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Lance is a monster, isolated and alone, but maybe he doesn’t have to be alone anymore.
Lance pulled back his hand with a wince, his knuckles grazed and bleeding. Bending lower, he tried again, thrusting his arm between the rocks, his fingers scraping again as he tried to seize his dinner. Mushrooms were often difficult to reach, growing in the cold and dark, between rocks, deep within holes, under roots. They liked to hide away, much like himself.
He grumbled happily when his fingertips brushed against their softness. He grabbed a handful, stuffed them in his sack and moved along.
It was a warm and bright afternoon. Birds chirped. A light breeze brushed through his hair. He pulled over his hood, concealing his face. There was no time to enjoy it. It was dangerous away from his mountain, from his cave, where he could hide and keep safe from the village men who often camped close by, fighting and shouting and cursing.
His mother had taught him to stay away. ‘You are a monster, hideous and deformed, they would kill you before they barely looked at you. Do not trust them.’
Now many years after her death he had never forgotten.
His ears pricked and his heart skipped a beat at the sound of a voice. He turned and was about to hurry away when he stopped. It was an unusual voice: light and high, soothing and delicate, as it carried softly on the breeze.
He followed it. It was coming from the stream. Staying safely concealed within the trees, he peered through the leaves.
It was a boy, tall and lithe with short black hair, dressed in a tunic and pants that were dusty and torn from what must have been a long and difficult journey. At his feet was a bulging bag. He sat down and unlaced his boots, singing all the while.
He had a beautiful voice, enough for Lance to stay despite the danger. He closed his eyes, listening to his lilting words, imagining knights and princesses, castles and dragons, everything he had never known and could never know stuck up in his cave, reviled and isolated.
The singing stopped, and he opened his eyes. The boy was on his feet, wriggling his toes in the water, naked from the waist down. Then he swept off his top, and Lance sucked in a breath. A woman. He was a woman. He stared at her breasts, her hips, her thighs, and that’s when he realised the flatness between her legs. It had been a long time since he had seen a woman, not since his mother, and the old witch hardly compared to this one. She was young and lovely, smooth and pale, so slim and petite he could probably wrap both his hands right around her waist. He lost his grip on his sack, and it dropped with a soft thud.
She slipped into the water, her fingers tracing the surface, breasts sitting on top like two ripe plums. Then she dunked and resurfaced, the water trickling down her neck and shoulders, between her breasts.
Shaking and sweating, he clutched onto a branch. The leaves rustled. The wood creaked beneath his immense strength.
‘Who’s there?’ the woman called, squinting fearfully in his direction, arms wrapped around her breasts.
Lance stilled, the tree stopped rustling, but it was not enough; the woman dashed out of the water, straight for her bag. He must let her go. He couldn’t let her go. His legs carried him over before he could stop himself. His feet sank into the muddy ground, blood pounded in his ears, his hood flew back. The girl abandoned her bag with a scream. She made for the trees, but he caught her, wriggly and slippery and soft in his arms.
Trapped and helpless, she stared at his ravaged face, mouth gaping like a fish, eyes a light blue, the colour of the stream, wide and terrified. Then they rolled back into her head, and she slumped in his embrace.
Roslyn opened her eyes, then sat up with a start. She gasped and scuttled away at the sight of the monster. It was sitting cross-legged and much too close. She gasped again when she realised she was naked. The monster had laid her clothes over her after she had fainted, but they had slipped off. She quickly pressed her shirt against her breasts as she hunched over, concealing her groin.
‘I’m not going to hurt you,’ it said in a low, growling voice.
She backed away to the cover of the trees. The monster was hooded now, its wretched face concealed in shadow.
‘Wait.’ It held out her pants.
‘Throw them over,’ she said. It did so, and it landed halfway between them. ‘Turn away.’
It obeyed, which surprised her. She crept over and snatched up her pants before disappearing into the trees again.
‘My boots,’ she said once she was redressed. ‘And my bag.’
It turned to face her, a big hairy hand gripping her boots, her bag at its side. ‘You should stay here.’
She would have laughed if she wasn’t so frightened. ‘I’m not staying with you.’
‘You don’t understand. It’s almost dark now and a full moon. The village men will be making camp.’
It lifted a massive hand, palm outwards. ‘Please. They’re not nice. They’ll hurt you.’
‘And you won’t?’
‘You’re a monster, and you attacked me.’
‘I didn’t attack you.’
‘Then what were you trying to do?’
It hung its head, unable to answer. Roslyn felt a strange surge of pity, then pushed it aside.
‘Bag,’ she said again.
