Author’s Note: Bloody hell, Part 2 was a bit of a slog! Anyway, as you may have noticed, after Part 1 of the Jain Swiftblade Saga, I decided to take the series down a route that emphasised on storytelling just as much as tickling. I’ve always wanted an outlet for my love of fantasy fiction, and the Jain Swiftblade Saga is going to be just that. Hopefully, the result will be a really enjoyable yarn, involving, heroes, villains, quests, treasure, and action. (El Cid was on TV whilst I was writing Part 2, so I’m determined to include plenty of action.) In addition, Part 3 is intended to not only conclude the background of Jain’s tortured personality, but also expand the “Swiftblade universe” as a whole. However, fear not, the tickling will not suffer as a result. On that note, let us begin!

 

Oh yes, if you like the stories PLEASE tell me, it’s good to have an incentive to write this stuff. Thanks again to Cosmo for helping me proof!

 

Morden

 

 

The Jain Swiftblade Saga: Part Three

 

 

Shan Redclaw had suggested drawing lots to decide who out of the three warrioresses would torture the young squire, but Jain Swiftblade had volunteered to take on the task herself. (Ravenna Whitefire had been most disappointed at not having the opportunity to use her new set of thumbscrews for the interrogation.)

Shan and Ravenna watched Jain stride purposefully towards the abandoned, derelict barn that housed their captive. Shan Redclaw was the closest Jain Swiftblade had to a true friend, but Jain was particularly cold, distant, and reclusive. She was a loner, and her two companions, like most of their clan, knew why.

 

Jain has not had an easy childhood, even by their standards. The bitterness and acrimony that corrupted Jain’s soul had been both created and perpetuated by an anguished relationship with her mother. Despite being common knowledge, no one talked about it publicly. Shan always felt slightly uncomfortable accompanying Jain. Jain was an exceptional warrior, and was unmatched when it came to her ferocity in combat. However, she had a masochistic, self-destructive streak a mile wide, was hot-tempered, and thusly had become widely renowned as a loose cannon. The young Warrior Vixen had slaughtered numerous foes with neither pity nor mercy, and had earned both the fear and respect of her peers. Jain Swiftblade lived for combat, the warrior lifestyle, and the gratification of the kill.

Jain spoke sparingly, and when she did, her sharp voice was edged with pathos. Her sense of humour was exceptionally sardonic, and one which revelled in cruelty. Both attributes were disturbing windows on the tainted nature of Jain’s soul, and were an antithesis to her stunning vulpine beauty; and perfect, muscular, S’Nomian physique. Shan smirked to herself. On the bright side, the young Vixen Warrior could drink with the best of them, and was an indispensable ally in a pub brawl.

 

Both Shan and Ravenna couldn’t help but smile and exchange knowing looks as they saw Jain disappear through the open door of the barn into the gloom beyond. Jain’s torture methods were… unusual… but always seemed to gain the desired results. Then, after a couple of minutes waiting, the laughter started.

 

Jain Swiftblade, smiling cruelly, held one of the squire’s bare feet in the vice-like grip in one hand, and a delicate white dove’s feather in the other. With practised, precision strokes, she slid the tip of the instrument, slowly and fluidly up and down the captive’s pink, tender sole. Jain watched with malevolent satisfaction as the young ferret’s toes wiggled and squirmed helplessly. Like all servile feudal squires, the poor boy was in his mid-teens, but his age was of no consequence; it was what he knew that was important.

She tried asking once more, raising her gaze and looking at the ferret, who was straining fruitlessly at the ropes which bound him to the wooden tethering-post.

“Now boy… tell me where your master is, and I’ll stop…” Jain said icily.

“NONONONONO!!! STOPPIT! STOPPIT! HEE-HEE-HEE-HEE-HA-HA-HA!!!”

Changing tact, Jain began to circle the feather tip around the arch of the squire’s foot, her voice cruelly patronizing and dripping honey as her victim’s laughter intensified.

“My, you are a ticklish little lad, aren’t you? Tell me where you master went, and I’ll stop tickling…”

“NEVER!!!” the squire blurted out. As the personal servant of an Equinian Knight, he was honour bound to serve his master and maintain his confidence, even under pain of torture. Of course, when the young ferret had originally sworn his oath of servitude, this wasn’t the particular method of torture he’d envisioned himself suffering. It was infinitely worse. “I’LL N-NEVER HEE-HEE-HEE!!! T-TELL YOU!!!” he managed.

“That’s a shame,” Jain cooed, “I’ll just have to tickle your toeseys, won’t I?”

“NOOO!!! PLEASE!!! NOT THA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!”

The Vixen Warrior grinned widely, baring her sparkling white teeth as she played the tip of the delicate dove’s feather over the boy’s writhing toes. She had to admire his spirit. Normally, her usual victims would have broken down after this long under the feather. However, having been the victim of merciless tickle-torture herself as a child, she knew exactly how to torment her victims to the fullest. The young squire would crack; it was only a matter of time. Her striking blue eyes narrowed. Besides, she really quite enjoyed it.

“Tikky, tikky, tickle, little boy...” she crooned condescendingly as she stroked the feather tip back and forth over the ferret’s toes. Patronizing and taunting her victims was a crucial part of her interrogation technique, and it worked especially well on proud, impetuous young males. It broke down the mental barriers of resistance and heightened the effects the tickling had on the subject’s mind. 

“PLE-HEE-HEE-HEE-HEE-HEE-HEEAAASEEE!!! HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!! NO MORE!!! NO MORE!!!” the tormented squire begged.

The young ferret’s tightly closed eyes were now brimming with tears. Good…Jain thought, slyly. Not long now…

“This can all stop,” she soothed, “right now, if you tell me where the Stallion Knight went.” The relentless tickling was rapidly driving the squire into hysteria. Yes, not long now.

Jain moved the feather from his toes down to the balls of his feet, and began stroking the tip of the torturous instrument around in a figure-8 pattern. The effect was instantaneous.

“AAAH-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HEE-HEE-HEE!!! STA-HAHAHAHAP!!! NO-HO-HO-HO-HO-HO!!! PLEEEEEAAASE!!! STOP TICKLING ME-HEHEHEHEHE!!!”

Jain grinned maliciously, her eyes gleaming cruelly.

“Aww, does the poor little squire not like being tickled?” the Vixen Warrior purred mockingly. She was met with a tirade of yet more anguished laughter. “Your master mustn’t care that much about you to leave you here all by yourself to guard his equipment,” she taunted, cocking her head in the direction of a large pair of animal hide haversacks by the barn door, and the two fine horses tethered in one the building’s paddocks.

HEE-HEE-HEE-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! PLEASE!!! I C-CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!” The Squire’s tears of laughter were now trickling freely down his cheeks.

“Well…” Jain said softly, trying to make her tone sound sympathetic, “if you continue to resist, then you’ll continue to suffer. Quite sad, really… Poor little boy, left to fend for himself… You really don’t owe your master anything…” She poked the tip of the feather on each one of his toes in turn.

“I’M NOT A LITTLE BOYEEE-HEE-HEE-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!” the squire cried, his anguished laughter edged with anger and humiliation.

Jain sneered inwardly. Pathetic little male. She despised all of their irk, especially the Equinians and their misguided, feudal ways.

The Stallion Knight that she, and her two battle-sisters were tracking, like them, was searching for the location of a temple in the region, which was said to house a priceless gold idol. Priceless, Jain thought sardonically. Everything had its price; their employer had made that quite clear, and the money that had been offered for the ancient idol’s return would ensure many a flagon of ale, platter of meat, and increased prosperity for the clan.

She didn’t know exactly how the Equinians had found about their mission, but they had spies everywhere in the black market, and this wasn’t the first time the S’Nom had to contend with the Stallion Knights. It hadn’t been hard to locate the knight they were up-against after a few enquiries in the nearby settlements. 

The location of the temple itself was still a mystery, and utilizing S’Nomian cunning, the vixen trio had decided to let the Stallion Knight do all the work for them. Up until now, it had just been a question of tracking the Equinian brute; a Knight in full armour on horseback with his mounted squire hadn’t exactly been difficult to follow… However, at this abandoned barn, the Knight and his squire had dismounted, the former evidently deciding to move on foot. Clever, very clever, Jain thought.

The old barn was surrounded with deep foliage and thick forest on three sides. As a result, it was next to impossible to track the knight’s movements on foot without specific directions. The stallion clearly didn’t want to take any chances.

And that…the young vixen thought sadistically, brushing the edge of the dove’s feather horizontally up and down the full length of the squire’s vulnerable foot, was where he came in…

“Gitchy, gitchy, gitchy…” she teased, her voice dripping with malicious delectation.

“PAH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! PLEASE STA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!” came the reply.

The young ferret squire was close to breaking point, now, and Jain Swiftblade was ready for the piece de resistance.

“Since you clearly refuse to cooperate,” she said gravely, “I’ll have to do… this.”

Gripping the dove’s feather delicately between fore claw and thumb, Jain stroked and twirled the instrument’s tip underneath the squire’s splayed, wiggling toes. The Vixen Warrior grinned wickedly as her captive’s body convulsed with tortured, hysterical laughter.

“NOT THAT!!! NOT THAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! PLEASE STOP!!! PLE-HEE-HEE-HEE-AAAHHH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! NO-HO-HO-HO!!! NO MORE!!! NO MORE!!!”

“Have you ever considered what it’d be like to be tickled to death, sonny-boy?” Jain growled sadistically. She began to slide the feather edgeways between each one of the squire’s squirming toes in turn. His tormented laughter intensified. “Because I assure you, if you refuse to tell me where your master went, you will die laughing…”

Finally, the young ferret’s will broke.

“OKAY! OKAY! AHAA-HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! JUST STOPPIT! STOPPIT!”

In compliance, Jain withdrew the feather, and let the boy catch his breath and compose himself. She sat back on her haunches, and waited, a mocking expression of innocent expectation on her beautiful vulpine countenance. She twirled the feather absent-mindedly in one hand, while still grasping the squire’s bare foot in the other.

The young ferret narrowed his eyes and scowled at his tormentor, obviously trying to compensate for his humiliation and emasculation at the hands of the cruel Warrior Vixen.

“My Master, Sir Maximillian Ronar, went…”

“Yeeess?” Jain said sweetly, holding up the feather.

“North west, directly. He went north west.”

Jain grinned with satisfaction, released the squire’s foot, reached over towards him, and pinched his left cheek condescendingly.

“There’s a good lad!” Jain reached down to her waist an opened a long pouch on her brand new utility belt, and inserted the feather delicately into it. The belt itself was a custom project she had commissioned Leo Vegeta the famous Litian inventor to fabricate after her encounter with the tickle beast in Katara forest last year. The collection of other pouches contained a myriad of other pieces of equipment for any given situation, including a brace of stun-darts and a blowpipe. She hadn’t had the chance to use them yet, but she was still waiting for an excuse to do so. However, she needed squire conscious.

The young ferret suppressed a snarl as he watched Jain get up, and stride over to the two haversacks containing his, and his master’s equipment. Jain began to rummage through their contents, tossing the occasional item aside uncaringly. “Ahh,” the young Vixen Warrior exclaimed, opening up a cloth parcel and admiring its half-wrapped contents, “bread, honey and venison! Equinians certainly do have extravagant tastes, don’t they?”

The squire growled, his lip curling.

“Hah! You S’Nomian barbarians wouldn’t know anything about that, would you? I expect you eat each other. It wouldn’t surprise me…”

Jain turned and glowered at the impetuous ferret, still bound to the tethering post. Arrogant little man- brat!

“Hold your tongue, boy, or I really will tickle you to death! Either that, or one of my battle-sisters has a fetching new set of thumbscrews she’s been dying to try out…”

“You wouldn’t waste more time torturing me,” the squire quipped, smirking confidently, “you’ve already wasted time here, I doubt you’d spend any more while my master gets ever closer to the prize!”

Jain frowned. He’d called her bluff. She unwrapped the smaller parcel of venison, and crammed its entire contents clumsily into her mouth. The vixen chewed the tender, succulent meat, her mind racing. The squire gazed at her, an expression of utmost disgust on his pointed face. The S’Nom were famed just as much for their atrocious eating habits as their beauty and martial prowess.

“Yor wight, off cawf.” Jain said nonchalantly, with her mouth full. Then, an idea crossed her mind. She held up the flask of honey, and glanced over at the two horses still tethered in their paddocks. She swallowed. “I wouldn’t waste time torturing you…” Jain muttered. She turned and grinned at the young squire, baring her full set of perfect white teeth.

The ferret shifted uncomfortably. The Vixen Warrior’s menacingly gleeful expression was deeply unsettling.

“Wha-what do you mean?” he said uncertainly.

Instead of answering him, Jain walked purposely over to, and untethered the squire’s own mount. Clucking encouragingly, she walked it over to the post to which the ferret was bound. The Vixen Warrior reached up to the horse’s saddle, untied a coil of rope, and crouched down once more in front of the ferret. “What are you doing?” he demanded nervously. Once again, Jain didn’t reply, and using the rope, began to bind his bare feet together tightly, placing the honey flask to one side. “A-answer me, vixen!”

“Do you like honey, boy?” Jain asked simply, standing up to tie the horse’s bridle loosely to the post the squire was bound to. “Because I do.” She turned and glared down menacingly at the now thoroughly rattled young ferret. She grinned. “Yum, yum…”

“Look,” the squire blurted, “I don’t know what you’re trying to do, but- HEY!”

Jain had crouched down in front of him, opened the flask, and had begun to pour its sweet, sticky contents over his bare, vulnerable feet. After the stream of honey from the flask had trickled to a drip, Jain raised it to her lips and licked the remains of the thick, amber liquid from the vessel’s mouth.

Very tasty! Now…” Jain cooed, tossing the flask away nonchalantly, “I wonder if horses like honey…”

The young’s ferret’s face turned into a mask of pure horror.

“N-no! You wouldn’t!” The squire watched in desperation as Jain reached up to his horse’s bridle, and gently pulled the creature’s head down towards his honey-smothered feet. He struggled vainly. Please, by the creator, no!

“I don’t take kindly to being insulted, boy… Especially by arrogant, foolish little males like yourself,” Jain growled in low, deadly tones, her grin vanishing. Then, perhaps more disconcertingly, it reappeared. “If you Equinian lackeys consider us “barbarians”… then I will treat you as a barbarian would; without mercy.”

“P-PLEASE!” the distressed young ferret stammered, “Not this, anything but this! I beg you!”

Jain pulled the horse’s head closer to his feet. It began to snort and snuffle at his honey-coated toes.

“Too late, I’m afraid…” Jain replied in a jeering, sing-song voice.

The horse began to lick at the helpless squire’s feet with its thick, rough tongue. Jain smiled widely with cruel satisfaction, as she watched his tender soles being tongue-tickled.

“No! Stop, Swyft! Bad girl! Ba-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!” the squire cried in vain.

