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Bloodbane attempted to move, only to feel a pain in his side. Actually, his entire body felt like it had been run over by a wagon, but it was specifically his side that gave the sharpest pain as he tried to sit up. He immediately felt a cool hand on his shoulder.
“Stay down.” A hushed, feminine voice spoke up as he was pushed back down.
He allowed himself to lie back down on the bed. It didn’t feel like the fine sheets and soft mattresses of the palace, but something stuffed with hay that a commoner might use. As a gladiator, he had spent most of his nights on such a bed, so it didn’t bother him all that much.
“The inner city.” He muttered.
“The remaining monsters and undead in the inner city are currently being removed. The castle gates have reopened, and the people are searching house to house for any remaining lives. Congratulations, my lord.” The woman’s voice sounded beautiful, but it had a tired, sad tinge to it. It was the voice of someone who had seen and heard too much for her age.
Bloodbane opened his eyes to see a young teenage girl sitting by his bedside. He instantly could tell by the low lighting given by candlelight that it was near night and that he wasn’t back in the castle, but in some house in the inner city.
“This is your home?” Bloodbane asked.
“No… my home was in oldtown. My parents sent me here to stay with my aunties at the beginning of the attack. I don’t know…” Her voice broke and she looked away.
Most of the structures in the inner city were well-built and strong. Oldtown was older though and used a lot more wood. The first night, a fire had swept through oldtown. There could still be residents alive in oldtown but compared to the inner city, there would be fewer. Optimistically, if half the people survived in the inner city by hiding, then only perhaps 20% remained in oldtown, and that number would be shrinking every day.
“Why am I here?” Bloodbane asked the question he wanted to know.
“You were… on the street.” She blushed. “Those strong enough to carry you back the castle were needed to help in the purge. This was… the closest place.”
Bloodbane nodded slowly. “Where are the maids?”
“They went to help as well, except one, who is…” Her eyes flickered to the door.
Bloodbane looked at the door too, where the slightest flicker of black at the corner exposed her hiding form. Bloodbane gave a long, deep breath.
“Come out, Andromeda.”
Andromeda stepped out of the corner, her head down, looking like a child who was caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar.”
“Master…” Her voice was filled with hesitation.
“Do you think that I would be interested in someone who acts so pathetic as to hide from my sight?” Bloodbane demanded, causing her to wince.
“M-master… I’m sorry.” She fell to her knees.
The other girl jumped, awkward at being caught in this situation.
“What do you think you are sorry for?” Bloodbane asked coldly.
“I left your side.” She admitted shamefully. “Instead of protecting you when you needed me the most, I wanted to try to test my blade on Nightingale. You almost died because of me.”
Bloodbane watched her for a few moments before sitting back.
“You have disappointed me, and failed me.” She shook at his words but didn’t otherwise respond. “You will do fifty laps around the inner city. You will scan for every potential weakness and resolve it, and then you will do it again until you’re certain they won’t be able to mount an attack. Then, return to my quarters for additional punishment.”
“Y-yes, Master!” She stood up and then fled the room.
The other woman looked at her as she fled, and then glanced back at Bloodbane. “You don’t have to be so harsh.”
Bloodbane raised an eyebrow, a bit surprised that a young beauty was giving him such lip. “Do you talk to all lords this way?”
She frowned. “Aren’t you the one who created all of those laws supporting female equality?”
Bloodbane frowned for a moment, but it didn’t take long to access the memories from his previous life. That was right, the former Bloodbane was big into something called equal rights. He created dozens of schools and pushed both men and women to enter them. Women weren’t just educated but encouraged to do everything a man could do. Of course, there was one exception to this. That was fighting in a war. The majority of the soldiers had been men, which meant that the majority of the survivors would be women.
Of course, the other reason women outnumbered men was because of the tendencies of the monsters to torture and rape the women. They merely killed the men, but some women, if they were particularly unlucky, survived the torment. Well, Andromeda and the majority of the maids were survivors. Noticing the teenager still looking at him, he sighed and moved to sit up.
