TASGENI: WHO SAYS 'NO' TO THE EARTHQUAKE?
Dragons are a nasty lot. They are ill-tempered, ill-mannered, ill-willed, easily irked and inevitably ill-intentioned. Their hunger is deep and inassuagable. Their tastes are vile and deplorable. They prefer to dine on young virgins, for reasons never adequately explained, but which fits in nicely with the ever expanding list of `ills' and the whole bad taste thing. Every kingdom ever founded seems to be plagued by a dragon (they have a strong union), which is why the Knight Rental Service ("You pay by the Knight, not by the day") has posted a handsome profit for the past five harvests.
The Kingdom of Prattle had a dragon problem. Because of his ferocious appetites the roll of available virgins was swiftly dwindling, (a fact noted in the minutes by the sole remaining member of the Virgin Union). Dues were down, eligible bachelors were flocking to the Less-Than-Virgin shop (run by a man named Hymen, but that's a tale for another time), and the people were beginning to worry what new culinary direction the draconic appetite would take when the virgin supply ran dry. It didn't help when the King was caught making plans with the Duke of Poxbury to turn the Last Remaining Virgin's bed chamber into a game room, (snooker and parcheesi, with an open bar). The Princess Tasgeni's reaction was, itself, described in draconian terms, and the King wisely opted to depart upon a protracted hunting trip. All of which serves to explain why there was a shortage of knights, heroes, sidekicks and such when the dragon Bitumen showed up in a peckish mood.
The morning watch spotted the worm soaring down from the cloudless heights, a long black plume of smoke trailing back from its nostrils. The watchman sounded the invasion bells, but the wild clamor, far from inspiring people to hide, instead served to bring most of the castle's inhabitants out to see what all the fuss was about. The Princess Tasgeni, against the piteous cries of her old nurse, stepped out onto her high tower balcony to see for herself the cause of the commotion. Her curiosity was quickly satisfied. The dragon, anticipating such an opportunity, plummeted like a meteor and snatched up the luckless Princess in his claws. His beating wings swiftly lifted him upwards from the stunned people, and the wailing cries of Tasgeni faded into the azure sky. After that morals dipped a bit as the employees of the Less-Than-Virgin shop competed for the now coveted title of Most-Least-Like-A-Virgin.
Tasgeni screamed her fool head off.
Not that she expected it to improve her situation, but her arms were pinned, and she was at a loss for anything else to do.
The dragon reeked of brimstone and burnt iron. The strength of its grasp was savage. The howling down draft from its vast bat-like pinions dislodged her peaked hat and sent it and her long golden hair snapping and curling about her face. No amount of struggling promised to free her, and the glimpses of farmland far below deterred her from trying very hard. Tasgeni was a tough young woman, though. It never occurred to her to faint. So it was that she spotted the dragon's lair almost at the same moment that the beast began its spiraling descent.
A great black mountain, dome topped, scoured clean of green things, loomed up from the rocky plain. Bitumen arrowed down like a hunting falcon, curling his wings in against his long body. For a moment Tasgeni thought they would smash against the stone strewn slope, but at the last moment, she saw a cavern opening dart before them. The dragon twisted and swooped into the orifice; darkness swept away the daytime light, subterranean cold snatched away the daytime warmth. Tasgeni closed her eyes, there was nothing to see. Suddenly, the claws released her.
With a startled shout she tumbled to the rocky floor. Her noising turned into a long "Eeeeeeeewwwwwwwww," as she realized what had cushioned her fall. The dragon's lair was, much like any bachelor's, a place of ruin, devastation, and unfinished meals.
"Thou art displeased with thy state?" The dragon's voice rumbled like summer thunder, and drooled thick with evil.
"Swine!" shouted Tasgeni.
"Swine?" queried the dragon, and he lifted a six foot long finger, and regarded the two foot long claw that topped it.
"I hight reptile, a scion of the entrails of Ymir."
"Nay! Thou'st the demeanor of a farting rodent!" yelled the Princess.
The dragon frowned, "Certes, thou wast tutored with an unusual bestiary. No matter, the thoughts of the prey, howsoever addled, little affect the succulence of the brain. Hast thou an animal with which to answer that?"
Tasgeni just glared at the worm. It's hard to toss back an appropriate, much less an effective retort at someone (or something) that has just revealed to you your special seat at the supper board.
"Speechless, little morsel?" simpered Bitumen, and he chuckled evilly. "More's the pity, for only through words can thee hope to fend off the moment when we are joined."
He reached out with his claws towards the Princess, who yelped and dove aside. Time and again he dabbed at her, playing her as the mouse, and laughing darkly at his sport. And every time he struck he missed by a diminished distance, leaving Tasgeni no doubt about the nature of his play. But her spirit refused to despair, and she leapt like a hunted doe, evading the dragon's reach. Yet she knew the end was nigh, and she steeled herself for death, when suddenly the dragon was distracted from her. His great head rose up and up, and held still for a moment, as if harkening to a distance voice.
"Behold, little morsel," he growled, "the sun, my mother, descends now into night. I must rise and pray for her return before I may feast." And his arm uncoiled like a striking snake, and caught Tasgeni within his fingers. She wailed and fought, but the dragon paid her no heed, instead he carried her to an iron door wrought into the wall of his cave, and wrenched it open with a hideous squalling of hinges. "Thou mayest dwell in her for a time, until I return from my duty. Then shall we renew our game, or mayhaps I shall just appease my hunger, and be done."
And he tossed the Princess into the room, and slammed shut the huge door with a thunderous clang!
It was very dark in the cave. Very, very dark. A periodic splash of water echoed in the distance. The cave was large. Very, very large. The Princess mulled over her predicament for a moment. Screaming, while satisfying and emotionally cleansing, was not going to get her out of here. Still...
She clenched her hands into fists, took a deep breath, and then she screamed, long, loud and lustily.
The echoes slammed from wall to wall, reverberating and crossing into a cacophony of shill panicky noise. She screamed herself breathless. Then, adjusting her clothes and straightening her hat, she went about the more productive task of finding something to help; her dignity in no way reduced by her heavy panting from her exertion. The floor was dusty, and the smell of age had accumulated everywhere. Occasionally she heard the tinkling of coins or gems scattered by her feet. She climbed shifting piles of loot, and bumped into barrels and chests, but most of those were sealed or locked, and it was long before she found a container that opened. It was an ancient chest. Its lid creaked ominously as she lifted it, then fell backwards with a loud bang! But the Princess' attention was captivated by the golden contents kept within. Each coin, each goblet, each delicate chain gave off a rich radiance that spilled out of the chest and into the cavern. Things were illuminated well enough for her to see something of the size of her prison.
The walls were distant glittering veils, the ceiling was lost in murky darkness, and everywhere were scattered the spoils of the dragon. It was a vast hoard, and a precious one, but she was bent on leaving. Let a knight take the wealth. Off to one side she saw what appeared to be a door, but the light barely grazed it, it was too far away. Kneeling, she ran her fingers through the gold, lifting out some coins in the hope that she could use them to guide her way. But each object she removed guttered and faded, and she soon realized that something, the chest itself or some prize within was responsible for the magical light.
It did not take long for her to locate the charmed object. It was a short piece of braided gold, crafted into the form of a snake, with ruby eyes and emerald teeth. It's belly was scaled in silver, and it bent easily within her fingers. The contents of the chest flickered and faded when she removed the talisman, but only gold amplified its light, her hand did not shine of its own accord. Yet the snake, itself, was bright enough to guide her. Holding it overhead like a torch, she began to wend her way to the distant door.
Now at first the charm was cold within her grasp, but it quickly warmed from her touch. She didn't make any note of it -until it wriggled. With a startled yelp she tried to hurl the dreadful thing away, but the shining snake curled down around her hand and began winding its way up her arm. Prying at it with her left hand proved useless, and she cast about for something to leverage against it. The magical charm ignored all her efforts to dislodge it, but climbed up past her elbow and curled itself snugly around her upper arm. Once settled into place it stiffened into a kind of a bracelet, and its eerie radiance faded, seeping deep into her arm before disappearing.
He rose up into the sky, biting and roaring at the winds that vied with him, spreading flame across the clouds to answer the red hues of the settling sun. Far away eyes, briefly glancing at the grand spectacle, commented on the beauty of the sky, but without ever knowing how it truly came to be.
Something was wrong.
Of course, when one is trapped blind within the cave of a dragon that means to return shortly and eat you, this observation loses some of its value.
The snake charm wrapped about her arm was a dratted nuisance, but seemed finished with its mischief. Yet she felt sure that something worse was in store for her. The noise of dripping water had shifted. It seemed lower, though she was sure she had not ascended higher within the cave. Nor was that the only mystery, for it seemed that the contents of the cave were themselves changing in some strange way. Her need for light was great. And though it proved difficult to find, she cast about relentlessly until she found what felt to be a drinking vessel with a soft metal rim. She muttered a silent prayer, and pressed the thing against the snake bracelet.
Blessed light flooded the cave again, and Tasgeni began to worry anew. Everything was smaller. But whether she was expanding, or the cave was shrinking she could not tell. The touch of gold seemed to feed the process, and as she watched the walls closed in upon her, and all the treasure dwindled into trinkets. She was at war within herself; part of her was appalled by the change, but to separate the gold from the snake would rob her of light. On the other hand, provided that it was she that was expanded and not the room diminishing, she realized that she would soon be able to treat with the worm on its own vast terms. It was not until her head brushed the ceiling of the chamber that it occurred to her that there might be another complication.
By now she was a giantess without parallel. The mighty door that the dragon had opened was reduced to mere ankle-height. The expansive chamber was swiftly becoming a cramped cubbyhole. She sighed with resignation, the darkness would have to be endured, and she discarded the goblet, itself grown to more than heroic proportions.
But her growth, though abated, was not ended, and she was forced down onto her knees under the descending weight of the stony roof. What had seemed a solution to her dilemma was turning into a crisis all its own. Tasgeni crouched down as far as she could, and her colossal body filled all the corners of the cave. But still she grew, and there was no place now for her to go. Mulling over the matter she decided upon the only practical course of action left to her. If it worked, fine and well. If it did not work, well, time enough to dwell upon that in its own turn. Tasgeni stood up.
The weight of the mountain rested upon her shoulders, but she was grown now to a size sufficient to such loads. Shifting her weight she managed to get one leg beneath herself. Slowly she pressed upward, causing the stone to lift and compress. She felt the rock groan and buckle, she felt a surge of strength brought about by the clear realization of a power able to break the very hills, yet she was barely exerting herself.
