Chapter 58. The New Mule in Town
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“Um, Anaise,” I carefully asked, “what is this?”

“You do not recognise your own creation, my dear husband?” she sashayed closer to me with a devious smile on her face.

I tried to ignore the sway in her hips and keep my eyes on the wobbly blob of darkness in her hands. “I know a printed polymer when I see it, but they are usually inert. Despite how it looks, Navigators aren’t in the habit of creating lifeforms for the fun of it. Millions of tests and simulations are performed before a new germline sees the light of day, let alone a grown organism.”

“Unless this ‘polymer’ wood is controlled by the magic of Kiymetl.” Anaise purred.

“Listen,” I scratched my head, “we need to discuss Flow safety…”

“Shhh.” Her finger pressed to my lips. “This isn’t a new form of magic. Flow has been given a new material to control, nothing else. Your material. It is quite poetic, don’t you think? It is said that women can create truly marvellous things with a capable man by their side. They can take his seed and give it life. They can take his dreams and turn them into reality.

“This wood is just a small piece of your dream.” Her fingers tugged on her sash, pulling it loose. Her kaftan fell with a shrug of her shoulders and I felt my breath getting stuck in my throat. “And this is the reality that comes from it.”

She had no tunic underneath, yet I was struck by an irrational sense of fear when I saw her curves wrapped in black. Somewhere deep inside, Erf needed an adult.

“Um,” I licked my dry lips. “How did you…”

“My mother and Yeva had a discussion among themselves. She said that you should appreciate this design. My mother agreed with her. But let us not discuss my parents here,” her fingers, now covered in black, yanked my khalat apart, “there are other things we should do instead.”

“Yes, my Domina.”

Anaise bit her lip as her thighs rubbed together. “I love the way you say it. Your. Yours. And I will make sure it stays this way.”

My khalat and sash didn’t stand a chance against her dedicated assault. Anaise reached out for my tunic but thought otherwise at the last moment.

“You have been patient throughout this day,” she purred as she pressed into my body. I felt her palms on my thighs, sliding under and up my final piece of clothing. “As your Domina, it is my duty to reward you for your patience and the good deeds you’ve done for our sadaq.”

Her fingers stroked my shaft, pulling me deeper into the adjacent room with our bed. “Because your deeds were quite substantial this time. Come, my love, let me tell you more.”

I eagerly stepped forward, guided by her fingers on my dick and the devious, teasing glint inside her eyes.

“This dress isn’t just for show, you know. Its inherent ‘daimonic’ flexibility allows me to let go of my control and wear it as my own skinsuit, similar to yours. Its wooden nature allows me to borrow its strength or have it harden into a suit of armour. Your wild idea was turned into a reality of unimaginable consequences. Even if that was the extent of what it could do, the black wood of your trees would be an invaluable gift to the House of Kiymetl.”

Her fingers danced on my skin as she kept talking. Stroking, caressing. Only to pull away once again and push the door curtain open, revealing our bedroom. And the second suit laying on our bed.

“Is that…?”

She gave me a vulpine smile. “You weren’t the only one being very patient lately.”

I approached the squirming figure with the unmistakable curves of our cougar. Compared to Anaise, the polymer wood covered Irje quite restrictively.

“Did you teach her how to control the wood as well?” I asked. The sensual display in front of me fit our cougar quite nicely — Irje was the quickest to indulge her submissive desires.

“I didn’t say she was controlling it herself.” Anaise smirked and sent ripples across Irje’s dress with a snap of her fingers.

Irje moaned and arched her body, pulling the constraints that kept her bound and spread eagle. To the side, I heard her chest rattle in tandem.

“Come and open your present,” Anaise beckoned.

Two pieces of cloth covered the unbound portions of her body: one was over her face and eyes while the other, somewhat soggy, rested right between her legs. Anaise didn’t specify which cloth I needed to open, but Irje’s squirming and arching attempts made the choice quite obvious.

I could feel the heat emanating from her mound even before I lifted the silky curtain. Under that cloth, her aroused folds were left unmolested by the skinsuit, denying her direct stimulation and leaving her wanting more. The ‘more’ that she was very eager to receive from me right now.

Looking at the wermage smirk, I understood it was just as Anaise anticipated.