“I’ll be going now.”
He was surprised again when she grabbed his shoulders and pushed him back down. “You’re not fit to leave yet!”
He didn’t budge from his half-up stat, even though she was putting her whole body into it. She let out a cry.
“I will decide what my body can handle and what it cannot.”
She finally gave up pushing down on his shoulders, but she kept her hands on him. “Then, if you won’t stay down, can you at least give me a moment?”
“Fine, a moment,” Bloodbane responded as he tossed his feet over the edge of the bed.
He realized as he sat up that he was naked. While he was unconscious, all of his clothing had been removed. He had been covered with a sheet, but when he sat up, the sheet fell. His legs were bare as they came out over the ledge of the bed, and his upper body was naked. The sheet only just covered the area between his legs. The girl looked at his bare, muscular body, and her cheeks immediately burned. Her hands left his pectorals rapidly as she looked away.
Bloodbane didn’t respond to her shy nature, even though there was a tiny feeling of perversion deep inside him that seemed to enjoy this kind of girl. He recognized it as an echo of the former Bloodbane. This innocent and shy girl might have been called his type. The current Bloodbane didn’t necessarily agree. Oh, he wouldn’t mind pushing her down and having his way with her, but obtaining sexual gratification was far different than respecting and wanting to spend time with someone.
Before Bloodbane could say anything, she reached out again and touched his chest. He couldn’t help but shiver as he felt a feel like cold water was thrown over his head. The cool feeling spreading throughout his body, and wherever it touched, he could feel pains disappearing or lessoning. After a few moments, the cool feeling disappeared. He looked to see the girl panting with her eyes closed. When she opened them again, she looked a bit surprised.
“Did it work?”
“You can heal?” Bloodbane asked.
“You mean the gift?” When Bloodbane gave a slight nod, she let out a breath. “Yes, I can heal people, to an extent. I can only use it once a day, and whatever I heal is it.”
Bloodbane wasn’t sure if that was the limit of her power. The other abilities he had seen were amplified in the undead, and also in those, he had given a position of power. If he gave her a position, would he be able to use her gift better? That reminded him of something that had happened right before he passed out. There had been two other women that had shown abilities right before he passed out.
“There were two women who had saved me,” Bloodbane announced as he stood up.
“Ah… yes, that was my aunties!” She declared.
As she spoke, Bloodbane could hear the front door open and shut.
“I’m back!” The voice of a woman came from the door.
Bloodbane could hear another door open and saw a small woman walkout from somewhere in the house. She was looking to the front door anxiously when her eyes caught Bloodbane standing up. She nearly jumped before another woman appeared in the hall, taller and more muscular than the first. Before Bloodbane or the woman could say anything to each other, the new arrival grabbed the other woman and pulled her into an embrace, kissing her roughly.
The smaller woman pulled away shyly. “Our guest is awake.”
She spoke in a somewhat quiet and submissive voice. The woman holding her was enough to cause Bloodbane’s eyebrow to rise. He did recognize these women. They were the ones who had saved him. However, he hadn’t gotten a good look at them before. The woman who had just arrived home wore chainmail, but it was in the form of a bikini. It only covered her chest, and just enough for her nether region. The majority of her butt, legs, stomach, and chest were completely exposed.
Her body was very muscular, and while she was small compared to Bloodbane’s size, she was tall for a woman. Her body was covered in a rich tan hue and a thin layer of sweat. She was young and attractive, with thick brown hair that ran over one shoulder, tied into a complicated braid. Comparatively, the other girl was small, her hair covering her eyes.
“These are your aunties?” Bloodbane guessed.
“Ahh, so you ended up surviving.” The muscular woman took a step toward Bloodbane, holding out a hand.
“It was because you saved me,” Bloodbane responded, taking her hand.
She squeezed her hand powerfully, and Bloodbane shook back. It was a good proper handshake. At least, that was the businessman memories of the former Bloodbane seemed to tell him. She looked down at her hand and gave a little nod, a pleased smile on her face. Bloodbane’s eyes lowered too, but they ended up getting caught on her voluptuous and nearly exposed chest.
