Embrace of the Goddess
Chapter 10: Conversations with Monsters
By Trixie Adara
You gasp as your lover’s lips pull apart from yours like a dancer. She brings them to your chin, tasting the salt of your flesh. The lips trail their way down your neck, and she hesitates. You have seen how her minions devour there, how they take the life from the thick and pulsing vein. You have long wondered if she would do the same. Half of you resents her for not doing it, but that part is insane with lust. The other part, still cold and pious, fears death at the hand of a monster.
But your lover does not make your perverted musings a reality. She trails her kisses down your chest. With her lips between your breasts, you whimper. She has to stop. She has to give them her attention. Once more the wild part demands that she pierce them. Something calls out in your blood. It screams behind the flesh to be free through any means necessary. Losing a little blood is nothing to have it out out out. The neck. The nipple. Anywhere she wants to pierce you, to break down your body and insert herself.
But she doesn’t stop. She kisses down your stomach, and as her lips tickle the soft and curling hair between your legs, you arch your back and moan. Other times, you’ve called out for goddesses. But now only your lover’s name escapes your lips, coming from deep inside you. The breath is hot like a chasm all the way to the abyss. It doesn’t matter. The source is irrelevant to the beauty. Her name can never be defiled. It can never be impure.
“Iriel,” you cry.
Orilana slipped out of bed, and the transcripts she’d been reading fell to the floor. Her body was drenched with sweat, but they didn’t have water for baths. They didn’t have much of anything. Iriel had taken the Abbey. What had started as a rebellion was now a takeover, and Orilana’s paladins were the tiny insurgent force trying to hold out. They could hardly leave their cave these days. Iriel’s monsters and dryads kept careful watch. Though Orilana assumed they were being some twisted form of merciful. They had to have a way through. The oreads alone could tunnel through and kill them all.
What was Iriel waiting for?
They had asked Prim some form of that question a dozen times. But the vampire wouldn’t answer questions. Unfortunately, that didn’t mean she wouldn’t talk. She had all manner of things to say to each paladin that guarded her. She would taunt them, speculating how their blood would taste. She would tease them about their virginity and purity, making lewd comments and drinking in their bodies with lurid glances. She would wonder aloud about the amount of pubic hair they had and what color it was. She would think aloud about where their scars were, and if she could open them up with her teeth.
They had taken to plugging their ears with wax or strips of cloth when they watched her.
Harza suggested they gag the demon, but Orilana knew that eventually Prim would slip. She would say something she didn’t intend. She would give something away. Guards kept their ears plugged, but nearby, a paladin would transcribe all of Prim’s comments and mutterings. When she was done, she went to confession and cleansed herself of the abominable comments. After that, she would give the transcripts to Orilana to read over.
There was no one for Orilana to confess to.
Orilana splashed water on her face and didn’t bother to dry it. She let the droplets run down her chin and neck, slide down her back and chest. The cool water was a sweet relief, and she could pretend for a moment it was a bath. But after taking a deep breath, she went to her desk, grabbed a piece of parchment, her quill, and began to write her doom:
I have debated over and over if I should write you. To say it is a temptation would be a lie. I am not tempted to speak with you. For I know that you are no more than Maloth. The beast has twisted your mind. She has slithered inside of you and corrupted all that is good. There is no more Iriel. My best friend is dead, and the archenemy of all that is good and beautiful killed her.
But in a war, it may be appropriate for the corresponding generals to speak with each other, to broker terms, to potentially discuss peace. That is what I am here to write you about. I want you to know that there will be no peace. We will not surrender. You shall not have us. If you storm through the walls of our cavern, breaking stone and flesh, we will slit our own throats before you will corrupt us.
I will slit my own throat before you corrupt me.
But I’m sure you know the state of my paladins and our resources. I’m sure there are spies in our ranks as there are spies in yours. I know you have the Abbey. I know dark powers that haven’t walked the earth in a millennia sleep in your bed. I know that we are up against the night itself, as inevitable as each setting sun. So, there is only one question left:
What are you waiting for?
