[NSFW] Karen in the Land Beneath

Discussion in 'The Big Bookshelf' started by Aletessa, Feb 2, 2018.

  1. Aletessa New Member

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    A story about an elven summoner who finds trouble when investigating the disappearances of people and appearances of mysterious cave entrances. Bondage, slavery, molestation.
  2. Aletessa New Member

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    The cave entrances had been appearing for a few weeks now: in places not too far from towns or villages, but desolate enough that few could be certain they had not been there before. And most had been followed by disappearances; though not everyone investigating the latter thought the two connected, many blaming the orcs of the hills who had taken so many people before. But Karen could sense the magic that pooled around the entrances; something was down there, something hostile that had to be identified. And so now Karen was down there too.

    Beyond the cave entrance she'd found a long, downward-sloping tunnel, rough-walled but too straight to be natural. The glimmer of magic still clung to the walls; it felt a little like the energies of her summonings, but not quite... maybe the tunnels were a form of portal. That would explain why the cave entrances had appeared so suddenly. A long portal; it seemed Karen had been walking for hours.

    As soon as the latter thought entered her mind, she saw that it widened ahead into some kind of cavern. A couple of voices echoed up, and Karen extinguished her witchlight, waiting until she was sure it had not been seen. She crept closer, trying to hear the words, but they were in a language she wasn't familiar with; the tones were confident though, whoever was speaking was used to being here. Not anyone who'd been taken from the town above, then, which meant someone who'd helped do the taking. Or guards.

    It was keep going or go back. Karen kept going, as quietly as she could, hoping the two were too engrossed in their conversation to be watching the entrance. They weren't, readying their spears the moment she entered the dimly lit cavern... human, sort of, except so pale as to be almost dead, and their limbs oddly twisted at the joints. They stepped apart, approaching Karen in arcs so they could come at her from opposite sides.

    She put on a cheeful smile... "Good day, gentle folk, I am seeking some townspeople who might have mistakenly come this way." Just in case weren't hostile. Of course they were hostile. At least they didn't try to stab her, instead swinging their spears like staves, to club her. The nimble elf dodged out from between them, in the same moment reaching out with her heart to call Raiko to her. The lightning tiger appeared beside her, casting his power out and stunning both of Karen's attackers. She voiced her thanks, and asked him to stand guard as she examined the cavern in more detail.

    Not too large, about the size of a tavern's main room, with two other passages besides the one she'd come in through. In the centre was a round stone table with a strange device sitting on it. It put Karen in mind of an orrery: coloured glass orbs, all lit with an inner glow, mounted on brass rods that rotated round a central column; but the pattern of the orbs didn't match any of the stars and the arms looked as if they could move freely from each other. She could feel magic from it, and guessed it had something to do with the portal tunnel. Karen debated moving the rods, to see if there was any effect, when she felt Raiko's alarm, and turned, a fraction too late.

    Another trio of the strange maybe-humans had entered the cavern. As Karen opened her mouth to voice a spell, and Raiko reared up to attack, the lead one raised its staff, pronouncing a single word that sent a wave of energy through the cavern. As it struck Raiko, the lightning tiger was banished, fading out of the cave; Karen was a knocked to the ground, her magic sputtering and fading. From the corner of her eye, she saw the other two maybe-humans rush towards her, and tried to call Raiko back. But the pair were on her too quickly, grabbing her arms and pulling her upright too sharply for her to hold her concentration.

    Their leader stood before Karen. He had slung his staff, and produced a set of chains. He twirled his fingers, and the two maybe-humans turned Karen round, pulling her arms behind her; she felt shackles go onto her wrists, and a metal collar around her neck. Another length of chain joining the two, keeping her wrists helplessly behind her. Karen's captors turned her back round to face the leader, and he placed something in her mouth, a leather mass gagging her as he fastened it behind her head. Despite the danger she was in, Karen couldn't suppress a slight thrill as the bondage accumulated. The maybe-human attached a chain leash to the collar around her neck, then turned and pulled her along after him, the other two keeping hold of her arms.

    They left the cavern by one of the passages, never once having paid the slightest attention to their fallen fellows. A fact Karen noted for later; these beings might care little for each other, and be easily divided. But for now, she put her effort into keeping track of where her captors took her; the tunnels twisted and turned, but the maybe-humans always took the path leading down. She thought she'd be able to find her way back if she escaped. When she escaped.

