- December 4, 2021
The Serpent’s Quest
Content Warning: The Serpent’s Quest was an attempt by me to write a story where the message couldn’t be told without sex. I had always heard that sex scenes served nothing to the story and I disagreed. I felt that people could learn a lot about characters from their sex scenes and I hoped I produced a good example. At the same time, sex scenes are far from the easiest thing to write, and I am far from being incredibly adept at them, so if you don’t want to read that, or skip those parts, know there are a few to look out for.
The jungle was a lawless place, and thus, an honorless one. Salazar had never trekked through one before, though he had trekked through many environments he had never seen before on this quest.
Now, what kind of quest? To save a princess, kidnapped by her stepmother as they waited for her father’s death. It was the sort of story children had heard of many times before, but Salazar was the only one who sought to see the story come true.
After sinking his metal grieves in mud, he could see why. “What knights will do for a princess and honor,” he joked, knowing that even should he be successful, he would find himself with neither.
Salazar stopped, hearing the sounds of footsteps coming towards him. His hand went to the longsword on his hip, but there was no shake in his grip. He had fought many a monster on this trip.
When the woman came out, arms protecting her face but not her nude form, Salazar paused. Then the sound of another pair of footsteps allowed him to feel more comfortable. This would hardly be the first damsel he’s saved from a monster, but it could be the quickest.
As if making a game out of it, he pour all his strength into one strike, risking it all as it launched itself from the shadows. The toad-like thing that came out of the jungle, found itself cleaved in two. The noxious gases that formed in its stomach began to rise from the corpse, and Salazar stepped away to avoid it.
His stomach churned at the smell, but he would keep his lunch long enough to smile.
“Fear not, milady,” he said as he sheathed his sword, “you are safe now.”
Before he could turn around she had thrown herself upon him, pressing her nude form against his armor. This had not been the first time this had happened either, but surely his armor was cold to her touch, or so Salazar thought.
“You’d need not offer yourself to me,” he told her.
Her voice had a scratch to it, not as if she smoked, but as if she had a rough tongue. “Does my form not make you loins churn? Would you not accept my offering?”
“I said, no such thing,” he assured her, as he unlipped a bit of his cape from his elbow, beginning to take it off. “I only wish for you to know, it’s welcome, but not necessary, you are safe either way.”
Then she looked up at him, and with a snake-like hiss said, “Ssssss, but you are not.”
Her forked tongue stabbed for him, but he narrowly ducked and dodge. Salazar didn’t wait before hooking his arm in her shoulder and falling back to throw her over him.
The monster in disguise hit the ground with the same flop that any human would. It was the way she recovered that unsettled him. He was at a loss as she flipped and turned like a snake. She didn’t seem to rise to her feet, so much as roll her way there.
Salazar slowly stood with a look of shock as he drew out his sword. Monsters were commonly the fusion of several animals. Since the Catastrophe, most were animals fused in hellish symphony and others in heavenly horror. Salazar had never seen one fused with a mortal like this and had yet to decide whether she was of the hellish or heavenly variety.
He looked down from her feet, and upon her shapely yet familiar form until he saw the chin and fangs of a snake. The woman’s face was that of a slithery reptile plastered over a human’s, and when she hissed, the knight noticed how other portions of her mammalian skin would fold into scales all around her body.
“Color me hor-” he tried to speak before she lunged at him.
She went to hit him with her muscles, her hands lacking nails, and her limbs lacking breakable bones. Instead, the muscles banged against his armor like a club.
The worst blow came when she whacked his head with her bicep, and his cheek reverberated like being smacked.
Before she could strike again, he raised his blade to her, but in his head trauma, he brought the flat of his blade into her side. Her few bones let her wrap her skin and muscles around the sword’s flat side, so he ended up throwing her, giving her a few small nicks.
When she hit the tree, she banged her head, and her natural camouflage seemed to fail. Her pale skin turned a shade darker, matching the indigenous locals Salazar had passed by.
He couldn’t look away as, rather than fall to the ground, she twisted and wrapped around the tree’s trunk, her snake face and head of hair staring at him before barring her fangs.
“Your pretty little head will taste delicious, I know it,” she hissed, speaking with a common hunger.
“You think I have a pretty head?” he retorted, smirking in a way that asked for her to be impressed.
“I…” the snake woman trailed off, her head tilting at the response. She straightened her neck and prepared to launch at him. “You have a strange sense of pride for a man about to die.” With her last word, her jaw fully extended. Then a sharp line cut through her cheeks, revealing the pink flesh of her mouth flapping with her screech.
“Strange, sure, but close to death? I don’t know about that,” Salazar taunted her, just before she launched herself at him.
She expected him to be too weak and slow to avoid her. Instead, she found the flat of his blade striking her skull.
Then she found herself slammed against a tree.
And tossed to the ground. As soon as she lifted her hand, his sword struck the ground, and his knee was on her back.
Her tongue twitched once as it froze, having nothing to save or protect herself as she heard the clang and clicks of what must be a knife. This was the end for her, beaten and outsmarted by a knight for the first time in her life.
She shut her eyes and clamped down her hard jaws as she waited for it.
She shook again as his cape came down over her and his knee left her back. She panicked and ended up drawing the cloak to her, not realizing what it was until she sat up. She knew it was the one he wore and looked to him as he sat on a rock, his dagger in hand.
It was in the next moment that she leaned back and felt its cold steel, that she realized the sword worked as good support for her back. She backed up against it instinctively.
Her eyes narrowed on Salazar, watching him watch her.
“Why?” she asked, and as always, in a hiss.
“Give you a hint of modesty?” he joked, barely containing a chuckle. “I supposed it’s because I am a knight. I am no naive fool, honor tends to die when the men hit the beaches, but… chivalry does not have to die with it.”
“Chivalry?” she muttered at him, her aching bones reconstructing themselves waiting for her to use them and strike him at his most naive. “Why show me chivalry?”
“Before, I answer that, tell me,” Salazar spoke, only for his words to trail off and his tone to darken only for a moment. “Were you truly offering yourself to me, for saving you from that predator?”
The snake woman hadn’t known she could feel hot in the head. “What, why? It was momentary,” she spat at him, “an easy trick for easy prey, they all want me before they see my face, and then my face has them.”
“That’s disappointing,” he said.
Her expression flared with surprise. The opening of her jaw revealed the lines in her cheeks where they would usually fade. Her eyes opened wide before she narrowed them again.
“You’d…” she muttered, “no one has ever wanted to lie with me since the… change, afraid of my jaw and my face, but you would imply… differently?”
“While I question how you could know that if you’re constantly trying to eat these men, I do,” Salazar said, his smirk turning into a grin that makes the snake woman clutch the cape to her body. His hands slowly go to the buckles hidden between the points of his armor, undoing them one by one. Quickly, she had forgotten to attack him as her injuries were all but healed.
“I’ve heard many a story where the knight ends the battle by slaying the beast,” he told her as he rested his knife on the ground. “Those old fools, fucking one instead sounds like it would be much more fun for both parties.”
The snake woman’s eyes stayed transfixed on him with this starry-eyed look of disbelief as he took off his breastplate and then the tunic underneath. Before her, he bore his hard chest, something she had not seen on a living man in a long time.
He watched her legs twist inward as she couldn’t take her eyes off him. He seemed to close his eyes as he gestured and waved off the last few minutes. “I can forgive your attack if you swear not to attack me again. I understand a creature’s need to kill and eat, but there’s no reason for you to not up and go, unless…” and his eyes opened with this unyielding steel, “does the offer still stand?”
The snake woman showed him how the slits of her pupils went from the top to the bottom of her eyelid as she looked at him. She focused again on the outline of his chest and the hair that trailed from his belly button down under his trousers and armor, failing to miss the v-shape of his abdomen.
She didn’t answer him with words, she just threw the cloak off her form.
Salazar smiled and began to remove himself from the rest of his armor.
Her hand trailed down her stomach to rub her human bits, watching as he pulled off his greaves, down his trousers, and stood with only his underwear on. She flicked her tongue against her lipless mouth as she looked at his form, and admired how few scars marred his dark skin. He was skilled with a metal sword, and she rubbed herself in anticipation to know if he was as skilled with the other.
When took his first step towards her, she leaned back, realizing his sword was still there. She quickly shuffled and when he kneeled, she lifted her foot to his crotch, feeling for it, and sighing at how quickly she found it.
She moaned as he quickly ran his hands from her pelvis, up her bodice. She had closed her eyes as he did so, opening them when she felt his torso pressed against her chest and felt his lips on her neck.
Never has another come so close to her jaws without fear, and never has she felt someone’s lips on them. She shuddered at the feel of his quick but all-too fleeting kisses.
When he pushed himself above her, he lifted her and started to stuff the cape underneath her. The grass beneath them was not hard but the cape was better for her already matted and wildly hair.
When his face didn’t seem the least bit fazed by her jaw, she saw what fearlessness looked like up close.
Then she humped upward to rub herself against the outline of his cock, raising her legs high enough to hook her big toes into the waistband of his underwear, pulling them down herself.
“Eager are you?” he asked her as he lifted his hips up and away to help her take away his last stitch of clothing.
As she looked down at his engorged member, running her hands along every line of his torso, she answered, “Starved.”
He gave a sympathetic look just before his hand grabbed and squeezed her breast, flicking her nipple and forcing out a shrilled hiss.
She clutched at his shoulder in one hand, and reached down to grasp and stroke his shaft, to pull him closer, but he wouldn’t do more than rub against her swollen labia. She let out this yearning hiss as if she were begging.
