LORD OF CHAINS CH. 02

Giladi brought her sword down hard on the spider’s head, splitting it down the middle in a spray of green ichor. It teetered on its spindly legs before falling with a crunch. She would have liked for that to be the end of it, but two more of the blue bastards were crawling towards her, front legs raised and mandibles clicking.

They leapt toward her at the same time. She rushed the one to her right, slicing through it and spilling more guts onto her face and torso as its two parts flopped past her. The other caught itself, skittered to a stop, and turned just in time for the tip of her sword to find shelter in its sternum. It twitched as it died. The calm of the forest fell over her, the rustle of leaves returning.

She wrenched her sword out of its corpse and squat down to look at it. It was a Hunter Spider alright, about the size of a dog. Giladi lifted its head to spy the nasty fangs tucked underneath. Hunter Spiders weren’t the most lethal, but they didn’t need to be. Just a splash of their venom could paralyze a minotaur. It was also an important ingredient to more than a dozen alchemic tonics.

Giladi wiped her blade down, sheathed it, and drew her knife to slice open the venom sacks. She didn’t plan this, but even if she didn’t need the venom, she could sell it in Bord, the town that was just beyond the forest. Giladi squeezed the sack’s contents in a small vial and sighed. Bord was the furthest human settlement out east, and only prospered because on the other side of the woods was Wrunelend. Ash Elves came through Bord first when they traveled out and passed through Bord last when they came back.

It’s where she was heading, and from there she could get to anywhere in the world. She stood up and wiped her gloves on the dirt. One thing nagged her. Hunter Spiders were most common when bred in captivity by the Spiderlings. They were like human bloodhounds, sent out to find prey. However, Spiderlings and Ash Elves like Giladi had good relationships. She couldn’t imagine why a pack of Hunter Spiders would have been so eager to attack her. Maybe they were feral. Giladi wasn’t sure if spiders could turn feral.

She pushed the concern out of her head and used her handkerchief to wipe the ichor off her face. Giladi ran her fingers through her alabaster hair, trying to get all the spider guts out. She wrung her locks out like a towel. Once she was sure she was as clean as possible, she checked her weapons, armor, and set out back into the woods.

Ash Elves called these woods the Survivors. Back in ancient times, before Wrunelend was its ashy, twisted self, the whole east was one big forest. These trees were the only ones left. The apocalyptic event that tore her people from their Pure Elf roots and set them on to their current path only reached this far.

The Survivors were old trees, reaching high into the sky and blocking out the sun. In summer, it was a moderate temperature. In winter, it was a moderate temperature. The Survivors were their own insulated world, a living reminder of the past. Ash Elves didn’t worship the forest, but they all had great respect for it.

For that reason, there were no roads either. Giladi hopped from root to root, soundlessly gliding between the trees. It was legend that every Ash Elf could navigate the Survivors by instinct alone, that they were born with a connection to the forest. She had no idea where that legend came from. The Ash Elves had very detailed maps of the Survivors and had to study them as school children.

Besides, as long as you went west you’d get out. There was no need for roads.

The size and density of the forest muted the sounds around her. It was that sort of quiet that hung in the air and gently smothered everything. She knew that humans found forests unsettling because of it, that they could never see or hear far. It was like having a blanket wrapped around your head.

Ash Elves didn’t have that problem. If Giladi focused hard enough, she could hear the smallest rustle, or the most distant chirp of birds. Even though a great ancient forest like the Survivors would have seemed like a vast sea of quiet to other races, to her it was a giant organism, talking to itself. The wind was its breath, the animals its blood, the timber its armor, and the leaves its hair.

It had its own teeth and claws too, but they weren’t for her.

The world had this idea that all Ash Elves were sneering, sinister demon summoners who could shoot lightning out of their fingers and open gates to the Great Dark. If they weren’t summoners, then they were cunning rogues and fleet footed assassins who would do anything for coin. All they knew was murder, all they understood was evil.