It stood with a sigh. Her heart thundered. It was big, far bigger than any ordinary man. If there were such thing as ogres—
It backed away several steps. She eyed it warily, then dashed for her things. She thrust her bag over her back, picked up her boots and fled through the trees.
Her bag swung and banged against her as she ran. Her ankle rolled, but she bit her lip and pushed through the pain. She glanced behind her, but the monster wasn’t following.
Breathless, feet throbbing and bleeding, she stopped to put on her boots before carrying on, hissing at every limp, dragging her sprained foot as pain burned up her leg. Night descended, darkness pooling between the trees, making her journey doubly difficult as she tripped and stumbled and groped her way ahead.
She must have been hours into her journey when she looked up at a bout of wild laughter. She smelt smoke.
‘Help,’ she cried, limping towards it. The laughter snapped off. ‘Help!’
There came the snap of ground litter underfoot, the thud of footsteps, as people approached. She slumped to the ground in relief.
There were five men, all young and strong and curious.
A man with long, greasy hair held a burning torch. ‘Who’s this then?’ he said, thrusting it in her face.
‘I’m Roslyn,’ she panted.
‘You’re a girl?’ One of them grabbed her hair and wrenched her head back. ‘She is! What’s a pretty little thing like you doing out here, huh?’
‘I’m a traveller, but I’m lost, and I’ve just run for hours. You must hel—’
‘You’re alone?’ They all grinned at each other.
‘Come on then, let’s help you up.’
Before she could object, two of them hoisted her up under the armpits, none too gently as pain shot up her ankle. ‘Wait! It hurts.’
They just laughed and dragged her between them. She struggled against them, stomped on a foot, kicked a shin, until someone slapped her hard in the face. Her ears rang, blood trickled from her nose.
‘You’ll pay for that,’ someone snarled in her ear.
Their encampment was in a small clearing: blazing fire, cushions and bedding, a simple awning propped up on stakes.
They threw her down by the fire, laughing and shouting and arguing over who was first. She snatched a burning stick out of the flames, but it was promptly kicked out of her grasp, and she grabbed her wrist with a cry.
The man with the greasy hair pushed her down and straddled her. ‘Time for some fun.’
Roslyn’s eyes widened at the sight of the knife in his hand glinting sharply against the flames. Grinning at her, he sliced open her shirt.
There was hooting and whistling and laughing from the men standing over them.
The man with the greasy hair licked his lips. He had just grabbed onto her breast when there came a roar, a thud, then a crash, as the awning fell on top of them. In the confusion, Roslyn wriggled away. There was shouting and hollering, a scream, a gurgle. Something heavy fell on her, flattening her against the ground. She coughed and spluttered and gasped, smoke filling her lungs as the awning caught fire and the body on top of her pushed out the last of her air.
Then the weight lifted from her back, and she could breathe again.
It was the monster. No. Not a monster—a man. His hood had fallen back, but she barely saw his ugliness, too glad to see him. The awning was gone, smouldering in a heap. There was crying and screaming and groaning from two men lying wounded on the ground. The rest had apparently fled.
He helped her to her feet. ‘Hurry, we must—oomph.’
A figure hurtled into him, and the two men tumbled to the ground with a heavy thud. It was the greasy-haired man, face covered in blood, sneering as he braced his dagger above the big man’s chest. Roslyn screamed as it came down.
There was a grunt, a gasp as the dagger plunged. Then the greasy man’s head flung back with a nasty crack as the big man slammed the base of his hand into his chin. He fell limp to the ground.
Roslyn stood amongst the devastation shivering, clutching her torn shirt to her breasts. One of the stricken men grabbed at her ankle. ‘Help me.’
She turned and sped through the trees. The bag on her back had split and its contents flew everywhere. As she ran, her panic faded and she slowed, then stopped. She leant against a tree as she caught her breath, then looked back. She couldn’t just leave him.
Upon her return to the encampment, she saw one of the stricken men had died, the other still groaning. The fire had burnt out, and the big man was sitting with his back to a tree, gasping, hand clutched to his side as blood trickled through his fingers. He had returned his hood.
After all the commotion, the quiet was startling. He looked up as she crouched beside him, the flickering light of the sputtering fire glinting in his one eye.
‘You came back,’ he grunted.
She ignored him. ‘Move your hand, let me take a look.’
‘It’s fine. He only nicked me.’
He moved his hand, and she frowned. There was a lot of blood and the wound was deep. ‘That’s more than a nick.’
‘To a normal person maybe, but I am not normal.’
‘Still, we must treat it.’
‘No.’ With a grunt and grimace he pushed himself to his feet. ‘We must go. More will come to take their revenge.’
