Lemma the Librarian Launch!

That’s right, it’s out! Lemma the Librarian, the complete story from beginning to end, plus extras!

Cover of Lemma the Librarian by Jennifer Kohl.

Join Lemma, a talented young sorceress with a hair-trigger temper, as she snarks her way across a world of swords, sorcery, and sex! She may lose her free will (and she will, repeatedly!), but she’ll never lose her sass!


  • All 17 Lemma stories previously published on MCStories.com!
  • Another 7 Lemma stories previously available only on Patreon or ebooks!
  • And 2 “Iola Special” stories featuring Lemma’s sometime companion!
  • Plus background material never seen anywhere else!

With a tasteful gold-on-brown cover that gives no indication of what’s inside, for safe subway reading!

Get your copy today!

Lemma the Librarian: The Choice

Check out my Patreon for early access to stories, plus access to exclusive stories ONLY available on Patreon and/or in ebooks.

I struggled desperately, but I couldn’t move. I was tied to
the altar, tightly knotted ropes binding my body completely while covering the minimum
of skin. Other than that, I was naked and helpless.

A man approached, but between his hooded cloak and the
flickering candlelight that provided the only illumination in this dark,
defiled temple, I couldn’t see his face.

“Look up, Lemma,” he said, and his voice sent
tingles up my spine and curled my toes. It was dark, powerful, dangerous, a
voice used to being obeyed. 

I did. Above me was the carven face of a beautiful goddess.
My heart leaped—here was a protector, a savior!

“You and I will complete her defilement, Lemma,”
the man said. His voice was so familiar—but surely if I’d ever heard a voice
that could do that to me, I’d remember it, right? “Right here, you
will surrender to me on her altar, and her power over this place will be broken
completely. I will claim it, and become unstoppable… and you will spend the
rest of your life as my thrall.”

That sounded bad. I tried to struggle against my bonds, but
I couldn’t move a muscle. I was completely, utterly, helpless, and a traitorous
part of me loved it. 

The man reached for me, and stroked the bare skin around my
navel. I groaned; it felt amazing. He continued gently, teasingly touching me
while I instinctively squirmed, or tried to, and the fact that I couldn’t, that
I couldn’t do anything but plead, made it even hotter.

In minutes, his expert teasing reduced me to an incoherent,
pleading, desperate mess. I knew it meant the end of the world, and I knew it
meant I would be a slave—but the part of me that wanted to lose and the part of
me that needed him to fuck me ganged up on my will and tied it up just
as tightly as he had bound my body.

As he entered me, I could feel myself dissolving,
surrendering, and knew that once I came, I would never have any will of my own
again. As he thrust into me, again and again, winding me slowly higher and
tighter, his hood fell back. I looked up, saw Iason’s face—

And came.

I woke up panting, sweaty, and tangled in a twist of sheets.
I carefully disentangled myself and made my way to the washbasin, and splashed
myself. Fuck, I wish this water was colder. But it had been a warm
night, and the day now dawning was going to be a scorcher.

I looked wistfully at my bed. My pussy ached to be touched,
nearly as badly as it had in the dream. It wouldn’t take long, I could probably
finish before anyone else woke up… one quickie couldn’t hurt, right?

But that was the problem—I wasn’t sure it wouldn’t hurt.
Rhoda had felt a dark presence in the town, but it was too big to pin down more
accurately than that, at least not without more to go on. So it was very, very
likely that there was a powerful demon around, and that meant we had to be
cautious about doing anything that might be exploited by any of
the demonic houses. No boasting, no sex, no violence… it had been a stressful
couple of days!

And having that dream for three consecutive nights isn’t
I could barely look at Iason at this point. I’m just lucky
there are no awkwardness demons.

This was Iola’s fault, no question. She was the one who’d
put the idea in my head that I might… well, it was completely absurd, but I
was possessed by a ghost whose unfinished business was a failure to choose
between lovers, and Iola thought that I put the ghost to rest by choosing Iason
over the necromancer using the ghosts to control us.

Ridiculous, of course. I didn’t choose for Iason, I
chose against the necromancer! But I guess it reminded some deep-down
part of me with ridiculously bad taste that Iason was pretty hot
actually, and it linked up with everything else that’s happened to me on this
ridiculous adventure I’ve been on for the last two years, and boom: recurring
sex dream.

That was absolutely, definitely, unquestionably all it was.

Or so I thought until I finally went down to breakfast in
the common room of our inn. Iola and Iason were already there, which was why
I’d waited a while—Iola was usually the first of us to get up, and ever since I
maybe kind of completely betrayed her and nearly subjected her to her worst
nightmare, she’d said a grand total of twelve words to me. (I counted.) Which
was completely unfair—I’d been falling under the control of an evil priest-king
at the time! But I guess Iola thought I could have fought harder, like she was
doing before the aforementioned betrayal… anyway, point was, I didn’t want to
be the first or second person to go down for breakfast, because that meant
sitting alone at a table with Iola, and the thankfully nonexistent awkwardness
demons would’ve had a feast with that.

Anyway, shortly after I sat down, Rhoda slouched in, her
hair in disarray and face flushed. As she slumped into a chair, Iason asked
her, “You all right?”

“Yeah,” she said. “I had a rough night. Weird
“You too?” asked Iason. “I’ve been having the strangest dreams
since we got here.”

I froze. Very, very carefully, trying to sound casual, I
asked, “What were you dreaming about?”

Rhoda blushed. “Um, just someone I knew back in Alba.
We, uh… well, it was intense, let’s just say that.” She took a long pull
from her mug and tried to avoid our eyes.

“Ah,” said Iola. “You mean sex.”
Rhoda sprayed her drink across the table and started choking. “Iola!”

“I’ve been having similar dreams,” Iola said.
“Intense, sexual, not memories, more like fantasies I’d once entertained,
but more vivid than I ever imagined them.”

“Yeah,” Iason said. “I’ve been having dreams
kind of like that, too. Um, not really fantasies, but about someone I, uh,

“Who’s that?” Iola asked evenly.
Iason glanced at me and flushed.

No way, I thought, though a part of me was jumping up
and down and cheering inside my head, while another part curled up into a ball
and tried to sink through the floor. I could feel the heat in my face and knew
I must be blushing crimson.

“So clearly Lemma had the dream, too,” said Iola.
“That can’t be a coincidence.” Rhoda looked serious. “All of us
having intense dreams that started the moment we entered the town? Especially
with the demonic energies here? It’s gotta be a demon—some of them can tempt
you in dreams, you know. Actions in a dream don’t count as choices so they
can’t actually gain power over you, but they can get you riled up and hope you
make the choices they want once you wake.”

“There was… a shrine of some kind in my dream,”
said Iola. “I was supposed to protect it, but my—but the person I knew was
trying to get me to stop fighting and enjoy myself instead.”

“A temple,” said Rhoda. “He wanted me to let
him into the temple, and then we could—you know.”

Iason and I glanced at each other. “Mine was inside a
temple too,” he said. “Lemma was tied up on the altar, and if I—well,
if we, you know, then the temple would be… destroyed or something, I

“Defiled,” I said. “We all had the same
dream, different parts of the same story. A demon enters a temple, claims a
sacrificed soul on its altar, and takes over the temple.”

“But demons can’t enter temples,” Rhoda

“They can with help,” said Iason. “Remember
how we got Sonneillon in that ziggurat?”

“Well, then it’s clear what we have to do,” Rhoda
said, and stood up on her chair, one arm extended to point up and forwards.
“We must find the temple in our dreams, and the demon threatening it!
We’ll vanquish the evil like the heroes we are!”

“Um, yeah,” I said. “Except we’re not here to
fight demons, we’re here to find the book used to summon them. Even if we did
find this demon and beat it, whoever has the book could just summon them

“Oh,” said Rhoda, deflated.

“Finding this temple still seems like as good an idea
as any,” said Iola. “Unless you’ve had some sudden insight into where
this book might be?”

Was I imagining it, or was there just a touch of nastiness
in her voice when she asked me that question? She knew I was frustrated—my
ability to sense the stolen books had grown recently, but I was having the same
problem as Rhoda. This book was too powerful—trying to find it, now that I was
this close, was like trying to figure out which direction the wind was blowing
in the middle of a tornado. “No,” I admitted. “We might as well
look at the local temples and see if any match our dreams.”

We decided to try the nearest temple first, and the minute
we saw it, Iola recognized it. “This is the temple I was defending in the

“Is anyone else getting a little creeped out by
this?” I asked.

“Brave comrades!” Rhoda cried, and I rolled my
eyes. “We must press on with courage, learn the meanings of our dreams,
and defeat the evil that lurks here! To the temple!”

Trying to ignore the passers-by staring at Rhoda, we walked
up to the temple. As we did, I hurried my steps a little so I could walk next to
her, and quietly asked, “This could be a trap, you know.”

She shook her head. “I can feel the temple,” she
said. “Or more accurately, I can’t. It’s free of demonic

Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe, I thought,
but it was still a good sign, at least. We reached the heavy bronze gates, and
a woman’s voice from inside called out to us, “Hold, strangers! Identify

“Travelers from a distant land on a quest against
evil!” Rhoda announced before I could stop her. “We seek wisdom and council.”

There was a brief whispered conversation from inside—at
least two people, one of whom sounded very urgent, but I couldn’t make out what
they were actually saying. “Only those in the good graces of the gods may
walk these hallowed grounds!” the voice announced. “You must all
swear before you enter that you are not under the influence or control of dark
powers! In the name of Inara the Huntress, Queen of Beasts, Protector, Slayer
of Dragons…”

The litany of titles went on for a while. I could see Rhoda
getting excited—they probably had her at “Slayer of Dragons.”

Eventually, they finished off all of Inara’s titles.
“…the Beautiful and Courageous, swear that you are free people come in
good faith, not puppets of darkness, and may Ishara the Binding, Goddess of the
Oath, the Promise, and the Contract hold you to your word!”

“Uh… yeah,” I said. “We swear.”

There were general noises of agreement. Rhoda looked ready
to give another of her little speeches, but I glared at her and she just said,
“I swear!”

The gate opened, just wide enough to let one person in, and
we entered. A moment later, it slammed shut behind us. We found ourselves in a
shady, tree-lined courtyard. A fountain bubbled away nearby, and I kid you not,
there were a couple of deer visible through the trees on the far side.
Two women stood here, both dressed in white robes with colored trim—one blue,
the other black. “Take them to see Annella, Henti,” said the one with
black trim, who was a little older and a lot sterner-looking.

Iason did a double-take at the name, I noticed, but I didn’t
think much of it. Henti led us across the courtyard to the temple proper, where
we found—well, we found the altar and statue from my dream. It was exactly the
same, except a bit better lit, and also I wasn’t tied up, naked, and lying on
the altar begging for Iason to fuck me.

Also a woman was kneeling in prayer in front of the altar.
As we entered, she rose and turned. She was about twice my age, a hair taller
than me, with long dark-red hair braided and coiled on top of her head. Her
eyes were dark and deep, her cheekbones high, and her lips full. Despite the
worry lines creasing her brow, she was quite beautiful, even in the simple,
unadorned white robe she was wearing.

She stared at us like she was seeing a ghost.

No, not at us. At Iason.

“Annella?” Iason said. “Is it really

Iola looked puzzled a moment, then gave a rare smile.
“Annella? Aunt Annella?”

She blinked in surprise. “Nobody’s called me Aunt
Annella since… Iola, is that you?” she asked. “Then… you can’t be
little Iason, can you? You look just like your father!”

She laughed, the regal priestess dropping away as she rushed
forward to pull Iason and Iola into a hug.

I waited patiently, by which I mean I tapped my foot as
opposed to, say, burning down the temple. “So… who is this
exactly?” I asked.

“Oh, right!” said Iason. “Sorry, this is
Annella. She was my father’s, uh…”

“It’s okay,” Annella said, patting Iason on the
arm. “I was his sidekick,” she said. “On many adventures, over
many years. The first time, I was just an acolyte… he came to the temple
seeking an adamant blade to fight the creatures besieging his home.”

