Desert Jewel

 

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This story is part of my original MGE setting, Darkness Prevails. (Click its tag for the others.) It is the fourth entry of the series, but can safely be read out of sequence of the others.  Enjoy!

#Darkness Prevails

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Against the far horizon, crepuscular rays crept up over the top of the dunes. Dawn approached. A bittersweet beauty. The pink and orange glow in the east heralded the end of Samira’s way of life, such that it was. As a slave in the arid Southlands, a young woman could hope for little more than to be purchased by a gentle, kind master.

“I doubt it,” sighed Samira as she gazed listlessly at her reflection. “The gods must enjoy inflicting suffering, just as men do.”

No one heard her. No one was listening. Not that it mattered. Her master did not wish to sell her off to some lecherous sultan who craved underage girls. No. She would find herself wed to a powerful officer in the Order. Someone who desired an exotic woman draped across his arm.

Exotic. As if, thought Samira bitterly. Such were words reserved for those with money. With freedom. Still, memories of her master’s men calling her, “Pretty as a princess,” haunted her steps as she made her way back to the encampment, carrying her basin with steady hands. She set it down for the camels where they loitered and received a snuff in response.

“You’re welcome,” whispered Samira. At least someone here appreciated her. She glanced down into the basin as the camels drank, squinting as she searched for the “exotic woman” her master hoped to sell. Bright glazed-bronze eyes peered back at her. Exotic enough? Shaking her head, Samira straightened and approached one of the many mud-brick structures encompassing the compound.

Eyes traced her steps. Samira averted her face, a wave of guilt tightening her chest. The other slaves her master kept gazed back at her from the hovel in which they dwelled. Regret replaced her guilt after she passed them. She kept telling herself, it was not her fault. The gods chose this destiny for her. Her master chose it. Anyone but Samira, who had little control over anything.

Steeling herself, Samira set foot inside the kitchen hut, darting back out almost immediately as a large man nearly bowled her over in his haste to leave. Gods. Samira’s nose wrinkled at the reek of piss and sweat. Swallowing the bile that threatened to worm its way up her throat, she made for the entrance.

Stepping quietly into the dim hut, Samira collected the master’s plate of food. “Better hurry, girl,” grunted the beady-eyed man who passed for a chef. Couldn’t cook worth a damn, but everyone assumed he knew what to do based on the width of his impressive belly. Regardless, the heaping of food on the tray tempted Samira’s stomach like the promises of a salacious lover.

Biting her lip, the girl darted out of the hut and hurried to her master’s home. No one harried her steps. Nobody dared. A few times in the past, some of the men, frustrated at being denied a pretty girl, interfered with her duties, even going so far as to knock the tray from her hands as she attempted to deliver breakfast to the master.

Samira shuddered. Don’t think about that!

Too late. Memories of punishment chilled Samira’s blood. She peeked inside the master’s hut looking for… him. Not the master, but the man her master employed, the one trained in inflicting pain without leaving marks. Breathing a sigh of relief at his apparent lack of presence, Samira set foot inside. She knocked softly upon the door to her master’s bedroom.

“Enter.”

Oh, gods… Was that annoyance in his voice? Samira nudged the door open, keeping her eyes lowered. She did so normally out of humility, but in this case, she did not wish to gaze upon the master as he rose from bed, for he enjoyed sleeping in the nude. Morning breezes had not yet cleansed the room of his rank odor, either, but she dared not wrinkle her nose this time. She rested the tray upon a small stand and turned to leave.

“Wait, girl.”

Samira froze. When the master said to wait, he meant that quite literally. His slaves were expected to pause in whatever position they happened to be in at that moment. Samira gulped, wondering what… oh.

Her frayed robe had parted, and the tear that had formed on its left side left her entire left leg bare and open to lewd inspection. Part of her left buttock felt exposed as well, a tantalizing treat to any man forced to live without a woman for very long. Oh gods. Samira repaired the fray earlier! Why now, of all times, must it separate? Samira’s lips parted only slightly as she whispered apologies to whatever gods might be listening for her scorn at the fate she’d been given. Please. She didn’t mean it. She just wanted to leave.

Samira felt the man’s eyes on her leg. Tracing her thigh and hip. Slender and sleek, the golden sun’s hot caresses left her with honey-bronzed skin, and her labors ensured her muscles developed lean and toned. Samira remained motionless, for to do anything else would invite her master’s wrath. She made no effort to stop him, and none to tantalize him. His words were her life, quite literally. She would stand here, motionless, all day if he demanded it. She knew that would not be his command. She dreaded what she knew would come next.

“Strip,” he grunted.

So much for the gods’ forgiveness. Samira’s hands rose to the ties around her neck that kept the tattered linen robe in place. “Slowly,” the master added. Samira swallowed, slowing the movements of her slender fingers. He did not ask her to turn around, so she remained with her back turned to him, her left leg jutting out behind her in mid-step. The ties loosened, and the garment slid off Samira’s shoulders, sagging down onto her upper arms. She slowly allowed it to fall, displaying her bare back to her master inch by inch. She knew what he liked. He preferred to see her upper body revealed slowly, and once the garment pooled around her slim waist, she was to drop it.

The man said nothing, so Samira continued to strip slowly, trapping some of the linen against the heel of her palm as it slid down her legs. At last, she ran out of fabric, and let go. The rest of it fell, melting off of her body and crumpling around her ankles. Drawing short, shallow breaths, Samira waited as her master’s eyes feasted upon her from behind. She knew from studying her reflection in the nearby oasis, she possessed a pleasing figure, at least from behind. Sturdy muscles sculpted her back, hips, and legs from various menial tasks. The tips of her silky, inky-black hair tickled her back, draping behind her in loose waves. Her master demanded she take care in its cleanliness and protection. She’d obeyed, as best she could, and it certainly added to her beauty, but that wasn’t what concerned her.

What worried Samira was how the rest of her had begun to mature. A late bloomer of sorts, Samira’s normally small bust and narrow hips were the only parts of her which stayed the master’s plans of selling her off. She gazed down at herself sadly, noting that she’d filled out much more than she’d realized. He’d notice the moment she turned.

“Turn around, face me,” he commanded.

Right on queue. Obeying his command in a literal sense, Samira slowly spun on her heels, keeping her legs in their position as she turned, so that her left leg jutted out in front slightly, as if she were stepping forward. She kept her gaze averted as eyes fell upon her nudity. The sounds of shifting sheets broke the silence; sweat beaded upon Samira’s skin, despite the early morning chill upon her bare body.

“Look at me.”

Samira forced herself to gaze across the dark room at him. Fortunately for her, the poor lighting occluded him for the most part, but the silhouette of his erection couldn’t be missed. Sweet gods… Samira’s heart sank. She’d seen him naked before, but never this aroused. Perhaps he’d abandon the idea of selling her after all, and take her for himself?

Samira waited with hitched breath for him to call her to his bed. To give herself to him. She waited, and waited some more. He did nothing. Her heart pounded beneath her breasts with dreaded anticipation. Surely, he’d demand some lewd favor of her? Why did he not get it over with, already!?

“Yes,” grunted the master with appreciation. “It’s nearly time, girl. Go, get dressed and leave. You have two hours to finish your duties today. Come back to me then.”

“Yes, Master,” Samira replied softly as she turned, scooped up her gown, and dressed before leaving, just as he’d ordered, and departed, gasping with relief.

 

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Two hours. The master gave her two hours. Two concerns struggled for dominance in Samira’s mind. On the one hand, she fretted about how she’d ever manage to complete her list of duties in such a short time. On the other, she wondered if it even mattered. Her master would be shipping her off, somewhere up north where winter’s chill wind stole the lives away from the unprepared.

“Samira!” whispered someone loudly. Samira sucked in a breath, glancing around. An empty clothesline twitched in front of her, awaiting the damp tunic in her hands. She slung it over the line and checked her surroundings again.

Only one person in the entire world ever bothered using her name. “Karim?” she whispered back. “Where are you?” Her bright eyes caught a glimpse of a flutter of cloth behind a half-buried boulder that marked the edge of her master’s encampment. Glancing this way and that, Samira carefully crept out towards it and slipped behind it.

“Samira!” cried Karim softly as he threw his arms around her. Samira balked in surprise, but patted his head tenderly, sighing at the state of his attire. The dirty, torn tunic clung barely to his rail-thin frame. Fresh bruises marred his dusty skin. Samira held him by the shoulders at arm’s length.

“What happened, Karim?” she asked, her voice tightening as she appraised his injuries. His right eye had swollen shut and turned an angry purple, with a nasty gash trailing from his right cheek into the side of his head. Dust and dirt peppered his dark brown hair, bleached somewhat from the baking sun. His frail body trembled in her grasp.

“Master’s mistress,” groaned Karim, gingerly touching his split lip with the tip of his tongue. “She—she bade me bring her some wine. When I got to her room, she—she wasn’t wearing anything, except for a small skirt…”

Samira gasped. “You caught your master’s lover changing?” She covered her lips to stifle her horror. A manservant could be castrated for such a crime, whether or not he was at fault.

“She wanted me to—to lie with her!” Karim blurted out. Samira clapped her other hand over his mouth as the shock dawned on her.

“Shhh!” stressed Samira as her mouth dropped open in shock. “Why would she do such a thing?”

Karim gently tugged Samira’s hand from his mouth and spoke more softly. “The master’s been neglecting her lately,” he said ruefully. “His eyes wander.”

“Oh…” It slowly dawned upon Samira. She nodded slowly. “She wanted revenge upon him. She would use you and then claim you defiled her. Is that what happened?”

Karim shook his head. “I refused her,” he said morosely. “She grabbed me, and the wine I carried spilled all over her.”

Samira winced, but he continued.

“She wanted me to—to do all these things to her,” sniffed Karim, tears pooling in his soft brown eyes. “But I knew I would be punished if I did. Then, she hit me for refusing her! Gods, I’m such a coward.”

Samira sat heavily upon the ground, the weight of what he’d told her beginning to settle upon her. She scarcely imagined how the woman must feel, scorned by a servant. She would never let this matter rest. Oh gods, Karim…

“I can’t ever go back there, Samira,” Karim sobbed softly. “I’m a dead man.”

Damn this!! Samira’s face flushed with the heat of her anger, compounded with the stifling hopelessness of the situation. There was only one solution, really. An idea came to mind, refining as she contemplated it. Most slave girls, when wedded to a chosen husband, needed some “persuasion” to accept his advances. None accepted such bondage willingly. But if Samira were to make a pledge to her husband, to serve him wholeheartedly, perhaps he would agree to send someone to rescue Karim. Yes. she could do this for him, her only friend.

“Karim,” Samira said softly, patting his shoulder. “Don’t worry. I have a plan.”

Karim’s one, working eye brightened a little. “What can you possibly do?” he asked.

“Leave that to me,” Samira replied firmly. “Hide. We’ll meet back here at sunset, just as the sun dips down over the dunes.”

“Do you have any food?” he asked hopefully.

Samira shook her head sadly. “Master had one of his men watch me eat. I’m sorry. I had to eat everything, or they would punish me.”

Somehow, Karim managed a smile. “At least one of us will stay strong.”

“No, Karim.” Samira glared back. “Don’t give up. Don’t you dare. I have to go. I only have two hours to finish my duties today.”

She hated to leave him there. Samira’s heart went out to the young man. While she realized the extent of her good fortune was quickly reaching its end, she wished she could extend him some of it. But this time, she had a plan. She left him to finish her duties, her mind clouded and weighed down, yet oddly hopeful at the same time.

 

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Samira unwound a dusty, white sheet from her head, shaking out her long, dark hair, grateful to step into the shade of her master’s hut after finishing her duties. Her skin glistened with sweat. She hadn’t had time to rinse it off, and hoped her master spared her his judgement for it. She knocked on his door softly.

“Enter,” came his dispassionate reply.

Two men glanced over at Samira as she stepped inside. Her two least-liked men in the world. Her master, a man named Eshaq, sat beside a desk, dressed in fine linen and cloth draped across his muscular frame. Dark brown eyes peered with cunning intelligence at Samira, sizing her up. She mentally retreated, focusing her attention anywhere but his eyes. Her gaze traced his muscular arm to his thick, meaty hand. Gods. He could likely snap her neck with one twist. Samira mentally shuddered at the thought.

“Well, Raul?” muttered the master. “What do you think? Will she fit?”

Raul. The torturer. The one man Samira hated more than her master. The lanky fellow appraised Samira with his beady eyes. “She’ll do,” he nodded. “But she might not survive.”

Samira’s blood turned to ice. The sweat upon her body bit into her skin as a chill snaked up her spine. What the hell were they planning? Since when did forced marriage involve death!?

“I’m taking an awful risk here, Raul,” grunted Eshaq. “You’re sure this place hasn’t been disturbed?”

“I’m certain,” Raul replied. “And the markings date back to the reign of Amaunet.”

Eshaq paused to consider his words. He nodded. “Go. Make preparations.”

Raul turned wordlessly and left, pausing to gaze down into Samira’s linen gown on his way out. She shivered… Gods, she detested that man. She longed to slit his throat with one of his own torture implements. Yes. One of the slender, barbed ones that fit into places Samira didn’t even know could hurt. A fitting end for such a despicable wretch.

“Girl, I have a proposition for you,” said her master. “Come closer.”

Samira stepped forward, pausing behind the desk.

“Your beauty grows every day,” he noted, his expression difficult to read as he stroked the thick, jet-black beard dangling from his chin. “Ripened enough, I believe, to pluck from the stem. I have a list of buyers here interested in acquiring you.” He indicated a small stack of parchments in front of him. “However, as fate would have it, Raul stumbled upon something much more valuable.”

If Samira’s master expected her to speak, he did not say so, so she remained silent and waited for him to continue.

“The sandstorm, couple of days ago, seems to have unearthed the very tip of an ancient ruin,” Eshaq explained. “The markings of which date back to the reign of Amaunet, an empress of the Southlands who developed powerful, magical devices. Their worth is beyond even my imagination.” He paused to let his words sink in.

The effect was not lost on Samira. At last, an even better chance at saving Karim! Possibly even herself! They could actually buy their own freedom and live their lives as free folk… Samira’s heart fluttered in her chest at the impossible thought.

“Normally, it would take years to uncover the entrance to such a place,” Eshaq continued. “However, Raul discovered an open-air vent big enough for you to slip into. He’s already making the preparations. I want you to go there, sneak into the ruins, and find a way to open them from the inside.”

Samira gulped.

“If you cannot find a way to open them,” Eshaq instructed, “Take anything small enough to fit with you back up through the hole. We’ll scour the place bit by bit if we have to. Do this, and I might just keep you around as a partner instead of a slave. What do you say?”

“Yes, Master,” Samira agreed. “I serve at your pleasure.”

“Good. Go with Raul; he will take you to the site.”

Eshaq dismissed her. Samira withdrew, her heart beating so hard that she could practically see the blood in her eyes. True, she’d need to travel with Raul, a nauseating thought, but if she succeeded? Maybe the gods did favor her after all?

 

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Preparations proceeded quickly. A bit too quickly from Samira’s point of view. While questioning the men was decidedly not her place, she couldn’t help but feel something was wrong about all this. On the surface, it seemed typical enough. The master demanded all manner of strange favors from her, many of which included sneaking into the houses of rich men to plunder them. Her grace and dexterity afforded her the speed and subtle movements necessary for such skullduggery. Asking her to crawl into a tomb from which there might be no escape? Yes. Typical.

What bothered Samira was not the request, but the find itself. So sudden, and on the day the master planned to parade her in front of prospective buyers. Raul snapped at her, gesturing for her to mount his camel. There hadn’t been time for her to alert Karim. She’d miss their meeting. Nothing she could do about that now. She mounted the camel and found herself squished in front of Raul. His sickly-sweet rank washed over her, stirring bile in her throat.

Gods. Please let it not be far. To be setting out into the noonday sun, her body pressed up against the vilest man she’d ever met for potentially hours? Samira swallowed, forcing the bile back where it belonged, but as the camel plodded down the path out of the encampment, Raul’s fingers curled around her waist, and she practically retched on the spot. Her skin crawled, desperate to retreat from his lecherous touch. She closed her eyes and imagined the sunrise she’d observed earlier that morning.

Much, much better. Samira’s mind drifted away, floating on the memory of such beauty that none could take from her. Try as they might, violate her if they willed, none could take such beauty from her.

As time passed, and the sun curved across the sky, Samira noticed their camel had moved to the front of the procession. She dared not look back for she feared—no! Raul’s hand moved, drifting up her waist, and nudged her breast. She stiffened, squirming in the saddle. Slow, shallow breaths. Just—just don’t fight him. Pretend to ignore it.

Gods, it was so difficult. She felt him leaning into her, burying his nose in her hair and inhaling her scent. He wound the reigns around his left wrist and rested his hand upon her thigh as his right hand cupped her breast.

Samira knew she’d be punished for speaking out of turn, but… “Y-you mustn’t!” she whimpered. “Master’s ire will…”

“Your master isn’t here,” leered Raul, his hot breath puffing against her ear as his tongue traced her earlobe. “I trust you’ll keep our secret, yes? Or would you rather the touch of my steel?”

Samira sucked in a breath through her teeth, squeezing her eyes shut as the groping continued. As much as she detested his touch, she’d endure it for hours, rather than have those hooks and prods testing her pain centers. Like a true monster, he fed on her pain and fear, delighting in the sounds and smells she produced while in helpless agony.

“Of course, if you would prefer to cry out,” Raul murmured, a touch of hope in his voice as he pinched her nipple through the linen she wore.

“The men will hear,” gasped Samira. A growing stiffness pressed against her lower back as he insinuated himself against her.

Raul chuckled, releasing Samira’s breast and thigh, and guided the camel in a slight course correction. “No matter,” he replied with confidence. “When you fail to return with any sort of prize, battered and ravished, the master will have no further use for you. And then, you will be mine.”

A shiver of pure terror practically shook through Samira’s body. “How—how do you know I’m going to fail?” she asked between ragged breaths.

Raul merely chuckled, a sound even more horrifying than the roar of a nearby predator. What could he possibly mean by that? Samira’s frantic mind cast possibilities about in her subconscious, each scenario more horrifying than the last, but all centered around…

Oh no.

Oh, gods, no…

“There are no ruins!” Samira gasped. “You made it all up!”

“Clever girl,” murmured Raul. “But your master does not trust me as much as you believe. There are ruins, but they have little to do with the reign of Amaunet.”

“What!?”

“Yes, girl,” chuckled Raul. “I’ll take you to them, as I promised, but you’ll find little more than sand and bones. And then, you’ll befall a terrible tragedy.”

Samira dared not ask what. She figured he’d tell her, anyway.

Sure enough. “A band of tomb raiders, heartless scum, finding a girl all by herself… to play with.” Raul laughed, a sickening, cackling sound.

“You—you can’t!”

