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Maxim, Evil's Bane

By SexiBeast

submitted September 20, 2003

Categories: Fantasy, Medieval Romance, Sci-Fi Fantasy, Super Natural

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The high afternoon sun was shattered by the myriad of tangled and gnarled branches overhead. It might have been bearable had there been leaves on those branches, but this part of the forest was dead and gray. The stench of rot hung on the air, a sure sign of the evil I had been hired to hunt. I clutched the sword at my side restlessly, my crystal blue eyes darting every direction at once as my nerves were screwed to the place of action. This was my job, a hunter of the damned, but every hunt did not cease to excite and terrify me.

After a few more silent paces, I could feel the scar on my stubbled cheek begin to throb. It was both a blessing and a curse. I had been born as a gift from the gods, bestowed with all their talents and all their beauty. In a mortal moment of weakness, I had let down my guard in a fight with an orc. His blade seared my cheek, a wound that would never fully heal. Though my body still shone with the muscular perfection intended of me, my face now bore the mark of humanity. Usually, I let my long golden hair hang over that cheek, but today I needed that cursed mark.

That was the blessing of the orc’s blade. Though it never healed and never truly faded, the poison from the black steel still throbbed beneath the skin of my cheek. It only did so, however, whenever I was near damned creatures, ones whose evil forever cursed them to prowl in the darkness and feed of the blood and flesh of humans. Using this odd gift, I swore to hunt down every plague and pestilence of the damned from the face of the earth. It was my scar that allowed me to find them and ultimately destroy them.

I drew my sword just as silently as I walked. My ears were trained by the gods and able to distinguish the words of a slight whisper some fifty miles away. I had been intended to fight in the High King’s army when the gods sent me some twenty-four years ago. My thirst for revenge, however, sent me on a renegade mission, making me a rebel to the gods and worthy of death. However, they could not ignore the role I played in their world as, one by one, I vanquished their foes, those foul creatures of the netherworld. They allowed me to live, but they withdrew their protection from me. They could not take away the gifts they had given me at birth, but they were absolved from any further obligation. As far as they were concerned, I was now a mere mortal, a human. I shouldered this all without regret, enjoying the freedom of choosing my own destiny from now on.

Up ahead, I could hear a soft rustle. Something was stirring in these lifeless woods. I crept silently towards it. Because I had been gifted by the gods, I had no use for mortal armor. My own flesh was as strong as steel and my muscles like bands of iron. My face was the only part of my body left soft and supple by the gods, a mistake they saw when it was much too late. The lack of armor gave me the upper hand doubly over my enemies. Most were careless, believing wrongly that I was more vulnerable in my simple tunic and doeskin breeches. Many others hesitated, believing again wrongly that I would not attack while unprotected. Many of the creatures I fought were still fumbling for their weapons when their head was suddenly bounding down the lane, their blood drenching my sword.

I came to a misty clearing where I saw a mass of black fur stretching by a stagnant river. Most assuredly, this was the beast I had come to slay. The villagers talked over the dark beast that came in the night, stealing their chickens, their cattle, and sometimes their children. The smell of death was thick in the air, and I knew I had found the damned creature. I confidently strode into the clearing and readied to strike.

“Halt, stranger.”

I had heard many strange and ghastly voices in my dangerous lifetime. Up until that moment, I thought no vocalizations could be more terrifying than a banshee’s scream or more tempting than a harpy’s song. This voice was both. I could not resist the command. I had to listen to the creature, endure the agony of its cry while longing for the charmed ringing of its plea. Against my will, I stopped my descent on the beast.

Before long, I could see the black mass begin to shudder and move. What had once appeared to be a werewolf from behind now shifted and changed. The mist lapped at its fur, causing it to melt away into pale, naked flesh. I stood transfixed at the metamorphosis before me as a chill ran down my spine and I tasted fear for the first time in my courageous life. This was no ordinary creature of the damned. This was a shapeshifter.

