churn a stream into foam far down the slope. "Hope started getting excited near the fall," Sue explained. "And there's a cave mouth behind it, about twenty feet upslope."

Thora shaded her eyes and stared. "You're sure? Because I can't see..."

"Yeah," Sue assured her. "I'm sure."

Sigurd sighed. "You know what this means?"

"What?" Sue asked, at the same time as Thora's "That we've found her?"

"It means more fucking climbing."
***
At first, Clara had just wanted a quiet place to think. Just a place to work through her apprehensions, to really process what had happened over the past few days. She gone to Fearfire ready to give her life if need be. The fact that she still had her life, as well as her hometown, should have been good enough. But what did that matter if she couldn’t return?

Perhaps she could have gone back to Radharc Realta, but she didn’t want to give Verrier the satisfaction. But now that she was here, all alone in this cave, she didn’t know what else she could do. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to be a Drakul…

Dammit, she should be celebrating now! With Aunt Ingrud and Cousin Elsa, and Uncle Arthur. With Ari and Justine and hell, even the damn traitor Matthias. But after the way Sue Thora and Sigurd had looked at her, with her draconic wings and talons, she wasn’t sure she could ever go back. She wasn’t sure she could stand the horrified looks of her loved ones.

It was a cry that drew Clara out of her self-pity. Not like the wildlife that made the waterfall or stream their home. It was familiar, and almost a comfort, and Clara broke into a smile when she peered out her cave to see Sue, thora and Sigurd making the climb up the mountain. They came for her. Despite what she’d done –and become– they still came for her.

So she helped them up the side of the cliff, and they all settled into the cave behind the waterfall. For a time, no one spoke, while everyone caught their breath, and Clara wasn’t even sure how to begin to broach the dragon the room. “I’m glad you guys are okay. I was really worried.”

“What about you?” Sigurd asked, his eyes tracing her features before meeting her gaze, “Are you okay?”

Clara bit the inside of her cheek. “I think so. I’m not in pain or anything…” Not physical pain, anyways.

“This has to be because of Verrier, right?” Sue asked, and Clara gave a single nod. “So… what happened on the mountain?” Thora and Sigurd wore expectant looks, and Clara sighed.

“He told me that I was the avatar, and… I would be his mate.”

“Wait,” Thora interrupted, holding up a hand, “did you sleep with Verrier?”

“No!” Clara insisted, her voice echoing through the cave to repeat the word again and again. Clearing her throat, she started again, “No, he said I was too young. But he did kiss me, and I tasted his blood and… I felt different. And he told me his blood would transform me into dragon.”

Everyone was quiet for a few heartbeats, before Sue spoke, “But, you were…” She didn’t finish that sentence, but Clara knew what she meant. Human, and normal. “You aren’t like this when you returned from the mountain.”

Clara released a breath and shrugged, aware of the movement of her long, leathery wings. “I don’t know. He said it would take a long time, but when we were fighting the demons… I just got so angry. That anger just overtook me, and I could feel it change me.”

“Your anger did this?” Thora repeated, brows knitted in contemplation. “I think it can be reversed.”

Clara drew a deep breath, fighting down the hope that welled up, “You, you think?”

Thora drew closer, and reached for Clara’s talons. After a moment’s hesitation, Clara took her hands. Thora’s presence became a warmth, a soothing comfort, a sanctuary against the consuming worries. Clara sunk into those feelings of safety and acceptance, and her form shifted and shrank. When she opened her eyes again, her hands were back to normal, cream colored skin with short, blunt finger nails. She craned her neck, but saw no sigh of the wings that had carried her into the air days before. Standing, her armor groaned and clicked, suddenly too loose and torn in places.

“I’m… I’m me again!” She pulled Thora up to her feet, and wrapped her in a tight hug. With foreheads pressed together, Clara squeeze her tighter. “How?”

“It was the same thing I did with Hope. I soothed the rage of Verrier’s presence within you.”

“Thank you.” The words edge on tears, but Clara managed to hold them back.

"So..." Sigurd said slowly, "if you get angry, you turn into a dragon?"

"I... think so," Clara said, still holding Thora.

"What you're saying, then, is that we best not be forgetting your birthday?" Sigurd grinned broadly, then ducked back behind Thora when the dark-haired paladin threw a semi-playful punch in his direction. "Save me!" he yelped, still grinning. "She's mean!"

"Mean?" Thora echoed, rolling her eyes. "I should hold you down for her."

"Promises, promises," Sigurd laughed. Really, it hadn't been all that funny. But somehow, his laughter proved contagious. Thora snorted, and then Clara snickered, and soon everyone was laughing so hard their sides hurt. Everyone but Sue, that is. The blonde Paladin's face clouded as she turned away, and then she sank down on the floor and stared out the cave mouth through the water rushing past.

"Sue," Clara said, noticing. She drew a deep breath and walked over to sit next to her friend. "What's wrong?"

"Oh, nothing," Sue sighed, leaning against the cave wall. "Just giving everyone some privacy, that's all."

Clara draped an arm around her friend. Sue resisted for a moment, then leaned against her. "Sue..." she murmured, "I..."

"You have your lovers back, Clara," Sue sniffed. "You don't..."

"Is that what you're moping about?" Clara interrupted. She nudged the side of Sue's head with her forehead, then reached up and turned her face when Sue resisted. "I went after them
because they weren't back yet, Sue. If they had been in Monsford, and you were still out here, then..."

"Then you'd have left her behind while you finished climbing the mountain, Clara?" Thora asked, joining them. "Or would you have let her go with you, because she's a paladin, too?"

"She was trying to protect you!" Sue barked, coming to Clara's defense. "She..."

"She left us!" Thora shouted back. "We promised we'd go with her, and she left us behind!"

"The dragon would have killed you!" Sue shouted back.

"It was our decision!" Thora raged. "Not hers!"

"Listen, you..."

Water sluiced across both of them, shockingly cold and unexpected. Clara scrambled backwards, still drenched from the near miss and looking startled. All eyes turned to the cave mouth, where Sigurd stood with Clara's shield. Water still dripped from the rim. He rolled his eyes. "Ladies," he sighed. "Be honest. Would either of you have done anything different, in Clara's place."

"I... that is..."

"Yes! I'd... uhm..."

The two women glared at each other, then sighed and relaxed.

"No, I guess not," Thora admitted.

"No," Sue mumbled.

Clara, meanwhile, clapped a hand over her mouth and tried to stifle a sudden fit of giggles.

"Great," Sigurd said. "No maybe you should stop squabbling with each other."

Thora pursed her lips, nodding in thought. "True. Hey, Sue?"

"Yes?" the blonde paladin asked.

"Wanna help me throw him off the cliff?"
 
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