Giladi thought that was ridiculous. Summoners were rare, and you couldn’t have a whole society of rogues. They had generals, soldiers, bankers, merchants, persistent old women, creepy old men, blacksmiths, carpenters, bakers, farmers, builders, and everything the rest of the world had. Legends about Ash Elves were only that way because those who left Wrunelend were those who could travel. That just happened to be summoners, rogues, or the rich.

She wasn’t going to combat those stereotypes however. Giladi was first trained with a sword before anything else. She wasn’t a rogue, and abhorred the practice of summoning, but was skilled enough with a blade that some dumb human would call her a “great swordsman.” Giladi wasn’t looking forward to that, but she couldn’t go back to Wrunelend.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Such was the life of an Ash Elf.

Giladi crouched on a root, ears perking up. Under the shuffle of leaves and the chirp of birds, she heard the skittering of legs. Dozens of them. She waited a moment, making sure she was hearing correctly. More Hunter Spiders, and she grimaced. If they were following her, that meant someone had trained them to hunt Ash Elves.

She wasn’t too keen on turning into Spiderling food, so Giladi drew her blade with the familiar hiss of steel and started running. The trees rushed past her in a brown blur. Giladi enjoyed running. She had a runner’s figure, with long legs and strong thighs, a toned ass, and modest B-breasts that were held tight by her tunic. Her ears bobbed with each footstep, her hair flying behind her. Running was relaxing, and she recalled the many hours spent running around her family’s estate. Round and round, from childhood to now, her mother and father watching with smiles.

What wasn’t relaxing were the sounds of Hunter Spiders getting closer.

Giladi landed next to a tall tree with branches running up its whole length. Before she could start moving again, something hit her in the back. There was no time to guess what it was, or how she didn’t hear it. Something pricked her calf, a bolt of pain arcing up her leg into her lower back. With a shriek, Giladi rolled over and swung at the same time. Her sword cut the blue Hunter Spider in half.

The skittering got louder, like approaching rain. She scrambled to her feet but her right leg wasn’t responding. It stuck out straight like a block of wood and dragged on the ground. Her chest heaved with effort. She could feel the venom in her system, creeping up her body like a lover’s fingers. Her left leg locked up and she fell face first, catching a mouthful of grass. Giladi tried to crawl away from the sounds, but the lower half of her body was dead weight. The paralytic reached her shoulders, then her arms, and then Giladi found she couldn’t move.

She tried to control her breathing as legs teetered into her vision. Giladi wasn’t sure if it was the venom or the fear that made it so hard to breathe. Probably the fear. For a woman who had once seen a demon butcher a squad of soldiers and glimpsed through a portal to the twilight of the Great Dark, nothing seemed as terrifying then as the dog-sized spiders spinning her in a web. Giladi wasn’t ready to die. She wanted to scream and kick, but she couldn’t. The venom wouldn’t even let her cry. The Survivors loomed over her. The webbing covered her eyes and the world went dark.

Giladi wasn’t sure when she passed out, or why when she finally woke up she was still alive, but she made sure to send a whole slew of prayers to the gods for her fortune. With the way her head felt, she imagined she was upside down. The paralytic had worn off a little, allowing her to squirm in her milky bindings. She wiggled her fingers into her belt where her knife was. At least one good thing about being captured by Hunter Spiders is that they didn’t frisk you for weapons.

Careful not to cut herself, she pulled her knife out and started to awkwardly saw at the cocoon. It was a weird angle, but she kept the blade sharpened and after a couple minutes of sawing, the tip broke through. Giladi wiggled more, tearing the hole wide. A gust of clean air struck her. Invigorated by the idea of freedom, she started to cut as quickly as she could.

When the hole was big enough, Giladi fell out of the sticky cocoon with a squeak. She nearly knocked herself back out by hitting her head on the ground. White strands of web clung to her armor and hair, and she slowly tested her limbs. Some of the venom lingered in her system, but she could move.

She could move. She was alive. Thank the gods.