“I loved this story when I was a kid,”
Iason said. “The two of you traveled into the far north to find a fallen
star, then brought it back here to be forged.” He drew the sword and held
it out to Annella, hilt first.

I was surprised, but it made sense. Lemuria kept the secrets
of iron pretty well, but there were a few other cultures that knew how to work
it, just not how to make it—I didn’t know the details myself, but I knew that
you couldn’t just dig up iron and make things out of it, you needed to prepare
it first. But apparently this “fallen star"—I wondered what it really
was—was a source of workable iron? I’d have to report that when I got home—it
probably didn’t mean anything if they had to go on lengthy quests to get enough
to make one sword, but I still shuddered to imagine the damage an army with
iron weapons could do.

"The sword!” Annella said, surprised. Then she
looked sad. “So… Isidoros is…”

Iason nodded. “A few years ago. Firewyrm bite got
infected, and the fever took him.”

“I’m sorry,” said Annella, and I could tell she
genuinely was. “Your father was a good man. Strong, gentle, generous… he
was my first lover, you know.”

“What!?” Iola replied, scandalized.

“Oh, once we vanquished the Hill Beasts and he married
your mother, he was completely faithful to her. But before that, those long,
cold northern nights…” Annella smiled wistfully. “Anyway, that was
long ago and far away. What brings you and your friends here?”

We explained about the book, and the possible demon, and she
nodded sagely.

“It would explain quite a bit,” she said.
“For years now, we’ve felt a dark presence growing in this city. A
corruption. We worked to contain it—the priesthood, the rulers of the city,
their enforcers. But we were never able to completely root it out, and in
recent months it’s grown more and more powerful. Our sister temples—of Ishara,
goddess of contracts, marriage, and love, and Telipinu the fertility god—have
fallen to the darkness, desecrated and perverted. The city’s rulers, its
leading merchants, the corruption spreads farther and faster every day.”

“That’s horrific,” said Rhoda. “We must find
the source of this evil and destroy it!”

“Easier said than done,” said Annella. “It is
very good at hiding itself. But… four heroes, here to destroy it? And now
you’ve made contact with the last temple holding out against it? It’ll come
after you soon enough, I’m sure.”

Rhoda grinned fiercely. “And then we’ll have it!”

Somehow, I doubt it’ll be that easy, I thought.

* * *

About five minutes after we left the temple, the demon
showed itself to us.

Well, not exactly. What happened was, we were walking along,
trying to figure out what to do next, when a passing woman said, “Will you
dream of her tonight, Iason?”

We stopped short.

“What?” asked Iason.

The woman’s smile was creepy—broad, sadistic, totally
mismatched with her blank, disinterested eyes. “Will your dream change?
Will it be the priestess tonight? The one you were supposed to call your aunt,
the one you imagined as a boy, the first time you—”

Iason drew his sword. “What are you?” he demanded.

The woman laughed cruelly. “Will you slay a simple
woman for the crime of speaking to you, oh great warrior?”

“You’re no woman,” said Rhoda. “Not anymore.
You’re just a dybbuk, a puppet of evil!”

“I am a part of something greater than you can
comprehend,” the woman said. “But you will understand soon enough.
Now, will you let me go on my way, or will you strike me down in broad daylight
on a public street?”

With a frustrated growl, Iason sheathed his sword, and the
woman walked off, still laughing.

Auntie Anni?” Iola asked incredulously.
“You did it to her?”

“I was twelve!” Iason protested. “And she was
this beautiful, mysterious woman from a foreign land who went on adventures
with father, can you blame me?”

“Can we maybe talk about anything other than
preteen Iason’s masturbation fantasies?” I asked. “Like… the fact
that we were just taunted by a demon?”

“Dybbuk,” Rhoda corrected.

“What is that?” asked Iola.

“Someone under a demon’s control,” I said.

“Not exactly,” Rhoda replied. “A dybbuk isn’t
just controlled by a demon, it’s someone who’s surrendered their soul completely
and had it devoured. Their mind, their memories, their skills all remain… but
with no soul, they have no will, no compassion, no love, no desires. It’s not them
anymore, it’s the demon thinking with their mind, walking with their legs,
speaking with their voice.”

“That’s horrific,” said Iola, shuddering.

“But why?” I asked. “Why come here just to
taunt Iason, if it’s so good at hiding?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

“But it’s made a fatal mistake!” Rhoda cried,
getting fervent again. “I felt its presence in that dybbuk, I know exactly
what to look for now—which means if the person who summoned it is still alive
and ensouled, I can find them!”

I grinned. “And wherever that person is, the book will
probably be there too!”

“And a powerful demon who is probably just luring us
into a trap,” Iola observed darkly.

“Don’t worry,” said Rhoda. “Sonneillon is
waiting for my call, and we’ve got Lemma’s magic, your and Iason’s fighting
skill, and that sword—we’ll be ready!”

I hope.

* * *

Rhoda led us to a large house on the south side of the city,
near the wall. Large, but decrepit—the house was crumbling, dark, and dirty,
surrounded by a sense of decay and loss.

“This is the place,” she said. “Our summoner
is in there.”

“And possibly our demon, too,” Iola warned.
“Keep sharp, and don’t let it get to you.” She gave me A Look.

“Yeah,” I said. “Let’s go.”

The gate was in as bad shape as the rest of the house, and
we were able to get in easily. The courtyard was dusty, the mosaic tiles
beneath our feet cracked, with grasses and weeds growing up between them. Ahead
lay the house itself, and it looked completely abandoned.

We passed through a dark anteroom into a larger room,
furnished with dusty, decaying low couches—some kind of sitting room, perhaps.
Several rooms led off from it, rotting, cobwebby curtains hanging in their
doorways; the first we tried seemed to be some kind of study, but the parchment
scrolls on the shelves were crumbling and worm-eaten.

“This place looks like it’s been abandoned for
years,” Iason said unnecessarily.

“Are you sure the warlock is here?” I asked Rhoda.

“Positive,” she said. “They’re alive and
still a person, too.”

We finally found someone in the next room, a bedroom. It was
very slightly less decayed and filthy than the rest of the house, but not by
much—but there was a shriveled little old man with a long, tangled white beard
on the bed, huddling under the covers for warmth despite how hot the day was.

When he saw us, he cringed away. “No, please no,”
he said. “Not new servants, I can’t take it! Please, no more, just leave
me to die in peace!”

“We’re not servants!” I assured him.

“No,” said Rhoda, “we’re heroes!”

“Well, some of us might be,” Iola muttered.

“Heroes?” asked the old man. “What new
trickery is this?”

“No tricks,” I assured him, glaring at Iola.
“We’re looking for someone, a warlock.”

The old man laughed thinly. “Warlock?” he said.
“I suppose I am at that, at least technically.”

“You?” Rhoda asked incredulously. “You
summoned a demon as powerful as I’m feeling?”

“I wasn’t always this old,” the man said. “I
was even young, once, briefly.” His voice turned bitter. “But I
wasted it. I was a scholar, obsessed with knowledge. I learned everything I
could, collected rare and unusual tomes on every subject there was, but I did
nothing. And one day, suddenly, I wasn’t young anymore.”

“So what, you summoned a demon to make you young?”
I asked.

“No,” the man said. “That wasn’t when I
summoned him. I was content to age on—I worked as a scribe for a wealthy
merchant, but I found the work easy and finished it quickly, leaving me time
for my books and money to purchase them. I was happy… until the day I saw
perfection. His daughter had been away, living with her mother’s family, and
when she returned she was no longer a child but a woman—and I remembered I was
a man. But she was too young, too beautiful, too rich for an old scribe like
me… But I was mad for her, and in my madness, I sought help. I summoned a
demon from the book, one with power over over the desires of women: Ashmodai.”

Rhoda was struck with a sudden coughing fit. “Ashmodai!?
You’re kidding, right?”

“Is that… bad?” asked Iason.

“Bad? Ashmodai is one of the oldest, most senior, most
powerful incubi there is! He’s a lieutenant of Lilith herself!”

“So bad,” Iason said, nodding sagely.

“Ashmodai has no power over men,” the old man
said, and shuddered. “But women… he enslaved the object of my desire,
and used her to manipulate me. The more I acted on my lust for her, the more of
a grip he gained—enough to hold me here while he enslaved all the women of the
household, then used them against the men, then spread his corruption across
the city…”

“…and I could do it a lot faster if you would just
summon some helpers for me,” said a voice from the doorway.

We all turned to look, of course. A woman of about thirty
stood there, pretty enough but not really remarkable. But I saw how the old man
looked at her, and I knew she was the girl from his story.

“Of course!” Rhoda cried. “Your wicked scheme
is revealed, demon! You know a dybbuk can’t do magic, so even after you turned
the woman he loved into a dybbuk herself, you couldn’t just use his lust for
her to devour his soul! You need it intact!”

“Yes, yes,” said the dybbuk. “Even for a
hero, your bombast is insufferable, girl.”

Iola drew her sword. “If we kill her, then the demon
can’t use her to torment the old man.”

The dybbuk smirked. “Or it finally breaks him
completely, and he summons an army for me.”

I wanted to burn that smug look off her face. I almost
did… but then I stopped. “Come on,” I said. “We’re

“Lemma?” Iason asked. “Are you sure?”

The dybbuk’s smile flickered when he said my name. What
the hell was that? Surprise, but was it a good surprise or a bad one for the
Either way, it made me certain I didn’t want to stick around.

“Definitely. We’re leaving.”

Iola stayed where she was, sword drawn. “Or I strike
her down where she stands, and the demon has one less puppet.”

“Iola, no. We’re leaving,” I said.

“You don’t give me orders!” she snapped. The
dybbuk watched, smiling its creepy, infuriating smile.

“Lemma’s right,” said Iason. “Come on.”

We fled back to the temple, but I could feel Iola glaring at
my back the whole way. They made us swear again before they let us back in, but
finally we were in the shrine, safely away from any demonic ear.

“What was that?” Iola demanded. “Is giving up
your solution to everything now?”

“Shut up!” I snapped. “Something wasn’t right
there. Remember what the old man said? Ashmodai has no power over men.”

“Yeah,” said Rhoda. “Ardatlili told me about
it once. According to her, most people have at least the capacity to
feel desire for anyone, even if it’s small or deeply buried. But when he was
human, Ashmodai had no desire for men at all, which means as an incubus he
can’t directly manipulate men’s lust.”

Iason smacked a fist into his hand. “That’s why that
dybbuk taunted me specifically, because I’m immune to him!”

“Not exactly,” said Rhoda. “He can’t use his
powers to make you lust, but if you act on lust in his presence, he can still
gain control over your soul.”

“Hmm,” I said. “That might be it, then, but I
doubt it.”

“Might be what?” Iola asked testily. “Just
quit playing around and tell us what you want to tell us!”

“Remember what Annella told us? He’s already corrupted
two temples, a love goddess and a fertility god. Male god—and correct me
if I’m wrong, but around the Inner Sea, that means male priests,

“Yeah,” said Iason, slowly, as comprehension
dawned. “So how did he get control of them? Seducing them with

“It would be very slow and inefficient,” said
Rhoda. “Why not go after the other priestesses first, since that would be
easier for him?”

“That’s the question,” I said. “In the
meantime… we know it’s Ashmodai.” I turned to Rhoda. “You’re our
demon expert. What does that mean, strategy-wise?”

She considered a moment. “I don’t think I can summon
anything strong enough to take him on directly,” she said. “But if we
can get him exposed and hurting, well… incubi aren’t known for their combat
skills. Even one as powerful as Ashmodai could be destroyed by a mid-level
wrath demon like Sonneillon, if he didn’t see the attack coming.”

I nodded. “Here’s what I’m thinking. We go back
tonight, under darkness. Dybbuks still need to sleep, right? And they only have
the capabilities of a human body?”

Rhoda nodded. “Except for being part of the
demon,” she said. “Anything one sees, they all see—but they can’t see
better than they did as a human, and they’re not any stronger.”

“Okay,” I said. “So we go back to the
warlock’s house tonight and look for the book. Maybe there’ll be something in
there that can help us fight Ashmodai. Otherwise, well, at least we’ve
accomplished that much.”

