Chapter 219: Love's Labour Lost

It’s the age old story. Boy meets girl. Boy chases girl. Girl has army of eunuch warriors. I know, my life’s one big cliché.
The eunuchs weren’t what I expected. They were kitted out in armour and shiny weapons, but they were quite flabby. No muscles bulging out of their uniforms, not square jaws peeking out from the bottom of their helmets. They had a soft look to them. Mind you, their swords more than made up for their rounded edges.
The sensible thing would’ve been to surrender. I was outnumbered and outgunned. If I just gave up, they would probably tie me up and take me back to their camp. We had flown over them on our way here so I should have been more wary of bumping into them. Jenny had obviously made a note of which direction we’d passed them and planned to rejoin them. They probably did likewise. Minds in sync meeting in the middle. So nice when things work out for other people, isn’t it?
I stood there for a moment, letting my gaze work its way down the line and back to Jenny, her right arm reaching out to the side. A sword was placed in it.
The problem was, I had been quite rough with Jenny over the last couple of days. I had, perhaps, treated her with a lack of respect. She would be well within her rights to claim some payback. I threw a ball of brilliant white light at them and ran.
My chances, I figured, were slim but not non-existent. As Gabor, king of the odds, had said, there are no guaranteed outcomes. Just ones that came very close.
The twigs and branches that had slapped and scratched at me on the way into the forest, now slapped and scratched at me again. There was an avalanche of footsteps descending from behind. I must have blinded a lot of them, but it still sounded like a tidal wave coming to engulf me. I didn’t turn to look.
My terrible sense of direction meant I could have easily have been running the wrong way but there was no time to stop and get my bearings. If I could get to the clearing, the ogres might provide enough of a distraction that little old me would be forgotten.
“Wa hooo!” I yelled as I slammed way through shrubs and bushes, doing my best to keep clear of uneven ground and protruding tree roots. My pursuers were less attentive and I heard a number of loud groans as they ran into things and fell over. What exactly was the advantage of having soldiers without testicles? Even my small supply of testosterone was enough to keep me ahead of them.
“Wa hooo!” I called out again, hoping to attract the attention of the world’s ugliest cavalry. No one came riding to my rescue.
Light up ahead gave me something to aim for. I was throwing light balls over my shoulder and popping them. Even if there were just pretty illuminations, the eunuchs might think they were some kind of weapon and slow down to avoid them. I would have tried throwing fireballs at them, but I only seemed to be able to produce intense heat when I didn’t mean to. At some point, I really had to sit down and work out how my powers actually worked.
I tumbled into the clearing to find everyone just as I’d left them. No one had even noticed my absence. Flossie had Claire and Maurice with her and they were in what looked like fairly amiable discussions with the Ogre Magi. The others were spread around the edges of the clearing while the ogres, of which there now seemed to be double the number, stood in the water or at the edge of the lake.
Everyone turned to look in my direction as I wa hoooed my way out of the trees and face-planted into the grass. It was quite an entrance. But not as spectacular as the eunuch army bursting out from the treeline like nutless, woodland creatures.
They came to a sudden stop when they saw what was waiting for them. I’ve never been a very social person, but sometimes it’s good to have friends. Friends in high places—like ten to twelve feet high.
The ogres were quick to recognise a threat. They came splashing out of the water with cries of “Wa hooo!” I could see why my efforts had fallen on deaf ears. You really had to commit to the ‘wa’ and go all in on the “hooo”.
Jenny came running out to stand in front of her men.
“Tell them to stand down,” I shouted at her.
She looked around and then back at her men who awaited orders. Maybe being a eunuch made you willing to go kamikaze more easily. What have you got to live for?
The ogres were amassing alongside their magi, beating their chests and grunting up a storm.
“You know you can’t win. Don’t get everyone killed.”
Jenny raised her sword. “Araya!” she called out.
The eunuchs sheathed their weapons.
The Ogre Magi came bounding across towards me. She raised her hand and pointed at Jenny.
“Bad… Jew. Jew.” An anti-semitic ogre? “Bad juju.”
“Oh, you mean her? Yes, she has some kind of spell on her. We don’t know how to get rid of it. Do you?” Suddenly, having a giant magi in play didn’t seem so bad.
