A Charmed Life by CoalWhite
Summary:

A prince trades his freedom to become a giantess' pet in order to avoid an arranged marraige.


Categories: Giantess, Adventure, Breasts, BBW, Fantasy, Gentle, Giant, Mouth Play, Vore Characters: None
Growth: Brobdnignagian (51 ft. to 100 ft.)
Shrink: None
Size Roles: F/f, F/m, FM/m, M/f, M/m
Warnings: Following story may contain inappropriate material for certain audiences, This story is for entertainment purposes only.
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 29 Completed: Yes Word count: 69086 Read: 341329 Published: January 14 2017 Updated: December 21 2018
Story Notes:

This story was originally posted on my old account, Right Wing Attack Dog. However, I lost the password and cannot reset it (despite how many times I've clicked the dadgum lost password link). So here's to a new account and revamped story!

1/31/17: Here's a map of the land that the story is based in! Let me know what you think. http://tinyurl.com/hb2wozf 

1. Chapter 1 by CoalWhite

2. Chapter 2 by CoalWhite

3. Chapter 3 by CoalWhite

4. Chapter 4 by CoalWhite

5. Chapter 5 by CoalWhite

6. Chapter 6 by CoalWhite

7. Chapter 7 by CoalWhite

8. Chapter 8 by CoalWhite

9. Chapter 9 by CoalWhite

10. Chapter 10 by CoalWhite

11. Chapter 11 by CoalWhite

12. Chapter 12 by CoalWhite

13. Chapter 13 by CoalWhite

14. Chapter 14 by CoalWhite

15. Chapter 15 by CoalWhite

16. Chapter 16 by CoalWhite

17. Chapter 17 by CoalWhite

18. Chapter 18 by CoalWhite

19. Chapter 19 by CoalWhite

20. Chapter 20 by CoalWhite

21. Chapter 21 by CoalWhite

22. Chapter 22 by CoalWhite

23. Chapter 23 by CoalWhite

24. Chapter 24 by CoalWhite

25. Chapter 25 by CoalWhite

26. Chapter 26 by CoalWhite

27. Chapter 27 by CoalWhite

28. Chapter 28 by CoalWhite

29. Chapter 29 by CoalWhite

Chapter 1 by CoalWhite

A Charmed Life

By

Coal White


Eric was crouched and ready for a fight. His sword was drawn and the heavier pieces of his clothing, such as his cloak and saddle bags, had been discarded on the ground. He just hoped he could talk his pursuers out of the impending match.

"Now, gentlemen, I'm sure there is some way we can avoid unnecessary blood-shed." He tried to smile charmingly while shifting his feet to get better footing on the rocky slope.

"Yeah, all ya gotta do is come home," growled a burly man.

“Your father wants you home,” said a taller, thin man. Eric recognized him as the watch captain. The one he had tricked when he made his escape from the palatial grounds. It seemed the man had received one of his father’s infamous punishments for allowing Eric to slip past him. The fresh branding on the side of his face was painfully obvious.

“Not likely,” Eric retorted. “Although, I think we could join up together and have a merry little band of our own. What do you say?”

Any hopes of such an agreement were shattered when the captain stepped forward and, with a quick, downward stroke, began the sword play. Eric grunted when he blocked the older man’s sword, feeling the weight of experience, and gravity, fighting to drag him down. He was at a disadvantage with his back to the slope. The captain had the higher ground and better footing.

The fight didn’t last long. Just as the young man, who was still very much a boy in some ways, was about to start another attempt at bartering for his freedom, a loud, piercing cry echoed through the air. The ground was flooded with tremors as if the whole planet had been grabbed between two giant hands and shaken like a snow globe.

The gazes of the group turned and scanned the land around them, searching for the source of the quakes. They quickly discovered that it was not a natural tremor but, instead, a giant horse and rider. The rider was obviously a young woman, although not dressed properly for riding, much less riding a bucking horse. Instead of smart denim pants and a long sleeved shirt, she wore short denim shorts, a blue t-shirt with no sleeves and cowboy boots.

The horse was a massive black stallion that was clearly displeased his rider. The animal had his head down and back feet in the air, alternately bucking and running. There were times when it screamed with frustration, angry that the person on its back would not come off like all the others had.

The now-dwarfed group of humans was frozen in fear. Eric saw his opportunity for escape and promptly fled, throwing his cloak on and grabbing his saddle bags as he went.  He cursed the loss of his horse. It would have been so much easier to escape if his charger had not broken its leg during the initial flight. Now, he was stuck fleeing on foot.

He slid down the loose shale of the hillside and made his way through the brush and scrub before coming to a stop behind a copse of trees. Eric watched through the tangled limbs, unable to help his morbid curiosity as the horse and rider advanced on the petrified group. He wanted to turn away, to not look at the demise of the men, but was unable.

oOoOoOoOo

Tor Keller rode the wild, unbroken stallion with all the strength and tenacity she had. However, her strength was pushed to a whole new level on this particular ride. Her idiot brothers were to blame. She would have to curse them out when she finally made it back home.

Gritting her teeth and clamping her jaw, Tor clenched her thighs firmly around the saddle and double checked the position of her heels. She adjusted her grip on the reigns, quickly throwing her hand back into the air to keep her balance on the mustang.

"Alright, boy," she growled, "this is gonna go one way or another. And it better end with you having some sense!” She looked up to gauge just where this rogue horse was taking them only to see a group of small men huddled in fear. Well, they ought to be scared! I just wish they'd be scared somewhere else! "Move it!" she yelled at them; no one moved except for one lone figure that stole into the bushes.  

Smooth, real smooth. Now I have to watch out for those idiots and one more that I can't even see! Pulling hard, she tried to yank the horse's head up, hoping to stop the bucking. However, she wasn't strong enough to accomplish her goal, so she was forced to settle for something else.

Letting the reigns slacken slightly, she gave the stallion a false sense of victory before sharply hauling the reigns to the right. The stallion was thrown off balance and scrambled for footing, desperately trying to remain upright. Shortly after Tor's risky move, the stallion lost his footing and fell.

Tor screamed in an impotent rage that matched her horse. She pulled her left leg from the stirrup, trying to draw it up and over the saddle horn to protect it from getting scraped. She wasn't quite fast enough and ended up having the outside of her thigh and knee severely scraped. She groaned in pain as the wound throbbed. Biting her lip in an attempt to distract herself from the pain, she took account of herself and the horse. Already the animal was trying to stand.

Pulling herself out of the saddle, she stood to her feet to further inspect her wound. Gingerly, she brushed as much dirt and debris from it as she could. She silently thanked her idiot brothers for putting her good, fully stocked trail saddle on the stallion. Brushing her auburn bangs from her face, she pushed her hat off her head, letting it hang from the stampede string.  

The would-be-bronc-buster looked around, searching for the group of tiny men. She couldn't find them right off hand, so, with a shrug, she grabbed the reigns of the struggling animal.

"Alright you asshole of a horse, you're going to listen to me." As she spoke, she dug through the exposed saddle bag, searching for her lead line.  Finding it quickly, she pulled it from the bag and snapped it to the horse's bridle and unclipped the split-reigns. She took the reins and hooked them together, creating a makeshift whip.

Tor dropped the "whip" behind her and hauled the horse's head up, helping the animal on its next attempt to rise. At first, the stallion tried to bolt, but the young woman held the line too close to his head for him to go anywhere. Slowly easing him back towards her, she spoke softly in an effort not to spook him.  

"Easy, boy, easy. I'm not gonna hurt you." The stallion perked his ears forward and took a step towards her. Chomping at the bit in his mouth, his ears flickered back and forth, showing his uncertainty about this two-legger. His sides heaved, his nostrils flared and his body was drenched in sweat. He took another step, followed by a third until his muzzle touched the tip of Tor's outstretched hand. "That's a good boy," she cooed. Slowly, she stretched her hand a bit farther in an attempt to stroke his nose.

The mustang shied, throwing his head up in the air and snorting. Tor pulled his head back down slowly, reaching out to stroke him again. This time she succeeded and gently ran her hand up and down his muzzle. "See there?" the violet-eyed young woman smiled. "No one's going to hurt you, Idiot." A little grin settled on her face. "There's a fine name for a fine horse. Idiots are who put me on you, an idiot is what you're acting like so 'Idiot' you shall be named."

She ran her hand down his neck and carefully patted the thick muscle beneath the skin. “Easy,” she hummed when he snorted and stomped a hind leg. She led the now semi-complacent horse to a tall tree and tied him to a thick branch, making sure the half-hitch knot would hold. She walked back to the reins and picked them up and tossed them across her shoulders. Afterward, she inspected the saddle, elated to find no broken or damaged pieces. The only damage to the goods in her saddle bags was her trail mix was now just a bag of crumbs.

Stepping back, the young woman wondered what to do with the stallion. She knew if she untacked him, she would not likely get the saddle back on him later. For now, she decided, leave the horse tied and tend to the severe abrasion she got when the mustang fell.

End Notes:

Not all tags will be used immediately. This is a story with some smut, not smut with some story. This story builds on itself and will eventually get to the "fun" tags.

Chapter 2 by CoalWhite

A Charmed Life

By

Coal White

Eric knew he was a lecher. He admitted freely when confronted about it. But he would also make the excuse that he never set after women with anything but the purest of intentions. Like now, he had followed the giant woman to the clearing where she was cleaning her leg. His intention had been to thank her for scaring off his father's men and leave quickly. He knew the reputation the giants had for eating his people. But, just as he was about to come out of the scrub, she sat down, extended her leg and unwittingly gave the little human in the bush a clear view up her short shorts. So he had stayed hidden, hoping to see if she did anything else to his lecherous delight.

He almost sighed in disappointment when she stood once more and hobbled to the tree where the horse was tied. It wasn't too far from where he was hidden. His eyebrows rose in surprise when she dug out a bottle of some cream from the saddlebag, dropped her shorts and began rubbing the cream into the rash she had gained from riding so hard. Holy Mother… he thought in amazement. He couldn’t believe his luck. It usually took a lot more effort on his part to con women into stripping to their undergarments. As she kept rubbing in the ointment, Eric felt a tightening in his pants. He choked audibly when she turned slightly and ran her hand up under the elastic of the black panties, flashing just a bit of her nethers to him.

Eric nearly had a heart attack when the giantess’ head whipped around to his direction. He nearly pissed his pants when she scowled and walked directly towards him, stopping just before the brush line.

"Alright," she called as she yanked up her shorts, "come on out. I see you. There's no use hiding from me." Her scowl deepened before she sighed and forced herself to relax her face. "Look, if you come out now, I'll take it easy on you."

Eric quietly contemplated his options, which he realized were very limited in number. Truth be told, he only had one viable option: to come out of hiding. She could have just as easily reached in a squashed him, scooped him up or any of the other things giants do. So, slowly, reluctantly, he came out of the scrub, hands held up in surrender.

Tor watched the little human come out of the woods. When he was out in the open, she arched a brow and rocked back to her heels. "Interesting," she mused quietly. "You're hardly more than a snack. What where you doing in the bushes?"

It took Eric a moment to work up the nerve to speak to the imposing giantess. "My lady, please forgive my intrusion of your privacy. I came to thank you for saving me but when you began treating your legs, I became distracted."

She smirked. "Oh? Is that so?" Studying him closer, she came to an amusing conclusion. "You're just a boy! What are you doing out here?" She glanced around the area. "Alone. That's a dangerous thing to be in the land of giants." She smirked dangerously.

Eric flushed with anger. "I am no boy!" he bit out. "I am a man."

Tor cocked an eyebrow. "Really?" she drawled. "And why should I believe you? You certainly don't look like a man. You look like a boy."

The young human drew himself up at this. "I can ride, shoot and hunt as well as any man. I have bested many of the best knights at jousting and swordplay and ridden many wild horse into obedience. Again, Lady, I am no boy."

Still smirking, the giantess bent double at the waist, bringing her massive face closer to his tiny one. Eric cowered at the intrusion of his personal space. Her face dominated his field of vision. "So you think that just because you can shoot, ride and play with your little sword that makes you a man?"

Smarting from the insult to his manhood, Eric found the courage within himself to stand straight once again. With a taught, haughty tone, he replied, "Lady, I do not think, I know."

Darkness was the next thing he knew. A case of vertigo threatened to set in as gravity pressed him into the soft flesh surrounding him. Then, it was light and he was standing in the center of the giantess' palm. He staggered for a moment, trying to regain his balance as she finished standing. The wince of pain was obvious from his new vantage point.

"So we have a smart mouth, do we? Well, let's just see if we can cure it." She grabbed him by the back of his cloak and lifted him even higher. Tilting her head back, she opened her massive jaws and slowly began to lower him towards her gaping maw. Three...two...one. Right on cue, the little human in her fingers began to kick, scream and plead for his life.

"Please, My Lady, please do not eat me! I beg of you!"

A draft of hot air blew past him as she moved her lips to speak. "Oh? Why, should I let you go? You could become such a tasty little morsel." She licked her lips to prove a point.

He thrashed in his cloak, hands clawing at his neck to keep from choking. "Because I would not even be a meal for you! Hardly more than a snack! And if you ate me, it would only trigger your desire for more and then you would be mad at yourself for eating me!" He hoped to God above that she would listen.

Tor paused for a moment, thinking. What the human said was true. She was mildly impressed by his quick thinking in the face of imminent death. She pulled him away from her face, looking at him intently. After seeing him struggle to keep the cloak from choking him, she leaned her hand back, giving him a level place to stand. She released his cloak and watched as he fell to his knees, gasping for the air his starved lungs craved. He was on his hand and knees, head down as he breathed heavily. She felt no guilt for the human's state.

Eric thought over the young woman's actions for a moment. They confused him. "Your actions...are contra...dictory," he wheezed out.

Tor tilted her head to the side, slightly amused. "How so?" She kept her intense gaze on her would-be snack.

He regained his breath and sat back in the palm of her hand, looking up at her. "Well, when I first saw you, you where atop that stallion over there and headed straight for me. When you spotted us, you yelled for us to move. And, when the others stayed put, you pulled on the horse's reins and threw him off balance in order to prevent their deaths. Yet, now, you act as if you would eat me for simply seeing you put on some ointment." He felt her body shake beneath him and was forced to cover his ears when her laughter blasted the air.

"Ha!" she snorted. "You have it all so very, very wrong. I didn't spare your lives out of mercy. If Idiot had stomped on you, one of you tiny sack of bones may have become lodged in his frog, seriously injuring him."

Eric slowly sat up and rubbed his aching ears. "So you spared our lives for the horse's sake?" he asked. At her affirmative noise, he lay back in her hand and thought it over. A minute later, he spoke up. "I still believe you have mercy in your heart, though. If not, you would not have spared my life. Whether or not you did it to satisfy your own urges is beyond the point. You simply could have dropped me, stomped on me or some other source of ending my life. Yet, you chose to set me back in your hand and not harm me."

Tor smirked, flipping her occupied hand to where she now held the man between her thumb and forefinger. Slowly, she brought him up to her lips, placing him right in front of them before speaking in a low voice.

"Oh? Is that so?" She pressed him close to her mouth and held him there for a moment. Her tongue slithered from her lips, dragging the tip up the side of his face. She smirked at his repulsed shudders and attempts at pushing away. Satisfied, she before pulled away and set him back in her palm. "I may not have eaten a human in a while, but I am not against it in the slightest."

Eric wasn't sure if she really would eat him, especially after being licked. He used the hem of his cloak to scrub the salive from his face. His thoughts were interrupted when he heard a faint shout. Crawling over to the edge of her palm, he looked down to see the group of his father's hired men staring back at him. Crap! he thought as he flung himself back into her hand. How did they find me?

Tor watched his reactions with a little interest. "Don't you want to be reunited with your friends?" She began lowering her hand to the ground.

"No! I do not wished to be reunited with them! And they aren't my friends! They will take me back to my father and he will either chain me up or force me to marry an idiot girl of his choosing. But only after he has me punished for my 'disobedience'!" He paled and began to shake as her hand came closer to the ground.

"I don’t see why I should care."

He frantically searched for another idea. "I promise to pay you well!" he blurted.

Tor's hand stopped in mid-descent. "Why would I need your money? I'm wealthy in my own right."

"Then I promise to remain with you until the end of my days! I will be yours to do with as you please, so long as you do not unduly torture me or kill me." He begged for her mercy, hoping that she would accept his deal.

"You wouldn't mind being the pet of a so-called-giant until the day you die?" she asked, true confusion coloring her voice. This was a new one on her. "You would rather be my pet then go back and face a punishment? You wouldn't care that your life would be constantly threatened?"

"You don't know my father. Or his punishments. I trust your temper more than his, My Lady. I'm hoping that if I give my freedom to you, you would not abuse it," Eric said, completely serious. He crossed his fingers behind his back and sent a quick prayer to his Creator.

After a moment of studying the human in her hand, Tor shrugged her shoulders. "If that's what you really want, I will take you on as a pet. And," she sighed, "since it seems that my new pet is scared, I should probably deal with the problem shouldn’t I?"

The young man smiled brilliantly in relief. Giving a low bow to his new "owner," he spoke in a grateful voice. "My Lady, you are truly a good person."

The giantess scowled at her new pet. "Cut it with the 'My Lady' crap. You're making me feel old. My name is Tor," she said as she began to close her hand over him.

Eric glanced at her hands nervously before crouching to avoid the imposing fingers. "My name is Eric. But, am I to understand that you wish for me to call you by your given name even though I am your 'pet'?" he asked.

"I'm not one to stand on formalities. As long as it's not an insulting term, I don't really care what you call me. Now, be still and be quiet."

"Yes, My--Tor." He watched in awe as her hand finished closing over him. He was now securely pinned against her palm, although not uncomfortably so.

Tor leaned down, wincing again at the pull of her injured skin. She rested her free hand on the ground to balance herself as she hovered her face over the group of humans calling insults at the one hidden within her hand. She smirked as she watched the men scatter in fear of her before slowly regrouping. Humans, she thought with a roll of her eyes. They're so much like sheep. Dumb, dimwitted, flighty and panicy. "Now then," she said as she looked upon the three men. "What business do you have with my pet?"

The three men looked between each other, each hoping another would speak. Finally, the captain of the watch stepped forward. He took his hat off his head in a gesture of respect. "Lady Giantess, we are not seeking a fight with you. We simply wish to return the young man in your hand to his father. You see, his father has a lot of respect in our world and would gain even more if his son were to wed a certain young woman. However, the boy blatantly refuses to do so. He has even run away. We were instructed by him to track Eric down and return him." The group waited for a moment, judging the giantess' reaction.

"And what if I refuse to hand him over?" she asked nonchalantly, looking at her fisted hand as she felt some movement in it. Idly, she squeezed slightly, just enough to warn the boy within to stay still. He instantly obeyed.

"Then we will have no choice but to take him by force," the man said, twisting his hat in his hands. He and the others quickly became terrified at the scowl that formed on the giantess' face.

"Oh really? Well then, I'll deal with you 'with force.'" With that, she straightened up and drew in a huge breath of air. She leaned down again, further this time. Her forearm rested on the ground and she brought her face level with the humans a few feet in front of her. She released the air in a maelstrom of gusting winds and spittle, sending the offending group flying back into the woods, as well as uprooting a few of the human trees.

She stood up and opened her hand, allowing its occupant to look around. "Is it safe?" he asked.

"I wouldn't have opened my hand if it weren't," Tor growled. Her leg was throbbing from the stretched position she had held to blow away the humans.

"Forgive me, Tor," Eric quickly apologized. He tacked on a bow for good measure. "I simply do not know you very well yet. Trust will come as I get to know you better."

"Whatever. So, you realize that your life is completely mine?" the auburn haired giantess asked, reminding him of their deal.

"How could I forget? My life is in your hands; I just ask that it not end up in your stomach," he said. He adjusted his cloak around his shoulders and waited for whatever came next.

Tor smirked at him. Grinning so that she showed off her teeth, she asked in a too-innocent tone of voice, "Now what makes you think I would ever do such a thing?"

Eric eyed the young woman warily. "I probably shouldn't respond to that, should I?"

The giantess chuckled darkly. "You're a quick learner, little man."

Chapter 3 by CoalWhite

A Charmed Life
  
By
  
Coal White


Tor sighed as she adjusted her injured leg for the umpteenth time. She was seated in front of the low fire she had made to take the bite out of the evening air. The human that had become her pet was sitting next to her, finishing off a bit of the trail mix crumbs she had given him. At first he had refused and started to argue, claiming he was above eating crumbs and all but demanding some of her jerky. One dark look, though, quickly shut him up. Now, he was mulishly chewing on the crumbs that were no longer identifiable to the giantess.

Her violet eyes darted to the mustang that was still tied to the tree. Her lips pursed in thought. The stallion had regained his energy and was fighting the lead that was securely tied to a strong limb. She wouldn't say there was no way for him to get free, but it was highly unlikely. For now, she would leave him alone. She wouldn't feed him tonight, either. He was too worked up to appreciate anything at this point, anyway. Perhaps it was a little cruel to not give him anything, but it would certainly make him easier to work in the morning. She groaned at the thought of riding out the morning buck session that was sure to come. Her legs were already chafed. After tomorrow, they would be worse. When she got back home, she was going to rip her brothers a new one then take a long, hot bath.

“Hey, Tor!  Yoo-hoo, Tooor!” Blessed silence reigned. “Tor!” And then it was broken.

With a growl, she turned to look down at the tiny human that was tapping her bandaged. “What?!” she snapped. "Can't you see it's bandaged? That means it was injured and you shouldn't touch it!" Was he really this stupid? Maybe she should have just left him to the other humans.

Eric cowed at the tongue lashing. He remained silent for a minute. "My apologies. I was just trying to get your attention."

Tor snorted. "Whatever. What did you want?"

"I was just wondering, where do giants originally come from?" he asked. "There is the well-known creation story for humans. But I have never heard one about giants."

“What the hell is that supposed to mean? 'Where do giants come from?' Where do humans come from? And the correct term for my race is Elders. If you call one of us a giant, you’re practically begging to be crushed."

Eric's brows met in the middle as he thought. “What do you mean where do humans come from? The Creator made them. That should be obvious.”

Her lips twitched in annoyance. She was having inklings of regret for taking on this particular human. “Yes, and the Creator made Elders before he made humans. Humans are just a miniature copy of us.” She stopped talking, thinking that particular conversation at an end. Her mind once more drifted to just how on Earth she was going to get back on Idiot. Maybe the old rock in the ear? 

Eric frowned as she once more slipped into thought. Yanking on the hem of her shorts, studiously avoiding her injury, he called up to her. “Where did you get your information from? Giants are just lumbering copies of humans. Not the other way around.” He yelped and stumbled away from her hand until his back hit the side of her knee. He couldn't take his eyes from the fingers that were ready to flick the living daylights out of him. The foolish boy gulped as her finger hovered right in front of his face. His green eyes darted up to her cold violet ones. I am about to die, he thought.

“You had better learn to hold your tongue when in the presence of those who could kill you in less than a heartbeat,” she hissed through clenched teeth. “Don’t you ever, ever call my people ‘lumbering.’ We are older than your race, though probably not by much. We have kept records of our lives, and yours, from almost day one. And let me tell you something, human, your people didn’t even think of creating civilizations, governments or any inventions until my people either showed you or you found out our secrets.” She was pleased with the absolute fear she could see in his eyes. Still, it wasn’t enough for him to be scared. She was, after all, being nice about the slur he had used. Her brothers would have killed him before he could open his mouth to apologize.

“You, you little snot, don’t know jack squat. Your history is so messed up due to the immense pride your race has, you don’t know fact from fiction. So, let me tell you so you can be one of the educated few among the human race. Elders created fire. One sweet Elder girl found a half-frozen human male and brought him to the cave where she was staying. Leila, her name was, put him by her fire and warmed him up, saving his life. When he was coherent and better, he stuck around until he learned to create fire. Then, he took it back to his little camp and showed his family and friends and who knows what. They took the story and said he stole the ember from an Elder’s fire and brought it back. That is how you were taught humans created fire, wasn’t it?”  

The young man nodded slowly, afraid any sudden movements would goad her into flicking, and therefor killing, him.  “So,” he said quietly, “my whole history is a lie?”  

Tor's hand retreated as she relaxed her fingers.  “No,” she said after a moment, "not entirely. The underlying message—that your life was based upon that of the Elders’—is true. You young ones,” Eric scowled at the depreciating nickname given to his race by the Elders, “are so… so… boastful, so prideful, that everything has to be done your way or it’s wrong. Even the history of our peoples! You humans came first. You are the originals, not the copies. At least, that’s what you want everyone to believe.”

Eric paused for a minute before speaking. “That gian—err.. Elder—didn’t attack our camps, did it?”

Tor’s face grew thunderous. “No. My great-grandfather did not attack your camps. You humans stormed our lands and he was chosen to go as an envoy of peace. He was wearing white and carrying the flag of truce. You little pipsqueaks outnumbered us because you didn’t care how many brats you made or how damaged your lands were becoming. You just wanted bigger of everything because we were bigger. So, you took your massive armies, tied his legs together, toppled him and slew him before a single Elder could reach for their lance.  My family still grieves. My grandmother never knew her father and my great-uncle never had a real male role model to look up to. To his dying day, he was filled with bitterness over his father’s death. He was the one who taught my father, who taught his sons, to hate humans.”

“The one Elder’s anger roused an entire community to fight?” whispered the pale looking boy. “Your people…they marched to our armies and … all but decimated us. Of those who weren’t killed straight away, worse fates were in store for them. Eating them alive, chewing, boiling, baking them alive. Gnawing off joint by joint, toe by toe, finger by finger, then crushing their windpipe just enough to where they suffocated in the sheer terror of your stomachs. Using the men as means of sexual relief. The five who escaped where the damndest, luckiest of them all.”

“My people are peaceful. But our anger is fierce when roused.” The young woman’s searing gaze bored into the tiny human by her leg.

Silence pervaded the camp for the rest of that evening. When Tor stretched out on the rain slicker she had pulled from her saddle bags, Eric curled up in the joint of her knee. As the night wore on, he was constantly awakened by the hoots of an owl, the scurrying of the mice and the general night noises that seemed so much larger and more threatening then when he was safely behind his father's walls.

Doubt and regret invaded his mind. What had he done? Why had he subjected himself to a life of servitude just to avoid a punishment? Perhaps he was a coward. If so, he was not fit to one day rule or lead. No one needed a coward for a prince, let alone a lord. Then it was just as well that those options were closed to him now. He was a pet. No longer a free man. Eric could only hope he would be a cherished pet, not a neglected one.

Chapter 4 by CoalWhite

A Charmed Life
  
By 
  
Coal White

The morning dawned bright and early, far too early for the young prince that was curled into a small ball on an empty rain slicker. Sitting up quickly, Eric searched frantically for his new mistress. Surely she wouldn’t leave her slicker behind. So, that means she’d have to be around here somewhere. His green eyes darted from place to place in search of the young woman. It was with great relief that he saw the horse still tied to the tree. He sighed, releasing all the tension that had suddenly built up inside of him. He smiled when Tor exited from the trees, something hanging limply in her hand. It became clear what it was when she dropped the deer carcass in front of him.

Tor barely spared him a glance. “That’s your meal for the next few days. Make it last because I won’t be bringing you another.” Her voice softened as she spoke in low, calming tones as she walked towards the nervous horse.  Slowly, she brought her hands to his head, double checking the bridle before sliding them along his body to tighten the girth. She yelped and jumped back to avoid a kick aimed in her direction. "That wasn’t nice. Now behave.”

Eric watched her work with the enormous horse. She acted like it had feelings that deserved to be respected. He took out his knife and began to dress the deer, carefully separating the hide from the bones and muscle. He wished he had a proper skinning knife, but what he had would have to do. The young prince was quick and sure, confident in his work. He highly doubted Tor had been teasing when she said that the deer was the only one he’d receive from her. So, his strokes were careful, precise and thought out. He couldn’t afford to waste meat; couldn't afford to go hungry. Gathering bits of tinder and breaking off a piece of a still warm coal from her pit, he dug a shallow hole for his own fire and began to cook the meat. His mouth watered at the smell and he was tempted to eat everything he could, damn the consequences. But, common sense prevailed and he only ate enough to be moderately full.

The young woman was pleased her most expensive tack had held up during the brutal onslaught of yesterday’s ride and the night’s dew. She adjusted the breast collar on the horse, tightening up just a bit from where it had loosened during Idiot’s bucking rampage. Her voice was calm and slow as she moved towards his back end again to double check the back girth. Finding everything in order, she began to scour the ground for a small stone just big enough to fit in the horse’s ear but not so small to where it would fall inside and damage his hearing. Her violet eyes finally landed on one that looked like it would work. She picked it up, weighed it in her hand and eyed its size and the size of the horse’s ear.

Eric was savoring the final bite of his breakfast when Tor’s voice rang out above his head. He flinched at the volume and sighed when she adjusted it without apology.

“Get all your things together and give them to me. They’ll go in the saddle bags with the rest of my stuff,” she commanded as she shook out her slicker and began to fold it  “When you’re through, I’ll put you somewhere that you won’t get stomped on. I have to ride the bucks out of him and you won’t want to be on the ground for that.” She walked calmly to the horse and stuffed the slicker into the left bag. When she had made sure both bags were secure, giving Idiot’s back end a wide berth, and Eric’s stuff was within easy reach, she crossed back to her pet and scooped him up without a word of warning.

The young man gasped when he felt her fingers wrap around his waist and hoist him into the air. Clutching to her for dear life, he screwed his eyes closed and did his best to control his panicked breathing. When the rough bark of a tree branch met his legs, he immediately let go of her only to wrap his arms and legs around the limb. Daring to open an eye, he paled and quickly closed it when he saw just how high up he was. For Tor, he knew, it couldn’t have been more than about knee height. But for him, it was much farther, roughly twenty six feet. He gulped, the knowledge that any fall over three times your height was considered dangerous floating through his mind.  

“Dammit,” he whispered, “why does my mind have to think of all this stuff that will only scare me more?!”

Once her human was secure on the branch, she pulled the stone from her pocket and walked back towards the horse.  Keeping a firm grip on the reins just below the bit, in order to make him think he was still tied, she untied them from the tree and slipped them over his head. Immediately, the stallion threw his head in the air, trying to rear and move away from the giantess. Tor cursed and quickly pulled his head back down to slip the rock into his ear. Grabbing a hunk of mane and the reins in one hand while he was distracted, she hauled herself into the saddle and put her other foot in the stirrup just in time for the horse to throw his head down and back legs into the air.

She cursed again, clamping her legs to his side in an effort not to get thrown. She was forced to ignore the pain of her chafed inner legs and raw thigh. One fisted hand went into the air to act as a counter balance to the swinging rhythm her body was put through as the powerful animal beneath her crow hopped, bucked and spun in the hopes of unseating his rider. He squealed in fury, rearing up onto his hind legs as he once more tried to throw the person on his back. Coming back onto all fours, he began to race in one direction, only to stop in mid-step, feigning a spook and twisting in a 180 before ducking his head and bucking, dirt and grass flying in everywhere.

Tor clamped her teeth together in an effort not to scream. She leaned into him at the rear only to be jolted backwards as he hit the ground running. The spin and spook made her dizzy and caused her to slip to one side. Quickly righting herself, she gathered the reins in tighter and kicked the animal in the sides for all she was worth.  She wasn’t surprised in the least when he jumped forward and away from the pressure. The young woman let him run for a few minutes until she hauled his head in the direction they had come. Grudgingly, the stallion obeyed and bolted down the long, flat prairie, doing his best to outrun the weight on his back.

The redhead could feel the way his ribs expanded with each breath, could feel how he was beginning to tire as the sun warmed the earth and heated his black coat. Sweat poured from them both as she turned his head towards her left leg, making him turn in circle after circle. Finally, he stopped, his breathing heavy and tired as his entire body quivered, exhausted. She loosened the reins, giving him some freedom, and was pleased when he simply stood there, making no move to bolt. She straightened his head, gave a soft kiss and squeezed his sides. A smile of victory spread on her face as Idiot began to trudge straight ahead.

“Good boy,” she murmured softly, one hand patting his neck. “Yes, you did very good.” He sighed heavily and licked and chewed at the bit as his head went down and his feet slowly carried them ahead. She sighed as well, relaxing in the saddle as her eyes scanned for the tree where she had placed the boy. One eyebrow arched up as she saw his limp form on the ground. "Interesting. I guess he wasn’t strong enough to hold on.” She rolled her shoulders, uncaring if he had lived or died. She was slightly shocked when a loan moan escaped her pet’s lips and he struggled to lift himself onto his hands and knees.

Eric grabbed his throbbing head and cradled it between his knees. His stomach turned violently, threatening to empty its recently downed contents. The ride in the tree had been perfectly fine, until the stallion had reared and come down hard. The resulting shockwave had shaken the tree so badly he was thrown from his branch and onto the cold ground below. As fate would have it, he didn’t land on his head or neck, which would have been instant death. Instead, he landed on his feet and rolled to his stomach, his hands coming up to break his fall and protect his face. When his head connected with the ground, he was knocked unconscious. Blackness consumed him and he thought he was going to die, or that he was dead and headed for the afterlife. So it came as a surprise when light returned and woke him up.

He groaned in pain and shock, his legs felt as if they had been stomped on or hammered with mallets. His head ached and pulsed, and he bit back another groan as his fingers gently traced his skull. A gasp, mixed with pain and fear, tore from his lips when he felt Tor’s fingers wrap around his waist and lift him in front of her face. Eric felt her violet eyes inspect his body. He choked on a gasp when her finger ran down one of his legs.

“Well.” Her voice, calm and smooth, reached his ears. “Your legs aren’t broken. At least, not badly. There are probably some fractures in there but there’s nothing I can do for that. You’ve got two options. One, I can end your misery now and bury your body somewhere.” She stopped, letting the words sink in.

“… Or?” he croaked, his voice raspy and pain filled.

“Or, I can let you live, take care of you the best I can. I can’t set your legs; they’re much too small for me to handle without making it worse. So.” She looked down at him, her violet eyes lacking any humor. “What’ll it be? Death or a life possibly filled with the pain of your legs and the shame of being lame and useless?”

“Life,” Eric spoke, his voice slowly returning to normal. “I want to live.”

She shrugged, grabbed a fistful of mane and the reins and swung herself back into the saddle with him in her other hand. “As you wish.” She passed her calm, flat gaze over the saddle, looking for a place to stash the human in her hand. She didn’t trust Idiot enough to ride with only one hand on the reins. Her eyes fell on the small opening just behind the pommel of the saddle and just before the seat itself. Adjusting the boy, she slid him feet first into the hole, resting his back against the swell. Bringing her hand back up, she evened out the reins and squeezed the stallion’s side, giving a soft kiss to urge him forward.

Idiot sighed and put his ears back but went forward when asked. He was too tired to put up any resistance, but he was far from finished.

Eric turned a dark shade of red when he opened his eyes again only to find Tor’s denim clad crotch in his direct line of sight. Looking up provided him with the view of the shadowed underside of her breasts. Closing his eyes, he wished he could enjoy the scenery and not be racked with pain from his legs. He welcomed the darkness of sleep as the smell of animal sweat, leather and the gentle motion of the horse’s walk lured him towards unconsciousness.

Chapter 5 by CoalWhite

A Charmed Life

by

Coal White

Eric woke sometime that evening to a stream of curses flowing from Tor. "Those damned boys think they've won!" she shouted. "They think that they can put me on a wild horse and send me off and run away with my herds! Oh I am going to absolutely murder them when I catch up to them." She screamed in her raging fit. Eric felt the horse spook and shy slightly at the noise coming from his rider. More swearing ensued as Tor slid in the saddle. She quickly righted herself and wheeled Idiot around. The princeling thought he was going to be sick as his legs slid and bumped into the structure of the saddle, sending pain coursing up his body. He managed to keep the remnants of his breakfast down as Tor continued to rage.

When she finally calmed, several minutes later, he dared to speak. "Tor? What's wrong?"

"What's wrong? I'll tell you what's wrong!" she snapped. "My brothers thought they could take off with my herd! They put me on this stupid horse, left the corral gate open and let him run off with me! The moment I'm gone, they pack up everything we own and take off with it. All they left behind was some rations and my clothes. They took my horses, they took my wagons, they took everything!"

She growled under her breath as she swung down from Idiot's back. Eric tried to sit up straighter in the space he was nestled only to cry out when his legs shifted wrong and sent throbbing, stabbing pains across his nerves. Tor's eyes immediately went back to him and Eric tried to melt into the saddle from the intensity of her gaze.

"My offer to put you out of your misery is still open," she said.

He shook his head fervently. "No! No. I want to live. I'll heal eventually. I just need time."

Tor was quiet for a moment. "If that's what you want." She turned back to the pile of her things on the ground and sighed. There was a note, no doubt from her twin, stuffed into the pocket of a long-sleeved shirt. She opened it and read it silently.

Tor,

I'm sorry. I couldn't stop them. I left you some clothes and food. I stashed your tent and bedroll in the trees. They won't tell me where we're going. I think this is Jason's idea, Brad and Thomas are just following his lead. I'll leave word for you in Settlement once we stop and I can figure out where they are headed. Please don't be mad.

All my love,

Mick.

Tor growled and balled up the note, tossing it away. "Don't be mad?!" she shouted to nothing. Idiot shied at the noise but couldn't go any farther than the end of his reins. "Don't be mad my ass! I'm going to kill all four of them when I find them!" She stomped over to a tree and tied the horse there while she gathered everything that had been left for her. She tied the tent and bedroll to the back of the saddle, slathered her legs in ointment before changing into the pants that had been left for her. She pulled on a long-sleeved shirt and buttoned it over the sleeveless one she was already wearing. The clothes were rolled and tied together before being stuffed into a backpack that had been hidden with her tent and bedroll. She pulled this on and buckled it across her chest. Feeling a little better, she swung back into the saddle.

Idiot snorted and half-bucked. Tor, in no mood for foolishness, dug her heels into his sides and laid the reins across his withers. The stallion squealed and bolted until Tor brought him back down to a trot, then a brisk walk. "You'll learn," she told the horse. "No bucking allowed. Not with me, anyway."

Eric bit back more groans of pain at the rough pace. The jostling of his legs against the saddle was almost more than he could take. He welcomed the darkness as an escape from the fevered pain. The next thing he knew was the pressure of fingers around his ribs as he was lifted from the saddle. His mind was hazed with fever and pain and he couldn't tell where he was being taken. He cried out when his legs bumped against the fingers that held him. A soft voice, words unintelligible, floated down to his ears. He was set down on something soft. He felt the softness shift beneath him before what he could only guess was a blanket was draped over him. Warmth quickly ensued and sleep claimed him again.

He barely woke when he was lifted and placed somewhere snug and firm. The saddle, his mind supplied. The pace was rough again. He couldn't tell how fast they were moving, or the direction they were headed. He drifted between waking and sleep throughout the long ride. Something told him this was the longest he had been in the saddle, but he couldn't be sure. His mind was too exhausted to be certain of anything. The pressure around his sides came and went. He was supported by arms. Human, his senses told him. He managed to crack open his eyes and stare up at the fuzzy, distorted figure looming over him. His head lolled to the side and he heard two separate voices talking as he was carried away.

The next time he was able to come to consciousness, everything was different. The ceiling was low. A human building. The bed was made for a human. The linens and walls were the same stark white. There was a heavy medicinal smell in the air. A doctor's? His legs still hurt, but far less than before. He turned his head to the sound of someone entering the room.

