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A few notes on this story, first that it's less serious in tone than I usually opt for and second that it's a bit of an experiment in a more active narration style than I prefer, and third that the prologue has a lot of talk but no action. For that you can check out the first chapter when it follows in a few days.
It must be said that the Sleepy Sheep Tavern seldom lived up to its name. As the only halfway decent place to get a suitably fermented drink for miles around, the Sheep had long been something of a local treasure. Day after day, the siren call of revelry served to draw in a steady influx of off-duty labourers from the area's bountiful farms and the many lumber camps which skirted the edge of Wolfhome Forest alike. That call alone was enough to ensure the tavern saw a healthy number of patrons still drowning their boredom well into most evenings. On payday at the lumber camps, though, when every other hale and hearty fellow for miles had coin to spend, well it was those nights that saw thirsty workers descend upon the tavern in droves to transform their favourite haunt into a truly raucous scene. It is upon just such a lively evening that our tale of woe begins.

As was their wont, the few local elders who had managed to survive long enough to be phased out of their work sat propping up the bar, a half dozen or so old coots with few hairs yet to fall out and even fewer things to do with themselves. Just as predictably for a payday evening the tavern floor and tables were packed full with scores of sweaty, burly, and malodourous men gleefully guzzling the feeble swill that locals considered beer and generally making merry. They sang, they danced, they told the same few bawdy jokes each one knew by heart, and they made sport with the weary tavern wenches not a one of whom was destined to escape the night with an unpinched bottom. Of that you can be assured.

Quite unlike other nights, however, there was one table tucked away into a secluded corner of the tavern around which several unusually well clad young women crowded, conversing amongst themselves in hushed tones. Now, lest this or that reader devise any fool notions to the contrary, it wasn't the sight of a woman in the Sleepy Sheep which was so unusual. Why, the place could hardly function without its small army of haggard serving wenches carting drinks back and forth, and it was a rare night when a handful of local floozies weren't scattered about looking to earn their share of the lonely labourers' pay. Rather, it was the peculiar nature of these particular maidens which was of note, so entirely aberrant they were next to the usual girls whose modest charms graced the Sheep every evening.

The pack's ringleader was a tall redhead, her dark coppery tresses bound up in a long ponytail which split into halves the intricate sigil emblazoned on the most ornate cloak any of the tavern's regulars had ever laid eyes upon. It was she who stood out the most, her muscular figure stretching nearly a head above even the tallest of her companions and wrapped up in a shiny coat of mail which hung over a bright crimson tunic. Few indeed of the tavern's visitors had ever laid eyes upon a knight before that particular young lady had stepped through the entrance, and fewer still had heard one's furious voice. “I'm telling you, we are not lost!” The young warrior's arms were crossed in front of her bountiful chest and a stern scowl was etched across her noble face as she glared down at one of her companions.

“Of course we are, dimwit,” that second girl cut back. She was the shortest of the bunch, her own plentiful curves only partially concealed by a tight tunic of dark cloth. While not quite as large as those hidden beneath the warrior's chainmail, her own breasts were appreciated all the more by her many admirers throughout the building for how they bulged off her smaller frame. And the girl's admirers were indeed many. Out of all the alluring travelers she was perhaps the most popular. Her own hair was red like her comrade's, but a much fiercer shade that couldn't possibly have been natural. In addition to her scant attire and fiery locks the shorter redhead also wore a venomous scowl which matched the warrior's and then some, the pair glaring at each other from across their table. While a wordly reader might find dubious the notion that the colour of one's hair has the slightest relevance to their temperament, those who hold otherwise would find themselves an excellent example in the near-constant clashes between our pair of feisty redheads.

“Ladies, can we please not fight?” a third maiden pleaded. Standing between her companions in height she was lithe and willowy with long white-blonde hair that fell to the small of her back and contrasted starkly against the midnight-blue hue of her robes. So slender was the blonde that she barely seemed to be there at all, yet the longer any nearby revelers stared the less they found her wanting and the more she entranced even those men who preferred their wenches buxom. Her kind were rare enough that the local hayseeds could be forgiven for not knowing, but a wise reader would do well to know that it was the girl's fey ancestry which granted her such an ethereal allure. While her companions crowded around their table to survey the intricately detailed map resting there, the wispy girl stood a step or two back supporting herself with a long silver staff every bit as slender as she was the top of which flowed seamlessly into an intricate crest with a large sapphire at its heart.

