Chapter 51. Hands Off, Hands On
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“Is this what arms are like?” I nudged my companion.

Albin glanced at the bedlam I was gesturing at and chuckled. “Of course not. Arms are much bigger in size. Besides, weren’t you the one to preach about Emanai food challenges — why are you so surprised to see it in person?”

I sighed. The two of us were in the eye of a storm, an isle of calmness in the sea of organised chaos. Kamshad and Kishava wermages were barking left and right — organising recruit hopefuls into some sort of a coherent marching formation and kicking out anyone they saw as unfit to even try. Anaise and Irje were also busy somewhere. As a member of Kiymetl, Anaise was overseeing grain purchases in order to keep this procession from starving without causing too much grief to the towns we would be passing by.

That was the main topic Lita’af had discussed with Anaise during the previous night, which honestly improved my opinion about the quiet werewolf lady. Even if that lady was probably in her wolf form right now and growling some poor wer into submission. This also highlighted in my head how fragile Emanai really was. How fragile individual parts of Emanai were, to be more precise. Because a passing group of a few hundred strong was sufficient enough to disrupt food prices and cause a spike in violence and crime within roadside towns.

While we were a horde of at least partially armed people away from their homes, this wasn’t just an issue of discipline. Arms themselves didn’t travel from town to town either when they needed to move from one area of Emanai to the other. They either marched from one established camp to another in a single march or they built a temporary camp somewhere on grazing pastures a good distance away from settlements for that exact reason.

“Your logistic system can barely keep up with your way of waging war,” I summarised my thoughts.

Albin tugged on his magically fake rabbit ear in contemplation. “Quite a pessimistic approach, Erf. I would say that arms grew to the maximum size that Emanai could let them. Despite certain challenges, they are quite successful with their tasks and everyone around us knows it too — there have been no raids on the Emanai heartland in centuries and our raiding fleets often don’t even engage in battle since tribute is willingly paid.”

He stopped for a second and a huge grin appeared on his face. His elbow jammed into my side. “What do you mean ‘our way of waging war’? You expect me to ignore that slip-up? Spill it! We have plenty of time on our hands.”

Albin was correct about time. While others were running around like chickens with heads cut off, I was mostly keeping watch over our belongings and carts. As the lady of a Pillar Manor and a likely war mage, Anaise both had more leeway in the amount of cargo she could have and knew what would be acceptable to bring in the first place. As such, while others were frantically figuring out what they could keep and what needed to be discarded before Kamshad’s inevitable inspection, our wagons were left untouched. At the same time, Albin, or Azhar Hatay Mesud as everyone else saw him, came with a single mule packed with some scant camping gear. Extremely austere for a wermage of his Spark and therefore equally unbothered.

I pushed the offending appendage away and rubbed the affected area as I rolled my eyes at his antics. “What is war?”

Not that he really needed to bring much. I knew his power and I’d seen his gear during our trek to free my family. His tent was enchanted to the gills and everything else within it. Despite his scrawny animal and the pitiful sack, he likely enjoyed greater amenities than the rest of this caravan combined. Albin lacked for nothing but a good conversation partner.

“It is the might of Emanai across the world. A show of our strength that others should take heed of,” Albin proclaimed, only to shrug his shoulders. “It is a bunch of people with pointy sticks and sparkly spells arguing who claims what land.”

“War is an armed conflict.”

“Uh-huh. And the sword is a sharp metallic stick.”

“Cut the sass, Al. What I mean is that land ownership isn’t a necessity for war. Do you think the barbarian tribes, which Emanai bickers with, are trying to capture our cities and lands? No, they strike and pillage what they can and then return to the steppe. That is what your codices say. That is also what Emanai is doing as it raids overseas as well.”

“Well that is raiding. War is different.” His hand reached into a sack and pulled out a bowl of popcorn.

I shrugged. “Fine, let us look at Creatures then.”

“We aren’t at ‘war’ with Creatures, either. You don’t wage war against monsters — you exterminate them.”