An older man, perhaps his father's age, walked in with a clipboard in hand. He smiled when he saw Eric. "Ah! You're awake. That is good news indeed. You took quite a nasty fall, you know. That knot on your head was the size of a goose's egg. Not to mention the cut hidden by all your hair. And that's still leaving out your legs! We had to rebreak them in order to set them properly. Your mistress was less than pleased with your screams from that. I thought she was going to tear down the building with how she stomped up to it."

Tor? That couldn't be right. She didn't care that much. Eric gave the old man a look. "You must be as sick as me, good sir. Tor doesn't have affection for me. Of any sort. I am just a pet to her."

The doctor shrugged. "Believe what you will. I'll just be glad to get you healed and out of my office so I can go back to seeing my usual patients. She won't let me leave until you are declared whole and fit to leave with her."

Now that sounded more like his owner. Eric smirked just a little. "Then by all means, Doctor, heal me."

"I'm not a miracle worker," the old man huffed. "It will be a good week before those legs are set enough for you to withstand being jostled around on the back of that massive horse of hers. It's already a miracle that you survived. Just about anyone else would have died from such injuries."

"I am known as a stubborn individual," he tried to joke. "How long before I can get out of the building? Into the sunshine?"

The doctor mused on this for a moment. "I suppose I could wheel you out later this afternoon if you are feeling up to it. I have some medicine for you to begin taking. It will help the pain in your legs and help your body fight off the infection that had set in."

Eric reached up and felt the bandages that were wrapped around his head. He figured he must be a novelty to see, his head wrapped in bandages and legs in casts. He took the medicine the doctor gave him, ravenously ate the food offered and sat back to rest. He woke later that afternoon when the doctor returned to check on him. The older man was followed by a younger one pushing a long-backed whicker chair on wheels.

"How do you feel?"

"Better," Eric replied. "The pain in my legs is at a minimum, same with my head." He held still as the doctor took his pulse and blood pressure, listened to his heart, lungs and checked the bandages. "Am I well enough for a visit outside?"

"If you stay in the chair, yes. But you must stay in the chair. Your legs are not yet well enough to be walking on them. Bear with us as we shift you. And do not be shy if your head spins or your legs ache." The doctor pulled back the sheets as the young assistant wheeled the chair to beside the bed.

Despite the doctor's orders, Eric bit back the painful groans that threatened when he was lifted out of the bed and into the chair. He clutched the arms of the chair as the pain slowly subsided. When he was relaxed, the assistant wheeled him out of the room with the doctor leading them. It was only a couple minutes later that he was outside in the fresh air. He sighed deeply, happy to not be cooped up inside.

"That giantess left dents in the road," the assistant grumbled. "Both from her feet and that massive stallion of hers. I don't know how we're going to fix it. Our roads aren't meant to support giants! Stupid, lumbering idiots."

Eric turned and looked at the young man pushing his wheelchair. "I wouldn't say any of those words in her hearing if I were you. She would be well within her character to stomp you under her 'giant, lumbering feet.'" The man gave him a dark look but Eric just shrugged. "I am only warning you. Take my words to heart if you wish a long life."

They stayed outside for a while, Eric enjoying the sunshine and the two men expecting a visit from Tor. None came. The days slid by, turning into a week, then two, and three. Eric wondered if he had been abandoned here. If she no longer cared for him or the responsibility to look out for his well being. The fourth week marked a month and Eric was bordering on hysteria. He had no idea where he was in relation to his home, or Tor's settlement or destination. He thought he was well and truly abandoned in the middle of nowhere with no money, a head wound and two broken legs.

Chapter 6 by CoalWhite
Author's Notes:

And we earn a tag at the end of this chapter. :)

Tor worked her horse in the round pen. The big black stallion had come a long way since her brothers had thrown her onto his back and let him go. He still had his quirks, like being prone to biting and kicking, but that was the downsides of having a stud. And she wasn't about to alter that. He had a good body, big chest and would make great foals. He would never make a racing horse, the kind her brothers liked to breed. No, he would do one better for this rugged life they lived. He would throw foals with a head for cattle. She saw the way he watched the steers and had even set him loose in a pen with them at one time. It was amazing that a half-wild stud who had never seen a cow could work a herd so well. He stayed with any steer he was put on and didn't let up until he was signaled.

She brought the stud in and held out her hand. A delighted smile stretched across her face when he eagerly pressed muzzle into her palm. "Good boy," she gushed. "Look at you, all nice and mild-mannered now." She yanked her hand away when his lipping became too rough and involved teeth. "Well, mostly. We're gonna show those stupid boys up. We're gonna ride back in to camp with you all gleamed and groomed and me sitting high and pretty on your back." She sighed and rested her head on his forehead. "I need to go get the princeling. He should be ready to ride now. And you are definitely ready to be ridden."

She straightened and fondly scratched his forelock. "Tomorrow we'll go get the princeling." She led him from the pen and turned him into a small paddock. As far as he had come, he was still in a pain in the ass to catch in a large field. So she left him in the paddock or a stall when she had plans for a quick-start in the morning. With Idiot fed and watered, she headed back into town. Farris was a small town, just big enough to have a supply store, a livery and an inn. Tor had been making use of all three during her stay. She had sent a letter to Settlement so Mick would know where she was if he got there before she left this town.

No word had come. That irritated her. With the herds, it was probably a three-week trip to Settlement from where they had been camped. Without, it would only take a week of fast riding. To the town she had left her princeling in, it was perhaps a day of an easy ride. She didn't know where her brothers were. She didn't know where her herd was. She missed her bed, her bathing tub, and all her spices for cooking. The meals that the inn served weren't terrible, but she could do a far sight better with the right spices.

On her way through town, she stopped off at the supply store. There, she purchased some heavier clothes for the coming winter. As well as some good feed for Idiot. It would last her until the next stop she made. She knew of a few towns along the way before she reached settlement. She purchased a good, strong braided rope. There was the possibility of catching strays, horses and cattle, along the way. Both of those would go a long way for her. She wanted to get Idiot shod, but when the blacksmith had tried to fit him for a shoe, the damn horse had pulled his leg from the man and kicked him in the butt. Tor's laughing didn't help. She had warned the blacksmith about Idiot's tendencies to kick, but he had blown her off as a "woman talking." Afterwards, he had refused to try again.

Idiot had run the range for several years unshod before she caught him. A few more weeks wouldn't hurt. She walked into the supply store again, checking every inch of the store to see if there was anything she liked or needed. A new display caught her eye. One for humans. There was a bedroll, a pack and a coat for winter. Interesting. The princeling would probably like those. She pursed her lips in thought. But he doesn't need them since he'll stay with me all the time. She turned to leave, having decided not to buy anything for her human pet. A small part of her paused her steps and made her think twice over her decision.

The next morning, she tacked up her stud and pulled herself into the saddle. "Alright, let's go get the princeling." She turned him out of the town and gigged his sides lightly. He responded eagerly and broke into a lope. She slowed him down a little later, around noon, before stopping for lunch. She ground tied him as she refreshed herself in the stream. When she led him in, laughter escaped when he decided to splash and play instead of drink. After a couple minutes of playtime, he finally settled down and drank his fill of water. She swung back into the saddle and headed out once more. It was well into the night when the little town came into sight. Tor was determined to get her human back. When he had screamed at the top of his lungs, calling her name as they rebroke and set his legs, she was ready to tear the building down and take him to another doctor. It took every ounce of self-control she had to not do just that. Especially when the doctor came out and had the nerve to scold her for letting him break his legs and not attending to his injuries when she first realized he had been hurt.

Instead of crushing the foolish human into a pulp, she turned and left. She would give the stupid doctor time to heal her princeling. If he couldn't heal him, then the old codger would be a sacrifice to her stomach. She rode into town and stopped just outside the doctor's office. She wasn't surprised when he came out and glared up at her. The lantern he held provided just enough light for her to see him by. She held Idiot on a tight rein, making him fidget and prance in place, as she spoke.

"Where is my princeling? Did you fix him?" Her voice was as flat as her gaze.

"It took a lot of effort, but he's physically healed. I just took his casts off this morning. You still need to be gentle with him. He can't handle long rides just yet." Tor snorted and Idiot pawed at the ground in frustration as the reins were gathered even tighter. The doctor glowered. "But you abandoning him here for over a month has weakened his mind. He thought you had dumped him in a strange town with a head wound and two broken legs. You ought to be ashamed of doing that to the boy!"

Tor's glower matched the doctor's. "I don't need your lecture on morals of the mind. I had my own business to take care of. I tasked you with fixing him. All I care is that he can ride with me." She leaned forward as Idiot reared, screamed and came back down with an earth-shaking landing. The doctor stumbled and fell. His assistant rushed out and helped him up. "Bring me my princeling," Tor commanded.

"Tor, you should not be so rude to the good doctor. I am right here." Eric stepped into the glow cast by the old lantern. He was walking with a cane, but he no longer had to use the crutches and his legs were not weighted down by casts. He looked up to her as Idiot calmed and finally stood still. "I thought you had abandoned me."

"I don't abandon my responsibilities," she snapped. "I left you to be healed. Not to reside here permanently." Her violet eyes, warmed by the little bit of light that reached them, sized up the human. "Are you ready, Princeling?"

Eric blinked. "Now? Tor, it's nearly midnight. You cannot see far enough to ride safely, even with the moon and stars."

She rolled her eyes. "I am here to take you, whether you are ready or not. If you have anything you want in there, get it now. I'll put it with the rest of your things."

The young man turned to the doctor and assistant. "Thank you," he said as he shook their hands. "You have been most kind and your town very welcoming. Now I must take my leave." He walked slowly back inside and gathered his few belongings. He double checked that he had his medicine and packed everything in the small, old duffel he had been given. He slung it over his shoulder and hobbled back outside. Tor had swung down from Idiot and was crouched in the street.

The doctor and his assistant were missing. Tor was playing with something in her mouth. Eric watched in shock as she tilted her head back and two little bulges slid down her throat. He shuddered involuntarily. They had been kind to him. She had swallowed them, eaten them, sentenced them to death by way of her stomach, simply for talking back to her. Another shudder ran through his body when her cold, violet eyes landed on him.

"Ready?" At his reluctant nod, she scooped him into her hand and pulled herself back into the saddle. With the reins gathered in her free hand, she turned Idiot out of the little town. She kept Eric cradled to her chest as the massive horse carried them across the land. He said nothing and neither did she.

Chapter 7 by CoalWhite

Tor didn't set her princeling down until she was a comfortable distance from the town, perhaps a twenty minute ride. She could still feel the doctor and assistant squirming and pounding in her stomach. They likely would for quite some time. But their two small bodies alone did not fill her up. They only wet her appetite. Her stomach growled around her prey, demanding something more substantive.

Eric heard the noise and shuddered. He couldn't even think about the fact that he was cradled against her left breast. All he could think about was the two men who had healed him dying in his owner's stomach. "Why did you eat them?" he finally asked. "They helped me. They took care of me while you were gone."

Tor reined Idiot to a stop and swung down from the saddle. She left Eric on the warm leather as she dropped the reins, ground tying her horse. She didn't say a word as she pulled out her canteen and took a long swig of water. She still didn't say anything as she began chewing on some jerky. She dropped her pack from her shoulders, untied the tent and set it up. She finished off the piece of jerky and started on one of the few pieces of fresh fruit she had bought in the town. Another long drink of water when she was done with the fruit and she set up the bedroll. She was pleasantly full and could even feel the two humans sloshing around in her stomach.

"Tor!" Eric snapped. She looked over at him as she tossed the saddlebags and pack into the tent.

"What?" she asked calmly. She crouched in front of Idiot and hobbled his front legs before walking back to the saddle. "Did you need something?"

Her calm, emotionless tone angered Eric more than he thought possible. He didn't think or filter what came out of his mouth. "Yes! I need to know why you ate my two friends! Because that is what they had become. They became my friends. They stayed by my side, cared for me when I couldn't walk, took me outside when my spirits fell. Why did you eat them?!"

Tor covered her mouth when a little belch escaped. She watched as Eric paled and began to tremble. "Calm down. I'm not going to eat you. You wouldn't even be a snack." She went to scoop him up so she could take the saddle off only to have her hand batted away by her princeling. Or, more accurately, he swatted at her fingers and she obliged by pulling them away. She scowled. "Fine. You really want to know why? Because they pissed me off. They blatantly disrespected me. The doctor had the nerve to scold me when I left you with him. He lectured me about taking care of you, watching out for you. As if I didn't know these things already! As if I didn't ride my only horse to the point of being lathered to get you to a human doctor when you wouldn't wake up. And when I came to pick you up, he did the same damn thing! He proceeded to tell me that I was wrong to leave you among your own kind to be healed. That I had irreparably broken you by leaving you for a short time among humans."

"And his assistant?" Eric pressed.
I
She snorted. "As if I couldn't hear his mumblings of 'stupid giant' and 'lumbering idiot' under his breath."

"Neither of them should have done what they did," Eric said finally. "But you should not have eaten them just because they angered you. Tor, you claim to be the better race, so actually be it by rising above lashing out in anger and eating any smaller being that disagrees with you."

"A disagreement I can handle. Like what we are having right now. This is a disagreement. The assistant downright insulted me. He was prejudiced against my people because of who we are. That is something I cannot stand."

"And if an Elder was prejudiced against me?" Eric asked. "Would you stand up for me? For humanity?"

This caused her to pause before she spoke. "If you give me something to prove you are an exception to the rule of humans, yes, I would defend you."

"Haven't I already?" he pointed out. "I offered my life to be your pet to avoid an arranged marriage. I've put my life, and therefor my trust, in your hands. You may not have been around, but I defended you to the doctor at first. He said from the second day that you had abandoned me. He encouraged me to go back to my home. But I asserted that you would come back for me. We had made a pact and I keep my word. I had no doubt you would keep yours and come back for me. And you did. You have kept my faith. Surely I have earned a bit of yours?"

Tor didn't respond. She simply scooped him up and carried him into the tent and set him on the bedroll. Then she went back out to finish taking care of Idiot. Eric looked around and sighed. He wasn't sure what kind of an answer that was. He had to smirk when her pained shriek rang out, followed by a curse at the horse.

"That hurt! I swear you are so ungrateful. I feed you, groom you, make sure you are sleek and healthy and you bite my ass when I turn around!" She mumbled something else. "See if I feed you treats anymore. Brat." She stomped back to the tent, crawled inside, yanked her pack towards her and dug out her nightshirt.

She took off the shirt she was currently wearing, much to Eric's delight. He took in every inch of skin she willingly bared. She was gorgeous, he realized. Breathtaking. If she were a human, he would have connived her into his bedchambers for more than one night. Her breasts weren't massive on her frame, but they would certainly be a handful for any male giant she slept with. Her auburn hair fell past her shoulders in tumbling waves when released from the braid that held it tightly out of her face. Where her skin was normally covered and out of the sun was a soft pale. But what was exposed to the sun on a daily basis was a golden tan. She pulled on her long nightshirt and reached under it to remove her bra. She sighed in relief and dropped it by her pack. Her shirt fell to her knees, covering her modesty as she removed her pants.

Comfortable and ready for bed, she crawled into her blankets and settled down for the night. She stretched out on her stomach that contained the still-struggling humans. They were resilient, putting up a fight long after she thought they would have stopped. But that made their ultimate fates all the sweeter for her. The longest a human had survived her stomach was almost three days. If they could stay out of the mire of the acids, they had a chance to last longer than average. She cracked one eye open when the princeling didn't move. "I'm not going to eat you, you know. Pick a spot and get comfortable. You need rest, still."

Eric sat still for a moment before pulling himself to his feet and hobbling over to his owner. He paused at her arm that lay between him and his destination, trying to figure out if he should climb it or go around. Tor made the decision for him by lifting her arm out of the way. He smiled over at her before continuing his journey. Her arm coming down behind him didn't phase him in the least. He continued his trip until he settled down under her chin. He sighed as he reclined against her neck. A little shifting and he was on his side, his head resting on her jaw.

"Wut err 'ou doin'?" she ask through a clenched jaw.

He smiled. "Resting, as you instructed. Now you should do the same. Go to sleep, Tor."

She snorted. "ute'er, Prinsling."

Eric chuckled at that. The warmth of Tor's body heat slowly lulled him to sleep. Unlike the last time he was with her, this sleep was not unconsciousness due to fever. It was just the natural rest that a healing body needed.

When he woke the next morning, he was pleasantly surprised to find that Tor was still on the bedroll with him. He curled a little closer to her jaw and began to doze off. Until a human sized pack dropped in front of him. He yelped and squirmed further into his owner. When rational thought returned, he glared up at the smirk he knew she was wearing.

"Oh ha ha. Picking on the crippled human. How magnanimous." But he scooted over to the pack and began to dig through it. The first thing he realized was it was brand new. Every single bit of it. There were new boots, a new cloak, new clothes and even a new bedroll attached to the pack. Surprise and gratitude welled up inside of him. This was a big sign to him that she did care. "Wow, Tor, this is, this is such a generous gift. When I fled my father, all I had was the clothes on my back and a few food supplies stashed in the saddlebag."

"I know," she deadpanned. "They began stinking after the first week. I didn't realize what it was at first. By the time I found your saddlebags, they were soaked with juices from the rotting food. I threw them out."

Eric shrugged. "I don't need them anymore anyway. Not with this." He gestured to the new pack in front of him. "And I don't need food supplies if I stay with you."

"Who said I was going to feed you?" she grunted. "The last deer carcass I gave you, you let spoil."

"'Let spoil?'" He laughed. "I went unconscious with fever. Then you took off without me. I couldn't have eaten it if I wanted to. My deepest apologies for wasting your generosity."

Tor rolled her eyes. "I had your name carved into the leather. Into the straps."

Eric pulled the pack closer and eyed the craftsmanship. It was beautifully done work. But there were too many letters for it to be his name. It took a minute for him to decipher the lettering. "'Princeling?' That's not my name." He turned to look back at Tor. "You called me that last night. But that is not my name." The giant woman rolled to her back and said nothing as she sat up. "You do remember my name, don't you?" He grinned when she wouldn't look down at him. "Tor, come on, tell me the truth. Do you remember my name?"

"Alright, alright! No, Princeling, I don't remember your name. But you can't fault me. You said it once! And a day later you broke your legs and I took you to a human town and left you for a month to recover. So, forgive me for not being the best with names." She huffed and finally looked down at him.

Eric was nearly rolling with laughter at how uncomfortable he had made her just by forcing her to admit she couldn't remember his name. "Calm down. I hold no ill will. I completely understand. You are utterly unforgettable to me. But I am just one human among many to you."

Tor huffed. "Whatever, Eric. I like Princeling better."

"So you're just going to change my name?" he asked.

"Did I say that?" She gave him a look. "I just said that I like Princeling better. It suits you. You're a little prince. Princeling."

Eric rolled his eyes. "I'm hungry. I haven't eaten since yesterday evening, shortly before sunset."

The giant woman turned a sharper eye over his form. "They did take care of you, didn't they?" If they hadn't, she could regurgitate them and make them regret their life all over. They were still squirming inside of her, pounding on her stomach. She couldn't hear what they were saying, but could imagine them begging for escape. She figured her supper from last night had moved on, judging by the location of their movements. And the fact her stomach was growling all over again.

"Yes, Tor. I told you last night, they took very good care of me. But I still need to eat on a regular basis." He glanced at her stomach when it growled audibly. Guilt flooded him, even though he had done nothing wrong. He sent a prayer for the men to the Creator.

"Fine. Let me dress and I'll fix you something." She pulled herself the rest of the way from the bedroll and grabbed the jeans she had ditched the night before. She shimmied into them, ditched the nightshirt and pulled on a clean, short-sleeved shirt. Eric watched her intently before working out of the old clothes he had been given by the doctor and into a new pair of trousers and a shirt. They fit him pretty well and he was pleased with them.

Tor pulled out some of the cooked bacon she had purchased before leaving the town. She warmed it in a skillet over a low fire, along with a couple of eggs she had brought along with her. As that cooked, she made a pot of coffee and cared for Idiot. She brushed him down, picked a few seed pods from his mane and tail and clipped his feed bag to his halter. She patted his muscled shoulder and went back to her own food. By this time, Eric had managed to hobble his way off the bedroll, out of the tent and was almost at the fire when Tor passed him by. She glanced briefly at him but didn't make a move to help him out.

She sat down by the fire and pulled the pan of bacon and eggs out first, scraping them off onto her plate. She poured herself a cup of coffee and relished in the smell of the strong, black, caffeinated drink. The two in her gut were still making a lot of commotion. It was time to teach them their place. They were food and nothing but. She blew on the coffee just enough to where it wouldn't scald her going down before taking a generous drink. She felt the warmth as it slid down her throat and settled in her stomach. A few bites of food and the movements inside of her stomach stopped.

"Much better," she sighed. "I didn't realize I was so hungry. Jerky and an apple don't fill me up." She looked over to Eric as he plopped down next to her. "The food is too hot for you. Let it cool down before attempting to eat it." She picked up the plate of food and kept eating her portion. After a while, she set the plate back down in front of Eric. A little portion of the eggs and bacon had been left untouched, pushed off to the side.

"Eat while I break camp." She stood and began doing just that. She dropped his pack and bedroll next to him, as well as her own pack and neatly-rolled blankets. She broke down the tent and left it on the ground as she tacked up Idiot. He was less than happy about the girth and aimed his usual kick at her when she tightened it. It was easy to avoid such a habit of his and she deftly turned to the side when he kicked. She gave him a look and brought her foot up to kick him in the muzzle when he turned to bite her. "Just you wait until I get you home and have all the time I need to polish you. I'll teach you to kick and bite me."

The big stallion opened his lips and showed his teeth in what almost seemed to be a mocking smirk. Tor gave him a dirty look and made sure to keep her fingers away from his mouth as she put the bridle on him. She fastened the curb chain and the cheek strap and clipped on the heavy lead rope before undoing the hobbles around his legs. She led him away from where Eric was eating his breakfast and let out all the length of the lead before working him in a circle. He bucked a few times, tested his owner's patience and didn't listen for the first ten minutes of the warm-up. By the time he finally behaved, the already-low fire had burned to embers.

Tor reeled him in, praised him when he touched her hand, and tightened the saddle girth. She put the reins back on and ground-tied him before tying down the saddlebags and tent. "Where do you want your things, Princeling?"

He thought it over for a moment. "I shall hold them. The bedroll will make the saddle more comfortable. And I like the pack. It will be a comfortable headrest." He gave a flourishing bow. "Thank you for your generosity."

She rolled her eyes. "Whatever." She crushed the remnants of the fire under her boot and made sure it was cool to the touch before pulling on her own pack. She was about to scoop Eric up when she saw him flinch. Thinking of his legs, she instead set her hand down in front of him. It took the human some effort, but he managed to scoot into her palm. Tor lifted him to the saddle, watching as he slid off and made his way to the gap in between the pommel and seat. He unrolled his blankets and arranged them in there to cushion the spot before sliding in. The pack went behind his head and gave it a comfortable resting spot.

He smiled. "Ready. Where are we headed?"

"Settlement," she said as she swung into the saddle. "Settlement is where my brothers will ultimately show. So Settlement is where we are headed."

End Notes:

I love it when a predator continues to eat even when their victim is languishing in their stomach. I love that. I love it from the vic's POV but it just doesn't fit with the flow of this story. I may do a side-piece that shows it from the doc's and assistant's POV.

Chapter 8 by CoalWhite

Tor sighed when Idiot once again refused to cross a little rivulet. It wasn't that big. She could cross it with one stretched stride. But Idiot didn't realize he could. She turned the horse around and urged him forward. "Hold on," she warned Eric. "This is probably going to get bumpy."

Before Eric could respond, she gigged Idiot's sides. The horse squealed and jumped the stream. Tor grunted as they landed. She had collected herself and been prepared, so she wasn't thrown from the saddle. But it still was less than comfortable to jump in a western saddle. She sat back in the saddle and rubbed her now-sore stomach. Her violet gaze instantly went to her passenger when she heard him groan. 

"I'm fine," he said when he saw her looking down at him. "I promise, Tor. That was just rather rough." He breathed slowly, trying to force the pain from his mind. "When can we take a respite? I need to move around some." 

The giant woman looked around, judging their location and how far it was to the next town. "Can you hold out for another hour? By that time, we'll be to the town."

"Settlement?" he asked, hoping against hope that it really wasn't going to take two weeks to reach the town.

"No. Verna. It's much smaller but it's got an inn and stable." She looked down at him, judging if he really could hold out that long. If he absolutely had to stop, she would. 

"Oh. Yes," he said slowly. "I can hold out for an hour." He just prayed it would be a quick hour.

Tor frowned and reined Idiot to a halt. The horse snorted and reached around to lip at the toe of her boot. "Don't you dare," she warned him. He blew out his lips and turned back to face forward, licking and chewing on his bit. The horse taken care of, Tor looked down to Eric. "Come out of your nook. I've got a more comfortable place for you to ride."

Confused, Eric did as told. He slowly pulled himself from the gap in the saddle and stood on the warm leather. He was eye-level with her crotch and could no longer see her face due to the shelf of her breasts. Of course, he was now in the right frame of mind to appreciate these things. And appreciate them he did, as attested to the slowly growing bulge in his breeches. He had to adjust himself and was completely unaware when Tor's hand descended and wrapped around him. He wrapped his arms around her fingers as he was lifted into the sky. He didn't have time to ask what was going on. All he saw was the top button of her shirt was undone and her cleavage rising up to greet him. 

"Wha--?" His question was cut off when he was lowered between her breasts, snugged into her cleavage and ensconced in darkness when the button overhead was closed. He was in heaven, he realized. Nirvana. Paradise. The afterlife. That was his only explanation. He was a breast man, plain and simple. And he was currently in the biggest pair of breasts he had ever seen. His face was beet red and his member throbbed so hard it hurt. But he was not about to hump Tor's chest. He didn't want to end up a snack. So he forced himself to simply pet the soft skin all around him. 

Tor couldn't help but smirk when she felt him touching her chest. "Pervert," she muttered. She thought he said something in reply, but it wasn't loud enough for her to hear it clearly. She leaned forward and gigged the horse in his sides. He leapt forward and took off at a run. She could cut the trip down from an hour with a good run on Idiot. And he needed one, with how antsy he had been that day. The horse's powerful legs and large endurance carried them across the earth, pounding the dust beneath them. Eric was safely tucked away, much less jostled now than he had been in the gap of the saddle. 

At one point, the giant woman and horse came up on some human travelers. It was a wagon train, five or six of them all headed for the next human settlement over. It would be a good two-day trip for them, if they moved quickly. More than likely, it would be four. She slowed Idiot and circled the families. They all immediately huddled within their canvas covered wagons, as if that would save them. She wheeled Idiot and sent him running down the earth once again, headed for the next down. She guided him onto the faint road and let him run until they reached the outskirts of town. She slowed him to a fast walk, smirking when he strained against the bit, still eager to run. She liked that he had energy and personality. She would never work that out of him. 

When they reached the little inn, Tor swung down and dropped the reins, ground-tying Idiot. She patted his neck and affectionately rubbed his forelock. "You keep an eye out on those saddlebags and tack," she told him. "Bite anyone, other than me, that comes near them." He snorted and lipped at the sleeve of her arm, but didn't try to bite. She smiled and kissed the bridge of his nose before heading inside. 

A girl working the register smiled at Tor, even as the older woman unbuttoned her shirt and pulled a human from her chest. The girl's eyes bugged out of her head. "Uh, we don't allow pets in here," she said, trying to sound polite.

Tor cast her a baleful look. "If you want my money, you'll let him stay. He's cleaner than your mouth probably is."

The girl looked taken aback, face aflame. She stuttered but didn't say another word about Eric's presence. Tor smirked and sat down at a table by the window. She put Eric on the table with her and reclined in the chair. "Go ahead and stretch out your legs. We'll be staying here tonight." 

Eric nodded and began walking around the table. At first, he was slow and stiff. But he limbered up the more he moved. He was four laps in when a shadow was cast across the table. He looked up to see a man standing there. He was tall, broad and built like a knight. He had wide shoulders, defined arms, and narrow hips. The epitome of a man, many would say. Eric frowned, disliking being around giant strangers. He hurriedly made his way back to Tor and the shelter she offered. 

"Excuse me," the man said. "May I have a seat at your table?" He smiled easily at her. 

Tor kept one arm separating Eric from the table and gestured with the other one. "Go on. It's empty." She watched as he sat down. Her eyes widened when he reached into his chest pocket and carefully lifted out a petite human girl. He set her on the table and turned his easy smile back to Tor.

"Good evening. My name is Roark. I saw your fine human there on my way down the steps. He is quite the specimen. Where did you get him from?" he asked in a good-natured way.

Tor eyed him suspiciously. "I found him on my way here," she said vaguely. "Why?" 

"He's a fine creature. He would make good babies with my little female." He gestured to the timid girl standing on the tabletop. "I purchased her a year ago. She's very gentle in personality and would produce like-minded young, I'm sure."

Tor hummed in thought. "What benefit would I get from it?"

"If my female has only one offspring, you would get a stud fee. If she has multiples, you could have your pick or a stud fee," he explained. His fingers idly stroked the blond female in front of him. 

Eric scowled up at Tor. He had no inclination to be a breeding male! Now if the girl had come up to him and flirted with him outside of this deplorable negotiation, he would not at all have objected to bedding her. "Tor!" he hissed up at her. She ignored him. He tried calling to her again, but she just gently pushed him towards the center of the table where the little female had walked. He glowered at his protector, owner, his mind hissed and turned to the girl.

She was a pretty thing, slight of build and shorter than him. He noticed she was moderately gifted in her bust and the spread of her hips. She had a sweet little mouth and a button nose. Blue-grey eyes peeked out from beneath her lashes. "Don't bother being upset," she whispered in a low voice. "The masters don't care for it." She glanced back at her owner who was still locked in a thunderous bargaining process with Tor. 

Eric snorted. "I may have given myself to Tor, but in name only. I am not a true pet. She does not control me." And she certainly won't force me to sleep with some random girl. Albeit an attractive one.

The girl looked up with wide, frightened eyes. "Don't say such things!" she hissed. It almost seemed like she was afraid of the giants looming overhead. 

Eric rolled his eyes. "I came to Tor of my own free will. Our arrangement is different than a pet." He spat the word.

The girl's eyes widened even further. "Why would you subject yourself to this life? It is not free! It can be horrible at times." 

"I did not want an arranged marriage to a simpering idiot," he said. "And my father would sooner beat me to the brink of death, and possibly kill me, then let me get away with disobeying him. He branded the watch captain with his cattle brand after I tricked him and escaped. He pressed that red-hot iron right onto the man's face." He shuddered. "It was still fresh when I saw him last." 

"How do you know he would beat you?" she asked softly, as if speaking too loud would draw the attention of her owner. 

Eric grimaced, his face paling slightly. "I saw him do it to my older brother. I have three younger ones. That I know of. He's got replacements for me if I die during a punishment. Tor is my protection. As long she treats me right, I don't mind being with her. It's easier. And I am assured she won't let my father's men drag me back to him so he can 'correct my ways' and 'train me to be a good son.'" A shudder ran through him.

"Oh. I'm sorry." She seemed to have no other words and turned her attention back to the negotiations.

"That's an outrageous fee!" the giant man exclaimed.

Tor sat back, arms crossed over her chest, and looked smug. "That's my price. He's a prince. One of the human nobility. Good teeth, sound of body, physically sound. You're not going to find a better stud anywhere than him." 

The giant man glowered. "Perhaps not. But I can find decent looking ones for a much lower cost." He swept up his little female, knocking Eric off his feet in the process.

Tor was on her feet in a flash, fist doubled up and flying. It landed with a sickening crunch on his nose. Blood spurted from his nose. He howled in pain and stumbled back several steps. "You crazy bitch!" He pulled his hand away to see the blood. "You broke my nose!"

"You knocked over my human," she said calmly. "In a fit of pique. How petty." She sneered at him and sat back down at the table. Eric was pulling himself to his feet and she watched with cool eyes. 

"I'm fine," he grunted as he hobbled over to her. He plopped down on the back of her hand, his legs resting between her thumb and forefinger. He rested his cane across his lap and gripped her knuckles as she lifted him higher. They had figured out a few days ago, during the worst of a fit in his legs, that the heat of her body eased the pain. Gratefully, he slid off her hand and onto his shoulder. He reclined against her neck, stretched his legs across her collarbone, and soaked up her body heat.

End Notes:

Let me know what you think!

Chapter 9 by CoalWhite

The food came not too long after the man with the newly-bloodied nose left. The girl who served them was skittish around Tor, taking great pains to please her and make sure the older woman was happy in every way possible. The owner of the small inn had no desire for trouble, but she would make sure towns ahead knew of the woman's attitude and temper. They could watch out for her, tell her to keep on. She wasn't strong enough to do so.

Tor seemed to barely acknowledge the girl. But, when supper was finished and she had the key to her room, she left a generous tip on the table. The girl was sweet, mousy and very attentive to the table. She had earned it. Tor walked up the stairs to her bedroom and kept one ear attuned to her little passenger. She could hear the soft groans and occasional, suppressed moan of pain. She intended to do something about that. She had ordered a bath and was delighted to find it was set up and waiting on her. She deposited Eric on the bed, dropping her stuff on the floor at the foot of it.

"Strip," she said to her Princeling. "You're going to take a bath."

"I am injured," he cajoled. "How does my aroma offend? I take great care to scrub myself each day with a bit of water from your canteen. I even have a bit of scented soap I retained from my stay with the doctor. I use just enough of that to take away any lingering odor."

Tor rolled her eyes. "If you don't undress, I'm going to dump you in the tub fully clothed," she warned.

Eric eyed her, trying to gauge how serious she was. "You wouldn't."

She smirked. "Don't believe me? Just watch." She reached for him, intent on scooping him up and dumping into the tub just as she had said.

"Alright!" he protested, backing up across the bedspread. He grumbled as she retracted her hand. Dutifully, he undressed. He unlatched the cloak, letting it fall to the bed. He pulled off his shirt and sat down to peel off his boots. It took him a couple of minutes due to his stiff legs, but they eventually pulled off. The young man had to take a minute to catch his breath. Doing something so simple shouldn't take so much effort, but it did. When he had his breath back, he proceeded to remove his pants. Now he remained in only his breech-cloth.

"That's good enough," she huffed with a roll of her eyes. She set her hand down in front of him. "Come on. Into the tub you go." She carried him to the warm tub and lowered him into the water. A little smile played with the corner of her lips when she saw him instantly relax. She promptly stripped down completely and slid into the tub with him.

Eric yelped as he was sloshed to the other end of the tub and back again, only to end up resting against a titanic breast. He gasped and spluttered out some of the water that had gotten into his mouth. He shot Tor a dark look before he realized where he was. His attention then wholly turned to her breasts. He was wise enough not to hump them, but that didn't stop his hands from rubbing along the water-slick skin, groping as much as his miniscule hands. He glanced at her from the corner of his eyes. She had her head resting against the rim of the tub and appeared to be sleeping. He took his chance to plant a series of kisses along the flesh.

The princeling half-floated, half-swam down the length of her breast until he came to the curvature that dipped below the surface of the water. He took a breath and dove down, still feeling along her breast. He came to where the skin softened and smoothed out, going from breast to areola. The young man marveled at it, running his hands along it. He saw the breast jerk back, felt the ripples in the water. He broke the surface of the water and inhaled deeply. The water sloshed around him, the waves knocking him back under.

Tor was laughing. "That tickles!" She slid a little deeper in the water. Her fingers wrapped around Eric's waist and gently pulled him out of the water. She held him aloft and clucked her tongue. "I don't mind you doing a bit of exploring, but don't tickle me. I don't want to waste my money and time by accidentally drowning you. Besides, this is supposed to be a recovering bath for you. They thought I was crazy by ordering a warm bath instead of a hot one." She set Eric back down in the water and smirked when he swam over to her other breast and began "exploring" it.

After a while, Eric's fervor for this heretofore-unexplored-territory faded. He was still in awe of the massive breasts, but he was growing tired. The heat of the water did wonders to ease his aching legs, but they really needed rest. So he settled against Tor's sternum, marveling at her heartbeat. He was half-in, half-out of the water, nestled between her breasts, and utterly warm. The pain in his legs continued to fade, as did his consciousness. Soon, he was out like a light.

The Elder woman watched the little human dozing on her sternum. She sighed softly and looked up to the ceiling. Gods above, why did I take him on as a pet? I've got so much else to take care of without worrying about a crippled human. She would later blame the Creator for the images of her putting Eric in a tree, him falling, breaking his legs, gaining a head injury, all because of her, in her mind's eye. She winced and automatically rubbed Eric's side. "Alright, alright," she muttered. "I'll keep him." Another image of Eric hobbling around with a cane. "And take care of him!"

She sighed again, a big, gusty one, and stood. She kept one hand cupped over Eric as she rose. She crossed to her bed and gently set Eric on a pillow before dressing. With her breasts held in place, she gently slid Eric in between them. They would keep him warm and safe as she took care of Idiot for the evening. She buttoned up a shirt, slid into her jeans and boots and headed downstairs.

Waiting patiently outside was Idiot, right where he had been left. His ears swiveled forward as he watched his owner walk down the steps. He snorted when she scratched his forelock and led him to the livery up the road. He held still when she untacked him and led him over to a stall. He was perfectly patient and was rewarded with affections, treats and feed and water. He immediately set to munching on his supper as Tor watched.

She was quite pleased with his behavior. He was such a sweet boy after a long run. He just needed to work out some energy. She warned the stable manager as she left. "Don't mess with him. He's ornery." The man looked between her and the mustang down the row. "He left a hoofprint in the face of the last farrier that tried to work with him." Now the man was convinced.

Tor strolled back up the street, to the inn and her room. She was pleased to see the tub and water were gone. She pulled a book from her pack and settled in the bed to read.

Eric slept for a few hours before finally coming to. He looked around and realized that he was snuggled into Tor's massive cleavage. He smirked and decided this was his favorite part of her. He stretched and carefully pulled himself from between her breasts. She was reclined at such an angle that he was able to crawl up her chest, out from under her collar and up to her shoulder.

"Good evening, sleepyhead," she jibed. "Sleep well?"

"Very." He smiled up at her. "Think you could let me down so I can do some walking before we settle in for the night?"

Tor hummed under her breath. "I was just about to take us down to supper. You could walk around the table again while we wait for our food. Then around the room when we come back."

Eric sat in thought for a moment before nodding. "That sounds agreeable." Absently, he rubbed his legs and wished he had some more pain medication from a human doctor.

His owner eyed the way he rubbed his legs. She rolled her eyes as she decided to go and get a human doctor for him after supper. She stood and headed downstairs, took a seat at the table and waited for the supper to be brought out to her. Eric walked around the table, taking advantage of the lingering warmth of Tor's cleavage that eased his muscles and the pain. He was on his fifth lap when the same girl from earlier in the afternoon brought out the supper plate. He quickly made his way over to the smaller plate where Tor had portioned out his share of the food.

After supper, he was surprised when Tor left him on the bed and headed for the door. "Where are you going?"

"You'll see," she called over her shoulder. He heard the lock in the door turn with the room key. All he could do was sigh in frustration and start making laps around the bed.

A few minutes later, Tor was pounding down the road on Idiot's back. Very few human wagon trains traveled without a doctor. And she knew of one wagon train that wasn't that far off. It only took her an hour or so to track them down, despite the fading sunlight. She pulled up sharply to avoid trampling a wagon, swinging down from the saddle as she did so. She crouched over the team of tiny, frightened horses and spoke to the man on the seat now fighting to control them.

