Chapter Four: The Warding Chain
Jalissa decided that her first stop should be a jeweler. Elenthia had no shortage of them, as some of the country’s most prominent gold and diamond mines lay less than a week’s travel south. She had an acquaintance here, though, one that she’d sold some of her findings to more than once.
Clenching tightly to the coin, she made her way out of the docks and passed the shitty end of the market, moving north until she passed into the slightly less low-class merchant district. This area was gated and guarded against the common rabble. The two sentries at the gate required a small fee, as well as a thorough pat-down of her person that was in truth the two of them groping her tits and her ass as though she’d hidden a sword in them. They also examined her pack, and she gave one of them a mild glare of disgust when he pocketed her underwear.
The groping drew the demon from its hole, but it still seemed wary of the ward in her fist. If Eldris had mentioned that she actually needed to be holding the thing, rather than simply carrying it, the world would be populated with one more brutish oaf today. She passed by the guards, checked her knife in, and was allowed to enter. Little of the district had changed since her last visit. A few of the shops had been replaced with new ones and some of those that had been here previously were empty.
She was frisked again at the door by a bruiser she hadn’t seen before. Once again, she had her large breasts manhandled roughly, her ass squeezed far more than was necessary, and then received a beefy hand between the legs that made her realize that her pussy was actually quite wet. By the look on the bruiser’s scarred face, he could feel it, too. He released her, not without reluctance, and let her into the shop.
The bell on the counter tinkled under her hand, a minute passed, and then a man emerged from the workroom behind the counter. He smiled at the sight of her.
“Well, I thought you’d got lost in one of those old ruins you dig around in,” he said. “Gods smile on you, Jalissa.”
“Taymen,” she said.
“What have you brought me today?”
“Nothing to sell,” she said. “Actually, I’m here for a service.”
“Need some fancy jewels for a party?”
She shook her head and placed the coin on the counter. Immediately, she could feel the ward weaken. The effect was still there, but faint. The demon moved forward, sliding over her mind like a dark film, like the writhing tar that coated the Black Fields. It was so forceful that it made her head spin and she had to put her palms on the counter to steady herself.
“You alright?” Taymen asked.
She shook her head and said, “A little queasy from the ferry.”
He picked up the coin and raised his eyebrows appreciatively.
“Rutheran steel,” he said, flipping it between his knuckles. “I thought you weren’t looking to sell? It’s a nice piece, but I can’t take it as payment. It’s a collectible more than anything.”
“I want you to…”
She paused and the feeling of dread intensified as she felt her mouth move in opposition to her thoughts.
“Tell me how much you’ll give me for it,” the thing made her say.
He weighed it in his hand, pulled out a jeweler’s glass, and looked it over. She felt her lips curl up into a triumphant grin.
“It’s not in great shape, but I’d be willing to give you, oh, fifty lains?”
He set it back down on the counter, close to where her hand rested. The ward exerted some of its power and she felt the demon take a mental step back. It was enough to force her hand to pick it up. When she did, the darkness retreated again, leaving her feeling like there was a hole in her mind that her true self poured back into. She clutched it, regaining her composure while pretending to think it through.
Then, she asked, “Why don’t you turn it into a necklace for me?”
“Hmm,” he considered, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, “I suppose it would be unique. Silver chain and drilling through it. Fifteen lains, and I’ll need about an hour.”
“An hour?” she asked, her hopes falling.
An entire hour without the ward? Someone was going to die.
“Rutheran steel is tough. Even a diamond bit will take some time to get through it right. I don’t want to damage the rest of it. Then I’ll need to loop the chain and seal it. An hour should be fine,” he explained.
Jalissa dithered. She did not want to relinquish the coin, even for a second. She couldn’t go around holding the thing in her hand for the rest of her short life, though. She needed a way to keep it in contact with her flesh. If the demon could force her, the way it had yesterday, she’d have nothing to protect her. It knew what she was doing and there was no chance it would allow her to come back.
Unless. No. Yes. She had to feed it. Once it had been fed, it had seemed to give up the control, soaking in whatever power the victim’s life had given it. If she were quick enough, she could be back for the coin while it slept or… whatever it was that fuck-happy, soul-devouring monstrosities did after sucking the life out of their most recent tumble.
