Tails Of The Chain Gang- Diamondback

The crack of the whip caused the entire chain to flinch and pick up their pace, the taste of salt was on everyone’s lips as the beating sun caused sweat to drip down their faces. Hunched backs and bleeding wrists marked the procession of wretched souls along the dusty trail.

“Get the fuck on.” cried a voice over the steady jangle of iron links. The speaker sat high on the back of a brown horse with just as foul a temperament as its rider. If one good thing could be said about Mister Rourke, it was that he was an enterprising man with negotiable morals. He was not, however, a man who liked to dally, even if this dalliance was due to the severe dehydration of his captives. Sure, he could have stopped to give them water, but the road was long and these poor souls would not be making the return journey through the dusty plains. Better to save the water for the people who had any prospect of a future.

Of course, Mister Rourke wore more protection from the beating sun with the wide-brimmed hat atop his head, all of his crew knew how to dress for the heat. A grand total of five men made up the newly formed Rourke Trading Company. The horse sputtered and shook its head as the man led it down the length of the chain gang.

“Figured you lot would be eager to get where we’re going. You only gotta wear them chains another day or so.” said the man with a grin that clearly expressed that the majority of those present would probably prefer to keep the chains on instead of whatever fate lie ahead. Even life as a slave was, well, life. Not much of one but there is something to be said about counting yourself among the living, and doing whatever was in your power to maintain that particular status quo.

None of the captives looked Mister Rourke in the eye, instead trudging onward with the slow, steady gait of the damned walking toward their doom. Their eyes were downcast, each man fully aware of just how wretched he was. They stared at their feet, ignoring anything and everything, their minds blank because thinking at this point only brought despair. This was because it was almost impossible to think of anything but the heat, the dust, the pain, and the thirst. Focusing blindly on the next step was the only way to move forward, and avoid the whip that was the fate that befell those lagging the group. It was hard enough being wretched without the added difficulty of a stinging whip gash bleeding everywhere.

The man on the horse laughed at his own mirthless joke before moving back to the head of the procession. Slavers and slaves meandered a steady pace until they reached a hill. Well, to call it a hill was being generous. It was more a large pile of rocks. They were rather big rocks, for whatever reason of geography saw fit to ensure they were all in a large pile. The running guess was that even the landscape needed a break from the sweltering heat. Not that anyone present had any mind to ponder the nature of rock outcroppings, there were more pressing matters at hand.

    The Rourke Trading Company pulled up in the shady part of the hill, known as the only landmark for miles called Painter’s Rock. This was because artists often made ventures out to capture the unique beauty of sunsets playing over the endless fields. Mister Rourke, however, was not an artistic man, and to him, any artist mad enough to capture the landscape would end up with a picture consisting entirely of shades of brown. Who could possibly find any artistic value in a painting that looks like you painted with substances that came out of you? Certainly not Mister Rourke.

“Pitch the tents. They don’t come out during the daytime. We’ll have to sit tight until dark.” said Mister Rourke, his voice bearing an ever present quality that was both throaty and disdainful, rather like a grumpy frog. The chain was staked into the earth, more for show than any real semblance of confinement. Sure, the chain gang could have pulled the stake out with a concerted effort, but then they would face the problem of still being chained together, and the fact that such noise would bring the full fury of The Rourke Trading Company down on them, whips and crossbows and all. This was to say nothing of being in the middle of a dry, dusty plain with no supplies to see them through any direction they could run.

The Gang was just happy that being chained down meant that they were in no position to help pitch the camp, and instead they sat down to enjoy the only rest they’d had that day, while the Rourke Company worked about.

The first in the chain was Bad Hand Bart, named so because his right hand was so disfigured it barely resembled a hand anymore. He was a wiry man, catlike with darting eyes. He’d been arrested for pickpocketing and petty theft. The Judge had sentenced his hand be smashed with a sledge and Bartholomew Swelt was thrown into the dungeons to then on be known as Bad Hand Bart.

Behind Bart was Old Plagued Paul, the oldest member of the group. A wizened man with a thin white beard, he’d been a beggar outside the castle walls when the King suddenly took ill. He eventually recovered, but in the hysteria people had insisted that the old beggar with a cough outside must have infected the King with his virulent affliction. The panic had died down, but not before Paul was forgotten in the dungeons, his crime being the worst offense possible to those with power and money: the audacity of being poor in public.

