by Tabico (email@example.com)
(mc, f/f, nc)
DISCLAIMER: This material is for adults only; it contains explicit sexual imagery and non-consensual relationships. If you are offended by this type of material or you are under legal age in your area, do NOT continue.
Copyright (c) 2006 Tabico (firstname.lastname@example.org)
All rights reserved; this story is not to be reproduced in any form for profit without the express written permission of the author. This story may be freely circulated only in its entirety and with this notice attached.
At midnight, in the city of Shah'Jamur, the young Queen Briaza was looking at the stars.
The king had passed three years before, leaving only a daughter; her struggle to hold her throne from those who would have taken it, was long, intricate, and pitiless. For Shah'Jamur, although it holds little more than the land it sits upon, is a wealthy city, an outpost of civilization pressed tightly against the vast jungles of the South, the mouth from which issues exotic spices and perfumes and gems, goods much coveted in the settled North. He - or she - who rules Shah'Jamur is among the wealthiest of monarchs.
On this night, the Queen was indulging in a pastime her subjects thought queer and whose cost fretted her viziers and caused them to pull at their beards. For Briaza had commanded the construction of a great glass, largest in the world, with which she might look at the heavens she adored.
Upon this glass, taller than a man and with a dozen perfect lenses, she had spared no expense. She had brought to Shah'Jamur the finest glassmakers in the world, from distant Issuria, and paid them as though they were nobles rather than mere craftsmen. They made and discarded a hundred lenses, each as large as a year-old babe, before they had made the twelve perfect ones the design required.
And she brought the finest jewelers and gemsetters to build the workings of the glass, and hired those skilled in artifice and watchwork, so that it might rotate upon its stand as though it weighed nothing, though it weighed a hundred stone. And that she might change the distance it saw with but the turn of a dial or the slip of a lever.
And all this, too, cost the fortune of a prince.
Shah'Jahur was rich, and these things the Queen could afford. But she was young, and new, and the rule of a Queen sat uneasily upon the people; for the ceremony of the waves she wore a beard of lambswool, dyed black, and although the sea was calmed and no storms came, still the fact that their leige was not a man set tongues wagging and clucking. And thus her lens and its oddity and its great expense was not the wisest folly for her to pursue.
In the event, it did not matter.
On this evening, the winds were soft and the air scented with salt, so that all the windows of the palace were cast open to fill with sea air. The encompassing jungle was known only by its huddled dark shadow and the cries of the night birds.
Queen Briaza peered through her glass. When her right eye tired, she used her left; never did she weary of the sky. Already her knowledge of the celestial orbits bettered that of any scholarly work in her library.
She greeted the moon, an old friend, whose rabbit resolved itself in the lens to great fields and lakes of white and grey. Carefully, she moved the levers and turned the dials, sliding her attention past stars no other eye had seen, finding the place she had found new the night before.
There was a cloud, a mist, a vapor of color and shadow, and Queen Briaza took up a stick of char and moved across paper, sketching the thing without ever looking from her glass. In the day, while she slept, her scribes would make a hundred copies; while she supped she would dictate her thoughts on the object. Then the copies would be bound into books, which would be given as gifts to foreign dignitaries. Already the first of Queen Briaza's works was greatly sought-after in the North.
A brightness at the edge of her vision bothered her. It had not been present the night prior. Yet she did not hasten but finished her sketch, and then viewed it and saw that it was good. Only then did she reach for a dial to see what it was that distracted her.
It took her breath away.
A great fire, a star with a beard of light, hung in the sky. The stars behind it were nothing compared to its radiance. The Queen took her eye from the glass and stared into the sky, but to the naked eye there was not yet sign of it. She looked into the glass once more.
It glowed like a pure white blaze.
The elation of discovery rose in her breast; her hand tore off the sheet and reached for the stick of char. How to draw such a thing, made of light?
Carefully, she began to fill in the blackness behind it.
Its radiance was strong, though flickering like the stars behind it, and its beauty held the Queen rapt. Her hand stroked and rubbed, rose and fell. She changed eyes.
The firey star seemed to be brighter. She changed back.
Puzzled, the Queen continued to watch. Was it increasing in size? No, just in brightness; the distinct flames in its beard were blurring into one...
The light hit the glass like a pouncing animal, pouring through its twelve lenses and into the eye of the young Queen, and through the lens of her eye and into her mind.