"Do you have a human doctor?" she ask brusquely.

"W-we do," he answered hesitantly. "I am. But I know so little about giant physiology, I am afraid I would be unable to help you."

"I don't need you. My human does." She reached down and scooped him up. She slid him into the gap of the saddle and swung into it. She wheeled the horse and headed back to town. The poor doctor clutched to anything he could, his fear of heights threatening to overwhelm him. He was unsure of how much time passed before he was roughly plucked out of the saddle and carried inside and up a set of stairs before being set down on a massive bed.

"Please!" he begged. "Please don't eat me. Please take me back. My wife must be terrified. I have children. They need me!" He looked up to the uncaring face looming above him.

"Tor!" Eric yelled as he hurried over to the man. "What did you bring him here for?" He carefully knelt beside the man and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "It's alright. She's not going to hurt you." He glared up at his owner/protector to drive his point across. "Are you?"

She scowled. "I brought him here to take another look at your legs. You keep rubbing at them, even after soaking and sleeping with me."

The doctor gave Eric a shocked look. "You sleep with her?! With a giant!"

Tor's scowl deepened but Eric cut her off before she could say anything. "Yes, I do. Her name is Tor. She is my friend--"

"Owner."

"Friend. And she is concerned. I broke my legs a little over a month ago. A doctor set them and I recovered with him until Tor decided to move on. He gave me some pain medication but that ran out about a week ago. Since then, the pain in my legs becomes overwhelming. I'm sure she just wants me to have some more medication. That's all."

The doctor still looked quite panicked, unable to fully process things. But it slowly sunk into his mind what was being asked of him. "I-I can help. But all my medicine is back in my wagon. I don't carry it on my person."

"I'll go get it," Tor said.

"Wait!" Eric called, utterly frustrated. "Get back here and listen to me for once!" He was pleased when she stopped and turned to face him, even though she wore the biggest scowl he had yet to see on her face. "Thank you. Now, you should not have taken this poor doctor without his permission. And you most certainly may not go and take his wagon. I appreciate what you are trying to do, but, please, let's go about this a different way. Why don't you take us back to the doctor's wagon train? We can stay there for the night while he looks at my legs. In the morning, we can be moving on."

"I paid for this room already!" she protested. "And for Idiot's stay in the stable."

"And the other two who could have helped me paid a higher price." He gave her a dark, severe look. "Now, let's go. I am sure this man's family is worried about him." He helped the doctor to his feet, gently reassuring the man.

Tor grumbled under her breath. "Fine." She held her hand out to the pair of men and waited, impatiently, as they stepped on. The doctor had to be coaxed, but he eventually climbed on. He yelped and dropped to his stomach as she lifted her hand and took a step back. He was trembling as she crouched and picked up her bag, slinging it across her shoulder. She ignored him as she stomped down the stairs and out to the stocky black mustang waiting outside.

"Set us on the saddle, Tor," Eric instructed. "I'll ride with him in the gap. It's still cushioned from my sleeping blankets."

She rolled her eyes and followed his instructions. When they were settled, she swung into the saddle and turned her horse back out of town. She once more urged him into a run, cutting the time down from the last trip. She slid Idiot to a stop and stepped out of the saddle before retrieving the doctor and setting him back by his wagon. A woman and several children spilled out of the wagon and latched onto the man, sobbing and muttering incoherently. Tor grumbled but took a step back, waiting for them to calm down before she put Eric in their midst.

As the doctor explained everything, Tor led Idiot a short ways away and hobbled him before setting up the tent. She untacked and rubbed down her horse, sweet talking him and taking advantage of the calm moment to groom him. She chuckled, kissed his muzzle and was headed back to the camp when the sky rumbled ominously overhead. Lighting flashed in the distance and the wind picked up. She frowned and pulled out a tarp to set up over her tent. She finished it just in time.

Rain spattered on the ground, threatening more to come. She was just about to retrieve Eric when she noticed him, and all the people from the wagon train, at her heels. She glanced between them and her tent and scowled.

"No. They can go sleep in their wagons. Just like they would have if I wasn't here."

"Let them in!" Eric called above the wind. "Tor, you know it is the right thing to do!" He turned and began ushering people inside, despite the massive woman scowling down at him.

"Fine. Whatever. Get my tent muddy," she grumbled as the last human climbed inside. She had to pick her way around the humans to get into her own tent. She plucked Eric up and set him beside her before zipping up the tent for the night.

Chapter 10 by CoalWhite

Tor sat on her bedroll and glared at the humans huddled in the far corner of her tent. Eric had wrangled another promise of being kind to them out of her.

"No eating them!" he had scolded. "Not a single one."

"I don't go around eating humans like candy!" she protested.

"Tor!" He gave her a stern look. "I mean it. Be nice. No eating them. No scaring them. Nothing. Just leave them be." He had to pause as a heavy thunder clap followed a lightning flash.

"Just who do you think you are, bossing me around? I'm your owner!" She crossed her arms across her chest and glared down at him. Eric was wholly unaffected. Whether that was due to the dim light in the tent, or he had just gained that much of a backbone, she didn't know. "Whatever. I won't eat any of the humans. Not like I actually planned to, anyway.

"You know, you do owe them."

"How?!"

"The doctor is their wagon train leader, too. When you took him, you left them without a leader or guide," he pointed out.

"I brought him back. Before dark."

"After he, his family and the whole group was terrified."

She huffed and rolled her eyes. "So? What am I supposed to do about their feelings?"

"Personally, to help restore your honor and reputation with them, I think you should escort them the last leg of their trip to the new human settlement they are headed to," he suggested. "They already lost one wagon due to a giant cow. And one due to a wild-cat. With your escort, they would be safe."

"Do what? No! Do you know how long it will take to get them there? A week or more! We could be halfway to Settlement by then. And their settlement is going the opposite direction we need to go." She frowned down at him. "I'm not escorting them. I'm not their babysitter."

Eric sighed. He would take the small victory of their safety tonight and try to work on her some more tomorrow. Perhaps after a good night's sleep and the doctor working on him she would be wiling to escort the other humans to safety. He turned and walked slowly over to the humans in the corner. "She isn't going to hurt you. She only took the doctor so he could work on my legs. That's all. She's agreed to let you stay in the tent for the night. While you're here, you'll be perfectly safe. I promise." He smiled charmingly at a girl who looked to be roughly his age. "It's Julia, right? Well don't worry, Julia. I'll be here the whole time. And Tor keeps her word."

Tor glared at them from across the tent. She rolled her eyes, flopped down on her bedroll and pulled the covers up over herself. She faced the opposite directions of the humans, purposefully ignoring them. She could just catch the low murmurs of their voices but was unable to distinguish any individual word. She heard a familiar yelp, Eric's, and immediately sat up. Her violet gaze had the group shrinking against the tent, as if trying to phase through it.

"It's alright," Eric called, a bit breathless. "Just a numbing salve. It was unexpectedly cold. That's all."

The Elder woman grumbled as she laid back down. She ignored everything else she heard until Eric pull himself onto her bedroll. She didn't move, even when he called out to her. She heard his sigh as he walked up to the back of her neck, exposed thanks to her braid. He carefully climbed onto her neck and slid down to the nook between her chin and shoulder. It took him a minute to work his way under the covers, but he soon settled against her shoulder.

"I would have thought you would go sleep with the other humans," she sniped.

Eric gave her a confused look, even though he knew she couldn't see it. "Why would I?" he asked. "You're my owner, as you like to remind me. I know you. I don't know them. Yes, they're human, but they're strangers to me. I am comfortable with you. You are my security in this world. Not them. Now, please, don't be sore about my wanting to help them. It's the compassion most humans have for one another. As I'm sure Elders have for each other."

Tor didn't say anything, but Eric could have sworn he felt the slightest rise and fall of her shoulders, indicating a sigh. He smiled and patted her shoulder. "Go to sleep, Tor. I'll be here in the morning."

When the morning came, the rain was still pouring. But Tor had her horse to take care of. She pulled herself from the warmth of her bedroll and stepped outside. The tarp was holding up well, adding a couple extra feet to the front of the tent. It shielded her well from the rain. She whistled loud and long and was quite pleased to see Idiot walk over to her. He couldn't move fast due to the hobbles on his front legs but he hopped along until he reached the shelter. He sighed heavily as Tor wiped him off as much as possible.

"I know. I don't like the rain either," she said softly. "I would rather have the sun shining down and riding you across the earth, watching as it swept away beneath your strides. But, it's not safe to do that kind of riding in the rain." She kissed his face before hooking his feed bag to his halter. She glanced down around his feet, noticing that the human horses and livestock had sought the shelter the tarp provided. "Don't step on them," she told the horse. "I don't want you coming up lame with a bone in your frog."

She scratched under his thick mane before ducking back into her tent. Eric was half-awake on her bedroll but had chosen not to move. He was trying to absorb the lingering warmth she had left behind. Her chuckle had him turning to look at her, blinking in a hazy way. "What time is it?" he mumbled.

"I'm not sure. The sky is so grey and dreary I can't really tell." She laid back down, careful to ensure that Eric ended up in his usual nook. "But it's definitely morning. Idiot came right up to me and accepted the feed bag so he was hungry." She yawned and propped up her head with her arm. "The sky is ugly. It's not going to stop raining for a while. And when it does, it's going to be muddy and sloppy. Idiot could walk, but running would be out of the question. At least until we get to firmer, dryer ground."

The humans couldn't help but overhear this. They looked nervously between each other, hoping they wouldn't be put out in such mess. Their wagons would be stuck fast before they got very far at all. The doctor approached Tor and Eric with great care. "Um, Lady Tor, would you be kind enough to allow us to stay until the rain stops and the ground dries up somewhat?"

Eric stood and hustled to where Tor could actually see his face when he spoke. "Please, Tor. The doctor has been kind enough to look at my legs. He wants to take a better look this morning. Let them stay until the ground is dry enough for them to move on their own. I'll even rescind my request that you escort them if you'll give them this one kindness."

The Elder woman narrowed her eyes at Eric as she thought for a few moments. Finally, she relaxed her gaze, and rolled her eyes. "Fine," she grumbled. "Go play with the humans since you want them to stay so much." She plucked Eric up and set him on the other side of her, face to face with the doctor.

The younger man rolled his eyes at her mood but didn't push the issue. He simply turned the doctor back to the group and assured him of the extension of shelter. The doctor smiled with relief.

"For your generosity, I would like to offer my services free of charge," he called to Tor. "I will look at Eric's legs, check him over and make sure he is in good health."

Tor turned over to face him, eyeing him without saying a word. Then, she spoke. "He started coughing two days ago. Check that out." She looked over to the other humans huddled on the far side of the tent. "Your livestock gathered when I fed Idiot. I suggest you go feed them."

The people looked between each other. "Out there?" One asked. "In that weather? We'd be washed away!"

She gave the man a droll look. "Your animals are under the awning-tarp. They're doing just fine. Idiot adds another layer of shelter. They are huddled under his belly."

"We could be crushed if he moved!" the same man protested. "It's not safe. Not in the least."

"I'm not feeding your animals for you," she snapped. "I don't really care if you feed them or not. But I am telling you they are hungry, too. If you decide to starve them due to a little rain, be my guest. But don't whine when you can't get anywhere because your animals are dead from starvation." She turned back to the other side of the tent and seemed to fall asleep again.

Eric sighed and was about to apologize when the doctor hurriedly crossed the tent and snagged the younger man who had spoken up by the arm. "Do not push your luck! Lady Tor has been generous in offering to let us stay in her tent until the weather clears. Don't screw this up for the rest of us. Get out there and feed the horses. You," he pointed to another young man. "You go help him. Feed the cattle. A little rain is not a good reason to neglect our animals." He pushed the two young men out of the entrance to the tent.

The two men cast him a look that was a mixture of fright and anger. But they dutifully stepped out of the tent and went to tend to the human animals. They returned a while later, a little wet but whole and well. Although one of the men was rather ashen. He had looked up just in time to see Idiot run his massive horse-penis out of its sheath and let it hang. That, combined with the girth of the monolithic horse's balls had him feeling rather insignificant. He sat down against the tent wall and buried his head between his knees.

Roughly an hour later, Tor sat up and pulled her pack over to her side. She dug through it and produced her jerky, fruit and canteen. She tore off a small hunk and handed it down to Eric, who had come over when she produced the food. He happily gnawed on a corner of the jerky and fruit, taking occasional sips of water. A couple of people went back out to their wagons, that were parked on the very edge of the tarp overhang, to retrieve food. Eric noticed how scarce their food was, especially for the children who stared with hungry eyes at his comparatively large hunk of meat.

Without a second thought, he stood and crossed to the group of children. It took some effort, but he managed to tear up his piece of jerky and hand it out to the children. He broke up the fruit he had been given and handed it to the adults. He was met with rounds of effusive thanks which he waved off. "Human compassion. That's all it is," he said. "Simple human compassion."

Tor snorted. "They have their own food. Let them feed themselves."

Eric sighed. "Tor, they don't have much. I have plenty. There is nothing wrong with me sharing from what I was given. I'm not going to ask you to share with them."

"But now you're going to have less," she pointed out. "And you will be the one going hungry."

The princeling shrugged. "I've never known hunger. I'm not likely to know it anytime soon. If I have to, I can go hunting."

"And then have it said I'm a bad provider? No. You won't go hunting for yourself."

"But what if I want to?" He looked up at her with a pointed expression. "What if I want to go hunting? Just to exercise some independence?"

She pursed her lips in irritation. "No. If you wander off from camp, you're too likely to get hurt. Now, enough of this conversation." She tore off another small chunk of jerky. "This is yours to eat. Not theirs. Let them take care of themselves."

He sighed but didn't protest the new meat. He gnawed off a corner and sat back against her thigh, content to eat his breakfast. He couldn't wait for the rain to stop so Tor could actually cook a real breakfast. Hot meals were always better than jerky and fruit. At supper, Eric did the same when Tor gave him his portion. He pulled it apart and gave it to the families. She grumbled again, but did not deny him a portion for himself.

The next morning, however, she only gave him enough for himself. And, once he fed the other humans, she didn't give him any extra. He didn't ask and she didn't offer. He didn't say a word when vague pangs of hunger rumbled in his stomach. When one of the other humans tried to offer him food, he declined. The young man made sure to drink plenty of water over the day in an effort to abate the hunger. At supper, Tor huffed and gave him an overly large piece. He smiled up at her and hugged her hand while it was still in reach.

"Thank you, Tor. You are very kind." He shredded the meat and fruit and handed it out before settling back to eat his portion. He didn't see Tor's hand until it came down and tussled his hair.

It rained for the next week. Day in. Day out. Without letting up. When the rain finally stopped, the ground was saturated. The puddles came up to the toes of Tor's boots. She pursed her lips in irritation. Her tent needed a day to dry out before she rolled it up. But the temperature was low, the sun was hidden and there was no wind. It would take a while for the ground to dry up. She sighed and looked to her big stud. He needed some exercise anyway.

So she worked him and was pleasantly surprised at his good behavior. Right up until he decided to act up. He reared, tossed his head and nearly took the lead from her hands. But she held on. Even when she was yanked to the muddy ground, she still held onto the lead. She was back on her feet in a flash, teeth grit as she glared at the misbehaving horse. She took the detached reins and popped them in the air behind Idiot's rump. He snorted and jumped forward.

"That's it. You want to be dumb? Alright. Here's the price." She worked in him circles for several minutes before switching around to the other direction. When she cued him to turn, he squealed and half-reared before turning with a flourishing buck. "Move!" she barked, popping the reins again. Idiot complied, moving forward at a fast trot, then a lope when she urged him faster. A few minutes later, when he was breathing good and heavy, she slowed him back down. She stopped and he stopped, not quite looking at her. Then he turned to look at her, ears flicking backwards and forwards as he seemed to think. Her hand was held out, palm up, in a peace gesture that was offered at the end of each "lesson." He took one step, then two, before bridging the gap and pressing his muzzle into her hand.

"Good boy," she sighed and scratched under his chin. "That's all I want." She walked him around the area to cool him off. She hobbled him, fed him and proceeded to brush out his mane and tail. She wiped him down and checked his hooves and legs. Everything was good and that relieved her immensely. Spending a week in crappy weather could take a toll on a horse's legs. She kissed his face and went back to her tent.

"When are you leaving?" Tor asked the humans. "The weather has cleared."

The doctor looked uncertain. "I checked the ground while you worked your horse. It is much too wet and deep for our horses to pull a wagon through. We would get stuck fast with little hope of pulling out. Could we possibly stay one more day?" He gained an expression of minor terror when she scowled. "B-but we can go now if we have to!"

She grunted and laid down on her bedroll. "One more day. My tent will be dry tomorrow."

End Notes:

Please comment! They mean so much. Also, I've gotten a couple questions about the size of horses, Idiot in specific. He is proportionate to Tor. As in, he's a big boy when she sees him. He stands about 16 hands at the shoulder. That's just shy of 6 feet to Tor. She's 5'8" I believe. Have I said her relative height? Idk. If not, here it is! Haha Her height to a human is 80 feet. Eric, and most other humans, appear to be around 5 inches to her. And here is what he looks like: https://img0.etsystatic.com/000/0/6210293/il_fullxfull.216749322.jpg

Chapter 11 by CoalWhite
It took Tor a while to scrape off the mud and by the time she was done, she had decided to go back to town and have her clothes washed so she could have spares. And maybe have another bath while she was at it. The closest water source to rinse and bathe in was still a few days' ride away. And she did not fancy riding that long with mud in her hair. Or the other places where mud was currently squishing uncomfortably. She pulled her boots on and stuck her head back inside the tent.

"I'm going back to Verna to get supplies," she said brusquely. "I'll be back this afternoon." She grabbed her pack, Idiot's tack and backed out of the tent. Shortly thereafter, the thunderous beat of Idiot's hooves faded into the distance.

The doctor had been working on Eric's legs when she spoke, so the princeling couldn't go after his friend/owner/protector. He sighed and looked to the doctor. "She didn't take her things. So she'll be back. We should be just fine inside the tent. No wandering outside. Everyone should stay inside."

Julia gained boldness in Tor's absence and sat beside Eric. She smiled and rested a hand on his shoulder. "Thank you, for convincing your giant to allow us to stay. We appreciate it." Her blue eyes glimmered in the faded light of the tent as color bloomed across her cheeks. She leaned in, pressed a quick kiss to his cheek and darted back to the rest of her group.

The doctor chuckled and finished massaging Eric's legs. "Julia is a good girl. Very sweet, right about your age, I would guess. How old are you, anyway?"

"Seventeen," Eric said after a moment. "I'm seventeen. That's why my father became insistent about marrying me off to some twit he picked out for me." He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"Do you know who was chosen for you?" the doctor asked. "Surely his choice would be made with you in mind."

Eric snorted derisively. "No. He would choose based on how much land or money or power he could gain from the arrangement. He wouldn't even take her looks into mind. He only cares about himself."

The doctor didn't have a response. He didn't know Eric's father so he could neither agree nor disagree. "Julia is sixteen. Her parents are looking for a suitor for her," he said. "She now has a fond eye for you."

Eric smirked. "So I've seen. She is a beautiful young woman." She had curves in all the right places, bountiful ones at that.

"But her parents would never let her go with someone who lives with a giant, pet or friend or otherwise," the doctor said seriously. "If you ever consider a future with your own kind, which is what is proper, you must know that your giantess 'friend' cannot be a part of it."

Eric frowned and leaned against the blankets. "I know. Believe me, I know. I've learned how, uh, devastating Elders can be on humans. Which is what they prefer to call themselves and be called. They are Elders. Tor is only barely tolerating your use of the word 'giant.' And I cannot promise she will do so for much longer. If you want any kind of favor with her before you part ways, you should change your vocabulary. And it will probably go a long way with any other Elder you encounter."

The doctor hummed in thought as Eric fixed his pant legs. "Perhaps. At the least, we should do so in their presence if they are so discomfited by it." He rubbed his chin absently. "For now, we should pack and ensure our wagons are ready to go tomorrow. It will do no good to wait until the last moment."

The younger man nodded. "Indeed. Tor breaks camp fast. She can have everything packed and ready within twenty minutes. Then she swings into the saddle and we're off."

"How old is she?" The doctor asked abruptly. "And how long have you been with her?"

Eric looked caught. "I honestly don't know her age. But I've been in her care for nearly two months, total." He was fudging the definition of the word "total" some, but he was loathe to tell of his time with the previous doctor for fear of it leading to questions of the man's fate.

"Uh-huh. Well, if you should choose to come with us, you would be welcome. Although I don't know why you would go with an gi--err, Elder, over your own kind."

Eric was a little flustered over the question. This was the second time he had been asked this. And he had given a perfectly valid, in his mind, reason why he was with Tor. "I don't want to be forced into anything. I have chosen to be her pet. And I would rather have this choice of life rather than forced into being a pawn for my father. For the most part, Tor considers my requests and feelings in an issue. My father never did. She is far kinder. To me."

The other man just nodded. "She does seem to have an affinity for you."

Some miles away, Tor was slipping nose-deep into a tub of steaming water as her clothes were being scrubbed next door. She was down to her last clean set. And her boots were getting pretty rough as well. She would buy a new pair at the general store after her bath and laundry was done. Maybe she would find something for her princeling.

When she and her clothes were clean, she dressed and walked down to the general store. A little smirk curled the corners of her mouth when Idiot followed. That smirk lingered up until he nipped her thigh.

"Ow!" she yelped and turned a baleful eye on her horse. "Seriously, what was that for? Sorry I made you walk but I don't fancy on you breaking something and me having to do all the walking to Settlement!"

The big mustang snorted and flicked his tail, ears swiveled back as if to say 'Your point?'

Tor rolled her eyes and grabbed his reins, having him walk beside her so she could keep an eye on him. When they stopped at the general store, she ground tied him and walked inside. There wasn't much in such a small town, but she was able to get a few necessary things. She packed them away in the saddlebags and mounted.

She rode at a walk, much to her horse's displeasure. It was a solid hour before her little camp came back into sight. When it did, she was equal parts horrified and enraged when she saw another Elder rifling through her tent.

"Hey!" She shouted. "Get away from my things!"

When the person jerked up and backed away, she saw two little legs kicking frantically from his mouth. He slurped them up, swallowed quickly and turned to run for his horse.

A fire burned within her, consumed her and pushed aside all rational thought. She gigged Idiot hard in the sides and crouched low as he thundered towards the man. She felt the impact of Idiot's broad chest colliding with the man who was halfway in the saddle, sending him to the ground. She felt the off beat that resulted from Idiot trampling him.

When his normal gait resumed, she turned her horse around and ran him back over the groaning giant. There was an aguished cry. She stopped Idiot and swung down, stomping over to the man.

"Spit them up," she growled. The thief couldn't speak, only pant and moan in pain. Tor didn't repeat herself. She flipped him over to his stomach and drove the heel of her Palm into the space between his shoulder blades. It only took two such thrusts before the man was vomiting profusely.

The bile splattered everywhere and smelled awful. He continued emptying his stomach as Tor thrust her hand into his back again. She stepped off him and carefully pushed aside the foul liquid around several human shapes. The tiny people coughed and spluttered and picked themselves up. They looked up at her with gratitude as they pulled themselves to their feet and trudged away.

The man finally caught his breath. "You... bitch," he wheezed. "I think you broke my legs!"

Tor rolled her eyes. "You wouldn't be the first. It should learn you not to go rootin' about in other people's things. Most especially mine."

"I didn't know! I thought it was abandoned," he protested.

"Yeah, a fully stocked tent in pristine condition full of humans is abandoned," she sneered. "That tent and everything in it are owned. By me. As repayment for your attempted thievery, I'll take your mare. I need a pack horse. And she'll make a good brood mare." She took the mare's reins and lead her over to her tent.

"You can't take my horse!" He screeched. "You're condemning me to death by leaving me here. I need help!"

She turned a baleful eye on him. "Like you were going to condemning the humans to your gut? Count yourself lucky none of them were my princeling. I would have cut your masculinity just like any other animal I found useless." She didn't look back at him as she tied the mare to a rear D-ring on Idiot's saddle.

Tor crouched and pushed the flaps of her tent aside. Her eyes immediately sought out Eric and a little sigh escaped when she saw he was alright. She turned her attention back to the humans.

"Pack your things. We're leaving." She grabbed her pack and bedroll and left the tent.

The doctor turned to Eric. "I am thankful for Tor's interference. Any time you need medical help, come see me."

"Doctor, that isn't necessary--" the younger man began protesting.

"No. It is. She saved seven of my people, three of which were my children." Tears welled up in his eyes. "I am grateful. I owe her a life debt of innumberable measure."

Eric could do nothing but nod. "I'm going to speak with Tor. Let me know if you need anything." He made his way out of the tent to where Tor was looking over her recent acquisition, the leggy, broad-chested mare of the would-be thief. She was studiously ignoring the man's groans and curses.

He climbed onto her boot and slapped her leg. "Tor!" He called up to her.

She spared him a glance, but only barely. "I know what you're going to ask. But we're doing it my way. I'm not spending over a week with them trudging across the country."

Eric smiled. "And here I was beginning to think you had no heart." He patted her leg and smiled. "By the way, how old are you?"

She shot him an incredulous look. "Don't you know not to ask a woman her age? Especially one whose foot you're sitting on."

He chuckled. "Fair point." A scream from the giant made him wince. "What will you do with him?"

She shrugged. "This road is well enough traveled. Someone should find him within a day or so."

Eric sighed and rested his head against the top of her boot. "Alright. Fair enough. What is your plan for the people?"

"Their wagons I will strap to the saddle. The people can go in his saddlebags. I'll leave his food and water here. That's all he really had. It won't be supremely comfortable. But it will be faster than a week slogging at their pace."

"How much faster?" He asked.

"Two days if we get good ground. Four otherwise,"

"I'll talk to the people. Tell them to arrangements," he said as he slid off her foot.
Chapter 12 by CoalWhite

Eric waved to the people from his vantage point in the saddle, leaning over Tor's thigh in an attempt to see them better. After getting the humans to their new home, Eric had wanted to linger for a day to make sure they were going to be alright. The Elder woman had reluctantly obliged, allowing Eric to help where he could. She smirked in mild amusement when a girl around the same age as Eric caught his eye. The boy tried to be smooth, but was out of his league with this one. The human didn't care about his wealth or nobility status. She didn't care that he wore nice clothes or had soldiers at his beck and call at his father's home. She only cared about personality, and his was apparently lacking in her eyes.

Defeated, he had sulked back to Tor that evening, plopping himself down against her leg. He heaved a big, dramatic sigh, one designed to catch attention and be a conversation starter, and looked up to his guardian. Tor had paid his emotions no mind and simply gave him a bit of the boar's-head-soup she had made. It still awed the little Princeling that the one boar she had killed would feed the human settlement for months and still have enough meat to supply them for the next week-and-a-half until they reached Crockett.

Morning rolled around and Tor announced they were leaving. Eric didn't argue. He went to go see the doctor one last time, was assured of a clean bill of health and given instructions for the soothing gel. Just as he was about to leave, Julia came in, handed him a few petals from a wild flower she had picked, kissed his cheek and darted back out of the tent. Eric grinned and stepped out to go after her, only to be swept up in Tor's hand and hauled into the air as she mounted Idiot. She set him down, expecting him to settle in his spot, only to have him wave down to the human camp. She rolled her eyes.

"You know they probably won't last out here, right?" she told him as they rode off. "I didn't see any travel papers. They're probably in the territory illegally. And even if they somehow did manage to get approval to move out here, that isn't a guarantee they won't be flooded by rains, destroyed by winds or incinerated by wildfires."

"But Elders face those threats, too," he pointed out. "And those are threats they face even in human country."

"One threat they don't face, is the occasional Elder that still likes snacking on humans," she replied.

"That is true." He paused, then spoke again. "You should stay and take care of them."

"Do what? No!" she said quickly. "I have my own issues to take care of. Namely getting my herds back from my brothers. And killing all three of them."

"You know, you say that a lot. Do you really plan to kill them?"

"Get settled. The ground is firm enough for Idiot to run. I need to make up for lost time."

Eric sighed but slid down into his little space. Not a moment too soon. Tor leaned forward, gigged the stud and they rocketed forward. The mare that was ponied behind them quickly picked up her speed as well. They ran for a good portion of the morning with occasional slow downs for the horses to catch their breaths. At noon, they stopped for a brief lunch of jerky and fruit. Eric ate his fill, as always, even when Tor seemed to eat barely any. He liked that she didn't limit how much he was allowed to eat. "My father would only let me have one serving of anything," he said in an off-handed manner. "He said that a prince should be lean, not fat."

Tor snorted and handed him another chunk of jerky. "Well you're father's not here. You don't have to listen to his decrees and edicts."

"Just yours?" Eric teased.

"Exactly," she said with a straight face. When he finished his lunch, he willingly climbed into her hand then into his spot when he was set in the saddle. The heat of the afternoon had him dozing frequently as Tor rode, pushing the horses to faster speeds to make up for lost time. They rode until sunset when Tor stopped to admire the colors painted in the sky.

"Elyse did a wondrous job tonight," she murmured.

"Who's Elyse?" Eric asked as he pulled himself from the saddle and draped himself across her thigh again.

"Elyse the painter. It's an old myth. The story goes that when the world was young, the sunsets were rather bland. So Elyse painted her own imagination of what they could be. The Creator saw this and loved how beautiful they were. So he gave her eternal youth and endless imagination to paint a new sunset each night and a new sunrise each morning," she explained.

"Oh wow. That's cool," Eric said. "We don't have any stories like that. Just that the Creator did it all. The Creator doesn't need any sort of help after all."

"Need and want are two very different things," she told him. "The Creator doesn't need any help, but is not unknown to want something extra."

Eric shrugged. "If you say so." He simply relaxed against her leg and watched the sun descend.

Tor rolled her eyes and urged Idiot off the main road, which was really more of a set of wagon-wheel tracks. Eric continued to lounge as the big horse walked on. They didn't go for much longer before Tor stopped for the night. He stayed in the saddle as she set up camp and built the fire. He gladly stepped into her hand and settled by the fire. She fed the horses, made dinner for them and kept his little plate full of food. Then it was time for bed. He had eaten so much of the stew that he felt like he was going to pop, but he was happy.

It was a little over a week before they reached Crockett. The town wasn't especially large but did happen to boast a mix of human and Elder buildings and communities. "Interesting," Tor murmured. "You don't usually see a place like this so far into the territory." She glanced down at Eric who was once more hung across her thigh, watching everything as it went by.

"But it's really awesome," he said, his voice reflecting his words. "Can I go and explore some of the human places?"

She pursed her lips and thought for a moment. "I suppose. Just don't wander too far off. And return to the inn before dark." She pointed out the inn before reining Idiot to a stop. There was still a bit of hesitation as she scooped Eric up, leaned down and dropped him off in front of the human general store. She dropped a couple of small, copper coins in his hands. "These will buy you a good bit in that store. Get you some new clothes."

Straightening, she urged Idiot down to the livery stable. She groomed him as the mare was fed by a stable hand. The little bit of work and personality assessment Tor had done with the leggy chestnut showed her to be a sweet, mild thing willing to do whatever was asked of her.

"Well," she told the mare even as she picked out branches from Idiot's long tail. "At least you're out of the hands of an ignorant owner." She gave a disapproving look to the mare's uneven hooves. "Those I can take care of tomorrow. And get you shod. Maybe we'll get lucky and find a good blacksmith willing to put up with Idiot so he can finally get some shoes."

Elsewhere, Eric was quite happy to have some spending money. He had bought himself a new set of clothes and was a little unsure how to feel to know the measurements around his waist had increased a couple inches. Had he been lazy? Taking too much advantage of Tor's massive strides to get everywhere instead of walking himself? He knew he wasn't keeping up with his sword play lessons, that was for sure. But, he really didn't need them if he was with Tor. She protected him. He sighed, not certain what was the right thing to think or do. For the moment, he decided to not think. He would deal with all that kinds of thoughts later. He paid for the two new sets of clothes and set of bed clothes, wistfully eyed a set of pistols and their case and left the shop.

Everything promptly went black. He struggled against the cloth sack over his head and the strong arms that hauled him backwards. There was a grunt as someone muttered about a heavy lard-ass. The princeling's ears burned in shame. Fat was never something he wanted to be called or ever thought he would be called. He cried out for Tor before someone punched him in the ribs. His breath left him as he was dragged down the road and thrown into the back of a wagon. When he regained his breath, he immediately began calling out for his guardian. Someone else clipped him on the side of his head with something heavy and he immediately went unconscious.

Tor's curiosity was immediately peaked when a human worker came to the stable for their evening shift and immediately began talking of some kidnapping that had gone on. They described it in lurid detail, right down to the young man's clothing and screams for help. Tor's head snapped to the human and the Elder he was talking to when she heard her name.

"Wat did he call out?" she asked quickly.

"Uh, Tor I think," the human said.

She walked swiftly to where he was standing and loomed over him as she growled out, "Are you sure? He called out for 'Tor?'"

The human gulped and nodded. "Y-yeah. You okay, ma'am?"

"Which way did the wagon go?" she asked.

"Uh, east, like they were headed back towards Verna. Why?"

"Because they just stole my human." She turned on her heel and had Idiot saddled in less than two minutes. Breaking every rule about good horsemanship, she swung into the saddle and rode hard out of the barn and through the town. She was determined to get her princeling back. And make the fools pay for taking him in the first place. He was hers and hers alone. Creator help those that harmed him, because she had a worse fate in store for them than even the Destructor could dream up.

End Notes:

As always, let me know what you think! This one took me the majority of the day to write. And here I thought being laid up with a bum knee would make writing faster. :P

Chapter 13 by CoalWhite

The kidnappers did their best to keep a low profile. They joined a caravan of several human wagons, one Elder one and a healthy mix of both races' animals. Their victim was bound and gagged in the back, hidden beneath blankets, crates and a myriad of other items. He was still unconscious from the blow to his head with the handle of the buggy whip. Four men sat in the back, two rode behind the wagon and two more sat on the front seat. They had traveled a long way to catch the prince. His father was very insistent that he be found. The grizzled looking watch captain rubbed the fresh scars on the side of his face, more brands to show how many strikes he had committed. He had one left before he was sentenced to death.

When he had returned empty-handed, Lord Fletcher had become enraged. Despite being one of his oldest vassals, no mercy was granted to him. He was held down as a red-hot branding iron was pressed into his face. The old man screamed at the pain, writhing and trying to escape. But there was no escape. He was held down without remorse as a second brand was pressed into his face, creating his third strike. The only thing that kept him alive, was that he knew which way the giant woman that had Eric was headed. But returning empty-handed a second time would have spelled his long, drawn out death. It would not be swift and it would not be painless.

He shuddered at the thought of being put to the boats. Banishing such notions, he glanced over his shoulder to check on his men. One flashed him a thumbs-up to indicate their victim was still asleep. The watch captain almost felt sorry for the boy. The woman Lord Fletcher had picked out for him was all the way down at the Bottomless Lake and was, by all accounts, a screeching hen of an old maid. She was twice Eric's age, allegedly covered in unsightly blemishes and did not take care of her personal hygiene. Lord Fletcher had chosen her because of the vast land in her father's name and the location of her manor. Securing a union with her family would secure trading routes and treaties with any products from the Bottomless Lake. A lucrative deal in the greedy lord's eyes.

The old watch captain sighed as the caravan ground to a halt for the night. He would have liked to continue on, but there was safety in numbers. His wagon looked like nearly every other human wagon in the train. It was a plain wooden box on wheels with a white canvas top curving overhead. Most of the other travelers had the same. A few had wagons that looked more like little homes on wheels. Those people grouped together and cavorted the evening away with loud music, dancing and drinking. The younger of the girls in the group were being taught a dance as some of the older women modeled it. The tassels swayed on their skirts as the bells on their ankles and wrists tinkled and chimed. He sighed and turned away from the entrancing sight. There would be time for that after he got the boy home.

He parked the wagon on the outer edges of camp and tethered the horses nearby just in case. There was no telling what would happen during the night. Years of experience had taught him to always have a quick escape ready.

Tor rode Idiot fast and hard, following the wagon tracks. So far, none had broken from the group. She doubted they would. They were going to Verna and ultimately back to her princeling's home in human country. The caravan they were traveling with was headed to Verna as well. The kidnappers would more than likely stick with it in an attempt to keep a low profile and hide among the numerous travelers. But that wouldn't work. She would turn over every wagon in the camp if she had to. Eric was hers and would come back with her.

In the far distant, she spotted the low, orange glow of a fire. She kicked Idiot's sides and was reward with a buck that nearly unseated her. She cursed, spun him in a circle to cool him off before gigging him. Apparently pressure with her heels, gigging, was acceptable to the stud but an all-out kick to his sides with her boots was not. She would remember that for the future. Right now, though, she had her missing princeling to find. If the information didn't pertain to that, she wasn't really interested. She kissed to the powerful stud and leaned low in the saddle, urging him even faster.

The fire grew bigger and brighter until she was on the outskirts of the camp. She pulled Idiot to a stop, leaning back slightly as his hind legs slid in the dirt, creating furrows in the ground. She swung down and stomped up to the camp, violet eyes burning in the light of the fire.

"Where is my princeling?" she growled. The people in the caravan looked between each other, confused. "He was kidnapped from Crockett, jumped outside the human general store and thrown into the back of a wagon." Her gaze roamed the populace, searching for anyone acting suspiciously. "He belongs to me. I want him back."

A swarthy Elder man stepped forward. He was a head-and-a-half taller than Tor and broad through the chest and shoulders. He stopped and offered his hand in greeting. "I am Siris. I lead this caravan. Tell me what you are looking for and I will do my best to oblige you."

Tor clasped her hand around his upper arm as he did the same to her. They shook briefly before releasing each other. "My human pet was kidnapped from the town. The human who witnessed the kidnapping said they left in a wagon headed this direction. No tracks broke from your caravan. It stands to reason that the thieves are still in your midst."

Siris looked very concerned. "This is a grave issue. Almost all of the humans in the caravan are freemen. Those few that are pets are quite happy with their life. To hear of a kidnapping is disturbing." He turned to the gathered people. "Please, fellow travelers, help us find the human." He looked to Tor and waited for a description.

"He's young, perhaps seventeen or eighteen. Paler skin, dark hair, green eyes I believe," she said. "He would be dressed well. He was from nobility before he became my pet."

A few eyebrows went up as well as the low murmur that ran through the crowd. A human prince? Becoming a pet? It was unheard of. But no one dared to question the imposing young woman. They immediately began searching through the camp, searching for any sign of the described human.

Tor forced herself to not kick over wagons and tear tents from the ground in search of her princeling. Her attention was directed to Siris when he spoke. "If you don't mind my asking, how long have you owned this human?"

"Two months, perhaps a little more," she said. "I caught him fleeing his father's men. He wants no part of his father anymore and fled. I found him. He pledged his life to me in exchange for protection from his father's men."

"I see. And is he happy with you?" the man asked seriously.

"He is well cared for. He eats all he wants. He gets my undivided attention. Mostly." She shrugged. "If I'm not working with the horse, that is. He's got no reason not to be happy."

"Uh-huh. Well, let's hope we find him in good spirits and health," Siris said.

"I have first claim to the kidnappers," she said. "I will deal with them my way."

"That is custom," the big man agreed. He stroked his beard in thought. "You know, there is one wagon that joined us late. They are camped on the far edge of the group." He gestured to one wagon at the end of the crowd. None of the men with it were putting in any effort to look for the missing human. In fact, it looked like they were quietly hitching their team and getting ready to leave.