The cave was dark, but so was most of Wrunelend and Ash Elves had excellent vision. Sluggishly, Giladi got to her feet and examined the small opening. Webbing covered the walls, small milky spheres stuck in clusters on the ground. Her cocoon had been suspended from the ceiling and swaying next to it were at least a dozen more of varying shapes and sizes. Rabbits, owls, deer, an Elk, and others were all still and wrapped as macabre silhouettes.

Giladi flexed her hands and tested her walking. She couldn’t hear anything at the moment but remained on edge. She hadn’t heard the Hunter Spider that bit her too. Now freed, she had some time to wonder about that. Hunter Spiders were bred for the chase. They didn’t ambush their prey.

Someone was after the Elves, and she didn’t like that thought on bit.

With her knife in her hand, Giladi stalked through the winding cave passageways. She could see in the dark, but was no spelunker, and each turn just led to another web covered path. Sometimes she would stop and listen to skittering far in the distance, but they never came any closer to her. All she needed was something to give her a direction. A gust of air, a trail, anything at all.

Her foot caught on a piece of webbing and she nearly tripped. It wouldn’t release her boot, so she undid the straps and went bootless. Giladi grumbled. Those were good boots, and boots were worth their weight in gold when traveling. There was a reason they were the first things taken off corpses after a battle.

The tunnel opened up into a wide cavern, nearly indistinguishable from the rest. Web on the walls, webbed animals, and not a Hunter Spider in sight. On the far end was another tunnel, and with nowhere else to go, Giladi slipped into the open space, careful not to touch anything.

“My, my, you got out,” An unfamiliar voice cooed behind her. A chill crept its way up Giladi’s spine. “Tenacious little girl, aren’t you?”

She turned and blanched. Hugging the wall right above the tunnel she just exited was a Spiderling. The thing about Spiderlings were they were a lot like centaurs. Below its waist was a giant spider-body. Its torso was attached to the sternum and eight long legs sprouted form its oversized thorax. Giladi had seen plenty of male Spiderlings, and they were rarely taller than her, and often even shorter. The females were closer to the heights of Licani, somewhere between seven and eight feet tall.

Spiderling Matriarchs were twice the size of males, massive monsters that led whole colonies and could bear thousands of children.

The one in front of her was undoubtably a Matriarch. Her spider body was speckled with dark splotches. The human part of her was totally nude. Giladi could see the outline of her arbs and she had large double-D breasts, bright pink nipples hard from the cold. Her face was narrow and when she grinned, her mouth was full of crooked pin needle teeth. She had four beady yellow eyes and long, flowing red hair. She also had no naval, which made sense since Spiderlings came from eggs.

The Matriarch crawled down the wall slowly and with purpose. She would have been gorgeous if not for the unfortunate spider bits. Giladi wanted to run but didn’t see the point. She couldn’t even find her way out of the cave, and no doubt this Matriarch knew every nook and cranny. Best bet was to talk her way out of it.

“Do you always welcome your guests this way?” Giladi asked.

“Only the cute ones.” She cooed, saccharine voice dripping.

“I’m flattered, but you could have just sent one of your lackeys to invite me. The Hunter Spiders were a bit much.” Giladi watched the Matriarch touch down on the ground. She was fascinated with the way it moved. It was like the Matriarch was walking underwater or was surrounded by glass and had to be careful where her next step was. Giladi saw that underneath her human parts were a second pair of smaller spider legs that probably functioned as arms.

“Lackeys? I have no children here.” She hummed.

“I thought you Matriarchs always had children?” Giladi asked. The Matriarch giggled.

“I need a brood, yes. It’s quite lonely here, and your forest is quite large.” Her voice didn’t match her fearsome appearance. She sounded girly and airy, like a ditzy schoolgirl. The closer she got, the more Giladi saw their size difference. She was nearly twice as tall, and Giladi was just a few inches shy of seven feet.

Giladi took a cautious step back from the Matriarch as she got a bit too close for comfort. “The Survivors are mighty indeed.” She said.

