Like most of her kind, Alana had the mix of brains, a valiant heart, and a powerful body. Platemail glistened in the strong contrast with her environs. The holy adytum was a dark and unnatural place. Echoes reflecting throughout the room like wings on a high place.
A temple at the heart of a forest, with a face full of ill omens. Taller than the trees, yet no more proud than the endless horizon of boughs and branches that stretched in all directions. The green darkened the sun. Clouds made the world blue, green, and gray. Black stone creaked as Alana entered its forgotten halls. The temple was devoid of inhabitants, but it was still maintained. Out of time, with the top disappearing into the canopy that made the sun shy.
Two hirelings rushed forward in chainmail and leather. Weapons flashed in the dark, brandished against foes that they couldn’t see but knew were near. Alana laughed at them. She was drunk on success, intoxicated in her invulnerability. Nightmares and demons were stale bread for her enchanted, flashing blade. Ensconced in her armor and faith, she had come to find the forest’s dark malignity and bring its severed head into the light.
The interior of the temple throbbed with plants that gave off a beautiful luminescent glow. A fountain at the center flowed crisp and clean water that shimmered like stars. The long and overgrown vines and gnarls were soft, not hard. The entire temple seemed to be an exercise in ambiance.
Alana dipped her waterskin into the fountain, eyed it, and drank it down. The hirelings stared with astonishment. She needed only to flash her holy symbol to tell them that the water was pure - to her lips, at least - protected by faith and flavored with pride. It was important to hydrate. This was only the first room in the temple, and who could say how deep its corrupt influence went?
Somewhere at its heart was the black-soul elf that protected these old woods. Her sword thirsted for elfin blood. While Alana had been quenched, her sword would only be sated once he was found and brought to her own justice.
She spread out a bedroll on the cool stone and sat down, resting her head against the wall of the structure and shut her eyes.
Alana’s hirelings were a pair of men recruited from their village. She had paid them in silver coins, but felt that her presence was payment enough. The chance to risk their lives protecting her should have been reward enough. The common folk were such a greedy, litigious bunch.
Her avaricious dreams were occasionally interrupted by jovial laughter from the two men. The occasional glass clink of bottles toasting made her twitch as she tried to rest.
The late afternoon sun was behind clouds, and the entire temple dipped into a cool green-gray color. She was waking from sleep when one of the hireling men was shouting.
The paladin shook herself free from sleep and drew her sword. The hireling had tripped on slippery moss, and was on his hands and knees in the center of the chamber. Alana grabbed him by his cloak, standing him up.
“He disappeared! Help! He’s there!”
The dimwitted young man was running circles around the warrior as she strode through the hall. Left, then right, then straight, then right. The corridors were almost mazelike save for the heavy footprints left by the two men.
“In there!” he shouted. “He went right in there! Stop! Stop walking!”
Alana still had her sword drawn. She whirled clockwise, and her red shoulder-length cloak flashed as her blade twirled to face the direction of the threat.
Three seconds of silence passed. Her nostrils flared, absorbing the smell of flowers and moss. Alana sheathed her sword.
The villager was still ranting, though she wasn’t listening. This wing of the temple had been reclaimed by the forest long ago. A thickening fog made it difficult to see too far into the treeline, and the hallway opened almost directly into a thin copse of trees. Broken stone flooring petered off into the forest.
“Right there! He’s inside!”
Alana had to squint to see what the fool was talking about. A pool of inky water sat surrounded by broken bricks.
“Inside the puddle?” asked Alana. It couldn’t have been more than an ankle deep.
“In there! Yes! Lady knight, please! Go after him!”
Alana cocked an eyebrow. She gestured, twirling her sword in a circular motion to point. “How would I do that?”
“The - the way that the demon went! He jumped out as we were looking around-”
“Out of the puddle?”
“Out of the puddle! No splash or water anywhere. He just stood at us for a moment and looked disappointed, then went back in. Glowing golden eyes! Terrifying horns! You should have seen him, lady knight!”
Alana grimaced and walked to the puddle. She dabbed at it with her sword, making small ripples in its stagnant water.
“And how did your companion get taken?”
“The demon was laughing at us! Staring at us from inside the pool! Hengest tried to stamp at the puddle and got pulled in. Black ink covering his entire body first, then getting sucked under. I could hear laughing…”
Alana sheathed her sword. Without saying a word, she went back to pack up and collect her things. These villagers must have been playing a joke, trying to get her to muddy her shining armor in that inky-black water. She was having none of it, and finished packing her equipment in her rucksack. After waiting a few moments for the other hireling, she returned, expecting to see both of them standing apologetic for trying to dirty her shining steel.