Tor looked their way and scowled darkly. "Him!" she hissed. "The man with the scars on his face. He's who tried to take my princeling from me the first time." She strode through the camp, making use of the cleared center aisle for Elders walking. Siris walked around the other edge of the camp, intending to keep the humans from fleeing.

Tor reached the group first and promptly grabbed up the man with the scarred face. "You! Where is Eric?" Her eyes were torches, searing him to the core.

He gasped and wheezed, hardly able to breathe with the crushing force around his ribs. He pushed at the fingers as he tried to get air. "Puh-puh-please!" he gasped out. "Air!"

Tor scowled and briefly tightened her grip until he was purple. Only the did she ease the pressure to allow the human to catch his breath. "Where is Eric?" Each word was punctuated with a squeeze, indicating just how serious this was to her.

The old watch captain cried out and quickly blurted his answer. "The wagon! He's in the wagon!"

Tor crouched and ripped off the cover of the wagon. She didn't see her human. Only crates and miscellaneous goods. "If you're lying to me, I'll make your death slow and painful."

"I'm not lying!" he screamed through the pain. "Please! He's there. Beneath the cargo!" He cried out when she squeezed again. He felt something burst inside of him and he screamed anew.

Tor huffed and crouched, carefully moving aside the crates and bags of things. There, beneath it all, was her princeling. He looked up to her with hope and tears shining in his eyes. She shoved the broken man into the side of her bra and carefully scooped up her human. She brushed the softest of kisses over him before she sliced through the ties around his hands and feet with her fingernail. He sat up and undid the gag in his mouth before launching himself against her cheek. She could feel how he trembled and seemed to try and melt into her.

"I've got you," she murmured. "It's alright now. You're fine." She gently stroked his back. "You're not going anywhere."

"Th-thank you," Eric stammered. "I thought they had me for good."

"I'm not letting you out of my sight again," she promised. "You're mine. No one else's."

Eric smiled. By this point, he was starting to figure out the meaning behind Tor's words and actions. He sighed and relaxed in her hand. He was lowered down to settle in the broad expansive of cleavage beneath her shirt. He grinned and settled against her sternum, reveling in the powerful beating of her heart. He was safe and in good hands. He could relax now.

When he was settled, Tor looked to Siris who had the remaining humans struggling in his hands. "Follow me. You can put them in my saddlebag. I'll deal with them soon enough." She turned and strode back through the deathly-quiet camp. She stroked Idiot's shoulder, distracting him as Siris dumped the six remaining kidnappers into one of the saddlebags. "You can take their wagon and team. I don't need it. Do with it what you will."

Siris nodded. "I'm sure there are people in the caravan that would appreciate the fine horses the men had." He paused before continuing. "I don't mean to be rude, but how old are you? You don't seem old enough to travel these roads and towns by yourself."

Tor laughed as she swung into the saddle. "Thank you for the compliment. I'm twenty-six. I've been traveling these roads since I was a filly on my pap's knee. I'm more than capable of taking care of myself out here."

The big man smiled and patted Idiot's rump. "I can see that. You're riding quite the fine stallion. Where did you get him?"

"Caught him wild. Broke him myself," she said. "He's still a work in progress, but he's come a long way." She leaned down and patted the big stud's thick neck.

"Will you be keeping him a stud?" He stepped back and appraised the stocky horse. "His conformation is some of the best I've seen in a wild horse."

"Plan to. I've got other business so I can't linger. But I own part of Bar K Ranch. My brand is the K with the T going through the middle. I'll be branding him once I get him home."

"The Bar K? I've heard of it. I guess it's your brothers, then, that produce the finer riding horses," he mused. "But those do me very little good. I need sturdy ones that can pull a wagon and have sure footing in this terrain. My caravan frequently goes through the mountain passes. Thin-legged horses will break something on the first shale slide. But horses with this fine stallion's confirmation will endure anything the Creator's lands can throw."

Tor nodded. "We're en route to sell at the big fair in Settlement. Come see me then and we can talk about buying and stud fees."

Siris smiled and offered his hand. "I will see you there. Until then, safe travels."

Tor clasped his arm in hers and shook it. "Same to you. Safe travels." She wheeled Idiot around and urged him forward. She rode until the fire was a dim glow in the distance. Only then did she stop. One hand delved into her bra and retrieved the wheezing, groaning watch captain. Her eyes narrowed as she glared at him in the light of the moon and stars. "You will pay for trying to steal away my princeling. He belongs to me. Not anyone else. Me and me alone."

The watch captain nodded as he struggled to breathe.

"I would tell you to tell others, but you won't see another day." She ripped off his clothing and dropped them to the ground far below. Without further ado, she popped him into her mouth. She swirled him around, sucking hard on him and lightly chewing on him. When his exhaustion became clear, she tipped her head back and swallowed. She felt him slide down her throat and land in her empty stomach. A little smirk settled on her lips as she leaned back and retrieved two more of the kidnappers. These she didn't even speak to as she tore away their clothes and sucked them in like a pasta noodle. She played with them a little as Idiot walked on, sucking on them, lightly chewing and half-drowning them in her saliva before swallowing.

The next two she stripped and popped into her mouth were toyed with in the same manner. This time, though, she decided to try something a little different. She slid one man's arm between her incisors and bit down hard enough to sever it. She felt the warmth of the blood in her mouth and the metallic taste flow across her tongue. Her face contorted in disgust at the flavor. She quickly swallowed down the two men in her mouth, spat out the severed arm and gagged.

"Ugh. That was disgusting!" She quickly pulled the remaining two from her saddlebag, stripped them and dropped them into her mouth. She sucked hard on them, desperately trying to get rid of the metallic tang of the previous human's blood. After several minutes, the flavor had ebbed and was overshadowed by the flavor of the humans. Satisfied, she swallowed them down. She pulled her canteen out and swallowed down several gulps of water. Several bites of jerky later and she was finally rid of the taste of blood. "Much better," she sighed in relief.

She retrieved Eric from her cleavage and held him up as they rode into town. "Are you alright?" Her eyes scanned his small form that was curled into her hand.

He smiled at her and determined to not mention the bit of blood on her outer lip. "I'm fine. Now. But I was terrified. I thought for sure they were going to haul me back to my father." He shuddered. "Thank you for coming to get me."

Tor ruffled his hair with one finger. "You're my pet. I told you I would take care of you. And I keep my word." She set him down in the saddle and let him relax against her thigh. Idiot walked through the town and back down to the livery stable where his newest mare was. He called to her as they came up on the barn. His ears twitched forward when she called back. He snorted and gave a full-body whinny, shaking his rider slightly with the strength of his call. Once again, the chestnut mare called back to him. He sighed when Tor swung down and led him back to his stall. The mare was back in his sight and he was content for the moment.

When he was settled for the evening, Tor scooped Eric up and held him close as she walked back to the inn. "Come on. I think they still have some supper left. I would like to have an actual filling meal before bed."

Eric nodded up at her. "I'm hungry, too. I haven't eaten since lunch."

"Then we'll have supper," she said as she mounted the steps to the inn.

End Notes:

As always, let me know your thoughts! I love to hear them. They are writing fuel.

Chapter 14 by CoalWhite

Tor woke the next morning and immediately moved to check that Eric was still on the pillow beside her. She was relieved to find his slight weight curled against her collarbone. She sighed softly and gently stroked his back. He was safe. She sat up, cupping him to her upper chest, and leaned against the headboard. They needed to be moving on. With her detour to take care of the humans Eric had befriended, not to mention the delay due to training Idiot, it was highly likely her brothers were already setting up their pens and stalls for the fair. She had her own work to set up. Tor knew they weren't going to set up her pens or show any of her horses. They despised the thought of her doing good in her business.

She huffed and tried to pick out from memory which of her yearlings were ready to be sold. She could immediately recall the two year olds that had been started. It was easy to recall which geldings had the best personality. She hummed under her breath as she thought. She knew the big bay she called Dynamo would be a great work horse. He had a head for cows and was absolutely bomb-proof. There was one point where she had lit a small firecracker and let it explode not too far from the gelding. He didn't even flick an ear. She continued humming as she mused over these things.

Eric stirred at the vibrations beneath him. His eyes fluttered open. Daylight, filtered in through the curtains, greeted him. He moaned softly and snuggled a little further into the warm cloth beneath him. It took him a couple minutes before he realized he was held up to Tor's sleeping shirt by her hand. The material was thin and he could feel the heat of her breast beneath him. He grinned and began stroking his perch.

Tor felt this and rolled her eyes. "Good morning to you, too," she muttered as she pulled him away. "It seems your kidnapping experience didn't dampen your enthusiasm for the woman's figure any."

Eric just grinned. "It wasn't women who kidnapped me."

His guardian snorted. "Pity. Why did I retrieve you, again?"

The princeling looked a little crestfallen at that. "Because I'm yours?" he tried.

"Right, right." She slid from bed and set him back on her pillow before stretching. She knew Eric was eyeing the way her breasts made the chemise ride up and her nipples poked through the thin fabric. But, she let him ogle. Looking was fine as long as he didn't dare to touch without permission.

The young man, who was still very much a boy in some ways, let his eyes roam her form. He gulped as he felt an increased tightening in his pants. By the Creator she was a beautiful woman. He didn't take his eyes off her, even as she seemed to sashay to the other side of the small-to-her-room and slip behind the changing screen. She tossed her nightclothes over the screen and the boy so desperately wished to be a fly on the wall on the other side of that screen. When Tor came back out a minute later, fully dressed in her jeans, button-up shirt and boots, Eric sighed.

Tor looked him over and arched a brow. "Aren't you going to dress? I figured you would be ready for breakfast."

"I am!" he protested.

"So you want to go to breakfast in your night-shirt? Odd. But if you want." She reached down to scoop him into her hand.

"Hey hey hey!" he protested, backing up. "I'm going to change. I'll change right now!"

Tor smirked and brought her hand back. "Alright. I'll give you a couple minutes while I pack our things." She set his bag down in front of him. Once he began changing, she packed up what little she owned. It was simply a matter of rolling up her night clothes and slipping them into one of the saddlebags. She ran the brush through her tangled mop of auburn hair before tying it back in a ponytail. Satisfied, she stashed it back in the saddlebag and turned to her human charge. Pet.

"Ready?" she asked. Eric was on his rear, struggling just a bit with getting his boots on over his breeches legs. Her keen eyes noticed that he was having less of a struggle now than when she first got him back from the previous doctor. At this point, she was glad that she had not left that other human doctor to his own devices. And that she had saved some of his people, however inadvertently it may have been. Now she had a boon to hold over his head whenever Eric needed to see a human doctor. She briefly mused about taking them with her once she joined back up with her brothers. But then decided against it. Her brothers' posse would do irreparable harm to the gentle humans and would destroy any boon she had over the doctor.

Eric finally got the boot over his heel and sighed as he flopped backwards. He looked up to Tor and grin. "I am. Thank you for your patience." He rolled to his hands and knees and pushed himself to his feet, wobbling unsteadily. He lost his balance and tumbled backwards, right into Tor's palm.

She smirked as she lifted him up. "Careful, Gimp. I don't want to have to backtrack to the doctor just so he can fix you all over again." She swung her pack onto her shoulder and headed downstairs for breakfast.

The three days between towns were monotonous. To a T Eric felt. He slept most of the time they were riding and pestered Tor for stories and legends from the Elder race in the evenings. She would grudgingly oblige with one that seemed relevant and he would listen, absolutely enraptured. When she finished, he would trade a human story with her. She only seemed half-aware of them.

Tor looked down at Eric when they reached the outskirts of Riverton. "I'm going to buy you a firearm. You need one for self-defense."

Eric looked up at her from where he had draped himself across her thigh. "I do not!" he protested. "I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself."

"That's the opposite of what your recent track-record shows."

"They jumped me! It wasn't a fair fight."

"Uh-huh." She turned Idiot down the main road and glanced back at the mare who was plodding along without a care in the world. Her violet eyes turned back to her human. "It would have been more fair if you had a pistol to grab and shoot someone with."

He frowned. "Not if my hands were bound."

"Depends on where and how they are bound. You quite possibly still could."

He grumbled. "I don't need one."

"You're getting one. That's final."

The princeling heaved a long-suffering sigh. There was little use in arguing. She had a point. He just didn't like the thought of shooting someone. They rode through the town until they came upon a small shop. Various odds and ends were displayed in the window. The symbol hanging above the door explained the nature of the store.

"A pawn shop?" he asked. "Why are we buying me a firearm at a pawn shop? And I'm still not convinced I need one! It's not like it would do any good against your brothers."

"But it will against their humans," she pointed out.

"They have pet humans, too?" He glanced up at her with a confused expression. "But, shouldn't they, you know, be more welcoming towards me?"

"No. You are a completely different class of human from them." She dismounted and quickly caught him when he stumbled forward off the saddle.

"That didn't stop my peaceful and pleasant interactions with the people we helped," he pointed out.

"The humans my brothers keep are criminals." She lifted him up to her eye-level and watched his face as she spoke. "When we swing down below the Channel they ride into human territory and raid the jails and prisons. They dump the humans in their saddlebags and ride back."

"But, I thought your brothers didn't like humans?"

"They don't. They keep the humans around for their amusement. Or for seasoning the stew-pot." She watched as Eric blanched. "You will be off limits to them. But I cannot be everywhere at once and there will be times you cannot come with me. So you will need to protect yourself. Thus, the firearms."

He slowly nodded. "Alright. I understand." He hugged her thumb.

Tor rolled her eyes and placed the briefest of kisses to the top of his head. "You'll be fine. One way or another. I promise. Now, you need to stay out of sight. This broker is less than loving towards humans."

She unbuttoned the first few buttons of her shirt, revealing her slightly larger than average breasts supported by the top half of a split brassiere. One quick glance downward revealed that she wasn't wearing the bottom half of the corset. He wondered if she wore anything beneath her pants. His train of thought was broken when she lowered him towards her cleavage. He was slipped between the twin mountains and situated against her sternum. He smiled and reveled in the thunder of her heartbeat. Light became shadowed as her fingers deftly buttoned up the shirt.

Tor made sure the mare's reins were secured to the D-ring and Idiot was ground-tied before turning and walking inside the shop. Some of the items that greeted her eyes were rather macabre, even to her. There were a few stuffed humans, forever frozen into different positions. One was running and his face was contorted with fear, glass marble eyes seeming to show his desperation. There was a cowering female and another male with a spear in hand as if he were about to throw it. She made a face at them and turned away in disgust.

She made her way to the front counter and caught the attention of the girl working there. "Is Henry in? I'm an old friend of his."

The young woman smiled as she turned towards the back. "Mr. Hunter!" she called at the top of her lungs, "you've got company!"

Tor winced just a bit at the girl's volume. She wondered if she was going to have permanent ear damage from spending time in the shrieking harpy's company. A moment later, an older man pushed aside the swinging door that led to the back. His slightly balding head boasted a poor comb-over and his thick glasses reflected the afternoon sun that shone through the windows in dusty rays. His belly hung over his pants, pulling the leather work-apron taught around his midsection. The faded blue shirt he wore was stained, giving him an overall unwashed appearance. His teeth were straight but yellowed when she smiled in greeting.

"May I hel—" he cut himself off when he realized to whom he was speaking. His once-friendly smile shifted to a nervous one. He knew this woman. And her brothers. "May I help you?" he finished his original sentence. "Evelyn, go ahead and take your lunch."

The perky young employee bounced away with a chirped "Okay!"

Tor watched her leave before turning back to Henry. "I want to see your collection."

The fat man frowned up at the slightly taller woman. "I have no idea what you mean. Everything I have for sale is on display."

She leaned across the counter, shadowing him as she spoke. "Don't play dumb. I happen to know a bounty hunter or two is after you. And if there isn't, I've got friends in the sheriff's office, as well."

His frown shifted into a scowl. "You are a despicable woman! A disgrace to your gender. Why can't you be more feminine and delightful like Evelyn? She wears skirts and dresses, like a lady. She doesn't threaten people."

Tor grinned, bearing her teeth. "Being a lady isn't fun. Being a woman in a man's world is. Now show me your collection."

"Fine!" he groused. "But you had better have payment this time! No more credit for you until you pay off what you owe."

"Of course, Henry," Tor said as she lifted up the divider and walked to the back room.

Henry nervously glanced around and followed her. The room was small and windowless. The main light came from a series of candle sconces arrayed on the walls around the room. There were cabinets all along the top half of the walls and drawers along the bottom. There were no glass displays in this room and everything was accessed by a key. The walls were a stark white. A hand lantern sat on a pony wall that stretched halfway across the room to display merchandise.

Tor faced the shop owner once more. "Let's see what you've got. And none of the cheap stuff that will break after just one use."

The heavy man grumbled and stepped over to the closest cabinet. He unlocked the door and quickly brought out several large trays worth of human weaponry, placing them with care on the pony wall. Everything the store out front held for Elders was boasted in human size on the cushioned velvet. Small pistols with silver inlay, old rifles with wooden stocks, an array of bows with aboriginal design. There was nothing that couldn't be found here. The young woman looked over everything, fingering the pistols and eyeing the older rifles.

"Listen and listen good, Henry. What I'm going to take out you may not touch, breathe on or even look sideways at. If you say anything to anyone, I won't hesitate in turning you over to the township's authority. Got it?" Her cold violet eyes watched carefully as the man nodded. "Good."

She straightened and undid the first few buttons on her top. The Elder man spluttered and gasped but didn't really protest when her breasts were revealed. He was confused, though, when he saw what appeared to be the top half of a human sticking out of her cleavage. Her long, calloused fingers slipped between her breasts and parted them, wrapping around the human. She carefully lifted him free and brought him into the artificial light of the backroom. She set him down on the counter. Her hands rested on either side of him and ready to move at a moment's notice.

Henry's brown eyes widened incredulously at the little human his best, worst, customer produced. It was a young male, dressed in fine clothing that was rumpled from his time between Tor's breasts. The way the human held himself, sharp green eyes looking down his long nose, broad shoulders back and chest out, spoke of high breeding. The Elder man's hands itched to pick up the little creature, to examine it and make molds from it for display. Or even sell the male itself. No doubt it would fetch a great price at the auctions.

As if sensing his thoughts, Tor scowled and barked at the shopkeeper. "Henry! Eyes on me."

The old man snapped his attention from the human to the Elder woman and feigned an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry. I just never thought that you of all people would start collecting humans. Much less those of breeding stock." He gulped and decided not to say anything more on that line of thought when her eyes narrowed dangerously and her hands clenched into fists.

"Princeling, is there anything you like? Feel free to pick things up and actually handle them," Tor said, keeping her eyes on Henry at all times.

Eric nodded, quietly walking over to the comparatively massive trays of weapons. His eyes traveled across all items and wondered just how much things like these cost. If he had his father's name here in these lands, he could get anything he wanted and the bill would be sent to the manor. But here, he had nothing to him. Except Tor. He looked up at his protector, hovering over him and staring down the portly shopkeeper. A little smile curled the corners of his lips. He had Tor and, out here, that was all he really needed.

He turned his attention back to the tray and gave it another look. His green eyes fell on a pair of matching pistols. A low whistle left his mouth at the quality of the firearm. They were .45 caliber rifled pieces, stocked up in deep walnut and fitted up with satin finished engraved brass furniture.

"Beautiful," he breathed in awe. Gently, almost reverently, he picked one up, testing its weight and balance. He knew right away he was in love. He put the pistol back on its cushion, picking up its sister and performing the same tests he did with the first one.

"Are those the ones you want?" Eric glanced up when Tor's voice rang out above him. She watched him for a moment before turning her gaze back to Henry smiling pleasantly. "How much for the matching pair?"

"Just a moment." He bent down beneath the counter, rummaging in the cabinets until he found what he was looking for. With a groan and a grunt of effort, he pulled out a thick binder and let it plop down on the opposite end of the counter.

Eric stumbled at the shockwave. He tried to catch his footing but failed and resulted in a hard landing. He winced and rubbed his sore tailbone. That was rougher than Idiot's trotting. He sent a glare Tor's way when he saw her smirk.

Henry turned the tray around, a pair of padded tweezers in hand and a magnifying lens flipped down over his right eye. Slowly, he picked up one of the matching pistols and examined it.

"Matching set of 'C-D' pistols, teardrop lock panels and nicely figured deep walnut, delicate profile and cannon-muzzle barrels. Entire pistol length is only twelve inches, barrels only seven-and-one-quarter inches," he thought aloud, reciting what his book told him about the human pistols. "Human inches, that is."

Tor narrowed her eyes. She wasn't interested in the specifics. "So, what's the price?"

The store owner turned to the thick binder, running his finger down the page until he found his answer. "Three-thousand, two hundred dollars. Without the custom case, that is," the old man said as he put the gun back in its spot. He took off the magnifying lens and replaced the tweezers in the drawer.

Eric blanched. Even if he were at home, that was a lot of money. "Tor, you don't have to do that. It's far too expensive!"

"And with the custom case?" She spoke as if he had never spoken. Eric hated it when she did that. To him, it seemed like a blatant reminder that she ultimately wasn't his friend, but his owner.

"Thirty-five," Henry replied evenly.

"Deal." She worked the wallet from her back jeans pocket, produced thirty-five rifts and handed them over to the old shopkeeper. The man's eyes lit up in delight as he counted and recounted the money. Opening a small compartment on the back of the tray, he pulled out the custom case for the pair of pistols and set it before Eric.

The human reached for the guns only to stop at Tor's voice. "Henry, can you do a favor for an old friend?" She smiled pleasantly, a very alarming thing to both men.

Henry eyed her warily. "What is it you want?"

"Just a simple little thing. On the engraving plates could you put a name for me?"

"I suppose. What do you want?"

"Just his name. 'Princeling.'" Tor picked Eric back up, slid him back into her cleavage and buttoned her shirt. She took the piece of paper Henry slid across the counter and spelled out the name. Below that, she signed her name, put the date and handed the notice of payment back to the old man.

"Alright. I'll get right on it. If you come back in a few hours, it'll be done." He filed away the piece of paper before putting everything but the two guns and their custom case away.

Tor unlocked the door and stepped into the bright, natural light of the front shop. She smiled a bit, loving the feel of the warm sun. The soft din of the customers, dings of the registers and laughter of the children outside the window rang in her ears as she wove through the crowd. Outside, her stallion stood right where she had left him, resting on one hind leg while his ears were relaxed. She picked up the reins and praised him softly as she lifted them over his head. The horse nudged her once then sighed, completely at ease.

She swung into the saddle and urged the stud forward. There were a few more things to take care of in this town before she moved on. Not the least of which was finding out when the next ferry would cross the Channel. If one wasn't crossing soon, she would have to have Idiot and the mare swim across. Which would not be easy. She pursed her lips as she walked her horses down to the livery stable.

End Notes:

Chapter 14 is here! Sorry for the late update. I've been grading papers all weekend. And I'm still not done. Ugh. End of the six weeks always sucks. Next weekend, and possibly the weekend after, there won't be an update. I'll be out of town. I'm going to try and update during the week to make up for that. We'll just have to see. Anywho, read and review!

Also, human currency and Elder currency are vastly different in value. For fairly obvious reasons. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Chapter 15 by CoalWhite
Author's Notes:

Don't forget that I have a dA account! With the rumors of this site not renewing its domain, I just wanted to let y'all know. My dA name is the same as this one, here, and includes many other GTS stories as well. Although none with a guarantee of completion. ;)

 

Tor dropped the stud and mare in a small paddock and locked their tack in one of the closets offered for that reason. She made her way through the town, stopping to get a soft, salted pretzel from one of the street vendors. She pulled it apart instead of biting it, popping the chunks into her mouth. At one point, a small piece fell down into her shirt. She laughed and looked down at Eric.

"Enjoy the snack," she teased.

Eric yelped and was lucky the piece fell in front of him. Although, the "small piece" to her was nearly the size of his head. He glared up at her as best he could. "My deepest gratitude," he drolled.

"Don't waste it. Keep some for later because I'm not stopping for food mid-travel."

The princeling grumbled and made a face. He didn't fully believe Tor anymore when she threatened to not stop to feed him. He had gotten bolder about asking or telling her when he was hungry and even if she fussed about it, she still fed him. And he wasn't fed in scraps, either, but portions enough to stuff him. Even so, he made sure to keep some of the soft pretzel for later. He relaxed against her left breast, pillowing his head on the supple flesh. The rhythm of her heart was incredibly soothing.

He was only half-awake when she stepped up, walked out of the sun and into the shade. By the sound of a door opening and closing, he assumed she went inside some building. The princeling was correct. Tor walked into the small shop for ferry tickets and schedules. She appraised the times posted on the wall and found one was to leave tomorrow at noon.

"Good," she murmured. "I was not looking forward to having to swim."

"Swim? The Channel?" a man's voice echoed behind her. "My, you sure are a brash one. I think brash could be your middle name."

Tor glanced over her shoulder, sending the man an icy look. He was tall, at least as tall as Jason at 6'2". He boasted a tan, green eyes and a grin that apparently came easily. The dark hat only showed hints of a brown mop beneath. "I don't know who you are or what you think my name is, but you can go sit on the pointed end of a pitchfork for all I care."

The man just laughed. "The pointed end? So you're that kind of woman. Sounds like fun. When's the date?" His grin broadened as he noticed the tips of her ears turning red.

Tor glared and brushed past the taller man. "Go take a long walk off a short cliff."

"It just so happens my brother Cliff is a short fellow. He's rather testy about it so we don't point it out too much. Me, though, I'm Bret." He tipped his hat as she claimed her spot in the ticket line. Bret smiled when she purchased a ticket for the noon ferry crossing. "Seems like we'll be headed the same way. Maybe we can have good traveling companionship."

"I don't travel with strangers," she said. "And I don't seek companionship. Leave me be."

The man chuckled as she walked out of the ferry shop. "If you want."

Tor rolled her eyes and grumbled something about stupid men. When she was back outside, she glanced down at the human tucked into her cleavage. "Despite the snack, I'm hungry. I'm going to find a place to eat. You just content yourself until the food arrives."

Eric nodded. "Alright. But who was that in there? Back in the building?"

The Elder woman shrugged. "I don't know and I don't care. Not my monkey; not my circus."

The princeling grinned. "If you say so. But lunch does sound good."

Tor made her way through the streets of the comparative metropolis of Riverton. The town was busy and lively, a far cry from the sleepy Verna. She found a small restaurant that served river-creature cuisine. She took a seat at one of the outdoor tables and looked for a waiter. A young man quickly approached and smiled at her. He was handsome in his own, youthful way. He was too young for her tastes but in a few years, he would definitely be someone women sought for a roll in the hay.

"What are your specials today?" Tor asked.

"Well, it's mud-bug season," the waiter replied. "We have them boiled, grilled, stewed and in a rice-casserole and in soup."

"Tell me about the mud-bug rice casserole." She unbuttoned her shirt and retrieved Eric from her cleavage. She smirked a little when she noticed his clothes were damp and his hair askew.

The young waiter had to snap himself out of staring at the exposed breasts. He immediately diverted his eyes back to hers, relieved when she seemed to not have noticed. "The mud-bugs are shelled and their meat is sauteed and then mixed in with cooked and spiced rice. Some vegetables are added for color and a little flavor. It's then baked in the oven for a few minutes. Just long enough to set it all together and get the flavors nice and mixed. It's served with a side of seasoned bread and buttered crackers."

"That sounds great. I'll have that and some coffee." She glanced at Eric. "And a small water. For my pet."

"Friend!" Eric called up.

Tor ignored him. "Do you still serve the complimentary bread basket?" she asked the waiter.

"We do. I'll bring it out shortly." He nodded and left to get the complimentary bread.

After lunch, Tor checked into an inn and delighted in a bath. She sank to her nose in the large tub as Eric swam around, exploring her face in detail. Then he dove below the surface and disappeared for a bit. Tor didn't move. She simply relaxed in the warm water. A little smirk curled her lips when she felt tiny little hands exploring her skin. Her princeling would come up for air, rest a bit and dive back down. Feather-light touches trailed down her body until they reached the patch of hair between her legs.

Tor reached down and carefully wrapped her fingers around him, bringing him back to the surface. She clucked her tongue and arched a brow. "That's off limits to humans. Explore my legs and other places all you want. But not there. Understood?"

Eric nodded, looking a little ashamed. "Yeah. Understood." He gripped the fingers around him when she shifted and raised herself above the water. He was lowered to her warm, wet shoulder where he promptly curled against her neck.

He smiled and reclined against the warm skin. Sometimes, he thought he may be falling in love with Tor. There were definitely the times when he got aroused by her body, such as right now. He was still recovering from the orgasm he had achieved earlier. And despite her tough exterior, she did seem to have a soft spot for him. She had saved him twice now from his father's men, once from some random Elder and then kept him safe when the pawn shop owner eyed him like a piece of candy. He sighed softly and pressed a quick little kiss to the side of her neck.

Tor arched a brow and tried to see her pet from the corner of her eye. "What in the world was that for?"

Eric blushed a little and shrugged. "I dunno. It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Tor rolled her eyes. "Whatever you say. How are your legs feeling?"

"Good," he said. "They're still a little stiff in the morning. But once I get going, they don't really bother me anymore."

"I'm glad to hear that. I didn't fancy backtracking to get that human doctor."

Eric smiled, touched she had considered it nonetheless. "No. That's not necessary. Thank you, though." He relaxed into her for the remaining time in the bath. Once he was scrubbed and cleaned up, he was put on the bed to dry off and dress. Although he kept stealing glances at Tor as she bathed.

Just before she got out of the tub, she leaned back and flipped the edge of the blanket over him. He yelped and struggled to get out from under it. Tor rose from the tub and walked behind the screen to get dressed. By the time she was finished, Eric had managed to struggle his way out from under the blanket. He cast the massive woman a dirty look when she grinned down at him.

Supper came and went, Tor saw to her horses and she and Eric wound down trading myths. It was mostly Tor talking, since Eric wasn't aware of very many human myths. He was raised on the puritanical beliefs of the Creator's Faith, with little to no other myths to give color and variety to the belief system. Tor was raised on campfire stories, constellation myths and a detailed recounting of every major event in history. She had plenty of material to regale her pet with. Sleep claimed the human before Tor let go of her tenuous hold of consciousness.

She woke the next morning and dressed for breakfast. Eric was still asleep so she let him be as she slipped from the room. She made sure the door was locked as she headed down to the stables. She saw to her horses and paid their fee for the overnight stay. She made it back to the inn just in time for breakfast. She claimed a table, ate her fill and wrapped up some of Eric's favorites in a napkin. When she went back to her room, she was a bit surprised to see her little princeling halfway down the bedspread to the floor.

"Going somewhere?" she asked dryly.

He looked up with hope and relief shining in his eyes. "You came back!"

She arched a brow at that. "Of course. My things are still here."

"But I woke up and you were gone! I thought that... that..."

"That I left you?" she finished. She rolled her eyes when he nodded. It was just a few strides and she was at the bed and scooping him into her hand. "Stupid boy. I'm not going to just leave you behind." She set him on the dresser top along with the food. "I'll pour you some water when you want it. Meantime, I'm going to pack. Much as I would rather find land or a shallow space to wade or swim across, we have to take the ferry."

"Why would you want to swim when there's a ferry?" he asked, confused.

"I hate boats," she said, a touch of hesitation in her voice. "Despise them."

"Boats aren't so bad," Eric said. "They're faster than travel by horse. Or even wagon."

"Yeah but not as safe." She pushed her hair behind her ear. "Eat. We need to leave soon. Loading for the ferry starts soon. I have to be there early to load the horses."

"If you say so." He set about scarfing down the breakfast that was still warm to him.

When he was full, he adjusted his cloak and sat with his legs dangling off the dresser. Tor let him slide into her hand before lifting him to her shoulder. He relaxed against her neck as she walked, his heels hooked into her collarbone. He held on as she made her way down the stairs, paid the bill and all but marched down to the livery stable. She saddled Idiot and the mare and led them to the docks. She handed the mare to one of the men who led the obliging horse down to the lower decks.

Idiot, however, balked at being led down the gangplank. He backed up quickly and Tor followed. She let the reins slacken to ease his mind and not fight the two-thousand-plus-pound creature. She brought his head back down and spoke softly. "Easy," she cooed. "Easy, big boy. C'mon. You can't ride on deck. I already asked about that." She quickly slipped Eric into her shirt to keep him safe.

When he was calmed, she tried again. The big stallion got one hoof on the gangplank and immediately shied away. He jumped to the left and snorted. Tor brought his head down and walked him in circles to let him relax. She brought him to the plank, showed him it was safe and tried to get him to follow her. Idiot half-reared and backed up again. The gangplank was danger, he decided. It was scary and danger and out to get him. At that point, he refused to go any further.

"Ya know," drawled a vaguely familiar voice. Tor groaned. Not him. "That big Mustang of yours is too wild to know what to do with a ferry, much less a gangplank. It would take more time than you have right now to get him used to it and make him safely walk down that bridge. Mind if I help?" Bret smiled as he walked up beside her.

"I've got it," she growled. But Idiot refused to budge. He had his hooves planted and was not going to move. "Come on. Let's go." She tapped the back of his hoof but that didn't do anything but make him stomp the foot, nearly catching hers. She sighed and dropped her forehead to the side of his neck.

"Now there's no shame in accepting help when you need it," the taller man chuckled. "No one's gonna judge you. Hell, you've been riding that horse for quite some time. If anyone says anything, I'll bet they'll praise you and all you've done so far." He reached out to pat Idiot's neck only to have the horse pin his hears and roll his eyes backwards. The man took the warning and quickly retracted his hand. "Although his socialization could do with some work."

"I like him this way. It guarantees that no one is going to jump on and ride him." She gave him a look. "Get on with your suggestion."

"Simple. He can't balk at what he doesn't see." Bret grinned and offered a shirt. "Tie this around his eyes, turn him around and walk him down the plank. Give him a minute to find his footing, but he should do just what you ask afterwards."

Tor eyed the shirt like it was alive and about to bite her. She grudgingly took the shirt, let the stallion sniff it before tying it over his face and blocking his vision. She cooed to him and spoke sweetly as she stroked his velvety nose. "Good boy. Now let's do this. One more time. Get down the plank and you can rest for the day." She turned him around and led him to the plank. When they reached the walk, she let him touch it before leading him onward. When he was below deck and in his small stall, she removed the impromptu blindfold. "See? That wasn't so bad." She kissed his cheek and made sure he had plenty of water.

Satisfied, she walked back up to the surface and handed back the shirt. Bret grinned. "You're welcome."

Tor snorted. "I didn't say thank you."

"No. But I could see it in your eyes." He chuckled when her ears turned as red as her hair and the color began creeping up her cheeks. "Calm down before you burst a blood vessel. It wouldn't do any good to have an ownerless, half-wild stallion on board."

Tor glared daggers at him and kept walking. She paused at the gangway that lead to the deck of the ferry. The boat itself was massive to her eyes. Of course, it would still take a day to cross the Channel. It would have taken at least that long swimming on horseback. She would have to have purchased a sandbar chart and plotted courses from sandbar to sandbar. This part of the river was fairly calm, but had a deadly undercurrent if a swimmer wasn't careful. She could have also gone up-river about four hours and taken about that long to swim across or traveled four days to the east and forded the river fairly easily. But she didn't want to lose anymore time than she already had. So, the ferry it was.

She took a moment to gather herself before stepping onto the wood. Her hands wrapped around the rope railing and she slowly walked up to the deck of the ship. Stepping onto made her legs feel like new-foal-jelly-legs. She quickly made her way across the deck, into the housing entry and down to her berth. She dropped her pack and flopped backwards hard onto the narrow twin bed. She groaned and tossed one arm across her face.

This sucked.

An hour or so later, the door opened and Tor lifted her arm just enough to see that it was a portly woman. She dropped her arm back down and sighed. Her face pinched into an annoyed frown when the woman lit the wall lanterns and pulled the curtain from the porthole window.

"Did you have to flood the room with light?" she groused.

"Why of course, dea-uh!" The woman's voice dripped with a sugary sweetness. It made Tor's skin crawl. "Brightenin' up the room just makes the trip so much mo' comf't'ble. Donchu agree?" The northern schwa was heavy in her accent. "I mean, howa on ea'th could yu poss'bly travel by river-ferry and not brighten up your room?"

"Easy, avoid ferries and travel by them," Tor huffed.

"Oh nonsense! The ferry boats are absolutely de-vine! Why, they are so comf't'ble and fast. And the big ones have gaming dex." She chortled with glee. "I do love me a good game of black-jack."

Tor grunted. "Good for you." She peeked out at the woman, wanting to get a better look at her berth-mate. The woman was quite large but it was all softness and motherly curves. She had bosoms that made Tor's above-average breasts look like pimples and a butt that could probably consume a chair. Her big stomach pulled tight the front of her dress and her thighs strained the fabric that wrapped around them. Tor knew men's gazes would inexorably be drawn to the vast amount of cleavage on display.

She rolled her eyes and glanced down at her own breasts when Eric finally worked himself free from her cleavage and stood up. He glanced around and, just as Tor predicted, was struck dumb by the massive breasts on display. He stared at them for a full minute before turning red and finally looking away when the rotund woman acknowledged him with a wave and a wink.

"Oh-ho-ho!" she said as she leaned down, her breasts pushing forwards in the dress. "It appea's that someone has a pet human. And such a cute little fella!" She smooched at him. "You are such a da'ling. Auntie June could jus' eatchu all up." Her tongue darted out and slid across her lips. "But you are not mine, so I won'."

Tor eyed the woman suspiciously but didn't interrupt the conversation. As long as the woman didn't reach out for Eric, talking was fine. She sighed and Eric stumbled slightly. Eric glared at her but didn't say a word. June chuckled and smiled. Eric noticed she was pretty, in a motherly sort of way. She had curves that threatened to burst from her clothes but that the fact that Eric could literally get lost in them, never to be seen again, didn't bother him in the least. In fact, it seemed as if it was a turn on.

June smiled. "Cat got yo' tongue? Well tha's jus' fine. I can start. My name is June. But you can call me Auntie. Or Auntie June."

Eric gulped. "H-hi, um, Auntie June. I'm Eric. This is Tor." He gestured weakly to the Elder he was standing on.

"Well hello, Eric and Tor. It is a pleazuh to meet you two. We will be berth buddies for the nex' day. How about we go get lunch once the ferry's undaway?"

Tor shrugged. "Maybe."

"Oh I insist!" She sat down on her berth, directly across from Tor's, and ignored the way it groaned in protest. "They serve some grea' food. And it's all fresh-caught. You'll love it."

"We'll see."

June laid on her back and rolled to her side. The ferry trembled slightly and Tor wondered whether it was starting to leave the shore or whether it was the woman's movements causing it.

"Anyway, lunch won't be served for another hour or mo'. So we have plenty of time to wait." She smiled. "And get to know each otha!"

"Yay." Tor huffed. "I need sleep. Don't bother me." She dropped Eric on the bed between her and the wall before turning to face away from the older woman. She heaved a deep sigh, closed her eyes and tried to sleep.

End Notes:

Yay people that piss Tor off that she can't eat! And I actually got around to an update this week! Next one wll probably be next Saturday afternoon/evening. Tor isn't pleased with me, but she's making great story material right now. Haha As always, let me know what you think. Reviews/comments are fuel.

