A Game of Destiny

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Chapter Five: The Woods of Horny Galore

I crashed back to reality from my peak, gasping and shuddering from the aftermath. Sequoia lifts her head, somewhat triumphant, and I reach for her, wanting physical touch to ground me back to earth. She startles at my touch, not expecting it, and I plant a kiss on her lips. There’s a soft gasp in response before she melts into me.

When we part, her cheeks are flushed, and she makes an effort to assert her usual calm expression.

“Did you like it?” She asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

I kiss her forehead. When I pull back she gazes at me dreamily, the lavender of her eyes vibrant.

“I loved it,” I tell her, “You have a very magical tongue.”

She chuckles, caught off guard by my remark.

“I’ll take that,” she says softly, moving to stand, “but right now, we need to move again. Our moment has come to a close.”

I nod purposefully, letting her help me up. My knees buckled slightly, to which she found great amusement. Sequoia oozed confidence at the fact that she had indeed made me unable to stand.

“Fuck you,” I hiss, climbing into her arms.

She shrugs.

“One day, maybe you will,” she tells me, and then purses her lips, “I’ve never had anyone tend to me before.”

I’m speechless and then swamped with guilt and anger at myself. At no point had I offered to pleasure her?

“I’m sorry,” I said quickly, embarrassed, “I didn’t think.”

Sequoia frowns, looking at me as though I had grown another head.

“Why are you sorry? We’re in a dire predicament at the moment, and I love...watching.”

She looks away. I felt like she had meant to say something else, but I didn’t want to push.

Instead, we trek through the forest, the both of us taking in the light shining golden beams between the trees. I felt like the light illuminated specks of forest dust, casting them as golden with its touch. Each step Sequoia took was soft upon grass and moss. Water flows to the left, a creek. I can hear it, and the air is heavy with the rich smell of damp earth. My foot aches from earlier, feeling inflamed, but I only have myself to blame for hanging off chandeliers and dashing out of windows.

There’s a sound I can’t place as we move deeper into the woods. A high-pitched hum rose above the noises of the forest steadily. Sequoia stops as the sound mounts, a frown settling deep onto her brow.

“Swamp wails?” She murmurs, looking around, “They’re only used to deter creatures away from the property, but the only property around for miles is the Aouren Estate.”

She looks around again, confused.

“What kind of creatures need to be deterred?” I asked, my eyes settling on a shadow moving in the distance, “Does it by any chance have horns and large gnarly teeth?”

Sequoia stills, her grasp on me tightening. She’s completely frozen, her head still fixed in place. Her breathing comes shallow and quiet.

“Which direction?” She whispers, not looking at me.

I squint, still trying to make out what it was. It was huge, whatever it was, larger than a wild boar, but not broad or rounded. It’s angular and twisted, and as it moves slowly, slinking its way towards us, I finally saw the blaze of its eyes.

“Run East,” I tell her, grasping her armour, “It’s a Nightmare Crawler.”

Sequoia shoots East, not requiring any more instruction. Her legs leap over logs and rocks as air streams through our hair.

“What the fuck is that doing here?” I hiss, peering over her shoulder, “Aren’t the Swamp wails meant to deter them? Why is it out in the day?”

Sequoia doesn’t answer, her jaw set in determination. She shows no sign of tiring and no signs of difficulty carrying me and vaulting off the ground and through trees. She holds me tighter before grunting in an agitated tone.

“There’s a house,” she mutters angrily, “You’ll fit.”

She runs at it, and I see it’s tiny. The door is half my height, and the house looks melded from the earth like a hollowed-out mound of dirt. Moss and grass grow over it, with small, rounded holes for windows. Smoke rises from a makeshift chimney.

“We’re not fitting in that!” I cry out, panic rising as we dash closer, “We’re too big!′

I look over her shoulder again and gasp at the Nightmare Crawler striding behind us, its gangly, twisted black body wisping over the ground. Sequoia runs faster, and as we get to the little house, she throws open the door and tosses me through it. I land with a crash, feeling bruises threatening, before looking back, horror-struck that Sequoia was still outside.