    As they walked, her mind kept wandering back to her trapped arms, and filled mouth, and the leash that held her... she knew she should be fighting the feelings they stirred, but trying just stirred them all the more. She'd read once that it was a price paid by summoners, to balance their ability to call on others; she didn't know if that was true, or just a weakness of her own, only that something in her became vulnerable and pliant when she was bound.

    The tunnel opened into another cave; this one containing a row of wooden stands, posts mounted on platforms mounted on wheels. The maybe-humans lifted Karen onto one of the platforms, setting her against the post and binding her in place with leather cords: at her neck, just under her breasts, waist, knees and ankles. Karen writhed at the delicious feeling of the constraint; perhaps sensing it, the maybe-human leader ran his hand briefly over her mound, sending another jolt of sensation through her. A few more of the maybe-humans entered the cave, wheeling the platform and its cargo into another tunnel.

    This one opened into much larger cavern, so large that Karen couldn't see the far side or even the ceiling; had she come far enough underground for that to be possible, or had the portal tunnel taken her into another dimension? Far above her, some form of lightning crackled continuously, providing a bright but harsh light to the cavern. This big picture narrowed to Karen's immediate surroundings, and she saw this cavern was inhabited. A whole town spread out before the tunnel opening, the nearest quarter seeming to be a market place, bustling with maybe-humans buying and selling. Karen's captors wheeled her to into this square, and she realised she was to be sold.

    Interest in the lovely elf came quickly. From the snatches of conversation, Karen was able to glean she was merely the latest in a long line; this was where the people who had disappeared had been brought, and then sold as slaves, the fate that now awaited her. Prospective customers were permitted to examine her, running their hands through her pink hair, caressing her body, fingering her breasts and mound. Bound and gagged as she was, Karen could neither resist nor protest this rude treatment; she tried to conceal how her helplessness excited her, but it was apparent to her onlookers (and seemed to be hiking up her price).

    Finally, a maybe-human woman won the bidding, and Karen was untied from the pole, her leash given over to her new owner. The woman pulled Karen from the platform, and led her through the streets at a fair pace. The architecture was unfamilar, few of the stone buildings having any windows, but in most respects the city didn't seem to be much different from those of the world above. Karen saw people from above, people who'd disappeared: enslaved now, eyes downcast, still chained, though in ways that would allow them to carry and work.

    Karen's owner led her to what seemed to be a wealthier district of the underground city, eventually reaching a large mansion of dark red stone, and pulling her inside. Despite the lack of windows, the interior of the structure was well-lit, by glass vessels containing lightning similar to that flaring above the city. Apart from the strange lighting and stone, the mansion seemed not unlike those of wealthy humans in Gaia: rich tapestries and carpets covers the walls and floor, and ornaments seemed designed to show off the maybe-woman's wealth; wealth that now included Karen herself.

    The maybe-woman took the elf to a large room, where a trio of maybe-men waited. She handed them the leash, gesturing at Karen, before leaving. Two of the maybe-men took Karen's arms, while the third undid the chains binding her. Karen tried to clear her head enough to summon her magic, or one of her companions, but the maybe-men bent her suddenly over, pulling her tunic from her, then her skirt, and gloves, and boots. Before she could react, they'd raised her arms above her head, re-prisoning her wrists in manacles hanging from the ceiling, before shacking her ankles to the floor. They left her like that, taking her clothes with them.

    With no option but to wait, Karen looked around the room. It was one of the richer parts of the house she'd seen, and was well-furnished with couches and trestle tables: a room for entertaining maybe, which presumably made Karen part of the entertainment. She tried to think against the arousal that swam through her at the notion; there were other slaves here, people she was pledged to help, she couldn't lose herself like this.

    Then the door opened, and the maybe-woman came in, dressed in a purple gown. She crossed to Karen, and looked at her appraisingly, placing two fingers on the elf's gagged mouth. Then she began to explore Karen's body with her eyes and hands, and then her lips. Karen tried to hold onto her conviction of moments before, but it grew harder with every touch and kiss.
  3. Aletessa New Member

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    Karen lay on the bed in the dark, her mind whirling through the events of the evening. The maybe-woman had spent an hour playing with her new slave's body: hair, ears, face, neck, breasts, belly, bottom, thighs, mound, opening; she had built Karen over and over to the brink of orgasm, but in the end had not let her come. Frustrated, Karen had had to wait throughout the party that followed, watching the maybe-humans eat and mingle, discussing their business like any gathering of the powerful. Most had cast glances her way; that was what the beautiful elf had been there for, after all, to serve as decoration. A few had come over to touch her, but had been strictly instructed by their hostess not to allow her to come.