Raul gripped her breast suddenly, tightly, forcing a squeal from her. “Who are you to tell me what I cannot do?” he snapped in her ear. “I’ve waited years for an opportunity such as this!”

“I’d—I would rather die,” admitted Samira. Gods, hah. Did the gods even know she existed? Did they care? Or were they finding amusement with her predicament? She’d be sure to demand answers when she perished and met them, face to face.

“No, you wouldn’t,” countered Raul.

Anger rushed through Samira’s body, chasing away the fear momentarily. She turned back to glare at him, but his eerie smile, revealing several missing teeth, unnerved her.

“Did you know,” murmured Raul, “That a person reveals his true self when angry, or when utterly terrified. Boisterous claims of valor or supremacy wither away when confronted with true peril, turning the fiercest knight away from the battlefield and into brothels and bars, while morphing a bitter commoner, homeless and destitute, into a true hero. One may never know the exact nature of a man until such times as these.”

“What’s your point?” spat Samira, shaking her shoulders to dislodge the man’s grip on her breast. Thankfully, his hand settled on her hip instead.

“My point, girl,” stressed Raul as he gripped her hip tightly, “Is that I know you better than you know yourself.”

“Wh-what?” gasped Samira.

“How many times have I spread you out on my table, stripped you, and laid bare your soul with my steel?” Raul asked her, leaning to nibble on her ear. Pure terror replaced Samira’s anger, for she’d done her best to push such episodes from her mind.

“Mmm,” sighed Raul lustfully. “Of all of your master’s men and chattel I have been permitted to experiment with, I have enjoyed you the most. Your screams ring like the clarion call of silver trumpets, and the scent of your fear surpasses the sweetest of nectar.”

Oh, gods! Samira retched, nearly vomiting all over the neck of the camel in front of her. This man! This horrible man…

“But what did I learn while meeting your true self, you ask?” prompted Raul. “You act like you have nothing to lose. When, in fact, you hold someone close to your tender heart. A young man, a fellow slave, named Karim.”

Samira sucked in a horrified gasp, twisting in the saddle to confront him with her paled gaze. “What!? What have you done!?” she demanded.

“Oh, not much,” promised Raul. “A tempting interlude with his master’s woman, perhaps?”

“That was you!?” cried Samira. Raul placed a finger over her lips, smiling, forcing her to face forward to get away from him. Her lips felt soiled and cursed where he’d touched her.

“You didn’t think she offered herself to him out of desperate hunger, did you?” chuckled Raul. “She absolutely loathes that wretch. She does not take kindly to my presence much better, I fear, but she leaped at the chance to get rid of him.”

“Why!?” demanded Samira, briefly burning Raul with her gaze.

“Simple,” explained Raul. “I’ve just one pain center in your body left to stimulate. One last place for me to break before I make you mine. Your heart.

Samira bit her lip. Hot tears welled up in her eyes, stinging into her vision with hopeless bitterness. It was all she could do to keep herself from bursting into uncontrolled sobbing.

“Within a day or two, the sands will claim the wretch,” said Raul softly. “Long enough for you to fail as expected. And then, there will be no more fight left within you.”

As much as Samira hated to admit it, he was right. She could already feel herself going numb. Feeling faded from her fingertips, traveling up her arms slowly as she gazed at herself in morbid curiosity. Raul’s hand cupped her breast again, and this time, she did not fight him. She barely felt it. There was nothing she could do. Nothing at all.

No reason remained for her to fight. The numbness quickly spread through Samira’s entire body. Was this what it felt to break under torture? Her mind detached, and she floated away, curling up in a fetal position somewhere in the back of her subconscious. Only the sudden halt of the camel forced her back to the forefront.

Samira blinked, casually marveling at how the heat of the sun no longer bothered her. A small voice in the back of her mind screamed at her. Don’t give up! Don’t give in! Not to him! She barely heard it. Her feet crunched into the hardened sand as she took in her surroundings with surreal impartiality.

Raul’s procession stood amidst a crumbled ruin, barely visible from one dune to the next. Cracked columns, obliterated plinths, and stairs that went to nowhere jutted out from haphazard angles. None of it made any sense, even in a state of ruin. The yellows and beiges of limestone barely contrasted with the coarse sand that had swallowed them up many years ago.

“Ready girl?” Raul asked. Samira nodded numbly. He tossed her a sturdy loop of rope.

“There’s no air vent, is there?” she asked softly.

“Maybe there is, and maybe there isn’t,” chuckled Raul. “Can’t be certain there isn’t.” He shrugged and turned his back to her.

Samira sighed, taking the rope and trudging off towards one of the larger outcroppings, numbly realizing she no longer cared enough to summon any anger. The sun beat down upon her back; her dark hair soaked up heat as it seared like a hot blanket against her back. She really ought to tie a wrap around her head, but whatever. It didn’t matter anymore.

Samira’s feet nudged up against the edge of the outcropping, and she began to climb. Reaching into tiny cracks and holes worn away by the relentless sandy wind, Samira ascended, digging her fingers against the unforgiving rock until they bled. Still, she felt nothing. No biting pain. No searing burn. Her heart beat lukewarm in her chest.

When Samira finally scaled the top, she cast her gaze in every direction. Baking sands and rippling heat surrounded her on all sides. Raul’s meager camp stood as the only reminder of any hint of civilization having braved this place in the last century.

I wonder how long he’ll wait for me?

Should she give him the satisfaction?

Samira thought on it as she crawled down the other side of the outcropping, finding it much steeper and jagged on this end. Maybe, centuries ago, this stonework served to support a larger structure that had since sunk into the sands below. Samira crawled into a nook that offered some shade and rested her head against the limestone.

Samira focused, trying to feel something. Anything. Not—not enough. She just wasn’t strong enough. “Maybe I can just die here,” Samira suggested to the hot, afternoon air. She sighed, letting her eyelids flutter closed. She felt tired, but not exhausted, and prepared to curse the gods for keeping her so damn healthy. It was going to take her days to die here.

A chill draft feathered Samira’s leg. She opened one eye, her left, to peek around. The nook she’d crawled into had been bigger than she thought. She crawled in deeper, eyes widening as her gaze fell upon a rectangular, slanted opening in a crumbled wall.

An air vent.

Well, what the hell did she have to lose? Samira tied off the rope against a jagged fragment of the wall and slung the rest of the slack into the hole. Hopping up, she crawled in, grasping the rope tightly, and began to worm her way in, feeling slightly claustrophobic. However, one of the benefits to dying inside was that she no longer cared if she suffocated.

A strange, sweet scent rushed against Samira’s face as she slid headfirst into the hole. Her vision swam as the chill air entered her nostrils. As the opening spun around in front of her, Samira’s addled mind dimly advised her that she was falling uncontrollably into the hole.

At last, she was going to die. And no one would ever find her.

So be it.

 

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“Unnn…” grunted Samira, blinking.

Nothing. The utter darkness pressed against her even more closely than when she kept her eyes closed.

Oh no…

She’d died. But not passed on. She’d heard of this happening, of restless spirits roaming the desert seeking an end to their existence and torturing anyone who crossed their path. Samira flexed her fingers. Well, she assumed she still had fingers. The numbness presented a challenge in that regard. But she’d felt that while still alive. Carefully, she patted herself down and decided that she did, indeed, still have a body.

Then, that meant, it must have been very, very dark. A total absence of light. A thick, cloying darkness to rival the grave.

Shaking her head to free herself, at least partially, from the numbness she felt, Samira patted herself down systematically, checking for broken bones. Finding none, she carefully rose to her feet and extended her arms into the blackness.

Nothing. Just nothing.

Samira stamped her foot. It connected with a hard, polished floor. Well, that was something, at least. She knelt, fanning her fingers out onto the floor and began to feel her way around. Her fingers nudged against something metal, creeping around the object to feel its texture.

Brass, perhaps? It felt like a large goblet. She turned it over and around in her hands. Smooth, well-wrought. Might be worth something. Wait!

There! A flicker of light, reflected upon the object! She stood, tilting the object in her hands so that she could trace the light, and walk towards it.

“OW!” Samira cried, stubbing her toe over something in the dark. The metal object flew out of her hand, connecting with the floor. A strange hum resounded through wherever Samira was.

Suddenly, light filled the room. An eerie, purple light. Torch sconces flickered to life against the walls, framing doorways. Samira detected something odd about them. As she peered more closely, she discovered that while the handles were made of brass, flickering crystal took the place of traditional flames. The crystals gleamed an eerie violet, casting strange shadows across the room, a room which Samira could now examine.

“Ohh!” she gasped in awe. She found herself upon a large, raised dais of flat, polished obsidian. It capped the top of a large subterranean structure, with a pyramid shape, but flattened out at the summit. The room, or cavern, as it could be rightly called, extended much deeper and much wider than Samira could possibly have imagined. Her rope dangled from high above, far out of reach. It would take half a dozen of her, standing on each other’s shoulders, to reach it.

For some reason, that problem failed to raise any concerns. Pervading numbness stifled her panic as it did everything else. Better to ascertain her surroundings than succumb to childish fretting.

Kneeling, Samira examined the dais upon which she stood. Measuring at least twenty feet in diameter and containing a ring of strange symbols etched into the obsidian, it contained only two other objects besides Samira herself. The goblet rested a few feet away, and an oblong shape, draped in wrappings of dusty linen lay between it and Samira.

A small inkling of fear traced Samira’s spine. The first emotion she’d felt since Raul… ugh. She shuddered. Best not to think about him. She knelt and grasped the linen-bound object. Oblong, it measured about six and a half feet in length, and about twice Samira’s width. She flipped it over, noting it was much lighter than it appeared.

“Ack!” Samira gulped. She’d heard of these, but never, ever seen one.

A body. A mummified body. Completely wrapped but simply dropped here without any semblance of a sarcophagus. Like it’d fallen from…

Samira gazed up at the ceiling at her dangling rope. Damn!

She’d literally fallen into some kind of cursed dumping ground.

Best get out of here quickly. Samira hadn’t the faintest idea how long the light was going to last. She crept to the sides of the dais, peering down. The steep sides of the ziggurat plunged into total darkness, hundreds of feet under the earth. Falling from this height would surely consign her to oblivion. The urge to jump briefly teased her mind.

At least that brought her closer to her senses. Samira glanced around. No. wait!

The lights seemed brighter.

“H-hello?” she spoke softly into the massive room. Her voice failed to return in any form of echo, stifled by some unseen force within the air. Sniffing at it, Samira detected a syrupy sweetness. A cloying odor that seemed to seep into the pores of her skin.

The ambient light around her intensified again. She gazed carefully down the side of the ziggurat. No way down, but if the light kept brightening at this rate, she might be able to see the bottom soon. But, then what? She was surely stuck up here.

“HELP!” cried Samira.

She might as well have screamed into a pillow, for how muffled her voice sounded, but the lights brightened further. At last, she could sort of make out the bottom: dusty, rocky—were those things bones!?

“Yes.”

Samira squealed, spinning around. A sensual voice pierced the air, echoing where Samira’s would not. “What? Where?” she asked timidly.

“Here.”

Gulping, Samira scanned her surroundings again. There, in the center of the dais, a swirl of rippling energy. And a pair of glowing, yellow eyes! Samira backed away slowly, her foot tipping over the side. She remembered too late the dais had no walls. She would fall and join the sea of bones at the foot of the ziggurat.

Unless…

A firm grip closed around Samira’s wrist, snatching her from the brink. She turned her head and would have screamed were it not for the lifeless numbness suppressing her thoughts.

It was the mummy.

Having shed a layer of linen wrappings, the mummy held her in her dry grasp. Yes, her. An animated body of a woman, ruddy in complexion, thin, yet surprisingly well-endowed, with an above-average plump bosom beneath the linen. She gazed vacantly back at Samira with dull, green eyes peering behind linen wrappings and dusty, brown hair. Eerie markings trailing her side throbbed a dull red-violet.

Samira righted herself and tugged her wrist free. Or, rather, she tried to. The mummy-girl held her with surprising strength. Not tightly, but firmly, like a living statue. Samira planted both feet firmly and tugged with all her might. Nothing. The mummy’s grip never faltered.

“Stop.”

The ephemeral woman’s voice called out to Samira, drawing her attention to the center of the room. Misty, golden eyes glared back at her.

“Please, let me go,” Samira said softly.

“Why?” the mysterious specter asked, a hint of curiosity in her inflections. “You asked for my help.”

“Wh-what?” gulped Samira.

“Why have you come?”

Samira glanced at the mummy. The girl’s vacant gaze remained locked upon her. “I—I came looking for treasure,” she admitted, glancing down at the fallen goblet. A beautiful object, golden, yet sturdy and free of dents or blemishes, and encrusted with jewels that refracted the eerie purple light cast from the sconces.

“Why?”

“Huh?” Samira blinked in confusion.

“What do you seek?”

“Treasure,” stressed Samira. “Something valuable. Like that goblet, there.”

“For what end?”

“My—my master demands it of me,” she replied.

The spirit said nothing for a minute or two. Samira dared not speak. The mummy continued to hold her. Everywhere her skin touched Samira’s, it soaked up moisture. Her wrist felt dry and clear of sweat, and soon began to ache. Not a painful ache, mind. A hungry sort of ache. Something she typically only felt within her stomach.

“What do YOU seek?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Samira said. She swallowed as best she could. “Are you going to kill me?”

“Is that what you desire?”

The girl’s eyes fell. She nodded. “I am a slave. I belong to a man named Eshaq, who bid me come here to acquire riches for him.”

“Why do you seek death?”

Tears welled up in Samira’s eyes. Sudden tears. Unbidden. Her emotions rushed back into her chest with a vengeance, stunning her with their insistence. Her hands balled into fists. Both of them, including the one struggling in the mummy’s grip.

“I have nothing!!” screamed Samira. “No freedom! No life! My parents abandoned me!! Sold me to that man!” She cried. She sobbed. It all came tumbling out. No stopping it now. “Master’s man, the monster, Raul, set a trap for the only friend I ever knew!! Now, he’ll die! I can’t save him! And Raul will take me for himself. I have nothing. LESS than nothing!!”

“What do you seek?”

Damn this ghost and her insistence! Samira sank to her knees, her arm still held aloft in the mummy’s grip. “I just want to die!”

“No.”

“What!?” screeched Samira, affixing her tearful, burning gaze upon the spirit. “What the hell do you want from me!?”

The mummy pulled.

“Urrkk!” Samira grunted, finding herself hefted to her feet and pulled up against the undead girl. The linen-bound breasts of her pressed into Samira’s back as she grasped her other wrist and held both arms out to her sides. A strange sensation coursed through Samira’s body as her moisture evaporated and entered the mummy. The lining of her mouth dried out, and her eyes felt gritty.

The spirit shifted from its position and approached Samira, drawing very close. The goblet, lifted with magic, hovered in front of her.

“I give you one last chance before I grant you the death you claim to desire. Be aware that death is not the end. You will join with Alys and share her duty.”

Samira swallowed, or tried to. Her throat rapidly dried, burning with thirst.

“What… do you… seek…”

Samira closed her eyes, forcing all distractions away from her conscious mind. A funny notion drifted in her mind. What if the woman meant what she asked? Literally? Was she offering to grant a wish? Anything Samira wanted? Anything!?

What the hell did she have to lose?

Possibilities popped into her mind. Cursing her master. Saving Karim. Bringing ruin upon the woman who beat her friend to within an inch of his life. Anger roiled within Samira. But she only got one wish. What could she possibly—how could she possibly ask?

The obvious choice was to have the spirit save Karim. But without Samira to watch over him, he’d likely find himself in a similar circumstance again. A fresh resurgence of anger swept through Samira’s mind and body. She gritted her teeth, glaring back at the spirit.

“I want revenge!!” screamed Samira. “I want power. Power to free myself and bring ruin upon those who enslaved me!”

“At last…”

The spirit drifted closer, and Samira perceived a ghostly hand curled around the stem of the goblet as it was held out to her. A rich, dark-violet liquid swirled within. The spirit brought the golden goblet up to Samira’s lips.

“Drink, and what you desire shall be yours.”

The mummy left Samira so parched, she’d drink her own blood if she could. She tilted her head forward and parted her lips, allowing some of the purple liquid to slip into her mouth. Its heady sweetness assaulted her senses without mercy, changing from sweet, to musky, to bitter, and then to delicious sweetness again. She rolled the liquid around, moistening her tongue and mouth, before swallowing.

Samira’s eyes widened to saucers. Her body jerked, shuddering as raw, fiery power uncurled within her body. She took another sip, swirled it around, and swallowed. A second rush of power swept through her. Parting her lips wider, she began to gulp the liquid down. Her body quivered with excitement and near-orgasmic pleasure with every swallow. Her muscles trembled, strengthening by several degrees. The mummy holding her struggled to maintain her grip.

Yes…

More…

The spirit tipped the goblet up so that Samira could consume every drop. By the time she reached the end, the girl sucked and slurped it greedily, gasping for breath as she finished. The goblet fell to the floor, no longer needed.

“With this, I pass on what I once possessed, to you. You shall have what you seek, and much, much more.”

Samira gasped, her body jerking with uncontrollable spasms.

“Yesssss!!” cried the girl, shaking with a ferocious orgasm as the lights faded. The energy of the spirit began to dissipate. Her eyes closed and winked out of existence. The rest of it, no longer sentient, rushed into the squirming girl. She screamed, falling from the mummy’s grip onto the center of the dais, writhing with uncontrollable pleasure.

It was too much… just too much… she gasped, her consciousness slipping away. Moments before utter darkness took her, the sensual voice, now barely a whisper, bequeathed her a new name.

“Scha-Rei.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Nnn…” moaned Scha-Rei softly as her consciousness slowly crept back. Her eyes opened, and she briefly marveled at a newfound ability. The lights had gone out. She no longer needed them. Her eyes adapted to perfect darkness. She yawned and stretched as she stood up… much taller than she’d remembered.

What?

Scha-Rei glanced down and gasped.

In place of legs, a long, scaled tail uncoiled beneath her, allowing her to rise up to several times her human height. She reached down to touch it, further entranced by the dark skin upon her hand and long, sharp nails the color of blood.

What was that down there? Scha-Rei lowered herself back to her normal height. The bulk of her powerful serpent half coiled behind her. There, knelt before her upon one knee, Alys the mummy waited.

“Alys?” prompted Scha-Rei.

“My mistress, my Empress,” the mummy answered in a dull monotone, “I offer you my service, such that it is, for all eternity.”

A thrill ran all up and down Scha-Rei’s long body—a mixture of terror and glee—before bewilderment won out. What in the world was she supposed to say? This girl nearly sucked the life out of her only moments ago.

“I… accept your offer,” Scha-Rei said at last. A shiver of pleasure skirted up her long body, tightening her serpentine muscles in a brief ripple of sinful delight. Scha-Rei gasped softly, resting her fingertips against the curve of her throat. Even her voice had changed. Deepened. Morphed into something so seductive, she scarcely believed it came from her. She licked her lips—which now glistened a glossy black—with a slim, forked tongue.