Before she could, he asked her, “What’s your name?”
She barely had the mind to answer as she clutched at him to feel another’s body as she hadn’t so long, to run her hands everywhere she could.
He assumed she would get his answer later as he reached down, and he spread her labia with his fingers. She gripped his shaft, pulling it to her, and she sighed, “Midnighta.”
When he sank into her depths, she let out this long, tongue-shrilling hiss, and as she did, he moaned out, “Oh, Midnighta.”
They howled and hiss together into the night, and once they had finished sweating and shaking, Midnighta had released her grip on Salazar so he could make a fire.
When he finished, he found her wrapping her arms around him, twirling his long dreadlocks in her fingers, and pressing her jaws against his neck. She tested Salazar again, opening her jaws, running their smooth but lipless edges against his neck. It was the closest thing she could do to kissing him, and when he only hummed in pleasure, she rewarded him with a long lick of her tongue, garnering a moan.
“Do you have a home here?” he asked her.
“Home,” she repeated to herself as she detached herself from him, and slowly crawled around before slinking down and stretching her form alongside the fire. “You think monsters such as me have homes? I live in the wild, as I think people call it. It’s been a long time.”
“You’re clean for a wild thing,” he said, reaching out and placing a hand on her thigh, one she made no move to remove as he stroked her smooth skin up and down.
“There are many rivers to bath in,” she told him, as she hummed to his touch. One buffet did not make a starved woman suddenly well-fed.
“Then you travel where you go when you want,” he figured, his hand stopping when she didn’t reply.
“Yes, this is true,” she confirmed, and his hand began slowly massaging her. Her eyes began to trail down his body again as his member was growing for her.
“Then you should join my quest.”
“Hmmm,” Midnighta seemed to moan, closing her eyes and thinking of the thought of more blissful nights such as this, but she was not crazed nor thoughtless. Her snake eyes stared at him as they did when they first came upon him. “What is your quest?”
“To save a princess from her wicked stepfather, preferably before her father dies of his sickness and leaves my kingdom with no leader.”
Midnighta flicked his hand away immediately and turned flat on her stomach.
“What has you looking so sad?” he asked her.
She rested her chin on her crossed arms, committing a nastier version of a pout. “I am not sad.”
“You are sad.”
She turned her eyes on him with a violent hiss and a look of death. “Do not tell me what I am.”
“Make me,” he tempted her, moving to crawl closer to her, his hand on the back of her leg, “tell me what you are then.”
She turned away, calming under the feel of his hands massaging the back of her calves. “I… I am… trepidatious.”
As his hands moved up to the back of her highs, he told her, “Sounds like a bigger word for sad.”
Midnighta turned onto her back in a huff, forcing his hands away. She whipped her arm out, questioning, “And why shouldn’t I be?
“The first person in my life who hasn’t wanted to kill, hang, or eat me, wants me to help him save a princess he wishes to marry.” Salazar arched his brow at such an assumption, one she noticed and responded to in kind. “Even out here, we monsters of your horrors hear your stories. I know from the brains of hunters I have devoured that knights save princesses for their lands and to line their beds.”
Salazar’s mouth formed a fine line before his hand flew up to cover it and laugh. Midnighta was taken aback as he laughed out into the dark sky. “Oh, I’m not marrying the princess if I save her. I may be lucky for a kiss on the cheek. I just want someone on the throne when her father dies, save my kingdom from the nobles who would see it crumble.”
Midnighta scoffed at him, raising her foot and pressing it to his engorged member, making him threaten to move with just the small massage. “You think the princess will not throw herself at you upon saving her from her hell? You think you will be able to resist?” He leaned over, onto her, their bits warming each other again, making the other slick as she whispered her taunt into his ear, “You couldn’t resist me and mine.”
He held her close, kissing under her ear as she fought against moaning and giving him the satisfaction. “You are right that I couldn’t resist,” he told her, and garnered a growl when he said, “and wouldn’t resist,” but he tugged on her hair before the sharp points she has for lips could even threaten him.
He pressed his lips into her neck as he assured her, “You are wrong to think she would throw herself at me.”
“And… “ she hissed, her tongue flipping like a snake as he flicked his member against her entrance, “and why…” she struggled to speak as she humped against him, “do you think she won’t?”
Salazar began kissing down her body as he explained, “Well, before she left she had a reputation.”
“A reputation?” Midnighta asked in a gasp as he captured her nipple between his lips.
He took the time to flick it before answering, “Yes, a reputation, for painting nearly every woman she could in the castle. She cast her brush against canvas after canvas, leaving all who watched in shuddering pleasure at the wet masterpiece she left behind.”
As he continued kissing his way down her body, she growled at him, “You think your lazy entendres are funny, don’t you?”
“You let me paint you with my brush don’t you?” he said, just kissing above her mound.
“Slink down and use it,” she tried to order him, “and save me from the mental agony of what you call a pun.”
Salazar refused to touch that sacred place, teasing her with wet kisses to the inside of her thigh. He refused her as he said, “Say you’ll join me.”
She countered, “Promise you’ll do this every night.”
“I promise to sheathe my sword in your scabbard each night and every morning,” he said, leaning down as she took his hair locs in her hand. “I’ll wake earlier just to make sure we aren’t running late.”
She let out the loudest moan as his tongue set itself to its task. She let out a silent scream before she had the chance to tell him, “You’re lucky you’re pretty, or else I’d eat you and end your terrible puns.”
Princess Aolanda awoke in her bed, to her stepmother, the Empress looking down at her.
The Empress’s hair came together in a golden bow, but rather than in a ponytail, it spread out in all directions behind her head. She didn’t need a crown, because her hair formed a golden sun that followed her wherever she went. With the raven hair strands in the middle, the Empress was an eclipse that blinded the princess from everything but her.
“What are you doing?” Aolanda asked the Empress.
The Empress reached down towards Aolanda and her skin-clinging gown that shined gold. Without speaking a word to the princess, the Empress slipped her fingers under Aolanda’s dress and pressed her thumb to Aolanda’s nub.
The princess moaned out and continued to under the Empress’s fingers.
“I was admiring your beauty,” the Empress said as her lips found their place on Aolanda’s neck, next to the last love bite she gave her.
Aolanda found the Empress on top of her, pulling down her nightgown, groping her breasts, fingering her folds, and nipping at her neck without hearing a word of what the princess wanted.
Aolanda found that the Empress just knew. Why else would the princess be moaning as she was?
Aolanda reached and dug her nails into the back of the Empress’s golden gown. She clutched for her father’s second wife: a woman barely older than her, a woman who made herself the sun, a woman she was told she couldn’t have so that woman had her instead.
The Empress whispered in her ear, “Call my name,” but the princess could barely control the spasm of her muscles, let alone what she moaned.
“Prey…” Aolanda struggled to say.
“Call me,” the Empress said again, working the princess’s loins faster so that her hips were spasming off the bed.
“Prédatrice!” Aolanda screamed as she made a mess on her bed, her whole body spasming under the Empress, leaving her shaking.
Prédatrice rested on Aolanda, biting the princess again, biting down hard enough to bruise before lifting her head and leaving a saliva trail on Aolanda’s pale skin.
Prédatrice removed her fingers from between Aolanda’s legs to her lips. Aolanda lifted her head to taste herself on Prédatrice, one way or another, but the Empress pressed the princess’s head back down to the bed.
Under her shadow, Aolanda could see the black paint on Prédatrice’s face that matted her forehead. Prédatrice seemed more than human and Aolanda wanted to serve.
The sound of the doors opening made the princess shriek and grapple to raise her nightgown, but the Empress only laughed.
“It’s only the automatons,” she told Aolanda.
The Empress’s castle had passed through her family line for generations before becoming hers. Now it was their home after escaping Aolanda’s father and Prédatrice’s husband, run mostly by autonomous constructions. Prédatrice’s land was advanced, but low in population, making her a rather useful alliance. Or it would have if the automatons had been spread throughout the kingdom.
Instead, they only worked to embarrass the princess.
Aolanda turned back to look at the ceramic man, whose exterior was as pale as a proper wedding dress. She could barely see the mechanical gears hiding underneath.
Its voice was like neither a man’s nor a woman’s nor they or theirs. It was a machine, an ‘it,’ not to be mistaken with a person. These things are of no relation to flesh and blood. “The Lord of the hot springs is here.”
“Perfect,” Prédatrice said, “we’ll have our own soon enough. I’ll be right there.”
“Wait,” Aolanda said as she clutched the Empress. The automaton left, ignoring the princess’s words.
The Empress, in turn, reached and kept the princess’s hands from reaching too high, and held them down over Aolanda’s head. Prédatrice only pressed her form into the princess’s some more as she kissed her with a passion. She seemed to distract Aolanda with her tongue worming around hers, drawing it out for her to suck on.
Prédatrice thought to leave Aolanda breathless, but Aolanda still asked her, “How much longer will this last, my love? How much longer will this castle remain the same as any other?”
There was a moment where Prédatrice almost frowned as if she lost some kind of game, and then it was covered by a warm smile. Prédatrice took Aolanda’s face in her hands, moving the princess’s blonde locks out the way of her face as she did. “I know I promised you freedom when you came with me, but I beg you to wait a little longer until your king is dead. And when he is dead, when his rule and his order has fallen, I will gift you the freedom you deserve.”
Then she kissed her once again, but this time she pulled away as Aolanda sought more. “I must go,” the Empress told her, quickly leaving the bed she snuck into.
The Empress opened and turned around to close the doors, she blew the princess a kiss as she did.
