DESCENT 1

Feature Writer: yibala

Feature Title: DESCENT 1

Published: 12.08.2020

Story Codes: Erotic Horror

Synopsis: Defiant princess in an Afro-fantasy world goes over the edge

 

Descent 1

“We must challenge the long-held theory that warding stones protect us from demons. Namu is not safe from Infernals. Even now, they might roam freely inside the ancestral wards of the city.”

— Keya Oko, Magisterium lecture, 3125 by the Ummran calendar, 21st day of the Red Dust Moon.

There is something primal about making love near the ocean. Tides are a ritual as ancient and magical as the original desires — desire to couple, to find release, and to bear children. The beat of the waves, the rush of the pulse, and the wistful cries of seabirds provide the rhythm for that most elemental of dances.

At dawn, the sun peeked over the horizon, always leaping into the sky more quickly than I expected. I enjoy the sun most during that hour, when it is still low enough not to burn my ivory skin.

The villa outside the center of Namu city had been my home for the four weeks since I’d returned from the Ijon River swamp. It was just large enough to be comfortable for seven of my guards and a few servants.

Jinai and I occupied the rooftop apartment. As it was the dry season, we would sleep on a bed of furs on the broad terrace, where we could look out over Silmani Point and greet the sun. Each morning, our tongues and entangled limbs danced to the song of the sea.

On this particular morning, Jinai laid reversed atop me, in a position she said commoners called the “slippery knot.” Her lips and fingers caressed my pink folds, while I did the same for her, my tongue thrusting into her steamy cunt. I stretched the cheeks of her ass apart, reveling in the stark contrast of our bodies. Jinai’s sleek darkness, and the muscles that rippled just beneath her skin were so unlike my own pale curves.

I gripped her tightly as I came for the first time that morning, licking her nether lips even as I writhed uncontrollably underneath her. Just as I regained my wits, all the more determined to make her come, my eyes were drawn by a movement towards the open doors of the bedchamber.

One of the servants huddled in the shadows of the interior, watching me rut my handmaiden.

The peeper was a dainty thing with short, spiky hair and wide set eyes. Unlike the guards I had brought to the villa — whose loyalty was beyond question — I assumed this one would spy for my mother if given the chance.

“Jinai,” I said softly.

My handmaiden betrayed nothing, her head still bent to lick my sticky thighs.

“She has been watching us for some time,” Jinai whispered. “With her hand thrust between her legs.”

“Lila,” I called. Jinai lifted her leg, permitting me to rise. “Come here.”

The servant straightened, the hem of her kanga wrap skirt dropping to its natural length at her ankles with the abrupt movement. “Forgive me, Lady Oko. We have no honeybush leaves for tea, because of the drought in the north. Shall I make hibiscus tea instead?”

I pushed a clump of golden hair from above my eyes. Then, irritated, I tied back the whole bush of it with loops of cloth while the girl fidgeted. Jinai crouched beside me, as still as a cobra.

“Come here,” I repeated.

Lila hurried on to the terrace, sandals slapping against the smooth planks. “Yes, my Lady?”

She met my gaze for a moment, before she considered her feet. As she trembled slightly, I drank in the sight of the nubs that poked stiffly through her thin tunic. I guessed she was a year or two younger than me. Perhaps she had seen nineteen rains.

I still simmered from love-play with Jinai. That hunger inside — something most profane, no doubt seeded in me by the demon Blossom — reawakened as I watched the girl quiver. My lust was intensified by my own nakedness in front of Lila, so much so that my cunt throbbed.

“Have you ever seen two women together?” I asked.

“I d-didn’t see anything. My Lady.”

“That was not my question. Before now, have you ever seen two women make love?”

Lila nodded, still looking down. “In the pleasure houses of Tanga.”

You go to brothels?” Jinai asked.

Even though Lila’s skin was brown as a coconut shell, her blush was obvious. “I had to run an errand.”

Jinai snorted.

“Did you find that sight pleasing?” I asked.

“Not at all, my Lady,” Lila said, still studying her toes. “It was a wicked thing to see.”

“Just so. Come closer. Give me your hand.”

The servant edged forward, holding her hand out to me. She was not tall. Her fingers dangled just before my face.

“The other hand,” growled Jinai.

The girl complied. I drew her shaking hand to my nose and sniffed it. It smelled faintly of herbs. Underneath dwelt the more pungent scent of female arousal.

“And now?” I asked softly. “Do you find this sight pleasing?”

Lila did not speak. She stared in shock as I took her fragrant fingers into my mouth and began to suck them.

Lila’s hands were small, but rough with calluses from mortar and pestle, washboard and knife handle. I kissed along the length of her fingers, my tongue darting into the crevices between them.

A sigh slipped from her open lips.

I wondered what she was thinking. Was she terrified because I was the daughter of a Great House, and her mistress? Was she repelled because I was a cursed albino?

Or was it an altogether different emotion that made her shake like a leaf in the breeze?

Lila swayed on her feet. Jinai drew her to her knees on the furs, pulling the younger girl down into a deep kiss, sharing my nectar that no doubt lingered on her lips and tongue. Then Jinai pressed the girl’s head down even further, to the nest of short curls between her legs. I released Lila’s hand, freeing her to attend her new duties. The girl began to nuzzle and lick my handmaiden’s slit.

Had I changed somehow, since my encounter with the demon Blossom? I never would have done such a thing before. I had quailed at even revealing my desire for Jinai. Now I was seducing servants. Had I become corrupt?

Cruel, even?

There was no doubt the girl was aroused. And yet, we had offered her little choice. As Lila lowered her head, she presented the swell of her ass to me. I swept those troubling thoughts from my mind, even as I yanked the hem of her skirt up over the smooth globes of her butt cheeks.

Lila wore nothing underneath her kanga.

Well, then. The randy whore gets what she deserves.

I spread her cheeks, revealing the plump seam of her slit — hanging between her legs like a juicy stonefruit — and the dark pucker of her ass. Her skin had the sharp scent of wild sage, the herb commoners used in everything from stew to medicine.

Lila mewled as Jinai seized her head. The servant wiggled her butt as she licked and slurped at Jinai’s cunt. When Jinai was satisfied that Lila would continue her ministrations, she lay back on the furs, continuing to guide the little servant with one hand on her scalp.

I swatted the girl lightly on her rounded cheeks. When she wiggled her butt even more, I applied force, slapping her ass until she gave a muffled whine. The insides of her thighs shone with arousal.

Intrigued, I pushed the skirt above Lila’s belly, baring her entire ass and the delicate fall of her back. I knelt between her sandaled feet. Running fingers along her slit, I tested its dampness. I spread the dark flesh, until glistening pink was revealed.

I thrust slowly inside. Her cunt sucked my fingertip. With the other hand, I kept her cheeks spread, caressing the sensitive flesh, all the way to her winking asshole.

