Chapter Five: The Veil and the Shadow

“What in Sirae’s name is that!”

Alassiel couldn’t answer Liriel’s question — she wondered the same thing herself. The titan force of the Veil stood just before them, a huge and shifting wall of smoke that blocked off Silas from the untamed lands… and while it was impressive, they all had seen it before and it was not what gave them pause.

The shock came from the massive shadow that surrounded it, smothering the Veil like a gigantic squid of black shadows. Tentacles seemed to crush the shroud of smoke, finding tiny holes in the huge ward and sticking in one black tendril. It reminded Alassiel uncomfortable of a parasitic plant, inserting its roots into the capillary system of another tree and pulling out nutrients.

It was also enormous, but they hadn’t been able to see the shadow beast at all until they were almost upon it. From a distance, it was completely invisible, the shadows that made up its form fading impossibly away if looked at wrong. As the goddess looked on its massive bulk, she felt a feeling of dread, like she was looking at something that her instincts knew to fear even if her conscious mind had no idea how to process.

Alassiel opened her mouth to answer her apprentice, then closed it again. Then repeated the process as she struggled to find something to say. What could she tell Liriel? What did she know that could possibly help? At the moment, the druid goddess felt very helpless, and very, very small.

“It’s name,” a calm voice said. “Is Entropy.”

Two weeks earlier.

Mirya let out a sigh of quiet contentment as she leaned against the tree, letting the cool, morning air wash over her, listening to the sounds of the woodlands awakening. She loved coming here. It was so quiet, so peaceful. It was the only place she truly felt at home.

Nature had always held an utter fascination for the young, striking ranger with the shock of short, flaming red hair. Ever since she’d been a little girl, some 19 or so years ago, had she loved to sneak out and wander around in the wild places.

Her parents would always warn her and try to keep her out of the forest, telling her without end that it was not safe out there, that the Veil was way too close and who knew what might slip through. But nothing ever had. Mirya had never seen a demon or other monster in her entire life. And she doubted that would ever change.

Right until the moment when suddenly, the distant shimmer of the Veil flickered. The mist peeled away, revealing a hole in it’s full form.

A shudder ran through the world, one that everything felt. For a moment, nothing in the woods made any noise. Even the rustling in the trees had stopped. Mirya felt her heartbeat quicken, sensing that something wholly new and wholly unnatural had happened. Then, a massive roar shook the forest. And Mirya finally began to run. Her wanderings had brought her far into the woodlands, too far, as she now realized. Her mind was still trying to cope with the fact that the Veil was suddenly weakened, a hole open in it. She had heard of such holes, of course — anyone who lived so near the untamed lands had, but never one so large, and never had one garnered such a reaction. It meant that, in this area at least, nothing was left to protect this world… and that something horrible would happen to her if she did not manage to escape in time!

Her full, round tits jiggled underneath the leathers she wore as she forced her way through the trees, branches slapping her in the face, bumping against her, creating numerous bruises she would feel later on. But none of that would matter if she did not get out and warn the others.

Behind her, the roar ripped through the air again and this time, it was terribly close. With the air burning her lungs, Mirya tried to push herself again, swift steps bringing her to the edge of the forest… when something snaked around her midsection and pulled her back into the shadows of the trees.

The young ranger was turned around and thrown to the ground, a massive shade looming over her. And when Mirya saw it for the first time, she screamed so loudly it woke every soul in her hometown.

The thing was massive, a tangled mess of spidery legs and slimy, blunt-tipped tentacles with no body to be discerned whatsoever. It exuded a smell of such wretchedness that Mirya almost threw up right here on the spot. This thing could not be a natural creature. Even the giant spiders deep in the heart of the forest were things of the natural order, no matter how horrible they looked. This, however, could not have been spawned from any natural birth.

“No…” was the last thing she managed to utter before the creature’s tentacles grabbed her again. One of the spider legs tore at her armor, ripping it off her body, exposing her full tits and, moment’s later, her crotch and ass. Any man would be delighted to see that she was indeed a natural redhead now, but she doubted this creature cared about such things.

She tried to squirm free, crying out in panic, but the tentacle held her firmly and her cries were silenced a moment later when one of the appendages was forced into her mouth and thrust down her throat, making her gag so hard she only noticed the intrusion of two more tentacles into her cunt and ass a moment after they’d entered.

