Embrace of the Goddess
Chapter 12: The Ritual
By Trixie Adara
Maloth was ready.
The paladins have all been subdued. Rella was assigned to deal with them as she pleased. The Abbey rang with moans of pleasure and shrieks of pain. Or was it shrieks of pleasure and moans of pain? It didn’t matter. The Abbey was theirs. They’d won.
Maloth had won.
A dark cloud hung over the Abbey and the mountain it was nestled into. No one had been able to visit in months, but now nearby villagers began to talk. One low and thick cloud, purple and filled with black lightning, hung over the Abbey. Just the Abbey. It didn’t move. It didn’t burst. It hovered and waited.
Maloth was ready.
The Staff of the Eclipse went with Iriel everywhere. Her goddess wouldn’t let her put it down. She wouldn’t let her sleep for fear that her eyes would fall away from it. She wouldn’t let anyone else touch it. Not Prim or Rella or Melior. No one. They needed it for the ritual.
Maloth was ready.
The dark goddess needed a vessel. It would only be temporary. One mortal body to burn into a husk, giving the goddess flesh and limb. No longer would Maloth lurk in Iriel’s mind, take control of her limbs, cloud her thoughts, rob her sleep, or taint her fantasies. Maloth would be flesh and blood. Her vessel would be her womb, and once Maloth had found more worshippers, she would gather enough power to burst forth and be reborn in truth once more. She would not just walk the earth; she would ride the wind, stroke the ocean floor, and fuck the moon.
Maloth was ready.
She waited for millennia. She was once meant to sweep across creation like the stars while her twin was to warm mankind as the sun. They were almost two halves of the same divine, but Azora did not like what her children did in Maloth’s shadow. She could not stand to give her sister even half of man’s time. So, they went to war, and Maloth was devoured. She sat in her sister’s belly until almost all forgot her name. But deep in the tomb, she waited for a worshipper to become a priestess. She waited for a priestess to start a movement. A movement would grant Maloth the strength to take a vessel. A vessel would birth a goddess.
Maloth was ready.
The vessel would have to be a warrior. She would need a profound connection to the divine. She would need to be capable of letting magic flow through her veins. She would need strength and love pain. She would need to be disciplined and obedient. Maloth had been careful. Too many of those in Abbey were weak and needy. Too many were selfish and sniveling. Only a true acolyte of Azora would make the perfect vessel, and now Maloth had one.
Maloth was ready.
Iriel was never fit to be a goddess. She flirted with the idea, but she lacked the conviction and arrogance of the pious and divine. She had too many desires, and she would bend whatever laws or rituals she needed in order to have what she wanted. She would betray Azora to be powerful and free. She would betray Maloth to have Orilana to herself. No. She was not fit to be the vessel. She was fit to serve the vessel, to be a High Priestess. Maloth knew that. Iriel knew that.
And now Maloth was ready, and Iriel was not.
She walked through the silent chapel with the Staff of the Eclipse in her hands. From there, she descended down as she did foolishly so many nights ago. She went down down down to the Pools of Maloth. The nymphs had been cleared out. Rella had been told to leave as well. She could drown paladins and make monsters another time. Today, Maloth was ready, and it was time for the ritual. It was time to fill Orilana with the dark goddess until Iriel’s best friend was nothing more than a husk.
As she descended, Iriel remembered a nightmare she was plagued with days ago: dark stairs leading down to a dark chamber. The finery of the pools was gone. The acidic and demonic waters killed the once lush grassland, though Iriel suspected Maloth only permitted the grass to lure her in with comfort and idyllic nature scenery. Now Maloth probably only took away the beauty to spite her. The crystals shards in the cavern ceiling reflected dim torch light that surrounded the table in front of Maloth’s throne. Two women stood silhouetted in the torchlight as Iriel approached. Though woman was a strong word. One was Melior, the only other acolyte Maloth truly trusted. The other was a slender acolyte named Zelum. She was pierced, but she refused to enter the pools. Instead, she begged to be whipped and tied up, to have her nipples and ass tortured, to be mocked and belittled.
She was Melior’s favorite toy.
Iriel gripped the Staff of the Eclipse tightly. She hated that she couldn’t use it to fight them off. If she attempted a spell without her goddess’s permission, it failed. As far as she could reason with her sleep deprived mind, there was no way out of this for either of them. She wouldn’t be surprised if Maloth hollowed out Orilana and then pierced Iriel. To be a mindless drone and slave would almost be a relief after endless hours of being a reluctant puppet. It would be cruel, but then again, she served the goddess of cruelty.
On the table, stretched out so tight she could not writhe, was Orilana. Her pale and gray-ish skin was covered in sweat and thin red lines where Melior had run their claws along the body carelessly. Some lines were puffy, and some had scabbed over. Melior had been here for days, preparing the vessel for the goddess. They kept her awake. They fucked her. They taunted her. They hurt her.
They treated her like Maloth did Iriel.
Orilana’s black hair was unbraided and stringy. It was greasy from sweat and the dirt of battle. It hung limply over the table, and her large and clever eyes were dulled with pain and sleep-deprivation. Iriel’s heart broke to behold her best friend, her maybe lover, her one true companion in a cold world. Orilana had always been strong and powerful. Before, you felt her presence as soon as she walked into a room, even if you weren’t looking at her. Now she barely stood out against the black stone table. Before, she was tall, and her body felt like it was made of springy steel. Now she was one slender rope of twine about to snap. Before, she was curved and gentle; she was everything. Now she was nothing.
