Embrace of the Goddess
Chapter 6: Melior
Iriel dreamed of bones snapping again. She woke up sweating and stumbled through the darkness to find some water. The dryads were shifting in her bed, and the room was thick with their aphrodisiac pollen. It was calling her back, but fucking would lead to sleep, and Iriel couldn’t —
Some were like dry twigs, practically crumbling in Farryn’s long hands, but the worst were soft like young shoots, branches filled with green and clinging to the tree like a babe to their mother.
A babe …
“Come back to bed, goddess,” cooed one of the dryads. A wave of pink vapor was creeping towards Iriel, crawling along the floor like morning mist.
Iriel almost hissed back that she was no goddess. She was a High Priestess, a mother of baby eaters and … oh goddess, what was she now?
My scion, hissed Maloth in her ear. There was no privacy from the goddess now. Iriel did not need to summon her or ask her a question. The dark whisper slipped into her mind with the casualness of a friend stopping by for tea.
Like Orilana stopping by for idle gossip.
Iriel sighed. “Yes, goddess.”
Don’t worry, shame always follows lust. It is my way.
“I thought you took away shame.”
For a time. To be truly free, you must step past the threshold.
“Hadn’t I done that? I’m giving you my Abbey, my body, my everything.”
The voice of Maloth chuckled. It was an awful sound, think water on hot coals, like nails clawing against as a chasm as they fell fell fell. Not everything, it said. Not yet.
The pink mist curled around Iriel’s foot and crawled up her leg. She kicked it away, grabbed a loose robe, and walked out of her chamber. There was no guard there. Kaliana was being burned with pleasure and lava by some oread nearby.
She was practically a child.
Iriel’s vision blurred, and she instinctively moved to wipe away the tear before it ruined her makeup. But there was no makeup anymore. Her eyes were permanently hooded in shadows, and instead she cut herself with the claws she forgot she had. She hissed in pain and rubbed at the eye with her palm, but it brought no relief.
The air was clearer in the Abbey but not purer. Her body was tuned to the hidden acts of debauchery going on. Two guards had abandoned their posts to explore their bodies, but they didn’t know why. They didn’t see the dryad watching and waiting to join in their fun. She felt a naiad crashing into an oread over and over, sending up steam and moans as they forgot their chores for their lust. Somewhere out in the world, Prim was hunting innocents, dropping onto them in the darkness and drinking their blood while fucking them. Their last breath was a plea for life and a moan of pleasure intertwined. And now—thankfully in the town—Farryn was creeping through windows of those asleep and presuming to be safe in their beds. There was a human tradition of putting missing teeth under the pillow for a fairy, and the bones called to Farryn. When she devoured their offering, if the household were very lucky, she would only take one child.
Iriel shuttered. It was too much. This would be her legacy. She had to choose between being the High Priestess of Azora: the bastion of purity, repression, rules, regulation, and shame. Or she was the High Priestess of Maloth: corrupter of souls, damnation of all that was beautiful and simple, butcher of children and innocence. What a world. What a damned, cursed, stupid fucking world.
Then burn it with me.
Another tear rolled down Iriel’s cheek. Those were her options: destruction or domination. Neither goddess was good. Neither path was freeing. In following Maloth, she’d traded the shame of her identity for the shame of her actions. It was all shame. There was no third route.
“Fuck,” sighed Iriel when she saw where her feet were leading her. She was back in the pools beneath Azora’s chapel. What had once been Maloth’s tomb was now her womb, and monsters sprang out daily. Thankfully, the naiads didn’t have the sentience to bring new acolytes down here. The more sophisticated creatures become demons of higher magnitude. What would the world look like if a new Prim or Farryn was birthed each night? Would they bring even more? Would there be a new nightmare born each hour?
But not Mola and Fella. They had been in the pools for days, soaking in Maloth’s presence. Iriel stopped coming down here, afraid she’d be there for the births. She ordered a dryad to fetch her once the creatures had emerged, but it seemed Maloth had other plans for them.
The dryad she had appointed as guard was still there, standing by the smoking and black waters, fingering herself while she waited. Only her moans and the thick bubbling and hissing sounds of the pools filled the chamber. Everyone decent was asleep. Everyone with a thought was fucking. Those that served Maloth were hunting.