Jinai had been my first and only other woman. She was ten years older than I. I suspected she’d had many other encounters, with both men and women. As beautiful as her body was, my lover’s responses were subtle. Lila squeaked and shook with every move I made, even as she continued to lap at Jinai’s slit. Fascinated with the contrast, I soon had two, and then three dripping fingers working inside her.

As Lila’s hips drove back against my hand, I reached the other hand under, to the top of her slit to tap her love button. The girl’s thighs began to tremble, and she moaned into Jinai’s cunt.

Drunk on my own arousal, my eyes slid to the bedchamber again.

It was there, buried in my satchel under a collection of scrolls. Blossom’s summoning stone. More times than I could count, I had yearned to use it, to call the demon back to me. I imagined fetching it now and sliding the polished thickness of that phallus as deep into Lila’s tight cunt as it might go. I imagined making her come hard on it.

But I knew, ever since Jinai rescued me from the demon’s lair, that I could have Jinai or I could have Blossom. Not both. I was the only person in Namu who even knew what a summoning stone was, much less that I possessed one.

I rubbed steadily faster, fingers plunging in and out of Lila, until she gave a muffled, shaking scream. Jinai, either close herself or losing patience, ground the girl’s nose against her little pearl. Her back arched, and she too came.

As the two other women panted, I continued to slowly rut Lila with my fingers. Jinai slid out from under her. The girl kept her head down, her butt still aimed at me as I pumped her hungry hole. Finally, I stopped.

Lila sat up as Jinai and I stood naked above her. I held my shining fingers in front of her face. She glanced at me, then obediently opened her mouth so that I could feed her her own creamy spend.

“Did she perform sufficiently to your liking?” I asked Jinai, as Lila slurped around my hand.

“She was tolerable.”

“Hmm. Do you think,” I asked, “that she needs further direction?”

The handmaiden shrugged.

I pressed Lila down on her back on the furs.

As the girl complied, I straddled her and sat my needy cunt squarely on her nose. I felt a frisson of pleasure as it pressed upon my slit.

“Let us see if you can do better than tolerable, Lila,” I said, shuddering as I felt her tongue.

I rubbed her belly as she licked me. I pulled her tunic up over her small breasts, revealing those pebble-hard nubs, diddling them between thumb and forefinger. My own breasts hung pale and heavy over her torso, as I slid back and forth over her face. I found with delight that Lila would even tongue my ass if I rode forward far enough. The sensation made my eyes roll back in my head.

Jinai leaned in for a kiss.

My lovemaking with Jinai was affectionate, even reverent. This was something else. This was a taste of the lust I’d experienced with Blossom. Except that instead of me being thoroughly used, Lila was the toy. I felt vicariously what it was to be rutted, played with, and driven to orgasm as the object of another’s pleasure.

As I rode Lila’s face, the tide of my lust lifting me steadily to greater heights, I found her cunt again, the lips swollen and gaping. I bent over, my billowy breasts mashed against her skin. I licked her little fleshy nub while my fingers caressed and spread her nether lips apart. I even pulled her legs forward so I could prod her ass.

My climax came upon me quickly, a flash of fiery light as red as dawn. I cried out, smearing my own pulsing cunt all over her face. On a whim, my finger drove to the knuckle into her ass. Soon she was convulsing under me, her groans muffled.

I eased off of her. Lila was still gasping for breath. She gazed up at me with bleary eyes and streaks of spit and juices on her face. Again I fed her my fingers to lick clean.

“You have gotten me all dirty, Lila, and I have an engagement this morning” I told her, as I touched the back of her tongue. “Bring water for a bath.”

Jinai had already pulled on her tunic. “If you tell anyone what you saw here this morning,” she said to the servant, “we’ll know.”

Lila stared wide eyed at us. She rose, straightened her clothes, and hurried inside.

By the time I had washed and dressed, Jinai awaited me in the yard. She wore her usual – a loose, long tunic over trousers, concealing any number of lethal weapons. Her kinky hair was bound into two large puffs that framed an angular face.

I had chosen a flowing gown of rose that cloaked me from neck to ankles and wrists. I had piled a headdress over my hair, the tail of the scarf falling to the small of my back. As always, I carried my satchel of scrolls and writing material, with Blossom’s summoning stone secreted beneath those, never far from my side.

A golden mask covered my face.

A warrior in red and gold harness accompanied us. I had only brought a handful of guards to the villa — loyal men that I had brought back from the Ijon River expedition. Just enough to man the front gate and watch the walls. Musa smiled down at us as we passed. The wiry bowman was perched upon the inner wall, whittling a block of wood.

We passed through the gates of the double wall, onto the leafy dirt path that wound its way down from Coral Sands to the more modest district of Gigiri. Despite its name, Coral Sands was mostly a rugged hill, where canopy trees and thick underbrush shrouded the compounds of the wealthy. The Oko villa stood on the base of a headland that jutted out over the water, like the prow of a ship, at Silmani Point.

Within minutes, all I could see of the villa was the top of the squat drum-shaped main tower and a glimpse of walls through the foliage. My guard ranged ahead, waving aside travelers as we passed them on the narrow track.

“I only said that to frighten Lila,” Jinai said. “You shouldn’t be surprised if your mother already knows.”

Knows we are lovers. We had talked about this before. Of course, it was known in the city of Namu that two women or two men might be lovers. Certainly other guards or servants had guessed we were rutting. But I suspected my mother would see my relationship with my handmaiden as an embarrassment.

That was one reason I had moved to the villa.

We crossed over the creek that separated Coral Sands from Gigiri. The terrain didn’t allow for a wall, but ancestral stones followed the creek, the rune-marked obelisks matching the trees in height, warding off demons and evil spirits. City guards, the Goldshields, manned the little bridge, and bowed as we crossed.

We climbed a short path to level ground. Gigiri was much more built up, with round huts and walled compounds crowded close together, and roads choked with gaily garbed folk who dispersed before my guard’s shouts.

The other reason I had moved to the villa was because I had learned hard realities in the swamp. No matter how capable I was, I would never lead my House. I would never marry, and likely never bear children, as much as I wanted them. I had brought my elder brother Zahar back from captivity. He was the unquestioned heir. What was left to me was the continuation of my scholarly research on infernals, and I resolved to conduct it as far away from the machinations of my mother as possible.

Specifically, I was determined to learn everything about the summoning and banishing of demons. That meant finding those who had mastered that sorcery.

xxxxx

Amankar San awaited me in the Magisterium’s fire lily garden. The trellised, partially-covered courtyard was full of broad-leafed shrubs and the striking flowers the garden was named for, whose petals rose up like licks of yellow and red flame.

San was a smallish man, only a hair taller than me without my headdress. His goatee was grizzled but neat, betraying his middle age. He wore plain black robes, with an emerald pin – the colors of House San, one of my House’s foremost rivals.

His mask lay on the rocks next to him. In the Magisterium, nobles often went without them. Anonymity was unnecessary away from commoners. I had taken mine off as well.

San greeted me, asking about my father’s health. He offered me a seat next to him on a low stone wall along the pathway. The corners of his eyes crinkled as he casually scanned my curves under the gown.