Chapter 16 by CoalWhite

I know it's beeTor grunted, rather irritated. Auntie June had managed to annoy her enough in their short time together to convince her to go to the upper decks. The young woman felt vaguely like a prized mare being paraded through the fair and shown to potential buyers and breeders. Except right now she was on the back end of the ship's uppermost deck, too close to the railing for her own comfort. June was dragging her around, introducing her to men that were close to her age and speaking so highly of "her niece." The man she was currently being introduced to was maybe two or three years older than her, a head-and-a-half shorter--eye level with the middle of her breasts--and heavy in the belly. The way he was eyeing Eric disgusted her.

"Tor is a hoss trainuh and breeduh," June prattled on with the little tidbits of information she had been able to glean. "She's on her wayuh to Settlement right now for the big fayuh."

"How interesting," the man nodded but he wasn't really looking at Tor. "And what about your human? Do you breed him, too?"

"No," Tor said curtly.

"Have you ever rented him out? He could bring in a tidy little sum each time." The man licked his lips.

Tor stepped forward and ground her heel into his toes. "No. Leave me alone."

The man yelped and stumbled backwards. He glared and adjusted his glasses. "You're no lady! I don't know why Auntie is trying to parade you around as one." He spat at her feet.

Tor kicked him in the back of his knees. "I don't like being a lady. Being a woman in a man's world is so much more fun. Now fuck off."

Auntie June t'sked as the man pulled himself to his feet and hightailed it. "Deary, he was puh'fect for you. Why on ea'th wou'yu run him off?"

"Because," Tor groused. "I don't want to have a man. I don't need a man." A low chuckle behind her made her stiffen. Creator, no. Not him. Her vivid purple eyes slid to the side as Bret walked up next to her. "What do you want?"

The tall man just smiled. "I don' want nothin', really. Just a few minutes in some pleasant company is all." He tipped his hat to both women. "Afternoon. How are you, Auntie June?"

June smiled as Tor glared at them both. "Tell me, Auntie June, just how does every single man on this Creator-forsaken boat know you?"

The older woman laughed. "Why, dahlin, I make shuh to greet each and ev'ry man. I have lotsa pretty youn' ladies in my fam'ly. So I take it upon myself to make shuh that I find them a good husban'."

Tor rolled her eyes. "Of course you do," she sniped. "Because a woman can't function without one."

June's gaze sharpened. "Now you listen and you listen good. Jus' because I do my damnedest to see my pretty girls set up with good, wealthy men does not mean I see them raised to be delicate, shrinkin' violets. They can handle their own but they do enjoy a man takin' care of the little things so they are free to do what please their notions. Now, unless you have anythin' else to add, I think I will take my leave for--"

She wasn't able to finish as the boat lurched and Tor stumbled forward into her. Neither woman immediately noticed Eric slip from Tor's shoulder and into the massive amounts of Auntie June's cleavage. He sank into the breasts like quicksand and was quickly submerged in the flesh. Tor straightened herself and had opened her mouth to ask if Eric was alright when another lurch sent her over the railing. She didn't have time to scream before she was in the water. When she remembered to breathe, she took in water instead of oxygen.

Panic quickly set in as her body's natural buoyancy brought her up to the surface. Her head broke through the waves and she hacked up water and inhaled precious air before the weight of her clothes and the current dragged her back under. She kicked her feet wildly and attempted to push the water away so she could get back to surface she could see through the murky water. She just managed to push her face up and take another breath of sweet air before she was driven under again.

Bret watched in mild amusement as Tor went overboard. He figured she would pop back up and climb up the side of the boat looking like a wet cat. When she didn't immediately break the surface, he became slightly concerned. That ebbed somewhat as her head broke the top of the water and she managed a breath only to grow exponentially when she sank back under.

"Can she not swim?" he asked Auntie June.

The older woman shrugged. "I only met her today. I don' know about her swimmin' prowess."

Bret cursed when Tor floundered to the surface and promptly sank once more. He tossed his hat to the deck, dropped his coat and peeled off his boots before pulling himself onto the railing and diving into the river. He powered through the water towards the drowning woman. He wrapped an arm around her and kicked to the surface, pulling her along with him. When the muggy river-air hit his face, he felt Tor's fingers dig into his shoulders and the back of his neck.

"Dammit, woman!" he cursed when she tried to push him under in her desperate attempts to stay above water. He peeled her off and briefly submerged her until she quit struggling so much Then he pulled her back up and looked her in the eye as she coughed up river water. "Calm down. I've got you. Just hang on and I'll get us to the sandbar." The tall man kept one arm wrapped around her waist as he used his free arm and legs to swim the lengths to the sandbar. He hauled himself and the half-drowned Tor onto the beach and let her drop to the beach.

She gasped and coughed, gagging up the water invading her lungs. She muttered something in between wheezes that her rescuer didn't quite catch. He was sprawled on his back in the sand and breathing heavily as well. A little chuckle escaped as he turned to look at damsel he had dragged from the water. Sure enough, she looked like a half-drowned cat. "Care to run that by me again?"

"I hate boats!" she yelled when she got her breath. "I hate boats. I hate them. I hate them!"

"You apparently hate swimming, too," he drawled.

"You would, too, when your brothers would hold you under until you passed out!" she retorted. "When they stranded you on a log in the middle of a river and left you to 'find your own way back,' tied your legs to a stone and dropped you off the boat, you wouldn't want to be anywhere near anything deeper than a tub, either." She pulled herself to her feet and glared down at him. "I was six. Jason was twenty. Brad was nineteen and Thomas was almost nineteen. Don't you dare tell me I deserved what I got. Don't you dare tell me I had it coming. I was a child!"

"Whoa, whoa, take it easy," Bret said, hands held up in a surrender posture. "No one here is gonna say anything like that. Promise. Now just take a deep breath. You got any unusual aches or pains anywhere? Break anything?" His green eyes scanned her sodden form, noting how her clothes clung to her curves and left little to the imagination.

"I'm fine." She turned and looked at the massive ship that was seemingly dead in the water. "Looks like it ran adrift of a sandbar. We'll be stuck for a while." Her eyes doubled in size as she patted down her chest, parted her breasts and did not find a trace of her princeling. "Eric!"

********************
Eric was currently in a situation he both had and had not been in before. While being nestled between a woman's breasts was not uncommon for him, since that was Tor's primary method of storing him when she was walking through places she didn't trust, he had never before been so wholly consumed by them that there was no light and he didn't know up from down. The copious moisture, sweat, his mind supplied, enabled him to slide ever onward in the deep crevasse of breast. He figured he would eventually come to a stop, but he was not prepared when his boot came into contact with something firm and yielding and elicit a noise from whatever he had touched.

"H-hello?" came a shaky voice. Eric was frozen. There was another human in here?! "H-hello? Who's there? Did Auntie June send you to replace me? Because I like my job and I don't want to go anywhere else!"

"Uh, no, no I'm not here to 'replace you.'" Whatever that was. "I fell off my friend's shoulder and landed in Auntie June's cleavage. At least, that's where I'm guessing I am. But who are you?"

"I'm Janella. I'm Auntie June's perfume girl."

"Her what?" Eric couldn't see a thing in the all-encompassing darkness. But he thought he heard a bit of pride in the girl's voice. And suddenly realized that what his feet touched must have been her breasts. He struggled to bring himself closer to where he figured her face was.

"Her perfume girl. You know, I soak in her perfume bottle every night and then during the day she slips me between her breasts and I make them smell good." Her voice was too chipper for Eric's liking. It didn't sound quite right.

"So, you're a pet?" he asked.

"Well, aren't we all?" she replied, as if it was no big deal. "Some of us get better owners and some of us get better jobs but we're all pets anyway. Being her perfume girl is better than those who are sent to clean her lower extremities. Or scrub between her rolls."

"No. We aren't. I'm not." Yes he was. "Tor and I are friends. I don't have to clean out anything of hers. Or do things I don't want to do. And when she puts me between her cleavage, I'm not soaked in perfume and hidden from the light. She has me there to make sure I'm safe. Like a good friend."

There was a small quake in the flesh around him and Eric wondered if the girl had shrugged. "If you say so. But that lump you have pressed against my leg tells me you like being hidden away from the light in between a woman's breasts. So maybe your owner should do it more often."

Eric felt his face heat up as the walls around them shook and trembled. Auntie June was moving. He thought he heard her speak, but everything was so muffled by the amounts of flesh he was entombed in that he wasn't sure what she was saying. "I-I-I mean, of course I like breasts! Any red blooded male does. This is like Paradise! It's amazing. But hot. And wet." Not quite like his fantasies. "I think my clothes are soaked."

The female giggled. "Uh-huh. But thanks to me and my job, they won't smell bad!"

Eric's face was still burning and he tried to switch topics. "Why is the air in here fresh? Not stale?"

"That's easy! Auntie June runs a small tube from between her breasts, just a few feet ahead, around to the outside of the dress. So there's always good air right here and I don't suffocate. She's such a caring owner."

"If she's so caring, then why does she stick you down here to begin with?"

"Because, silly, I have to pay back her kindness somehow! And this is a very simple way."

Before Eric could respond, massive digits slid between the breasts, grabbed him and hauled him up to the blinding light from above. Sure enough, he was wet and sporting an easily identifiable swelling in his pants. But those thoughts faded away as he was clutched in familiar hands and pressed tightly into a sodden shirt. "Tor?! What happened?"

But Tor didn't hear him speak. She was too busy glaring at June. "Don't touch him again!"

June arched a brow at the soaked woman in front of her. "My, what a way to show gratuhtude to the woman who saved yo' pet's life."

Tor snorted. "He could have suffocated between your breasts and you just left him there! Some saving."

The older woman rolled her eyes. "Such a tempa. Calm you'self, child. Go change intuh somethin' dry and warm before you catch yo' death a' cold."

Tor cast June one more dirty look before stomping off. She was done being sociable and being paraded around. She would change, change Eric, curl up in her bunk and not come out until the ship was safely docked on the other side of the river.n a couple weeks... But here.

End Notes:

Sorry for the wait! First, Tor wasn't cooperating. Then, Eric decided to stall. I finally got them working with me and this is all I get. Oh well. Soon enough we'll be back in their comfort zones (sort of) and the story will continue. Hopefully with slightly longer chapters. Also, #taxationistheft Just throwing that out there.

Chapter 17 by CoalWhite

Tor was in dry clothes, her hair tied up in a knot at the back of her head and swaddled beneath the blankets. Eric was in dry clothes, long sleeves at Tor's insistence, and curled into the groove of her shoulder and neck. He was drowsing, lulled by the steady rhythm of her deep, even breathing. This was perhaps the first time she had fallen asleep before him, not counting their very first night together. From what little he had gleamed, she had fallen overboard and had to wait on the sandbar until the crew had thrown a rope over the side to help her get back on board.

He stirred when the door to the cabin opened. He stood and looked over Tor's shoulder, expecting the rotund form of Auntie June to come in. Instead, it was a man. Eric briefly remembered seeing him before he fell into June's cleavage. He frowned a little and crossed his arms over his chest. Just as he was about to speak, the man beat him to it.

"You must be Eric. She was real worried when she found you missing." He tipped his hat slightly in the human's direction. "How are you holding up after doing some spelunking?" He grinned.

Eric flushed and shuffled around Tor's shoulder so he wouldn't be right by her ear when he spoke. "I'm fine. Uh, thank you for asking." He scuffed a toe along the sheets and stole a glance back to Tor. She was still sound asleep. "What happened? She only said something about going overboard."

Bret grinned a little and pushed his hat back a little. "She did. It was mildly amusing, at first." His face sobered and the smile disappeared. "That is, until I realized she didn't know how to swim. It wa'n't quite so funny at that point."

The human's eyes were wide and he stared in fear at Tor. She had nearly drowned. What would have happened to him had she? A shiver worked its way down his spine. He didn't want to think of it. "Who saved her?"

"I did. Dove in and pulled her to the sandbar." His green eyes roamed her form. "Some of the crew dropped a rope over the side and helped us up. She got you back from Auntie and stormed off. I came to check on her."

"She's fine," Eric said quickly. He was her male protection. "She's sleeping. Recovering."

Bret smiled genially at him. "I'm sure she needs it. I'm not one to disturb a sleeping lady." He looked Tor over again before taking his leave.

Eric felt like he had achieved some sort of grand thing by not letting the giant man get any closer to Tor. A little smirk played across his face as he returned to his spot against her shoulder. He sighed and allowed himself to drift off.

Tor woke some time later, when a strong lurch of the boat nearly sent her over the side of her bunk. She yelped and quickly clung to one of the posts. There was another lurch, followed by a third, before the boat steadied. She felt a slight rocking motion, indicating they were once more on the move. She sighed in relief and relaxed back into the bed. That only lasted for a moment before she felt something squirming beneath her breast. Her brows wrinkled in a frown as she sat up.

Eric gasped in the fresh oxygen his lungs so desperately craved and relished the coolness of the air that wasn't suffused with Tor's incredible body temperature. Being in between her breasts with his upper body free was a whole different situation than being wholly pinned underneath the massive amount of flesh. He laid there on his back, dazed and somewhat confused. A part of him wanted her to lay back down, cover him up and never let him free. He quickly squashed that part. But his mind replayed the feeling of her flesh, pressed down on him through the thin barrier of her shirt. How soft it was. How warm it was. How he never wanted it to leave.

"Princeling?" Tor called, one eyebrow arched at his dazed state. She glanced at her bust and rolled her eyes. Apparently their power over men was undiminished. She sat up, untied her hair and eyed it as it fell down to the middle of her back. "Hm. I need to cut it, soon. After the fair." She pulled out a brush and began working through the tangles that had built up over the course of the day. She winced a few times before the brush finally flowed smoothly through her vibrant red locks.

She put away the hairbrush and retrieved a dry brassiere from her pack. It took a little bit of work to get it on and properly hooked without taking off her shirt, but she managed. She twisted her hair into a fisher-wive's braid, tied it off at the end and let it hang over her shoulder. Hair arranged, she looked down at her human. "Well? Are you going to get up? Or stay in bed all afternoon. The ship is finally underway again."

Eric pushed himself up and looked to his friend. Owner. "I, uh, yeah. I'm getting up." He stood and smoothed the wrinkles from his clothes before looking to Tor. "Will they be serving food?"

"I hope so. Because I'm hungry enough to eat you." She smirked and scooped him into her hand.

Eric was almost positive she was joking. Almost. It was a poor joke, to say the least. His eyes were fixated on her lips as she lifted him higher. She licked her lips and Eric scooted backwards in her hand, pressing himself against her curved fingers. "Uh, Tor? Tor, this isn't funny. It's a poor joke!" His voice pitched upwards when she molded him against them and let her tongue slip out to slide across his face. "Tor?!"

There was laughter echoing in that cavernous mouth of hers. Her lips parted and wrapped around his head, completely encompassing his view in a warm, wet darkness. His eyes were open, but he couldn't see a thing. He tried to pull away, tried to free himself, but she was far too strong and was not allowing it. After what felt like an eternity, she pulled him out. His hair was soaked; saliva dripped from his face. He was pale and shaking, she noticed.

"Scared?" she murmured. "Don't be." She stood up and settled him on her shoulder. "Anything I would have done would have been over before you know it."

That didn't appease the human. He shivered and wiped his hair off on his sleeve. "Yeah, sure," he muttered. Being "teased" like that didn't sit well with him. It reminded him very clearly of their true relationship. Owner and pet. Was it so bad that he wanted her as his friend? He had never had a true friend, beyond his older brother. And he was family; they didn't have a choice except to be friends. He sighed and slumped against her neck.

Dinner was served, as was breakfast the next morning. When the ship docked around mid-morning, Tor was the first one off. She heard the screams of her half-wild stallion and the shouts of the handlers. Just as she was about to go below and get the horse, a black blur came flying out, up the gangplank and down the road. Tor cursed and grabbed her mare as the sweet thing calmly walked up the gangplank, lead by a handler. She leapt on, eschewing any tack, kicked the mare hard and hung on as they rocketed down the road. The chestnut was fast, very nearly as fast as Idiot. This was exactly what would be needed to catch the runaway stallion.

Fate was on their side as a ponderously slow wagon train moved through the streets. Idiot was forced to slow and swerve in order to avoid a collision. Tor was able to maneuver around the wagons before running up on them, allowing her to gain even more ground on the stud. Another good kick and the mare surged ahead, pulling even with Idiot. Tor reached out and grabbed his reins, glad the ship hands had left him tacked. She leaned back on the mare, slowing her, and slowing Idiot at the same time. The big stallion snorted and tossed his head, but came to a stop.

Tor slid from the mare and gently stroked the stallion's head. "Easy, easy, big boy. You're off the boat now and not going back. I promise." She kissed the bridge of his muzzle and scratched his favorite spot. "Now, we left all our things back there. We have to go back and get them." She pulled herself into his saddle, tied the mare to the D-ring on his saddle and went to retrieve their things. After that, they made good time getting out of the city.

It was three more days' ride to Settlement, and that was because Tor pushed her horse each day. By the time they came up on the edges of the horse fair, Idiot was ready for a break. His already short temper had shortened further and he had nipped Tor several times and had almost stomped Eric once. The human made sure not to go anywhere near him without Tor after that. It didn't help that the mare was coming in to season. Her scent was driving Idiot to extremes, but she was refusing every advance he made.

The roads were crowded and forced Tor to walk Idiot as the wove through the populace. A stallion in a paddock squealed a warning as Idiot passed. The big black stud arched his neck, pinned his ears and squealed right back. He swung his butt around and loosed a solid kick that connected with the wooden slats of the other stallion's paddock. The boards creaked and splintered some, but held. Tor grumbled as Idiot left his droppings in a stud pile, pawed the dirt once more before agreeing before moving on. She guided him through the crowds, warning those who got too close. When they didn't listen, she let Idiot teach them.

He bit four people, kicked an over-excited gelding and had everyone's eyes on him by the time they made it to Tor's brothers' stall sites. Some of their herd-hands were hanging around the broodmare and yearling pens. Their eyes doubled in size when they saw Tor ride up on the big black stallion that had carried her away some months ago. They traded whispers and one ran off, undoubtedly to tell her brothers. The other two walked quickly up to her. The shorter one reached for Idiot's head.

Tor didn't bother warning him not to grab at the stallion. She let the horse teach him that painful lesson. Idiot clamped his front teeth on the man's arm twice before Tor pulled his head back. The unharmed man backed away. "Miss Tor!" he called up to her. "I, I, uh, I'm glad to see you in good health." He kept a watchful eye on the black stallion.

"Surprised is probably the word you're looking for," she said shortly. "I bet none of y'all expected me to come back at all. Let alone riding the stallion you sent me packing on. Not to mention with a new broodmare." She glanced at her chest when she felt Eric shifting to get himself settled. As hot as it was at this fair, she knew it was probably sweltering in her cleavage. She quickly fished her princeling out and sat him on her shoulder. "Now, where did the boys leave my horses? I know you didn't set up my stalls."

"They're penned up. About a half-mile out," the man sad. "We take turns keeping watch. Larson is out there right now."

"Hmm. Alright. Set me up a stud stall, a broodmare stall and a yearling stall." She tightened Idiot's reins enough to irritate him and make him paw at the ground when the man began to argue. "I have a lifetime membership at this fair. I inherited it from my father. Don't tell me what I can and cannot do. Just do what I say and set those stalls up." She loosened the rein and turned the stud towards where her herd was being kept. Her big chestnut stud was not going to be happy a new competitor was in town. But it was time for fresh blood.

To preserve the integrity of his line, she would geld him before selling him. It wouldn't do much to alter his mind, he was too old to really change, but it would prevent him from being over-bred. She glanced at the stud she was currently riding. Something told her he wasn't going to be sold. Not if he threw the foals she was expecting. The few she had been able to see in his herd were good-looking and stocky. Exactly what she wanted.

While her current chestnut stud threw good foals, he also had a tendency to throw foals with clubbed hooves. Her final decision to stop breeding the stud came when she lost three foals in a row due to severely clubbed feet. Three strikes and a horse was done breeding. The good thing about wild horses was they typically had better genetics. Ones with deformities were culled early and not allowed to breed and pass on the defective genes. This made for the sturdiest, hardiest stock possible. They could survive conditions and accidents that would kill finer bred horses like her brothers'.

Speaking of, her twin came running up to her, shouting her name and waving his arms like a mad man. Idiot snorted and tossed his head, shying away from the crazy-acting human. Tor had to fight him for his head, bringing it around to her leg and putting him, and the mare, in a spin, until he finally calmed. Her work was undone when Mick tried to wrap his arms around her and pull her from the saddle. Idiot screamed and spun his butt in response to the shifting of Tor's weight. He kicked out, only barely missing the other Elder. Mick took the hint and quickly backed away.

Tor kept one hand around Eric as she pushed herself back into the saddle. For his part, the poor human was feeling rather green after the spin and then nearly being unseated. He clung to Tor's fingers and moaned softly. "No more spinning. Please."

She smiled at him, a small, upward quirk of her lips. "No more spinning. Not for a while at least." She cast her brother a baleful look. "You are a stupid idiot. Do you know that?! You could have been brained by a hoof. You just had to come running up to a half-wild stud while screaming and waving. You're stupid."

Mick smiled up at her, beaming and genuine. "I missed you, too. It's been quiet with you gone." He walked up and put a hand on her leg. Tor glared and kicked him in the chest, sending him sprawling to the ground. He stared up at her, utterly shocked. "What was that for?!"

"For letting those idiots put me on a wild stallion that hadn't had a saddle on his back for a day, leave the gate open and run away with me! And then going along with them when they ran off with my herd!" Her violet eyes were hard and unforgiving as she stared at her twin.

Mick looked down, utterly ashamed he had caved so easily to his older brothers. "I'm sorry," he muttered. "They gave me no choice. Jason said either I helped or he would leave me behind." The man looked up at her with eyes that pleaded with her to understand. "I didn't know where you went or when you would be back! I, I didn't want to be alone."

Tor snorted, showing absolutely no pity. "You're lucky I'm a better horseman than you thought. In less than a month, I had Idiot rideable without being cold-backed. He's a good man, now. And I got me a new broodmare, too. So I should be thanking you. I'm two horses and a human prince richer than when I left."

Mick winced. He could hear his brothers calling their names. His own violet eyes looked into the matching set of his twin's. Hers were stormy and full of anger and pain. Not that she wasn't justified. He would have been, too, if he had let those emotions linger in him. But he was too much of a coward to confront his brothers and so let their abuse slide off him like it never happened in the first place. But Tor held grudges. And this would not be one she let go of any time soon.

End Notes:

A little late and a little short, I know. But! But! It's short because I wanted to get it out before bed tonight. And now Tor is back in her comfort zone so the writing should come easier. Next chapter will feature Tor's brothers! Buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride. As for updates this week, look for one around this time next week. I have a job fair on Saturday and a date Sunday. :3

Chapter 18 by CoalWhite

Jason strode across the grounds, heading straight for Tor. Brad and Thomas were right behind him. Tor looked down at her twin. "Untie the mare. She's sweet but she's in season so watch her ears." She wrapped her hand around Eric and lifted him to her face. "You, my little Princeling, need to stay in your spot. Stay low. Don't move. Understand me?"

"What are you going to do?" he asked. His eyes searched her face as she lowered him to the saddle. "Don't do anything stupid."

"Me? I'm not going to do a damn thing." Her violet gaze cut a searing path across to her brothers. A storm of anger and pain brewed in their depths. "But you can never tell what they've got planned. Now stay low." She looked back to make sure he was settled in the fork before gathering the reins and swinging Idiot around to face her brothers.

Jason came to an abrupt halt when he was face with Idiot's head. The big stallion was heavy, with a broad chest, powerful legs and a big head. A bite from him would do more than bruise. And a bite was a very likely thing considering how flat the stud's ears were. He was very clearly pissed. The tight rein had him chewing the bit and pawing at the ground.

Tor glared at Jason. "You look like you're in good health, Big Brother. Pity."

Jason smiled. "You look better off than when you left. A big stallion and a pretty mare. How did you manage that?"

"I took the time to break a stud and killed a man who attempted to rob me. I took his horse as repayment." She eyed her other brothers as they edged away from Jason. Her left heel dug into the soft flesh of Idiot's side as she pulled the left rein to her leg. The mustang immediately complied and swung his butt around. This sent Thomas and Brad leaping back to avoid any flying hooves. "I'm not stupid!" Tor called over her shoulder. "Don't you come anywhere near me. You just stay back. I ought to let him kick the fire outta you."

She eased up on the reins and let the horse relax. Thomas snorted and Brad rolled his eyes. "Are you still sore about all that? You were the one who said you wanted a new stallion in the first place. And look! You got yourself a new stallion. And a pretty mare." He let his gaze roam over the chestnut mare with a sincere appreciation.

Tor scoffed. "I may have come out the victor, but I still have not forgiven or forgotten. And I never will."

Jason laughed. "Baby sister!" The words raised the hairs on the back of Tor's neck. "Calm down. It was all in good fun. One of the men must have forgotten to latch the gate after getting that mustang in there. And like any wild horse, he saw an opening and he took it. You can't blame us for that." He held his hands out in a placating manner as he approached Idiot.

Tor sat back and smirked, waiting for the inevitable. Idiot had an intense dislike of men. She let the reins go slack to give the stud his head. Sure enough, as soon as Jason's hands were within striking range, Idiot lashed out. He squealed, snaked his head out and clamped down on the Elder man's arm. The bite was over as quick as it had begun, but the strength of the stud's bite was not so fleeting. Jason's arm was bleeding freely. He leapt back, screaming like he was being murdered.

Idiot's ears were pinned flat against his scalp. He remembered this two-legger. This one was the one that ran him down, roped him and tied something heavy to him. This was the male that made him drag that heavy thing until he was exhausted and couldn't run anymore. Then that two-legger dragged him back, stuck him in a small pen, strapped something to his back, forced a cold, hard thing into his mouth and yanked on it. Then he put his current rider on his back and hit him to make him run.

At least his current rider, frustrating as she was at times, had earned his grudging respect. She treated him well. She gave him another mare. He snorted and rolled his eyes. The males in front of him were dangerous. He snaked his head out again, clamping another damaging bite around the biggest two-legger's upper arm.

Jason reeled back, blood flowing freely and staining his shirt. He was white as a sheet and shaking. More than likely from a combination of rage and pain. Tor smirked and wheeled Idiot. The big stud snorted and tossed his head but complied and turned on his back-end. He pranced away from the group of two-leggers, silently calling his mare to follow. The chestnut did as bid, half-dragging Mick along with her fast trot.

Idiot's ears swiveled this way and that as he took in his surroundings. They briefly flicked back to Tor when she leaned over and patted his neck, praising his behavior. He snorted and shook his head. But his attention was quickly drawn to the large gathering of horses just ahead. Both ears swiveled forward and he arched his neck to make himself look bigger as he caught scent of all the mares in the herd. His prance returned, having faded on the walk out. But when the current band's stallion pushed up against the boards and squealed a challenge, Idiot's entire demeanor changed. He squealed and returned the challenge, pawing the ground.

Tor rolled her eyes. "Oh calm down. He's on his way out." She looked over to her twin. "Drop the mare. She ground-ties. Go halter Ginger and put him with the geldings. I'll take care of him later today or tomorrow."

Mick's eyes doubled in size. "He'll run me down trying to get to this stud!"

"And this stud will kill you and then kill that one! Take the easy route. Get Larson's help. One of Jason's men said he was out here somewhere." She glared at him. "Move! Unless you want a real fight on your hands and digging a grave for Ginger."

"N-no," he said meekly. He dropped the chestnut mare's reins and jogged out to do as told. He found Larson, they got a halter along with a lead rope and stud chain, and worked quickly to get the big chestnut stallion out. It took nearly half an hour to drag the powerful stallion across the encampment to where all of Tor's geldings were penned.

When that was taken care of, Tor stepped out of the saddle and gently turned Idiot's head to her. She smiled and scratched under his chin. "We're home now. Back at my camp. It's time for some better tack. But for now, it's time for a well-deserved rest and reward."

Eric had pulled himself from his spot in the saddle. He was always amazed when he was nearly eye-level with Tor. It didn't happen often, which made each time all the more awe-inspiring. He stepped into her offered hand and was more than happy to settle between her breasts. Tor walked Idiot forward and tied him to a fence post. Within a minute, she had the saddle and bridle off and a soft rope halter around his head. She brushed him down, checked his feet and praised him when he cooperated.

"You're a good boy. Now give me good babies." She looked over her shoulder at Mick. "Untack the mare. She'll follow Idiot into the pasture." As Mick complied, Tor lead Idiot around to the gate. She opened it and undid the rope halter. He wasted no time running into the midst of the herd and sorting out who was top horse and who was a low-ranking. The mare was hot on his heels. Tor closed the gate and watched through the board slats.

It didn't take long until Idiot had established himself as the new lead stallion. The chestnut mare that had come all this way with him had a hidden fighting spirit and quickly established herself as lead mare. Idiot's approval of her didn't hurt her quest for a high ranking in the least. When all was said and done, the herd was grazing peacefully. Tor smiled. He would throw good foals.

She straightened and looked back to Mick. "Alright. Help me pick out a few of my geldings to sell. I've got those yearlings I want to sell, too. The sell pens should be ready soon. Let's get the horses ready to be moved."

Mick frowned. "Don't you want to rest? You know, check on your wagon, maybe take a bath?"

Tor scowled. "I have work to do. Work takes priority. I'll rest this evening when my work is done." She cupped Eric in her palm when she heard him calling to her. "What?" She sighed and tried to soften her voice and features when Eric flinched. "Did you need something?"

"Can't we get something to eat first?" he asked. "We haven't eaten since breakfast. I'm starved."

The Elder woman rolled her eyes. "Fine. Lunch and then we'll work." She looked to her twin, who was staring, absolutely enraptured with her human. "What? Oh. Mick, this is Eric. Eric, this is Mick. He's my twin."

"Since when do you care about humans?" Mick asked. "You've kicked more than one of the Posse across the camp!"

"After they tried to steal my food, break into my wagon, or various other issues, yes I have. But Eric knows better. Don't you?" She looked down to the human in her hand.

Eric nodded. "You feed me, so I don't need to steal. And it's not breaking in if you live there!"

The barest hint of a smirk curled Tor's lips. "He's smart, too. He's mine. Which means you have to keep an eye on him if I'm not around." She locked with the eyes that so resembled hers. "Got it?"

Mick frowned and looked between Tor and Eric. "If you say so. Just don't let Jason realize how important your little human is to you. He would probably do something awful."

Tor gently rubbed Eric's back with her finger. "I won't let him." She lifted Eric up and pressed a light kiss to the side of his face. "I'll kill him if he touches my human."

End Notes:

Chapter 18! It's a little short, but filled with goodness. Plus, this just felt like a natural stopping point. Let me know what you think!

Chapter 19 by CoalWhite

Tor saw neither hide nor hair of her older brothers the rest of the day. She kept Eric close, either snugged between her breasts or on her shoulder. With the heat of the day and the exertion of from her work, Eric was usually on her shoulder uness she was dealing with a particularly stubborn horse. He held onto a small braid of hair she had pulled from the bun at the nape of her neck. He was a quick learning and was eager to pick up on what Tor meant when she said things like "barrel chested" and "heavy headed."

The princeling, his owner-friend and Mick spent the better part of the afternoon selecting geldings, yearlings and a few mares to be sold. Larson and two other ranch-hands took the horses to the sale pens. Idiot kept a watchful eye on the hands as they moved around the outside of the pens.

Tor was the one who entered his paddock to retrieve the mares. The big stallion was a bit agitated that she was removing some of his new mares, but had the sense not to fight her about it. In the evening, before supper, Tor spent a solid hour working Idiot from the ground. His manners in the saddle were getting better, but he still had a lack of respect for humans on the ground. She spent another half-hour grooming him, making him pick up his feet and allow her to work on them.

When she was finished, she patted his neck, fed him a treat before making sure the right mixture of grains and supplements were in his trough. Satisfied, she made her way back to her wagon. Mick was sitting on the steps that led into the living space, Eric was in the entry way. Both males were watching the fire and the food cooking over it. The human was the first to look up when Tor approached.

He smiled brightly and waved to her. "Tor! You're back. Mick has some delicious smelling food cooking."

Mick nodded absently. "It's the domesticated bison from the DeVose's brand. They had some really good steers this year. I put your favorite mix of spices on it. I've got ground bird eggs and stringed greens simmering in the skillet. The cornbread should just about be ready."

Tor sighed in relief as she crouched down next to the fire. "One thing you're good at is cooking. I missed your cooking while I was gone."

The younger twin smiled and rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "If you say so. I'm just glad you like it."

Tor rolled her eyes as she stood. "Move. I want to change and freshen up a bit before I eat." She walked up the steps after her brother stood and checked on the food. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Eric respectfully, and quickly, move out of the path of her feet. She reached out and pulled the door closed before walking further into the living wagon.

The wagon itself wasn't terribly long, perhaps ten feet. It was about twelve feet high by five feet wide. At the far end was a raised platform with a mattress on top. Deep blue curtains were tied off at the sides of the bed, revealing the rows of drawers beneath. Along one side was a sink set into a countertop that ended in a cast-iron, wood burning stove set a few feet away from the door. The stove was currently cold, mainly only used in the winter to warm the wagon and cook when it was too cold outside to do so.

Between the countertop and the bed was a short bench with cushions on the seat and lining the back. It matched the bench on the opposite wall. The other side of the wagon was split into two sections, just like the first. There was the cushioned bench that ended in a small countertop. Beyond that was a skinny wardrobe closet, closed with a thick, dark curtain. The last fixture was a high, rounded countertop, stacked with papers and thick, bound ledgers. A stool was shoved underneath, bound to the wall by a couple of ropes that could be easily undone.

Tor walked past this as she unbuttoned her shirt, peeling it off and dropping it on top of Eric. She smirked as he shouted in protest but otherwise ignored him. She pulled off her dirty trousers and dropped them before pumping just a bit of water into the sink. She dampened a cloth and quickly scrubbed herself down, focusing mainly on her face, arms and neck. Just that little bit made her feel a hundred times better. She would take a bath in one of the big, heated tubs in one of the bath houses tomorrow.

She pulled on a clean shirt, buttoned it up and tucked it into a clean pair of pants. Refreshed, she picked up her dirty shirt and smirked down at her frazzled human. "Oh? Were you under there? I am so sorry." She tossed the shirt onto the pants and scooped up her human.  "Come on. I'm betting supper's ready by now."

Supper was a quiet affair. Mick had little to say, giving only one or two word answers to any of Tor's questions. As usual, Tor made sure Eric got his portion after it was significantly cooled. The young man ate his fill and was delighted enough to get seconds. Mick had even made a fruit cobbler of some sort in the fire while they ate. It was the first time in a long time Eric had had sweets. Since his mother was alive, when he was just a small boy. His father's second and third wives were hard, horrible women. They had taste only for the finest of foods and none at all for sweets and desserts.

So the human chowed down until he felt so stuffed he couldn't possibly move, let alone take another bite. Tor shook her head with a little chuckle. She bid her brother goodnight and closed the door. She cracked open the windows and lit the small lantern hanging above her bed.

"Your pack is there on the floor inside the wardrobe," she told him. "Go change for bed." Once he was inside, she quickly changed into her own sleepwear. When Eric came back out, she plucked him up and placed him on the mattress before climbing up with him. She sprawled out on the bed and sighed in relief. "Oh it is amazing to be back home in your own bed."

The boy looked around, admiring the interior. It was simply furnished and had very few decorations. There was one daguerreotype of an older man who bore a resemblence to Jason. Both men had that darker skin tone with a prominent nose. The man in the image boasted a salt-and-pepper beard, weathered lines beneath his eyes and crows feet in the corners. It was obvious his life was not easy and spent in the sun. Eric guessed it was her father. Strangely, there were no images of her mother. Eric wondered what she looked like.
Next to her father's image hung several ribbons of varying colors, with blue being the most prominent. Eric couldn't read the wording on them. The characters were wholly unfamiliar to him. "What language is that?" he asked.

Tor grunted and glanced at the ribbons. She had almost been asleep when he spoke. "Kilaean. It's the original language of Elders, before some decided to speak the human tongue in hopes of communicating and fostering peace. They're prizes for my horses winning in the show ring. I don't do the fancy riding like my brothers. My horses win based on their confirmation, strength and temperment."

Eric grinned. "I don't see Idiot winning based on his temperment."

Tor rolled her eyes. "Oh ha ha. Give him time. I'll make him a good boy yet." She sat up and blew out the lantern overhead. She rolled onto her side and curled up beneath the sheets. "Go to sleep. Tomorrow comes far too quickly."

Tomorrow did come far too quickly, despite the comfortable mattress and cool evening breeze from the windows. Tor was up before sunrise, rolling from the bed, narrowly missing Eric. She crouched in front of the drawers and grabbed a new pair of trousers and shirt. She tossed her sleeping shirt over Eric, who didn't bother with a protest since the warmth of her shirt replaced the missing warmth of her body. He just sighed happily and curled into a comfortable ball.

Once she was dressed, she pulled on her boots, ran a comb through her hair and braided it before tossing it over her shoulder. Breakfast was cold cornbread from last night, barely heated beef and water. She glanced over at the bed and huffed. "Eric. Wake up. Unless you want to spend the day in here. By yourself."

Eric grunted and crawled from under the arm of the night shirt. "Fine. I'm up." He yawned and stretched before rubbing his eyes and looking to the floor far beneath him. "Um, a little help please?"

Tor realized she was going to have to make a few adjustments in her wagon. She pursed her lips and tried to think of a time window she could purchase human ropes for Eric to use in the wagon. None came to mind. She sighed. It would be a while before her home was perfectly suited to him. Not that it was such an imposition for her to lift him around a few places.

She reached over and plucked him up by the back of his shirt and set him on the ground not too far from the wardrobe. "You change. I'm going to feed. I'll come get you before we go to the sell-grounds."

The human nodded as he yawned again, the slightest of shivers running through him. To Tor, it was a cool morning in late spring. To him, it was chilly and deserving of a light jacket. He huffed and jogged to his stash of belongings. Tor closed and locked the door before heading to check on her herds. Larson was already there, feeding the horses but staying well clear of Idiot.

The big black stud was currently tolerating the man since he was outside the fence and wasn't anywhere near him or his prized mares. Still, he kept an eye on the Elder male. Tor nodded to the older man. "It's good to be back. Even if I have to tolerate my brothers."

Larson chuckled. "Just steer clear of them as much as you can, just like normal. Your buyers don't exactly overlap."

"No, but I have to keep my horses within sight of Jason at all times. I have no idea what my father was thinking when he drafted his will."

"Ah, maybe he was just trying to make you love each other."

Tor snorted. "That's not going to happen until the Creator comes down and declares peace among men."

This time, Larson laughed aloud. "Alright. You have me there." He patted a bay mare's neck before leaning against the panel boards. "What are your plans for today, Miss?"

"Start by feeding the horses. I need to geld the other stallion. That's going to be a lot of work. We'll need to get him down and tie up that back leg or else he'll kick the shit outta whoever is behind him." She rubbed the bridge of her nose. "But it has to be done. I'll not have him and his lines cheapened by overbreeding."

Larson nodded. "You have a good eye for the lines. Always did."

The ghost of a smile curled her lips. "Alright. Let's get them fed." When all the feeding was done, Tor made her way back to the wagon and Eric. "I've got work to do in the paddocks. I've got to geld that stallion. You shouldn't be anywhere around when it happens. It would be too easy for you to get caught by a wayward hoof or boot."

Eric flinched. "Alright. Will I be able to be with you at all today?"

