tagSci-Fi & FantasyHeroes of Herodor Ch. 07

Heroes of Herodor Ch. 07


"As much as I hate to say it," Prince Toran told Toran the next morning, "the time has come for us to part ways, at least for a while."

"What do you mean?" Tommy asked, biting into a piece of purple bread for breakfast. They sat atop the high mesa fortress of the Cheloy, and watched as the desert sun slowly rose. Soon the heat would be unbearable.

"The victory over the Hungu slavers has become known far and wide among the world. We have gained much support in the fight against the Emperor. Now we must capitalize on it. I will travel to the moon of Wylath, the Duke of Orothia is sympathetic to our cause, and may be persuaded to join us."

"And me?"

"You my friend, have a special mission to perform. One aptly suited to your talents." His eyes twinkled as he said this. "The Hungu, in addition to their usual cargo, also had onboard a special delivery intended for Darhon, the Emperors lackey."

"That guy with the mask?"

"That's him. Head of the secret police and chief underling to my accursed father. A few centuries back his body was badly damaged in an assassination attempt. That's why he wears that suit. Needless to say he would like very much to change his circumstances, and believe he may have found a way. He arranged for his operatives to kidnap the Queen of the Mereids...."

"The what?"

"A race of beings who live in the forests of Kreahh. They have powers over the plants and animals of nature, and are unique in all the races of Herodor in having no males. They are all female."

"Really? How do they breed?" "They invite men from other races into their realm and mate with them. The children they produce are all female, and all Mereid. A very popular place to visit, since the Mereids are, to a one, beautiful to look on, and gifted with a massive near-insatiable libido."

"Like the Gofmiki women." He smiled as he remembered that bathhouse.

"Actually, by this point they probably make the Gofmiki look chaste," Toren replied. "The Mereids are not warlike at all, but still hate the Emperor in the extreme. About fifty years ago he placed a cordon around their lands, preventing anyone from leaving or entering. They have not been able to breed in some time. Eventually, of they don't submit, they will die out. That is why we're sending you."

"What a sec...."

"Your abilities will give you certain, er...advantages in this regard. And while you're there, you can find out more about the missing Queen, where she might be headed."

Tommy shook his head. "I must have died and gone to Heaven."

"You still have to get through fifty thousand Imperial troops," Toren pointed out. "Not quite heavenly yet."

Tommy nodded. "So when do I leave."

"As soon as you finish your breakfast."

Toran could sense trouble as soon as he approached the door.

His fears were confirmed the moment he walked in and had to duck as a vase whipped past where his head had been.

"Damn. I missed." Sonya leaned back against a wall, a pout on her face.

"That wasn't nice." Toran straightened up and closed the door behind him

"Prisoners are supposed to be nice."

"You're not a prisoner, you're my guest."

"Guests can leave." She glared at him.

"It's for your own protection."

"These desert savages have the nerve to tell me I cannot go They know who I am...."

"Great Saar's daughter. Not their most favorite person."

"I demand that you let me go where I wish "

"Not going to happen. It's for your own safety."

"You have the nerve...."

"You can't go back to father, can you? And some of the Cheloy might decide you are an enemy worth killing."

"I can protect myself against a few desert rats. And I will have my revenge against Father."

"And in the meantime you'll stay here."

She all but snarled, "I should have expected as much from a pathetic weakling like you."

"Enough, Sonya...."

"I can hear you at night, rutting with those Cheloy whores...you know what they say afterwards, don't you?"

"I'm warning you...." "That little worm of yours doesn't please, does it, and it's over far to soon...."

"Enough " Quick as lightening he was across the room and had a hand around her throat. Only with great difficulty did he push away the red rage.

Sonya gave a throaty chuckle. "No steel in you at all." He breasts heaved as she breathed, her perfumed breath drifted across his face. "Or is there?"

A hand cupped one of her breasts. "You want this, don't you?" Toran could smell the musky scent of lust emanating from his half-sister, felt himself grow hard... He willed his lust away and stepped back.