As I child, I had been taught — both intentionally and unwittingly — that my albinism was a thing to be concealed and pitied. But as I grew older, I realized that for some, my affliction was a bizarre attraction. I knew there were men who coveted an ivory complexion and straw-colored hair as an exotic curiosity.

“You caused quite a scare in your lecture last month,” he said.

“What I said was true. From what I have learned, there could be demons in the city even now. Ancestral stones or not.”

He nodded, considering. “And what exactly have you learned? Many scholars await your writings, and hope to discover your sources.”

Blossom was my primary source. One I would never reveal.

“That is what I wanted to discuss with you, Lord San. I have learned that southern witches, amongst others, have the power to summon and banish demons.”

“Ah. The Thandi.”

“Yes, precisely,” I said. Amankar San was the most learned authority on the expansion of the Sizwe Empire and the war that resulted – a war that ended at the Battle of Bandiri Slopes. He had written extensively about the period twenty-five years past. I had read his crowning work, Musings, which told of clans of powerful witches who were scattered by the Empire’s formation. “Their magic may be the only way to keep the city secure.”

“I will offer you a bargain, Lady Oko. We shall talk of the Thandi, and then I will propose,” San smiled, “a collaboration.”

I didn’t trust his grin, which suggested some secret he hadn’t yet shared. “Propose what you wish,” I said.

“First, ask your questions.”

“Do these witch clans still exist?”

“During my years researching in the Hill Kingdoms and the Empire, I never knowingly met one of the Thandi. But I’ve heard enough accounts to be sure that they are still living throughout the Kingdoms.”

“Did any of those accounts suggest they could summon demons?”

San tugged on his goatee. “Not precisely. Sizwe leaders spoke of one witch, Anathe, who they greatly feared. She and her closest followers had the power to tame wild beasts. She rode an elephant in battle and bested their finest warriors in single combat. There were also reports that a massive, antelope-horned demon fought by her side.”

A kukuru demon, from the description. I had transcribed an account from a trader who glimpsed such a creature in the shantytowns of Bocha. “Hulking, man-shaped? Horns like scimitars?” I asked.

San beamed. “Clearly, you are the authority on such creatures. In Anathe’s case, it was even claimed that she was the offspring of a demon and human. But generally, the Thandi possess the same powers of witches everywhere. Brewing potions, beguiling men, and sowing discord.”

“What became of Anathe after the war?”

“She was killed, at about the same time as the battle at Bandiri Slopes. By a Sizwe assassin, I would guess.”

My gaze fell, and I hid a stroke of sadness. How exciting it would be to meet such a figure! But Bandiri Slopes had taken place months before I was born.

“Lord San, do you believe that any of these witches have settled here in Namu, or in Ikanje?”

“This sort of folk would keep their identities well concealed.” He shrugged, but his smile was conspiratorial. “But perhaps you and I could seek them out.”

I studied the rows of fire lilies across the path, curling towards the sky like a conflagration. Brightly colored starlings and bee-eaters flitted by. It was entirely too much of a coincidence that we had been left alone for so long.

“What do you propose?”

“A sponsorship.”

“You want me to work with you?”

“Work under me.” His eyes twinkled. His lips were dark, contrasting with bright, even teeth.

I was stunned. Amankar was a famed scholar, to be sure. But his area of specialization was wholly different than mine. And I would be subordinate to a member of a rival House.

Although, if the relationship he was proposing was not strictly academic…

“We could further both of our areas of research,” he said. “Yours perhaps the most, since at my age I have little need to continue writing and lecturing.”

“What are you proposing beyond research?”

“Only… companionship.”

“But you are married,” I stammered.

“And you are not,” San grinned. “Which presents much opportunity.”

I hesitated, still unsure if this was some sort of ruse. Amankar was not unattractive for his age. His suggestion was made respectfully. Before the Ijon River expedition, before my sexual encounters with Blossom and Jinai, when I craved affection from any source, I would have quickly accepted the offer.

But there was a subtle insult here. Amankar assumed that I would never marry, and that I had no real prospects beyond becoming the mistress to a prestigious scholar. My writings and theories were well-known amongst the Magisters, but still controversial. Formally, I would be Amankar’s assistant — perhaps even his successor — but informally, I would be a concubine, an exotic plaything for his enjoyment.

“Consider,” San said. “House San has interests in the Sizwe Empire and the Hill Kingdoms. House Oko does not. Our House knows people who have encountered Thandi witches. You would benefit by interviewing them.”

I cocked my head, something he said having triggered a memory. “And if I agree, you will make these people known to me?”

Amankar grinned. “Let me add a bit of salt to the stew. What if I told you that there was such a person in Namu, as we speak? You and I might discuss this person over palm wine, at your villa, while we negotiate the terms of the sponsorship.”

“I will consider your offer, as you have asked.” I wouldn’t accept it, but I wanted Amankar to remain open to meeting with me again, in case I had more questions. “Fare well, Lord San.”

As I left him, he continued to leer.

Jinai awaited me at the top of the short steps that led up to a broad gallery.

“Another San wants your ear,” she said. She tossed her head. There, behind her, stood Barasa San, a scion of the House. Barasa was known more for his ambition than his scholarship. He had very dark skin, and wore a short printed tunic of green and gold over loose black trousers. Without his mask, he bore a heavy-lidded look of permanent indifference.

“Lady Oko,” he said, approaching. “I would speak with you. Without your servant.”

I eyed the other scholars and servants passing through the arcade, and the cluster of San guards behind Barasa that attended him.

“Lord San,” I said in greeting. “I have no secrets from my handmaiden. Please, how can I help you?”

“I am intrigued by that lecture you gave. I have thought of little else these past weeks,” the younger San said. “Tell me, how is the summoning and banishing of demons possible? By what means?”

“That is the question I am researching.”

“Could it be perhaps done with a phallus-shaped object? The size of a man’s, perhaps larger? One referred to as a ‘stone’, but possibly carven from another material?”

I attempted to conceal my shock. I doubt that I entirely succeeded. No one else — not even Jinai — could have known about Blossom’s stone. I took a moment to compose my response. “That is a very specific description. How did you come by it?”

“I made my own inquiries.”

What was House San up to? Was there a spy in House Oko? Even if there was, I was the only one who knew about the stone.

Clearly, I had missed something.

“I see. Well, Lord San, my research suggests that such a stone is one way of banishing or summoning infernals, yes.”

Barasa pursed his lips thoughtfully. “If you should come across such an item in your investigations, House San would be amenable to every sort of trade. Of course, if you are considering furthering your work with Amankar, collaboration between our Houses will pose no difficulty. In the meantime, I anticipate your next lecture.”

“You and I shall speak again if I find such an object.”

Barasa displayed a fulsome smile. “By the ancestors, that does please me.”

I spent a few hours in the archives, rereading Amankar’s writings about the Thandi, and placing what he had told me in context. Most of his research dated back fifty years, to the origins of the Sizwe Empire. The witches lived in secret, shunned and feared by others.

