For the next week, life was nice and relaxed. Nobody wanted to kill us, and we didn’t want to kill anyone; other than a few fish who, let’s face it, were too delicious to live.
Claire was still a bit pissed off with me, but she had forgiven Maurice, at least that’s what it sounded like every night. Now that I knew they were all at it, I became aware of all sorts of sounds and I ended up moving my tent away from the camp just so I could get a decent night’s sleep.
I may have convinced them to try other forms of intercourse, but I really didn’t want to be within earshot of cries like, “No, no, take it out. Take it out!” And that was Maurice’s voice.
We fished, we swam, we messed around with swords. It was supposed to be hardcore training, but I don’t think you could call it anything other than messing around.
I showed them all the moves the Princess had taught me, but I didn’t really have them down well enough to teach others. Still, it gave everyone a little more confidence to have specific moves to practise and there was a definite, if slight, improvement as we bashed each other with sticks.
Even though I’d only had a couple of lessons, I was already far superior to the others. The footwork made an especially big difference as I outmaneuvered them and landed my hits. Don’t worry, I wasn’t as brutal as I was with Laney, and only tapped them lightly.
I also took to running in the mornings. I would do laps of the lake in my bare feet like those African runners who always win the Olympic marathon. The idea was to toughen up my body, but I was starting from a position of marshmallow softness and my first couple of days were filled with painful sores and cuts. Which led to the discovery of a new kind of magic.
On the second morning of my new training regime, I came to a limping stop as yet another sharp stone or twig had stabbed me in the foot. I lifted up the sole of my foot to try and sort out the bleeding. Dirt and grit covered the wound, which couldn’t be a good, so I sat at the edge of the water to clean it.
Jolie came swimming over, her kid splashing about around her. Even though the frogman physiology was totally different to ours, something about her eyes and lips made her look very feminine. The more time we spent around them, the more human they all felt. And no, I was not horny for frog pussy. I’m not even sure there was such a thing.
“You are injured?” she asked.
“Yeah. Just a little bit. I don’t suppose you know any healing magic.” I said it as joke. Jolie reached her hand out, made a few finger movements, and touched the sole of my foot.
There was a tingle and a few seconds later, the cut was completely gone. I poked my foot with a finger to make sure. No pain, no blood, all back to normal. Jolie was about to swim away.
“Er, could you just show me how to do that?” I said.
I had continued to practice my magic flame and was getting quite good at it. I’d come to the conclusion it didn’t require me to not care about everything to make it work, I just had to not care about the magic working.
As long as I treated it like no big deal, the flame would come. The flame itself refused to be more than a tiny pilot light, unable to set fire to anything other than the most dry and brittle of kindling (or pondweed), but that was something to work on later.
The fish-calling had been less successful. I could get a slight glow in the water, which the fish seemed to find mildly interesting. They came closer to have a look but then swam off. But the fact I was able to raise a little fishy curiosity at all was more than I expected, so I was very pleased.
Jolie showed me the movements for the healing she had done, and I copied them until I had them down. Then I took out my knife and cut myself on the arm, careful not to make too big an incision. If I failed to make the healing work, I didn’t want to bleed out from accidentally cutting my own wrist.
The magic worked first time. The cut vanished as I lay my hand over it. This was huge. I wasn’t sure how severe an injury I could fix—judging by the low level of my other abilities, probably only minor cuts and grazes—but the fact something like this was possible in this world made the idea of actually surviving here more than just a matter of luck.
I returned to camp as the other were just waking from another night of shagging each other senseless (nice work if you can get it) and showed them my new trick. I didn’t just tell them, of course—where’s the fun in that?
I forced Maurice to hold his hand out and cut him while shouting, “Don’t move, it’ll only hurt more. Look, trust me. No. No. Give it here. Stop crying, you baby.”
Then I healed him. They all lost their minds and looked at me like I was their new god. Their evil god, but still, it’s nice to be feared as a superior being, even if it’s only until after breakfast.
They all gave it a go, but failed miserably and begged me to heal the cuts I’d made on their arms. I refused, of course. I thought a little bleeding might encourage them to focus. I explained the whole not caring mindset they needed for it to work, but they couldn’t get the hang of it. They were hopeless.
Actually, the one person I did have hopes for was Dudley. Not in regards to magic—he was as useless there as the rest of them—but with his archery skills.
He had always been the best out of us, by quite some margin. Back in Fengarad, I had visited the archery range at the Emporium every day, and I was still nowhere near as good as Dudley. And he also enjoyed it, so didn’t need to be forced to practise.
