The Platoon of Ghouls
The horrors surrounded them. Spectres with terrible deformities, chewing on entrails and brandishing wicked blades.
The hags stood in a tight knot, all facing outwards. They could all see in the dark. Every horrible detail was crystal clear. The spooks all had bulging eyes that glowed red from within, like burning coals.
Their grinding voices were like an infernal chorus.
"We've come to feast on the flesh of feeble humans."
"But we're willing to try night-hag."
"F-four of yer?" said the Clay Spook. "A defiant quartet!"
Lee gritted her teeth. She could deal with this. She could sense that the horrors around them were wary of taking on four night-hags at once.
"This is some high grade nightmare fuel!" said Aila. "And we should all know, being night-hags!"
"So, we're made to fight other nightmares!" said Silvie. She brandished her long nails, which were painted so as to have a silvery sheen.
"There will be a r-reckoning, young lady," said the Clay Spook, pointing at Leevana. "I can tell you have a little one inside. It makes the milk drop out, from inside your teats. Two for the price of one. A happy thought."
The obvious threat to her unborn child caused Lee's resolve to flare up in her. Focusing her mental energy, she took one of the throwing discs from her purse. This was an ordinary chakram, but Lee had honed her mental acuity to channel psychic energy into it. Of the kind that had brought life to Twiggy, her broom, but which could banish the spooks. She held up the disc and focused on charging it up. The disc glowed with an ethereal light.
The horrors in the cavern encircled them in a ring and lunged forward. Lee flung the disc in an arc and it sliced through one spook, which had a distended jaw, and another, which had been chewing on a brain. This left great rents in their spectral forms. Aila brandished a mace and Ulva a glaive. As the fiends surged forward. The two gave simultaneous battle cries and proceeded to slice and beat at the evil shades.
Silvie had a length of gossamer wrapped around her fingers. "I'm taking up knitting. Did I mention?" She flung the thread and it surrounded the Clay Spook, binding his arms to his sides. She dragged him to her and he snapped at the air, trying to bite her exposed arms. "Just sit still, while the doctor eats your flesh," he urged.
"Argh!" Silvie snarled, crinkling her green nose, and gripped the ghostly villain's head, twisting it right round and breaking it off at the neck.
Three more spooks were coming for them and Ulva and Aila were still occupied. Leevana had a trick up her sleeve. She had created a compound of ethereal energy and firepowder and stored it in a wooden doll she had fashioned for the purpose. Now she flung this at the spooks and it exploded in a small cloud of crimson debris and engulfed them. Only one of the three emerged from the cloud and Silvie was already on him, tearing with her sharp nails.
"I'll dismember you… then I'll feed on man's flesssh!" he hissed. "We've eaten a whole village of men between us."
"Die! Die!" yelled Silvie.
One on one, the monstrous spook did not stand a chance against her fury. Leevana moved to help her fellow hag, but the cannibalistic ghost was already dissolving.
Lee and Silvie turned to help Ulva and Aila who were battling furiously against three more ghosts. Lee had yet another weapon. A sharpened stave made specially to channel energy bolts. In an instant, the remaining spooks found themselves beset on all sides, beaten, sliced, stabbed and torn into shreds.
Ulva shuddered. "Whew. That was horrendous."
Silvie was breathing hard, her bosom rising and falling. "I hate cannibals." Her voice shook with emotion. "Bragging about eating a village…!"
Lee fully appreciated her indignation. In fact, the bare idea made her feel ill, but it was time to be the rock poor Silvie deserved, since she didn't have a husband at home to comfort her. Not yet anyway. Lee put an arm around her broad shoulders. "We did a great thing today."
"I'm not going to hug you, Lee, if that's what you want," cautioned Aila. "That's what your husband's for."
Silvie gave a small sigh. Lee rubbed her back.
"Yer'll never find my grave hat!" The voice of the Clay Spook sounded again. Lee looked down. The evil one's head was sitting, disembodied, on the rocky floor.
"He must be rambling about his liche-pin," said Silvie. "An artifact that helps anchor the spooks to this world. There could be several. It'll be something awful. Can't guess how dangerous."
Lee scanned the stone walls with an intense gaze. She spotted a crack in one of them. "Through here." She gripped and pulled at the wall. "This is really heavy. Could use some help, please!"
Silvie peered at the crack. From the side, her long nose and prominent jaw were thrown into sharp relief. "You're right. There's another cavern beyond this." She inserted long green fingers into the crack and they both pulled. The rocky door groaned and creaked open under their combined pull. Beyond was a rocky room with a stone slab. On the table there was a leather hat crudely stitched together. The top of the hat had the likeness of a leering face.