The demon held the villager in his arms, containing his bucking and writhing body. He had a purple dress, fair skin, and a wicked smile. Small horns gnarled from his forehead. Sharp dagger-ears jutted from the sides of his head.
He was beautifully built; tall, handsome, and free from blemishes. His arms and legs were clad in gorgeous, shining gloves and stockings. In the case of his shapely legs, he wore beautiful boots that went to his knees and ended in short platforms.
There weren’t any words, but there was emotion. Raw, cruel excitement at the devilish punishment he inflicted onto the villager.
The hirelings arms and legs had been bound in a thick web of rubbery black water, keeping him tight and helpless. The demon was holding his head underneath the pool, far deeper than should have been possible. In his thrash and struggle, there were almost no waves or ripples save for bubbles coming from the surface.
Alana drew her sword and hefted her shield up, approaching the demon with a defensive stance.
A few seconds passed. The bubbles stopped. The demon pulled him from the water, grinning. The hireling’s face and head, from his hair to his shoulders, were now totally and completely coated in thick, black rubber. It was utterly smooth; no eyes or hair to distinguish him.
“Are you not worried about your friend?” asked the demon.
Alana kept her sword pointed and her shield raised.
“Very well. He is unharmed and alive. Unfortunately…”
The hireling managed a few desperate squirms and a few desperate wriggles. The blonde-haired demon casually tossed the broken toy into the black puddle, and he disappeared without so much as a splash.
“He bores me. There is a much more exciting toy here.”
“You’re not much of a demon,” said Alana. She was nearly in striking distance.
“Ah! She speaks!” said the creature. “I’m not much of a demon at all. Only an elf.”
He smiled, revealing perfectly manicured and sharp teeth. His eyes shone with a malevolent golden glow. His sclera were black. Alana couldn’t look away.
She lunged, shutting her eyes and brought her sword down from above. The elf dodged, leaving a floating, shimmering shadow that trapped Alana’s blade.
He brought his hands to his face. The elf was trying to hide a smile. She was so pathetic, so ill-mannered. It was almost adorable. She had the temper of a human - maybe the temper of a child.
Alana pulled a short sword from her belt. Rossem tumbled backwards, landing gracefully on his feet. He twiddled his fingers goodbye, and fell into the puddle. The glob of latex hovering in the air became liquid, dislodging Alana’s sword. In that half-second, he was gone, leaving just a tiny puddle of water.
She recovered her blade and quickly cleaned it, as well as her armor. The paladin left the site as quickly as she came, moving at a brisk walk out of the temple.
The air was fresh as a vibrant forest could be, yet it felt stifling. She couldn’t decide where to go, only that she didn’t want to stay there - by that tiny puddle - and within reach of that elf.
She licked her lips, thinking about what she’d do to him. She’d been taken by surprise, much like those foolish villagers, but the next encounter would be on her own terms. All that she needed to do was to find some place of power that he’d want to protect, and the elf would be forced to come to her. There’d be no parlor tricks to intimidate her. Only cold steel and iron will.
Her faith told her that she would suffer no harm, but her pride told her that she could not let herself be humiliated within this profane forest. Alana knew that she could leave at any time, but leaving without bringing this foe to her knees would be utterly and completley unacceptable.
An hour passed, and late afternoon became early evening. The sun was dipping lower, and the grayed light became a green glow. Phosphorescent bulbs and fireflies danced around the corner of Alana’s eyes.
The soundscape was increasingly intimidating. Birds chirping, insects chittering, and a warm, humid wind that occasionally managed to pierce the canopy and complex. Once in a while, she’d hear the low rumble of predators out in the forest. Usually, the only thing near her was the sound of her boots on decayed architecture.
The temple complex gave way to a small, densely packed settlement. The elven ruins were beautiful things, but built with the assumption that they would be constantly cared for - vines trimmed, trees clipped, and the forest kept at bay. Without their steady hand, the settlement was deep in decay. Maybe that was intentional - that, if the inhabitants ever departed, that their home would eventually become fodder for vines and trees and roots. There was something admirable about the notion of building a village with the knowledge that one day, its inhabitants wouldn’t be around.
White marble had turned green. Gold and brass were covered in verdigris. Soft curves and sharp angles had crumbled. Alana knew that the town had come to an abrupt end several decades ago, leaving these Old Woods off-limits ever since.
