Varyn frowned at the sight before him, slipping the haft of his mace back through its loop at his belt. “Well,” the big wolf murmured, “this is an unusual turn of events. How are you feeling?”

“Strangely enough,” said Kob, stretching to reach over the table, “I feel fine.”

It wasn’t that grand a table; a normal-sized adult would have had no trouble reaching across it for the silver candlestick that now filled Kob’s hand. Nor would that candlestick have been hard for that normal-sized adult to get his or her fingers around. That dissonance was really what hammered home Kob’s current state of affairs.

Even more than Varyn looming over him. Kob was used to that, even if the wolf didn’t normally loom quite so much.

“This is the one,” he confirmed, passing the candlestick up to his larger companion. “I think. It’s got the right marks, and it feels magical, but right now I don’t think I’m much inclined to experiment and find out.”

“I’ll leave that puzzle for the Court Wizard,” Varyn sighed, swinging his pack off his shoulders and reaching into it for a length of silk. “Though I’ll admit, I’m a bit relieved to not need to deal with her for a cursebreaking.”

Is it a curse?” Kob wondered aloud, running his fingers over the serpent-headed torc that wound around his left arm. “It’s not like I can’t take this thing off, or it hurts me if I try. Hells, if it didn’t look nice I wouldn’t still be wearing it. It’s just that taking it off doesn’t do anything. If the damnable thing did what it was supposed to, it’d be useful enough.”

“I know.” Varyn sighed, tugging off his mail gloves and tucking them into his belt before reaching over to rub behind the cheetah’s ears. “But you’re supposed to come up a little higher than my waist, Kob.”

In spite of himself, Kob laughed. “Even if that could have some roundabout advantages once we’re back safe in town.” Then he, too, sighed, leaning in against Varyn’s hip.

It had seemed like a useful enough little trinket. Slip it on, trigger it with a command thought, and the wearer should have been able to will himself into a larger or smaller state. That much had worked out just fine; Kob had shrunk down, squeezed past some rubble, and navigated some treacherous holds to which he wouldn’t have wanted to trust his full weight. When he’d first tested the thing, then too it had worked fine – he’d doubled his size, helped unload a wagon, and then dismissed the enlargement. The problem was that shrinking seemed to be permanent – and the torc couldn’t override itself while a prior transformation was in place.

Oh, well. He’d only lost a bit over a foot of height; if he’d gone to the device’s limits at half his normal size, then it might have been truly troublesome. This promised to be little more than an inconvenience.

He looked up at his friend. “At least the job otherwise went clean, huh? We can remind Tasven that we are capable of taking care of ourselves without him if need be.”

Varyn laughed, tousling his ears. “True. These days more than ever, I think. It’s truly amazing how useful it can be to have a weapon that others can’t take away and, indeed, don’t even know you bear.”

Kob felt a savage grin steal over his muzzle. It was easy, these days; a brief effort of will, and all his violent impulse distilled itself into a wavy phantasmal blade. Its appearance alone could be intimidating beyond its power; seeing it come into being from nothing had been enough to unnerve and break a few people to date. Including the guards that had wanted to imprison the pair after only letting them in unarmed.

With them out of the way, one novice necromancer hadn’t seemed so much of a problem. This was going to be a lucrative day even without the reward for this inexhaustible candlestick.

But that wasn’t a side of himself he much liked running wild. It was too easy to get lost in the rush, the blood singing in his ears, the pounding of his heart; the exhilaration that came with not just exertion, but danger – and battle was the truest fusion of those two things.

He opened his fingers, and the blade flickered out of existence.

Varyn touched his cheek. “We need more to do that isn’t about killing,” the wolf sighed.

“Not the most ethical thing on which to earn a living, is it?” It rather figured that a holy man would have concerns over such things.

But the wolf shook his head. “True, but sometimes it truly is the least harmful thing to do. No, it’s you I worry about, Kob. You’ve become harder and harder to remind that you’re a good person underneath, whatever unpleasant things you get up to.”

Kob stared into the flames dancing in the hearth, and tried to find words for the worry that gnawed at him. How could he say to this man, of all people, that sometimes the killing didn’t seem all that unpleasant after all? How could he explain how his own growing proficiency just made the deed seem easier all the time, and heightened that twisted sense of power?

“Careful, dear one,” Varyn murmured, squeezing his shoulder. “It’s good that you don’t exult in it afterwards, but it’s not bad to take satisfaction from it in the moment. Try too hard to expunge that from yourself, and you might go down the opposite road instead when you can’t.”

Kob blinked up at him, shocked at how much the wolf’s insights stung. “I thought I was the mentalist of us. When did you learn to read my thoughts?

Oh, hells, Varyn hadn’t deserved that…

But the wolf didn’t take offence, just held him close. “I’ve seen the like before,” he sighed. “Come on; let’s get back to town and a comfortable bed.”

