The white horse galloped through hot and dusty air, pounding at the well-worn trail between Tunfaire and Arkmunster. Serfs paused with their threshes, leaned on their scythes, and looked up from wheat fields at the stern woman blasting past as though the devil himself were after her. Her padded leather armor creaked like her steed’s tack-and-harness, both mount and rider intently focused on nothing outside of what was ten yards before them.
“That Mazelina?” one laborer asked another.
“Full moon already?”
“Aye. Didn’t you notice?”
Shrug. “Haven’t been payin’ attention.”
“Well, if you missed it last night, you’ll see two tonight.”
The serfs raised their eyebrows and grinned at each other.
Mazelina barreled through the last few kilometers until she reached the walls of Arkmunster. The guards stopped her at the gate, checked her against their sheaf of wanted persons, then accepted one silver coin to admit her into the town. Inside, her pace was less frenetic. She sat upright, and though the pains of her long trip caught up with her, she never lost her piercing gaze as she studied the buildings ringing the interior wall. Few businesses had changed hands since last she was here, nearly everything was as she remembered it. In less than a minute she was reoriented: she trotted up to the west well, turned right and rode to the Oaken Yoke. A young porter took a few copper to stable her horse and wash it down, and she entered the public house.
Laborers and tradesmen chatted over ordinaries and pints of plain; squires and lower nobility condescended to entertain adventurers and soldiers-of-fortune by the hearth—now cold, but the traditional forum for storytelling. To the right, a tall and barrel-chested man with a shaggy ginger mane and full beard wiped the bar down, and he looked up just as Mazelina’s gaze landed upon him.
He nodded his large head, expressionless but for a twinkle in his eye. “Mazelina.”
“Arnald.” She pushed the door shut behind her and took up a stool before him. “One ordinary, please.” Her hand released a few more copper to dance on the bar.
She gusted a laugh through her nostrils. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, publican.”
He raised his head slightly, eyes sliding to his left. “Last night of the waxing moon, is it. Tempus fugit…” He turned to call the order, but Gundrea was his shadow. She heard it and started the prep work, sparing one dark glance toward the auburn-haired woman in leather armor.
Mazelina pursed her lips. “Still can’t forgive me, can she.”
“Isn’t that how you women communicate? Sussing each other up, assessing the threat?” Arnald plucked at his red tunic, airing himself out in the warmth. “And you’re an overwhelming threat, without peer or rival.”
“I didn’t ask for−” She only sighed, slapping her gauntleted hands limp upon the bar.
The large man leaned across the bar. “No cure, then?”
Mazelina’s lower lip trembled slightly. “We’ve tried nearly everything. I made a salad of heliotrope and clematis from Icemeet. Serves two, yields a mouthful of failure. I tracked gazephores a mile beneath Mount Earmagh, to the mouth of the Murrey River: naturally carbonated water, but utterly useless. I spent a month in Lowestoft Tower, learning from the bibliolaters where to go next, bullying the sapiomancers into interpreting this curse…” Her shoulders sagged, her head hung low. “I’m at the end of my goddamned rope, Arnald. I’m living day to day on petty quests and errands, hurling myself from shire to shire. And now it’s the full moon.”
“And you’ve come back here, huh? The guards actually let you in?”
She looked up at him. “Is it that bad?”
He laughed briefly. “You’re, um, pretty recognizable around these parts, milady.” There was a loud crack behind the publican: he turned and saw the trencher where Gundrea had smacked it down. He scowled at her in the scullery, then handed it to Mazelina with an apology. “And how’s he holding up?”
She rolled her eyes. “Insatiable! Relentless! I swear to gods, he’s going to eat a hole straight up into my belly! I’ve gone past pain into numbness…” She plastered a slice of stout bread with cheese, folded it in half and jammed into her mouth.
“Single room, then?”
She nodded, stuffing a slice of roast turkey in after. Abruptly she raised one armored finger, and Arnald waited until she’d masticated and swallowed.