She suspected that it had something to do with the forest itself. The vines gave off a black sap. Tree trunks seemed to have gnarled there way into the long, flat surfaces of fanes and houses. Walls were covered in slippery growth, studded with flowers of blue and purple. All of this alarming fecundity looked like it had taken centuries. She was standing at a clear that had once been a large plaza, in front of what looked like a meeting hall. Black marble statues of elves were overgrown with vines. Images of warriors at attention were now surrounded by rusted piles of armor. The ornate work on the doors to the hall had left them beautiful objects of art, but had not protected them from the ravages of time and the alarming growth of the forest. They had fallen off their hinges and left the door to the hall wide open. It was lined with vines and orange blossoms.
Alana stopped to drink again. She took a knee, dropping her sack to the ground with a heavy thud. Her possessions - including some treasure - sat within. It was a bit heavier, too, since she was conveniently able to keep the money she’d have given to the two hirelings upon completion of their journey. She removed her waterskin and finished off the water from earlier, tucking it away.
There were more statues than she anticipated, and in areas she didn’t expect. For instance, at the center of the plaza was an ornate multi-tiered fountain. It was gorgeously sculpted from marble and was taller than two people standing on shoulders. There was no decoration on it, and the water had long since run dry. Alana brushed the ivy away from one obsidian-sculpted figure in particular.
The figure was an elven woman in perfect condition and sculpted in shining obsidian. Her body was modeled in exquisite detail save for the face. The head was sculpted into a smooth bubble-like curve rather than having any features, as if she were wearing a helmet or unfinished. Aside from her ears, there were no distinguishing features at all.
Alana placed her hand on it and recoiled. It was warm, and she could swear that it moved.
She heard a grunting sound come from the statue. Scrambling to her feat, she forgot her pack and scurried through the nearly-silent plaza towards the open doors.
The space had been lonely, musty with the memory of a crime. Now it was alive. Statues, elves, their bodies coated and kept immobile, seemed to live when she was near. She went to another one - a warrior with its armor in tatters around it - and placed her hand on its leg.
It too, was warm. Perfectly preserved and utterly smooth, with no blemishes or hint of wear. Its clothes had worn away, but within, there was still something - maybe someone . She recoiled at the thought. The smoothness of their bodies. The perfect encasement. The utter reduction in status to statue. The faceless features.
She fled into the grand hall. The doors tilted back like a jaw. Inside it was the feasting-space of the king. She knew this because he was still here.
The elven king was seated on his throne. It was an elegant thing of darkwood polished and sculpted to perfection. His hands clasped the armrests of the faded but otherwise pristine chair, softly lit by the luminous glow of elven plants on the tall ceiling. Each arm was thoroughly and completely coated in the shining, inky black rubber that she’d seen on the statues and hirelings. Vines had overgrown his arms and chest, keeping him secured for all time to the grandiose seat of his power.
Thick rubber had replaced his royal regalia. His body, perfectly sculpted, had nothing at all to hide from its grasp. Every finger, every toe, every feature was faithfully replicated in its immortal and beatific vision by the rubber coating. His sex and throat and waist and thighs; all of it had been replicated - improved - by the rubber that now held him in its grasp.
Everything except for his face. That belonged to Rossem. The bane-smooth dome across his face was smooth, gently curving, and gave no information of his identity whatsoever. Any markings or parchment that might have said who he was were long since rotted away. Only the gold crown atop his head gave any indication that this was indeed the king. That, and the treatment that Rossem gave him.
The first thing Alana saw was Rossem’s hand coming from behind the chair, grabbing the king by the chin.
“His Majesty is busy right now,” said the elf. Alana drew her blade.
“Tsk… it’s treason then?” He clutched tightly at the king’s neck, squeezing it. Alana saw the male elf, encased for all to see, squirm slightly in his enclosure. He moaned in a silent, helpless scream that begged for more. Alana noticed he was quivering with what she imagined was a perverse delight.
“I’ll never bow to you, monster.” Alana kicked a long table to the side. Cups rattled to the stone floor beneath her greaves. “If the locals are trying to kill me, then I’m in the right place.”
Rossem laughed, stepping in front of the king. He turned back towards him for a moment and bowed. “Not to worry, your majesty. I’ll make sure the intruder is brought to justice.” He didn’t laugh, but turned back while bowing to flash a toothy grin at Alana.