I turned to Iason. “If it comes to a fight, well,
Ashmodai can’t control you, and you have that sword. You’re going to have to be
our point man.”

He nodded. “I’ll do whatever it takes,” he said
firmly. “We can do this.”

* * *

That night, under cover of darkness, we made our way to the
warlock’s decaying house—or the house of his old master, more likely. We
sneaked over the wall and across the courtyard, then into the anteroom, moving
quietly and sticking to the shadows. We slipped silently into the dark sitting
room, and then—

“Welcome,” said a voice. I recognized it
immediately as the voice from my dream. It was rich, deep, resonant; it didn’t
just enter through my ears but rather my entire body, vibrating through me like
a pulse of dark energy. Just the sound of it was like the caress of an expert

“You’re him,” I said. “Ashmodai.”

“Yes,” he said, and the word rolled through me
like a storm—it was electric and made me wet.

I raised my hands to cast a spell, and Iola drew her sword,
while Rhoda opened her mouth to call Sonneillon in to aid us.

“I don’t think you want to do that,” he said, and
every syllable was a kiss on my neck, a feather-light touch on that one spot on
my belly that makes my toes curl. The spell I was trying to remember danced
away from me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Iola’s blade waver and Rhoda’s
mouth drop open.

Then Iason charged past us, screaming some ancient battlecry
that caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up, and not for the
reason Ashmodai’s voice did. He brought his sword down hard, two-handed, right
on Ashmodai’s soldier.

Ashmodai just stood there, his expression calm, the sword
seemingly not even penetrating his skin. As we just stood there, it began to
glow a dull red, and Iason kept trying to force it into Ashmodai. The sword
glow grew brighter, shading from red to yellow, and then Iason cried out and
dropped the increasingly hot sword.

“Well, that’s it for that plan,” Ashmodai said.
“Any of you lovely ladies want to take a crack at me?”

I could barely stand to look at him, but looking away was
even harder. He was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen, almost perfection—a
little less buff than I prefer, and paler, but still a jawdropping specimen of
manhood. Dark, tousled hair, dark eyes, naked to the waist, and if his top half
looked that good I couldn’t wait to see what was below.

“No?” he asked, and I bit my lip as waves of
desire flowed through me. “Then, I think, we should have some fun…”

“Wait!” said Iason. “I’m the one who’s a
threat to you, right? The one you can’t control?”

Ashmodai laughed. “A threat? You couldn’t even scratch
me with your toy!”

“But that doesn’t matter, does it?” said Iason.
“I’m someone you can’t control—and you don’t like that. Well, let them go,
and I’ll stay here and you can figure out how to try to break me just like that
old man.”

“Iason, are you crazy!?” I snapped as it suddenly
registered on me what I was saying.

“But soon I will have all four of you anyway,” he
said, and I felt the pleasure and arousal rising and falling with his voice,
the aching desperate need to reach out and touch him, to lie back and spread my
legs and—

“No!” I shouted. “Iason, don’t do

"It’s okay,” he said. “I know you’ll be back
for me.”

“Hang on now,” said Ashmodai. “I never said—”

Iason tackled him. It didn’t do much—Ashmodai might be less
muscular, but he was a powerful demon, not a human. Still, it shut Ashmodai up
for a moment—a moment in which I couldn’t do anything, because with Iason
grappling him I couldn’t get a clear shot on Ashmodai.

Iola found a use for it, diving and rolling for the sword
Iason had dropped. She came up facing away from Ashmodai and made a break for
it. “He’s right, dammit!” she shouted. “We need to get away from

“No!” I shouted. “I’m not just abandoning
Iason! I’ll think of something!”

Rhoda grabbed my arm. “You will,” she said.
“But not here and now.”


But they dragged me out while Iason struggled with Ashmodai,
slowly getting pushed back. It was only a matter of time until Ashmodai pinned
him—time that Iola and Rhoda forced me to use fleeing.

* * *

“What the FUCK, you two!?” I demanded once we were
back in the safety of the temple.

“Language, please,” said a bored acolyte before
returning to her book.

“We were getting nowhere,” said Rhoda. “Iason
sacrificed himself so we could get away, and I wasn’t about to deny that

“Shut up with the hero bullshit!” I shouted at
Rhoda. “Iason isn’t a sacrifice! Four of us walked in and three walked
out, and you want to act like that’s a good thing, you sick

Iola slapped me, hard. “Shut up and listen to us! We’re
getting him back! We just need a way to plan how, because going face-to-face
with Ashmodai clearly isn’t going to work.”

“Bitch,” I growled, “you do that again and
you won’t have enough hand left to do it a third time.”

“Dammit Lemma, listen. What we need is info, and Iason’s
given it to us! Remember when you used my hair to talk to him? Use it to look
and listen!”

My jaw dropped. “That… that could work…” I
said. But he’s mine, I can’t let him be taken from me! I forced
the thought down. “Yeah, this just might be what we need! Let me have some
hair and I’ll see what I can do.”

Iola handed me a hair from her head, and I concentrated.
Illusions aren’t exactly my specialty, but with a little effort and a silver
bowl Annella was kind enough to provide, I was able to create a sort of
one-way-window through which we could see and hear Iason’s surroundings.

“All you need to do is give in,” said a woman’s
voice, and I clenched my fist. Iason would hold out against seductive dybbuks,
right? He had to.

“Please…” groaned a voice, and it wasn’t Iason’s—it
was the old man’s. “Walani…”

“Please what, Mutallu?” the woman, Walani I guess,
murmured teasingly. “Please stop, or please more?”

Old man Mutallu groaned again. “I don’t, I don’t know!
I need, need to—”

“All these years you’ve wanted me,” she said.
“The things you did, the horror you unleashed to have me… well you can.
Just admit you want it…”

“Gahhhhh… yes! Yes, I want it, I want you, I’ve
always wanted you, please, before I’m too old even to try, come here, let me—no!”

Walani spun out of Mutallu’s reach. “No,” she
said. “There’s something you need to do first.”

The picture was getting clearer by the second. We could see
Mutallu close his eyes and whimper. “Please no, don’t make me—”

“Yes,” Walani said, running her hands over
Mutallu’s chest. “It’s such a simple, easy thing… we just need the
ingredients…” Her hands slid lower, between his legs, and he moaned.

They were both naked, we could see now, as we watched Walani
jack off Mutallu. It took a while, during which Iason tried to look at
everything else in the room—the bonds tying him to the foot of the bed,
the ceiling, the floor, we got good views of all of them.

Finally Mutallu gasped, Walani cooed, and it was over.

“Fuck,” said Rhoda. “They’re going to have
him summon another lust demon for them.”

“Let’s go!” I said, getting up.

“No,” said Rhoda. “We need to know which

So we watched as Mutallu directed Walani in how to draw a
circle, mix the ingredients for the summons, and then finally to cast it. But
before he could, she stopped him.

“We told you who to summon before, but we’ve changed
our minds. There’s someone else, someone who would make a far better partner
for the particular tasks at hand… we want you to summon Ardatlili.”

“Oh… fuck,” I said.

“Who is that?” asked Iola.

“It is possible that I may have gotten a
succubus to swear eternal hatred against me.”

“Only one?” Iola asked dryly.

“So far, that I know of.” My eyes narrowed as I
glared down at the image in the bowlful of water. As Ardatlili formed from the
goop in the center of the circle, Ashmodai entered the room. “I might be
adding some more today.”

The goop finished forming into the shape of a woman.
“That’s not Ardatlili!” I said. “She was taller, curvier—did
they screw up?" 

"No,” said Rhoda, “it’s her. Succubi and
incubi sense the desires of their target and shape themselves to match. Look at
her—doesn’t she look like a younger version of Walani?”

As we watched, Ardatlili walked up to Mutallu and straddled
him. He groaned and arched his back as she stroked her fingertips down his
chest. Despite his age and the fact that he’d just come a few minutes ago, he
was soon hard and inside her again. We watched in horrified fascination—well,
at least that’s why I was watching, I don’t know about Iola and Rhoda—as
the light left his eyes and Ardatlili absorbed his soul.

“As efficient as ever, I see,” said Ashmodai. He
wasn’t actually present, and the illusion of his voice didn’t carry the magic
of his real voice, so he just looked and sounded like an incredibly hot guy
with a deep, sexy voice.

It was still pretty bad, and by bad I mean fuck.

“My lord Ashmodai,” Ardatlili said, making a
teasing little curtsy. She held the pose and looked up at Ashmodai through her
eyelashes. “I’m surprised and pleased you thought of me.”

“Well,” he said. “Even here in the mortal
plane, I learned of your… interest in a certain mortal.”

Ardatlili straightened and her eyes flashed with rage.
She’s here?”

“That she is,” he said. “And you’ll be
keeping her from interfering with me. But first, I must ensure your
loyalty…” He threw himself suddenly on her, pulling her into a
passionate kiss, and Rhoda gasped.

“What is it?” asked Iola.

“He’s going to make her a vassal!” she said.
“I’ve heard of it, but…”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Demons don’t normally fight each other,” Rhoda
explained. “It’s really rare.”

Iola looked at the image of the two demons tangling
together, kissing, licking, stroking, squeezing with obvious hunger. “That
doesn’t look much like fighting." 

"For succubi and incubi it is,” Rhoda replied.
“That’s how they feed and make dybbuks, remember?”

“So what?” I asked. “They’re trying to turn
each other into dybbuks?”

“Not exactly.” Rhoda quickly explained what was
happening. Apparently demons have a hierarchy based on power, seniority,
influence—the usual stuff. But a demon can also bind a weaker demon into their
service more tightly by making them a vassal—the two demons drain each
other of the power they’ve collected by stealing human souls, and whichever
comes out stronger in the end gains control of the weaker one, at least until
they become strong enough to break free.

“Ashmodai is way stronger than Ardatlili,” Rhoda
said. “There’s no way she can win. But if he wants her to fight us, he
needs to leave her with enough strength to stand a chance… and the stronger
she is, the more effort he’s going to have to put into keeping her on her

“Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” I

Rhoda nodded. “He can just drain Ardatlili again
whenever he feels like it, so if the two of them keep collecting souls, in the
long run this makes him much, much stronger—but right now he’ll be
weakened and distracted. Now is the time for us to strike against the very
source of evil!”

I nodded. “Let’s go. This time we take him!”

Iola stood, still holding Iason’s sword, and I shook my
head. “No,” I said. “You need to stay here.”

Iola stared at me. “What? No, we need to hit him
with everything we have!”

“Iason couldn’t even scratch him with that
sword! Even if he’s weakened, magic is going to be the only way to go

“Besides,” Rhoda added, “he said he was going
to send Ardatlili after us, and that dybbuk earlier was waiting right outside
the temple for us. He knows to send her here, and if the priestesses tell her
we’re not here, she’ll assume they’re lying. What happens to them if she’s able
to break in?”

“Somebody has to protect these women,” I said.
“Most of the city’s leaders are dybbuks, remember? It’s going to be up to
these priestesses to rebuild once we take out Ashmodai. I’ve fought Ardatlili,
she’s nowhere near as powerful as Ashmodai, but these women still don’t stand a
chance. But you, with that sword? You can take her.”

“I don’t—” Iola began. “My brother—”

“You’re a monster hunter,” I told her. “You protect
people. I’m a fire specialist, I burn them. Rhoda’s a warlock, she knows demons
inside and out. So you do the protecting, we’ll burn the demon out of his

“All right,” Iola said. “I’ll do it.”

In the silence that followed, Rhoda and I turned to go, but
we had barely reached the door when Iola spoke again. “Lemma.”

I turned to face her. “Yeah?”

She took a deep breath, then closed her eyes and let it out
slowly. Then she looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t fuck up this time.
Iason’s counting on you.”

I nodded. “Don’t worry. I’ll kick that demon’s ass and
have Iason back here in no time!”

“All right,” I said as we left the temple.
“So… any ideas for a plan?”

“What do you mean?” asked Rhoda. “The demon
has our friend! We go in, destroy evil, and rescue the righteous!”

“Sure,” I said. “Great. But how?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” said Rhoda. “I thought you
understood demons? They’re evil, they can only get you if you do evil,
and we’re good guys, so we don’t.”

