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David Vierling 

There are all sorts of armor …and if you don't believe me, there is a lovely museum in Worcester, Massachusetts that has a few of these on display.

      Sighing, Edaina twined her slender arms around Cromag’s sinewy neck. The sun-bronzed warrior caught her in his massive, scarred arms and lifted the lush Princess easily, carrying her over the variously dismembered bodies of the twenty-seven temple guardsmen. Cromag’s brown eyes smoldered as he noticed how the torn silk of the sacrificial robe showed more of her voluptuous figure than it concealed. 

Kicking open the door at the end of the hallway, Cromag strode across the courtyard of the mountain-top temple to his horse, then tossed the raven-haired maiden unceremoniously across the saddlebow. Into his saddlebags he dropped the bag of gems he had looted from a secret niche behind the altar. Grinning, he prepared to swing his massive frame astride the horse and ride off into the dawn. 

“Hold it!” barked Edaina, sliding down from the horse. “If you think you can just have your little fling, then conveniently dump me, you can forget it.” 

“Huh?” replied Cromag the Barbarian, dumbfounded. 

“Girls talk—I know how it is with you macho barbarian types,” said Edaina. “You ride off with the grateful, eager girl at the end of the adventure, but she always conveniently vanishes before the next one, left behind, no doubt, to explain to her family about the horned-helmeted baby she’s carrying.

“Girls today want relationships,” continued the Princess. “Commitment. Something lasting. We want to be wooed. You know, flowers, romance, that sort of thing. Dinner and drinks would be a good start.” 

Born in the midst of a mighty battle (well, really a cattle raid by a neighboring tribe), the first sounds Cromag ever heard were those of warfare: the ring of sword on shield boss, the crunch of axes splitting horned helmets, the bleating of captured sheep. He’d never heard much about relationships. “Ale and a joint of beef?” Cromag ventured hopefully. 

Edaina snorted, wrinkling her pert nose. “Hardly. Someplace nice, with real atmosphere, like that new Kleshite place on the Street of the Tinkers.” 

“All right,” agreed the Barbarian, grateful that a decision had been made. Lifting Edaina, he once more threw her across the saddle. 

“No, no, NO!” she shouted as she slipped again to the ground. “Style, that’s your problem. You’ve got tons of charisma, but no style. At least Gag-Anun had style, in an evil sort of way. He wouldn’t have thrown me across his saddlebow.” 

“He was sacrificing you to the demon snake-god Dadoo-Ronron!” 

“I didn’t say he was perfect, or even that I’d go out with him, just that he had style,” Edaina shot back defensively. 

“His style is kind of flat since I threw him off the parapet,” said Cromag smugly. 

“Yeah,” agreed the Princess, a little too wistfully for Cromag’s liking. 

Cromag reversed the subject again. “Maybe you’re right. Perhaps I should settle down.” 

“Go on, I’m intrigued.” 

“I’ll make you my mate. You shall bear and raise strong sons for me in the wilds of the dusty, frozen North-East, and when they’re old enough, the boys can join me on adventures. . . .” 

“Hold your iron-thewed horses—after I do all the work of carrying and bearing the children, I’m the one who’ll need to go adventuring—unwind, lose weight—you know, fight postpartum depression.” Cromag, who certainly did not know, nodded sagely. He mulled it over for a moment. “This is getting too complicated for me,” he said, leaping into the saddle. Edaina ducked under the stallion, jerked loose the saddle girth, and tipped Cromag sideways off the horse. 

Before the Barbarian could recover, Edaina darted in cat-quick and snatched one of the half-dozen knives at his belt. “If you think you’re getting out of this that easily, you’re out of your sun-bronzed mind,” she said, brandishing the poniard. 

Rising, Cromag drew his sword. Edaina laughed. “You’re bluffing, toots. Everybody knows your ‘Barbarian Code’ won’t let you fight a woman.” 

Cromag scrunched up his almost nonexistent forehead, so that his single eyebrow briefly met his square-cut, black bangs. Then he brightened. “Wrong. The Barbarian Code says it’s all right to fight a woman if I disarm her without hurting her. Then she always swoons into my arms, making my corded muscles stand out in stark relief.” He stepped forward, swinging. The longer reach and greater weight of Cromag’s sword soon drove the Princess back through the door they had exited a moment earlier. A mighty blow from Cromag’s sword knocked the dagger from her numbed fingers. Raising the back of one hand to her forehead, eyes rolling upward, Edaina began to pitch forward toward the already-flexing arms of the eager victor. As soon as Cromag’s sword clattered to the ground, she straightened and punched him with both small fists simultaneously, one to his bull-like Adam’s apple, the other to the nerve cluster just above his xiphoid process. Cromag hit the floor like a ton of sun-bronzed bricks. 