Before long, I stood face to face with a creature that resembled a man more than anything. His ears were slightly pointed like a dwarf’s, and his eyes glowed a dull red like a demon’s, but the rest of him was human. He stood the same height as me, but I watched him will his muscles into large, nearly grotesque, bulges in the hopes of surpassing my equal. He was oddly dressed in what one can only describe as the clothing of the damned. He was barefoot, and his black pants resembled fine gauze. They billowed out seductively until they came to the waist. I could see through them easily and noted the black loin-coverings the creature wore around the midsection. A thick black leather belt was buckled around his waist. His torso was bare, as were his arms, save for the black studded wrist guards he wore on both wrists. His dark hair hung loose around his head and flowed in a greasy cascade behind his shoulders. His face, though riddled with evil, was both handsome and terrifying as only evil can be. A sneer hung on his thick red lips as he stared at me.

“What do you want, mortal?” he hissed in the voice that both shattered me and gave me wings to soar.

“I have come to destroy you, creature of darkness,” I said boldly.

The creature just laughed, something between a chuckle and a snarl. “Destroy me?” he mocked. “With what? Surely not that hunk of steel in your hand.”

I looked down at the sword in my hand before looking back up at the shapeshifter. “It has spilled the blood of countless other damned creatures before you,” I challenged. “And it will bear yours before the end of this day.”

Again, the beast just laughed, that wicked smile never fading from his lips. “Foolish mortal,” he cackled. “Come at me and see what good that sword does you.”

I looked at him suspiciously. Something was not right here. Still, I had to obey that hideous, glorious voice. My scar throbbed wildly as I charged at the beast, brandishing my sword overhead. The beast did not move as I swung the sword toward his head. He didn’t even flinch as I brought the blade smashing down against his exposed neck. He did not utter a sound as I watched my sword pass clean through his neck. Those eyes just pierced to my soul . I stood, waiting for the shapeshifter’s head to fall from his shoulders as his lifeless body just slumped to the ground. His smile widened as the wound sealed back up. I stared in horror at his restored neck. It appeared as if I had done nothing.

“Weapons of wood and metal cannot harm us,” he said in a voice so low it shook the ground. “We know only one death, and you do not carry it with you today, knave. Now, look into my eyes.”

That voice, that damnable, deliciously tempting voice! I did not know the power of shapeshifters, assuming them to be nothing but legend and hearsay. Against my will, my eyes locked with his. I knew I had lost at that moment. I stared into the very pits of hell, and I trembled. The creature just smiled.

“Now, kneel, mortal, and pay homage to your new master, Gmork,” the shapeshifter demanded.

I had to obey. My muscles did not move of their own free will anymore. It was the most odd sensation I had ever known. A dark mist had settled in my mind. I could still think my own thoughts, but it was as if they were from afar off, not a part of this body of mine anymore. I could feel my body move, but I was not the one who controlled it. I got down on my knees before Gmork and bowed at his feet.

“Hail, Gmork, my new master,” I said, my voice flat and lifeless and no longer my own. “I hear you and obey. My will is no longer mine.”

Gmork just glared down at me with a triumphant grin on his face.

“Your name, mortal,” he growled.

“Maxim, the evil’s bane,” I replied mechanically.

Gmork’s smile widened a bit. “A hunter of the damned?” he said in an amused voice. “I shall enjoy this ever so much more.” With that, he brought his hand up and smacked me hard with the back of it against my face. I wanted to scream out in agony and fall to the forest floor, but Gmork did not will it for me. I stayed on my knees and remained silent, my eyes still locked on Gmork. I watched Gmork’s eyes glimmer, and I knew the reason why. I could feel the blood begin to ooze from the corner of my mouth. Blood, particularly the blood of a hunter, was like sweet nectar to the creatures of darkness. I watched Gmork kneel beside me as he grabbed my hair and yanked my head back. I shuddered inwardly as he brought his mouth close to mine and allowed his thick tongue to lap the blood from it. The reek of death was on his breath, and I had to endure it until he finished his slight meal. I could hear him gasp as he stood.