Aolanda immediately moved to her feet, running with quiet footsteps towards the door. She pressed her ear to it as gently as possible so as not to alert the Empress and her automatons.
“Tell me whenever and wherever she goes,” she heard the Empress say, and the princess’s head dipped as it rested against it.
“Dear sky above, do not make following my bright star the mistake of my life.”
Aolanda would not leave her room but instead moved to her balcony. From there she could see the whole of the kingdom.
They sat on the edge of a cliff. From there, Prédatrice’s castle guarded the northeastern sea border. It was beautiful to look at the sea until one peered across the horizon and saw nothing but water and sky.
The water and the sky should be one of the most beautiful and most terrifying things in the world. They are larger than one mere life could comprehend and hold no mercy.
Aolanda thought of her canvas, one she thought nearly finished, but she realized better. She had been painting the landscape, but after several scrapped versions, it always felt wrong.
The different blues of the water and sky were meant to be a freeing mixture that formed the curves of one woman’s face… one Aolanda could do nothing but think of.
But upon trying again, she set to drawing her brush all over the canvas, creating an ocean and sky that felt vast. The blue of the ocean was not inviting, but a vortex that sought to swallow everything whole. The vortex formed the mouth of the painting, and the sky loomed high.
This vast and never-ending space, for which one could traverse forever and never see it all. Aolanda crafted the swirls to appear in such a way that they made the eye think they were moving. For every inch one walked across the sky, the space they had just been would be different, never the same. At the center of the sky’s forever-changing swirls, formed the eyes that were never the same each time Aolanda looked into them.
She found herself staring into a stranger every day since she had left with her love.
It was not finished when Aolanda felt the Empress’s arms wrapped around her, but she was nearly there. She felt the Empress’s lips upon her neck and closed her eyes so she would not have to turn around and find new eyes staring back at her.
Prédatrice turned her around, to bring her into a kiss that sought to steal Aolanda’s breath for herself. When she felt she had succeeded, she told the princess, “Canvases truly crumble under your brush.”
Aolanda opened her unknowing eyes to find her painting staring back at her. “All except yours.”
Salazar kept his promise, setting himself to waking her with kisses down below and making her back arch in the morning. And he would continue to help her catch up on years of forced chastity each night as they crossed the many biomes of the kingdom for the Empress’s castle.
They came upon monster after monster, born from the Catastrophe that made Midnighta what she was. Salazar showed Midnighta how his besting of her was more than a fluke as he chopped down griffins, goblins, and horse crabs. Midnighta reminded Salazar how smart a decision it was to not kill her every time she felled beasts of strength with a single bite of her venom.
The desert was the first real challenge, with the giant scorkes. Their scorpion-exoskeletons and their snake-shapes proved to be immune to both sword and venom. They had the width of a tiger but the mass of an elephant made them far longer. The hard shell and quiet movements of the one they faced left the two at a disadvantage.
It took Midnighta’s strength to hold one down and all of Salazar’s to plunge his steel sword through its head.
Somehow, the certain death did not stop it as fast as it should have. Its long body and scorpion tail moved and swung around, seeking their lives. It had thrown the both of them off in its death throes and began to stab its tail into the ground at random.
As the sand blinded her, Midnighta did not see the tail coming, and so Salazar was there to be slashed across the side.
“You know what they say about scorpions?” Salazar told her as she tore at his armor in a frenzy to get to the wound and suck out the venom. She ignored him in her mad attack to save his poisoned body.
After ripping off his breastplate, but just before ripping his tunic, he grabbed her hands, looked into her fear-stricken eyes, and told her, “The big ones aren’t venomous, they just sting.”
She slapped him when he began to laugh, lucky that scorkes didn’t have the poison to kill him. The walk to their next camp had her remembering that she did though.
But by the time she had set him down and made them a fire, it was clear that he was still wounded, and his bindings would leave him at her mercy for the night. After caring for his wound and his armor, she sat close to him, with an expression of expectation.
“You did promise me every night and every morning.”
Salazar chuckled, before grimacing over the pain chuckling brings. He may not be dying of a scorke’s poison, but its tail was still sharp. “I’m afraid, I may have to regain one night.”
“Of course,” Midnighta seemed to agree, yet she stalked towards him on all fours as she has on many other nights.
His cape, which had effectively become her dress with some stitching, drooped from her shoulder with a little slump. Salazar couldn’t help but nervously chuckle as she slowly loomed over him, and stroked the sweat off his face.
Her nailless finger stilled his nerves, yet he still reminded her, “I’m sorry, dear paramour above all paramours, but I don’t think I can even lie still for you. It’ll reopen my stitches.”
Midnighta didn’t answer him, she just leaned down and nuzzled her head against his cheekbone. “I would say I’m sorry for being so incorrigible…” she told him, before licking the side of his face as he loved for her to do.
“But you’re not?” he said with a smirk.
“But I can’t.”
“And you won’t.”
His eyes narrowed on her. He couldn’t help but wonder how she intended to get her pleasure that night.
“There is a great pleasure to be gained in giving it to another,” she told him, slowly dragging her tongue down his chest. She aimed to make sure that his eleventh finger was there waiting for her. “I have welcomed your tongue to me, will you welcome mine to you?”
She felt his stomach rise with the breath he took, and she hesitated. She looked up at him as he stared down at her, with little of that devious glint in his eye that she had come to expect.
They were silent as she fished out his engorged member from between the folds of his trousers, and as she felt it in her hands, he stiffened. Her heart seemed to skip a beat when her senses felt his fear, and it was like a dagger.
While time flew by, it had been weeks since they first began traveling together. While his mouth graced her lower lips every night and morning, hers did not grace his lower finger.
She looked up at him, and asked him, “Sala, do you trust me?”
Salazar sat up and looked down at the snake woman who had been his traveling and bedside companion for what felt like years. They had risked their lives for each other enough times, yet he seemed to treat her handling his rod as a risk as well.
That ended when he told her, “With my life, Middy.”
She nearly scowled at her nickname, but she couldn’t fight it. The lines appeared through her cheeks to increase the length of her smile.
And then she engulfed him in her mouth. With her tongue at work, she could hear him wail her name to the high moons.
Into the night, when Prédatrice had her back turned to the princess, asleep, Aolanda could not close her eyes.
Aolanda looked over her shoulder at the Empress and found it wrong to see her back and not her face. There was something wrong, something that had changed in the past few weeks, or maybe months that Aolanda had been here.
That needed to change, and so, Aolanda threw off the covers, to leave when Prédatrice thought her lover at her weakest and nothing to be feared.
Aolanda had mastered the art of the silent step. How else would she have gone from room to room painting canvases as she was famous for?
The automatons outside her room were no problem either, they were a little different than the guards she would slip past. But, they were weak against those who went out the window too. Like any human, they would not anticipate what they did not see.
Finding her place inside, she ditched the white gown. The Empress had filled her closest with white, and the culmination of color would not fit for someone trying to hide in shadows. Even the princess’s bare pale skin would work better.
And work better it did. From the shadows, the automatons saw nothing of the princess skulking about as uncovered as them. She would get so close, slip between them as they had their backs to each other, and the contraptions were none the wiser.
The door to the basement was the door to the Empress’s secrets. One-part office, another part lab, and final part forge, but all it was hers.
Aolanda was supposed to be hers.
To make the automatons guarding the door, look away, Aolanda held a rat by its body and its mouth. Then in the darkness, she threw it so it would scurry and they would hear it.
With a blink of an eye, they leaped and plunged their gigantic spears into the poor thing. Aolanda nearly shed a tear, but she could sneak and shed that tear at the same time. She had entered, and the automatons were none the wiser.
The lab was nothing unexpected. Aolanda did not blink twice at the experiments that should have horrified her. The morality of experimenting on humans spoke nothing of the Empress’s love for her and her promises, and that was all she wanted to know. The morality of others and their suffering would come later.
The weapons that could wreak havoc on their kingdom were of no note to her either. The bombs she did not understand were of no note; the cruel serrated edges made only to cause pain didn’t draw her eye; the whole of hell could have lied in this lab, but Aolanda cared only for the desk with the letters and the secrets.
Weapons spoke of nothing but fear and hate. Fear of the enemy, of who would come to hurt her, of the hate that brought on their painful design. Aolanda cared little to know what Prédatrice feared. They were far from being different from any other mortal’s fears.
She cared for Prédatrice’s love because her love would be different from every other. She could not learn about love from the armory, but the content of her letters? She could learn everything.
There were many opened and unopened. Now and again, Aolanda could beckon Prédatrice from her work. Now and again, Aolanda could make Prédatrice forget that there was some scheme to be done.
Aolanda held one and found the seal of the dragon upon it. It was her father’s, the Emperor’s, but that was not the first she read. The first she read were the drafts of replies Prédatrice left unfinished.
She’d recognize the script anywhere, from the letters the Empress left under her doors and with her meals. The letters and poems she could not take with her. She saw the alphabet she knew well, and read words she knew nothing of.
“March your army across the Zine river, and receive another of her fingers.”
Was this one of the promises Prédatrice was making to Aolanda’s father? Was this how she kept him from coming?
“Piece by piece I will send her to you until she is nothing.”
“These are lies,” Aolanda spoke, as she looked at the fingers of her hands. They appeared fine, in perfect condition, and she painted with them as well as she had before. They must have been lies, but how would she fake them? Send someone else’s? “What horrors have you done for me?”
Aolanda went to let the letter rest, but without meaning to, she read the end of the letter, and thus, her love’s last promise to her father.
“When you die, I will assure that she will die with you, and the line of Remus will end.”
