“Did you see the look on the constable’s face?” Jastor asked with a grin as he plopped the sack of gold down onto the dirt.
Carrick stood on the other side of the camp, wiping the blood off of his dagger. He was the bigger of the two men, with thick brown hair and an unkept beard that hid a great deal of his toothy smile.
“Which time?” he asked. “When he found you in bed with his daughter? Or when I stuck my blade in his gut?”
“The first, obviously,” Jastor said. “Folks all look the same when you stab ‘em.”
They both laughed at that. Carrick put away the dagger and got started on making a fire. Jastor knelt down and began counting the day’s loot. They were well past twenty miles from the town of Hallun, having worn out their welcome. It was safe to check the spoils of their latest venture.
“Not bad,” he said. “Sixty silver pieces. Better than the job at Nebo.”
“Sixty?” Carrick grumbled as he got the flames going. “With how pretty the girl was? She had a couple earrings, didn’t she? You at least nabbed those, right?”
Jastor shook his head and said, “Didn’t think we needed to take those too. I mean… you did stab her father on our way out. No need to add insult…”
Carrick reached over and punched his shoulder. Hard. “Her father hung our pal Murkle, remember? You’re getting soft, Jastor. We don’t need anything dainty but your face, got it?”
“You’re not the boss of this partnership,” Jastor said, sharply. His blue eyes narrowed as he glared at his friend. “My looks get us the goods, after all. Besides, it’s fine. Sixty silver is more than enough. Should last us easily to set up in the next town.”
His partner laughed. “So sensitive,” he said with another toothy grin. “You know I’m just foolin’.” He planted a big hand on Jastor’s blonde hair and tousled it.
Jastor stood up to check their supplies. “You didn’t forget to grab food before we left, right? We don’t want another mess like back in…”
“I didn’t forget nuthin’!” Carrick growled.
“Now who’s getting sensitive?”
Carrick laughed again. “You’re just lucky you’re easy on the eyes for the girls. Can’t give you a good wallop and ruin our shot at getting in bed with the nice people…”
Jastor turned back to wink at him. “You sound jealous, my friend.”
“Hardly,” Carrick said smugly. “Being pretty just means maintenance. Easier to just keep it all hidden.”
That gave Jastor an odd thought. When was the last time he’d seen Carrick shaved? Was it three jobs back? Four? That would have been months ago…
The pair of them weren’t the “typical” bandits. They didn’t just hole up in a cave and jump down on unsuspecting travelers. Well, at least, they didn’t do that often. Most of the time, they came into a small town under the guise of traveling brothers and set up shop, earning favor with some valuable mark and learning the ins and outs of the place.
They’d been doing it for years, never in the same place twice… except for that one time. But they learned from that mistake.
There had been a few times that a large hunting party had pursued them from a town they visited, though they managed to elude discovery by hiding in the woods that lay at the base of the Drakkar Mountains. Those dark peaks frightened even some of the hardiest of warriors. The perfect place to lie low for a while. This time, thanks to the altercation with Hallun’s constable, they had to flee deeper into the woods than they normally did.
A part of Jastor hoped the constable would survive. His daughter was a sweet girl, and he had enjoyed his time with her. She didn’t deserve something that brutally tragic.
As it turned out, Carrick did not forget to grab some supplies before their hasty departure. There was a pound of beef wrapped in paper from the butcher’s shop. A good cut too! Jastor was fairly certain Carrick hadn’t paid for it, though. But it was going to make for a fine dinner tonight.
He set to preparing the meet and then putting it over the fire. There was no seasoning - Carrick said he’d been “spoiled” by the folks at Hallun - yet it was a fine meal. During supper, they both took turns counting the silver coins again and again. Then, once they had come to a consensus of the number, they divided them up mostly evenly.
“How come you’re giving me more coin?” Carrick asked.
“Because I’m keeping this,” Jastor said, gesturing to his fine green jerkin. A gift from the constable’s daughter the night they spent together… before being discovered the following morning.
“You look like a proper noble,” Carrick sniggered. “All nice and pompous.”
“Sounds like jealousy again,” Jastor said, coyly.
Carrick threw a stick at him. “Fine! You want to waste your share on nice clothes that will be soiled in a few days? Go right ahead.”
Jastor laughed. “Next town you ought to try something nicer than those brown rags you’ve got. You might find that you enjoy it.”
“Yeah! I’ll be a pretty princess like you too!”
“Oh shut it!”
They both laughed together as the sun set behind the forest, casting the great mountains into shadow in the east. Carrick laid back into his fur bed and threw off his boots. In a few moments, he was drifting close to sleep.
Jastor remained by the fire for a bit longer. The dim light of the evening faded quickly into darkness, aside from the red glow of the flames. Strange shapes danced in the shadows, as if to a tune no one could hear.
As he closed his eyes a moment, Jastor suddenly thought he heard actual music. A melodic voice, drifting in the soft breeze among the trees. He opened his eyes and stiffened, leaning his ear to the shadows in order to catch it again.
Sure enough, after a silent pause, he could hear it. A faint tune steadily rising but no words could be deciphered. There was something ghostly about the voice, and the song…
It was beautiful!