‘To Mount Draken, my home.’
Struggling at his side, his heavy arm curled around her shoulders, Roslyn looked up. It was a steep climb, the top of the mountain a slim horn of rock puncturing the twinkling sky. At least they could see where they were going, the moon full and bright.
He groaned, and she tightened her arm around his thick waist as he stumbled. ‘Are you all right?’ she puffed.
He straightened himself out. ‘I’m fine.’
‘We should stop.’
‘No. It’s not safe. My cave is hidden. It’s not far now.’
They reached their destination an hour later. He nodded ahead. ‘Through there.’
Roslyn squinted at the sheer rock face. ‘Where?’
He dropped to all fours and parted a tangle of creeping vines, revealing a dark gap. He crawled through, and she followed, knees scraping against the rock.
The cave was large. Moonlight streamed through cracks in the ceiling revealing an assortment of basic furnishings: sheepskin against the walls and spread upon the floor, a big bedding of furs and animal skins, pots and dishes made of smoothed stone, amongst an array of other things she couldn’t identify.
‘I need your help,’ he gasped. He had a shoulder braced against a large boulder as he tried to push it in front of the entrance. ‘I haven’t the strength.’
She joined him, and together they moved it. He smiled, then slumped against it, panting. She gasped and made a grab for him as he sank to his bottom. His head lolled. Blood soaked his shirt.
‘What—your name?’ he mumbled.
‘Roslyn,’ she said, kneeling beside him.
He grunted, then slid sideways. She tried to guide him to the floor, but he was too big and landed heavily.
Unable to move him, Roslyn propped some bedding under his head. She searched the cave, found a dish of water and tried her best to clean his wound, but with no linen, she couldn’t staunch the bleeding. She glanced down at her torn shirt. It was useless anyway.
She removed it and carefully tore strips off it, plugging the wound and binding him around the waist. He grunted and groaned at every ministration but didn’t wake. When she was done, she stared at him. She had pulled up his shirt to get to his injury, revealing a heavily muscled abdomen. There was a swathe of dark hair on his chest with a trail of it running down from his belly button into his pants. He might have been overly large, his face deformed, but there was nothing wrong with his body.
Her eyes drifted to his head. It was turned to the side, hidden in its hood. She touched the cloth, pushed it back a little, a little more. He grabbed her wrist, and she froze.
‘Let me see,’ she whispered.
He released her, and she pushed it back all the way. She gazed at him. She couldn’t see well in the moonlight but remembered what he looked like at the stream: only one eye, the other lost beneath a large pink growth which covered almost half his face and tugged at the corner of his lip, curling it into a snarl, revealing his upper teeth. She touched it. It was raised and hard and cold. He watched her, his eye glinting in the moonlight.
She smoothed her fingers through his tangle of long hair. ‘Thank you for saving me.’
He blinked, dropped his eye to her breasts before quickly meeting her gaze again, shamefaced. She chuckled.
‘How long do you think we’ll need to hide?’ Roslyn said a day later as she knelt beside him cleaning his wound. He had given her one of his shirts. It was prickly and itched against her nipples and was so long it hung in folds over her knees.
‘I’m not sure,’ he answered. ‘For as long as we need.’
‘What about food and water?’
‘I have salted meat and smoked fish, dried fruit and pickled vegetables. Enough to keep us going for probably two weeks if we’re cautious. And there is water. It rains plenty.’
‘You’re very prepared.’
‘Always. There is no telling when I might need to hide myself away.’
Daylight streamed through the cracks in the ceiling, bringing out the pink in his face. He didn’t wear his cloak anymore, and Roslyn no longer found it difficult to look at him. He was a kind man, gentle and sweet, and it eased his ugliness, particularly when he was looking at her the way he was looking at her now—eye soft and twinkling, mouth curved into a small smile.
Clearing her throat, she dabbed around his wound. ‘How long have you been living up here?’
‘My whole life. Ever since the village saw fit to abandon me here as a baby.’
She frowned. ‘That’s terrible. Why would they do that?’
He raised his eyebrow. ‘Why do you think?’
‘You were born this way?’
‘So you’ve lived up here all alone?’
‘Not alone. I had a mother. Well, not a real mother. An old witch used to live here. She took me in, cared for me. But she died long ago. Then I was alone.’
She leant into him, feeling his warmth as she wrapped a length of clean linen around his waist, covering his wound. ‘There,’ she said, tying it off.
He looked down at it. ‘I’m impressed.’
‘I’ve treated my fair share of injuries, travelling as I do.’
‘Do you travel a lot?’ he asked.
‘Lately, I have.’