“Do I taste the blood of the gods in you, Maxim?” he asked me.

I wanted desperately not to answer him, not to give him the pleasure, but I could feel my mouth form the words. “Yes, master,” I replied obediently. “I was a gift from the gods to the High King. I fought in his army until I was wounded by an orc. My life has been spent seeking revenge against the damned now.”

Gmork glowed as he brought his hand down to touch the scar on my face. His fingers seared like a hot knife on my wound, but I could not cry out.

“I may have better use for you, Maxim,” he said with a wicked tone in his voice. “It has been a long time since I have lain with the flesh of the gods.”

Fear gave way to panic at Gmork’s words. I did not know what he meant, but I did not entirely like what he implied. Gmork could sense my fear and panic. He breathed it in heavily as if it were fine perfume. I watched him bend down until his lips rest just outside my ear.

“You are ripe, Maxim,” he hissed. “Come, let me feast on the pleasures of your flesh.”

“Yes, master,” I said, but somewhere inside I could feel a lost part of myself shudder and die . Gmork laughed, a hideous triumphant laugh, as evil black flames began to leap from his body and consume mine. I could feel them singe my flesh, but not as a normal fire does. They lapped at my skin and began to wriggle into my flesh. As everything went black, I could hear nothing but Gmork’s laughter and see nothing but his black fire consume me.

I awoke some time later in the middle of a black cave. Though I could not move, I could see many strange, profane things around me. A few torches of black fire burned from the palms of stone demons. A table, more like an altar, sat at one end of the cave, lit from within by the presence of pure evil. And behind that table, upon a throne made of various bones, sat Gmork.

“Welcome, Maxim,” he snarled. “Feel privileged. Most mortals do not have the honor of seeing my personal chambers.”

And they are the better for it. My mind could form the words, but my tongue stayed heavy and mute inside my mouth.

“I have been alone too long,” he continued. “I have not known the company of another being in this place for eons. I am satisfied with nothing less than the flesh and blood of the gods, and they have tired of sending their gifts my way. If you had their protection, your path would not have ended here.” He paused, mustering a wicked smile as he asked, “Have you lost their protection, Maxim?”

As before, I did not want to answer, but I could not resist. “Yes, master,” I said in my new, cold voice. “When I chose my own path and became a hunter of the damned, they removed their protection, though they could not remove their gifts.”

“The gods know that all gifts without their protection come to me,” Gmork continued, obviously satisfied with my answer. “We are uncontrollably drawn to each other. I am a gift of the damned, bestowed with all the powers and wonders of the Dark Prince of the Damned. I exist so that you might not. The Prince commands me to devour you, to feast on your flesh until nothing remains of the person you once were. You will become one of us, and that is the mystery that the gods never revealed to you.”

I wanted to scream at Gmork, to shout at the top of my lungs that he spoke lies, but my heart knew better. Already, I could feel my body begin to slip away to the shores of the damned. The part of me that I could feel was becoming weaker, smaller. Gmork just sneered at me as he rose and walked towards me. “The Dark Prince will like you,” he purred in his unctuous voice. “You are strong, I can sense it. I will savor feasting on your will as I sup of your flesh. Perhaps the Prince will make you a shapeshifter as well, and we can devour the land together and wipe this miserable earth clean of the gods. You see, we are really one, Maxim, whether you believe it or not.”

My head swarmed with every word Gmork spoke. Having to listen to his noxious voice without any will of my own, I could sense the struggle for my soul intensely. Gmork paced over to me slowly, his very movements both seductive and perverse. He stood in front of me now, his eyes trained on me unflinchingly. He sneered, baring his fangs, as he began to speak again.

“Remove your tunic, Maxim.”

I had to do as he asked. I slipped the tunic over my head and let it drop on the black stone floor. I shivered at the feel of the cold air against my flesh. Gmork just grinned as he placed a finger on my chest, just over my heart. Keeping his finger in place, he slinked behind me. I could feel his arms wrap around my body as he pressed in close to me.