Laughing deeply the giant Princess unloosed her full strength.
The top of the mountain cracked like thunder and erupted violently, casting huge fragments of shattered stone in every direction. Rising from the ruin like some goddess reborn, Tasgeni lifted her arms over her head and crowed with delight. Stretching and bending, she dismissed the horror of the cave, drawing in huge draughts of the sweet twilight air. She was free.
Bitumen completed his dance. The sun was gone, swallowed up into another night. His dark heart laughed with glee, and he turned back for his mountain. The bright light of the full moon did not challenge him like the sun, for it was cold, cold as ice. Bending back his head he let trail a long jet of hell-fire, spitting at the stars, scarring the night with his wild display. But hunger gnawed at his belly, and evil re-awoke within his heart. His victim, lost in darkness, pursued by fear would now be ripe for the taking. Eager to have her he ceased his play, and flew straight and swift to his lair.
He knew something was wrong as soon as he saw his mountain. The dome was higher, irregular, and there was something strangely familiar about its altered contours. Tasgeni knew the dragon was back, for he let loose a howl of rage that lit the night. The mountain still held her in a tight grip from her hips down, and she did not have the leverage to break free. So she twisted to face him.
Bitumen seethed with anger. The more so as his draconic sight spotted the magical talisman wrapped around the giantess' arm. Angling down he beat his wings, driving himself faster and faster. He drew breath, his slitted eyes drawn to the great golden snake. He drew a last long gasp of air and...
Tasgeni swatted him like a mosquito. His breath blew out in a ball of flame, too tenuous to sear the hand of the Princess. Lights danced in the dragon's eyes as he arced backwards, falling dangerously close to the ground before regaining his sense and rising back into the sky. His eyes glowed lava red. His tail whipped and snapped as he arrowed at the face of the Princess.
Wham! Tasgeni gave the dragon the back of her hand, sending him spinning ass over tea-kettle. His fiery discharge made him look like a runaway pinwheel. But dragons are tough as stone, and about as quick to take a hint.
Bitumen recovered his wits and soared upwards, slamming his mighty wings against the air, driving himself higher and higher. He climbed for a full minute, then turned, tucked his wings in tight against his scaly body, and fell straight at the Princess. The wind ripped at his slitted eyes, pulled at his stiffly held pinions. Faster and faster he fell. Opening his jaws ever so slightly, he let the wind pour into his body, fanning his fires, filling him with searing flame. Faster and faster. He saw the land rising up, saw his mountain, saw the giant Princess. He watched her raise a hand nearly the size of a quarter-acre field. Too late he tried to pull out, to turn aside or slow his descent.
Tasgeni batted him clear over the horizon.
Bitumen awoke several hours later.
Now, dragons may be slow to recognize a superior opponent, but those who do not rarely grow to Bitumen's size. On the other claw, dragons are sore losers, and when strength fails they never hesitate to resort to base cunning. Bitumen was not sure how he was going to do it, but he was going to get that Princess out of his mountain.
Symfrall was a big man.
He stood just under two ells tall, and weighed about twenty-five stone. His shoulders were as broad as most people were tall. His muscles were like gnarled tree roots. When angry he was terrifying. When friendly he was terrifying.
He was prime knight material.
His horse was equally monstrous, a chestnut stallion named Domhona. When armored and mounted Symfrall was unstoppable, unbeatable, invulnerable. In other words a guaranteed 1:1 odds at the local fete.
And to be honest, Symfrall became bored with it all: the countless jousting victories, the melee victories, the dueling victories. So, seeking a challenge more suitable to his mettle, he took to being a Knight Wanderer, questing for adventure wheresoever it might be cowering.
Bitumen spotted Symfrall from the air, and immediately discerned within him a resolution to his princess problem. Knights tend towards lawful attributes, which makes them predictable in everything save battle. And any knight with a princess becomes in itself its own story. Right now Bitumen wanted the giantess out of his lair. Retribution for her thwarting of his hunger would come in its own time. Besides, he was suffering from a splitting headache from his boxing at her hands, and all he really wanted to do was curl up in some gold and sleep for a week. Still, evil deeds awaited, and the dragon glided down to confront the knight.
"Greetings, thou armored can of soup," jeered the dragon.
The knight's horse reared up, pawing wildly at the air, its voice a shriek of defiance. There was a metallic ringing, and the knight's sword glittered brightly in the moonlight.
"Get thee gone," snarled the champion. "Thou wilt find no sport here, only death."
"Prithee," simpered Bitumen. "The can wields its own dire opener. Mercy, what ever shall become of me." And he spat a ball of fiery vitriol at Symfrall, who struck it aside with his blade.
"Damn thee to hades," cursed Symfrall. "Either fight or flee, not this coward's dance."
"Egad, look at the time," said the dragon, glancing at his empty wrist. "Guess I'll have to skip the beer run, and just have my meal with a glass of milk. How do you like your princess? Well done or medium rare?"
"Thou fiend," sputtered Symfrall. "What damsel suffers from thy benighted devilry?"
"A blonde I think," mused Bitumen. "Ah, but they all look the same when they come off the barbee. Must dash. Drop by sometime, and I'll have you for lunch." And with a wicked chortle the dragon spun about and flew off.
The taunts struck home. With a fierce cry Symfrall snapped the reigns of Domhona, and the war-stead answered in kind and sped off after the fleeing dragon. Bitumen had been concerned that he might have to dawdle in a convincing manner, to give the outraged knight opportunity to keep him in sight. But Domhona was a lightening bolt with legs, leaping every ravine, crashing unhindered through bush and sapling. So all it took was a little more verbal abuse, and a lot of guiding, and within two hours the dragon had brought his unknowing helper within sight of the mountains where the Princess still stood. Shrieking flame laden curses, the dragon warned the knight away from the upcoming range, then lifted into the sky to let pride and anger do their work.
Symfrall stared at the dwindling dragon, confused by his sudden departure. Waving his sword a little he glanced around as if seeking something to chop, then, calming a little, decided instead to sheath the glittering blade. The moon shone down brightly upon the blasted wasteland that was the keep about the dragon's mountainous abode. Symfrall held the reigns loosely, letting Domhona carefully pick his way amongst the jagged rocks. A slight movement in the vicinity of the nearest peak caused him to believe that the dragon was now seeking refuge within its dark lair. So, satisfied that things were working out about normal, Symfrall guided his stallion closer towards the nearby mountain.
Moonlight and darkness mocked his sight, so that the landscape, or more particularly the mountain, seemed to waver of its own accord. And once he heard the wind sigh with what sounded like a woman's voice. Deeming it some witchcraft of the dragon's devising, he averted his gaze, and pressed onward, until he came within sight of what seemed to be an opening into the side of the mountain. Symfrall had a prepared speech that he had learned by rote. Raising his sword on high (which tried valiantly to lend majesty to the occasion by humming something by the minstrel Manilow), Symfrall shouted with a great voice: "Here is Symfrall, Knight Wanderer, slayer of beasts, who comes to this foul lair to rescue innocence from the haggard clutches of evil. Come forth dread demon. Come forth and meet thy doom. Come forth damned dragon. Come forth and... "Eeeeek!"
That last word was not a part of Symfrall's speech. But the Princess, hearing the proud words of challenge spoken by her rescuer (or to be more accurate, having discerned a kind of squeaky hauteur going on behind her back) had turned around to better see him. And Symfrall, upon beholding a portion of the mountain move and resolve itself into a beautiful, if colossal woman, had selected "Eeeek" as the best way to express his alarm. Alas, the Princess might not have been smiling so prettily, if she had known that her knight in shining armor was entertaining thoughts of galloping away. In the meantime Valorja was humming a ditty Rod Serling would have approved of, and Symfrall finally had to sheath his sword to shut the dratted thing up.
"Sir knight, hast thou come to rescue me?" Symfrall's jaw gaped, for though the giantess' voice was feminine in timber, yet it was vast as the sky, and echoed from the very hills like summer thunder.
"Ummmmm...yes...yes I have," he replied.
"Sorry?" said the giantess, cocking her head. "Could thou speak a little louder?"
"Yes." yelled Symfrall. The giantess thought a moment, then raised a hand palm up and pulled in her fingers, asking for more volume. "Yes." yelled Symfrall. "Yes! Yes! YES!" The giantess smiled and nodded her head. "I am Symfrall," shrieked Symfrall. "Knight wanderer and...gak." he held his throat with both hands, as if trying to keep it from exploding.
The giantess waited a moment, to be sure the knight was done with his introduction, and seeing he was in no condition to question her answered in turn. "Greetings, Sir Symfrall. I hight Princess Tasgeni, Nodwood's daughter of Kingdom Prattle. Thou hast my eternal gratitude for thy arrival in my moment of need. My father, the King, will surely shower thee with wealth for this days work."
Symfrall tried to show his own thanks with some gestures, made awkward by his insistence of keeping one hand always on his aching throat.
"Pray, good sir knight? Wouldst our words together be made easier if I were to descend to thy level?" Symfrall thought about this, and tried to indicate his uncertainty by raising his hand and scratching his head. Unfortunately, to Tasgeni it looked like he was waving for her to come down. "Bide a moment," she answered, and reaching out laid her hands upon the slopes of the nearby hills. Then, with the strength and grace of youth, augmented by her gigantic stature, she vaulted herself up from out of the confining maw of the mountain. Symfrall looked up and up and up as his damsel-in-distress floated skyward like some magical tower, her long dark shadow dropping over him blotting out the sky. Her descent was no less spectacular, and when she landed three things happened: the earth shook as though a thing gone mad, the stars, moon and landscape vanished behind a cliff of fabric, and Domhona, Symfrall's horse, fainted away deader than dirt.
Tasgeni had a fretful moment when she realized that her rescuer was nowhere to be seen. Visions of his body turned into something flatter than a kipper made her lip tremble and her eyes begin to tear. But then she heard a faint sound, as of a woman screaming, and it occurred to her that her hero was not only alive, but perhaps not quite so much of a hero. Bundling up her dress in her fingers, she bent forward a little, enough to peer down between her feet. There she saw her knight in shining armor trying to quell the yipping shrieks of his magnificent stallion. All attempts to shush the beast did naught but to wind him up even further, and when Symfrall realized that the Princess held him under her scrutiny, he threw his mighty fist, and sent Domhona back to kissing dirt. Never taking her eyes off her hero, Tasgeni shuffled backwards until horse and man emerged from beneath the voluminous swells of her dress. Then, curling her legs beneath herself, she sat down and considered more closely her diminutive champion.
