New entry for the poll driven story “The Fall of Almerry Keep”

You can find the new section below the break or this part of the story in its current entirety HERE.

Note: this section has no sex in it, but ends right before a sex scene begins so the poll will help decide how it plays out.


* * *

Dunla recovered quickly and went about comforting the other girls. “The witch told me I’ll be the one that kills her. She can’t stop us, only prolong it. We WILL win and we WILL save the others.”

The fierce redhead had expected her party members would take a lot of careful coaxing to recover but after some initial emotional and physical support all of them were ready to continue their quest. The traumatic event they had all just endured had solidified the resolve they had as well as banishing the doubts most shared.

“I didn’t think we could do this,” Emiko had confessed. “Part of me was certain I’d never return from the forest, but I felt it was my duty to at least try and save the others. But you’re right, the witch told us she’s going to die by your hand.”

“I had my doubts, too,” Gwynaetha confessed. “And I was terrified. But I’m not anymore. If we can endure this,” she said, waving to her enlarged breasts, “and all of that,” she added, waving to the forest around them, “then we can survive anything.”

Resi nodded. “I feel the same way. But Dunla, what was the witch saying to? When she first arrived, she was whispering to you and we couldn’t hear her.”

“It was nothing,” Dunla mumbled. “She was trying to get in my head, convince me to leave. But it was all lies. She knew it’s my destiny to kill her and she was trying to turn me away from that.”

“You look like you’re not as sure now as you were then,” Resi said.

“Just drop it,” Dunla growled, making the other girls pull back. “I’m sorry… I just… she DID get in my head a little. I know we can do this, but I’m as terrified as any of you were. I think maybe I wasn’t before we met her, but we understand what she can do now. This isn’t going to be easy. And all we have is my sword,” she said, hugging it to herself.

“I don’t think that’s true,” Resi said, getting up from where they were all huddled together. “Look,” she said, pointing into the dark of the forest around them. In one direction was a faint green glow, in two others pink glowing.

“Is that my wand?” Gwynaetha asked hopefully, jumping to her feet.

“I think that’s my staff,” Emiko declared excitedly, her fluffy pink tail lashing behind her in excitement.

“Don’t run off,” Dunla said firmly as she rose. “We stay together and go for them one at a time. It might be a trick and if it is we need to at least have each other’s backs.”

The others nodded and let Dunla lead the way. One by one they retrieved their weapons. They returned to where they had been sitting and gathered around, each hugging their implement.

“I know I can’t trust the plant life here, but with my staff back I can at least focus some meaningful control over it,” Resi said.

“And with my staff back I can heal you all. Without it I’m fairly useless,” Emiko said.

“I can cast some spells without my wand,” Gwynaetha added, “but none of them will be very powerful. If I have this I should be able to help fight away whatever attacks us next.”

“Do you think will be attacked like that again?” Emiko asked, shaking in fear.

“I don’t know,” Dunla said slowly, deep in thought. “I think the Forest Witch was trying to scare us, show us how terrible she can be. And it worked, of course. But I think the next challenge we face won’t be like that. THAT was brute force and I don’t think that’s what she normally uses. We have to be careful going forward and expect the next attack to be more subtle.”

“Like the mushrooms,” Resi said, leaning on her staff and letting her enlarged breasts hang down. “I hate the way they feel.”

“Me too,” Gwynaetha whined. “But maybe it will go away after a little bit.”

“I’m sorry I can’t heal that,” Emiko said, her ears downturned.

“I’m sorry all of our clothing is ruined,” Dunla added. “But even if we knew a way to magic some up for ourselves I don’t think we’d get to keep them on for long. I think we have to accept we’re finishing our quest naked. Can you all handle that?”

When they nodded she said, “Good. I think we’ve rested long enough. It’s time we continue.”

“Which way do we go?” Gwynaetha asked.

“That way,” Dunla said, pointing.

“How do you know?” Resi asked.

“I can feel the witch,” Dunla said simply. “Although I don’t know how much that matters. I think she can be wherever she wants in the woods. And whatever way we set out the forest is just going to force us to go in the direction she wants us to go in.”

Driven to accomplish their quest, the four girls set out naked but armed.

It was only a short time before they came across a lighted path. Dunla had cautioned the others to hold back but Emiko had pushed past her.

“Look how pretty it is,” she’d said, stepping out into the path and raising her staff above her. The fireflies spread throughout the path began coming towards the heart-shaped top of her staff, gathering inside it. “It’s sooooooo pretty!”

“It really is,” Resi said, moving past Dunla to join Emiko on the path. “And look at these,” she said, pointing her staff at one of the lanterns hung evenly along the path. “It’s not actually a lantern.”

Gwynaetha slipped past Dunla to join the others. “Oh, wow, it’s full of fireflies! And look at how pretty all the woven sticks they are inside are. It’s like art. Who do you think made it?”

“We know who made it,” Dunla said grumpily as she joined the others. “Come on girls, you know better. Don’t be fooled by her tricks. She’s just trying to ensure our guard slips by showing us pretty things.”

“It’s more than pretty,” Gwynaetha said, holding her wand up and watching fireflies swarm around it. “This path has far more magic coursing through it than the forest we were in. And it’s much less antagonistic magic. It’s inviting.”

“I feel it too,” Resi said.

“Me too,” Emiko added. “It wants us to go that way,” she said, pointing her staff down the path.

Dunla bit her lip. “then we should go the other way…”

“Which way is the witch?” Resi demanded.

“That way,” Dunla admitted. “Fine. But no matter how pretty it is keep your guards up.”

The four made their way down the path, all but Dunla smiling at how pretty the fireflies lighting their way were.