After Paul came Jimmy the Thumbs, a strapping lad with hair the color of straw and a handsome face. His square-cut jaw and strong back made him quite popular among the young ladies of his home town. James Bark was his name, and he was a convicted murderer. He had slain the son of a wealthy merchant, and everyone knew Jimmy the Thumbs was guilty, for he fully admitted it. This testimony also accounted for the merchant’s son being a drunk fool that charged him with a sword, but these were details the judge had counted as superfluous. Jimmy’s nickname came from the scars on his hand where he had, in an effort to keep his head firmly attached to his body, caught the blade on the downswing with his bare hands. Of course this meant that instead of his neck, the steel bit down to the bones of his hand, leaving rather large scars below his thumbs, and his afflicted digits never did again stick out at quite the right angle. James had retaliated with his own blade through the stomach of his assailant. Thusly, poor Jimmy was arrested for murder and with the angry father greasing the right palms, he would never have seen daylight again.

The next two in the chain gang had more straightforward nicknames. Captain Dregwood was a smuggler of so many illicit goods that after they seized his ship, the Watch grew tired of finding secret compartments full of illegal things and opted to just burn the whole thing down. The Captain was the only member of the chain gang with a beard bigger than Old Plagued Paul’s.

After him came a man for whom no explanation was ever needed, nor asked. Sheep Shagger Sean was his name. To his credit, Sean was innocent of all sheep shagging allegations, but it was a secret he would take to his grave. After all, the penalty for actually stealing a sheep was a lot steeper than admitting to being a filthy degenerate. Lifetime in prison and an unfortunate nickname was preferable to being beheaded in Sean’s eyes. A rather plain-looking shepherd’s son, the only thing remarkable about him was his stark green eyes, a rarity in his land.

There were two more unfortunate souls that rounded out the chain gang. Dragging up the rear was the one they called Howling Mad Haymitch, called so because he insisted on saying things that clearly had no basis in reality. Things like “Cheer up lads, things will be better soon.” or “Don’t worry, it’s all going to work out just fine.” No one in the chain gang could have that sort of outlook and not be howling mad. Howling Mad Haymitch was an older, bald man. He had thick eyebrows and a wide, almost predatory smile.

The final part of the gang was a young man that everyone simply called The Boy. A thin, frail-looking young man with black hair and a blank expression who hadn’t said a word since his incarceration. The Boy seemed a pitiful thing, really. When his father was sentenced to debtor’s prison, few would offer jobs to an unskilled skeleton of a whelp. In an attempt to help feed his mother and siblings, he took the ill-fated option of poaching. The surrounding lands weren’t nearly as rich with game as the royal section of the woods, and surely the King wouldn’t have missed a few ducks or squirrels. He had been sorely mistaken.

And that was the Chain Gang. They weren’t terrible people. Sure, some had played their morals loose and were now paying the price, but that was it. They were the dregs of society. A true monster could at least be worth something. Oh yes, gold could be payed for the capture of a wanted criminal, and a killer’s head could be paraded around as a victory of the justice system. A noble could be strung in the stocks where the populace could throw rotten food at them. But The Gang held no glory, no romance in their plight. They were just the unlucky bottom of the barrel, of no consequence to anyone and the kind of people the world just wanted to forget about.

    The Gang held that sort of special kind of stealth because nobody wanted to think about them. It was this sort of willful anonymity that lent itself to their current position. The Rourke Trading Company were not stupid men, but they were not what could be called “big thinkers.” No, they were possessed of the more narrow scoped vision of easy gold, and the general sort of thuggishness that led them to their current scheme. They’d paid a modest sum to the jailers to take the prisoners off of their hands. The jailers were all to happy to rake in the extra coin and get rid of the unwanted dregs like The Gang in the same motion.

    Everyone knew about the demons, of course. Tales abounded about what would happen to a wayward traveler on the dark roads far from civilization. The monsters laid in waiting. Now, the Rourke Trading Company didn’t particularly care where the gold came from, so long as it came in the first place, and while most people would object to selling people to monsters, the Rourke Trading Company felt that a big enough payday was enough to solve pretty much any moral dilemma.

So, The Gang and The Company both waited. One eagerly, one dreadfully. Well, mostly dreadfully in The Gang’s case. Nothing could shake the stern belief in Howling Mad Haymitch that everything was going to be just fine.

The sun set, bringing a cool breeze to the relief of The Gang.

“Whatever’s gonna happen, I hope it happens soon. Better be getting dyin’ sooner than later.” said Dregwood, crossing his arms over his chest..

“Oh, ain’t nobody gonna die, Cap’n,” answered Howling Mad Haymitch. “We’ll be getting out of this soon, just you wait.”

    “Oh, shove off, Haymitch, you daft bastard.” said Sheep Shagger Sean. “The only way this ends is messy and bloody.”