"I will be gone for a while," he said. "And you will remain under guard "

He left the room. As he went through the door, Sonya called out after him, "Weakling "

Tommy grunted as the shuttle bucked against the wind. "Sorry, my lord " one of the pilots called back. "Heavy turbulence "

"That's all right, he said, gripping the restraints tightly and peering out a window at the landscape whizzing by past below. They had left the Desert a few hours back, and expanses of sand and sunblasted rock had been replaced by first hills, then mountains, then long stretches of green forest. The shuttle crew kept flying low, the better to avoid detection and several times it seemed as though they were about top plow into the ground itself.

"Landing zones just up ahead " the pilot called out. "Be ready " "Understood." Tommy picked up the small pack he had been given, and slipped over his shoulder. As he was going in alone, there was a limit to how much he could take with him and at any rate an Elemental Lord was supposed to be self-sufficient. The shuttle slid to a stop, and the side door opened, a line dropping down to the ground, Tommy slid down it and waved at the shuttle crew as they turned about and flew away before Imperial forces could find them.

So, then. He was on his own. Not the most pleasant place to be, but so be it then. Tommy looked around at the forest. Trees everywhere, broadleafed types, the air redolent resins and flowers. Truth be told it was actually quite pleasant, a real vacation spot. He could see people coming here on their holidays to take in the sights.

Tommy pulled out a vidmap, and expanded the holographic interface. By the looks of it the main settlement for the Mereids lay thirty miles to the west. A long hike, even for one with his abilities. Tommy began to walk.

After several more hours of thrashing through the forest, Tommy figured it was time for a break. Sitting down on a rock, he opened his pack and fished out a ration box. Crackers, and some sort of pink cheese that had a sharp taste to it. Not for the first time he found himself wishing for a good pepperoni pizza. He was just licking the last crumbs off his fingers when he heard the whine of a weapon charging behind him.

"A trespasser!" The barrel of a gun pressed against the back of his head. "Come to see the forest witches, have you? The only thing you'll be stroking in your own cock in a detention cell "

Two more soldiers emerged from the trees. Imperial troops, part of the garrison that had kept these woods under siege for five decades. Their guns were trained upon his face as they approached. "What have we here?" one of them asked, his voice scratchy through the helmet visor.

"Trespasser " said the first. "Come for a bot of fun with the forest bitches, I think "

"Oho Gone all cunt-crazy, has he? Well, we'll see about that On your feet, scum The Imperial labor gang has a place for you..."

A moment later, all the men lay in unmoving heaps on the ground, while Tommy was brushing the dirt off his trousers. They never saw him coming. He bent down and picked up one of the rifles. Tommy fiddled around with the knobs a bit, then touched his finger to the trigger...."


One of the trees vanished in a cloud of splinters and he stepped back as the trunk came crashing down beside him.

O-kay. Maybe now. He set the gun down on the ground and continued on his way.

Sunset, and Tommy was growing tired. He'd been wandering through the these woods for the better part of a day now, and no sign of the Mereids to be found anywhere. Best get some rest, and continue in the morning. He sat down on a rock, and stretched, not hearing the slithering in the underbrush until it was too late.

A moment later he was hanging in the air, vines tangling around his arms and legs. He tried to look down but saw only more tree and lead. "Who's there " Tommy cried out.

"A male " A female voice spoke with some surprise.

"Not an Imperial, by the looks of it," said another. "What should we do with him," asked the first.

"Um..." Tommy tried to look down again. "Take me to your leader?"

"Almost there, sir." Prince Toran looked out the window at the Orothian forest approaching below. It was cold out there, he knew, the moon of Wylath far more chilly than Herodor itself. Getting here had no been easy; five days following a tortuous route through space, dodging patrols and hiding behind satellites. At any other time he would have discounted it as suicide. But one thing made this time different.

Ancient trees sped past the shuttle. Centuries old, they were the size of the tallest buildings on Herodor, and the lights of villages tucked deep in their branches twinkled in the night. Farther ahead was a tree much larger than all the others, a living mountain of wood and lead. Though one would not believe it to look, this was the largest city on Wylath, it's branches holding ten thousand souls.

"Touching down, sir." The shuttle vibrated a bit as it settled onto a landing platform hacked out of a massive tree limb. The door slid open as Toran got to his feet. "Wait for my return," he told the pilot.

"Is this safe, sir?"

"For me...no. But it is necessary. Very, very necessary." He pulled the hood of his cloak over his face and stepped out into the Orothian night.