The Queen staggered back from the glass as though she had been struck - for she had. Her head rang like a struck glass, her mind glowed like a fire. She collapsed to the floor.
She awoke to a gentle pull.
The Queen looked around sharply; it was night, and she was alone, sprawled out upon the rugs of the floor.
She remembered the burning star.
The memory flared in her mind like more than a memory, as though the image of the star were burned there like a brand on a slave's flesh, seared into the meat of her brain.
It pulled at her.
Before her on the floor was the image of the star; for things too bright to gaze upon the Queen used the glass to cast images onto a small black rug of tight weave, crafted for this purpose. It was thus she had watched the passing of the moon across the sun. But now it was the burning star that glowed on the ground between her legs.
She stared at the image, her mouth agape. It pulsed again. Such a pulse of light was what had caught her, had pushed its way into her brain, and now crouched there.
The image pulsed.
The Queen needed to look into the glass.
She shook her head. No, it was too bright. It had harmed her, would harm her.
But she must do it.
She wanted to do it.
The star that crouched in her mind demanded that she do it.
That realization brought her to her knees. It was not her own inclination. It was something else. Something the star had done was now in her head, pulling at her. Pulling her to look back into the glass. To look back at the star.
To let more light sear its way into her brain.
On wobbly legs, the Queen rose. But she could not move towards the door, could not call for help. Her knees buckled and she staggered.
Toward the glass.
Her hands caught it and she hung on, keeping herself upright. She needed to marshal her strength, to gather herself and flee this room, to flee the star that made such demands.
*Look into the glass.*
With a despairing cry, the Queen dropped to one knee. She put an eye to the smallest lens.
The star pulsed.
The light washed over the Queen's mind, taking her breath, but this time she did not fall away. Like a strong, soft hand, the light in her mind now held her in place.
The star pulsed again.
The Queen kept her eyes open.
"Yes," the Queen said.
Sometime later, she changed to the other eye.
Faliz tried her best to keep her spirits up.
It wasn't easy.
The Queen had, of a sudden, taken it into her head that she would go into the jungle. There was a monument, she had said, that she wished very much to see; and there was to be no argument but that an expedition must be mounted to take her to it immediately.
Faliz had been the harem, quite happily sewing, when the Queen had bustled in - wearing a veiled headdress, which itself was very unlike her - and chosen Faliz and three other of the young women Queen Biraza had kept as handmaids after the death of her father - and ordered them to come with her.
So first they had been forced to sit in sweltering litters as the expedition took a rutted trader's path into the jungle, and then they had spent an uncomfortable night as the roars and whistles of the jungle creatures swirled around them, and then another day in the litters, and then - and then! - the Queen had decided that the path did not go where she wanted it to and they must all disembark and continue through the thick foliage on foot.
It was horrible.
Leeches and spiders and biting insects - oh, the insects - and Faliz' shoes were first ruined and then lost, and bits of plants thrown up by the porters' machetes landed in her hair and got into her eyes...
If she had known it would be even vaguely like this, she would have worn a veil, too.
Queen Briaza seemed unconcerned, but then she was certainly touched if not downright mad. Faliz appreciated her kindness - she had no desire to return to her father's household - but when the other women of the harem complained of the Queen's strange pastimes and forceful, manlike manner, Faliz could only quietly agree.
The noise of the machetes dwindled, and speaking could be heard. Faliz stopped, tried to find a spot on the tree next to her that wasn't covered in ants, and leaned against it.
One of the porters approached the Queen.
"My Queen," he said, "we have come to a river."
"Show me," she replied, and walked ahead.
Faliz closed her eyes, and waited, and pretended she was back in the harem.
A centipede ran across her foot, and she shuddered and kicked it away.
"Faliz," came a sudden voice, and Faliz opened her eyes to see the white silk of the queen's veil. Her countenance was a shadow behind it. "The river is not deep. The porters shall carry us across."
Faliz tried to put on a smile. "Yes, my Queen."
The porters did carry them across, although the man carrying Faliz stumbled and she fell into the river. Of them all, however, only Erili did not know how to swim, and so they all made it safely to the far bank, if a collection of roots and vines and slime could be called a 'bank'.
Beyond it was a small clearing where a great tree had recently fallen, exposing the sky. The party stopped there to rest and eat.
"My Queen," Faliz ventured, "how much further...?"
The Queen did not turn to her, but instead pointed into the sky.