Immediately, they started to thrust in and out, raping the helpless ranger, who cried bitter tears of agony and horror… and even more when she saw other lumbering monstrosities pass by and charge towards her home…

A glowing, amorphous figure stood wreathed in shadow, partially hidden by the darkness off to their side. He was watching them with glowing white eyes, remaining motionless in the grip of the strange, silent beast of shade. His body shifted form every few instants, and even though he made no other movement the constant change forced the dark bindings upon him to shift as well to keep him captive.

The only thing about him that did not chance was a spiral icon upon his forehead. Alassiel gasped, and fell to her knees. Liam and Liriel made the same gesture equally quickly… all three were studied in religion, and knew perfectly well who they were in the presence of.

“Lord Xith,” Alassiel began.

“It’s name,” Xith repeated, just as calmly. “Is Entropy… or at least that what I’ve come to think of it as. It is as accurate a name as any.” He turned his head to face her more directly, the first movement he had made. “Stand please.”

Alassiel did so, her head swimming. Xith was… well, though of as more of a legend that a reality. Even among those who interacted with the divine on a regular basis, seeing the impact of the Lord of Change on the world was a rare thing. Most scholars believed his existence be apocryphal, a fantastic character created to answer the unanswerable… but now Alassiel stood before him, and he spoke to her as any other.

“What he is,” Xith continued, his voice growing sad, “Is me… the rest of me.”

The shifting god looked up at the beasts, even now worming another dark tendril inside of the Veil. “To take on a form like this, a form to interact with mortals, I had to shed a great deal of what I once was. The shadow is the parts of me I left behind.”

He sighed. “Foolish of me, perhaps. I never thought that it would glow into a being of its own like this. Perhaps I should have.”

“What does it want,” Liriel asked in a small voice.

“The opposite of whatever I want,” he said simply. “It… is not a complex being. Dangerous, powerful… oh, so powerful, and malevolent, but not really capable of forming goals of its own. I took that part of me when I left.” He sighed again. “So instead, it seeks to punish me for leaving it behind by destroying everything I’ve built.”

Alassiel understood. “The Veil.”

Xith nodded. “Yes. I suspect we’ll never know how many of the chaotic actions that have damaged the ward were provoked by the monster. I doubt there is even a way to draw a clean connection in most cases… but I suspect the engineer of the Dark God Lahk’s rise to be before you.”

Arya wiped the sleep from her eyes, doing her best not to appear as tired as she actually was. It would not befit the commander of the town militia to appear weak, especially in a time of crisis like this. The tall blonde woman looked at the others, all men and women who’d been thrown out of bed by the warning bells, hastily armed and armored and then stationed on the palisades without anyone truly knowing what was going on.

None of them had any idea, which might actually be a good thing. All Arya had heard was that a massive hole had appeared in Veil, and several small villages nearer to it than this fortress had already been overrun… at least that’s what Jermond, the resident mage, had told her. What this meant was clear: sooner or later something truly horrible and evil would show up and it would be their task to defend the town, at least until, gods be willing, the Veil reappeared.

Secretly, Arya truly hoped Jermond had been in error.

Trying to calm her breathing, she began to limber up slightly, trying to ease her muscles into action, well aware that she was earning some stares from the men and some of the women in the militia.

Arya could not help but smirk at the thought. About six feet tall, years of training, first in a mercenary company and later, after she had settled down, as part of the militia, had not allowed the years to touch her. With about 35 summers, she still had the body of a much younger woman, firm, round in the right places and very durable. Among those she’d shared her bed or a battlefield with, her stamina was well-known. Sadly, sex would be the last thing on anyone’s mind for quite a while, she feared.

“Look! Over there!” the voice of Karin, the daughter of Ijar the blacksmight, herself a fine young girl of 16 years, tore Arya out of her thoughts. The woman’s finger pointed at a group of dark spots heading their way from where the Veil used to be. Surprisingly, they were in the air. And closing fast!

“Up above! Archers!” Arya yelled, herself grabbing a massive bow that was just as tall as she was. Reaching down, she nocked an arrow the size of her arm. Few could hope to even use such a bow, and its use was quite tiring, but its range more than made up for it. Before anyone else could, she let the arrow fly, watching as one of the dark spots tumbled and fell from the sky with a loud shriek.

By now, the attackers had come close enough for the defenders to make out details. The beings were thin, almost skeletal, white skin stretched over elongated, inhuman bone. Borne on bat-like wings, they sprouted long, wickedly curved claws. Demons.