Approach, commanded the voice, but Iriel’s feet moved without a thought. She walked to the edge of the pool where Fella and Mola had descended. The waters were churning.
Behold, I keep my promises.
Iriel held her breath. What promise had the dark goddess made? She ran through her speeches she’d given the two women. Something about being free? Something about no shame? It was the same line each time, but it was all bullshit, wasn’t it?
The waters parted as two horns and thick purple hair rose from the water. The sticky and boiling water dripped down the forehead and over the dark pink skin. When the water passed the eyes and mouth, a crooked smile revealed sharp fangs. The eyes shot open to reveal darkness: black eyes with no pupils. The creature craned it’s slender and pale neck until it arched it’s back and two long bat wings flicked the rest of the hot water off. Though her skin was dark, the smoothness of it caught the light. It was as though she were encased in wax and polished, impossible hairless with otherworldly flesh. Her plump breasts had hard black nipples — both pierced with the runic circles Fella helped Iriel make — and the skin over her belly had an intricate pattern of black like lace or demonic markings. A tail flicked through the water with a sharp stinger at the end. As she stepped to the edge of the water with long and shapely legs, again with an ethereal smoothness to them, Iriel saw her hooved feet. She was gasped at the sight of the creature, like a sister to the monster she saw in her own reflection—the monster Maloth had promised to make her.
“Fella?” she whispered. She tried to look past the demon to the pools, but something about the skin made it almost impossible to look away.
The creature laughed. The voice was thick and melodious, like a song in harmony. Iriel’s skin tightened as her nipples hardened and her mind fuzzed. The demon shook her head, then got down onto all four in an effortless motion. She arched her back, raising her ass in the air, and then shook all over, moaning as she did. Water flew off her and speckled Iriel. It burned where it landed, and Iriel absentmindedly lifted her hand to her mouth and licked it.
Her doubts melted away. The creature was a marvel, a plaything. Iriel looked at the tail and imagined a dozen different ways to use it for pleasure and pain. She wanted to move behind the creature’s round ass and thrust her hips against it. She wanted to pin it against the wall and lick its otherworldly skin. She wanted it to fly in the air so they could fuck on the clouds.
“Where’s Mola?” she asked.
The creature sighed and eased its way to standing. She looked at the dryad that was her welcoming committee. The dark and ivy covered creature was writhing with a hand in her pussy, her hips pulsing back and forth like a child that needed to use the bathroom. She was surrounded by a cloud of pink pollen and drinking it in like the hazers that came to the Abbey for food and mercy. Maloth’s new creature curled a finger, and the dryad stumbled forward as though on a leash. She let the creature wrap its hands around her throat and kept fingering herself.
“We are not Mola or Fella,” said the demon.
“Who are you?”
She turned and smiled. There was nothing soft or delicate about her. The smoothness of her features was a lie. She was steel. She was something forged in darkness. Fucking her would be like lying on an anvil and begging for the hammer. Iriel licked her lips. That didn’t sound so bad.
“We are Melior,” said the creature. “Your sister.” Then, without looking at her prey, she lifted the dryad into the air by the throat and dropped her. The dryad scrambled between Melior’s legs and licked at the hairless pussy eagerly. Melior’s tail snaked along the ground and eased itself into the dryad’s pussy. It pulsed as though injecting the nymph with something thick, and the dryad moaned with pleasure. No. It was something surpassing pleasure. Pleasure was Azora’s word. This was something primal and dark. This was hunger. This was self-lessness and selfishness intertwined. This was devouring to be devoured. This was lust incarnate, a thing which mortals only know a sliver of. Now the dryad knew the truth of it, and the fullness shook the creature as it howled and moaned, and its eyes rolled back, and its body shook, and its tongue served Melior over and over.
Iriel’s hand slipped between her legs.
Then something changed. It was almost imperceptible, but Melior arched her back and let out the tiniest gasp. As she did, the dryad’s skin blackened at the edges, as though turning to ash. The corruption spread, but the dryad kept moaning. She moaned and writhed and served until she was burnt all over. Iriel had never heard shrieks of pleasure like that, as though the dryad’s entire body was becoming a clit, one huge nerve ending that Melior was teasing. The last thing to turn black was her tongue, and then the nymph turned into a cloud of green and pink and black vapor. It happened quickly, and before Iriel could ask a question, the vapor tightened and slid into Melior’s pussy. The demon moaned as it happened, her body tight and her back arched until the vapor was gone and there was no sign of the dryad.