I stopped dead in the street and stared at her.

“What?” she asked.

“You…” I sputtered. “How are you not
already in some demon’s thrall?”

“Because I’m a good guy,” she repeated slowly and
with emphasis. “So I don’t do evil, so they can’t get me.”

“But he’s a lust demon! You can’t just… not get horny!”

“Oh sure,” said Rhoda. “But since I’m a good
guy, I just don’t do anything about it.” She reddened a little. “Not
until later, anyway.”

I shook my head. “That’s insane. We need more plan than

Rhoda shrugged. “If you want.”

I can’t believe I’m the one arguing for caution
“Okay, how’s this. You call in your demon and attack the place
from the front.”

“As true heroes always do!”

“Right. And while you’re doing that, I sneak
over the wall and rescue Iason while everyone’s distracted.”

“And then we converge to slay the demon?” Rhoda

“Then we run like hell back to the temple. If we make
it that far, I’ll let you know what’s next after that.”

“Hrmm,” said Rhoda. “I suppose it would
be better to have the whole team together before we truly confront him again…
all right. Let’s do this.”

The streets were deserted as we made our way to the house
where we’d found Ashmodai. That worried me. Where was everyone? Had the
corruption spread so far already? Ashmodai had had barely an hour since he got Ardatlili’s
help, surely the two of them couldn’t do that much in that time, could

I really hoped not.

As we neared the house, Rhoda whispered Sonneillon’s name.
He’d been waiting, just off the mortal plane, and popped in immediately. She
directed him to smash the gate, and they were off.

Once I heard shouts from inside as Sonneillon ripped into
people, I made my way around to the back. The wall around the place was old and
poorly maintained, as I’d hoped—between cracks and creeping vines I was able to
climb it easily.

I dropped down at the rear of the house. Unless they’d moved
him, by my reckoning Iason should have been just on the other side of the wall
of the house’s own wall, but I couldn’t just blast through it without
attracting attention. I would have to be subtle.

Well. Subtle for me.

I laid my palm flat against the wall, concentrated, and let
loose with fire—but slowly. It was a pain in the ass keeping that tight
a lid on it, but I managed it, letting the heat and destruction spread out
painfully slowly, over a minute or two instead of a fraction of a second.

It worked; a section of wall burned away to ash with no
flame and barely a sound. I stepped through and looked around.

“Mmm-mmma!” Iason gasped. He was bound and gagged,
stripped to his waist and tied to a chair.

“Iason!” I whisper-shouted, then rushed over to
him and pulled out the gag.

“Oh, thank goodness you’re here, Lemma,” he said.
“The things they did to me…” His eyes were large and distant, like
he was seeing something bright and terrible somewhere else entirely.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ve got you now.
We’ll get you out of here and regroup.” I waved a hand and let loose a
spark, which burned through the ropes holding him.

He stood and pulled me into a hug. “I wasn’t
worried,” he said. “I knew you would rescue me, Lemma.”

I looked up at him, feeling his strong arms around his
shoulders. My hands were pinned against his chest by my own body, and I could
feel his warmth, the beating of his heart, the hardness of his muscles under my

His face was very close to mine. His lips, lips I’d seen a
thousand times, warm-looking and inviting, just like his dark eyes. The
heroine’s reward…
I thought, leaning up into him.

My eyes drifted shut. I could feel the warmth of his breath
as he drew nearer—and my eyes snapped open again as I pulled out of his grip.
“You’re not Iason,” I said.

Ashmodai laughed, a chilling, cruel, mirthless sound to hear
coming out of Iason’s broad, friendly face. “Oh, well done,” he said.
“You were so very close to giving in… I see why Ardatlili had
trouble with you.”

“Rhoda—” I started.

“—is fighting dybbuks,” he said. “She will
soon realize they are not me, but too late.”

“Where’s Iason?” I demanded. “Give him to me
now, or die.”

Ashmodai laughed again. “You think to threaten me? Your
magic cannot harm me. Your iron blade cannot scratch me, even wielded by that
musclebound oaf whose form I borrowed. Your demon cannot even handle being
ambushed by twenty of the city guard, and without him, your warlock is nothing.
Speaking of…”

There was a commotion at the door to the room, and then
three people dragged Rhoda in, kicking and screaming.

“You knew we were coming,” I said. “You knew
what we were planning.”

“You cannot outsmart me,” he said. “I have
devoured three thousands of this city’s souls. Six thousand eyes with which to
see, six thousand ears with which to hear, three thousand minds with which to
ponder upon what they perceive. No mortal mind can best me, no mortal power
harm me…” He reached out and stroked a finger from my temple, down my
cheek, along the line of my jaw to my chin, and then tilted my face up to look
at him. “No mortal will can resist me.”

I practically creamed on the spot. I had never imagined Iason
acting like this—well okay, maybe I’d imagined it, once or twice, in a
dream—and it was amazing. He was a good-looking man, I think we’ve established
that, but kind of a doof. Having him—someone who looked like him, I had
to keep reminding myself!—acting so confident, so powerful, so dominant
It was heady stuff.

“Three thousand..?” Rhoda managed, still
struggling with her trio of captors. “How can you have that many dybbuks?
Even with years to work, you couldn’t corrupt that many alone, and Ardatlili’s
barely had time to start!”

“Indeed,” said Ashmodai. “And it was a long
and difficult game against the warlock who called me here and the priesthood of
the city. But in time I grew free enough and strong enough to make nephilim.
Every priestess and noblewoman I have claimed has become a naphil in my thrall,
and I have claimed them again and again.”

“Rhoda?” I called out, trying to ignore the way
his voice—so like Iason’s, and yet just that tiny, maddening, nigh-irresistible
bit different—kept running from my ears into my brain and then melting its way
down through my chest and stomach and out between my legs. “What the
fuck’s a naphil?”

“Bad,” said Rhoda. “Really bad!”

“Tell her,” Ashmodai said smugly. “I want her
to understand just how hopeless her struggle is.”

As Rhoda explained it, nephilim are like baby demons.
They’re made the same way Ashmodai bound Ardatlili to his will: their souls
drained, then replaced with some of Ashmodai’s own. Just like Ardatlili, they
had wills, but bound to his until they grew strong enough to resist. They had
some demon powers, including claiming souls, but were limited by their human
bodies—until death, when they descended to Hell as full demons.

“But that’s insane!” Rhoda said. “Making
nephilim is dangerous for a demon—every one you make weakens you and
creates a future rival!”

Ashmodai chuckled, a lower, more unnerving, somehow even
sound than his laugh. “It weakens me briefly, yes. But I am a
rarity among incubi—in life, I had no desire for men, at all, not even buried
deeply. This means that now, I have no power over half the world—so I learned
to make nephilim, and then keep draining them. Through them, I gain access to
the souls of men as well as women—and in the long term, they let me grow
stronger and faster than any other demon. Give me enough time in this world,
and I will rival Lilith herself!”

Shit, I thought. It’s the same damn pyramid scheme
as that vampire in Mercia. But a much bigger pyramid, with a
way bigger
monster at the top

“Now,” he said, laying his hands on my shoulders.
“Where were we?”

I looked up into his eyes. I couldn’t help myself. He was so
near, so present, so male. I was getting dizzy, and I could feel a flush
spreading through me. “You are helpless, Lemma,” he whispered.
“Your body yearns for my touch. Your mind aches for my control. Your will
bends to my power.”

And it was true, all true. I wanted him. I was going to
surrender to him, because I wanted him, and I wanted to submit, and this would
be both at once. Again I closed my eyes. Again I leaned up toward him, and this
time I knew what I was doing, a deliberate act of lust that gave him even more
power over me.

My heart quickened, and my need spiked. This was it. I
already couldn’t resist my need, and everything I did to act on it would make
it stronger still. He had me.

“You and your two friends, the warlock and the warrior
woman, will make fine nephilim,” Ashmodai said. “You will conquer the
world for me, starting with that man downstairs.”

Yes please, I thought. It didn’t matter what he said;
I would have thought yes please to anything. Rhoda was yelling at me to
stop, to think, but all I could think was about Iason’s lips, his arms, his
chest, his cock…

I mean Ashmodai’s. Not Iason’s. He just looked like
Iason, natural mistake.

Before I could do anything, before I could start the process
of surrendering my soul to be devoured by darkness, a heavily armed man flew in
through the door. A moment later, the doorframe smashed apart, and the hideous,
hulking, scaly, hairy figure of Sonneillon burst through, taking much of the wall
with him.

Taking advantage of the distraction, Rhoda pulled free of
her captors. “Couldn’t handle twenty city guards, huh!?” she shouted.
“Yeah, I heard what you said while I was being dragged in here, but I knew
he’d be fine! I let myself be captured on purpose to distract you!”

I was about 95% sure Rhoda was lying about that last part,
but who cares? It worked. I pulled away from Ashmodai and lobbed a
fireball at the dybbuk-guard closest to me.

Rhoda pointed at Ashmodai. “Sonneillon!” she
shouted. “Destroy the fiend!”

The minor wrath demon lumbered forward and punched Ashmodai
in the face. He just took it, not budging an inch, but he looked annoyed.

“Come on!” I shouted to Rhoda. “Let’s get out
of here!”

We fled out through the hole in the wall I’d made to get in,
while behind us Ashmodai calmly and methodically shredded Sonneillon to pieces.
I gave Rhoda a vault up to clamber over the wall, and then she pulled me up
with her.

We looked out onto a city plunged into Hell, or at least a very
enthusiastic fertility festival.

It had all been a trap, a way to keep us busy and away from
the priestesses—the only other people in town who might kind of stand a chance
of slowing him down—while Ardatlili and a couple dozen nephilim got to work.
They’d obviously kept our path here clear so we wouldn’t see, but once we were
inside they’d stopped bothering, and now it was obviously everywhere: a
massive, city-wide, ten-thousand-person orgy. People fucking each other,
dybbuks, themselves, a massive outpouring of lust magic—and as we stood there
atop the wall, it hit us.

“Oh,” said Rhoda. She grabbed my arm to steady
herself as she flushed. I felt it too—an electric tingling in the air, an
energy that went straight to my head and then crackled through my whole body.
It was completely different from what Ashmodai had done to us; that was the
allure of a single person, but this was just pure sex, an unfocused need that
had to be fulfilled by someone, somewhere.

I looked at Rhoda, and she looked at me. I could see in her
face that she was thinking the same thing I was: you’re someone.

And she was. How had I not seen it before? That cute face,
those pouty lips, that curvy little body… I had to see it, touch it, feel it,
I needed skin on mine—

“No,” she said thickly, speaking with difficulty.
“No!” She pushed me away, and I nearly fell off the wall. “We
are heroes! We won’t fall for this, this… corrupting miasma!”

Well shit, I thought, staring at her. It DOES work.

She jumped down from the wall and I jumped after her, still
not entirely sure if I was following because I agreed with her or because her
butt did fascinating things under that little white skirt of hers. She grabbed
my hand and I nearly creamed at the contact, but she really wasn’t
giving in to the spell—she just pulled me along as we raced toward the temple.

Then she abruptly stopped. “No,” she said.
“You feel that?”

“Feel..?” I mumbled. How could I feel anything but
her touch, the energy in the air, the need building inside me? And yet…
“Wait, is that..?”

“Power,” she said darkly. “Demonic power,
between us and the temple. Lemma, I hate this, but… we need to get out of
here for now.”

* * *

I don’t have much memory of escaping the city. I remember
stumbling after Rhoda, wishing she would just stop and fuck me already,
or at least let go so I could find someone who would. Other than that, it’s all
a blur of side streets and alleys, and then we were outside the city walls,
outside the influence of Ashmodai and his minions, and my brain started working

I found myself lying on my back on a rock, the hot sun
beating down on us. “Fuck,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Rhoda.

“You saved me,” I said simply. “Again. Just
like in Lagasch. I was almost gone, twice, and you pulled me out both

“Hero,” said Rhoda weakly. “’S what I

“I guess so,” I said.