“Oh dear,” Iriel said. She reached out a hand and ran it over Orilana’s tight stomach. The elven woman didn’t flinch or pull away; the straps binding her to the table were too tight. Iriel reached out to her magic to heal Orilana’s wounds, but the magic didn’t come. She’d lost the holy arts. All she had now was the ability to seduce and corrupt, to control and hurt. Iriel pulled her hand away as though she was burned.
Melior stepped up and placed a hand on Iriel’s back. The ceremonial and seductive robe of Maloth was gone. Iriel knew that whatever happened next, Maloth would want her naked. But the cold touch of Melior’s hand on her body made her shiver. Some of the dreary sleepiness fled Iriel’s mind as her body tuned itself to Melior’s frequency. The demon was a force of nature if their touch could stir Iriel so deeply.
“You look lovely,” Melior whispered. A long tongue flicked out over Iriel’s ear. “So close to joining us.”
“Not quite like that.” Iriel stepped away. Melior had a legion of minds and experiences and twisted imaginations in their head. A mob was always crueler than an individual, and Melior was that mingled with weeks of Maloth’s corruptive influence.
“Maloth is ready,” Iriel said.
Melior hummed to themself. Across the table, Zelum moaned and sank to her knees. Iriel rolled her eyes and turned to look at Melior. The demon’s long tail was between their legs, sliding in and out as casually as though Melior were scratching their ear.
“Stop,” Iriel snapped. She looked back at Zelum and held out her hand. A black wave of smoke wrapped around the slender girl’s throat. Zelum coughed and sputtered, but slowly rose back to her feet. Behind Iriel, Melior seemed to wake up and stopped touching themself.
“Leave her,” they snapped.
“This is not time —”
“Debauchery?” Melior stepped closer and put her hand on Iriel’s back. Her touch numbed and aroused Iriel instantly, blocking out the High Priestess’s awareness of everything except where their fingers blessed her skin. In one swift move, Melior wrapped her arm around Iriel’s hip and reached down between the High Priestess’s legs. Her touch lit up every inch of Iriel, and the High Priestess tightened the noose around Zelum’s neck. The acolyte moaned and shoved a hand between her legs, but the moan stirred Iriel out of her lust. She stepped away from Melior and the table.
“Enough!” she roared.
Melior laughed and licked their lips. “Maloth always has time for debauchery.”
“No. Not —” Iriel’s eyes went to Orilana. The captain was watching her with wide eyes. Iriel closed her eyes and stilled herself with a slow and long breath. “We have to complete the ritual. Is she ready?”
Bring me to her, Maloth whispered in Iriel’s ear.
Before she could obey, the goddess moved Iriel’s feet against her will. Iriel stepped back up to the table and reached out a hand. She placed it over Orilana’s heart, and dark magic like steam rose from every pore in Iriel’s body. It lingered in the air, creating a haze, and then, in one smooth motion, it coalesced into a single line like a snake or a chord. It slithered over Orilana’s body, wrapping around the pale skin over and over, binding the elf to the table, constricting her breasts, and coiling around her thighs. Then in one sudden burst like lightning from a clear blue sky, the power of Maloth tried to penetrate Orilana, pressing deep into the elf’s pussy.
Orilana cried out, and Iriel realized it was the first sound her best friend had made. It was a sound of fear and desperation. It was a cry for help, but Iriel’s hand did not move. It pressed against Orilana’s fluttering heart, still and cold as the heart picked up its pace, slamming its shoulder against the inside of Orilana’s chest like a wild man trying to break out of a locked door while the room burns around him.
Orilana closed her eyes, tilted her head back, and howled at the top of her lungs. All at once, the torchlight in the room went out. The glittering light of dark crystals from the chamber ceiling disappeared. The sound of Melior’s heavy and thick breath and Zelum’s thin and whimpers vanished. The subtle sound of the bubbling pools was silenced as every sense was dulled and killed. They were deaf, dumb, and mute for so long, Iriel wondered if they had died. She would be certain of it if it weren’t for the still beating heart of Orilana and the skin slick with sweat. They were still here, but Orilana was the only piece of reality anchoring Iriel. Everything else was shadow and smoke. Everything else was a lie and a dream, a nightmare.
Then all at once, Orilana gasped, opened her eyes, and the light returned to the room. On Orilana’s thighs, her skin was blackened and charred in the shape of two handprints. The black vapor surrounded Iriel and eased itself back into her skin. It felt like needles sinking casually into each pore. She shouted and stumbled back, but the pain receded as quickly as it arrived. She looked around at Melior and Zelum. They were all looking at each other, and then they slowly looked down at Orilana.
“Maloth?” Zelum whispered.
She is too strong, Maloth hissed in Iriel’s ear. She rejects me.
Melior and Zelum looked at Iriel in astonishment. Slowly, all three of them looked down at Orilana, the woman strong enough to reject a goddess. To Melior and Zelum, the question was “Who would reject that pleasure?” Whereas to Iriel, the question was “How did you fight her off?”
But Orilana was not the paragon of virtue and strength. As the two women and demon looked down at her, she broke down into wild sobs. Her chest heaved and shuddered as the terror and sadness wracked her body, threatening to tear her apart.
“Please,” she said. “Please Iriel, make it stop.” Her face was ugly and twisted as she cried out. It was not grief mingled with rage, as one would expect from a warrior that will never submit. It was the sound of heartbreak. It was the kind of pain Maloth can never make a person suffer. Only Iriel was capable of hurting Orilana in this way.