There was a knock at the door. Orilana flinched, stood up, sat back down, grabbed the piece of parchment, and crumpled it up.
“Come in,” she shouted.
The door opened, and Harza entered with an eager look on her half-orc face. “She’s talking,” she said.
Harza nodded. The half-orc was dirty and ragged like everyone else, but she didn’t complain about it once. Her hair was now matted down and plastered to her scalp, but she smiled often. It was a simple but elegant balm to Orilana’s weary soul.
“All she does is talk,” Orilana said.
“Not raving or insulting or …” Harza looked away. “Whatever else she does.”
Orilana frowned. “Actually talking?”
Harza nodded. “But she has one condition.”
“And that is?”
“She’ll only talk to you.”
Orilana tapped the corner of her desk. This had to be another trap. Prim was just another iteration of Farryn. She would be another mouthpiece for whatever foulness Maloth had in store. It was probably all disinformation. But maybe it could be more. Maybe they could bind her to something. She would need a priestess of acolyte capable of it.
“Go get Rella. Make sure she’s there,” Orilana said. The veiled girl was a welcome surprise. Her story was vague about how she’d escaped the Abbey, so Orilana assumed it was tragic and traumatizing. But having someone who knew the ways of divine magic, of spells and bindings and rituals beyond what paladins were taught, could be the difference in this war.
“Yes, Captain,” Harza said. She left and closed the door behind her. Orilana took the balled-up piece of parchment, uncrumpled it, and read it one last time. Then she crumpled it up again, grabbed a candle, and burned the letter.
The unfortunate thing about her new powers was that Rella didn’t get the chance to show them off to anybody. The morons around her saw the veil and didn’t think anything of it. Rella had half a mind to flay the mind of an unsuspecting paladin, put the veil on the poor girl, and let her go around the dirty cave in her place.
Maloth had blessed her with the ability to take any shape, any appearance. She could be Iriel or Prim or Farryn or Orilana in a heartbeat. She could be dark and lovely. She could be pale and fierce. Her skin was its own veil now. The only one who saw what she was beneath it, who could ever see the crooked nudity of her soul, was Maloth. She had worshipped at the altar of her goddess — Iriel’s flesh — hungrily these past weeks. Iriel became crueler and bored. She devised new ways to torment Rella, to punish her for her wicked deeds. But no punishment was enough; all of them brought pain and pleasure in equal amounts. Iriel didn’t cum anymore when they fucked, but every breath was orgasmic to Rella now. Life with Maloth was torment and bliss in perfect harmony.
Rella was given a simple task: bring Prim in as a distraction and find the Staff of the Eclipse. It was simple because the paladins would trust her and depend on her. Simple because she could change her appearance with the smallest amount of willpower. Simple because the paladins love trusting people and she’d already brought them a prize. She would let Prim distract them while she looked for the Staff, and then slip out with Orilana’s face.
Of course, that had been the plan before Harza found her and demanded she attend Prim’s interrogation. They were in a separate location from other prisoners — one made for Prim. There was a constant beam of sunlight dropping down and decorating the bars. They ringed the cage with holy water, and they kept two guards posted that changed every hour. Down the hall, a scribe copied every delightful thing Prim had to say.
Harza shoved some wax in her ears and handed them to Rella. “You’ll want these.”
Rella looked down and scoffed. “How will I hear the Captain’s command.”
“You’ll know if she needs you by the bleeding and screaming.”
Rella closed Harza’s hand, wrapping the lovely half-orc’s fingers around the wax. “I won’t hear the screaming with these in. Trust me. The beast won’t turn me. You forget that I brought her to you.”
Harza looked at Rella for a long moment, shrugged, and let Rella approach. Orilana was already there. The Captain’s black hair was in a messy braid with fraying hairs all around her. She stank as all the paladins did, and her pale grey skin looked sickly under the torchlight.
“Cap —” Orilana held up a hand and silenced the veiled woman.
“I talk,” she said. “I may need you to compel her, bind her, or kill her. Prepare the necessary spells.”