She huffed and crouched to be closer to his level. "Perhaps. Work here at the fair is dangerous. I don't want you hurt."

He nodded, a bit glum. "If you say so."

Tor rolled her eyes. "Don't be such a baby. I'm not abandoning you. You're remaining in the wagon for your safety."

Eric felt his pride riled up at her slight. "I am not a baby! I am simply concerned about being left alone."

"I'm not coddling you. My main concern is that you stay safe while I work. Is that clear? I'm on the ground, helping to hold that stud down. I can't be looking over you the whole time. And if he throws his head back and hits me in the chest, you would be pulp. I'm not going to risk that. Now, if I get time this afternoon to go up to the fair itself and see my horses, I'll come get you." She gave him a severe look. "Until then, you are to stay in this wagon. You are safe in here. Do you understand?"

He frowned and looked at his feet, scuffing one toe in the dusty floor. "Okay," he mumbled. "I'll stay here."

Tor sighed and scooped up her human. She set him on the bed with a plate of cornbread and beef and a bowl of water. "This should tied you over until lunch. I'll definitely be back for that." She ruffled his hair with her finger. "Don't do something stupid and try to climb down. I don't need you getting all broken again."

Eric nodded mutely. Tor shook her head as she left, locking the door again behind her. There was work to do. And work wouldn't wait.

End Notes:

This seemed longer in WordPad... Dammit, I do need to shell out for the upgrade to MS Word. xD Alright, a few hints built in. A pixel cookie to those who can determine them. Tell me what you think!

Pacing and intensity will pick up in the next few chapters. It is going to get very interesting!

Chapter 20 by CoalWhite
Author's Notes:

Look! An update! SMUT! SEX! FUN THINGS THAT EARN TAGS!! I'm not entirely pleased with the scene, but if y'all like it, that's all that matters. Let me know. I'll try to get another chapter out this weekend. We'll just see. Anyway, enjoy!

Tor was absolutely drenched in sweat. Of course, that was par for the course in her line of work. Gelding Ginger had been no easy feat. The old stud had run them in circles in the small pen before they were able to get him down on the ground. They'd had to work quickly after that. Tor had slipped a loop over his rear leg and hauled it upwards, making sure it stayed out of the way. Larson stood at the ready with a knife while Mick sat on the stud's neck, making sure he stayed down. Quick as a flash, Larson slit open the horse's scrotum. Ginger screamed in pain and distress as the man worked at his back end. Larson expertly removed the testes and tied off the top of the sac in order to restrict blood flow to the open wound.

"Off!" He shouted as he leapt away from the back end. Tor dropped the rope as Mick threw himself off the horse's head. Ginger surged to his feet as the humans exited the pen. He whinnied in distress and pain as he trotted around the pen, blood flowing freely down his legs. Eventually he came to a stop and dropped his head, exhausted.

Tor sighed and shook her head. "He'll be ready to be sold by the end of the fair. I'll send him to the high-auctions and let the bidders go to work." She wiped the sweat from her forehead with the sleeve of her shirt. "I'm going to go change and have lunch. Y'all are free to do the same."

Mick was not slow in his escape from the manual labor. Larson shook his head as he looked at his boss. "You should probably at least wipe some of that sweat off before you go to the sale pens. And take your human. He looks like a good kid. He might learn a thing or two about horses."

Tor pursed her lips. "I had thought about it."

Larson chuckled. "It's not like you to baby something. If he's going to stay with you, he needs to get used to your way of life. Let him stay with you for the afternoons. I don't think you'll regret it."

"Hm. We'll see."

Larson grinned. "I'm not wrong, you know."

Tor leveled him with a dark look. "Sometimes you are."

"Very rarely." He laughed when she turned to leave. "Go clean up. I'll do the same and meet you for lunch at your wagon."

"You can't have my human."

"I don't want him. I just want to meet my boss' newest fascination." He tipped his hat when she shot him a glare over her shoulder. "See you soon enough."

Tor grumbled and muttered under her breath as stalked back to the wagon. When she entered, a little smirk curled her lips. Eric was passed out on the pillow, right in the path of a cracked window. He had taken off his shirt and rolled his pants to the knees in an effort to be as cool as possible. His pudge of a belly slowly rose and fell with each sleeping breath. She wished there was a way to capture the moment. But she did not have an artistic bone in her body. Any attempt she might make to draw the scene would have been futile.

So, she just leaned against the counter and watched him for a moment. The moment passed all too soon when he stirred, rolled to his side and blinked sleepy eyes at her. He sat up and yawned, stretching as he did. One fist rubbed at his eyes.

"Tor? Is it lunch time yet?" It was clear he was still half-asleep from the gravel in his voice.

"Yes. I'm going to clean up and change then warm up something to eat. My top hand is coming to eat as well." She pulled off her sweaty clothes and dumped them with yesterday's dirty ones before pumping water into the sink and dampening another rag. This one she lathered up with a bar of soap before scrubbing herself down with. Creator it felt amazing to completely scrub away the dirt.

Eric watched, slack-jawed as she undressed. This time, she didn't bother dropping something on top of him so he couldn't see. He was treated to the best view he had ever seen. Her breasts weren't pushed up to her chin like the girls back in human territory. They were held closer to her chest, kept from bouncing unnecessarily during her work and rides. Eric knew better than anyone how little her breasts bounced.

He ogled the dip of her waist, the swell of her hips and wished for the umpteenth time that they were the same size and he could use his silver tongue to talk her into his bed. As much as he loved Tor, and he loved her immensely, he had a feeling she didn't reciprocate his affection. Not how he wanted.

He knew she cared for him. That was obvious. But love? He figured he was doomed to an unrequited love. Unless he worked up the courage to speak to her, which was about as likely as Idiot learning not to bite everyone.

---------------------------------

Jason barked out one rather colorful swear after another as his current girlfriend-slash-nurse attended to the bite on his arm. It was healing, albeit slowly and painfully. Which left the oldest of the Keller boys seething with plots of revenge. Tor would pay and pay dearly. This was an inexcusable action against him. One that left him looking weak in the eyes of his brothers if he did not retaliate.

Revenge ran deep in his family and he was not about to break tradition.

His girlfriend, a well-endowed blonde, cooed and tutted over the wound as she wrapped it. "Mah han'some hossemun," she drawled, her northern schwa ever-present. "You ah such a strong man to suffa through alluh this." She dragged her bare breasts along his back, reveling in the skin-on-skin friction. "That braddy lil' girl needz tuh luhn huh mannuhs."

Jason smirked and felt his member come awake. With his arm bandaged, he turned and pushed the buxom blond to the bed. He loomed over her as she tittered and arched her back. Her perky nipples brushed across his chest, tempting him. He didn't resist and leaned down to take one in his mouth. But a flicker of movement in the corner of his eye made him pause. Some of his posse were crawling across the bed, brazen in their actions. This was a new bunch, ones he had only picked up last month. They hadn't learned their place.

It was time to teach them. He reached out and picked one up, dropping it on his girlfriend's breast. "Make her moan," he commanded. He didn't acknowledge the human as he pushed the blonde's thighs apart and dropped a second human between them with a gruff order to "make her wet" before paying attention to her neglected breast.

The short, thin human on her breast did his best to arouse his mistress. He worked at her nipple, attempting to mouth and kiss on it. He wasn't sure if her moaning was due to him, or his master on the other side. But he wasn't going to stop to ask. He thrust his hips into the sensitive bud, humping it with everything he had. His own arousal was painful and begging for release. One of his hands wrapped around it and he pause to aide his own release. He was so caught up in himself that he didn't notice the shadow falling over him.

Jason switched from one breast to the next as if the human wasn't even there. He took the nipple, human and all, into his mouth and sucked. He used his tongue to press the squirming human's face into his girlfriend's breast, rubbing him across it like the toy he was. The blonde moaned and mewled, clenching her thighs and rubbing them together, entirely unheeding of the human between them.

The tall, broad human trapped against her folds was caught between terror and bliss. The pressure was intense. But so was the sensation of being rolled between two smooth walls of flesh and the silken, dripping flower behind him. Before he had been trapped, he had just gotten her clit to emerge from its hood and was trying to figure out how to get his mouth around it. Then her thighs had closed it and his whole world was narrowed down to the little bit of flesh where her body met. Then, light flooded his world.

Jason wedged one knee, then both, between his woman's thighs and spread them easily. He smirked when he saw she was sopping. He picked up the human that had been working down there and pushed him into the blonde's canal. He pushed him just inside to where the folds closed over his feet before lining up his dick with her entrance. With one strong push, he was inside.

The blonde shrieked in pleasure, eyes rolling back in her head at the feeling of the human squirming deep inside her and her boyfriend filling her the rest of the way. Jason groaned as he played with the human still in his mouth. The one in his woman's vagina was pinned beneath the head of his dick and squirming like crazy. He reveled in the sensations of power, dominating three lives with the simplest of effort. In a fluid motion, he pulled out, dragging the human out with him, before pushing back in. He built up a rhythm, slowly increasing the speed and effort.

He pinned the blonde's wrists to the sheets above her head as he pumped away. He grunted as pain flared up in his arm. But he ignored it for the sake of the arousal now pulsing through him. He would get his release. With a final grunt, he thrust his hips deep, pushing all he had into his blonde, blowing his load and swallowing the human in his mouth. The human inside was caught up, pinned to the cervix by the force of the release.

The blonde gasped and arched her hips into Jason's as her orgasm flooded through her. She mewled and moaned and huffed as she rode out the high. When she came down from it, Jason was pulling his pants on. She sat up a little, clenching her pelvic floor to keep his load from spilling out on the sheets. "Where ya goin', sugah?"

"Work," he said. "Got a new client comin' to make a deal. 'parently he and his brothers race horses and my stock lends itself to his preferences."

"Oh. I wuz hopin' we culd spen' the day togetha. You di' promiss me tha'."

Jason tucked in his shirt and sat on the edge of the bed to pull on his boots. "I know, gorgeous. I'll take you around the fair tomorrow. Buy you any horse you want." He leaned over and kissed her briefly on the lips. "Promise. Tomorrow I'm yours."

The blonde pouted. "Oh alrigh' then. Bu' don' you fo'get!"

"I won't." He stood and left his wagon, carefully walking down the steps.

---------------------------------

Tor sat on the steps of the wagon, Eric hiding in the shadow of her hip, as Larson crouched by the low fire, eating his lunch. He chuckled and tipped his hat back. "Oh come on now. I ain't gonna do nothin' to your pet. All I wanted to do is see your newest project. And he's a nice looking boy. He's got a head big enough for a brain. I bet he'll learn what we're talking about in no time at all."

Tor huffed and carefully pushed Eric forward. "Go on. Larson won't bite."

"Usually," he grinned. "But I won't in this case. Promise I'll be good to the boss' human."

Tor rolled her eyes and scarfed down the rest of her lunch before looking to Eric and his plate. "That all you're gonna eat? We're not coming back to the wagon for a few hours. Eat now 'cause I ain't bringing anything with me."

The boy looked between the plate of food and his owner-friend and frowned. "No," he said slowly, one hand on his stomach. "I'm fine. I'm not hungry."

"Don't be stupid." He winced at her harsh tone. "No one is judging your appearance. Eat. And don't ever deny yourself because you're concerned about how you look." She paused and watched him for a moment. When she spoke again, her voice was softer. "No one is going to say a thing about how much you weigh. I won't let them."

Eric wavered for a few moments longer before finally stepping up to his plate and beginning to eat. He took his time, savoring the bites. When he finished off most of what was on his plate, Tor pinched off a piece of the sweet dessert she had made and put it on his plate. "Eat that, too," she told him. "No arguing."

Larson grinned. "Oh yeah. You've got her wrapped around your little finger."

Tor scowled at him. "Shut up. He's my pet and I promised to take care of him. And that's just what I'm doing by feeding him."

Eric finished off the dessert and sighed in contentment. He reclined against her hip as his eyes drooped. The heat of the afternoon, his full belly and the protection Tor silently offered lulled him into a half-aware state. He didn't see her hand reaching for him. He was so desensitized to the pressure of being in her fist that he hardly stirred when she lifted him and slid him in the outer-pocket of her shirt. He slumped against the swell of her breast, dropping further into sleep with the rumbling of her heartbeat.

Tor stood and brushed off her pants. "Keep an eye on the stock out here. Make sure Ginger stays clean. Last thing I need is him catching an infection."

Larson nodded. "Will do. I know what's expected of me."

"Good. If you need me, I'll be at my sale stalls." She turned and strode off. When she entered the din of the tent, she immediately cupped her hand over her pocket, hoping the noise wouldn't disturb her human. After a few minutes, she let her hand drop. She couldn't keep it there all afternoon.

She walked up to her stalls and called to one of the mares. The horse lifted her head and twitched her ears forward before walking up to the Elder woman. She whickered softly and Tor imitated the noise with remarkable accuracy. A few other horses in the pens responded to the call. Tor chuckled and stroked the soft, velvety nose of the bay mare.

"You'll make a good wagon mare. Or a saddle mare. You're so even-tempered," she praised the animal. "Whoever gets you will be one lucky person."

"Yeah, I think they would be."

Tor groaned internally at the voice. Not him again! She turned and glared at the smirking man. "Bret," she ground out. "Why are you here?"

"Told ya I would be. I even offered to travel with you. But you turned me down. Well, I made it here so I thought I would see you."

Chapter 21 by CoalWhite

Tor snorted and turned away. "Too bad. I don't want to see you."

Bret just grinned and wrapped her in a one-armed hug. Tor scowled and punched him in the ribs to get out of the embrace.

"Don't touch me," she growled. Her fingers brushed over Eric, making sure he was alright.

Bret was wheezing. The blow had knocked the air from his lungs, just as intended. It took him a minute to regain his breath. When he did, he straightened and grinned. One hand rubbed at the sore spot on his side.

"Creator be blessed," he chuckled. "I've never had a woman, and only a few men, knock the air from me. Congratulations. You've managed to impress me." He rubbed at his side once more more and winked at Eric.

Tor snorted. "Oh how delightful. I now feel as though my life is complete," she drolled. "I now feel as though my life is complete." She heard Eric's laughter in her ear.

"Calm down." That stupid grin never left his face. Tor felt her cheeks heat up when his eyes slid over her form with a clear appreciation. "I was complimenting you. Don't be so rigid."

Tor spluttered as Bret stepped into the sale pen with the mares. Just as she was about to speak, he began talking again. "This is a beautiful mare. Good and sturdy. Sturdier even than the mounts the paper-pushers give us." He checked her teeth and ran his hands along her body.

"Paper-pushers?" Tor repeated. "Who are they?"

"Oh, just what us mounted Rangers call those who work in the offices," he said casually. He inspected each of the mare's feet.

"You're a Ranger?" she asked, a touch of incredulity in her voice. She had cut her teeth on the stories of Rangers and tails of their heroism. Her third word had been "ranger." Right after "Pap" and "horse."

"Sure am." He shot her a grin over the bay's withers. "Been one since I was sixteen. Funny enough, today's my sixteenth anniversary with them." He patted the bay and checked out two more mares, a liver chestnut and a cremello. Pleased with both, he looked back to Tor. "I'll take these three. How much?"

Part of Tor was flattered a Ranger wanted some of her stock. That same part insisted on a steep discount. But her business sense prevailed and she named her usual price. "Forty a head."

Bret's brows went up and he whistled in awe. "My, my You sure are proud of your horses. I bought my last mount for ten."

"And how long did it last?" she pressed. "How soon did its feet bruise from the stones? How long until it went lame?"

The man grinned. "Alright. She bruised on week two. It took her a few weeks to recover. Then she came up lame after three hard days riding."

"You get what you pay form. My horses are born on the range. They've run it since birth. I don't breed those who bruise easily. They aren't bred if they come up lame just from a run."

Eric listened in awe as the two Elders went back and forth, haggling over prices. They finally came to an agreement several minutes later. Thirty-five a head for the bay and cremello, twenty for the chestnut since she was a little older than he was looking for. They clasped arms to seal the deal and Eric kept a firm grip on Tor's collar as they did.

Bret thanked Tor before turning to Eric. "You keep an eye on your mistress for me. Alright? I may come back and see her for more horses."

Tor frowned even as Bret paid her. She felt one eyebrow tick in frustration. "I can take care of myself, you know. I don't need anyone watching after me."

"Oh I know. But it never hurts to have someone watching your back." He grinned and handed her the money. "Take care. I'll be back for my new girls this evening." With that, he was gone.

Tor sighed and shook her head. She didn't quite understand that man. But oh well. He was just a customer, in and out of her life so quickly he wasn't worth thinking over for longer than it took to strike a bargain. The afternoon faded away and Tor began teaching Eric everything of importance when it came to horses, and this fair in particular. She showed him how to check a horse's feet and legs for injuries. How to determine if a horse had good bone structure. And everything else she could think of.

"All of this knowledge will apply to human horses as well," she said. "They're the exact same. Elder horses are just bigger."

Eric nodded. "I probably won't remember all of this immediately. But I'll try."

Tor gave him a small, reassuring smile. "You have plenty of time. Don't worry. It's not like I'm going to test you over all this information."

The princeling grinned. "Good. Because I'm not sure I would pass." He leaned into her fingers when they came up and gently stroked his side.

Tor rolled her eyes. "You would have passed. And when I do eventually quiz you over this, I'm sure you'll do well."

Eric smiled. "Thanks, Tor. I appreciate the vote of confidence."

Just before the tent flaps closed for the night, Tor saw a familiar face approaching. She smiled and waved to signal him over. "Siris!" she called. The big, swarthy man looked to be in good health. The smile spreading across his face hinted at good spirits. Once he spotted her, he crossed the grounds quickly and offered his arm.

Tor clasped his arm and gave the customary shake. "Tor," he greeted in his deep voice. "You look well. How have you and Princeling been faring?"

"We've been well," she said. "You?"

"Very well." Before she could say more, a little voice chirped from the pocket on his vest.

"Siris?" Delicate hands clasped the edge of the pocket and pulled up an equally delicate human girl. She hooked her elbows over the pocket to hold herself up. She puffed a breath to blow some of the strands of blonde hair from her face. Her sky blue eyes instantly locked with Eric's green ones. She blushed and twirled a lock of hair around her finger before looking up. "Siris? Who are they? And where are we?"

The big man dipped a couple of fingers, each bigger around than the wisp of a girl, and carefully pulled her from his pocket. He kept her cupped in his palms as he spoke to her. "This is Tor. I met her a month or so ago. I told you we were going to see her because she has some horses I would like to buy."

"Oh." The little girl gazed at Tor for a moment before she looked back to Siris. "She's not as pretty as me."

For the second time that day, Tor spluttered. Eric's laughter was ringing in her ear again. Even Siris was chuckling. "No, she's not. But you don't have the inner strength she does. She's lived on her own and taken care of herself for quite some time. You've been with me since you were toddling."

The girl pouted and huffed. "I'm strong," she muttered under her breath.

Siris smiled and stroked her head. "Yes, Delicate, you are strong." The tiny little girl preened under the attention, seeming to soak it up. After a couple minutes, he slipped her back into his pocket. She settled half-out of it, her arms hooked over the sides to hold her aloft. He patted her on the top of her head before turning his attention to Tor. "Now, friend, let's talk business."

Tor, having recovered, smiled in return. "These three sold earlier. Their new owner will be picking them up soon."

A young man came jogging up to them, out of breath from how fast he had run. "A-are you, Tuh-Tor?"

"I am," she replied. "And who are you?"

"I'm Sawyer." He took a deep breath and released it, finally able to speak normally. "I'm Bret's youngest brother."

Tor sized him up for a moment. "You bear very little resemblance to him. Count it as a blessing."

Sawyer gave her a quizzical look. The angle he canted his head made a tuft of red-blonde hair fall into his hazel eyes. "I'm only fourteen. Momma says I've got some growing to do before I catch up to Bret. He's got eighteen years on me. So I ain't worried about catching him anytime soon. But he sent me to get his horses. He said he got a bay, a chestnut and a cremello from the lady who would probably eat me if I wasn't respectful."

Eric's peals of laughter rang in her ears. Tor grumbled and plucked him up and shoved him down the front of her shirt. "Shut up," she muttered. She turned to the boy whose face was red as a brick at the sight of a human going down into her cleavage. "Yes, the three mares in the pen behind me. Think you can catch them?"

He looked up into her eyes, since he was a full head-and-a-half shorter than her, and nodded vigorously. "Yes, ma'am! I been with horses since before I was born. One story of my birth is that Momma had me on the back of our big black draft mare. So I been on horses since day one." He grinned proudly. "I even brought leads for them all!"

Tor huffed. "Smart. Now go on. Go get your annoying brother's mares."

The boy ducked under the rope and into the pen. He sweet talked the mares, holding treats out in his hand to entice them to come forward. He quickly slipped the ropes around their necks, patted their velvety noses and turned to smile at Tor. "Got 'em! We're gonna go now. Thanks for waiting on me. I got lost in all the rows and stalls. But then I saw your hair and it's just as bright red as Bret said it was."

Tor rolled her eyes as color crept into her face. "Alright. Go on." She unclipped the divider rope and held it aside so he could lead the mares out. He jogged out ahead of them and the mares willingly followed along. Tor replaced the dividing rope and watched them go. When they were out of sight, she turned back to Siris. "Join me in my wagon. Your human is welcome as well. I'll cook us supper and we can talk business."

Siris smiled and nodded. "That sounds pleasant. I'll follow you."

Tor lead him into the open air outside the tent. Dusk had fallen and turned the evening light into shades of purple. Tor regretting missing the sunset. Sunrise and sunset were her favorite times of day. Siris walked alongside through the other groups of horse-traders and their herds to her own band towards the back of the grounds.

As usual, Larson already had a fire going. A cast iron skillet and coffee pitcher sat in the low flames. Bacon sizzled and popped in the pan, the grease hissing occasionally when it leapt out and landed on a nearby ember. The old hand nodded to his boss as she approached. When his eyes landed on Siris, he grinned.

"Well, well, if it isn't Siris Grigory." He stood and clasped the bigger man's arm. "It's been a piece, hasn't it?"

Siris nodded as a smile stretched across his face. "It has, Larson. Tell me, old friend, do they still call you 'Lord of Snark?'"

Larson laughed. "Only a few. Miss Tor doesn't know that nickname, though. I would have liked to keep it that way."

"Too bad. I like it," she said with a smirk. "It suits you. Now tell me, how do you know each other?"

"I don't know how many times your old man tried to get him to buy some horses. But this fella here would never bite," Larson explained.

Siris grinned. "He had some fine horses, to be sure. But not ones meant for pulling my wagons. They'll break a leg or something and I would be out all that money it took to purchase them." He looked to Tor. "I knew who you were the moment you came storming into my camp. You are the spirit and image of your father. To see you riding that big mustang gave me hope that some Kellers were finally breeding the kind of horse I needed. When I found out you did and were going to be at this fair, I arranged for my second to finish the trip so I could be here and get first pick of your horses."

Tor smiled, pleased he thought so highly of her and her father. "You almost did. I sold those three mares to a Ranger earlier this afternoon. But I still have plenty of fine stock for you to choose from. The light has faded too much to get a good picture of the whole herd tonight. So come back first thing in the morning and we'll do business then," she said. "Tonight, be my guest and dine with me."

Siris agreed and took a seat beside the fire. He retrieved Delicate from his pocket and set her on his thigh. The little girl cavorted on the massive leg, doing all sorts of acrobatics. She did a back-flip and landed on the ground with a flourish. "Ta-da!" she cheered.

Larson grinned. "She's a cutie. You always did have a thing for tiny, pale girls. Looks like some things never change."

Siris arched a brow. "I remember you having a human affinity, as well. You liked the big, docile males. I clearly remember you keeping them in the front of your long-johns to increase the size of your bulge."

Tor made a face at that. Eric, who had been making his way towards Delicate, stopped and made sure Tor was between him and the older man before continuing his trek.

"Alright. That's enough of that kind of talk. You're going to scare the humans," Tor said. She glanced at Delicate who was dancing with a wildflower. "At least, the one who understands."

Larson's face was red, but not from the heat of the fire. "I ain't done that since I was a gangly, underdeveloped kid. I'll tell you right now that I don't need no help in the size department."

Eric approached Delicate and smiled in a charming way. When he got closer and a better look at her, he could see she was still quite young, perhaps nine or ten at the most. She was out as a bed partner, but still a candidate for a friendly conversation.

"Hello, Miss Delicate. I'm Eric. How are you?" He bowed slightly as he greeted her.

The girl stopped dancing with the flower and eyed him suspiciously. "What do you want?" she snapped. "I was dancing!"

Eric's smile shifted from charming to reassuring. "I just wanted to talk. It's been a while since I've seen a human."

Delicate huffed. "But I'm not some pet like you! We're not even the same kind of human. I was born free. My ma and pa traveled with Siris and his wagons. But they got ate by owls when I was a toddling thing so Siris took care of me."

Eric was flabbergasted by her curt attitude. This girl didn't know a thing about him and here she was jumping to conclusions! "I'm a free human, just like you. I stay with Tor because she protects me from some bad men who want to send me far away." He drew himself up to his full height when he spoke next. "I am the oldest son of a wealthy lord."

Delicate scowled and began hitting Eric with the stem of the flower. "Liar!" she screeched. "You're not a prince or free or any such thing. Free humans don't come this far north!"

Eric yelped and tried to fend off the blows. When the girl didn't stop, he took off running for Tor. Delicate chased him the whole way, continuously attempting to hit him with the flower. Eric ducked under Tor's knee and ran for the smallest distance between her leg and the ground.

Tor glanced down when she felt something scrambling around by the juncture of her thighs. The scene that greeted her had her roaring with laughter. Eric was trying to climb the fabric of her pants while Delicate was beating him with a pathetic looking flower. The Elder woman took pity on her Princeling and scooped him into her hand.

He flopped backwards on her palm, breathing heavily. Creator, he was out of shape. "Thanks," he panted. "She's crazy!"

Tor laughed again. "Poor little Princeling, terrorized by a child."

The other Elders were laughing as well. Delicate scowled up at Eric before stomping back to Siris. Larson was sitting on his heels, all but guffawing at the sight. "They're adorable!" he crowed. "She gets along just about as well as Tor does with anyone else!"

Tor shot the man a look. "Gee, thanks." She tipped her hand and let her human slide off onto her shoulder.

Larson only grinned at her. "You know it's true."

She huffed and went back to prepping the ingredients for supper.

 



Jocelyn was bored. Jason was out doing some negotiating work or something with some man who wanted some of his horses. The buxom blonde didn't care what it was all about. Just that it brought in a substantial amount of money. In the meantime, though, she was bored. And sexually frustrated. Riding Jason was mind-numbing with bliss. But when he wasn't around, she just felt empty and lonely. And horny.

So when one of the little humans he kept around went scuttling along the floor, she had a bright idea. He had told her to make herself at home and she could do whatever she wanted with the humans, but she had never messed with them if he wasn't around. Now, though, she was willing to try. She plucked one up off the floor, a female, and held her aloft. She turned the human this way and that in her hands, sizing her up. "Four inches," she mused. "Not that filling. But it's better than nothing."

She licked the female from head to toe, completely saturating her. Then she dragged her over her breasts, rubbing her face on her nipples. "Mm. Not bad," she breathed. She pinched and tweaked her other nipple as she worked the human. After a couple minutes, she dragged the screaming, protesting human down her stomach and making her circle her belly button.

She shoved the woman's face into it, pressing so hard the human's entire head popped inside. Jocelyn mewled. She never knew having her belly-button stimulated would feel so euphoric! "Lick," she commanded of the human. "Lick or I'll feed you to one of the stray dogs roaming the grounds." A moment later, a tiny tongue was licking the inside of her belly button.

Jocelyn groaned and slid her fingers to her nether lips and began to play with the slick folds. Her thumb found her clit and began rubbing vigorously. Her first two fingers slipped into her tunnel and began a rhythm. But it wasn't enough. She withdrew her fingers, sticky and wet, and pulled the little human female from her belly button. She dragged the woman through her pubic patch, not caring the tiny being was assaulted by the smells and scratched by the wiry hairs. The Elder woman only cared about her own pleasure at the moment. She shoved the woman's face into her clit and roughly demanded she lick.

"Service me!" she cried. "Pay your mistress the attention she deserves." She panted, tongue lolling from the side of her mouth when she felt that little mouth on her sensitive clit. "Yes! Oh you're good. But I need more!" With no further warning, she plunged the human female head-first into her throbbing canal. Her walls squeezed and crushed the breath from the human, securely wrapping around her.

Jocelyn kept a grip on the tiny legs and pulled her toy out until it was just the crown of her head inside. Then she shoved her back in without a second thought. She quickly built up a rhythm, pulling the human out, teasing the poor thing with fresh air and light, before shoving her back in. She squealed and moaned, bucking her hips on the bed. Finally, she pushed the female in so deep, she couldn't feel her with her fingers anymore. But she could feel her kicking and squirming inside and it drove her absolutely insane to know that she was dominating an entire life with just her vagina.

She screamed when the human hit a sensitive spot inside her. Jocelyn's eyes rolled back as her hips thrust into the air. Her snatch clamped down around the human as she orgasmed, holding the pitiful creature in place. When it was over, she slumped to the bed, still saturated in bliss. The human was struggling inside her, Jocelyn could tell. The motions were weaker than before, but no less stimulating. So she just lay there and enjoyed the afterglow.

"Mm. I'm gonna have to do that more often," she murmured.

Chapter 22 by CoalWhite
Author's Notes:

Wow it's been a long time! If you're interested in what all has been going on, you can catch up on my deviant art page. If not, hey, I get it. Anyway, enjoy and let me know what you think of this chapter!

The next morning, Tor was up with the sunrise. Eric, who was never an early riser, chose to burrow himself under her pillow to avoid the morning light. Tor shook her head in amusement but let him alone. He would get hot under there and come out eventually. Until then, she had to meet Siris at the corrals and talk business. And a grumpy, sleepy Eric didn't belong in negotiations. She dressed in a pair of pants and a short-sleeved button-up. She pulled on her boots, tied back her hair and settled her hat on her head. She stepped out of the wagon and was pleased to see Larson already making breakfast. He glanced up at her and grinned.

"No little pet this morning?" he asked. "He and Siris' girl sure did seem to get along." His grin showed that he knew the opposite of what he said was true.

"No," Tor sighed. "He wants to stay in bed. And it's better not to have his sour attitude ruining negotiations."

Larson chuckled. "If you say so, Boss. Siris should arrive shortly. He's always a prompt fella."

Tor crouched by the fire and poured herself a cup of coffee. She was halfway through the cup and a slice of cornbread and beef when Siris showed up. She stood and shook his hand and lead him to the corrals. They spent the better part of the morning talking business. Siris picked out mares and geldings that fit his desires. They talked breeding rights to Idiot, fees and ownership shares. When they settled on business, it was lunch time. Tor hosted the older man for lunch before they parted. He would send some of his men later to pick up the horses he had purchased.

Pleased with her morning, Tor selected several horses to be run down to the sale pens. She retrieved Eric, fed him some lunch and led the string of horses down to the main sale tent. Eric reclined against her neck, watching the horses as they moved. He noted their gaits, how they picked up their feet and watched for any obvious signs of injuries. Of course, none of Tor's horses had any, but that didn't mean he couldn't practice the bit of knowledge he had gained from her.

Once inside, he was mildly overwhelmed by the amount of noise. Horses calling to each other, people shouting negotiations, it all added up to a dull cacophonous roar. Eric wished in that moment he was between Tor's breasts, beneath her shirt, walled in and protected from some of the noise. But he wasn't so he had to suck it up and deal with it.

Tor didn't notice his discomfort. What she did notice was her brothers lingering around her sale pen. She scowled and marched up to them. "What are you doing by my pens?" she growled.

Jason gave her a scathing look. "You owe me the family cut of your recent sales, baby sister. I know you sold some mares last night to that Ranger. I also know you made a real big deal with Siris." He glowered at this. "You know Pap worked on him every summer, trying to get him to buy. He offered him dog-food prices for his best horses. How in Divinity did you get him to buy in one meeting?"

Tor's expression shifted to a smug grin as she put her horses in the pen. She patted the big rump of the dappled grey mare as it passed by. She took her time closing the rope gate before looking to her brothers. She crossed her arms over her chest and simply grinned at them. "Wouldn't you like to know?"

"Dammit, girl!" Jason swore as he advanced on his sister. "Tell me how you landed him when Pap couldn't!"

Tor stood straight, staring down her oldest and biggest brother unflinchingly. "Why in Divinity should I?" she said through clenched teeth.

Jason grabbed her arm and yanked her forward, uncaring of the human on her shoulder who desperately clutched the collar of her shirt so he wouldn't fall off. The Elder man pressed his face into his sister's. "Don't you get smart mouthed with me, Torani Keller. Don't you dare forget who controls all the finances in this little family. You can't get away with being a brat with me. Maybe you think it's cute. It's not. So tell me how you landed his business."

Tor glared up at him with hate and murder in her eyes. If she could, she would kill him. Without a second thought and without remorse. "Fuck you," she spat. "I don't have to tell you anything."

Jason slapped Tor across the face. Hard. Tor bit back a cry, refusing to give him the satisfaction. She glared up at him as her face burned. "I ain't telling you nothing. I'll pay you when I'm paid for my sales. I always do. Until then, get out of my face and get away from my horses."

The oldest Keller was not one for giving up. His eyes landed on the human cowering on his sister's shoulder. With a sneer, he grabbed the boy and tossed him to Brad. The other man laughed and tossed him to Thomas. Tor lunged forward, only to be snagged and whirled around to face Jason. His face was once more in hers. "Tell. Me. You want your little pet back? Tell me how you landed Siris."

Tor glared up at him, but her resolve was slowly deteriorating with every cry she heard from Eric. They weren't screams of pain, yet, but ones of absolute fear. He was begging for her help, begging to be released. Jason was the one grinning now. "I can see it in your face. You want to save your little human. You don't want him hurt. Well then you better speak up."

"Give him back and I'll tell you," she growled out. "I won't tell you a thing until I get him back."

Jason chuckled darkly. Brad tossed the human to him and the oldest Keller caught him with ease. He dropped the human into Tor's waiting hands. "Alright, little sister. You got your pet back. Now talk."

"Fine. It's not like you would earn his business, anyway." She kept Eric close, hating how he shivered and shuddered in her hands. "He doesn't want pretty horses like yours. He wants big-boned sturdy ones like what I breed. He wants ones that will pull wagons across this land without an issue. Ones that can step in holes and keep going, that can roll down a cliff-face and shrug it off like they were rolling in grass after a day under saddle. That's what he wants! But you're too damn stubborn and cling to Pap's bloodlines like they were Creator-given manna!"

Both Kellers were staring each other down, neither daring to move. Hatred was clear in both pairs of eyes. Neither wanted to be the first to look away. Jason wanted to strangle Tor then and there. But the middle of the sales tent was too obvious a place. He would have to cool his temper. For now.

"Watch yourself, Torani," Jason said in a deceptively calm voice. "Watch what you say about my old man. You're the one sullying his legacy by breeding those range rats that you have the nerve to call a pedigreed horse." He stared her down for a moment before speaking again. Never was their height difference so clear. Tor was tall for a woman, but Jason was tall for a man, standing a full head above the average men of their race. Tor had to crane her head back to look him in the eye. But she did so with all the brass Kellers were known for. "Pap had a good eye for horses, best there ever was, and he had a head for business. He would not have appreciated you selling off your share of the inheritance and buying those scraggly mutt horses. He rolled in his grave the day you did that. Count your blessings his spirit doesn't haunt you."

Tor laughed at that. It wasn't a joyous one, but one full of bitterness and resentment. "Pap couldn't give two shits about what I did with my share. He's with Mama and the Creator now. He don't care about nothin' else. And bless him for it."

Jason's face was nearly purple when Tor mentioned her mother. His brothers behind him held similar looks. "Don't you speak about that whore in my presence," he ground out. "That trollop broke up my parents' marriage. And then had the gall to produce spawn like you and that spineless animal you call a brother."

Now it was Tor's turn for her face to turn an unnatural color. Eric was hidden in her hands, curled into a ball. The anger of the giants around him was frightening in its intensity. He didn't want to become a target for its release. Not again. It had been terrifying to be tossed so carelessly through the air, as if he were an inanimate object, a toy to be played with and discarded if it was broken. So he stayed small and silent.

"Don't you talk about my mama that way," she said in a voice so calm it was unnerving. "She may have not been a saint, but Pap sought after her. Your mother cheated on Pap. That's known to anyone who knows our family. Pap got rid of her real quick after that. It was just lucky timing he met Mama when he did. She didn't have anything to do with Pap divorcing your mother."

Jason glared and stepped forward into Tor's personal space again. "Hearsay. That's all it is. Mother was a good woman. She would never have slept outside the marriage bed. Don't you sully my blessed mother's name by repeating those lies."

"Then get out of my face and away from my horses," Tor said evenly.

Jason stared her down a moment longer before turning and leaving. Brad and Thomas glared at her before following after Jason. When they were out of sight, Tor's jelly-legs gave out from beneath her and she crumpled to the ground. This wasn't the first time a confrontation with any of her brothers had gotten physical, far from it, but this was the first time it had been so public. She leaned her head back against the post and sighed.

Her gaze drifted down to her hands when she felt Eric slowly beginning to move around. She opened her hands and looked down at Eric. The poor human was terrified. She could see it in his face. Her thumb brushed across his back, trying to offer him comfort.

"I think," she said after a couple of minutes. "I think you and I are overdue for a ride. Just you, me and Idiot. It's been too long since I rode without a deadline or destination." She lifted Eric in front of her eyes. "What do you say to that?"

Eric slowly nodded. "It sounds good. A ride would be good." And a chance to get away from this overcrowded place.

Tor smiled, just a bit, and pulled herself to her feet. "Then a riding we will go."

Chapter 23 by CoalWhite
Author's Notes:

Holy fuck I live! Suffice it to say, last year was hell on earth and my muse was chained in the depths of it. I almost quit teaching because of last year. It was just all around terrible. But! I moved three hours away, live in the nicest place I've ever lived in (Seriously, quartz countertops, hardwood floors, shiplap on the walls and ceiling, on 25 acres for my dogs to run... Yeah. It's nice) all to start a new job with a new district. Same age group as last year but a whole different population break down and town atmosphere. I am over the moon about the possibilities that are open to me in this town and this district. I'm all moved in to my new place. It's just a matter of unpacking. Which... is going to take a while. haha I have a lot of stuff. So for now, I present you with chapter 23. It's a little rough since the first half of this chapter was written several months ago and I just hammered out the second half tonight in a couple hours. There's probably a few little errors but I want to know what y'all think! It's been ages since I've written. I hope this came out well. TIA!

After a long, much needed ride, Tor stopped by the land-grant office. She pulled out a small notebook from her pocket that contained a set of coordinates and landmarks written on the first two pages. Eric arched an eyebrow down at it from his perch on her shoulder. He had never seen that notebook before and wondered what it was for. Before he could ask, Tor walked up to the clerk and handed him a filled-out claim form.

The man looked over the form and nodded. "I need the exact coordinates to ensure this plot of land has not been claimed yet. I need the coordinates for all ordinal boundaries."

Tor copied down the needed information from the book on a clean slip of paper and handed it to the man. He took it to the back and began looking through the reference books to see if any such land had been claimed. Eric poked her neck.

"Hey, you're purchasing land? I didn't know you wanted land all to yourself."