Aolanda’s hand went to her eye, feeling liquid come from it. Reading those last words, her love’s final promise struck her with emotion all at once. She looked at her hand, and something black covered it.
She covered her mouth to keep from screaming in horror, but as she blinked, the black turned red. She was bleeding, and she sought the closest mirror. She looked and found she was a blur.
Aolanda was invisible to herself, unable to be seen. She struggled to bring herself into focus as her eyes twisted and frayed. She saw her shape and the black trail that fell down her body, marring her skin. She couldn’t control her breathing as she struggled to see, to focus, and when she did that black turned red again. She looked into the mirror and saw the blood.
A vessel had popped in her eye, and now as she bled, she saw half the world in red.
Aolanda turned back to the letters, the one with the stamp of the dragon on it, and opened it to know what her father said. Did her father fear for her, or did he see through the Empress’s deception?
She opened it and gasped.
“The King is dead, long live the king. So to the princess, long live the princess. Long live the line of Remus.”
Aolanda did not shed tears for her father. She feared reading the Empress’s letters and thought on her promise. It had been false, of course, it was. Prédatrice may not have been everything she had promised to be, but never had she harmed her. Never had she taken her fingers or anything else like she said.
Yet, Aolanda looked at the letter of the ones who buried her father, who defiled his corpse for his seal, and then looked to the fire. She trusted in Prédatrice’s love and yet… she approached the flame and threw it in.
The blood she could wash away, the dress she could hide, and the automatons she could avoid, but the letter… the letter had to burn and leave no trace.
For the nights that followed as they carefully trekked through the desert, Midnighta repaid the service he had been paying her until his wound healed, and then many more nights afterward.
When he started to imitate the sound of her flicking tongue to tease her, she threatened to never do it again.
After the horrors of the desert and its irritating sand, Salazar and Midnighta continued their trek through a rainforest and into a green land of ginkgo trees. Neither had they believed such a thing existed, and yet it did.
The trek through the stunning yellow leaves, the scurrying animals, affected by the Catastrophe and some not, led them to their rest.
When they came upon a hot spring, they couldn’t shed themselves of their armor fast enough. Though they couldn’t get it back on Salazar, the breastplate Midnighta ruined bent under her strength to make one for herself over the dress she had made out of his cape. From then on it took them equal time to get free of their clothes with Salazar having only his leather tunic. They found themselves inside each other that much quicker.
And in the hot spring, that was no different, with Midnighta letting out a flock-scaring wail before they settled into each other.
With her head in the crook of his neck, his rod lodged inside her, Midnighta wondered just how serious Sala was of this mission. Why complete it if this was an experience far better, and far away from the civilization across the kingdom. They could stay there forever and avoid anyone else, but would Salazar’s knighthood and chivalry allow that?
It had allowed him to rearrange the guts of a monstrous snake woman with a history of feasting on the flesh of men. Why wouldn’t he want to do that forever?
“Sala,” she asked him, “if you don’t wish to lay your seed in this princess and hear her wail your name to the high moons of heaven, why did you come on this quest? And why alone?”
Salazar told her much the same as he had before. “To save my kingdom from the vultures who would steal the throne, and the war that would follow them.”
With her smooth snake nose pressing into his, she whispered, “You truly love your land that much?”
In a hush and moan-worthy twitch of his member, he answered, “Is it that hard to believe me?”
She grasped his chin in her hand and had him face her monstrous face: her lipless jaw which would never know a kiss, the fangs attached to it that would rip through flesh faster than teeth, and the real teeth that hid in her mouth, that scared others too much to ever learn what pleasure she loved to give.
“I was cursed and that same land abandoned me,” she reminded him, staring down at him with the eyes of a snake that knew tears. “Why should I feel anything other than hate for it?”
“You make a fair point,” he admitted, “you should hate it with every fiber of your being, yet you don’t.”
She barred the fangs of her jaw and those inside her mouth at him, all as she hissed, “Watch what you dare to say.”
Salazar leaned closer and told her, “If you truly hated this land you’d do more than just hunt to eat.” When she pulled away from him, he raised his hands from her body to her face, to hold her close and kiss the parts that caused her so much pain. “Science and the false theology of men may consider you a monster, lovely Middy, but ethics would shower you with love for your way of life.”
She couldn’t help but both gag and chuckle at him as he lined her hard jaw with wet kisses. “Oh, and what kind of shower is that supposed to be?!”
“One of adoring affection and compliments,” he said leaning back and sinking more into the hot spring, bringing her lower into the water.
“Oh alright, maybe if you weren’t running dry, I’d get that shower.”
“You wound me,” he said, nearly dropping her into the spring, causing her to shout and cling closer to him, so her head wouldn’t go under.
As if a punishment that he would enjoy, she squeezed him tight to hear him moan her name against her skin. He stumbled and floated to the wall of the hot spring as she sought to roll her hips against his.
She had her way with him but stopped as he came close, knowing his tells after so long.
As he seemed to whine as she would so long ago, she made him wait, reminding him, “You haven’t answered my other question. Why were you alone?” She took his head by his hair and his chin. He could not smother himself in her chest as he was one to do. “Surely, other knights didn’t die, I can’t imagine you’re the only capable knight in the kingdom.”
“And if I was?” he asked.
She ran her tongue against his lips and told him, “Then the kingdom deserves to die out, or have you plant your seed in every willing and breedable wench so there were some men to get things done.”
Salazar nearly died laughing until she held his beating chest down. “Do you really mean that?!”
“No,” she said with a snort, “you just get hard faster when I give you compliments. Now answer my questions, or you won’t have my permission to cum.”
“Oh, didn’t realize I need your permission, I’d better tell you…” he said, barely containing his laughter, letting out ugly snorts.
But as he left her hanging, she pressed him, saying, “Waiting…”
“It’s not an easy question,” he admitted. “There weren’t many who were willing, but that would still have left me a few who definitely would have helped me, but… I didn’t want them to. They said they wanted to take the easy road, the long road. If the princess even lived that long, if she’s even alive, the king wouldn’t be by the time we got back and we would have a war on our hands. They’re likely taking the path around the kingdom right now rather than going straight through the country and its worst environments like us.”
“So you’ve been alone because you are the lone brave man among cowards.”
For the first time, Salazar had a hard face that would not end with a joke. “No,” he told her, “they are not cowards because they wish to see their families and friends, nor because they wish to live as those that love them ask them to.”
Midnighta brought her nose to his and his hard face calmed.
With a bit of trepidation, she asked, “Did… did no one ask you to?”
“Of course, do I seem like a friendless loser to you?” he laughed, and with the sound of his laughter, she relaxed as she sat wrapped around him. She kept nuzzling him, listening to him tell her about a life she worried he didn’t have. “And I have family, my father passed away in his sleep, but my mother lives with my sister, her lover, their beard, and their children. They asked me not to take the risk for a princess who may not still be alive.”
“Yet, you did.”
“Yes, and honestly, now that you have forced me to think about it,” a joke that made her roll her eyes until she realized how long it took him to continue speaking. She lifted her head, as it seemed like some grand effort to utter his truth. “It… it’s because I want something new. I want to keep experiencing new things… see new lands… I don’t want to be stuck doing the same thing.”
“You’re…” she whispered, her wide eyes not looking so starry, “you’re fighting boredom, you fear doing the same thing day in and day out with your life,” as she had made him promise to do.
He tried to unknowingly assure her, “No, I’m just not ready for it. My body aches for some kind of rest, and I picture a future where I spend my days as a knight who tells stories rather than makes them. I just… want to be prepared, so whenever I have the chance for a new life-altering thing, I ask myself… will this kill me a bit and bring back the rest stronger? Or will it eat a bit of me away so I die a truly slow death?”
“What was I?” she asked with hurried worry.
“You tried to kill me,” he reminded, making her squint, “what do you think?”
“I… I’m not…”
“I’m not going to get bored of you, Middy,” Salazar assured her, sitting up, wrapping his arms around her to hug and hold her close. “If not because you’re my friend, then because being the only man to fuck a snake woman every day makes me special every night and morning.”
She hit him on the shoulder, before wrapping her arms around his head and holding him tighter.
“You almost made me feel better.”
Midnighta turned her head on its side to rest her cheek on his head. “Other than you being a prick, now I feel like I have to try something new whenever I get the chance. Now I have to look at something and think, ‘will it kill me?’ I’d be lying if I said your way of life didn’t make my heart skip a beat.”
“I would suggest starting small.”
“Hmph,” she said as if an entendre was there for her to make.
She, after being joined by sword insheathe for quite a while, slowly rose off him with a squeaking sound that made Salazar smirk.
“Wipe that look off your face,” she warned him as she moved to his side, and placed her hands on the rock. “You say small, then I will start with you, here.”
Salazar rose to his feet, unsure of what she meant until she wiggled her behind at him. He was unsure still as he moved behind her, as he had done before, yet this seemed different. Then she reached around to grip him as she has before, only to point him somewhere different.
“Are you sure?” Salazar asked her.
She only looked over her shoulder at him, her lip turned into this little smirk.
Salazar leaned his hips against her ass and bent over to lay his lips on her shoulder. He lined his cock up with her sphincter, and asked her, “Do you trust me?”
Midnighta’s temple touched his when she said, “With your life.”
There was a little chuckle in her ear before he kissed her right behind it, and pressed a bit in.
As the head entered her, she squeaked, and her scales formed over her body like a wave before turning back to her usual skin.
“Slower, slower, ah,” she said as she slowly rocked back and forth on his member.