Rella bowed. “As you wish.”
“Finally,” Prim said. Her silver hair was dirty and wet. The vampire had long abandoned her paladin’s armor for simple and tight fighting clothes made in a quiet black fabric for catching her prey. The pants were torn, and the shoulders were ripped by Rella to make Prim’s entrance more dramatic.
“I want to know why Iriel is stalling,” Orilana said. “Are you prepared to discuss that?”
Prim sneered in response.
Orilana looked at Rella. “She’s going to lie, you know?”
Rella nodded. “I know.”
“Oh come, Rella,” Prim said. “Let’s not play games. Do you remember our sweet chats through the twisting caverns of this abominable rock?”
Rella reached for her magic immediately. White and burning light danced around her fingertips. Was Prim going to give her up? Iriel said the vampire was wily, but she wouldn’t ruin Maloth’s plans for a laugh, would she?
“I remember shackling your mouth shut,” Rella said. She forced her voice to stay even, trying not to let the shape of her true magic — thick purple smoke — show in front of the paladins.
Prim laughed and turned her attention to Orilana. “I wanted to tell you that you have lovely eyes.”
Orilana took a step back. “What?”
“That’s all. If you can stand to hear it without plugging your ears like the rest of these cowards, I just wanted to tell you that you have lovely eyes. That’s why I came here.”
“You didn’t come here,” Rella said. “I dragged you.”
Prim’s head turned lazily as her eyes settled on Rella. “Come now,” was all she said. She turned back to Orilana with a smirk on her face. Rella fumed.
Orilana shook her head. “If this is all you have to say to me, you’ve wasted my time.” The Captain turned and grabbed Rella’s elbow. “Come, acolyte.”
“Your beauty astounds me,” Prim shouted after them as they walked. “Even now. Do the heavens know you’ve stolen the stars for your eyes?”
Orilana whirled around and grabbed the bars of Prim’s cage. Rella held her breath. If Prim wanted to attack, this would be the time. But Prim watched Orilana carefully. The vampire’s condescending smirk was gone. Her face was placid, almost eager.
“What’s your game?” Orilana asked.
Prim shook her head. She sank to her knees and cast her eyes down. The chains binding her rattled as she sank. “I’m not playing any games. I’m tired of games.”
“This sounds like the kind of thing you’ve been saying to my paladins. Trying to lower their guard.”
Prim looked up at her. Her eyes were wide, and Rella thought they looked wet. “Would you ever lower your guard around something like me? Now that I’ve become this …” Prim turned her head away and whispered, “Monster.”
Orilana let her hands slip further through the bars, as though she wanted to reach out and hold Prim. There was a long moment between them. Rella waited for Prim to lunge and rip Orilana’s hands away from her wrists. She waited for Orilana to summon her magic and blast the demon back. She waited for the catch, but nothing happened. As time passed, both women softened. Orilana pulled her hands back through the bars and stepped away from the cage.
“I’m sorry for being a brat,” Prim said. “Before I became this. I never got the chance to apologize or change.”
Orilana shook her head. “It’s too late for that now.”
Prim shook her head. “No. It’s not.”
Orilana gasped and stepped closer to the bars. “What?”
“Maloth is freedom. Maloth is choice. She never forces anything on us we don’t want.”
Orilana scoffed. “More propaganda.”
Prim shook her head. “It’s not that. There’s a way back. Azora can save me.”
“I’m supposed to believe you want to be saved?”
“You think I let her drag me back here? Rella?” Prim sneered at the veiled woman.
“I think you’re planning something. That’s why you’re here.”
“If I —” Prim looked down again. Her shoulder shook, and a large teardrop fell from her face and splattered on the stone floor of her cell. Rella didn’t know the vampire was biologically capable of crying. “Will you assume I’m lying no matter what I tell you?”
“If I say that Maloth was in my heart long before Iriel betrayed me?”
Orilana said nothing. Her hands turned into fists, and her jaw clenched.
