I crouch, which is all the height I could afford without touching the male bearfolk. The furry female pushed aside two of the males, and they parted like curtains. Wait, didn’t they weigh like thousands of pounds? How strong is she with those lanky arms?
She motions for us to go through. I hadn’t taken her for the considerate type, but I follow her cue, with Glen stalking behind me. Once out in the open, the first thing I notice is the beams of light, like strings, connecting the male bearfolk to the sky. Many, many more are threaded to the sky all around us. The town appears to be a solid pillar of light, from our current vantage point, at least.
Over to the side, is Lilia, kneeling on the ground.
“Lilia?” I rush to her side. She looks up at me, smiling.
“I’m just a bit tired.” It’s a type of smile I recognize. The one my daughter used to give me when she felt proud and fulfilled after completing a task. Lilia must be very satisfied. She looks quite happy.
“Darling, let’s go. We don’t know how long we have until people start waking.” The bearfolk woman waves me onward, out of the forest and to the town.
I look back at Lilia. She doesn’t seem fit to be walking around on her own. Her leaves have started to droop languidly, exposing her flesh underneath. I feel bad for her; after all, she has made this possible with her ability. For my benefit, no less. I should at least take some responsibility for requesting this of her.
Scooping her up, princess carry style, I jog behind Glen and the Bearfolk woman to catch up. I am surprised at how heavy she seems. I am also surprised that I felt that I could carry her with ease. This new body of mine never ceases to amaze me. It heals so quickly from broken bones and feels so strong. It’s nothing like the body I had before, especially when considering its size is only slightly bigger. I should thank the Goddess when I meet her next. For the body. Then ask her what happened to me ‘living a life full of degeneracy if I wanted.’
* * * *
As we arrive at town, the pillars of light slowly start fading away. The damage was pretty clear, people had fallen over in deep slumber where they stood when Lilia had used her ability.
The men guarding the gates are sleeping at their posts; male laborers carrying lumber, slumbering next to piles of dropped beams; male doctors and butchers, sleeping over their charge of dissections; men cooking, their food long since crisped and inedible from overcooking, sprawled out on the ground next to banks of open-air grills. There were men. Everywhere. But no women. Glen had pulled some very strong looking cord from somewhere. Seriously, what is he, a ninja? He starts going to each and every person, tying their hands behind their back. The cord gets pulled tight enough that it will cut into the flesh if they struggle. Then he puts a strip of bear fur over their eyes like a blindfold. Wait… That’s from my harvest?! Some trader he is… I’ll remember this, thief.
I look to the bearfolk woman, and ask, “should we be helping him?”
“No, darling, this is his job. They’re all alive because he chose this portion of the task. We’d just as soon feed them all to the dryad in your arms, or my extended family. Well, we can still do that later. He thinks that there are many here worth saving.” She scoffed, making her displeasure with the thought known.
“Hmmm…” I think to myself… Or wanted to… But my thoughts are interrupted by an open door to a building. Inside, sleeping, there were three naked women. Two of them are chained to something further inside. One of the two is clearly not yet fully a woman. A younger girl, still not mature. The unchained one is clearly pregnant. I feel something in the pit of my stomach tighten and I begin to get a bit woozy.
“Tristain?” Lilia’s voice came from my arms. She places a hand on my cheek, her curling leaves tickled as she caresses me. Her voice sounds concerned.
I can feel my jaw clenched tight, and I know I am angry, but I don’t know what to say. Much less, what to do. I understood before entering this town what I might find. I knew this was a possibility. I’m not ready for it though. Even children. This isn’t right. None of it is. They should be frolicking. Well, maybe not in this world, but still, not slaves to men’s desires.
“Tristain…!” Lilia grabbed my face and pulled it down to look into her’s. She had tears in her eyes. “Ah, you’re hurting me.”
“Huh?” I looked her over, and exclaimed, “AH! I’m so sorry!” I quickly stood her up next to me. “I didn’t mean to! I-I’m so sorry, I’m sorry,” I keep repeating as I glance over where I had been grabbing her; the side of her leg and ribs. The leaves there are torn and a small amount of sap is oozing out. I had been unconsciously tensing up in anger, injuring her.
Lilia pulls me into an embrace and whispers in my ear, “I’m okay, but let’s find Mika.” She then pushed away from me, taking some uneven steps towards where the bearfolk woman is strutting. Towards the building in the center of town.
On our way there, we witness many similar scenes from open doorways, with women chained in buildings, or unchained and clearly expecting a child. It is clear their purpose in this town, and it causes me both anger and a wretched sickness. It offends my 20th-century sensibilities. People are people. It doesn’t matter if they can have children or not. Forcing them into this role without a choice is wrong. Some of these children, these women, looking at their age, I’m sure were born into this role.
Lilia stumbled at some point, so I put my arm around her waist and her arm over my shoulder to support her. If the circumstances were different, I would really enjoy this. She was pretty sexy if I was into the nonhuman types… Additionally, I got to princess carry her and put my arm around her waist. And we kissed? No, I kissed her. Either way… It felt weird to be thinking of this right now. Just what did I do that for anyway? She can be so cute though… But she’s… Like a plant? How does that even work?
I focus back on the building in front of us. It is clearly the largest structure. Next to it is a large cage made of wood poles. In it lies the male bearfolk we saw yesterday, his muzzle, paws, and large, exposed front teeth still dyed red. Yet another reminder of atrocities this town has performed.
“The Traitor.” The bearfolk woman mutters, just loud enough for me to hear.
Thanks for the support! I am in your care!