“I know,” he whispered as she grasped at his hand, to bring it to her breast. She started to let out her shrills and her hisses as he was deeper and deeper, her hand going to rub her clit.
“I won’t hurt you,” he told her.
“How come they never respond to me?” the Princess asked the Empress.
As Prédatrice led her lover into their dining hall, she turned to look upon Aolanda, and how Aolanda looked at the automaton in turn.
It appeared to be a beast, yet also a man of steel, unable to bend. It towered over them, and never did its eyes look down.
“They never respond to their own kind,” the Empress told Aolanda, as she walked up behind the princess. She whispered into her ear as her hands slid up her back. “They only respond to my commands.”
With a quick pull, the bodice of Aolanda’s dress fell, and the princess grasped her chest to keep it from falling. “Préda,” she gasped, only to turn and watch as the Empress undid her own gown with a single pull, letting it fall and reveal herself to her princess.
“We are the only two in the castle,” the Empress told her, walking up to the princess without a hint of shame, and raised her hands to her lover’s breasts, to make her relax her grip and let her bodice fall to the floor. “There’s no one to spy, no reason to hide…”
“I wouldn’t equate clothes to hiding,” Aolanda told her.
“Isn’t it though?” Prédatrice whispered, as she took Aolanda’s hand in hers and ran her other down the princess’s back. “There is only me, and I have seen all of you. To dress ourselves up is to hide what we have already given.”
Prédatrice nearly nipped at the love bites she had left on Aolanda’s neck, aiming to leave a black kiss there with her lipstick… when the princess laid her hand on her.
When the Empress shivered, the princess asked her, “What is wrong?”
“Your hand is just colder than the other,” Prédatrice assured her as she took it and raised it to her black lips. “Come and I’ll warm you.”
She led the princess to her seat, sitting before their grand buffet, and sat in the princess’s lap, nearly smothering her. Before she knew it, the Empress’s legs were wrapped around her, and a bit of fried fish was offered to her mouth.
Aolanda looked up from the food to Prédatrice and her golden crown of a hairdo. Prédatrice smiled and nodded her on. Aolanda let her Empress feed her, and sucked on her fingers. The Empress was quick to replace her fingers with her tongue, kissing the princess and searching her mouth to learn how the fish tasted.
The Empress removed her lips, but they were still forever close with Aolanda’s face still cupped between her lover’s hands. The Empress listened to Aolanda’s quiet pant, before kissing her cheek and leaving a black kiss mark there.
“I know I have not been fair to you,” Prédatrice told her, “I know I have not given you the time you deserve, busy with my experiments and protecting us.”
“I understand-” Aolanda tried to plead, but Prédatrice stopped her words with another breath-stealing kiss.
“I’m sorry, and I will dedicate myself to you so that you feel the way you did when you first trusted your life to me.” As Prédatrice moved her hands up Aolanda’s face, her left side felt hard, and her right fell in line with Prédatrice’s touch. She was split between her feelings and reality. Did it matter if Prédatrice said things would change? Words are words.
Aolanda wanted action.
The princess’s arm moved to her the Empress’s bottom, and with the strength of wanton lust lifted her lover onto the table. The Empress shivered at her lover’s hard touch again, even as she pushed food out of the way, and laid on her back at the princess’s beckoning.
“Words are soft, they make my heart flutter and my legs move,” Aolanda told Prédatrice, as she reached for a bottle of wine and threatened to pour it on the Empress. The Empress grinned and writhed below her at the sight. “Know that it is action alone that makes my heart rage and my feet stay in place…
“And it is your form that drives me insane.”
“Then taste it.”
Aolanda poured the wine atop Prédatrice’s breasts, but before she could plunge her lips upon it, the wine appeared black. It dripped down her lover’s breast as blood had her own, and in that visage, Aolanda saw herself looking up at her.
Blackness had coated her eye and half her face, even her fingers, and it slowly crawled up her arm. Blackness was taking her over until Prédatrice’s voice beckoned the image away.
“I promise I taste sweet,” Prédatrice whispered in a husky manner.
“I expect spice from you,” Aolanda told her, forgoing her vision, refusing it to plunge down and suck at her lover’s tit. She sought the love and wanton pleasure they shared when what they had was a secret mystery.
Aolanda kissed her way up Prédatrice’s body, coating the both of them in the sweet taste of red wine. Aolanda kissed her lover’s neck as she felt Prédatrice’s legs wrap around her. “Tomorrow,” she told her as they became filthy atop the food, “you will serenade me as your letters promised.”
As Aolanda’s fingers sought to return the favor Prédatrice had offered her that one fateful morning, the Empress swore, “I will!”
“You will read to me a hundred pages an hour of the tales of Leone, and you will hold me in your arms even if you struggle to turn every page.”
The Empress squirmed as she swore, “You will have it.”
“You will be the model for my masterpiece, posed before the fiery forge with which you were made.”
“And you as well,” Prédatrice said, as she clutched at Aolanda on top of her, squeezing and pulling at her legs and her bottom.
Prédatrice dug her fingers into the skin of Aolanda’s ass as the princess fluttered her lips for all she was worth in one hand, and caressed her Queen’s head with the other.
Aolanda tried to rub her body against Prédatrice’s harder and harder, to feel as much of her as she could, to mold and become whole with her until a wandering finger plunged into her sphincter.
“Préda!” Aolanda gasped, and the Empress laughed at her in turn.
“You love it!”
The Empress went to add another mark on Aolanda’s neck, and when the princess turned to the other side, to offer skin yet unmarked, the Empress refused. She bent her neck for what she wanted, and Aolanda pulled her head back by her hair.
“Ooww!” Prédatrice called out in pain from Aolanda’s pull.
Before Aolanda could even apologize, the automatons pointed their weapons at her, ordering, “Unhand her false-”
“Cease!” the Empress screamed at them, as she clutched her princess to her. Before the automatons could claim defense the Empress whipped her finger around the room, and ordered them out, screaming, “Begone!”
Without hesitation, they stepped back to stand tall and marched out of the dining room.
“I thought you said we were alone?!” Aolanda snapped, trying to pull away, but Prédatrice only wrapped herself around her lover harder, kissing at her face as she tried to calm and caress her.
“We are, we are,” she whispered into her lover’s ear as she planted kisses all over her face. “Listen to me, listen my dear love…”
Prédatrice made Aolanda face her, touch her head to hers, so she could see her soul through her eyes. “As long as I live, know that you and I are the only two people in this whole world. There is nothing else, you are mine, and I will not let anything take you from me.”
“I was not scared of being taken.”
“Of course you were, or else you would not have clung to me.”
Prédatrice silenced her again with a kiss and turned the princess over onto her back. She held her lover’s hands over her head, and kissed around her face, before biting her neck.
As Aolanda moaned and cried under Prédatrice’s touch, the Empress whispered into her ear, “Be mine… stay mine… metal mine…” and Aolanda did little more than writhe in pleasure beneath her.
“I will never become bored of you.” Midnighta nodded her head as she removed his hands from her body.
“I believe you,” she told him, and he only doubted that more.
She settled into his arms as she told Salazar, “I would not suggest this if I didn’t.”
Salazar groaned, feeling her nude form against his. “Truly, a week of abstinence?” he asked as if the thought were akin to hell.
“I want to know you when I am not solely your partner in love and war. I wish to know if at the end of this week, do I know you better? And can the joining of our loins bring greater pleasure with a long wait?”
Salazar wrapped her in his arms and pressed his face into her neck, knowing how she would squirm. He whispered in her ear as she naturally pressed herself closer to him, “I will be clutching to be inside you before the week is done, and you will threaten to never let go.”
Midnighta turned her head up to Salazar and smirked at his expense, “I can’t wait.”
And on that night, Salazar and Midnighta slept back-to-back for the first time, yet when Midnighta awoke on his chest, she also woke to him smirking at her. “When did abstinence mean devoiding our lives of touch?”
Salazar didn’t answer, he merely dressed, and Midnighta watched. Then she dressed and Salazar watched… then struggled to not watch her through their quest.
They were so close to the edge of the world as they knew it, to the princess and her captor’s castle that sat on the coast. There was one long stretch of forests with trees where they raced from one hole to the other. Creatures natural and of the Catastrophe attacked them once they entered the shadow, and feared to follow them into the bright of day.
The danger was greater there than it had been anywhere else, yet Salazar found himself watching Midnighta as she fought, and tore a beast limb from limb. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from how the blood splattered over her… until he was launched into a tree trunk.
He was almost too slow to cut down the monster that lunged for him. He dived and let the beast hit the tree as he had once done to Midnighta.
“Heh,” he heard and turned his head to find her smirking down at him.
And later that night, when the moon took its turn at keeping the monsters at bay, Midnighta laid waiting. She looked over her shoulders, but when Salazar did not come to her, she found herself alone.
“What are you doing?” she asked as he sat cross-legged, eyes down, scanning the collection of paper in his hands.
“Reading a book, it’s how I entertained myself on lonely nights before I met you.”
“I didn’t know that,” Midnighta said, which prompted a pause from him, and then an almost defeated scoff.
She crawled, or possibly slithered around their campfire, interrupting his reading to rest her head in his lap. “Read it to me.”
“I’m halfway through.”
“Do you believe I can’t figure it out?”
Salazar smirked and read to her until she fell asleep, and then he joined her side.
This morning, when he woke and pulled away she clung to him, her natural instinct. She grounded herself on him until his laughter woke her up. His laughter made her skulk away in embarrassment.