Jastor turned to kick Carrick awake to find that his companion was already sitting up, listening intently to the tune. The bearded man stared unblinkingly into the dark for a while. Then he turned to Jastor with a greedy smile.
“This one is mine.”
Carrick suddenly stood and rushed off into the dark, following the echoes of the voice as it began to fade away. He didn’t even bother to put on his shoes. Before he got out of sight, Jastor rose and followed him. He couldn’t say why though - he knew it was foolish to leave the fire. He couldn’t let Carrick have the owner of this wondrous voice all to himself. That much was certain.
Neither of them had any idea where they were going, but that didn’t matter. The voice would guide them. Each step was made without thinking, and yet somehow they knew it was the right direction.
Before long, they burst into a small clearing, no more than a few meters across but allowing for plenty of starlight to reach the ground. The trees were bathed in a pale light that was… brighter than it out to have been. Carrick was standing still, staring across the way when Jastor finally arrived beside him.
On the other end of the clearing was a woman - tall, slender, and extremely beautiful. She made that constable’s daughter look like a petty wench by comparison. Her skin was smooth and impeccable, pale and evenly colored. She wore a lovely blue dress, shimmering and partially transparent so that they could see her shapely, well-built body. Her hair was silver with a slight blue sheen. At first, they thought that was the starlight, but it looked as though it radiated on its own.
She seemed… surprised by their arrival. But not alarmed. She was leaning against the base of a tree, humming to herself, and staring at them with bright eyes.
“Well now,” she said, her voice soft and musical. “What are you boys doing out so late?”
Jastor suddenly found he could barely form words - but Carrick was quick to respond.
He cleared his throat and then said, huskily, “Beg your pardon, lady, but we’re going to to have to demand you hand over your valuables…”
His tone wasn’t exactly menacing, but Jastor knew that was how his companion behaved when robbing a woman. Usually, his gruff look was enough to get them compliant to his orders.
This woman just laughed and held out her hands. “Does it look like I have anything on me, oh big scary bandit?”
“Well…” Carrick’s voice faltered. “Then… come over here.”
“I’m actually quite comfortable right where I am.”
Jastor stepped forward, finally finding his voice.
“We don’t want to hurt you, lady. Just give us what we want and we’ll leave you be.”
“Oh,” she stood up straight. “And what is it you want?”
The answer was plain to see - Carrick’s britches were threatening to burst. And Jastor wasn’t far behind in that regard either. Strangely, she seemed to notice their arousal too. It made her chuckle, a pretty but sinister laugh that caused Jastor’s skin to tingle.
“Same thing that everyone wants,” she said. “But so few deserve…”
Something didn’t feel right. Jastor turned to Carrick to urge caution, but his friend was already tromping into the clearing, headed right for her.
“Remove that dress,” Carrick said with a grunt.
She smiled at him. It was a coy, bemused look.
He was up to her, staring at her chest with intense lust. Jastor stepped forward quickly. How dare Carrick take her all for himself? And so threateningly? The fool was sure to scare her off!
But she didn’t run. She didn’t move at all. She just stared at Carrick with softly glowing eyes.
When he couldn’t contain himself any longer, Carrick reached out to grab her dress and rip it off for her. The moment his fingers brushed the fabric there was a loud crack, like thunder. A bright flash filled the clearing. Before the eye could register it, Carrick was flying backwards, crashing down at Jastor’s feet.
There was a strange smell, similar to the scent before a rainstorm. The wind picked up, a sharp breeze that cut through the woods. The woman just stood there, smiling as amused as before.
“Careful, boys,” she said. “Not everything is safe to touch…”
Jastor froze, glancing down at Carrick and then back up to her. His hand slowly inched towards his knife.
“Now look,” he said, as evenly as he could manage. “It’s clear you’re a fairy, or elf, or something… we didn’t mean any offense, lady…”
She laughed at him.
“At least you have manners,” she said, looking at him with that same coy expression. “You won’t need the knife. It won’t help you much.”
Jastor’s hand stopped short. His eyes widened.
“We’ll…” he stuttered. “We’ll just leave you be…”
The woman came forward now. With each step she seemed to be getting taller until she seemed to tower a full head over both of them.
Carrick groaned and tried to stand, but found he didn’t have the strength to get off his knees. Jastor crouched down, trying to support him.
“But I haven’t finished my fun with you two,” she said with a wicked smile. “This is a lucky night. In my boredom, I thought my song might fetch me a traveling wanderer… but instead I find two haughty bandits. And rather seemly ones at that. I think I can find a good use for you.”
“Stay back,” Jastor warned. “We’re leaving. You just stay right there…”
“Your voice betrays your fear, pretty boy,” she said. “You’re not going anywhere.”
Jastor went for the dagger at his belt. Before his hand reached the hilt, he found himself thrust to the ground with a powerful force. He felt the air knocked right out of him.
That’s when Carrick stood, his hands formed into fists. He lunged at her with a savage growl, but she caught his hand in his fist held him back as though he were an angry child.