“Alright,” she said. “Just, could you do me a favor? Could you go in the back and let me leave it on the counter for you?”
“Um, I suppose so,” he said, giving her a curious look.
“I’m feeling a little superstitious about it, that’s all.”
Taymen shrugged. It was a weird world. He’d heard crazier things. He walked into the back. When he was out of sight, Jalissa turned to the leering bruiser.
“Big guy,” she said and his eyes moved from her tits to her face.
“Open that door. I’m going to set this thing down, and then I’m going to run out of here,” she said.
“Neesa, just do it. If you do, maybe there will be something nice in it for you when I come back.”
The mental image he, no doubt, had of her naked body made him nod.
Or maybe you’ll be a pile of gray dust.
Aloud she said, “Thanks,” as he opened the door. Jalissa set the coin on the counter, released it, and sprinted for the door.
After only three paces she stumbled as the demon surged forward and took her. The big man caught her as she fell, groping her in his haste, though this time not intentionally. In the second that it took for the man to right her stumble, she was a prisoner again.
She watched through her own eyes as her gaze settled on the man’s crotch, then moved up his body to his lusty face. He was not her type, but that did not stop her jailer from using her mouth to smile at him, nor to place her palms against his chest and bat her eyes at him.
“Thank you,” she said. “You’re so… strong.”
Had she been able to use her body, she might have vomited again at the feel of his hand pressing the small of her back, the other resting on her hip. She could feel the demon rummaging through her memories, her thoughts, examining the contents like she might an ancient ruin, but with far less care. It was learning.
Jalissa had some sense, not quite sight, but it was the only way she could describe it, of seeing the thing appropriating her knowledge and experience to make itself blend in. That signified something, she thought. A weakness? Perhaps. It hadn’t fed in so long. Its hunger was maddening and she shared the feeling with it through their bond. It was powerful, but it needed to consume in order to strengthen itself. Was that why it… slept after feeding? Was it consolidating that power somehow?
The bruiser’s hand slid down her back to her ass and groped it again. The demon made her gasp and titter playfully, teasingly. Her hand returned the gesture with one of her own, fondling his hard cock through his trousers. He growled.
“Easy there, lady,” he whispered. “I’m on duty.”
There was clear regret in his voice and mild annoyance from the demon.
“Pity,” she said.
“I’m off when the shop closes in a few hours,” he stammered.
She released him, frustrated, and left the shop. Jalissa rode along in her own mind, mentally stabbing at the thing in control of her as it continued to pick apart her memories of the city. She realized that it was searching for somewhere to feed, somewhere that wouldn’t attract notice. As it used her body to ambulate, it observed every man that passed by, evaluating, processing, like she might pick which tavern to take her next meal in.
She stopped in front of an inn named The Restless Ox, which sounded rowdy, even from the street. The sounds of singing and booted feet came, muffled, through the heavy wooden door. The demon pulled it open and stepped inside.
In many taverns, inns, or drinking holes, Jalissa’s presence normally turned a lot of heads. Here, most of the patrons were focused on the two bar wenches dancing on a tabletop. The table was littered with coins as the two women danced, arm in arm, clicking their heels and flipping their skirts. The crowd of men around them sang.
My lady fair
They Call’er a blushing bride
When the lights are low
What they don’t know
Is she ain’t got naught to hide…
A few men on the periphery of the crowded tavern turned in her direction when she stepped inside, looking her over. She could practically see them going through a mental rundown of which pick-up line would give them the best shot at taking this full-chested tart to their rooms, to stuff her full of their cock. With the demon running the show, she supposed she was about to find out.
Succubi sat her at a table, alone, and it watched the frolicking lasses with curiosity. The men, it watched with hunger. Barely a minute passed before the first attempt to bed her came. It was from a man with long, golden hair, which was tied back in a braid. couple with his tawny skin and gray eyes, Jalissa guessed that he was from The Reaches, far on the eastern side of the country. A long way from home.
“Evening, missus,” he greeted her, spinning a chair around and straddling it gracefully. His handsome smile was cocky and self-assured, much like that of every Reacher she’d met.