A slurp sounds, splitting the moment with its unusual nature, and I jump in surprise to find a goblin to my left. He sits primly, legs crossed, with a posh teacup in hand. He looks thoroughly fed up as he glares at me, the black of his eyes beady and small.

“Most people knock,” he says curtly, taking another long sip, “Or wait to be welcomed in. Though mind you, I don’t remember inviting a Dragon and a Dwarf Giant into my residence, that I don’t.”

I stare, before throwing my hands to the door in anguish and confusion.

“There’s a Nightmare Crawler!” I shriek, trying to incite a response from him, “We’re in danger, and I’m not a Dragon.”

The goblin rolls their eyes, sighing heavily.

“That’s my dog, Pig. Very friendly, very loyal. And dear, you smell just like one.”

He stands, short and stubby, with the green of his skin looking rather ill. There’s thrashing outside, and as I go to stop him from opening the door, Sequoia’s head flops into the house, along with the frantic licking from the Nightmare Crawler. I feel my blood run cold. It’s not what I had expected, especially considering the stories I had heard. I had always just considered them true.

Admittedly, watching a huge, black shadow beast gleefully lick my wife felt like a strange juxtaposition.

“Pig!” the goblin shouts, “That’s not how we greet invaders! You’re meant to chase them the other way, you big lump!”

I stoop in the small space, witnessing the Nightmare Crawler wag its phantom tail in joy. Its blazing eyes burned red, but its pointed gnarly snout had a strange smiling twist. It was like an exceptionally large demonic dog.

“It’s tame?” I marvel, taking in Sequoia’s unimpressed face, “And very friendly.”

The goblin huffs, before nudging Sequoia’s head with a long and curled shoe. Her eyes blazed.

“So why the Swamp wails?” She deadpans.

He raises a bushy eyebrow.

“Multiple reasons,” he sniffs with a dismissive wave of his hand, “most creatures hate loud high-pitched sounds, but Pig over here doesn’t care as long as he gets to lick people. He’s a pervert.”

My head hurts from being thrust through the door earlier, and it’s only now I can look around the house. It’s round, cast in the warm glow of lanterns and fireflies. There’s the smell of cinnamon and dirt, with sweet honey swarming through the air. Weeds are arranged in bouquets or vases.

“I’m sorry we crashed through,” I started, still staring at the bouquets in awe.

The goblin gives me a steady look.

“It’s just my luck you’re both women and not some tall, handsome men with abs you can scrub laundry on. My dreams never come true. I’m to die alone.”

I give a sympathetic smile, unsure how to excuse myself.

“You dream of washing your clothes on men’s abs,” Sequoia asks in puzzlement, eyes focused, “but that’s strange. Why does the man have to be in the washtub?”

The goblin smirks.

“You’re saying you wouldn’t want your lady wet as you wash your clothing? It’s an excuse to touch dear.”

Sequoia looks at me, her eyes darkening in desire, and I smacked my palm to my forehead, not wanting her to think naughty things whilst in company.

“Well, I’m sorry again, Mr...” I began, lost for words.

“The name’s Dong. Big Dong. Family name, don’t ask,” he tells me wistfully, looking through the door, “and I’m afraid you can’t leave until morning. The full moon is up soon, and the Swamp wails only do so much.”

Sequoia starts, snapping out of her lustful trance, her eyes moving away from me.

“What’s the danger?” She enquires.

Dong looks slightly anxious, eyes looking tired.

“Dancing shrooms...pixies...shifters...horny trolls! The past year has been terrible. I can’t sleep without something getting it on. But if you’re out at this time, then they’ll try to hump you too. Trust me, you don’t want a rock troll crushing you while it gets its rocks off!”

Frowning, I peer at the trees in the distance, seeing the moon glimmering. It feels like it was just morning, but suddenly instead of golden light, it’s dark and shadowy.

“Time goes quick in these forests,” Sequoia explains, noticing my unease, “Nothing ever comes out of here. My guards don’t hunt here either.”

My eye twitched, not aware of this snippet of information.

“But you took us here?” I hissed, “Why would we escape to safety by running into a dodgy forest?”