And as they set out into the monstrous forest, Midnighta found herself constantly watching him. By this point, she had accumulated almost half of his clothes, and the tunic he had was mere scraps. It was easy for her to watch the way his muscles moved with each strike, or to gaze at the way the sweat dripped down his chest.
It was as easy as letting a monster get the drop on her.
An ape brought its fists down on her shoulders, and had she not had the middling bones of a snake, the monster would have broken her spine. Instead, it became the object of her wrath as she flipped and leaped onto it, wrapping her body onto its neck and squeezing until it snapped.
As Salazar watched her slither out from under the ape beast, he teased her, “Do you regret it yet?”
She turned to him with the frustration he had the day before, but rather than simply focus, she walked up to him and pressed herself to his chest. “Not one bit,” she whispered, as she slithered and flipped around him, leaving him thoroughly touched but not enough.
And at the fire that night, before she could find her spot against him, he sat back-to-back with her and his book. She would not be able to rile him and leave him be again, and in response, she hugged her knees to her chest and pouted.
Still, he read her his book, and she fell back against him, nearly asleep until she fell against his dreads.
“It’s amazing no one’s pulled your hair yet,” Midnighta said as she flicked them away and tried to sleep against him.
“You pull my hair all the time,” he said, the reminder bringing a smirk to her face for a brief moment, “or you did.”
Midnighta looked back at him with a squint.
Salazar looked over his shoulder with his devilish smirk. “Now you just think about it.”
As soon as he turned his head around, he felt a tug of his head and turned to find her stroking his hair. “What are you doing?”
“Tying them together,” she answered, “can’t take chances when you can’t pay attention in the heat of battle.”
“I distinctly remember the ape beating on you.”
“We all remember things wrong from time to time,” she said, before leaning over and whispering into his ear, “especially if we like to live in peace.”
Salazar let out a nervous laugh before he continued to read. He went to sleep with the dreads in his hair tied together, safer from being pulled, but not necessarily safe. The way Midnighta spooned him guaranteed that.
The next morning, they awoke with Salazar asleep on top of her, the two naturally and slowly touching each other as they would have barely a week before, yet they woke before completing the deed.
That’s how they came to curse the rest of that day.
They struggled to withstand creatures that should have been easy to dispatch. They stayed so close, leaving little room between them. They took every opportunity to touch, whether it be a hand to the other’s shoulder or their chest, necessary or not.
Midnighta had tripped into Salazar once, and he nearly found himself concussed by another ape as she held onto him. It slapped them both at once, sending them across the ground. They clung to each other, coming to a stop with her legs wrapped around him.
But whatever resembled lust in her, turned to rage as he bleed from new wounds below her.
The closest beast found its head caved in by a chop of her hand, and the next found her arm wrapped around its neck, squeezing it until its throat collapsed. She nearly tore apart two more before Salazar froze at the sight. For the first time in days, he was unable to take his eyes off for something other than the thoughts born of his second head.
This time he watched and wondered how she had not killed him when they first met. “How lucky am I…”
That’s what broke Midnighta from her rage. She turned and saw him still there on the ground, and she was his only defense.
Her skin pulsed into scales, showing him what she looked like when her whole body was covered from head to toe in scales. She blended in with the environment, and he struggled to see her. Seeing her disappear almost scared him, but she scooped him up in her arms fast enough that his heart never had the chance to speed up.
Her skin already felt smoother than most, like smooth gemstones, and he melted to her touch. Accidentally, he made it easier for her to stretch and wrap her arms around him, and sprint as fast as she could.
Where Salazar’s heartbeat was at a steady pace, Midnighta’s was ready to burst out of her chest as she sought the light of the sun. She ran and ran with him until the light of the sun blinded her. Together, they crumbled to the ground. Again, like always, they crumbled and tumbled ensnared together, but Midnighta surely held tighter.
They stopped with him on top of her, and she lightly set him down on his back in the grass.
Midnighta’s head rested on his chest for a moment, listening to the steady beat of the organ, squeezing tighter as it stayed constant in her mind.
“Are you alright?” he groaned from underneath her. She didn’t answer.
She pushed herself up from his chest, looking down at him with uncertainty. She didn’t want to know anymore.
“Are you hurt?!” She pushed up his shirt, feeling around, looking for anything resembling a wound. Her voice was frantic as her hands felt every inch of his chest and back and nothing was satisfying about it. There was this desperate belief that he had been hurt and not finding a bleeding wound only made it worse.
Of course, Salazar joked, “I’d tell you if I were dying.”
She hit him hard, on his chest, and he almost cursed if it wasn’t followed by a sniffle. His hands stopped in the air as she still sat on his waist, her arms at her side with this sense of defeat. She couldn’t bring herself to hide the tears that reptilian eyes cried.
Salazar had never seen her cry before, not even in laughter. For the longest time, he thought that serpents didn’t weep.
He sat up and found her face in his neck and her wet tears in his shirt. He embraced her as he assured her, “I’m fine, my heart didn’t skip a beat.”
“How?” she muttered as she raised her hands up his chest and to his cheeks, gripping his head as if it were going to disappear. “We’ve never been so close to death, never been so…” she didn’t finish her thought. “How were you not terrified just now?”
“Why should I be? I had you with me.”
Midnighta’s eyes were like a green moon. For the first time since she had met, she truly felt like her serpent qualities had stolen something from her. If her hands weren’t shaking and her body wasn’t struggling to stay still, she’d raise her fists into the sky with rage. What it would have been to kiss him then.
“You’re all I have,” she told him, “I’ve… I had been alone for… so long before you found me.” She pressed her face to his, to feel his lips kiss her jaw, appreciating the feeling and hating the loss.
He kissed all around her face as she shrank as much as she could to be as enveloped in his embrace as she could. He did all he could to meet that desire.
Salazar kissed and held her until the wind made his eyes flutter and he saw it in the great distance. His eyes opened to the world after being so focused on Midnighta and her touch for so long.
“Middy,” he said, as he tried to gesture to her to look at their salvation, the near end of their serpent quest.
Her cheeks were sticky and her eyes were blurry as she moved her head from him. She struggled to focus but when she did, the sharp spire stilled her heart.
“We’re here,” she whispered.
Off the distance, less than a day’s walk away lied the castle of the machinist Empress Prédatrice, and the Princess Aolanda who waited for them.
“We did it,” he whispered as he kissed the side of her face, and immediately she turned so that he would kiss her mouth.
Salazar pulled back a bit in surprise and found her growing again in his arms. Then her hands slid up his chest along with his shirt. As he lifted his arms and let her remove him from his clothes, she told him, “Not even a week.”
“But longer than I expected,” he said as he helped her out of her makeshift armor.
They soon rolled in the tall grass, not grasping at each other, but slowly running their hands down each other’s form to find a way to be that much closer. There was a slowness to their joining.
There was something slow in the way they moved to and fro; something gentle by how she caressed his back rather than clutched at it. They moved together to be together, to be one. They didn’t go at each other as they could describe their joinings in the past.
It wasn’t for pleasure to share oneself in a way you only can when you welcome someone else body and soul.
There were no loud moans or calls out to any god. Just quiet breathings and words that didn’t need to be said, and they never let go even as the sunset and the moon cast its light on them.
Laying on their sides, her legs wrapped around his hips, they could stare into each other. They spent silent minutes gazing over the other’s forms that glistened with the pale light of the moon. Salazar, with the hand Midnighta wasn’t resting her face on, trailed her scales. Midnighta, with the hand Salazar’s cheek didn’t use as a cushion, traced his few scars.
“What have you learned about me?” he asked her.
“That you have more scars from playing in the mud and than you do from fighting,” she answered, tracing circles around the faded scar where he had tripped trying to pin the tail on the donkey, and pinned himself instead.
“I learned that you liked to braid hair, and you practiced on a sister with hair much different from mine,” he said, as he felt the scales that separated her from that sister.
“I learned that you like to read, not being quite the simple rabbit I thought you were,” she said, before moving her hand to his chin, “and every night from now on, you must read to me among the other things.”
“Anything else?” Salazar asked.
“Hmm…” Midnighta had things she did not want to say.
Midnighta buried her face in his hand, not wanting to look him in the eye because then she’ll tell him. “I… don’t know if I can…”
The secret thing about having your face in someone’s hand is that they can pull you in and shower you with kisses.
“Is there a chance you’re wrong?” he asked her.
“I… I don’t know.”
“If I promise I will say nothing whether it is true or not… will you tell me?”
“How will that help me?”
“Oh it’s not, it’ll help me.”
She hit him square in the chest, gaining a loud oomph, and a bout of chuckles from him. “Fuck you, Sala.”
She stayed quiet as if that silence would quell him, but a word told her that it would not, and never it would. “Well?”
“I have learned…” she began to speak the words, fear stifling her, trying to choke out the words before they could come out, “… that you can’t live without me.”
“Hmm,” he mumbled, and left her in this aching silence that was a few seconds too long before he said, “you’re right.”
“It’s ridiculous,” she snapped, “I’m wrong.”
“You’re right, I am a ridiculous man,” he said, gaining a roll of her eyes, yet still she hugged him and smashed her cheek against his collar, sinking into him as she listened to him tell her, “I won’t act as if I haven’t lied with other women before, but never have I lied with someone as much as you.”
“Is that it?” she puttered. “Was it only lust?”
“No, because the reason why I lie with you as I have no other and want to lie with you every night and day as I have no other is because…” his voice fell to a low mutter as she picked up her head, so she could look into his eyes as he told her, “I trust you as I trust no other. Do you understand?”
“And If I betrayed that trust?” she asked.
“But if I did?”