We lay there a while. I don’t know how affected Rhoda was,
really. Was she really not touched by it, or just better than me at ignoring
her needs? I think it’s the latter, because she lay there as long as I did,
while the sun slowly sank toward the horizon.

“What do we do?” Rhoda asked. “He’s probably
got most of the city by now. He’ll be coming for us soon.”

“I can’t fight him,” I said simply. “I can’t
hurt him, and I can’t resist him. What can we do except run?”

Rhoda sat up and shook her head. “We have to find a
way. You heard him, he plans to enslave everyone. The whole world! He
has to be stopped!”

“But all we can do is lose!” I protested.
“And that just makes him that much stronger when the next person fights

Rhoda looked down toward the city. “But we have
to,” she said. “The people of the city. The world! Iola, Iason,
they’re all counting on us!”

I took a deep breath. “Rhoda… do you really think
they held out against that?”

She stood. In her white cape and the light of the setting
sun, I had to admit she struck a dramatic figure. “I do! I believe in
them, because they’re my friends. That’s what friends do.”

“There’s only two options,” I told Rhoda. “We
go back into the city to try to rescue them, and lose our souls, and then
Ashmodai spreads until he either conquers the world or someone powerful enough
to stop him shows up—a god maybe, or an Old One, I don’t know. Or we run, and
keep running, and if we’re lucky we find someone who can stop him.”

“…or we contain him,” said Rhoda slowly.
“I… for a little while, anyway, I think I can seal off the city.”

“The whole city!?” I was flabberghasted. Even I
would think twice about trying to pull of something that big!

“Just… just the demonic elements,” she said.
“It’s a simple circle of containment like you use on any demon. Demons,
nephilim, dybbuks, none of them could cross it. Then I’d just have to… you
know, hold it.”

I stared at her. “If you really think you can pull that
off, even for a little while… then we might stand a chance.” I took a
deep breath. “But it’s dangerous. Even if it works, everyone in that city
is dead—but the demons will be, too. Not just gone, dead.”

Her eyes widened. “Nothing can do that!”

“One thing can.”

* * *

Rhoda summoned a couple of minor imps, and with their help,
we managed to get a circle drawn around the entire city before dark.
Fortunately, that was all that was needed, just a simple circle that Rhoda
could infuse with her will.

And I infused it with… other things. At my direction, the
imps added a few little tweaks—a rune here, a sigil there—as I built a
containment spell of my own on top of Rhoda’s. It was a hack job, cobbled
together from bits of lesser spells, but it should hold as long as I was there
to keep it fed and stable.

The closer we got to finishing, though, the more worried I
got. At any second, I was sure, Ashmodai himself was going to come crashing out
of the city, two hundred feet tall and impossibly sexy, and we would cream on
the spot and fall to our knees as his slaves.

But it didn’t happen, and as we finished our preparations, I
realized I hadn’t been worried about it; I’d been hoping for it. Because
if we finished without him stopping us… it meant I had to actually do it.

While I stood there, staring down at the city, Rhoda
banished the imps. “I’m ready,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said. “Me too.”

Rhoda closed her eyes, and I felt a surge of power from her.
She spread her arms, and then said, with a hint of strain in her voice,
“Okay. It’s up. Whatever you’re going to do, do it.”

I nodded quietly and stepped forward. I raised my hand, held
it near the invisible barrier that Rhoda had created. It couldn’t affect me,
since I wasn’t a demon or a dybbuk or anything, and I could only barely feel it
as a sort of quiver of magical force, but it was there, and my own containment
spell was waiting underneath it, waiting for me to activate it.

Waiting for me to cast the Rite of Uncreation and destroy
the entire city and everything in it, Ashmodai and Ardatlili included.

I closed my eyes and concentrated. This was the most
dangerous spell I had ever cast, the most dangerous spell in the world. It had
to be perfect. Not the Rite itself—that was easy—but the container I was
going to try to keep it in. I had to let it run riot, out of control, as long
as it was inside the barrier, but without letting it break out of the

If I failed, it could devour everything. If I
succeeded, it would devour everything inside the barrier. Iola? Erased
from existence. Annella and her priestesses? Annihilated. Iason…

Well, it didn’t matter, did it? They were trapped in there
with the demon. They were lost already—their souls probably already devoured.
Even if not, it was only a matter of time, if I didn’t do this. Didn’t kill

I remembered when I first met Iason, outside that inn not
far from Brinksmoor Manor. He’d been a nuisance then—a grade-A chunk of
beefcake, sure, but so earnest and eager to please. He’d become even more
annoying as time went on, always snarking, teasing.


Always there. Always having my back. Always saving me, or
being saved by me. I remembered long hours on the road, swapping stories,
singing songs, trading jokes.

And now it was time for me to kill him. I had to! I didn’t
have any choice. If I didn’t do this…

I lowered my hand. An age of iron order… I thought.
The risks were terrible, almost as bad as trying to cast the Rite in the first

But I’d made my choice.

“Rhoda,” I said. “Hold this barrier as long
as you can. If I don’t make it back…” I hesitated. “Just hold it as
long as you can.”

I turned to look at her. She was grinning. “I knew
it,” she said, still with that hint of strain. “Hero.”

“Shut up,” I replied. But I couldn’t help smiling
as I did. Then I turned, stepped over our barrier, and ran as fast as I could
into the city.

The moment I entered, I felt that same energy hit me. It was
like running into a wall made of pure crackling need. The moment I hit
it, my head swam, my nipples hardened, my pussy dripped. My steps slowed, and I
felt my feet drifting somewhere else, somewhere new…

I shook my head. I had to stay focused on the mission at
hand. Rhoda and I had taken a complicated, curving path out of the city, trying
to avoid the orgies on practically every streetcorner, but those seemed to be
over now. I imagined a city of thousands of dybbuks, seeking out those who’d
hidden themselves, penning them together, claiming the last holdouts one by

I imagined them coming for me, my doomed effort at heroics
coming to nothing as they brought me before Ashmodai himself, and he claimed my
body, my mind, my spirit, my soul…

My feet were carrying me the wrong way again. Thanks to the
complex path we’d had to take, the spot where we’d left the city was actually
closer to the temple than to the house where I had to hope Iason was still
being held. My feet were wandering toward that house, but I needed to go
to the temple.

I turned that way, and began to run. I dashed down a
crooked, meandering street, then out into an abandoned market square. Well,
mostly abandoned.

“Hello,” I said to myself from across the square.

I stared at myself. The other me was lounging against a
pillar that supported one wall of a spice shop. She smiled slowly, in a
luxurious, sultry way that I would have killed to know how to do.

“Ardatlili,” I said.

“Lemma,” she replied, her voice full of dark honey
and acid vinegar. “You came back to me.”

“I thought succubi took the form of whoever you wanted
to bang,” I said.

“We do,” she said. “You are an astoundingly
vain and arrogant mortal, you know.”

“Ha. Ha,” I answered. While we spoke, I gathered
fire magic in my fist. Based on how powerful she’d been before, this was going
to take one good solid blast.

“For example, you’re vain enough to think this form is
for you,” she said.

Wait, what?

She laughed coldly. “Stupid girl. Who do you think
I would take this form for?”

I stared at her, mind whirling. “But—he’s not—he

“Tell me, what form did my lord Ashmodai take for you?
Ah, but no need to answer, I know. I can see it in your lust.”

I shook my head. “But—I know he doesn’t—”

“Do you?” she asked archly. “I am a succubus,
child. I know what a man wants. Iason wants you.” She looked down at
herself. “I understand your confusion, it’s hard to see why anyone would
want such a skinny little—”

I stabbed out with a white-hot bolt of crackling something.
I was too enraged to make up my mind, and it ended up sort of fire and
lightning. Either way, it was powerful enough to blast her straight back to

She batted it aside like it was nothing. “Oh, you poor,
dumb little child. I have been feasting, do you understand? Ashmodai
drained me of most of my power, and he has drained me thrice since, and even
I am more powerful by far than when last we met.”

She took a step forward. As she did, she grew taller, her
limbs lengthening as her body shifted, growing more voluptuous as she walked
toward me. My clothes—her copies of my clothes, that is—dissolved into a
clingy, sparkling green dress, and in a moment, Mona stood before me, the
impossibly sexy female avatar of the trickster god-king of Munn.

“I can be anyone you want,” she said, her voice
sultry and low. I backed away, but she kept walking forward, her hair
lengthening and lightening as her height decreased and the clinging dress
became thin tendrils, sprouting flowers that concealed nothing. “I can be everything
you want,” she continued in the voice of the Faerie Queen.

“No,” I said, but it was hard to put any force
into it. She was gorgeous, impossibly, unstoppably gorgeous. Iason was still
alive, still free, he had to be if she was headed to see him in my form—my
form, that he wanted, and how could that be?—but I would get no nearer to him
than this.

My knees felt weak. Her skin looked like golden cream, and
practically glowed in the light of the setting sun. Her eyes were big and blue
and clear, and I couldn’t look away from them. She was so close, all I had to
do was reach out and I could touch her, could feel that skin that I knew
would be as impossibly, perfectly soft as it looked. Her perfect mouth smirked,
and I knew that I would beg to feel it on me, that it would soon be sucking my
soul out through my pussy.

“DIE, FIEND!” a familiar voice screamed, and Iola
leaped from the shadows gathering at the edges of the square, the black sword
whistling through the air as she swung it against Ardatlili.

Ardatlili dodged out of the way, and turned to face Iola.
“You again?” she said. “Isn’t failing to defeat me three times

Iola grinned savagely. “Beating you three times, you
mean,” she said. “Or have you forgotten that I drove you from the
temple every time?”

Ardatlili’s eyes flashed. “And each time I have feasted
and returned, stronger still.”

What. The. Fuck. “Iola, it’s been like six
. How do you and Ardatlili have a rivalry already!? She’s supposed to
be my nemesis!”

“Three times,” Iola repeated, ignoring me.
“Three times I protected the temple from you, only for you to return
stronger. There will not be a fourth! This time I followed you as you fled!
This time I defeat you once and for all!”

“Okay, great,” I said. “You don’t see me
poaching your nemesis, but whatever, you do you.”

Iola screamed and lunged at Ardatlili again. The demon
caught the point of the blade on the palm of her hand, which sizzled lightly.
Then she pushed back, flinging Iola away.

Iola turned what could have been a stumble into a sort of
backwards hop, and then came at Ardatlili again, swinging the blade from the
side this time. Ardatlili dodged back, then circled around.

“It was very foolish to leave the temple, mortal,”
Ardatlili said. “Without its accursed sanctity to slow me, you are certain
to fall. And without you to protect it, it will soon fall, too. Your soul and
the souls of all those women will belong to me, as my thralls, forever.”

“NEVER!” Iola screamed and charged forward again.
Ardatlili laughed, dodged her blade, and swatted her on the side of the head as
she went past, sending her stumbling.

Of course I wasn’t doing nothing all this time. I was
gathering fire magic again, ready to unleash it as soon as I got an opening. As
Iola stumbled, Ardatlili turned to watch, momentarily exposing her back to me.
I focused down and lashed out with the strongest blast of fire I could muster,
channeled to a single point right in the middle of her back.

It did nothing.

“That’s not fair!” I protested as Ardatlili
turned to face me, grinning. “I am so sick of enemies that are
fucking immune to magic!”

She walked slowly toward me, hips swaying like a cobra
advancing on prey, and just as impossible not to watch. “Don’t
worry,” she said. “We won’t be enemies for much longer.”

“No,” said Iola. “This fight is over.”

“What are you—” Ardatlili started, and then
abruptly stopped. “No!”

“What?” I felt something, but I couldn’t
place what. Something magical had just happened, something major, but it wasn’t
the kind of magic I was used to. High magic, definitely, really high, but—and
then it hit me. “Holy shit.”

“The first part is accurate,” said Annella,
emerging from an alley behind me. Other priestesses emerged from the alleys and
streets leading into the square.

“Did you bring all of them?” Ardatlili

Iola smiled. “Of course. I wasn’t going to leave them
alone and unprotected in that temple, was I?”

“That temple was their only protection!”
Ardatlili snapped.

“Yes,” said Annella. “But a temple is not
walls and stones. It’s us.”