Sequoia shrugs.

“Can’t run into the sea,” she retorts, kneeling in front of the door, “and the main road is too open to get enough distance, especially if they have bows.”

I can’t fault her knowledge, but some warning about the Woods of Horny Galore would have been much appreciated.

“Sequoia doesn’t fit in,” I tell Dong, worried.

Dong glances at Sequoia and smirks.

“She has enough strength to deter a Dragon,” he laughs, but then glances at me, “Didn’t stop you though.”

I grit my teeth, as it’s the second time he’s mentioned me being a Dragon. No one has ever mentioned the possibility or told me I looked like one or anything, and I needed time to process the events of this morning. I wasn’t quite ready to confront these accusations.

Goblins are usually humble creatures, doing handiwork or running errands on farms. They’re hard workers with a sense of responsibility, but it’s true they have a keen sense of smell. They can smell the difference between wines from a mile away, with wine being their preferred beverage. They are incapable of getting drunk. Some will even receive payment in the form of wine. It’s peculiar though, that a goblin has never travelled through Porro.

“I’m not a Dragon,” I tell Dong firmly, deluding myself, “My mother is part Fae, and my father is Fae, and my sisters are all Fae.”

Dong gave me a hard, scrutinising look before waddling towards his kitchen. His long fingers find a bottle of wine, but he traces his fingers along the surfaces, almost thoughtfully, before turning around again.

“You’ve been lied to,” he concludes abruptly, “because you smell. Like Dragon dear, not in a bad way. There are not many Dragons around these days. Last time I saw one was some twenty years ago. You know, shortly after Chrysos disappeared.”

I made a loud noise of frustration. Why is it that everyone has heard of Chrysos?

“And what do you know of Chrysos?” Sequoia asks, leaning forward with intrigue.

We both waited for an answer, but Dong looks fretful, finally plucking up the bottle of wine and taking a long, deep drink. When finished, he wipes his mouth, his beady eyes cautious.

“I used to work for the Dragon Queen. I was the librarian for many years but quit when Chrysos became an unruly teenager. Plus, my fiancé at the time refused to have weed bouquets, so I left because of him too.”

My mouth dropped open, and Dong looks closer at me, looking like he was welcoming a major event that he knew was going to drain him of energy.

“Eirlys,” he grimaces, “It’s been a while.”

It went dark in my mind after that. Before it was an option to run away, because nothing was confirmed, but now, through bizarre events, my world has been completely distorted. My sisters spring to mind with their beauty, grace and kindness that I never had a hope to share through blood. My father’s affection that later turned to indifference. The vague details about my mother. The fact I was even married off to Sequoia in the first place, simply because she too may be part of my destiny. Looking around, I curse loudly.

Maybe meeting Dong was part of destiny. Perhaps being chased by Pig was an element leading me hurtling towards my fate. What else was destiny, and why was I so unaware growing up? Do I have no control over my life? Passing through one obstacle to the next, do I have a choice in the outcome, or is it predetermined?

Sequoia reaches an arm into the house, squeezing my hand with hers.

“It’s okay,” she tells me, and then frowns, “As long as you don’t find Chrysos and Peitho to destroy the world that is.”

Laughing, I sink to the floor, just done with life.

“I don’t particularly want to, but I feel like fate has other ideas,” I remark bitterly, bringing my knees to my chest.

She falters, not knowing how to comfort me. Her eyes look pained.

“Perhaps Fate can change,” she insists, her thumb caressing my knuckles, “Who decided it was to be anyway?”

I stare at her, half bent and bowing in the doorway, her shoulders making her unable to enter further, and I think to myself. She makes it so hard to hate her for marrying me. I feel like she’s the start of all this mess. Life was partially normal until she came charging in, armour shining and braids billowing in the breeze. She’s crazy. Stubborn. Flat during conversations at times, but also warm, kind and giving. I don’t deserve such kindness.

“You married me because of that Fate,” I say simply, my bitterness rearing its ugly head, “When did Fate dictate otherwise?”

Sequoia shrinks back as though stung, her mouth trying to form words to speak but failing.