“This wood can be used for more things than just protection,” my werfox murmured as if reading my thoughts. “It can be used to bind and control, to shape and attack, to flex and bend without breaking. Once I have enough material, I plan on changing your spear and shield as well. Not only will it be stronger than the usual designs, but it can be easily repaired with Flow once it starts to fall apart.

“But this too shall be a topic for another day.” She smiled and pulled me in to cup her breast. I felt my hand sink through the soft polymer and palm the hardened nipple surrounded by soft pliant flesh. Her other hand pulled Irje’s lower lips apart, letting me see the moist pink of flesh inside. Letting me smell the desire coming from our cougar.

“Go on,” she urged me, “she’s waiting.”

Irje arched her body higher in agreement.

My hand touched her burning mound and her hardened nub started grinding on my palm with eager abandon. I didn’t know how long Anaise had kept Irje aroused like this, but Irje was clearly in the mood to let it end and ride me all the way down with her.

“We will join the arm proper tomorrow,” Anaise spoke into my ear as her hands stroked my dick into full hardness. “And there won’t be as much time to indulge in our desires as before. Especially since the Houses of War are eager to split us apart. But we will make do. While finger tents house an entire finger of ten people and can be rather busy, palm tents usually tend to house five at a time. Four archers or war mages and a servant, compared to eight spears and two slaves of the finger. With Irje, we will claim half of the tent to ourselves and easily find time for our sadaq.”

Irje got yanked from the bed with a swish of Anaise’s tail, high enough for her quivering folds to be right in front of my shaft. My instinctive desire to sheath myself into her welcoming depths was stopped by the delicate fingers on my dick and wooden tendrils slowly wrapping up around my body.

When did she…?

“Will you make sure to keep your wives satisfied throughout this campaign?” Anaise asked me with an innocent tone in her voice, rubbing Irje’s nub with the tip of my dick and teasing both of us at the same time. Irje’s groans started to sound like begging once again.

I tried to push inside, but my wooden constraints held. “Of course, I will!”

“Of course you will, what?” she teased back.

“Of course, my Domina.”

“Good.” She pushed my tip into Irje, to our mutual relief. “Make sure you do that. And we will make sure that you leave satisfied every time. Whether you seek warmth and comfort, or advice and companionship.”

The tendrils that held me in place let go and I jerked my hips forward, slamming my shaft deep into Irje. Her hiss of pleasure made me even harder.

“We came here to stay together, did we not?” I reassured her while I pumped in and out of a rather content Irje, according to her satisfied moans every time I pushed myself inside. Both Anaise and Irje wanted my assurances, but they wanted them in different ways. Anaise needed to hear my words while Irje sought out the responses of my body. And I gave them the confirmation they deserved.

Yeva was far away right now, but even she got my love relayed through Chirp. While my hands and words were far away, our Haralds used the drone to relay our thoughts and emotions just as one would send a letter with a pigeon.

“Yes we did,” Anaise smiled brilliantly at me. “Now, let us stay together yet another night. All night.”

She climbed onto the bed and walked over to me, her hands easily parting what was once a solid layer of bio-engineered wood. Revealing another beautiful flower to my eyes. “Will you indulge your Domina and give me the pleasure that I seek?”

“Of course, my Domina.” With a well-trained movement, I grabbed the base of her tail and brought her quivering slit closer for a kiss. Anaise gasped quietly and pulled my head deeper, her fingers raking through my hair.

As always, she was delicious.


Hajar Kishava, the First Spear


“What do you mean, ‘we are getting new recruits’? Is the General doing this intentionally?” The First Oar gaped at the Manipular.

The Kamshad commander frowned at the tone but didn’t discipline her subordinate for asking the question everyone was eager to hear an answer to. “There was some commotion recently in Samat. From what I’ve been told, the Goddess herself graced it with her visit.”

Everyone fell silent as soon as the commander started talking but her last words made even the air still inside the room.

“By the Three Horns…” someone whispered.

“Will there be a major campaign ahead of us?” Hajar spoke up. “Are we planning to extend our dominion toward the mountain clans in the north or barbarians to the east? A passage through the Sefid Mountains eastward?”