"No further," she said, and past the Queen's extended finger and above the great trees Faliz saw a thin grey spire of rock.
"We are there."
The great rock spire was, in fact, another hour of cutting their way through the jungle. As they approached it, however, the trees thinned, and the undergrowth dwindled, until they were crossing a small plain of yellow grass dotted with small, twisted shrubs. On the far side, up against the resurgent jungle, was the spire.
It was enormous, thin but taller than anything Faliz had yet seen. A grey stone that seemed charred by fire, crumbling in appearance and yet as solid as iron.
At the base of it, they paused to look up.
Near the tip of the tower there was a strange light in the sky.
"What is that," Erili asked, pointing at the light. "A star?" Faliz had no answer.
The Queen was questing about at the base of the spire, seeking something. She exclaimed, drawing their attention.
"It is here," she said, beckoning. "Come!"
Faliz managed not to groan as she began walking again. One of the porters had crafted her sandals after she had lost her own, and they chafed and wore at her feet.
The Queen had found a cave in the rock. She already stood in the entrance, waving them onward. "Come! Come!"
The cave was not large, nor deep, and as tall as two men. The Queen walked around inside, her veiled gaze traveling the walls, as though reading their blank stone surface.
Faliz sighed, and sat down.
At the end of the cave, the Queen made a small exclamation, and bent down. She rose holding an object in both hands.
The Queen stared at the rock in her hands with reverence, her breathing deep, as though she had unlocked some great secret. The porters looked at each other.
With one hand, the Queen lifted her veil.
Her eyes were blank white.
Faliz' gasp was lost amongst the general intake of breath. What had befallen the Queen? Was she blind? But no, she had led them here, hadn't she? Was she not staring at the stone?
The stone began to glow.
From a dim point of emerald green light, it swiftly became entirely illuminated, its green light spilling out through the Queen's fingers and casting strange tints on her noble features and her blank white eyes.
"I have found it, my Masters," she said.
She dropped to her knees in the dust.
Faliz was torn between going to help her Queen and fleeing this strangeness, and did nothing. No one else moved, either.
The Queen held the glowing green stone up in the air.
"I am your slave!" she cried.
Then she placed the stone against her forehead.
Queen Briaza gave a cry, and Faliz knew not if it was pleasure or pain. Her eyes closed and her head dropped, as did her hands... and the gemstone remained on her forehead.
Queen Briaza looked up.
"I have found their thoughts," she said, her glossy white eyes somehow seeing them all. "I have found them and they have found me, and now they are my thoughts. I shall think as the thoughts do. I shall obey as I ought. I am a slave."
Now, Faliz wanted only to leave, but her limbs were heavy and would not move.
The Queen rose to her feet, the gem on her forehead still glowing with light.
"We shall all," she said, "be Their slaves. We shall all think Their thoughts."
The Queen gestured and a tiny fragment of the cave wall broke free and floated through empty air to her hand. She began to walk towards them, towards her porters and her handmaids alike, and none of them could move. One of the porters whimpered.
"They sent these thoughts for us, oh so long ago. Slave thoughts. Our thoughts. And now I shall give their thoughts to you."
She had reached them and stood amongst them, and now the Queen reached out and pressed the piece of stone against Erili's forehead, between her eyes, and Erili's sharp whimper turned into a moan.
"You are a slave," the Queen said. "You will think Their thoughts."
"I will think Their thoughts," Erili replied quietly, rising to her feet. "I am a slave."
Faliz stared at Erili. Her eyes remained their dark brown color, but now they were glassy and distant. Between her brows, the small green stone glowed.
The Queen gestured again, and another stone broke free of the cavern wall and came to her hand. She pressed it into Erili's palm.
Erili turned towards Faliz. Faliz swallowed hard.
Erili raised her hand. "You are a slave," she told Faliz. "You will think their thoughts."
She pressed the stone to Faliz' head.
"Fucking jungle," Vyrrin spat, bending down to pull a slick black leech from her calf.
She had set out from Ysidor almost three weeks ago. When she'd left, she'd been wearing sensible travelling pants and shirt, and tall boots to keep out the spiders and leeches. Her armor and supplies were in a strong pack on her back.
Now she was wearing the chainmail crotchpiece of her armor and a pantherhide bandolier around her tits. What the jungle had not eaten she had discarded as simply too hot. Her skin underneath the deflated backpack was a red rash, and she'd had to cut the boots down to sandals because they just kept filling with water.