She’d yet to meet an ugly Reacher, and most of them were aware of this fact. It was the cockiness that was a turn-off. The fucker was devilishly handsome, though.
Jalissa took a mental step back from her attempt to exert her will on her body. Had the thing just spoken to her? Had it just… made a joke as a counter to her own internal monologue? It smiled across the table and, inwardly, at her.
“Fancy a drink and a chat?” the man asked, raising his glass.
Jalissa’s hand swiped the glass from his and, as she eyed him seductively over the rim, she quaffed the entire thing and banged it down loudly on the table. The man blinked in surprise and then grinned.
“I’ve had the drink. Why don’t we skip the chat and just get to the part where you fuck me?” Jalissa’s mouth said.
Her fingers toyed with the laces on her tunic. The Reacher eyed her over suspiciously.
“How much?” he asked.
“I’m not a whore,” she said.
He chuckled and countered, “Generous as a priestess on Orphan’s Day, then? What’s your game?”
She could feel the demon’s annoyance, its need.
“Clearly you’re not for me,” it said and made to stand. “I thought you Reachers had spine. There are three great joys in life. To Drink, fight, and fuck? Isn’t that what you people say?”
“Oh, sit down, will you?” he said. “Can’t blame a man for having his suspicions, can you?”
The demon made her sit.
“Never had a Reacher,” she said. “And I’ve been away awhile. Can’t a lady just want the company of a strong man?”
Jalissa could hear the emphasis on the word. It wanted strength. It was also appealing to the Reacher’s sizable ego.
“Right, then,” he said. “You want to see just how far a Reacher can reach, eh?”
The demon smiled. Jalissa sat back and watched. She wanted to fight it, but she also needed it to feed and then rest. She told herself that this was a sacrifice she, and the Reacher, had to make for the rest of the world. When it fed, Jalissa could retrieve the coin. The coin would keep it at bay until she could find a way to remove it. Once it was removed, it would be imprisoned again, where it could no longer hurt anyone.
To do all of that, the Reacher had to die. It was not much consolation to Jalissa that he’d die happy, doing one of the three things Reachers enjoyed most. Succubi turned its attention inward, and Jalissa could feel it look at her. She felt small, weak, like a fly in the web. It didn’t skitter toward her, though. It only gave her that horrid, mental smile that would have made her quake if she’d had control of her body.
The demon unlaced the front of her tunic, toyed with it, watched the Reacher’s eyes watching her fingers, and it said, “That’s exactly what I need.”
“Let’s go,” he said and stood.
The demon made her follow him to his room. Once inside, she flung herself at him and pressed her lips to his. Her kiss was ravenous, catching him off guard for a moment, but then he returned it with equal fervor. His tongue probed her mouth making her groan.
Jalissa could feel it all, even as she remained trapped. She could feel the squirming of his tongue, his hands on her body, groping, touching. Her true self recoiled from it, even as her body responded to it. Then, she could feel something else. It started as a hot rush at her core, which flowed like burning liquid up her chest, to her lips, and then it passed from her to the Reacher. He sighed into her mouth and relaxed.
When he broke the kiss and looked at her, his eyes were dark and hollow, his face slack. His hands continued to move, and his excitement was still there. If anything, his passion burned more hotly. But those empty eyes held a look of pure devotion.
The demon unlaced his trousers and pulled him toward the bed, and then it lay back. The Reacher undid her own for her, then worshipfully, almost carefully, removed her boots and set them aside. His hands trembled as he peeled down her trousers, slid them off her legs, and then he knelt in front of her.
“Pleasure me, pet,” the demon said.
The Reacher did, putting his mouth to her sex and licking the length of her slit. Jalissa felt the pleasure of it, but also the exultation, the rush of power over him that the demon felt. Though she didn’t know magic herself, Jalissa guessed that the demon had laid some sort of thrall over the man. He lapped and sucked at her lovingly, making her body quiver. His hands roamed her legs, then up her thighs as he pleased her and the Demon hissed with pleasure.
“Come,” it whispered, and its slave complied, standing to look down on her with his slack jaw wet and shiny with her honey.
“Fuck her,” it commanded.