It struck me that albinos were generally treated the same way, though we had no magical powers with which to defend ourselves. Once the Sizwe conquest began, shamans and their warriors destroyed Thandi clans and pursued the fleeing refugees north.

Jinai and I left the Magisterium then, my guard trailing as we followed the stately, paved avenues of Gold City District. Nobles passed, wearing streaming caftans in pastel colors.

A few months before the Ijon River expedition, there was a report of a fearsome demon in a village called Kichinka, within the Hill Kingdom of Chide, just over the Ikanjan border. The demon and its cult had kidnapped and slaughtered Ikanjan traders from three caravans.

Our nation’s warriors were sent across the border to investigate, but the creature and its followers had already fled the village. I later spoke to some of the witnesses, including porters who had survived the third caravan — a San-owned caravan — and an Ikanjan warrior who had gone to Kichinka to try to destroy the infernal. In my interviews, I had been concerned only with cataloguing the demon itself.

But what if there was more to the story?

I was eager to peruse my scrolls from the Kichinka encounter, hoping that there was something there I had overlooked, some way that I could bypass House San to get the information I needed. The Thandi witches Blossom had spoken of still existed, and someone, somewhere, knew how to find them.

“I need you to talk to those people from the caravan again for me, Jinai.” The problem was that those we had interviewed about Kichinka were probably not in the city. The border was several days’ travel from Namu. “The ones we questioned before Ijon River about the bull demon. There’s no one else I trust more than you.”

Jinai scowled. “They may be hard to find.”

“We know all of their names. Ask people connected to House San. Use the scavengers you used to run with. They know much that goes on in this city.”

“That was a long time ago,” she said. “But I will try.”

“I’ll give you whatever coin you need.”

Jinai gave me a thoughtful look. “How did you banish Blossom?”

My belly suddenly went hollow, my innards twisted into a tight knot. “What do you mean?”

“When I finally reached you in the tomb, you said you banished Blossom. Was it like Barasa said, with this summoning stone he described?”

“I must have misspoke. It wasn’t like that,” I said in a quiet voice. “I drove Blossom off with my wards and an incantation. Finally, after… everything the demon did to me, I forced it away and it shrank into the shadows.”

She had to believe that. After all, my consecrated charms would have protected me. If I hadn’t taken them off. Just before I stripped off every thread of my clothing and offered my virgin body to the demon…

We had reached the district gate, where a gang of sweating, bare-chested men coaxed and led buffalos laden with casks through the entrance.

As we waited, Jinai turned to me. “So you don’t have a summoning stone?”

“No, Jinai. I’ve only read about such things.”

Jinai believed Blossom had taken me by force. She would kill the demon if she ever had the chance. With the protections against infernals that I’d given her, she’d likely succeed.

If she didn’t kill Blossom, my brother Zahar certainly would.

She could never, ever know.

xxxxx

I drew circles with my finger around Jinai’s dark areola, teasing the smooth flesh, watching her nipple swell. The rising sun bathed the far side of her body in gold, while the side that lay against me was steeped in shadow.

Jinai had many scars. It fascinated me to imagine duels in dark alleys where she had earned those scars, and all the trials she had endured as a scavenger child. Her emotions seemed as guarded as that flesh, covered by calluses and scar tissue.

“Would you still love me,” I said, “if I were not Keya Oko?”

Jinai gazed at me for a time. She rubbed sleepy eyes. “You will always be Keya Oko.”

“But what if,” I said, “I were to leave all of that behind? What if I gave up my station to become a traveling scribe and scholar?”

Jinai’s expression was flat. “You would still be the same person.”

I rolled my eyes. “Have you not ever dreamed that we could escape all of this? The obligation? The duty? The impractical clothes? That we could go on adventures again, like we did at Ijon River?”

“You want to go on another expedition?”

“Yes!” I said. My heart leapt at the thought. “More… I want to be free again.”

“You wouldn’t yearn for freedom if you hadn’t been born the first daughter of a Great House of Namu. You’ve never had to worry where your next meal will come from, or whether you’ll have a place to sleep during the rainy season.” A half-smile curled the corner of Jinai’s lip. “Trust me, you’d be miserable as a commoner.”

Mother had often said if I had been born to commoners with my skin, I wouldn’t have survived my first five years. Many believed albinos were cursed, or that our organs had magical powers, like rhino horns or peacock feathers.

But I was no longer a defenseless little girl. I was a priestess adept, a scribe and scholar. Jinai was my advisor, bodyguard and lover. What more did I need?

After Jinai had rescued me, after we made love for the first time, some part of me believed that she and I could live the rest of our lives on an adventure, free from the binding chains of House and city. Perhaps I was foolish to ever think that. My entire life had been lived behind walls and a golden mask, in sunless archives and dusty studies. Why would it be any different now?

“You think I couldn’t survive without my House?”

“I think…” Jinai’s gaze fell upon my hand, still toying with her breast. “I think if you keep doing that, you’re going to find yourself tasting my yoni again.”

I grinned, planting a kiss on her ribcage. “Is that supposed to frighten me?”

Jinai gave me a roguish look.

My kisses made a journey, crossing her flat belly, and venturing down into the lush, shaded valley of her thighs.

Later, we washed and dressed. It had been a full day since the visit to the Magisterium. In that day, Jinai had had some luck with her search. One of the porters we had interviewed had a wife and brother in the slums of the Hazard, and she hoped to speak with them today. That was, until a runner arrived at the villa summoning me to Oko Palace. My mother wanted to see me at once.

“I’ll go to the Hazard tomorrow instead,” Jinai offered, referring to the unwarded slum that was, informally, the largest district in the city. We were in my study — a small, windowless room crammed with vellum, and a massive lion’s pelt that I had adored sleeping on since I was a child.

“No,” I said. “Talk to them today, if you can. I’ll take Musa.”

“What are we trying to do here, Keya? Why are these witches so important?”

“The other day, you asked about banishing demons, and whether I had a stone,” I said, rolling up the records I had been reading. “If there is a formula to create magic that controls demons, we must learn it. If there is a way demons can bypass warding stones, we must understand it.”

Of course, I knew there was a way. I had done it many times with Blossom’s stone. I could ask Blossom how the stone’s magic worked. But I didn’t dare summon that beast with Jinai around.

Jinai nodded. “Then I will go as you ask.” She left me there to put my scrolls back in order. Soon after, I left the villa with Musa and one of the other guards.

Musa was a member of the Kut tribe, one of many peoples who dwelt upon the vast savanna north and west of the city. His tribe were famed hunters, even of adult elephants, and he had mastered a bow as tall as he was. He carried it now, striding out ahead of us as we picked our way down the path to the city proper.

After Jinai, there was no one I trusted more than Musa. The two of them had saved my life more than once on Ijon River. The tough hunter was respected, but spoke little with the other warriors. He wore only breeches, often going barefoot, afforded liberties because of his skill with the longbow.