And that was what they’d done. While Iola and I kept
Ardatlili busy, they’d surrounded the square, and said their prayers, and now
it was a temple of Inara

“Inara,” Annella said, closing her eyes in prayer,
and the other priestesses joined with her. “Goddess of the Hunt.
Protector. Slayer of Dragons. Bless your daughter Iola, hunter of monsters and
slayer of demons. In Your holy name, may the strength of her enemy, defiler of
Your temple, be sapped here, in Your holy place!”

“No!” screamed Ardatlili, but I could feel it,
feel the threads of magic flowing from the gathered priestesses—no, flowing through
them, coming from who knows where—and wrapping around her, reaching into her, pulling
her magic out of her… And then Iola was there, her sword a black tear in the
world, slicing through thread after thread of magic and sucking them away until
it plunged into Ardatlili herself.

“No!” she screamed again, and then her body
collapsed into ectoplasm, her wailing spirit banished back to Hell once more.

Iola stood over her, panting. “Thank you, Lemma,”
she said. “I was waiting for something to distract her.”

I shook my head. “That was… that was amazing.”

“It was Iola’s plan,” said Annella. “We owe
it all to her—you have no idea! She’s been fighting Ardatlili all day!”

“I know,” I said. “I heard. I’m sorry,
there’s no time for stories.”

“Where’s Iason?” Iola asked. “When you didn’t
come back with him… I feared all of you were…”

“We didn’t rescue him,” I said. “I’m trying

“I’ll go with you,” said Iola.

“No. You saw what happened before, that sword can’t
hurt him. I don’t think even the priestesses could weaken him enough to do


“No,” I repeated. “Listen. You’ve protected Annella
and the others so far. Finish the job! Get them out of the city. Rhoda’s
maintaining a barrier that demons can’t cross, maybe they can help her hold
them in.”

Iola only hesitated a moment. “All right,” she
said finally. “And you?”

I’d been thinking about that. My hope had been that Iola and
the priestesses were still holding out and could help me. But if Ardatlili had
grown that much stronger in just a few hours, how much stronger would Ashmodai
be? They couldn’t help me. I had to go alone. “I’m going to rescue
Iason,” I said.

“But how?” Annella protested. “You said it
yourself. If he’s too strong for us or the sword—”

“You’re going to use that, aren’t you?”
Iola asked. “The thing you were too afraid to use against Brea.”

“Too afraid or too smart,” I said.

“And you’re not smart now?” Iola asked.

I had to laugh. “No, I’m starting to realize I’m an

“I could have told you that,” Iola said, and
smiled. “Bring that other idiot back with you.”

I nodded. “I will. Now go. Get to safety!” Then I
turned and ran toward the house. I was certain now that he would be there.
Ashmodai had to know I was coming for him—and he wanted me to.

The house’s gate was still smashed, of course. It looked
deserted as I approached, but I knew it wouldn’t be. I walked straight in
through the front door, to find Iason waiting for me, lounging on a high throne
that had probably been carried here from the palace.

“Ashmodai,” I said.

“Lemma,” he said, and I came.

He smiled and stood. “Welcome,” he said, taking a
single step toward me, and I came again, shaking and moaning.

I collapsed to the floor. I couldn’t help it; at just two
words from him, my strength was gone—and it felt incredible.

He walked slowly toward me, confident and graceful as a
jungle cat. His clothes just sort of dissolved—and with a gesture of his hand,
so did mine. “Not how you expected this to go?” he asked.

Every syllable was another orgasm, each stronger than the
one before. I lay curled up on my side, shuddering and gasping for air as
pleasure blasted through me. “No…” I admitted weakly, when I could
get enough air into my lungs.

“No,” he said, and I came again. “Did you
expect to fight me, to pull some cunning spell out at the last second? Did you
think love could win?”

I thrashed and sobbed as wave after wave of indescribable
pleasure poured through me. If this is what hearing him is like, what would
it be like to
touch him? I thought, and regretted it immediately,
because now I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.

He stopped, towering over me. I looked up and all I could
see was Iason’s big brown cock, hard and straight, thick and long and proud,
sticking out right over my head. I wanted to touch it. Needed to touch
it. But desperately I fought that need, trying to hold my hands back.

“You chose to come back,” Ashmodai said. “As
I knew you would. We know what the enemies of order predicted. A choice between
order and chaos… but you know what you are.”

I screamed as I came again and again. It was agony, perfect,
incredible, blissful agony that I wanted to never stop. Then it did, and that
was worse.

“Sorceress of the high magic. Civilized Lemurian. Librarian.
What could you choose but order?”

Again and again and again and again. I couldn’t think,
couldn’t breathe, could barely move. But that cock was hanging above me, and I
knew that it could do even more. Slowly I reached for it.
“Yes,” I managed croak, my mouth dry. “I choose…”

I touched his cock, and another orgasm, better than any of
the others, swept through me, and this one kept going as long as I kept
touching. I closed my eyes, and then with every ounce of willpower I had left,
I forced them open again. I looked up into Ashmodai’s face, which was Iason’s
face. “Order…” I managed, and he smiled in triumph.

“…chaos…” I continued, and his smile turned
into a puzzled frown. “Between them… I choose… him.”

Then I reach into his cock, into the threads of magic that
made up his entire being, that made up the entire world… and I snapped

It should have made a noise. I expected it to—twang
or zing or something like that. But it didn’t. It just snapped, two
broken ends waving off. That was it. That was the entire Rite. Everything else
was just about dealing with the consequences of that single, simple act.

Two broken ends of a snapped thread of magic, their
razor-sharp tips glistening as they sliced through two other threads.

Which snapped, four broken ends waving off, their
razor-sharp tips glistening as they sliced through four other threads.

Which snapped, eight broken ends waving off, their razor-sharp
tips glistening as they sliced through eight other threads. 

Which snapped…

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?” Ashmodai roared, staggering
back away from me. I didn’t cum—his magic was all focused inwards now, trying
to fight what was inside him.

I dragged myself painfully to my feet. “What I had
to,” I said. Then I staggered past him, deeper into the house.

He howled in agony and reached for me, but he was collapsing
into himself already. He couldn’t do anything to me, or anyone, anymore.

“That man downstairs,” he’d called Iason. This
house had to have some kind of underground room—a root cellar or wine cellar.
Either way, it was probably reached through the pantry… which could be any
room except the one we’d found the old scribe in before.

I picked one at random, and got lucky. There was an open
trapdoor in the middle of the floor, and stairs leading down to a dark cellar.
Down there, I saw Iason, naked, three equally naked young women stroking him
and cooing while he grimaced and struggled. He was still fighting them! Still

I took out the first naphil with a bolt of fire to the head.
Partial succubus powers or not, her body was still human. The other two turned
and began stalking toward me with naked hunger, hips and breasts swaying.

They were pretty hot, actually, but I had just had umpteen
thousand orgasms and I was fucking tired. I blasted them both and then
stumbled my way over to Iason.

“Lemma!” he cried happily when he saw me. “Is
it—no, this is a trick! It’s not you!”

“Shut up, stupid,” I said. “Of course it’s

“Prove it. Say something only Lemma would say.”

“I don’t have time for this! We have to get out of here—I’ve
beaten Ashmodai, but it’s going to destroy the entire city and take us with it
if we don’t hurry.”

He paused, considering. “Yeah, that is something only
you would say. Okay.”

I laughed weakly. “Asshole.” Then I slashed
through his ropes with a burst of fire and helped him to his feet. He collapsed
against me, clearly as exhausted as I was, but somehow we both managed to stay
upright in each other’s arms.

I looked up at him. He looked down at me. I’m not sure which
of us moved, maybe both, but a moment later our lips were together.

It wasn’t a passionate, heroic kiss for the ages. It was the
soft kiss of two people who were utterly exhausted but very glad to see each
other. It was just a moment, and then we broke apart.

He started to say something, and I shook my head.
“Gotta go,” I said tiredly. “No time.”

He tried again, and I shook my head. “Hurry!” I
repeated, and then turned to stagger back up the stairs. A moment later, he
followed behind me.

We stumbled back up the stairs and out into Ashmodai’s
makeshift throne room, where he was still standing there, one hand
outstretched, and expression of horror on his face, while between his legs,
there was… nothing. Not a hole, not emptiness, not darkness, just… nothing.

“What did you do to him?” Iason asked.

“Bad things,” I said. “Listen, there’s a lot
of magic in a demon that powerful, it’ll take a while to consume all of him—but
once it does, it’ll sweep through the rest of the city in seconds. We have to
be out of here by then!”

“Then what are we waiting for?” he asked.

And leaning on each other for support, we staggered as
quickly as we could out of the house, down the streets, out of the city. No one
tried to stop us—with Ashmodai dissolving from the inside out, the dybbuks were
reduced to empty shells, bodies and minds with their driving will retracted to
focus on his own problems. The nephilim were in confusion, their master’s
influence breaking or already broken, but not yet powerful enough to fully
assert their own wills. And everyone else… well, if there was anyone else in
the city, they were already gone, I hoped.

We made it just in time. We stepped outside the barrier, and
then I felt it—like the world falling away beneath me, a sickening plunge as
magic poured into a hole that grew faster the more magic it swallowed. Blinking
exhaustion out of my eyes, I reached for the barrier, and activated my
containment spell.

Then the Rite struck it. It was like a physical blow in
reverse—not knocking me back, but trying to pull me in. I was being dragged
forward, slowly but inexorably, no matter how much of what little power I had
left I poured into the barrier. Out of the corners of my eyes I could see Rhoda
struggling to maintain her part of it as well, the priestess lending their
power to aid us both… but it didn’t matter. I was being pulled toward the
barrier, and once I touched it, crossed it, the Rite would tear me to shreds,
my spell would collapse, and the Rite would sweep out across the world.

I hadn’t saved the world, I’d destroyed it. Dammit, mom was
right about me again.

And then I felt Iason’s arms circle my waist. He dug his
heels in, and leaned back, and I stopped. He was doing it, his stupid
meathead beefcake strength was actually beating the Rite of Uncreation!

Which just left it up to me to hold the barrier. My strength
was fading fast, I was exhausted… but I had to do it, so I did.

At last, every bit of magic inside the barrier consumed, the
Rite ended. A moment later, I did too; my spell collapsed, the barrier
collapsed, and the air rushed in like a giant bubble popping. Where the city
had been, there was just a huge circular hole in the ground.

A circular hole left by a completely successful casting of
the Rite of Uncreation that did exactly what I wanted it to do. “I rule!”
I said, or tried to. It came out more like “I ryarrffhhghhlll,” and
then I was out.

* * *

By the time I woke up, it was morning. I was lying on a
rather uncomfortable patch of ground; Iason sat nearby, watching me.
“Morning,” he said.

“So it is,” I replied.



“So, um, I couldn’t help but notice…” he
started, and then trailed off.

I sighed. Even after a night’s sleep, or coma, or whatever
I’d been in, I was too tired to fight this. “Yeah, yeah, I knew this was
coming. Just go ahead and get it out.”

“Ashmodai. When we came out. He kinda looked like…
well, like me.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“But… I mean, when they’re targeting someone, don’t

“Yeah,” I said again.

“So does that mean you..?”

“Don’t read too much into it,” I said.
“You’re pretty, is all. It’s not like you don’t know that.”

“Oh,” he said, blushing a little. Actually
blushing! “Because, um…”

“What?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he said.

We were silent a while.

“It’s just…” he said after a moment. “I
mean, I didn’t think you were…”

“No, no, it’s not like that,” I said. “I
think of you as a friend. Just like you think of me.”

“Ah,” he said. “Well, I mean… I do of course!
But, um…”

I stared at him. I could feel the tips of my ears burning.
“‘But, um?’” I asked.

“Well,” he said. “I mean… so the thing is,
um… at first I just thought you were this kid, right? Kind of bratty, but
smart and fun, and we made a good team. But then… well…” He rubbed the
back of his head. “You came to rescue me from the Faerie Queen. And, uh,
you’d changed your hair.”