But there was only one way out. No one resisted Maloth for long. Iriel learned that lesson the hard way. Maloth broke her a dozen different ways. She stripped away her earthly beauty and corrupted her flesh, she perverted her desires until she ruined everything she pursued and touched, she took away her power and threatened to replace her with Melior, she stole Iriel’s dreams and rest, and now she took Iriel’s true love and final hope. Orilana was strong, but Maloth was patient. She planned this for millennia. She would have what she wanted. She would break Orilana, even if it took decades of debauchery and torment. The best Iriel could hope for was to keep the body of her lover. Either Maloth would kill Orilana or possess her utterly. Serving the cruel goddess with the face of Orilana would be a small parting gift before Iriel sank into the eternal darkness of servitude.
Iriel stepped forward and put her hand on Orilana’s stomach. She didn’t summon any of Azora’s warmth, for she knew it would not come. She offered her own warmth, or whatever would come from her lavender skin and clawed fingers. She tried to look at Orilana with tenderness, but she didn’t know what showed on her face. Slowly — so slowly — Orilana steadied her breath.
“Please,” she whispered. Her voice was hoarse. Iriel looked around for something to drink, but there was only a smaller table with Melior’s instruments and toys on it. Iriel eyed the circular bone nipple piercings with purple runes and the dark strap-on filled with water from the Pools of Maloth. She shuddered at the thought of those being used on Orilana.
“Water,” Iriel said. She looked up at Zelum and snapped her fingers. The slave bowed her head and walked away. Iriel brought her attention back to Orilana. She stroked her friend’s hair and smiled softly. “I’m here,” she said. “I’m here.”
Orilana closed her eyes and pressed her cheek into Iriel’s hand. “Iriel,” she whispered. The sound of Iriel’s name spoken sweetly from Orilana’s lips broke Iriel. She wanted to turn around and blast Melior, to slaughter Zelum, to free Orilana and make a run out of the Abbey. Maloth would have to rip her body apart to stop her. And then —
Then Maloth would replace Iriel with Melior. Iriel would turn to dust, and Orilana was too weak to run. She’d be taken back to the table, and this would continue all over again. Iriel’s eyes flicked back to the piercings and strap-on nearby.
Zelum returned with water, and Iriel took it from her. She bent down and offered it to Orilana. The pale-skinned elf couldn’t lift her head much to drink it. Most of it spilled down her lips, and after only a sip, her head sank back to the table, closed her eyes, and sighed with relief.
“It’s time to stop fighting,” Iriel said. “The war is over. It’s surrender or death.”
Orilana didn’t open her eyes. “Death.”
Iriel’s knees dipped at the word. “Please,” she said. “What does that serve?”
“Azora is dead,” Melior said.
Orilana opened her eyes and glared at the demon. “Not yet.”
“We will kill her,” Melior said.
“Yes,” Zelum said. There was a wild ecstasy in the girl’s voice. “Maloth will strike down the heavens and rip Azora from her throne. She will swallow the sun and straddle the moon.”
“Yes,” Maloth hissed through Iriel’s voice. Iriel stepped away and covered her mouth. Orilana’s eyes flicked to Iriel and then closed in shame.
“Sounds like that’s only going to happen if I agree to your nonsense,” Orilana said. She spoke slowly, as though each word was a razorblade down her throat. “Which I won’t.”
“Please, ’Lana,” Iriel whispered. “It’s the only way for us to be together.”
Orilana lifted her eyelids as though they weighed as much as all the world. Her large eyes locked onto Iriel. “I know,” she said. “I know.”
“Enough!” Melior snarled and ran a claw under Orilana’s breast, framing it with a thin red line. Orilana cried out in pain. “Submit or die!”
Orilana locked her eyes on the demon. Her eyes hardened, revealing the warrior that was still there, the captain of Azora’s paladins, the champion that would never submit or surrender.
“Death first!” Orilana roared and spat at Melior. The demon roared back. Her tale coiled up like a scorpion, ready to strike into Orilana’s stomach. In the blink of an eye, Maloth and Iriel reached out together in unison. Black smoke wrapped around Melior’s tale and held it in place.
“Enough!” For once, since the first time they met, they were of one mind and one purpose. There was no compromise or give and take in their breathing or power. Maloth/Iriel bore down on Melior, and the multitudinous demon staggered back, true fear on their face for the first time in weeks.
Smoke oozed out of Maloth/Iriel in pulses and waves, matching her breath. Her shoulders heaved, and she pointed to the entrance to the cavern. “Go,” she said, and Melior and Zelum didn’t need to be told twice. They both hurried out of the chamber, and only when they were gone did the grip of Maloth’s power ease from Iriel’s body. The High Priestess returned to herself. Her chest heaved as though she’d just run a mile. She slumped and put her weight on the table in front of her, forgetting for a moment who was on it or what she intended to do here.
“Iriel?” Orilana whispered.
Iriel looked up and smiled at Orilana. The captain stared back at her a long moment, but slowly she smiled back. Iriel felt the fatigue wash away from her. The smile was like a good night’s sleep. No. It was like a good month of rest and relaxation. It was two dozen pleasant dreams. It was cold water to wash away the filth and grime from Iriel’s soul.
“I’m here.” Iriel reached out and grabbed Orilana’s hand strapped to the table. “I’m here,” she said as she squeezed it.
“My paladins,” Orilana said. “Are they —”
Iriel nodded and stood up, unable to look at Orilana. “Rella has them.”
“Rella was a trap.”
Orilana sighed and closed her eyes. “Forgive me, Azora. I couldn’t foresee all possibilities. Your servant was weak.”
“You were anything but weak.”
“Tell that to my paladins.”
“You should —” Iriel closed her mouth. She couldn’t have this conversation again. She barely believed this logic herself anymore. What? She should tell Orilana that the paladins have never been happier? Some have been fucked and devoured by Melior. They went willingly. Would that take away the sting of their death? No. Not to any reasonable person. Not to Orilana. Not to true goodness.