Getting some emotional distance from the place helped; by the time they got back to the town gates Kob was actually feeling halfway normal, at least mentally. Physically, well, on learning that the change should wear off in a week or two, it hadn’t seemed all that urgent to spend a hefty portion of their reward on getting the transmutation undone.

And truth be told, it did have possibilities in their downtime…

Varyn bathed while Kob went to deliver one more report; there was one enchanter who’d be getting a scathing reprimand in the near future, and Kob’s condition helped secure a hefty discount when they could find someone to repair the enchantment. Then it was his own turn to soak – and the palatial bath in the basement of the Horn and Hearth was a rare pleasure that he took full advantage of.

Most of an hour later, he pulled a robe around himself and went back up to their suite. Varyn was in prayer; Kob left him to it and looked over his things, selecting among them.

When Varyn blew out the candles he was praying before and stood, Kob made his appearance, and he was very gratified to see the wolf’s eyes widen, to see one hand lift and reach forward, yearning. Then Varyn managed a chuckle. “You’re right, Kob; that does look good on you. As does the rest. Very fine.”

Kob didn’t wear a stitch of actual clothing, but he had quite a bit of metal on his person. That torc, the diving-otter inlaid pendant he’d picked up some months back, for breathing water and shedding it from his fur; a silver bracer around his right wrist – those were the enchanted things, the things with practical use. The other lighter, looser bracelets, the choker of bronze discs, the steel circlet with its topaz setting, the delicately-carved band of pale jade that encircled the base of his bare manhood – those were just jewellery, or at most had minor enchantments to maintain a comfortable fit; but he fancied they went well with each other and with his black-marked golden fur, and Varyn certainly seemed to agree.

“I… don’t think I’ve seen that one before,” Varyn admitted, reaching over to brush his fingers over the jade ring, and from there along Kob’s ebon flesh.

“It’s a recent acquisition,” explained Kob. A year ago he wouldn’t have been able to afford it, not with the enchantment it bore to always fit, but fortunes changed… “And it’s not often I have the leisure to prepare like this.”

“Too true. That we should change.” The wolf, kneeling still, smiled down at him, standing. “And what do you have in mind, dear one?”

“In time,” purred Kob, leaning in to tug at Varyn’s shirt. “Let’s get all this out of the way…”

By the time Varyn was properly unclad, anticipation and proximity had brought Kob to full, rigid arousal, and the wolf was making good progress himself, tapered red flesh emerging from his plump sheath. It was there that Kob focused his attentions – and, indeed, being his size made it a little easier; he knelt down, Varyn hunkered over him, and he was at just the right height to nuzzle and lick at the wolf’s balls, to turn his head up and drag his tongue along that sheath, over the ruddy flesh pushing forth from it. Varyn groaned, hands resting heavily on Kob’s shoulders, squeezing there, as the cheetah continued his ministrations, kneading and stroking and licking until the wolf’s hefty pole stood wholly in the open and Varyn was panting overhead.

“Feeling thirsty, are you?” the wolf husked.

Kob did consider it for a moment, but that wasn’t what he’d had in mind before, and he was still inclined to keep to his first plan. “Wrong end of me,” he said, grinning around the wolf’s member where it leaned onto his snout.

Varyn blinked down at you. “What? Oh, by the Seven, Kob, it’s been long enough that I’ll confess the thought makes me ache, but now? With you… like that?”

“I’m not that small, Varyn,” Kob pointed out with a chuckle, dragging his fingers from base to tip and back, finding the swell just outside Varyn’s sheath to be noticeably more prominent on the return stroke. “And this is about the only way I’ll ever feel more full. Just don’t push too deep, hm?” He gave that knot a squeeze with his fist – he wasn’t going to manage getting it in, after all – and, before Varyn could argue any further, reached over for a vial of oil to tip over the wolf’s flesh.

He wasn’t stupid; it was better, he knew, if he was relaxed. So he stretched out on the bed, eyes half-closed, and let his breathing steady as the wolf moved into place atop him. He’d learned some control over his body in the past few months; enough so that he barely shivered when Varyn’s taper nudged under his tail, enough so that the wolf spread him open, at first, almost without effort.

Less so when he pushed in deeper – Kob could feel himself stretch, and he’d definitely be sore for a few days after – but in this moment, the feeling of fullness was just so incredible. He pawed at the sheets, panting, moans creeping into his voice as the wolf’s rod slid in and out of him, in and out.

It had been days since he’d even taken himself into his own hand, and the wolf had just the right shape, at just the right angle, to nudge the most sensitive places inside him; all too soon, he was crying out, spasming around that hot spear, his seed rushing out of him, the scent of it filling his urgent breaths. And when Varyn groaned and shuddered atop him, and the torrent of his hot seed pumped into what little space was left in Kob’s body, drizzling down over his balls and along his shaft, a fresh burst of pleasure took him, and somehow his body found even more seed to offer.

By the time they settled in for actual sleep, with one huge hand spread over Kob’s chest, the cheetah was quite sure they’d be tipping the staff very heavily for the soiled sheets. And the noise.