Scha-Rei’s tongue flicked into the air, next. A curious sensation tricked upon it, and she withdrew it back into her mouth in surprise. Scent? Taste? A bit of both, perhaps. She repeated the action, drawing upon that sweet scent she’d detected earlier. What was it?

Scha-Rei shuddered. “Alys, what—what happened to me?” she asked, still amazed at the tone of her voice. Silky, with a touch of a lisp that softly extended some of her words into breathy hisses.

Alys gazed up at Scha-Rei, affixing her with an eerie, vacant stare. “You partook of the Blood of Apep and blossomed. You now bear her blessing and have been reshaped into her image,” she stated in her monotonous voice.

“Reshaped?” echoed Scha-Rei as she gently stroked what had been her outer thighs. Thick, smooth scales replaced her skin, yet somehow afforded even more sensation from being touched than before. “Wait,” she said suddenly, glancing back at Alys. “What do you mean I ‘survived?’”

“Few who imbibe Apep’s essence so ravenously live to see another day,” Alys told her. “The Goddess is pleased.” She stood slowly, cradling a glittering tiara daintily between her embalmed fingertips. Crafted of looping silver, eerie, glowing red-violet gems dangled from the sides, and a smaller, elliptical eye gem gleamed in the center.

“What is that?” gasped Scha-Rei.

The mummy girl pursed her dry lips. “Please permit me, mistress,” she implored.

Scha-Rei bowed her head slightly, allowing the mummy to place the tiara upon her head. “Nnn…” she gasped; a lightning flare of pleasure shot through her body upon contact.

“At your pleasure, mistress,” said Alys in her monotone, “I shall adorn you.”

“Proceed,” Scha-Rei said, delighting in how imperious her voice sounded. Her eyes fluttered closed as the mummy’s gentle hands attended her. They came up to her ears first, tapered and pointed, and brief pricks of pain in each ear signaled the arrival of a pair of looped earrings. Scha-Rei bit her lip, and nearly regretted doing so, for she discovered a pair of terrifying fangs within her mouth at the last second.

Alys continued, slipping a heavy choker around Scha-Rei’s neck, clipping it into place and allowing a jeweled necklace to rest between her breasts. Gods! How much had they grown!? The mummy’s hands slipped around the enlarged globes, cradling them gently before applying a pair of clamps upon her nipples, which Alys linked together with a small chain.

The metal felt distinctly warm against Scha-Rei’s skin. How strange. She’d expected a chill. The mummy traced a finger across the chain to test its length. A curious, sensual pleasure stirred within Scha-Rei’s breasts in response. Were these clips and clamps designed to seduce her, or those who looked upon her? Little runes and symbols flickered upon the metal, as if in answer to her question.

Scha-Rei nodded with approval, so Alys continued, slipping bangles around her mistress’ arms and wrists. A complicated, delicate ensemble settled upon her hips, coming together just as her skin blended into scales. Jewels and chains rested upon Scha-Rei’s scales, glowing with power as they came in contact with her. A thin veil of organza hung between the jeweled loops clamped to her hips.

Alys held up two more pieces of small jewelry. “Do you desire these as well, mistress?”

“I do,” Scha-Rei replied.

Nodding, the mummy pressed the slender stud she held into Scha-Rei’s navel. It bit into her skin with a prick of pain before fading to pleasure as Alys caressed her smooth, flat stomach. The mummy then leaned very close, holding up the last one, and pierced Scha-Rei’s lower lip with it. The mummy stepped back, her dull eyes appraising Scha-Rei’s appearance.

“Your appearance now honors the memory of Apep,” she said. “You may alter it or add to it as you please.”

“What else was passed on to me?” inquired Scha-Rei.

“This sanctum, mistress,” replied Alys. “Many have fallen who foolishly entered to steal your spoils. What they sought is now forever bound to you. All who enter will find themselves kneeling to you. As well, the knowledge of Apep, and the one who came after her, shall be passed down to you.”

“How?”

“I possess some of what you require,” said Alys. “Take from me what I offer.”

Scha-Rei drew a breath to echo her previous question. How? She sampled the air with a flick of her forked tongue, but as Alys stepped towards her, an unfamiliar feeling swept through Scha-Rei. She reached out and rested her hand upon the mummy’s shoulder, testing the texture of the aged, linen bandages. Unlike before, this time Alys yielded to her touch. That unfamiliar feeling spread through Scha-Rei’s body, dipping into her serpentine lower half.

Was it yearning? Hunger? She desired Alys. Embrace her. Wrap around her. Yes. Scha-Rei’s serpentine half began to move, practically on its own. Loops of coils slipped around the girl, pulling her close. A pleasurable ache spread through Scha-Rei as she embraced the girl, delighting in the texture and shape of her servant’s body. Every inch of Scha-Rei’s coils possessed exquisite sensitivity, and she sampled the mummy from every angle imaginable. Alys made no move to resist, and instead tilted her face as her body angled her closer. Her lips brushed Scha-Rei’s.

There it was again. That scent. That taste in the air, driving Scha-Rei wild with curiosity. Her arms encircled the mummy’s shoulders as she met her lips in a breathless kiss. The rush! Ohh, Gods! That sweet taste. The seductive power of it intensified the hungry ache within Scha-Rei, for she finally began to understand. She hungered indeed. She craved this.

Alys stared straight ahead as her mistress fed upon her, trembling with pleasure with every breath Scha-Rei took. Coils tightened around her, strong enough to suffocate a living person. Fortunately, Alys had not drawn living breath in quite some time. Scha-Rei smiled within the kiss at the reassurance of it.

When she finished and released Alys, Scha-Rei nearly crumpled to the floor. Knowledge and understanding flooded her mind. She’d never been able to read before, much less decipher the ancient script flowing up and down the walls and marking the dais. But now, as she laid quivering on the polished obsidian, a wealth of knowledge flooded her mind, as well as several disjointed memories.

Apophis.

Yes… that was what she was. A vengeful extension of the Goddess Apep, sent to punish those others who abused the gifts they received. The knowledge Alys imparted to Scha-Rei illuminated a beautiful queen whose image burned into the forefront of the Apophis’ conscious mind.


Hair, black as night. Eyes, red as rubies. Skin a caramel brown.
Draped in gilded serpent ornaments and lacy organza.
Brimming with power so overwhelming as to reshape the very land around her.

Amaunet, Empress of the Southern Sands.

Millenia ago, she ruled.
Born a pauper, she prayed a desperate prayer.
The Gods answered, bestowing gifts of beauty, intelligence, and wisdom.
She prospered. Rose to power. Claimed her rule.
The land flourished. Her subjects looked upon her as a god.
Twisting her gifts, she sought to become what her subjects perceived.
She reigned for seven hundred years.
And seven hundred more.


All things come. All things go.
Not Amaunet.

Scha-Rei shuddered as the vision faded. That voice! She trembled, struggling to rise. Small beads of perspiration clung to her upper body. Powerful urges clutched her heart. Amaunet. Gods! Scha-Rei shivered. She’d heard of her before, of course. Few Southlanders hadn’t. Raul had claimed this was her tomb. The woman was long dead, though. Right? …Right?

“Alys?” Scha-Rei called. Her coils twitched. She longed to depart this darkness and find Karim. “Nnn…” she moaned softly. Another unfamiliar feeling crossed her mind, startling her with its insistence. She found herself imagining him wrapped in her coils. The thought left her flushed and panting with need. What!? These feelings!

Shaking her head clear of the odd desires creeping through her mind, Scha-Rei recentered her thoughts. Now was not the time for such things. Karim was in danger.

“Alys,” repeated Scha-Rei. “We must not linger here.”

“M-mistress,” groaned Alys. “I c-cannot. So—so parched…”

Oh, no. Did she take too much from her? What was she going to do? Scha-Rei’s tongue sampled the air as her anxious mind edged towards panic. Subtly different flavors marked the air. Everything seemed sweeter around Scha-Rei herself, but lifeless and dull around Alys.

An idea formed in Scha-Rei’s mind. That idea began to nurture a trickle of hope within her as she gathered the limp mummy into her coils once again. Gently cradling the girl’s head, she leaned in and kissed her. Power swirled around Scha-Rei, and she willed some of it to enter Alys. A small thread of energy wound its way into the mummy, but it wasn’t enough. Frustration knotted Scha-Rei’s throat. She simply did not know how to do what she needed to do.

Closing her eyes, Scha-Rei forced herself to calm down. There had to be something within that cornucopia of knowledge and memories that could help her. She sighed, nibbling on her lower lip… and nearly perforating it between a set of razor-sharp fangs.

Fangs! Of course! Tracing the lining of her mouth, Scha-Rei’s lithe tongue nudged against puffy sacs of venom within her cheeks. Gently applying pressure to one, she coaxed a droplet of venom out of her fangs and onto her tongue.

GODS!

The overpowering sweetness of it turned Scha-Rei’s world upside-down, thankfully only briefly. Its flavor blended together into a heady mix, much like the liquid the spirit offered her earlier. Power! Her venom contained intoxicating power. Hope blossomed in Scha-Rei’s chest once again. She cradled the mummy close, tilting her head as she curled a slender fingernail under the bandages around her neck. Exposing the tender flesh, Scha-Rei sank her fangs into Alys’ neck.

A delightful ache in her cheeks. Straining for release. Scha-Rei tensed her cheek muscles, coaxing out her venom into Alys’ body. The girl twitched and trembled, moaning in the Apophis’ grasp.

“Mistress! Yes…” moaned Alys. Moisture glistened in the girl’s eyes. Her lips parted; she gasped with pleasure, arching her neck towards Scha-Rei’s mouth. “More,” she pleaded.

Scha-Rei gave her a little more, delighting at how the girl’s taste subtly changed with the venom coursing through her. The mummy had pledged herself to Scha-Rei, but now, she was permanently, indelibly, hers. She would no longer be able to resist. This, Scha-Rei instinctively knew.

Still cradling the girl, Scha-Rei uncoiled, rising up towards the rope that still dangled from the ceiling. “Climb,” she said, kissing the bite mark on Alys’s neck. Fresh strength tightened within the mummy’s body.

Alys took hold of the rope and pulled herself up, hand over hand, quite quickly. Scha-Rei followed, grasping the rope and coiling her serpentine half around it. She ascended in a flash, slipping into the hole with ease, not even needing to hold onto the rope anymore. Her scales gripped the limestone bricks surrounding her with practiced ease.

As she emerged, Scha-Rei gazed with concern up at the starry sky. She slid out from the outcropping and allowed herself to fall to the ground. Her serpentine half absorbed the impact effortlessly, and Alys dropped down beside her.

“How long was I unconscious?” Scha-Rei inquired of the girl.

“A day and a half,” Alys replied.

“What!?” cried Scha-Rei. “Karim!” she moaned sadly. “Why did you not wake me!?” she demanded of Alys.

“So great was your power, mistress,” explained Alys, “That you required extra time to fuse with what you have been given.”

“My power?” Scha-Rei echoed. “Before this? I had no power before. I was just a slave…”

“No, mistress,” the mummy shook her head, tightening some of the wrappings that had begun to come undone around her shoulders and waist. “The spirit scented your potential. Otherwise you would have died and become like me.”

Potential? Scha-Rei rested her forehead against the back of her hand. No, there wasn’t time to think about this! She flicked out her tongue, scenting the air. “Raul and his men have left,” Scha-Rei noted. “They must assume me dead.”

“At their peril,” murmured Alys.

Scha-Rei tested the way her serpentine body moved against the shifting sand. Crossing the desert would take time. Time Karim did not have. Her eyes fluttered closed as she forced herself to swallow her panic. Calm. Remain calm. Yes. The answer will come, just relax and…

Soft sounds danced against the boundaries of Scha-Rei’s mind. Spells, incantations, strange murmurings in the darkness of the night. Chants around stone tables amidst glowing rings inscribed upon scorched earth. Trickles of pleasure in the exchange of dark secrets.

Something? Anything that could transport her across large expanses of desert? Scha-Rei searched her mind for a spell that could translocate Alys and herself.

Nothing. Ugh.

Wait. Something. Not translocation. But, perhaps she was underestimating herself?

“We need to cross the desert with speed,” Scha-Rei said, opening her eyes and steeling herself. “Come.” She patted her hip.

Alys strode over to her side.

The gem set within the bangle of Scha-Rei’s right hand began to glow brightly. She felt power swelling within her. Smiling at the sudden manifestation, she twirled her clawed fingers at Alys. The gemstone flashed briefly, and sweet, intoxicating mana enveloped the mummy, lifting her up a few inches into the air and holding her steady beside Scha-Rei.

That scent… so alluring—a blend of nightshade and desire. Scha-Rei gazed at the gem still dimly glowing against her right wrist. This power belonged to her now?

Yessss… Scha-Rei’s body thrilled with pleasure, her tail undulating against the sand as she flexed her power.

Her head turned sharply to Alys.

“Mistress?” the mummy prompted softly.

“We go,” Scha-Rei announced. She willed her serpentine muscles to press out into the sand, thrusting her forward. Her body slid into the night with surprising speed, coiled muscles acting in perfect concert as the dunes and shifting sands yielded before her. Eager to test her limits, Scha-Rei lowered her head and concentrated on increasing her speed.

The sands began to flow more quickly beneath Scha-Rei as her scales skimmed across them with the grace of an exotic dancer. Gods, the wind felt delicious against the skin of her flared hood. She lowered herself to nearly a horizontal position, resting her arms against her hips as they bent and twisted against the sands. Her adornments jangled softly as she worked, the soft puffing of her breath the only other sound carried in the wind. Alys hovered alongside her, carried along with the gentle magic.

In what seemed like no time at all, Scha-Rei retraced her steps back to the encampment. Slithering to the boulder where she’d met Karim, she scented the air with her lithe tongue. Once. Twice. Thrice.

“I don’t sense him,” Scha-Rei growled softly. Alys hovered down beside her and alighted upon her feet. “Karim,” she added when Alys returned a vacant stare.

Alys knelt beside her and rested her open hand upon the ground. “I sense you were here,” she observed, “And another. A man.” Her eyes brightened hungrily. “This was Karim?”

Scha-Rei nodded. “Yes.”

“Concentrate, mistress,” the mummy suggested. “My power does not compare to yours. You can find him.”

Gently stroking the jewel within her necklace, Scha-Rei lowered herself, face forward, onto the ground. Her fingers splayed out upon the rocky surface as a familiar sensation curled within her: Energy. Mana. A tinge of sweetness dipped into the air as Scha-Rei’s energy pooled around her. She inhaled deeply, flicking out her tongue to sample both the taste, and the scent, of the air. Her magic amplified her senses, honing them to a diamond edge.

“That way,” she pointed, rising slowly upon her coils. “He… went back to his master’s homestead!?” she exclaimed softly before despair tightened her throat.

Alys stiffened, her eyes narrowing in response to her mistress’ despondence. “Give me a command,” she implored.

“These bastards can wait,” growled Scha-Rei, flicking her wrist dismissively in the direction of the encampment. “Karim is in danger. Come with me.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

A nauseating series of likely scenarios drifted around in Scha-Rei’s mind regarding Karim as she silently approached the oasis town. The punishment for defiling a master’s trust with a lady of the house meant castration or worse. He’d be lashed, stripped of manhood, and possibly executed. Tears stung Scha-Rei’s eyes at the thought of it.

Think about something else. Anything! Anything but Karim suffering because of her. As she cast about for a more pleasant thought, Scha-Rei’s sharp eyes caught a glimpse of the village as she ascended a dune.

Revenge.

A shiver of pleasure ran up Scha-Rei’s spine. Revenge… yes. She wanted revenge, but in what way? Scha-Rei thought about it briefly. So much power swelled within her, eager to burst free. But did she want to kill?

No… she had a better idea.

Take it. Take them.

The slave owners would become the slaves. And the slaves, the nobility. Under Scha-Rei. The lowliest among them would rule and live happily in their service to her. She smiled, new determination nudging aside the terror and despair. She would find Karim, and together, mmm. Soon. Yessss. Soon.

Scha-Rei drew near to the village, slipping inside quietly. The Apophis slowed beside a sturdy, limestone homestead, setting Alys down beside her. She flicked out her tongue.

“He’s close,” whispered Scha-Rei.

“I wait for your command,” Alys advised.

Scha-Rei glanced back and forth. No one ever came by this way, as evidenced by the lack of spirit-scent trails. “I will scale you over the wall. Come.”

“Yes, mistress.” She stepped up to her and accepted the Apophis’ hover magic.

Scha-Rei rested her palms against the wall and slithered up against it, scaling it easily. Gripping the top, she poked her head up. One guard made rounds. Tricky for a human, but not for an Apophis. As he passed by, Scha-Rei dropped down and set Alys down behind a cart filled with masonry.

The guard returned, making his rounds, but Scha-Rei hesitated, even after he turned his back. “Mistress,” whispered Alys. “Is something amiss?”

“I… do not wish to startle Karim,” she admitted. “Perhaps you should keep these for me?” Scha-Rei began to tug one of the bangles off of her wrist.

“That is not necessary, mistress,” Alys replied, arresting Scha-Rei’s efforts. “Your power. Use it. Change yourself.”

“I can appear to him as Samira?” Scha-Rei asked, breathless with excitement. The mummy nodded. “How?”

Alys stared vacantly back at her. “I do not know, mistress, but it is within your power.”

Scha-Rei’s tongue flicked out and toyed with the little loop upon her lower lip. “Let me see,” she murmured, wrapping herself within her coils. Coaxing the magic within her to stir, she spread it around herself, and willed herself to change. Squeezing her eyes shut firmly, to the point of stars dancing upon her vision, she focused.

Gasping, Scha-Rei sank into a sea of coiled scales. “I—I can’t,” she whispered sadly.

“Try,” offered Alys, unconvincing as she was in her lifeless monotone. “Think less. Instinct.”

Scha-Rei nodded and closed her eyes, gently this time, and embraced herself in her coils. This time, as the mana settled around her, she allowed herself to relax and imagine Karim. His hands upon her body within her imagination. She nurtured the desire she felt back at the pyramid. Unfamiliar feelings of want and need. What was it? This craving! She’d never felt anything quite like it, nor witnessed it anyone else. Pleasure shivered through her body as she allowed instinct to take over. A strange pleasure, like the satisfaction of a well laid plain coming to fruition. She wasn’t sure how much time passed within her altered mental state, but shortly, Alys called to her.

“Mistress,” whispered Alys. Scha-Rei glanced at her and picked up upon a slight smile. “Well done.”

Scha-Rei’s eyes flew open. “Wha?” she gasped in Samira’s voice. The girl sprawled out upon the dusty ground, completely naked, but also completely human. She stood, wobbling in the slender figure of Samira. Closing her eyes, she imagined herself clothed, like she was before. When she opened her eyes, she wore her ratty linen robe, complete with the frayed left side that rode up on her hip. The itchy fabric tickled her hyper-sensitive skin relentlessly. No changing that, she supposed.