Iriel’s hand moved from her pussy. “What happened?”
Melior shook for a moment, and then she wiped her lips, lowering her head to gaze at Iriel. She smiled. “She was delicious.”
“You devoured her?”
“She joined us. Now we are three.”
A sisterhood, hissed Maloth. Together forever.
“Mmmmm,” purred Melior. “Yes, goddess?”
Iriel’s eyes widened. “You can hear her?”
“Yes, sister. We are part of the fold now.”
A reward, said Maloth. And a punishment.
Melior took a step forward, and Iriel stepped backwards. She found her mind reaching for a dozen spells if it came to that. “How?” she asked.
“The pools,” they said.
“I don’t … are you in there, Fella?”
“Fella is a part of the chorus. There is no individual voice anymore.”
“Perhaps some solos,” said Melior with a smirk. It sent shivers down Iriel’s spine. There was no joy in it. It was pure condescension. “We are together,” they said with Mola’s voice. “Fella will always be in the arms of Mola,” they said in Fella’s voice. “And now Nurshka is with us too,” they said with a voice Iriel didn’t recognize.
Melior smirked. “You did not even know her name, and yet you mourn her?” they said in Nurshka’s voice.
“She didn’t … fucking her and consuming her are … it’s not the same.”
“Isn’t it?” Melior’s voice had returned, and Iriel could tell that it was all three of them speaking at once. But it wasn’t discordant or unpleasant. It was the most harmonious and soothing sound Iriel had ever heard.
“I … I don’t know.”
“She is part of our sisterhood. She will forever be a creature of pleasure and consuming. It is a gift to join us. Perhaps if you have doubts, you may join us one day too.” Melior took a step forward, curling one finger and compelling Iriel to move towards her. She wanted to use spells for protection, but all the ones she knew belonged to Azora. Her feet moved on their own, as though Maloth herself pulled on them. But Iriel didn’t sink to her knees and fuck Melior. She didn’t feel the sting of the tail or the pleasure of it sinking into her wet pussy. Instead, Melior kissed her softly, and Iriel moaned into it. She kissed Melior back, and when Melior pulled away, she held Iriel’s face in her hands.
“We love you, sister. We will serve our goddess together forever, just as we always spoke of. You were upset we did not invite you into our debauchery, and you were right to feel so. Thank you for inviting us into yours.” Melior knelt down on one knee. “You have nothing to fear. We serve you, High Priestess of Maloth.”
Iriel sighed with relief and pulled on Melior’s hand, bringing the demon back to her feet. “Enough of that, sisters. I’m just relieved to have someone with me in all this. It’s been lonely.”
“We do not know loneliness anymore.”
“Right.” Iriel brushed a stray hair behind her ear. “Well, that must be nice.”
“Would you like a slave to speak to?”
“No. That’s fine. I have … no.”
Melior’s stomach rumbled. “We need more to eat,” they said. “May we go feed?”
“Not yet,” said Iriel as Maloth hissed, Yes, my priestess.
Melior looked at Iriel for a long moment, and then they walked away from her High Priestess, out of the cavern, and into the Abbey to satisfy their hunger with the blessing of their goddess.
Goddess. Not High Priestess.
See what I can do? asked Maloth. They are together forever.
“They will add to their harem?”
Yes, to their sisterhood.
As many as their appetite demands.
“Yes, goddess,” said Iriel softly. “And what about me?”
Are you not satisfied? I’ve given you all the power you could ever need.
“It’s not … is my reward to satisfy my vanity and lust while their deepest longings are met?”
Vanity and lust are virtues in my house. Do not make light of them.
“I’m sorry, goddess.”
What else could you desire, my High Priestess? When I walk the world again, you will have it.
But Iriel didn’t have an answer. Everything Maloth touched turned to ash and sin. What could she offer her that Iriel didn’t already have? What gift could she give that wouldn’t be tainted?
Nothing. There was nothing.