“Whatever it will be, it won’t be this year. It is futile to start grand campaigns this late into the season. But this commotion has stirred quite a few Ladies of the House of the Pillar Manors into action. They decided to leave their warm and sun-kissed Manors and show their mettle in warfare.”

“Great,” the First Oar groused. Even the usually-straight ears of the Kosenya bloodline sunk from dejection. “So we are stuck on babysitting duty? Another autumn of getting my tail frozen? Standing on the Border Wall and watching the Forest like a horny dick staring at a prostitute he cannot afford? Why didn’t they assign them to the seventh arm? Those cunts were born for border duty.”

“Because our Matriarchs said so,” Manipular sternly cut her off but quickly softened her voice. “Do not worry. Those daughters have been trained well and some of them aren’t coming here for the first time. Lita’af Hikmat has shown herself to be quite a competent warrior, and Mushaf Davlat has brought her personal siege arusak with her.”

Hajar felt herself smile. Mushaf Davlat was young but she had shown some promise already and arms were quite receptive to the arusak-at of her Manor. If Hajar played her dice right, her relative could be the key to Hajar’s rise through the ranks. She had been the First Spear for long enough and shown plenty of personal valour and skill at keeping the thumb and the rest of her fingers in line. The spears under her command had protected the first palm plenty of times, but, as a wer, the positions of the First Bow and the First Oar were out of her reach.

But the title of Manipular wasn’t. Manipulars had to be leaders first and mages second, as their skill at uniting fingers and palms into devastating maniples was what made Emanai arms so effective on the field of battle.

Hajar Kishava wasn’t so greedy as to aim for the medallion of the Manipular in front of her, but there were nineteen other maniples in the arm of Kiannika. And she was already the First Spear of their best maniple. There were hundreds of maniples in other arms too.

“Our orders remain the same. We are tasked to welcome new warriors as quickly as possible to our way of life so that we can proceed with our Forest march within a tenday. Greenhorns or not, the roads need to be maintained and our outposts need to know that we are there for them. And we can’t keep the supply ships waiting.”

The First Oar nodded. “That is good news. I would hate to see my pay drop just because some Samat wermage wanted to sightsee. How many are we getting, though? I saw those ships coming into Uureg’s harbour, loaded with sparkling eyes and hands that did not know which side of a sword they needed to grasp. Silver or not, I have no desire to walk into the Forest with hundreds of snotty brats on my back. That is how arms die.”

The Manipular rolled her eyes. “If that was the case, I would be in front of Roxanna Inayat right now. And I would not be this calm either. We are getting a few handfuls of the most prominent wermages and very little else. Most will be assigned to our maniple, something you probably expected anyway. An inconvenience, perhaps, but not a true detriment to our arm’s might. The rest will be spread equally among nearby arms but will remain training inside the forts as proper applicants should.”

“Uh huh,” the First Bow spoke up, “until some try-hard war mage pukes on my pants. Or sets the tent of the First Oar on fire.”

“Do not worry,” the Kosenya wermage sniffed. “I shall teach them to puke more precisely next time. Straight into your chow.”

“Then I will eat my food in peace. If I asked one of your oars to hit the door of a barn, they would crush the barn, set the nearby field on fire, and leave the door standing among the rubble. Precision, my ass.”

“Well, precision in your ass is a valid concern,” Hajar piped in. “You have to be careful not to catch one of the arrows with yours.”

“Fuck you, First Spear,” the First Bow smartly retorted and took a sip of her beer. “You aren’t affected by this, so you have no right to barge into our grief. Go fuck a spear or something.”

“She is getting one too,” the Manipular corrected her.

The First Bow spat her beer and started laughing, “Ha! Looks like someone will be running around and picking up shields from the mud!”

Hajar wiped the splatters of beer from her face with a grimace. “Ugh. Is it one of our wer, at least?”

“Worse. A murk. One of the Ladies of the House brought her ‘husband’ along.”

“You are twisting my nipples, right?” She gawked at the Manipular. “I am getting a murk just because some ‘Lady’ couldn’t let go of her fuck-toy?”

“The ‘Lady’ in question is the Lady of the House of the Kiymetl Manor. Rumour has it, her mother might be the future Kiymetl Matriarch and she is first in line after that.”