As we passed the compounds of the smiths, tailors and weavers of Gigiri District, I thought back to what I had just reread in my scrolls about the Kichinka incident. The porters we’d questioned had worked for a San caravan master named Ranthaman. They had both spoken of three travelers who had accompanied the caravan, but were not in the employ of House San.

The porters remembered the travelers because they were certain that without those three, none of the caravan would have escaped Kichinka. When the demon cult sprung its trap, the travelers fought alongside the traders. A woman called Zhura turned back to fight the infernal while the rest of them escaped. Somehow, Zhura survived that encounter and crossed the border with them. Incredibly, some of the caravaners believed that a second demon protected her.

When we conducted the interviews, I had been greatly intrigued by these strangers, particularly this Zhura and her second demon. However, House San prevented me from learning her whereabouts, or what became of the three after they crossed the border safely.

Then my brother disappeared on Ijon River, and I had forgotten the matter entirely.

Zhura must have been known to Amankar. I would need to be more persuasive this time to get past the barriers his House had thrown up.

We passed into Gold City and headed towards the southern end of the district. The vast holdings of the Great Houses of Oko, San and Negani made up half of the area of Gold City, each of them larger than the Magisterium, which held Namu’s archives, governing Council, court chambers, and the Magisters’ college.

From the entry gate to the Oko lands, we were led through a series of terraced gardens and colonnades. House Oko’s trade interests were in the sea and across it. Over the generations, my ancestors had dominated trade with the island empire of Guja, the Horselords of the desert emirates, and, even farther across the waters, the Maharanis of Bhatagur and the empire of Xi.

Oko traders brought back all manner of artifacts from foreign lands. But my favorites had always been the living treasures, planted in gardens and croplands. We passed some of them as we walked through the colonnade — star orchids, banana trees with leaves larger than my head, and serene pools that teemed with water lilies.

Finally we came to a low, plain building of coral ragstone. The attendant who led us here stepped aside, as did my escort. With few exceptions, only family members were allowed within the Oko ancestral shrine.

I pushed the doors open, greeted by the smell of dust and blood. With the lamp given to me by the attendant, I lit eighteen sconces, each revealing a statue in an alcove. For each of the ancestral generations of the Oko, a head sculpture of its patriarch had been crafted in beaten copper. The House ancestors gazed down upon me with cold, greening stares. I gazed back at them, each in turn. All were men. All had borne their own descendants.

“While the gods ever slumber, may the ancestors guide me on my path,” I intoned softly.

My mother strode into the hall, followed by my elder brother. She was resplendent in a gown of red and gold thread. Zahar wore much less; just a cloak of cream over his training harness. Both had soft features like me, broad noses and very full lips. But unlike me, their skin was sunbaked, their hair as dark as night. They each embraced me.

“How are you, my daughter?”

“I am well,” I said. “You summoned me?”

“Your father has not seen you in days. Soon he will be honored in this hall,” she glanced at the statues. “He craves each moment with his eldest children.”

“I will visit him,” I promised. My father was bedridden. When he was awake, he recognized me only on occasion. When he did not, the meetings were… excruciating.

An uncomfortable silence followed. Zahar paced past us, studying the copper faces as if he’d never seen them before.

“When were you going to tell me about Amankar San’s proposal?”

I should have guessed she would know.

“Never.”

“You want to refuse him.”

“He is San, I am Oko. He has a different field of study. He wants a mistress, Mother, not academic exchange.”

“He is old. He will die. Once he is gone, no one will care that you were Oko and he was San. They will see you as his successor.”

“In your world, perhaps, of galas and feasts. Scholars will see me as his whore.”

My mother’s eyes flashed impatience. This spat was just the offspring of older arguments.

Zahar, obviously wishing he were somewhere else, stared up at the green likeness of Omari Oko, our great-great-grandfather.

“What is the alternative?” she asked.

“The alternative to running Amankar’s errands and warming his bed? Concentrating on making the city safe from infernals.”

“You are a woman, Keya. Your duty to your House is not to make cities safe or write treatises. It is to make your House stronger through marriage.”

“But since no one of worth and sound mind will wed me, my duty is… what? To be a whore?”

“No. You have your companionship with Jinai to fulfill your needs.”

I couldn’t suppress my gasp. “How did you-?”

“Come, Keya, you are not the first noblewoman to dally with a maid. That is a privilege you will always be able to enjoy, discreetly as you have.”

I glanced towards Zahar. He had not reacted at all. For one sickening instant, I imagined my mother had planned my relationship to Jinai all along.

“You will always be an Oko,” my mother went on. “Which means you will always be here to support your brother. Support, Keya. What were you thinking, offering concessions to these Ijon River commoners?”

Of course she’d find out about that too. It was costing us coin.

“The trade agreement with the villagers was their incentive to help us find Zahar,” I said. “Would you rather have left him in the swamp?”

“Of course not. But your promises are not binding, and we will not honor them.”

“Then the villagers will believe us to be a House of liars.”

“What those people believe is of no consequence.”

I balled my fists, a dozen retorts on the tip of my tongue.

But then I remembered who and where I was. My mother might have an ear for gossip, but as a thinker she was a dull knife. Slow to complete a task, and well past her best days. Nothing I could say would change that.

“You’re not being fair, Mother,” Zahar said.

He glanced at me. The pain in his eyes was evident, and not just from our argument. He had been fragile since his captivity. If no one else could see it, I could.

“She doesn’t know what that word means.”

My mother rolled her eyes. “Keya. You are clever and courageous. I know that. I just want you to think about the future. Yours, and the House’s. Promise me you will reconsider Amankar’s request.”

I stared at her, and gave the briefest nod. “I’m going to visit Father,” I said, sidling past her.

After seeing my father, who mercifully remembered me, I found Zahar on the training grounds with several of the House warriors. This time, his embrace was warmer, even if his sweat spotted my caftan. He left his sword and shield on a rack. We climbed stairs to a gallery that overlooked the other sparring men.

“I’m sorry about Mother,” he said.

“It’s not your fault. Nothing ever changes her mind.” I looked down at the mask I held in my hands. This was one of the few places I in the world I would not wear it. Where I would not hide behind that golden face, lacking all compassion and conscience.

“Zahar, the villagers…”

“Say nothing more. I will speak to Seku. He knows who controls the future of House Oko.”

Seku was our agent at Ijon River. I clasped my brother’s hand. “Thank you.”

His jaw set. His grip tightened on my hand. “Besides, I will need the villagers’ help to go back and hunt down Blossom. I will destroy that creature for what it did to me, to you, and to others.”

I winced as I watched the men fight below, dull blades crashing into the hide covered wood of their shields. Blossom’s power to seduce and control — men and women — was virtually irresistible without warding magic. The demon had held my brother for weeks, mating with him in a female form.

Zahar didn’t know, I was sure, that Blossom carried his child. If he knew, it would make no difference to his quest for vengeance.

How ironic it was that the same subjugation that made me wet with longing drove my brother to seething rage.