"Who should be rescuing who here?" Tasgeni finally asked.
"What?" yelped Symfrall with indignation. "I came here in pursuit of that thrice damned worm, expecting to come to the aid of some royal maiden, not some...some...aaaaa" Tasgeni's countenance was bland, but her fingers were drumming incessantly upon her knee. "Aaaaaaaa... soooo, what evil magic brought thee to this plight?" He finished quickly.
Tasgeni frowned and harumphed. "Yon dragon cast me within his treasure vault. There I chanced upon this potent talisman," and she touched the snake with her fingers. "It has been a mixed blessing. Without this change I would now be bloating the belly of the worm. But these are not the proportions of a lady of the court. I would return to my original size."
"Hast thou attempted the removal of the charm?" asked Symfrall.
"Of course," snapped Tasgeni.
"I could hack at it with Valorja," suggested Symfrall.
"I would like to consider other options first."
"Are thee up to some travelling?"
"To where?" asked Tasgeni.
"Nogcunmanodin's vale," said Symfrall.
"What? Nonononono. The wizard, Nogcunmanodin. He who forged my sword Valorja. My mentor. The wisest man west of the Kallera Mountains."
"You know," mused the Princess. "At my current size the Kallera really aren't that far..." It was a measure of Symfrall's doughtiness that he was able to silence the giantess with a glare and a frown. An effect that was quickly demolished, however, as Tasgeni giggled at her little knight. "Apologies, sir champion," she sighed. "Let us test the knowledge of thy teacher. I'll not malign him again. When shall we start?"
"Now would be best," said Symfrall. "Lest the dragon return with a more dire mode of attack." He glanced at the brown lump that was his magnificent war stallion. "There is a problem, though."
"Nay," answered Tasgeni. "Not if pride can bend to the moment."
This is something that dragons are really, really good at. They own the cunning, the evil and the patience to pull together some supremely inspired ideas.
Unfortunately for the cause of darkness, Bitumen's head was still ringing from being thwacked! over the horizon, and he wasn't able to dream up anything more wicked than to try and get a rival kingdom to wage war against the Princess' realm. A quick reference to his political map listed Draxis as the neighboring power with the resources and the mettle to carry out such a plan. And the lord of the land, Hablrod, was listed in the Naddle Yark Times' Top Ten most evil monarchs. Such a man would be capable of anything. It was a better piece of luck than such scanty and disingenuous planning deserved. But dragons are also opportunists. Bitumen filled an old canvas bag with ice, strapped it to his throbbing head, and launched himself in the general direction of Draxis.
It was an unusual mode of travel.
Tasgeni cradled the unconscious Domhona in her arm, whilst Symfrall rode upon her bare shoulder with a strand of her golden hair wrapped twice around his waist. This position was doubly fortuitous since it offered Symfrall an unparalleled view of the land, and removed the necessity of prolonged bouts of shouting. By his reckoning, the Princess at a comfortable stride made speed at nearly three times the haste of a horse at full gallop. Nor was she defeated by rivers, chasms or dense thickets. Symfrall was more than a little daunted by such a casual display of prowess, but to his surprise, he found himself enjoying the lesson; certainly no one else had ever been able to overtop him as did this gentle giantess.
For her part, Tasgeni's attention was divided between watching where she was going, and trying not to dislodge her passengers with any sudden shifts or movements. When Symfrall was very still she could barely detect him upon her shoulder, but denied herself the luxury of a glance, lest her chin send the knight tumbling from his perch. Instead she contented herself with questions about the path, and if Symfrall wondered at the frequency of her inquiries, he never mentioned it.
All in all it was a swift and uneventful journey, with only two exceptions of any note.
The first came when they passed through the borough of Eltavera. The county's village was nestled between the steep ridges of the southern most extent of the Kallera, and Symfrall was insistent that they take this route. Thus the good citizens were the first in Prattle to see the giant Princess, and they dealt with the visit like they might any invasion or plague.
"Where are my people?" asked Tasgeni.
"Likely in their wine cellars," chuckled Symfrall. "And if they be as normal as they are kind-hearted, may they at least grant us one blessing amidst their comforts. Now, hasten as ye may, but not in lieu of caution."
Then Tasgeni moved through the streets of the tiny burg, stepping as carefully as she might, her skirts raised so that she might better follow the motions of her feet. It took several minutes to navigate the winding carriage-ways, and once she had to step over a row of homes to avoid a long detour, but the town escaped any more serious damage than a single flattened wain to mark her passage. Still, for long the people sat in their cellars and tested the wines, and waited until the earth ceased to rumble, and the dust stopped sifting from the ceiling, before they emerged to gossip over the amazing visitation.
The second event was not nearly as perilous, but quite a shock nonetheless; for a few miles later Domhona woke up. Tasgeni felt the stallion stir and twitch, and she began to say something to Symfrall when the horse went berserk. Stooping down she let the animal tumble down her skirts to the ground, and tried to corral him within the expanse of her arms. Symfrall didn't realize there was trouble until Tasgeni's shoulder dropped out from under him like the hangman's trap. He quickly saw the problem, though, and unsheathing Valorja liberated himself from Tasgeni's single strand of hair.
Resheathing the humming sword he dove forward, intending to clear the Princess' bodice and follow his stallion's path to the ground. Misfortune seized the moment, his aim proved inadequate to the task, and he disappeared feet first into Tasgeni's ample cleavage with a muffled oath.
The Princess, for her part, squeaked in surprise, and nearly lost track of Domhona. She debated grabbing the horse and then fishing out her champion turned peeping Tom, but she distrusted her strength, and instead leaned forward, thinking that a wise Symfrall would not linger in his current predicament.
In fact, Symfrall was at a momentary loss, for until she bowed down Tasgeni's breasts held him in an exceedingly warm, soft and inescapable prison. And he, with his arms raised over his head, had no way to gain purchase or wriggle free. But when she bent her body he was able to slide to the material of her dress, and using his fingers crawled up and out of that intimate embrace. With a final pull Symfrall tumbled down Tasgeni's dress into the ring made of her arms. A quick glance at her lovely face convinced him that he should marshal his best answer whilst attending to calming Domhona.
It was his good luck that Domhona took a great deal of cajoling and soothing before he suffered to stand still. It was better luck that Tasgeni was herself permitted to calm a little, being perhaps somewhat mollified by Symfrall's obvious concern for his steed. Being a Princess, however, means never having to forgive anyone, and when Domhona was quiescent enough to graze, she drew away a little and motioned to her champion to follow.
"Now, sirrah," she whispered. "Your horse I can pardon, but what of thy own misadventures?"
"Your forgiveness, Princess," said Symfrall. "In my haste to see to the needs of my charger I mistook my fall and dishonored thee. There is nothing for it but for thou to take whatever punishment thee deem fitting. But I would beg of thee that ye postpone thy judgement until I can absolve my prior duty to thee, and deliver thee to the wisdom of wizard Nogcunmanodin."
Tasgeni's eyes glittered, and she stifled a smile, for the words were proper in form, though maybe a bit too proud. Still, there was within her no intention of harming Symfrall. But the promise of his absolution offered in words near to an oath, intrigued her, and she thought a moment. "Very well, sir Champion. I will restrain my judgment, but thy penitence is in my hands, and we will speak of this at some later time of my own choosing."
"So be it," said Symfrall. And for that time nothing more was said of it.
Nogcunmanodin cast the bones. They rattled and tumbled and fell into a pile, and he stared at them long.
"'Big things'," he mumbled. "Dratted things," he said gathering them up into his hand. "Can't be any more specific, huh? Why do you think scrying's so damned popular. None of these half answers. Now, deliver, or I'll get a goat." And he tossed the bones. "Lessee, lessee," muttered the wizard. "`Don't look now, but there is a giant princess'...huh?"
For at that very moment a shadow passed over the sun, as though blocked by a cloud of prodigious depth. Nogcunmanodin held out a hand and looked up. Straight into the inquiring face of Tasgeni.
"Whoa," said the wizard. "Look at this, look at this," He cried, pointing from the bones to the giantess. "A mountain shows up on my doorstep and all you can say are `big things'? Fah! dratted dragon bones have a mind of their own." And he tossed them away. A moment later, as if remembering his company, his pointed up an accusing finger and yelled, "I hope you're not standing on my azaleas!"
Tasgeni glanced down, started a bit guiltily, and moved a step to the left. She hesitated a moment, as though listening to some voice, raised her hands to her shoulder, then lowered them to a space a few yards in front of the wizard. Opening them she released Symfrall, who stumbled off her fingers, and stopped to brush the dust from his armor.
"Symfrall Sanderson," growled Nogcunmanodin. "Don't you know it's dangerous to lead an interesting life?"
"Teacher, the interesting things seek me out, not I them."
"Yah, `tis always been like that with you. Well, come on, come on, spin this tale for me, only make it quick, I haven't had breakfast yet."
Nogcunmanodin stared up at Tasgeni, mulling over the things that had been told to him. "Alright, lass," he finally called. "Boost me up so that I may more closely examine this charm about you."
Tasgeni frowned at the familiarity, but lowered her hand for the wizard to embark upon, and lifted him up next to her arm. Nogcunmanodin stepped forward and tapped the magical snake with his fist. Pulling out a short wand he muttered something over it and pressed it against the golden scales. Nothing happened. Examining the wand the wizard invoked a stronger spell, his voice rising in volume and authority, and this time he struck the snake with all his might. The gold shimmered a moment, then faded.
"Strong stuff," said Nogcunmanodin, and stepping off Tasgeni's open palm he drifted back down to the entrance of his cave. "Bide a moment while I muster more potent artillery," he called, and vanished into the darkness.
Tasgeni glanced down at Symfrall. "Are thou sure he can help?" she asked.
Symfrall held out his hands in a gesture of resignation. "I know of none better," he answered. "And even if he cannot loose the spell of his own power, I would be amazed if he could not at least instruct us in some other way to dislodge it."
At that moment the wizard emerged from his cave, dragging a silver staff of grand proportions. "Holla! Princess, could you grant me another lift to yonder conundrum?" A moment later he was puffing from exertion as he tried to lift the staff into an upright posture. Stopping to regain his composure, Nogcunmanodin began to chant, and as he chanted the staff grew lighter or he stronger, and he raised it high with one hand. The golden snake began to glow, pulsing in rhythm with the voice of the wizard, its emanations throbbing faster and faster, until with a terrific whack! he brought the staff down upon the snake. Thunder sounded in the distance and the head of the snake rose from its place and hissed venomously at Nogcunmanodin. He struck it several times, but the charm stayed put, its jewel encrusted tongue stabbing at the air. Finally the wizard dropped his arm, his chant guttered away into silence, but the snake was still enlivened, and still hissed softly, now and again.