“I just hope we can be off soon. Walking during the day is hell, but I’d rather walk at night than sit in the chill. And I don’t think ol’ Rourke over there will be too keen to share his fire…” mused Old Plagued Paul.

    By the time the sun had fully disappeared behind the horizon, and the moon was steadily climbing the sky, the chill had begun to cause The Chain Gang to huddle together. Old Plagued Paul was right, The Rourke Trading Company’s policy on sharing fire was apparently the same as sharing food and water.

    “Awooooo!” The night rang with a piercing howl that made the skin crawl of everyone present. It wasn’t that anyone had any particular experience with wolves, but the sound resonated deep in the primal part of the human brain. It was a hunting call.

    The men grew uneasy, one of the Rourke thugs drew his sword, and paced around the edges of the campsite fire. “Easy,” said Mr. Rourke, “It’s just wolves.”

“You don’t get many wolves out here…” answered the uneasy employee. “That weren’t no natural howl…” Rourke remained stoic. “Well we’re not here for natural reasons.” he said, “Put the blade away before you scare off the buy.”

    “Oh, it’ll take more than a blade to scare me off.” came a chipper voice, almost as lyrical as it was jovial. Everyone present turned to look at the source of such a pleasant voice.

    Shadowy figures came around the other side of the outcropping, monstrous figures that gave everyone pause. The first figure seemed to be the shortest of the bunch, but there was no denying that she had the presence of a leader. A short girl, with shadowy eyes. The clothes she wore was some sort of cross between a shirt and a skirt, covering mostly her middle before tapering off to her legs. The faintest bit of skin of her legs showed before thick, brown fur covered the rest down to her feet. The strangest thing about her, by far, seemed that she wore a green leaf on the top of her head.

    Her procession included a few horses, though they were the largest horses anyone in The Chain Gang had ever seen. The rest of the newcomers followed. All of them were girls, and most of them were bearing some sort of weapon. The two beside the leader wore simple clothes, their most distinguishing feature being their red skin and the horn on their heads. In the back was one girl who looked half snake, and yet another that seemed to be part wolf.

    “Demons…” muttered one of the Rourke group, which only caused the lead girl to smile affably. “Well,” she said, “it looks like we won’t be getting anything past you. Is there anything else we’d like to cover before we get down to business? Perhaps we can note the color of the sky?”

    The demons laughed, which only served to put the Company even more on edge. The Gang, watched the proceedings as their fate unfolded before them. Mister Rourke, however, remained stoic. “Do you have the money?”

    “Directly to it, I can always respect that.” Said the girl before gesturing behind her. The wolf-girl grabbed a satchel from the side of one of the horses before handing it to the leader. “Twenty gold per head, as we agreed.”

    The Tanuki tossed the bag over to Mister Rourke. “Wait,” he said upon opening it. “This isn’t-” was all he had time to get out before the bag exploded. A series of brilliant flashes of colored light turned the night into day for a few seconds. The humans were stunned, trying to cover their eyes. Mr. Rourke’s horse reared up in surprise, throwing the human to the ground. Once the light was gone, darkness rushed back in like a tide. There was a blur of movement, and then cries from the humans. As the shadows rushed back to claim the scene, the demons followed suit.

    It was too short to even be called a fight. The tanuki’s companions rushed in and soon had the Rourke Trading Company down on the ground, various silvery weapons pointed at some very sensitive areas. The Company dared not move, the demonic implements glinted menacingly in the moonlight.

    The Tanuki walked over to the downed Rourke; a werewolf held a silver sword to his neck. The humans knew nothing of the demonic weapons, and acted as if they were made of steel. Mister Rourke made no sudden movements and merely looked nervous as the blade rested against his neck. No one knew that demonic silver did not harm you physically, instead robbed you of your strength and determination, rendering you powerless before demonic charms. Indeed, most of the monsters present were almost hoping the humans would give them a chance to utilize such toys.

    To their disappointment, none did as the tanuki squatted down to be eye-level with Mister Rourke, propped up on his elbows, his attempt at getting to his feet having been cut short by the werewolf. “This wasn’t part of the deal!” he growled, making clear efforts to keep his neck as still as possible. The tanuki smiled. “You really thought dealing with demons was going to work out well for you, didn’t you?”

    Mister Rourke glared. “You bitch!” he cried, almost slicing his neck on the demonic silver blade as he jerked. His dreams of easy coin crashed down around him, and in defiance of his hopeless situation, he spat in the face of the tanuki. A clawed foot came crashing down on top of his head, forcing it to the dirt with a muffled thud. The wolfgirl had stepped on his head, growling.