The squire’s mount was now lapping hungrily at the ferret’s sticky, glazed feet, the incessant licking of the creature’s coarse tongue on his bare soles driving him into ticklish hysteria. Jain Swiftblade turned and began to walk towards the open barn door, leaving the laughing squire bound and helpless behind her. PlheheheHEHE-HEASE!!! Make her STOP!!! MAKE HER STA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!”

Jain savoured the boy’s anguished laughter and smiled sadistically. Serves him right. Then she looked up and saw Shan and Ravenna watching the scene from the open entranceway. Ravenna, with an unhinged, gleeful look on her face, held the set of thumbscrews eagerly in her claws.

“Can I use them now, Jain? Can I?”

Ravenna Whitefire had never been the same since being knocked on the head by a mace during a training session a few years ago, and was thusly, a tad erratic. Jain passed Ravenna and patted her sympathetically on the shoulder.

“Maybe some other time, sister,” she replied.

Ravenna’s face fell, the capricious Warrior Vixen’s expression mirroring that of a small child who had been disappointed on her birthday. She and Shan joined in step with Jain, and the trio strode purposely out towards their mounts, tethered to a tree at the forest’s edge. Jain’s ears pricked up as to her left, Shan Redclaw spoke in low, amused tones.

“That wasn’t very nice of you, sister Jain… Leaving the poor boy in there like that.”

Jain’s response was characteristically smooth, cold, and matter-of-fact.

“He should have volunteered the information we required immediately, instead of being difficult.”

“But if he’d done that,” Shan countered, “you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to tickle him.” The battle-scarred Warrior Vixen looked Jain in the eye and grinned toothily. “You really do enjoy it, don’t you?”

Jain’s expression remained stoic and emotionless, as she attempted to change the subject.

“The squire told me of the direction which his master went in. One Sir Maximillian Ronar.” Jain looked up at the cloudless sky, using the position of the sun to gather her bearings. She looked off in the direction of the woods ahead and to her left. “North west,” she said, pointing into the trees as she did so.

“Oh, goody!” Ravenna chimed in, clapping her hands enthusiastically and bouncing on her heels.

“Excellent,” Shan muttered. “The woods are to expansive and too thick to cover together. We should split up, fan out, and try and pick up his trail.”

Jain nodded her assent.

“I agree, each one of are skilled enough to take on a Stallion Knight, this one shouldn’t be any different. Anyway,” Jain sneered, “tracking him shouldn’t be that taxing… a Stallion Knight wearing full plate armour in this weather? We’d be able to smell the bastard a mile off…”

Shan chuckled to herself.

“Very well sister Jain,” Shan began, retrieving her morning star from the saddle of her horse, “I’ll enter the forest here, you 100 yards further down,” she continued, signaling with sweeps of her arm, “and sister Ravenna 100 yards in the opposi-”

“Tee-hee!” Ravenna giggled off to their right. “I get it! He’ll be all sweaty because of the heat, and we’d be able to smell him from his body odour!”

Shan gave Jain a long-suffering look. Poor Ravenna really wasn’t all there.

“Yes, sister, very good, now you enter the forest up there. Understood?”

Ravenna skipped up to her mount and unstrapped her own weapon, a two-handed war axe. The eccentric Vixen Warrior may have been addled in the brain, but her skill the weapon was phenomenal.

“Gotcha!” Ravenna chirped winsomely.

Jain had reached her own horse, Vassago, and was in the process of retrieving her shield and falchion. The battle-hardened young Warrior Vixen may not have had the years or experience of her two companions, yet her warrior skill was astounding, and just as great as that of her battle-sisters. Her mother’s harsh training regime had seen to that. She gripped her weapons firmly but gently as a skilled warrior should, and twirled her sword experimentally, familiarizing herself with its weight and balance. She turned as Shan Redclaw spoke once more.

“Very well, let us be off. May Fortunata be with you, sisters.”

“And also with you”, Jain said, inclining her head, turning away.

“Righto!” Ravenna piped up, before jigging off in the opposite direction.

 

Shan Redclaw watched Jain march off into the distance. She still couldn’t believe how much the young vixen had changed over the years. Shan smirked. She could still remember the innocent, pretty, affectionate, yet naughty little vixen she’d known when undergoing her own warrior training.

Jain had always been an inquisitive young girl, especially when it came to boys, and especially at that age. She couldn’t help but chuckle softly to herself as she recalled the time when she’d stumbled across a 12-year-old Jain Kel (not having yet taken her warrior moniker) spying on a group of teenage males as they bathed and frolicked in the lake outside the village. The fact that Shan been there to do exactly the same thing made the memory even more amusing. Her smile faded. Then, Jain began to change. The death of Jain’s father hadn’t started this process; that had been down to her mother, Jezail Truestrike. Shan had no idea what Mistress Truestrike had done to Jain in those five years of warrior training, but she knew what she had produced as a result.

 

Then a fully initiated Warrior Vixen, Shan, or any other of the S’Nomian sisterhood rarely saw Jain during her period of training. When they did, she was cold and reclusive, and shunned their company. Slowly and surely, they watched young Jain Swiftblade develop, both physically and psychologically. By the time she turned 16, Jain had become both an outstanding example of S’Nomian physicality, and an object of masculine desire. She was lithe, nubile, exceptionally attractive, and had a chest to die for. The first male to try his luck had, ironically, been someone Jain had once had a crush on, Brin Zarre. Shan had been one of the first to hear that Jain had laid Brin out with a single punch after he propositioned her. After that, the males avoided the enigmatic young vixen like the plague.

After Jain had been fully initiated as Vixen Warrior on completing her Warrior-hood Quest, Shan started to grow familiar with the warrioress she still knew today. Jain Swiftblade was an unashamed feminist and a vocal man-hater, who advocated the most fundamentalist Fortunatan teachings of male subjugation. It was an alarming contrast to how she’d been as a child.  Jain was now almost 23, and had changed little since becoming a full-warrioress. It struck Shan as perverse that someone as beautiful as Jain should shun males so.

The battle-worn vixen suppressed a pang of envy. Shan had been scarred across the left eye two years ago by a lance thrust whilst fighting a Reman mercenary, and the ugly disfigurement had not only cost her half her sight, but had blighted her once attractive countenance. Shan had always been predatory when it came to males, and suddenly finding herself rejected by those she made advances on, was both upsetting and embittering. Jain Swiftblade could have any male she wanted, but renounced them all. Her total repudiation of what she called the “servile gender” had made Jain not only infamous amongst the S’Nom, but those who would call on the clan’s services.  Yet through her quiet jealously, Shan Redclaw felt pity for the young Warrior Vixen. She remembered the first time she had gotten to know Jain, and understand her pain. The first and only time. 

 

***

 

Jain Swiftblade had not set foot in the village for over a year. Rumour had it, that she had constructed a home for herself a mile or so outside S’Nom to escape the attentions of its inhabitants. Jain had therefore, become somewhat of a rural legend, and several S’Nomian males had tried and failed to find her hideout on dares by their peers. The latest one to try had evidently been successful. Shan Redclaw grinned to herself as she recalled seeing the struggling form of poor Milo Rubin, bound, gagged, stripped to his undergarments, and hung upside down by his ankles from gateway of the Council Chamber. Jain obviously didn’t entertain visitors, especially if they were male.

 

For a tracker as skillful and experienced as Shan Redclaw, finding Jain’s home wasn’t that difficult, especially after picking up the scent of smoke wafting through the trees. Shan looked up at the sturdily fabricated wooden shack that had been built 15ft off the ground between the branches of a tall oak and rock outcrop. The dwelling was modest, and well camouflaged, the perfect home for a self-made hermit. A fire was smoldering and dying within a circle of rocks on the ground near the base of the tree, with a simple stick spit stood over it. Tentatively, she approached the fire, and poked at its embers with the toe of her boot. She looked up at the shack’s only window, her gaze being answered by a sharp, frosty voice from the gloom within.

“What is it that you want, sister vixen?”

Shan peered into the empty portal and smiled disarmingly.

“I have wine, sister Swiftblade”, Shan said amiably, holding up the bulging wineskin she had brought with her. “Perhaps we can share it, and toast to our foremothers?”

After a few seconds, a hatch opened in the bottom of the dwelling and a rope ladder dropped down to the ground. Shan smiled back up at the window, made her way over to the ladder, and started to climb.

The rustic interior of Jain’s tree-dwelling was unembellished, and devoid of anything save a single fur rug, a sleeping bag, and a haversack which Shan assumed contained all of her worldly possessions. The two Warrior Vixens sat opposite cross-legged each other, separated by no more than 6 feet. An 18 year-year-old Jain Swiftblade stared coldly at Shan Redclaw, as the latter’s single hazel-coloured eye took in her surroundings. She looked into Jain’s own sharp, cold, unlinking, sea-blue eyes. Shan smiled amiably, attempting to break the ice.

“You’ve constructed a nice home for yourself here, sister,” Shan said genially, “I like the décor. Very economical.”

“It’s as a Warrior Vixen’s abode should be, sister Shan,” Jain replied icily.

Very well… Shan thought, sensing her host’s hostility and reaching for her wineskin. When in doubt, break out the alcohol.

“Well, I trust you have goblets to hand, this is a good vintage. My father pressed the grapes himself.”

Jain inclined her head respectfully. Shan smiled inwardly; at least the girl was not so cold as to be unappreciative of goodwill. The older Warrior Vixen’s young host reached into her haversack, and presented a battered pewter goblet.

“I only have the one, I’m afraid” she growled simply, “I trust you do not object to sharing.”

Shan grinned widely. I hope young Jain has a strong stomach…

“Of course not, sister Jain. It would be my honour.” She said smoothly, taking the cup and carefully filling it to the brim with the strong, red, S’Nomian wine. She offered it to Jain with a disarming smile. The young Warrior Vixen reached out for the goblet tentatively, eying its contents suspiciously.

“Thank you,” Jain said nervously before sipping from the vessel. She really didn’t want Shan to know that this was her first drink. She failed miserably as she coughed up the mouthful as soon as it hit the back of her throat.

Shan Redclaw chuckled amusedly.

“Good stuff, eh? Put fur on your chest, that will.”

Jain couldn’t help but smile. She wiped her lips and tried again, taking a full swig of the wine this time. She closed her eyes tight and swallowed laboriously, coughing after the liquid had ran down her throat.

“Savage stuff, sister,” Jain muttered, her eyes beginning to water.

“There’s a good girl,” Shan replied, smirking, taking the goblet herself and quaffing the contents with practiced ease. “You just wait until it kicks in…”

 

It hadn’t taken long. Five cups had sufficed. Jain Swiftblade blinked and tried to focus once mere. It really was good wine.

Shan Redclaw, only slightly tipsy, watched her young companion sway slightly, before lying back to lean against the far wall of the cabin. She hadn’t seen Jain since she returned from her Warrior-hood Quest at 17, and it was astounding how much she’d grown in a year. She was not only taller, but stronger; Jain had obviously maintained her training when not questing during her self-imposed exile from the village. Shan herself was not privy to the orders of the S’Nomian council, and thusly, was ignorant to the missions Jain had been sent on after she had become a warrior; the only way Warrior Vixens gathered such information was over a flagon of ale (or several) in the meeting hall. Shan had fond memories of her first visit to the meeting hall after becoming a fully-fledged Warrior Vixen. Roaring fires, malt beer, ripe meat off the bone, it was glorious.

Shan allowed herself a smile. She’d heard about the drunken antics of the Warrior Vixens in the meeting hall when in training, and experiencing them for the first time had been daunting; but once the alcohol took effect, she was singing and gorging along with the rest of them. At night, once every full moon, the female warriors of the S’Nom had the opportunity, to drink, eat, and tell tales about their quests, triumphs and battles. Of course, once imbued with intoxicants, braggarts were commonplace. One particular incident stuck in Shan’s mind, where Leeta Hawkfist, an unparalleled falconer, had boasted that she’d once killed a Roc with her bare claws. Considering that the legendary giant avian had been extinct for 800 years, this blatantly fictitious gasconade wasn’t tolerated lightly. Several surrounding Warrior Vixens had taken it upon themselves to pin Leeta down, remove her boots, and tickle her feet until she admitted the falsehood of her story. Shan grinned to herself. She couldn’t believe that fully-grown Warrior Vixens were capable of tickling one-another like boisterous children. Then again, she’d seen a lot in her 5 years as a Warrior Vixen, which had suspended her disbelief. She remembered watching the scene agape before Tura Darkheart had encouraged her to join in tickle-torturing Leeta herself. She could still recall her tormented, high-pitched laughter even now.

Suddenly, her memories soured. She looked up at Jain, who, half-empty goblet in hand, was staring at the floor. Shan was immediately filled with remorse. So far, Shan Redclaw had experienced a full, indulgent life. She was 22, and had lived, laughed, and loved among her battle sisters. Young Jain Swiftblade, alone here in her modest wooden hovel, had enjoyed none of it. It wasn’t right, Shan mused sadly. She had never been sure as to why Jain had abandoned S’Nom to live out here in the wilderness after she became a Warrior Vixen. She’d heard rumours, hearsay, most of it concerning the young vixen’s treatment by her mother, Jezail Truestrike. Shan sighed. It was her inquisitiveness towards the mystery that was Jain Swiftblade that had led her to seek her out.

The battle-worn Warrior Vixen suddenly felt guilty. Jain, plied with alcohol, had just finished telling Shan the whole story of why she had left the village to pursue a life of solitude. Like the goblet brimming with wine Shan had first handed the young vixen, it had taken a mere nudge for Jain to spill her pain and bitterness. The death of her father, the emotional disownment by her mother, and her final humiliation after returning from her Warrior-hood Quest; it had all come flowing out in one long stream of vitriol and pathos. Even though Jain had not revealed the reasons behind her mother’s feelings towards her, the pain and suffering Jezail Truestrike had caused her daughter was all too apparent. Shan Redclaw had never felt such pity for anyone in her life.

 

“I’m sorry, Jain”, Shan muttered. “Now I know why you left.”

Jain raised her head and managed a bitter smirk.

“No consequence, sister Shan…” she growled, “it’s what I have to live with.”

Shan shook her head emphatically.

“Nobody should have to live with such pain. You are a Warrior Vixen of the S’Nom, and one amongst many who have devoted their lives to the glory and prosperity of the clan. Don’t let anybody take that away from you, sister, or make you think otherwise.”

Jain looked straight at Shan searchingly, her cold, piercing blue eyes boring into the elder Vixen’s soul.

“Thank you Shan,” Jain murmured, tearing her gaze away, her voice cracking with emotion, “your words comfort me, but I fear they will change nothing.” The young vixen recoiled in surprise as Shan Redclaw squared her shoulders and bore down on her. Her compatriot’s voice was low, and forceful.

“Did not Fortunata say that we have no destiny but that which we forge for ourselves?” Shan held out her right claw, an emphatic gesture of friendship and solidarity.

Jain stared at it. It was the same, infamous claw that had torn the heart out of Maegen Sunfury during a trial by combat after she had insulted Shan’s honour. Shan was an exemplar of what a S’Nomian Warrior Vixen should be, but she had listened to her as a friend should. Like her father would have. “You have my hand, Jain Swiftblade. Please accept it.”