“If I say that I’ve loved you for a long, long time. That Maloth has just given me permission to have what I’ve always longed for, to be what I’ve always been?”
“You think — That’s all I am to you?”
“That’s all I see. A demon who would kill me and everyone I love.”
“I didn’t choose to become this. I want to go back. I want to be with Azora. I want to be with you.”
Orilana shook her head and stepped away.
“It’s always been you, Orilana.” Prim’s voice cracked as stood up and strained against the chains of her cell. “That’s why I’m here. That’s why I let them take me.” Orilana kept walking away. She waved for Rella to follow. “When I heard it was you against Maloth, I had to come back. I had to switch sides. I had to —”
Orilana slipped out of sight, and Prim sunk to her knees, defeated. With her head cast down, and her body wrapped in shadow, Rella almost missed the condescending smirk that danced along the vampire’s lips.
Orilana didn’t sleep that night. Serra came back and reported that another group of paladins were taken by surprise. Oreads and naiads oozed out of the walls and forced themselves on the women. Cries of pain turned to moans of pleasures, and within the hour, the paladins were either pierced or taken to the pools for transformation. All night Orilana thought of a mountain of monsters beneath her. But these were her sisters and friends. They had fought the darkness with her. They were the last bastion of light in a dimming world.
Now they were nothing but holes to be filled.
When Orilana knew sleep wouldn’t come, she got out of bed and went to her desk. She grabbed another piece of parchment, and started writing:
I don’t hate you. I want you to know that before the end. Before you kill me or I kill you, I want you to know that there is no hatred in me for my best friend, Iriel. There is no spite for the High Priestess of Azora. I do not even blame you for your weakness. You were the door Maloth chose to enter the world, but I don’t think you would have opened it if you knew what it would bring. I don’t think you would walk where I couldn’t follow.
You’ve beaten us. By the time you get this, it won’t matter, if I send this at all. Every time one of my paladins falls, an enemy rises up. And no matter what games you play with Prim, I won’t fall for her trap. But a stalemate serves you. I want you to know that I won’t quit. I won’t surrender. You can call it pride or vanity, but I still believe in goodness. I believe in doing the right thing. I don’t think temperance, prudence, or modesty are to be scoffed at. I don’t think they are shackles around our souls. I believe in Azora.
And I believe in you.
When I fight you, when I snarl and hiss and force you to kill me before you turn me into a demon, I want you to know that it isn’t Iriel I hate. You kissed me, and I staggered away, afraid. I hurt you, but in that moment, I could only see the smoke and dark shape Maloth had twisted you into. I could only see what Maloth had taken away from me. I hate her for that. I will never forgive her. Never bend my knee. Never submit. Too many people have died for her pleasure. Too many souls have been twisted, dreams and passions snuffed out, because Maloth believes the height of existence is pleasure.
She is wrong. There are deeper forces that make life worth living: unity, sisterhood, faith, hope, and love. Yes, love. You know that I love you. But the thing pounding on my door, sending nightmares to me each night — for I know it is you — is not my love, my Iriel. It is the monster that has locked her away, and if I cannot save her, if she will not let me save her, I would rather burn than join the twisted dance macabre she is forced through each day.
You are not wrong. You were never wrong. Not your desires or passions or urges. For I loved you before Maloth corrupted you. And if you can find your way back to me, back to that, then maybe there is a way out of this war. Maybe together, we can avenge our fallen sisters, avenge the time we lost to Maloth’s games, and I may try once more, to kiss you for the first time.
I’ll do it properly this time, I promise.
Orilana finished the letter, stood up, grabbed the candle, and burned it. Then with the strength of her convictions stirring within her, she grabbed her sword and left her tiny room. She knew what she was going to do, what she needed to do. She had stalled long enough, and that had cost lives. Hope had cost lives.
Harza looked up from a conversation with wounded paladins, saw the Captain, and ran to Orilana’s side. “You alright?” she asked as she matched Orilana’s stride.
“I think I know what I need to do.”
“Just need one more bit of information.”