“Are you? It is not the death of monsters Emanai is after, but the land the Forest is sitting on top of. Imagine that Creatures were some uncivilised tribe of crab wermages: disorganised, without cities to capture or riches to plunder. Nothing but the land they were living on. I am sure that they would have seen your slowly expanding borders as nothing but war. It is slow and very methodical, but it is a war nevertheless.

“Many often look at what war is without trying to understand why it is the way it is and mistakenly assume that it is something static and never-changing-”

An arm sneaked around my body and I felt someone pressing into me.

“Hey there, handsome,” some wer of uncertain lineage purred as she dragged her fingers across Albin’s khalat. Her other hand, however… “Why is someone like you travelling all by yourself? My mistress is very curio-o-argh! You whelp!”

“Who. The fuck. Are you?” I hissed in turn as I pulled her hand out of my clothes. My grip twisted her wrist into an awkward position, just a hair breath away from dislocation.

“Watch your tongue, merk!” she spat and I felt myself shift due to the magical pressure.

She was a wermage.

She was also a stupid wermage since I still held her hand in a solid grip. All that her hocus-pocus managed to achieve was yank both of us to the side, further exacerbating her pain.

“Let go!” she wailed. “I will have your mistress scourge your back raw for daring to raise a hand against a wermage!”

I sighed and glanced at Albin. “Just a moment.”

A twist of my hand dropped the wermage on her knees; magical strength or not, they still felt pain and their bodies reacted to pain in a similar manner to other humans. It didn’t matter if they could crush rock or bend metal with their bare hands; if their brain thought that the only way to avoid further pain was to drop on their knees, down they went without a peep.

Well, expletives came right after.

I rolled my eyes and twisted her wrist again in order to disrupt any spell-casting and rub her nose into my sash. “Do you know how to read patterns or did you sleep through your lessons?”

She grunted against my belt only to freeze in place as her eye spied the golden embroidery of scales over the floating Pillar. The emblem of the Kiymetl.

“Yes, let us summon my ‘mistress’,” I crooned into her round mousy ears. “And yours as well. We can tell them how some rural wermage tried to diddle the Alchemist of Kiymetl and the first husband of Anaise Kiymetl Hilal. I wonder how my wife would receive such news?”

“I…” her gaze jumped between me and Albin. “I thought-”

I shook my head “No, you didn’t think at all. Or you would have kept your hands to yourself. Seriously — the sashes are there for this exact reason!”

“We aren’t in Samat anymore,” Albin piped in. “Not even in the capital hinterland. While it is possible to meet the murk with a very influential patron back there, the rural population doesn’t bother with Manoral symbols as much. You either have Spark or you don’t.”

“Great,” I groaned. “Now I will be assaulted by country bumpkins who don’t know local heraldry.”

“Not as much, anymore,” he chuckled and nodded at the onlookers that started to gather. “You are being watched right now. And judged accordingly.”

“So, what Manor do you hail from?” I turned back to my would-be molester, eager to get this over as fast as possible.

“I’m…” She glanced to the side, chuckling nervously. “Just a wer! No Manor, no!”

“I’ve felt your magick, wermaje,” I intentionally spoke like the farm slave I once was. “Do not lie to me.”

She bit her lip and wrenched her hand away. I heard a faint crack and a whimper but it was too late. The now free wermage bolted away, quickly vanishing into the crowd.

“Thank you for protecting my honour!” Albin cartoonishly bowed to me. “If not for you, this one would have been surely dragged into her den of evil and debauchery and eaten alive!”

“You!? She would choke!” Probably on his invisible horns or the enormous tail that he transformed into a fluffy pom-pom.

He laughed and patted the embroidered sheaf of wheat on his sash, the main produce of the Hatay Manor, most likely. “Don’t forget that I am just a male wermage from a rural Manor.”

I nodded at his subtle reminder, and pompously puffed my chest. “Fear not! As a murk of a Pillar Manor, I seek justice everywhere!”