    After the party, a pair of maybe-human servants had released her and taken her to a small basement room, with just a cot and a table. There, they had attached length of chain from the wall to her collar, followed by another to her left wrist; then they'd taken her gag out, and left her with some meagre food on the table. But before eating, Karen had had to see to her lingering arousal. She knew it was meant as a fresh humiliation to break her down, but she couldn't help it: she lay on the bed, in her chains, fingering herself until her orgasm finally overtook her. Then she quieted her stomach with the food, before taking stock of everything that had happened.

    The inhabitants of this strange realm were slavers. The caves were portals they were using to reach Gaia, or at least its surface. And the people who'd disappeared were being taken. As Karen herself had been; at this last thought, her senses again grew very aware of her chains, and a fresh tickle of arousal ran through her. She tried to resist it; many people were in trouble, and would need her help to escape, she couldn't allow herself to give in. But she didn't know where in this underground city most of the slaves were kept, or what it would take to free them. She'd have to look around, come up with some sort of plan. But for now, all she could do was sleep, and wait to see what her new owner would do with her; as Karen drifted out of consciousness, plans for what opportunities her duties might offer became dreams of what those duties might be.

    In the morning (or at least what felt like morning in this strangely lit realm) a pair of maybe-women servants came to Karen's cell with more food and water. They waited while she ate, drank, and washed, then dressed her in a short tunic; a metal belt was buckled around the tunic, and Karen's hands chained to it behind her. The servants passed other thin chains around her body, outlining her breasts and upper arms, and the curve of her hips; finally, they once more attached a leash to her collar, and led her from the room. They brought her to the entrance hallway and waited until her owner arrived. The tall maybe-woman swept past the trio with a nod, and went out of the main doorway; one of the servants took up the leash again, leading Karen after her.

    Once the party was in the street, Karen's owner led the way toward what seemed to be an adminitrative distict. Chained and surrounded on all sides by maybe-humans, there was no chance for Karen to summon anything to her aid; but she could at least take note of the city and its inhabitants as they went, try to find weaknesses she could use later. In some ways, that proved relatively easy. Karen's owner was meeting a number of other leaders in the city, negotiating over access to the world above. And she had Karen stand beside her in the meetings; as the only elf who had been enslaved so far, Karen was a conspicuous display of her owner's prestige. But it left her in a position to listen, even if the bondage and envious scrutiny of the other maybe-human leaders sometimes distracted her... well, constantly distracted her; especially when a couple of them offered to buy her, only to be met with refusal by her owner. Even (or perhaps especially) in her vulnerable predicament, it was hard not to lose herself in the sensation of being desired so.

    But she had to try. And she was able to focus enough to glean that the maybe-humans didn't build the city, only found it close to the portal cave. Now their different tribes traded among themselves for access to the portal and its potential for gathering slaves; that must be why the ones who had captured her ignored the guards she had defeated, a different tribe's members meant nothing to them. Which... might mean, at least at first she wouldn't have to fight them all at once... Karen's train of thought was interrupted by one of the maybe-men leaders getting up and walking round the table to her, ignoring the angry reaction of her owner.

    The maybe-man took hold of Karen's pink hair, not pulling her, just holding her still as he caressed her face with his other hand, feeling the difference in the texture of her elven skin from that of the humans who had been taken. Karen closed her eyes; but this turn of events had stalled any of the talk she had to keep track of, and she let herself enjoy the sensation. But then her owner leapt to her feet, demanding her property be relinquished.

    "You have been given generous offers to sell, Dathes, and refused. But we take; that is what we are, and I am taking this one for my own."