“Permission to speak candidly?” Harza said.
Orilana paused and turned to her. Something about the bite in Harza’s tone reminded Orilana of Prim, of an argument they had in Iriel’s office. Orilana looked deep into Harza’s dark eyes, looking for any changes in her second. Prim’s hair had changed when she’d been corrupted, but Harza looked like Harza. The only change was the obvious fatigue and grime that clung to her.
“Granted,” said Orilana, but her hand gripped her sword tightly. She wouldn’t be caught off guard again.
“There is a war going on,” Harza said. “I doubt paladins of an abbey have been trained for war, but I need you to start thinking in terms of a general and not a theologian.”
“You think I don’t know what I’m doing?”
Harza shook her head. “I think you’re too close to the problem.”
“Any other tips for me?”
Harza clenched her fists, rocked on her heels, and looked around the crowded cavern. It had once been crowded with warriors and weapons. Now there were cots and bedrolls pressed against each other with the wounded moaning while other paladins made their best attempts at proper healing magic.
Where in the dawn’s light was Rella? They could use an acolyte for some proper healing.
Harza took a step closer to Orilana. Close enough to slide a knife through the weak points of Orilana’s armor. Close enough to kiss. “Tell me what you need to know to be sure. Whatever it is you’re about to go find out with that sword white-knuckled in your hand. What is it?”
Orilana took a deep breath and released it slowly. “I want to know if our people can be saved.”
“And by our people you mean Iriel.”
“If Iriel is saved this whole war is won in a single stroke.”
“Iriel. Prim. All of them. You can’t trust anyone. You can’t even trust me. This is war, Captain. It isn’t theology, not anymore. I don’t care about the proper tenants of Azora when I have to hold the hands of a dying friend and lie to them by saying everything is going to be alright. It isn’t.”
“Then what would you have me do? Stage an attack?”
“Would they expect that?”
“And if I can’t trust you? If this is another nightmare sent by Maloth to plague me?”
“Then don’t trust me. Trust yourself. Trust what you’ve known and always known.”
Orilana opened her mouth to speak but stopped herself. That’s what she had been doing, what she was trying to do. For so long, trusting Azora and Iriel had been the same thing. Now she was forced to choose between them. Which came first? Which owned the most real estate in her heart?
“I’m going to get my answer.” Orilana swallowed. “A true answer. Then I’ll know what to do. I’ll act decisively from then on.”
Harza nodded. Her eyes darted to something behind Orilana, and the captain spun to see Rella enter the room. “Is she part of your plan?” Harza asked.
“I don’t trust her.”
“You don’t have to. I do.”
Harza’s eyes went back to Orilana. “You shouldn’t trust her either.”
“She’s an acolyte.”
“Everything we fight used to be an acolyte or a paladin. That doesn’t mean much anymore.” Harza nodded in Rella’s direction. “And I don’t like that veil. It’s like she has permission to hide something.”
“No one’s hiding anything.”
“Everyone’s hiding something. You’re surrounded by enemies. Don’t forget that.”
Orilana nodded. “You coming?”
Harza nodded. “If for no other reason than to keep an eye on her.”
Orilana beckoned Rella over and ordered her to follow them for one last interrogation with Prim. As they walked through the corridors to the separate location where they held Prim, Rella had to half jog to keep up with the long-legged and impatient warriors.
“There’s something I wanted to speak to you about before you talk to her again,” Rella said breathlessly. Though if it were nerves or the climb, Orilana couldn’t tell.
“I’ll want a zone of truth around her. On top of that, compel her to answer my questions thoroughly and honestly.”
“She’s too strong for that,” Rella said. “And there’s something else you should —”
“I’ll weaken her,” Orilana said.
“Yes, but I need to talk to you about —”
“You bound her before, yes?” Harza asked. “How did you do it the first time.”
“A bit of luck,” Rella snapped. “I’d hate to depend on it twice.” Harza huffed but said nothing more. “As I was saying, there is something you should know before we go in there.”
Orilana paused before rounding the corner of another passageway and exposing them to Prim’s ears. “Yes?”