“Then I would surely die,” and the mere idea sent a chill through her, “because every night and morning you have had seen me at my most vulnerable, and rather than betray me you have protected me… been vulnerable with me.”
“Sala,” she said, as she made her voice sound like a song.
“I trust you too.”
Whatever joy and hope Salazar and Midnighta had upon seeing the castle, vanished upon entering its shadow. From up close, the shining steel did not sparkle but seemed to capture light and never let it go. At its gates stood the automaton soldiers who gave it its name.
The Clockwork Tower.
“Turn back or die,” the soldiers ordered them.
“Forward, aren’t they?” Midnighta asked Salazar, adding a more noticeable hiss than usual. As she flexed her arms to ready herself, her scales washed over her skin.
“They are only things, Middy,” Salazar reminded her as he unsheathed his sword. “Pity them, they know not what they do.”
Neither machine bothered to respond to the warriors. Objects could not be reasoned with, they had no minds, no opinions, no will, and thus no soul. Their “deaths” would be the easiest on the mind, even more so than the many creatures Salazar and Midnighta killed. You can’t quite kill what was never alive.
The automaton soldiers each stood a head taller than Salazar, with the strength of four men. Salazar felt that strength as the first soldier punched his blade and sent him back into Midnighta.
The two fighters nearly lost all hope until the following soldiers ran over the first, stomping on it, crushing it to pieces.
“Strong but no brains,” Salazar surmised, “and without the latter the former means nothing.”
Midnighta put it bluntly. “Stupid machines.”
She leaped forward and proved that, unlike Salazar, she would not be pushed back.
A soldier punched forward with both arms to cave in Midnighta’s chest, and she caught them both, one fist in each hand. The two were locked in a contest of strength, of which the soldier found himself losing as Midnighta forced it back and made it trip onto its back.
When another sought to clobber Midnighta, Salazar’s sword found the chink in its armor, stabbed right through its forearm. He stopped it cold as Midnighta tore off the chest of her opponent.
With a twist and pull, the automaton’s arm disintegrated, rusted particles fluttered in Salazar’s face. His eyes nearly opened wide in shock at the contraption’s decay, before shutting to protect himself.
The contraption was swinging for him, but its blows only swung farther and farther away as it stumbled backward, left unbalanced without its arm. It had its eyes on Salazar, as the knight was giving him a pitiful look. Then Midnighta appeared in front of it.
Her foot dented in its chest and it fell on its back. There it laid and struggled, waddled its arms left and right. The metal workings scratched against each other, creating this awful screeching sound that made its enemies wince. Salazar and Midnighta walked to its sides and looked over it, struggling to look away.
Salazar raised his sword and plunged it down into the automaton’s chest, ceasing its struggle.
He tore his sword back out and lifted the blade close to his eye so he could inspect the rust that coated his sword. He whipped it to the side to clean it, and asked Midnighta, “Did that seem easy to you?”
“Easy?!” she questioned louder than Salazar felt she needed to. The way she crossed her arms at him garnered an awkward smile on his face. “This contraption almost killed you with a blow.”
“But I actually felled it with a blow,” he said with a wince of his brow, garnering that signature stare that followed his playful mocking. Though his playfulness fell to the wayside as he looked over the fallen automatons around them. “These things… they’re on their last legs, falling apart to rust… I never quite knew what to expect from the Clockwork Tower, but something more dangerous feels more… appropriate.” At that point he noticed Midnighta glaring at him with her hands on her hips. “I’m overthinking it?”
“You’re looking a gift horse in the mouth. Stop looking the gift horse in the mouth.” She started walking up the steps to the castle’s dark halls ahead of him as if that would end it.
But it wouldn’t, not as he still smirked. “What happens if I do?”
“It’ll bite you.”
“Will that make you jealous?”
As her hand lay on the door, she turned back and hissed at him, then she let herself in.
Midnighta smelled it first with a fluttering of her tongue, and the stench was so strong that even Salazar’s ruined nostrils flared. They looked around this opening ballroom and saw the death of things that were not alive.
There were automatons of sizes small and large littering the ground, with dried oil betraying their steel. With them, there was something worse than death in this place. There was nothing, a sense of nothingness beyond the horror of anything death could imagine. Where do the things that never lived go when they die?
Well, their corpses stayed. Then as the two who lived as they never could walked into their sights, the corpses became vengeful.
One by one, the sound of spinning gears and snapping wires filled a foyer meant to house delegations. One by one the monsters that never lived resembled something that was life undead.
Several came to stand as the warriors stood ready. They stood to their feet, their joints sputtering and struggling to hold themselves up, and yet… in a way a mortal man never could, they charged.
The automatons were undeterred as Salazar reduced automatons to parts with a swing of his sword, and Midnighta tore machines in two with her bare hands. Where a man, or even a beast, would falter at the sight of their fallen peers strew across the ground, these machines didn’t flinch. They could not even register the presence of their own.
Not unless their Empress commanded it.
So one-by-one, two-by-two, and dozen-by-dozen Salazar covered himself in dust bashing these poor machines with his own slab of metal. With ferocious roars that should have instilled fear in their poor souls, Midnighta tore them limb from limb, bathing herself in their black oil liquid.
Salazar and Midnighta walked up the stairs with the never-alive behind them, and before the stairs split in two, they found a little shrine full of paintings, adorned in their mechanical frames.
They were all the same. This top half painted a perfect sky blue, and the bottom a dark hue to match the sea. They met in the middle, the same way, every time, with perfect precision, and there was not an ounce of shading on them.
“They’re all… two square boxes,” Midnighta muttered to herself, wondering just as to the meaning of it all.
“Remember when I said the princess was a painter,” Salazar said, as he looked down at the painting. Midnighta turned to him and he stood with such stillness she thought he would collapse. “Have I… did I…” he muttered as his hand went to the side of his face. “I should have run through every night and every day, I should-”
Midnighta grabbed his arm, and told him, “Hurry now.”
She dragged him up the stairs, and together they continued through the castle of clockwork. Each corridor was an enigma, gears that hadn’t moved in years were visible above their heads. Midnighta had to climb her way up walls to hallways whose alignment held them still in the air. Salazar had to break down ropes and ties to swing them to the next contraption dead on its vines.
They crept through this castle of nothingness, to find the place where all would-be rules lie in the way they do… on their perfidious throne.
Through the darkness that had absorbed the insides of the castle, Midnighta’s eyes saw all. Through the peaks of light that struggled and crawled on bleeding fingers to gaze upon the way, Salazar saw the door.
They leaped, and swung, and flew to the final gateway. With a uniform roar, they knocked the door down. How pitiful it was for falling without a fight.
Here, in this throneroom, light-filled the place, and the sound of working gears rang repeatedly. Unlike the others before them, this hall was not empty. It was lined on both sides with contraptions similar to those who guarded the front door.
And they lined the way to her.
Her fingers played a little monotonous melody as they tapped the armchair of her rusting throne. The hair that was combed to make her golden crown seemed to shine amongst the vile nothing that surrounded her.
“Only you?” the Empress asked them.
Midnighta stepped forward, ready to hiss, but Salazar held out his hand and pressed her back. He wished to step forward himself, taking the long walk between the automatons, Midnighta taking a moment to rush and follow him. He had a breath of space to himself as he walked and stopped at the foot of the few stairs that led to her throne.
“Only me,” he said.
“I would have thought the old Emperor would have sent more,” the Empress complained, resting her cheek on her chin, blowing raspberries as she looked everywhere but at Salazar. “To think he left this grand task only to you, leaving you dependant on an old sorcerer’s mutant failures.”
Midnighta hissed at her, flexing her arms and the scales that lined her skin.
The Empress pointed at her with the pad of her fingertip. “Point made.”
Salazar narrowed his eyes on her, preparing to ask the fated question that scared him most of all. He opened his mouth, and then his eyes noticed them. There were these little fingers, with blue painted nails gripping the throne.
“Princess,” he gasped, as he saw her blue eye shined through the shadows, hiding behind the might of the Empress who claimed would protect her.
“You can come out, Aolanda,” the Empress said, turning her head towards her throne’s side, “they can’t take you from me.”
Salazar’s brow narrowed, new fears starting to form as the Empress stood up, and held her hand out to the princess. When the princess stepped out, she rested her hand of warm, red-blooded flesh in the Empress’s hand, and Salazar was relieved to know she was alive.
And then she stepped out from the shadows, and the shroud of nothingness came with her.
Midnighta gasped, her hands flying to cover her mouth.
Salazar’s breath left his lungs, the horror making him step back until his arm found Midnighta to hold and center him. “My god…”
“That’s no way to speak to your princess,” the Empress said, as she brought her hand to the right side of the princess’s face, and then sought to caress it.
Her glove squeaked against the metal.
“What have you done to her?!” Salazar screamed, sounding like a banshee seeing it.
The princess stepped closer to the Empress’s side, pressing herself to her, and letting the Empress’s mass snuff out the flesh from sight. Where the princess’s right eye should be, was this black ball, hidden ever so little by plastique. And in that blackball, between the inhuman plastique, was this little red dot that moved as if to look at this knight and snake.
Her voice was like that of the automatons, layered over that of a real woman. “Who are these people, Préda?” she asked.
The Empress wrapped her arm around Aolanda’s shoulder, and they could hear the scrape of metal, telling the warriors just how far the clockwork steel stretched. From around her neck, and her shoulder, deep down her arm, even to her rightmost fingertips.
“They are your father’s agents-” the Empress tried to tell her, but Salazar’s horror-stricken screams stopped her.
“How could you do this?! She was a girl! Barely more than a child?!”