“The Survivors, what an interesting name.”

“Why is a Matriarch all the way out here without a brood?”

“My home was so crowded. I just had to get away from it all, see the world, put down new roots.” It hummed.

“Well, welcome to the Survivors.”

“Thank you.”

“Mind telling me where the exit is? I wanted to be in Bord by the end of the week.” Giladi asked. The Matriarch blinked, four eyes fluttering. Her tiny spider arms rubbed against each other and she folded her arms under her massive breasts.

“It’s quite lonely here, dear,” breathed the Matriarch, and Giladi didn’t like her tone at all.

“Well, guess you’ve just got to find a male and then you can have yourself a brood.” She smiled nervously.

“There are no males here.”

“Shame then, that you’ll have move to another place then. There are some in Wrunelend.”

“No males, no males,” sighed the Matriarch, as she began her slow approach again. Giladi gripped her knife. “But you’re here. You’ll keep me company, won’t you?”

“I would hate to impose.”

“Nonsense, you wouldn’t be imposing, trust me.”

“Well, it’s impolite to just overstay my welcome.”

“You just arrived.”

“My parents raised be to be courteous.”

“Smart. I’m sure you will be a fine parent yourself one day.” Giladi knew that she was nearly at the tunnel. Just a couple more steps.

“Ah, I’m not too sure. I don’t have a man in my life, and I don’t really want kids. They’re a lot of work.” She barked with nervous laughter. The Matriarch pouted.

“That’s a shame. I’d love children.”

“I’m sure you’ll have them one day.”

“Sooner that you’d think.” She hissed, and Giladi took that as her cue to run. She spun around and tried to take off, bolting forward. Something sticky latched onto her ankle and she fell forward, cracking her forehead on the ground. Groaning, Giladi was dragged back to the middle of the cavern. She scrambled for a handhold but couldn’t find one. Rolling on her back, she saw the Matriarch had shot a piece of webbing out of one of those small spider hands from the front, and they were now reeling her in. Giladi slashed at the tether with her knife, but it only ended up sticking instead.

“Let go, you arachnid bitch!” Giladi screamed.

“There are no males here,” The Matriarch cooed as she dragged her victim toward her, a moth in the web. “But you’re here. You’ll start my brood for me. I was promised that. I was promised a brood, as long as I paid.”

“What the hell are you on about?” Giladi rolled back on her stomach and tried to grab a rock to stop herself. Instead, splotches of web pinned her hands to the ground, immobilizing her. Giladi kicked and struggled before webbing tied her legs down too. And now there she was, on her hands and knees, ass hiked up in the air, and thrashing like a dog on a leash.

“You’re going to give me a brood.” The Matriarch said again.

“Eat shit,” Giladi snarled. “There are no males, you can’t do anything.” She looked over her shoulder to spit at the Matriarch but stopped herself. The Spiderling’s shadow fell over her, lips split into a lustful grin. From the far end of her thorax was a white tube. It glistened and dripped as it unrolled itself like a tapeworm. Giladi’s eyes widened in horror.

“You’re going to learn a wonderful secret of our race,” The Matriarch said, sultry voice oozing with need. “If there are no males around, us Matriarchs are hermaphroditic.”

“H-h-what?” Giladi stuttered, staring with wide eyes at the breeding tube.

“We can both impregnate and inseminate females of our race or another.” Her long legs tore at Giladi’s armor. She never realized just how sharp their legs were. The Matriarch shredded Giladi’s leather until it was nothing but ribbons falling off her body. She shivered in her newfound nudity, her dark nipples hardening from the cold.

“Woah, wait, we can talk about this, can’t we?” Giladi stammered, trying to wiggle herself free and instead putting on a show for the Matriarch.

“You’ll breed my first batch of eggs. That’s all I need from you,” Giladi’s mouth opened and closed like a goldfish, too shocked at the thought of being bred by a Spiderling to focus on anything else. “Once you’ve birthed my young, I will be finished with you. Then I will keep my promise.”

