Jade eyed the Trader. He really didn't belong in Ash. Not magical at all. She couldn't read him, which was quite frustrating. "He could be here for anything. Scouting for bandits. Spying on us."
Teri eyed him as well. "It's a bit suspicious that someone unreadable keeps showing up here. And Mihaela said he wasn't actually related to any of them. Cordelia's mother's late husband, who was not her father, was his uncle. I think he's just using them as a way to spy on us."
"I wonder who he's spying for?"
Their eyes met.
Jade ran her tongue over her lips. "I think we've found someone to experiment on. We'll ask a lot of questions before we use him up."
"We've gotten good with animals." Teri smiled nastily. "Those charm spells work very well to bring in wild animals. I'll bet they'll work on him."
The man was saddling up one of his pintos.
"Go see if the Rip Crossing Inn is still empty. I'll bet we can take him when he rides back in this evening." Jade sauntered off to where she could mark his path up into the hills. "All he can do up there is circle around and spy on the Sheep and Horse farm. He must be watching the Gate to Prairie Coast."
"Yeah. We need to deal with him. For the good of the Village." Teri turned and marched down the street to the barn.
Damien was feeling relaxed and mellow by the time they rode back out of the mountains. As much as he liked Karista, there was just something about the mountain air that he missed.
Solstice spooked at the figure that stepped out of the twilight shadows. Not much of a spook, he was too sensible to do anything silly. But he tossed his head and stopped dead, jolting Damien out of his mellow contemplation.
"Oh, sorry!" A female voice.
Not one he knew. He squinted to see who it was.
"Why don't you give me a ride?"
Now that sounded like an excellent idea. No it doesn't! He held his hand out and helped her up behind him. She was lightweight, and warm and soft against his back.
"Let's go down to the barn."
He loved her voice, sort of soft and purring. A faint alarm barely surfaced before it sank again. And it didn't seem strange when she steered him through a Corridor and out into a stony moonlit landscape. Another girl was waiting for them, and he pulled her up to sit across his lap, if one could be said to have such a thing while astride a large broad horse.
Solstice snorted, sounding amused rather than protesting the load. He walked the direction the witches told him to go, through a gate in a stone picket fence and up a little side canyon.
"What shall we do first?" The second witch was a scrawny thin thing. "He doesn't have much glow. Icky."
"First we need to all get off the horse." The first witch slipped down. "Then we should give him some glow. He won't be able to use it, but it'll make him look prettier."
Damien handed down the scrawny one and dismounted. They undressed him while talking about inclusions on the X and Y chromosomes, and then verbally dissected his genetics. They compared him to other men they knew and occasionally waved their hands at him. He shivered a bit, and they finally pulled him into a hot pool of water. The alarm tried harder to rise, but couldn't make it past the two female bodies touching him, playing with him.
The first witch chuckled. "There. That's a nice bit of glow for you, he's got all the special genes Ricardo has. How about an illusion? There. What do you think?"
"Perfect! If only he were the real thing." The skinny one oozed up close.
The first witch rolled her eyes. "Pretend. He's got all the right parts, after all."
"Oh, Ricardo, tell that you love me!" The scrawny witch whispered in his ear.
"I love you." Wait, my name isn't . . .
"Tell me that you want only me!"
"I want you, and only you!"
"Make mad passionate love to me!"
No problemo. After a wet and rather chaotic time, involving the first witch yelling about channeling and not draining him yet, he tried to fight his way out of the muddle, but the first witch's smooth voice brought him back to heel.
The second witch was laughing. "Oh, that was wonderful."
The first witch snorted. "What was that? A constant orgasm spell?"
"Yeah. Ricardo threw it on me, when I was bothering him too much. It makes peeing a memorable experience. Wow. It was even better during real sex."
"Humph. Well, if you're through with your advancement, lets get to work. I want to see if that goat spell really works."
The scrawny one sounded nervous. "It's really complex. I've got it in a box, I, umm, copied it when Nil was showing Justice. I think we need to analyze it a bit first."
They sat and looked at absolutely nothing, then poked at thin air and discussed it.
"Let's start with something simple. How about purple hair?"
His scalp started itching. "Can we make his eyes that color too?"
"Now, what about a dog? That's easy, we practiced with those raccoons. We don't have to do much to the digestive system."
His human comprehension seemed to weaken, and he yelped as his bones suddenly ached and pain flashed though his muscles and tendons as they stretched into shapes they hadn't been designed for. He lunged out of the hot pool in a panic.
And suddenly froze, paralyzed. The first witch laughed and with a wave of her hand drove him into a sexual frenzy, humping both witches both in and out of the pool.
He vaguely remembered several other forms, goat and sheep, a big cat of some sort. He mounted them in various forms, and vaguely took in their critiques. They didn't like the hooves, but the lynx had spines and they couldn't decide if they liked it hurting like that. Then there was a discussion of why he couldn't swish his tail. Or flap his wings. Wings?
Oh my god. I’m a dragon!
They discussed the genetics and appearance of babies, and how a witch could have a son. And why they needed to get Damien back to normal, or looking normal, at any rate, before they gave him to the water lizards. He vaguely associated hot springs with alligators, and was glad they weren't going to give him to them. And the first witch telling the second about how fun it was to completely drain a man. He already felt pretty drained, and he was afraid he probably disappointed her, as he passed out part way through trying to . . .