“It’s like a dream,” she whispered, glancing back to the guard’s path.

Skulking towards the side of the masonry cart, Scha-Rei nearly stumbled. It took a concentrated effort to move each of her legs independently, and she sorely missed the added stability of such a long tail. The guard came back around, and continued on, oblivious. Scha-Rei glanced back and met Alys’ gaze.

“Don’t let him disturb us,” she commanded.

“As you wish, mistress,” replied the mummy.

Scha-Rei smiled and cast her gaze around at her surroundings. She’d snuck into the homestead numerous times to visit Karim and offer him some of her food, so she knew the layout well. Best to take no chances, however. Between the wall and the homestead structure, a wide path wound around, hosting carts, livestock, and camels. Some men slept outside with the camels to keep them company, and, of course, one guard patrolled slowly. Lanterns hung from the walls, and rugs slung over the side of the homestead.

The homestead structure itself consisted of three stories, each of the same boxy outward appearance. The master of the house preferred practicality over opulence, in sharp contrast to his mistress, who lavished jewelry and fine silks upon herself at every opportunity. The thought of that awful woman triggered a flush of anger with Scha-Rei. She had not yet decided how best to punish her.

There! On the lowest level, a small lattice of wrought iron made up the window to the one cell within the homestead. Karim’s scent wafted up from there. With the guard nowhere in sight, Scha-Rei snuck over to it. Whoever built it spaced the bars widely apart, wide enough for a small dog to possibly pass. She’d never snuck in this way before, and any human attempting to do so would probably get stuck.

Scha-Rei wasn’t human. Not anymore.

Her bones no longer connected in the same ways. She sort-of rolled her body, nudging bones out of the way temporarily as she slipped through the bars. Silently, she dropped into the room and snuck over to a restless figure upon the floor.

Oh gods, he looked terrible…

One of his eyes still looked nearly swollen shut, and his left arm appeared to be broken, as well as several ribs. In the past, she’d been powerless to oppose or rebuke abuse such as this. For the first time in her life, Scha-Rei had the power to do something about it. Or so she hoped. Rubbing her hands together, Scha-Rei leaned close to Karim and blew him a gentle kiss across open palms. Mana gushed from her proffered hands and washed over him. Reaching forward, she gently coaxed her mana into his wounds, whispering silent prayers that it would have some kind of an effect.

While no divinities answered her, dim, disjointed memories began to slowly surface in her mind as she worked. Drawing upon them, Scha-Rei refocused her efforts. She smiled as a thread of pleasure curled within her. Yes. She would undo the evil and malice that had been thrust upon him. The labors of his abusers would count for nothing. This would be just the beginning.

“Mn,” murmured Karim. His breathing started leveling out, for it came ragged and uneven moments ago. Hope blossoming within her, Scha-Rei repeated her action, ever so gently tracing his bruises and fractures with the barest touches of her fingertips, weaving small threads of mana into the wounds. His ribs came first, then his arm, and eyes. The power flowed from her, taxing her, but leaving behind a satisfying pleasure curling within her body as she worked.

At last, Karim appeared to be breathing easier. Scha-Rei wiped sweat from her brow and smiled, leaning forward to caress his cheek. “Karim,” she said softly, patting his cheek, and tracing his sturdy jawline. Patchy stubble abraded her sensitive fingertip, sending tingles up her arm. Her eyes fell upon his hair, tousled and unkempt, yet mottled and bleached into a blonde and ombre brown blend from the scorching sun.

There was something else… Scha-Rei flicked out her tongue. Her… human tongue. Color spread through her cheeks as her face burned with embarrassment. Even though she could not taste the air while disguised, her other senses alerted her to the presence of a source of energy. A musky, heady energy. Potent. Delicious. Coming from Karim?

Scha-Rei’s heart fluttered as she gazed at Karim. Her blush remained stubbornly upon her cheeks. Heat collected within her, as well as—what was this? She felt moisture. Color burned in her cheeks. She—she needed him to wake. Quickly now. She caressed his face again.

“Ugghh,” groaned Karim as he opened one eye. Gasping at what he beheld, he sat up, scrabbling against the wall, both eyes wide and upon her, his lingering pains forgotten. “S-Samira!?” he hissed, glancing this way and that. “What are you doing here?? How are you here?”

“I said I was coming back to meet you,” she replied, her smile fading. “I’m sorry I was so late…”

“I figured you’d been carried off in that procession,” muttered Karim. “I thought they’d taken you away to be sold. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again,” he added ruefully.

Scha-Rei nodded. “I thought the same.”

“They caught me, and I ran,” he told her, sadness choking his voice. “I didn’t care what happened after that. Not really. With my master furious, and you gone, there wasn’t anything left for me. So, I came back here, and hoped they’d just kill me.”

Scha-Rei choked back sobs. “I—Again, I felt the same.”

“You?” Karim asked. “Why? Yes, you would be married off, but you’d be a wife, not a slave.”

“They didn’t take me to my suitor,” Scha-Rei told him. “Raul concocted a story about an ancient tomb he needed my help to raid. Said it contained treasures that would make my master so rich, he’d never need to steal again. But it was all a lie.”

“What was it?” asked Karim. “What was he up to?” he growled, balling his hands into fists. “Gods, I want to wring that bastard’s neck.”

Scha-Rei smirked, her heart swelling with pride at Karim’s efforts to defend her honor. She shook her head. “Karim, listen. The accident with your master’s mistress. It wasn’t an accident. Raul set the whole thing up. He wanted you killed so that he could break me. And he nearly succeeded.”

“Wait, what!?” gasped Karim. “Why does he want to break you?”

“He contrived a plan to make it look like I’d failed in my task, and then been ambushed and raped,” Scha-Rei explained. “With no further use for me, my master would then turn me over to Raul, and I would belong to him. He’s always desired me…”

“That rat bastard,” hissed Karim, struggling to get to his feet. He wobbled, trembling from lack of nourishment. “How did you get in? Let’s find him and gut him. Right now.”

Scha-Rei smiled warmly back at him, buffering his anger somewhat. “That won’t be necessary. I have a plan, remember? I still do. A better one, than before.” She rose and stretched, maintaining her smile.

Karim shook his head at her. “No, Samira, no more plans. Let’s just escape. Steal some food on the way out, and just… run.”

“That’s no way to live,” Scha-Rei protested.

“I don’t care,” said Karim stubbornly. “I don’t care if I have to live in a hole for the rest of my life. As long as I’m with you.”

Scha-Rei’s heart flipped in her chest. “Wh-what?” she stammered.

“Samira.” Karim reached out and grasped her by her shoulders gently. “I kind of knew, before. But after you left, it finally dawned upon me. And it’s why I didn’t care if I lived or died. You were gone, and I didn’t even get to tell you!”

“I—I don’t unders—”

“Samira, I love you.

Scha-Rei gasped, loudly, covering her lips with a trembling hand. All of the sudden, the uncertain feelings, the curious nature of her need, all of it came to a head. Love. That’s what this was! Tears trickled from the sides of her face, practically gushing from the corners of her eyes.

“I always have,” he admitted, continuing to speak while she could not. Karim’s hand cupped her cheek, brushing away tears. The contact tingled against her skin, leaving behind burning desire. “Do you?” he started to ask before emotion bottled his voice.

Scha-Rei sat helpless before him as coiled need wound her tighter and tighter. She nodded tearfully. “Yes!” she cried. “I’m such a fool. I didn’t even realize it until I thought I really was going to die!”

“S-Samira…” Karim stammered, gulping. He could not find the words, so he grasped her shoulders, pulled her close, and kissed her.

“Mmnnn…” moaned Scha-Rei as tears slipped from her closed eyes and ran down her cheeks. Oh, sweet gods, she needed this. She’d always needed this. Needed him. Her heart danced against her breast, giddy with glee. The only man she’d ever cared for, he loved her! And she loved him! The connection seared between them, urging her closer. His energy poured into her as they exchanged breaths. Her arms slipped around behind him, cradling upon his shoulders. One clutched the back of his neck, the other burrowed into his hair.

In return, Karim’s arms wound around her back, pulling her even closer. Her breasts pressed against his hard chest, nipples throbbing and aching for his touch. She swayed on her legs, feeling so strange and alien after acclimating herself to her powerful tail. She focused on the kiss, deepening it. Sampling him.

Karim’s tongue probed her lips. Scha-Rei spread them, coaxing him within, exerting a concerted effort to force her tongue to remain of both a human length and texture. Gods, it was so difficult. Her hands slipped lower, exploring Karim’s back. He stiffened, hissing in pain, breaking the mood and the kiss.

“What…?” gasped Scha-Rei. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing!” Karim stressed. “It’s nothing. Look, Samira. Please, let’s just go!” he implored, gazing longingly at her. “Our masters will never let us be together, and, now that I know that–that you love me in return, I–I can’t bear to let you out of my sight!”

Scha-Rei’s heart practically melted. She practically melted. All of her power counted for nothing. At that very moment, she was nothing more than a girl in love. What mattered more than love? She sighed, shaking her head. Her life, she knew, would never be the same again. She still craved revenge, however. Maybe she could do both, but not without him. Never again, without him.

“Why do you shake your head?” Karim asked, pain etching his voice. “Samira?”

“Because I don’t care who says we can’t be together,” she replied, brushing tears from her eyes. Her brow knit stubbornly as she gazed back at him. “Every one of them has something to hide. Not you. You, the one man with no hidden motives. No selfish ambition. Just a desire to serve and to live.”

“And now, to love,” he added.

Scha-Rei nodded. “You always treated me with respect, even though I served a bandit and a scoundrel. And, you were the only one to ever say my name.”

“Samira,” Karim said with a smile. Scha-Rei laughed softly, nodding. “How long have you known?”

“That I loved you?” she asked, tapping her chin in thought. “I’m not sure. My heart has always gone out to you, ever since we met. It must have begun when I first gave you a piece of bread, but I didn’t understand it until just recently.”

Karim’s lower lip trembled as he brushed tears out of his eyes. “Gods, Samira,” he practically cried. “I thought you were an angel then. After all these years, nothing has changed about you. Other than your having become even more beautiful.”

Oh gods, Scha-Rei’s face burned. She covered her cheeks with her hands bashfully. “I–I’m no angel,” she confessed. “In fact…”

“Of course, you are,” protested Karim. “Sullied and abused at the hands of lesser men, but no less an angel for it.”

Scha-Rei’s heart and body warmed from his praise, but the need to reveal herself to him weighed heavily upon her. What could she do if he turned away from her serpent form in disgust? The thought of that doused buckets of ice upon her heart. Not only that, something else seemed… wrong. Scha-Rei sniffed, detecting another scent in the air. Sweet. Coppery.

“Karim? Why did you recoil from me?” she asked suddenly.

“Uhhm…” gulped Karim. “No–no reason.  You just surprised me, is all.”

“Our kiss?” Scha-Rei asked mournfully, “You didn’t… enjoy it?”

“That’s not it at all!” Karim corrected her hastily. “It’s…”  he trailed off, averting his eyes. “I can’t bear to show you.”

“Please,” she implored.

Karim sighed, turning slowly on the spot. Scha-Rei gasped in horror.

Beneath his shredded tunic, blood oozed from numerous lacerations. Those… those animals. They hadn’t just whipped him. They’d flayed the poor man. Tears flowed from Scha-Rei’s eyes, a mixture of anger and compassion warring within her. Karim turned back to her with a resigned smile.

“It’s not your fault,” he assured her. He tilted his head forward, focusing upon her. “Uh, Samira. Is it just me, or are your eyes glowing?

Damn! Scha-Rei checked her spell. Her mounting anger must’ve let some of her power slip through. It was now or never. “About that,” she murmured.

“No, no, never mind,” sighed Karim, deflating. “What am I thinking? What if we’re caught? I’m afraid, Samira. Afraid of what they’ll do to you!”

Scha-Rei shook her head with a smile. “They won’t. They can’t. Not anymore.” Her smile turned smug.

“Samira, I don’t…”

An idea formed in Scha-Rei’s mind. She recalled how her voice felt muffled in the darkness of the ruins. The sweetness of the air. Mana. It had stifled the sound. Could she replicate that effect? Closing her eyes, she delved deep into the dark, dangerous memories she’d acquired.

Yes.

Pleasure curled inside her. The power! Mmm. It ached within her, anxious to be used.

She could do this! She twirled her hand at the door, and a red-violet, runed disc swirled around Scha-Rei’s wrist as she cast a spell. A strange pulse of magic snapped around every wall, the ceiling, and the floor.

Snapping her fingers, Scha-Rei tested the sound. Yes! It worked! Muffled, just like before. She grinned. “There. Now no one can hear us.”

“S-Samira?” gulped Karim. “That was magic!”

Scha-Rei flashed him a bright grin. “Yes.”

“How long have you known magic!?”

“About a day and a half,” she replied with a wink.

“What–what did they do to you out there?” Karim asked with trepidation.

“Karim, there is something I must know,” Scha-Rei asked softly, her gaze retreating from him. “You said you loved me, but what if I’m not the Samira you once knew?”

“Samira,” growled Karim. “What. The hell. Did they do. To you?”

Her gaze met his at last. “Raul told me he’d sent me on an impossible task, and that you’d be dead by the time I returned. So, I decided to run off and just, well, let myself go.”

“But you’re still here,” he pointed out.

“I found what wasn’t supposed to be there,” Scha-Rei continued. “I fell in.”

“You’re here, though. Right?”

She smiled and nodded. “I survived. A voice came to me and asked me what it was I truly wanted. Deep down.”

“Which was?” Karim asked uneasily.

Smiling shyly back at him, Scha-Rei shrugged. “I was about to say, ‘you.’ Rescuing you. But I realized, if the voice were about to grant me a wish, saving your life once wouldn’t be enough. I needed power. The power to protect us both, and…”

“And?” he prompted.

Scha-Rei’s eyes flashed angrily. “The power for vengeance.”

“Uhh,” Karim would have backed away, had he the room. He sidled off to the side instead. “Samira, your eyes are glowing again…”

“I asked for revenge, and the power to carry it out,” Scha-Rei told him, her smile withering. “And she granted it. The result–it changed me. Please–please don’t hate me.”

“I could never…” Karim started to say, but Scha-Rei had already begun to change in front of him. Her clothes melted away as her skintone changed to something between deep azure and violet. Her legs fused together and vanished within a powerful, dark, serpentine lower half. Her black hair lengthened, a dark red-violet ombre filling in halfway down, changing to a deeper crimson at the ends. Her jewelry faded back in, covering her… barely. She gazed back at him with bright, shining, amber eyes, housing slit pupils and framed with black sclera.

Karim fell to his knees, overcome with apprehension. “S-Samira?”

“I am the Apophis, Scha-Rei,” she replied haughtily, but her façade melted away within a moment as she smiled warmly back at him. “But I will always be your Samira, if you still want me.”

“Scha-Rei?” Karim asked hesitantly, as he crawled over to her. Scha-Rei’s heart flipped as he used her new name, but she shook her head.

“I’m still your Samira,” she vowed, lowering herself to his level and extending her hand. As he slipped his hand in hers, she rose up, drawing him with her, and allowed him to gaze over her transformation.

“Sweet gods, you’re magnificent,” Karim gasped as his hand rose to caress her face. “I still prefer the old you,” he admitted, “But I suppose I could get used to this.”

Scha-Rei nuzzled her cheek into his hand, nodding. “I love you, Karim,” she said softly as she cupped his hand against her cheek.

“Skin’s so smooth,” her wonderful Karim remarked as his thumb stroked the space between her nose and upper lip.

“You know how Eshaq always makes me use those oils,” she giggled.

“I don’t suppose all of this has anything to do with it,” Karim remarked, trailing a finger across the edge of her hood, smiling as she giggled.

“That–that tickles!”

“I’m tickling a part of you that you’ve never even had before,” he said with a grin. His smile faded after a moment. “Your master, you said his name. You’ve never said his name before.”

Briefly, Scha-Rei’s terrifying eyes narrowed in fury, causing Karim to step back nervously. “He is not my master,” she spat. “Not anymore.” She sighed, her smile returning. “Neither are you a slave to the owner of this house. I’m setting you free. Tonight.”

Karim stepped back towards her, drifting into her embrace. “If I’m going to be a slave to anyone, I would rather it be you.”

Scha-Rei grinned slyly. “I can arrange that, you know,” she purred, plucking at his tunic with a sultry wink.

“My heart’s been yours for some time now,” Karim told her.

Scha-Rei again felt her need for vengeance wilting before his love. Smiling warmly, she returned his gesture, cupping his cheek in her hand. “Karim,” she said softly, “I want to share my gift with you.”

“I’ll accept anything that comes from you,” he replied.

Gods! Any warmer and her face would burst into flames, only to sizzle out beneath a relentless cascade of joyous tears. “Let me take this weakness from you, and give you my strength?” she offered, forcing her voice through choking emotion. “I cannot bear to see you in pain, barely clinging to life…”

“What did you have in mind?” Karim asked, allowing himself to enter his beloved’s embrace.

“Let’s start slowly,” Scha-Rei suggested, as much as that went against the demands of her heart. She needed him now! No! His need came first. “Kiss me again?” she implored gently.

Karim weakly bridged the distance between the two of them. Scha-Rei gently cradled his head in her hand, drawing him close, but allowed him to take the first step. He brushed his parched mouth against her glossy, black lips. His tongue darted out to play with her lip piercing for a moment, and to enjoy curving her lips into a smile. At last, they met. Scha-Rei’s lips parted to admit Karim’s tongue and he sampled her mouth, noting the subtle differences, especially the long, thin tongue.

Slowly, Scha-Rei nudged Karim’s tongue back into his mouth, joining it briefly before retreating. She suckled his lower lip into her mouth and bit down, piercing the tender skin. Their gazes remained locked, though Karim’s eyes widened as he felt the venom go in. Scha-Rei clenched her facial muscles, giving him a powerful dose, before releasing him with a tender after-kiss.

Stumbling backwards, Karim nursed his bloody lip. “Samira!? What–what was that? I feel so…”

Scha-Rei observed him attentively, praying to Apep that this would work. To her delight, color began to rush back into Karim’s features. While his breathing ran ragged, the rest of him grew stronger, and when he stepped back into her embrace, the force of his kiss attested to the newfound power and strength he’d received. Her heart beat like a drum against his chest. His energy began to flare around him, tantalizing her senses.

“Samira!” Karim panted, resting his forehead against hers.

“Mmm,” she cooed. “Did you enjoy that?” He nodded against her. “Good. Let’s take care of these wounds, next?”

“How do you plan on doing that?” he asked, swallowing nervously.

Scha-Rei giggled softly. “Did you fail to notice I’ve healed many of your other injuries?”