The young vixen tentatively reached out with her own right claw, and finally, tightly, gripped that of Shan’s. Her compatriot, squeezed back, smiling kindly. “Well met, sister.”

Jain smiled back, trying to fight back the emotion welling inside her.

“Aye sister.”

After a few more seconds, Shan released her grip, and topped-up the goblet of wine from the now half-empty skin. She leant back against her section of wall and raised the vessel in toast.

“Now,” she said, raising her voice, “enough of sad tales! We are warriors! Let us drink and tell tales of our victories!” Shan gestured respectfully with the goblet towards Jain. “But first, sister Jain, I have yet to experience tales of your warrior exploits. I regret to say I have been deprived of hearing the adventures of the young Swiftblade.”

Jain flustered. Her mind was befuddled with drink, and she was being asked by a famous, battle-scarred warrioress to regale her with stories of her own quests. She cast her thoughts back over her first year as a Vixen Warrior.

Hatred had guided her blade, and ferocity had been her mistress. Jain had flung herself unreservedly into her duties as a mercenary warrioress after her inception as a Warrior Vixen; and completed several hazardous missions for the Matriarchal Council. Anyone amongst the S’Nom who thought that the young vixen hadn’t spilt blood and earned coin for the glory of the clan couldn’t have been more wrong. Jain gathered her thoughts, drew herself up confidently, and began to speak.

 

It was dark by the time Jain Swiftblade had finished talking of her life so far as a Warrior Vixen, both she and her guest deciding beforehand to take the storytelling outside by firelight for when the night closed in.

 

Shan Redclaw had listened intently to every single world: Jain’s assignment as a bodyguard on a coach conveying a Litian noble to Teutonia where she single-handedly slew three highwaymen, her rather less glamourous purging of the sewers under Calann of their nightmarish inhabitants, her “acquisition” of the Soul Stone from the legendary Temple of the Dread Manifestation for a private collector, and finally, her participation in the recent sea battle off the south western cape, where Jain had participated in no less than a dozen boarding actions. Despite being quite drunk at this stage, Jain remained modest about her exploits, and didn’t succumb to boasting and exaggeration. By the end of her recounting, Shan Redclaw felt the utmost respect for the young Warrior Vixen.

“And then,” Jain concluded, swinging out clumsily with her right arm “I cut the bastard’s head off. After that, I took the wheel of the frigate, and steered it onto a collision course with the pirate flagship! When it hit, it was a case of jumping overboard and swimming to the nearest Reman ship...” The young vixen took another deep swig of wine, and passed the goblet back to her companion. “Tell me sister Shan,” Jain said suddenly, trying not to slur her words, “why are you so interested in me?”

Shan, now quite drunk herself, decided that honesty was the best policy.

“Well,” the veteran warrioress began, “ever since you left poor Milo Rubin suspended half-naked from the entrance of the council chamber, you’ve been the talk of the village. I decided to find out more about the mysterious Jain Swiftblade myself.”

Jain scowled in response, looking away from her companion sat on the other side of the fire.

“He deserved it. Foolish boy should have minded his own business.”

“You know…” Shan growled with a smile, “Milo told a few of his mates in misplaced confidence that you tickle-tortured him before dragging him back to the village. To teach him a lesson, apparently.”

Jain froze. That word. “Tickle.” It always sent a shiver down her spine whenever someone else uttered it. Stupid male! She cursed inwardly. Jain had indeed decided to teach Milo a lesson for seeking her out, and had, using a collection of feathers, tickled him remorselessly. She’d made him swear on pain of death that if she returned him to the village, he’d tell no one of his treatment. Clearly his word meant little.

Jain reddened with embarrassment beneath her fiery orange fur. Perhaps it was a the hundreds of times she had been tormented by her brothers, or her torment in the clutches of Bellerogrim the Emperor Dragon, but the young vixen had suddenly found herself obsessing about tickling. She’d always had a mortal fear of being tickled herself, ever since she was a little girl, and as a result, abhorred being touched; except by those whom she felt she could trust. When young Milo had stumbled across her hideaway, she’d seen the perfect opportunity to experiment with her new-found fixation. The cruel satisfaction she had gained from feather-torturing her male captive was immense. Yet here she was, her secret being exposed by someone she looked up to. It was highly embarrassing.

“He’s lying,” Jain said eventually, still refusing to meet Shan’s gaze.

Shan Redclaw grinned widely.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Jain… Gods, I’ve tickled a few males in my lifetime,” she raised an eyebrow, “even a few females…”

Jain looked quizzically at the battle-worn Warrior Vixen across the fire, her look of feelings of apprehension melting away as Shan told of what had happened to Leeta Hawkfist that one night. She laughed despite herself.

“You’re joking, right? And that sort of thing occurs often in the meeting hall?”

“Not really, only that one time to my recollection.” Shan grinned wickedly, “It was fun, though.” She yawned expansively, stretched, folded her arms behind her head, closed her eyes, and led back on the soft foliage behind her. “It’s ok to have a bit of a thing about tickling Jain,” she said up to the stars, “almost everyone knows about my adoration for nice, firm pectoral muscles. Biceps, too. Not to mention abdom- well, you get the idea.” She grinned drunkenly from ear to ear. “Yummy.” 

From her place across the fire, Jain watched Shan led back on the ground. Her lithe, muscled, warrioress body really was quite helpless in that position. Maybe if she…No! Jain shook her head self-consciously. It was the alcohol talking. She turned and looked back at Shan’s bare midriff, her partially exposed rib-muscles, and her lightly furred armpits. Maybe she’d…Jain’s heart pounded inside her chest, as she found herself sidling her way along the ground around the fire towards the prone, supine body of Shan Redclaw. The young Vixen Warrior stopped and knelt beside her when she’d got close enough. Shan sensed her presence, opened her eyes, and looked across enquiringly towards Jain, who had a rather nervous, furtive look on her face.

“Are… you, ticklish, Shan?” Jain said apprehensively.

Shan couldn’t help but grin at her younger battle-sister.

“You really do have a thing about tickling, don’t you?” Shan raised an eyebrow. “I am, as a matter of fact… Why do you ask?” she added coyly, knowing exactly what Jain was thinking.

“W-would you mind if I-I ticked you?” Jain asked, hesitantly, flexing her claws impulsively. Gods, she’d done it now…she thought with shamed dismay, she should never have-

“Why not?” Shan said amiably.

Jain was dumbfounded.

“Really?”

“Of course,” the older vixen cooed, matter-of-factly. Shan laughed inwardly. They really HAD drunk too much wine… Anyway, it might be fun…“What’s a little tickling amongst Vixen Warriors?” She concluded almost flirtatiously.

Jain’s maw spread into a massive, toothy grin, her face a mask of pure delight as she slowly, and carefully, reached down and brushed her claw tips up and down Shan’s bare sides. The older vixen balked, gritting her teeth in a rictus grin, and closing her eyes tightly. Ack! It REALLY tickled!

“Coochie, coochie, coo…” Jain said teasingly as her claws skittered and scribbled up and down Shan’s sides, before dancing their way over her firm, flat stomach.

“Bah-ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” Shan guffawed loudly. Her endurance when it came to having her belly tickled was quite lacklustre. However, she let her young companion continue, failing to suppress a stream of giggles as she felt Jain’s claws skirt up her flanks towards her ribs. “Tee-hee-hee-hee-hee-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!”

“Ikky-tikky-tikky!” Jain cried with unabashed glee, as she continued to tickle. Then, she firmly but gently dug her claws into Shan’s rib muscles before driving her nimble claw tips up into her vulnerable armpits. The Warrior Vixen’s reaction was instantaneous.

“AAAH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! NONONONO!!! NOT THERE! NOT THERE!” Shan yelled, pulling her arms back from behind her head and hugging them to her sides. Shan Redclaw had unbearably ticklish underarms. “That’s enough! That’s enough!”

Jain withdrew her claws and grinned down at her victim, who was now massaging the lingering tickling sensations out of her tingling flesh.

“I knew you were ticklish, sister Shan…” she crooned softly.

“Okay, okay,” Shan growled, smiling as she rose to her haunches, “just don’t tell anyone, alright?”

Jain raised her right hand drunkenly.

“I swear, I won’t tell anyone that you’re ticklish.” Then, a look of anxiety crossed Jain’s vulpine countenance. “Erm… You won’t tell anyone that I have a…bit of a… tickling fixation, will you?”

Shan grinned toothily, reached over, and clapped the younger vixen hard on the back.

“Of course not! Now,” Shan said before flexing her own finger claws, a gesture which prompted a deeply unnerved look to spread across Jain’s face. “Are YOU, ticklish, sister Jain?”

“Oh no!” Jain muttered, starting to shuffle away, watching Shan Redclaw’s face change into a picture of almost demonic delectation. “P-please, not that! Anything but that!”

In an instant, Shan pounced on Jain, and started to tickle furiously at the young vixen’s own ribs, belly, and sides. Shan chuckled inwardly. She wouldn’t tickle her too much…she thought, savouring Jain’s laughter and pleas for mercy. Anyway, nobody tickles Shan Redclaw and gets away with it…

 

Jain had fought-back valiantly against her tormentor, mustering the strength to tickle Shan’s belly despite the older vixen firmly straddling her in a dominant position; pinning Jain between her powerful thighs. Shan yelped in surprise, and clapped her hands to her stomach, giving Jain the opportunity to push her compatriot off her. Jain rolled away, expecting another assault of playful tickling, but Shan merely led on her back, panting tiredly in the firelight. Jain grinned. The tickling had clearly drained Shan as much as it hand her. She sidled back over to her newfound friend and led down beside her.

“You know my weak spots,” Shan muttered. “You really are a perceptive warrior.”

Jain grinned up at the stars.

“I doubt tickling would be of much use against something like a 10 foot rock golem, sister Shan…”

“It was fun, though…” the elder Vixen laughed, looking over at her young companion. “Made me feel like a child again. Still, I’d rather be tickled by a male, though. Nothing bests that.” Shan’s smile faded as she watched Jain’s contented expression change. The young vixen’s face turned into a contemptuous scowl and her lip curled. Shan had forgotten Jain’s attitude towards males. She spoke in low, sympathetic tones. “Why do you hate them so much, Jain?”

Jain Swiftblade sat up and sneered off into the darkness of the woods beyond, refusing to meet Shan’s gaze.

“Do you really want to know, sister?”

“Yes,” Shan responded evenly. “Males aren’t all-“

“They’re pathetic,” Jain spat, cutting-off her companion. “I don’t know why you have so much of a preoccupation with them. They serve us, and we protect them,” she continued, her sharp voice laced with contempt. “They are labourers at best, and a distraction at worst. We are their superiors in every way. The Codex Fortunis states that clearly.”

Shan stared in disbelief at the young vixen. She knew that Jain was a chauvinistic man-hater, but to hear such words, such fundamentalist Fortunatan dogma from her first-hand was frightening. All S’Nomians abided religiously by the teachings of the Codex Fortunis in terms of male subjugation and female rule owing to tradition and simple common-sense. Yet very few amongst the clan today still adhered to the extremist Fortunatan belief that males were actually inferior beings. They were different, yes, but inferior?

“Jain,” Shan said seriously, “I love and revere the Great Goddess just as much as you, but one much appreciate that the Codex-”

Jain’s head snapped around to glare down at her, the vixen’s blue eyes burning.

“Do you know how much suffering they’ve caused? Not just to our clan, but to others? Slavery? Prostitution? Torture? The way outsider males make trophies of their women? Fortunata was right in every single way, and our heritage and way of life must be protected! They’d destroy everything if they had the chance!” She sneered down at Shan. “I would have thought that a Warrior Vixen such as yourself would have appreciated this, and listened to the words of our goddess instead of becoming a plaything to our males… Your promiscuity disgusts me!”

Jain Swiftblade didn’t know she’d been slapped until she felt the pain of the impact course across her cheek. Shan was now sat up, her right claw quivering at the end of the arc the stroke had made.

“You’re drunk, child! You forget yourself!” Shan growled back.

Jain’s head snapped back to glare viciously at Shan, her eyes welling up with tears. Her muscles tensed, fuelled by the rage and anguish building inside her.

“THEY’VE MADE MY LIFE A MISERY!” she shrieked hysterically. “I HATE THEM!! I HATE ALL OF THEM!!!”

Shan lowered her claw, her anger towards the young vixen in front of her subsiding. She clearly wasn’t in control of her senses.

“How?” she demanded, her tone still hard. “Why?” Shan’s heart suddenly began to ache as she saw tears to trickle down Jain’s cheeks. Oh no… Please gods, don’t cry, the Warrior Vixen thought, guilt welling up inside her.

“I should have stayed at home!” Jain sobbed, staring into nothingness and beginning to hyperventilate, “I-should have stayed at home!”

Instinctively, Shan moved over and gripped the sobbing young vixen firmly by the shoulders.

“Jain! Look at me! What are you talking about?” she asked firmly, but softening her tone slightly.

“I-I was out in the fields,” Jain stammered. “Mother told me to stay at home, s-she knew I used to go out and talk to the boys there… I used to watch them work…”

Jain wouldn’t meet Shan’s anxious gaze. The older vixen watched as Jain gasped for air and stared at the ground. She tried desperately to console her.

“Calm down Jain, what do you mean?”

“He’d still be alive if it wasn’t for me… He wouldn’t have come after me if I’d stayed at home… The raiders…”

A memory flashed across Shan’s mind. No… She couldn’t think that…She raised the young vixen’s chin with her right claw, and gazed into her tear-sodden eyes.

“It’s about your father isn’t it? How he died?”

Jain’s whole body shook and convulsed with barely suppressed sobs.

“I was out in the fields with the boys when the raiders attacked… He knew I was there and he came out to rescue me…” Jain’s voice suddenly changed to one of unfathomable bitterness, her beautiful vulpine face contorting into an expression of utter pathos. “It’s all their fault! They knew I wasn’t supposed to be out there! They should have told me to go home!” She snarled, her voice once again edging on hysteria. “All I wanted to do was talk to them… They teased me, taunted me for trying to flirt with them… They played me…THEY PLAYED ME LIKE A PUPPET!!!”

“JAIN!” Shan yelled, desperately trying to calm her down. “You can’t blame them, and you can’t blame yourself! It wasn’t your fault!”

“I CAN!!!” the anguished young vixen screamed. “I hate them, Shan…” Jain sobbed, her voice lowering to a whisper. “They were responsible… They killed me father, and I let them… I was too stupid to listen to my mother… I should have listened to her…”

Shan’s eyes widened in horrified realization.

“She blames, you doesn’t she? Your mother blames you for his death…”

Jain nodded weakly, finally drained of her strength. “Oh gods Jain,” Shan muttered. “I-I’m so sorry.” Overwhelmed by remorse, Shan pulled Jain’s limp, trembling form towards her into a maternal embrace. She held Jain’s head to her shoulder, feeling the young vixen’s tears dampen her fur. Shan shook her head in pitying disbelief.