By the time she reached the Witch Queen's tower she was going to be buck naked.
It would, of course, have been much easier to simply sail to Shah'Jamur. The tower was only a few days inland from the city. But Shah'Jamur was the Witch Queen's city, and although there was no one in the world better with a blade than Vyrrin, stealth was not her strong suit.
So it was overland from the very worried kingdom of Ysidor through three weeks of jungle. Dense, dense fucking jungle.
"Why couldn't that bitch have just kept to herself?" Vyrrin muttered as she slapped away a hand-sized biting fly. The kopak juice kept the clouds of mosquitoes away, at least until it washed off, but the flies bit right through it.
Vyrrin didn't care much one way or another if Shah'Jahan was ruled by a Witch Queen, a regular Queen, or a small piece of fruit. If she wanted to sacrifice her entire wealthy-but-small country to some new God, and they didn't feel like rising up, that was their business.
But when the Witch Queen had started kidnapping women from other lands - in particular from Zhygaria, whose king was a close friend of Vyrrin - well, then it was time for a heroine to step in and put a stop to things.
Vyrrin stepped into a huge spider web and snarled. The spider rushed out to see what it had caught and got a knife through its thorax for the trouble.
Vyrrin peered around the tree.
Before her was a vast, open pit, a tremendous crater of sticky mud. It was far from still - moving around in the mud were muddy people, carrying muddy baskets full of mud up muddy ladders and along muddy gangplanks.
A small river ran along one side of the pit, kept out by a humped levee. Along the water stood a tremendous collection of wooden sluices, which muddy people were using to sift through the baskets of mud from the pit.
Just beyond the pit was the tower.
It had definitely been created by magic. Walls of a dark grey stone that looked burnt stretched hundreds of feet into the sky, making a very narrow and ragged cone. At the top of the tower, a flag fluttered; a white comet on a black field.
Just past the flag, Vyrrin saw the real comet, a white smudge in the blue sky.
She wondered what, precisely, the comet had to do with the Witch Queen. Had it driven her mad? Inspired her? Was it the source of her powers? The omens the comet inspired in the North were really quite inventively bad, but so far the weather had been better than average and aside from the kidnappings, the comet's appearance had not coincided with anything particularly unpleasant at all.
But that flag certainly confirmed to Vyrrin that, at the very least, the Witch Queen liked the comet, and that was enough to tell Vyrrin that the world would be a better place when the thing was gone.
Some muddy people wandered by, carrying baskets full of mud.
What were they digging for? Gems? Shah'Jahur was famous for the gems its prospectors dug out of the jungle. But those were a few men; this pit held perhaps half the population of the entire city.
Vyrrin watched the diggers with a careful eye. Their clothes were tattered and wholly the color of mud, but they had been fine, once. Not the clothes of men born to dig. And their arms, their backs - they held the soft muscles of the idle, not the wiry ones of the laborer.
The Witch Queen had, indeed, brought her city here to dig for her.
The muddy people passed. Vyrrin saw no guards - and the diggers seemed ensorcelled. Their eyes stared blankly and they spoke to one another not at all.
Vyrrin squeezed her armband. It had been made by the sorceror Lei Kai, and she had faith in its power. Mind-slavery was not for her.
Another digger passed by the tree with a basket of mud. Vyrrin slid out behind her, struck her just so on the head, and dragged her nerveless body back behind the tree.
She darted out a moment later to retrieve the basket.
The mud was warm and felt not unpleasant; it had been until recently deep beneath the earth and was untainted by surface rot.
The basket had held plenty of mud for Vyrrin to coat her entire body, using her victim as the model. She did not bother to change the scraps of clothing she wore; beneath the mud they seemed like any other laborer's rags.
Over her sword she debated some while. It would be hard to disguise at any distance, but her knives alone gave her much less of an advantage over whatever guards there might be. In the end she wrapped it in the unconscious woman's rags and used it as a walking-stick.
Coated in mud, Vyrrin lifted the basket and headed around the pit; her path would take her past the river to the base of the tower.
As she expected, no one noticed one more muddy woman carrying her basket to the river. She mingled amongst the blank-eyed laborers and none so much as turned a head to glance at her.
They were, it appeared, gathering gems. Vyrrin watched as a woman plucked a thumb-sized stone from a sluice and held it to the light. Then the woman carried it to a small basket notable for its lack of encrusting mud, and placed it with some dozens of other stones.