With a gasp, Karim stepped back, out of her reach for the moment as he inspected himself. “Good gods!” he exclaimed, touching the part of his arm that had been broken a short while ago. “I hadn’t even noticed! How?”

Shrugging, Scha-Rei slid back over to him. “A little magic, a little venom, I suppose? I’m still learning all this myself. Do you trust me?”

“Still learning, and trust you,” echoed Karim, smiling slightly with a dubious eyebrow raised. Scha-Rei blushed. “While I’m not certain I should, I do.”

“I’ll be gentle,” she promised. Karim gulped, not missing the insinuation as her hands rested upon his shoulders. Nor did his lower body mistake her coy words as part of him nudged against her. Her smile deepened. Hunger danced in her eyes, but she denied herself once again.

“Samira,” whispered Karim as their foreheads touched again.

“Please let me know if I hurt you,” she said softly as her fingertip feathered one of the cuts on his back. “Focus on me,” she instructed, gazing deeply into his eyes. “Think of me. Only me.”

“Samira. Scha-Rei,” murmured Karim, hypnotized by her eyes. “My treasure. My jewel in the desert.”

“Karim,” replied Scha-Rei, eager to match his words of adoration with her own, “My one ray in the darkness. Without you, I walk alone, in the blazing wilderness. The sun beats down upon me, and yet an empty chill haunts my path.” Her finger pressed into the wound. She felt her nail slip into the cut, and she nearly pulled back, afraid of hurting him, until she sensed a gentle trickle of venom coating the underside of her slender fingernail. Letting instinct guide her, she carefully, lovingly traced the entire length of the cut, drawing out toxins, dirt, and bits of flail left behind by the lashing, and replaced the filth with her venom.

“Samira,” gasped Karim.

“Does it hurt?” she inquired tenderly.

“No,” he admitted, panting softly against her lips. “It feels cool, like aloe on sunburn.”

“Would you like me to keep going?”

Karim nodded. “Yes.”

Scha-Rei attended the next cut, soothing the burning sting. She added a finger on the next sweep, for with each pass, her technique improved, allowing her the freedom to attend to more than one at a time. Soon, she added another, and another, until she gently flensed his back with all ten fingers at once.

As Scha-Rei worked, Karim gripped her arms tightly, likely out of anxiety at first, but as his grip intensified, she felt the need within him building. A stiffness pressed into her from between his legs, distracting her terribly, forcing her to focus upon her task with every ounce of concentration she could muster. The hunger in his eyes deepened with every touch. How long could she resist that gaze?

“Samira,” he murmured as she neared completion. “Again! Whatever you are doing to me. Do it again…”

Scha-Rei paused to consider his request. The wounds were already healing, and she hated to tear them open again. Yet, she would not deny her beloved. Nodding, her forehead gently rubbed against his as she gently slipped her slender claws into the cuts.

“Hnn!” grunted Karim, drawing her into an embrace. With the wounds healing, Scha-Rei’s venom began effecting other changes instead. With each pass, she noticed the muscles in his back growing. Toning. Tightening. Signs of malnutrition began to fade as his body supped upon her loving touch. When she finally finished her second pass, Karim cupped the back of her head with one hand and forced a powerful, desperate kiss upon her.

“Mmmm!” cooed Scha-Rei. Such strength! Her wonderful Karim held her tightly, his other hand pressing in against her hood. Teasing fingers splayed out against the sensitive skin of her hood, tickling and caressing her. Scha-Rei’s meandering hands tested the texture of his back, ensuring the wounds sealed up. She marveled at the power spreading through his back. Her concentration faltered, however, at the relentless nature of Karim’s desire. She’d lit a fire within him, and it now burned out of control.

“Samira,” gasped Karim, flushed hotly as he broke the kiss.

“Why did you stop?” she moaned.

“I need you!” he groaned, nudging his hips against her for effect. Scha-Rei gulped and nodded, but Karim cupped her face gently as he gazed into her shining eyes. “But first, I must know,” he said firmly, “Did that man hurt you? Did he force himself upon you?”

“Only with his eyes, and his words,” Scha-Rei replied, breathless at the protective nature of his question. She smiled knowingly. “When Eshaq demanded I be left untouched, I can scarcely imagine he knew he was protecting me for you…”

“You mean?”

Scha-Rei nodded. “I want to give myself to you. I want you to be my first, and only.”

“I’m not certain I deserve someone so magnificent,” he admitted.

“In my eyes, you do,” Scha-Rei said firmly. “Does anyone else’s opinion matter?”

“No,” Karim replied with a smile.

“Then, what are you waiting for?” she asked, smiling expectantly.

“Would that I had a ring to give you,” Karim mused, stroking her cheek.

Scha-Rei giggled softly. “You gave me your heart. What more could I want from you?”

“This?” Karim offered, lowering his hand to her breast.

Gasping, Scha-Rei’s hunger for him came rushing to the forefront of her mind. She nodded and unclipped the clamps from her breasts, allowing the metal to fall. Cradling the plump globes, Karim spent a moment to worship her with his touch.

“I can feel your heart,” he murmured adoringly.

“It’s yours,” Scha-Rei said softly, drawing him in for another kiss. “As is all of me.”

With those words, Karim was upon her. Scha-Rei gasped with surprise at the force of her lover as he threw himself into her embrace. A ravenous kiss crushed against her lips, his tongue violating her mouth while his hands began to explore her body. His mouth was everywhere! Her lips, her cheeks, her nose! He tilted her head back, grabbing hold of her hair, so that he could kiss her chin, and then descend down her neck. His fingers curled around the choker and pulled, tugging it off of her to expose her neck for his mouth to ravish.

“Yessss!” gasped Scha-Rei. “Oh goddess, I need you!”

“Ohh Samira,” groaned Karim, cupping her hip, caressing it as he loved upon her skin.

Scha-Rei moaned in turn, for she found her scales far more sensitive than she’d thought. His touch sent jets of fiery lust straight into her core, which had begun to leak and drip down her front long ago.

Moaning throatily, Scha-Rei guided Karim lower. His lips trailed down the center of her breasts, moving onto one of the plump globes. Yessss. At last, his lips closed over one of her nipples. Scha-Rei shook, trembling, struggling to hold onto the back of his head as he suckled her, biting into the nipple roughly.

“Ka–Karim!” gasped Scha-Rei. “So rough! Ahh!”

His one hand gripped her other breast, squeezing and kneading firmly, rolling the pebbled nipple against the roughness of his palm. His other hand slipped around her hip, grasping her bottom. His fingers dug into the powerful muscles and sweet, plump flesh, tracing the line where it ceased being skin and became scale.

“Nnn…” moaned Scha-Rei. “Th-that part of me is–ahh! So–so sensitive! Ahhh! Karim, that tickles!” she giggled. “Ohh! Yesssss, you’re so merciless–yesss…” her sensual voice trailed off in a wispy hiss.

Karim groaned with appreciation. His face buried into the breast of his serpent goddess, bending her over backwards so that she lowered to rest within her own coils. Straddling her, he kissed his way back up to her lips and smothered them with his mouth, drawing her forked tongue into himself. She eagerly responded, feeding him with her passion. His left hand crept up her side and cradled her face, moving upward, accidentally bumping up against her tiara as he had many times previously.

“What’s this, Samira?” he asked, his voice low and gravelly, so unlike him! He plucked the gleaming tiara off of her head and inspected it. “Playing at being queen? Hmmm?” Karim grinned wickedly and placed it upon his own head. “There, that’s better.”

“Why you naughty–!” giggled Scha-Rei, ignoring for the moment how dazzling he looked wearing her tiara. He only afforded her a moment’s grace before devouring her lips again, and burying his hand in her long, silky hair. He began by massaging the back of her head, before moving lower towards the spot where her hood extended from between her shoulderblades. Scha-Rei hissed in ecstasy, arching her back and breasts into his chest.

“Like that, do you?” Karim murmured with a smile as her hood widened to its full span. “It looks so rough and dangerous, but just like the rest of you, I find it smooth, supple, and beautiful.”

“Karim…” sighed Scha-Rei, delighting in his praise.

“You always were a treasure,” he continued, between gentle kisses, his strength returning as he rested atop her. Strengthening arms wound around her, constricting her upper body in a powerful embrace. “My dark, shining, desert jewel.”

Scha-Rei’s heart fluttered with joy. She’d never craved adoration or worship, but she found herself hanging on his every word. Her body tingled everywhere he touched, shifting to a hungry ache when he moved on. She moved to unclip the veil from her hips, but his wrist caught hers in the act.

“Mine,” Karim growled, tugging her hand and guiding it to his waist, lowering until her grip rested on his pants. “Yours.”

Scha-Rei nodded, licking her glossy lips as she pulled the belt apart a little too roughly. The fabric tore, coming apart as the garment sank to his ankles. He kicked it away and mounted her as she settled back into her coils. In contrast to her eagerness, Karim very carefully unhooked the slender silver clips holding Scha-Rei’s veil in place, and gracefully removed it.

“Samira…” gasped Karim as his eyes fell upon her sex. His voice failed him briefly, but his hands were bidden to touch. The mesmerizing part of her body began as human, with the appearance of thighs and her sex in between them. Her thighs blended together a few inches beneath, covered by powerful, ribbed scales. The texture of her under-scales differed from the ones on her sides and back. These were larger and could grip his hand as he stroked them.

Breathless, Karim cupped her hips, one in each hand, and moved inward, massaging her as he went. His thumbs dipped into human flesh, into the crease where her legs would have met her pelvis. Scha-Rei watched with rapt fascination as his hands explored her body. Dipping into mysterious territory, Karim eased his thumbs in-between her “thighs,” encountering slick moisture which had leaked out from Scha-Rei’s expectant sex.

“Karim…” gasped Scha-Rei, her head falling back against her hood as she briefly lost control. The back of her hand rested against her forehead as she panted for breath. Briefly, she caught a flash of herself from his perspective. She sat back up, wondering how that could have happened. Then, she noticed the tiara. Its gems gleamed brightly. Within their cores, a dark streak formed, and the more she focused upon them, the more Scha-Rei realized what they looked like.

Eyes.

A dark, unbidden memory surfaced in the girl’s mind. An idea. A tempting opportunity. Scha-Rei smiled, deciding to act upon it. Relaxing back into her coils, she attempted to shift her consciousness towards Karim, linking with the tiara. Karim twitched suddenly, gripping her tightly.

“Samira?” he gasped breathlessly. “What–what was that!? What did you do? I feel you. Your spirit–inside me!”

Scha-Rei sat up again, smirking with insufferable smugness. “You never should have taken my tiara…”

Karim gulped and gripped it, trying to remove it, and found he could not. His momentary weakness was all Scha-Rei needed. Her aching, hungry muscles leapt to action, whipping around him. Within a couple of seconds, her powerful coils encircled his body, and, for a moment, Scha-Rei’s senses cried out with ecstasy.

Karim… His body! All around her! Every inch of him! She could feel every inch of him! Gods!! She nearly cried out from the sudden realization, but she forced herself back to her senses. Yes. She wanted him. She’d dreaded sexual contact with a man for so long, but not Karim. She craved him.

Smiling, Scha-Rei teased her way down his body, keeping his legs wrapped. “My turn, now,” she cooed, exploring his body with her slender fingers.

“Samira!” cried Karim, squirming in her coils. He wriggled frantically, and managed to get his arms free as he reached for her in desperation.

Scha-Rei gripped his wrists with surprising strength in her slender arms and held them at his sides. The coils opened up and recaptured them tightly. “No, no,” giggled Scha-Rei, flashing a malevolent smile. “My turn, I say,” she cooed. “Do you feel any stronger yet? Let’s see how much you’ve improved.”

Karim gasped as he squirmed, helpless against Scha-Rei’s tantalizing touches. Her lithe fingers danced across his chest, admiring how his pectorals were filling in. She giggled, cupping his arms, and squeezing the firm muscles within. Leaning closer, she touched a kiss upon his chest, allowing her long, forked tongue to flick out and squirm across the tightened skin.

“Sa–mi–ra–” grunted Karim. She merely giggled at him and continued to tease. Her tongue licked and feathered across every inch of his chest as her mouth made its way upwards. Easing to his side, she curled around him, touching her lips into the curve of his neck.

Oh goddess, she hungered. Her lips glistened with saliva, and her fangs extended, full to bursting with venom. “Nnn… I can’t–hold back!” she moaned, sinking her fangs into his neck. The fingers of her right hand danced all up and down his front. Her left hand cupped the side of his head, and she gently burrowed her fingers into his hair, massaging tenderly.

“Samira!! S-Samira!” gasped Karim. Power surged within him. His body jerked against her, and a pulse of warmth spread out into her coils as he came within them.

Ohh! Ohh GODDESS! What was this!? Such sweetness… Warmth spread into Scha-Rei’s coils, distracting her from her violet kiss. Karim somehow worked his hands free, pulling her close for a breathtaking kiss. Her fangs still dripped with venom, but Karim did not care. As warmth continued to spread into her coils from below, Karim groaned and moaned contentedly into her mouth, lapping up the violet droplets that mixed with her saliva. Such love! Such… lust! Potent, heady, concentrated bliss. Scha-Rei’s mind swirled in a dizzying moment of weakness. One of Karim’s hands cupped the back of her head, keeping their lips locked.

His other hand–oh!

“MMM!” Scha-Rei’s glowing eyes widened. Karim thrust his two middle fingers inside her, sinking in deeply. Her moisture gleefully coated them, and he swirled it around inside her, grinding the heel of his palm against her clitoris in a masterful dance of seduction.

Oh gods! she was going to–acckkk! What was happening to her!? She couldn’t stop him! She wanted his tongue. His– All of–no! Too late! She couldn’t even speak! His mouth held hers captive!

Scha-Rei screamed into his throat as passion overwhelmed her. He bit into her lower lip, suckling upon it, and flicking the piercing with the tip of his tongue. Waves and waves of power radiated from her, painting the room violet with her love and lust as she soared upon a cloud of blissful ecstasy, held gently in the embrace of her beloved.

Sweet… Goddess…

From the hushed whispers of women in the street, she’d known sex to be pleasurable, but not something for a slave to pine for. Something to be sold for. To hope for such unimaginable ecstasy, Scha-Rei could neither have dared nor dreamed. Her conscious mind struggled to comprehend what was happening to her. The room filled with a potent sweetness.

Power. Her power. Her energy, her mana, stoked into a frenzy by the man she loved. Her coils soaked in his come, absorbing it like fuel for a fire, a stronger sensation she couldn’t have imagined. She was changing, yessss. Her body twisting, roiling in systematic waves all the way through her coils, massaging him as she adapted herself to his energy. She’d never be able to live without it, now. This she knew.

And this excited her.

She wanted more. Oh gods, she craved him. She wasn’t certain when her orgasm tapered off, or how long he’d been speaking to her, but now, she yearned for his touch and his voice.

“–Need you, Samira,” he moaned. “Please…”

“How do you want me?” she offered as her senses slowly returned to her.

“You made me yours,” Karim noted, tracing her lips with the tip of his tongue. “Now, let me make you mine.”

Nodding, Scha-Rei trembled in anticipation as she shifted her coils, opening them so that he could stand in the midst of a fleshy, scaly spiral, with the two of them in the center.

“Lie back,” Karim suggested.

The coils shifted, offering her a place to recline. Karim towered over her, settling down on top of her. “Like this?” she asked softly.

“Yes,” Karim nodded, stroking her slim waist and curling his hand around her hip. “Are you able to cocoon us? I don’t want to see anything but you.”

“Yes,” she replied, drawing the coils together slowly.

“Let me have you,” Karim implored, gripping her hip tightly, urgently. His cock dripped with the remnants of his previous orgasm, straight onto her slit. Each one set off a jolt of pleasure within her, which echoed in her coils. “Don’t tighten so much that I can’t move against you.”

Scha-Rei nodded, finally understanding what he wanted. She coiled around his legs, supporting him against her, but kept the loops around his waist, bottom, and thighs relatively slack. She did the same with the ones cradling his shoulders, so that he could writhe against her breasts if he wished.

“Perfect, Samira,” said Karim, his voice thick with adoration. “Are you ready?”

“I’ve never been as ready as I am now,” she cooed, stroking his face with the barest touch of her fingertips. “I’m living a dream beyond a dream,” she practically cried; tears formed in her eyes. Sweet, sweet tears of joy. “I never dared hope the first, and only man to take me would be you…”

“You are still pure,” echoed Karim breathlessly. “I–I do not wish to hurt you.”

“Nothing you could do would ever hurt me,” she promised him. “Please have me…”

Scha-Rei’s gaze deepened as she felt his cockhead slip between her thighs. Pressed together so firmly, he found a tight squeeze. He began by pushing between them as far as he could, until he met serpent flesh on the other side. Scha-Rei smiled knowingly at him. As he pulled back, he aimed up a little higher, and nudged her opening.

“In this moment, I pledge my love and my life to you alone,” Karim said firmly. “My heart has always been yours, but now my body and soul as well.”

Scha-Rei drew a breath to seal her vow to him as well, but ferocious pleasure squeezed off her voice. Karim began to enter her. Her vulva spread open, welcoming his advance, and he slowly sank inside. There, just inside, he met resistance. She nodded, gripping his hip. She felt power in him during that moment. Muscles in his body tensed. She sensed his intent just before he acted.

All at once, he surged inside, pulling her into a crushing embrace and all-encompassing kiss. Scha-Rei’s eyes widened, then slammed shut. Of their own accord, her coils tightened around them both, sealing them together in an inescapable cocoon. Scha-Rei’s pleasure soared to new heights, and a fresh orgasm tore through her powerful body. Karim squirmed against her, desperate to thrust, and pleaded with her to loosen her coils. She barely heard him, her head falling back against her hood and the coils that supported it as her voice broke out in a heartfelt cry. Her sex clenched in waves, and, as her orgasm tapered down, she found she could control it with expert precision. Mmm. With that newfound ability, she could hold him against her and never let go. Never need to let go. They would feed on each other for all of eternity.

But she promised.

Scha-Rei sighed, loosening her coils and allowing the gasping Karim some breathing room.

“Good gods, Samira!” he cried. “I feared for a moment, we’d both die and enter the afterlife… What happened!?”

Scha-Rei giggled. “I confess myself not quite used to this body. When you entered me, all rational thought fled.”

“You mean, you felt no pain?” Karim asked, his voice tight with apprehension. Scha-Rei smiled and shook her head.

“Nothing but pleasure and joy the likes of which, I could never have dreamed,” she told him. “At last, I belong to someone. Someone that I love more than life itself.”

Karim beamed at her, kissing her sweetly. Scha-Rei responded with a gentle embrace, her body still singing with the powerful release he’d given her. She smiled against the kiss as she felt him throbbing inside her.

“Karim,” she whispered against his cheek. “Why did you stop?”

Karim cradled her gently, resting down upon her. His arms curled around her back, buried in her hair. “This is all so–so sudden, Samira,” he admitted. “You come to me as an answer to prayer. I still struggle to comprehend which god heard me.”