“You are needed here in Namu, brother,” I said, resigned. I pulled my hand away. “Just as I am.”

xxxxx

Back at the villa, I stood alone on the roof terrace outside the bedchamber, looking out over the vast dark of the sea as sunset approached. Jinai had not yet returned.

I had prayed so many times, as I had in the family shrine that afternoon, hoping for the ancestors to show me my path.

My mother was right. I was foolish to think I could ever lead my House. As the dutiful albino daughter, I would never marry and never bear my own descendants. House San and my own mother stood in the way of my research. I wanted to help my city, but that even that quest played second drum to the lusts of a powerful old man.

I was weary of obeying those who did not deserve my obedience.

I opened the flap of my satchel, my hand delving inside until my fingers curled around the thick shaft of Blossom’s stone. Heat suffused me as I stroked the raised patterns on its surface, like veins on a cock.

This was what I had been craving ever since Ijon River.

It was the answer I had prayed for.

“My Lady?” came a tremulous voice from the bedchamber.

My hand slipped from the satchel. “What is it, Lila?”

“I saw something I need to tell you.” The thin girl walked out onto the terrace. “Jinai returned today. I came into the bedchamber to clean and found her searching it. She was looking under the bed, poking at the floorboards and going through baskets with your clothes. When she noticed me, she was startled.”

“You were spying on her.”

Lila wagged her head. “No. She acted suspicious is all, so I watched her. She told me to beware because you were close to sending me away.”

“What was she looking for?”

“I don’t know, my Lady.”

What else could it have been but the summoning stone?

When she did arrive back at the villa, I would know. From my vantage point, I could peer down over much of the inner yard, to the gate and the guard that stood in lamplight.

“Are you close to sending me away my Lady?”

I shook my head. “No, Lila.”

“All I want to do is serve you.”

“Is that so?” I turned to her. Her gaze slid, subtly, down my body. I could almost feel the heat of it, adding to the effect of my yearning for Blossom. I pressed my thighs together under my caftan.

My desires were making me reckless.

“I have a task for you. Tomorrow morning, you will go to the Magisterium. Your duties here will be covered by someone else. You will deliver a message to Amankar San. Tell him that I wish to discuss his proposal, in private, here at the villa. Tell him he must come as soon as possible, and wait for his response. Speak to no one else about this.”

When Jinai returned, she and I shared a cold supper in my bedchamber. A large bowl of goat stew, spiced with grains of paradise, had been prepared just as I liked it. There was no joy in the meal, however. The food lay flavorless on my tongue.

With her fingers, Jinai dipped a morsel of ugali dough into the stew. “I learned of a young factor today who recruits for House San out of a drovers’ guild hall in Kitsuru District. He was at Kichinka when they were attacked by the demon,” she grinned with satisfaction.

“Do you think we could get anything out of him?” I asked. “With a bribe, maybe?”

JInai shrugged. “It depends on what you want to get.”

“Just his account of what happened at Kichinka, and after. Anything he knows about these travelers that were with the caravan, and where they are.”

“What’s wrong?” Jinai asked. “You seem unhappy.”

I straightened my shoulders and looked her directly in the eye. Jinai knew me too well. I needed to be careful with her, more than anyone.

“My mother knows everything about my life. She wants to make all of my decisions. And not the right decisions.”

JInai chewed thoughtfully.

“Did you tell her about us?” I asked.

“Why would I do that?”

“That isn’t what I asked you.”

“No. I told you not to be surprised if she knows. A half dozen guards probably saw or heard us, which means the whole House will know.”

“I realize that,” I said. “But she also knew about Amankar.”

Jinai shrugged again. “Maybe House San told her. If they said it the right way, it might have looked like a compliment to House Oko. A peace offering.”

I didn’t reply. Everything she said could have been true. But it didn’t matter.

I needed Blossom, not Jinai. All the information Jinai was seeking, I could get from Amankar in a single conversation, using the demon’s power.

“What have you decided about Amankar?”

“I may have no other choice.” I got up from where we were sitting. The food had no taste. “When you finish, sleep in the bed downstairs. I want to be alone tonight.”

She stared, open-mouthed. “Keya…” A span of emotions crossed her face. Anger, confusion, fear.

I half expected her to grab me. To force the answers from my lips. To search for the summoning stone in the one place she hadn’t yet dared to look. The satchel that lay by my bedside.

She would find it, eventually. And then Blossom would be lost to me forever.

“As you wish,” she said finally.

When she was gone, I barred the door.

xxxxx

The atmosphere in the villa the next day was taut as a leather strap at its breaking point.

Jinai reverted to her official duties, which meant overseeing the two other servants who maintained the house. She ensured that water and stores were sufficient, that the guards were fed, and that my needs were met.

“Where is Lila?” Jinai asked, when she found me in my study.

I glanced up from my writing. “I sent her to take a message to San.”

Jinai scowled. “Why her?”

“I want to know if I can trust her.”

“And if she fouls it up?”

I looked back down at my work. “Then I will know I cannot.”

Jinai eased out. The creak of the hardwood door was a tortured sound, like bones breaking.

I looked up again and took a deep breath.

I had only the beginning of a plan. I could get everything I wanted from Amankar San. I could wring the knowledge out of him like water from a wet cloth. But there was only so much time before what I did would be discovered, and Blossom no longer a secret.

Jinai knew I was hiding something. My time would be short. There was nowhere to escape that she wouldn’t find me. Because she loved me. Because she was loyal to my mother.

Or perhaps for both reasons.

I could not loose Blossom on her, as much as it might solve that problem. I loved Jinai, and I would not steal her will from her. If I had fallen, I had not yet fallen so far.

If I could not escape, I would lose Blossom and be sentenced to the same life I had led for most of my years.

Sheltered, shunned and powerless.

If that was to be my fate, then I would choose to be with the demon once more.

Lila returned that afternoon. “Tomorrow before midday,” she said simply. “He will come.”

At the end of the day, I called for Jinai. She stood outside my bedchamber until I allowed her to step in.

“I need you to find this San factor tomorrow,” I said. “Question him.”

“He will not respond well to being questioned by an Oko servant,” Jinai countered. “We’ve tried this before with San people.”

“Tell him I will be sponsored by Amankar San. It is all but decided.”

Jinai’s eyes narrowed. “He is coming here tomorrow. You don’t want me at the villa.”

She knew me far too well.

“Because I have dignity, Jinai. I don’t want you around while I have to degrade myself.”

She came towards me, hands out, as if she wanted to embrace me. I shrank away.

Jinai flinched. “Why do I sense you are about to do something rash? Something like walking into an ancient tomb to surrender yourself to a demon?”

“Because I am.”

She did not find that funny. “Keya, I-”

“Will you do it?” I said. The longer this took, the more likely she would see through my deception.

“-I love you,” she said slowly. “No matter what. I will always protect you, if you just let me.”

When she left, I barred the door again, sick with self-loathing.

xxxxx

The next morning, Lila prepared a bath and brought me a breakfast of sweetened coconut rice and mango.