“Oh,” I said. That was why he hadn’t tried
anything when he had his inhibitions removed by Mona? Because he wasn’t into me
yet? But then I thought of Annella, his first crush, short and skinny
and redheaded… “Oh, fuck, you have a type. So all those times you
had sex with other girls…”

“I told you,” he said. “Those were necessary.
To help people! I mean, they weren’t bad, but they weren’t my type. They
weren’t… well, small and smart and redheaded and funny and pretty and

I knew I had to be blushing hard now. “You really think
I’m all those things?”

“You always think you’re all those things,”
he answered.

“Well, yeah,” I said, “but I didn’t know you agreed.
Why didn’t you ever say anything?”

“Well, I figured, with everything happening, well…
see the thing is, I…”

He was quiet for a while, but I wasn’t about to let the
conversation die here. “Spit it out, Iason.”

He sighed. “Over and over again, I saw you get caught.
Used. Controlled. People made you want them, made you love them, made
you… serve… them. And… and… dammit, Lemma, it was hot! If I had
the power, I’d want to do that to you, too! And after everything you’ve been
through, all the times you’d have to suffer that, how could I do it to you,
too? I’m supposed to be your protector!”

I stared at him in silence for a long moment. It unfolded
slowly, stretching out between us, as I worked my way through everything he’d
just said.

Then I began to laugh.

* * *

We talked for a long while. It was past noon when the two of
us finally joined the others in a makeshift camp on the edge of the pit where
the city had once stood.

There were a lot of them. Rhoda, Iola, and the priestesses
I’d expected, but… “Where’d all these kids come from?” There were
dozens of children, hundreds. Some of them were playing, but most were just
huddled, looking scared and sad, while priestesses walked up and down between
them, offering comfort and soft words.

“We found them,” said Iola. “On the way out
of the city, I spotted a dybbuk dragging a child. On a hunch, I followed them.
Turned out they’d herded all the city’s children into this warehouse.”

“We think they were saving them for later,”
Annella said darkly. “Waiting for them to grow old enough to…

“Ugh,” said Iola, and shuddered.

“Wow,” I said. “Well. What’ll happen to

“We’ve been discussing that,” said Annella.
“Our sister temple, the Temple of Inara in Lurz will gladly take us in,
but this is too many children for them. Still, it is a large and prosperous
city… I’m sure we can find homes for all of them.”

“That’s good,” I said, and meant it. “Good
luck to all of you.”

“Lemma?” asked Rhoda. “That sounds a lot like

“That’s because it is,” I said. “The last
book was in the town. It’s gone forever now, devoured by the Rite. That means
the entire Lost Library’s accounted for. It’s time for me to go home.”

“And I’m going with her,” said Iason.

Iola stood. “Then you’ll need this,” she said, and
held out the hilt of the sword to Iason.

“No,” he said.

“It’s yours,” she insisted. “I failed the
women of Brinksmoor twice. I’m not worthy of father’s sword.”

“Look around,” said Iason. “You saved all these
women, all these children. You did that.”

“And you defeated a demon I couldn’t scratch,” I
added. “Me. And I just killed a demon lord!”

Iola’s eyes filled with tears, and she blinked them back

“You’re worthy, little sister,” he said.
“More worthy than I ever was. And besides… it’s not what you do before
you wield the sword that makes you worthy, it’s what you do once you have

“Thank you,” she said simply. Then she turned to
me. “Take care of him, Lemma.”

“I have so far,” I said.

“If by ‘take care of’ you mean ‘place in constant
danger,’” Iason countered.

“Hey, I always get us back out again, don’t I?”

“That you do,” he admitted. “You could stand
to be a bit more observant, though.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.

“Well, I can understand how you were a little
distracted by seeing all this,” he gestured down at himself, “but
really, you didn’t notice this in that basement? Or that I was carrying it our
whole way out?” He held up something wrapped in a cloth.

I snatched it from him and pulled it open while he
continued. “Seriously, some Librarian. One of the most powerful books in
the world, and you don’t even notice it a foot away?”

It lay in my hands, heavy with dark power: the Sepher
Shel Agrat
. The last book. “How..?” I asked.

He shrugged. “While they had me downstairs, that old
scribe guy came down and left it. I guess he didn’t need it anymore, or
couldn’t use it. When you got me out, I tried to tell you, but you were too out
of it, and I knew I couldn’t touch it, so I grabbed the cloak off one of those
demon-girls you killed and wrapped it up.”

“Wow,” I said. “That’s really it. I’m done. I
got all of them!”

Iason smiled. “Pretty impressive, considering you
didn’t notice I had it in my hand the whole time we were talking. You’re not
very good at this, huh?”

Grr. “Oh, I’ll show you what I’m good at. Come
here, let me just take this for a second…” I held out the book toward

He took a step back, waving his hands and shaking his head.
“Nuh-uh. I touched one of those before, you’re not getting me to do it

“Oh?” I asked. “But I’m not much of a
Librarian, right? So it must be safe for people who aren’t Librarians to touch!
Give it a try!” I thrust it toward him and he jumped back again.

“Stop it, Lemma!” he said, as Rhoda and Iola
started to laugh.

“When you admit I’m
the best Librarian ever!” I shouted, and chased him down the hillside.

Lemma the Librarian: The Last Dance

“So,” said Iola.
“What have we learned?”

I  glared at her, rubbing the
back of my head where someone had thrown a melon at it. It really hurt!
“Fine,” I grumbled. “Maybe calling the  local sky god an
overstuffed pigeon with delusions of grandeur, in the  middle of the marketplace,
was not a great plan.”

“Don’t forget ‘at peak traffic,
on a festival day, to a priest,” Iason added oh-so-very-helpfully.

“Hey, that priest had it
coming! ‘Women shouldn’t do magic’ my ass!”

Iola pitched the bridge of her nose.
“I meant,” she said finally, “what did we learn that’s
useful for our quest?

“Oh  yeah, that. Well…
we learned the folks here aren’t big fans of women  doing magic. Or
fighting. Or traveling, or being merchants, or… much  of anything that
we could use as a cover to get close to the book,  really.” I sighed.
“And that there is just enough  residual holiness in  the temple
walls that blasting my way in will be… annoying.”

“Lemma, did you try to blow up
the temple?” Iason asked sternly. 

“No,” I replied sullenly.
“I just looked it over while I thought about blowing it up later.”

“This is getting us
nowhere,” said Iola. “You’re sure the book is in the temple?”

“Absolutely,”  I
answered. “Somewhere.” Which was part of the problem: like a lot of
 cities in this part of the world, the high priest of the local god was
 also the king, which meant that the main temple was also the king’s
 palace and city hall. Add that Lagasch was what passed for an empire in
 these parts–it ruled towns as far as 25 whole miles away!–and that
 meant a big temple, with lots of rooms, and lots of people, and lots of
 locked doors, and guards, and… You get the idea. Point was, knowing
 the book was in there wasn’t as helpful as you’d think.

“And you’re absolutely certain
the book isn’t a serious threat?”

23  Glamours That Will
Change How You Look at the World
?” I scoffed. “Nah,  I know
the series. No theory, simple recipes for simple spells, half of  which
won’t even work. We’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“Are  you certain?”
Iola pressed. “Weren’t you also confident that there was  nothing to
fear from that prince in Khemia, or that pirate, or when you  came back to
Castle Brinkmoor–”

“Okay, okay!” I
 said. “Let me rephrase: we’re in no danger from anything that book
 could have taught him. It’s all stuff like glamouring food to be tastier
 or clothes to make the wearer prettier; he won’t have learned anything
 you can cast on other people to change how they feel, like Brinksmoor

Iola gave the tiniest shudder at the
 name–small enough that I wondered if I imagined it. “Then, if we
can be  confident that we won’t be enslaved or compelled to do anything
against  our wills… I know how we can get in.”

“Why do I get the feeling I’m
not going to like this?” I asked. 

“While  you two were
causing riots in the marketplace, I went to see if the  temple was hiring,
and they are–they’re looking for guards.”

“That’s  me covered,”
said Iason, “but based on what that priest said, I doubt  they’ll be
much interested in hiring you or Lemma as guards.”

“No,”  said Iola.
“In fact, they’re not interested in hiring women at all.  The
only women working at the temple palace are slaves. And they’re  looking
to buy girls for–”

“Oh no,” I said, realizing
where this was headed. 

“–the King’s harem.”

“What!?” sputtered Iason.

Iola  raised her hands. “I
know. But listen, they said the King is bored of  local women and
wants,” she looked pained, “’more exotic fare.’ This is  our
best chance of getting in! We won’t have to do anything–Iason sells  us,
gets a job as a guard, and then once we’re in we find the book and  he
helps us escape.”

“Hrm,” I said. “And
failing that, once we’re inside those walls, blasting our way out is easier
than trying to blast in.”

“Lemma,” Iason said

“What? Just saying.”

“I can’t believe you’re even
considering this plan,” Iason said. “Either of you! I mean… harem

“Do you have any better
ideas?” Iola asked.

He didn’t. None of us did. So, after
a quick trip to the market to get a little slutted up (it’s amazing what the
loot from a prince’s pet project will get you), Iason put bronze collars on our
necks, chains on the collars, and led us to the temple palace. (The collars
weren’t locked, of course–they just looked like they were.)

There, we soon found ourselves
standing in front of a skinny, bored-looking old man at a high podium.
“Name?” he asked.

“I’m Lemma,” I started,
“and this is–”

“Name?” he asked again,
pointedly staring at Iason.

“Iason,” said Iason.

“Business?” asked the old

“I’m here to sell these two
lovely women as harem slaves to–”

“Names and origin of the

“Lemma of Lemuria, and Iola of
the Sea People.”

The old man leaned forward and
peered down at me. “Are you sure she’s Lemurian and not Hattushian? I’ve
never heard of a Lemurian with that color hair.”

“I’m sure,” said Iason.
“The hair’s a recent development.”

“Hrm,” said the old man.
“Well, they’re definitely unlike anything we have now. I’ll give you five
measures of silver.”

Five!? I seethed. I’m worth at least twenty!

“Five each seems a bit
low,” said Iason, “especially when–”

“I meant five for the
pair,” said the old man.

I ground my teeth, trying very hard
to not set him on fire. He looked dried out enough that he’d probably burn the
whole place down, and I didn’t want that to happen until after I had the

“Oh, I don’t think

“Take it or leave it,”
said the old man.

Iason sighed. “Take it, I

“Good man,” said the old
man. He rang a bell. “Simta,” he said to the woman who entered.
“Take these new slaves to the harem.”

Simta looked like a pretty typical
Lagaschian: tall, brown, curly dark hair, hook nose. But she was a really
pretty typical Lagaschian–her curly hair was lustrous and full, she
had big dark doe eyes and a warm, sensuous mouth, and her slender body was
draped in sheer red cloth that simultaneously hinted at everything and revealed
nothing, shifting as she moved to reveal glimpses of clear, soft brown skin,
but never more than a glimpse, everything else a slightly blurry shadow under
the thin red cloth.

The gold collar and fine gold chain
hanging from it made it pretty clear what she was, too, in case the skimpy
outfit hadn’t given it away: a harem girl, just like we were supposed to be.

She smiled at us like the moment
after a spring shower, and took our chains. “Hi!” she said brightly.
“I’m Simta, and I’m going to show you how to be the best, happiest,
sexiest harem girls you can be!”

“Um, great?” I said as she
led us into the maze of twisting corridors that made up the interior of the

“Now remember,” said
 Simta, “no men are allowed in the harem quarters except King Lugal
and his guests. If you see any strange men in here, tell me right away,

“Sure,” I said. Made
sense: the king didn’t want to share his toys.

“What about us?” asked
Iola. “Where are we allowed to go?”

“Oh, everything we need is in
the harem quarters. Except for little errands like this, or if Lugal asks us to
attend him, there’s really no need to leave. I mean, I guess there’s nothing to
stop you if you really wanted to, but why would you ever want to? This is the
best life there is!”