“So fucking what? Does that mean if she decides to marry a horse, I would need to teach it how to hold a spear in its hooves?” She glared at the other two snickering nearby. “Shut up!”

“It is the will of the Kosenya Matriarch.”

Hajar Kishava sighed and calmed herself down to avoid the growing headache. “Let me see: we are heading into the Forest in a tenday or two and you want to have a companion slave to shield and defend your palms from Creatures? I am not stupid, my Manipular. I can tell that she brought them here to ‘earn freedom’ yet is either too attached to let go or too concerned that they wouldn’t survive without her nearby. Neither of the two fills me with confidence. And if the two idiots beside me stop laughing, they would agree as well — a hole in a shield wall is a skewered wermage past it. Or a half-eaten one.”

“I know, and I agree. The general is of the same opinion as well. But we can’t ignore the word of the Pillar Matriarch.” The Manipular tapped her fingers and looked away. “Perhaps there can be a compromise?”

“Like what? Teach them to shoot arrows?” She deftly dodged the tankard flying in her direction. “Who is it by the way?”

“A boy.”

The First Oar barked a laugh. “I guess we are getting a new First Spear, then. Because his ‘spear’ was good enough to catch the eye of the Lady of the House!”

“Maybe he is a barbarian with an ‘oar’ between his legs? Are you gonna give up your title? Or wave his ‘trunk’ around and cast your spells with it?”

“Enough.” The Manipular stopped the brewing squabble with a single word. She turned toward the First Spear. “You will receive the murk into the thumb, just as the Matriarch intended. She is the law of these lands and we will respect her word. But, once we pass the Border Wall, there will be only one authority above my own — our general. The murk can be… promoted… to an appropriate position then.”

“And if the merchant Lady complains?”

“The merchant Lady has no say in the ranking structure of Emanai arms. There are plenty of positions where he can stay safe, earn his freedom, and not endanger my maniple. A runner boy to deliver messages to our general, for example. Or hold her wine jar. Something sufficiently pompous to keep everyone happy. If she is stupid enough to be petulant about it, even her Matriarch would smack some sense into her.”

“Irfan worked hard to get that spot.”

“And Irfan will get his spot back once the snowdrops flower again. The slave ‘husband’ will get his coveted freedom and then fuck off for all I care. If he decides to stay and serve once the spring comes — he will do it from the bottom like the rest of the spears.”

Hajar Kishava stopped for a moment to think and then raised her tankard to the Manipular in gratitude.

“Anyone demanding a spot on a chariot?” the First Oar asked with a mask of fake concern on her face.

The Manipular rolled her eyes. “Go fuck your oar.”


My steps were heavy as I walked toward my final destination.

It was impossible not to — I hadn’t had this much steel strapped to my body since I was training with master Siamak. At the same time, the armour, shield, and multiple weapons weren’t the heaviest part of my gear — my backpack was. The straps were made of reinforced synthetic fibres just to make sure they wouldn’t rip from the weight alone.

I knew that I was over-geared for a murk but I couldn’t make myself care hard enough to blend in anymore. I wasn’t carrying a literal mountain on my shoulders — my gear had been properly packed and classified as essential for constant marches, occasional violence, and potential warfare. It was merely designed for the augmented body-frame of a Navigator.

Emanai arms were both loose and strict with their gear rules. Short swords and spears had rules about their length and quality, but no one cared how many gems there were on your handle. Well, some did care, but it was your personal responsibility to watch out for thieves. Likewise, pavises and helmets had strict regulations about their size and shape to keep soldiers easily identifiable and shield walls uniform. On the other hand, the suits of armour, that were covered by a military kaftan anyway, were only required to offer sufficient protection and coverage.

As long as those rules were met, anyone could bring and use their gear and not worry about getting a loan for the full soldier kit.

Not that I cared about any potential expenditures. While I didn’t have truly ‘fuck you’ levels of money at my disposal, I did have enough gold and silver not to worry about my daily personal expenses, or seasonal ones for that matter.

The rules told me how much I could show and how much I had to hide yet still have the best gear I could get at this point and not get myself in too much trouble. Anaise could tolerate a lot but her patience wasn’t limitless.