    The tanuki sat there for a moment, then reached up to wipe the trailing spit away from her cheek. Mister Rourke had aimed for her mouth, and the tanuki was thankful that he had poor aim in this dark. “Tie them up.” She commanded. “Keep them separate from the other prisoners.”

    The monsters set about as they were bid, tying up the Rourke Trading Company with rope and moved to The Chain Gang. Two catgirls in orange robes walked up to them. Some of The Gang had seen robes like that before, since magic users were pretty distinct thanks to the robes they were. Order Mages often wore different colors than the two catgirls, but the style looked decidedly arcane. The cats looked identical, down to the last detail. Some present thought them to be some kind of magic mirror, until they spoke in different time. “How long has it been since you were last fed or given a drink?” The first one said, almost stoically.

    “Two days.” answered Jimmy the Thumbs.

“Oh dear,” said the second cat, the disapproval evident in her voice. “Let us get you out of those chains.”  The Gang was too stunned at the new prospect of their chains being removed, and did little more than flinch slightly as she made a sweeping motion with her hands. The chains unlocked of their own accord and fell noisily to the ground.

    “Eat up.” said the friendlier cat with another wave. A table appeared with a bounty of food on it. The Gang collectively salivated, and moved forward to set upon the food. “Wait!” called Jimmy, putting his hands out to stop his advancing companions. “We don’t know if this is some demon trick.” He said suspiciously, eyeing the twin cats.

    “If ot a ick.” came the muffled voice of Howling Mad Haymitch, who hadn’t bothered to stop and was already at the table, busily stuffing his mouth to capacity. It seemed Howling Mad Haymitch took to eating with the finesse of a hamster. One of the monsters came forward. This one had a different air to her, and indeed, was the monster that seemed the most fancily dressed. She practically wore a loose-fitting suit, complete with jacket, shoes, and wide-brimmed hat. Indeed, the only thing strange about her, seemed to be her mushroom motif. Her buttons seemed as if they were styled after mushroom caps, and her shoes bore little mushroom designs. After a moment of looking, her hat even came to bear the resemblance of a large mushroom cap. She approached Howling Mad Haymitch, and gave the man an affectionate hug, even as he continued to eat ravenously. After all, it really had been two days since last he ate.

    “Well, dear, you seem to be hungry.” the mushroom woman said with a laugh, and daintily poured a glass of water. Almost on cue, Howling Mad Haymitch seemed to freeze, and began coughing and choking. With one fluid motion, the woman tipped back Haymitch’s head and poured the glass of water right down his gullet. He recovered almost instantly, taking deep breaths. “Thank you, Kizy.”

    The mushroom woman apparently called Kizy laughed, “It’s because you ate too fast, silly.” she said with a doting air. “If you haven’t had any water in two days, you need to drink something before you shove so much in your mouth.”

Howling Mad Haymitch smirked at her, “Never seemed to bother you, missy.”

The woman paused, then giggled, “That’s different and you know it!”

    The demons laughed at the bawdy joke, and the takuki approached Howling Mad Haymitch. The Chain Gang minus their mad companion seemed almost stunned, too unsure to make any move. It was Bad Hand Bart that broke rank first, the smells of the food having gotten to him. He set upon the magical feast with even more fervor than Haymitch.

    “Barty, no!” called Jimmy in made as if to grab his fellow gang member and hold him back. The Chain Gang weren’t exactly friends, but there’s something about being chained in a line and marched across the plains that just sort of seemed to bring people together. Perhaps it was the knowledge that you were not alone in your suffering, and that the misery managed to forge a connection, but Jimmy felt more or less obligated to try and save his fellow Gang member. “They’re just fattening you up!” he cried.

    Bad Hand Bart, however, did not seem to care, and shrugged off Jimmy’s attempt to hold him back. “Oh fuck off, Jimmy.” he grumbled through a turkey leg that obscured most of his face. “If I’m gonna die, then you damned well let me do it on a full stomach!”

    The monsters seemed to be watching the Chain Gang, free of their chains and now just merely a Gang, with a peculiar interest, as if curiously seeing how it would play out. Captain Dregwood was the second to break rank. “Barty’s right, lads. It’s not like we’ve got much to lose.” The Captain approached the table, looking over the choice delicacies as the twin catgirls nodded in approval.

    “You could lose your soul!” protested Jimmy, but Dregwood waved a hand at him dismissively. “No worries then, Jimmy. I lost that in a game of Liar’s Dice.” The Captain said, nonchalantly picking up a rather succulent looking pear. He huffed a breath on the skin, and rubbed it against his shirt. This was clearly for show, seeing as how his shirt was much filthier than the pristine, magic feast, and only served to get a bit of trail dust on the fruit. Still, The Captain did not break stride. He smiled over at the second catgirl, who was seemingly more responsive than her stoic-faced doppleganger. “Cheers, love.” said The Captain, and bit into the fruit. The catgirl giggled and hid her mouth with her hands.