The ogre’s hand came sweeping down and hit me on the back, sending me sprawling. I got to my feet, ready to run. The ogre pointed at Jenny, then at me. She raised one hand and made a circle with thumb and forefinger, then took the finger of her other hand and stuck it in the circle, repeatedly. Some things are universal to all languages.
“I have to fuck her?” Sounded unlikely, but I was game. For science. Jenny looked less thrilled.
“I’ll die first.” She raised her sword.
The ogre reached out and flicked the end of the sword. It sailed through the air and landed with a plop in the water. Then she roared so loudly the trees leaned right over. The eunuchs all fell to their knees, clutching their heads. No balls, sensitive hearing. Who knew? They remained on their knees, quivering. No balls, no balls. If you know what I mean.
The ogre plucked Jenny off the ground, still stunned from the sonic boom she’d been hit with, and carried her off. I ran after them. “Stay here and don’t fight. Back in a moment.”
No one made a move. Even the other ogres didn’t seem to know what was going on. I followed the Magi into the trees on the other side of the lake. A few minutes of walking (for her, I was jogging to keep up) and we reached a cave. She threw Jenny in. I ducked to avoid the hand trying to sweep me in, and ran inside.
Jenny lay on the floor where she’d rolled to a stop. The light from the entrance wasn’t very much so I lit a ball and let it rise to the ceiling. The cave wasn’t very big. Cosy. A den for lovers. And half-eaten animal carcasses, apparently.
“Please, don’t do this.” She wasn’t trying to get away, she just sat on the ground, drilling her gaze into me.
“You heard what the Magi said. This is the only way to break the geas on you.”
She scuttled backwards, deeper into the cave. “If you do this, I’ll hate you forever. It doesn’t matter if it works. I’m not that different to the girl you love. If I hate the idea this much, so will she.”
She had a point. Even if it was for her own good, being violated wasn’t the kind of medicine anyone wanted to swallow.
But this was a unique situation, I told myself. I wasn’t doing this to satisfy some sexual urge. I didn’t want to hurt her or punish her or gain power over her. I just wanted her back to the way she was. And if she decided to dump me for the way I did it, then that would be Jenny’s choice. The real Jenny.
Justifications for vile acts are a strange thing. They seem so robust, as long as you don’t let anyone give them a shake.
I kneeled down and approached her like Toulouse-Lautrec. Just the image you want before getting jiggy.
“Don’t do this, Colin. You won’t be able to live with yourself.”
“I would love to not have to live with myself, but I signed a long-term lease. Non-refundable deposit.” I moved closer. She backed up against the cave wall.
“Have you told me you loved me?” Her voice was small. Afraid. “You have, haven’t you?”
“Many times.”
“So you must have promised to never hurt me.”
“No, I’ve never promised that.”
“Why not? What kind of love is that?” Her fear was edged with a little anger now.
“A realistic one without any bullshit. I’ve never given you a Valentine’s card either.”
“No chocolates?”
“Nope.”
“Bastard!”
I reached out for her and she flinched.
“I love you, Jenny,” I said as gently as I could.
“You’re a stranger to me,” she replied.
I grabbed her by the foot. She tried to kick me off.
“No.”
I held her ankle and pulled so she slid onto her back. She didn’t fight or try to run.
“It’ll be quick, I promise.” Not the words a girl usually wants to hear before sex.
My hand moved up towards her waist. She slapped it away.
“No.”
There was a struggle. I’d had many play-fights with her, I knew her moves, knew how to get the upper hand. Of course, in those instances, she wanted me to. This time, she was less that willing.
I pinned her down and undid her belt. She tried to stop me, but couldn’t. Then she withdrew her hands up to her chest. She knew it wouldn’t do any good. She could try, but it would just drag things out longer. I wasn’t enjoying it either, but I had done many unpleasant things in this world, and this was just one more.
Once the belt was open, I yanked the trousers down to her knees in three or four tugs. I placed my hand between her legs. Her body spasmed and then she went still. I looked at her face. She was staring at me with pure, unadulterated hate. I felt like my face was being melted by laser beams. I gritted my teeth and stimulated her private parts like I had countless times. But it had never felt like this. Never so clinical.