“We are not fighting,” the tall warrior growled, momentarily redirecting her glare towards the slender blonde who shrunk back as if she'd been struck. The shorter redhead just harrumphed at her counterpart's declaration, rolling her eyes in a manner that was far more practiced than the many onlookers could possibly have known. “There's no reason to fight because you know exactly where we are, right?” the warrior asked, turning at last to face the final girl at the table.

The young woman in question paled as all three of her comrades were suddenly staring at her, their gazes joining those of the modest handful of revelers who fancied her most of all. Had she appeared alone in the tavern, or, perhaps laying amidst your sheets or mine own, friends, then our fourth adventuress would surely have turned many a head. In light of the company she kept, however, her charms had gone largely overlooked by most of the excited locals. While slender and shapely in her own right simply standing beside the timid blonde was enough to make her figure appear downright brawny, and next to the pair of redheads, well, she might as well have been flat as a board. Her long, dark brown hair she wore pulled up into a high ponytail which revealed ears just sharp enough to signify a partial elven ancestry, and her lightly freckle-dusted face was vaguely familiar somehow in a way that lent her a pleasant, sisterly appearance. An unstrung bow lay strapped across her back, though the accompanying quiver had been removed to lean against a nearby table leg.

“Uhhh...” the brunette stammered, her eyes falling from the tall redhead down to the party's map and rising back up again. “I think so? I've... uh, never actually been this far from home before, though...” The shorter redhead barked out a single harsh laugh at her comrade's admission, the sort she had issued a hundred times or more in the short span of time the pack of adventuresses had been traveling together, then turned away to down the last contents of one of the dozen earthenware tankards scattered around.

“So, do you even know where you're taking us, oh glorious leader?” the spiteful girl finally asked once she finished her drink and returned her gaze to her favoured partner for verbal sparring. “Because I was promised easy wealth and fame, not hiking and crappy camp rations.”

“Oh shut up already, you'll get your money,” the taller redhead growled, looking to all the world like she was on the verge of slapping her comrade across the face. It was hardly the first time the two adventuresses had nearly come to blows and I assure you, it would certainly not be the last given the trials which lay ahead of them. For the moment, though, the knight managed to reign in her temper, such self control sorely disappointing the many patrons who had hoped to witness a catfight between the two alluring women. “Now. The kidnappers' letter said Princess Celeste has been taken to Wyrmflight Keep. It's right here,” she jabbed her finger at a small marking on the map, “just on the opposite side of the forest. All we need to figure out is whether going around to the East or the West will get us there sooner.”

“Because we're lost,” the short girl muttered, that snide remark drawing a glare from her rival.

“Um...” in the lull caused by the redheads' latest staring contest the willowy blonde between them spoke up hesitantly, instinctively raising one hand like she was still in temple classes. Of course, that shouldn't come as much of a surprise given how recently it had been that she spent her days in such a fashion. “Wouldn't it be faster to go through the woods?” At those words her trio of companions turned towards her as one, looks of shock and horror blossoming across their faces.

It was the archer who managed to find her voice first, the fear in her tone unmistakable. “Are you mad? Wolfhome is completely overgrown, not to mention crawling with monsters.” An involuntary shudder wracked her body at the thought of what might befall any travelers so foolish as to traverse the untamed depths of the nearby woods. “Even I wouldn't want to take more than a dozen steps into that nightmare.”

“You forgot about the werewolves,” the shorter redhead piped up, a grim smile on her face. “The locals swear there's a pack in there, that they find at least a dozen missing loggers mauled to death each year.” There was a devious glint in her eyes as she spoke, but it was clear the thought of those mad, twisted creatures was enough to rattle even her cocky exterior.