    Karen's owner, Dathes must be her name, drew a knife, and went for the other. He shoved Karen aside; she stumbled when her leash pulled taut from Dathes's chair. The battle was brief, and not to the death; Dathes bloodied the maybe-man, then ignored him as he slunk back to his seat. She resumed her place, pulling Karen into her lap. For the rest of the meeting, she played with Karen's body: stroking her neck, squeezing her breasts, caressing her belly, once or twice dropping to finger her sex under the tunic; asserting her ownership of the elf slave. Karen tried to resist the feelings that invaded her, but she found herself unable to focus on the rest of the meeting; her owner's hands binding her mind as thoroughly as the chains did her body.

    After the meeting, Dathes went to inspect the work of her other slaves, her servant dragging the leashed Karen after her. Walking cleared Karen's mind, and she returned to keeping her eye out for where slaves could be found. Her owner seemed to be unusual in not keeping slaves for domestic work, apparently preferring other maybe-humans for her servants; most of the other wealthy maybe-humans had human slaves in their homes. The rest of the abducted humans had been put to work in mines dug at the edge of the city, and were housed in guarded barracks. The maybe-woman commanded her servant to wait with Karen by the entrance to the barracks while she conferred with the overseers.

    The maybe-woman servant fixed Karen's leash to a post by the door, and walked off a short distance, stretching her muscles; but also leaving Karen able to converse quietly with a human slave who approached her.

    "You're clean," he said. "They aren't working you in the mines."
    "No," Karen replied. "So far, she's just showing off how she's the only one with an elf."
    "Sounds like an easy life for you."
    Karen was about to disagree, but could she? Compared to what those in the mines must be suffering... "I can help you," she answered at last.
    "You look like you can't even help yourself." Another thing Karen found it hard to disagree with right now.
    "I have... ways," she said. "And she drags me around everywhere, I see a lot of the city; I'm making a plan."
    "I won't hold my breath."
    "No don't do that," she smiled. "Breathing's almost always better."
    "That's not what I... shh, she's coming back." Dathes had collected her servant, and was coming to collect Karen too.

    The last order of business was the marketplace, where newly taken humans were being sold. Dathes didn't buy any, but did buy other goods; and Karen was able to observe that domestic slaves brought along to carry their owners' purchases had chances to speak to one another while the maybe-humans were distracted with bidding and other negotiations. Shopping over, the goods were given over the servant to carry, while Dathes herself took charge of Karen's leash on the way back to the mansion.

    After returning, Dathes took Karen to the chamber off the banquet hall from the previous night. The room was dominated by a large brass frame mounted on a stand set into the stone floor; the only other furniture was a throne-like chair facing the stand. Dathes took a seat there, handing Karen off to two servants, one maybe-man and one maybe-woman. The pair wasted no time in stripping the elf of her tunic and bonds before fastening her into the frame with chains at its corners, fixing her spreadeagled; fighting would accomplish little, and Karen chose to wait for now. Now up close, it was apparent that the way the frame was fixed to the stand meant it could be tilted at different angles, tilted to make her horizontal or vertical, and rotated so that her front or back would be exposed to anyone seated in the chair.

    Under the watchful eye of her owner, the servants began a new exploration of Karen's body, running their hands over her skin, gradually narrowing their touch to her most sensitive places: tickling the hollows of her collarbone, teasing at her breasts, her hips, the small of her back, each kissing her gently, running their fingers through her hair before giving it slight pulls, caressing her mound, pinching her clit and slipping fingers into her opening. They built her slowly, but this time, there was no denying her a climax, and eventually, the maybe-man stood between her thighs and slid himself into her, pumping in and out of her until the shocks of orgasm overtook her.

    They kept it up all through the evening as the mistress of the house watched, then ate, then worked in some kind of ledger; the helpless elf lost count of the number of times they brought her to climax, and for now she gave up thought of her plans for escape, letting herself sink deeper into the sensual fog of her bondage. By the time Dathes retired, Karen was exhausted as they dragged her back to her cell. Once re-chained to the wall, she are the food they gave her and fell into a dreamless sleep.

    And such became the routine of Karen's enslavement in the Land Beneath. Some days she would be left unused in her cell; testing herself, she found she could call her greatest allies to her side even there: Golem, Viper, or her beloved winter wolves. For now, she asked nothing of them, only comforted herself with their presence. But on most days, she was taken around the city and placed as an ornament as her owner conducted her business. On these days, Karen found chances to speak to other slaves, miners or domestics, telling them what she had learned of the maybe-humans: that they were all but warring tribes, who cared little when others of their kind were hurt and would not help each other, and who if attacked en masse; would as likely turn on each other for the chance to be first to recapture their slaves as organise the effort to do so. But, she cautioned, it had to be done at once; the slaves must spread the word among themselves, and wait for her signal: fire visible against the realm's electrical sky.