“What?” Orilana asked. “What aren’t you —” Orilana hissed and winced as some of her sweat ran over her cuts.
“Here. Let me get that.”
Iriel walked away from the table and went to get water and a piece of cloth. She went back to Orilana and began to gently rub the captain’s body, washing away the cuts and wounds. Orilana hissed at first, but then she sighed with relief and closed her eyes, tilting it away from Iriel as her body relaxed.
“What happened to your magic?” Orilana asked.
“Maloth doesn’t heal.”
Iriel worked silently, running the cloth all over Orilana’s body. She wiped away the dirt and grime. She washed away the blood and cleaned the cuts. Multiple times she went back and forth to get clean water. She was amazed Maloth would let her do this. She expected the goddess to scream in her ears and force her body to abuse and torture Orilana. But the goddess was strangely quiet inside of Iriel. She felt the goddess watching her, taking in the feel of cool water, of Orilana’s tender flesh that quivered when Iriel touched it, of the gentle warmth that spread over Iriel’s body whenever she touched Orilana. As Iriel cleaned Orilana’s thighs and pussy, the pale women gasped and looked down at Iriel. She blushed but didn’t say anything, didn’t ask Iriel to stop. She watched Iriel more intently, and something like magic passed between the two elven women.
Maloth paid close attention to that.
When Iriel was done, she came back and reached for the straps holding Orilana’s hand to the table. She hesitated before she did it, expecting Maloth to say something, to stop her. But the goddess was silently watching. She didn’t interfere as Iriel freed Orilana from her restraints.
“You’re not afraid I’ll fight you?” Orilana asked.
Iriel said nothing as she worked.
“Afraid that I’ll run? That I’ll —”
Orilana sighed as the first restraint fell away. It was almost a prayer. Almost a moan. She sat still and watched Iriel silently as the High Priestess worked. When she was done, Orilana sat up slowly. She faltered for a moment, almost collapsing back onto the onyx table, but Iriel rushed in and caught her. Together, they sat Orilana up and eased the tender parts of her body that had chafed under the restraints.
“Easy,” Iriel said. She sat on the table next to Orilana, and let the pale skinned captain put her weight onto the purple skinned almost-demon. They sat in silence for a long time. Neither one of them cared that they were naked. They didn’t think that they were sitting bare thigh to bare thigh next to their almost lover, their truest friend.
“How does this end?” Orilana asked finally.
Iriel sighed. “There are only two options as far as I see it.”
“Death or submit.”
“For both of us.”
“How so?” Orilana asked.
“Maloth needs a vessel, a scion, someone to possess utterly.”
“That’s not you?”
Iriel shook her head slowly. “She can control me, but she isn’t me. If I were to become her vessel, I don’t know how much of my personality would be left.”
“And that’s what you want for me?”
Iriel grabbed Orilana’s hand before she could think better of it. “No,” she whispered.
Iriel sighed, but she didn’t let go of Orilana’s hand. “It’s all we have,” she said.
Orilana shook her head. “I refuse to believe that.”
“Maloth will have her vessel. You tried. Hell, I tried.”
“You did?” Orilana asked. True shock and appreciation hid poorly in her voice.
“There’s no escaping her. If it’s not you, she’ll find another vessel. Is that what you want? Is that what Azora wants?” Iriel hated herself as she said it, but Orilana would gladly die a martyr. She needed to understand that fighting Maloth was fighting the tide.
Orilana opened her mouth to say something, then closed it.
“This is all my fault,” Iriel said. “I freed her, and there’s no way to put it away now. There is only making do in the wake of it.” She gripped Orilana’s hand tighter. “There’s only carving out a little bit of joy while the world ends.”
Orilana shook her head. “I don’t like the hand I’ve been dealt.”
Iriel scoffed. “No shit.”
“Break it down for me,” Orilana said. “How do you see it?”
Iriel sighed. “The way I see it, if you become Maloth’s vessel, we get to be together.” Orilana gripped Iriel’s hand tighter, and the High Priestess’s heart fluttered in her chest. “It won’t be as we envisioned it. I don’t know how much of you will still be in there, but I also think that if there is any vessel that could blunt or dim Maloth’s power and cruelty, it would be you.”
Orilana smiled softly, and Iriel returned it with her own crooked grin. “And if I refuse?” asked the captain.
“You’ll die,” Iriel said. “Maloth will find someone else. Like your lieutenant. The half-orc?”
“Moon and stars,” Orilana cursed and shook her head slightly.
“Yeah,” Iriel said. “And if she refuses, Maloth will go down the line. She’ll bring people in from all over the world. She’ll find someone eventually, but she’ll kill half of creation first. Do you want that on your conscience?”
Orilana was silent for a long time. She shivered against the coldness of the cavern and pressed closer to Iriel. Finally, slowly, she put her head on Iriel’s shoulder, and the two sat together, hands entwined, contemplating the end of the world.
“You know I could have been an acolyte,” Orilana said finally.
“I had the skill for it. The power.”
“I know.” Iriel remembered Orilana with them in the beginning before everyone decided their path. Orilana was the strongest of them all, the most committed to Azora. Even in the bright and shiny Abbey, Orilana glowed with a light that shamed them all.
“And I know we’re not supposed to talk about it, but the paladins are treated like second-class followers of Azora. Like they’re all muscle because they don’t have the devotion or intellect to be a cleric.”
Iriel nodded, nuzzling her cheek against the top of Orilana’s head.
“Do you know why I chose to be a paladin?”
“Because I wanted to help people.”
“Acolytes help —”
“It’s not the same,” Orilana said. “Acolytes stay in the Abbey. They practice rituals and do research. It’s too academic, too detached from the world. Paladins go out into the towns and villages. They serve. They put their bodies on the line to make the world a better place.”