“Oh...” by that point the robed blonde's eyes were wide with terror, one hand brought up to shield her mouth. “Sorry...” she murmured, looking as if she might faint. Few beasts indeed were like to inspire as much loathing in an adventurer as the werewolf, there was just something about the prospect of having one's mind and body warped into that of a sworn enemy which gave even the bravest of souls pause. And, well, I doubt it would much surprise any reader to learn that our lovely little priestess was not exactly a paragon of courage.

“It's okay, sweetie,” the archer reached out to gently grip her wavering companion's shoulder. “Just... don't go into the forest.” Simple advice, perhaps, but wiser words she had seldom spoken. In their wake, a hush fell over the four adventuresses, each one uncomfortably reminded of the risks inherent to their current course.

“Alright, alright, enough with the scary stories,” the tall knight finally spoke up, only the slightest stiffness in her voice indicating just how grim had been the dark places to which her own mind had wandered. “We have a decision to make.”

The four adventuresses continued their conversation as they leaned in to study their map more closely, but little that was said between them in the next few minutes would be of much interest to a discerning reader. No, at that point the far more interesting conversations taking place inside the Sleepy Sheep were those about the unusual visitors, not between them. Conversations which, almost without exception, revolved around just how the maidens in question might best provide entertainment for their many admirers. One such debate between three of the oldest regulars seated at the tavern's bar had been going in circles for more than an hour. That particular trio of old-timers were mostly harmless, the sort of geezers who insist they have the answer for all the worlds' problems but can't be bothered to solve any themselves. They might leer at some alluring strangers, sure, but they wouldn't have posed much threat even had they acted on their fancies. Talking, though, talking they could manage.

“What'd I say to you, Dev? I said those wenches were more lost than a drunken rabbit, tha's what I said.” The first of the old-timers slurred, shaking his head in amusement. No fewer than eight mugs of drink already clouded his mind and clumsied his tongue, but so much booze had done nothing to dampen his enthusiasm. “Ain't no way they'd still be round here if they wasn't.”

“Course they're lost, Gab, ain't never been a lass born yet what can read a bleedin map.” The second regular proclaimed before raising his mug and taking a slow sip from the same drink he'd been nursing for the last hour. For him, the current round was his sixth of the evening, and while he had been a heavyweight in his day the old man's tolerance had long since waned. It should thus surprise few readers that he was even more inebriated than his comrade, his words even harder to parse.

“Ha! That's rich coming from you,” the third man rumbled, his voice gruff and low. He was a little younger than the others, a lame leg having ended his labours prematurely some years before. He also drank a little less and held his mead a little better. “Ya can't even write your own name, you old git.” That particular retort was one which could have been fairly aimed at any of the trio, and nine out of any ten of their fellow patrons besides. While all six of our heroines had at least a rudimentary grasp of the written word, few indeed of the local hayseeds had ever attained such knowledge.

“An jus what's writing got ta do with readin' a map, eh Mitt?” the second snorted. “A map's just a picture, ain't it? Dumb broads can't even manage that!”

“It's a picture with words, Dev,” the third sighed, shaking his head. “How are you supposed to tell what's what without reading the names?”

“Ack, what's it matter if'n a wench can read a map, boys? That's ain't what wenches are for, now innit?” the first cut back in, pounding his fist authoritatively on one meaty thigh. The thigh of a younger worker seated next to him, to be precise, one who glared momentarily at the old drunk before deciding he wasn't worth a beating and shifting his stool a little farther away. After all, it wasn't like the old fool had learned his lesson the last time, now was it? Some people just couldn't be taught, no matter how hard you hit them.

“Aye, that's the truth, surely it tis,” the second letch agreed, taking a long swig of his drink before letting out a staggering belch so loud the subjects of their conversation may well have heard it. They didn't, but only because someone closer by had drowned it out with his own. Needless to say, our well-mannered adventuresses (which is to say all but the shorter of the redheads) would never stoop so low as to put on such a display and were growing quite weary of the men around them (and the shorter of the redheads) doing so. “Oi, lookit!” the same regular suddenly exclaimed, elbowing the third whose attention had momentarily wandered. “Them redheads are goin at it again! Think they finally gonna fight?”

