Lemma the Librarian: Diminishing Returns, Part 5

Hragulf grinned crookedly at me.
“Hello again, Lemma,” he said. He slid his feet off the table and
stood, taking the stone from Mira.

He actually looked pretty good, to
my surprise. He was a lot cleaner than he’d been in Mercia, and his clothes
fit. That made a big difference. I was pretty sure he’d lost a little
weight and gained some muscle, too.

“What the fuck are you
doing here?” I demanded. I wanted to call up every spell I knew and roast
him on the spot… but for some reason, I couldn’t remember any of them.

“Lemma, Lemma, Lemma,” he
chided. “So forgetful. You’re the one who told me about this place,
remember? Well, maybe not… you were pretty deeply engrossed with my stone at
the time. But when I heard about a castle full of beautiful women, with no men,
well, it was clear I’d have to help them out, wouldn’t I? I set out as soon as
I left you.”

He ruffled Brea’s hair. “And
then by coincidence I happened to meet this lovely on the road, on her way back
here from Mercia. With her under my control it was easy to convince the women
here I was a traveling trader, come to help them. Then it was just a matter of
getting the girls alone, one at a time, and the more I got the easier it

“Iola’s not on a hunting trip,
is she?”

Mira laughed. “Duh, of course
she isn’t! She somehow realized something was up and tried to rally the free
girls against Master.”

“Shh,” said Hragulf,
patting Mira’s head with his other hand. “True, though. Fortunately I had
a mole in her little group. By the time Iola came after me, she was the only
one of the six that wasn’t under my control. I had my good girls grab her so I
could show her stone.” He rubbed his jaw. “Bitch still managed to get
free and cold-cock me. She’s out there somewhere, I guess, but nothing she can

I was rooted to the spot. I couldn’t
attack him for some reason–one of his little rules hidden away in me, I was
guessing. I could leave, because Mira’d told me to come with her. And, as he
raised the stone, I couldn’t resist.

He spoke softly as I fell, and just
made so much sense. It was so hard to think of reasons not to agree, and anyway
I knew I couldn’t resist. I let myself slip away, sleeping in the lovely swirls
of purple and blue and green.

Eventually, I realized there was no
light, just Hragulf smiling at me. And he was still Hragulf. Not Master,
or anything like that. My compulsion to obey Mira was gone, too!

He smirked. “I removed all the
old rules,” he said. “Except you can’t harm me, I left that one in
for obvious reasons.”

“You’re… letting me

“Not exactly,” he said.
“Since I took this place over, I’ve been experimenting, trying out
different… games with my girls. You’re the latest player.”

To be continued…

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