"Just that horrible hat. Awful. Awful." Said Silvie.
With a sinking feeling, Lee realised that the hat was made of skin stitched together.
"We just have to burn it," said Silvie.
The four of them surrounded the stone slab and Lee set fire to the grisly hat. Fortunately she had remembered to bring an ordinary tinderbox and a torch with her, as well as her equipment for ethereal fire. The hat shrivelled and blackened in the flames. From the tunnel there was a wail from the head of the Clay Spook as the evil spectre departed, no longer bound to the earthly plane.
"That was the easy one," said Silvie. "There are other liche-pins and we will have to search harder to find them. And remember, Lee… a bargain has been struck and I'm holding you to it. I know we're in sticky, weird times, but that's all the more reason I want a life with a man who really loves me."
"You're putting us under a lot of pressure," grumbled Aila.
"You will find a husband," said Lee, putting an arm around her broad shoulders. "It's about breeding familiarity, and you will find the right one. I do hope it's Reggie, you two would be so sweet together."
"I want it to be Reggie too," said Silvie. "I wanna see his sweet, freckled face again."
Back home, Leevana was a bit chastened after that horrific episode, so she needed Jason to relax her in their bed chamber. They both stripped down and he massaged her green neck and broad shoulders and then down her back as she moaned. She really was sweating a lot. If he were not used to it, her body odour would be overwhelming. Fortunately he had a special unguent to slather onto her back that made massaging easier.
"I wish I could actually help against the spooks," said Jason. "But I can't. You're the one defending our home and kids. I feel quite useless."
"No! Never useless. Coming back to you makes it all worthwhile," said Lee. "I need you to relax me, just like you need me to fight off those horrible ghouls, hey? I'm still trembling."
"This calls for drastic comfort," said Jason. "We have to put our privates together."
This was Leevana's cue to grab him so they could make love. She seized him and hugged him to her huge, sweaty body, her huge breasts, still leaking milk, pressed against him and passion flared up in him…
At Leevana's prompting, Silvie and Reggie were taking a stroll around the garden together.
"How are you today, Reggie?" asked Silvie.
"Well rested," said Reggie. "It's very comfortable here. Leevana is a gracious hostess."
"Good, and I'm so glad you're looking so well," said Silvie smiling at him. "The cold makes your cheeks look positively radiant."
"How was your battle?" asked Reggie, trotting to keep up with the hag, whose man sized boots left deep treads in the snow. "I'd like to have seen it."
"But I would not want you to have to see it, cutie," said Silvie. "It was horrendous. The stuff of nightmares. That's coming from me, and I'm supposed to be a nightmare woman." She touched her green cheek.
"You're not," said Reggie.
"You're sweet!" said Silvie. "I wish everyone would make up their own mind about me without being told what to think by someone else. But please Reggie, take your time, think and consider before you decide. Be like, hmmm, hmmm…" She put a finger to her greyish lips and adopted a quizzical expression. "That's what I want from people."
Reggie smiled. "Alright, I'll think, make a journal and consider before I pass judgement."
"Good boy," said the hag.
Reggie was still curious about the battle between the spooks and the night-hags. "These evil ghosts, what are they like?"
Silvie scowled and clenched her green fist. "I fought one… he'd obviously been a cannibalistic maniac when he was alive. He boasted about how they'd eaten a whole village of men…! It's stating the obvious, but that made me mad!"
She was trembling and now her brown eyes were bright. Did they shine with tears? Reggie reached for her hand and clasped it in both of his. She gave him a wan smile. "I want to help you relax after all that," he said. "I'm just not sure how I could."
Silvie was breathing through her nose, but now she calmed down. She smiled down at him. "Ever done ballroom dancing?"
"Um… no, I don't really dance."
"I'd like to teach you. With ballroom dancing, it looks flowing, but it's very structured. The man takes charge and guides the woman. So we rely – I need to rely – on the man. It's so thrilling."
"A night-hag yearns for a man to take charge of her? Is that apocryphal?" joked Reggie.
"I have no patience with hags who take a dump on the more beautiful and vivacious state of humanity," said Silvie, "some of the rubbish that angry hags come up with…" she rolled her eyes and mimicked a ranting voice: "We're categorically oppressed because we're supernatural beings! The future is hag-ridden! Men are privileged." Silvie shook her head. "Raising up masculinity doesn't demean me and I believe in personal accountability. If the hags are looked down on, they should try to improve themselves."
"That is an admirable and positive way to look at it," said Reggie, still clasping her hand. "That's like another kind of adventure you can go on."