Iriel smiled. That sounded like Orilana. She never wanted to think of the best way to help people. She wanted to get out there and do it. She wanted to get her hands dirty. Now she was tasked with having everything she loved about herself burned from the inside or forcing that upon someone else.
Iriel shook her head softly as her smile wilted. “It’s a cursed decision,” she said. “There’s no right course.”
“Staying true to myself and Azora is the right course.”
“And now? Burn yourself or force someone else to burn? Which is right?”
Orilana took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I guess I’m still hoping for a third option.”
“There’s nothing,” Iriel said. “Trust me, I’ve looked.”
“What did you find?”
Iriel braced herself, waiting for Maloth to roar inside of her. She expected the goddess to keep her secrets hidden. But the goddess was still lurking, still watching, still waiting.
“Maloth can’t be destroyed. Even Azora knew that. She never slew her. She swallowed her. She kept her like a coal burning one corner of her stomach.”
“Yeah. We searched as deep as we could. There is no defeating her. Stalling her maybe. But nothing else.”
Orilana’s chest shuddered. She stretched her hand out and grabbed Iriel’s. The High Priestess’s chest clenched, and her breath stopped. She squeezed back, but Orilana didn’t let go.
“Then what?” Orilana asked. “There’s always some part of Maloth in Azora?”
“I guess so.”
“So she gets what she wants, and Azora loses? We lose?”
“I don’t —”
“And no matter what, you lose me?” Orilana lifted her head and turned to face Iriel. Iriel looked back at her almost lover. Orilana was crying. Her wide eyes were wet and red. Thick tears were burning down her cheek. “We don’t get to be together, even in darkness?”
“I …” Iriel wiped away a tear with her thumb. Orilana closed her eyes, and Iriel kept stroking. She tucked a stray hair behind Orilana’s hair. “You are the only thing I want in this world,” Iriel said. Orilana gasped as she heard the words. Her chest shuddered, and she reached up, grabbing Iriel’s hand and squeezing tight.
“And you’re the one thing I can’t have,” Iriel said. “But you’ll live.” Orilana’s eyes opened. “I don’t know how. I don’t know in what form, but the world has been burning all around me. I fucked up. I did. I ruined everything, and I’ve been trying to put it back together. I’ve been trying to reach out to you, trying to slow it down, trying to stop it. But there’s nothing. There’s only the chance that you’ll live. That’s the only silver lining I get. The rest will be a long life of regrets.”
Orilana pulled her hand away and twisted it, looking at her clawed fingers. “A long, long life of regrets,” she said softly. “I’ll never forgive myself for what I’ve done to you, to everyone else. But I’ll have eternity with Maloth to know the cost of the goddess’s power.”
Orilana reached out slowly. She wrapped her fingers around Iriel’s claws. She looked into Iriel’s eyes and brought the long claw close and dragged it over her cheek. It didn’t take much to draw a thin line of blood, but she didn’t cry out. She didn’t look away from Iriel, holding the High Priestess’s gaze. She pulled Iriel’s claw closer and brought the demonic hand to her cheek, letting it hold her. Orilana closed her eyes and pressed against the hand.
“Say it again,” Orilana whispered.
“You want me.”
Iriel’s heart fluttered. She swallowed and steeled herself. “You are the only thing I want in this world.”
Orilana’s lips parted as she heard it. She raised her other hand and wrapped it around Iriel’s extended wrist. “Again.”
“You are the only thing I want in this world.”
Iriel turned her body to face Orilana and raised her other clawed hand to the Orilana’s other cheek. “You are the only thing I want in this world.”
“Uuuhn,” Orilana said. It was a mix between a moan and a gasp, a prayer and a curse. “Again.”
“You are the only thing I want in this world.”
Orilana’s eyes opened. Her face was sharp and intent. Iriel recognized the expression immediately: hunger. “I love you,” Orilana said.
The fear and dread of the moment, the fatigue and shame of the past few weeks, the pain and darkness of Maloth’s presence, all faded from Iriel. For the first time in months, she felt herself. She almost thought that if she looked down, she would see tan and elven skin. Her shoulders sagged, and her chest shuddered as she heard the words. For a moment, it was as though Maloth never happened, as though they were back in Iriel’s chambers, both of them heads of their office, brushing each other’s hair, but now they were their true selves. Now they were bare. Now they were free.
And in that rush of freedom, Iriel kissed Orilana.
Orilana didn’t hesitate. She melted into Iriel, kissing back fervently, melting and humming as their lips connected and lightning struck every cell. It reached down to their souls. Not the crooked and fearful things they presented to Azora and Maloth. The deeper and wounded parts, the truer and bolder parts. It touched the light of their being that made them goddesses. Orilana the goddess of fidelity and commitment, of loyalty and perseverance. Iriel the goddess of passion and hunger, of desire and craving, of ache and satisfaction. They kissed and eased their bodies through the motions they had long prayed for. Iriel pressed forward, and Orilana fell back onto the black table. She spread her legs, and the strong woman opened herself up, letting Iriel on top and inside.
They couldn’t stop kissing. They were making up for lost time. There were kisses to be had from long glances when they first arrived in the Abbey. Kisses to be had from the middle of the night when they bunked together. Kisses to be had for years of service and rare moments of delight. Kisses to be had for all the fighting and doubting. Kisses for the hurt and fear. Kisses for each second they were not kissing. Kissing because they had lived a life of not kissing, and the only logical thing to do was to now live a life of only kissing.