“Can’t you feel it?” Gmork hissed, his lips close to my ear. “Can’t you feel your body calling out for mine, Maxim? You cannot fight it. It was meant to be. Can’t you feel how your heart beats for me alone?”

As he spoke, I could feel his finger dig into my flesh. The sensation can only be described as having a piece of ice slowly lodge into your chest until it rests in your heart. Even though his finger never actually entered my flesh, his evil invaded my heart. The small shred of my former self wanted to vomit as I felt my hunger, my lust, and enflame for the monster who held me in his grip. For every gift from the gods there existed an equal yet opposite gift of the Dark Prince. Though Gmork could not instill love in my heart, he could make it beat with the basest of lust. I gasped as this dark feeling blossomed inside of me.

Gmork laughed low in my ear. “From the moment you left the gods,” he taunted, “This meeting was meant to be. Doesn’t that excite you, Maxim?”

“Yes, master,” I droned, my head pounding from the conflict of good and evil inside of me.

“I know you are ready, slave,” Gmork continued. “Get down on your knees and prepare to worship me in all my glory.”

By now, there was almost no resistance left in me. I sank to my knees readily, my eyes set as I focused straight ahead. Gmork walked in front of me now and stood facing me. I watched him as he slowly unbuckled his large belt. I felt completely numb now, and I think I preferred it that way then. With his buckle now undone, Gmork slipped easily from his gauze-like pants. He stood now clothed only in the black leather loin-coverings. Despite myself, my eyes greedily lapped at his nearly nude body. The lust he had planted inside me took firm root now. Gmork just laughed at me.

“You pitiful fool,” he growled. “You cannot resist now, even if you wanted to. My gift is too far imbedded inside of you. Your body longs to be filled by what only a man can supply.” He took a step closer, his loin-coverings just inches from my face now. “Do you want me closer?”

Mists of confusion seeped through my mind as I uttered, “Yes, master.”

He moved just slightly. “Closer?”

I felt as if I was going mad. “Yes, master.”

He waited. “Beg for it.”

I couldn’t say the words fast enough. “Please, master! Please step closer and let me know what it is you keep hidden in there from me!”

I could feel Gmork just smirk at me. “Your wish is my command,” he teased. With that, he stepped so close that the bulge in the front of his loin-coverings touched my cheek. I found myself pressing my face into that strange mound as if I wanted to devour it. I could feel Gmork’s hand on my head, pushing me further into that intoxicating protuberance. Something inside me hated what I was doing, but a greater part of me could not be fed fast enough to satiate my growing hunger.

Gmork stepped back, and that dark part of me ached for more. “Take the coverings off my body,” he demanded.

I heard and obeyed. With trembling hands, I reached up and gently pulled at his loin-coverings. I watched in anticipation as his rod sprung free from its confines. Having been in the High King’s army, I had seen a man naked before. But the lust Gmork buried in my heart twitched and convulsed at the sight of his exposed body. His rod rose thick and heavy from his groin, and I was filled with the desire to sample it. I wanted to move, but I could not do so unless commanded. I looked up at Gmork pleadingly.

Gmork revealed in my debasement. “Tell me what you want of me, slave.”

“I want you inside of me,” I admitted, though a shining part of me still screamed for release.

“Stick out your tongue, slave,” Gmork commanded.

I did as I was told. I waited, my mouth open, my tongue exposed, as Gmork began to move. His movements were achingly slow, but I had not the will to bring him in closer. After what seemed a small eternity, I could feel the tip of Gmork’s rod rest on my tongue.

“Lick it.”

I did as I was told. My tongue moved wildly over that strange piece of flesh. Never in my life had I desired to do something like this before. Now, it felt as if it were the only thing giving me life. I lapped at Gmork’s rod until he gave me a new command.

“Close your lips around it,” he moaned in a low voice.

I did as I was told. Carefully, gingerly, I allowed the swollen tip of that rod to enter my mouth before I clamped my lips down on it. The hunger inside grew maddening now. “Swallow me, slave.”