Promise? Birthing young? Giladi tried to protest but couldn’t find the words. She’d had sex before but was hardly experienced. She fucked a few boys in her training groups, but those were awkward teenage years and half of them couldn’t find her pussy. The only person she’d slept with as an adult was her uncle, but that was when she was drunk, and it was a moment of weakness. This was insane. This was –

Her thoughts were cut short as she felt the slimy tip of the tube press against her pussy. “Wait, wait, waitwaitw- Fuuuuuck me.” Giladi pushed her hips down to try to escape it, but there was no use. The breeding tube slipped past the lips of her pussy and crawled inside. She shuddered in revulsion and pleasure. It was smooth, wet, and cold, covered in a self-lubricate. Her cunt quivered around it and she felt an insane pressure in her guts. Giladi shook her head and tried to suppress her orgasm but it was no use as the tube tickled against her cervix.

Like a bitch, she came all over the Matriarch.

“You’re quite smooth though, dear. You’re going to be a good mother.”

“Fuck you.” Giladi breathed, trying to ignore the tube rubbing against her deepest bits.

“So eager,” giggled the Matriarch, and then the tube pushed further. Giladi’s moans turned to shrieks as her cervix was forced open and she was fucked deeper than she thought she’d ever be fucked. She dug her fingernails into her palms and bit her lips, groaning as inch after inch of the Matriarch slithered inside. Giladi felt he tube curl up in her womb, and when she looked down between her breasts she could see the twisted outline of it. Gods, she felt sick.

“First, the eggs.” The Matriarch said. Giladi wiggled and tried to make herself as comfortable as possible. Something was pushed inside of her and she squealed as the sensation of the handball sized object being pushed into her cunt. She never thought she’d be filled with eggs, and the sensation of the egg plopping into her womb sent shocks of strange pleasure through her body. Giladi realized she was drooling and panting. She felt like a dog.

It was more than one egg. Of course it was. Matriarch’s could give birth to thousands upon thousands of Spiderlings, everyone knew that. Giladi lied there and mewled pathetically while her body was used as an incubator. She felt like an object, the Matriarch dominating her and utilizing her for nefarious means. Giladi lost count of the eggs after twenty, but she was seriously worried about cumming again by the time they stopped. When she peeked back down at her belly, it had swollen slightly to accommodate her new children.

Her children.

“Now the sperm.”

Shit on the gods, Giladi didn’t deserve this.

After having eggs stretch her out and fill her up, she was almost thankful for the familiar sensation of being filled with cum. The tube doubled in size, stretching her out further and causing her to groan. Cum splashed inside her, covering her eggs and inseminating them. Gods, she had been turned into a living incubator and couldn’t think of anything else as her belly grew in size. It was hard to think about escape or what she had been doing before. She could only think of cum and eggs and how she would be a mommy and a Matriach’s personal breeding ground.

“You’re such a lovely host,” The Matriarch cooed and Giladi almost felt proud. The tube slipped out of her, and on the way out Giladi came again with a girlish squeal. She worried for a moment cum would slop out of her cunt, but that worry quickly vanished as her pussy was closed up by webbing.

“Now, to prepare you.” The webbing was torn off her hands and legs. Giladi was picked up by the two front legs and carried over to a wall. She couldn’t even both to fight back, her belly too heavy and swollen and her body too hot to care. She was lifted up, the Matriarch holding her under her armpits. They were inches from each other’s faces. The Matriarch hung Giladi on the wall like a panting, spinning webbing around her arms and legs until she was fused into the side of the wall with just her belly and breasts hanging out.

“H-how long will I b-be here?” Giladi stammered, some sort of sense fighting through her fog in her mind.

“Several days. I’ll let you down beforehand so they don’t hatch inside you and eat their way out,” Then she pulled Giladi into a kiss. Her tongue was pronged and its swirled around her mouth, exploring. She lightly bit Giladi’s lip, drawing blood. When they pulled away from each other there was a thin piece of spit between them and Giladi damn near came again. “Are you going to be a good girl?”