Only to exhale and speak more quietly. “How often do such things happen within arms?”

Albin looked to the side. “Not gonna lie — they do happen. Soldiers have needs and some don’t bother to seek the services of a prostitute. It is forbidden, however, as such acts between soldiers lower the overall morale, but there are always some who are stupid enough to ignore the rules.

“It is also likely that she was encouraged to act in a certain way,” he mused.

I followed his gaze and noticed a group of guys suddenly busying themselves.

“Some say that it is the path of a woman to lead, plan, and plot,” he spoke softly from my side. “But we both know that it isn’t true. We have our own plots and plans, both subtle and overt. And there are many in Emanai that do not agree with your current status. Whether you are a daimon or not and whether your union was overseen by the goddess or not. And they will plan and plot to see you fail.”

I hummed. “I am surprised you didn’t warn me this time. No advice to watch my back? Someone is slacking off on the cryptic messages that only make sense afterwards.”

“Because you have shown me yesterday that you don’t need such advice, Erf. You have performed exemplary without me holding your hand and now many will think twice before attempting something reckless.”

“Oh? So they will plan more instead? How nice.”

“Well,” he grinned, “you can either navigate around individual attempts or get swarmed by a horde of reckless ones while navigating the very same attempts nevertheless. Pick your poison. Those that plot will keep plotting, but those that only smash and grab will likely back off.”

I sighed and shook my head, putting all of this aside. “Where were we, before the mouse decided to get handsy?”

“On why war always changes and Creatures are misunderstood wermages.”

“The sass is back, I see.” I nodded. “War is merely an extension of state policies to further its interests. Every state has needs and desires to further its goals. It can achieve some by negotiation, others — by intimidation. And sometimes the state sees that a violent approach is the best possible option. Whether or not it is the correct one is a completely different discussion.”

I nodded at the cries in the crowd. “Take Kamshad retinue, for example. While they probably can use reasoning to explain why it is forbidden to keep twenty pleasure slaves while you serve, wermage or not, they have chosen to let their whips argue instead. To make it faster, save their efforts, or something else entirely, I cannot tell.

“In a similar manner, the country decides how, when, and where to wage war based on its needs and desires. When you wage wars against other countries, you seek to capture their most prized possessions — cities. Whether to gather tribute from them or claim them as yours. Therefore you seek to keep the damage to a minimum and lay a siege…”

“Deliver a siege.”

“…deliver a siege to another city without razing it to the ground. For that, you need to be the only force with arms left standing in the area. This is the doctrine your arms are built upon — they are designed to clash with opponents and stand their ground. Because if they flee, they are either leaving an Emanai city undefended or forfeiting a siege themselves.”

Albin nodded. “So you do know how Emanai fights.”

“Master Siamak taught me the basics, yes. But I wasn’t joking when I said that you wage war against Creatures too. The difference in priorities and available targets simply changes it so much that you don’t even recognise it as war. Similarly, I am more than sure that the main reason why you claim nomadic tribes as barbaric is at least partially based on the way they fight. Specifically how they do not fight as the ‘civilised’ people do.”

He laughed. “First you try to sympathise with Creatures, and now you are arguing for nomads? It would be quite entertaining to watch you argue with generals and commanders in the future. What did you call it back then? Know your enemy — win a war?”

“Knowing your enemy will see you victorious only half of the time, or so the ancient general once said. You have to know yourself too. Knowledge is quite important in general — while it is not as critical if you tell a common soldier that the enemy is craven and without honour when it attacks from an ambush only to immediately retreat, if your generals share the same misconceptions then your arm is only half as strong, Al. Emanai arms must stand and fight to deliver or deny a siege. A force that seeks to cause as much pain and suffering in order to force you into giving up will find your once-flexible arms as slow as a turtle.”

Albin stood in silence for some time, mulling my words in his head with a faint smile on his lips.

“Something tells me that you can be a dangerous general, Erf,” he mused. “I am morbidly compelled to see you try yet fear the possible consequences.”