In his youth, Toran had rarely mingled with the common folk. The son of the Emperor spent his days with the scions of Herodor instead, life being an endless stream of debauchery and pleasure, the only commons coming across his path being servants, or the concubines he poured his lust into. But now, as leader of the Resistance, his perspective had changed quite a bit, and he mingled easily among the crows filling the road cut into the surface of the branch.

Orothia was the greatest of Wylaths kingdoms, and had long been the dominant power on the moon. In the years before the Emperors it had been a power in its own right, dealing with the powers on Herodor as an equal and frequently at war with the other moons for dominance of the space above the planet. The Tarlar people, rulers of Herodor's cloud kingdoms, were an ancestral enemy, and the tales of the rivalries filled whole libraries.

Of course, under the rule of Great Saar, open warfare was a rarity. The Emperor did not discourage it—his liked his rivals fighting amongst themselves--but did try to keep it from getting out of hand. Orothia had come late to Imperial rule, and resentment of Great Saar remained high to this day. Revolts had occurred, ending in tears for the most part. Yet Saar, true to form, had failed to capitalize on his victories by winning over the people affection. Wylath, and Orothia in particular, remained hotbeds of anti-Imperial sentiment.

It had been a while since Toran had been here, and took the time to get reacquainted with it's people. The men wore knee-length short and green tunics, many wrapping sashes of green around their waists. Weapons were sported on every hip. Orothians were known for their martial skills, and though they had lost every revolt, it could be said with pride that they had forced the Imperials to fight had for their victories.

The women though...that was a different matter. Wylathians were Herodi by descent, their ancestors having migrated from the planet eons ago. But the unique environment of the forest moon had changed them somewhat, in particular the women.

Toran saw some of them walking ahead, tall figures in flowing robes, their faces veiled, the men in the path bowing their heads in respect. These were the kushanta, which in the local dialect mean 'full-minded,' and were almost never seen on the surface. Perhaps three out of every ten female on Wylath were born into this caste, who were renowned as mentalists without peer, able to fling objects with their minds or break the bones of their enemies with a thought. It was even said some had the power of future sight. The Wylathians of all nations respected and honored them, and heeded their words. But as the for the remaining seventy percent of the females, things were quite different.

Toran saw a few of them a ways down and alley between two bumps of wood. A nearly naked female was bent over a crate while a man, hidden by shadow, thrust into her from behind. She grunted, in a way more animalistic than anything else, and shuddered as the man poured his seed into her body. Around her neck was a metal collar, a pair of blinking lights embedded in the side.

That was the other side of Wylathian femininity. They were the valaani, those consumed by passion. Unlike their kushanta sisters, who were models of self-control, the valaani were women controlled by their passions. They were intelligent, but their ability to reason was limited, and they were controlled instead by their desires. Easily aroused and sexually ravenous, they would throw themselves at any man who passed by, and when their passions were aroused they would attack any other women perceived as a rival...or at least would if it weren't for the control collars placed about their necks, which kept their wilder urges under control and allowed them to function in a productive manner.

On Wylath the birth rate for females was almost double that for males, and yet the number of rational kushantas was less than that of menfolk, which led society to be quite different than in other places. Marriage was unknown and monogamy almost unheard of, men and women free to couple with anyone they wished. Given the number of voracious valaani's running about, this was understandable. Conventional families were unknown, society based instead around clans, children were raised communally, the question of paternity not considered all that important, clan ancestry taking precedence. Men led the clans in war and dealt with the people from the planet. Kushanta's raised the clans children, acted as diplomats on Wylath itself, and used their powers in service to their clans. Tha valaani performed whatever tasks they could under the collar, and freely had sex with any man who wished. Indeed, those who were physically attractive specialized in this, and might be given to members of their clan who had performed some great service.

Toran continued on, headed to a small tavern set in the alcove of a pit in the tree's surface. He pushed open the door and ducked inside, his nostrils assailed by the pungent odors of drink and smoke. He went up to the bar at the back, ignoring the amorous pawings of a valaani barmaid wearing little more than wisps of cloth. He strode up to the barman and said, "Do you have redanc wine?"

The barman didn't flinch. "We have five year old vintage."

"How about seven years old." And he scratched his nose twice.