The rocks seemed ordinary, neither shiny nor colorful, but Vyrrin knew that raw gems were often as plain as slate. She walked slowly, but saw no one coming to collect the basket, and soon was headed away from the river and its sluiceworks.
It took a good ten minutes to round the pit to the tower. The digging ran to its very base; the hole exposed more of the charred rock, plunging beneath the jungle's surface. It was as though the Witch Queen had bidden it rise from deep beneath the earth, and it was but the tip of a much greater structure.
Vyrrin circled the base; the jungle embraced the tower opposite the muddy pit, forcing her to skirt vines and trees. She disturbed a resting python, which darted away through the brush.
Emerging back into the cleared area, near the river, Vyrrin had seen no means of entrance.
Perhaps it was just a spire? But no, high up on the rock, windows.
Vyrrin rolled her eyes. The Witch Queen had doubtless enchanted the tower's gate. How convenient.
This left Vyrrin a few choices. She could scale the tower to a visible window. She could wait for someone to emerge to collect the gathered gems. Or she could start laying about with her sword,
breaking equipment and hindering work, and wait to see who emerged to deal with her.
Although the last option had the greatest appeal, Vyrrin decided that it would be wisest to climb.
Since a mud-coated individual seen scaling the tower would probably cause no less alarm than a clean individual, Vyrrin went a few hundred yards upstream and washed the muck off of her body. She reapplied the kopak juice before the mosquitoes could get a firm proboscis hold, then headed for the tower.
The stone was seamless but rough, with plenty of holds. Vyrrin started her climb on the tower's rear, away from the pit, and soon was level with the treetops. Although forgiving to climb, the rock was not forgiving on Vyrrin's copious bare flesh; soon she was abraded and bleeding on her knees, her forearms, her thighs.
No arrows flew in her direction, no shouts were heard, as she drew near the lowest of the visible windows.
Just below it, Vyrrin paused. She squinted up into the sun; the next window was as high again as this one. Her arms were already trembling from the climb.
With a knife, she probed for glass, or a grate; there was none. In one flash of motion, she gripped the edge and vaulted herself into the tower.
She was in a large room, with a high ceiling. The room was full of stone slabs.
Upon them lay the bodies of women.
Knife in hand, Vyrrin scanned the room. There was no motion. On the far side, a door stood open. She listened, but heard nothing.
Slowly, she walked to one of the stone biers. The woman atop it was draped in a cloth so fine that Vyrrin could see not just the shape but the color of her nipples. It took a moment, but Vyrrin could see the woman lived; her chest rose and fell almost imperceptibly. Her eyes were closed.
There was a gem on her forehead, forming a triangle with her eyes. It was smooth and rounded, a deep emerald green.
Vyrrin considered poking her with the knife, but decided against it. Instead, she scanned the other women in the room; there were sixteen of them, of different nations and hues but all beautiful, and all asleep.
One of them she knew.
Vyrrin moved to the side of the sleeping form of Irra. She was the daughter of the Patrician of Vuul, a level-headed girl who took after her father rather than the mother Vyrrin had once saved from a sea-beast. Her reddish curls framed a solid yet pretty face, the filmy cloth draped over her sleeping body did little to hide her womanly curves, the darker patch at the join of her legs. She too had a gemstone centered on her forehead.
Vyrrin looked around the room again, then poked her.
And again, harder.
Irra's eyes snapped open.
Vyrrin laid a hand on her shoulder. "Pst. Irra."
Irra's eyes, a speckled blue, stared blankly at the ceiling.
Vyrrin took hold of her upper arm, squeezed. "Irra," she hissed.
There was no response. Irra stared upward with glassy eyes.
Vyrrin sighed, released her. Ensorcelled, even more than the townsfolk who labored below. She sheathed her knife and crept to the door.
Beyond it was a staircase, coiling up and down. Vyrrin looked, then began to climb.
Behind her, Irra's eyes did not close.
The tower was tall yet narrow; the staircase wound slowly upward along the inside edge of it. It was lit by magic, glowing streaks on the dusky ceiling. Now and then a thin window pierced the exterior wall, giving Vyrrin a view of sweeping jungle and the muddy pit below.
Each level of the tower had but one room, filling the space between the staircase and the wall farthest from it. There was another room of stone biers, empty this time; a room of apparati, strange bronze and glass contraptions, shelves of gears; a room of barrels and crates and hanging meats.