“What a beastly fellow,” she said. “I think your appearance ought to better reflect that…”
Red lightning burst from her hands, swirling and piercing Carrick’s whole body. He screamed and fell to the ground again, now writhing and thrashing as though he were on fire.
His britches tore, as well as shirt. Not from the energy, but because Carrick’s body was… growing! His muscles increased, and thick brown hair burst from all over. Jastor was horrified at the sudden changes, but not nearly as much as Carrick was.
Carrick held out his hands, shrieking as his ring finger and pinky started merging together and his nails turned black. Then they started growing, long and sharp. His bare feet twisted, his toes fusing together into two large digits with massive talons.
His mouth clenched, gaped, and then clenched again. His teeth were growing longer now, turning into the fangs of an animal. And something was deforming his large brow.
The hair got thicker until it became a thick coat all over his body, up his arms, down his legs. Very little remained of his clothes, now shredded and barely clinging to his frame.
All of this was happening in mere moments, yet the pain made seconds seem like eons. The deformities on Carrick’s brow grew until two stout horns burst out of the skin above his eyes.
Jastor wanted to scream, but the horrific sight stole his breath. Then he saw the woman was looking down at him. Yet she had also changed.
The dress turned into a mist that swirled around her. Now her skin was covered in vibrant blue scales. Black horns sprung up on her head, her silver hair now looking like burning white flames. Wings spread from her back, dark as midnight, and a spaded tail swished back and forth behind her legs - which had also changed. Now she stood digitigrade on hoofs, making her even taller. She remained beautiful all the same, though now the allure was framed with terror.
He knew this was no fairy. No elf. No creature of the mortal realm. He recalled his youth, of the days he barely paid attention to his classes at the monastary. A picture resembling this… demon. A succubus! But… he never believed such things existed.
Somehow, she seemed to know his thoughts. The smile grew larger on her lips.
“You ought to remain pretty,” she said, smirking at him. She held out her hand and the red lightning burst from her sharp nails, flowing into and around Jastor. It burned all over. Jastor was able to scream then.
The burning didn’t last long, but different pain wracked his body. His feet twisted and contorted. When they burst out of his boots, shredding the leather, he couldn’t even recognize them. They looked like the cloven hoofs of a beast.
Something felt like it was crawling on him. He looked down at the arm on his skin and saw vermillion veins spreading across his body at disturbing speed. It turned his skin incredibly smooth and sleek. It felt like part of him, but it felt… wrong.
He barely registered that his thrashing was tearing up his nice green jerkin and pants. He hardly cared at the moment, though. The orange was spreading further until it covered all of his bare body.
His eyes winced as pain sprung up from his scalp. Something was emerging, flowing out of him and tearing the skin. He reached up to grab his skull, but his fingers found something bony jutting out. He tried to look up but couldn’t see. His fingers were his only sense, and he soon realized they were horns. Antlers. Now he found it hard to keep his head up with the added weight.
“Please!” Jastor shrieked. “Stop! Please!”
The woman responded with another sinister laugh.
“But you’re so pretty now, boy,” she said.
Jastor screamed again as his jaw started growing, elongating into a snout. It felt like his whole face was being stretched. His vision blurred and went dark for a moment. Then everything looked strange - and there was an obvious muzzle between his eyes. Long ears twitched at the side of his head. He shivered as the breeze ran by them.
The night air filled with the men’s cries and the demon woman’s laughter. Finally, the changes ceased and the night grew still for a moment.
Carrick and Jastor groaned, writhing on the ground as the transformations seemed complete. After a long moment, they managed to regain the strength to stand.
The woman still stood taller than them, looking down on them both with satisfaction and amusement. They knew they should be angry with her, furious even. They ought to tear her apart! And yet…
...Yet they couldn’t.
Doing something so terrible to someone so marvelous and beautiful? It was unthinkable! They could feel her presence in their minds, studying their identities, soothing them of the pain, and assuring them of their beautiful new forms.
“That’s better,” the demon said. “You both are mine now. The world will forget the bandits named Carrick and Jastor. Now you will follow me. Serve me. Pleasure me. Anything I command.”
The hairy beast that was Carrick, and the smooth skinned beast that was Jastor both bowed to her.
“What shall we call you, lady?” Jastor asked, looking up at the demon.
“You shall call me Balshiva,” the woman answered.
She looked around and stretched a bit.
“Now,” she then said. “Take me back to that camp you boys had. You’re probably tired from your changes… you should have some rest. Tomorrow, there’s work to be done. There’s much chaos needed in this world, and we’re the ones to provide it, understand?”
She smiled, running her claws gently on their chins. They both shivered with intense pleasure at her touch. Immense desire filled them as they drank in her presence.
“Now come along, my pets. You’ve got a lot to learn. Even I don’t know what other… gifts, I might have given you.”
They glanced at each other, confused but excited, and then back up to Balshiva.
“Gifts?” Carrick asked.
“Indeed! You no longer belong to the mortal realm, boys.”
Jastor stood. “Whatever you need, mistress, we shall see it done.”
“Wonderful,” the succubus said with a wicked grin. She caressed his cheek, filling him with intense feelings of lust and needy desire. “We’re going to have so much fun together.”