Between gasps, moans, and hot sighs, they whispered their love for each other. They passed it back and forth like a flask of strong spirits, keeping them warm against the loneliness of being. Over and over, they traded love for a kiss. They gave up their cold and their hurt, and they brought in more warmth, more breath, more kisses, and more words of love. There was no originality, no thinking. It was the same words over and over. “I love you.”
Then, like she had with Rella, Maloth made herself known between them. She did not crawl between them or rip them apart. Instead, like a third lover, she wrapped her presence warmly around Iriel, guiding her touch as her hands roamed Orilana’s body. She guided her kisses down Orilana’s neck. She guided her tongue between Orilana’s breasts.
Smoke rose from Iriel’s body and formed the shape of a woman, their third lover. “There is another way,” Maloth whispered in her ear.
Iriel didn’t speak. She didn’t respond to Maloth at all. The goddess was an old ache her body forgot as she kissed Orilana. She had the whole world beneath her now. Maloth was nothing.
“I cannot slay Azora. But I can consume her like she did me.”
Orilana wrapped her legs tight around Iriel’s waist. She didn’t notice the black smoke move or writhe from Iriel’s back. Her arms were extended over her head, looking for sheets to grip and settling for the corners of the onyx table. Her body was arched as Iriel moved her mouth all over, tasting each inch of pale skin. Orilana’s black hair was a crown spread out around her, a halo of her own divinity as Iriel worshipped.
“If I give her to you, will you give her to me?”
Iriel opened her eyes and stopped, shocked by Maloth’s words. She didn’t understand the wording, but the idea of Orilana being hers was too much to give up. She finally had her lover, and she didn’t want to give her up. Iriel would have to burn them both up in order to pull them apart. And maybe that would be enough. Maybe they would make love once and then both expire. That would be better than being Maloth’s bitches for all eternity.
“Yes,” Iriel said before she thought better of it.
“Done,” hissed Maloth. In a rush, the smoke wrapped around her. Orilana opened her eyes, and Iriel looked around, bewildered. They were at the center of the black and purple tornado. Iriel felt the thrill and dread of when she first made her pact with the goddess, but now Orilana was with her. Now she would have Orilana.
She looked down at her lover. Orilana’s eyes were wild, trying to take in each part of the tornado. She was sitting up on her elbows, ready to flee or pounce depending on Maloth’s next move. Iriel bent down and kissed her. Orilana melted into the moment, forgetting about the maelstrom they were at the center of. The two elves kissed, and the black smoke formed one long tendril that bent down and writhed between them. It slithered over their skin, caressing their breasts, licking their thighs, gliding over their wet pussies.
Still they kept kissing.
The smoke eased itself inside of their pussies. It didn’t pump or pulse. It didn’t fuck them. It filled them. It pushed everything out that they cluttered themselves with. It removed doubt and fear. It removed remorse and empathy. It removed all that made them weak and human. It tore away at their fragile and shifting morality. It latched onto their desires, their hungers, and it stoked it. It fed the flame until it was a bonfire, until it was an inferno.
Still they kept kissing.
It started a wildfire in their skin, and Iriel broke the table with her clawed hands, ripping it as easily as bedsheets, as Maloth fulfilled her promise. Iriel’s feet were cloven. Her horns were tall and thick. Her skin was rich and purple. Her hair was long and luscious. Her claws were sharp and strong. Her breasts were full and heavy. Her hips were plump and wide. Her eyes burned a bright and bold purple like lanterns in the dark cavern. Her tongue was long and forked, eager to find the depth of Orilana’s being. Her skin was sensitive and needy, one huge clit and nipple wherever Orilana’s hands clutched and roamed.
Still they kept kissing.
Then the smoke of Maloth became something solid. It no longer emptied; it filled. Iriel moaned and arched her back as the smoke of Maloth filled her pussy. Orilana’s moan turned into a frightened scream. High pitched and desperate, Iriel had never heard her friend make a noise of true terror.
She never would again.
Maloth’s tendril pulsed and spun as it fucked them. It bound them together, but neither could tell nor care. Their pain was complete. Their pleasure was absolute. Maloth fucked both of them as the tendril expanded, strapping Orilana to the table. It wrapped around Iriel’s thighs and bound her as well.
Still Maloth fucked them.
Orilana reached out for Iriel’s hand, and she gave it. In her strength, she may have crushed every bone in Orilana’s hand, but still she held on. She bucked against the straps, but they were stronger than iron. She tried to flail and writhe. She tried to pulse. But she could only lean back and moan. She could only howl as the tendril of smoke and magic turned slightly inside of her.
Still Maloth fucked them.
Orilana stopped screaming. She held onto Iriel with one hand and braced herself against the table with the other. She could not move. She could not get enough leverage to thrash. She could only hold on to her lover and wait and pray. She should have prayed to Azora. She should have prayed to Iriel or even herself. But in that moment, it was Maloth that she pleaded to. She prayed for release. She prayed for Iriel’s sake. She prayed to the dark goddess.
And still Maloth fucked them.
In a flash, the tendril slid out of Iriel’s pussy. The demon gasped in pain and ecstasy as it left suddenly. She looked down to see the tendril, still wet with her juices, slide down Orilana’s mouth. More tendrils sprouted, fucking Orilana everywhere. Every hole. Every pore. This was it. This was the ritual.
In a flood, the High Priestess of Maloth knew what to do. Maloth didn’t need to take control of her body. She didn’t need to force her. She simply had a desire, and her High Priestess moved to meet it. Iriel held out a hand, and the Staff of the Eclipse flew into it. In one smooth motion, she spun it and slammed it sun-first into Orilana’s chest, right where the heart ought to be. The staff cracked and white light flooded the chamber, blinding all of them and sending Iriel tumbling from the table.