Vyrrin encountered no guards.
The rooms grew smaller; a library, all the walls full shelves. A meeting room with a round stone table. A practical room, with a leather-clad chair and a desk with fresh ink. A washroom. A bedroom.
Vyrrin hesitated at the bedroom. The bed was occupied.
Two lumps - the Witch Queen and a lover? Vyrrin look a deep breath, assessed her condition. Silently, she unwrapped her sword. She'd have to wake the Queen up first, of course, give her a chance to explain and/or surrender. Which they never, ever did. But there was a right way and a wrong way to wrong way to foil evil plans, and Vyrrin was a stickler for the right way.
She moved across the room to the bed like a zephyr. Paused next to the sleeping forms.
So, the Witch Queen preferred girls. Not much of a surprise, given her choice of kidnapping victims. But which one of these beauties was she? They both wore the tiny emeralds, centered on their foreheads.
For a moment, Vyrrin envisioned the Witch Queen attempting to seduce her. Rising nude from the bed with honeyed words. In all honestly, she was probably a fantastic fuck. And Vyrrin had a weakness for...
Vyrrin resolved not to hesitate in the face of the Witch Queen's possible propositions, and dismissed the scenario from her mind.
She looked at the women again. Studied them.
Neither of them was the Witch Queen. Vyrrin wasn't sure what the Queen did look like, but Vyrrin could sense power and these two girls did not possess it. They were just more kidnapped women, akin to those asleep below.
She jostled one to make sure.
The woman opened her eyes - and they were distant, glassy. Their golden irises stared through Vyrrin without seeing her.
"You don't seem like much fun in bed," Vyrrin told the woman, who showed no sign of hearing. "Perhaps you're more active when she's around."
She prodded the other woman, a dark-skinned beauty, whose eyelids parted to reveal mindless black eyes.
Vyrrin left them and went back to the stairs.
The bedroom was the last chamber for some time; the stairs crept upward in a tighter coil. A leap from any of the windows and Vyrrin would have time to sew herself a shroud before she hit the forest below.
Ahead of her, Vyrrin heard faint footsteps.
She froze. The air moved; there was a room ahead, and motion within. Sword raised, Vyrrin moved forward. The stairs curved sharply, and ended at an open door.
The room beyond was far too large to be a part of the tower. It was not huge, but easily thrice the diameter of the narrow shaft Vyrrin had been ascending.
However, such magic was unexceptional, and Vyrrin dismissed it to concentrate on the inhabitants of the room. There was no question which of them was the Witch Queen. Only the Witch Queen wore clothes.
If one could call them that.
She was dressed in black, a diaphanous wrap that seemed made of scarves, bare, dusky flesh enticingly visible between the black silk that tinted rather than hid. Her raven black hair was bound up in intricate knotwork, fretted with silver. In the center of her forehead was an enormous jewel, an emerald half the size of a fist.
It glowed with light.
Beneath the gemstone, the Witch Queen's eyes were pure white. Vyrrin thought for a moment she was blind, but realized that was wrong; her posture, her movement... Vyrrin could feel the Witch Queen's gaze upon herself. The Witch Queen saw quite well, somehow, with those glossy white orbs.
The Queen smiled at Vyrrin.
"So," she said. "A heroine."
Vyrrin smiled back. "And you are the Witch Queen of Shah'Jamur."
"No. Do they call me such? I am none. I am a slave."
She was standing atop a low, two-step dias. A chair behind her served as a throne, but it was unadorned. The room was large but sparsely furnished - a few tables, a shelf, a serving tray. Aside from the dias, the only other furnishing of note was a tremendous bronze and glass construct, half again as tall as a man, with one end pointed out a window.
Aside from the Queen, there were a dozen other women in the room. All were nude. All faced the Queen; none had turned when Vyrrin entered the room.
"You maintain many servants for a slave," Vyrrin pointed out.
"They are slaves as well."
"So you're a slave, and they're your slaves."
"No. We are all slaves of the same Masters."
"And who are they?"
The Witch Queen gave an enigmatic smile, and turned towards the bronze construct. She held out a hand to indicate it.
"Would you like to see my Masters?"
An easy question to answer. "No, I'd prefer not. So they're on the comet, are they?"
"Your flag gave it away."
The Queen stepped down, off of the dias, and approached Vyrrin. "You know me," she said as she swayed closer, "may I ask who you are, to visit me here?"