"`Tis no use," proclaimed the wizard. "This spell was cast in earnest and nothing may dissuade it, but to see it to fruition. Giants of the north wrought this charm in the ancient past, and imbued it with the strength of Midgard's serpent. Now, though their days be long passed, still this magic has potency beyond the manna I can command."
"What then," asked Tasgeni softly, "is needed to complete the spell?"
"Let us find out," said Nogcunmanodin, and pointing the staff at the head of the snake, he spoke a word of command. For a moment the snake paused, then slowly it began to reach its head towards the wizard. For a moment Tasgeni was of a mind to catch the snake within her fingers and try to unravel it. But Nogcunmanodin, reading her intentions, raised a hand of warning against her, and waited while the mouth of the snake came near to the side of his head. For a long moment the snake and the wizard stood thus, the forked tongue flickering into view as the snake spoke words of instruction into the ear of the wizard. Nogcunmanodin stiffened, and his face grew strained as he took in the words. Finally, the snake withdrew, and returned to its abode about the arm of the Princess, and all semblance of life departed from it. But the wizard seemed in some kind of shock, and at a loss for words gestured his will be returned to the ground. Tasgeni complied, and she and Symfrall watched the wizard walk stiff-legged into his cave. A moment later unrestrained laughter roared from the entrance, loud and wild. Tasgeni turned a frown of displeasure upon Symfrall, who shrugged in confusion, but wisely said nothing. And after a long while the peal of merriment diminished into silence, and Nogcunmanodin stepped back into the sunshine.
"I've learned how to break the spell," he declared. "But you may not like it." Nogcunmanodin spoke quickly, detailing the instructions of the snake, outlining the course of the spell, and the only way that it could be broken. "There's no hope for it," said the wizard. "The afflicted must couple in love for the spell to unwind to completion."
"Surely, thou jest," said Symfrall.
"Nay, student, I am in deadly ernest."
"What of my oath of celibacy?"
"Did you swear thus before a holy man?"
"Nay, I was alone, under the stars."
"Then though it be a thing of worth, it pales before the greater demands of your duty to this lady. If she asks it of you, you must set it aside."
"But the size of her. `Twould be like attending to the desires of an earthquake."
"Aye," said Nogcunmanodin. "But what I have seen she already holds you in more esteem than you deserve, and thoughts that you deem un-maidenly already occur to her."
"Is it the affect of the charm?"
"I could not tell you," said the wizard. "But Tasgeni means to have you, and who says `no' to the earthquake when she decides to dance? Not thee, I think."
"Are you enjoying this?" asked Symfrall.
The wizard's face broke into a wide grin and he nodded. "Quite."
Tasgeni listened carefully to the explanations of the wizard, and showed neither surprise, nor concern, nor abhorrence. Instead, she turned her considerable attention upon Symfrall. "I claim the price of judgment for thy earlier uninvited visitation upon my person," Tasgeni commanded. "Thou shall set aside this lesser oath of thy celibacy and lay with me, so that I may rid myself of this irksome size."
"But what of thy father's wishes?"
"The king is not, himself, larger than a castle."
"Is there no Prince for you?"
"None now court me, I am uninitiated in the motions of love."
"What? Am I expected to carry battle to your maidenhead? For of a certainty, naught less than a battering ram could suffice against thy current proportions."
"Nay," said Tasgeni, her eyes glittering dangerously. "My proof was broken of its own accord a number of years ago. I'll not trouble thee will the details. But thou shall find no impediment betwixt me and thee."
"Drat," muttered Symfrall. "I mean: fine, fine, upon what earth shall the, uh, happy event transpire?"
Tasgeni's reached down and caught up her little lover-to-be, "I know of just the place."
It was an achingly beautiful spot. The Clearmoor was born here, leaping like a deer from the hills into a wide deep basin of blue water. Soft meads, and wide flowing meadows surrounded the lake, and were themselves contained within the arms of a forest of tall evergreens. Tasgeni carefully picked her way amongst the trees, bemoaning every crunch! and snap! of another trunk trodden flat with no more moment than a daisy. But with the minimum of damage, she made her way to the edge of the lake, and there knelt down within her dress.
"`Tis a gentle view," shouted Symfrall.
"Aye," smiled the Princess, "I came here often as a child. Twas deemed safer to let me sport here, than near to the other places where enemies might chance."
"I can almost imagine that," said Symfrall, who took a measure of the sun and wondered if six more hours of small talk could save him from a truly unique experience.
A half hour later, the Princess began to suspect his strategy.
"Enough," chided Tasgeni, "I'll not be getting any smaller with all of this long talk. Now then, who shall divest themselves first, thee or me?"
Symfrall dug his toe into her palm and tried to look thoughtful.
Tasgeni's eyes flashed. "Very well," she said, and she set Symfrall down upon the grassy earth, before standing up to her full mountain height, "Let it be me."
And Symfrall watched as she reached behind her neck and unclasped some buttons. Pulling the dress down a little, she followed the line of buttons down her left shoulder, then slowly eased the fabric down passed her bodice. More buttons on her left had to be parted before she was able to clear her waist and step out of the heavy material. A careless kick of her foot sent the enormous pile sailing several hundred feet away, right to the verges of the evergreen forest. But Symfrall's eyes never strayed from his colossal Princess. She now began to remove the other accoutrements: girdle, bodice and corset, that certainly no other man had ever seen. There was, however, no hint of modesty or chastity within the glance of the Princess, and she continued to rid herself of all her clothing, even kicking off her shoes, leaving her clad only in her powder blue stockings. Then, reaching up she undid the pins that held her hat, cast that aside, and let her long blonde tresses cascade down to the small of her back. Symfrall was enchanted. His giant Princess towered over him with her arms set lightly upon her wide hips. Her stockinged feet were sunk into the soft earth, and spread wide enough to taunt his gaze, which traveled slowly up the impossibly long length of her legs. His eyes locked a moment with the beautiful sight of her womanhood, nestled within a triangular forest of lush auburn locks. Tasgeni `tched' her tongue and Symfrall guiltily resumed his visual ascent, admiring the flatness of her belly, and the unexpected expression of muscles. The lady was strong at any size, but lady she was as evidenced by the prodigious swell of her breasts. Again Symfrall found his eyes engaged with something beyond his keen, and Tasgeni mesmerized him by slowly twisting from side to side, affording her little lover a view of her every least curve. Her nipples bespoke clearly of her arousal at being thus surveyed by her small knight, but another click of her tongue brought Symfrall's gaze up into the ocean blue depths of her own.
She smiled down at the tiny man, "It's thy turn, sir knight." And she knelt down, and bent forward until her lovely face was hardly a score of feet away, so that she might be the best possible audience for Symfrall's disclosure. Symfrall was nervous about this. An oath of celibacy is a wonderful thing when you're fighting monsters, because it encourages you to channel energy into your sword arm. This isn't a sexual thing, though it is hormonal, if you want to take on some demon, you'd better have everything in order, and you better not be distracted by thoughts about your lover. Conversely, while Symfrall had certainly given thought to the fairer sex, this thought had usually cast him in the roll of champion, or rescuer, not in the roll of mouse. Standing now under Tasgeni's frank and open appraisal, he was self-conscious as all hell, and in no good position to do anything about it. So, brave man that he was, he removed his armor and his clothing, and prepared himself for the worst.
The Princess did not laugh, though it would be unfair to report that some cruel thoughts didn't run through her mind. Thankfully, lust won out over wit, for one does not demean ones lover, no matter how small.
"Good sir knight," she whispered. "Come grant me a kiss." And she lowered her head yet further.
Symfrall sighed, though with relief or resignation, even he could not have told, and stepped forward to do as bid. The breath of his lady washed over him like a sweet gale of summer. Her lips were more plush than an Arabians pillows, warm and pliant to the touch. When Tasgeni's hand pressed up behind him, he started, but could do nothing more. She pinned him against her heady kiss, smothering him gently with her vast attentions. When finally she raised her head, Symfrall was gasping for air, while she just smiled down at him possessively. His arms snapped out for purchase, when the giantess rose to her feet, but she held him secure as she stepped into the lake, and sank into it, sending a sudden wall of water crashing out into Clearmoor river.
The lake was marvelously deep, yet with the lady sitting it barely reached the line made by her nipples. With a mischievous grin Tasgeni lowered Symfrall into the chilly waters, and left him to fend for himself. He swam well, and she made sport with him, twisting her shoulders and poking at him with her nipples; sometimes dunking him, and sometimes lifting him from the water. He took it in good stride, and dove deep to elude her, but even his mighty lungs could not carry him far beyond her reach, and she gleefully caught him each time and returned him close to her ample bosom. Nor was Symfrall completely the victim, for a lady's charms, no matter how magnified, remain a thing of desire for any man. And no one was more delighted than Tasgeni when she spotted the proof of her lover's ardor, as his lifted himself on the generous swell of his Princess' breast. Unwilling to prolong the sweet agony any further, Tasgeni picked up Symfrall and carefully deposited him upon the grassy meadow.
"Bide a moment, dear heart," she said. "Whilst I finish with my dunking." And Symfrall watched in amazement as the Princess leaned forward and submerged herself beneath the lake, only for a moment, as the position was awkward. Sputtering and laughing she sprang back up, flinging her long hair out of the waters, casting a veritable cloudburst over the forest behind her. Then, like a mountain marching on the horizon, Tasgeni rose up out of the lake to her great height, and the level of the lake now reached scarcely to her knees. Water crashed down from her nude body, but she paid it no heed as she twisted her hair, coaxing yet more thunderous rain from its silken strands. The sun glistened upon her as she smiled down at Symfrall, who was now completely enthralled by his towering mistress. That fascination was still measured in caution, though, and when she waded towards him, churning the lake into froth with her motions, he backed up what seemed to him a considerable distance. It wasn't even a full stride on Tasgeni's scale, and stepping out of the waters she slowly kneeled forward, bracketing Symfrall between her folded legs, setting her womanhood almost directly over him. That in itself was a sight that took some getting used to. Symfrall's gaze wandered from the prodigious thighs of the Princess, to her cunt, up to the vast swell of her breasts, back to her cunt, up to her smiling face, and finally back to her cunt.