Everything was clear, now. Jezail Truestrike had blamed her daughter for her husband’s death, and Jain herself had found scapegoats for her own anguish. Males. Her curiosity towards males had led her into the fields as a child, and it was males who had taken her father’s life when he tried to save her. Jain’s hatred for the entire gender had been compounded by years of mental torture by her mother, and her experiences of the outside world, where females were naturally subjugated. All this however, didn’t eliminate that fact that a small part of the young Warrior Vixen, had accepted what Jezail Truestrike had wanted to Jain to acknowledge; that the death of Vendanse Kel was her fault. Perhaps worst of all, Jain hated her father. In his “masculine foolishness”, he’d tried to save her, and had been killed doing so. He’d died and left Jain all alone, and she hated him for it.

Shan knew exactly who was responsible for perpetuating these beliefs.

The battle-worn Warrior Vixen hugged Jain tightly, shushing and comforting her as a mother would an upset child. Mother…She sneered bitterly, thinking of Jezail Truestrike, an individual whom she had once revered and looked up to. What kind of mother was she?

The saddest thing was, that Shan knew that there was nothing she could say or do that would tear Jain’s tainted soul out of the vicious cycle of hatred in which it was ensnared. Save a miracle, there was nothing that would stop Jain despising males, and even worse, hating herself.

 

***

 

Shan Redclaw’s mind snapped back to the present. Jain was now 23 and she, 28. After that night, Jain had made Shan promise never to speak of what she’d told her again, either between themselves or to anyone else. Shan had kept her word. She had become Jain’s closest friend, although it wasn’t friendship as normal individuals experienced. They’d laughed, drunk, sung, feasted, fought, and killed together, but since that night when Jain Swiftblade had bared her soul, they’d never discussed Jain’s past. It was an awkward relationship. Shan liked to think that after holding a sobbing, grief-ridden young Jain Swiftblade in her arms that one night it had helped in some part, helped alleviate some of her pain. Yet that was over 5 years ago, and the emotionally scarred Warrior Vixen had experienced much since then to compound her deep-set prejudices and hidden self-loathing.

She watched as Jain turned, and disappeared into the trees in the distance, taking her own path on the search for the Stallion Knight and the location of the idol. Shan sighed. Until someone took away her pain, she pitied any male who was unfortunate enough to cross Jain Swiftblade.

 

It hadn’t taken Jain long to pick of the trail. Broken shrubbery, downtrodden ferns and undergrowth, snapped twigs; all combined to point a skilled tracker such as herself in the right direction. The Warrior Vixen grinned sardonically. She’d been lucky in that she was the one to pick up the Stallion Knight’s trail, but following it would be as easy as squashing a bug. Clumsy Equinian oaf…With renewed confidence, Jain Swiftblade set off once again into the forest.

 

She watched him, silently, concealed within her hiding place in the tree line. He was much bigger than she expected him to be…The Stallion Knight, clad in full, shining steel plate armour was stooped low with his back to her, about 30 feet away on the other side of the glade. From the way his arms were moving, he was probably attending to some sort of equipment or apparatus.

Jain’s eyes darted to what she had surmised was the entrance of the temple which housed the idol; a solitary, rhomboid portal of weathered stone, which descended into the earth diagonally like a mineshaft. The entrance was overgrown with foliage and vines, obviously long-abandoned to nature and the elements. By the way the entrance was still heavily interlaced with vines, the Stallion Knight hadn’t yet entered the temple itself. She grinned toothily. Perfect.

In one, fluid, soundless motion, Jain stood up from her hiding place, and just as stealthily, crept her way out of the trees and into the temple-glade. Well…she thought amusedly, taking position across from the big Equinian who was still oblivious to her presence. This should be fun…The Warrior Vixen placed her hands confidently on her hips, breathed in, and spoke.

“What-ho, sir knight!” Jain called across to the armoured figure, who sprang up and spun around to face her with surprising speed. She raised an eyebrow. He really was a lot bigger stood up.

A hollow, metallic voice answered back from within the visor of the knight’s long-nosed, elaborately plumed great helm. It was low, deadly, but edged with characteristic Equinian arrogance.

“Greetings, Warrior Vixen… What brings you to this neck of the woods?”

Jain sneered contemptuously at his coyness. She despised the Equinians, and their oppressively feudal, misogynistic culture. The Stallion Knights were the very exemplar their risible society, and represented everything Jain, and her sisters in the S’Nom stood against. Yet at least, in their masculine, chivalric traditions, they observed honour in battle. She un-slung her shield, drew her falchion, and took up a fighting stance. He would make a worthy adversary.

“I have come for the prize, Equinian, the idol which resides in the temple before us. I invoke trial by combat. The victor wins the right to enter.”

The Stallion Knight turned around and drew his own weapon from where it had been stabbed blade-first into the ground. It was a huge double-handed Flamberge, a broadsword of Gallan origin with an undulating, serpentine blade designed to cause horrific injuries.

Jain Swiftblade’s eyes narrowed and her predatory, battle-hungry grin widened. The blade of the Flamberge itself was almost as tall as she was.

“Very well, S’Nomian. We will fight until either one of us yields…or dies…” The Stallion Knight growled.

Jain inclined her head in assent. The effect of the adrenaline beginning to pump through her veins was, as always, euphoric. She lived for this.

“Very well, Sir Maximillian,” the Warrior Vixen crooned smoothly. Anticipating the knight’s thoughts she tilted her head mockingly to one side. “Yes, I know your name. Your young squire was most helpful in providing me with the information I required.”

Maximillian Ronar took up a traditional Equinian fighting stance and held the hilt of his Flamberge close into his armoured body. He growled menacingly.

“He will be punished. Severely. Now, Vixen…” he said starting to advance slowly and purposely towards her. “Prepare to meet your MAKER!”

The Stallion Knight swung his sword in a massive horizontal arc through the space that Jain Swiftblade had previously occupied. Ten feet away, the mercurial Vixen Warrior herself landed deftly on her feet, crouching low after an impossibly agile evasive leap.

Jain smirked. That was too easy. As she had anticipated, the Stallion Knight’s own speed and dexterousness were severely encumbered by his cumbersome plate armour and the weight of his Flamberge. Maximillian himself was huge, and stood over a foot higher than Jain who had always considered herself quite tall. The Equinian was doubtless as strong as an ox, but it was only a matter of time before he tired. Knights in full plate armed with great-weapons were fearsome adversaries in the close packed melee of conventional battle, but in single combat; Jain had the advantage of speed and agility. The vixen felt like a thief who had just been handed the keys to the First Bank of Reme. 

“I’m afraid you’re going to have to be faster than that, Sir Knight,” Jain crowed mockingly. She grinned again as her taunt was greeted by an enraged grunt from within the visored helm of her adversary. Good… Get angry, you great masculine brute… You’ll become frustrated and make a mistake…

“I hope you fight as well as you talk, barbarian!” Maximillian snarled back, hefting up his great sword once more and turning to face his vulpine opponent.

“I do and more, Equinian… Now, try again. Perhaps you’ll cleave flesh instead of air this time!”

With a roar, the Stallion Knight charged at Jain, the ground reverberating under his pounding hooves. He swung widely at her crouched form. Once more, Jain was too fast, and sprang up, leaping clear over the silvery arc the Flamberge cut through the air. Maximillian’s guard was left completely open, and in an instant, Jain had landed, and barged shield-first into the hulking form of her opponent. Jain wasn't just agile, she was strong, and her lithe yet powerful musculature succeeded in knocking the temporarily unbalanced Maximillian off his feet. The Equinian collapsed with a cacophonic metallic crash on the ground. He scrambled to regain his footing, cursing loudly. Jain merely watched him with an amused smile.

“Enough of this trickery!!!” Maximillian roared. “Face Me like a warrior, S’Nomian she-devil!!!”

“Of course, Sir Knight,” Jain said sweetly, allowing her opponent to stand.

The Stallion Knight strode forward and thrust his great-sword point first at her torso. Instead of dodging, Jain deflected the blow aside with her falchion, using Maximillian’s own momentum against him. Milliseconds later, she slammed the pommel of her sword down onto the forehead of Maximillian’s great helm, just above the vision slit. The impact was met with an anguished yell of pain and frustration from the Stallion Knight. Jain Chuckled, as she sprang back, watching Maximillian paw clumsily at his armoured head, desperately trying to readjust his helmet. The disorientation wouldn’t last long, but by the gods, would it make him angry…

“I’LL KILL YOU, SHE-FOX!!! I’LL TEAR YOU LIMB FROM LIMB!!!” The Stallion Knight screamed after he had finally regained his composure.

“I’m waiting, man-scum,” Jain taunted contemptuously, twirling her falchion acrobatically in her right hand. “Such a BIG sword… Are we compensating for something?”

The massive Equinian charged at her once again, raising the Flamberge high over his head in preparation for a downward strike. It was an impulsive, emotionally-driven, and highly predictable move. He’d clearly lost his temper with the elusive young Vixen Warrior.

Maximillian brought his great-sword hurtling down towards Jain in a gargantuan vertical arc. It didn’t take much effort for the Warrior Vixen to deftly side step the blow, before she heard the blade of Maximillian’s Flamberge cleave into the ground with a dull “thunk”. Before the Equinian could attempt to pull the weapon free, Jain leapt up, and fly-kicked him squarely in the centre of his breastplate. The vixen’s opponent, still firmly gripping the hilt of his sword, fell back clumsily onto his armoured posterior, his own weight wrenching the weapon free of the ground.

Jain stood back and glared at the fallen knight scornfully, her icy voice changing to one of sincere contempt.

“Very clumsy, Maximillian… You Equinians are all the same… all force and no finesse. Do you yield?”

Sprawled on the ground before her, the prone Stallion Knight held up his gauntleted hands in a gesture of submission. His voice was low, yet surprisingly calm.

“Aye, Vixen. You have bested me. I Yield.” Maximillian slowly held out his right gauntlet towards her. “Would you help me up?”

Jain made to reach out towards the outstretched gauntlet. She was a warrior like him, and was therefore obliged to satisfy his honour, despite what he’d called her. It was the way of the S’Nom and tradition had to be observed.

Then, she hesitated as her gaze fixed on the gauntlet itself. Her eyes widened in horrified realization. Gazing back at her, in a hollow, cyclopean stare, was a gun-muzzle, the barrel of which had been built into the back of the gauntlet’s knuckle-guard. PISTOL GAUNTLETS!!! Jain recoiled in alarm just as she saw the gauntlet’s fingers clench and a firey flash temporarily blind her. She yelped loudly in pain as something white-hot seared across her left cheek.

Going on instinct, Jain stumbled backwards, trying to see past the spots and blotches that marred her vision, the noise of the hidden weapon being fired leaving her sensitive ears ringing. Half-blinded, deafened, and completely thrown off guard, she strived to get her bearings. Thoughts rushed through her mind. He’d tricked her!!! The filthy Equinian bastard!!! He’d yielded and offered her his hand when she could have killed him in an instant!!! Jain Shook her head and tried to refocus on Maximillian. He wasn’t there. Panicking, she span around to her right, then her left. Still disorientated by the Stallion Knight’s insidious trick, she didn’t have time to react when she turned and saw a gauntleted fist flying straight at her face. The Vixen Warrior didn’t even feel the impact. In an instant, Jain Swiftblade’s world was suddenly, jarringly, plunged into darkness. 

 

Jain woke, slowly, and painfully. Tentatively, she opened her eyes, and grimaced at the bright sunlight that still shone through the tree canopy. It was still daylight. She hadn’t been unconscious for long. Her left cheek throbbed painfully, and for that matter, so did her right. After a second’s contemplation, Jain realized that she had only barely dodged the bullet from Maximillian’s pistol gauntlet, the shot obviously grazing her cheek. A further moment’s thought allowed her to appreciate that the Stallion Knight’s fist was responsible for the lingering discomfort on the other side of her face. Jain tried to move. She couldn’t. The Young Vixen took in her situation, her mind finally beginning to clear. She was restrained, tied tightly, in a sitting position against the base of a tall strong oak tree, with her legs splayed out in front of her. Testing her rope bonds, Jain began to appreciate to her anguish that her situation was hopeless. Her arms were pinned lightly to her sides, and only her hands were free to move slightly. Jain’s legs despite being unrestrained, were next to useless owing to her sitting position.

The Warrior Vixen’s feelings of helplessness turned quickly to unbridled rage as she looked up and saw Maximillian standing across on the other side of the glade, next to the temple’s entrance, hacking at the vines which obscured it with his Flamberge. He’d tricked her!!! The anger she felt was beyond description. She Was a Warrior Vixen of the S’Nom, and he’d betrayed her honour like some common rogue!!! Jain snarled, tried to clear her head, and control her temper.

“How DARE you, sir!!!” Jain growled across at the armoured Equinian, who hearing her promptly stopped her work, stabbed his sword into the ground, and walked purposefully over to her.

Maximilian knelt down in front of her to her, removed his long-nosed great helm, and laid it down on the ground next to him. The Stallion Knight was extremely handsome, for an Equinian, and had an unblemished milky-white coat. Maximillian’s horse-like countenance bore a characteristically arrogant smirk. He shook his long mane of luxuriant copper hair and snorted down derisively at his captive.

“Silence, wench!” he growled, grinning menacingly.

Jain exploded with rage.

“WENCH??? YOU EQUINIAN BASTARD!!!” she screamed up at him. “HAVE YOU NO HONOUR??? YOU YIELDED TO ME ACCORDING TO THE RIGHTS OF CHIVALRY AND OF-”

The enraged Vixen Warrior was silenced by a hard backhanded slap to the face by the still-gauntleted right hand of her captor.

“Chivalry? Honour? For the likes of YOU?” Maximillian spat. “You S’Nomian barbarian! How dare you presume to teach an Equinian on the virtues of honour!”

Jain, her head spinning, turned back and scowled at her captor.

“Arrogant man-scum!!! You know NOTHING of my people! We Vixen Warriors have more honour in our little fingers than an entire cohort of Stallion Knights!”

Instead of another blow, Maximillian stayed his hand and scoffed amusedly at his captive.

“Did you really think I was going to allow myself to be defeated by a mere vixen? You S’Nomian savages don’t deserve to be treated with honour… Chivalry is for the civilized peoples! Your fur isn’t fit to wipe my boots on…”

Jain Swiftblade raged like an erupting volcano. Having not only her personal honour insulted, but her people as well, was the most grievous affront someone could inflict on a S’Nomian Vixen Warrior. She growled and snarled like a feral beast at the mocking Stallion Knight, her muscles bulging as she strained against her bonds.

“RELEASE ME THIS INSTANT, EQUINIAN, OR BY THE GODS I SWEAR I’LL TEAR YOUR HEAD OFF WITH MY BARE CLAWS!!!”

Maximillian Ronar laughed contemptuously at Jain, who continued to struggle to no avail.