As the rest of the Gang watched, Old Plagued Paul turned to Jimmy and shrugged, “Barty’s got a point, y’know. Prisoners o’ demons, prisoners o’ people. Prisoner ‘s a prisoner, no matter how ya slice it. Life’s already miserable enough without turning down a free dinner.” The old man ventured to grab a hunk of sharp cheese from the table, and ended up washing it down with a goblet of wine poured by the werewolf who had come close to help. Four men broken from the ranks and filling their bellies seemed to snap whatever hold Jimmy’s warnings had left the Gang standing back, and the rest of them followed their comrades to the feasting table. The demons closed in, all too eager to partake and mingle with the now-freed Gang. They ate until their bellies seemed to swell, some even going over to the Rourke Company and taunting them. Manacled in silvery chains, The Company looked on with seething, defeated looks as it seems the situations had been reversed on them.

“Fools! All of you!” cried Jimmy, the last man standing. “Fill yourselves with the demon’s lies, but I will meet my fate with a clean soul!”

“Fuck. Off. Jimmy.” cried Bart in retort, his voice half-muffled by a buttery dinner roll. “Stop all that and come have a bite. It’s all so delicious!”

Jimmy threw his hands up, crying out his frustration before he turned his back on the group and walked off a ways. He didn’t go far, he couldn’t. He knew he was still at the demon’s mercy, but the smell of the food and the sight of the feasting was grating on even his stern resolve. He was hungry, the two days weighed heavily on his stomach.  

As Jimmy The Thumbs walked off into the night, more than a few monstrous eyes followed his back. One of the oni bodyguards nudged the tanuki leader. “Hey Jona. Should I go fetch him?” The tanuki shook her head, “Nah,” she said, reaching into her pocket to pull out a small silver case. She opened it, and withdrew a cigarillo. Jona felt that she had earned a little reward for the day going off without a hitch. It wasn’t the first time she’d pulled such a scheme; it wouldn’t be the last. “Let him cool off. It’s not like he can go anywhere. Besides, it’ll be best if we can cultivate that attitude all the way back to Love’s Faire.”

The oni looked down at the little monster quizzically. “Why would we want to bring anti-demon rabble all the way home?” she asked.

The tanuki laughed, answering with words spoken between teeth that clenched her little cigarillo as she fished out a golden lighter. “Because do you know how much we’ll get for him if we put him on the block and he’s still screaming about purity and demonic filth?” Jona asked, complete with air quotes around the last bit. She flicked on the little flame and took a deep drag. The taste was smooth, rewarding. As it should be, she thought, for these were the kind of cigarillos that should be smoked as a reward. You didn’t smoke things like this on just any occasion, since they were roughly the equivalent of smoking money.

Most monsters chose to smoke different kinds of dried Melty Love. It was cheap, it was easy, and the herb’s effects were extremely potent when directly inhaled, even if it didn’t last as long as if you burned it in an incense. There were other things available for the smoker, as most monsters found that mortal pleasures were only enhanced by demonic bodies and such a market gave rise to the connoisseur. However, they were specialty items, almost novelty. This made them more expensive. Jona smoked the kind of cigarillos that only the elite could afford.

“Oh, I’m betting someone is going to pay handsomely for him.” she said, exhaling a plume of smoke that cost more than most monsters made in a year. Then again, this was because most monsters couldn’t be bothered to hold a steady job so long as they had a husband. Most of the demonic workforce comprised entirely of singles. “Plenty of monsters out there that would pay anything to break in a cutie like that.”

    The oni on the other side nodded, smiling evilly at Jimmy’s back as he disappeared into the night. “I kind of already want to break him.” she said, almost salivating at the thought. Jona looked up, glaring. “Oh no, you don’t!” The little tanuki huffed, stamping her feet in the dirt. “If I find a single hair on his head mussed, I will charge you full price! No, double!”

“I don’t want to hurt him, I want to fuck him.” the oni retorted, turning to the side as she crossed her arms and huffed. The other oni looked sympathetically at her companion. “Yeah, double seems a bit much.”

Jona pinched the bridge of her nose exasperatedly, pressing her eyes shut. “Demon Lord’s fat tits, Kazue, I swear if your cunt starts eating my profits, I will throw the next man you like to the matango.”

“That’s too far!” protested the red Oni.

