Title: The Priest, The Barbarian, and the Lion
Author: Strega
© 2004
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The Priest, the Barbarian, and the Lion A short vore story by Strega.18 February 2004.

The priest knew his life was lost.

Priests, evil or not, were not popular in this land of barbarians. Oh, change the label to 'Shaman', and suddenly all was well, but the thuggish locals had quickly realized that foreigner priests were just that -- Priests -- regardless of title. Nothing so complex as being burned at the stake awaited the priests. No, a simple axe or sword or mace did for them.

Gilus was such a priest, and Thuralt was the barbarian who'd found him sneaking through the hills. Gilus knew the barbarian's name, since that lackwit had announced it as soon as they'd met.

'I am Thuralt', he'd said, fingering his plainly magical axe and shrugging so his head-sized biceps flexed. He cut an impressive figure, scarred and muscled and clad in just a loincloth and shaggy lion's-pelt cloak. The dead beast's upper canines framed his forehead, and its mane was a shaggy halo around thick neck and hugely muscled shoulders. 'And you are a priest. I will kill you now.'

Gilus responded with his quickest spell, a simple Command to 'sleep'. These little spells worked well on the dim-witted locals, and while they only lasted a minute, that was enough time to run. Or to cut the sleeping man's throat, if it came to that.

But the spell didn't stick. Thuralt smiled, touching an amulet hanging from his iron necklace. The amulet, Gilus saw, was now glowing.

'Not good enough, priest. I got this toy from another of your kind, and it breaks your foreign magic. Now…' He lifted the axe, 'You die.'

'Wait', said Gilus, thinking fast. 'May I try one more spell?'

Thuralt leaned back, bellowing out a hearty laugh. 'Do I look like an idiot to you, priest?'

Gilus chose not to answer, but the barbarian read his face. It was a hastily contrived expression, the twisted lip of disgust and the narrowed eyes of one who looks on a coward. Knowing he was about to die, the priest looked down his nose at the big barbarian.

Scorn worked when reason or clever words would have failed. 'Bah!,' rumbled Thuralt. 'Do your worst. I've taken everything your kind can give, and my prize has protected me. Cast your last spell.'

Gilus gripped the carven ram's-head of his holy symbol and launched into the words. His free hand gestured up, down, then left and right. It was an exhausting spell, one that took some of his own life force. One he'd only recently learned to cast, and certainly not one he'd ever expected to cast in battle.

It was a lengthy casting. Thuralt fingered his axe impatiently as a full minute went by, then another, with the priest still chanting.

'Are you done with your finger-wiggling yet, priest? I grow impatient.' There was no sign of a stop to it, and the barbarian's brows drew together. 'Stalling, are we? Well --'

Just then, the spell was complete. Gilus sagged, exhausted, and the barabarian grinned, for the spell had seemingly done nothing. Then, just as Thuralt stepped forward, the muzzle of his lion-head 'helmet' dropped down over his eyes.

'What…?' The dead lion's snout dropped further, seeming to bite at the barbarian's head, and suddenly the rest of the lion-hide cloak moved. The huge, clawed paws that'd dangled on his .chest reached out and grasped his arms, the bulk of the big hide wrapped around his muscled torso from the sides, and the lion-cloak's tail thrashed side to side. The dead cat actually growled as it struggled to overpower the man.

Gilus leaned back against a rock, trembling. He should run, he knew, but the spell had exhausted him. All he could do was watch as the man and the cloak struggled.

The lion-hide was filling out. The hide swelled as its skin grew moist and alive once more, connective tissue regenerated, and muscle appeared out of nothingness as the spell progressed. The hide grew heavier, more massive, and suddenly it weighed more than the struggling barbarian. Thuralt staggered, too strong to be borne down by the bulk -- but the process was not complete. Bone was appearing now too, and the cloak gripped him harder as its new muscles gained leverage.

The barbarian was wrapped in the hide now, almost invisible beneath the mane, tan fur and lashing tail. The lion-head helmet engulfed Thuralt's face, muffling his shouts, and the two merged into a stuggling mass of fur and muscle.

The lion looked to be winning, and Gilus found the strength to cast the simple Animal Invisibility spell. Soon, it seemed, the lion would kill Thuralt, and it might come after him. Now it wouldn't be able to sense him unless he attacked it first.

But the lion did not rise to reveal the barbarian's battered body. The struggling mass of fur slowly resumed the shape of an intact, black-maned male lion, crouched down over its prey. But no, that was not it. The barbarian wasn't visible at all now, not one limb or inch of tanned skin.

Now the lion rose, sitting up. It was still fighting the barbarian…but the struggle was an inner one.

Gilus had recognized the hide as a magical species of lion, a 'Nemean' lion. The hide of these beasts was virtually impenetrable, and barbarian warriors sought them as armor. Usually the lions were poisoned, or occasionally strangled with a noose dangled from a tree. They were magnificent beasts, twice the size of normal lions and all rock-hard muscle and steely claws. This one had been killed and skinned years ago, but Gilus' Ressurection spell -- the one spell he'd been allowed to cast, and a spell not aimed at the magically warded Thuralt -- brought the lion back to life.

Ressurrection spells are powerful, but they aren't normally cast just on a skin. Usually there's more of the body available. Somehow, the spell had seized on the nearest source of additional flesh to fill itself out.

Thuralt. The gaunt lion heaved, its chest oddly distorted, and swallowed painfully. Six foot six inches and close to three hundred pounds of barbarian slid downward, swallowed alive by his own lionskin cloak. The lion's lithe body wriggled like a caught fish as the massively muscled barbarian struggled for release, but the hide had re-sealed itself around him, intact and unbreachable.

The hide had skin inside it now, and muscle…and it had a throat, now wrapped tightly around its unexpected meal. Its eyes squeezed shut as it swallowed, struggling to send Thuralt to its empty and ravenous stomach.

Bit by bit, the lion succeeded. Gilus watched it happen, watched the bulge-that-was-Thuralt work downward through the feline torso. Bit by but the lion's chest resumed its normal shape, and slowly the cat's belly swelled as more and more of its former owner entered the stomach.

Finally, there was a visible loosening. Enough of Thuralt was apparently in the belly that the ribcage wasn't squeezing the rest quite so hard, and with a massive, agonized GULP! the lion swallowed the man down. The cat's belly swelled grossly -- it'd probably never had such a huge meal, but its invulvernable hide did not split. Painfully full, the lion sagged, panting.

It was not over. So taut was the cat's belly that Thuralt's every feature showed in the fur, and the barbarian was fighting for his life. Muscled limbs pressed against the hide from within, and a face appeared, its features hardly softened by the thinly stretched muscle and hide. Thuralt hadn’t given up.

The lion, though, didn't seem to care. Though its belly bounced and writhed, the cat rapidly regained its composure. Stretching itself out, it pushed its hugely swelled gut against the ground, apparently getting used to the nearly three hundred pouunds of meat inside it. The cat's tail swayed lazily as the Ressurected and satiated beast knew life once more.

As the stuggles in its gut weakened, the cat chewed, turning its head and biting as though to bite its own lip. After a moment the lion gagged, coughed, and retched.

Thuralt's axe clanged to the stones, wet with saliva from the gullet. Nothing else came up.

The struggles in the stretched gut were almost invisibly weak now. Gilus stayed where he was and watched the great cat rise to all fours. Tail swaying, the huge cat made its way down the canyon, soon vanishing into the distance. No doubt, it sought a place to digest its unexpected and belly-drooping meal.

Faintly in the distance, the priest heard the beast belch.

'Well,' Gilus murmered as he collected the axe for later sale, 'That was unexpected.'

-- The End