“Ha, I wish,” his friend muttered, the marginally younger man's eyes drinking in the sight of the young women in question. True enough the warrior and her rival were arguing again, each leaned across their table to get into the other's face. Whether or not they realized just how enticingly such a posture left their respective rumps jutting outwards is a question best left to each reader's own imagination. “Maybe they'll snog instead. That'd be a sight.”

“As if,” the first drunk snorted. “Them reds hate each other. Not like you, eh Dev?” he nudged his friend, a knowing grin on his bearded face. “Ye've got it bad for the biggun, dontcha?”

“Course I do,” the old man snorted, puffing up with something almost akin to pride. “Just look at er. Tall as a man an arms like a logger. Wench like that'll surely have a rump to die for buried neath all that metal. And she sure don't look flat up front neither.”

“No, she sure don't,” the first agreed, his head nodding sagely as if some great wisdom had just been imparted. Of course, by the standards of the Sleepy Sheep, such an assertion actually did approach a reasonable approximation of cunning.

“I'm telling ye,” the other drunk rambled on, not even realizing his friend had spoken, “that big one's the girl for me. Lass with a body like that'd give her man some right strong brats, you jus know it. She's damn lucky I'm too drunk to have a go at er.”

“Ha!” the man's younger companion nearly spewed his drink over the tavern floor, tears in his eyes as he choked the brew down. “That girlie'd eat you alive, Dev,” he laughed as soon as his throat had cleared. “She'd have you on the floor squealing for your old wifey before you even touched her.” One could hardly fault the cripple for his amusement, were this tale destined to offer our heroines less tragedy and more comedy such a scene might well have proven a perfect appetizer. Alas, their foes would prove more capable than an inebriated, elderly drunkard and Mitt would not get to witness his boastful friend being beaten down in such a delightful display.

“Shaddup,” the drunk in question snarled instead, once more puffing up his withered chest. “I could take er, easy. Then I'd teach er a wench's meant for ridin, not fightin.”

“In yer dreams, you old fool,” the first drunk chuckled, throwing back the last of his drink and banging on the counter for another. “Now that little un, she'd be reeaaal fun...”

“Aye, that's a damn fine pair of milkers she's got,” the third letch agreed, letting out a low whistle as he watched the girl in question laugh in the face of her taller counterpart.

“Ain't they just,” his friend muttered. “What I would'n give to smash between them pillows and blow all o'er her face. And just lookit those clothes,” he gestured wildly in the young women's general direction. “I betcha tha's a girl who'd love e'ry second of it.”

“She just might, but I say you're both idiots,” the younger, more sober regular declared. For emphasis he rapped his knuckles on the bald head of his nearer friend. It was a wonder, truly, that no resounding boom like that of a great drum rang out, given how empty each of the trio's heads got once they took to their booze. “That scrawny one'd be the best, no doubt about it. You see the staff she's leaning on? I'd bet my last copper that fancy knob up top is the mark of Maelure.”

In a more well-informed locale, identifying an even passably pretty girl as a sworn servant to the goddess of the moon would have prompted a sudden flurry of attention her way. The Sleepy Sheep Tavern, however, lay no fewer than thirty seven miles from the nearest shrine dedicated to that particular deity, a distance greater by far than many of its patrons had ever traveled away from the place of their birth. As such, the ways of her acolytes were a mystery to most, so neither of Mitt's drinking buddies so much as batted an eye at the revelation. “Yeah? What of it? Who wants 'is wench flat as a board?” the first asked, one hand waving dismissively. “I ain't ploughin no girl what looks like a little kid.”

“So,” the younger man drawled undeterred. “My cousin had one of his brats run off to join her temple a few years back. He tells me that old prude insists on all her priestesses staying cherry.” At that news, the other drunks at last grunted in appreciation and turned their eyes on the willowy blonde.

“Is that so?” the second mused. “Well, gimme a night to break er in and she won't be so pure come morn.” A moment later he snorted, adding “Maybe then she'll grow some damn knockers.”