The hag's brown eyes widened for a moment. "Yes, yes. I want to take all the risks that come with that adventure. But tell me, Reggie, what do you see as your next great adventure?"
"I've got to find work. And I want to find a wife. That last one's exciting and kind of scary. You know that one of my friends said that he has such bad trust issues that he wouldn't know what to do in a relationship. I say that it's another risk you have to take. Risk is constant. I'd take the risk."
"Yes," said Silvie. "If people took no risks, then no one would ever start a small business. Love works on the same principal. If you're not ready to risk your heart, you can't love."
Elsie loved how happy and glowing Leevana looked after Jason had relaxed her. It was so sad that she herself could not provide the relaxation and sexual satisfaction that the green lady needed. She had never risked exposing her heart and telling the night-hag she was in love with her. She preferred just to keep things as they were. She cupped the green woman's face in her hands first before applying her lipstick. It was the perfect excuse to caress Lee's face. The hags cheeks shone from her pregnancy. She smiled back at Elsie. Elsie began to apply a plum coloured lipstick.
"How do you balance it all, Lee?" said Elsie. "Fighting monstrosities and being a full time mother?"
"I have my wonderful husband and staff, and I've got you too, Elsie," said Leevana. "You all have your own strengths and you lend me strength, hey?"
Leevana left the chamber to take her children to the grounds, baby Marcus strapped to her in a baby carrier. She never did have much time to spare for Elsie.
That evening in the ballroom, Silvie showed Reggie how to do ballroom dancing. "Firm now… apply pressure," said Silvie. Reggie pressed on her. She grinned, the lights of the candles shining off her green nose and wide green forehead. "Lovely."
When Reggie had tired of dancing, they sat down on the edge of the room. Reggie sipped water, but Silvie had a liquor bottle.
"Gold line vodka? Isn't that wicked strong?" asked Reggie.
Silvie swigged it from the bottle. "Hmm…" she pursed her grey lips and cupped her pointed chin in her hands as if contemplating. "No, Reggie. I don't even feel a tickle."
She leaned close to him, so that he got the benefit of her musty breath in his face along with the sharp smell of the liquor. Close to, he could see there was a small cleft in the end of her long green nose. "So tell me, handsome, cos I'm curious. How do you go about courting in your neck of the woods? Cos it's fascinating how etiquette changes from place to place."
"Different ladies have different expectations," he replied. "I courted a young lady called Toni. Really pretty, blond… She thought I didn't plan enough. She said not to expect her to have time for her at short notice and to make plans. Something for me to work on."
"Oh? Well I love spontaneity," said Silvie. "She ought to have been grateful that you were interested in her."
That was a very nice thing to say, Reggie thought. The hag was a very agreeable person. Like Leevana in that respect.
"Listen," said Silvie. Now she looked worried. "I've a story to tell and it's important…" she said this in a hurry. "Maybe you'll think it's the dumbest thing ever, or that you hate me… fine."
"What story?" said Reggie puzzled.
Silvie took a deep breath. "I've told it before. Practice makes perfect. One lonely, snowy night, seventeen years ago, the wind was howling and the snow was thick. I heard the sound of humans making having a great time in the distance and that always makes me happy. I saw the twinkling lights of a hall where people were dancing and having a great time. I approached and found the doors barred against me, so I bust them open. So far so good. Everyone in the hall saw me and they all went a bit quiet. They'd never seen a seven feet tall green woman breaking down their door before. 'Just carry on!' I told them. I wanted us all to have fun, but they were staring at me, so I decided to approach the handsomest man I could find. I did two laps around the hall to find the man I thought the most handsome. And I found him. He was with six friends, sitting against a wall. So I scooped him up in my arms and ran out of the hall. He protested, but I put my mouth on his and kissed him a lot. Then I took him back to my cave. 'I lost my teddybear,' I told him, 'can I sleep with you?' He looked at me with wide eyes, but then he agreed and we did it. Afterwards he looked sad and I stroked his face and asked what was wrong. He said he was already engaged. Duh! So it turned out that he regretted it and just made the assumption that I would hurt him if he didn't do it. As if I would, but how would he know otherwise? Years later, I heard of an ogre who had carried off a girl to his cave and had his way with her. When I heard that, I was appalled. Then I remembered. Yeah, you carried off a human to your cave and had your way with him. But here's the thought experiment. There are men and other night-hags too, who think my story sounds hot. But is it any different to what the ogre did, and if so, how?"
She gazed steadily at Reggie, waiting for his response.
Author's Note: Did Silvie rape that guy? How should Reggie respond?