Giladi nodded like a dumb whore. “Y-yes, mommy. I’m your good girl.” The Matriarch did something to her to make her this way. Something…Something…What could it have been? The thought melted away into nothingness.

She was pulled down to the Matriarch’s chest and latched on to a nipple. “Eat up.” Giladi was ordered and obeyed. She suckled on the Matriarch’s tit and a warm liquid rushed down her throat. It numbed her limbs and made her skin tingle. Her head filled with hot air and she felt she could drink Spiderling milk until she died. She felt so honored to be a host for her new mommy and whined like a babe when the Matriarch pulled away.

That was Giladi’s life as far as she could tell. Occasionally the Matriarch would return and nourish Giladi on her massive breasts before leaving again for some reason. Giladi’s belly was heavy with the eggs and if she moved she could feel them roll around inside of her, being prepped and held by her body heat. She didn’t even have a problem with being bound to the wall, just wanting to be the best she could be. Sometimes she slept, and when she did she had dreams of being fucked by Matriarchs, their tubes gagging her and filling all her holes. Those were the best dreams, and when she woke from them her pussy and inner thighs glistened from orgasms she didn’t remember having.

It could have been two days or two centuries, it meant nothing to Giladi. She came when she dreamed, and nursed on the Matriarch, knowing that she was going to give birth soon. For some reason she couldn’t even remember what she was supposed to do before, or how she ended up here, or what her life was like. Her tits had doubled in size from her pregnancy, and the Matriarch would occasionally lap up some milk that dribbled from her nipples, which only made Giladi fall more in love.

After what seemed like forever, the Matriarch cut her down, plucking her from the wall. By now, she knew that the eggs were ready and could feel their tiny little hosts squirming inside of them. Giladi was a blathering, incoherent slut at that point, wracked by the extasy of orgasm and high on the Matriarch’s milk. She couldn’t even form sentences as she was placed on the ground like a doll, the webbing removed from her pussy.

“Yes, yes, yes,” She groaned. Gilandi leaned back, bracing her feet and lifting her hips up. “Mommy, mommy,” jabbered the mind broken Ash Elf. She couldn’t help herself. Once the first pearly egg rolled out of her cunt and fell onto the floor surrounded by green ichor, she threw her head back and came. Her body was riddled with orgasms as the eggs plopped out of her. She started to squirt and gave up trying to hold herself up, flopping down like a fish. Giladi squealed and rubbed her clit while the eggs rolled out of her, legs twitching and cramping and her belly deflating. The Matriarch watched with a twisted smile.

When the last egg rolled out into the puddle of cum, Giladi had been reduced to a sub-humanoid mess, twitching, drooling, covered in sweat and mucus. She barely registered the world around her. The smallest touches made her cum, and she didn’t even see the eggs crack open, or the small Spiderlings crawl out by the hundreds. They crawled over her and their thousands of legs pricked her skin, making her buck her hips and shriek as she started to squirt again.

Exhausted, malnourished, and defeated entirely, Giladi blacked out.

She didn’t dream. For however long, Giladi stopped existing. When her eyes finally fluttered open, when the world slowly leaked its way back into her consciousness, she first saw the tall tops of the Survivors. Gods, she was sore. It felt like she had run a thousand leagues, and she felt funny below the waist. It took a moment for her to remember, but when the memories came back, she only recalled the twisting breeding tube in her womb. The rest of her ordeal were fragments in her mind. Tits. Breeding. Birth. Fuck, she gave birth.

Giladi looked down at her slim body and saw webbing around her wrists. In fact, all her limbs were restrained, and she was lying nude on the forest floor. She squirmed against her bonds, fearing another breeding session or worse – being eaten. Spiderlings weren’t above eating humanoids. She’d rather be in that blissful, venomous haze than have her guts turned to liquid and sucked out.