When Iriel woke, the table was shattered and replaced by shards of onyx. There were voices filling the chamber, and Iriel slowly got to her feet to take in her surroundings.
The Pools of Maloth were once more green and beautiful. Even the fetid pools themselves were no longer bubbling and tar-like. They were clear and steaming. Iriel spun around and saw three people standing by Maloth’s throne, and one stranger sitting on the throne itself.
“There you are,” Orilana’s voice said from across the table. “I knew you’d wake up soon.”
Iriel held her head. She pulled it away and didn’t see blood, just her beautiful and blackened claws. She looked around for her lover but didn’t find her among the four strangers gathered ahead.
“Come,” Orilana said. She spoke softly and casually, but Iriel’s body moved as though the command were barked at her. She rushed towards the throne. Three of the bodies became apparent quickly. Melior had one knee bent in genuflection before the throne. Zelum was on both knees with her head down while holding the chains of a strong and bruised half-orc. Iriel recognized her as Orilana’s former lieutenant, Harza.
But the woman on the throne was almost a perfect stranger. Her naked skin was radiant, like silver gold but almost white. Like ivory that glimmered in the torchlight of the chamber. The woman had pale silver hair, almost white and almost blonde. Her breasts were full, and her hips were wide like those of a mother, but her body was lithe and tight like that of a maiden. She looked like an angel, like the images Iriel had seen of Azora. For a moment, Iriel thought that they had lost and Azora had conquered them all. Then in another moment, she thought that meant they’d won.
Iriel approached the throne, and the strange woman stood up. She stalked towards Iriel, her hips swaying and pulsing with each step. Iriel froze as the stranger approached, but the radiant woman smiled easily and filled Iriel with a fuzzy delight. With the casualness of only a regular lover, the stranger reached out and cupped Iriel’s face, kissing the demon lightly. She pulled away and her smile widened. Her lips were the reddest Iriel had ever seen, but they didn’t look painted.
“We’ve done it,” she said. Iriel gasped as Orilana’s voice came from the stranger’s body.
“Orilana?” she whispered.
The woman clicked her tongue and shook her head slowly. “Not anymore. Though you may call me that when it’s just us. It’s my gift to you.”
“Maloth?” Iriel whispered.
The woman bit her lip and looked almost girlish. She nodded quickly, then stepped back and extended her arms, looking at her hands as she curled her fingertips. “Lovely isn’t it?” She ran her hands over her breasts and down her stomach, easing them down between her legs as though she were alone in her bed. She hummed and moaned softly to herself.
“I love having a body,” she said. Her voice was husky and thick but undeniably Orilana’s. It sent tingles all over Iriel’s skin.
Maloth shook her head. “Not now. I want to celebrate.” She laughed, and Iriel gasped. It wasn’t Orilana’s laugh nor the cruel hissing she’d come to know of Maloth. It was beautiful and harmonious as a wedding song. It was gentle and feminine as a long breeze. It was radiant and holy as moonlit snow. It was clear and refreshing, like a wooded stream under a bright wide sky.
Maloth looked back at the half-orc chained and on her knees in front of the throne. “I’m so hungry.” Iriel stepped back as Maloth moved back to her throne. “Bring her,” Maloth said. The girlish joy was gone from her voice. It was Orilana’s voice of command, not cruel but unyielding.
Melior stood and dragged Harza closer. Iriel was impressed to see the half-orc strain against the demon. She was strong, and her muscles swelled as she flexed against the chains that bound her.
“Zelum, take those off,” Maloth commanded.
The acolyte whispered the command word, and the shackles and chains fell from Harza with gentle clinking. Harza sprang into action, raising a fist and spinning to strike Melior before making her escape.
“You don’t want to do that.” Maloth spoke softly, but it had its desired effect. Harza froze, and at first, Iriel thought the goddess had cast some spell. But there was no sign of magic in the air. There was no ripple in the energies of the world. Still Harza froze and turned to Maloth.
“Come, lover,” Maloth said. She extended her hand and one long and pale finger. Her nails looked as though the goddess had never worked a day in her life. They were long and curved to a point, looking feminine and feral all at once. Iriel found herself wishing her claws looked as inviting as them, as if Maloth could make Iriel melt and beg and whine and cum with just her nails.
Harza approached the throne. At first, she wore a face of confusion, but as she approached the goddess, a serene smile spread across her face. Maloth returned it. Once more, Iriel held her breath. Maloth’s smile was almost maternal, and she patted her thigh for Harza to sit there as a mother would a child.
“Let’s talk about what you do want to do,” Maloth said. Harza sat on Maloth’s thigh. As she did, her wounds and bruises from days of torture stitched themselves together and faded. Harza sighed with relief as her aching body was restored. She arched her back, showing off her impressive muscles, her lithe and smooth body, the powerful and feminine lines of herself.
Iriel licked her lips.
“You come from a powerful people,” Maloth whispered. “You have such a lovely heritage.” Maloth extended a long finger and ran it over Harza’s chin. She stroked the cheek and teased her nail over Harza’s ear and down her neck. Harza’s lips parted as she inhaled sharply.
“But you don’t talk about that do you?” Maloth pursed her lips and made the clicking sound again with her tongue. “There’s no room for that in Azora’s Abbey.” Maloth said her sister’s name with such venom, that for a moment Iriel recognized the cruel voice that used to reside in her head.
“What was it they called it?” Maloth asked. She ran her hand down to Harza’s breast. The half-orc sat up straighter, her whole body tightening as Maloth casually and lovingly teased and adored her body with her fingernails.
“Savagery,” Harza moaned out.