“Apep,” giggled Scha-Rei. “But enough of that,” she cooed, licking her lips seductively. “I can feel your need.”

“I do not want to hurt…” he started to say.

Scha-Rei sighed, holding him at arm’s length. “Let’s try that again,” she interrupted, her voice deepening and her finger pressing against his lips. Time for some fun! She narrowed her eyes at him with a sultry glower. “Tell me, my pet. Why did you stop pleasuring me?”

Gulping at her change of demeanor, Karim blushed momentarily before regaining a modicum of composure. “Whatever could I have been thinking?” he asked himself. “Then again,” he added, “I’m the one with the crown. Who are you calling, ‘pet?’”

“Wha?” gaped Scha-Rei. The audacity of the man! “I’ll have you know, I plan to mmmm…”

Karim cut her off. With a kiss. One of his hands spread out upon the back of Scha-Rei’s hood, pulling her closer, and preventing her from wriggling away. Her eyes widened in shock, and then fluttered closed. The ache in her coils demanded the satisfaction of wrapping around him tightly, but she restrained herself. For now.

Karim rewarded her for her patience. His other hand came down to her hip, gripping her tightly as he began to thrust. The muscles in Scha-Rei’s powerful body twitched and thrilled with delight with every thrust, and with every brush of contact he made with her skin and scales.

“Yesss! Karim!” hissed Scha-Rei with delight when he broke the kiss to catch his breath.

“‘Pet,’ was it?” he growled, but grinned down at her.

“Poor–choice–of–words,” Scha-Rei replied between bounces as Karim rocked her with the force of his need.

“How does ‘husband’ sound?” he purred, touching her lips with the slightest of kisses.

Scha-Rei gasped, loudly. Marriage!? That… Such things between slaves weren’t possible! But, she wasn’t a slave anymore. No. Wait! Still. To suggest…

“You’re adorable when you’re confused,” murmured Karim.

“Karim, I…” stammered Scha-Rei. Oh! Sweet goddess Apep! She was closer to climax than she thought! Her coils began to tighten. No! oh goddess! She couldn’t stop herself! “Yes!” she cried. “I want that! I–I want… Yessss!”

Tension curled around and inside Scha-Rei, bringing her coils tightly around the two of them, which brought the intended effect of Karim’s manhood spearing deeply within her. Karim gasped, struggling for breath in the confined space, but managed to keep his grip upon Scha-Rei as she bucked and arched against him. Her head tilted back against her hood, exposing her neck for him to kiss.

The moment Karim’s lips pressed against Scha-Rei’s soft throat, her resolve crumbled. She screamed in a language she scarcely understood, carried to blissful heights with Karim in a scaly cocoon. Her cries and rhythmic orgasmic release set him off inside her. Warmth released from him, coating her insides with pure, white love. His groans of appreciation and breathless words rang like the sweetest music in her ears. She prayed silently to Apep for the pleasure to never end, and to her delight, the ecstasy she shared with Karim held them aloft for so long, she lost all track of time.

“Samira…”

“Mmm,” Scha-Rei cooed, sighing contentedly.

“Samira–I can’t… breathe…”

Her eyes flew open. While Karim smiled warmly down at her, he did look a little blue. Returning his smile with a wry grin of her own, Scha-Rei loosened her coils and allowed him to rise up. He came off sticky; his release having turned clear. It covered his manhood and spread all over his thighs. Karim gazed down at Scha-Rei with a rueful smile as he scratched the back of his head.

“I’ve made a mess of you,” he admitted.

Scha-Rei sat up slowly and looked down to see for herself. A fresh blush spread through her cheeks. Sweet goddess! He hadn’t been kidding. So much released inside her that an excess spread out in-between her thighs and all down the front of her scales, which involuntarily curled and gripped to begin absorbing it. The tingling, throbbing pleasure of it encouraged fresh moisture to collect inside her.

“Mmm, you certainly did,” Scha-Rei replied, her voice deep and seductive as she trailed her middle finger between her thighs and up her slit. Karim observed her action with rapt interest and began to harden again as she popped her finger into her mouth to suckle. Allowing her eyes to flutter closed, Scha-Rei weighed the option of going again with him. Did they have time?

“Samira, Scha-Rei,” murmured Karim. Scha-Rei’s eyes opened to find him knelt before her. “Whatever happens, from this moment, even if it turns out to be our last, I want to be with you. Now that I know our love is mutual, would you grant me the honor of becoming my wife?”

Oh!? Oh my! Scha-Rei’s resolve flew out the iron-barred window once again. A ragged gasp passed her lips before she stifled it with her fingers upon her mouth. “You–you already pledged yourself to me…” she replied softly. “It is only fitting I do the same.”

Scha-Rei reached down and helped Karim rise. “I cannot imagine anyone else my heart would rather cling to. I pledge myself to you from this day forward, that no matter what transpires between now and eternity, my heart and love belongs to you.”

Words failed Karim. He smiled tearfully, beckoning Scha-Rei closer. Her lower body uncoiled, easing her forward, into his arms, and into his embrace. The kiss they shared threatened to escalate into another passion-fueled event, and this time, Scha-Rei did not care. It wasn’t as if anyone could stop them anyway.

Karim broke the kiss just before reaching the point of no return. “How would the goddess Apep bid us honor Her in our union?”

“By doing what I came back to do,” Scha-Rei answered. Her smile turned cold. “Take revenge upon those who wronged us.”

Karim tilted his head in concern. “I don’t want to hurt them, though,” he admitted to her. “To be honest, all I want is to be with you. We can just leave this place. Be together where no one can come between us.”

“No one ever will come between us,” vowed Scha-Rei. “But my desire for vengeance is not borne purely from hate. I care about the others. Can we leave the other slaves to their fates? Do we allow Eshaq and Raul to continue terrorizing the Southlands? I have the power to stop them.

“You don’t want to kill them?” Karim asked, his curiosity growing.

“No,” Scha-Rei replied, her cold smile spreading. “I only wish to repay them in kind. To extend them the same courtesy they offered us.”

“You wish to enslave them?”

“Yessss!” hissed Scha-Rei, her voice deepening as dark pleasure curled within her. “I will take them all. Bend their knees before me. They dared to make a slave of me? I shall enslave them ALL!!”

Karim swallowed uneasily, but Scha-Rei detected a measure of something else in his eyes. Curiosity? “What about me? Us?”

“By my side, you shall stand. Together, we will bask in love and desire,” moaned Scha-Rei seductively. Yesss. The rush of power swirling within her danced with glee at her words. “Together, we shall upend this pyramid of rulers standing atop the shoulders of their slaves,” she hissed, her smile widening. “The slaves shall rule, and the rulers shall beg.

Scha-Rei laughed softly, a terrifying sound that sent shivers of excitement through Karim. His smile matched hers, unsure at first, but yes. He was coming around nicely. Smiling hungrily, she leaned forward, resting her forehead against his.

“Let us seal our pledges to each other,” she offered, brushing her silky, smooth lips against his. Karim nodded and bridged the distance. Scha-Rei’s coils wound around them both, sealing their bodies against each other as she deepened the kiss. Her lips parted, and the power that had unfurled within her, aching for release, began to enter him through her mouth.

Yes.

Yessss…

Karim’s body supped upon the power Scha-Rei released into him. He strengthened further, banishing all remaining traces of abuse and malnutrition. Strong arms wound around her, embracing her, and spreading open upon her back to pull her closer. Her breasts flattened against his hard chest. Stiff nipples danced upon his skin. His manhood lengthened and found its way inside her on its own, encountering only playful resistance. As it teased her, Scha-Rei’s power blossomed, demanding to release inside Karim. Drawing a deep breath, she exhaled a powerful dose of it within him.

Groaning with need, Karim caressed the insides of Scha-Rei’s mouth with his raking tongue. His hips strained against her coils, unable to thrust. Grinning, Scha-Rei giggled, coaxing her body into a rhythmic, muscular pulse that originated from the tip of her tail, all the way through each coil, drawing passion and power directly into her sex, and then back. Karim shuddered within her grip. Surely, he would not be able to take much of this?

“Sa–mira!!” gasped Karim, holding her tightly.

“Gaze into my eyes,” she commanded, leveling her rapacious stare at him. As his lust built, a dark need swirled within his soft brown eyes. A touch of the glowing power within Scha-Rei’s eyes began to gleam in his as well, right before they began to shift out of focus.

Karim stiffened inside her.

Scha-Rei breathed one final puff of power into him, keeping her gaze locked upon him. Her coils tightened. Her hips shifted. Closer… deeper… yessss…

“Samira!” Karim cried, exploding within her, sending lightning flashes of energy and pleasure straight into her core.

“Karim!” gasped Scha-Rei. His release sent some of her power back into her like a whip of pure pleasure cracking against bare skin, setting off a sudden climax that shook her body. She kept her forehead locked against his. Her glazed eyes bored into him, and his into her. Their souls intertwined, dancing between their bodies with glee.

When their pleasure finally tapered down to a warm glow, Scha-Rei loosened her coils and sank back into them. Karim came to rest beside her, reclining comfortably against her scales. Scha-Rei hummed contentedly, stroking her womb. She could feel Karim’s warmth within her.

“I’m not quite certain it’s altogether right for anyone to feel that kind of pleasure this side of heaven,” Karim murmured, stroking Scha-Rei’s shoulder fondly.

“That kind of thinking is something I intend to change,” Scha-Rei replied, rising slowly. She kept her coils still so that Karim could continue reclining upon them, and gazed down upon him, allowing her eyes to wander where they willed.

“What do you mean, Samira?” Karim asked, allowing her to caress his body with her eyes.

She did not answer right away. The breathtaking power she possessed truly had changed him. Karim now possessed the body of a skilled laborer who ate regular, hearty meals to keep up his strength. Smooth, bronzed skin, polished with a fine sheen of perspiration presented a feast for her eyes. As she gazed lower, her eyes came to rest on his powerful thighs and–and…

Sweet Apep! That had been inside her? His manhood, lying limp across one thigh, appeared thicker than many other men’s fully erect. It began to twitch and swell as she gazed at it, and she could already feel herself responding.

“Enjoying yourself?” Karim chuckled. “I don’t know what you did to me, but I honestly don’t believe I could ever leave your side, even if I wished to.”

“I offered you a taste of what the spirit I encountered passed to me,” Scha-Rei explained. “I suppose what they say is true. The power affects men differently from women.”

Very differently,” murmured Karim, his eyes upon her nude figure.

“What about me?” Scha-Rei inquired, posing for him as she blushed at his words. “Do you enjoy what you see?”

Rising from his position, Karim drew nearer and swept her figure with his raking gaze. “You are a goddess made flesh and scale. Never let anyone tell you different.”

Scha-Rei smiled, nodding, unable to form words. She mentally thanked Apep for bringing her together with such a precious man. They shared another gentle kiss.

“What happens now?” Karim asked softly.

“Now, we take back the lives and gifts that have been so unrightfully used and discarded,” replied Scha-Rei, that dark pleasure curling within her again as thoughts of vengeance and conquest welled up within her. “From this day forward, I will be known as the Empress Scha-Rei to all those around me.”

“Does that include me?” Karim asked.

Scha-Rei shook her head, her cold smile warming slightly. “I’ll always be your Samira.”

“Good,” her love sighed, caressing her cheek with the back of his hand. “For a moment, I began to worry that you were going to change into someone I couldn’t recognize.”

“Never,” Scha-Rei vowed. “If I do, stop me.”

“As you wish, my dark jewel,” purred Karim. Scha-Rei nearly melted on the spot at the sound of that voice. He spoke again before she could reply. “So, if you are Empress, what does that make me? Emperor?”

“Do you wish to rule alongside me?” she asked him.

Karim swallowed nervously at the prospect but shook his head. “I would be satisfied in seeing your dreams fulfilled, so long as I am by your side, always. I have no desire to rule.”

“I’m not sure the Southlands would survive the both of us acting as one,” Scha-Rei agreed, giggling softly. “Besides, you aided the record-keepers and scribes for the household, did you not? What would a man serving an Empress be called, that manages all her affairs?”

Karim thought about it. “A Grand Vizier, I believe.”

“Has a nice ring to it,” Scha-Rei said with a wink.

“That it does.”

“Let us begin, then,” Scha-Rei said, the dark pleasure swirling within her, almost impatiently insistent. Karim’s loud clearing of his throat gave her pause, however.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” he reminded her.

“What?” she tilted her head, noticing his eyes upon her body.

Her naked body.

Scha-Rei gasped, realization striking her. “Ohh!”

Karim laughed merrily at her and plucked up the meager clothing she’d left behind. “Shall I adorn you, my imperial majesty?”

Scha-Rei nodded, noting the familiarity of those words. Karim slipped around behind her, straddling her serpentine lower half as he held up the pieces of her “clothing.” She giggled at how small the pieces really were. She’d always preferred to keep herself covered and protected from lewd eyes. But now, she wanted nothing more than for all eyes to feast upon her body.

Karim refastened the veil around her hips and, very gently, attached the clamps back onto her breasts. Slipping his arms around her neck, he re-fastened the necklace and choker, settling the heavy jewel between her breasts.

“Magnificent,” he said to her, slipping around her again to pick up his pants.

She giggled at the ragged state of his clothing. “We should get you some new clothes,” Scha-Rei noted with a sigh.

“I’m not concerned,” Karim replied with a wink. “Nobody will be looking at me.”

Scha-Rei giggled again and glanced out the little window. “Alys,” she called.

The two of them waited. Karim finished refastening his pants but left his shredded tunic behind. Not to worry. His bare-chested upper body looked imposing enough even disrobed.

“…Alys.”

Nothing.

Scha-Rei’s tail whapped against the ground with impatience. “ALYS!”

“Who is Alys?” Karim asked. Scha-Rei glanced at him.

“Oh, no wonder. Gimme that!” she slithered to his side and snatched the tiara off his head. “So naughty,” she giggled, resting the tiara upon her own head. “Alys.”

“Haah–haaaa–hahh. Nnn…”

“What in blazes is she doing?” Scha-Rei tilted her head. “Let’s just find her. Come.”

Sliding over to the window, Scha-Rei squeezed through the bars easily, her serpent body slithering between them with utmost grace. Karim, on the other hand, fared poorly.

“The hell did you do that?” he grunted, tugging on the bars. His newfound strength forced the aged metal to creak and strain, but it simply would not give.

“Let me,” Scha-Rei offered, her fingers curling around the bars. Anchoring herself against the wall with her powerful coils, she arched her back and pulled. The bars creaked and groaned but would not budge.

“Ugh,” sighed Scha-Rei. “Whoever built this deserves a place of honor in my new empire.”

Karim chuckled at her despite their predicament.

“Don’t think I’m giving up,” she chided, gripping the bars again. A curious smell rankled her nose. Flicking her tongue out to scent it, she discovered the odor coming from the metal around her fingers. Upon closer inspection, droplets of venom that always lent her fingernails a polished glistening sheen had stuck to the metal and begun eating away at it.

Huh? Interesting. Scha-Rei tipped her claws against the metal, coaxing venom onto the base of the lattice’s supports. The venom hissed against the metal, burning through it like acid. Smiling with newfound confidence, she gripped the bars again and yanked. The lattice popped off in her hands, and the excess force of her effort sent her flying.

“Oww…” Scha-Rei grunted, having landed disgracefully on her back. Her coils laid sprawled out around her in disarray.

Karim climbed up out of the window and grinned down at her. “Well done, imperial majesty,” he teased, offering his hand. “Execution could use a little work, but you managed it all the same.”

“You owe me a back massage after this,” Scha-Rei glowered, tossing the lattice aside and reaching up to take his hand. “And before you laugh, my spine is quite a bit longer now. You’ve got quite the task ahead of you.” She indicated the entire length of her tail, but Karim only smiled the wider.

“I look forward to it, my jewel.”

Ohhh! That man! So incorrigible, yet so wonderful. Scha-Rei sighed, dusting herself off as she glanced around for Alys. The Apophis’ ears perked. “That way,” she noted, leading Karim back to the spot where she’d left the mummy.

Her soft panting reached their ears long before she came into view.

“Oh…” groaned the Apophis, her face against her palm.

Alys sat astride the guard she’d been assigned to watch, and shook her hips against him, panting with effort and pleasure. Much of her wrappings laid beside her, cast off in the heat of the moment. The wrappings remained on her chest, but sagged, exposing her breasts. She gasped and firmly pressed down upon the limp man beneath her.

“Ahhnnn…” gasped Alys, tossing her head back as she accepted another release from the man. She sighed, opening her bright, green eyes.

And spotted Scha-Rei.

“Mistress!” she gasped, blushing, hopping off of the man and facing the Apophis. Karim chuckled at her.

“You’ve sprung a leak there, Alys,” he pointed out.

Alys blushed, tracing a finger up her slit to collect the dripping seed, and popped it into her mouth, much the same way Scha-Rei had a little while ago.. “Mmm,” she moaned, her eyes glazing over momentarily. “Oh! Mistress. I, um, I…”

“Distracted the guard, just as I commanded,” Scha-Rei finished for her.

“Yes! That’s right.”

“You seem a little more animated now,” the Apophis noted.

Alys’ blush deepened, but she dared not avert her gaze from her mistress. “Yes, mistress. I was so–so dry. I, regretfully, could hardly form thoughts, much less articulate myself properly. I feel much better, now.”

“I should hope so,” Karim chuckled, pointing over at the man, who’s cock hung half-erect. His parched flesh suggested hours of lovemaking with the mummy, and his tongue drooped from his vacant, open mouth.

“M-mistress?” murmured Alys, poking the sandy ground with her linen-wrapped toe.

“Yes, Alys?”

“Can–can I keep him?” she pleaded, her eyes wide and upturned.

Karim barked with laughter, prompting Scha-Rei to slap a hand over his mouth. “You will have many more where he came from,” the Apophis promised her. “Now, clean yourself up. We must begin at once.”

“Yes, mistress!” Alys spun and snatched up her wrappings, clothing herself with impressive efficiency.

“We should get her some better wrappings,” Karim suggested. “Or at least wash those.”

“The sand does not bother me, Master Karim,” replied Alys. She stood at the ready. “I await your command, Mistress Scha-Rei.”

“We should secure the guards first,” noted Karim. “Samira, is your venom capable of incapacitating them?”

“It can do more than that, Master Karim,” Alys suggested. “Mistress Scha-Rei’s venom will enslave the hearts and minds of any who’s heart drinks of her violet kiss.”

“A little sex and you start speaking poetry?” chided Scha-Rei gently. The excitement in Alys’ bright eyes mirrored the dark pleasure swirling within the Apophis, however, corking her voice off against any further teasing.

“What is more,” continued Alys, “Master and Mistress have seeded the entire homestead with dark mana. You will find the guards in a state of torpor. None shall protest your kiss.”