“I don’t believe you’re in any position to make demands, S’Nomian harlot…”

Before Jain could respond, the Equinian’s armoured right hand snapped out and gripped her jaw firmly, before moving her head roughly from side to side. “Fierce little creature, aren’t you?” Maximillian said, examining Jain’s grimacing vulpine countenance. “Quite comely as well…” The Stallion Knight’s mouth broke into a cruel grin, baring his flat, horse-like teeth. He reached out with his other hand and traced the curved, now clotted cut in the flesh of Jain’s left cheek that the pistol gauntlet bullet had made. “Pity...” he said mockingly. “I used salt on the wound… It should scar nicely…”

Jain’s rage became so intense she felt like she’d begin to foam at the mouth at any second. Scar. She had a jar of healing salve in her utility belt for injuries such as this, and its use would undoubtedly have prevented any permanent scar. The Warrior Vixen’s cobalt-blue eyes burned as she looked into those Maximillian Ronar’s. He’d used salt. Jain’s heart twisted in fury as she realized that he’d scarred her face for life. He released her jaw.

Jain, drawing on all her discipline as a warrior, controlled her anger and spoke in low, deadly tones.

“I am Jain Swiftblade of the S’Nom. You have insulted my honour as a Warrior Vixen. I will have my revenge.”

Maximillian smirked condescendingly.

“I think not.” Once again, he reached out towards her and stroked Jain’s left cheek. She recoiled in disgust. “Yes, what a pity.” The Stallion Knight glanced down lustily at the Warrior Vixen’s ample chest. “A young, attractive, full-bosomed, lascivious she-beast like yourself would have made quite a good mistress...”

Jain growled. “Instead, I’ll look forward to having you stripped naked and whipped through the streets of Equinia like the animal you are.” Maximillian grinned maliciously.  “You’d look quite fetching in a cage… I’m sure plenty of people would pay to see you in the Royal Menagerie…”

 

Sir Maximillian Ronar really was enjoying himself. Truth be told, he’d never faced a Vixen Warrior in combat before, and inwardly he had been humiliated by the ease with which this “Jain Swiftblade” had defeated him. Still, he reasoned, he’d have his revenge. Humiliating his captive was only the first step. Once again he ran his gaze over Jain’s restrained form, still quivering with rage. He raised an eyebrow. Tasty looking piece of meat… If a little muscular for his tastes…

Maximillian glanced over at the Warrior Vixen’s splayed legs and her long, tight, leather boots. His grin widened. Jain Swiftblade wasn’t the only warrior to have a secret fixation... The Equinian shifted his armoured bulk and sidled over so that he sat, cross-hoofed, in front of Jain’s booted feet.

 

Jain Swiftblade watched her captor move, her rage turning to puzzlement. What was he doing?

“You know Jain… May I call you Jain? I’ve always had a fascination with feet… You vulpines are really quite lucky to have them…” Maximillian said smoothly as he grasped hold of Jain’s right foot by the ankle.

Jain snarled and tried to pull her leg away, but even her strength was not match for the vice-like grip of the huge Equinian.

“TAKE YOUR HANDS OF ME!!!” The Warrior Vixen barked angrily. Jain never let anyone touch her. She hated being touched. It was inextricably linked to her fear of being- “W-what do you mean ‘fascination’?” Jain said uncertainly, only just registering the Stallion Knight’s words.

He responded by slowly and deliberately pulling her off the leather boot, baring her right foot. His eyes widened with delight. Her sole… It was so smooth, so tender…Maximillian draw his muzzle in closer and snuffled at the vixen’s bare foot, grinning as Jain’s toes splayed as his warm breath caressed them. They were so pink, so PERFECT…

“So much prettier than hooves, don’t you think?” The Stallion Knight said, seemingly entranced. Maximillian’s secret fascination with feet was something which he had only rarely been able to indulge, owing to the hoofed nature of his species. Yet right now, the captivated Stallion Knight had the perfect opportunity to explore his curiosity.

 

Jain was starting to grow VERY nervous indeed. One of her extremely sensitive feet was bared, and in the clutches of an enemy who apparently, had somewhat of an obsession for the appendages. Maximillian snuffled at her foot once more. Jain recoiled as much as she could. Ack! Trying to remain as calm as possible, she spoke.

“L-let go of my foot, Equinian. I don’t know what you want, but-”

Still seemingly captivated by Jain’s squirming foot, the Stallion Knight reached out with his gauntleted free hand and gently brushed the smooth, steel joint guard of one of his index finger down the full length of Jain’s naked sole. The young vixen balked and clamped her jaw shut resolutely. It didn’t tickle, but it was extremely discomforting. “Stop that,” she managed, keeping her voice level as Maximillian continued to stroke at her foot.

The Equinian suddenly stopped and looked up at her, a malevolently inquisitive look on his horse-like face.

“Why…?” He asked simply, starting to smile.

Jain tried to appear as unperturbed as possible.

“J-just don’t,” she replied matter-of-factly. Her blue eyes widened in mortification as her captor flourished his free hand in front of her foot, and raised his index finger. Not only was it protected by linked rings of steel, but it was ended at the tip by a pointed, silver claw, as sharp and deadly as one of her own. She swallowed nervously.

Maximillian Ronar’s smile opened into a devilish grin. Slowly, he lowered the silver claw tip down to the bare sole of Jain Swiftblade’s tender, sensitive, unbearably ticklish foot. In one movement, the Stallion Knight scratched the claw point down the naked sole’s entire length.

Jain’s body convulsed with barely contained mirth. She screwed her eyes shut in desperation. OH GODS! OH GODS! OH GODS! OH GODS! OH GODS! OH GODS!

Maximillian knew perfectly well what his vulpine captive’s reaction meant. His eyes narrowed in cruel contemplation.

“Don’t tell me that a fierce Vixen Warrior such as yourself is TICKLISH?” he crooned with mock incredulity.

Jain, now panicking inwardly, knew that her fate had been sealed. There was no use trying to deny the truth. He knew already. All she could do was appeal to the Equinian as a fellow warrior. Suppressing feelings of shame, the helpless young Warrior Vixen threw her martial pride to the wind.

“Please,” Jain pleaded, the words feeling bitter in her mouth “Don’t tickle me. I beg you. You’ve defeated me. I am no threat to you. Please, don’t humiliate me further. I-I can’t stand being tickled.”

“Can you not?” Maximillian replied with barely suppressed delectation. “Then… my pretty, tender-footed S’Nomian wench, tickling you will be all the more enjoyable for it…”

Jain whimpered as she watched as the Stallion Knight raised the solitary steel claw melodramatically and once more moved it closer to her foot. The anguished young Vixen Warrior shut her eyes, clenched her teeth and waited for the inevitable. Then, it happened.

Maximillian drew the silver claw tip of his index finger down the sensitive light pink sole of Jain’s right foot. He didn’t just stop at one stroke. At the heel, he circled the claw tip around, and dragged it back up her sole, turning again around at the balls of the vixen’s foot. He grinned. Just like chariots around the course at the Circus Equinius.

Three circuits were all Jain Swiftblade could endure.

PAH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! STOPPIT!! STOPPIT!! STOPPIT!!” Jain blurted, laughter streaming from her mouth.

Her Equinian torturer chucked in cruel satisfaction, and increased the speed of the silver claw tip, zigzagging it down Jain’s foot every two circuits. “NONONONONO!!! HEEEEE-HE-HE-HE-HA-HA-HA-HA!!! P-PLEASE!!! STOP TICKLING MEEEEEE-HE-HE-HE!!!”

Jain’s anguished laughter began to edge on hysteria as Maximillian continued to scratch at her foot. On each circuit, he dug the solitary gauntlet-claw slightly deeper into the tender flesh of her arch, driving the Warrior Vixen further into further ticklish torment.

“Tickle, tickle, tickle,” Maximillian taunted, savouring Jain’s laughter like a fine wine. “My, my, you ARE a ticklish little vixen, aren’t you? And such a tender little foot…” In a calculated act of pure, sadistic cruelty, the Stallion Knight splayed all four finger-claws of his gauntlet, and together, dragged their tips down Jain’s naked, vulnerable sole like a rake over soft earth.

“AAAAAAHHHHH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! OH GODS!!! NO-HO-HO-HO-HA-HA-HA-HA!!! PLEASE STOP!!! PLEASE STOP!!! HEEHEEHEEHEEHEE!!!”

Maximillian repeated raking the Vixen Warrior’s foot with his metallic claws, watching with malicious glee as she struggled at her bonds and pleaded for mercy. Tears were beginning to congeal at the corners of Jain’s eyes and her laughter was verging on pure hysteria.

“Not quite so proud now, are you, Jain Swiftblade of the S’Nom?” Maximillian crooned sadistically. “You females should learn your rightful place… under…our…HAND…”

The huge Equinian’s gauntleted hand stopped its raking motions, and instead, its clawed fingers began to skitter and scribble over Jain’s pink, sensitive sole.

“PLEEEEEAAASE!!!” the tortured Vixen Warrior wailed between bouts of tormented laughter, tears now beginning to trickle down her cheeks. “NO MORE!!! NO MORE!!!”

“What was that, little vixen?” the Stallion Knight asked derisively. “You want MORE?”

Jain shook her head emphatically, gasping for breath as her captor eased the tickling slightly.

“NO!!! I’M BEGGING YOU!!! PLE-HE-HE-HE-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!! I CA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!”

“What a shame…” Maximillian said softly, withdrawing his claw, leaving Jain a sobbing, quivering wreck. He laid down her tormented foot, and reached across to his great helm, which was still on the ground next to him where he left it.

Gulping in great lungfuls of air, Jain regained her composure and glared at the armoured Stallion Knight, her gaze exhibiting pure, unadulterated hated. Her piercing blue eyes burned with the fires of vengeance. He’d humiliated her. Touched her. TICKLED her. Jain Swiftblade swore to Fortunata that she’d have her revenge. Then, she noticed what Maximillian’s hands were doing. Her eyes widened in terror. NO!!! The helpless young Vixen Warrior watched in mortification as the Equinian grasped his elaborately plumed great helm, and plucked a long, delicate, fluffy white feather from its crest.

“No…” Jain managed. “Not that…”

The Stallion Knight grinned at her, toothily.

“Did you really think I was going to stop at using my gauntlets, Jain Swiftblade?”

Jain tried to struggle, and could do nothing but whimper as once more, Maximillian Ronar grabbed hold of her bare right foot by the ankle. In his other hand, he moved the fluffy white feather in closer to her naked sole.

“P-Please!” Jain stammered. “Have mercy! I’m begging you!”

“I think not,” the Stallion Knight replied amusedly. “I’ve tickled a few fillies in my lifetime, Vixen… But alas, they didn’t have feet…” he continued almost dreamily. “In any case, I believe that you’ve never really tickled someone… until you’ve used a feather…”

With that, he began to stroke the light, soft plumy feather up and down the helpless vixen’s tender sole.

Jain screwed her eyes shut and set her Jaw. The feather was nothing like the one she had used to tickle-torture the ferret squire with. Unlike the dove’s feather, which she used to tickle one particular area at a time, the one from Maximillian’s plume smothered all of her incredibly sensitive sole. The downy tendrils tickled everywhere: her heel, her arch, the balls of her feet, and especially her squirming toes. It was a light, teasing, maddening tickle, one that she had never experienced before. Her brothers had always used goose feathers on her feet to drive her into hysterical laughter when she was younger. This particular feather, however, made her burst into a fit of uncontrollable, girlish giggles. The incessant tickling was unbearable.

“PLEE-HeHeHeHeHeHeHeHeHe-HEEEEASE!!! STAHAHAHAHAHAP IT!! TEE-HEE-HEE-HEE-HEE-HEE-HEE-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!”

“Tickly feather, isn’t it?” Maximillian crooned, continuing to stroke the instrument up and down Jain’s light pink sole like a slave fanning a Noobian Pharaoh. “You know Jain,” the Equinian soothed in a thoughtful tone, “you’d be wasted in a cage…” He grinned widely. “Yes… You’d become quite an attraction in the town stocks…” Maximillian chuckled sadistically. “The citizens of my fair city wouldn’t pay to merely see you, Warrior Vixen… they’d pay to TICKLE you… I can picture it now… Endless queues of eager, inquisitive children and lusty young males… Feathers in hand… All waiting to make you laugh…”

Contemplation of this fate struck Jain like a two-handed war hammer.

 

All Vixen Warriors believed an afterlife; a wondrous place of incredible natural beauty and serenity presided over by Fortunata, where all true warrioresses’ souls were destined to exist in peace forever. However, the females of the S’Nom also believed in a completely different plain of existence. The Hells.

As part of her warrior training, Jain had been made to learn the Codex Fortunis off by heart, and her mother, Jezail Truestrike, had made her daughter pay particular attention to the chapter on The Hells. Adherents to the creator religion, such as the Remans, believed in an underworld of eternal fiery torment where sinners’ spirits were damned after they had died.

Warrior Vixens of the S’Nom believed that if a warrioress had failed in her life or had dishonoured herself, then on death, she would be cast down into to an everlasting existence of torment in The Hells, the place named after a long forgotten pagan god of suffering. There, she would suffer from her own, greatest, most dreaded fears for all eternity. This nightmarish underworld could take any form, but was presided over by Fortunata’s legendary sister Meliza and her twisted minions.

According to the Codex Fortunis, Meliza had attempted to betray her sister when the then mortal goddess was first establishing the S’Nom, and tried to gain power for herself. The ancient gods, in their wisdom, had revealed Meliza’s plans to her sister in a vision, leaving Fortunata herself to face and defeat Meliza in trial by combat. After her defeat, the gods cast down Meliza into the underworld, where she would be condemned to an eternal half-life, her sole purpose to torture the souls of S’Nomian Vixen Warriors who, like her, had dishonoured both themselves and their clan before death.

During Jain’s training, her vindictive mother had put the fear of The Hells into her. Every single mistake she had made, no matter how minor, was punished; Jezail Truestrike threatening her terrified daughter with the prospect of eternal torment should she fail as a warrioress. Jain still had nightmares about The Hells, ones that her mother had actively fostered within her. Jain Swiftblade’s own, personal Hell, was one of eternal, un-ending, tickling.

Jezail had known her daughter’s darkest secrets; her acute ticklishness, and her mortal fear of being tickled. Jain still remembered one time when she had dropped her sword during practice, and had subsequently spent 2 hours in the thumbscrews. Jezail Truestrike had approached her sobbing pupil, and in low, deadly tones, spoke words that the young Warrior Vixen would never, ever forget.

When you die, and are condemned to The Hells, precious daughter of mine… Meliza won’t use thumbscrews… Your torment, Jain, will come at the strokes of feathers… tickling your body for ever, and ever, and ever…

 

Yet right now, suffering at the hands of Maximillian Ronar, Jain Swiftblade was faced with the prospect of her own Hell on earth; tickled first into madness, and then to death as an Equinian plaything. Once the foot-stocks and the feathers of the citizens of Equinia had done their work, an existence of eternal tickle-torture awaited Jain in the underworld.

She had allowed herself to be tricked, defeated, and humiliated by a mortal enemy of her clan. She had failed as a warrioress. Only one fate awaited her on death. Meliza would have a new plaything in the S’Nomian Hells. 

Jain mustered all her remaining willpower to prevent herself from going insane at the very thought. Still Maximillian tickled, and still, she begged, laughed and pleaded for mercy. The tickling went on for what seemed like hours, until finally, her tormentor stopped.