I did as I was told. I could feel every inch of that long, thick rod slide through my lips and disappear down my throat. A part of me wanted to gag and choke, knowing how this intimacy with a creature of darkness could ruin me. But, still I went on. I continued until I could feel the hairs at the base of Gmork’s rod tickle my nose.

Gmork groaned at this. I tried to take more of him in my mouth, but I could go no further. Gmork placed his hand on the back of my head again. I could feel him start pulling away. My command had been to swallow him. I sucked greedily at his rod, trying to take him back in. He moved with me, panting and moaning at the feel of my mouth on his rod. He did this again, pulling back so that I would try to suck him back in. He did it again . . . and again . . . and again . . .

“Oh, Maxim,” he roared. “It has been so long. I’ve wanted this for years and years. You do not know how my body has ached at the absence of this pleasure.”

I could feel my stomach turn. Though my body ached for what Gmork did to me, some small part of my soul still flickered and repulsed at what I was doing. Still, I continued, and Gmork’s grunts and whimpers grew to a feverish pitch. Just when I thought I couldn’t stand it anymore, Gmork yelled, “Enough! Cease!”

I did as I was told. I stopped and allowed Gmork pull away from me. I was glad to have my mouth back again, but the taste of Gmork’s rod still lingered inside it. I watched Gmork as he continued to pant and groan. His body was covered in sweat as he stood doubled-over. At that moment, I began to realize that I still held some power over Gmork.

“That was too close,” Gmork snarled, standing at full attention again. “I’ll not have you go that way. Go and stand by the altar, slave.”

“Yes, master,” I said obediently. I rose and walked until I faced the altar. I stopped just in front of it.

I could hear Gmork practically slither up behind me. I could feel his hands rest on my shoulders before oozing down my back. His fingers lingered at the top of my doeskin breeches for only a second. I stood motionless as he grabbed them and yanked them down. I now stood naked and exposed before Gmork.

“Lean over the altar and place your hands at the opposite corners.”

I did as I was told. Bending at the waist, I stretched out my palms until they rested on the cold altar. I shivered at the touch of the profane against my hands. I didn’t want to know what this altar was used for, but I felt I was about to learn.

“Spread your feet apart,” Gmork rumbled.

I did as I was told. I felt so vulnerable now, knowing that the most private parts of my body were being perused by Gmork’s glowing eyes. I could feel Gmork lean into me, feel his rod rest against the exposed crack of my backside. I shuddered at the contact. “Prepare to usher me to heaven, slave,” Gmork grunted, “And I will bring you screaming to the gates of hell!” With that, he pushed his huge rod straight into my arse.

There are no words for the pain that seized my body that day as Gmork started to violate my body. I wanted to scream in the utmost agony, but I had to remain silent unless Gmork willed me to speak. Even though the lust burned inside, that flicker of true self willed to escape from this. In that shadowy corner of my mind that was slipping ever further away, I prayed to the gods to deliver me from this horror.

“Yes, Maxim,” Gmork mumbled as he shoved his rod in and out of my pain-shredded hole. “Keep trying to will yourself away from this. Your will is my food. Your desires are my drink. I grow fat and content as you cry out to your gods for help. There is no escape for you.”

But there is! Gmork had said too much. Things that he had said began to echo through my clouded mind. “Weapons of wood and metal do not harm us . . . we know only one death, and you do not carry it with you today . . . we are really one . . . the Prince commands me to devour you . . . your will is my food.” It all whirled inside my feverish brain until I knew what I had to do. I searched deep down inside of myself for the strength. I concentrated on the sole sensation of Gmork’s rod inside my gut. I could feel myself surrender to the feeling, allowing myself to take pleasure in what Gmork did to me. I could feel my lips start to curl ever so slightly as one, almost imperceptible, noise escaped my lips.

“Mmmmmmm.”

Gmork stopped immediately. “What did you say, slave?”

Again, I found that strength, that secret weapon I never knew I carried, and used it.