“Yessss…” hissed Scha-Rei with excitement. Dark, forbidden pleasure swirled into her mind, sweeping her off her feet. Well, if she had feet. It was time. Her time. The master of this house would wake to find her seated upon his place of power. Yessss!

“Take me to the guard’s quarters,” commanded Scha-Rei. They left the man Alys fed upon where he was. He would recover soon enough and beg to be ravished by her again. And again. Scha-Rei smiled at the implication. Yes. She would allow Alys to keep her pet. And maybe a few more.

The three of them came to a stop outside a side entrance to the homestead. “This is it, but I don’t have the key,” he admitted. “Breaking it will wake them. Do you have magic to…”

Karim trailed off as Scha-Rei rested her hand upon the lock. “Possibly,” she replied, “But I’m still learning. This should work just as well.” She grinned, slipping her slender, long fingernail into the lock. Clenching the muscles in her hand, she coaxed venom into the lock and wiggled her finger, ensuring every crevice inside it received a dose. A soft hiss issued from within as a wisp of white smoke leaked out.

Carefully, quietly, Scha-Rei opened the door and slithered inside. “Wait here,” she called back as she eased the rest of her long body inside. Karim nodded and shut the door behind her. Inside, a potent, pungent odor of sweat and oil assaulted Scha-Rei’s nose, but she found she did not mind. On the contrary; she found it rather enticing.

Ideas and dark thoughts prevailed in Scha-Rei’s mind, lending her tempting suggestions. The power! She craved to use it. Twirling her hands in the air, she coaxed the power out, giving herself over to instinct. Her mana gushed, sweetening the husky air into a potent blend of desire.

Snores abounded, mixing with satisfied grunts as erections swelled from lust-induced dreams. Scha-Rei circled the room, leaving each man with a little nip and taste of her venom. When she finished, she snapped her fingers.

“Wake.”

The men grunted, rubbing their eyes drowsily, their eyes all falling upon Scha-Rei as delirium set in. Some of them were barely half-clothed, but all of them slid out of bed and stood facing her, double file.

“Whom do you serve?” she prompted them, her hood fanning out behind her as her gems and eyes gleamed in a terrifying display of command. Her mana flared out before her, passing over them in a red-violet mist. They all inhaled it and knelt before her.

“Mistress Scha-Rei,” they replied reverently.

A breathless rush of excitement swept through Scha-Rei at their murmurs of obedience. Her body thrilled with pleasure and arousal. Gods, yessss! More! She craved more…

Scha-Rei smiled hungrily. “Mmm. Prepare yourselves. Gather up all of those within this homestead and bring them before me. Brandish your weapons, but do not kill my new subjects. They will not be able to escape. Be quick.”

Scha-Rei snapped her fingers again. The men rose and set to work dressing and arming themselves. Scha-Rei slithered out and rejoined Alys and Karim. “It begins,” she told them, the thrill of impending conquest stirring the pleasure within her. “I want this oasis under my command before the sun reaches its peak.” Yessss…

“It shall be as you desire, mistress,” said Alys.

Karim eyed her warily. “Samira?” he prompted gently. “Are you–well?”

His concerned gaze gave Scha-Rei pause, but the urge to press forward nearly stole the breath from her lungs. Karim stepped closer and wound an arm around her shoulders. His warmth settled into her skin, suffusing her body with heat. It dawned upon her then; was she cold-blooded now? With the upper body of a woman, but the lower body of a serpent? Whatever the case, Karim’s warmth delighted her. She tilted her face up to meet his lips with a kiss, short and sweet.

“That’s better,” murmured Karim, stroking her face gently. “Take care, lest you become that which you despise.”

“I won’t, I promise,” she swore to him and she meant it. “But I need to do this.”

“Your love is enough for me, Samira,” Karim told her, his voice barely above a whisper as he spoke the words against her lips. “Is mine not enough for you?”

Scha-Rei cringed inwardly, recoiling as the words stung her like a slap in the face. “My dear, sweet Karim,” she replied mournfully, cupping his face in her slim hand. “Ours is not the only love. Our lives are not the only ones worth redeeming. The common folk of the Southlands have lived in fear of slavery long enough. Don’t you agree?”

Karim sighed and nodded.

“What’s wrong?” Scha-Rei pressed gently.

“I still find myself undeserving of you,” he admitted ruefully. “I know, we vowed our lives and souls to each other only moments ago,” he added, arresting her protest. “I still cannot help but dread the moment the gods, or fate, or ambition works to separate us.”

“I sense Apep approves of our union,” replied Scha-Rei with a reassuring smile. “I challenge any fate that dares stand in our way,” she added, her smile growing cold. “And lest you fear my ambition could drive a wedge between us, remember, I can’t live without you.”

“Literally or…?” Karim asked.

“Literally,” Alys replied first. “Your energy has blended and formed a symbiotic link. Together, you are powerful. Apart, you would weaken. Mistress senses this, instinctually.”

“There, you see?” winked Scha-Rei. “I’m never letting you go, and you should feel a great swell of pity for anyone who dares try to separate us. Does that reassure you?”

“It does,” Karim nodded gratefully.

“Well then, take me to the receiving room,” Scha-Rei requested. “Come, Alys.”

Karim nodded and led the way to the large receiving room on the third floor. Yelps and cries of shock tumbled from various rooms as guards collected the inhabitants, but Scha-Rei released more and more of her essence as she moved about. Anyone who imbibed it found their resolve dulled and their body warmed thoughts with lust and hunger.

By the time anyone realized what was happening, it was over.

Scha-Rei curled herself into a large chair used by the homestead owner, a man named Hanif. Karim stood at Scha-Rei’s right, and Alys on her left. The Apophis reclined, wearing a smug smile as her chin rested upon her right hand.

“What the devil is going on here!?” demanded Hanif as he stumbled in, accompanied by guards and a handful of others, a mixture of slaves and staff. “Wh…” he stammered, his aghast expression focusing upon Scha-Rei. “Who, or what are you!?”

“This is Scha-Rei,” announced Alys, “Now ruler of Ammon Oasis, and your lord and master.”

“Preposterous,” spat Hanif. “Karim. How did you escape?” he demanded. “Nephthys was absolutely right about you, wasn’t she!?”

Scha-Rei’s gaze flicked to Karim. She moved no other muscle in response to the man, but concern for Karim touched her heart. Her beloved’s jaw muscles clenched in anger, but he did not dignify Hanif’s outburst with a response.

More men and women stumbled in as guards rounded up the last of the homestead. One of them screeched and wailed like a plucked harpy. Scha-Rei’s gaze returned to the gathered crowd and settled upon the upset woman. Dressed in fine, flowing silks and sensual organza, the Apophis assumed this had to be Nephthys.

“I DEMAND to know what is the meaning of this!? HANIF!” she screeched. “Get your hands off me, oaf,” the woman growled as a guard spun her around to face the seated Apophis. “Oh, my goddess!” cried Nephthys. “MONSTER!!” And then she noticed Alys. “MONSTERS!! Guards, slay them at once!”

“Is this all of them?” Scha-Rei calmly asked Karim.

Karim glanced over the gathering, carefully counting and tallying them up. “Yes, mistress.”

“How dare you call that thing your mistress!” wailed Nephthys. “Slave! Get down from there this instant!”

Karim did not answer her, and he did not move. He did, however, smile somewhat smugly, mirroring Scha-Rei’s expression. Scha-Rei snapped her fingers, and the guards took up positions at the exits, crossing their blades to block anyone from leaving.

“It’s all right, Karim,” said Scha-Rei softly. “You may call me by the same name you have always. Even in public. I give you that right.”

Karim smiled warmly at her. “As you wish, Samira.”

“Samira?” Hanif echoed. “The slave girl I’ve seen sneaking around this homestead?”

All eyes fell upon Scha-Rei in disbelief. Her smug smile deepened as she basked in their apprehension. Mmm. Yessss. She felt she could gloat forever, but she needed their obedience, and she needed it quickly. Her jaws ached to release venom into each and every one of them. Soon. Yessss. Soon.

“Now that I have your attention,” Scha-Rei announced, “I bid you welcome. Let history mark this moment, and this place: The Homestead of Hanif bears witness to the rise of the eternal reign of Scha-Rei, the Desert Jewel.”

Nephthys giggled derisively. “Desert Jewel? Desert Harlot more like.”

“Shut up, Nephthys,” snapped Hanif. “What do you want from us?” he inquired of Scha-Rei.

“As the first of my subjects, I offer you a choice,” Scha-Rei said. “Embrace my gift willingly and usher in others who will join us in building my empire. Help me reshape this land into a realm of darkness and delirium. Or… Entrust your fate to my Grand Vizier, Karim. He will decide if you are fit to leave or be judged according to your crimes.”

“And what crimes might those be?” Hanif pressed.

“Slavery,” Scha-Rei clarified. “Mistreatment of those whose lives depend upon your judgement.”

“I do not understand,” Hanif protested. “A slave’s life is to be ruled.”

“A slave is a person,” countered Scha-Rei, “Just as you are. Just as you all are. A slave’s life is of no lesser value than yours. The belief that a slave’s life exists to be used as a tool and then discarded is a pitiless lie, one that I shall extract from this land like poison from a wound.”

Hanif swallowed nervously as he considered her words. “In this culture, slaves are bought and sold. Traded. Used. It is simply the way of things. Will you invent a ruling and force your views upon us? Incriminating us for so-called transgressions that none of us were aware we were committing?”

Scha-Rei glanced at Karim and nodded to him. He stepped forward. “Hanif, my former master. Did you truly believe what you inflicted upon me to be justified? I served you, to the best of my ability, every day of my life from the moment you purchased me. However, you did not even give me enough food to live. Why?”

“Living is not a right,” Hanif told him coldly. “Food is not a right. It must be earned. In my eyes, you frolicked with that girl more oft than not, dawdling on your own, and avoiding your duties. You paint a far different picture than what I bore witness to.”

“How oft did you pay attention to any of your servants?” Karim asked him. “Like as not, you depend upon the reports of your guards and companions, who may be inclined to be less than honest with you.”

His gaze flicked to Nephthys briefly. This did not go unnoticed.

“Worthless runt,” she spat. “Always were your eyes upon me, undressing me with your gaze.”

“I did not need to undress you with my gaze,” Karim told her calmly. “You did that yourself, two days ago.”

“Piss-addled liar!” screeched Nephthys. “You tried to force yourself on me! I have the wine stains to prove it!”

“I was a skeletal wretch,” sighed Karim. “Barely a man. You could have fended me off with a folded fan.”

“It does not appear that way now,” Hanif noted. The room murmured in agreement.

“If that is what you believe,” said Scha-Rei, “Then your memories of him are very short indeed. He stands before you, hale and hearty, because he has accepted my gift. The same gift that I offer to each of you.”

“So, what is it you claim?” Hanif inquired. “That you were treated unfairly?”

“An understatement,” Karim told him. “I served you with my life, and subsisted within a living hell, purely for the childish disdain of the members of your homestead. Answer truthfully. Did you not feel the mote of your conscience as your guards and this woman beat me?”

No one spoke. The deafening silence weighed heavier for Scha-Rei’s stern gaze sweeping the room. Not even Nephthys raised her voice. Minutes passed before Hanif responded.

“I–I suppose I did,” he confessed at last.

“What!?” cried Nephthys. “Have you no shame?”

Alys growled beside Scha-Rei. Seemed that her patience wore thin.

“For the love of the gods, Nephthys,” snapped Hanif, his eyes glistening with tears. “You are the one with no shame. Is it true? You tempted him?”

“Like hell it is,” the girl snapped back.

Scha-Rei cleared her throat and the room fell silent. “Choose your words carefully, Nephthys,” she said calmly. “For I happen to know what Karim said is true.”

“Of course, you would take his side,” Nephthys groaned, rolling her eyes and flicking her hair over her shoulder.

“While I do trust his word over yours,” admitted Scha-Rei, “Someone else told me what truly happened.”

“Oh? And who might that be?” asked Nephthys with a mock sweetness.

“Raul.” Scha-Rei’s lips curled in a snarl at being made to speak his name.

Nephthys paled, swallowing nervously. Hanif bore down on her, shoving onlookers out of the way. “You told me you had nothing to do with that man,” he growled. “Yet my guards kept telling me he loitered frequently, awaiting my departures to sneak in and be with you.”

Nephthys blanched at the implication. “Ugh, gods! I’d sooner lie with the dogs than let that wretched man touch me.”

“Strictly business then?” pressed Hanif. “Couldn’t keep your sticky fingers out of my coffers, could you?”

“And if you kept your eyes front instead of in the buxom bodice of every foreign trader you came across–”

Hanif cut her short with a sharp backhand against her left cheek. She stumbled, hissing in pain.

“Stop,” commanded Scha-Rei. “My ears weep at the sound of her voice. Is she always like this?”

“Yes,” Karim and Hanif both answered at once. Nephthys gaped at Hanif. Her mouth opened and closed yet uttered nothing as she nursed her bruised cheek.

“Very well, my Vizier,” called Scha-Rei, “What would you have me do with her?”

“Did Alys not desire a plaything?” suggested Karim. The mummy girl’s eyes brightened.

Scha-Rei snapped her fingers. Guards stepped into the crowd, snatched Nephthys by her arms, and dragged her forward, holding her in front of the Apophis. She squirmed, but their grip held her fast.

“What–what are you going to do to me!?” the girl cried.

“She’s all yours,” Scha-Rei nodded to Alys.

Alys stepped forward, outstretching her arm. Linen wrappings dangled from her hand as she approached. Nephthys squirmed violently, twisting back to look back at Hanif, as she pleaded with her gaze.

“Hanif! Please!” she cried. “Help me!!”

No one moved.

Nephthys turned back and found herself face-to-face with the mummy. Linen-bound hands rested upon the sides of her face. Alys leaned forward…

“No! Nooooo!” shrieked Nephthys.

The mummy kissed her, silencing her scream. Scha-Rei snapped her fingers, and the guards let go of the girl. She could no longer escape. Holding the girl’s face tightly, Alys’ kiss deepened. Nephthys’ body shook in her grip, her eyes wide with horror.

Alys slowly parted the kiss, but her mouth hung open, as did Nephthys’. To the casual onlooker, nothing else happened. But to those able to sense such things, energy could be seen gushing out of the girl’s mouth and into the mummy’s. Alys hungrily supped upon Nephthys’ spirit energy, sucking out every bit of it until the girl’s eyes dulled and her body weakened.

As the last of Nephthys’ spirit energy slipped out of her, Alys released her. The girl’s lifeless body fell back against the stones with a dull thud. Her vacant eyes still stared straight ahead. The crowd parted, shuffling away from her.

Alys calmly stepped back up to her place beside Scha-Rei, leaving the body. The Apophis snapped her fingers.

“Take the body into the bedroom for reconstitution,” instructed Scha-Rei. A guard collected Nephthys’ body and departed. Scha-Rei focused her gaze back on the crowd.

“Does anyone else wish to refuse my gift?” she asked sweetly.

No one dared disturb the silence.

“Good.” Scha-Rei hummed softly as she cast her gaze over the group. “Step forward. One at a time. Women and slaves first.”

A girl with straight brown hair and bright blue eyes stepped forward. She knelt before Scha-Rei. “My name is Hanna,” she said softly, keeping her eyes downcast. “I offer you my service, mistress.”

Scha-Rei glanced at Karim briefly before gazing down at the girl. “Hanna. Han–na…” she spoke the name with different inflections several times, as if tasting it. Her slim tongue flicked out, tasting the woman’s energy. “You are not from the Southlands,” she remarked at last.

“No, mistress,” said the girl.

“Why are you here?” the Apophis asked.

“I was taken from my home in the Midlands by a group of slavers who operate on the fringes of the Order,” she explained, keeping her head down. “They called themselves, Tenebrae Vincunt.”

Scha-Rei glanced at Karim. “That name sounds familiar,” she noted.

Karim tilted his head as he thought about it. “I do not recall hearing about it. Do any of the rest of you know anything about this group?” he asked the crowd.

No one said anything at first. Then, Hanif spoke up.

“I believe your mast–uh…” Hanif paused, swallowing uneasily as Scha-Rei glared at him. “Your former master, Eshaq, may have some information about them. I may have overheard him speaking about it, but I could be mistaken. You might wish to inquire about it with him.”

“I shall,” said Scha-Rei. Her tone softened as she rose from her perch and leaned down to Hanna. Gently she tucked the girl’s chin and tilted her head up to meet her gaze. “Hanna,” she said softly. “I empathize with your plight, and so I offer you a third choice. Take whatever wealth you wish from this place and leave. I will ensure Hanif grants you a writ of freedom. Return home a free woman.”

Tears streaked Hanna’s face. She shook her head sadly. “Mistress is kind to offer, but they killed my family. I–I have nothing left…” Sadness choked her voice.

Scha-Rei’s eyes narrowed with anger. “I will not let this injustice go unpunished,” she promised the girl. “Would you like to stay with me, then?”

Hanna nodded. “I want to accept your gift.”

“You are certain?”

“Yes, mistress.”

“Give me your hand.” Scha-Rei held out her hand, palm up. The girl slipped her right hand into Scha-Rei’s open hand. The Apophis lifted her hand up to her lips, turned it over and kissed her wrist. Spreading her lips, she bared her fangs and sank them into the soft skin.

“Nnn…” Hanna flinched briefly. Her lips parted, and she began to pant as venom streaked through her veins. Violet energy pulsed around her, and she trembled. Scha-Rei grasped her by her shoulders, lifting her up.

“For you, an extra gift,” Scha-Rei offered, touching a kiss to the girl’s lips. Gently, she breathed pure mana into her body, stoking the fires within her that the venom ignited.

“Yes, yesssss…” hissed Hanna. “My mistress, I am yours,” she pledged, smiling hungrily back at Scha-Rei. A flicker of violet flashed in her eyes.

“The change will overcome you more quickly than others I shall gift,” Scha-Rei promised her as she set her down on her feet. “Wait. Just wait, patiently, while I induct more subjects. Take what you will in the meantime and embrace the change.”

“Yes, mistress,” Hanna replied with a bow. “Thank you.”

She approached the exit, and the guards let her pass. No one attempted to stop her.

Scha-Rei faced the rest. “Now, who will be next?”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

After the pleasurable induction of Hanna, the rest of the group had accepted Scha-Rei’s gift without protest. The men remained with her, filling her in about various matters of business. Alys and Karim departed to aid in the reconstitution of Nephthys.

The rest of the women, Scha-Rei released into the town to enjoy themselves. Hanna returned first, a mere hour and a half later, having fully transformed into a stunning lamia. Her soft brown hair bleached into a golden blonde, and her serpentine lower half took on the original color of her hair, deepening into a milky chocolate brown. Scha-Rei gazed fondly at her, noticing streaks of red-violet markings upon her scales in the shapes of circular and oblong eyes.

The sigil of the Apophis.