    These rebellions were few and gradual, however. Usually, she was forced to passively watch Dathes in conference with her rivals, or at the market. All followed by evenings of use at the hands of Dathes or the servants, Karen's body bound and molested, brought to sensual peaks and lows for the pleasure of her owner; sometimes, when there was a gathering of some kind, brought out and offered to favoured guests: a beautiful plaything. As it went on, Karen could feel her spirit weaken, an impulse to give in and let her owner take the command of her she so obviously already had. Only the plight of the other slaves kept her from this surrender; she had to stay strong for them.

    Finally, the day came. A day when Dathes went without her, and she was left in the cell. Quietly, Karen summoned Golem to her and asked him to break her chains. Despite Golem's strength, his touch was gentle and precise, and he snapped the shackles off of Karen's wrists and neck without harming the delicate flesh beneath. Karen allowed Golem to fade back into his home, and crept into the corridor. She knew she wouldn't be able to get out of the mansion without being spotted, but wanted to get as close to the entrance as she could before she was detected.

    As it happened, she made it all the way to the entrance hall before two servants rounded a corner and spotted her, raising the alarm. Karen was ready for this, and called Raiko the lightning tiger, and the battle was joined. Between her magic and Raiko's powerful energies, the house's staff, even guards, were no match for them. Once all of her enemies had been stunned, Karen crossed to the front door. She opened it slightly, peering into the street, but made no move to exit the mansion just yet. She called Viper, her great flame serpent, and asked him to fly into the upper reaches of the cave; to show his fire to all in the city.

    She reached out and caressed him, a touch that did no harm to her. "I'm sorry. I know I'm asking a lot of you. The slavers will see you too, and attack you. But your fire was the only signal I could think to send. Don't endanger yourself, keep safe." Viper nuzzled her back, an acknowledgment of her concern, but then moved the doorway in readiness to carry out her request. Karen summoned once more, Golem and her winter wolves, then said to Viper...

    "Now." The flame serpent surged out of the door, into the street, into the sky of the cavern, his fire brighter then the electricity above him, his magnificent light visible to all in the city below.
  4. Aletessa New Member

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    The street erupted into chaos as the flaming serpent surged into the air above. Most of the maybe-humans ran for cover as if fearing attack; a few of the city guards fired crossbow bolts, but Viper was able to dodge them and quickly rise out of range. None of the few magically gifted maybe-humans were in sight. No human slaves either; Karen just had to hope they would see the signal and respond.

    The guards ran off, in search of leaders or fellows, and Karen left the mansion onto the now-deserted street. Quickly, she gave instructions to her summoned allies: "Freki, Geri, find the human slaves and guide them safely to the tunnel leading to the portal. Golem, go that tunnel and protect everyone there. Raiko, come with me." The stone guardian and winter wolves headed off on their respective missions, while Karen and Raiko made for the city's administrative district; that was where the magically gifted among the maybe-humans had their temple, and where Karen hoped they would still be gathered.

    Summoner and lightning tiger ran through the streets of the city. Mostly they went unaccosted even by guards as the inhabitants were distracted by the spectacle above. Only once did Karen have to fight: two human slaves had been cornered by three guards. Raiko charged them, lightning crackling around his body, scattering them, while Karen conjured a magical dart, sending it in to the nearest and stunning him. Raiko sent an arc of lightning into a second, stunning him too; the third guard fled.
    "Go quickly to the cave entrance by the market," Karen told the humans, "You'll be protected there." Without waiting for an answer, she took off again at a run.

    Dathes's mansion was not far from the area Karen was seeking, and before long she was in the district she sought. Unlike the streets so far, there were guards, but most of them ignored her; if Karen didn't attack them or their masters, they cared nothing for recovering another's property. She knew this would change the moment she attached the mages' temple, and thus the city itself, but hopefully she would be done before they realised what she was doing.