“Please, don’t stop.”

Gmork shrieked. “Fool,” he screamed at me. “It would have been better for you had you not found that tongue.” With that, he began again, but it was much more fiercely this time.

I wanted to scream again, but it gurgled and died in my throat. I didn’t think I had the strength this time, but I knew I was in a race for my soul. Again, I prayed to the gods for strength before focusing all my thoughts, all my energies, on finding the pleasure hidden deep within every agonizing stroke of Gmork’s rod.

“Oh, Gmork,” I squeaked, again, just barely above a whisper. “Please don’t stop.”

Gmork shrieked again and I could feel him stumble back, his rod ripping from my body. Renewed strength flowed into my body and, although I could not move, I said in a loud voice, “No! Please, Gmork! Don’t stop! I want you inside of me!”

I can still hear the awful cries that filled the cave at that moment. They were sounds no human ears were meant to hear. They were hard enough for me to bear, me being a gift from the gods. Still, even as they pierced my ears, I could feel the heaviness begin to lift from my body. Before long, I found I could stand. Though still quite sluggish, I turned to Gmork to find him writhing on the floor of the cave. I walked up to him and placed my foot on his shoulder.

“Can’t you finish what you started, Gmork?” I purred sweetly down at him. “I still ache for you.”

Gmork clasped his hands against his ears as another scream escaped his lips. “Be silent, mortal!” he bellowed. “Cease and be silent.”

“Your wish is my command,” I said just as sweetly. “But I cannot ignore the passion you planted inside of me. My gift must be completed.”

I watched Gmork’s eyes widen in terror at my words. He tried to scramble away, but I yelled out, “Halt, damned creature!”

Gmork stopped immediately. More power flowed into my body and I could feel something new burgeoning inside me. “We were meant to be together, Gmork,” I said, realizing I felt a warmth inside towards this pitiful creature that I had never known before. “You can’t deny it. We are not complete without each other, and I will not leave until I have known you better.”

“No, no!” Gmork begged, his once tantalizing voice now weak and humbled. “Anything but that!”

I could hear his words, but I could not obey them. I could do nothing but what the warmth inside my heart demanded me. I knelt beside Gmork, who looked more like a frightened child now than a hideous shapeshifter. A tremor seized his body as I picked him up and cradled him in my arms. I placed one finger on his chest, just where his black heart would be, as I bent down and kissed him willingly on his lips.

At once, everything about Gmork that had been cold and dead warmed at that kiss. I could feel his heart pound beneath my finger. Within moments, it beat with the same rhythm as mine. We were truly one. Gmork pulled away from me and smiled, a warm, contented smile.

“No one has ever kissed me before,” he said weakly. “I have never known love until now.”

With that, Gmork breathed his last and died in my arms.

Despite myself, I hugged Gmork close to my body and wept over him. He was a damned creature, and I had done what was right. But . . . I had never known a connection with any other being like I had when our lips touched. We had been one, and now that part of me was gone. I pressed my face into Gmork’s still warm shoulder and cried until I fell into a deep sleep.

I awoke much later, and in surroundings that were drastically different than the ones I had been in with Gmork. I lay in a small thicket of river reeds and wild flowers. A thick carpet of lush, green grass spread out in all directions from my feet. The blue sky held a shining sun that beat down graciously on a dense forest of green in front of me. Behind me, a babbling brook rushed merrily through the placid scene. The air was humming with the sounds of bees and wildlife.

It took me a while to realize where I was. This was the clearing where I had first met Gmork. His redemption and death brought life back to that which was dead. Somehow, I had left his lair and lay, now fully clothed again, in the very place where the whole ordeal had started. I was just wondering how I had gotten here when I saw someone enter the clearing.

It was a man, advanced in years and yet with the glow of youth about him. His white robes hung loosely of his shoulders and showed that his body was still full of strength and vigor. A strange golden glow enveloped him as he strode towards me. At first, I thought it was a trick of the sun. As he drew closer, I knew I was wrong. I scrambled to kneel before this honored guest stopped before me.