“Tell me when Jinai leaves the villa,” I told the little maid as I ate. “After she does, no one is to disturb me until Amankar comes.”

She nodded, giving me one last curious glance before leaving me alone.

I was nearly naked, wearing a thin robe from the bath. The gossamer-like fabric had been a secret gift from Jinai. I slipped it off, baring my creamy skin to the morning. Then I took off my charms — the consecrated amulet around my neck and bangles on my wrists that would prevent an infernal from touching me. I knelt on the bed.

I was almost always covered from head to toe. It was a thrill to be completely exposed. My nipples stood proud, like tiny pink soldiers. I rubbed my hands upwards over my breasts, hefting their weight and squeezing them together. Licking a finger, I touched each little nub, feeling the tingle of chill.

I opened a jar of jasmine oil and began applying it to my skin, rubbing it from a wet sheen to a rosy, fragrant glow. When I had done every part of my upper body that I could reach, I massaged the oil into my legs and feet.

During my bath I cut away the light brown hair that covered my mons, leaving the flesh smooth and sensitive. I played with my swollen nether lips, pinching them together and then folding them open to run a finger along the tender insides. Dipping a finger into my liquid core, I tasted the musky tang. Finally, I laid back, and slid an oiled finger deep into my ass, groaning as I did so.

I buzzed with desire. I lay back, closing my eyes and listening to the rush of my pulse. Birds sang outside the bedchamber doors, and the guards called to each other in the yard below.

“Sacred ancestors,” I prayed, “if you have not forsaken me, show me the way to honor your legacy. Help me walk the path… Help me walk the path…”

I continued the soft chant until I heard a knock. “She is gone, Lady Keya.”

“Come in, Lila.”

I heard her enter, and the door close. When I opened my eyes, she stood over the bed, mouth open, looking down at me.

“Can I trust you?”

The girl nodded. “All I want is to serve you.”

I ran a hand down between my breasts. “Is that all you want?”

She swallowed and shook her head.

“You could be punished for serving me. Even put in danger.”

Lila nodded.

I glanced at my satchel on the floor. I don’t know why I trusted Lila. Because I knew she wouldn’t tell Jinai? Or because I wanted to see her tremble again?

“Reach inside, under the scrolls. Bring me what you find there.”

I watched the play of the slim muscles in her arms and shoulders as she knelt on the floor and dug into the bag. The drab tunic she wore rucked enticingly over her knees. Finally, she drew out Blossom’s summoning stone.

It was a phallus of polished wood, tawny in color. What looked like carved veins that entwined its length were actually vines, etched in the wood. It was thicker and longer than any human cock I’d ever seen.

Not that I’d seen any, in their aroused state.

I motioned for Lila to come to me, and rose to embrace her in a kiss. Her lips were delicate and tasted of waterberries — a common fruit the servants often ate between meals. I had never shown her true affection before, but I recognized the risk she was taking now.

As our tongues dueled, I guided the summoning stone she held towards my sex. The smooth wood glided over my tender flesh. The shaft throbbed with warmth. I arched my hips as the tip slid over my nether lips, tracking dew across my skin.

I broke off the kiss as I humped against the phallus.

“You want this inside you?” Lila asked, her voice thick.

“Yes,” I urged. “I want you to rut me with it.”

Lila sucked on her fingers and ran them over my slit, perhaps surprised to find me so wet. Soon, she had three fingers probing inside me. As she bent over my sex, I rucked up the hem of her tunic, caressing her bare ass underneath.

“You are tight.” She eased a fourth finger in, all of her small hand except the thumb. With her other hand, she flicked my little pearl of pleasure, making me gasp as tremors of sensation rippled through me.

“I am ready,” I moaned.

I lay back and shut my eyes as I felt the smooth head of the phallus against the lips of my cunt. Lila spread them with her fingers and eased the shaft in. Once she found the right angle, I raised my hips, whimpering as the head of the wooden cock stretched my inner walls.

Lila drew the stone back and then pressed in again, over and over, easing inside me a bit farther each time.

“By the ancestors,” I gasped. I looked down. Less than a hands-length was inside me and I already felt on the verge of a climax.

Blossom was coming to me.

This was the moment I had craved and dreaded ever since Ijon River. This was the path I had chosen. Even back then, in the tomb, I knew that I had summon the demon again. It was only a question of when.

“Rut me!” I cried. “By the Seven Fathers, make me come!”

Lila worked the shaft with both hands, thrusting ever deeper. My back was arched off the bed, my feet planted on the mattress. I reached down and twisted my nipples as she pounded me into oblivion.

“Yes!” I moaned. Waves of pleasure took hold, forcing me into convulsions as I came on the summoning stone. I twisted, my face shoved into the feather-stuffed mattress.

I groaned, opening my eyes again. Lila was sitting on the floor beside the bed, gaping. Though it was still morning, it seemed like a measure of light had been sucked out of the room, as if the sun had passed behind a cloud.

I followed Lila’s stare.

Standing at the foot of the bed, was a human-shaped creature. I had never seen Blossom in daylight. Its skin was an abysmal black — the color of the sea at night. Bright whorls and stripes decorated its flesh. I remembered one of the demon’s slaves telling me that looking upon the creature was like gazing at a starry sky.

“It has been too long,” Blossom growled.

The demon’s eyes were tiny points of light that fixed upon me, themselves encircled by the bright, expressive rings painted around the eye sockets. The creature’s jasmine scent washed over me. A living, burning scent, not like the oil I wore.

“Intriguing.” Blossom’s eyes flickered towards Lila, and then back to me.

I took a breath and focused my thoughts. The demon’s fragrance was already dulling my senses. Lila seemed transfixed.

“I have need of you,” I said to the demon.

“Of course you do.”

As we spoke, Lila seemed to come out of her shock. She edged away from the bed.

“Come here,” Blossom commanded, crooking a clawed finger. “No one will harm you.”

Lila quivered as she shook her head. But even as I watched, she seemed to calm, her eyes growing dull. When she had completely relaxed, she crawled slowly toward Blossom.

“Let me share a grain of wisdom with you, pet,” Blossom whispered to the girl, its voice like a forest breeze. She shuddered with lust as its finger caressed her cheek. The wooden beads around her wrists, warding charms like many of the commoners wore, offered no protection. “Demons are closer to the gods than men are.”

“Every child knows that,” I said.

“As well they should,” Blossom replied. “While humans obsess over their dead, demons give birth to the future. It is only natural that humans should worship us.”

I sighed. Blossom was arrogant beyond measure. “A man is coming to visit me, and I need to question him.”

“And you need him to answer,” Blossom replied. Its hands ran through Lila’s short spiky hair, stroking her head as if she were a housecat. “Then you know what I must do.”

“Enslave him,” I said.

“And you know how that is done.”

Blossom’s seed had a powerful, drug-like effect which temporarily enthralled the demon’s victims after they ingested it. When I found the creature, it had many dozens of slaves serving it.

“So,” Blossom said, “that leaves the matter of what I will receive in return.”

“What do you want?”