    Karen's thoughts were interrupted by a sudden blow to her legs, sending her stumbling; but she couldn't recover her balance, couldn't separate her legs, something was binding them, and she fell heavily to the ground. A bolas; one of the guards had thrown a bolas to bring her down. Recover another's property? No. But take advantage of the chaos in the city to steal it? That, Karen hadn't forseen. Three of the guards were running toward her with shackles... but Raiko intercepted them, his lightning flaring; they dropped the chains and pulled out clubs.

    Karen went to untangle the bolas from around her shins, but more guards were coming from other other side, another opportunistic attempt to take her. Abandoning the ropes for a moment, she conjured another dart, sending it into the chest of their leader. He collapsed, tripping his nearest fellow; but the third reached Karen, grabbing her arm and twisting it behind her. She struggled, but the maybe-man was too strong, pushing her down onto her stomach. But then he was bowled off of her by Raiko's attack. As the lighting tiger shocked her attacker, Karen looked toward those he had been fighting. One was still on his feet, and Karen sent a third dart into him. That left the one who had tripped; seeing everyone else stunned, he turned and fled. With Raiko standing guard over her, none of the other guards on the street molested Karen as she freed her legs and got back to her feet. Warily, she resumed her course toward the temple.

    Finally, she arrived at the temple. It was a circular building; she'd never been inside, but another slave who had said it was ring-shaped, with an open plaza within. That was where most of the mages would be gathered, casting their attacks at Viper as he twisted back and forth in the air above the city. And as Karen had hoped, none looking to the outside of the building. "Raiko, please stand guard for me," she said to the lightning tiger. As he did so, Karen worked another summoning, reaching into the elemental power of the Earth...

    Around her, the chthones rose from the earthen floor of the cave. Tiny humanoid figures, they looked frail as crystal, but within an underground realm like this, they could be virtual gods. "Build up rocks in all the entrances of this building," Karen told them. "Block them. Undermine the other buildings in this part of the city. But do not fight anyone, and do not endanger yourselves." Her instructions given, the chthones rapidly grew a stone seal across the doorway... surrounding buildings began to shake. Whatever guards had organised to go after the escaping slaves, this fresh chaos would turn almost all of them back to safeguard their masters and mages.

    Karen turned to run for the market and the portal entrance beyond it, but as she'd suspected, the earth tremors she'd now unleashed overcame the factionalism of the guards within eyeshot. Most were occupied with getting their masters out of the collapsing buildings to safety, but the rest were coming for Karen. She called out with her heart, and Viper plunged out of the sky into the street, filling the space between her and them with a sudden inferno that drove them back and covered Karen's retreat.

    Flame serpent and lighting tiger followed the summoner as she made for the market district. As they went, the trio caught up with fleeing slaves, and shielded them from few guards still pursuing. The market itself was deserted, but the cave beyond was the scene of a pitched battle between a squadron of guards and Karen's two winter wolves. Golem stood in the cave entrance itself, blocking any attempt to reach the escapees, while Freki and Geri fought the maybe-humans, freezing and biting; both were wounded enough to break Karen's heart at the sight, but they had held off the assault. Karen, Raiko and Viper joined the battle from behind the maybe-humans; with magical darts, lightning, and smoke added to the freezing breath of the wolves, the tide quickly turned in favour of Karen and and her allies.

    The attackers routed, Karen joined the escapees in the cave where so many months ago she had been bound to a wheeled platform for sale. Even now in the midst of battle, she couldn't suppress a tingle at the memory of it. The cave was filled with scores of escapees, but there was no way to be certain if any still remained in the city. One of them, an older man who seemed to have been appointed leader approached Karen, voicing his thanks for getting them this far, but adding that the tunnels between the cave and the way to the surface were a maze.

    "You should thank my companions too," Karen answered. "And I can help you find the way from here."

    She went to the inner entrance to the cave, trying to block out the sounds of the gathered humans. She reached out with her senses... she had noted when the first came here that the portal felt similar to her summoning magic; it was an energy she was attuned to, and gradually, her awareness formed a thread through the passageways between herself and the magical orrery that governed it. Holding onto that thread in her mind, she performed another summoning, a swirling, shimmering zephyr of the air.

    "Can you feel the way to it in my mind?" Karen asked. While it had no mouth to speak with, a sound of asset was murmured through the air all around her. To the humans she said, "Follow this spirit and it will take you to the cave with the key to the portal. From there, follow the long tunnel that slopes upward; that leads back into Gaia."