“A terrible one, more likely. There is a reason why I am standing here with our gear while my wives are busy with logistics. My ideas are worthless if my arm starves to death in less than a tenday because I’ve forgotten something silly like packing straw to feed livestock. Besides, I neither agree with current Emanai ideologies nor I am eager to wage war.”

Albin shrugged. “Auxiliaries are assigned exactly for that reason. Emanai has seen generals like this in her past, you know. She was quite successful against the nomadic tribes and multiple incursions into our lands exactly because she knew when not to fight. When it was better to starve the larger force by simply keeping her arms nearby. Be careful about your ideals, however — treason on a battlefield means death. Even Aikerim Adal won’t protect you.”

“I know discipline, Albin. And I am aware that there might be things I will have to do that won’t necessarily align with my morals. While I will try to avoid doing them whenever possible, I won’t compromise the safety of others.

“Besides,” I poked him into his sash, “how are you going to watch me argue with generals if you are some farmer wermage? Huh?”

The familiar owlish eyes looked at me beyond the magical disguise. The bowl of mostly eaten popcorn fell from his hands and rolled on the ground. “Shit… Wait! I’ve definitely read some ancient codices and Hatay Manor is actually an ancient Manor with a long-standing lineage of generals! My ancestors were undefeated!”

I smirked. “Uh-huh. Probably defeated every rat that tried to steal your grain. I am sure that Kamshad would be flattered to have the ancient Hatay general among their ranks. As soon as said general gets milked by everyone at least partially relevant.”

He scowled at me. “That is hitting below the sash, Erf. You know that. Is that your revenge for not warning you about the handsy mouse?”

“Now that you said it — it is. Suffer the consequences of your inactions!”

“Fine! I demand the price for my previous services, oh Alchemist of Kiymetl!”

I raised my eyebrow. “You want a potion of impotence? Sure thing!”

Albin looked slyly at me. “The conversation about Creatures reminded me of our return trip to Samat. You spoke highly about them then as well. You also promised me a sword either built by your hand or with your instructions.”

I sucked the cold air into my lungs. I did promise. And I could not deny my gratitude for his assistance in getting my family away from the Ritual. I also could not deny the inherent danger of a monomolecular blade in the wrong hands.

I licked my dry lips. “You do know what you are asking, right?”

“Yes,” he spoke quietly. “I am asking you to be me.”


“I am no fool, Erf. I look at you and I see power. An enormous power that no one in Emanai can control. Neither Anaise Hilal nor Aikerim Adal, nor me or my sister. The Emanai general in me screams to cut your head off every time you casually speak of things that could spell disaster for this country. Just to be on the safe side. Yet, every time I smother that intent. Because something else in me sees you as a fresh stream that could nourish and empower Emanai and make her rise above all else. I remember that buried shell of metal near the river and I saw the shade of power it casts on Tana. The whispers of a glorious past, long forgotten. And everything is in the hands of a person with a very murky future.

A slight tinge of blue shone through his red eyes. “Yet I chose to believe in you, Erf. That you will not abuse your power. Will you believe in me as well?”

“Did you plan for this, when you asked me for a sword back then?”

He smiled. “Did I expect you to forge a sword that could cut anything? No, but I did expect you to do something outrageous without realising it and I knew that I would be happy to have anything you would make. You don’t need to see the future — knowing you is enough.”

I glanced down at my scabbard and undid the belt clasp. “This is a murk version. It is just as sharp but has no runes on it. If you wish for it to last longer than a day, you will need to carve your own. I am warning you: this is a very dangerous blade, Albin. It will cut your enemies but it can easily cut you in half before you even realise it. Flow or not. I fear more about you dying from it than you pointing it at me. Do not let others play with it.”

I placed the scabbard into his hand but did not let go. “There is one more request from me, however. I need you to help me explain to my wives why some random wermage suddenly has my sword. Or why I lost mine.”

“You know what? Tell them my name. They already know the much more significant Secret of Shebet compared to a little bit of Flow manipulation from yours truly.”