She stopped when she heard voice. They were far off, but she could pick up on their conversation. Giladi heard the sultry Matriarch and…Someone else she didn’t recognize.

“…a good brood. Strong. She is quite durable,” the Matriarch was saying.

“Guess that’s nice. Durable isn’t really what we’re concerned with. She pretty?” It was a man’s voice.

“Extremely.”

“Even after being your uh…”

“Incubator.”

“Right.”

“Even after that,” cooed the Matriarch.

“Well, Elizee, a deal’s a deal. Here’s your payment.”

“How could I possibly pass up such opportunities?” Elizee hummed.

“I try to keep things fair.”

“And the next one?”

A pause.

“Whenever you can, I don’t care much. Try not to kidnap too many though. We don’t want the Dark Lords of Wrunelend to start crawling out of their pits for revenge. Maybe…One every four to six months. Play it safe.” The man said.

“It’s your gold, not mine,” tutted Elizee. “Shall I retrieve the girl?”

“Sure. I’m going to take her to Bord, just to leave her there for a bit before one of our guys comes to pick her up.”

“You have employees now?”

“We’re expanding. I’ve got more shit to deal with after this – no offence. You’re charming just…Well, fuck me, you’re like ten feet taller than me. I think I’ve got a kink in my neck looking up at you.”

“None taken. I shall retrieve her,” Elizee said, and Giladi started squirming again. She shuffled side to side, sliding along the forest floor in some desperate ploy to get away. She had no idea what they were talking about, or who the mystery voice belonged to, but she didn’t wat to be in the clutches of the Matriarch anymore. Not after…She shuddered as a memory of her calling Elizee ‘mommy’ came to her.

“Oh, you’re awake and already squirming, I see,” Elizee’s monstrous shadow fell over her. Giladi tried to protest but was picked up as casually as a sack of coin.

“Let me go, you big spider bitch!”

“Uncouth.”

“You used me!”

“I said I would. You birthed me a strong brood. And you seemed to enjoy it.”

“Enjoy? I-I didn’t!” Giladi stammered but clearly remembered several body crippling orgasms. She wiggled in the spider hands but to no avail. Giladi didn’t stop trying under she was placed down gently, eye to eye with the scrawniest Dwarf she’d ever seen. He had bushy eyebrows, aged grey hair, a mustache that hid his lips, and a garish burn scar on the side of his face that made one eye seem larger than the other. On his hip was a dark, well-worn axe, and in his hand was a chain and collar. He grinned when he saw her.

“You’re right, Elizee, she’s pretty. She’ll fetch a good price.”

“Price? The hell are you talking about? I’ll split you open and use you as -“

“A gateway for hellspawn in the Great Dark and my soul will be tormented for all eternity, yadda, yadda, I get it,” He cut her off and she blubbered in surprise as she clicked the manacle around her neck. “Is that a common Ash Elf threat?”

“It’s -” She started.

“Yeah, don’t care,” He cut her off with a yank, causing her to stumble forward and almost fall over. “What’s your name, girlie?”

“Eat shit.”

“Weird name, Miss Eat Shit,” He laughed, and Giladi went from being worried about Elizee to furious at this Dwarf. “But my name’s Derry Volks.”

“Piss on your name and your family.”

“Pissing on graves isn’t too nice, even for an Ash Elf,” When Derry grinned she saw he had several gold teeth. “An attitude like that will make you real nice.”

“What the hell are you talking about? I’m not going anywhere with you!”

He pulled on her new leash, their faces inches from each other. He smelled like salt. Sea salt. “You’re the newest premium product of the Lord of Chains, and you’re going to Bayreach. Welcome to the world outside of Wrunelend, love,” then he kissed her on the forehead.

Giladi desperately wanted to go home. She knew she couldn’t, and not just because of the chain around her neck. A seed of sadness formed in her chest, only smothered by her growing anger. She couldn’t go back to Wrunelend, and she didn’t want to go with the Dwarf.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Such was the life of an Ash Elf.

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