“Well I’m not losing out on a payday like that just because you couldn’t leave his cock alone!” answered Jona, the cherry on her cigarillo flaring orange with every word.

    “Is someone going to go after him?” the first oni asked. “Probably not a good idea to let him wander too far.”

Jona laughed, looking up at her bodyguard. “Why not? It’s two days walking to the nearest town, three times as far if he wants to try for a town that won’t lock him up again. Where is he going to go? Besides, wolfy over there can track down a sake burp you cut three days ago. A sweaty prisoner is child’s play.” Jona said callously before the wolf at the dining table gave a cry of protest. The tanuki continued, “And our horses can run down a cockatrice in these open fields. There’s nowhere to hide, nowhere to run. So why not let him sulk in peace?”

“Wait, Kazane is right.” said Kazue. “Isn’t this Crotalus’ territory?”

    Jona froze instantly, her eyes growing to the sizes of dinner plates as she gazed into the border between the light of the campfire and the dark of the dusty plains. “…Oh fuck me eight ways from Lescatie…”

 

****

 

    Jimmy the Thumbs had wandered pretty far from the campsite. He’d had to in order to get his stomach to quiet down. He wanted nothing more than to charge right into the feast and gorge himself, much like the rest of the Gang had. He had almost broken at their invitations, but something stopped him. Whether it was a lifetime of Order teachings, or it was simply stubborn refusal to not look weak in front of his chain mates, he held on to his decision to not trust the demons.

    Jimmy walked until the fires of the campsite seemed no brighter than matches. Indeed the only signs of the others he could tell from this distance was vague movement in the shadows near the small pinprick of light on the horizon. His trek led him to a little hill, his eyes adjusted to the dark enough that he could see his way. He looked skyward, and found himself staring into the starry abyss of space. He probably would have felt small, if his predicament hadn’t left him feeling as insignificant as he could.

Humans adapted their perception to their reality. A King has different expectations of life than a farmer. A prisoner has no expectations from life at all, except for the certainty of its end. A prisoner could wait his lifetime to die in his cell, or he could be executed the very next day. Every day was a gamble, and it had worn down on Jimmy until his sense of pride was more of a dusty vapor than any solid concept. As the prisoner looked up at the stars, the abyss that looked back at him told him nothing that he didn’t already know.

    There was a movement in the shadows, movement that evaded Jimmy’s notice. It stalked closer, silent as the night. It struck like thunderless lightning. Jimmy felt a pain in his leg. He seethed, his blood burning like fire, radiating out from two punctures in his leg. His mind raced, his first thoughts were of stinging, venomous insects. He screamed almost involuntarily when he wheeled around to face a giant, looming shadow. His night-adjusted eyes caught the gleam of moonlit fangs, dripping with a dark liquid. He stood, transfixed and screaming at the toothy maw, before his instincts kicked in and he fled, limping as fast as he could from the hilltop. He ran and he ran until he could run no more, tearing into the night without so much as a thought as to where he was going. The destination wasn’t as important as what he was running from. Where he was running to could be a problem dealt with after he was done; that he was running was the important part.

    With stitches in his side and the burning in his blood welling up, the adrenaline fueling his flight from danger ran out eventually, his pain overcoming his energy and Jimmy collapsed in the dirt. He drank heavy gulps of air, gasping to catch his breath with wheezing chokes. He thought to rest just a bit, holding onto a glimmer of hope that he’d outrun the monster. His hopes welled up in his chest as he heard a distinct, feminine humming. The demons had found him! Well, they’d saved him from the Rourke Company, surely they’d save him from that terrifying monster. “Hm hmm hm hmm hm hmmm~” the humming came. Jimmy weakly lifted his head and gazed toward the sound.

    Out of the darkness came the visage of a woman. Tanned skin with black hair, she all but floated out of the darkness. Even in the moonlight, he could see her eyes. They were almost completely black, save for the curiously small sclera that shined a dull yellow in the dim light. A moment later, and Jimmy saw why she seemed to float. At her waist, her human resemblance ended as she sported a massive snake tail. The snake woman slithered onward into Jimmy’s field of vision, her tail visibly rippling power as her muscles tensed underneath her scales. Her humanoid skin seemed lithe and supple, while the scales of her tail seemed rough and hard. They were mottled shades of brown and black, forming a diamond pattern along the backside. She wore clothing, but only in the loosest sense of the word. Her garb was no more than strips of cloth that left almost nothing to the imagination, save for the mystery of exactly where she stopped being human and how a snake could have dancer’s hips. She smiled as she reared up in front of Jimmy, long fangs protruding from where canines would be on a normal human. Jimmy instantly recognized the maw that bit him. He screamed again.