 

Maximillian lowered the feather from Jain’s tortured foot, and gazed in cruel satisfaction at his gasping, sobbing victim. He’d stripped the Vixen Warrior of her honour, pride, and dignity. The Equinian noble had loved every single minute of it. He watched as Jain raised her head and glared at him, her striking blue eyes burning. Her face-fur was damp with sweat and her cheeks moist with tears.

Jain’s breathing was shallow and laboured, her lungs sore and aching from constant laughter. In broken rasping tones, she spoke in admirable defiance. The Vixen Warrior clearly had some spirit left inside her.

“You’ll pay for this, Equinian… By the gods you’ll pay…”

“Heathen wench,” Maximillian retorted derisively. “There is only one god, the Creator. Then again, I wouldn’t expect a primitive barbarian such as yourself to follow the true religion.”

Jain spat on the ground in contempt. The S’Nomian religion was based on that of the ancient pagan gods of old, and Fortunata; who whilst not credited with creating the universe, was revered as if she had. The Vixen Warriors owed everything to Fortunata and her kin who had first created the S’Nom and their feminist way of life. The ‘Creator’ as non-S’Nomians called their faceless deity was a god to which Jain and her sisters owed nothing.

“Equinian man-scum. Your false god and so-called ‘religion’ is nothing but a pathetic tool of patriarchal oppression.”

The Stallion Knight grinned.

“You females need to be kept in your place. I’d dread living in a society presided over by the weaker sex. At least in Equinia I can do as I please with my female subjects…”

Jain snarled, and her formidable muscles bulged within their rope restraints. WEAKER SEX??? “Impulsive little she-creature aren’t you?” Maximillian continued. “I expect your temper gets you into trouble quite often. Allow me to teach you some manners…”

“I’ll never-“ Jain started, but cut herself off as Maximillian, still clutching her bare right foot in his vice-like grip, raised it up towards his muzzle.

“Such a pretty little foot…” he said softly. The Stallion Knight looked up and gazed straight into Jain’s eyes. “I wonder what it tastes like...” His grin widened as the vixen’s own eyes turned from exerting pure hatred, to mortal terror.

“N-No…” Jain stammered. “You wouldn’t!”

To the helpless young Vixen Warrior’s utter horror, Maximillian stuck out his fat, pink, horse-like tongue, and licked the entire length of her bare, vulnerable sole. She was completely unprepared for the ensuing sensations that assailed her consciousness. Jain Swiftblade had had her feet tickled by feathers, claws, and a myriad of other instruments, but never, ever in her life had they been licked. It was UNBEARABLE. “OH GODS NO!!! NOHOHOHOHOHO!!! STA-HA-HA-HA-HAP!!!” Jain screamed as Maximillian lapped at her naked foot-flesh. “”P-PLEE-HEE-HEE-HEE-HEE-HEEASE!!! NAAAH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! I’LL DO ANYTHING!!! I’LL DO ANYTHING!!!”

Jain tortured laughter at the excruciating tongue tickling was met with anguished realization. Now she knew how the squire felt. The Stallion Knight’s wet, slimy tongue was rough, like a soft-bristled brush. Jain remembered being bathed by her mother when she was a child. Jezail Truestrike always used to pay particular attention when scrubbing her daughter’s feet, which to young Jain, was an unbearable experience. The scrubbing brush coupled with the warm bath water and soapy lather combined to create unendurable tickling. No matter how much she had begged her mother to stop, she was always met with an amused and incredulous response:

What are you laughing at, child? What do you mean this tickles? Don’t be so ridiculous!

Jezail knew perfectly well that her daughter was extremely ticklish, and even then took pleasure in tormenting her.

Right now, in the present, Maximillian Ronar’s incessant licking was making Jain Swiftblade relive those dreaded bath-time foot-scrubbings all over again. The Stallion Knight licked persistently at the Vixen Warrior’s wiggling toes. “STOPPIT!!! STOPPIT!!! NO MORE!!! NO MORE!!!” Jain cried between fits of hysterical laughter. “HEEEE-HEE-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! NOT MY TOES!!! NOT MY TOE-HO-HO-HO-HO-HOES!!!” Once again, the tears streamed freely from Jain’s tightly closed eyes. Within the Vixen Warrior’s tormented mind, she could appreciate that the tongue-tickling in itself, was not as torturous as when Maximillian had used his metallic claws on her bare foot. Yet it was the sheer humiliation of having her foot licked by a mortal enemy, which made this the WORST tickle-torture Jain Swiftblade had ever endured in her entire life.

After what seemed like an eternity, the Equinian stopped. He liked his lips melodramatically.

“You taste most pleasing, Jain… S’Nomian Warrior Vixen is quite an exotic delicacy...”

Jain’s throat was sore, her whole body ached, and her lungs throbbed with overuse. By the time Maximillian laid down her bare, tormented foot onto the ground, his vulpine victim had been utterly stripped of her strength, endurance, pride, dignity, and self-respect. Mustering all her remaining energy, Jain raised her head and glared daggers at her captor.

“How… dare you!” she growled in low, deadly tones. “I’ll have revenge for that Equinian…”

The Stallion knight merely smirked in response.

“I doubt it,” he said plainly. “Now…” Maximillian continued, a jovial edge to his arrogant, mocking voice. “I have an idol to obtain.” He picked up the fluffy feather, originally plucked from the crest of his great helm, and raised it to Jain’s snout. “In the mean time, vixen, I’d like to give you something to think about…”

With that, the Stallion Knight flicked and brushed its fluffy, downy form back and forth over Jain’s wet, black, slightly pointed vulpine nose. The feather hairs tickled the inside of her nostrils, making her sneeze.

The object of this exercise became all too clear when Maximillian withdrew the feather, and Jain was left with an infuriatingly itchy nose. To the vixen Warrior’s despair, she realized that still bound to the tree; she had no way of scratching it and alleviating the maddening irritation. She glared at him.

“You bastard!”

As a final gesture of humiliation, Maximillian grinned toothily, slipped the feather mockingly quill-first into Jain’s cleavage, and patted her mockingly on the head.

“I’ll be back for that later, vixen…”

Jain snarled, gripped the protruding feather between her teeth, pulled it from its resting place, and spat it contemptuously to the ground. The persistent itch from her nose was growing even more excruciating with every passing second. Curling her bottom lip, the increasingly irritated Warrior Vixen attempted to blow on her nose to relieve the torturous irritation. It had absolutely no effect.

Chuckling to himself, Maximillian grabbed his great helm, put it on, stood up, and strode over to his sword and haversack by the temple entrance.

“You can’t leave me here like this!!!” Jain yelled after him. “Scratch my nose, you bastard!!!” Impossibly, the itch worsened. Desperation edged the young vixen’s anguished voice. “Please!!!”

Over by the temple entrance, the Stallion Knight made short work of clearing it of vines and foliage. The black portal beckoning, Maximillian Ronar, turned back towards his captive, and waved tauntingly.

“Farewell, Vixen!” came the metallic voice from inside the Equinian’s visor. “Enjoy yourself! I know I will!”

With that, Maximillian grasped his sword in front of him. He laughed to himself as he descended into the temple’s depths, and darkness consumed him. The last thing the Stallion Knight heard, before silence smothered his senses, was a sharp, enraged female voice, screaming every swear and curse word under the sun.

 

Jain had tried everything, even meditation, but nothing could distract her mind from the maddening, tickling itch tormenting her sensitive nose. She sobbed inwardly. It had been well over an hour since Maximillian Ronar had entered the temple and had left the tightly restrained Warrior Vixen to her own devices. She snarled in frustration. She was utterly helpless. All Jain could do was hope that on his return the Stallion Knight would put her out of her misery.

Then, as if on queue, Maximillian Ronar came charging out of the temple entrance, a glittering object held tightly under one arm. Jain gasped. His armour was blackened, battered, and in places had dozens of little stick-like needles protruding from it, making him look like a strange, half-plucked metallic hedgehog.

The huge Equinian threw down his Flamberge onto the ground, and beginning to laugh in deep, hollow tones, help up what could only have been the idol in both hands. Triumphantly, Maximillian turned towards Jain, and stroke over to where she sat.

 

“See this, Vixen?” he asked, his voice laced with arrogant pride. “The prize! Gaze on it, S’Nomian wench! I, Maximillian Ronar, am victorious!”

Jain examined the glittering golden idol that had been thrust in her face. It comprised of two, intertwined figures, performing an act that made the young Warrior Vixen glad she was celibate. She recoiled in disgust and embarrassment.

The Equinian chuckled at her reaction laid the idol down on the ground, and removed his great helm. “Isn’t exactly attractive is it? Either way, its appearance is of no consequence, my King is prepared to pay handsomely for it.” He turned the treasure over in his gauntleted hands before glaring at Jain derisively. “Spike pits, poisoned dart launchers, not to mention a very large rolling stone boulder? I very much doubt you could have succeeded in there.”

Jain growled.

“Arrogant cur! You know nothing of what I am capable of!”

“I know you’re capable of really quite adorable laughter,” Maximillian quipped in response.

Jain flushed underneath her fur. She suppressed a growl and once more swallowed her pride. Her nose still itched like Hells.

“Could you… scratch my nose…please?” she murmured in low, humiliated tones.

The huge Equinian crouched before her, grinned amusedly.

“Ah yes, that! I hope you have learnt your lesson?”

Jain looked Maximillian Ronar straight in the eye. He was arrogant, and was confident in victory. Maybe she could exploit it. She bowed her head in well-acted shame like a naughty child who had just been chastised.

“I have,” she muttered quietly.

Still grinning, the Stallion Knight raised Jain’s chin with one hand, and gently rubbed her tingling nose with the thumb of the other. Jain couldn’t help but sigh with relief.

“Oh gods, yes…” the Warrior Vixen sighed gratefully.

Maximillian chuckled disdainfully.

“Pathetic little she-creature. You’d better pray to your heathen gods that the Equinian crowd will treat you half as well as I have…”

The massive armoured Stallion Knight picked up is great helm and the idol, stood, and marched back to where his haversack lay.

 

Jain’s mind raced. Think, vixen, think! She looked around desperately, but her situation was helpless. She clenched her fists in frustration. What the…? Her eyes widened in revelation as her finger claws brushed against the leather of her utility belt. YES!!! She grasped and felt at the pouches within reach of her hands and opened them, fingering their contents experimentally. Cinnamon bark, healing salve, Reman coinage, stun darts… STUN DARTS!!! Jain’s elation at finding a weapon within her reach was tempered by the realization that her blowpipe was ensconced safely in a pouch underneath the small of her back, and was completely out of reach. The young Warrior Vixen cursed inwardly. Without it, the stun darts were next to use- A devious thought formed in Jain sharp vulpine mind.

It was a million-to-one shot… But it might just work…

Jain glanced up at Maximillian Ronar, who still had his back turned to her, and was seeing to his equipment on the other side of the temple glade. Reaching into the dart pouch, she pulled out of the small, thin brass missiles, and gripped it gently between fore claw and thumb. Okay…One… Two… THREE! In an impeccably timed flick of the wrist, Jain tossed the dart up in the air in front of her, in a perfect arc, and caught it deftly in her front teeth. She suppressed a small grunt of triumph. Carefully, and gently, Jain maneuvered the dart with her tongue into her left cheek, being extremely wary not to swallow the missile or impale its thin, needle-like spike into the flesh of her mouth. After a few seconds of tentative positioning, she succeeded. Jain smiled, despite the gamble she was about to attempt. Well... the Vixen Warrior thought to herself. Here goes nothing…

 

Maximillian tucked the idol securely in the confines of the haversack, closed its cover and buckled up the straps. The Equinian noble’s heart was swollen with pride and self-aggrandizement. He imagined kneeling before his liege in the Royal Palace back in Equinia, being bestowed with multiple honours, and receiving even more rightly-deserved praise and admiration from his stallion-kin.

Just then, his thoughts were interrupted by a familiar female voice calling to him from across the glade. He raised an eyebrow and turned slowly to face her.

“Sir Maximillian…” Jain crooned softly to the Stallion knight, her voice laced with vulnerability. “I-I’d like to talk to you…”

The Equinian grunted and got up. Women should be seen and not heard.

“What is it, wench?” Maximillian growled as he strode towards her. “It had better be good.” His manner turned from one of annoyance, to surprise and intrigue as he saw the way his vulpine captive was looking at him.

 

Jain cocked her head to one side and softened her usually hard, ice-cold cobalt-blue eyes. She had been 13 when she’d last flirted with a male. It seemed like an age ago. Jain hoped her lack of practice wouldn’t let her down now as it had then. She sobbed pathetically at Maximillian as he knelt down in front of her, an expression of suspicion and inquisitiveness on his horse-like face.

After becoming a warrioress, Jain had never given any thought to how attractive she was; beauty wasn’t something she considered to be an important trait. She had rejected males and become chaste; and as a consequence, she had never put her physical attributes to use. The very thought of doing so was demeaning and un-S’Nomian. Jain’s father had always said she was pretty when she was little, and a few, drunken, lecherous males had said the same thing when trying their luck in the bars and pubs she had visited on her travels. Jain hoped that they were right.

“Please, Sir Maximillian,” she moaned pitifully, letting tears well up in her eyes. “Have mercy on me… Don’t condemn me to a life of torment in Equinia…”

The Stallion Knight’s brow furrowed skeptically. He had genuinely been looking forward to seeing the insolent Warrior Vixen suffer in the town stocks.

“Why should I?” he growled.

Jain narrowed her eyes alluringly, and edged her mouth into a shy, embarrassed smirk. Her heart was pounding and her mind raced; yet logic guided the vixen’s actions. She had never considered herself beautiful, but she knew how males thought, and appreciated that in one respect, she had been physically blessed.

“Am I not pleasing to look at, Equinian?” Jain crooned softly. Breathing in slowly and deeply, she stuck out her ample chest towards Maximillian to emphasize her point. “Do I not have…attributes you could grow to like?”

Maximillian raised an eyebrow as his eyes fixed in Jain’s cleavage.

“You are quite comely, for a vixen, Jain Swiftblade,” he growled, lustily. Looking up, he reached over and stroked her wounded left cheek with a gauntleted hand. “Although your beauty has beauty has been spoilt. I have no desire to court with… damaged goods.”

It took Jain every ounce of self-control to contain her rage, and maintain her vulnerable, weakened facade.

“I-understand…” she stammered, looking down as if in shame. Rallying, Jain raised her gaze and looked the Stallion Knight in his cold, cruel, arrogant eyes. “But could you imagine how I used to look?”

“Indeed I could,” Maximillian retorted. “But tell me vixen, why the sudden change of heart? Am I not a despised “masculine enemy” of your clan?”

The young Warrior Vixen, blinking to let tears run down her cheeks, spoke softly.

“Life has not been kind to me,” she muttered pitifully. “I…have had few pleasures in my time on earth. I-I have never kissed a male before…” The truth of her words, whilst inconsequential, made them sound all the more genuine. She gazed at Maximillian alluringly. “I would like that to change. Will you kiss me and take me as your mistress?”