"There's a lot of things you don't know about me. But yes, I want this land." She brushed some of her hair behind her ear. "I'll have to send a couple men to build a fence around the border so no one claim jumps it. I'll just have to do it after the fair. It's a good ways off. On the other side of the Channel."

Eric paused in thought. On the other side of the Channel? There wasn't any land that Tor had seemed overly entranced with on their trip. But, he had not been with her all her life. She very well could have seen some land before he met her and wanted it. Still, it didn't make sense to him. Something wasn't sitting right with it.

The man came back a moment later and handed her a new piece of paper. "Your plot of land is approved. Is there any indigenous wildlife you want to declare?"

"Yes. A population of wild humans. Roughly one-hundred," Tor replied.

"I see. Alright. Simply declare them on this paper and they are legally yours. Although I do recommend branding them or something so if they do escape, you can round them back up easily." He took the paper when Tor handed it back. "Alright, the last order of business is the fees. There is the declaration fee and the administrative fee and the filing fee."

Tor grumbled something under her breath about being overtaxed and government overreach and taxation is theft but counted out the coins and notes and handed them over. The clerk double checked the amount before stamping the form with a big stamp that said "approved." He filed away everything, gave Tor a receipt and a proof of ownership certificate.

"Have a good day, Miss Keller."

Eric was grinning as they left. "You're buying the land where those humans settled. To protect them, right?" He chuckled. "You do have a heart somewhere under all that barbed wire and snark, don't you?"

"No. It's practical. Now I can find them whenever I need to if you get sick again. Or if you want to go and bed that girl who gave you that flower that you have tucked away in your journal." She smirked.

Eric was brick red and spluttering.

-------------- When they returned, Tor set Eric down by her wagon, in the shade of a wheel, as she untacked her horse and returned him to the pasture. She realized that she couldn't ride the stud as often as she would have liked if he was going to be a good breeding horse and cover all the mares to produce foals. She stroked his neck and patted his withers before turning him loose. He had come a long way in the short time she had been "gifted" him. She was proud of every bit of his progress. The young woman lingered by the paddock, watching her horses and thinking of the future. Eric had thought his spot would be safe. After all, the humans that made up Jason's posse, despite being criminals and such, had never ventured near Tor's wagon. The shade was a perfect spot, coupled with the light breeze that blew. Inside the wagon would have been far too hot and stuffy. He had thought wrong, however. Several members of Jason's hoard of ill-treated humans had cornered him against a wheel. All but one of their number were men. The lone woman was scrawny with stringy hair that fell from a loose bun at the nape of her neck. All the humans were dressed in ragged clothes that were filthy and smelled of mildew and rotten food. Bile rose in the back of Eric's throat as the stench assaulted him. "Lookit the pretty boy," the woman sneered. "Dressed in fine clothes while we rot in these rags." She spat on the ground at Eric's feet. The young man backed up the hair's breadth that he could. "Oh, did I get dirt on ya pretty clothes? Pardon me, m'lord." She gave a mocking bow, much to the amusement of the men. "Leave me alone!" Eric protested. "I haven't done a thing to any of you." "Aaw, he's scared!" One of the men called out. "Poor little tike, are we scarin' you? Well there ain't no need to be scared. See, we's peaceable folk, truly. We just don't think it's fair that you parade around in those nice clothes while we have ta hope an' pray our rags hold up." His smile was crooked in more ways than one. "We just want to even things out, ya see," the woman said. "So everyone's on equal grounds. Redistribution of goods." Eric looked confused. "But that would only leave me with no clothes! There's not enough of what I'm wearing to go around." "Well that sounds like a problem. For you," the woman said. "Not so much for us." The men chuckled and advanced on the teenager. While Eric was in better health, the lean and hard times as part of Jason's posse had given the others a desperation of strength that was unmatched. They quickly yanked his shirt, boots and pants off him, leaving him in only his long-johns. Then came the fight between each other of who got what. Eric, bolstered by pride, dove into the fray and tried to reclaim his clothes. All he got for his efforts were an elbow to his nose and a fist across his jaw. He felt his nose crack and yelped, stumbling back. It was bleeding freely, pouring down his mouth and chin, soaking the chest of his underclothes. A different shadow fell across them, darkening their world further. "What in Purgatory is going on here?!" Tor snapped. She crouched, scooped up Eric and held him to her face to assess him. His eyes were starting to blacken, his nose was crooked and his shirt was rapidly soaking in blood. "What happened?" "They jumped me and took my clothes," Eric muttered, humiliated. "I tried to get them back but..." He trailed off and looked down at her fingers. Tor's gaze hardened, her purple eyes frigid in their intensity. "Who is the ring leader? Who lead you all the way from Jason's wagons to mine?" The men in the posse quickly pointed to the woman who screeched in outrage. "It was their idea!" she protested. "They's always talkin' about how he parades around in fine clothing while we wear rags until they fall off and Jason gives us new ones! It ain't fair." "Life isn't fair," Tor replied testily. "That doesn't mean you gang up on a boy for his clothes." She shifted Eric to one hand, grabbed the woman and carried her over to the paddock fence where she rolled her under the boards and out into the grass among the horses. She then stood and walked back to her wagon as if nothing had happened. She pumped a bowl of water, warmed by the sun on the metal tank it was stored in, for Eric to clean himself. While he washed his face of the blood, she picked out a fresh set of clothes for him. "You weren't carrying your pistols," she said. "I told you to always carry them, even if you're with me. It's for your safety." The Elder woman rubbed the bridge of her nose as Eric changed. "This could have been prevented if you had had them like I said." "I'm sorry," he muttered. "I'm not used to carrying them. It just doesn't occur to me when I dress in the morning to carry a gun." He dried off, gingerly dabbing around his nose and eyes, and dressed in the clean clothes. "It needs to start occurring. I bought them for you for a reason," she told him. "I know, I know," he said quietly. "I'll try to start remembering." Beneath the wagon, the remaining members of the posse watched as the horses milled about in the paddock where the woman had been tossed. They felt no remorse and only the barest hint of pity. The life they lived was hard and short and full of death and the fear of death. All knew they would die someday, more than likely at the hands of Jason, but all hoped for a quick, painless one.

They gathered up their loot and quickly set out back for Jason's wagon. It wouldn't do to be missing if he showed back up and wanted them. That fate would be worse than being tossed into a paddock among giant horses.

Chapter 24 by CoalWhite
Author's Notes:

Hiiiii guys! Guess what. ACL is fully written. Down to the very last chapter. There's only a handful left. Friday will come with the new update! Promise promise because it's already written. Hehe

The summer months of the horse fair were hot and busy. After Tor was paid for her horses by Siris and the ranger, she paid Jason his portion. She heard no more from him after that. It was what she preferred. She hated his company. Hated him. He had mistreated her since she was born, since she could remember. She had never done a thing to deserve his animosity but she had it anyway so she gave him the same.

She only saw Bret once more before he had to leave. He grinned as he sauntered up to her, the bay mare he had purchased following close behind. "She's a pocket horse, it seems," he chuckled. "She's a doll. I love her. She's already set herself up as boss of my string." He seemed proud of that.

"Good to know you like her," Tor replied. "Are the rest of the rangers looking to buy? I've got plenty more to sell."

Bret frowned a little at this. "A few of my brothers might, but they're not as well paid as me." He grinned again. "I'm one of the best around. I catch more wanted men on average than almost any other ranger."

Tor was impressed in spite of her annoyance with the man. "Oh? But that doesn't tell me if your brothers want to buy."

Bret rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. "They would, but they're hoping to get married soon. Each has his eye on a pretty girl. So, they're taking whatever the paper-pushers give them. And right now the paper-pushers like the price of your brother's horses."

Tor frowned at this. "His are beautiful, I don't disagree. But they are not built and bred for the kind of work and lifestyle a ranger leads. They'll go foul in the mountains or snap a leg if they step in a hole. You're going to run them ragged and they'll be useless for anything other than dog food in a few months."

Bret held up his hands. "Trust me, I know. I tried to tell the paper-pushers this but they've worked out a deal with Jason. It's why I bought my own string from you. I realize how good your horses are. I see that they're what should be out carrying a ranger. But it's not me you have to convince. It's the paper-pushers and they think they know all."

Tor scowled and felt a shaft of disappointment lance its way through her. "I realize mine are not dirt cheap, but you get what you pay for. My horses are an investment for someone who wants a good, sturdy work horse that will last them for years to come."

The ranger took her hands in his and looked at her. Tor realized for the second time that he was at least as tall as Jason. It was startling the difference in the two men. Jason used his height to try and intimidate her and never let her forget he was bigger and stronger. Bret had never once. Tor never felt small next to him. 

She blinked and realized Bret had been speaking. "What? Sorry, I was lost in thought." She quickly pulled her hands from his.

Bret grinned. "I was saying that I realize that. Maybe after I don't go through two strings a year, the paper-pushers will see what I already know and will come asking you for a contract. It's renewed every summer, you know."

"Every summer? Well maybe I'll get their business next summer." She glanced around, seeing that a lot of people had already packed up and left. "There's less than a week until the fair is over."

"I'm surprised you haven't high-tailed it yet," Bret said. "The next big fair is a little further north."

"Trust me, if I could have, I would have been long gone. But I have to stay until Jason leaves." She sighed. 

"I guess you have a close bond, huh? I mean, if you're waiting around for him until you leave," Bret said. "By the way, where's your little human? He's usually perched on your shoulder scowling at me."

"Ha! Yeah, no. I don't stay because I love Jason. I stay because my father's will stipulates that I have to keep my herd within sight of his." She scowled. "I hate it but I don't know of a way out of it. And Eric is back in the wagon. He was feeling poorly this morning."

Bret arched a brow. "From that tone of voice, I take it you and your brother don't exactly get a long."

Tor snorted. "That's a very mild way of putting it. Let me put it to you this way, if he ever does anything wrong and I know about it, I'll happily report it to you and let you haul his ass off to jail where he can rot."

Bret laughed aloud. His laugh was large and booming and startled Tor with its intensity. "Tor Keller, you are some kind of woman. You know that?" He took her hand and brushed a kiss across it. "I have to go now. Thank you for the mare and the conversation."

Tor's face flushed from her chin to her hairline. She yanked her hand back as if she had been stung. "Oh shut up and go away, will you? You're running off my potential customers."

Bret continued laughing as he took his mare and walked away. "Until next time, Tor Keller!"

Tor shook her head and sighed. "Crazy man," she muttered. She turned back to the mares that were milling about in her sales pen. Two were grazing from the flake of hay she had given them and the remaining four were dozing. She smiled slightly and headed back to her camp. She passed by Jason's on her way and saw them breaking down and loading things up. 

She caught sight of her younger brother Mick and hailed him. The meek man walked over to her, glancing over his shoulder briefly before giving his sister his attention. "What is it?" he asked.

"What's up your backside?" Tor asked, surprised with his snippy tone. 

"Sorry, Jason has me busy running this way and that." He rubbed his face tiredly. "I haven't had much sleep. We're breaking camp and planning to leave tomorrow morning."

"Why do you tolerate that? You don't have to do what Jason says," she reminded him. "You owe him money from your sales and nothing else."

Mick shrugged. "I don't sell much. My few horses run with his."

"You let him boss you around and you owe him nothing," Tor said. "Honestly, where's your Keller backbone?" She gave him a dirty side-eyed look.

Mick flushed with shame and embarrassment. "Sorry. I just don't like dealing with all the paperwork and stuff. It's easier to let Jason handle it all."

"And in return you're practically his body servant," Tor snapped. "Get over your laziness and get your head in the real world. No one will take care of you for free. Someone always wants something in return. And Jason will want everything he can work you for. Then he'll dump you and forget about you." She ran a hand through her hair. "Think carefully before you give your life over to Jason. Hell, for all you want him to do, I would help you out without making you run around like a servant."

Mick shrugged. "He's the oldest," he said. He flinched when Jason bellowed his name above the din of breaking camp. "Sorry, Tor, I gotta go." He hurried off to do whatever it was Jason had ordered him to do.

Tor sighed and shook her head. "One day I'll get us out of this mess," she told him as he walked away. "One day." 

She headed back into camp and gave the order to break down. "We're heading out. Don't ask me where. It's wherever Jason's libido takes us." Several of the men in her camp laughed. "Let's get rolling. He wants to leave in the morning which means I want to leave after lunch. I don't want to see anything but the pinprick asses of his toy horses."

The men laughed again. All of them were loyal to Tor. A few of them had worked for her father and chose to work for her after his passing. Many of the things Jason did left a sour taste in their mouths and they wanted no part of them. So they chose to work for the Keller they thought best followed their late boss's ideals. 

They had the camp packed up and ready to roll by supper. The cook prepared a big supper. "Breakfast and lunch will be cold," he told them. "So I can get out ahead and have your supper ready by the time you show up."

Tor nodded. "That's fine. Thanks." She checked on Eric. The poor human was curled up on a fold of the blanket, absolutely miserable. She brushed a knuckle across his face. "You're warm but not as warm as you were this morning. Did you eat anything?"

Eric shook his head. "No," he muttered miserably. "I haven't had the appetite."

"Did you drink any of the water I left for you? Dehydrating is easy when sick and will keep you sicker for longer." She took the bowl he had vomited in and rinsed it out before setting it back beside him.

"A little," Eric said. "I'm just so tired. I don't want to move." 

Tor pursed her lips. "Do I need to take you back to the human doctor? The lands are fenced now and easy to find."

Eric shook his head. "No. I'll be better in a day or two. Don't worry about me." He wrapped himself up in the blanket.

Tor sighed and stroked his back. "Can't do that when you're puking your guts out and running a fever." She rolled him out of the blanket and into her hand. She lifted him up to her face to get a better look at him. "Poor thing. You need a bath, too. A nice hot one to sweat out all that crud." 

She fixed him a hot bath and let him soak. The next afternoon, they rolled on. Eric was a little better and Tor's worry abated. The days flowed one into another. Lands melted into one another. Trees and hills and cliffs all became one. Word flowed back that Jason picked up a new bimbo. A day later, the gossip came that she got motion sick easily and messed up Jason's wagon with vomit everywhere. 

Tor thought that might be the best thing she ever heard. She chuckled as they headed through a low valley. "Best day ever," she murmured. "Hopefully she pukes on him next time."

They camped in the valley that night and exited it the following morning. Another day of riding and driving the horses before they came to a stop. Tor was surprised when she saw how close Jason's camp was. Larson came riding up, a big grin on his face.

"The bimbo can't handle the rocking of the wagon. She got sick again. So Jason's stopped and had a lean-to thrown together for her to rest in," he told her.

Tor shook her head. "She must be something for him to spend this much time and effort on her. Alright. Let's stop then. We'll set up camp here until Jason decides to move on." 

Chapter 25 by CoalWhite

Tor was working with Idiot and Eric was safely tucked away in the wagon. He was curled up on a pillow in the windowsill, dozing peacefully. While he enjoyed spending time with Tor, he didn't like being on her shoulder when she was working with the horses, especially Idiot. The stallion had come a long way since Tor was first thrown on his back, but he still had some work to be done.  

"I know he should be in the herd," Tor said to Larson. "But he could be such a great saddle horse it's hard to deny myself riding him. He's so surefooted and steady on the land. He's what I want in all of my horses." 

"Which is why he should be making foals," Larson said. "You don't go riding a stallion all around tarnation. It's not fitting for a woman."  

"It's not fitting for a woman to be in trousers, either. Or for her to own a large business like this," she pointed out. "It's not fitting for her to ride astride. Yet I do all of those things anyway. I ride around in a dangerous land, full of people who want to hurt me and possibly kill me. And that's just my family. There's no telling how many strangers want what's mine. As temperamental as Idiot is, those mean little ticks in him make him a great personal protection. In addition to a rifle." She smiled at Larson. "As long as we're on a trail and not stopped for the night, I'm going to ride him." 

Larson shook his head. There was no use in arguing with her. He wouldn't win and she would be even more convinced she was doing the right thing. He sighed and turned for the gate to the small corral. "Fine, fine. Don't listen to the old timer. I'm gonna go walk the herd. It seems a little thin this morning. Going through that valley last night, I'm afraid we may have dropped a horse or two." 

Tor stopped and frowned. "What do you mean? Idiot didn't react as if any of the mares had dropped." Surely the big, possessive stud would have tried to turn back for a missing mare. 

"He was running at the front," Larson said. "He had his eye on your lead mare and her double. Those pretty girls distract even me. I'm not surprised he didn't see the three or four I think are gone drop out."  

Tor pursed her lips, nonplussed. Idiot, lacking direction from his person, stopped and watched her. His ears were keenly tuned on to her and Larson, almost as if he was listening to their conversation and waiting to give his own opinion. Tor gave him a slight smile and held out her hand. Idiot waited a minute longer before walking over and dropping his nose into her hand. He whuffed and lipped at her fingers. Tor scratched his forehead, right between his eyes. 

"Alright. I'll come with you. Let me turn him out and I'll be right there." She looped the lead rope around the stallion's thick neck and walked him out to the herd. Larson stayed on her side, not trusting the horse enough to put himself within biting range.  

Tor released the stallion and watched as he pranced off to the mares, most especially his favorite. The mare she had taken from the man who had tried to steal and eat her humans had turned out to be a mighty fine acquisition. Tor was certain she was already pregnant with Idiot's foal. Idiot always showed off for her and the mare seemed to enjoy it, always staying right with him wherever he was and making sure the other mares knew she was boss. 

Larson had to chuckle when the mare drove off a grey filly before Idiot reached her. "She's a jealous one. Much like you." He elbowed his boss. Tor rolled her eyes and began counting the mares. Sure enough, she was short four. "They're good ones. I don't want them missing. It's Atella, the dapple grey, Marjorie the bay roan, and the chestnut twins Stella and Bella." 

"Well want them to be missing or not, they are," Larson said. "What do you want to do about it?" 

"Do? I want them found. Take a few men and go comb the valley. See if they got tangled up somewhere." Tor never ran her horses with their halters on. It was far too dangerous. But that didn't mean the fool creatures didn't get hung up in a vine-riddled patch somewhere. She rubbed her face in frustration. "Paradise help me. I'm supposed to be breeding good stock that doesn't go lame and foul up at every chance." 

Larson patted her shoulder. "Breathe. They may have just gotten a little lost. It doesn't necessarily mean they're hurt. I'll find them and bring them back. Promise." 

"Thanks, Larson." What would she do without the wise old hand? She probably wouldn't have succeeded near as well as she had. 

Eric was happily dozing in the open window of the wagon, soaking in the warm midday sun, when a shadow fell across him. He stirred slightly, thinking Tor was back for lunch. When he opened his eyes, he gasped in shock and tried to back away. "N-no! What are you doing here?!" 

Jason smiled. He didn't say a word. He just grabbed Eric and shoved him into his pants pocket. He chuckled maliciously as he swung back into Corsica's saddle. "You'll do nicely," he said to himself. He turned the mare back to where his camp was and headed out. 

In his pocket, Eric struggled for all he was worth. He was panicking at the thought of what Jason would do to him. Jason was not good. He was not kind or nice. He was nothing like Tor. This knowledge terrified Eric. His heart hammered in his chest and his breathing became labored. He knew this wasn't going to end well. Not for him. 

Jason rode back into his camp and swung down. He handed Corsica off to one of his men and dropped Eric off with a redheaded human under one of the wagons. "Watch him," he told her. "Don't let him leave." He grabbed his current bimbo, kissed her and lead her into the lean-to that had been thrown together for their use since the rocking of the wagon had made her motion sick. 

She giggled as the door closed, cooing and moaning softly. Eric shuddered. He had heard rumors of what Jason did with his humans. He was praying to every deity that he knew of that would listen that he wouldn't end up just like them. 

Toni looked at the boy that Jason had given to her and shrugged. He seemed...well off. He looked like somebody's pampered pet if she had ever seen one. Not that she intended to get to know him or anything; she had no time for friends that would die soon. "You," she said. She pointed one finger, ending a chipped and dirty nail, at him. "Behave and stay put and I wont kick your ass. That's it. Those are the rules." 

Eric was shivering despite the heat of the midday sun. "Please," he said hoarsely. "Please, I want to go back to Tor. I won't tell him you helped me. I'll tell Tor you did and she'll reward you! She would take you out of this hellhole. Please, take me back. Or tell me which way her camp is. I can't tell from here."

"Yeah no," she deadpanned. "I'm not risking my life for anyone and certainly not for you. No one gets out of here if Jason decides they belong to him. Not now, not ever," she said, staring down at him. "Let's get under the wagon. It's hot as Purgatory out here"

"Please!" He was wild-eyed as he looked around. "I don't belong here. I'm not a criminal. I belong with Tor. She's my friend. She takes care of me. She won't like that I've gone missing." When he realized this girl was not going to tell him how to get away, he decided to take it upon himself. He turned and took off running in a random direction, hoping beyond hope to find a path to freedom.

 

Toni grunted and then ran after him. She tackled him to the ground and grabbed his arms and pulled them behind his back. Her knee was braced in the small of his back as she glared down at him. "Stupid. You can't get away. Are you going to stay put now or what?"

"I don't want to stay here!" Eric said, struggling against her hold. "Jason will kill me just to make Tor mad!" His time with Tor had made him soft. He had developed a pudge around his middle and had not practiced his sword or pistols for quite some time. Now he was paying for that laziness. This woman was strong from her time in Jason's pack of humans. Her grip was like steel around his wrists as she hauled him back under the wagon.

 

"Well, that's none of my business. He told me to make you stay and that's it." She stood, pulling Eric up with her, and walked back to the shade of the wagon. She took a seat on a small rock and pulled him down to sit. "Now shut up and don't give me any trouble. I'll kill you and tell Jason one of his men did it."

 

Eric sat, continuing to shiver. He was doomed. Tor wasn't going to know where to look and he was too weak and soft to escape. He was a pitiful excuse for a princeling. His father was right. Frantic, Eric ran his hands through his hair. He was about to make another break for it when the wagon was moved out of the way and Jason, shirtless with his trousers slung low and undone, stood above him. Eric did shriek at that point and attempt to run but it was far too late. Jason scooped him up and carried him into the lean-to.

 

Toni watched as the boy was taken and sighed. He would die soon, she knew. It was always better not to get attached. She prayed quietly for him to have a quick death before going back to the shadows. 

Back at her camp, Tor had just finished discussing specifics with Larson. She would stay put while he went with a few men to go find her missing horses. He had even convinced her to go talk to Jason about her missing horses, in hopes he or one of his men may have seen them. She watched as her top hand rode away before catching Idiot.  

"I know," she told the stallion. "I just let you go back to your mares. But I don't trust Jason one bit and I want you as my bodyguard." She kissed his nose and laughed when he lipped at her face. "Thanks. You're the only man I love right now and I'm perfectly happy with that." 

She lead him back to her wagon to get his tack. She was going to let Eric know where she was going so he wouldn't get upset when she was gone. "Eric," she called as she walked up and tied Idiot to the wagon. "Eric, where are you?" The boy didn't show himself and he wasn't on the sunny windowsill where he liked to nap. She frowned and went inside,watching where she placed her feet just in case he had gotten down on the floor. 

"Eric? Eric, come on out. Hiding isn't smart or funny." Worry trickled into her mind. What had happened? The wagon was perfectly intact. Nothing was ransacked. Nothing was out of place. It was as tidy and orderly as ever. Where was her princeling? She looked all over, carefully moving away blankets and pillows, but found nothing. Worry was quickly turning into panic. 

She went back outside and looked around on the ground, hoping to see him hiding in the shadows of a wheel or something. What she found had her panicked-worry turning into confusion then anger. She found a set of hoof-prints on the other side of the wagon, not the side where she tacked up her horses. These hoof-prints were far too small and delicately placed to be one of her big-boned horses. There was only one such kind of horse around. Jason's horses. 

"Curse that whoring bastard!" she screamed. Whether Jason himself had come and taken Eric or had sent one of his men, she knew he was behind Eric's disappearance. And if Jason had him, Eric wouldn't last long. There was no telling how long he had been gone. 

She wasted no time in saddling Idiot, making sure a coil of rope and her stock-whip were settled on the horn. She slid her rifle into its holster and swung into the saddle. She wheeled the big stud and leaned low, signalling for him to run. Run he did. He didn't know why he was being asked to run, but he relished the opportunity. Tor guided him in the direction where she could see her brothers' camp. They were closer than she normally liked to be and now Eric was paying for it.  

It only took a few minutes before she stormed into Jason's camp. "Where is he?!" she bellowed. "Where is Eric and where is Jason?!" She looked around as Idiot pranced in place, rolling the bit in his mouth and snorting. His rider's agitation flowed through the reins and affected him. One man, obviously new to Jason's crew, pointed to the shabby lean-to. 

"He went in there, Miss, with one of his humans." He was quickly cuffed and silenced by Stan, Jason's top hand. The big man gave Tor a look. 

"You best go on home now, Tor. There's nothing for you in this camp." 

"Creator's arse there isn't anything for me here!" She rode up to the lean-to and backed Idiot up to it. She collected her breath and apologized to the horse. "I know you don't like this, but I need your strength right now." Her rifle was tucked under her arm as she gave him one good kick in his sides. 

The stallion reacted predictably. His ears went flat, his head went down and he bucked. His powerful hind-hooves connected with the door, shattering it and knocking it off its hinges. Tor bailed after the first buck, letting the horse work out his fit on his own. She knew he wouldn't go far. Or he would only go back to his mares. In which case she would take one of Jason's horses back home.  

She charged into the cabin. Jason and his bimbo were naked. She was spread across the bed and he was standing at the foot of it. Eric was in his hands. Tor's vision went red. Before Jason could snap out of his surprised stupor, she stormed up to him and kneed him in the groin. The man gasped for air and collapsed. Tor slammed the butt of the rifle into the side of his face. His eyes rolled back and he slumped to the ground, unconscious. She snagged the hand that held Eric before it could fall, prying Jason's fingers open and taking the boy into her own, gentler grasp. 

He was naked and shivering, pale underneath his tan. There was no telling what kind of trauma Jason had inflicted before she got there but it was plain enough to see what was going to happen if she hadn't made it in time.  

"I've got you," she told him softly. "I'm here. I'm right here." She carried him outside. A couple of the men had braved the big stallion's tantrum and caught him. The held him at the very end of his reins, not wanting to be too close to his wicked bite. Someone had collected the rope and whip that had fallen off and placed them back around the horn of the saddle.  

Tor kept Eric tucked close as she put one foot in the stirrup and swung up. She took the reins back from the man and headed back to her camp. When she arrived, she handed Idiot off to one of her men. "He won't bite you, I don't think," she told him. "Just go slow and talk softly to him."  

She took Eric into her wagon and gave him some clean clothes to wear. When he was dressed, she scooped him back up and sat on the bed. She simply held him for a long time, until his shaking slowed and his whimpering cries tapered off. Her thumb gently rubbed his back as she tried to give him comfort. 

Nearly an hour later, she pulled her hands away and lifted him up to her face. "Are you alright?" It was a stupid question, she realized as soon as she asked it. "Are you hurting anywhere?" 

Eric scrubbed his face. "I'm just sore." His voice was hoarse. Probably from screaming for so long. "I don't think he broke anything." He clung to her hand and looked up at her with the most pitiful look Tor had ever seen him give. "Please, don't leave me alone again. I don't care where I have to sit, just please don't leave me alone again."  

Tor sighed softly. "I won't." She hugged him to her cheek. "You'll be with me from now on. You'll just have to learn to toughen up and hold on when I'm working." 

Eric nodded against her cheek. "I can do that." 

"Good." Tor pulled him away and smiled softly. "Are you hungry?" 

"A little," he said. "But mostly I want a bath."  

"Then I'll make you one." She carried him to the counter and pumped a bowl full of water, warmed by the heat of the sun striking the metal tank it was stored in. For a human, the temperature was just right for a bath. Tor set up a couple books around the bowl to give him a sense of privacy. Normally she would sit outside on the steps while he bathed, but today she stayed inside, sitting in a chair at the table across from the counter where he was. 

Eric disrobed and climbed into the bowl. He stayed there for some time, scrubbing away the dirt and the horrible realization of what Jason was going to do to him. When the water cooled some time later, he climbed out and wrapped himself in the clean rag that was his version of a towel. He dried off and redressed before calling for Tor. 

She was there almost immediately, taking him into her hands, emptying the bowl and putting away the books. She kept him tucked close as she walked outside. "Come on. I need to check and see if Larson has come back yet. Several of my mares are missing and he went to look for them." 

Tor stepped out into the late afternoon sun and walked through the camp. Her cook was preparing supper. It would be ready soon, she could tell. She smelled the sweet scent of cooking apples. There would be apple pie tonight. Such a rare treat and one that would be sorely needed after Eric's traumatic experience.

 

End Notes:

And I bet you didn't believe me when I said I would have the next chapter up today!! Well here it is so THERE HAHA

Chapter 26 by CoalWhite

With Jason injured, they weren't going to be moving camp anytime soon. Tor took this opportunity to work with Idiot on a few things. She kept Eric on her at all times. She had chosen to wear some of Larson's old shirts, with the sleeves rolled up and the hem tucked in, because they had a pocket on the front. The ones in her limited wardrobe had no such amenities. Eric stayed in that pocket, a handkerchief tucked around him when the cold wind blew strong. 

She spent the mornings with her big horse and let him alone in the afternoons to cover his mares. She took out one of her mild-mannered geldings and ranged a short distance from the camp, trying to see if any of her mares were close by. There was no sign of them and no sign of Larson, either. She sighed and turned the gelding back home. 

It had been nearly two weeks since Larson had gone out in search of the missing mares and since Jason had stolen Eric. She decided it was time to go see if her brothers had seen her horses, even if she hated their guts. She set Eric down in the wagon. 

"I'm going to lock it and the windows," she told him. "I want you to stay here. Who knows what they'll try to do to me right now. It's safer for you here. I'll even have Stephan keep a close eye on the wagon." She gently rubbed his back as she placed him on the bed. "There's ladders for you to climb anywhere you want so you can still look out the window."

"But I don't want to stay behind!" the princeling protested. "I want to stay with you so that they can't get me again. Jason could come and get me if I'm not with you." His eyes were wide and terrified at the thought. 

"Stephan will keep watch," she told him again. "He's a good, trusted man who's been with me almost as long as Larson has." She bent down and kissed the top of his head. "Now stay put and stay calm. I don't think I'll be long. I'm just asking if they've seen my horses." 

That said, she turned and left the wagon. She did as she told him she would by locking all the windows and the door and having Stephan stand watch. "Don't let anyone into that wagon except me or Larson," she instructed the big man.

"Yes, boss," he said. "No one'll get your little human. I'll see to it."

Tor smiled slightly and saddled up Idiot. She stroked his neck and spoke softly to him. "You're a real good man. Keep me company and keep me safe while we go see about your mares." She swung into the saddle and headed off.

Stan greeted her as she rode into Jason's camp. "Miss Tor," he said, "it's not wise to come poke a viper you've already punched."

Tor snorted. "That viper stole from me. He stole my human and had every intention to kill him. Don't talk to me about wisdom and morals." She looked around the camp and noticed Jason off in the distance. "I see he's up and about. So I didn't kill him. Pity."

It was Stan's turn to snort. Jason was up and about, yes, but the man should still have been in bed. He had a big bruise down the side of his face and still had dizzy spells, especially when mounting or dismounting or having to turn quick on Corsica. "Go on home, Tor," he said. "There's nothing for you here."

Tor eyed him sharply. "The last time you said that, Jason had my human. Does he have my missing mares, too?"

"I don't know anything about missing horses, Tor," Stan said. "I just know you shouldn't be here. It does nothing but cause trouble. You do nothing but cause trouble."

Tor gave a sharp laugh at that. "Ha! No. That's not me, Stan, and you know it. You're talking out of somewhere other than your mouth now. I'm going to talk to Jason and make sure he doesn't have my missing horses. I didn't get a chance to look last time. I was too busy rescuing my human that Jason was attempting to kill in a rather humiliating way."

She urged Idiot onward at a trot. She had to rise up and down with the pace to ensure that her butt and his back weren't sore at the end of the ride. What she saw when she rode up had her seeing red all over again. 

Her missing mares were mixed in with Jason's herd. She knew that wasn't an accident. Larson had spent the last several days with some of the men combing the countryside they had ridden through looking for them. Now she realized they had been stolen. 

Jason's condescending smirk told her all she needed to know. She rode her big stallion right up to his dainty mare, pushing the stud's broad chest into the mare's delicate rump. "Give me back my horses!" she bellowed.

Corsica, Jason's mare, stumbled at the impact. She whinnied in distress as she regained her footing. Jason glared at his sister. "Watch it!" he snapped, spinning the mare around so he was face-to-face with Tor. His hand was white-knuckle in its grip on the horn. He backed the mare up, ensuring there was a good distance between his crazy sister and himself. "This mare is worth ten of any of your range-rats!

"Give me back my horses!" Tor repeated. She had her stock whip coiled around the horn of the saddle. She quickly undid it and snapped it at her brother, cracking the air right by his ear. "Give me back my horses or I will kill you!"

Jason flinched away from assault, narrowly avoiding a nasty welt across his face. As it was, his ear was ringing from the deafening sound the whip created. "Who do you think you are?!" he bellowed. "You don't get to come riding into my camp and threatening me!"

"I'll do as I damn well please, you horse thief!" she spat. There was no reasoning with her. If there had been a rope in her hands, she would have made it into a noose and looped it around Jason's neck. "I'm going to report you to the local magistrate!"

"And say what?!" Jason snapped back. "I have controlling interests in your damn animals. I can do whatever I want with them!"

"No you can't! They've got my brand. Not yours. Not Pap's. Mine. Their papers are in my name. You can't have them!"

Jason scoffed. "Your abominations don't have papers. Not real ones. Not ones that matter."

"Says you! But my ledgers say otherwise. The national breed registry says otherwise." Her eyes were blazing. She cracked her whip again, this time landing a blow on Jason's arm. 

The man cried out in pain and shock. He hadn't actually thought Tor would hit him with the whip. At his cry, a few of his men turned their horses and headed towards the pair. The siblings bickering wasn't unusual, but Jason's obvious pain was. Tor reared her arm back and struck again with the whip. She wasn't so accurate with her strikes that she hit the same spot and broke skin, but she did leave another welt. Jason yelled again.

"Woman, if you don't stop!"

Tor struck him for a third time. "You don't get to steal my horses, you damn horse thief!" She pulled her arm back, readying herself for a fourth strike, when her wrist was grabbed from behind.

"That's enough, Tor!" It was Larson. He had ridden into camp just as she left. When he heard where she was headed and what had happened while he was gone, he had followed at top speed. He had realized any confrontation between the siblings wasn't going to be civil. 

"He stole my horses!" she protested. She yanked her arm, trying to free herself. "Go look for yourself! All the missing mares are in his herd!"

Larson looked over at the graceful horses sprawled out over the grass. Tor's horses stuck out like a sore thumb. Their big, heavy bodies were like a wolf-hound in a pack of setters. They simply didn't fit. Larson groaned under his breath. This wasn't going to be a pretty resolution.

"Didja have to go and take her horses?" Larson asked.

Jason scowled. "I'll do what I damn well please with any of the horses!"

"No you won't," Larson snapped back. "There's an agreement between you two. She won't mess with your herds and you don't mess with hers. Your pap set up his will just-so for a damn good reason. He knew how greedy and selfish you were and he set it up to protect Tor."

"He should have just given me my freedom!" Tor yelled. "He was a damn fool to think Jason could ever change."

Jason's face nearly turned purple. "Pap was a smart man! He knew to give me controlling interest because you're the one who's a fool. Breeding those range rats as if they mean anything. You'll go broke before you make any sort of name for yourself with them. You should have just continued breeding with Pap's lines. There wasn't a damn thing wrong with them!"

Larson quickly grabbed Idiot's reins with his other hand, spinning the big stallion around so Tor couldn't use him to ram Jason again. "Shut up!" he yelled. "You're only making it worse. Return the damn horses and stay out of Tor's affairs!" 

Jason growled. "Fine. Take your fucking rats back." He signaled to the men who were sitting behind him. "Weed out the mutts and send them back to Tor's herds." The men nodded and rode off to do as told.

Larson turned to his boss. "Listen, Tor, be pissed but be smart. You've got your human back at your wagon in a panic. Take your horses. I'll help you get them home." 

Tor glared and yanked her arm free. She leveled her nastiest gaze at her oldest brother. "I won't forgive what you did. I'll make sure you pay." She pulled Idiot's reins away and turned him to her mares. The stallion immediately focused on the mares. He followed his instincts and began herding them back to where he knew his other mares were. 

Tor let him, allowing him to do his thing as she thought. This was unacceptable. She absolutely could not allow Jason to get away with stealing her horses. She knew he wouldn't face the noose, but there had to be something she could do to keep him from repeating his little stunt. She growled under her breath and chewed on her lip. But what could she do?

Larson sighed. "Tor, don't let him get to you too much. He's an ass. Always has been and always will be."

"No! I'm not going to let this go," she snapped. "Not at all. I've got to do something. I can't let him get away with stealing my horses. Not at all. This is beyond being an ass."

Larson had to agree. "If you're that bad off about it, go see a solicitor. There's a town a hard day's ride east. Due east, just keep the setting sun at your back. Go see what he has to say about the will and your arrangement."

"I'm not leaving my horses," she said. "We'll drive the whole herd with us. One hard day won't do them any damage at all. It should do nothing but strengthen them." She looked her top hand dead in the eye. "As soon as we get back to camp, break and let's go. No wasting time."

Larson had to sigh. "Alright. We'll break camp as soon as we get back." He wasn't looking forward to it. He had been riding hard for the past several days and had been eager to rest in his bunk. But work was work. He and Tor drove the group of mares back to camp where they promptly set about packing and getting ready to go.

"Tor!" Eric called, waving frantically to his owner-friend. He was right where he had been left, the window ledge above the bed in her wagon. "Tor! Where your horses with Jason?!"

Tor thanked Stephan and dismissed him. She was in the middle of hitching up her big geldings when Eric spoke. She stopped and brushed some hair from her face. "Yes," she said shortly. "He stole them, the fucker. We're going to a solicitor in the next town to see if something can be done to keep him away from my horses."

"But it's almost dark," Eric said. "Can't we wait until morning?"

"No." She gave him a withering look. "It can't. He'll probably send a few men under the cover of darkness to steal from me again. I can't risk it. I won't."

Eric shrank under her glower. "Oh. Alright."

Tor huffed and returned to fastening the harness across the black gelding's back. "You can stay in the wagon if you're that tired. You've got no purpose out here."

Eric shrank even further into himself at that. Tor noticed but only huffed. She didn't have time to stop and coddle his feelings. Getting away from Jason was top priority. She finished hitching the geldings to the wagon before pulling the tack off Idiot. She patted his shoulder before turning him out to the rest of the herd. He would run with them, as was proper, while she drove her wagon team. He was a great mount but his main job was to make little copies of himself and he couldn't do that while under saddle. 

She watched him trot back to his mares, high-stepping and neck arched, and smiled for the first time since she realized her mares were missing. "You're a good man," she murmured to herself. She climbed to the seat of the wagon, made sure the window was closed before looking to the rest of her men.

"Let's go!" she called. She snaked her whip into the air, cracking it above her team's head. The geldings snorted and lurched forward, pulling the wagon easily along behind them. Another crack of the whip and the geldings picked up speed. A third crack had them galloping. The pair snorted and tossed their heads but complied. 