“You weren’t dressed like this before.”
“This is my business attire.” She responded. “Do you see something you like?”
“I do.” Bloodbane looked her back in the eye. “This is stainless steel, riveted chainmail?”
“You have a good eye. I used the recipe you released last year.” She grinned. “I’m a blacksmith by trade. Now that the enemy has been pushed back, I believe we’ll need some proper weapons and armor. That’s why I’m heating my forge once again.”
“Good.” Bloodbane nodded, and then paused, “Although, I’d like the men to be covered a bit better than that.”
The young teenager who had been attending me gasped, but the woman threw back her head and laughed. “This was merely a sample I made to show off my talent. The bra is rivet, if you had looked a bit lower, you’d see that my crotch is studded. My boots are platemail.”
She lifted some heavy platted boots Bloodbane hadn’t noticed earlier. “I see.”
“You… are like they say.” The mousy girl behind her peaked her head out and said.”
Bloodbane frowned. “What do they say?”
Bloodbane had only heard bad things about himself. The old Bloodbane was a foolish king. He was a cuck who allowed his entire city to be overrun. He had accomplished nothing and led the entire kingdom to ruin. Whether it was his wife, his general, or even the maids, no one respected him. However, the way she had said those words sounded considerably different. There was no scorn in them, but shock.
“Before you took the throne, women weren’t allowed educations, and were not allowed to hold many jobs.” It was the blacksmith who explained, letting out a sigh as she once again wrapped her arm around the smaller aunt. “Women like me were considered jokes. I would have never been allowed to do blacksmithing, let alone marry my wife, under your father’s rule. I can see in your eyes and the way you took my hand that you see me as an equal. You have caught my interest.”
“Is that why you saved me?” Bloodbane asked.
“We watched from our window as you led the charge to take back the inner city. However, if I said the sight was my only reason, I’d be lying. I can’t say there aren’t many commoners who didn’t appreciate the education you allowed them to gain. I’ve heard people talk about you with disdain, but those are the rich merchants and the lords and ladies. You were bridging the gap between us and them, and for that, they hated you. However, I believe you may find different sentiment among the lower class whom you established many laws to protect and send aid.”
Bloodbane hadn’t had much time to focus on the previous Bloodbane’s political decisions. It appeared though that he wasn’t the hated king it appeared to be. It was merely the people in high places and their propaganda that painted him as such a failure, but when it came to infrastructure, he had done a lot of good. That didn’t help anyone now. Most of those that would have supported him in oldtown were likely dead. However, it seemed like the former Bloodbane had at least done a few things right.
“Regrettably, as you pointed out, most inner-city citizens are of the wealthier type.” Bloodbane sighed.
“Not everyone. You’ll find a lot of skilled craftsmen in the inner city too, like us. It was only because of my little bit of skill that I was allowed to move here. It ended up saving us, and my wife’s niece.” She gave a small nod to the teenage girl.
The teenage girl shook her head. “You shouldn’t be so modest, auntie. You’re a woman blacksmith. They all looked down on your work as inferior. You had to show them it was better.”
“Bah!” She threw out her head. “They brought me here as a curiosity. Neither my armor nor my weapons sold. They only trusted me to make horseshoes and wagon parts.”
“Will you make weapons and armor now?” Bloodbane asked.
“Will your army be willing to use them?”
“I’m not sure if there are any other blacksmiths left.” Bloodbane shrugged. “They won’t have a choice.”
“Then, I will do as my lord commands.” She lowered her head, but only slightly.
It was fine for Bloodbane. He wasn’t the kind of person who needed deep reverence or respect. The only thing that he cared about was results.
“In that case, I will see about getting you as much metal as you need so you can begin work immediately,” Bloodbane spoke up, thinking about whether he should summon the metal himself.
“Very well, then drop the sheet.” She responded, looking down to see where Bloodbane had just lifted the sheet enough to cover himself.