“Deal.” I let go of the blade. “Please do not betray my trust just as I won’t betray yours.”

Albin smiled and touched his forehead with the sword’s pommel. “Let this blade be the seal between our families. From yours to mine and from mine to yours. There will be peace on her land.”

I bowed in silence while Albin simply took the sword and…inserted it into the palm of his hand. With its scabbard, clasps, and straps; his magic made it look like a trick to my eyes. He really could afford to reveal some of his spells, for he had plenty more up his sleeves.

“By the way,” he winked at me, “prepare to be molested once again. Watch your ass or something.”

I blinked. “Wait, what?”

An arm sneaked around my body and I felt someone lifting me into the air.

“There you are,” Irje huffed in relief. “I’ve heard someone tried to assault you!?”

I smiled, seeing her indignant face. “Nothing serious, I caught her but she ran away as soon as she realised who I was. Your husband remains chaste.”

“Good.” She put me over her shoulder. “I will find her and skin her tomorrow. We are heading to our wagon. Now.”

I glanced at Albin only to see the empty space where he once was. Damn bastard did a runner on me! So I did all I could really do in this situation.



She started undressing even before I landed on our sleeping bed. I could feel her magic tugging at my tunic and trying to undo the clasps and knots that held my dress nice and proper.


The cougar turned over, once she heard my voice. Her hands grabbed the collar of my khalat and pulled me into a smouldering kiss full of need and desire. I heard my clothes ripping as she tried to pull me out of them with all her might.

Whatever she was concerned about, it wasn’t about my molester at all.

“I am here, Irje. Calm down.” I spoke to her as I pushed her down. I tried to undress as quickly as possible so that I wouldn’t end up with a sleeveless vest in a matter of seconds.

She didn’t listen and her hands lunged at my clothes once again.

I growled at her and yanked her kaftan apart, freeing her breasts from the confines of her clothing. My lips descended on her nipple and I sucked it into my mouth.

Irje’s frantic pants turned into a satisfied moan as I gently bit on her nipple only to massage the bite with my tongue. Her hands enveloped my head and pushed me deeper into her bosom. Her nipple hardened inside my mouth as if demanding to be bit and licked again and again.

I gave her what her body craved. As my mouth attacked her left breast, my left hand made sure that the other didn’t feel lonely either. My fingers wrapped around her flesh as I squeezed and pulled at it, pinching her other nipple from time to time with my passing thumb.

My other hand wasn’t idle either. Her sash flew away and I hiked her dress above her waist to reveal that she was already moist and waiting for me. Her legs tried to wrap around me and pull me in, but I growled and pushed them wide apart.

I placed my palm on her hot mound, pinning her in place, and sat up straight. My cougar lay in front of me, fully open. I knew that look in her eyes — I had mere seconds before she would pounce again. “It looks like my kitten is very needy today. Needy and disobedient.”

My fingers grabbed her nipple and pinched hard this time. Irje whimpered. I smiled and gently tugged at it, watching her breast stretch with my pull. “Will you be a quiet kitten for me and let me satisfy you properly? Or do you want me to punish you instead?”

She bit her lip and paused for a second, contemplating both options. Only to sigh and finally relax.

“Good girl,” I crooned, sending shivers all over her body.

I started to undress properly. I did it quickly but without rushing and soon Irje groaned in satisfaction as I wrapped her once again in my embrace and slid inside of her.

“Now tell me,” I murmured into her ear. “What’s wrong?”

“Seriously, Erf?” She groaned. “Don’t ruin this for me right now.”

I pulled out and quickly slammed myself back in, making her yelp. “Did you think that I would stop? No, kitten. Your task will be to speak despite my ministrations, not instead of them.”

“It’s just…” She gasped as I started my pace. “…we are going to war. I thought that I was…ready, but…this sudden change made me stop and think… Well, this is it, Irje.”

“Don’t worry, love,” I murmured into her ear as I hugged her even closer. “I will keep you safe.”