Orilana was in Iriel’s office first thing in the morning. Iriel was too tired to tell the dryads to leave her bed or pretend that their vines weren’t still clinging to her body as she answered the door. She hadn’t gone back to sleep since seeing Melior rise, and all night she felt Melior slinking through the Abbey, unwrapping flesh like candies in a market. And as much as it disturbed Iriel, each acolyte and nymph joined her willingly and happily, or whatever that meant when perverted by Maloth.
Orilana’s eyes darted to the vines and the dryads in Iriel’s bed, but she didn’t raise an eyebrow disapprovingly. They had moved past that thankfully. Perhaps it was because Orilana thought so little of Iriel. Perhaps it was because Iriel had forgotten the taste of shame. There was no difference in Maloth’s kingdom.
“Can this wait?” said Iriel, wiping her eyes with the back of her clawed fingers. She’d at least remembered to disguise her appearance. Orilana saw the beautiful bronzed and coppered Iriel with radiant red hair and a light burning inside her. Orilana saw a lie.
“No.” Orilana brushed past Iriel and into the office.
Iriel sighed and turned, snapping her fingers. “Out,” she commanded, and the dryads obeyed, though the pink cloud of their lust lingered. Orilana watched them go, but if she disapproved, she didn’t show it.
“They were fixing my bed,” said Iriel. She wondered if she should lace the words with magic, to just press gently on the folds of Orilana’s mind and make her more amenable to her reality.
But she couldn’t do it. Not to Orilana.
“That’s what I’ve come to talk to you about.” Orilana stood at attention, her hand on the hilt of her blade. She was normally only like this when someone else was in the room, but the dryads were gone. They were alone.
No. Iriel was never alone now.
“My bed?” Iriel smirked and moved to her dresser where she used to keep fresh water. For a few days it was wine, but now they were spirits dark and foul. They helped put her to sleep when fucking couldn’t.
Orilana’s determined expression didn’t crack. “The dryads. The nymphs. Everything.”
“I’ve freed them,” said Iriel. “You want them back in shackles?”
“Azora would not want —”
“Wildness.” Orilana sighed and moved towards Iriel. The High Priestess downed a glass of thick amber liquid and poured another as Orilana put her hand on Iriel’s elbow. “Iriel,” she pleaded.
The tenderness of it shook Iriel. She put down the glass and turned to her friend, inspecting her closer now. Her long black hair was in a bun, but there were stray hairs. It was frayed and thin. There were dark bags under her eyes, and Orilana never believed in makeup. She was almost gaunt, with clear lines slicing through her formerly perfect elven skin. She was still tall, still strong, but her shoulders were weak, as though the weight of her silver and gold armor had doubled.
But it was her lips, her perfect red lips, that were cracked paled to a sickly pink, that were stuck between a frown and a grimace, that showed Iriel that the world wasn’t just on Orilana’s shoulders, it was beating her in the face. Iriel wanted to kiss her, to offer her a thousand gentle kisses over each crack, each wrinkle, each imperfection. She wanted to smooth them out with lover’s fingers and -
Fuck her. Take her.
Iriel flinched and stepped back. “Azora is a goddess of redemption, of freedom from our burdens.” She paced across the room and emptied the glass as she went. “That’s what I’ve done.”
“She’s also about prudence and temperance. There is a difference between a garden and a forest.”
“Walls are the only difference.”
“Care is the only difference. We are Azora’s children, and she protects us, even from ourselves.”
“Even from our desires?” Iriel whirled around and the glass slipped out of her hand. It smashed into the floor, and both women froze, looking at the tiny drops of amber and the clear shards refracting the morning sunlight.
“I’m sorry,” whispered Iriel. “I didn’t mean to —”
“Here, let me help.” Orilana moved to Iriel’s bath chamber.
“No, I’ll have a nymph —”
“No.” Orilana froze in the doorway. Her eyes were pleading with Iriel again.
“Let me help,” said Iriel.
Orilana nodded and both women got to work using towels to pick up the shards of glass. They wet another towel and ran it over the floor, hoping to find shards of class they couldn’t see. They worked in silence, but Iriel stole glances whenever she could. She wanted to crack open Orilana’s mind, to peer in for a moment. Was she mad? Did she blame Iriel? When she saw the dryads, what did she think? Did she buy Iriel’s lie? If not, what did she think of Iriel lying about it?