“Iriel had tasked me to research more about the specifics between Maloth and Azora, their origins, conflict, and Maloth’s supposed demise.”
“Was this before or after her corruption?” Harza asked.
“Before.” Rella turned her face towards the half-orc, letting her bright green eyes bear down on her. She turned back to Orilana. “I believe she wanted to know more about Maloth, empower the goddess, prevent a future demise, or perhaps corrupt me.”
“And did it corrupt you?” Harza asked.
“I spent weeks in tomes finding alternate and arcane translations while the Abbey went to hell,” Rella said, ignoring Harza. “There was one interesting phraseology that I discovered, but when I brought it up to Iriel, she barely flinched.”
Harza sighed. “More theology?”
“Hush,” Orilana snapped. “Go on, acolyte.”
“Well, before she tasked me with this, I was already dealing with translations inaccuracies between the elvish, celestial, abyssal, and infernal translations of the Divine Dictations, and —”
“The point,” Harza snapped. “Find it now.”
Rella looked at Harza slowly. “Azora didn’t slay Maloth. She consumed her. Absorbed her. Took her essence inside her. Within Azora there is always a bit of Maloth, and I assume now because of the nature of Iriel, the other side is true for Maloth. The sister goddesses are closer to two sides of the same coin rather than two enemies.”
Harza sighed. “What does this have to —”
“Quiet,” Orilana said. She stepped closer to Rella and put her hands on the veiled woman’s shoulder. Her heart was pounding in her chest. “What does that mean for Iriel?”
“It means she may be inside there. There may be a way out. What Prim is saying may not be entirely false.” Rella reached up and grabbed Orilana’s hands, giving them a squeeze. “It means there may be hope.”
Orilana was quiet for a long time. This was the answer she needed, but Harza was right. No one could be trusted. She would get her answers. She wasn’t going to leave Prim’s cell without it.
“Let’s go,” she said. She let go of Rella, and the three women moved down the stone passage. As they got closer, they heard the low singing of Prim. She was singing a hymn about the rising dawn being a promise of darkness’s end. She had a lovely voice.
When they reached the cell, Orilana waited while Rella prepared the zone of truth. Prim didn’t stop singing as Rella worked, but she kept her eyes fixed on Orilana. The captain thought of the vampire’s lie, that she loved her. Even if it were true, Prim’s love could only be a cruel hunger now.
And Orilana’s heart belonged to another.
“Harza, get ready,” Orilana commanded. She looked at guards. “Let me in.”
“Captain?” one asked.
“Let me in.”
“The prisoner is chained,” Harza said. “Let the Captain in.”
The guards obeyed. Prim kept singing about starlight and moonlight reminding us of Azora when everything felt lost. Before the door swung open, they drew their swords and gripped them tight. Harza and Orilana did the same. But Prim was hunched and relaxed. She was weary and filthy. Yet her voice and her smile were stunning.
It’s a trap, Orilana had to remind herself. It’s all a trick.
Orilana stepped into the cage and ordered them to close it behind them. They obeyed. As the lock clicked, Prim finally stopped singing.
“Lovely song,” Prim said.
“Foul from your lips,” Orilana said. “Sounds like you’re mocking it.”
“You know, I think if Maloth had songs like that, people wouldn’t be so afraid of her.”
“Is that your angle for today? Maloth is the victim of a bad reputation. Gossip is her downfall?”
Prim smirked. “Rethought my words?”
Orilana sheathed her sword. “I’m going to beat you soon.”
“Oh goodie,” Prim said flatly.
“I want you to know that I don’t believe in torture.”
“But beating is —”
“So I’m going to take your chains off. You’re welcome to defend yourself.”
“Captain?” Harza asked.
Orilana didn’t turn back at them. It didn’t matter. She was out of time. “I’m going to compel you to answer my questions. But Rella tells me you’ll need to be softened up a bit.”
“Beating plus forcing me against my will to answer by magical means,” Prim said with another smirk. “Doesn’t sound like torture at all.”