She smacked me. “It is not about me, you prick! No! Keep your prick inside! Anything can happen in the Forest — what if your ‘skinsuit’ isn’t enough?”

Irje harrumphed and looked to the side. “And then those rumours. What if some sleaze manages to take you away?”

I lifted her up and bent her over. Grabbing a fistful of her hair, I pulled her back on my shaft. “Then I will break her arms just as I did with this one,” I growled at her. “And then I will find you and fuck you raw until you can’t walk anymore. Because you are mine, Irje. I’ve fought for you just as I’ve done for the rest of my sadaq. And I will continue fighting. I will fight eager skanks trying to take your spot, I will fight envious thieves trying to take you away from me. Because you are mine. I will fight Emanai as a whole with their gods and I will crawl back from the dead to you just as I’ve done after that Collectors attack…”

I kept slamming into her with every sentence I spoke. I kept pulling her hair, making her arch backwards. I squeezed and pawed at her swaying breasts, making it clear who had a claim on them here.

I also listened to her body. To the frantic beat of her heart and the glazed eyes full of pleasure, to her twitching walls sucking me deeper inside and her clenching legs, trying to squeeze me even harder. All the way up to her peak.

“I will do it again and again, my beloved kitten,” I gently whispered into her ear just as her gasps staggered into that final hiccup. “Because you are mine.”

I let Irje scream her release into a nearby pillow as I gently caressed her through the convulsions. Eagerly emptying my balls into her trembling core.

“Feeling better now?” I chuckled as she flipped over on her back.

“Fuck, yes.” She wiped the drool and tears off her face and grinned at me. “Thank you, Erf. I really needed that. I’ve been on edge all day long.”

“Oh?” Anaise spoke to the side, arms crossed. “It is good to hear that you are feeling better.”

Irje nervously chuckled but didn’t bother to move, “Sorry, Anaise.”

“Am I missing something?” I asked.

“Nothing much. Just me sending Irje to check up on some very concerning rumours while I was busy arguing with Mushaf. Instead, rather than calm my own heart that everything was fine, she decided to scratch her itch!”

“Some of that was my fault, actually,” I confessed. “She arrived quite distressed and I had to fuck the funk out of her.”

“Still,” the werfox huffed. “You could’ve waited for me.”

I opened my arms wide with a smile. “Come here.”

“Eh…” She looked down at the mix of juices and cum on my dick. “You will get my clothes dirty.”

“Irje? A little help?”

She winked at me and rolled over, quickly swallowing my shaft.

“Er…” I found myself at a loss for words. “I meant help me undress Anaise. With your magic if necessary.”

“Shoo late,” she mumbled without taking me out. “Tashty.”

“And she is back at it again.” Anaise rolled her eyes.

I looked at her silently with my arms wide open. She huffed and sighed a few times but eventually her kaftan flew to the side and the blushing werfox snuggled close to us.

“We will need blankets soon,” she murmured, pressing her warm body closer to mine, covering us with her tail. “It will get colder as we head further north.”

Twin emeralds peered into my eyes. “Was everything alright?”

“Yeah. Some rural wermage thought I was fair game without looking at my sash. But she managed to escape before I finished educating her about the stupidity of her actions.”

She smiled at me. “It is an eerie feeling to know that you can easily stand against an average wermage. I’ve seen you fight and I’ve seen what your armour is capable of, yet I still worry.”

“We all do. It is hard to tell your heart to stop. Just as you both worry about me, I worry about you in turn.”

“That means you will have to make me forget,” she purred, getting up. “Don’t think I will let you off the hook just because a greedy cougar doesn’t know when to stop. I have my needs and I wish to see them satisfied.”

This trip changed many things in our routine, including our prolonged daily trips to the bath. Looking up at her standing over me and seeing that cute red fuzz on her mound, I realised that I had no right to complain at all.

Welcome back guys! Missed me?

Chapter was edited by: Xeno Morph and UnknownPlunger.