    "What will you be doing?" the old man asked her.
    "Waiting to see if more humans come," Karen answered.
    "How long can you wait?"
    "As long as I need to. You should go."
    "Some of us will wait with you," he said, his tone refusing any argument.

    True to his word, he and a few others stayed behind while the others followed the zephyr back to Gaia; they and Karen kept watch for more escapees. It was a little surprising to her, though she supposed it shouldn't have been, that the waiting was quiet. No other maybe-humans crossed the market toward them; whoever was left must be infighting over control of the shaken city. But that wouldn't last long: someone would win, or several someones make truce; the city would be back under control, and the whole force of the maybe-human soldiers and mages would come for them. They had to be gone before then; Karen and her allies couldn't hold off an army.

    A dozen or so escaping slaves arrived over the next couple of hours, before the old man took Karen's arm. "We should leave now."
    "We can't, not yet."
    "Anyone who has not made it here by now, will not. If there is anyone left at all."
    "I can't be sure of that."
    "There's no way you could ever be sure you've saved us all. But you've saved so many. It is time to save yourself as well."
    Karen blinked away a few tears, but she knew he was right.

    The party wound their way through the tunnels, Karen's senses and memory leading her to the cave with the orrery. Once there, she told them the last part of her plan.
    "Go up the tunnel now. I'll give you time to reach the surface, then destroy the orrery."
    "But you will be trapped," the old man objected.
    "No," Karen said. "The magic of the portal is similar to that of my summoning. I'll be able to hold it open long enough to get out." Truthfully, she wasn't sure of that, but she also couldn't let anyone else to do it.

    The humans departed, and Karen sent her allies, all but Golem, back to their home realms; she and the stone guardian settled down to wait until it was time to destroy the orrery. An hour passed, after which Karen was sure the humans must have made it; she got up and crossed to the device. It was a beautful thing, and a shame to destroy, but its purpose was too ugly to let it stand. She took hold of the central brass stem, then sensed movement at the exit toward the city.

    In the same moment, Golem reacted. Two of the maybe-human mages had appeared and were casting some kind of attack, but the mighty guardian absorbed their magic without flinching. Also without flinching, Karen picked up the orrery and smashed it on the stone table; the glass globes shattered and she felt the magic of the portal waver. Guards poured into the chamber past the mages, most attacking Golem, though they fared no better against him than the mages. But a couple got past him and closed on Karen. She couldn't ready another spell; holding the portal took everything she had.

    The leader of the attacking band entered the cave... Dathes; she glared her rage at Karen. Golem backed toward Karen to shield her, still taking every attack aimed at him, but there were too many to block. The two who had passed him pinned her against the cave wall; she prepared to drop her maintenance of the portal and banish Golem back into Gaia before it collapsed. One of the guards pulled her wrists together while the other readied a set of chains...

    Before he was clubbed to the ground. One of the humans had come back for her. The first she'd spoken to, the one she'd told to keep breathing so long ago. The other guard let go of Karen, but too late to prevent himself from being clubbed in turn.
    "Why are you here?"
    "I couldn't leave you," he told her. "Not after what you did."
    "Stop them coming after after us," Karen shouted to Golem. "I'll summon you out before it closes." To herself, she whispered, "I promise I will. I won't fail you." Then she and the human ran for the tunnel to the surface.

    After a day of battles, it was a long, exhausting run up the passage to the surface, enough that Karen and the human were stumbling by the time they saw the Sun for the time in months. Karen's breath was ragged, her heart pounding, and her magical strength fading; she could feel the portal beginning to collapse. But her closest allies needed no ritual to summon. She let go of the portal, and in the second before it vanished reached out to Golem, and as the cave entrance disappeared forever, he was beside her.

    Karen collapsed, the last of her strength gone from the day's battles. Only the day after, when she awoke in a nearby village, being tended by those she'd saved, was she truly aware of her victory.
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  5. HeroineTrainer Active Member

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    One of my favorite stories. Elven fantasy lands complete with tunnels and maybe-humans - sweet!
  6. Tombstone Porn Connoisseur Moderator ✩ Gallery Moderator ✩ [__________] Collections Manager

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    Elves are Nice. Stories about elves are really nice.
  7. Aletessa New Member

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    Thankyou!