It was in the wake of that particular jest that the trio's circuitous debate was at long last interrupted by the Sheep's magnanimous owner and barkeep, himself a rather harried man whose own shaggy mane was just starting to fade to a dignified gray, as he meandered over with a pitcher in his hand. At the sight of the three regulars still leering at the pack of adventuresses same as they had been for an hour at least, he just shook his head and began to refill the first drunk's empty mug. “You louts still on about those girls?” he chuckled, tapping his most reliable customer on the shoulder once his mug was full again. “How much more can the three of you have to say?”

“Ack, you know us, Thad,” the freshly fueled drunkard grinned after taking a long pull from his mug. That comment could hardly have been more true. For years the trio had spent their every evening in the Sheep, appearing some time late in the afternoon with all the inevitable regularity of the sun rising in the East. Such regular patronage had given the barman more chances than he could count to familiarize himself with their various predilections on everything from mead and music to mates. “Ain't nothing in this here world like a fine piece a tail to keep a man happy. Say,” the old man reluctantly tore his eyes off the beauties in question to turn and glance back at his host. “Which of em d'ya fancy, eh keep?”

The veteran tavernmaster just grinned at the same question he had faced the last two times he dropped off fresh rounds. His tenure running the Sleepy Sheep had long since taught him how best to straddle the fine line between humouring the sort of characters that regularly propped up his bar and encouraging them. That was not to say the unexpected appearance of such delectable morsels as our would-be heroines had failed to stir any fire in his loins for it most certainly had, simply that unlike so many of his customers he was wise enough to keep his lusts to himself. So instead of singling out the maiden who had indeed caught his eye, he chose to fend off the query with a jest and a smile, same as always. “Easy, I'll take whichever one keeps buying their beer. Those girls have been drinking like fish.”

“Five pieces say keep fancies the elfy one,” the middle geezer floated, his friends knowing full well he'd never pay up even if they took the bet. It was no secret that Dev hadn't made good on a wager since the days when his hair was still black. “We all seen the scrawny girls workin round here, and what man don't get hard lookin at them pointy little ears.”

“She certainly is easy on the eyes, that one,” the bartender admitted with a quiet chuckle, allowing himself to steal a quick glance across his tavern at the archer in question. “But I've got my own pretty lady back home, gents.”

“Aye, you're a lucky one, Thad,” the third drunk nodded. It was true, running a thriving establishment like the Sleepy Sheep had made their host one of the wealthiest men around. Wealthy enough to make courting his pick of the local maidens an easy task. Naturally, that had been a task the barkeep had taken to with relish, sampling a few local girls before settling down with a fetching blonde a decade his junior who was even then off nursing their youngest somewhere while she waited to preform her wifely duties upon his return home at the end of the evening. Little did she know she was about to be on the receiving end of the most enthusiastic session of lovemaking the couple had shared since their wedding night.

“Oh, lookit boys,” the second drunk's voice suddenly called out, “them other two are back.” Sure enough two more young women were approaching the table, the pair weaving their way through the crowded tavern clutching a few mugs each. The one leading their way was tall and graceful, a blue-eyed blonde with a face fit to melt the coldest of hearts. She wore simple but elegant traveling garb and an ornately decorated lute was visible strapped across her back. The tavern's myriad host of drunken revelers had no way to know, at least not yet, but any base desires they might feel towards the blonde's elegant form were as dust to stone compared to what they would feel should they ever be lucky enough to hear her low, smoky voice break out in song. All the same, it was her alluring charms that were destined to inspire a night of unrivaled passions in her host's marital bed, to say nothing of his next child.

It was the other girl to whom the drunks' attention was drawn first, though. She was the shortest of the six travelers, her youthful figure possessing all the lithe athleticism of a dancer or an acrobat. Her dark hair was cut short and choppy, allowed to bounce wildly around a face that the three regulars looking on had yet to see unadorned with a playful smirk. That mischievous expression might have been her default for many a year, but it is with a heavy heart I fear the coming days would all but put it to rest. For the moment, though, she remained carefree, a temptress inspiring the lusts of many a man who saw her. Helping to draw so many eyes was the fact she wore the least of any member of her company, just a simple outfit of tight leather which left bare her midriff, her arms, and her knees above a pair of sturdy old boots.