"My love," he said. "Meaning no disrespect, but thy charms scare me," he finished, pointing at the conjunction of her thighs.
Tasgeni flashed her teeth at her diminutive lover. "Well it should sir knight, for she shall have to embrace thee most intimately if I am to overthrow the spell and resume more delicate proportions."
Symfrall stared for a moment at the auburn framed flower of his Princess, then slapped his hands together, as if in preparation for some heroic effort, and stated, "So be it. But if ye could accommodate me in some less inaccessible position, I would see this work to fruition."
"Nay," smiled the Princess. "Though ye are small, and I am enamored of thee, it would be unwise for me to invest myself around thee yet. My passions must be fanned still hotter until my flows are sufficiently generous to let me take thee easily."
"I see," said Symfrall, who clearly did not, and who was beginning to realize that he was in for something rather more strenuous than a quick investigation of his giant lady's nethers. "Ummmm, sooooo?"
Tasgeni moved around Symfrall, an action not unlike a mountain doing a pirouette around a mouse, but which positioned the knight between his lady and the lake. Laying prone upon the warm earth, the Princess brought her face down close to her lover. "Let us commence with another kiss," she suggested huskily.
Making love is rather like dancing. If even one of the participants is lacking in skills, injuries can occur, more often to the sensibilities than to the body. Both Tasgeni and Symfrall had ardor to spare, and threw themselves into their passions with a frenzy. However, neither had much experience, a matter somewhat exacerbated by their difference in size. Symfrall found himself frustrated by being unable to apply caresses using anything other than his full strength, while Tasgeni struggled constantly to keep her unimaginable size and strength in check, lest Symfrall be broken by her in a careless moment. Thus is was that Tasgeni pinned and threatened to smother Symfrall more than once with an opened mouthed kiss, while the relatively tiny man found himself assailing his love with strength normally reserved for berserker attacks. After about an hour, Tasgeni was horny enough to fuck a tree, and Symfrall felt like he'd run the marathon.
"We...we...we need...need...need a plan," gasped Symfrall.
"Thou hast my fullest attention," said Tasgeni, as she idly prodded Symfrall's proud cock with an enormous finger tip.
"Bide a moment," panted Symfrall, slapping at her finger.
Tasgeni growled loudly, pushed the tiny man onto his back with a flick, and bent her head over him, opening her mouth to give him a kiss that would melt his bones.
"Nay! Nay!" shouted Symfrall, scuttling out from under Tasgeni like a crab. "I mean, not yet," he amended upon seeing her eyes narrow. "Please, my lady. This sport spends me, and satisfies thee not. I would rethink our notions, and try again."
"Something needs to be done," sighed the Princess. Symfrall watched as she sat up and probed her cunt. "I am still not ready to take thee into myself."
Symfrall mentally girded his loins, and started walking towards the colossal `V' made of Tasgeni's legs. Tasgeni watched him, then noted that she was half self-consciously covering herself with her hand. Biting lightly upon her lower lip she removed her hand. The sudden unveiling made Symfrall hesitate, and he stopped just within the line of Tasgeni's knees. He felt so incredibly small and vulnerable, the Princess loomed over him like a soft curving cliff. Her enormous breasts rose and fell to the rhythm of her breath. Her blue eyes watched him closely. Sensing his change of heart, Tasgeni reached out, gently placing her fingers behind Symfrall's back, and with soft but insistent strength pressed him forwards towards the awesome presence of her cunt. It was a colossus of form, lush with auburn hairs framing the lofty rise of her lips, themselves distended and out of place, revealing to Symfrall something of what lay within. Tasgeni pushed him to within inches of her huge cunt, then withdrew her hand. Despite her concern, Symfrall saw that there was moisture upon the lips of her vulva. The scent of her from this close was heady and potent. He was daunted, and looked up at Tasgeni.
"Open me," she commanded.
Symfrall whistled softly and squared his shoulders. Reaching out he stroked her great labia, feeling their silkiness. Overhead Tasgeni sighed as she felt his touch. Emboldened by her response Symfrall placed his hands somewhat within the space between the lips, and plying his strength, parted them. It was heavy work, and the flesh was slick so that he was afeared of losing his grip, but he shifted the Princess's labia by a good inch, and peered inside. Her lips peeled open from the outside, but stuck together further in. And, having never seen the intimates of a woman, Symfrall was at a loss as to whether he was seeing anything new at all. Tasgeni was able to feel something of the results of Symfrall's labor, and sensed that he had not the stature to unveil her innermost charms.
"Step back, my love," she warned Symfrall. Who jumped aside, and watched in amazement as the giantess reached down and effortlessly peeled herself open with her fingers. It was quite a revelation. Symfrall spotted the great puckering of Tasgeni's vagina, and quailed at the sense of tightness that it conveyed. However, the purpose of the smaller orifice above it eluded him. Nor was the function of the swollen, hooded nub above both of them made clear at a glance. Tasgeni was more than happy to enlighten him.
"This is the way drink passes from my body," she instructed him, pointing to her urethra. "This methinks thou recognizes as the chamber thou must explore to break the spell. It is deep and when wet will admit all of thee with ease." And as if to comfort him she pressed a finger into herself, lolling it about. Symfrall was not comforted. "While there is pleasure in being filled," she continued. "This is the truer seat of passion." And she stroked her clitoris with her fingertip. Symfrall was still daunted.
"Art there any other gates into thy ardor?" he asked, hopefully.
"Yes, dear heart," answered Tasgeni, a little teasingly. "Same as any bawdy ballad might have instructed thee." She reached down and grasped Symfrall gently with her fingers and laid back down, holding him up high above her stretched out body. "Explore me all," she commanded. "Be comfortable with me. I'll not have thee shrieking in terror when thou are thrust whole and living into myself." And she set him down in the valley between her breasts.
Symfrall began to realize that Tasgeni not only dominated him, but she seemed to be taking great pleasure in it. That put things more in the perspective of a challenge. Something Symfrall thought he could handle. The skin of the Princess was warm beneath his feet, and gave slightly. An unusual sensation. He glanced at the hill-like breasts that bracketed him, then raced down the Princesses throat, and sprang lightly into the air, up onto her chin. Moving carefully he stepped across her closed lips onto her cheek, and looked down into her right eye. Tasgeni was hard put to focus on her miniature lover, but she managed and was not shy about studying Symfrall's manhood. Symfrall stared back at her, mesmerized by the beauty of her eye. The blue was revealed to contain minute flecks of green and brown. It glistened in a lively fashion, and winked at him slowly. Bending to his knees he reached out slowly, and Tasgeni shut her lids so he could touch them. Her lashes were black as coal, and thick. When the eye snapped open again he started. Her pupil was dilated, and looked vast enough to engulf him, but it quickly shrank from the light.
Stepping back, Symfrall stroked her nose, feeling it shift against his hand in time to each great draught of air that passed through her. Crossing her lips again, Symfrall sat down within the hollow above her chin, his legs dangling upon either side of her jaw. Reaching out his lightly caressed her lips. Tasgeni groaned and bit at her lower lip with her teeth.
"Thou'st tickles me," she whispered. Symfrall murmured an apology and leaned forward upon her lips, spreading his arms wide. Tasgeni lightly kissed Symfrall's chest, then playfully poked at him with her tongue. The knight pushed himself up and batted at the fleshy thing, which darted back into its nook. Symfrall struck Tasgeni's lips with mock blows, then clenching her jaw with his thighs and pushing upon her upper lip with his arms, tried to gain access. Tasgeni complied by opening her mouth, and nearly scared Symfrall to death. Had it not been for the strength of his legs, he might have tumbled forward into that warm, wet chasm. Tasgeni's breath roared over him, hot and sweet. And Symfrall, disdaining his terror, peered inside. He would make hardly a morsel for this giantess, and thrice thanked heaven for her gentle disposition. Her throat was a distant cavern, her tongue a magical floor, that unpredictably shifted and undulated. Tasgeni's teeth were white and straight, and Symfrall daringly took hold of the two closest to him and felt their smooth flats, and the terrible roughness of their edges. From that day on, whenever he watched Tasgeni eat, he remembered this moment and marveled that within every woman were things of such dreadful splendor. His brief musings were interrupted by the sudden return of Tasgeni's formidable tongue. Sputtering and flailing his arms, Symfrall wrestled with the thing, before getting the upper hand (or being permitted to have the upper hand) and pressing it back between Tasgeni's lips. She laughed softly as he chided her with a raised finger. Then Symfrall slipped back down Tasgeni's chin and walked across her throat, stopping to admire the perfection of the hollow in her neck, before moving back into the spread valley of her cleavage.
Tasgeni propped her head up on her arms and watched. Symfrall, bent and set an ear against the Princess, and listened to the distant booming of her heart. It pulsed faster than he expected, and realized that his exploration of her body was, in itself, arousing to Tasgeni. His confidence increased a little more, and he turned and climbed atop the right breast of the Princess. Here the flesh was a bit more yielding, and he slope quite generous, but he quickly reached the summit of that erotic hill, and stopped to more closely consider its treasures. Tasgeni's aureole was expansive, almost as wide in diameter as was Symfrall tall. It was a dark rose in color, and roughly textured, a fitting halo for the erect barrel of her nipple which rose proudly from her breast. Symfrall walked around the fleshy nub, which rose to a height passed his knees, and lightly brushed it with his fingers. A soft sigh from Tasgeni caught his attention. She was smiling happily, her blue eyes following his every move. Symfrall thought a moment, then sat down on the opposite side of the nipple, wrapping his legs around it as best he could. He returned the gaze of the giantess, watching her closely, as he ran his hands over its rough, sensitive tip. The Princess closed her eyes, and blew her breath through puckered lips. His ego singing hosannas, Symfrall increased his ministrations, stroking and caressing all side of the enormous nipple.
Then Tasgeni upped the stakes. Symfrall watched as her left hand rose, and she began to pluck and pinch at her left nipple. Realizing that she wanted more from him, Symfrall began to squeeze with his legs. Tasgeni cooed her approval and unlimbered her right arm from beneath her head. Her right hand swooped down, giving Symfrall some concern as she began to cup and squeeze the side of her breast. The motion tossed Symfrall both up and down, and from side to side, and incented him to cling all the harder to Tasgeni's nipple. Her eyes were open again, and she watched him as he worked to keep his unsteady perch. Failing to realize his mounting worry, Tasgeni increased her kneadings, smiling in satisfaction as Symfrall ceased all pretense at caressing, and wrapped both his arms around her nipple and hung on for dear life. Salvation came in an unexpected way. Tasgeni's eyes fluttered shut. Her head dropped back, and her back arched up. A minor trembling vibrated through her body, and with several soft shrieks and moans, Tasgeni orgasmed. It took her a while to settle down from the delightful sensation. Symfrall was just grateful for a chance to relax from the incredible ride. Yet he considered himself paid in full when Tasgeni turned a smile upon him bright enough to light a room.