    This time, he was cut off by the snake woman closing the distance almost instantly, cupping her hand over his mouth. She smelled of sun baked clay and dry grass. “Now now, no more of that.” the woman said, smiling through her teeth. Jimmy found himself involuntarily ceasing all noise, gazing into the black, yellow-rimmed pools of her eyes, feeling as if he were staring into another abyss. He was sweating, and felt the cool breeze of the night’s air on his forehead. He shivered a bit as the wind made him realize how soaked he was. His clothes were almost saturated. He would have put it up to running, but he knew that his blood continued to burn, and figured the venom would have had something to do with it. Venom that beaded on the tips of the woman’s fangs.

    “There.” she said, and Jimmy found his eyes following the movements of her tongue. They seemed to lovingly caress her very words as they left her lips, dancing gracefully around every syllable. Jimmy felt himself clench his eyes shut, as to not be taken by her supernatural allure. Another demon, he thought. Another monster. “Just make it quick…” he pleaded in between heavy breaths, for he still had not recovered completely. The woman placed her hand on his lap. “Now why would I ever want that?”

    “Please…” Jimmy panted. He had no more energy to run. All he could hope for was a quick death. His head laid back down in the dirt, and he uttered a weak, “Have mercy.”

“Oh, don’t worry. I’ll be quite merciful~” the snake answered. Her voice was almost soothing, but carried an air of predation that made Jimmy more than suspect that she was disingenuous.

    Jimmy felt a fumbling around his lower body, and looked up. The snake woman was fiddling with his pants. He was confused for a second before she pulled them down, exposing his rock hard shaft to the cool air. He winced a little at the chill, but found that it almost soothed him. He came to realize that most of the burning in his blood was in his groin region. He became acutely aware of the beating of his heart before he felt the gentle grip of delicate fingers wrap around his shaft, shielding it from the air. He gave an involuntary moan of pleasure as his painfully engorged cock was slightly stroked by the snake woman’s light touch.

    He heard a giggling laughter from her, but hadn’t the strength to protest. “Ahh, you’re rock hard already. I suppose you can’t resist the venom I injected into you, no man can resist it. But I wonder… Is it really all the venom? Or is at least part of it your attraction to me?” she cooed. She hovered over him, before her free hand fiddled with the strip of cloth around her chest. It fell from her, drifting in the breeze to the side, revealing her hefty breasts dangling over him. Perked little nipples brushed along his face as the woman pressed her ample chest into him, and he caught more of her scent. “Aha!” the woman giggled again as she gave Jimmy’s cock a squeeze. “It got even harder! Looks like it’s not just my venom, after all. Don’t worry, I’m not mad at all. I mean, how could you resist a beauty like me? You’re lucky that you wandered into the domain of the legendary Diamond Crotalus! Surely you’ve heard of me. Everyone around here fears my deadly bite!  But you can just call me Dia.”

    Jimmy’s mind swam, both from the venom’s effects and the heady scent of the snake woman filling his senses. His heart pounded so hard that his cock twitched in time. “Aha,” the voice of Dia came again, “I can feel your heart beat. Ba bum… Ba bum… Ba bum…” She vocalized the beating she felt through her grip of his cock, giving little strokes at each one. “Such  a strong heartbeat. Pumping all of that blood right here…” she said, giving his cock a squeeze. Jimmy winced, for while her touches were not unpleasant, his skin was stretched so tight that he worried it would burst in a shower of blood if she squeezed too hard. He couldn’t remember a time when his cock was so hard and throbbing before in his life. Clearly Diamond was right. Her venom’s effects were wreaking havoc on his system. Jimmy vaguely remembered tales of spiders whose bites gave men erections right before it killed them. He could only suspect that his doom was imminent.

    Dia turned her attention fully to his crotch, laying down with her chest in his lap, her face almost level with his cock. “Oh my, it’s actually twitching with your heartbeat. Ba bum. Ba bum…” she said almost dreamily, running a finger up and down the underside with each beat. Her rubs along his engorged mast send little ripples of pleasure up and down Jimmy’s spine. He groaned out again as the pleasure started to eclipse the burning in his blood. He wanted her to touch him more, his envenomed brain crying out for release. “Well, let’s see if this helps… I did say I was going to be merciful~” came the teasing voice of the snake woman, piercing the veil of Jimmy’s thoughts. He felt a soft, pillowy sensation press itself around his cock, and looked down to see Dia pressing her breasts together, his mast disappeared beneath their pillowy embrace. She moved them up and down, her soft, silky skin gliding along his length and sending shivers of pleasure coursing up Jimmy’s spine..