The third, slightly younger regular blew out his breath wistfully as he nodded towards the smaller girl. “Now that scruffy one, she's the one for me.” His lips twisted upwards on one side at the thought of getting his hands on the young adventuress. “I love the little tomboys like that. They all think they're so tough and clever, but you strip 'em down, plug up their tight little asses...” he let out a long whistle as he grinned “Then they'll squirm and squeal like the best whores.”

“If ya say so,” the first drunk drawled, eyes rolling at the reminder of his friend's tastes. Dev never had understood any man who was drawn to a girl without enough cleavage to fit a cock in. “I'll stick to wenches what actually looks like one. Like that blondie,” he gestured towards the girl in question. “It'd be real fun makin 'er sing fer me.”

Behind the freshly distracted trio the tavernmaster just shook his head hearing their conversation return to where it had been mired the last time he stopped by. As he turned to move on towards another group of patrons in need of refills he snorted, eternally amused by the thought of any of the three old leches actually managing to bed a girl as fine as even the least of those six young women.

Returning to the sextet of adventuresses who had caused such a stir in The Sleepy Sheep, the arrival of the last two members with the company's final round of drinks for the evening was greeted quite appreciatively indeed by their waiting comrades. The tall leader accepted her drink without a word, but her scowl lessened noticeably as she accepted a mug from the minstrel, closed her eyes, and took a long drink. And considering the mood her latest extended argument with the most stubborn rival she'd ever butted heads with had left her in, such a response might as well have been a declaration of love. To her side the archer also received a mug from the blonde newcomer, though hers was promptly set aside as she continued to pore over their map.

When, just a moment later, the short-haired girl arrived, she quickly handed the group's priestess a drink as well, rising up to her toes and whispering in her ear as she did. Whatever was said, the ethereal blonde flushed something fierce and immediately began staring down into her mug as if it held lava. Such a reaction had become an increasingly common sight during the company's travels together as not a one of the sheltered priestess's friends had managed to entirely resist the urge to tease her, though the severity of their ribbing varied drastically from girl to girl. Finally the last mug found its home in the hands of the shorter redhead as her dark-haired companion settled in to lean casually at her side.

“So, where are we headed?” the scantily clad newcomer asked cheerily, glancing back and forth between the two redheads whose argument had long predated her trip to fetch refills.

“West,” the taller grumbled after a few long moments, her eyes never leaving the map.

“East,” the shorter countered barely a second later, her glib tone unmistakably playful.

Such was how the last hour had passed, more or less.

“Riiiight...” the newcomer drawled, lifting one hand to dramatically pinch at the bridge of her nose.

“Ignore her,” the warrior's scowl deepened once more as she lifted her face to glare across at her stubborn counterpart. “She just wants to argue.”

“Not true,” her rival cut back, though she couldn't entirely suppress a smirk at the accusation. “I simply prefer the route that will see us spend the most nights sleeping in a real bed.”

“City girls,” their archer snickered from off to one side, a rare smile twisting her lips as she looked up from the map. “All so very pampered. What's wrong with camping?” Not normally one to waste words joining in the frequent banter of her comrades, the elf-blooded girl was nonetheless quick to needle them over their unfamiliarity with the rigours of travel. It was an opportunity she got all too frequently as even those among her comrades who had left their home city before setting out on their current journey had only done so with the luxury of horses, carriages, and armed guards. They were, after all, rather new to the whole business of adventure, and for the most part no better prepared than a scholarly hermit who had mistakenly stumbled into a brothel after years of isolation.

Her companion, though, seemed all too ready to defend her position, holding up one hand and ticking off her many grudges finger by finger. “Bugs, snakes, rain, eating nuts and roots, standing watch...” she rattled through the list in a tone that suggested there could be nothing more obvious.