Jenny closed her eyes and tears fell from the corners. She had given up. Her body went limp. She wouldn’t resist me, but she certainly wouldn’t help.
I stopped and backed away. I’d had one job to do…
Slowly, Jenny opened her eyes, pulling her mind back from whatever refuge it had flown to.
“Put your clothes on and go,” I said quietly. I was sitting slumped against the wall.
She quickly pulled up her trousers and fixed the buckle. She looked to the entrance, like she was trying to gauge if she could run to it before I tried to grab her.
“I’m sorry.”
“It’s a bit late for that,” she said with acid in her voice.
“I’m not apologising to you. I’m saying it to her. If she ever finds her way back, I want her to know how sorry I am I failed her. I want her to know I truly love her and would do anything to get her back, but I won’t do that.”
You know you done fucked up when you start quoting Meatloaf lyrics.
“If it means becoming the kind of man I hate, I’d rather let her go. I hope you can understand and forgive me, Jenny.”
I closed my eyes as I heard her creep towards the exit. I wasn’t going to stop her. My mind was filled with the image of Jenny the last time I’d touched her in an intimate place. The look in her eyes that time had been just as intense, but it was intense desire. Love. Lust. Pure wanting. It was all I had left of her, and it would have to last me a very long time. I sank into those memories, those overwhelming emotions, and let them soak through me.
There was a hand on my thigh, a mouth against my cheek. “We do this, we do it quick.”
Her breath was heavy and burning hot. She removed her top and pulled at my shirt. We faced each other on our knees and undid our belts. There was no foreplay. No kissing. She wanted it quick, and boy did I deliver. Ten seconds tops. Most intense ten seconds of my life.
When two people love each other, there’s no problem. Even if they have reservations, or are already in relationships with other people, the circumstances may prove awkward, but the cause isn’t an issue.
If one of them is less interested than the other, then it gets tricky. Convincing, coercing, cajoling. When does it cross the line? Drugs, alcohol… if you’re willing under the influence but regret it when sober, have you been wronged?
There’s an old joke. A woman’s at home when a friend of her husband’s from work drops by. He offers her a thousand bucks for a blow job. She agrees. He pays her. Later, when her husband comes home, he says, “Did Dave call in? He was supposed to drop off some money for me.”
She got cheated, but she gave the blow job willingly. Enthusiastically, even. Was she sexually assaulted because she got swindled out of a BJ? Can she feel violated in retrospect? Manipulating emotions, whether it’s guilt or greed, is how we operate as humans. We dress them up as well-meaning and for the greater good, but it’s still messing with someone’s brain chemistry, no different to spiking their drink.
I don’t like to allow myself to think about my feelings for Jenny. Wallowing in the memory of the ecstasy she was able to induce, isn’t healthy. How can you stand up to someone and not kowtow to their every whim when you know what they can do for you? If you value their ability to make you happy too highly, you can end up giving them the means of your destruction.
But I did more than just allow myself to remember what Jenny meant to me. I drowned myself in those memories, with abandon. I relived them through every sensory avenue available to me, because I knew what I felt would be transmitted to her.
Not just lust and desire, but faith and trust and most of all, need. If she found it hard to cope with my occasional flashes of craving for her body, there was no way she could resist the full weight of my hunger.
I lay gasping on top of her, spent. Her body rose and fell with mine as we both gulped down air. I slowly looked up, afraid to see what I’d find in those eyes.
“You tricked me.” She had a lopsided grin on her face, but her eyes were clear and wide open.
“Jenny?”
“Still, nice to know you’re capable of feeling like that about me.”
There’s always a downside to revealing your soul to someone. Now they know what a hopeless dweeb you are.
I’m not going to defend what I did. The ends sometimes justify the means, but it’s still nothing to be proud of. I was put in a very awkward position and I did the best I could. My best was borderline evil. I would lock away my judgements of myself, deep inside somewhere, and hope I’d never have to reveal them to someone the way I’d revealed myself to Jenny. Knowing I carried it was painful enough. But there was someone other than myself I could blame for that.
“The Queen of Requbar,” I said to Jenny, “tell me about her.”

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