Maximillian Ronar sneered in contempt.

“You really are a pathetic little creature, aren’t you?” His grimace then turned into a smirk of contemplation. Taking the Warrior Vixen as a mistress or slave, whilst appealing, was impractical. Besides, he had a feudal obligation to raise a son, and a marriage with a noble fille had already been arranged. He would consider saving her from the stocks and the torments of the mob when he returned. There was plenty of room in the dungeons of the Royal Palace. Yes, Jain Swiftblade would make a good pet… “Mistress?” he crowed scornfully. “I’m afraid not, Jain, despite your voluptuousness and delectable little feet…” Maximillian growled at her lustily. “I will, however, take your offer of a kiss…” He leaned forward and drew in his big, pink, horse like muzzle in towards Jain’s snout. At the same time, he reached out with his hands to grope his helpless captive, giving in to his base desires. Maximillian grinned. His victory would be complete. How many other Stallion Knights could claim to have kissed a S’Nomian Warrior Vixen after reducing her to a pitiful wreck? He’d have another thing to boast of on his return…

Jain watched as the Equinian’s muzzle grew closer. She could smell his breath. Trying desperately not to recoil in revulsion, the Vixen Warrior gently pursed her lips and made to close her eyes. Maximillian did the same. It was now or never. “I shall savour this moment, Vixen…” the Stallion Knight murmured, his mouth now inches from Jain’s.

“Me too, man-scum…” Jain replied evenly.

Before Maximillian could react, Jain tongued the stun dart ensconced in her cheek into the front of her mouth, and bit its brass body, point facing outwards between her front teeth. With incredible speed and force, the Warrior Vixen plunged the point of the dart into the soft flesh of the Equinian’s snout.

Maximillian, roaring in pain and surprise, fell back in alarm, pawing clumsily at his muzzle. “KISS THAT, YOU BASTARD!!!” Jain yelled in triumph as the Stallion Knight tore the stun dart out of his flesh. The delivery of the sedative would have been instantaneous. She could only hope that it took effect as quickly as Leo Vegeta had claimed.

“TREACHEROUS S’NOMIAN SHE-DEVIL!!!” Maximillian screamed, struggling to get up onto his hooves. His face a mask of pure rage, he stumbled back towards Jain, one arm outstretched, the other hand clutching at his head. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME???”

Jain watched as the massive armoured Equinian staggered, and dropped to one knee, clutching at his head with both hands now.

“You stupid fool…” Jain crowed, mockingly. “Do you really think I would have submitted myself to you?”

Maximillian reached out towards her neck, his movements appearing laboured and requiring every ounce of strength and concentration

“I… I’ll k-kill you!” he grunted, his speech becoming slurred.

“I think not…” Jain growled, kicking out at his chest with one of her feet, sending the Equinian sprawling on his back.

The Stallion Knight strained to get up, but his arms were like lead, and his head was swimming.

“I’ll…kill…you…” His voice tailed off. Maximillian felt his eyelids fall shut, his vision turn to darkness and his head slump to the soft ground. Finally, black, impenetrable unconsciousness consumed him.

Jain’s heart was pounding and her breathing desperate. She tried to calm herself down. She had succeeded. Her plan had worked. The Vixen Warrior scanned Maximillian’s sedated form for anything she could use. She couldn’t help but laugh triumphantly as her eyes fell on an ornate dagger, still in its scabbard, attached to the Stallion Knight’s belt.

Reaching out with her bare right foot, Jain clamped her toes around the jeweled pommel of the weapon, and carefully, pulled it from its sheath. Come to Jain…Exploiting her amazingly dexterous body, Jain, the dagger clenched firmly between her toes, hooked her leg, and dropped it right next to her left hand. She grinned.

It took under a minute for Jain Swiftblade to cut herself free. Tentatively, the young Vixen Warrior stood up, and rubbed her aching joints and muscles. She looked down at the unconscious form of Maximillian Ronar, and back at the lengths of rope still half-wrapped around the oak tree to which she formerly had been bound. Anger turned to contemplation, and the formation on an idea. Jain grinned wickedly. Three main principles guided the martial ethos of the Warrior Vixens of the S’Nom: Victory, Honour, and Revenge. 

 

Jain’s biceps bulged and her leg muscles quivered and rippled as she strained on the rope. It required ever ounce of the Vixen Warrior’s strength to haul the bound, unconscious bulk of Maximillian Ronar upwards into a vertical position; even without his breastplate, armguards, and chain mail undershirt. With a final tug, Jain had achieved her goal, and the massive Equinian, hanging from the rope tried around his wrists was suspended vertically from the lowest branch of the strong oak tree to which the vixen had previously been bound. Maintaining her grip, Jain walked the remaining length of the rope around the tree’s base several times, and tied it to the ground using the hilt of Maximillian’s Flamberge as an ironically makeshift peg.

Jain stood back and admired her handiwork. The Equinian noble was stripped to the waist, and by looking at his muscular, milky white torso; Jain could appreciate why the strength of the Stallion Knights as shock troops was widely feared. She raised an eyebrow. He really was quite magnificent in a brutish, masculine sort of way… Jain smirked derisively. She had been taught about the weaknesses and the inherent inferiority of the male form compared to her own, perfect feminine body.

Now…She would put theory into practice…

 

Gradually, Maximillian awoke, groaning as he did so. Thoughts coursed though his addled brain.

Curse that vixen!!! She’s trickled him like…like a common fool!!! She would pay…by the Creator that S’Nomian harlot would regret this!!! She- He opened his eyes and began to focus. She was standing right in front of him.

“Ahh, so nice of you to join us, Maximillian,” Jain growled mockingly at her captive, standing triumphantly with her hands behind her back.

The helpless Equinian growled, looked up and tugged at the ropes around his wrists. He tried to kick out. His hooves were tied as well. He didn’t know why the vixen had taken off his torso armour, but it didn’t bode well for the Stallion Knight. He was angry, embarrassed, fearful, and humiliated all at once.

“Let me go, vixen!” he hissed, trying to mask his apprehension. Maximillian had never been in a scenario such as this before. Apprehension turned to growing fear as he remembered how he’d treated Jain when she had been in the same situation. He privately dreaded what the she-barbarian was thinking, what she was going to do with him.

Jain smirked.

“I’m afraid not,” she responded flatly, a mischievous smirk playing across her lips that made Maximillian balk with worry. “I have such delights in store for you, my big, strong Equinian…”

The Stallion Knight gulped.

“W-what are you going to do to me?” he managed, trying to make his voice sound defiant.

Jain rolled her striking blue eyes skyward in an exaggerated gesture of contemplation for she spoke. Her voice however, was sharp and deadly. Jain’s eyes returned to glare at her captive. There was an almost unhinged look of barely-repressed maliciousness on her beautiful vulpine face.

“Well, considering you deceived me, bound me, violated my body, and tickle tortured me half to death, I’ve decided to take my revenge.”

Maximillian struggled fruitlessly at his rope bonds, his muscles straining and flexing to no avail. He dreaded what torments the Warrior Vixen had in store for him. Visions of the worst techniques of the Reman Inquisition flashed before his eyes. She could do anything she wanted with him.

“Please, Jain!” he blurted. “We can be reasonable about this! We’re both warriors, are we not?”

The Vixen Warrior laughed bitterly.

“I’ve heard that said somewhere before…”

“No! I can pay you! Just don’t kill me!” Maximillian begged, abandoning all of his pride and dignity in favour of self-preservation

Jain grinned toothily.

“Oh, I’m not going to kill, you, Equinian… Or hurt you either…” she cooed softly.

Maximillian couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief.

“Thank you! I knew we could settle our differences like civilized individuals” he laughed. “So Vixen, what do want? Gold? Land? Men?” He raised an eyebrow “…Women?”

Jain’s grin disappeared.

“Arrogant man-scum! You think the honour of a S’Nomian can be bought?”

The Stallion Knight panicked.

“B-but I thought you said you weren’t going to harm me!”

To Maximillian’s unease, Jain’s grin returned just as quickly as it had faded.

“You’re right,” Jain trilled. “I’m going to tickle you.”

At first, the words didn’t register with the helpless Equinian noble.

“W-what?”

He watched in horror as Jain Swiftblade’s face turned into a mask of pure, unadulterated EVIL.

“I’m going to tickle you, Maximillian, just as you tickled me. I’m going to make you BEG for mercy, and PLEAD for me to release you. You’ll PRAY to your false god to put you out of your misery.”

Jain drew her hands from behind her back, revealing that held delicately in each one, was a long, pointed swan’s feather, taken front the crest of Maximillian’s great helm. Her grin widened. “You feel vulnerable now, Equinian? By the gods, I haven’t even started with you yet!”

Maximillian looked at the two feathers as if they were akin to red-hot pokers or an equally unpleasant pair of torture implements.

“You-you can’t tickle me!” He stammered desperately. “I’m a Stallion Knight!!!”

“You…” Jain said as she started to walk slowly towards her struggling captive, “are a testament to everything that is wrong with the world…” She raised the feathers up to the Equinian’s pectoral muscles. “You tortured and humiliated me. Now, I’m going to make you SUFFER.” The Vixen Warrior grinned menacingly. “Tell me, Maximillian… Are you ticklish?”

 

Maximillian whimpered. Back in Equinia he had always indulged himself by pouncing on helpless servant girls and hauling them away to his bedchamber, where tickling had often featured in his ensuing antics. Once, a fille had been bold enough to tickle him back, and Maximillian knew immediately how ticklish he was. He’d felt angry and embarrassed at being temporarily stripped of his dignity by a female as she tickled his ribs, and had her dismissed as a result. That had been two years ago, but he had never managed to erase the memory, or the tickling sensations from his mind. It had been unbearable.

 

“N-no,” he quavered.

Jain grinned from ear to ear.

“Let’s see shall we?” Yes… Jain thought devilishly. The nipples first, I think…Jain gazed into Maximillian’s panic-stricken eyes as she gently flicked the feather tips back and forth across them. “Tickle, tickle, tickle…” She crooned gently.

Maximillian set his jaw in determination and suppressed the desire to laugh. Jain raised an eyebrow in response as she continued to tickle and tease the Stallion Knight’s nipples. “Come now, Maximillian…” The Vixen Warrior chided. “You can do better than that! Kitchy, kitchy, coo…”

The Equinian screwed his eyes shut, in desperate defiance. Jain coked her head to one side and smirked. “Very well,” she said, withdrawing the feathers, “perhaps somewhere else?”

Maximillian opened his eyes watched his tormentor twirl the feathers thoughtfully between fore claw and thumb. The nipple-tickling he could just about tolerate, but he had no idea about the rest of his vulnerable upper-body.

“Release me now, Jain,” he said forcefully. “I’m clearly not ticklish, this is a pointless exercise!”

Jain grinned impishly in response.

“You think that was it? I but I have so much yet to explore!” She cried melodramatically. She lowered the two feathers slowly down to Maximillian’s muscular stomach. “I’ve yet to see if the mighty Stallion Knights have ticklish tummies!”

“No! We don’t!” The Equinian exclaimed, despite himself.

“We’ll just have to so then, won’t we?” Jain cooed.

Gently, starting at the outside edge of his abdomen and working inwards, the vixen slowly stroked the feather tips up and down Maximillian’s bare, milky-white stomach. She watching in satisfaction as his abdominal muscles quivered in response.

Once more, the helpless Equinian clamped his mouth firmly shut, closed his eyes, and tried to ignore the tormenting tickling sensations skirting up and down his belly. He’d never had his stomach tickled before in his life. It was horrible. Maximillian’s body started to shake and convulse with barely controlled mirth as he tried to will the gentle, tickling feather-strokes away. After what seemed like an eternity, the Stallion Knight’s endurance finally collapsed.

“Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!” He blurted. “Stop it! Stop it! No-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho!! No more! No More!”

Jain’s eyes gleamed and she grinned with satisfaction as she continued to tickle the feather-tips on Maximillian’s belly, now stroking them around in circular patterns on either side of his navel.

“You DO have a ticklish tummy!” She exclaimed, as if teasing a child.

“Yeh-heh-heh-heh-heh-hess!!!” The Equinian laughed. “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!! So please, just stoppit!!! Stop tickling!!!”

His tormentor’s eyes widened with mock incredulity.

“But I thought all boys liked to have their tummies tickled!” Jain crooned, stroking the feathers horizontally back and forth across Maximillian’s belly. “Tickle, tickle, tickle!”

“Nooooooooo! Please stop! I can’t stand it!!!” The Equinian begged between sporadic laughter.

Jain beamed maliciously as the next stage of her revenge formed in her mind.

“You can’t stand having your tummy tickled, Maxy-waxy?” She sung condescendingly. Lifting the feathers away from his stomach, she moved them around to their new targets. “Then maybe I should tickle your sidey-wideys!”

The Stallion Knight’s eyes snapped open in horror.

“NO! By the Creator, not there!!!” He begged desperately. “Not that!!!”

“Cootchy, cootchy, coo!!!” Was Jain’s gleeful reply as she stroked the delicate feather tips up and down Maximillian’s sides from bottom rib to hip.

Maximillian Ronar exploded with laughter.

“NAH-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!! STOPPIT! STOPPIT! NOT THERE! NOT THERE! NO-HO-HO-HO-HO-HO-HO!!!”

Jain Swiftblade grinned maliciously from ear to ear as she slowly, relentlessly tickled the Equinian’s bare, vulnerable sides. The Warrior Vixen savoured Maximillian’s desperate, tormented laughter. She had tickled males before, but never an adversary such as this. Listening to a fully-grown Stallion Knight beg and plead for mercy under her incessant feather-strokes was intoxicating; even more so considering what he’d put her through a mere hour ago. The gratification of not only torturing her enemy, but indulging her secret obsession with tickling was immense.

She reveled in the effects the light, delicate feathers were having on Maximillian’s helpless body.

A big, strong, proud, powerful Stallion Knight brought down by something as simple as tickling? Jain grinned toothily and narrowed her piercing blue eyes in determination. Wonderful!

“Tickles, doesn’t it?” The Vixen Warrior growled with cruel delectation. “Who’d have thought someone like you would be so ticklish?” Jain said coyly as she began to zigzag the feather tips up and down Maximillian’s flesh.

“PLEEEEEAAAASE!!!” The tormented Equinian yelled. “STA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HAP TICKLING MEEEE!!!”

“I think not…” Jain replied flatly. “I’ve only just started with you, my great, masculine brute.” She gazed up at his enticingly vulnerable armpits.

Through tear-filled eyes, the tortured Stallion Knight saw exactly where his tormentor was looking.

“OH NO!!! BY THE CREATOR, NO!!!” He cried in mortification.

“Sweet spots are they, Maxy?” Jain trilled, and she extended her claws upwards towards his underarms and the feathers with them. The prospect of tickling the Stallion Knights armpits was the primary reason why Jain had restrained him is such a manner. The young Warrior Vixen’s heart pounded with malevolent anticipation as she moved the feather tips closer.