Orilana ignored and began unshackling her. It was a magical binding that only Orilana and Serra knew the word to break. She braced herself for some quick movement from Prim, but the vampire stayed still as the first chain fell to the floor. She only rubbed her wrists once the second one fell.
“Now you’ll feel okay beating me?” Prim asked.
Orilana draws her sword. “You don’t have to defend herself if you don’t want to.”
“I submit to the spell,” Prim said. She leaned to the left, looking beyond Orilana to Rella. “That’s how it works, right? She doesn’t have to beat me if I submit to it?”
“You what?” Orilana asked.
“Th-that’s right,” Rella said.
Prim nodded to herself. “Good. I submit then.” Her smile widened. “It’s not Maloth that’s afraid of the truth.”
“Do it,” Harza said. “Do it now.”
“Yes, yes.” Rella began chanting in celestial, but Orilana kept her hands on her sword. She widened her stance. She’d fought some of Prim’s spawn. The vampires were incredibly fast. She’d have to imagine Prim was faster. This was a trick, it all had to be.
A pale golden light filled the room like faerie fire. The air was lighter and cleaner, but something about it clung to Orilana’s throat.
“Are you in love with Iriel?” Prim asked.
“Of course.” Orilana blushed at how quickly she spoke the words. She wanted to turn around and see Harza’s reaction, but she didn’t dare take her eyes off Prim.
“You tricked me,” Orilana said.
“I did,” Prim said. “Afraid of the truth?”
“Yes.” She took a step back. One hand lifted from her sword and covered her mouth.
“Leave Captain,” Harza said. “This is a trick.”
Orilana uncovered her mouth. “I can’t until I have my answers,” Orilana said.
“Do you enjoy the dreams she’s been sending you?” Prim asked.
“Yes.” Orilana covered her mouth again. This time she turned around to see the shocked expression on Harza’s face. Prim’s laughter filled the chamber.
“Perhaps we should take turns,” Prim said. “After all, this is your torture chamber.”
Harza, Rella, and the other guards didn’t say anything. Did they wonder what dreams Prim spoke of? Did it matter? If Orilana liked anything Maloth or Iriel was doing, she was contaminated. Doomed. But they kept their eyes on Orilana, waiting to see what her next move was. Slowly, Orilana turned back around. She was being clumsy, falling for each trick. She shouldn’t take her eyes off the vampire. She needed to keep her hands on her blade.
“Is this a trap?” Orilana asked.
“Yes.” Prim shrugged. “Can’t blame a girl for trying.”
“Why are you here?”
“To get the Staff of the Eclipse.”
“What do you need it for?”
“A ritual.” Prim sighed and rolled her shoulders. It was hard to believe she was under the effect of Rella’s spell. She spoke casually as she betrayed her goddess and High Priestess. “Maloth needs an avatar,” she said. “An actual body she can inhabit so she can leave her celestial cage and enter the material plane. Once she’s here, her power can grow, and she won’t need an avatar anymore.”
The heat of embarrassment that had flushed Orilana’s skin was replaced by the cold of dread. “Iriel will be the avatar?” she asked.
“I don’t know.” Prim smirked. “Honest. My turn for a question?”
“What?” Orilana’s head buzzed as she imagined Iriel dead and gone, nothing but a true husk for Maloth to fill. The other monsters kept some part of themselves though it was twisted and broken. If what Prim said was true — and of course it was — then Iriel would be dead and gone forever. There would be nothing left.
“Does someone need to be good to be loveable?” Prim asked.
“No,” Orilana said without thinking. There was the light pat of footsteps on stone, but Orilana’s mind whirled and vision blurred. She had to save Iriel. That had to be her next question. How can she save Iriel?
“Then what’s keeping you from Iriel?”
“We have chosen different paths.”
“Then choose her path,” Prim said. Orilana felt the vampire’s breath on her neck. She spun in time, but Prim didn’t lunge for her throat. She lunged for Orilana’s lips. Harza and the guards shouted, but Orilana was too shocked to move. Prim kissed her, but Orilana’s mind floated away.