“Hail, Kalik, king of the gods,” I said, trying to keep the tremble from my voice.

I could feel Kalik smile at me. “Hail, Maxim, the true evil’s bane and highly favored of the gods.”

“Forgive me, my lord,” I said humbly, “But I’ve done nothing to merit your favor. I rebelled against you, and I graciously accept my due punishment for that.”

I could feel Kalik bend down and touch my shoulder. I looked up to him. “We saw what happened with Gmork,” he said with a soft smile.

I didn’t know how to respond. “For a short time, I fell in league with him, my lord,” I stammered. “What is to become of me because of that?”

Kalik laughed, a gentle laugh that somehow soothed my fears. “You did not fall in league with him, child,” he grinned. “You fought him with the only weapon that could defeat him – love.”

I puzzled through this, still trying to piece it all together inside my head. “But for a moment, I wanted what he was doing to me, my lord. Isn’t that . . . wrong?”

Kalik just shrugged. “You had to align your will with his,” he explained. “That is always the beginning of love. As soon as that happened, Gmork knew he had lost his power over you; for, as long as your wills ran in separate directions, he was free from the possibility of love and could feed on your hatred and dissension.”

I began to understand what Kalik was telling me, but one thing still troubled me. “It still hurts, though,” I said in a confused tone, “To know he’s gone. I always thought I would feel this way about a woman someday, but not . . .” I couldn’t finish my thought.

Kalik smiled at me again. “The path of love is never wrong,” he said simply. “If your love follows a different path than what you expected, do not question it. Just follow it.”

We shared a knowing smile before Kalik turned to go. I bowed again and gave my thanks before he walked back towards the same trees he had entered among. Just before he disappeared, he stopped and turned back to me.

“One more thing, Maxim,” he said in a jovial voice. “There is someone else who wants to meet with you here.”

“And who is that, my lord?” I questioned.

Kalik didn’t answer. He just smiled as he turned to the side.

There, just behind Kalik in the forest, stood another figure, smaller than Kalik but still quite impressive. Kalik motioned the figure forward and I watched as it walked meekly into the clearing. My eyes grew wide and my heart skipped a beat as I recognized the person standing there.

“Gmork?” I said in disbelief.

“No, Maxim,” the figure said quietly. “Though you have only known me by that name. I am Galius. You freed me from the Dark Prince’s spell.”

I couldn’t say anything. I just looked at Kalik in shock.

“Did you not wonder at the pull Gmork had on you that no other damned creature held?” he began. “A shapeshifter is nothing more than a gift of the gods that has been enslaved by the Dark Prince. We are not free to move in the matters of darkness, so we were bound not to tell the secret of their release. We watched as more and more of our forces fell into the clutches of the shapeshifters. You alone were able to figure out their riddle and free not only yourself but Galius as well.”

I looked back at Galius. Everything that had been death and evil about him had been transformed into radiant glory. His greasy black hair was now an ebony cascade. His dangerous eyes sparkled like black stars. His lips (oh, those lips), which had once been stained red from innocent blood now blushed a pale crimson. One smile was enough for me to run into his arms and taste the ruby-red richness of those lips. We still embraced as I turned back to Kalik.

“What happens now?” I queried.

“The gift of love beats inside the two of you,” Kalik answered. “Alone, you would be formidable. Together, you will be unstoppable.” With that, he turned and disappeared into the thicket.

Galius and I stared at the spot where Kalik had left for the longest time. Finally, we turned back to each other and smiled.

“I suppose that means we fight to free others from the curse of the Dark Prince,” I remarked, staring into those plaintive eyes.

“I suppose,” Galius replied, “But not before we consummate our love and let it grow even stronger.” I could feel my heart pound as Galius led me to lie on the lush carpet of the forest floor . . . That day was the beginning of our lives, our love, our fight together. We had many adventures together, all fought in the name of the love Kalik bestow on us. But, that is another story and shall be told another time . . .


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