Alana was a predator, not a barbarian. She would never charge an opponent head-on. She’d get in close, distract them with banter and offers of surrender, then strike. The strategy worked. By the time she was bringing her blade into the head of a foe, they were distracted. She advanced with this in mind, slowly and steadily marching towards the elf that taunted her.
“Paladin, please!” said Rossem with mock concern. “There’s no fighting in here. This is the feasting hall.”
He picked up a goblet from the king’s table and poured it on the ground. It made for a small black puddle of oily latex on the floor. Alana was almost in striking distance when Rossem stepped into it and disappeared. She was furious.
He called her from outside. “No manners at all!”
She’d had enough of his games. Twice now, she’d approached with malign intent, and twice he’d run away. She roared and ran outside, finding him standing atop the fountain and mimicking a statue.
“Tsk… and you’re my guest!”
“I’m not your guest,” she said. Her eyes blazed with power. She slashed her sword in the air, and beams of light flew at Rossem. His eyes widened, and he leapt from the fountain into the air. Alana’s divine rage grazed him and sent him tumbling to the ground. He wiped a sliver of bloodied saliva from his lips and got to his feet in time to avoid Alana planting her sword into the dirt.
“But you are,” he said. “This forest is mine, and its gifts are mine to give.”
She drew her shortsword and lunged at him, nearly slicing his arm. Dropping her shield, she used her free hand to grab her sword. Rossem, now on the defensive, dodged backwards.
“I’m not interested,” she said. “Your filthy gifts have already corrupted the forest.”
She had an urgency of appetite to eliminate him, and felt her divinely-inspired power welling up inside her for another swing.
“Are you certain?” asked the elf. “You seemed very thankful this morning.”
Alana gave a moment of pause. The elf produced a goblet and took a sip. “Are you still thirsty?”
Something inside her belly quickened. Her throat tensed. She threw the short blade at Rossem, and he easily dodged. Alana fell backwards with a sudden heaviness.
She could see what was happening in the mirrored reflection of her shield. Her belly, full of pride and ichor, was turning Rossem’s gift into her own undoing.
Black rubber expanded to coat her throat and mouth. Her lips were subsumed in a beautiful, glossy, ebony coating that exaggerated them into a kissable plumpness before moving up past her cheeks. Her gloved hands could do nothing as it quickly moved into her nostrils, filling them before spreading across the rest of her body.
Pleasure, like the woods, was ancient. Pleasure preceded her mortal awareness; but, like the woods, they were different in every hour. She groaned at these new and unexpected sensations.
There was a great and inescapable fullness. Her stomach, her throat and mouth, her ears already. Soon, her womanhood and rear were filled to the brim, thickly coated and topped off with fat plugs that sent a shiver down her spine. Her toes twitched and flexed as she felt her feet subsumed in glossy, glistening black rubber.
Rossem’s golden eyes stared at her. He took a sip of something from a goblet and stepped toward her. He sashayed his hips through his purple dress. A sculptor with raw clay for him to use or break.
She twitched as her lower form finished its lamination. Black rubber moved over her forehead, hovering around her eyes. Alana was almost completely coated. She was just as much a statue as the elves. Her muscles didn’t obey. Her spirit was shattered by the humiliation and pleasure - humiliation at her pleasure. The shame of the feelings that coursed through her womb and up her spine as she felt her will cracking.
Every sense was heightened; every sensation, deepened.
The elf approached, kneeling down and pouring black wine into her forced open lips. Alana mewled with long, pleading moans. It trickled down over her neck and breast as well as into her throat, past coated lips and into her stomach.
Rossem stared at the fountain. His malevolent smile was the last thing she saw. The elf gently rubbed his fingers on her forehead. An arcane sigil appeared and she shut glossed-over eyes.
The gentle trickle of water in the fountain made the plaza feel alive. Birds chirped. Insects trilled. Predators stomped in the wild forest past the line of the elven ruins. The smell of fresh air and earthy growth mixed with flowers that seemed eternally in bloom.
Obsidian statues stood in their reverie, needing nothing and wanting nothing. Inside the great hall, a rubberized king maintained his court.
In the midst of the fountain, a woman with her mouth open and eyes shut knelt. Her legs were wide, her arms balancing her body. She was presenting to the world, showing off her bare, ebon-coated breasts and legs. Glowing symbols around her womb and forehead gently glimmered purple in the morning light. A rusted heap of armor from a time long passed sat moldering around her in the fountain.