‘On your own?’
He frowned at her. ‘That’s dangerous.’
She smiled. ‘I can’t disagree with you there.’
‘Don’t you have a family?’
She nodded. ‘My father. He’s expecting me home before next summer. If I get home.’
‘You’ll get home, I promise you.’
They both looked up at a shout somewhere in the distance. She grabbed his arm when somebody shouted back, much closer.
‘Just keep quiet,’ Lance whispered.
She gasped and bunched up against him when a third called out ‘I’ve got the east!’ fearfully close. They both stared at the ceiling as somebody walked overhead, sending trickles of dust and dirt into the cave through the cracks.
They searched for a long time, calling out to each other, scouting overhead. Someone even fumbled at the rock at the entrance but quickly gave up.
It was hours when they finally ceased their search. A gathering gloom replaced the streams of light as darkness fell. Lance and Roslyn were holding each other, warm in each other’s arms. She could feel his heart thundering, but she doubted it was from fear, not by the way he was looking at her, so hungry, so surprised, so filled with doubt.
She touched his cheek, tangled her fingers in his hair. Then she leant in and kissed him, and it was like she sucked the life out of him; he sagged against her, quivering, his immense strength reduced to a flaccid heap. She pulled off her enormous shirt and smiled as he stared at her breasts, her pale skin catching the last of the sunlight.
‘You can touch them if you like,’ she said.
When he didn’t move, she picked up his hands and pressed them against her. He groaned, whimpered, then closed his fists over them, gently, carefully.
She ran her fingers over his shoulder, down his sternum, along his bandage. He was panting, still grasping her breasts, afraid to let go, afraid to do anything but hold them.
‘Lie down,’ she whispered.
He obeyed, and she straddled him. She opened his pants and took him in her grasp. He groaned, eye rolling in his head. He wasn’t as hard as she expected. As she explored him, she realised he was wet and sticky. It appeared he had already come, probably while they were holding each other. She smiled, stroked his shaft, teased his balls. He rapidly engorged, lengthening, swelling, until he was hard as rock in her hands. He was astonishingly big, thick and long. There was certainly nothing wrong with his body.
She stood up and tugged open her pants. As she dropped them and kicked them aside, his panting turned to gasping. She straddled him again, wet against his hardness.
‘Ready for this?’ she asked.
She grinned. ‘What did you say?’
He swallowed and gasped. ‘Uh.’
She took hold of him and slid over his length. He cried out. She froze and looked up, but the village men were nowhere around. She rocked. It stung at first, but as she eased around his size, it soon turned to pleasure.
Lance stared up at her, mouth open, eye wide, hands bunched at his sides. She rocked faster until his gasping turning to grunting, ‘uh, uh, uh, uh,’ and he swelled so big inside her she could feel herself stretching.
He came with a shudder and a groan.
Panting, they gazed at each other. Though it was dark, Roslyn could have sworn she saw a tear trickling down his cheek. She snuggled into him.
Clutching her hard against his chest, Lance rolled onto his side and buried his face in her neck. ‘You can’t leave. Promise you’ll stay with me.’
She froze in his arms. ‘Uh, stay with you?’
‘Promise me. I don’t want to be alone. I can’t be alone. Not after this. Promise me.’
He grabbed her head and looked into her eyes, and when she didn’t answer, kissed her.
Roslyn sat watching as the sun slowly set. Not for the first time she was feeling guilty over her decision. It wasn’t easy to leave someone she loved. But sometimes, difficult things had to be done. She wiped at her cheeks. She promised him she’d return, but that had been over three years ago and her life had changed so much, she had changed so much. Would he even recognise her?
She looked behind her and smiled as her daughter came toddling over.
‘Careful,’ Roslyn said, pulling Madeleine into her arms, ‘you’re too close to the edge. Where’s daddy?’
‘Here,’ he said, appearing around a pinnacle of rock, carrying a bundle of blankets—their baby son.
Madeleine giggled and squirmed, pink face lighting up, as Roslyn tickled her belly. She was ‘deformed’ like her father, but Roslyn thought she was the most beautiful thing in the world.
Lance sat on the rock beside her near the cliff edge, little Quentin yawning in his arms. Above them, Mount Draken’s tall, spiralling horn disappeared into the pink clouds. The villagers hadn’t returned and neither did they make camp close by anymore, too afraid of the Monster of Mount Draken. They had been left in peace.
‘You look sad. Still thinking about your father?’ he said.
‘Then you should go see him.’
‘Soon,’ Roslyn smiled, stroking Madeleine’s cheek. ‘I’ll go soon enough.’
© Morgan Tonkin 2018