Chapter 17: Temptation
It took more than a day to finish recruiting all the uruks in that part of the dungeon after Bjeggok died. UrArrth delegated the job to Urnarat, Urkharf, and Urthorn. There were a few more fights, but nothing he had to deal with personally.
Calyx had used most of her kremm power in the spell that killed Bjeggok. She needed several hours of rest to regain her strength. Arrth was injured, and he hoped Calyx would be strong enough to heal him soon. They found an unoccupied room not far from the dining hall, and he and Calyx went there to recuperate.
Rose, Petal, and Thorn continued to build their new uruk army. Rose also gathered information. The more she knew about these Pits of Despair, the more likely she would be to find a way to escape them.
There was no way to measure time in the Pits of Despair, but it felt like evening when they all got together again. Calyx had regained her power. Wherever the Pits of Despair might be, they were still on Trollworld, and the world still replenished the wizards. When Calyx felt better she healed Arrth.
Then she told him that she had been the one to actually kill Bjeggok. He was already dead and falling when Arrth beheaded him.
Arrth felt sad. “Then I really haven’t done a thing for this group, have I? I’m as much a footsoldier to you four as Narat or Kharf.”
Calyx walked up and confronted him. She took off her amulet of illusion and let him see her as the high elf she truly was. Face to face she amazed him. Flawless white skin, pointed ears, deep clear blue eyes, perfect mouth with pale pink lips. At very close range she exuded a kind of sweet aroma, a hint of cherry blossom. She took off his amulet and revealed the man beneath the Uruk. She was almost as tall as he. She reached up, took him by the back of the head and pulled his face down to hers and kissed him.
Her lips were warm, passionate. Arrth had never expected to kiss an elf. Her lips and tongue had a flavor, akin to a sweet wine, but unlike anything he had even known. He felt dizzy, and suddenly weak in the knees. With an effort of will, he avoided falling down. Part of him was lost, mazed by the unexpectedness and the wonder of that kiss. Part of him felt a rising tide of lust.
Calyx pulled away from the kiss, but she still held Arrth in her grip. “Arrth, you have been wonderful. You have been everything we could have hoped for in an adventuring partner. You have been brave where we needed courage, discrete where we needed wisdom, polite where we needed courtesy. Arrth, you are all that is best about the human race, and we are all very pleased with you.”
He felt a lot better. He also felt like getting Calyx out of her clothing and even closer to his body. An image of her, naked, sitting atop him, and bending over to flaunt her perfect white breasts within a tongue’s distance from his face, flashed through his mind. But then he thought of Rose. And that mental image, that dream of love and beauty changed to one of Rose in the same position, and he felt disloyal for ever even thinking about Calyx as a lover. He had joined this group for Rose. It was Rose that he was trying to impress. It was Rose that he wanted.
“We have only known you for a day, Arrth, but we all care for you. Our little group has been together for years, but we have never met anyone who worked so well with us before. Did you see how Thorn threw herself into that fight to save you? Any one of us would have done the same for you then.”
Calyx moved to kiss him again, but Arrth shook his head. Their noses bumped by each other, but their lips did not meet.
“We may die down here,” whispered Calyx. “I would like to reward you for all that you have done for us.”
Arrth realized that his vision of coupling with Calyx could very well come true. He shook his head again and pushed her away, a bit roughly.
“You have rewarded me enough.” His face looked strange and strained.
“Then you could reward me.” Calyx let a note of pleading enter her voice, but there was also a note of whimsy. “I saved your life from that uruk. A few strong hugs and heartfelt kisses would do a lot to restore my energy and optimism.” She smiled at him, a smile that would stun ninety-nine men out of one hundred and leave them mindless and drooling.
“No, I can’t, Calyx. Please don’t ask, my lady. Thou art more beautiful than a summer dawn, but if I ever started to love you, I couldn’t stop.”
“Then why not start?”
“Because, you are an elf, my lady, and I am just a man. You may live forever. I have perhaps three decades left if I’m lucky.”
“Those do not seem like very good excuses for giving up my love. Would you not trade those thirty years of your life for one hour in my arms, O Man?”
“Get back! Let me breathe! I love Rose, Calyx. She is the one whose reward I wish to win. It is for her that I joined this group.”
Calyx stepped back. The light in her eyes went out. “Well, that has never happened before,” she muttered.
“Good luck, Arrth,” she said in a snippy voice. “You will find that winning her love is a lot harder than winning mine, and you may regret not taking the love I offered you. But, I have to say, my respect for you has increased.”
A knock at the door announced the arrival of a party member. Three fast, one slow, three fast. Calyx gestured. The door clicked, and then opened. Petal walked into the room. Her eyes widened when she saw Calyx and Arrth in their true forms, and noted that they were both breathing a bit faster than normal.
“What’s going on here?” Petal squinted at them both suspiciously.
“Um, nothing,” said Arrth.
“I was just trying to reward Arrth for that great fight against Bjeggok.” The high elf made a kissing motion with her lips and batted her eyelashes.
“Ooh, I’d like to reward him, too!” Petal squealed. She closed the door and took off her amulet and started toward him. “It’s more fun with three!”
“He turned me down.”
“What?” Petal couldn’t believe her ears. “The nerve!” She put her hands on her hips and glared up at him. “You don’t know what you’re missing, Arrth!”
“Oh, I think I do,” said Arrth, “and sorry I am to miss it, but . . .” he spread his hands helplessly.
“He’s in love with Rose.”
“Rose would share him with us,” pouted Petal.
“Maybe not. There’s something special about him, Petal.”
“Yeah, and he’s good-looking, too.” The lustful look re-entered the Forest Elf’s expression.
Arrth put his amulet back on. “Is it just me, or has it gotten kind of hot in here? I think I’ll take a short walk.” Snatching up his sword he headed out the door.
The two elvish women stared at each other in shock, as the big human hastened out the door, For a moment the tableaux held, and then they laughed—just a snigger from the high elf, but a full-throated guffaw from the forest fay.
Arrth heard their laughter through the door. Silently cursing himself for a fool, he turned his back to the door and headed toward the Eating Place.
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