Jalissa gave a mental shudder. Not me. Her. The thing was letting her know who was in control, as though she could have forgotten. The Reacher’s long cock pressed against her pussy and Jalissa’s hand gripped it, slid the head of it along the slickness from her slit. The Reacher whimpered, less a man now and more a needy dog.
He pushed at her entrance, his hands clinging to her legs. Jalissa couldn’t deny that it felt wonderful, even though she wanted nothing more than to snap her legs closed and run from the room.
The single word shocked her. Until now, there had been no real communication. It had been whispers, urges, the dreams. None of it had been so clear as that one, terrible word, delivered in a hiss so filled with longing, but as venomous as a serpent.
The Reacher pushed his length deeper into her and the demon tossed back her head with a gasp of pleasure. Her hands reached for him, pulled him on top of her. The slave followed, his empty eyes fixed on her adoringly as he groaned and buried the full length of his cock inside her wet channel. Her hands moved over his muscles and Jalissa had the sense that it was admiring their strength, savoring it like a delicacy. Because it was.
The handsome Reacher pulled back his hips and pushed his cock into her again. The demon quivered and gasped as a rush of pleasure rippled through Jalissa’s body. She wept, mentally, as she watched that slack and soulless face staring back at her. He moved in her like an automaton, the motion rhythmic, without any real passion. Her hand touched his face and the man’s slack mouth curled into a smile, and his dark eyes became teary.
“Love her,” the demon whispered.
His eyes brimmed with tears, and they fell, hot against her face. Jalissa knew that this was necessary, but she didn’t want to watch it. She willed her eyes to shut, to blot out the sight of that look of pure bliss and love in his black eyes. She could not.
Her body shook, her breasts heaving as she felt the pleasure. He wrapped her in his arms and then his weight was on top of her. He held her tightly, panting into her ear as he fucked her harder. Her legs encircled his waist, urging him on, while her mouth made small moans to convey the pleasure that he was giving her.
Jalissa’s only consolation was that she no longer had to look at his face as the demon raped her, used her body to feed its desires, to assuage its hunger. That consolation lasted only minutes, though. His thrusts became harder, and rougher, the rhythm faltering as she felt his cock twitch and jerk.
“See,” the demon hissed, and he released his grip on her body.
He pushed himself up while continuing to fuck his cock into her. Her hips met the thrusts, rocking against him, coaxing his own pleasure from him. Her hands touched his cheeks, wet with his tears, and held his gaze on her. He groaned, convulsed, and then Jalissa could feel his seed splash inside of her, hot, hard at first. Then, it began to pour in a torrent.
Horrified, Jalissa watched as his strong, youthful, and once cocky face held onto his pleasure. His devotion never wavered as he looked down on her, while the color drained from his skin. The color went from white to gray, and then his cheeks began to hollow. They caved in on themselves. His golden hair turned white and began to fall out, raining down on her like autumn leaves.
Jalissa was powerless not to watch it happen. Before her, he withered within seconds, even as he continued to fuck her, filling her with his life, his essence. Seconds later, his thrusts stopped abruptly and his desiccated husk burst into a cloud of gray ash that fell on her.
Jalissa had watched men die a dozen ways. She’d killed them herself. She’d seen the effects of stab wounds, and poisons, even watched from afar as one was devoured by a pack of kithroks. None of those deaths had been as horrific as this. Bloodless as it was, she knew that for whatever time she had left she would never forget the look of utter devotion on this man’s face as he withered and flew apart. And she’d never forget the way the demon had used her own mouth to laugh triumphantly as it happened.
Still reeling from the horror, the intense pleasure that followed obliterated her awareness, abruptly severing all other lines of thought. Just like the last kill, the heavenly, orgasmic burst blotted out all else. The demon gasped, sucking in air as if it hadn’t breathed in a century. Her body convulsed and, through the mind-melting euphoria of it, she could hear it laughing stupidly, reveling in the joy of that feeling, consuming whatever power it was that had given that cloud of dust life and thought.
She could feel the power of that life coursing through her, becoming part of her, joining with her more wholly than any form of physical coupling. Jalissa could feel the demon’s pleasure, too, but hers was not merely the physical sensation or the orgasm. That was only part of it. It was Succubi indulging in the feeling that she needed Jalissa’s body for. The real pleasure for the demon was the power, the stolen life.