“If you can, please ask Father Terric to leave the library open tonight?”
The publican pushed out his fat bottom lip and nodded twice. Mazelina thanked him with a heartfelt glance and sopped a slice of bread in turkey gravy, her heart brightening with the nourishment of the Oaken Yoke’s ordinary. Gundrea was a judgmental bitch, but she was a priestess of the kitchen, regardless of the comer.
After the meal, and after two songs from a young and foolishly self-assured bard, she clomped up the stairs and locked herself in her room. The evening was young yet, and laughter and conversation went up as the hearth was lit and rounds of black, sweet plain were ordered. Mazelina heard this all through the floorboards while unpacking her rucksack and saddlebags. She shed her armor and dumped it in the corner; she unpacked a set of men’s clothes, shook them out and laid them tidily upon the bed.
Removing the last of her own clothing, she peeled her panties off in a careful bundle and set them at the foot of the bed. She stood nude in the lantern light, unfolded her undies, and leaned over the parcel within. “How are you, little man?”
In the crotch of her flannel underwear was a tiny person, a full-grown adult only a couple inches long. His flesh was florid with passions (and sticky with her response), and his tiny arms and legs reached for her greedily. He spoke not but only snarled, snapping at her fingertips when they drew too close.
“You’re unmanageable, you little prick,” she said, ruefully rubbing her abused labia. “You’re lucky I love you, or I could’ve taken the easy way out and snapped your fucking neck.” She waggled her thumbnail at him, picturing the slightness of his neck and the sturdiness of her mere digit. It would’ve cost her nothing—but the love of her life—and the curse would’ve been lifted. Yet they vowed to find another way.
She kissed her fingertip and placed it upon his forehead, peeling herself from his weak clutches. She tied the minuscule person securely in her panties and hung him from the door handle to the room, then retrieved stationery from a saddlebag. Folding her legs on the floor, she hunched over to write:
Arnald has asked Father Terric to open the library to you. Tip them both: we’re wearing out our welcome in Arkmunster. The lads at Lowestoft Tower said to try the scilicets in Blackpool and Macclesfield, unless you find something in the library in the next three nights. Good luck, Herlewin, I love you. −M
She left this upon the men’s clothing, took a long drink of water from a skin in the rucksack, then climbed out the window and hung by her fingers from the sill and waited.
Several minutes later, Herlewin burst from her panties and fell upon the floor, full-sized and naked. He shook his head and looked around, sniffing. “The Oaken Yoke, by the looks of it,” he muttered. There was a bed and, beside it, their rucksack and saddlebags. Their armor lay in the corner. He looked at it sadly, then rose and found his girlfriend’s note upon his clothes.
He thanked her, pressed her handwriting to his chest for a quiet moment, then got dressed. First with his clothes, then with the armor. He was only slightly bigger than Mazelina, and padded leather armor didn’t require as much adjusting between their sizes. He paused to smell the collar of his doublet, where her hair had rubbed and rested for all but three nights of the last month. Her hair, her sweat, her skin… he closed his eyes and savored it, murmuring her name.
Sighing, he went to the window and leaned out from the second floor to take in the city. Rooftops glowed in silvery illumination, a full moon that would last three precious days for him. A scream attracted his attention: far to the right, moonlight glowed upon the shoulders of a gigantic woman, three dozen yards tall and naked as the day she was born. Her eyes were wild: she bent to seize the town guardsmen at the north gate, one in each hand. Her thick tongue licked her lips as she greedily stuffed the hapless figures up between her thighs. The only thing more alarming than their hysterical shrieks was their abrupt silence. Her labia glistened and dripped in the moonlight, her bosom glowed so pale as she savagely clutched one full breast, standing there seething.
Herlewin watched Mazelina with a painful desire, longing for his girlfriend but knowing full well to avoid her when she was like this. Setting his jaw, he only nodded at his ravenously horny and over-sized mate, then bolted from the room to pursue one thin lead in Father Terric’s library, one tenuous lead that might lift their curse…