Take her, hissed Maloth.
Iriel felt the magic burning at her fingertips. There were spells for binding and suggesting. There were spells for manipulating and charming. There were even spells for outright control of another’s body or even their mind. All of these ran through Iriel’s mind. She wondered if she could even transform Orilana like the pools. She thought of the Staff of the Eclipse, a sacred artifact entrusted only to the High Priestess of Azora to defend the Abbey. With that staff and Maloth’s power, she could have Orilana moaning and begging for the dryads to come back so they could fuck them together. It was all possible, all there on the edge of her vision, the tip of her tongue.
“Purgo,” she commanded, and the water from the towels and some shards of glass on the floor all floated up harmlessly and disappeared.
“You could have done that the whole time?” asked Orilana.
But Iriel was gasping, looking at her hands. It wasn’t enough. Maloth didn’t want her to waste the magic on cleaning up. Do it, hissed Maloth. Take her.
“Are you alright?” Orilana put a hand on Iriel’s elbow again. Relief flooded through her. The tension faded, and she looked up at Orilana and smiled softly.
“I just like to do things the hard way sometime.”
“Then why do it at the end?”
Iriel shrugged. “I don’t want sliced feet.”
They both laughed. Orilana rose to her feet and pulled Iriel up to hers. They stood with smiles on their lips, but as Iriel caught sight of the cracks in Orilana’s, her smile wilted. “Sorry about before,” she muttered.
Orilana shrugged. “I’m getting used to it.” Iriel thought for a moment it was a slight, but Orilana’s eyes widened as she realized the implication. “From everyone. Not you. Or not, just you. Or whatever.”
“Sorry,” sighed Iriel.
“It’s fine. I’m just tired.”
“There’s a spell for that.”
Orilana smirked. “Guess I like it the hard way too.”
Fuck her the hard way.
Iriel shook her head. “Want something to drink?”
Orilana shook her head. “On duty. Though, may I sit, High Priestess?”
Orilana’s shoulders sagged with relief, and the elven woman collapsed into a chair. Iriel sat next to her and put a hand on her friend’s knee. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“It’s …” Orilana sighed deeply. “It’s everything.”
Iriel smirked. “Narrow it down for me.”
“The nymphs …”
“This again? I thought —”
Orilana held up her hands defensively. “I don’t want to argue.”
“It’s just …” Orilana sighed. “I don’t know how to say this.”
“Just say it.”
“No, I need to know if I’m talking to Iriel or the High Priestess.”
“Sometimes you’re my best friend, Iriel. We joke and roll our eyes and working with you and for you is fun. But sometimes you’re the High Priestess of Azora. You’re powerful and charismatic and … and …”
“I am not —”
Orilana tilted her head and raised her eyebrow.
“Okay, fine,” sighed Iriel. “But it’s the job.”
“That’s fine, and I get it. Trust me. We’ve been doing this for a decade. I’ve seen all parts of you.”
No. Not all.
Orilana smiled. “But I need to know if I’m talking to the office or the person right now.”
Orilana shook her head. “If it’s both, it’s the office. That supersedes everything else.”
“Can you blame me?”
“No.” Orilana shook her head and held out her hands again, as though they could apologize for her. “I admire you for it. Goddess knows I struggle to put my job above my desires.”
“Of course, but —” Orilana looked at the door of the office and sighed. “There isn’t time for this.”
“For our desires? Of course there is.” Iriel’s heart was fluttering. She had always thought the cracks in Orilana’s professionalisms were regrettable mistakes. But maybe … maybe she wasn’t so different from Iriel.
She will join us.
Yes. Maybe she will.
Orilana shook her head. “Iriel or High Priestess?”
“Iriel.” The words came out before she could think them or strategize. She imagined they came out before Maloth could hear or stop them. There was a deeper desire than her goddess could touch: to be Iriel with Orilana. It moved her more than any other force in creation.
“Then I think if the nymph freeing is Azora’s idea, then it’s a mistake.”
All of Azora’s decrees are mistakes.