When the path made a sharp turn Dunla threw her arms out to stop the others. “Wait,” she demanded. She pointed ahead where every twenty feet along the path were beautiful archways made of twisted together dead branches. “Gwynee, are those any more magical than anything else around us?”

She concentrated for a moment. “No… I don’t think so. Less, actually.”

“I could use Druidic magic to easily make something like that,” Resi told them. “But it would leave a mark. There’s nothing like that on them. I think these were made by hand. They should be safe.”

“Nothing here is safe,” Dunla grumbled but led the way down the path and through the arches.

“Look, that one ahead is different,” Gwynaetha said.

They all stopped when they reached the archway she’d pointed at. “The wood is crimson,” Emiko said, investigating it. She sniffed at it and pulled away, excited. “It smells like Amoera!”

“Is your nose that good?” Dunla asked.

Emiko nodded. “Not ALL Kittarans can smell better than Humans, but I can. I think Amoera made this.”

“What does that mean?” Gwynaetha asked.

“I don’t know,” Dunla said, falling silent and thinking hard about something she was choosing not to share with the others.

“The way the witch talked about Amoera, it felt almost like she was her daughter,” Emiko said.

“Or her lover,” Resi added. “Do you think Amoera’s been enchanted by her? Turned into some kind of sick love slave?”

“Maybe,” Dunla said. “Some of the things she said to me were about Amoera… But… she was lying.”

“You sound even less sure now,” Resi said. “Maybe she wasn’t lying. Tell us what she told you.”

Dunla shook her head. “No. It was a trick, a lie. She just wanted to convince me to leave. And even if it wasn’t all lies… we HAVE to save Amoera. Come on, let’s keep going. This path has to be leading us somewhere.”

“Maybe it will lead us to Amoera,” Emiko said hopefully.

The path twisted and turned through the forest eventually leading to a clearing with a beautiful building made of living trees. Their limbs and branches were bent and twisted, growing together to form walls and a domed roof. Their greenery was shaped into artistic patterns and all through the vibrant green leaves fireflies fluttered, making the place look as though it was lit up by countless torches.

“It looks like a temple,” Resi said, awed by the sight. “I’ve seen Druidic temples like this, but none were this pretty.”

All of them were entranced by the arboreal temple’s beauty, even Dunla. She was only able to shake out of the trance when she realized the other three girls had begun walking towards the open doorway leading into the temple. “Wait,” she called out, dashing after them but knowing there would be no point in trying to prevent them from entering. “At least be ready,” she demanded.

“For what?” Emiko asked dreamily.

“I don’t know,” Dunla replied, hefting her sword from her shoulder and holding it ready.

The inside of the arboreal temple was even more beautiful and brightly lit than the outside. The arched dome ceiling was full of fluttering fireflies and the walls were covered in art made of twisted living greenery. The floor was made of roots so closely twisted together it was nearly flat.

In the center of the temple was a large, ornate mirror. The tall, oval-shaped glass surface was taller and wider than Dunla. Branches twisted up from the ground, wrapping around its edges and covering its back.

“Can you hear it?” Emiko whispered, moving towards the mirror.

“Yes,” Rezi said dreamily, following her and unable to pull her eyes away from the reflective surface of the mirror.

“I can’t hear it but I can feel it calling me forward,” Gwynaetha whispered.

“Don’t go towards it,” Dunla called out, frustrated and unsure what to do. “I don’t hear or feel anything! Get a hold of yourselves, this is all just another trick.”

“We just want to look in it,” Gwynaetha said, following the others to the mirror.

Dunla followed close behind them, keeping her sword ready. She tried not to look at the mirror but it was impossible not to. When she finally allowed herself to take a long look in it she pushed past the others and turned to stop them from drawing closer. “What do you see in it?” she demanded.

“The same thing you do,” Resi said as if the question made no sense.

All three leaned to see past her, beginning to shuffle forward. Dunla took a step back and held her sword out before them, not a threat but an act of desperation to draw their attention to her. “Tell me what you see,” she said, eyes pleading. “Please.”

All three girls blinked in confusion when they looked away from the mirror and met Dunla’s eyes.

“I… I can’t remember,” Resi whispered.

“Neither can I,” Emiko added.

“Gywnee?” Dunla asked.

“I saw Amoera,” she said, looking confused. “It was like I was looking through a viewing spell. She was in a cabin. She didn’t have any clothing on but she had these leather cuffs on her hands and wrists like a slave would wear. And a collar, too. But she looked… happy. Dunla, what did you see?”

“Nothing,” she said. “I didn’t see anything. I saw the room reflected in it but not us. We should leave. Now.”

“Look!” Emiko called out, pointing at the portal.

Dunla spun around, lowering her sword. They all watched as the mirror’s surface shimmered and their reflection faded, replaced by a starry void filled with distant red gas.

“What is that?” Emiko asked, moving to where Dunla was but not drawing closer.

“I don’t know,” Dunla said. “But look at that red gas… does it look like its sparking to you?”

“Yes,” Resi said, moving in close to Dunla.

“Something’s there, just out of sight around the edge,” Gwynaetha whispered as she joined the others.

None of them could look away. They were so entranced they failed to notice the roots they were standing on slowly twisting up around their ankles. Only after they were all held in place did Dunla realize what was happening. “No! Not again.”

Before she could draw the other’s attention to their feet the things that had been lurking just out of sight on the other side of the mirror moved into view. It was a swarm of red fleshy tentacles writhing in a twisted mass. Most had pointed, dexterous tips but a few had ends that were penises. At first the swarming mass of tentacles just came into view but once they filled the mirror they all turned, their tips pointing towards the mirror’s surface.


What happens to the girl squad now that the tentacle swarm has appeared in the mirror? (Choose up to 7 options from this poll)


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