    The snake girl opened her mouth, her fangs gleaming again, menacingly. Jimmy’s heart beat even faster, but the snake girl gave him a wink before lowering her head. Her fangs hovered just above his length before her tongue settled under his head. She began bobbing, dragging her tongue along the underside as her breasts enveloped the main shaft. He didn’t feel her fangs, but did see them. He found the adrenaline rushing only served to enhance the pleasure as she continued to bob her head and squeeze her breasts. “Such a wonderful taste…” she cooed in between wet slurps, her voice a bit muffled from the task at hand. Salacious sucking noises filled the air. She continued her gentle administrations until Jimmy could hold back no more. His envenomed brain demanded release, and he gave no warning before his cock erupted with hot cum. The first spurt sent a jet of seed right into Dia’s mouth. She gave a surprised, “Oh!” before seeming to smile. “Hmmm~” she cooed before her tongue set to lapping up every bit of cum that spurted into her mouth. When it was over, she looked up at Jimmy.

“Ah, look at my fangs! They’re dripping with your cum~” she said sultrily, her mouth open. Her fangs did indeed drip with seed rather than venom, and her tongue played with the little bit still in her mouth. “Would you look at that, you came all over a predator’s mouth. You made her taste your essence, and you might have just gotten her addicted to your soul energy~” The predator said teasingly, knowing full well that Jimmy hadn’t played a part in any of it. Dia didn’t get many visitors, and liked to play with her food. “What ever will she do?” The snake continued melodramatically. She pulled a frowning face with pursed lips, pouting up at Jimmy. “I hope you’re ready to take responsibility…”

The snake girl’s tongue winded its way out to coil around his shaft. Dia once more laid wistfully on his lap, looking at his cock dreamily. Her tongue started to stroke him, slithering along the underside of his glans, sending more pleasure through his post-orgasm sensitive cock head. His erection hadn’t even begun to recede, the venom wouldn’t let him. “It won’t go back down, you know. If that’s what you’re wondering.” Dia said, again muffling her words around his cock. Thankfully her tongue was so dextrous even while occupied. “It wont go down until you cum many, many times~”

Dia’s words were proven true. She licked and stroked him with her serpentine tongue until another jet of cum shot out. He missed her mouth this time, and instead his seed rained down on her. She wiped her face, laughing. “Oh wow, you really got excited, huh? Well that’s okay. I really love this thing of yours…” she said, giving his cock another lick. “Even like this, you taste so good. It’s strong, almost heady. Are you sure you haven’t injected me with anything strange to make me horny? No?” Dia said, teasing Jimmy further as she smiled to expose her fangs. The human hadn’t the strength to resist, nor the will. Forced to endure her teasing, Jimmy didn’t even have the strength to respond. The orgasms were helping to ease the tension left in his body by the venom, but he found himself almost paralyzed. Whether from exhaustion, or the venom, he lay powerless under the snake woman’s intentions as her dextrous tongue coaxed orgasm after orgasm out of his envenomed cock.

“You’re such a lucky human.” Dia said, her head bobbing up and down the full length of his shaft. “Just fucking a powerful monster’s mouth for hours. Ahh, staining her mouth with your taste so that no one else can ever satisfy. Oh, you cruel beast, how could you do such a thing to a prideful monster such as me? An apex predator, reduced to your own personal cock warmer. Addicted to your taste and unable to bear a single day without you gracing her tongue with your strong, virile se- Ah! There you go again, how ever will I break free of this spell…” she said, licking up every drop.

It was only then that Jimmy’s cock started to lose its stiffness, his erection receding. After an untold eternity, the venom had finally run its course. “Aww, you’re all done?” Dia said, disappointedly, then noticed that Jimmy’s eyes were closed and his body was completely limp. “Oh, you passed out.” The snake woman curled her tail around the young man, and lifted him up. “I guess I overdid it, huh?” She spoke to Jimmy’s unconscious form. “Sorry, but you really did taste very good. I guess I’ll let you rest in the den.” The snake woman started to head off. “…Maybe when you wake up you’ll be ready for round two!” she said hopefully, before she slithered down a tunnel with her prey in tow.

 

****

 

The entrance to the tunnel went undisturbed until daylight the next morning, when Jona’s procession came upon it. Following the werewolf’s nose, they had tracked Jimmy thus far. The wolf went as close to the hole as she dared, before whining a bit and retreating to the safety of the group. “The trail goes in there…” she said ominously, and with no small hint of fear.

Jona shook her head, closing her eyes as if wishing it weren’t so. She took a deep breath, heaved a sigh then said,

“…Fuck.”

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