I felt myself smile at the memory of our previous night. The two very magical women in my life decided to tag-team me through the night and milk every drop of my desire for days to come. While I wasn’t planning on hitting a nearby brothel anyway, the faint but pleasant tingle of my loins kept my spirits high during the first day of my military career in Emanai.

The one I was intending to quit in a season or two.

My desire was properly lowered as well — I passed many things on my way, living and inanimate, and I didn’t try to hump any of them.

Anaise would be proud of my achievements.

Speaking of teasing my lovable fox, Albin had made himself scarce in the last couple of days. He, most likely, was brewing some sort of scheme somewhere or found someone who actually knew how to play cards.

I shook my head, shifted the weight on my shoulders, and continued my trip through the fort of Kiannika, the semi-permanent residence of the arm. An appropriate name because this place was nowhere near defended enough to be a castle and too militarised to be called a city. Most of the buildings inside were either barracks, stables, or warehouses with an occasional bathhouse, bakery, or smithy, that catered to the everyday needs of the residing populace of six to ten thousand men and women. While the fort had walls of its own, they were smaller than the walls of cities. At three metres tall, they were even smaller than the walls of Aikerim’s manor, just tall enough to stop any hypothetical foes from simply rolling through the settlement.

This wasn’t a defensive structure — this was a rallying point from where Emanai launched its attacks.

Anaise and Irje were somewhere here as well, but they were closer to the centre with other wermages. I, on the other hand, was walking through the murk and wer districts to find my future finger. They suggested that I bring along a servant, but I declined. Yes, my apparent status was taking a hit but I needed to show that the gear on my back was mine and mine alone and I was capable of carrying it all by myself.

And I had no desire to take any of our servants along into the Forest. Yasin and others had expressed their desire to come along rather than stay in Uureg and join the local Kiymetl household but I refused. It was unlikely that the arm would accept our entire retinue and I couldn’t afford to worry about even more people around me. Yes, their treatment might not be the same with us gone, but they still belonged to my estate and I made it clear that we would be picking them up once we returned.

I also knew that their offer wasn’t just some attempt to maintain their current way of life — it was obvious that arms imposed much stricter rules upon anyone, especially on the auxiliary personnel. This was a way to show loyalty and respect, but the Navigator within me demanded the level of care for my followers that I simply couldn’t provide as the spear of Kiannika.

I stopped in front of a spear struck into the ground. While still effective in battle, this was the spear standard of the first maniple. The customary cross-guard just below the blade was twice as wide and held the swaying banner of Kiannika, the mean-looking bovine head with lightning bolts for horns. The celestial cow was one of the constellations in the sky above Emanai.

That meant I was right where I needed to be — the finger barracks of the first maniple.

“Are you lost, boy?” a nearby guard beckoned me, leaning on his spear.

“Are you blind?” His companion punched his shoulder. “Why are you talking to the murk that got stuck to the bag rather than the bag itself? You can guess by the size who came here to serve and who was accidentally carried along.”

The spikes on their conical helmets shook as they started laughing and I rolled my eyes. I guess this was my life now.

I slammed my pavise down, easily burying the shield spike into the hard soil that had been stomped into a nearly solid rock over the years. “Apparently I am. I was looking for the barracks of the first maniple but it looks like I’ve found the stables instead.”

Their braying laughter only got louder. “The mule boy’s got spunk! Well, come on in, then. Welcome to our stables, and don’t piss yourself in front of our most prized mare! The hay on the floor is still fresh!”

I decided to stop talking and quietly lean my spear on my shield. Guards. They’d probably stood here for hours bored out of their minds and were eager for any form of entertainment. And the current entertainment was me.

I took a step toward the door but the shortsword on my neck made me pause. “Do you have a permit, mule boy? This isn’t a recruitment office.”

At least they knew their orders. I pulled the wooden slate from my kaftan that declared my new assignment and presented it to him.

“Hey, Roshan, look at this.” He dangled the seal of Kosenya attached to my slate. “He actually is a new recruit!”

“The Matriarch is merciful,” the so-called Roshan nodded his head. “While other fingers have two mules to carry the gear, we got a third.”

The slate was thrown back into my hands and they started laughing again. By the time I walked through the door, they were deep into a discussion on what sort of gear they could add. And why it had to be a large bronze statue of their commander. Naked, of course.