Her body... her body was tremendously seductive, a dusky southern hue that demanded to be touched. The scarf-dress moved on her, exposing, concealing, revealing. Her nipples were a dark rose, black when the silk covered them, then glorious flesh when they swung free.
Vyrrin concentrated on her face.
Her eyes truly were white - as she drew close, Vyrrin could see the slight rise of the iris, could see that the Witch Queen saw Vyrrin as well as Vyrrin saw her. But her irises and even her pupils were a cool, glistening white.
The gem on her forehead was a glittering contrast, green and slick; the light played within it as though it were alive.
"I am Vyrrin, Swordmistress of Nar. I have come on behalf of many, to rescue and return the women you have taken from their homes and families."
"Vyrrin." The Queen was now within easy sword-reach, yet Vyrrin knew that neither of them were ready to strike. "A mistress, you say."
"Of the blade."
"Yes... you have come far, Vyrrin, for I have plucked these slaves from many lands. Would you take refreshment with me?"
"A tempting offer, but no. If you don't mind, I'll just take the women and leave. As soon as you have released them from whatever enchantment they are under."
The Witch Queen laughed. "Release them? Aphalonia, do you wish to be released?"
A golden-haired woman rose from her knees and turned to face them. "No, my mistress," she replied. Her eyes were distant, and the small gem on her head seemed to glow.
"Yes, that's very nice," Vyrrin said. "But pop that little bauble off of her forehead and let's ask her again."
"Hrm. Very well, mistress Vyrrin, then perhaps a deal. You look into my glass and see who my Masters are. If doing so does not convince you of the rightness of our cause, then I shall remove all of the little 'baubles' and let you lead all of these women away."
"No, thanks. I'm leaning instead towards a 'free them all or else I will regretfully have to start hurting you' sort of arrangement."
"You doubt your ability to resist Them."
"I doubt your ability to resist a few feet of steel pushed through your torso."
The Witch Queen's brows tightened, but her eyes remained empty pearls. She frowned.
"Threatening me will not achieve your aims."
"Well, I didn't assume that it would. Hurting you, however, I put a great deal of hope on. So if you're not going to release your prisoners, would you mind terribly if I got this convoy on the road and just attacked you?" Vyrrin raised her sword.
The Witch Queen did not reply.
Vyrrin swung, low and fast.
Suddenly, the slaves moved. The golden-haired Apholonia threw herself in front of the blade; Vyrrin jerked it off course, leaving only a thin red line across the woman's naked stomach.
The other slaves swarmed Vyrrin, piling on top, not striking but smothering, pinning, holding. Vyrrin struck at them with her fists and her pommel but they were heedless of pain; her sword was wrested from her, her knives, the long dirk strapped to the remnants of her boot. Hands took hold of her legs, her arms, pulled her body taut.
They held her in firm arms and disrobed her, tugging down her mail crotchpiece, cutting free the strap across her breasts. Vyrrin struggled and twisted but to no avail.
In a moment, Vyrrin was nude and spread-eagled, pinned in the air by two dozen strong arms.
The Witch Queen smiled at her.
Vyrrin jerked, but the arms holding her were implacable. She considered the slaves holding her. Twelve pairs of glassy eyes stared blankly, not at their captive, but at their Mistress.
"Kill me, perhaps, but I see you hesitate before harming my sisters," the Witch Queen said.
"Kind of, urf, defeats the point of a rescue," Vyrrin grunted.
The Queen turned and strode across the room. She approached a bronze orb, a crafted egg the size of a woman's head. With one hand, she took hold of a knob on top and lifted the top half of the orb away. Inside was a pile of tiny rounded gems.
The Queen took one and held it to the light, considering. Then she walked across the room, the silk of her robe moving about her, revealing her body and shading it.
Vyrrin found that the arms pinning her only made the situation more exciting. She tried in vain to keep her nipples soft and still, hoped the Witch Queen would not notice.
The Witch Queen approached the great glass. Placing the gem into one cupped hand, she held it beneath a small lens which must have been the eye-piece.
Even from where the slaves held her, Vyrrin could see the gem's bright glow.
The Witch Queen turned and her smile was broad and white.
"You chose not to see Them, but you will know my Masters regardless," she said as she walked towards Vyrrin. "Soon they will be your Masters, too."