Jain knew that underarm tickling was a favoured non-harmful torture technique of many feudal regimes, used especially on captured Knights and princesses in order to extract information, or merely for entertainment whilst ransom was being arranged. Jain remembered hearing about poor Princess Lyra from the bankrupt kingdom Sha’Lin, who had been abducted by a contingent of Gallan Knights. The King of Sha’Lin was unable to pay his daughter’s ransom, and thusly, Princess Lyra spent almost 2 years in captivity being routinely tickled by visiting Gallan nobility. The Baron who led her capture had a special rack constructed for her, and apparently, Lyra became quite popular at banquets, where feathers and other tickling instruments were provided for the guests.

 From Maximillian’s reaction, this was evidently his first time under the feather.

“P-Please!” The Equinian begged. “No more! Don’t tickle me there! I’ll do anything!!! HAVE MERCY!!!”

Jain Swiftblade’s beautiful vulpine face was a mask of almost demonic malevolence.

“BARBARIANS don’t know the meaning of the word, Stallion Knight…” Jain growled maliciously, baring her perfect white teeth. “Now…” She cried gleefully, moving the doves’ feathers into position. “Kitchy, kitchy, coo!!!”

Maximillian balked as the feather tips made contact with his acutely ticklish armpits, and began to remorselessly stroke them in a torturous, unremitting circular motion. He couldn’t even resist for a second.

“AAAAHHHH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! STOPPIT!!! STOPPIT!!! STOPPIT!!! PLEA-HEE-HEE-HEE-HEEASE!!! NO MORE!!! NO MORE!!! NO-HO-HO-HO-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!”

“Gitchy, gitchy, gitchy…” Jain sang mockingly, as she alternated between stroking the feather tips up and down Maximillian’s underarms, and spiraling them at various speeds. “My, my, you do have ticklish pits, don’t you boy?” The Vixen Warrior crowed, grinning expansively. By the gods, she was enjoying this…

The Stallion Knight roared, bellowed, neighed and whinnied with tormented laughter. The maddening sensations of the delicately pointed feathers tickling Maximillian’s lightly-haired armpits were nothing short of torture.

“BY THE CREATOR, STOP!!! STA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!! I BEG YOU!!! I BEG YOU!!!”

Tears of anguished mirth were now trickling freely down the Equinian’s cheeks. His huge, perfectly muscled body shook and convulsed with laughter as he struggled vainly against his bonds. Jain Swiftblade began to with cruel delight at her victim’s suffering, her cobalt blue eyes lit with the fires of revenge.

“Aww, poor baby…” The vixen crooned. “Are you too ticklish?”

“YEEESSSS!!!” Maximillian cried.

“Gooood,” Jain trilled with unbridled delectation. Yes… The time was most definitely right…She began to jab and poke the tips of the feathers into his armpits, causing her victim to guffaw loudly.

“MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! OH NO!!! OH NO!!” The Stallion Knight blurted.

“Now Maximillian,” Jain soothed gently, her sharp voice dripping with gleeful cruelty. “Time to tickle your RIBS.”

With dexterous, flicks of her wrists, Jain stroked the two doves’ feathers edge-on down the Equinian’s muscular ribs. His reaction was instantaneous.

“BWAAA-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! NOOOO!!! NOT THAT!!! NOT THA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!! STOOOP!!! PLEEEEAAASE!!! I CA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HANT TAKE IT ANYMORE!!! AHA-AHA-HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! NO MOOOOORE!!!”

Privately, Maximillian had always been afraid of being captured and tortured. He knew that tickling was often used as a method of interrogation or merely sadistic cruelty, but he had always dismissed it. He’d been right not to dwell on the prospect. The sheer excruciating torment of the merciless tickling Jain Swiftblade was subjecting him to, was beyond horrible. Beyond endurance. The Stallion Knight felt as if he was gradually being driven insane… Slowly being tickled to death.

 

Jain was having the time of her life. Maximillian had become her plaything, her tickle-toy; finding new ways to make him laugh and beg her to stop tickling had become a game.

The young Vixen Warrior continued to gently stroke, tease, and tickle the Stallion Knight’s ribs with the two feathers. She stroked the pointed, delicate tips of the instruments horizontally, vertically, zigzagged them, spiraled, and snaked them over his ribs. She’d even drawn patterns and “written” words on her victim’s unbearably sensitive flesh. The vixen grinned sadistically. “Help me!” had been a favorite… Jain had become somewhat of an expert at tickling. She’d tickled Maximillian just enough to drive him into hysteria, but not enough to push him in unconsciousness. She also paused occasionally, allowing her victim to breathe and catch his breath before once more embarking on another remorseless tickling spree.

By the time Jain allowed her victim to rest once more, she could sense day beginning to turn into dusk. Night was a few more hours away at most. The Vixen Warrior withdrew the feathers, stood back and admired her handiwork. Sir Maximillian Ronar was a shadow of his former proud, arrogant, dignified self.

“Had enough, man-scum?” Jain growled, smirking triumphantly.

“P-Please,” the Equinian muttered, his voice broken and his head hung through exhaustion. “No more, I’m begging you… Please don’t tickle me anymore!”

Jain’s brow furrowed as she sneered in contempt. She almost felt pity for him. Almost.

“Doesn’t feel nice to be the victim, does it Equinian?” She scoffed. “I know what you are. You’re a coward and bully. Not only that, but you have no honour.”

Maximillian raised his head and managed a snarl of defiance. Evidently he had at least some of his pride and self respect left.

“I have honour, S’Nomian,” the Stallion Knight spat. “I just don’t think you’re worthy of its reception.”

“Such an arrogant male,” Jain muttered bitterly. Then, she smiled maliciously. “But such a ticklish one at that… It’s a shame I’ll have to leave soon…”

Maximillian reddened with embarrassment underneath his milky-white coat.

“You can’t leave me here to die,” he growled. “I know that you have more honour than that.”

Jain growled. The Stallion Knight had not only scarred, dishonoured and ritually humiliated her, but threatened her with a life of tickle-torture in Equinia. The ruthless warrioress in her wanted to leave Maximillian here to rot. The other half, the vixen who had been brought up to respect, honour, and adhere to her principles made her believe that she couldn’t sink to his level.

“You’re right.” Jain responded evenly. “I’ll let you go, if only to prove your arrogant misconceptions of my people wrong.”

The bound and helpless Equinian suppressed a sigh of relief. “Oh, I’m not finished with you yet, Maximillian”, Jain growled ominously. “For how you treated me, I’ll make sure that you’ll never raise your sword in the service of your King again.”

The Stallion Knight glared at her, an expression of puzzlement crossing his face as he watched Jain drop the two feathers, which drifted to the ground. Puzzlement turned to worry as the Warrior Vixen stepped deliberately back towards him.

“W-what…” He began, but was silenced as Jain raised a solitary claw to his lips.

“Just one last thing, Maximillian…” She cooed softly. “I remember someone saying that you’ve never really tickled someone, until you’ve used a feather…” Slowly, the Vixen Warrior drew her own body close in towards his. Jain smirked as she thought of what a lust-driven Shan Redclaw would have done in this situation. Maximillian certainly was a physically impressive specimen of masculinity, but Jain had long since suppressed such desires. There was only one thing on her mind, and it certainly wasn’t ravishment.

The Stallion Knight recalled the words as his own and started to feel very worried indeed.

“I don’t understand…” He managed, trying not to sound perturbed.

Jain smiled devilishly.

“Well, Maxy…” She purred. “I don’t believe you’ve truly tickled someone until you’ve used your CLAWS.”

Maximillian Ronar’s face transformed into a mask of sheer, unadulterated terror.

“N-No!!! You wouldn’t!!!”

“Oh yes I would…” Jain replied sweetly, flexing her claws and raising them up to the Stallion Knight’s upper body. “Itchy, kitchy coo…” She crooned as her claw tips began their scratching, scribbling dance over Maximillian’s bare, vulnerable torso. To the Warrior Vixen herself, the Stallion Knight’s reaction was even more satisfying as before.

Jain sighed inwardly as her skittering, scribbling claw tips tickled all the areas the feathers had previously and more. It really was a pity she had to leave him at some point… She drew her head in closer and placed an ear to Equinian’s broad, muscular chest and listed to his heart beat at an impossibly fast rate as she tickled his armpits. She smiled with satisfaction as she listened to it quicken even further as she moved her nimble claws down to his ribs; Maximillian’s hysterical, tormented laughter forming a comfortable background noise. Jain drew back and began to tickle the Stallion Knight’s nipples as she gazed up at the sky.

Yes… It would be Night soon. The vixen’s plans for the immediate future formed in her mind and organized themselves like a well-ordered armoury. She’d do what had to be done, but first, there was this…Now where was she? Oh yes, tickle, tickle, tickle…

 

Shan Redclaw prodded the base of the roaring fire she had built outside of the abandoned barn with a stick and sighed. It had been hours since she and Ravenna Whitefire hand returned from their fruitless searches. Using rudimentary deductive skills, Shan could only assume that Jain had found the Stallion Knight and confronted him. The battle-scarred veteran Warrior Vixen had no idea of the threat the Equinian posed, of whether Jain had been able to enter the temple (if she had indeed found it) and acquire the idol, but she was beginning to worry. Surely it shouldn’t have taken her this long?

She looked up and over at Ravenna who was busy plucking the legs off a large spider she had found, humming contentedly to herself. Then, a sound off behind them into the woods caused their ears to prick. Both Warrior Vixens had seized their weapons and were on their feet in a flash, ready to face this possible new threat. Shan began to swing the shaft of her morning star so that the spiked ball on its chain reached optimum striking speed. Her ears strained. It sounded like… Clattering metal… Like sack full of saucepans…After a few minutes, Jain Swiftblade, dragging a bulging haversack behind her, emerged from the tree line. Shan couldn’t help but grin with joy, as she ceased twirling her weapon and strode up to and embraced her battle-sister.

Jain was quite taken aback by this strong show of affection, and tentatively hugged her back. She smiled. Shan was a passionate creature, and Jain was proud to call her a friend.

“Well met, sister!” Shan growled happily as she stood back away from her compatriot. “So!” She continued eagerly. “What happened? Did you find Ronar? Did you get the idol?”

Jain grinned and told her two battle sisters of what had happened, utilizing a bit of dramatic license and omitting a few embarrassing details. By the end of her story, the young Warrior Vixen had told Shan and Ravenna of how she’s encountered Maximillian Ronar after he’d retrieved the idol from the temple, invoked trial by combat, and won the prize by defeating him.

“…and here,” Jain said, pulling out the glittering golden idol from the haversack, “it is!”

“Ewwww!!!” Ravenna exclaimed, wrinkling her snout in amused disgust.

“Certainly is interesting…” Shan muttered, raising an eyebrow. Her expression changed as she noticed the wound on Jain’s cheek. She reached out and touched it gently with her right fore claw. “Looks nasty…” The veteran warrioress said in a concerned tone. Shan had always felt an obligation to look after Jain, whether her younger compatriot knew it or not. In her own way, Shan saw Jain as the younger sister she'd never had, and had come to love her like one.

“It’s nothing,” Jain muttered, trying to mask the bitterness in her voice. “Anyway,” she said, changing her tone and grinning wickedly. “Is our little guest still tied up safely in the barn?”

“Snug as a bug in a rug!” Ravenna chimed in, grinning inanely.

“Good,” Jain trilled. “I’d better release him. He has his master to attend to…”

 

The ferret squire struggled once more against his bonds as he heard voices start to converse outside. Clearly the third vixen, his torturer, had returned, whether with or without the idol he was uncertain of. Intrigue gave way to panic as he envisioned what his master might do to him if the S’Nomian had indeed succeeded in retrieving the idol. After a minute or two, all three entered the barn. Nutter, Big Boobs and Scarface… he thought bitterly to himself. Giving his three captors names was one of the many ways he’d had to amuse himself whilst tied to the tethering post after the honey had been completely licked from his feet by his own horse.

Jain approached the squire, falchion in hand, and cut though his restraints.

“Come on, stand up then!” Jain growled.

Silently, the young ferret obeyed, eying the other two S’Nomians nervously. “Outside,” Jain ordered. “Now.”

Feeling really very afraid now, the squire turned and looked at her nervously.

“What are you g-going to-” He began.

Jain rolled her eyes and sighed.

“I’m not going to hurt you, you stupid boy…” She said testily. “Just get outside,” Jain repeated, pointing with her sword.

Obediently, the ferret walked, albeit painfully outside, ignoring the aching protests from his joints. “Now,” Jain said amusedly, signaling with a sweep of her arm. “Your master, as you so kindly told me earlier, is north west of here.” I suggest you go and find him, he’s in a bit of a pickle at the moment.”

The young squire gazed the one he’d dubbed “Big Boobs”, incredulously.

“But it’s almost night! It’ll be pitch-sodding-black in half an hour!”

“Well…” Jain said grinning, and leaning in close towards him. “You’d better get off and find him then, eh, laddo?”

Hesitantly, the ferret gazed off into the gloomy forest and took a couple of steps forward.

Jain grinned wickedly at her sisters, before turning and smacking the young squire on the rump with the flat of her sword, causing him to yelp and run off into the forest as fast as his legs could carry him.

“Another problem solved,” Shan chuckled. “Do you think the boy will find him?”

“Of course,” Jain said, smirking. “I left the bastard tied up, but told him to cry out every minute or so. They’ll be reunited eventually…”

Shan Redclaw laughed heartily and clapped Jain hard on the back. “Diligent as always, sister!” Her eyes drifted down questioningly to the still bulging haversack Jain had brought with her out of the forest, the one that had made all the noise. “One last thing, sister…” The battle-worn warrioress asked suspiciously. “What’s in the sack?”

Jain Swiftblade grinned from ear to ear in response, reached into the bag, and produced a dented, but finely crafted long-nosed Equinian great helm.

“Anyone know of an all-night pawn merchant who’ll buy a full set of plate armour?”

 

Sogg Gurloes, the Landlord of the Ploughshare Inn cleaned out his forth tankard of the night and placed it onto one of the hooks above the barrels behind him. The aging badger sighed. It had been yet another slow night in a slow week, and the few remaining clientele were the usual solitary drunkards, nursing their pints at their separate tables. For once he wished it was busy, at least then he’d be able to pay-off the brewery early. He grunted. Some hope…Excitement in these parts was about as rare as-

CRASH

Sogg looked up in alarm just in time to see the door of his inn kicked down by a burly-looking vixen: sword in hand, and a rather large moneybag in the other. She was followed in by two similarly impressive-looking armed she-foxes.

“S-S’Nomians!!!” He breathed.

“That’s right, mate!” The first, a rather buxom individual, growled, grinning menacingly. “Break out your finest ale, my man, I’ll pay handsomely!”

“C-Certainly miss-MADAM!” He blurted pulling three tankards down from the hooks behind him. “N-Nothing but the best for the S’Nom!!!”

“Glad to hear it…” The second vixen with a scar across her eye growled jovially. “Now, sisters!” She cried boorishly. “Last one to 15 pints is a Shadow Fox!!!”

 

THE END