"I want more," she said.
Symfrall stared back at her from under his brows, his fingers drumming quickly atop Tasgeni's nipple.
"Or art thou too weary?" she inquired, and batted her eyelashes.
Symfrall seemed to consider this for a moment, then unfolding himself from around Tasgeni's nipple, he flipped backwards down the steep rondure of her breast. The Princess gasped, then narrowed her eyes as she saw that her champion was unharmed, smiling in fact, at her worry. Turning, he gave her the view of his tight ass (which she accepted) as he proceeded down her chest to her belly. He paused for a long moment beside her button, deciding that it was itself beautiful. But then went on towards the verges of her pubic. Twisting his head he looked back into the eyes of the Princess, then moved into that lush expanse, driving through the hairs, crossing her mons to the gentle drop that revealed the topmost portion of her vulva. Tasgeni was now considerably damp, and her swollen, distended cunt bespoke clearly of her complete sexual arousal. Spotting her clitoris peeking from beneath its sheath, Symfrall dropped prone amidst Tasgeni's hairs, and reaching out began to stroke it.
The Princess indicated her approval with a drawn out, "Oh yes." and her body began to buck anew against Symfrall's touch. But in this position he was better able to maintain his grip, and increased his labors, which suited Tasgeni just fine. There was, however, something missing from her pleasure. Something which Symfrall watched with both awe and consternation. From out of the sky appeared Tasgeni's right hand, resting lightly upon her inner thigh, carefully distant from Symfrall. Her fore and middle finger probed the inner lips of her cunt, causing an alarming slurping and sucking noise. Then, slowly at first, she began to pump her fingers into herself, rubbing the walls of her vagina, and lathering her vulva in the thick juices of her excitement. Symfrall's eyes were great as saucers, but he never paused in his ministrations. Glancing back he saw the Tasgeni was kneading her breasts again, her eyes closed as she concentrated on the pleasures of her body.
Tasgeni's second orgasm was even greater and more raucous than the first. Symfrall clung tightly to her pubes as her body bounced and turned beneath him. It lasted for what seemed forever, before she began to relax and calm down. Then Symfrall's world began to spin. Tasgeni sat up, then drew herself up onto her knees, first turning Symfrall sideways, then almost upside down. His grip became useless, and he grabbed two handfuls of auburn hair and dangled a dozen feet or more above the ground. Suddenly, Tasgeni's hand was beneath him, and he dropped into it, too grateful for the reprieve to chastise her for his scare. However, Tasgeni was in no mood for anything but one thing now.
"The time is come," she informed Symfrall. "For thou to immerse thyself within me." In her eyes was a mixture of determination and arousal that was intimidating to behold. Symfrall lay quiescent within the palm of her hand, with she explored herself with the fingers of the other. "Thou must be properly anointed," she warned. "So that ye may enter with the least resistance, and so avoid harm." Then she began to smear him with her juices, gathering up finger-fulls of thick cloying cream, and applying it to every part of him. Symfrall waved his arms, and began to protest the treatment, but Tasgeni was not deterred. She finished her work, then brought him close to her face. "I love thee," she said.
"I love thee too," said Symfrall. "Be gentle."
Tasgeni smiled, then lowered Symfrall between her legs. She pressed him up against the lips of her vulva, and with a single thrust of her finger drove him into her cunt. Symfrall gasped as her hand dropped, her body flashed by him, then steadied into the mighty junction of her colossal thighs. Her cunt descended upon him as she lifted him against it, and he turned his head aside as it kissed him from head to foot. There was a brief pause, then suddenly he felt the strength of Tasgeni's finger against him, and her cunt opened up and swallowed him whole. Tasgeni had not expected Symfrall to slip in that easily, but once in, she began to lose herself to the pleasure of it. His tiny body made a delightful bulk within her cunt, and as if sensitive to her needs he began to writhe and squirm in a fashion that caused her to catch her breath. Standing to her full height she began to undulate, to dance, revelling into the sexual arousal and giant prowess of her body. She felt wanton, a creature of lust. She cupped her cunt within her hand and murmured soft words of love to her tiny intruder. Then suddenly Symfrall stopped moving.
Symfrall panicked. The heat, the wet, the infernal confinement of Tasgeni's cunt was something he was not prepared for. He struggled mightily, seeking the way out, but only delved deeper into her vast body. Then, when she stood and began to move, he went wild, spending himself in a flurry of twisting and thrashing. Yet, when all was done, and he found himself still among the living, it occurred to him that perhaps he was not in as dire a strait as he had first imagined. There was air enough to breath, though saturated with the scent of Tasgeni's body. He was warm, hot even. He was drenched so thoroughly in the juices of the Princess that he thought himself marked forever with her fragrance. Her heartbeat throbbed all around him. Her undulations, far from a fearsome thing, were gentle and swaying. Symfrall began to relax, to calm down, caught up in the incredible embrace of Tasgeni's vagina.
Suddenly, his world fell out from beneath him, then rose up again. The leaps and falls came in rapid progression, and the heartbeat rose to a frantic drum-roll. Symfrall braced himself as best he could, and that was when her enormous finger suddenly burst in upon him.
At first Tasgeni was puzzled by the inactivity. Then she thought that perhaps she had smothered him within her cunt. Dropping to her knees she began to bounce, hoping to dislodge him from within her body. When that failed she probed herself with a finger, wondering if she could extricate him without injury. She was careful, not wishing to bruise him, and felt a great wave of relief when he latched onto her finger, and held tight. Pulling him out she raised her hand, with him still clinging to it, and looked him over. He was completely coated with her cream, his hair was matted flat against his head, and his skin glistened with the stuff. He gasped and sputtered as his cleared his face of her moisture, but seemed otherwise unharmed.
"Art thou well?" she asked.
"Aye," said Symfrall.
"Twas a bit of a shock at first, but I grew accustomed to it. How was it for thee?"
"Rapturous," grinned Tasgeni. "Thy squirmings are my delight."
"Then better that ye return me."
"Art thou sure?" asked Tasgeni.
"Quite," answered Symfrall. "Now that I know what's coming, so to speak."
Grinning with excitement, Tasgeni caught Symfrall within her fingers and lightly kissed him, nuzzling his erect cock with her lips, then she lowered him down, and pressed him head first back within her body. An unknowledgeable observer would have been hard pressed to explain the stimulation Tasgeni was enjoying. Her colossal body writhed and twisted and sometimes slammed the ground, raising waves within the lake and shaking the nearby trees. Nor was she quiet about her arousal, as her enraptured cries echoed into the sky, and lofted flights of birds from the forest. The ground was alternately sunken and torn up, and her body slammed against it, and her fingers gouged into it. Symfrall spared nothing of his strength, and practically whirled within Tasgeni's cunt. Something of the noise of her ardor reached down to him, and he grinned and wildly rubbed himself against a rough patch he had found. Tasgeni screeched and reached for her clitoris.
Her mind exploded with untempered pleasure. Her third orgasm was a vast as herself, long and powerful. Symfrall felt the heat of Tasgeni's cunt increase, and her juices gushed just as her vagina fluttered and spasmed, and he was suddenly clenched in an embrace of colossal proportions. He wrestled mightily against the grip of Tasgeni's cunt, and each time was squeezed senseless, as if all his strength was as nothing to her. He developed a keen appreciation for the power of a woman's grasp, as he was pressed and crushed from every side. And when finally Tasgeni was spent, he gasped for breath, and waited in the darkness for her finger to come and let him free.
Tasgeni looked her tiny man over, purring over him, cooing over him, licking him clean of her fragrant moisture. Nothing yet had happened to prove the spell broken, but deep within her she felt it to be so, and gave Symfrall no rest, so that she might have one chance to return her love to him before she dwindled. Symfrall was too exhausted to do more than abandon himself to her attentions, luxuriating in the warm, soft presence of her tongue. Tasgeni cleaned and kissed him, then began to lap at his miniature cock. It was too small to more than pierce the parting of her lips, so she determined to arouse him with the long strokes of her tongue. It was wonderfully effective. Symfrall lay within the palm of her hand and arched his back, leaning into the wet caresses. Tasgeni spiced up her love making by placing her lips against him and humming, a treatment that seemed to give Symfrall new vigor. She returned to her bathing of him, and soon felt him begin to tremble. His body shook and bucked, and she lolled the tip of her tongue about his cock, and was rewarded with the minute expression of his love. He cried out as he spent himself, and Tasgeni kissed him, and rolled her tongue within her mouth, tasting a brief hint of salt, before it was washed away. Then she bent her head, intending to repeat his pleasure, even as he had done for her. But her renewed attentions were given to a set of glans made sensitive by orgasm. And Symfrall struggled and yelled as the unbearable tickles assailed him. Tasgeni growled and increased her labors until Symfrall was begging for her to stop at the top of his lungs.
"Is something wrong?" asked Tasgeni.
"Argh. I am too tender to bear anymore of thy kisses," explained Symfrall.
His distress touched Tasgeni, but not so deeply that she spared give him a final tongue lashing, before letting him to the ground.
"Dost thou still love me?" asked Symfrall.
"Aye, beloved," said Tasgeni, leaning forward over the tiny man. "Let us together return to my father and proclaim our betrothal."
"I think I shall almost miss thee at this size," mused Symfrall. "Not that I wish thee as anything else but what thou truly are," he added hurriedly.
"Nay, apologize not," sighed the Princess. "Troublesome though this form is, yet by it I hath experienced thee in a way that I shall not forget." She smiled down at him, then paused, as if distracted by some inner concern.
"Art thou well?" asked Symfrall.
"I feel strange," said Tasgeni, and she leaned back, lest she harm Symfrall with her unsteadiness. Some sensation or intuition caused her to glance down passed her right shoulder, and Symfrall followed her gaze. Without any fuss the snake dropped from her arm.