Dong looks between us, for once a gentle expression forming upon his wide and round face.

“It was for love,” Sequoia whispers, her words barely audible, “I married you out of love. Fate and Destiny were my excuses. I fit the profile, so I took the chance to take you, and I did. I don’t intend to leave you or force you into anything. I intend to love you.”

My heart clenches, but I can’t say the same. She’s been watching me for years, keeping me under surveillance, whereas I was blissfully unaware. I have no such feelings. No emotions that grew over time. I have nothing but feelings of resentment, lust and unease with Sequoia, but also, I trust her in a way I cannot explain.

I keep my head low, unable to look her in the eye. If I’m right, then she already knows I’m not in love with her. I married her for my father and let her touch me out of carnal desire. None of that is love.

“We should sleep,” I whisper, unable to say anything else, “Let’s hope the forest isn’t too...pervy.”

Sequoia moves back, silent as the grave. I can’t look at her, and I won’t.

She retreats, closing the door softly. I grit my teeth, forbidding myself to cry over this mess. I can’t control my destiny and I don’t love my wife. It’s shit.

“Well, could have been better!” Dong says, trying to be positive, “But what does worrying do?”

Glancing at him, I feel his good intentions rot against my flesh.

“A lot of things can be a lot better,” I say, curling up, “But I don’t think I will be.”

The night comes thicker, enclosing the forest in a blanket of stars and shadows. I hear birds of the night and the scuffling of animals outside, and I listen, wondering how my life had put me in this predicament.

Dong busies himself, setting upwards to further deter horny creatures from coming near us. Sequoia had stopped outside, and I hadn’t heard a peep from her. I find myself staring at the door with concern. I should have tasted my words before I said them or remained silent. She’s already aware of how an arranged marriage needs time to progress, especially if it’s born from ulterior motives. Crinkling my brow, I look away from the door, and into the intent gaze of Pig, whose tail slaps the ground upon seeing me notice him. I flounder, startled at the proximity to so many teeth. Dong laughs.

“Just pet him. He doesn’t bite. Most he’ll do is lick the flesh off your face once you give him attention.”

I raise an eyebrow, not liking the sound of that, but the slapping of Pig’s tail increased when I looked at him again, so I lifted my hand to pet him. Pig pushed his entire snout into my palm, his tail whipping like a snake of doom behind him.

“He is a silly dog,” Dong remarks musingly, “tries to make friends with everyone and everything, no matter what it is. Caught him trying to play fetch with an Orc warrior once. Poor Orc didn’t expect to have a Nightmare Crawler throwing a stick at him to throw.”

I laugh, startled that the black wisping mist on Pig’s body hid a scaly smooth skin texture underneath. The more I look at him, the more he’s unlike any other animal I’ve encountered. He’s like a mixture of shadow, dog and snake.

“Why the name Pig?” I enquire, scratching under Pig’s chin.

Dong purses his lips, mulling the question over.

“He stole my roast pig trying to play fetch with me, and then he wouldn’t leave.”

Gaping at him, I could imagine how scary it would be for a Nightmare Crawler to toss an entire roast pig at me while relentlessly wanting to play fetch. Strange dog.

“Odd,” I smiled, amused, “but thank you, for letting us stay the night.”

Dong nods, blowing out candles in the small space. The air smells like smoke for a moment, a dreamy smell mixed with honey and cinnamon.

“I’m not going to say no when you have Blue Fire,” he remarks direly, “I’ve seen what it does. It can take skin from bone in a flash. Reduce landscapes to ash. Burn through mountains of rock and set the sea steaming. I’d rather not see it again.”

My blood runs cold. Was I capable of such chaos? Why would I in the first place? What would drive me to lose all sense of reason and wreck havoc?

I chew the inside of my cheek before becoming aware of noises outside. Before I could look Dong swiftly closed the curtains.

“You don’t want to see that.”

There’s a knock at the door, and Sequoia’s head peaks through. She looks tired and weary. She doesn’t look at me.

“I think something is making the forest go crazy,” she says, “If it’s always with the full moon, there must be a reason.”