At the end of one path is a white and shining city. The other is covered in barbs and snakes, but an elven woman with copper hair and rich honey skin stands naked and waiting for you. You forget all about the beautiful city and the haunting music calling you to its gates. You cross to your lover and wrap her in your arms. Let the snakes and thorns bite you. You kiss her, and the poison filling your body doesn’t burn anymore. You don’t feel the heat of the city aflame. You don’t care as Iriel’s claws drag long wounds across your back. You don’t feel the pain of her fangs biting your lips, moving down your neck, to the soft spot where it meets the shoulder.
You only cry out her name as she pierces you, fucking your neck with her fangs.
“Iriel,” Orilana moaned as Prim sank her teeth into the captain. Outside of the cage, the guards and Harza sprang into action. Rella wasn’t sure what Prim had been planning, but she acted quickly. Her spell lashed out and wrapped around one paladin, breaking the poor girl’s neck. She reached for the other, but Harza had already opened the cage. Inside, Orilana came to her senses and threw Prim off her. Prim backed away, smiling and licking the captain’s blood from her chin.
The two paladins circled the vampire. There was no more banter or games between them. Rella sent a thick tendril of magic down one the other guard’s throat, choking her slowly. While she was distracted, there was a quick flash of golden light, snarls, and the sounds of blade cutting through flesh. In the time it took Rella to look, Prim darted out of the cage with a large gash along her forearm.
“Bind her!” Orilana shouted as she sprinted after the impossibly quick demon. Harza ran after them, limping from a wound. Rella prepared the spell and lashed it around Harza’s throat and legs. The half-orc fell with a cry, but Orilana didn’t look back. She kept running after Prim, leaving Rella alone with her prey.
“I hear you don’t like me very much,” Rella said. “Let’s see if we can’t fix that.”
In the Captain’s small chamber, Harza sighed with relief when she finally found the Staff of the Eclipse. She took it out and admired the ancient artifact. She’d thought there would be a rush of power or some surging ecstasy when she touched it. There wasn’t. The staff was made of twinning onyx and gold. At the head, there was a pennant of the shining sun. Wrapped around that sun was a crescent moon, appearing mostly eclipsed.
On the bed, the other Harza moaned. Though Rella wasn’t sure if that was from pleasure or pain. She shrugged. They were the same thing to Maloth in the end. She looked back at the fun tableau she left for Orilana: Harza, the refined half-orc captain, was bound to the bed. Each limb got its own corner, keeping her spread eagle. She was naked, and Rella admired the beautiful scarring and musculature of the lithe woman. She simply had to try on that skin before she left the little camp and returned to Iriel.
Bound with her face buried deep in Harza’s pussy was a random paladin Rella convinced to come with them. She had dark skin and smooth features, with a kinky mane of hair. Her hands and knees were bound, keeping her kneeling with her arms behind her back. Those bindings were then attached to the bed. Another binding around the beautiful girl’s neck kept her head in place. But just to be sure, Rella gave her a powerful spell. If she wanted to breathe, she’d have to lick. It didn’t matter if she enjoyed it, she couldn’t even pass out and let her body take over. The spell was stronger than that.
Harza writhed against her bindings pointless. Rella chuckled. “It’s amazing when you reach that point that something feels too good. When something hurts just right?” Rella shook her head, the one that was now identical to Harza’s. With a ripple of her power, Rella’s form flickered. Then, at the front of the room Orilana stood with the Staff of the Eclipse in her hands.
“When you get free from this,” Rella said to Harza. “Know that I’ll still get off on the memory of it. I imagine you will as well. Eventually.”
Harza only moaned in response.
Rella/Orilana laughed and stepped out of the room. Outside, the cavern was in chaos. Paladins were arming themselves. Some turned to Rella/Orilana and asked for order, but she gave them vague answers about preparing for attack. There were mutters about it being a suicide mission to attack now.
Rella smirked. That wouldn’t be so bad, now would it?