“That’s right,” Maloth said. “They called it savagery.” Maloth shook her head. Her pale white hair flicked back and forth, and the light caught it, making it look almost like liquid silver. She clicked her tongue again in disapproval.
Maloth extended a hand in Zelum’s direction. The acolyte rose like a puppet on a string. She spread her arms back and thrust her breasts forward. Then the tiny woman moaned like a bitch in heat, as though Maloth’s tongue was at her clit.
“What do you want to do to someone as beautiful as that?” Maloth whispered. As she spoke, small puffs of black smoke rose from her mouth like crystals on a cold morning. But the smoke lingered in the air and drifted towards Harza. They clung to the half-orc’s body and roamed over them. Harza moaned and closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of Maloth’s magic over her body.
Across from them, Zelum slid a hand between her legs and teased her clit. Nearby, Melior did the same. Iriel felt the tug, the force as powerful and inevitable as gravity, the urge to touch herself and give into her own lust. But she kept watching, kept trying to understand how this new creature was Maloth and Orilana all at once. Iriel had to admit that she loved hearing Orilana’s voice speaking Maloth’s twisted logic. Even more, she enjoyed Maloth’s tactics tempered with Orilana’s love and gentleness. This Maloth didn’t force herself on Harza and pierce her and drown her in the pools until she was a monster. She lured her in. She wooed her. She spoke to Harza of the half-orc’s deepest desires and made them manifest. Who could resist all they ever wanted and feared to have? Harza’s moans were Maloth’s power, but her smile and joy as her body was touched and explored was all Orilana’s doing.
Iriel dared to hope then that this may be some combination of the two. That perhaps as Azora consumed Maloth, letting some part of her dark twin inside her, that maybe Maloth hadn’t destroyed Orilana but consumed her. Perhaps there was some part of Iriel’s lover still inside the dark goddess, influencing her slightly.
“It’s okay,” Maloth said. She teased Harza’s stiff nipples while the smoke crept between Harza’s legs. “We’re all monsters here. There’s nothing a savage can say that will offend us.”
Melior laughed at that. Then, as though controlled by Maloth, her face went blank and her body moved behind Zelum. She groped the younger acolyte, running her hands over the woman’s body, touching her tits when Maloth touched Harza’s.
“What do you want to do with her?” Maloth asked. “Tell me.”
Harza moaned, closed her eyes, and arched her back. Then in a throaty roar, she said, “Fuck her. Oh, goddess. I want to fuck her.”
“Good girl,” Maloth says. She leans forward and kisses Harza’s neck gently. “Did you ever hear that you’re a good girl for wanting to fuck women?”
“No,” Harza whimpered. She rocked her hips back and forth as more smoke gathered around her pussy.
“But it’s not just fucking is it?” Maloth asked. “It’s okay. You’re doing so well. I already know the truth, but you need to say it. You need to admit it to yourself.”
“No,” Harza admitted. “Not just fucking.”
“You’re ashamed of your blood. Of your savagery.”
Maloth pointed to Zelum who was grinding against Melior, moaning wildly. “Does she look like someone afraid of your savagery?”
Harza shook her head. “But in the Abbey —”
Maloth grabbed Harza’s chin and turned the half-orc to face her. For a moment, her face was savage and cruel, but it was not the malice of the Maloth Iriel knew. It was the righteous indignation of Orilana. “This is my Abbey now,” Maloth said. “Your savagery is welcome here.”
Something passed between Harza in Maloth, in their eyes. Harza’s face contorted, and for a moment, Iriel thought she was going to cry. Then Harza closed her eyes, sighed, moaned, and bent down to kiss Maloth. The two kissed long and deep, only breaking when Harza tilted her head back, roaring and moaning. At first, Iriel thought she was cumming, but then the black smoke dissipated from Harza’s pussy, revealing a huge green cock between her legs where a cock used to be. It glistened with a bead of pre-cum, but she hadn’t cum.
“Go,” Maloth whispered. “Show me your beautiful savagery. I promise she’ll love it.”
Harza leaped off Maloth’s lap and moved quickly to Zelum. Her cock was thick and heavy, almost swaying as Harza stalked her prey. Zelum rushed towards Harza to embrace her, but there was a strength and fury in the half-orc’s eyes. She threw Zelum to the ground and then flipped her over, getting her on all fours. Without warning or word, she slammed her cock deep into Zelum. Zelum moaned as her body swallowed each inch of the cock, and Iriel gasped. This time, she didn’t refuse the pull of Maloth deep in her blood, her basest and deepest desire to cum. She slid a hand between her legs and played with herself. Across from her, Melior did the same, watching Harza fuck the tiny acolyte. Harza was almost twice her size, and at that moment Iriel thought Harza would split the woman in two. At times, Iriel wanted to see that.
Harza spanked Zelum as she fucked her, and the two lost rhythm. There was no cadence to Harza’s thrusts or Zelum’s moans or the sounds of slapped flesh ringing out across the cavern. They became one great cacophony of fucking and rutting and moaning and roaring and crying out and whimpers and slapping. Harza clawed at Zelum’s back, drawing lines of red, and Zelum slammed her body back against Harza’s huge cock, desperate for more, for deeper, for harder, for faster.
A moan rang out across the cavern. It was high and breathy, girly and beautiful. It was Orilana’s.
Iriel broke from the spell of Harza’s fucking and Zelum’s breaking. She looked over at the beautiful goddess on the throne, her goddess. Maloth had her legs spread and was fingering herself. She smiled when she saw Iriel looking at her. She extended a hand as she did to Harza. One long finger stretched out and curled, beckoning Iriel closer, deeper, harder, and faster.
“Come,” she said with Orilana’s voice. “Embrace your goddess.”