Orilana’s fidgeted in her seat. She clasped her hands together and played with her fingers. Suddenly Iriel felt she was looking at adolescent Orilana caught in the office of the High Priestess.
Iriel leaned forward and put a hand on Orilana’s knee. “I’m Iriel. I promise. This is a safe space.”
Orilana took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. She nodded to herself and put one of her hands onto Iriel’s. The world spun. Iriel’s vision blurred, and everything gave off new colors. More colors than Iriel had names for. Her stomach turned, and she would give anything—anything—to make sure Orilana kept her hand there.
But Iriel held strong. With Orilana’s hand in her own, she felt she could hold for eternity.
“The cases of debauchery have over tripled,” said Orilana. “Now the nymphs are participating in it, and there are reports of the nymphs encouraging the acolytes into it. Some even … some even force the acolytes against their wills.”
“Oh my,” said Iriel. She hoped her breathless reply came across as shock and not arousal, but to hear these words from Orilana’s lips was too much.
“A dryad had even pressed itself against me.” Orilana gulped. “Their pollen … it … has some time of mind altering properties. I was almost taken in, but I cut the foul creature down.”
“Oh no.” Did Iriel cry out for the creature? The missed opportunity? The story cut short? “Are you alright?”
Orilana nodded. “When I came in and saw you with … saw you with those creatures. I feared that maybe they were also corrupted and that … that they had … or that they would …”
Iriel shook her head and squeezed Orilana’s hand. “No. No they didn’t do anything to me.”
Orilana sighed with relief. “Good.”
Iriel blushed. “You were worried about me?”
Orilana blushed in turn. She looked away, but she didn’t pull her hand from Iriel’s. “It’s my job to worry about you.”
Iriel smirked. She wanted to kiss her. She would bend hell and earth to lean in and seal the cracks in Orilana’s lips. Whatever deal she made with Maloth, whatever she had sold, she’d sell ten times that amount for a kiss and nothing else.
Do it. Kiss her.
“Um … what did …” Iriel cleared her throat. “What did it make you feel?”
Orilana tried to pull her hand away, but Iriel held tight. “I don’t want to —”
“I’m Iriel right now, but I could be High Priestess if you want to make a confession.”
“I don’t —”
“Or you can confess to me,” whispered Iriel. “Just as me.”
Orilana looked back and held Iriel’s gaze. “As Iriel?”
She nodded. “As friends. I know what it’s like to have the pressure of the office, to have to be perfect, to have to be morally incorruptible. You are appointed by Azora, not by the opinions of others. She judges you, and she loves you.”
“What if she …” Orilana bit her lip and looked away. “What if she doesn’t like what she sees?”
“Long before you could earn her love, she gave it freely. She preferred death over revoking that love.”
Orilana smirked, but her eyes were watering. “Sounds like the High Priestess is back.”
Iriel smirked. A tear rolled down Orilana’s cheek. Iriel wiped it away with the back of her hand. The hand that looked smoothed but was crooked and sharped underneath all the magic. “Do you want to make a confession?” she asked.
Orilana shook her head. More tears rolled. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m just … I’m so ashamed and —”
Iriel kissed her then. She had to. No force in creation could have stopped her. Not the depths of Maloth’s debauchery nor the heights of Azora’s temperance. In a flash she knew that she and Orilana were more alike than she had ever realized. They were both trapped by their office, but they were also trapped by their desires. Orilana didn’t hate what the dryad did to her. She liked it. She liked it, and she was scared, so she went to one religious figure she could trust. She went to church to wash away the shame of her desires, the shame of her pleasure.
No words could convince her. There was no logic. Just like Iriel and Prim and Fella, it had to be shown. You could argue forever about the right thing to do, about sin and virtue, but there was truth only in living, only in moving forward. Orilana needed to be kissed to know that kissing was good. She needed Iriel to run her hands over the side of her face to know she wanted Iriel’s hands on her face. She needed to reach her hand into the fire to know how cold she was.
Iriel moaned, and Orilana pulled away. But Iriel didn’t let go. She stood over Orilana with her captain’s face in her hands and gently placed her head on Orilana’s forehead. “We’re the same, you and I,” she said.
“I just … what?”
“I love you,” said Iriel.