A billion images flashed across her mind at the speed of a single thought. They were a life, the life that belonged to that gray dust that had been a man with ambitions and desires, only seconds ago. Now, they were feeding the thing inhabiting her, giving it form, providing the energy that it needed to consume Jalissa herself. It was the power that would soon allow her to take full control and birth its evil upon the world. And it was her fault.
As it had the first time, the overwhelming pleasure took long minutes to fade. The return of her control happened quickly, though. Having gorged itself on the life, the demon withdrew, skittering back into the far corner of Jalissa’s mind. She could feel it there, sucking in that power, and then it seemed to shrink, to curl in on itself. The presence of it shrank as well.
Jalissa’s limbs felt numb as she forced herself to sit up. She was covered in the gray dust. More of it was between her legs. She stood, staggered, and retched on the floor as she realized that more of that dust was inside of her, mingling with her own wetness and the dead man’s ejaculate. She sat on her knees and batted at the dust on her clothing. Some of it was wet, sticking to her tunic and clumping. She realized she was crying and couldn’t decide if it was from disgust or sorrow. Both, she decided, and added guilt.
Get up, fool!
She didn’t know how much time had passed. There was a duty to perform. She needed the ward, needed it now more than ever. This was her one chance to make it back and retrieve it. There was no telling how long the demon would sleep. It knew what her plan was, just as she knew its own.
If she allowed it to take her again, to continue to feed, the dreams she’d had would be reality. The pleasure she’d felt as it killed, as it devoured that life, would be the fate of far more than one Reacher. If it continued to feed, that fate would be everyone’s, and Succubi would use her body to make it happen.
Jalissa fumbled on her pants and boots, tied them, slung her pack on her shoulder, and laced her tunic as she walked from the room. She quickly checked her clothes, shuddered at the remains of the gray dust she saw there, and continued to brush it away as she made her way down the steps. Moving as quickly as she could without drawing attention, she navigated the streets back to Taymen’s shop.
The bruiser made a grab for her as she entered but she flinched away. He looked confused but allowed her to pass. She dinged the bell on the counter and shifted uneasily on her feet. From her hidden pocket, she extracted her purse and took out the payment as she waited, setting it on the counter. She tapped one of the coins against the wood impatiently.
In the dark recesses of her mind, the demon awoke. She could feel its weariness, its reluctance to disturb its slumber, but it also knew what she was about, and it did not want it to happen. The ward wouldn’t keep it trapped forever, Jalissa knew, but it bought time. The thing was impatient. It had spent centuries waiting and now its freedom was close. It was tired of waiting.
It was sluggish, though. Whatever consuming life did to it, it was not an easy thing to draw it in and do… whatever it did. Jalissa suspected that it was because it was still weak. As it fed, it would likely not need the rest. Taymen finally emerged from the back room, carrying the warded necklace in his hand.
“Fine little piece,” he said, holding it up.
Jalissa pushed the coins across the counter and held out her hand for it, doing her best to mask her anxiousness.
Her hand pulled back from the necklace by a fraction. Jalissa froze and willed her hand to move forward, to take it.
Her hand wouldn’t move. Taymen put the necklace into her hand. The metal of the coin touched her palm. Jalissa felt a flash of fury from the demon as it retreated. A fraction of a second later, the feeling vanished as the thing went back to sleep.
Oblivious to the battle she’d just fought inside her own head, Taymen only nodded at the necklace and said, “It will look good on you. Sure I can’t interest you in anything else?”
Jalissa shook her head and draped the chain over her neck. She slid the coin into the front of her tunic, where it rested between her breasts, against her skin. The demon did not stir.
“That’s all I need today,” she said. “Thank you.”
“Sure. Sure. If you come across anything good out there, you know where to find me.”
She hefted her pack and turned to go, then stopped. She turned back.
“Taymen. If I don’t see you again, you’ve been good to me. Fair.”
“Fair’s about the best a poor peddler like me can hope for,” he said, grinning.
Jalissa said no more as she walked out of the shop. She swatted at the bruiser’s beefy hand as it made to give her a parting grope, earning a look of disappointment from the man.
Believe me. You’ll be thankful that you didn’t fuck me.
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