The men parted for her as she slithered in. Right away, she cast aside all pretense and threw a heartfelt embrace around Scha-Rei.

“Thank you!” she sobbed with glee. “Thank you, mistress! This–this body is so strong, I’ll never fear of being made a slave again!”

Scha-Rei smiled, rubbing the girl’s head. “It was the least I could do for you, my sister. How fare the others?”

“Six others have changed,” Hanna reported, still cupping Scha-Rei’s arms in a friendly embrace. “They now stand guard at every point of entry. Your influence spreads, mistress. The rest of the citizens await your violet kiss.”

A collective gasp spread out amongst the group, but not in response to Hanna’s words. Karim stepped out of the bedroom with a mummy following him, and another behind her. The rearmost mummy was Alys. The one in the middle, was Nephthys. She wore a fresh set of linens torn from her bed and cut into thin strips to cover her body. Jagged, red markings trailed up her side, similar to the ones upon Alys herself.

“Mistress,” said Nephthys in a dull monotone upon approaching the Apophis. She knelt before Scha-Rei. “I offer you my service, such that it is, for all eternity.”

Exactly what Alys had said. “I accept your offer,” Scha-Rei announced. “With one exclusion: You will obey the commands of Alys and Karim as if they came from me.”

“Yes, mistress,” the mummy Nephthys vowed. She rose, stepped back, and took her place beside Alys. Her vacant gaze stared straight ahead.

“Hanna,” prompted Scha-Rei.

The girl’s eyes brightened, and she smiled back. “Yes, mistress?”

“Would you like to meet my former master?”

The girl thought about it, and then it dawned upon her what that meant. The last bastion of slavery in Ammon Oasis was about to fall. She nodded vigorously. “Yessss!”

Mmm. Scha-Rei loved this girl. “Come. Hanif, I trust you will attend to my affairs in my absence?”

“I shall, mistress.”

“Damn, I’m looking forward to this,” said Karim, cracking his knuckles.

Scha-Rei smiled with satisfaction as she slithered out of the room, her hips swaying a little more suggestively than was required. All for his benefit. Hanna, Karim, and the two mummies followed, and the five of them made their way out of town. A lamia bowed deeply to Scha-Rei as they passed and made their way to the slavers’ encampment.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The sun reached the midday point just as Scha-Rei and her companions drew near the encampment. As they discussed on the way, Hanna and the mummies hung back to wait for the Apophis’ signal, while Scha-Rei and Karim continued together.

“Just a moment. I’m going to disguise us.” Scha-Rei paused, wrapped herself in her coils, and cast the transmogrification spell upon herself, transforming back into Samira. She further occluded her appearance to appear wounded, as if savaged by a beast. Deep furrows ran through her shoulder, tearing the linen tunic she now wore. She limped unsteadily, something she did not even need to play at acting. Without her tail, she stumbled upon her clumsy feet, marveling at how she’d lived so long with them. She almost pitied Karim.

Speaking of Karim. Snapping her fingers, Scha-Rei cast an illusion upon him to hide his incubization features, returning him to his malnourished state. He examined himself with a sense of wonder.

“Gods above, Samira,” he whistled. “Were we truly this close to death?”

“We were,” she affirmed sadly. “It is simply a miracle we survived. Ours is a fate I would wish upon no other. Save one.”

“I think I know of whom you speak,” Karim nodded. “What shall we do with him?”

A flash of uncontrolled fury flared through Scha-Rei’s body. Her disguise wavered momentarily. “I… am not certain I can be trusted with his fate,” she admitted.

“I have faith in you, my jewel,” Karim said warmly. Scha-Rei leaned into him, and they kissed briefly.

“Let us be done with this grim moment in our lives,” she said firmly, setting foot in the encampment. Karim slipped away to fulfill his part in the plan.

Murmurs of surprise abounded as Scha-Rei limped into the encampment. No one made to stop her as she shuffled towards Eshaq’s hut, and she entered unopposed. Knocking softly on the door, she waited.

“Enter.”

Scha-Rei pushed open the door and stepped inside.

“What in blazes!?” gasped Eshaq, scrambling to his feet as he laid eyes upon her. “Raul, you told me she was dead!”

For all the hatred Scha-Rei harbored for Raul, she nearly cracked a smile at his astonishment. “I–I can’t explain it,” he muttered. “We searched for over a day in those blasted ruins. Figured she’d died or run off.”

“It’s pretty obvious she didn’t run off, damned fool,” spat Eshaq. “What happened to you down there, girl?”

“Only found a little,” Scha-Rei whimpered. “Got stuck. Took hours to get back out. Everyone was gone, then, so I made my own way back. Coyote attacked me. I managed to… injure it… but I dropped everything and ran.”

While Eshaq appeared to agree with her tale, Raul snickered. “You really expect us to swallow that, girl? You made your way across the scorching desert, on foot, and fought off a coyote without any weapons?”

“I do know this,” Scha-Rei noted, “The ruins didn’t belong to Amaunet.”

“Raul, you assured me that—”

“You’re seriously going to trust the judgement of that girl over mine?” spat Raul.

BANG.

Raul twitched. Eshaq’s meaty fist slammed down on the table in front of him. “She’s STANDING HERE, is she not? How the hell else did she get back? Sprout wings and fly? You’re damn right I’m listening to her. Now, I’ll thank you not to interrupt me again. You assured me this was a ruin built by Empress Amaunet!”

“How could this girl know anything about Amaunet!?” demanded Raul. “Especially whether or not the ruins were hers?”

Something about this was wrong. Terribly wrong. Scha-Rei’s transmogrification limited her magical abilities somewhat, but she definitely sensed the presence of Amaunet’s energy, even though even she herself did not know how. But this she did know: Raul was lying. About what, though?

“What are you thinking about, girl?” Eshaq inquired of her.

“He’s lying, master,” Scha-Rei stated plainly.

“I’ve heard enough of this,” hissed Raul. “She’ll speak truth soon enough, in-between screams.”

Raul turned to leave.

BANG.

“You leave when I permit you to leave,” growled Eshaq. “Girl, if you’re speaking falsehoods about him, tell me now, or I will not spare you the blade.”

“I speak the truth,” Scha-Rei said.

Eshaq sighed. “Very well. How do you know the ruins are not of Amaunet?”

“Because he told me,” replied the girl.

“You—” hissed Raul.

“Shut the hell up, Raul,” growled Eshaq. “Explain, girl.”

“Yes, master,” Scha-Rei replied, tilting her head upwards to gaze him in the eye. “He touched me. Told me he would break me and concoct a story where I failed to find anything and got raped by tomb raiders, and then drag me back here. I wouldn’t be worth anything to you, so he would take me for himself…”

Raul made to speak, but Eshaq’s fist silenced the man.

“Do you have any proof of this, girl?”

“I did see a symbol inside the ruins, but I don’t think it was Amaunet’s, master,” Scha-Rei said. “Have you some parchment and a pen?”

Eshaq fished some parchment out from his desk and dipped a quill pen for her, handing it to her carefully. Upon the parchment, Scha-Rei inscribed both eye sigils. The marks of the Apophis. Upon seeing the oblong one, Eshaq visibly paled. Scha-Rei’s eyes widened in shock. He’d never appeared frightened before…

“Raul, you gods damned fool!” he cursed.

“Eh?” the other man peered down at the parchment.

“I don’t recognize this one,” Eshaq said, indicating the round eye sigil. “But this one! Girl, were there any colors?”

“Um,” Scha-Rei murmured, “The room was really dark, master. But, um,  red? I think? Maybe red-violet?”

Eshaq trembled as his mind grasped her words.

“The insignia of Druella,” he said with a ragged voice.

Even Raul paled at the mention of that name. “I swear to you, I have never seen this marking before upon those ruins!”

“Girl, do you know who Druella is?” Eshaq demanded of Scha-Rei. She shook her head. She truly did not know. “Explain, Raul. Explain how she knows of the sigil without having a damn clue who that monstrous woman is?”

“Master, what is Tenebrae Vincunt?” Scha-Rei asked him.

BANG.

Both she and Raul jumped. “GODS DAMMIT RAUL!” he bellowed. “What else have you dipped your bloody hands into!? We agreed never to have any dealings with those bastards!”

“I haven’t the faintest idea where…” he trailed off at the glimpse of fire in Eshaq’s eyes.

“Damn you,” cursed Eshaq. “Damn you to Hell. You, my best informant, suddenly doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. You’re in this up to your eyeballs, and double crossing me with my own slave on top of it all. I ought to have you gutted.”

Raul stared daggers at Scha-Rei, who smiled faintly back at him. This was turning out far better than she’d hoped. Maybe she wouldn’t even need to sic Karim on him. While she refused to kill the man, she would not stop to help him if Eshaq decided to do so.

“You might find that difficult,” sneered Raul as he drew a slender, concealed blade. “With over half of your men loyal to me.”

“What the devil!?” cursed Eshaq, bolting to his feet.

“Damned girl,” spat Raul. “Forcing me to accelerate my plans. I hoped to have accrued more wealth before turning the tables on you.”

Eshaq’s eyes narrowed as he attempted to process the information. It clicked in Scha-Rei’s mind first. “He really does know where Amaunet’s tomb is!” she blurted out.

“Another impressive stroke of brilliance,” snickered Raul. “Yes. I’ve been looting it for months. Very impressive, her works. Ancient technology, living weapons. Of course, all of the curses and traps have slowed down the excavation team…” Raul twirled his blade. “I had hoped to bring the rest of your men around before getting rid of you, but such is life.”

“Makes it easier for me,” murmured Scha-Rei softly.

“Oh, don’t think you’re getting off easily, girl,” said Raul with a twisted grin. “When he dies, your ownership passes to me.”

“I’m afraid that ship has sailed,” Scha-Rei replied eerily.

Raul’s smile faded.

“Girl? your eyes, they’re glowing,” Eshaq said nervously.

“Put that toy away,” Scha-Rei commanded of Raul. “Nobody is dying today, especially not by your hand.”

“Like hell,” spat Raul as he lunged towards Eshaq.

“Stop.”

Raul froze in mid-thrust, his blade just inches from Eshaq’s throat. A glowing red disc spun around Scha-Rei’s outstretched left hand. She extended her right, opening her hand.

“Give that to me,” she commanded. Raul struggled, but an unseen force pulled him towards her, and forced him to drop the grip of the blade into her right hand. Her spell released him, and he staggered backwards as she cast him a sinister smile, raising the blade to her lips and tasting it with the tip of her tongue. Ohh goddess this felt good. Scha-Rei practically heard Apep singing from wherever she rested.

How, girl?” gasped Eshaq.

“Sigils weren’t all I found in that ruin,” she replied with a smug smile. “Have you been to the oasis town today?” She giggled.

“The girl’s demon-possessed,” grunted Raul.

“And if I was, what would you do about it?” scowled Scha-Rei.

“My steel purges all forms of lies and evil,” he scowled back.

“The only thing truly evil here is you,” spat Scha-Rei. “But you’re right. Enough lies. There is no longer any reason to maintain this charade.” She snapped her fingers, tilting her head. “The signal is given. Take the encampment. Let none escape.”

“Girl?” asked Eshaq. “What have you done?”

“You can thank him for this,” she replied, indicating Raul. “Had he actually taken me to the ruins of Amaunet’s empire, things might have turned out much differently.”

Shouts rang out in the encampment. Someone banged upon Eshaq’s door but cried out in terror as something attacked him. Both men paled before Scha-Rei…

A knock sounded on the door.

“Enter,” Scha-Rei answered firmly.

The door opened to admit Karim, who’d shed his illusion and appeared hale and healthy again. “Figured you would want this,” he muttered, tossing a burlap sack onto the floor in front of her. It sagged open, revealing all manner of torture implements. Raul’s “tools.”

“Anything else?” she asked, averting her eyes from the nauseating memories.

“Just this,” her beloved offered, holding up a golden bangle with a curious sigil.

Scha-Rei gasped in awe, plucking it from his grasp and holding it up to her nose. She inhaled deeply. “Mmmmm! yessss…” she hissed happily.

“That is definitely from Empress Amaunet’s tomb,” remarked Eshaq.

“Better than that,” sighed Scha-Rei with delight. “This is one of her adornments. At one time, it rested upon her body. Mmm.”

“How could you possibly know that, girl?” demanded Eshaq. “Were that truly the case, it would be priceless!”

“I know her scent,” explained Scha-Rei.

“But!?” sputtered Eshaq. “She’s been dead for centuries! You couldn’t possibly…”

“Perhaps it’s best to just show them, Samira,” chuckled Karim.

“First, I just have one question,” Scha-Rei stated calmly. “Where did you find this?” She twirled the bangle for effect.

“I will never tell you,” Raul said with a confident smile.

Scha-Rei handed Karim the blade and bangle. She knelt to the bag of torture implements and fished about for–where was it? Yes. There. Withdrawing a strange, curved tool, she twirled it about for the three men to see.

“You never used this one on me,” Scha-Rei noted. “Would any of you care to guess why?”

“I’ll hazard a guess,” offered Karim. “The part of the body you’re supposed to use that on doesn’t–well, girls don’t have.”

“I’ll just have to use my imagination, then.” Scha-Rei smiled.

“Or you could just bite him,” suggested Karim.

Raul laughed derisively. “I’d fear the bite of a gecko over hers.”

“That’s because you don’t know what she is,” replied Karim. “I see she drew you her sigils.”

“H-Her sigils?” gulped Eshaq.

Scha-Rei smiled, her eyes glowing brightly as a lithe tongue darted out, licking her lips.

“Oh gods…” moaned Eshaq. “Dammit, Raul! Tell her! She’s either a Lilim or an Apophis, and neither one would show us any mercy!”

“Sprout wings and fly back, did you?” growled Raul. Scha-Rei merely smiled back at him. She wasn’t sure what a Lilim was, but if it frightened him into telling her what she wanted to know, she’d let him believe whatever he wanted.

“By all means, draw this out,” purred Scha-Rei. “This is going to be so much fun…”

“Mistress,” Alys called from the doorway.

“The dead walk…” Eshaq said, fearfully eying the mummy.

“Yes, Alys?” prompted Scha-Rei.

“That will not be necessary,” the mummy replied, indicating the curved tool in her mistress’ hand. “Hanna interrogated the men, and one of them spoke of the ruins we seek. He will take us to the buried city.”

“DAMN YOU!” bellowed Raul, charging at Scha-Rei. She raised her hand to cast a spell, but Karim preempted her. With his fist.

“Urrgg!” grunted Raul as Karim’s powerful left cross sent him careening into the wall.

“Take them outside. I’ll join you in a moment.” Scha-Rei snapped her fingers, pointing outside. Karim and Alys escorted the men out. Alone at last, she allowed her transmogrification spell to expire, sighing with relief as her serpentine form overtook her and reformed. Might as well make a grandiose show of it.

Slithering towards the door, she slowly emerged. Men pointed towards her, cowering in fear, but Hanna and Nephthys blocked anyone who attempted to escape.

“Apophis,” Eshaq told Raul as Scha-Rei emerged. “You accursed fool. A Lilim might at least toy with us or allow us to enjoy our final hours.”

“Do you believe I have come to kill you?” Scha-Rei asked as she drew near.

“Why else did you return?” Eshaq demanded.

Scha-Rei giggled softly. “Why, to return in kind with the treatment you afforded me. And in case your simple minds still do not understand, I am going to enslave you. All of you. Well, except him.” She pointed at Raul.

“Get on with it, bitch,” spat Raul. Hanna hissed in anger at him, but Scha-Rei held her off with a gesture.

“I do not trust myself with your judgement,” admitted Scha-Rei. “So, I will let Karim decide your fate.”

Karim approached him. “You threatened to rape her, did you not?”

“Should have done it right then and there,” Raul sneered. “Too late now. Can you even screw that?” He indicated Scha-Rei and her serpentine half.

“I must protest!” cried Hanna. “Master Karim, how can you let him speak of—”

“It’s all right, Hanna,” said Karim with a resigned sigh. “I believe I know of a fitting punishment for him.” He approached Scha-Rei and held out his hand for the tool she still carried. “Mind if I borrow this?”

She dropped the tool into his hand and he traded her the bangle for it. She smiled faintly at him, brushing his cheek gently. Karim approached Raul and rapped him behind his skull, knocking him out cold.

“Believe me, he does not want to be awake for this,” murmured Karim as he hefted the man’s bulk onto his shoulder. “Go on, I’ll be back with you shortly,” he said to Scha-Rei as he took the man into his own hut.

“Come,” Scha-Rei beckoned, agreeing wholeheartedly with Karim. They filed out of the encampment, leading the other men towards the oasis. The sun had begun to dip down into the horizon. About halfway to town, a bloodcurdling scream pealed out across the desert.

“So much for not being awake for it,” murmured Hanna. “Justice is done at last. How do you feel, Mistress?”

“Hollow,” admitted Scha-Rei. “Unfulfilled. Revenge feels empty at its end. All-consuming in its pursuit, once completed, nothing is left behind…”

“What about that?” the lamia girl asked, indicating the bangle in Scha-Rei’s hand.

Scha-Rei lifted it to her lips and kissed it. “Mmm. Remember what I said before? You and your new sisters will help me build my empire. Did you think I would stop at Ammon?”

Hanna smirked, sharing in Scha-Rei’s hunger as her eyes danced with excitement. “No, mistress. There are many other slaves trapped within the Southlands underground. Will you confront it head-on, or–?”

“We need a firm foundation upon which to build our power,” Scha-Rei told her. “And a place for me to study the gifts I have been given. This will give us a place to start,” she noted, holding up the bangle. “After that, we shall bring the Southlands underground to its knees. We will creep within, infecting it with the venom of passion and desire, stirring the sleeping strength within the men and women these bastards chose to crush under their heels.”

Yes! Yessss! The words tumbled from Scha-Rei’s mouth as the power stirred within her. Even she herself scarcely thought herself capable of them but delighted in them as their energy swept her along.

“I never thought love might save me,” confessed Hanna. “Nor that I’d find it in so dark a figure.” She grinned, eying the length of Scha-Rei’s dark body. “So dark. So beautiful. My mistress. I will follow you wherever you go and aid you in whatever duty you undertake.”

“So begins the reign of Scha-Rei, the Desert Jewel,” said Alys.

Scha-Rei smiled as darkness descended upon the desert. Soon. Yessss. Soon, her darkness would pervade it, and love would conquer all. She gazed back over her shoulder and witnessed Karim striding towards her in the distance.

Soon. Yessss.

For now, she and her subjects would enjoy this night. Revel in it. And tomorrow? We’ll see… Yessss…

 

~ TO BE CONTINUED ~

 

Scha-Rei, Desert Jewel
by Matilda Fiship

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4 thoughts on “Desert Jewel”

  1. Awesome work, thoroughly enjoyed reading this, like your other stories I might add.

    I hope you’ll keep on blessing us with similar content, if your ominous “~ TO BE CONTINUED ~” is anything to go by. 🙂

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