The magic was slow at first. Tasgeni began to glow the color of gold, but the vessel of her body no longer had the power to contain it and the light flowed from her into the ground; and seeped through the grass back to the magic charm. Holding out her hands she watched the radiance rain from her arms and fingers. Golden light spilled from her hair, golden incandescence cascaded down her legs. Laughing gaily at the display Tasgeni threw her arms open, casting shimmering droplets in all directions. Grinning down at Symfrall she flicked her fingers at him, showering him in a lustrous spattering of gold. And, as the shining light sped from her, she continued to shrink until, where once had stood a giantess from out of dreams, stood now a woman of a more common stature, but one on a level with Symfrall's height. Her face was wreathed in smiles, and she held out her arms, inviting Symfrall into her embrace.
Symfrall looked at the snake, which had also returned to its original size. His face mirrored his perplexity as he approached Tasgeni, glancing up and down the length of her lovely body. Reaching out he laid his fingertips upon her bare shoulders and pressed down gently. The Princess cocked an eyebrow but said nothing as Symfrall pressed harder and harder.
"Art thou sure ye hath returned to thy true size?" he finally asked.
"Verily," answered the Princess drily. "Art thou afeared of my meeting thee straight in the eye?"
"Hmmmm? Nay, no, it's just...no...no it's fine. It's splendid," and he caught her up in a tight hug that whoosed! the air out of her. "I've wanted to clasp thee hard against me, since first I saw thee," he whispered.
"That's not what I remember," teased Tasgeni.
"Hush, don't spoil the moment," said Symfrall.
"Never," she breathed earnestly, returning the embrace. They made a more traditional kind of love in one of the depressions in the field, made by some part or other of the giantess. It was a slow moving sort of a loving, full of the same kind of exploration that led to their first coupling. Some times she rode upon him, stretching and undulating, writhing atop him so as to make him probe her every inner surface. Some times he laid upon her, securing her beneath his weight, returning to her the gentle dominance of strength that had been hers alone scant hours before. The stars wheeled overhead, as stars are want to do. And the twain pursued their love together, till sleep stealt up upon them, and guided them into soft dreams.
Bitumen dropped from the sky, landed softly, folded his great wings about his body, and watched Hablrod's guard and horses go noisily ape-shit. Hablrod, that dour, dark sorcerer sat aloof above the chaos upon his jet black stallion. Raising a hand he made a curt gesture, and men and animals fell to the earth, gurgling from their throats.
"Thou hast a problem with subtlety, doesn't thee?" said the dragon drily.
"Your purpose, worm." demanded the king.
"Ah, that," hissed the dragon, and he reached forward towards the King with a single dreadful claw, until it encountered some form of barrier. "Thou prides thyself on thy little spells," mused Bitumen, as he slowly drew his sharp point down the barrier, causing sparks to dance and eliciting a high pitched sound of squealing. "This magical shield protects thee from thy enemies, but what dost thou have with which to attack them?"
"Why should I want to attack?"
"Oh, please," sighed Bitumen. "Thou wants to attack. The stench of thy spells blankets yon countryside like a putrid fog. Let me ask? Upon which realm have thee set thy heart?"
Hablrod stared at the dragon with his dark eyes, "Lestinarch, to the north. It harbors the best port in the region."
"Hmmmmmm. How about Prattle?"
"A kingdom of goatherders," snorted Hablrod. "Name thy purpose."
"Fine," growled Bitumen. "I will grant thee a charm that will make thee the undisputed ruler for a thousand miles in any direction. But Prattle must fall first to this power, or thou shalt have it not."
Hablrod never hesitated, "Done."
The triumphant return of Tasgeni to Castle Prattle was completely unlooked for, as evidenced by the parcheesi table that stood where her bed had been. The happy news of Tasgeni's betrothal to the Knight Wanderer proved all the excuse needed to lift the lids off the best wines. Yet, withal, King Nodwood, with charisma to spare was still hard pressed to earn his daughter's forgiveness, a point which he took up with Symfrall.
"What demon of confidence infects my daughter?" he whispered.
"My liege," answered Symfrall. "The Princess has grown much in the last few days. Her will has been fortified in marvelous ways. But I am not the one to tell thee of her travails. Mayhaps she and I together could explain all to thy satisfaction."
"`Twould be well if thou did. `Steeth, but she reminds me of her mother in this mood. A fearsome lady in her own right. Beautiful, but with a temper belike a tornado. Ah, I miss her." And he bobbed his goblet in a taste to her memory.
"Hath she returned to God?" asked Symfrall.
"Nay," said the King. "The spirited wench gained for herself a captaincy and joined the crusades so she could eviscerate the Moors for the glory of Our Lord. Better them than me, I suppose. Enjoy Tasgeni like this whilst thou may," he said, gesturing towards the Princess. "Her mother, the queen added height to her frame well into her third-decade. Another five years and my daughter'll o're top thee by a head."
Symfrall was suitably impressed. All in all it was a good day. And it was a peaceful night. Symfrall slept in the stables with Domhona. Neither he nor the Princess had disclosed anything of their tryst at Clearmoor lake, and figured a little parting the better course to temptation. The morning after would have been better still, if not for the dire news of a watchman, fresh sprinted from the walls of the castle to the breakfast room.
"My lord," cried the guard. "We are attacked."
Symfrall stood and watched the army drop from the clouds. Men, horses and engines of war drifted in from the eastern sky, and settled to earth with the gentleness of snowflakes. Within the hour, ten thousand spears, two thousand cavalry, and scores of siege towers, catapults and arbalests flooded all the lands about the castle.
"How are we equipped for siege?" asked Symfrall.
"We are just short of the summer harvest. Two months," answered Nodwood.
"This fortress will fall long before that."
"Aye. We are ill-manned to cover even the parapets."
"I must see the Princess," said Symfrall.
"Do so, whilst I make inquiry of my cousin." Nodwood had his loudest soldier brought to him, and a quick exchange of information was conducted.
PRATTLE: whither are thee headed?
DRAXIS: we are arrived.
PRATTLE: planning on a long stay?
PRATTLE: any kind of working agenda?
DRAXIS: everyone in the castle must die.
PRATTLE: any particular reason?
DRAXIS: part of a new business venture.
PRATTLE: ye shan't be getting any more feta cheese from us.
DRAXIS: thought of that, can't be helped.
PRATTLE: right. well, hope thou catcheth the plague.
DRAXIS: die of farting.
"Hold it thus," explained Tasgeni. "until thy hand warms it to life. Then touch it with the gold, to swiften the process."
"Nothing is happening," said Symfrall.
"It did not begin all at once," answered the Princess, but there was doubt in her voice. "Perhaps if I tried it."
"Nay. Thou are not bred for war."
"No. But I am sworn to the king, the kingdom and its people."
"And I am sworn to thee. I own a final hope. May he forgive me for the presumption." And Symfrall drew Valorja from his sheath. "Stand back," he warned. "The full consequences of this are unknown to me."
He waited till Tasgeni was at the far end of the room. Looking at the blade, he brushed it with his gloved hand, thinking about the sword and its maker. Then, shouting a word of command, he raised the sword high, and brought it down flat upon the stony floor. The metal exploded into a cloud of bright shards. For a long moment nothing happened, then the bits and pieces began to float up from the floor and began to gyre like a dervish. The fragments sparkled and glittered as they flew, and a great noise of roaring filled the room. There was a dreadful thunderclap, and a third person was seen to be kneeling in the center of the room: the wizard Nogcunmanodin, holding a hand spade and a yellow chrysanthemum.
He tapped the floor with his spade and sighed. "You couldn't have waited another minute, no? I was just about done."
Tasgeni stepped forward and took the plant, while Symfrall helped the old man to his feet.
Nogcunmanodin clucked his tongue at the remains of Valorja, strewn across the floor. "Next time I'll find a better way to bind a summoning spell." He closed his eyes and mumbled an incantation. The shards began to move, to dance. First, some, then all of them melted into a quicksilver, and ran together into a quivering puddle. Eyes tightly shut, and without breaking his song, the wizard bent and thrust his hand into the molten metal. Then, slowly he stood up. As his hand emerged from the pool, it was seen to hold a hilt, and the hilt owned a blade. The puddle shrank as Nogcunmanodin withdrew Valorja, and when the source was drained, the blade was whole. Nogcunmanodin opened his eyes and looked the sword over, polishing its flat upon his sleeve. Without looking he tossed it to Symfrall, who deftly snapped it out of the air and returned it to its sheath. "The sword is barren now," warned the wizard. "So don't be slapping it on the ground anymore. Now," he said, clapping his hands together. "Tell me how bad things are."
The Draxisian army attacked. The noise of it seemed to fill the world. And though the defenders had some small success in fending off the first waves, everyone knew what he outcome would be.
"I'll not tolerate it," said Symfrall.
"Tough fewmets," said Nogcunmanodin. "Would you rather see her and everyone else here spitted and gored?"
"Weave a spell."
"Suck an egg. This isn't a game. There's a sorcerer and a dragon out there. I'm overmatched. Hades, boy, they're so dangerous that they don't need the magic. This castle would fall without spell one being cast. The moment I sent something their way, they'd wrap me up, and let the militia finish the battle."
"I want another option."
"You don't get one. Besides, there's another opinion to be asked."
"I was wondering when ye would remember that," grumbled Tasgeni.
"Thou understandeth my fears?" asked Symfrall.
"Aye, but I'll not stand by when I might make a difference."
"So be it. Nogcunmanodin, garb her well, I'll not suffer her to bear any wound, that foresight might fend off." Reaching down, he pulled Valorja from its sheath. "But first, Princess, if thee will feign to be a warrior, thou must at least demonstrate some knowledge of the blade."
Battle continued. Draxis washed up upon the stony castle walls, like a tide from hell. The attacks were more fearsome now, and beginning to pay with results. Two of the siege engines were hard against the walls, further taxing the ranks of the defenders, and more engines were close to coupling. Nodwood, himself, fought extravagantly and led the cheer when Symfrall returned to battle, wielding a morning star and a long sword. But in between his war cries, Symfrall cast nervous glances towards the west end of the castle, where rose the dome of a tall hill.
Then, something happened that caused the battle to pause.
Tasgeni slowly rose from behind the hill. She was attired in chain mail with a breast plate of iron, her greaves glittered in the sun, she wore an iron glove upon her sword hand, and everything was black, black as coal, black as midnight. Her long blonde hair lifted and stirred in the winds that move far above the earth. Her face was beautiful, but grim. Her stance was relaxed, but ready. The hill at her side topped near four hundred feet, but reached scarcely to her waist. No goddess of war ever stood so tall or was ever so proudly caparisoned for combat, as was Tasgeni, Nodwood's daughter, when she confronted the army of Kingdom Draxis.