“A-auntie!” The teenage girl cried out in embarrassment.
“I would like to make your armor first.” She responded. “I’ll need my wife to take measurements.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Bloodbane responded. “I’ll worry about my armor.”
“It’s very necessary.” She retorted. “I wouldn’t want you to wear that gaudy trash again. I can make something far lighter and more suited for you and your fighting style.”
Her eyes flickered to the corner, and that’s where Bloodbane noticed his armor and clothing had been thrown. The armor was extremely damaged. It was so dented that it was unusable. Most of the rest of the clothing was blood splattered and full of so many holes it wasn’t salvageable. Bloodbane had never wanted to wear armor in the first place. He was much more comfortable dressed in something like what the blacksmith woman was wearing. Well, not a top, but a loose bottom. That’s why he didn’t bother to question the validity of such armor.
However, remembering that he had been forced into that encumbering armor and told it had to do with troop mortality, he realized he’d probably need to wear something again. Of course, Bloodbane could make his stuff, but while he could replicate a weapon that was a rather simple design, the intricate interconnectivity of armor was completely beyond him. He didn’t know how much practice he’d need to make something half as complex as chainmail. Shields and swords were about his limit.
After a moment of hesitation, he gave a nod. “Do as you must.”
He dropped his sheet, revealing his completely naked body. The teenage girl gasped and covered her eyes. However, a moment later, she peeked through the cracks, her face growing red. An amused blacksmith, suddenly shoved her wife forward, causing the smaller woman to stumbled until her hands ended up gasping Bloodbane’s sides to keep her from falling.
“S-so big…” her eyes widened as she looked Bloodbane up.
It wasn’t clear if she was talking about his size or his size.
“I need thorough measurements, my love.” The scantily-clad blacksmith woman pulled out a desk chair and then sat down, crossing her legs and sitting back like she was going to enjoy the show.
The other woman slowly unbelted the binding around her waist, feeling very nearly like a maiden undressing until Bloodbane realized the belt was a measuring utensil.
“I’m a seamstress, I do the bindings and measurement for my wife.” She spoke uneasily as she started to wrap her belt around parts of Bloodbane’s body.
“I haven’t gotten your names even.” Bloodbane declared.
The blacksmith shot the teenager a glare. “You didn’t introduce us?”
The teenager dropped her hands, letting out a yelp before looking at Bloodbane’s naked body and covering her eyes again. “S-sorry!”
The blacksmith sighed and threw back her braid. “I am Roxanni and my wife’s name is Elli. The young one is Mairi.”
“Well received.” Bloodbane’s word turned into a grunt as the back of Elli’s hand touched his lower parts accidentally.
“Apologies!” She squeaked.
This seemed to only arouse Roxanni, who watched the exchange with delighted eyes.
“Roxanni, about the ability you used. The gift?”
“Oh… yes.” She lifted her hand. “You meant the shield? There are many gifted among the inner city. I can occasionally create a blockade. It sometimes helps me with my blacksmithing. I can rapidly increase the heat of my forge or brace something without an anvil. It’s rather weak though. Compared to my wife and our niece, it’s not much.”
Bloodbane wondered if the education his former self had given the commoners had increased the likelihood of them developing gifts. It also stood to reason, just like in his army, that those with gifts had a better chance to survive, so perhaps he’d find more among the survivors here. He also found himself wondering if it was a genetic component. The twin sisters, his former wife, and Lady Kait both had it, and so did this aunt and her niece.
“Mmm…” Bloodbane grunted again as her hand grazed his thigh.
“Be careful, wife. You might excite him.”
He might think Elli was doing it on purpose, but she looked near to tears. Was she always this clumsy? Roxanni seemed to be grinning at the sight. Did she put her wife on this on purpose as a tease? Her voice almost sounded eager to excite him. Bloodbane’s memories seemed to tell him lesbians didn’t like men all that much, but Roxanni seemed to have no disgust over watching Bloodbane.
“These gifts… I believe they should be developed.” Bloodbane continued to take his mind off it. “Mairi has a healing ability. What does Elli do?”