The barman looked up. "In the back. Follow me." He led Toran through a back door.

A single light globe glowed on top of a barrel. Crates of bottles and casks lined the walls. The barman left the storeroom, closing the door behind him. A voice said, "Raise your arms."

A kushanta came forward, her face hidden by her veil. She raised a hand, and for a moment Toran had the sensation of something crawling inside his skull. Then she looked to her left and nodded.

"My apologies. We had to be sure." A man, his beard closely trimmed, stepped into the light. His brown hair was tied back in a tail.

"Duke Bolegun." Toran pulled back his hood. "My condolences on Kassels death."

"The Emperor sent his regards." Bolegun, new ruler of Orothia, didn;t bother to hide the bitterness from his eyes. "His emissary gave it to me in from the entire Royal Clan."

"The assassin who did the job must have been very skilled."

"Great Saar wouldn't demand less." He turned around. "Welcome to Orothia, Prince. Please, follow me."

They had placed a strip of cloth around Tommy's eyes and slung him under a pole. Carried like a deer carcass through the forest, Tommy held back the urge to break the bonds and show these folk who was boss. They were the people he had come to see.

None of the Mereids spoke, but he could feel their eyes on him. It had been decades since a man that wasn't an Imperial had come into their domain, and their interest could be sensed from a mile away. Tommy was surprised that they jump him on the spot, but for some reason they seemed to be holding back.

And then he heard voices, hundreds of them. Doors opened, feet drummed on steps, and he guessed the he had entered a village of some sort. He tilted a bit, and was carried up a set of stairs, then dumped on a floor. The ropes that were around his arms were cut away and the blindfold removed. Tommy rubbed his eyes as he stood, taking the measure of the women in the room.

The act that they were beautiful was not that surprising to Tommy, given what he had been told about them. There were three Mereids in the room with him. All of them were slender and tall, narrow waited and graceful, their breasts small, but round and firm. Their faces were delicate, with large eyes and long blond or red hair. To Tommy, they resembled nothing so much as a bunch of supermodels gathered in one place...except for the pointed ears poking through their hair.

"Hello ladies," he said with a grin.

The three looked at each other. "A man," one of them said. "And not an Imperial."

"Who is he? Maybe he is a spy...."

"I am not " Tommy retorted indignantly. "Prince Toran sent me And I want to say, I expected a better welcome than this."

"Toran sent you?" said the first Mereid. "To do what?"

"He said you needed help...."

"And he sent just one man?" She laughed at that. "I like your confidence, but one man will not help us against our enemies."

"Or service us in other ways," said a red head.

"I'm not like most men," Tommy said.

"In any case, it's a moot point," said the blond. "Our Queen had been taken prisoner by the Hungu, and Princess Naya is gone as well."


"The younger sister of our Queen. She had been ruling us since the kidnapping. But a week ago Naya was taken prisoner by a raiding party of Tuzzugs who came down from the mountains."


"Evil little beasts in league with Saar," said the red head. "In the past they were little more than a nuisance, but the Imperials have been supplying their tribes with weapons."

"Without her we are lost," said the blind.

Tommy nodded. "Well, then I'd best get to work."

The blond cocked her hear. "What do you mean?"

"Where can I find these Tuzzugs?"

"To the north, about two weeks walk, but what are you..."

Tommy stood and stepped out of the small house they brought him in. "I should be back in a couple of days."

"By yourself, are you mad?" asked the red head.

Tommy looked at her, his eyes glinting. All three women took a step back. "I am Tommy MacAlpin," he said, "and when I say I will do something, I will do it "

He strode out of the house, the door closing behind. The Mereids looked at each other. "He is mad," said the red head/

"Maybe," said the blond, tapping her chin. "We'll see."

"So," Bolegun began as he sat down across the table from Toran. " The Royal Clan of Orothia has agreed to hear your words, Prince Toran. Speak."

Toran looked across the table at the Wylathians he was dealing with. Six men and women in all, representing the senior members of the Royal Clan of the Orothians. It had been they who had raised Bolegun, a successful warleader and lawgiver, to the post of Duke after Kassel's death. He was still new to the position, but reportedly favored the cause of the Resistence. It was these others that Toran would have to win over. He had thought long and hard on what to say.

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