“So, you are the murk that decided he is worthy of my thumb?” a new voice called out to me.

I glanced to the side to see a rather intimidating lady, surrounded by four warriors. She had fluffy ears but I wasn’t exactly sure what Manor she hailed from: Kishava or Kamshad. She wore her battle gear that ranked her as the First Spear and not her civilian garb that could tell me where she was from.

Perhaps that was the intent behind the two.

A few scars on her chin and hands complimented the well-built frame of a warrior while most of her hair was tied into one thick braid that hung down from her shoulder. If there was a battle nearby — she was ready.

She also looked tired and annoyed.

Remembering the instructions of master Siamak, I struck my chest with my fist in a show of respect.

Her eyes narrowed. “I believe I asked a question.”

“That decision was made by the Kosenya Matriarch herself.” I had no reason to avoid my heavy artillery.

“And what do you think?”

“I will do my duty to the lands of Emanai.”

The First Spear scoffed. “Spare me the southern talk. You are here to get rid of the slave medallion hanging on your neck.”

I shrugged. “Yes.”

If she thought that she could get me annoyed or unnerved by stating the truth, she was mistaken.

“I do not believe that you are worthy of my thumb,” she continued to state the obvious facts. “I need warriors, not whores. And if you dare to think that I get lonely at night, you will find yourself disappointed just as I will find you useless.”

Her subtle glance at the nearby men told me plenty.

“It is possible — I know little about fingers to outright state if both fit each other well, after all.” I let the implication hang in the air. “But do you think that I would stand up in front of Kosenya Matriarch and tell her that she is wrong? I am trying to lose the necklace on my neck, not the head on top of it.”

Well, I probably could. But a disgruntled Matriarch was way worse than a miffed commander. I preferred to clean latrines as my daily duty rather than add additional obstacles in the minefield of politics.

“Then we are in agreement. Irfan! Show the newcomer our place and prepare him to take your spot as my delegate to the general.”

I blinked.

A nearby warrior glanced at her. “But Haj…”

“Address me by my title!”

“Apologies, First Spear! But he just walked in!”

“And he was assigned to me by the Kosenya Matriarch herself. If I had to choose between him making a fool of himself in front of the general or running in battle and leaving my line exposed, you know what I would choose. Besides, if he managed to talk himself into the graces of the Lady of the House — he can talk to the general.”

“Can he even read?”

“Look at the quality of his clothes and tools. Or that weird kithara on his back. He was reciting poetry before you could spell your name.”

The man turned toward me with a sneer under his handlebar moustache. “Well, are you happy now, boy?”

It looked like this was Irfan himself. His conical helmet covered much of his face, and the raised nose guard covered even more, but it was hard to ignore his glaring eyes.

“Not really. I would’ve preferred to earn my freedom in a more polite manner.”

“Perhaps you should reconsider your application, then.”

I smiled at the man, ignoring his glare. “And forfeit my chance to be free? I don’t think you understand the current situation here. I will earn my freedom. It is not a question of ‘if’ but a question of ‘when’. It is you who should be lucky that I don’t need to cut your head off to claim your spot. Because the lame excuse for a coif on your neck won’t stop my blade.”

He tried to lunge at me but the First Spear stepped in, holding him at bay with a wooden rod that magically appeared in her hand. “If you kill a fellow warrior, I will have you stuffed into a bag of snakes and thrown into a nearby river.”

“Then Irfan has nothing to fear, for I am a law-abiding man and an honourable soldier.”

“Right now you are a snot-nosed brat that speaks above his status.”

I shrugged. “Everyone is a brat once. Some grow up into respectable adults, others remain brats for the rest of their lives. And some pick between both at will to their advantage. A hidden blade has no defence.”

Her eyes scanned my body once again — noticing my short sword on my hip and the kattar under my new yellow kaftan — and returned to a faint smile on my face. She thought I was useless and it was impossible to change her mind on the spot. What I could do was plant the seeds of doubt in her mind.

“A Collector slave?” she tried.

“Worse.” I reached under my armour and pulled out the Gestr.


“I am the Alchemist of Kiymetl. The first among many.”





Chapter was edited by: Xeno Morph and UnknownPlunger.