Bloodbane looked down just as Elli stopped to look up. With her on her knees in front of him, his body naked and his thing hanging in front of her, only inches from her mouth, it was a very suggested scene, even for Bloodbane.
“I can make people do… whatever I want.” She spoke quietly, and he felt her hot breath against his lower regions.
As if finally reached a boiling point, he could feel the blood starting to flow to the area, and it slowly grew larger, swelling toward her. Her eye noticed the movement and snapped to it as it slowly grew toward her. There was a moment of silence until it grew to the point that it just struck her nose.
“Oh, my…” Roxanni’s voice cut in. “That won’t do at all. If you want to make sexual advances on my woman, you’ll have to go through me first.”
Bloodbane gave a snort, and then he reached down and grabbed the sheet. He pulled it over himself and folded it like a toga, making sure his erection didn’t show.
“That should be enough measurement,” Bloodbane responded tightly. “I’ll be going.”
“Come back tomorrow.” Roxanni nearly purred. “I’ll have your armor done by then.”
Bloodbane nodded, and then pushed his way out the door. It slammed behind him, and he took a breath. Was it hot in there? The forge must have been heating the house. As he stopped to compose himself, he realized there was a window open leading into the room, and he could still hear them.
“Auntie! That’s the lord! You can’t treat him like you do some man you meet at the bar!” Mairi chastised.
“How could I? He’s so much more of a man.” Her voice sounded a bit lewd.
“Wife… why would you tease me like that?” Elli cried.
“Isn’t it because I know it works you up, and I like my little crumpet worked up?”
“Ahhn… n-not now.”
“Aunties! We talked about this! Not in front of me! I-I’m going to go see if anyone needs help out there!”
A back door slammed, and the noises that started to emanate from the house became increasingly lewder. Bloodbane stiffened as he quickly fled the house. What was with the commoners of this place? They were certainly a free people. He cleared his throat and quickly headed back toward the castle. As he went, he finally got a good look at the destruction left in the inner city.
He could see large bonfires being set with bodies being thrown on them, and people were still working hard even now to secure and rebuild the city. None of that would matter though unless they could retake the entire city. Everyone was so busy, that no one even seemed to notice as he walked back into the palace. A random man in a toga just didn’t fit their impression of the king that blasted through lines of enemies.
He also went out of his way to avoid being seen, finally returning to his room. When he opened the door, his eyes landed on Andromeda. She was covered in sweat, much like Roxanni had been. She was still breathing hard as if she had only just finished running.
“Master, I’m present for punishment.” She declared.
He looked down on her, a feeling of heat burning within him. Perhaps, things would have played out differently had Roxanni not felt like teasing him. He may have been a gladiator, but he was just a man, after all.
“Strip!” He ordered.
With her head down, she slowly stripped until she was naked.
“Turn around, bend over the bed.”
“Yes, Master…” She turned around, and then he grabbed each of her hands, tying them to the legs of the bed, on each side so, her arms were spread back and she was bent over.
“Do you know what you did wrong?” Bloodbane pulled out a whip his memories had told him was in the closet, although he didn’t look up the memories on why it was there.
He snapped the whip, causing her to jump a little.
“I-I abandoned Master… and…”
He snapped the whip in the air. “Incorrect. The reason you failed is that you’re letting this failure affect you. I do not need a woman by my side who fears and doubts her actions. In the heat of the moment, you made a decision. You must live with every decision. I will not accept a woman who would hesitate or flinch. Do you understand?”
“Do you understand?”
“And do you know what your punishment will be?”
“A-a whipping?” She responded nervously.
“Wrong again.” Bloodbane threw the sheet covering him on the sheet to the bed next to her. “You’ll have to sexually satisfy me for the rest of the night!”
Her head turned back in shock. “Master?”
“Do you agree?”
Her eyes brightened, and her hands tightened on her ropes like she was preparing herself. “Yes!”
There was no hesitation in her voice. There was also no hesitation as Bloodbane shoved himself into her.