“What is he-?”
“Princess, please, look at your hand!”
And the princess did just that. She looked down and looked all-around at the appendage she used to paint her many canvases. The steel and plastique in her arm crackled and clacked as she flexed her fingers.
Then she looked up, took a step down the stairs away from her Empress, and looked Salazar straight in the eye. “It is the same hand as it’s always been.”
Salazar took a step back, unblinking at the madness he thought had gripped the princess he had traveled so far and for so long to save. He looked in shock as she stood beside the Empress, their hands conjoined.
The knight looked over the princess’s shoulder to bask at the horrific smile the Empress wore on her face. The shadows seem to flood to it, creep around her lips and her elderly wrinkles.
Then the princess turned to be in her arms and Salazar saw it.
“Sala,” Midnighta warned him.
“I see it,” Salazar said.
The Empress’s face pursed, and her eyes were ablaze as she realized the princess had shown them her back. She had shown them the wires and chords that stuck out of her head and spine and led their way into the darkness behind her.
The Empress could not make a sound faster than Salazar could lift his sword over his head, and she could not move faster than he could throw it.
Her elderly form barely pushed the princess out of the way in time, but the sword was never aiming for the princess. It flew far past them, past the throne, and into the dark nothingness that laid behind it.
What followed the sound of Salazar’s metal stabbing into weaker steel, were two heavy footsteps. This ape-like automaton walked out, its eyes glowing bright red before it stumbled and collapsed into the ground. They looked on, each with a different kind of horror, as its red eyes slowly blinked out of existence.
“Why couldn’t I…” the princess muttered, not finishing her thought, thinking back to her lover’s words.
They never respond to their own kind.
Aolanda’s world began to fall away as wet paint would slide down a canvas. She turned around to face the real world, the one that truly surrounded her. The resplendent castle fell away, the tarps, the carpets, the sunlight, it all fell away.
She saw the automatons that were not there before, and her eyes were finally able to focus on the knight and his companion. They watched her as if waiting for her to break.
The moment she squeezed her fist, the sensation was altogether different. Wire filled her whole arm, and it felt she was fighting against it with every flick of her muscle. So then she held it up and saw the clockwork that her dear Empress had added to her.
Sound welled up from the deepest bowels of her gut, and Aolanda screamed with all of her soul. The unending wail could have shattered glass.
Her hands went to her head. She clutched her scalp, feeling the metal against her skin, and the metal itself already took up a third of her face.
Her eyes began to falter and failed to turn in tandem together as reality broke. And then a hand found a place on her shoulder. Her love, her savior, dear Prédatrice.
Aolanda’s eyes found the strength to settle and she turned seeking love and help from the Empress who claimed to love her for so long.
What she found was a new face in her stead and webbed fingers on her shoulder. A woman of her father’s ailing age looked back at her. A face she had kissed and caressed and held close looked back at her, and yet it was always none of those things.
Aolanda’s eye cracked.
The princess’s never-ending screams became background noise to the Empress and the never-ending space of her black eyes.
The automatons began to move around them, prompting the mutant to action.
Midnighta had been on the closest one in a flash and gripped it by its chest to lift over her head. With a hiss, she threw it into the one it stood across from.
“Sala!” Midnighta yelled at him, as she got between him and the automatons that were about to descend on them.
“I know!” he yelled back as he took out his dagger and ran up the stairs to the throne.
His legs were a blur to the Empress who seemed to descend on the petrified princess. The old woman’s hands were nearly on her victim before she turned and saw him coming. He was in the reflection of her eyes, this mad man coming at her, holding his dagger like a sword.
He thrusted it like one too, throwing her into her throne, stabbing through her heart. His blade came out the other side, embedding itself into the Empress’s steel seat.
Prédatrice’s old fingers clutched for her heart, trying to grip the dagger, to pull it out as if that would save her. She couldn’t even muster the strength to properly grip it as blood trickled out her mouth, and she took her last fear-filled breaths.
In unison, the automatons stopped, the unalive ceased with nothing to follow.
The fight was over as soon as it began, but the screaming wasn’t done. Aolanda’s voice had been scratched and stretched so far that every noise she made was a shriek. She gazed into the corpse of a woman who lied to her, laid her hands on her, and changed her for who knew how long.
She felt vile across her body, and dead up her arm.
She clutched her face, threatening to break the skin with the strength of her clockwork arm, and then her hands moved to her own throat instead.
She sought to strangle herself, to end the nightmare, to die as if the day had never begun at all, but the hands of a knight and snake gripped her own to pull them apart. They surrounded her as she shrieked and shrieked into the hallowed halls of the Clockwork Tower.
She shrieked, stuck between their embrace, and only shrieked more.
Aolanda held out her clockwork hand to feel the wind that beat against the castle, but she couldn’t. It beat against her opposite limb, and the other side of her face, but she felt nothing of the right side. It was as if someone had sharpened her limb and then encased the sharp point with the metal she had now.
She sat in the grass and pulled her knees to her chest to bow her head in sorrow for all she had lost and gone without for so long. Then she heard them approach her back.
Midnighta kept her distance, as Salazar knelt beside her.
Aolanda spoke first. “I’ve waited all my life for a savior from my prison. I thought that would be Prédatrice, but I was wrong. She was another senescent parasite on me. What will you be?”
Salazar offered her his hand. “I am, Salazar Cypher Ra, and I am here to take you home. Your father will die soon if he is not dead already, and you will be Empress in his place, to save our kingdom from the vultures who would pollute it with greed, famine, and war.”
Aolanda stared at his hand, devoid of any reaction to the words he spoke. Then she turned her head to the true kingdom she saw from the castle. Her eye of flesh looked on as devoid as the cracked black ball that served to complete her sight.
“They seek to further the same pollution as my father, I imagine.”
Salazar hesitated, but he did not lie. “Yes.”
“So I will be brought to another prison? I ought to strangle my throat yet again,” she said, raising her hand of true flesh, to feel the bruises and scabs that had formed. “Why let myself be locked away again?”
“I-” Salazar stumbled, before looking back to Midnighta, who only stared on bewildered. At his behest for help, she took a step back and shook her head.
Salazar looked back to the princess, who was nothing if not defeated, laying in the dirt ready to be finished off. He decided that all there was left to do was gamble with the young woman’s psyche and the fate of his country.
He stood up above her and offered his hand to her again. “You will be Empress,” he told her, not as an offer but a statement rooted in fact. “Men and women will die by your word, and none may disobey without losing their heads on your whim.”
She did not look out at him as she spoke. “Yet, I will be bound to the castle and their whims, another prison.”
Salazar’s hand did not waiver from its place of offering as he spoke. “You speak as if living in a castle where everyone waits on you, hand and foot is the worse fate there is. You may be trapped by responsibility, but the rest of us are trapped by your decisions, and the things it brings.
“Things like famine, neglect, war, crime, hate, we are all imprisoned by the different aspects of the greater hell that is life. There is no life where you live free of all bounds, and should you take your own life as you so clearly wish to, you doom the rest of us to live in a prison worse than yours. Who’s to say you even find yourself in an afterlife better than life. Who’s to say you go to the other world without any happy memories to keep you company.”
Tears came down Aolanda’s stoic face. This mixture of blood and oil dripped slowly down her cheek. “I have happy memories, but… others have made them sour.”
Salazar took her clockwork hand and held it between his own. “They only turn sour if you let them. Please, take my hand, grip it, and stand. I know you are in pain, and your pain reeks of betrayal. To open someone to your flesh is to bound them in trust. Either to form it or strengthen it.
“I welcomed Midnighta and she welcomed me, and now I trust her more than anyone else, and you thought you had the same. I’m so sorry that you welcomed her and she sought only to betray you, to harm you, to change you. There is no action more disgusting from someone you love.
“I’m even more sorry to say that you will likely find more like her with those of her age. Let us take you home, and you may hopefully welcome someone of your level of respect, princess. As long as we live, no old man or woman will take advantage of you again.”
Aolanda looked up at him, into the warmth of the eyes of a man with everything to lose if she uttered a few simple words. She decided then, to use his strength, and take it for herself.
She gripped his hand and he lifted her to her feet. He sought to her release her, but she gripped him harder, making him wince.
Midnighta closed her hand to a fist, but Salazar stopped her with a glance.
“It doesn’t sound like I am a princess,” Aolanda told him, bringing his gaze to her, “I believe it is Empress now.”
As she let go of his hand, she turned to the world she would have to cross. It was her only way to return to the supposed lesser of two hells.
She walked on as if all of her form had been replaced by clockwork, and not just her arm and a bit of her face.
Midnighta joined Salazar’s side as he watched the new Empress’s back.
“She seems so broken,” Midnighta muttered to herself, more so than to him, “so familiar.”
“Yeah, I…” he tried to mutter in much the same manner. He sighed, a million thoughts in his head introducing him to a newfound feeling one can only call anxiety. “I hope she can find another lady to love before her time comes. To be so convinced that her heart should be so cold… how utterly terrifying to see in someone so young.”
They stood in the shadow, watching the Empress’s slow walk away from the castle that had been her home and prison.
Long ago, a princess entered this castle, and what was left with Salazar and Midnighta was no princess. What was left after this serpent quest… was the Horror of Krone.
The Clockwork Empress.
“Let providence never come then.”
If your want to read more about the world the Clockwork Empress, Salazar, and Midnighta inhabit, follow the other projects in Raydorn such as Raydorn: The War in the Black, Raydorn: The Valkyrie & the Frost, or Raydorn: The Ronin of Charisma, all here on Something Central.