“Hit them with all you’ve got!” Arya yelled, watching as the defenders let a volley of arrows fly that struck a few… but to little effect. Only two fell, the rest seemed to ignore the arrows riddling them.

Then, they dove down. One of the male militiamen, Guvan, a farmer’s boy, never got a chance to scream as a claw swipe took his head clean off. Karin shrieked as claws grabbed her and lifted her off the air. The same happened with a few others…but, as Arya noticed to her horror, even as she slammed home her mace into one demonic visage, only the females were dragged upward. The men were simply massacred.

Something knocked against her temple and she stumbled back, not having seen the attacker. The defenders were slowly, but steadily getting swarmed by the demonic invaders, their weapons not nearly strong enough to deal much damage. Some handled themselves well, but it would only be a matter of time before they’d be overwhelmed.

Raising the mace to parry another claw swipe from a demon, she staggered back again… and only noticed then that she had reached the edge of the walkway. With a grunted curse, she started to fall… until sharp claws grabbed her and lifted her up, digging into her shoulders with such painful intensity that Arya let go of her weapon.

High above the town she was flown, squirming helplessly in the grip, forced to watch as the demons had their fun with the town, massacring and destroying everything they saw. All around her, other demons flew, holding other girls and women in their claws. But for what purpose?

As the demon started using his hind claws to shred her armor and a massive cock slipped from between his legs, Arya knew. But by then, every defense was in vain and soon, her screams filled the air as the demon pounded her ass…

“Will you help us?” Alassiel asked, her face taking on a look of iron as she though of Lahk, of what she had to do.

Xith shook his head. “I cannot. I must remain neutral… the chaos Silas has felt so far is nothing compared what it would suffer if I began to throw my power around directly. The Veil could never survive it.”

Liam nodded, breaking his silence for the first time. “Then we must go.” He turned to Alassiel, touching her shoulder. “We have no time to waste.”

The three heroes moved up the shifting curtain of smoke, and Alassiel pressed her hand against the bank of fog. It held as firmly as a brick wall, unyielding even to her vast strength.

“You must be invited in,” Xith reminded them.

Alassiel was already puzzling out a solution. “There are holes in the Veil being opening by the ward weakening. We need to search for one.”

Xith smiled. “A passable solution, and wisely reached. But unnecessary.”

Bright, white light, the light of the sky inside Silas, hit the druid’s eyes then for the first time in almost a year. For Liriel and Liam, the brightness was equally painful as the smoke slide aside, curtaining into a arched gateway… on the other side of which waited a forest, a forest made of the familiar plants with which Alassiel had lived her entire life.

And from the other side of the Veil, she heard a voice. “Princess Alassiel Le’lorinel and friends… won’t you please come in?”

“I missed you so much,” Delana managed to press out between hot, passionate kisses.

“I know…” Jeyna responded before their lips met again and their tongues danced once more.

The two women who were sharing a naked, passionate embrace within Delana’s private chambers – situated in the highest towers of her estate, as befitted a Duchess of Easthaven – had known each other since they’d been 16 and had immediately taken a liking to each other, despite the obvious differences between them.

Delana, slender, pale and raven-haired and Jeyna, with the skin of bright ebony, a robust, firm build, black eyes and short brown hair, made quite an odd couple, though it was her privilege as a noble to take to her bed whomever she wished, man or woman. And, truth be told, she’d never been particularly interested in men. Few other women besides Jeyna managed to excite her and she quickly grew sullen when her lover and constant companion was away.

Which, given Jeyna’s career as an adventurer, happened more often than she liked. However, making up with a bout of lovemaking almost made the days of loneliness worth it.

Her hands roamed over her lover’s body while Jeyna held her close, making her tits mash against her lover’s bigger ones, Softly, the adventurer moaned into the searing kisses, reveling in the gentle caresses, especially when Delana grabbed Jeyna’s firm ass and began to knead and massage the perfect globes.

“I love it when you do that,” the dark-skinned beauty whispered, tilting her head back and closing her eyes. Delana smirked as she slid two fingers between Jeyna’s cheeks and began to lightly rub the opening between, slowly working her fingers inside, knowing that her beloved enjoyed this even more. The moan became a low purr and the duchess smirked, starting to tease her lover’s jaw and throat with soft, feathery kisses.