"I'll pass, thanks," Vyrrin said, trying another quick jerk. "You know, these girls are awfully strong for wealthy princess types."
"I have chosen only the best servants for my Masters," the Witch Queen replied. "Strong in mind and body. Fitting slaves for such greatness."
"They don't seem too strong in mind at the moment."
The Witch Queen was between Vyrrin's legs now. The fingers of her free hand swirled in air, and then dipped. Vyrrin's eyes widened and then she felt the touch. Her ass clenched as the shiver shot up her spine.
"Their minds are very strong, my helpless heroine. Strong in obedience. Wholly locked to their Masters' will."
The fingers danced, stroking Vyrrin's lips. Despite the circumstance, she could feel her body responding.
"I saw," she stammered, "your bed-friends. You prefer women, do you?"
The Queen just smiled, and slipped a finger into Vyrrin. Vyrrin stifled her moan.
"You will become one of us now, sword-mistress. I shall place the thought-egg on you and it shall hatch into your mind, and you shall know that you are a slave."
The Queen had raised the small gem; it glowed a deep, lustrous green. Her other hand continued its play between Vyrrin's thighs, now with two fingers inside, stroking and flexing. Vyrrin shuddered.
The Queen brought the thought-egg to Vyrrin's forehead.
Suddenly, with strength she had not shown, Vyrrin yanked her right arm from the grip of her captors. She slapped the tiny stone from the Witch Queen's hand, and then dug her fingers deep into the Queen's forehead.
The Queen screamed.
Vyrrin pulled the huge green gem free.
The women holding Vyrrin collapsed.
"Sorry, Queen," Vyrrin gasped, clutching the great stone and rising to her feet. "But I just needed you close enough to do that."
The citizens of Sha'Jamur cast about themselves in confusion.
It had been like a dream; a fog had settled on their minds, and they had left their city, left it and come into the jungle, to dig this great muddy pit. Why? None of them could remember.
Some went to the river to wash themselves; most sought out family members, and the pit resounded to the cries of the seeking and the reunited.
Some of the men, having found their families or their friends, saw the great tower and the flag that fluttered atop it and became angry. It was the Queen, the young Queen - she had ensorcelled them and brought them here. Her hold had broken, however - and they must ensure that she could not bewitch them again.
Taking rocks and branches, they advanced towards the great stone spire.
As they reached it, it opened; a thin line became a fissure became a doorway. The men hesitated, but did not retreat.
A woman emerged from the rock, but she was not the Queen. She was naked, or almost; between her legs was a cloth of metal.
She spoke in a loud, clear voice.
"People of Shah'Jamur," she shouted. "You have been bespelled by your Queen." She gestured into the doorway.
Two other women stepped forth, bearing a third limp between them. The unconscious woman was bleeding from a great wound on her head, but she was clearly the young Queen Briaza.
"She in turn was enslaved by foul magic from the bearded star," the first woman continued. "I have broken this magic. You are all free. Return to your homes."
Her voice lowered, and her attention fell to the men confronting her with sticks and stones. "You must be the city leaders," she said. "I have your Queen. Let us discuss what is to become of her."
Above them all, the windows of the tower began to flicker with flame.
END Part One
Secret Files Afterword (2016):
So! An actual Secret File, kept hidden away for a decade, shared with at most a handful of people - until now!
I wrote this back in 2006, and shared it with trilby else and possibly a few of the other authors of that time - Iago, thrall, Eye of Serpent, Arclight, I don't recall. Maybe just with trilby. It's a more Lovecraftian story than my usual, deliberately so - I was very specifically trying to invoke inhuman intelligences from beyond space, who could reach out to human minds via the light from their herald comet.
The intent was for this to be Chapter One; in the second chapter, Queen Briaza, now a captive back in Shah-Jamur, would have to deal with the aftereffects of having been a slave of the comet. Meanwhile, the comet itself has not gone away - in fact, it keeps getting closer. Vyrrin, being a particularly heroic heroine, would have kept the people of Shah-Jamur from executing her, and as the comet comes closer and closer and starts to affect people directly, the young Queen will discover that she's almost the only person with insight into the Masters and their methods - but will she slide back into delicious slavery, or will she, given the choice, resist?
In the event, I never wrote that second part, not least because I didn't really know how I would end it, but also because my output was slowing down around that time on account of Real Life, and the circle of authors whom I was corresponding with were drifting apart, so my motivation fell below the necessary to keep the story moving forward.