As she tossed Cromag’s sword out a window overlooking a 400foot precipice, Edaina commented, “All members of the royal family of Hyccupia-Zambonee are trained in the ancient art of Trackshu-Jitsu.” Cromag heaved himself to his feet and lurched toward her. “The first lesson of Trackshu-Jitsu is: ‘Scared as Shit’ runs faster than ‘Madder than Hell,’ “ she finished, sprinting nimbly down the corridor, vaulting over slain guards. Over her shoulder she called, “That sword’s pretty big—are you compensating for something?” 

With an inarticulate roar he followed her fleeing form, thoughts of riding off without her forgotten. Rounding a corner, Cromag saw the Princess duck into the temple’s library. The Barbarian stopped just inside the door, staring at the shelves packed with dusty books and ancient scrolls of arcane and evil knowledge. 

He never saw what hit him: the largest, heaviest volume in the temple’s collection, the pop-up, action Kama Sutra. The embossed leather cover left position LXIX imprinted on his cheek. Dropping the tome on Cromag’s foot, Edaina said, “I know that’s the closest you’ve ever been to a book, so I hope you learned something. At least it made an impression.” 

Before he could grab her, she was gone again, racing down a hallway and into the temple’s kitchen. This time, Cromag came through the doorway more cautiously; hence the cast-iron frying pan caught him only a glancing blow before he tore it from Edaina’s grasp and hurled it across the room. Cromag raised his fist. 

Again Edaina laughed. “You won’t hit me—your Barbarian Code won’t permit it!” 

It was Cromag’s turn to laugh. “The Barbarian Code’s very clear: I can cold-cock a woman ‘for her own good,’ usually to keep her out of danger. For you I’ll make an exception.” Then he unloaded a haymaker that would have smashed her like a bug on a chariot’s windscreen, if it had connected. 

Ducking Cromag’s ham-fisted swing, Edaina grabbed a cup of pepper from a table and hurled it in his face. As he clawed at his eyes, she kicked his feet from under him, dropping him flat onto his back. 

Edaina knelt between his legs, yanking another knife from his belt. Eyes still tightly shut, Cromac felt a tickling sensation he identified as a knife point there. Sighing heavily, he said, “You win. I will marry you. This I swear by Chrome, my patron god who never listens to humans’ prayers anyway.” The dagger was tossed aside and Cromag rose to his knees. “Now you will reward me with your virtue.” He pulled aside the tattered remains of her sacrificial robe, then snatched back his hands as if he’d been burned. “What sort of armor is this?” he cried, staring aghast. 

“My, but you are provincial. It’s called a ‘chastity belt,’ and it prevents . . .” 

“I CAN SEE WHAT IT PREVENTS! But I can also see that I’ll tear it off with my teeth if that’s what it takes to . . .” 

Edaina smiled, patting the Barbarian’s head. “That’s sweet, darling, but the belt’s magical, and the only key is at my family’s castle. I’ll send a carrier pigeon asking my mom to bring the key when she comes to live with us.” 

“Your mother? Live with us?” gasped Cromag. “But my reward . . . ?” 

“It’ll take a week for mom to get here. Think of it as foreplay.” 


“A man with your looks and reputation doesn’t know about foreplay?” 

Cromag shrugged as she helped him to his feet. “Women usually just swoon into my heavily-muscled arms. I thought that was foreplay. Lots of swooning.” 

A thought struck him. “How do you know so much? You’re supposed to be a virgin.” 

Gazing at his broad shoulders, deep chest, lean waist, sinewy arms, long legs, wide hands, powerful fingers, and adamantine fingernails, she breathed, “I am. But girls talk, and even virgins have ears . . . and imaginations.” 

Cromag nodded, pleased with the implications. “You are worth the wait. Never before have I met a woman who was my equal in battle.” 

“You still haven’t met a woman who’s your equal,” Edaina corrected her fiancé. 

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