Dong shrugs.

“No shit,” he retorts, “No flies on you, eh? I’ve been trying to work it out for a year.”

Sequoia sighs heavily. I can hear the passionate moans emanating from behind her, so she probably can’t sleep. She throws a frustrated look behind her and then looks away just as quickly. The moans had gotten louder.

“I wish I could burn that from my memory,” she says, remorseful, “It’s like they...it’s like they’re under some kind of spell.”

Dong gives a crooked smile, his teeth flashing.

“You’re correct, but this kind of spell is complex. Only an expert can cover an entire forest for this amount of time, and from what I know, there’s no one else here apart from at that castle at the beach.”

Sequoia stiffens, shoulders going tight. Dong tilts his head, taking a sip of wine as his eyes scrutinised Sequoia’s response.

“That isn’t all true,” she explains, “there’s a local witch who comes to the Aouren Estate every month or so. She sells potions, balms, candles and charms. Seems harmless, but I can’t say for sure.”

Leisurely, Dong crosses his legs and contemplates, peering thoughtfully into the last lit candle flame. The sounds of sex moan on the winds like a blush-inducing song, making my skin creep. It felt like we were breaching so many personal boundaries, but given how lustfully free and rampant they are, I wonder if they have any spatial awareness. Or awareness of any kind for that matter. It’s quite eerie.

“I think,” Dong murmurs, “That the witch must be capable if she has cast this spell. Do you know where she lives?”

Sequoia shakes her head, her eyes finally finding me in the room. It’s brief, but I sensed in that one moment that she’s terribly upset. Her eyes flicker away, and she coughs to clear her throat.

“There are rumours she lives in a desolate lighthouse but that you can never see it.”

Dong hums at this, pleased.

“Illusionist magic...very capable. We’ll have to find her and see what the deal is. Even if we can’t make her, we can find ways to diffuse it if we know what kind of spell it is.”

Sequoia agrees and bids us goodnight, looking unhappy at the prospect of sleeping surrounded by grunts, moans and the slaps of flesh against flesh.

“Why aren’t we affected?” I ask.

He looks at me, looking amused.

“Have you done naughty things in the woods?” he answers, “Because it affects people in different ways. Some more than others. It does not affect Pig because he’s too stupid.”

I gape, thinking back to Sequoia’s head between my thighs. I remember how I had blamed the adrenaline and Sequoia’s natural charms for my sudden desire for us to touch. Dong sees my reaction and rolls his eyes.

“Thought so. Us Goblins are immune to most spells. We’re simple creatures. We live for wine, work and more wine. We have no use for spells, but we can use magic. Funny, isn’t it?”

I blink, horrified by my discovery and embarrassed. I wonder if Sequoia knows.

“Goblins are indeed hardy,” I agree sheepishly, tugging on my hair, “Luckily, you’re a goblin.”

“Quite,” Dong smiles, his teeth flashing again, “I think it’s even luckier that I’ve found a Dragon...or bad luck, whichever one it is. You do have her eyes.”

I groan, not wanting this conversation. Not now, not anytime soon. I want peace. To find my sisters, travel and learn new things. After being in Porro my whole life, it feels like my world opened slightly, only to be made small again with talk of Destiny and Fate.

“I don’t want to hear it,” I say tiredly, “It’s just too much to digest right now. Another time maybe.”

He seems to respect my answer and doesn’t press further. He waddles to his bed, and I shift in the plush chair I was laying on. I would be content to live in a quiet forest, away from all the noise of life, but I doubt it will leave me alone.

Slowly sleep takes me, and I dream a dream of no Destiny. It was strange because Sequoia is still there, still involved and loving towards me. I dreamt that I loved her and that we were happy in our place in the world. Blissfully happy and unaware of any strife. It’s all I want.

My sisters drift into my dreams, lovely and graceful, all long limbs and flowing hair. They dance. They sing. They twirl and spin until I notice that as they move, layers of clothing are floating away, unwinding with each frolic back and forth. I chase them to cover their nudity but then stare, horror-stricken, as their skin melts off.

Still, they danced.

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