The men driving the horses called out to each other, cracked their own whips to get the herd moving. Idiot reared and screamed a challenge to the men. One of them cracked their whip near the big stud. The horse got the message. With a snort, he turned and began driving his mares away from the men, inadvertently following Tor's wagon. The rest of the bunk wagons and the chuck wagon spread out behind the herd, helping to keep them moving in the right direction.

End Notes:

Oh my gosh, look how far we've come! Three more chapters. Which means that next Friday, barring any unforseen event that prevents me from being on the computer, this story will come to a conclusion. Can anyone predict what will happen? I would love to know your thoughts. I won't confirm or deny anything (much like our politicians), but I'm eager to know what you think is going to happen and why.

Also, I'll post the second chapter this week on Thursday. I have a staff Christmas party Friday night so I won't be able to get on since I am part hostess. 

Chapter 27 by CoalWhite

The whole camp moved onward, pushing through the night, using the glow of the moon to light their way. There were times where the teams walked to rest and times where they pushed for all they were worth. Eric stayed in the wagon the whole trip. Tor didn't try to speak to him and he didn't seem eager to bridge the gap after the brusque tone she had used with him. Quite some time had passed since she had spoken to him like that. He wondered if his position in her life was sliding. The thought worried him. 

It was late afternoon the following day when they finally pulled into town. Tor dropped the horses and teams in the corrals at the livery stable, paid the hostlers to feed and water the herd before taking her copy of the will and Eric and heading off down the main boardwalk in search of the solicitor. It didn't take but just a few minutes to find one. Two blocks down, a sign hung over a doorway that caught her eye. "John McCormick and Sons." Beside the names was the image of the hanging scales of justice. Exactly what Tor needed. She stepped inside, blinking a bit as her eyes adjusted from the bright sun to the building's interior. Eric was perched on her shoulder as he examined the office space. 

He could tell the space wasn't a large one for Elders. It was almost cramped feeling. The only thing that kept that cramped feeling away was the large windows that overlooked the boardwalk. All the natural light they allowed to pass into the room made the room appear bigger than it really was, if only a little. He caught the receptionist's eye and scooted closer to Tor's neck.

The was a receptionist eyeing them with misgivings. She was a sharp-faced woman with her grey-streaked hair pulled back into a severe bun at the nape of her neck. Her clothes were dowdy shades of grey and brown, not at all flattering to her thin frame but somehow suiting to the no-nonsense air she gave off.

"How may I be of assistance?" she asked. Her voice was as sharp as her face, cutting sharply against Tor's fraying temper.

Eric glanced up at his owner-friend as a muscle in her jaw ticked. He rested a hand on her neck. She couldn't afford to be rude, he thought. No telling how much influence this woman had. He remembered his father's clerks. Although their standing wasn't much, they had a fair amount of influence over his decisions due to their much more intimate knowledge of his estates. While he couldn't be sure this woman had such an influence, he didn't want Tor losing her chance to speak to a solicitor and be free of Jason blown because she was tired and cranky from a hard ride and no sleep.

Tor inhaled deeply and slowly let it out. "I need to see a solicitor."

"Concerning what business?" the woman pressed.

"My father's will," Tor said. "I need to see if there's a way or loophole or something for me to get out of it."

"Hmm. I will check with Mr. McCormick to see if he has time. He is a very busy man. What is your name?"

"Torani Keller," Tor replied. She hated using her full name but figured it would be best here.

"I see. Well, Ms. Keller, please have a seat and wait." The woman stood and entered one of the office doors. Tor sighed and took a seat in a chair. 

She didn't talk to her human, despite Eric's persistent efforts to try and let him see the will or read it. "Please?" he asked for what felt like the millionth time. "I just want to see it. I know I'm not a legal expert but maybe there's something I picked up that could help you." 

Tor ignored him, rubbing the bridge of her nose and trying not to sleep in the semi-comfortable chair. It wouldn't have mattered even if Eric was a legal expert. The will wasn't written in the common tongue. He wouldn't have been able to make heads or tails of it. A few moments later, the woman returned. "Ms. Keller, you are in luck. Mr. McCormick will see you."

Tor sighed. This was a bit of good fortune. She stood and followed the sharp-faced woman through to the office. Eric clung to the braid she had given him, using it as an anchor as Tor shook hands with the solicitor. Mr. McCormick was an older man, though perhaps not much older than Larson. He was a handsome fellow in his age, silvery hairs streaked through a thick coif of black. His eyes were a bright blue, keen and aware and following Tor's every step. He smiled, stood and offered his hand.

"Ms. Keller, it's a pleasure to meet you face to face. I've read your father's will many times and read yours and your siblings' names but have yet to actually see one of you," he said. 

"I'm sorry, do we know each other?"

"No, not formally." He sat back down and unbuttoned his coat. "I was one of the five initial solicitors that penned your father's will. Truthfully I represented you." 

"Wait, what?" She sat there, stunned. This was turning out to be a ray of Divine Favor more so than simply good luck.

Mr. McCormick smiled, amused at her shock. It was understandable. They had never met but he had worked in her interests from the start. He had never expected to meet her but was pleased he was able to. "Now then, how can I help you?"

"I, uh, I," Tor stammered. She knew what she wanted but it wasn't coming to her tongue at the moment. She was always so ready to state her case in a flustering rage, but the calm, at-ease manner of the solicitor had her off guard. 

"Her brother stole her horses and she wants to know how she can get away from him." It was Eric, speaking in her stead.

The solicitor arched a brow at the human. He hadn't seemed like much at first glance, but upon further inspection it was evident he was well cared for. His clothes were nice, he had a rosy glow to his face and had a definite little paunch to his belly. 

"I see. And who would you be?"

"This is Eric. My pet." That was a question Tor could answer. "I found him being chased and threatened by other humans. I rescued him. He has chosen to stay with me and be my pet rather than return to his home."

Eric gave her a look when he was called her pet, but he didn't back talk her. She didn't seem to mind when it was just them, but he knew how it made Tor appear when he did so in public. The thought of further eroding his position in her life by appearing as a disobedient pet in public sent a shiver down his spine.

"Interesting. Do you have a deed of ownership for him?" Mr. McCormick asked.

"Uh. No?" Tor gave the man a confused look. "I didn't realize you had to have one."

"Well you technically don't, but if your brother has already attempted to steal your horses, a human isn't a far cry for a next target. And if you don't have a deed of ownership, it would go to a magistrate for litigation. Those proceedings are not known for being quick," he said. 

"He already stole Eric once, before he stole my horses. I suppose I need one of those, too. But most importantly, can you help me get out from under Jason's thumb?" she asked. "There has to be something you can do. I even brought a copy of the will for you to read." She handed over the worn paper.

Mr. McCormick took it, arching a brow slightly. He glanced at the page, flipped it over and briefly scanned the back before looking to Tor. "Where is the rest of it?"

"The rest? That's all there is. That's all I've ever seen," she said. 

"Hum. Just one moment." He handed the paper back and walked over to a large bureau in the back. "It's been some years, I realize, but I do believe I have a copy or two of the original." He sorted through a couple drawers before he gave a noise of delight. "Found it. Now then, let's see here." 

He walked back to the desk and sat down in his chair. He displayed the copy of the will. The full copy. All three pages. "Here we are. Why you don't have the rest, I cannot say. But I was tasked to keeping a copy for you, should you need one. Your father paid me well to keep your interests a priority." He smiled and looked through the document. "Ah. Here we go. I see where you would think you had to stay with Jason. He is given controlling interest." At this he paused and looked to Tor. "Until you are eighteen years of age. At which point, you have the option to purchase some land held in trust. Doing so would free you from his holding. This option was set forth for you and all three of your brothers."

Tor sat there, speechless. Eight years. She had been under Jason's ridiculous thumb for eight years too long. She could have been gone. Owning her own lands. Making her own money. But she hadn't. She had been working for her selfish, heartless, cruel older brother this whole time.

"How much?" she croaked, her throat suddenly paper-dry.

"Beg pardon?" Mr. McCormick asked.

"How much does the land cost?" No matter where it was, it was hers and she was leaving for it. "I need to know so I can pay out the amount to whoever I owe it to." This was it. This was her chance to be free.

Mr. McCormick smiled. He wrote down a number on a piece of paper. "I think you'll find this amount to be more than fair."

Tor looked at the amount. She felt hope, real, true hope, welling up in her chest. Her throat burned. That was a pittance. So little for so much. She made that three times over at the horse fair this past summer. "Who do I pay?"

"You'll pay the bank in that area," he said. "It's beautiful land. I went to see it shortly after the will was drawn up. It's nestled between the Twin Rivers. It floods every few years or so, but that just makes it very fertile."

"When can I go there?" she asked. "How do I make all this legal? Jason has held me under his thumb for so many years. I didn't know any of this. I never heard about it. I thought I was bound to stay within sight of him forever." 

"No, my dear," Mr. McCormick said. "You most certainly are not. I will draw up the deed of ownership for your human. I will draw up the deed of ownership for the horses you say he stole. You need not be tied to him any longer. If I had known of your predicament, I would have advised you of your rights long ago."

"Thank you," she whispered. "Thank you so much."

The solicitor smiled and patted her hand. "I will have it ready in the morning. Go down to the hotel and rest. You certainly look as if you deserve it. Go rest and rejuvenate. Come see me first thing in the morning and I will have all you need to prove your freedom. The only things I need from you are names and descriptions of your horses so I can make it all perfectly square."

Tor nodded. "I'll have my man come bring you my ledgers. You'll find everything in there."

"Good then," Mr. McCormick said with a smile. "I will have it done. Guaranteed."

Tor shook his hand and left. She trembled all over with pure joy and exhilaration. Eric had to cling tightly to the braid. A broad smile was plastered on her face. She walked out of the office, practically whistling, although she couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. There was almost a skip to her step as she headed down the boardwalk and to her wagons. Nothing could ruin this day for her. Not even the annoying ranger who always seemed to pop up at the worst times.

Like now.

Bret grinned when he saw her. "I thought that was your herd of big horses," he said. He turned and began walking alongside her. His dancing eyes landed on Eric's scowling face and his grin only broadened. "I see you've been taking good care of your mistress."

Eric's scowl deepened. "What do you want?" Tor said. Her tone was far less snappish than usual when she spoke to the ranger. 

The ranger and Eric both took notice. Only the ranger liked it. "It sounds like I caught you in a good mood," he chuckled. "What's got you on top of the world?"

"I'm about to be free of my wretched brothers for the rest of my life," she said. "Not even you can ruin my day now."

"I ruin your days?" He laughed and shook his head. "Well, I have to say your visits always make mine."

Tor rolled her eyes. "My question is unanswered. What do you want?"

"Well, since I caught you in a good mood, I do have a question for you. What do you know about your brothers' business practices?"

Tor shrugged her empty shoulder. "Not much, except that Jason usually boasts about swindling just about everyone who buys some of his horses."

Bret arched an eyebrow. "That is interesting."

"I'm going to bet you got swindled, too, didn't you?" she asked. Eric silently hoped he had been swindled for all he was worth and that the man had come to beg and Tor would refuse him. It was silly and petty, he knew, but he felt how he felt. Tor couldn't help but laugh at Bret's expression. "How much did he take you for?"

"Not me personally," Bret said. "I bought my string from you, remember. But I was charged with shopping for the paper-pushers this time. I tried to sell them on your horses, but your brother's are prettier. Not as useful, but prettier."

Tor snorted. "Pretty is as pretty does."

"True," Bret agreed. "But Jason and I worked out a deal. I have my paperwork to prove it. I paid him for twenty horses. That's a string of four for each of the other rangers in our office. I received four of the twenty. Jason claims the price was not what we agreed on and that what was paid was only paid for the four nags given."

Tor sighed. "Somehow, I'm not surprised. What do you plan to do him about it?"

"Charge him with anything that'll stick," Bret said. "And I've got enough things that'll stick that will keep him behind bars for the next twenty or so years."

"I like the sound of that," she said. "I'll do what I can to help but I don't know much. He boasted but I never saw anything to prove his claims." She paused and smirked. "I can, however, give you a list of his clients. You could contact them and see if they're facing similar issues."

"That would be mighty nice of you, ma'am." He tipped his hat. "When could I pick them up?"

"This evening. I'm at the hotel down the way." She didn't care if he came tonight. His company, if he was out to jail her brothers, was a welcome one. "Come to dinner with me and we can discuss it all." She smiled slightly at him. Eric felt his mood sour. This ranger was going to come and ruin their dinner and good time. Tor's attention would be on Bret instead of him.

Bret couldn't help but give an actual smile, not a smirking grin, in return. Tor wasn't a beautiful woman and she didn't have the best personality, but something about her drew him like a moth to flame. And that something only increased when she smiled. He stepped forward and took her hand, lifting it to brush his lips across her knuckles.

"I await it with eagerness," he said.

Tor blushed and quickly took her hand away. "You're a ranger, not a knight," she snapped. "You don't have to kiss my hand."

"But you're still a lady," he chuckled.

Tor's blush deepened and she hurried off to the hotel. She wanted to clean up before she went down to dinner. She stopped at the livery stable and made sure her horses were fine and her men were taken care of. She sent her ledgers to the solicitor's office and grabbed a list of all Jason's clients she knew of before she indulged in a bit of luxury. The hot bath in her room was incredible. It was divine. She sunk to her nose in the tub, her wild mane of hair floating around her. 

Eric huffed as he stared down at her from the rim of the tub. The steam wafting off it told him the water was far too hot for his comparatively delicate skin. He would have to wait until it cooled to actually get in. He watched his owner. She was acting odd. A ghost of a smile lingered around her lips and eyes, taunting him with the thought that some other man had made her happy. He couldn't make her happy like that. He sighed and leaned against the cool tile. Tor didn't linger long. She quickly scrubbed herself, washed her hair and combed it out before drying off and dressing in a clean pair of trousers and a light blue shirt.

Pap had always said blue brought out her eyes. Jason's bimbos had frequently said her eyes were the only pretty thing about her. Her lips were too thin, her hips not wide enough, her shoulders too wide and although she had a large bosom, it was mostly hidden under her shirts, much to the bimbo's dismay when they occasionally tried to make her up.

She brushed out her hair and pulled it back into a high ponytail. She caught sight of herself in a mirror and frowned. The ponytail just didn't look right since she wasn't wearing her hat. She took her hair down and shook it out, much like she had seen one of Larson's girls do, and took another look. While it was still flat against her head, knowledge of her hair told her it would puff up more as it dried. Satisfied she looked decent, she grabbed her satchel with the ledgers and headed downstairs. 

Eric sat on her shoulder, scowling. All that preening and he knew it was for the ranger. That man made her act odd. That man made her smile and blush and do all the things Eric couldn't. It wasn't right. Tor seemed unaware of Eric's dark mood as she entered the dining room.

Bret was already seated at one of the tables. He looked up and smiled when she walked in. When she approached the table, he hurried out of his chair and around to hers to pull it out for her. Tor made a face at him.

"I'm perfectly capable of getting my own chair," she said.

"I believe it," was his calm reply. "But you're still a lady and while I'm not a knight, I am a gentleman."

Tor snorted but sat. Bret took his own seat across from her. "It's chicken and dumplings for dinner with a roll and greens," he told her. "One of my favorite meals."

"Really? How interesting." She didn't really know what to say to his comment. "So what else do you want to know about my brothers? I've got the list with me." She put her hand on the satchel.

"Hold it. That can wait until after dessert," Bret said. "Right now, I just want to enjoy a little bit of time with you." He smiled as their food came. "Good company and good food. How much better could my day get?"

Eric groused and mocked Bret under his breath, but he didn't dare to say it out loud. Tor wasn't put off by the flattery, but it did confuse her. "If you think I'm good company, your standards must be pretty low."

Bret chuckled. "Don't be so down on yourself. You are far better company than most of my company; sweaty men and sweaty horses and sweaty outlaws make most of my company."

Tor touched her drying hair. It was already starting to puff out and gain some volume. "Hm. Well, I guess I'm better than sweaty outlaws," she chuckled. 

"Most definitely," Bret assured her. "Now tell me, what brought you out this way? I see you and all your horses but I don't see any of your brothers."

Tor snorted. "Jason decided to be a fool and steal my horses. I got them back but I'm not about to let him take them again. So I came to see a solicitor to see if I could do something about it." She grinned. "Turns out, he's been lying to me for years. I was free of him at eighteen. I've been under his thumb eight years too long."

"So you're twenty-six?" Bret asked.

"Don't you know not to ask a woman her age?" Tor retorted.

Bret laughed again. "My sincerest apologies. I hope I didn't offend you."

Tor rolled her eyes. "Yes, I'm twenty-six. And you? How old are you?"

"Thirty-two," he said. His eyes were seemed to dance as they watched her. "Do you think I'm old?"

"Older than dirt," she said evenly. A hint of a smile tugged at the corners of her lips.

Bret laughed. Eric made a face. He didn't like this. Not one bit. Tor was smiling at Bret and seemed to be enjoying herself. He didn't like that she felt so at-ease around this man. He harrumphed and poked at the bit of food Tor had set aside for him. His appetite was rapidly diminishing.

Dinner and dessert came and went. Tor enjoyed the small luxury of the cherry cheesecake. Cherries and creamed cheese didn't keep well on a wagon trail. One day she would have a home where she could keep these things and have such delicacies frequently. For now, she would have to enjoy it when she could.

When the dishes were cleared, Tor set the list on the table. "I kept my own record of who he sold to. It wasn't hard. Brad and Thomas run their mouths period but especially when they have a few beers in them." She shrugged. 

Bret leafed through the pages, noting names and dates and amounts. "Either your brother has very, very expensive horses or he's been stealing from people for years."

"Probably the latter," Tor muttered. "His horses are pretty but not that pretty."

"I agree. Which is why I bought yours." He smiled up at her. "That bay mare is my favorite. I've started calling her Sassy. She's sweet but boy does she have an attitude."

Tor smiled in return. She loved hearing about her horses thriving with their new owners. "Good. I'm glad you're enjoying her." She glanced outside. It was getting dark. "I need to go check on my horses and men. Take the ledgers. I have another set that hold all my horses. I do want them back, though."

Bret nodded. "I'll get them to the paper-pushers and they'll have them copied before you can blink." He smiled. "They're quick with their pencils."

Tor chuckled. "I guess if they have no other life than scribing they would be quick." She wiped her mouth and stood. "I actually had a pleasant time."

"You sound surprised." Bret stood with her. "I can be good company, you know."

"That's hard to see when all you do is tease and make lewd jokes," she said dryly. 

Bret grinned. "I am who I am. But you seem to hold your own against me just fine," he pointed out.

"Yeah, I've had lots of practice." She scooped Eric up and set him on her shoulder. "Goodnight, Bret. Don't forget to return those to me or my solicitor, Mr. McCormick."

"McCormick? He's a good one," Bret said.

"I agree. He's the best thing I've ever inherited." She smirked, waved and walked out.

Bret shook his head and waved back. "Some kind of woman," he muttered. He took the ledgers and headed off to his mare. He needed to get these over to the paper-pushers right away.

The next morning, Tor paid a visit to McCormick just as instructed. She collected her deeds of ownership and felt quite satisfied with it all. "Larson, you take my horses out to my new lands." She handed him the copy of the will that Mr. McCormick had had commissioned overnight. It had cost a shiny coin, but it had sure been worth it. Now she had a full copy, her solicitor did and Larson did for the lands he would claim in her stead. "I'm not risking Jason getting his grubby hands on them again."

He arched a brow. "And just where do you think you're going?"

"To show Jason I'm no longer under his thumb."

"Tor," Larson said.

"What? I'm going to show him how stupid he is. I'm free of him now." She crossed her arms over her chest.

Larson groaned. "Yes, you are. So don't go stirring up a hornet's nest!" 

"I want to get Mick out of there, as well," she told him. "He doesn't deserve to live under Jason's thumb for the rest of his stupid life."

Larson scrubbed his face. "Girl, you are going to be the death of me. Or yourself. And yourself. Don't do this. If that boy wanted to be free, he would have left long ago. There are other ways out from under Jason."

Tor swung into the saddle. "I'm going, Larson. I'll meet up with you in the Cradle." She leaned down and clasped his forearm in hers. "I'm trusting you."

Larson gave her a look. "Girlie, I ought to pull you off that horse and take you with us."

"But you won't, will you, Uncle Larson?" She purposefully used the old nickname she had for him.

Larson's eyes narrowed. "Don't you go calling me uncle. You never got away with anything when you did."

"I got away with a lot." She kissed his cheek and pulled back. "I promise I won't linger. I'll take care of business and head out. I may even get there before you."

Larson snorted. "Right. And I'm a human's uncle."

"You never know. I've heard stories of half-breeds," Tor said. "And with all the philandering you do..."

"Bah! Old women's gossip. Nothing more." He looked steadily up at her. "You get back quick, ya hear?"

"I hear." Tor gathered Idiot's reins and turned him back down the road. This time, she rode into the setting sun rather than keep it at her back. It was bright and fiery and beautiful. Tor imagined it burning away the years she had spent under Jason; setting on her past. Morning would dawn anew with her a free woman.

Eric was ensconced in his spot in the saddle. It was warmed by Tor's and Idiot's body heat and allowed him to sleep without fear of falling. It was a mostly comfortable place, made more so by the padding of his bag and sleeping blankets.

Tor rode into her brother's camp, shortening Idiot's reins so he pranced and snorted in frustration. She was making an entrance. Mick, from his place by the morning fire, looked up, surprised to see his sister. 

"Where've you been?" he hissed. "Jason saw you move your whole herd off and he's pissed! You know you're not supposed to leave the skyline. You know that."

Tor smiled. "I don't give a fuck anymore. I'm free."

"You're what?" he asked. 

"I'm free," Tor repeated. "I went and saw a solicitor. Pap's solicitor. One of the ones who penned his will. Turns out, I was somehow given only one of the pages. Not all three. And in those missing two pages, it details how a person can get out of Jason's control." She laughed. "I was free eight years ago. So, I'm leaving. I came to tell Jason and get you and we can go."

Mick hesitated. Leave? He hated breeding and raising and selling horses but this was all he knew. Jason had never treated him poorly. He had always been decent, even if it wasn't the best of lives. He was saved from answering. Jason came charging in on his favored mare.

"Tor!" the big man bellowed. "Where did you take your horses?! You know you're not supposed to leave."

Tor threw her head back and laughed. Eric clung to her shirt. "I'm free of you, you dumb mother-fucker! I was free eight years ago but today it's official." She held out the will and deeds of ownership. "See these? Mr. McCormick drew them up for me. After showing me the will. The full will." She smiled. "Jason Keller, go fuck yourself. I never have to deal with you again. I never have to pay you a single coin from my sales ever again."

Jason's face was purple with rage. "Papers don't mean a damned thing way out here," he growled. "Out here is just my word and my word alone." He yanked his mare around, hauling on her mouth as he did so. He kicked her and rode hard out of camp. Brad and Thomas traded glances. They swung up onto their own horses and quickly followed after their older brother.

"You can stay in my wagon as long as you're here," Mick said.

"Just pack up and come with me," Tor huffed. "You don't have to stay here. You can be free."

"It's not so bad, really." Mick poked at an ember in the fire. "Jason is good to me."

Tor gave him a horrified look. "Mick..." She cleared her throat. "I can't believe you're saying that. Come with me. Let's leave. We're all we have in this gods-forsaken world."

Eric looked up at Tor, more than a little hurt she had left him out of the equation so easily.

"Let me think on it," Mick muttered. "Just... just give me some time to think."

Tor sighed. She was hungry and tired and the bed in his wagon sounded awful good at this point. "Fine. I'll drop Idiot in a corral while I get some sleep. Make me a plate of food, would you?"

Mick nodded. "I'll fix you something. I know what you like."

Less than an hour later, Tor was asleep in her baby brother's bed, Eric curled against her neck. Moments like earlier where she had claimed that Mick was all she had in the world increased the anxiety that his position in her life was slipping, eroding. Soon, he thought, he wouldn't matter at all. Then what would she do with him?

End Notes:

Apologies for the late update. I'm a terrible procrastinator. That, combined with not feeling well for two days, kept me from getting fully prepped for this Christmas Party tomorrow. So I'm scurrying around, an hour past my bedtime, and still not finished cleaning. I still have to make the bed, clean the bathrooms, pull the sheets from the couch and put them away... So much to do and so little time. My kids have their winter reading benchmark test in the morning and I'm going to be half asleep through it all, letting the other teacher handle all whining. XD But my house will look on point for the party! 

All that to say, I got busy cleaning and forgot to post the update. 

Enjoy!

Chapter 28 by CoalWhite

Tor didn't like how smug Jason still was after she showed up without her horses and with a paper from her solicitor that showed legal separation of her assets from his. Now she was free to do as she pleased, no longer under his thumb. At first, he was angry and threw the paper back in her face. He had grabbed his mare and rode out on her. That was days ago. This morning he had returned and was walking around as if he still had control of her herd and wagons.

She didn't trust him. As such, she kept Eric under constant surveillance. It wouldn't be at all beyond her brother's insanity to try and lash out at the only things of hers he could right now--Eric and Idiot. But her big-boned stallion was still having none of interaction between any of her brothers. He would only let her handle him. He had already taken a chunk out of Brad's thigh when the Elder man had tried to walk up to him and pet him. Tor had slipped the stallion several of his favorite apple treats after that, praising him and telling him how good he was. The black stud didn't even trust Mick, her twin. But, she was thinking less of her twin all the time. He was spineless, bending to whatever the older three boys said to do. 

That left Eric. Despite his protests, she had kept him either shut in her wagon-cabin or on her person at all times. She had left Eric in the wagon as she went to use the restroom across camp and was returning when she saw Brad leaning against her wagon, Eric dangling from his fingers. The familiar fire of rage burned inside of her as she stomped up to him. Despite his obvious height advantage, she was determined to get her Princeling back safely.

"Put. Him. Down." She growled. "He didn't do a damn thing to you or Jason." 

Brad bobbed his fingers and laughed as Eric choked on his cloak. The human boy gasped and tried to breathe, clawing at the fabric around his neck. His face was bright red, tinging purple around his mouth and nose. "No. Humans are pretty useless except as toothpicks and toys. But this one is too small for both. Pff! Barely three and a half inches. He can't be any sort of fun for you at all." He laughed when Tor's face went red. "Whatever. Better not leave him alone next time. Locks don't mean much when I have the key." He dangled Eric high above his head when Tor lunged for him. He pushed away from the wagon and carelessly dropped Eric at the same time.

Tor dove for her charge, catching him and instantly pulling the boy close. "Ssh, it's alright," she consoled him. "I'm right here. We're leaving in the morning. This hell-hole will be a nightmare come morning. I promise." Her fingers gently grazed his back in a comforting way. She hated to see him cry, hated seeing him so terrified. She was supposed to protect him, not allow him to be tormented. "Creator help me, I'll see them dead," she swore.

Eric didn't have any words. He was clinging to Tor's shirt like the lifeline it was. He was shaking all over and his throat burned. He was probably going to have bruising in the morning. He coughed and wheezed as he struggled to catch his breath. The princeling bobbed his head in assent to Tor's oft-spoken words. He was just fine with the brothers being killed or something. 

Once he was breathing easier, Tor slid him back between her breasts. "I've got some work to finish up. There's a few things I need to get and load in Idiot's saddlebags. We'll head out in the morning at first light." Truthfully, she was still trying to get Mick to come with her. He may have been weak-willed on occasion, but he was still her twin. He had stuck up for her often in the past; she had to give him this final chance. But come morning, she was leaving, with or without her brother.

She spent the last couple hours of light packing things away and preparing to set out in the morning. It would be a long, tiresome ride, but the payoff would be completely worth it. Supper was a light affair. It was a reheat of the beans and cornbread from lunch.

Eric made a face at the meal. "It's got meat in it, so that's better. But really? Leftovers? And beans? Don't you have anything different?"

Tor rolled her eyes. "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit. No, I don't have anything different. Not right now. We'll resupply in town tomorrow. But this is a lot of what we'll be eating on the trail to our new home."

The princeling sighed. "Yick. Oh well. The place we're going, you said it was far from my father's territory?"

She nodded. "It's up in The Cradle. Past the mountains, in between the Twin Rivers. It's far, far away from human territory. No human has ever been up that far. Not of their own free will, anyway. It's beautifully fertile, the perfect place to raise horses. And they'll still be in need of the stock horses I breed. There's farms and other ranches up there that are in desperate wont of good, working horses. They'll pair a fair price for the good ones I breed."

To help her human visualize the distance, Tor unraveled one of Mick's rarely used maps. She marked where Eric said his father's home was and then showed him where the Twin Rivers were and the Cradle that lay between them. The princeling was overjoyed. There was no way his father could reach him that far from human lands. Eric smiled at the thought. "I like the sound of that. I can't wait to see it." 

Tor gave a little half-smile. "Good. I'm sure you'll enjoy it." The rest of dinner went quickly. When it was over, Tor cleaned the dishes and made the bed for the evening. "Change into your bedclothes. And this time, remove your boots. I don't fancy dirt and mud in the sheets."

He laughed. "Yeah, yeah, I promise to remove my boots." He was feeling better about his place with her. She had been more open with him the past days while they waited on Mick's decision. It was like the whole kidnapping and abuse and horse stealing situations had never happened. He bounced to the bed from his spot on the dresser and trekked to the pillow, promptly curling up on the edge of it. 

Tor, dressed in an oversized shirt and pants, slid into bed as well. She made sure the door was locked before drawing the sheets up to her shoulders. Eric curled against her forehead and drifted off with idyllic dreams of the future in his head. The Elder woman wasn't far behind him.

It was late, or was it early? when the pounding on the door woke Tor. Her name being screamed by Thomas, saying something about Idiot slipping and getting stuck in the corral boards, instantly brought her to her feet. She threw open the door, ready to help her horse, and was grabbed by two pairs of rough, calloused hands. They hauled her down the steps and out to the large fire in the center of the camp. She struggled and cursed and tried to free herself from her brothers. She called over her shoulder for Eric to hide, run, anything to stay out of sight. 

But Eric was too slow. He was grabbed up in another pair of hands and carried down the steps. He squirmed in the fist, trying to free himself. But Jason had an unbreakable hold on the human. Chuckles flowed from the mouth high above. "Poor little human, kidnapped by a giantess and forced to be her pet. Don't worry, though! I'll save you. I got in contact with the humans sent by your father. I saw them wandering around town the other day. I told them exactly where to find you. And now? Now they're here." 

He swung his fist around to show Eric the small group of humans astride their horses waiting on the outskirts of the light of the fire. "No!" the human shouted, recognizing the men at once. They were mercenaries, hired by his father to drag him back to the hell hole of a keep and be forced into an arranged marriage. After a proper punishment. He could tell this by the coat of arms band they wore on their sleeves the sigil on their tunics. It was his father's. They were working for him, here to take him back. "I don't want to go! I want to stay. I don't want to go! No! No! No!" He was in a full-blown panic, screaming and crying and trying desperately to escape. He searched for Tor and found her held back by two of her brothers. Her arms were forced behind her back at an awkward angle as the men restrained her. "Help!" he pleaded to his owner-turned-friend. "Please! I don't want to go back. My father will kill me. He'll kill me!" Tears flooded his face as he was lowered amongst the other humans.

"Let me go!" Tor shouted. "Let him go! He doesn't belong to you. He belongs to me. You have no right to do anything with him!" 

Jason shrugged as he dropped Eric between the throng of humans. "Papers are ridiculous out here. You realize that, right? They mean nothing. Nothing. I'm the oldest. I get to decide what goes on in this camp. And I say I don't want spoiled little humans that do nothing hanging around. So? I'll send him back to where he belongs."

Chapter 29 by CoalWhite

Tor had murder in her eyes as her brothers held her back. "Let me go!" she raged, struggling against their arms. "I swear to the Creator, if you don't let me go, I will shoot you right between the eyes!"

Brad and Thomas were smirking, Jason was laughing. His dark green eyes looked triumphant. "Just because you got some pretty papers that said you could take your horses from us, doesn't mean we couldn't get you back. Your little princeling? He's going back to his sire. Like a good little boy." He turned and gave a mocking wave to the group of humans who were having a tough time keeping Eric under control. "Bye-bye little human! I hope you enjoy your life among your own kind."

Mick was nowhere to be seen. Likely sent off on some errand that he willingly obliged. He was so spineless. He made Tor sick. "Where are you taking him?!" she screamed, lunging once more and nearly freeing herself. But Brad and Thomas pulled her arms tighter behind her back. Behind her, Idiot screamed his own rage. He hated being confined to the small pen. 

The human man didn't even look back at her. "To his father. He has a marriage treaty to fulfill." He scowled at Eric who was struggling and cursing, trying to fight his way to freedom. With one heavy fisted, he gave Eric a clout to the back of the head that instantly stilled him. "I was told to bring you in alive. Not necessarily in pristine condition." He threw the boy over a horse and stepped into the hands of one of Jason’s men. Tor didn’t recognize him. The man took the humans to his horse, put them in saddlebags, swung into the saddle and rode away at top speed.

Tor didn’t relent her struggles. Idiot would be able to catch the horse if she could just get to him! She lunged in her brothers’ hold. Her shoulders screamed from the awkward angle they were forced into. Tears stung her eyes from the pain. But she didn’t stop. She wouldn’t stop until she had Eric back with her.

"Tch," Jason scoffed. "Throw her in a cabin and lock the door. Don't let her out for a few days." He grasped her chin and forced her head back so she would look at him. He was quickly rewarded with a snot-filled spit to his face. Fury burned in him and he struck his sister across the face. "Listen and listen good. I want my inheritance back from you, you fucking mistake. And you're not coming out until you sign those papers and give it back!" He slapped her again and left to tend to the well-endowed blonde in his bed. No doubt she was already priming herself with some of the bigger humans from among his pets. 

Brad and Thomas dragged Tor off and threw her into the lean-to set up for storage. They locked the door and pushed a cart in front of it. "Just let us know when you're ready to sign over our inheritance!" Thomas jeered.

"Mick already signed over his portion. All you gotta do is sign over all those horses and you can go free!" Brad laughed.

"Suck my dick!" was Tor's answer. "Father left me land and horses and I will not hand them over to a bunch of inbred idiots like you!" She was ready and willing to keep hurling barbs. "My mother may not have been his wife, but at least she wasn't his sister!" There was the sound of a scuffle outside as one of the boys lunged for the cart and cabin only for the other one to drag him off. 

"I hate those goddamned idiots," she muttered as she sunk to the floor. She felt defeated. The windows were boarded up. They had been prepared for her resistance. They had been plotting this. She was going to kill them. Then resurrect and kill them again. 

The next morning, she heard her horse scream and climbed on the stove to see through the slats. Jason was trying to ride him. This made her laugh. "No one rides him but me!" She knew he couldn't hear her but that didn't matter. 

She saw Idiot's head go down, his heels go up and Jason go flying into the boards of the round pen. She grinned when he didn't get up. "Good riddance." Brad and Thomas rushed to the pen and dragged Jason's limp form out from under the boards. But not before Idiot reared and came down on his legs. "Ha!" she laughed again. "That makes what, three? four? people whose legs he's broken. Good boy. You are getting so much love when I get out of here."

Wherever Mick had been sent, he didn't come back for two weeks. Tor's brothers would slip her a bag of food and a canteen of water through the door. She had a hole in the floor to piss in, but that was it. When she saw him at the crack in the door, she rushed it. "Let me out, you spineless bastard!" she growled. "Let me out of here!"

He looked down and away, completely ashamed. "I--I can't, Tor. I'm sorry."

She threw her shoulder into it, but he pushed back and held it closed. "Did you really sign away your inheritance?" she asked.

"I did," he replied quietly. "Jason promised I could stay here. And, and I wouldn't have to manage the books and the land and horses and everything. I, I was never good at that stuff anyway." He dropped her food, closed the door and left. 

Tor spit at the door. "Traitor," she muttered. "See to my horse!" she yelled at him. She knew Brad had been feeding Idiot, but she wanted to make sure Mick looked after him as well. No one had bothered to remove the half-wild stallion's tack but that was just fine with her. It would make her escape all the easier.

For the next week, she met Mick at the door, tried to push past him and failed. She growled as she paced, trying to figure out a way out of here. Then, one evening wrapped in the bedsheets, it came to her. She dragged a stool underneath one of the beams that held up the roof and knocked it over. Then she tied a noose into a bedsheet and slid it around her neck and collapsed to the floor. Mick was due soon. She closed her eyes when he knocked at the door; stilled her breathing when he called her name. She didn't move a muscle when he cracked open the door and looked inside.

She heard him drop the food and come running inside. "Tor!" he yelled frantically. He rushed to her side and hit his knees, ready to tend to her. He was not ready for her fists to come flying, bloody his nose, black his eye and finally knock him unconscious. She surged to her feet, dropped the twisted sheet and ran for freedom. She threw open the gate to the corral and wrapped her arms around her horse's neck. 

The stallion snorted and spooked until he realized just who had a hold of him now. He stood for a moment before dipping his head and pressing his chin to her. Tor moved away quickly, hauled herself into the saddle and turned her mount out of the pen. He was only too happy to surge forward, charging out and to freedom. She made sure to direct him towards the herds and rode straight into them. The horses panicked and scattered, stampeding for wherever they thought safety to be. Oh sure, her brothers would get them back. But it would take them a damn long time. 

She rode hard until she reached the town her solicitor was in. She didn't waste a single moment of time. She didn't have any to spare if she was going to get her Princeling back. When she reached the town, she stormed into his office. "You helped me get my inheritance separate from my brothers'. Now I need you to manage it while I'm gone."

"Gone?" the man asked, a frown pinching his brow. "But to where? Your father's lands?" 

"No. Something was stolen from me three weeks ago. I intend to get it back."

He appraised her with a calm eye. "Princeling is missing."

"My brothers sold him without my permission. Now, manage my herds and lands. Don't let them lay a finger on them. They just locked me up for three weeks without my consent." 

"That is a serious accusation," he said, that frown still in place.

"It's the truth. Go ask Mick, the youngest of the boys. He'll admit to it." She smirked. "I'm not sure Jason is in any condition to admit to anything. He tried to ride Idiot and was bucked off. He hit his head on the fence posts. That was three weeks ago. I haven't seen him since."

One white eyebrow arched and the beginnings of a smirk curled the corner of his lips. "How...unfortunate. Should he die, his portion of the inheritance is to be split among the remaining siblings."

"Mick signed his over. So Jason's massive herd would be split between Brad, Thomas and me?" 

"No. I don't know what kind of hold Jason has over your brothers, but they have signed over their rights as well. If he dies, everything goes to you." 

Now Tor was smirking. "How unfortunate, indeed." She dropped several paper notes on his desk. "This is an advance. See what you can do. But always put me first."

The old man nodded. "Of course. I will go see that everything is taken care of for you. Don't worry. Just go retrieve Princeling." He produced a slip of paper and handed it to her. "Your ownership papers. Valid in either country. But of course, no one in their right mind would refuse an Elder that comes storming in on a big black mustang." He chuckled. "Be safe in your travels. I will see you in due time."

Tor pocketed the paper and left. She swung back into the saddle and headed south. She knew Eric's father's realm was down there, just past the border. If she could get to him in time, she could save Eric from an arranged marriage he loathed.

 

End Notes:

Well, that's all, folks! That's all she wrote for A Charmed Life. And by she, I mean me. This ten year project is wrapped! Sort of. I do have plans for a sequel. I hope to have it out sometime in 2019. We'll see how the muses favor or torment me. :D Anyway, let me know your thoughts and opinions. They do mean so much to me!

This story archived at http://www.giantessworld.net/viewstory.php?sid=6442