“I … don’t know what to —”
“Do you love me too?”
Orilana bit her lip and tried to turn her head away, but Iriel didn’t let her. She held her tight in that space, in that moment.
“Just say it,” said Iriel. “No one judges us for loving.”
“But Azora —”
“Is a goddess of love. Love me, and we honor her.” Orilana’s eyes darted around the room. “Love me,” said Iriel, softer this time.
Orilana locked her eyes on Iriel’s and nodded. “I love you. I’ve always loved you.” She gasped. “Oh goddess, it feels good to say. I’ve loved you, Iriel. I’ve loved you. I’ve loved you. I’ve loved —”
Iriel kissed her again, and Orilana pressed back. Their tired bodies woke up as they stoked the flames of their passion. Iriel tried to crawl into Orilana’s lap, but the chair was too small. Orilana laughed through the kisses and stood up. Iriel wrapped her legs around Orilana’s body and her hands around Orilana’s neck. Both women were laughing and kissing, as Orilana carried Iriel through her office and pinned her up against the wall. Iriel moaned as Orilana pressed into her. When they tired of the other’s lips, they kissed cheeks and necks, foreheads and eyes, ears and noses, they found more and more flesh to kiss, to please, to taste. For ten years they had danced around this, they had avoided this, and now was the chance to make up for lost time. Neither of them would ever have to be alone ever —
“Ow.” Orilana hissed and reached a hand behind her neck. She pulled it away, and her eyes widened as she saw blood. She looked back at Iriel in confusion, and both women looked at Iriel’s fingers.
No. Not her fingers. Her claws.
Orilana let go of Iriel and stepped backwards. She stumbled over a chair, but her hand went to her sword hilt. Iriel looked down at her dark purple skin and black clawed hands. She reached up and felt her horns protruding from her forehead, and Orilana’s eyes trailed the movement. She gasped when she saw the horns and unsheathed her sword.
“Wait,” said Iriel. “I can explain.”
“No. It’s not like that. It’s —”
“Like the dryads.” Her eyes widened as realization struck her a second time. “The dryads in your bed.”
“No. It’s not like —”
Take her, hissed Maloth.
“You freed them,” whispered Orilana.
“No, well yes, but it’s not like —”
“No!” roared Iriel.
Orilana stepped back again. She held her sword in both hands, and a pale silver light swirled around her as she summoned her magic about her.
Do it. She can’t escape.
Against her will, smoke billowed out of Iriel, filling the chamber with the darkness of Maloth.
“No!” shrieked Iriel. “Stop. Not like this.”
She must be mine.
“Back!” roared Orilana. She sent a wave of golden light at Iriel and the smoke hissed and curled away.
“Orilana, this isn’t me. This isn’t —”
“No talking,” said Orilana. “Not another word, demon.”
Iriel needed to stop this madness. She needed to keep Orilana and Maloth apart, but she didn’t have the power. She couldn’t -
Her eyes darted to the Staff of Eclipse in the corner of her office.
Orilana followed Iriel’s eyes. “The staff?” She moved backwards, keeping her eyes on the smoke and her sword pointed at her High Priestess. “That serves Azora, not your foul wishes.”
“Please,” said Iriel. “I need it. I can set things right with it.”
“It belongs to the light.”
“It belongs to me!” With a roar, Iriel sent forth the smoke and her magic, but Orilana was ready. A translucent bubble of silver light wrapped around her, and wherever smoke or magic touched, there was a hissing sound as it evaporated harmlessly. Orilana worked quickly, stepping backwards until she found the staff and then grabbing it with one hand.
Iriel and Maloth snarled in unison and charged, but Orilana closed her eyes, whispered a prayer, and slammed the staff against the floor. The office was drowned in white light, searing Iriel’s eyes and skin. She summoned her magic to protect herself, but Maloth knew no spells like that. She yelled as her body smoked and burned, and eventually passed out from the pain.
When she awoke, Orilana was gone. Iriel limped in front of a mirror to see the extent of the damage she’d taken from the staff. She was healed, but her form had been corrupted further. She had the hooves and tail she had lusted after before. Her skin was a darker purple, and her hair was black and luxurious. She was almost a perfect replica of the promise in Maloth’s mirror.
But she was alone.