At this, Blossom smirked. “Oh, Lady Keya. You know what I want.”

Demons ultimately only wanted one thing. To breed.

I nodded and swallowed, feeling a twinge of need. “That isn’t possible now. I will call you again. Soon.”

“For now, I will take her.”

I looked down with surprise. Lila was already kissing the tip of the demon’s cock — a dense length of shadow that grew down the inside of its supple thigh.

Like all demons, Blossom was at once male and female. Sometimes one more than the other. The two modest swells on its chest and its slender shape mocked a female form. It had no hair to speak of. The organ that Lila currently slobbered over was decidedly male.

The demon pulled Lila’s tunic over her head and shoulders. She let go of the cock only long enough to lift her arms and let the creature strip her. Then she lay her head against the mattress, sat at its feet, and began to suck at the tip of Blossom’s cock like a nursing infant.

The infernal leaned over the sitting maid, planting its hands on the mattress as it gently began to thrust its hips.

I licked my lips, confronted by more needs than I could address at once. I desperately wanted to question Blossom, but there was little time. I had placed Lila in this position. She had fallen under the creature’s spell more deeply than I expected. Now I felt I should protect her somehow. If she swallowed enough of its fluids, she would be useless to me for days, Blossom’s servant instead of mine.

And every moment I stared at the demon’s plunging cock deepened my desire to have it inside me.

“Where are we?” Blossom asked.

“We are in Namu, in a small villa with only a few of my servants and guards. All of whom would attack you or flee from you on sight.”

“Naturally.” The creature sucked in a long breath.

Thin streams of drool escaped Lila’s lips, running down her jaw to her ear as she stretched to take the steady thrusts of the shaft.

“Fetch me a cup.”

I slid off the side of the bed and went to the sitting room, where I’d left two cups and a jar of palm wine. I tried not to think of the times I’d shared these cups with Jinai. I tried not to think of the various ways I was betraying her.

This is my path.

When I returned to my bedchamber, the couple was on the bed. Lila lay on her back, legs splayed. Blossom loomed over her like an angry stormcloud, feeding its thick cock into her gaping sheath, holding her ankles up in the air. My free hand drifted to the folds of my throbbing cunt as I watched her heels flex and twitch.

I was drawn to them, drawn to the point of their union. Soon I found myself kneeling at the foot of the bed, where Lila sat minutes before. I marveled at the steady descent and rise of the shaft into Lila’s clutching channel, the way the folds of her sex stretched like a sleeve sucking each withdrawal back inside her.

How I yearned to be in her place! I had never been with anyone else before Blossom. I had perhaps felt what Lila was feeling for a precious instant. But I had never witnessed it.

I reached up to caress the fleshy sac that hung behind the demon’s cock, feeling its heat and weight as it rose and fell. The skin was as silken as the vellum of my scrolls.

I bent to lick the cum-heavy balls, holding my tongue out to lash them as they swept up and down. The infernal’s slender backside brushed my nose. The scent was overwhelming. Blossom’s floral haze, mixed with the steamy musk of Lila’s arousal.

“Yes,” Blossom said. “This is what you need, Lady Keya.”

I nodded, though the demon couldn’t see.

I could make a child with Blossom. I would raise it as mine, and mine alone — not some misbegotten nobleman’s get. That child would be my legacy, my contribution to the future of House Oko.

“Come up here,” the demon said, gesturing to the bed.

I climbed on the mattress beside them. The expression on Lila’s face was one of intense, rapturous concentration. I realized that with me she wore her own sort of mask, one of deference and servility. Here, being rutted senseless, was her with all pretenses stripped away. At this moment, we were no longer princess and commoner. Writhing on the end of a cock, we were simply human.

Blossom watched me, delicate fangs bared in a grin as it plowed Lila’s cunt. “You and I will make a powerful child together.”

Like the witch Anathe.

I could bear children that would make empires tremble.

I laid my head on Lila’s belly, transfixed by the ebon cock as it shuttled in and out of her folds. Her cream streaked its thick length, proof of her desire. I felt the shiver of her flesh under my ear, her steady ascent to a climax.

Blossom was not done yet, however. The demon laid a hand on my head, gripping my scalp through the frizzy bush of golden hair. It pulled out of Lila and thrust its slimy cock between my waiting lips. I sucked the shaft in, letting Blossom rut my mouth like a cunt.

A voice in the back of my mind assured me this was the demon’s power at work. The heady incense of its odor was stronger than the strongest palm wine. My research suggested that demons were bred with and from other species. Some had plant-like qualities, and Blossom was one of these.

Still, I could not resist the depraved state of lust I was in. Blossom switched between our orifices, thrusting back into Lila’s cunt for a few strokes, and then into my mouth. I became drunk on Blossom’s fragrance, mixed with the pungent flavor of Lila’s juices. I felt their hands in my hair as they used me. Lila sobbed with relief and pleasure every time the demon pushed its soaking shaft back inside her.

My own hand slipped between my legs. I closed my eyes and let the demon take me, listening to the wet, choking, slapping sounds of our defilement.

If Blossom had taken me next, I wouldn’t have resisted. I would have wept in joy and let it pound me to the ends of its demonic pleasure. But instead, it shoved me out of the way, took hold of Lila’s legs, and bent her double. The demon hammered her into the mattress as she shook and screamed out her orgasm. Then it ripped its cock from her spasming cunt.

I nearly forgot the cup, and I fumbled with it before holding it in place. Blossom aimed the mushroom shaped head of its cock at the mouth of the cup and several streams of creamy seed jetted into it, filling it over halfway.

“You will need much less than that for your questions.”

Lila lay on the bed, half senseless and still shivering in the aftershocks of her climax.

“Drink, pet. Just a sip,” Blossom said to her.

Somehow, even with slobber hanging still from my lip, I mustered the will to object.

“What?” I clutched the cup to breast. “Why?”

“This is part of our bargain, Lady Keya. A servant of yours who will not attack me on sight.”

I could banish the demon with a word, and never summon it again. Blossom knew this. A slave close to me would help guarantee that I kept my word. If Lila drank she would want nothing more than to be with Blossom again.

“No,” I said. “You need to trust me. Only I control the stone. She is under my protection.”

The demon’s glare bored into me, intense points of light in its eyes glittering like diamonds. “That is not acceptable.”

I eased off the bed, backing away slowly. Lila tensed, watching us.

“Then we have no bargain,” I said, cursing myself for taking my amulet and wards off. I was no match for Blossom physically.

“If you cross me, Lady Keya,” the demon’s words cut like blades, “I will yoke you, mind and soul. This I vow. You will die serving me.”

I swallowed and nodded. And, to my immortal shame, a part of me hungered for what Blossom promised.

“You and I want the same thing,” I replied. “You have my word.”

Still eyeing the demon, I helped Lila off the bed. We both smelled of sex. My chin dripped with spit and cum, and I still had an unfulfilled itch between my thighs. “We must clean up. He will arrive soon.”

THE END OF CHAPTER ONE