With the frogman kid’s help, Dudley had set up his own target dummy made out of grass bound into a straw man. He stuck it onto a post like a scarecrow and placed it near the water’s edge. That way, any arrows that missed would end up in the water and could be collected by Suri. The kid was always hanging around Dudley, because that’s where Flossie was most of the time. And everywhere Flossie went, so did her boobs.
Not that Dudley missed very often. His aim was amazing. Even when there was a breeze, which made it impossible for me to get anywhere close to the target, he would be right on the money. His only problem was his lack of focus. He was easily distracted or got caught in two minds. Sometime he would spend ten intense minutes firing arrows into his scarecrow, walk over to retrieve them, and just stand there, lost in a daydream until someone shouted at him to get on with it (that person being me, obviously).
However, there was one thing that focused Dudley’s mind like no other: Flossie. She was the girl of his dreams and somehow he had won her heart. He could barely believe it himself, and nothing meant more to him. Which was perfect for my needs.
“Hey, Dud,” I said to him one day when we were alone at the scarecrow, “I want to say something to you, and I don’t want you to get upset.”
He had his bow drawn and sighted, but gave me a quick glance and a raised eyebrow.
“It’s about Flossie.”
He lowered the bow. I had his full attention now.
“The thing is, she’s a lovely girl and very friendly, which is great, and you both look really happy together, which is also wonderful but…”
Dudley looked quite concerned by this point. I pushed on.
“A girl like her is going to attract attention from other guys. I know she isn’t like a model but she’s cute and she’s got them boobs, right? I mean, holy shit, I bet you can’t believe your luck.”
I punched him in the arm and he grinned and nodded.
“All I’m trying to say is, at some point you may get in a situation where some other guys decide they want some of that lovely boobiness for themselves, and you will have to deal with it. It’s your job to keep her safe, Dudley. You can’t rely on us always being there to help. I mean, of course, most of the time we will be, but if we aren’t, you need to be able to do what’s necessary. You understand what I’m saying?”
“Of course,” said Dudley. “I will do everything in my power—”
“No,” I said. “I know you have every intention of protecting her, but that isn’t worth very much if you don’t have the skills to back it up. I mean, you’re good with the bow, but if three guys come at you, could you take them all down?”
Dudley looked at the bow in his hands. “I… I don’t know.”
“You have to be able to shoot fast and straight and make every hit count. You hesitate, start wondering if you’re doing the right thing, you could lose Flossie. And I mean permanently. We don’t get do-overs in this place. You need to get better than good. You need to be flawless, for Flossie’s sake.”
You may think the Incredible Hulk’s transformation is drastic, but that’s nothing to the change in Dudley’s demeanour as I pressed the idea of losing Flossie into his big, empty head. His face lost its dreamy countenance and his eyes tightened into a laser-sharp death stare. Right then, if I’d told him I planned to take Flossie away from him, I think he would have killed me on the spot.
His training went from maybe an hour a day, to three or four daily sessions. He set up two more scarecrows and bombarded them with arrows. Head, chest and groin. Lots of groin. His fingers would be bleeding by the time he finished, and I gladly healed them.
He improved dramatically, and when he got tired of the relentless monotony, I would whisper in his ear about the terrible men out there, lying in wait for his girl, and he’d be back on the firing range tout de suite.
Flossie was a little bothered by the sudden obsession with shooting things, and the lack of attention given to her, but if your relationship can’t handle your boyfriend turning into a single-minded killing machine, can you even call it true love?
I helped Flossie get over her loneliness by giving her extra training sessions. No, that isn’t a euphemism, I mean I put a stick in her hand and taught her basic sword strikes, over and over. She needed the help, and I made sure to call out, “You’re dead!” every time I stabbed her with the stick. Nice and loud so Dudley could hear. The idea of Flossie dying only made him train harder.
It may seem horribly manipulative (probably because it was) but in the end, he would have the skills to keep Flossie safe. And, of course, those skills would be available for me to use, as well. What a happy coincidence.
When I wasn’t messing with Dudley’s head, I took to hunting around the lake. Jolie’s cooking was exceptional, but man cannot live on fish alone (although frogs can), and I also fancied trying out my new skills and training. Eventually, I expected to be out there on my own and I felt I should get used to it.
It was on one of these solo hunting trips that I bumped into an old friend. I was tracking a small deer-like animal through the tall grass, crouched low with my bow drawn, me versus bambi, when I saw a pair of very attractive legs ahead of me. I stood up and aimed at the head, ready to fire.
“Oh,” said Jenny. “Nice to see you, too.”