She unsheathed Valorja, Symfrall's sword, and the sound of its unleashing was as the storm, and the light of its sheen was as the lightning. Tasgeni held the sword up, then with a casual motion let the iron fall and sweep to the side. Her stroke sent the blade shrieking through the forest of trees set high atop the rounded hillock. Scores of century year old hardwoods sent their crowns leaping into the sky, and not one ever slowed the giantess' hand. Then, she turned her ocean blue eyes down upon the countless legions of soldiers; cold eyes, filled with giantess strength and giantess determination. No champion ever beheld so fearsome a challenger, no army ever met so mighty a foe. Slowly, she pointed the sword down at the miniature army. Two hundred men could stand from hilt to point upon that dreadful blade. No sound was made, no one stirred, no one dared move, or risked drawing the attention of the Princess.
"Leave." she commanded, and her voice rumbled with dire promises.
Suddenly, out of the sky fell Bitumen, claws open, jaws agape and spreading flame. He flew straight at Tasgeni's face. She gasped and ducked her head, and the dragon slammed into her and tangled himself within her golden tresses. Then Tasgeni reached up with one hand and pinned the dragon down, catching its neck so that it could not set her hair alight with his flame. While with the other hand she raised Valorja and stabbed down, sinking the blade nine yards into the rock and earth. Now, with both hands free, the Princess reached up and fought with the dragon, untangling it from her locks. Bitumen's claws raked at her gauntlets, but could not pierce them. His flame jetted into the sky, but never seared her. His roars mixed with the noises of exertion let by Tasgeni, until with a triumphant shout she liberated the worm from her golden mane.
"Thou art the cause of all our travails," snarled the Princess, and she beat the dragon against the hill.
Bitumen alternated between roars and yelps as he fought against the overwhelming strength of the giantess. Tasgeni used the dragon against the hill as though she were pounding a rug, until the its carcass hung limp within her grasp. Sighing deeply, she went to cast the body aside, when suddenly it flared into life. She had but only one chance to swipe at the departing tail of the worm, drawing a high pitched shriek in response. Bitumen worked his wings hard, flying rather erratically towards the east, and he was not seen again in those parts for many long years.
The Draxisian army seemed at something of a loss. But a snarling command from their king sent them charging towards the castle, albeit with many a nervous glance towards the colossal Princess. Tasgeni watched the advance with disbelief. Even she was a little awed by her contest with the dragon, and had hoped that her display might dissuade Draxis from further aggression. But, seeing that this was not to be, she yanked Valorja from the ground and advanced upon the miniature army with an angry gleam in her eye.
That was quite enough.
The tiny soldiers, feeling the ground tremble, and seeing the giantess bearing down upon them, never missed a beat, but wheeled around and charged in the opposite direction. The defenders cheered lustily as their Princess strode past, pausing only to smash the various engines of war in her path. At first she slashed at them with Valorja, but quickly discovered that just stomping on the toylike structures was more than effective. Her rampage threw the army into a full rout, and it seemed the day was won, until the voice of Hablrod, King of Draxis boomed over the field.
"Turn! Turn and fight. I command ye." The army stopped as if pole-axed, and everyone, men and beasts, turned to confront Tasgeni.
"Enough! She must not be made to fight." yelled Symfrall, and he let loose a piercing whistle. A moment later Domhona burst from his stalls, and the knight leapt upon his back. "Let me through," he shouted, and the gates parted, just in time. Symfrall rode Domhona towards Tasgeni at a breakneck pace, his voice calling out her name, over and over.
Tasgeni stepped back slowly, letting the army advance upon her, but turning to her right, drawing a substantial portion of their force away from the castle. Slowly, slowly, a mile, two. Then, satisfied with her distance she crouched down low. The army surged forward, weapons drawn, war cries echoing shrilly in the air.
It was madness, she was more than a match for all of them, but even had there been honor in such a battle, it was not for her. Gathering her strength into her legs she launched herself forward into a great leap, soaring high over the miniature hoard, and landing behind their ranks with a thunderous clamor and a shaking of the earth. She did not suffer her motion to stop, but leaned forward and began to run, rocking the countryside with each mighty stride. In a matter of moments she covered the distance to where Hablrod stood upon Thangrock's hill, a low rock that stood a mile before the face of the castle.
Slowing to a walk she advanced upon him and his retinue, her blue eyes flashing with rage. Falling to her knees she slammed her hands upon the hill to either side of the evil ruler. The King's Guard attacked her as best it could, hacking at her iron bound fingers, shins and feet. But even the arrows fired upon her were unable to pierce her unarmored flesh, and with a disdainful glance she dismissed them from her thoughts.
"Draxis, withdraw thy men. Abandon this attack." Her voice seethed with threats of retribution.
But the dread king made no answer to her, and instead raised his arms and made an arcane gesture that hurt Tasgeni's eyes to behold. Then, taking no further note of the giantess, Hablrod returned his attention to a strange red jewel, gathering it to his chest, causing it to pulse in time to the rhythms of his heart. Tasgeni frowned darkly and reached for the king with her forefinger, intending to flick the evil jewel from his grasp. But she encountered an obstacle, a barrier that prevented her from touching him.
"Draxis," she warned. "End this now. I'll not suffer Prattle to fall to thee while life in me remains." But all her threats, her pleadings, all her words fell on deaf ears. So reaching out with her great hand, she wrapped her colossal fingers around the magical aura, and began to squeeze. Lambert lights flickered across the magical field, and sparks buzzed against the palm of her hand. Joining her left hand to her right Tasgeni applied all her giant strength, and the denial hummed and flashed from the contest, but she never so much as dented it. Panting from her efforts she mused a moment, then tried to dig under the shield, seeking a way beneath its power, or failing that a way to dislodge it. But the shield seemed secured to the very hill, and she was unable to budge it. The noises of war caught her attention. She had taken no note of the time spent in her attack, and now the Draxisian army was once again on the verges of Castle Prattle. Screams of agony, of death and dying brought tears to her eyes, and she turned back to the dread king, her eyes shining with a fierce intensity.
"Draxis! Draxis, hear me. Cease this attack, or I shall go in defense of my people. Think! Think Draxis, think of the carnage. I'll not be merciful, and thy army will fall. Answer me!"
Then, finally, for all this time Hablrod had been engrossed by his potent jewel, taking no note of all Tasgeni's spent energies; now, finally, he looked up at her, and he flipped her the bird.
Something within Tasgeni broke, and she howled aloud in a great voice that reached even to the horizon: "Then perish!" she cried and she lofted her enormous mailed fist.
Symfrall and Domhona sped like lightning, yet for all their haste they but arrived to hear Tasgeni's judgement upon Hablrod. Symfrall shouted a word of warning, then watched helplessly as Tasgeni's mighty fist slammed down upon the magical denial. The shield flashed red, and for the first time Hablrod showed some sign of concern. Raising the jewel he shouted words of power, and the red faded. But Tasgeni was not to be thwarted, and she began to pound the shield with her balled hand. The ground shook with each furious impact, but the denial shrugged off her most powerful blows. Crying with anger and frustration, Tasgeni struck the thing harder, faster, harder, faster. Thangrock's Hill began to shiver into rubble, and the shield was pushed into the bedrock, carrying Hablrod along with it. The noise was deafening. The ground bucked and trembled. Tasgeni's golden hair flew as if caught in gale winds as she increased her pummeling. Rising up onto her knees she clasped her mailed hands together, making a fist the size of a house, and with a falcon shriek she brought the dreadful hammer down upon the shield. There was a vast explosion that blew the hill into dust, and lifted the giantess and tossed her a hundred yards back. Symfrall threw up an arm to ward off the detritus tossed at him by the blast, but it was too much, and he was knocked unconscious.
When he woke he was cradled in the bare hands of the Princess. Shaking his head he stared up at her, reading her misery in her eyes.
"Ah, sir champion," she sighed. "I failed."
"Nay," said Symfrall. "What of the army?"
"It flees," she answered. "But the gore of Hablrod stains my gloves."
"His choice," declared Symfrall. "Mourn the soldier, never the commander. Thou saved lives."
"But Symfrall," she quavered. "I felt him break beneath my fists." and tears welled up within her eyes.
"Aye," said Symfrall. "Ye were born for gentleness, not the savagery that is the employ of the warrior. Lay thee down lady. I have not the proportions to comfort thee as thou deserve, but I would do what I can, to help thee to forget."
Then Tasgeni laid down upon the forest floor, and Symfrall clasped himself against her throat as best he might and stayed with her until nightfall.
Nogcunmanodin and Symfrall watched Tasgeni as she sat within the basin of Clearmoor lake, her body bent so that she might immerse as much of herself as possible.
"Three days now," said Symfrall. "Her mood improves too slowly."
"A gentle heart has been wounded," answered the wizard. "If you would not have her grow fond of her innate peril, let her remember that gentleness."
"Aye, aye. But I would cradle her and comfort her, and I cannot."
"That will come, soon enough. Be sure, she hesitates as much out of fear for you, as for the memory of her own violence."
"I had suspected as much, but hoped the memory of our earlier tryst would absolve her of that doubt."
"It will, Symfrall, it will. Give her time. I, though, should go now."
"My thanks, old man."
"Nay, I but remind you of things you already know. Be thou patient."
The wizard departed, and Symfrall sat long by the lake, until the sun was near to westering. The slow day, and the weariness of waiting had bowed his head. But a noise of crashing water roused him, and he looked up. Tasgeni rose out of the lake and waded up onto the verges of the meadow. She was beautiful in the colored twilight, but Symfrall's eyes never strayed from her face, as he tried to read her feelings. Tasgeni crouched down slowly, and invited the knight into her cupped hands with a shy little curl of her lips.
"It's good to see three smile again," said Symfrall.
"I've not had the will," sighed the Princess. "The memory of the battle does not fade quickly for me. But the deed, however foul, is done. You and my father say `twas necessary. I will learn to live with that."
"Will thou still join thy hand to mine?"
"Aye," and she giggled softly. "I caught thee, and I'll have thee."
Symfrall's face mirrored his concern, "Not at this scale, I pray."
"Nay, I'll spare thee that, though `twould make for a memorable wedding night. I've had my fill of my mountainous stature. I wish to see the roots of trees, the inside of my castle. I wish for the company of others. And most, I wish to fit again within thy arms."
"Forever?" asked Symfrall.
Tasgeni laughed gently. "For now," she replied, and she bent her head to kiss.