However, as absorbed with lust as she was, she nevertheless noticed when Jeyna suddenly stiffened and gasped. “What… what is that?” the adventurer asked, staring out of the high-arched window. Delana, trying to hold back a groan of frustration, followed her lover’s gaze.

Something was floating in the air, coming from the east, where the Veil was. A hundred, no, a thousand somethings. They looked like tiny globes of light, not unlike the swamp-dwelling will-o-the-wisps, but whereas they glowed white, these creatures shared a dull, red glow, that promised disaster.

Their lovemaking forgotten for the moment, both women stared out the window, watching as the things descended upon the lively streets, where the crowds had stopped to gape at the newcomers.

Have you ever seen anything like this?” Delana asked, but Jeyna merely shook her head, watching as the eerie lights hovered above the heads of the people for a moment… and then descended once more!

The first light struck a burly man in a blacksmith’s apron, merging with his body within a single heartbeat. A collective gasp escaped the mouth of everyone present as he staggered back… then straightened himself again and proceeded to attack the young woman standing right next to him, ripping off her clothes and groping at her tits.

Others might have helped the poor girl… had the other lights not descended as one, a flood that left no part of the city alone. Strangely, they ignored women, instead attacking any man they could find. And any man so afflicted immediately started to attack the nearest females, clearly intend on raping them!

“This.. .this just can’t be…” Delana stammered, staggering towards the pile of clothes. They had to get out and quick.

That was when the door was broken down and a mob of maddened servants descended upon them.

Within the space of a few heartbeats, Delana ended up on her back, screaming as a cock plowed into her cunt while Jeyna wailed helplessly, held by four men and forced to bounce on another man’s cock, which was buried to the hilt in her tight asshole…

The woman on the other side of the Veil was one of the most beautiful Alassiel had ever seen. A human woman in her early twenties, she had beautiful brown hair that seemed to shine in the sun. She had a young face that spoke of innocence, though there was little enough of that showing in her blue eyes. Her slender neck flowed down into bare shoulders and arms, then further down into a black corset that clung tightly to her form… but high enough not to reveal any cleavage. Alassiel judged that her sexiness of the slim cut of the garment was more a testament to the woman’s slim figure than it was an attempt at seduction.

Sadly, her beauty was spoiled by scars. Her shoulders, bare, were covered by them, as though she had been recently injured badly and was only just recovering. On her back, where her shoulder bones crested, she had two of the most hideous scars Alassiel had ever seen, looking like someone had stabbed her there and twisted the blade, then left it to get infected before healing. It had not healed cleanly at all, and Alassiel knew the scars would last a lifetime unless a very, very skilled healer took it upon herself to remove them.

She also recognized the woman, though she could not place her. It was as though she looked familiar, but something was missing.

The human bowed to the goddess and her companions as they entered, then took a knee. The gesture was awkward, as though she knew how to make it but had never had occasion to do so before. “My lady Alassiel,” she whispered, her voice weak and very, very tired. “Silas needs you.”

Alassiel walked up to the beautiful human, and put a hand beneath her chin. Gently, she guided the woman until she was standing again, meeting the golden glowing eyes of the slightly shorter elf.  “Have we met before?”

Somewhat reluctantly, the brunette nodded slowly. “My name is Alissandra. We met once before.”

The druid nodded. That explain it — that was what was missing. The sense of wanton sexuality that had been wrapped around the woman like a cloak when last they met was entirely absent, missing. Without it, she was almost entirely a different woman, if equally attractive. “What happened to you?” she asked.

“Lahk,” Alissandra answered simply, her voice emotionless.

“You want him killed.” Alassiel said. It was not a question.

Fire blazed in the human’s blue eyes. “Yes,” she hissed.

“I not going to seek revenge on him, not for myself, and not for you.” Alassiel warned. “I have finished walking that road.”

“I don’t care why you oppose the mad god,” she said, tone furious. “Do so for your own reasons, whatever they are. I only care that he is opposed.” She looked down, as though struggling with her words. “And I will do whatever I can to help you, my lady.”

Behind them, the door in the Veil had vanished entirely. “How did you come to be here, to invite us in?” Liam asked. His tone was neutral, but Alassiel could sense his suspicion.

She jerked her head towards the wall of smoke. “Xith told me where to be.”

Liriel laughed. “Not interfering, huh?”‘

Alassiel managed a smile. “Not directly, anyway.”

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