“aww,” the huntress didn't bother waiting to hear the end of her comrade's roll of grievances with the concept of 'outdoors'. She knew from experience it stretched quite a length. “Would you be more at home if I caught you a few rats to sleep with?”

The redhead's equally short but boyish-looking companion let out a single harsh laugh at her side which the curvier young woman silenced with a swift glare. “How bout I find you a mangy hound to sleep with instead?” When she swung her head back towards the brunette her face was wearing the sort of scowl she usually reserved for their company's towering leader.

While some members of the company may well have been cowed into the silence by the redhead's ire, a certain rather meek priestess for example, the archer was made of sterner stuff. With a gasp of faux delight and both hands suddenly clutched over her heart, she instead cooed back a sugary reply. “Do you really mean it? I would love a puppy, thank you sooo much!”

Her fiery opponent looked on the verge of spitting sparks, a sight which you can be sure seldom bade well, but whatever she meant to say was cut off by the lady-knight slamming her freshly emptied mug down on the corner of their map. “Enough already,” she groaned, a warning look in her eyes, “will you just finish your drinks so we can go?”

“Have we decided, then?” the blonde newcomer across the table asked in an irresistibly smoky voice.

“Oh, I give up,” the tall warrior groaned, a phrase she had uttered at least as often in the short span she had known her new rival as in the entirety of her life prior to that point taken together. “We can go East if it gets me out of this pigsty before my head explodes.”

“What?!?” the shorter redhead whirled on her, petty bickering forgotten in a flash. “I thought we were staying the night?” Beside her the tomboy raised one eyebrow as well, though unlike her friend she held her tongue.

The tall lady-knight just shook her head firmly, though, and fixed her counterpart with a determined look. “No, there's still another hour or two before sundown. And frankly, I don't fancy sleeping within a mile of this lot.” She gave an absent jerk of her head in the general direction of the dozens of drunken workmen who had long since given up any pretense of civility in favour of openly leering at the six adventuresses. No matter how sheltered some of their number might have been, centuries of womanly instinct passed down from mother to daughter made sure each maiden knew well, if not in her mind then at least in her heart, the fate those men had in mind for them were they to let their guard down.

For a moment the shorter girl looked as if she wanted to argue the point, but glancing around at her comrades it quickly became clear she wouldn't have enough support to get her way. Several of the young women were nodding their agreement and shooting concerned glances towards particularly rowdy clusters of patrons. It was clear enough they would rather spend another night sleeping under the stars than worrying some hayseed with more balls than brains might burst into their chambers while they rested. “Ugh, fine,” she eventually muttered, lifting her mug to down the last of her drink while the rest of her companions busied themselves packing away the map and gathering up their belongings.

Naturally, the three old regulars were utterly dismayed when the objects of their depraved fascination started readying themselves for departure, but there was little they could do except savour their final glimpses of the six young women. Of course, the trio were hardly alone in doing so. As the departing adventuresses made their way to the Sheep's sturdy oaken doors nearly every pair of eyes remaining in the tavern was fixated squarely on their shapely backsides. It was as if each patron knew they would never again lay eyes on such fetching maidens and was determined to burn the image of his favourite into an eternal memory. And remembered the six would be. For a great many years to come, the nighttime fantasies of nearly every farmhand and woodsman for miles around would be populated by one or another of the maidens he had glimpsed but once.

Had they realized the depth of the sway they held over their admirers, been aware of the depraved acts many of the men would give anything to preform on them, most of the six companions would have been sickened to their very core. And yet, by the time their sorry tale had drawn to a close, there was not to be one among their number who would not eagerly leap at the chance to exchange her sorry lot for the opportunity to return and spend the rest of her days fulfilling each and every one of those fantasies. For far worse were the fates which lay ahead of them...

To be continued

A heartfelt thank you to you all for reading, and keep an eye out over the next few days for chapter one when the action will start. If you enjoyed the story and are interested in reading more before they release to the public, getting access to some exclusive side stories, influencing what I write in the future, and/or supporting my work I invite you to check out my patreon.

Thanks, and see you all next time.
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