Simta led us into a large room
practically made of cushions. Actually, my first reaction on entering was to
think it was made of smoke, but that was just the air. Once I finished coughing
and wiped the tears out of my eyes, what I could see were pillows, everywhere,
heaps and heaps of them, all shapes and sizes and colors, or at least all
eye-searingly bright colors. Here and there girls lounged on the cushions. All
were dressed like Simta and most looked more or less like her, but there was
one woman who was a bit shorter and curvier with reddish-brown hair, clearly
Hattushan, and another with dark skin, incredibly tall and slender with the
longest, smoothest legs I’ve ever seen, and a puff of dark, tightly curly hair
that formed a big ball around her head. 

“Zehra and Endelea,”
whispered Simta. “Endelea is Pwenean. I don’t know where that is, but it’s

She wasn’t kidding. Pwene was all
the way
up the Great River of Khemeth, farther than the whole distance I’d
traveled in my entire trip–and that had taken me almost two years so
far! Even imagining it was making my head spin.

Actually, no… my head was just
spinning. I concentrated, or tried to, feeling for magic… but no, nothing.
But then I looked at the middle of the room, and the source of the smoke: a
tall brazier, and piled on it, smoldering… poppies, soma, and hashish.

No wonder all these women were
lounging, and Simta wasn’t entirely there–they were drugged to the

“Okay,” said Simta,
“since you’re new you get to wear these!” She pulled out two… well,
outfits is a strong word. Two assemblages of cloth, one green, one blue.

And dripping with magic.

I glanced at Iola and, when she
looked back, tilted my head at the outfits. She nodded. Time to stage our
breakout and go book-hunting.

I looked around the room for the
entrance we’d come in by. The round room, full of almost nothing but pillows,
with at least eight identical-looking arches that led out. Okay, wait,
Ende… Inda… Endel… Pwene girl was on my… left when I came in? Or was
that right? What’s her name, Endelpe… Pwene Enda… Pwendelea!
I laughed
at my own joke, then looked around to see if anyone else thought it was funny.

Iola yawned. “We need
to…” She yawned again. “Get out..?”

Simta looked scandalized. “Why
would you leave?” she asked. “Come on, you have to try on your new
clothes, they’re one of the best parts!”

I shook my head, backing away.
“No, no, we, um, we have to, uh…” I couldn’t think. How did these
girls stand this all day every day? Literally. How is Simta standing? I’m
about to fall over… I guess you get used to it? Or just lie around all day
like the other girls…

Lying down was sounding pretty good.
Except it also sounded really bad because… something.

“Lemme just rest a
moment,” I said, and tried to sit on a pillow. I missed, which was kind of
amazing because everything in this room was pillow, and then I just sort
of sprawled. Iola flopped down next to me a minute later.

“Stop the room,” I mumbled
as it spun around me. “I wanna get off.”

“Shh,” said Simta.
“Let’s just get you two changed.”

I wasn’t in much state to put up a
struggle, though I tried. Iola tried too, with slightly more success, at least
I think that’s how Simta got that bruise on her arm–my memory’s a little fuzzy
about this point. But pretty soon we were in our outfits–which, like I said,
is a strong word for them.

Simta put me in the green and Iola
in the blue, but otherwise they were basically the same: a gold collar, with a
fine gold chain that was pretty clearly just for show, and a similar gold chain
around the waist. A sheer piece of cloth that connect to the front of the chain
and hung down to about mid-calf, and another in the back that went down to my
ankles. Another, longer cloth, looped around my back and over my breasts, then
tied behind my neck. A veil that covered my face below my eyes, and another
cloth wrapped around my hair in a cone, so it gathered above my head and then
cascaded down my back from the tip of the cone. Gold bracelets on ankles and

And that was it. It was like
they’d found a way to be nakeder than naked. The cloth was too thin to
actually hide anything, even thinner than what Simta was wearing, and all it
did was call attention to what it supposedly covered–which wasn’t much to
begin with!

But more important than that was the
spell imbuing it. Which, fuzzy-brained as I was, I still tried to get a look

I couldn’t. It was like the cloth–I
could see it was there, but it was so fine, it was practically transparent. I
couldn’t get a grip on the weave. It was like a glamour, but so tightly
woven, so complex… “This didn’t come from Twenty-Three Glamours That
whatever,” I mumbled.

“What?” asked Simta,
looking puzzled. But her smile returned quickly. “No matter. All dressed
now! Ready to meet your new owner?”

She took our ridiculous little
chains in hand and gently tugged. Vaguely, it occurred to me that if I got out
of the room, my head might get clearer, so I attempted to stand.

It was not a successful attempt.

Oh well, it’s not like dignity was
possible while in those outfits anyway. Iola and I had no choice but to crawl
behind Simta, slowly and unsteadily, as she led us out one of the arches and
down a hallway.

There was air here, but my head was
still swimming when we reached what I can only assume were the king’s quarters,
or maybe just his quarters in the harem part of the building. Anyway, it had a
lot of cushions too, but they only took up half the room. The other half had
ornately carved wooden furniture–a desk, a couple chairs, a table.

Sprawled on the pillows was an
astoundingly gorgeous man, a vision of absolute perfection–

I closed my eyes and reminded myself
there was a glamour trying to work on me. I felt for the threads, and pushed
them back, visualizing them slowly peeling back from my skull like a wet cap.
Confident that I would be seeing with my own eyes, I opened them again.

Sprawled on the pillows was an
astoundingly gorgeous man, a vision of absolute perfection.

He was maybe a very healthy forty,
tall, muscular, lean, with a strong jaw and magnificent, curly black hair that
spilled down to his shoulders. He was mostly clean-shaven, except the area
immediately around his mouth and his chin; there he’d grown his beard long,
combed and oiled it into a cone that hung a good four inches down from his
chin, also black but with little touches of gray here and there. A sort of net
was wrapped around the cone, and little jewels glistened everywhere two strands
crossed. Other than that, he was naked. I could see every plane of his chiseled
brown body–and I could feel his dark eyes looking over mine as well.

“You’re turning pinker by the
moment, I see,” he said to me. “It’s quite charming.” He nodded
to Simta. “Leave us,” he said.

I’d barely been paying attention to
her; as soon as we entered, she got down on her knees as well, folding her
whole body forward so that her head almost touched the ground. At the king’s
word, she stood quickly, said, “Thank you, Your Majesty,” and hastily

“You may stand,” the king
said, sitting up.

We may, I thought. But can we? Next to me, Iola put a hand
on the wall to steady herself as she slowly rose. Well, I wasn’t going to be
the only one lying down, so I sprang to my feet as well.

Okay, so less sprang and more
grabbed onto Iola’s arm and slowly hauled myself basically upright, though I
wobbled a bit too much to really call it “standing.” Wavering?

Anyway, the king smiled. “I am
Lugal,” he said. “I believe you are called Lemma and Iola?”

“Muh-huh,” I mumbled.
Standing up had made my head feel like it was swelling to three times its
normal size.

“Wonderful!” he replied.
“Ah, I can see the smoke is affecting you still. My apologies, but it was
necessary to ensure you didn’t tear out of the harem and start hunting for this
immediately.” He held up something square and brownish.

I tried to focus on it, but my
vision was still all swimmy. Slowly, though, I realized what it had to be.
“The book!”

“You knew who we were,”
said Iola.

His smile broadened. “Oh yes.
I’ve known for weeks that you would be here sooner or later.” He put the
book down on the cushion next to him.

Seeing my chance, I leaped forward,
grabbed it, and ran out of the room. Well, I tried to. I let go of Iola’s arm,
nearly fell over, and grabbed it again. “Woog,” I said.

Iola, on the other hand, was getting
steadier by the moment. She’s bigger than me; the drugged smoke probably hadn’t
affected her quite as much to begin with. “What’s to stop us from killing
you now?” she asked.

“Well,” Lugal replied,
“hopefully the enchantments in your garments, to start with.”

Iola laughed. “You think
so?” she said calmly. “I’ve been wrapped in glamours before, I know
what it feels like–and how to push against it. And if you think I have any
more qualms about ripping these clothes off than ripping your head off, you are
quite mistaken.” She reached for the cloth over her breasts.

“I wouldn’t, if I were
you.” Lugal’s voice was smooth, confident–but underneath was just a hint
of urgency. “The results would not be pleasant for any of us.”

I was starting to feel a little
better, a little clearer. I breathed in slow and deep, and that seemed to help.
If I could just get my head straight enough to lob a fireball, this would be
over. “Waddaya mean?” I asked, slurring just a bit more than I’d have

“Well, we don’t want him to
come back, do we?” Lugal asked.

I paused. Had I missed part of the
conversation? Was I more out of it than I thought?

“Lemma,” Iola said,
“don’t listen to him. He put glamours on these clothes, I can feel it, and
I’m sure you can too. We can’t believe anything he says, it’s all a trap.”

“Well, yes, this is a
trap,” said Lugal. “Obviously. But no, I’m afraid I’m not the one who
enchanted those two outfits. That’s rather the point.”

We stared at him. Slowly I worked over
what he was saying in my still slightly addled brain, until I found a clear and
cogent statement I could make that fully expressed my response.

“Wha?” I asked.

“Well, it’s why I said none of
us would like the result of you trying to remove or damage those clothes. It’s
part of the bargain, you see.”

“Bargain?” Iola asked


Lugal’s story started years ago,
when he was a young king and the book first came into his possession.
Fascinated, he soon learned all the glamours in it by heart. They were useful,
but hardly life-changing–he could be more impressive when he wanted to be, or
ensure that a foreign dignitary enjoyed a feast, but nothing major. It never
even occurred to him to wonder if anything more major were possible… until he
saw Simta.

It was only a few months ago, during
a festival celebrating the union of the god Ningirthu, the city’s patron, and
the goddess Ntinugha, his bride. As king and high priest of Ningirthu, Lugal
led the procession of worshipers from the palace temple to the temple of
Ntinugha. There he ritually wed (read: fucked) the high priestess of Ntinugha,
an old woman named Shirat.

After that came the Barley Dance,
and that was when he saw her, one of many acolytes who danced to celebrate the
divine union. Newly come of age, beautiful, graceful, sexy–Simta.

Afterwards he asked around and
learned her name, that she was Shirat’s granddaughter, that she was stubborn,
willful, and clever. Everything he learned made him want her more, so he
pursued her, offered to make her his third queen.

She refused. No matter what gifts he
promised, no matter if he begged or threatened or charmed, she refused.
“Queen?” she scoffed. “You mean slave–or would you relax the
laws that state a married woman must serve her husband, must be veiled and
escorted to leave his home?”

“Those laws are the will of
divine Ningirthu,” Lagash replied. “I could not lift them even if I
wanted to–but why would I want to change a law that keeps you by my side? You
will be cherished, celebrated, your beauty the light by which I view my

“No,” she said simply.
“I will remain an acolyte, and learn the goddess’ arts of healing, and do
my own work as my own woman.”

Despairing of ever winning her
heart, Lugal’s heart fell into a dark despair. (Seriously, that’s what he said.
“My heart fell into a dark despair.” Like, I was trying to just write
down what I remembered him saying, but seriously? Not “my heart sank”
or “I fell into a dark despair.” No, he’s a king. No single cliche is
enough for him, he’s going to fuse those fuckers like a chimera. Behold the
royal clichemera!)

Anyway, Lugal sad because Lugal dick
no wet. He had tried everything else, so he tried magic. He used glamours to
make himself seem as attractive as possible. He paid for new ceremonial earrings
for all the priestesses of Ntinugha, and put a glamour on Simta’s to make her
life seem as uninteresting and unimportant as possible.

It didn’t work.

He was about to give up when a
strange traveler appeared, an enchanter from a distant land, and offered him a
bargain that would prove the key to Simta’s heart.

What he offered, of course, were two
magical harem outfits. Each was enchanted to draw the wearer to Lugal, to make
her love him and desire to obey him. All he had to do in return was use them–specifically,
when a small, red-haired Lemurian sorceress named Lemma came, he was to use it
to make her part of his harem, as well as any female companions she might have.


“Let me guess,” I said, by
now definitely feeling more clear-headed. “Did this traveling enchanter
have red hair and very sharp teeth? Ate a lot of meat?”

“Why yes,” said Lugal.
“I don’t know why I’m surprised, he knew that you were coming, so of
course you’ve met.”

“Red,” I said. “Of
course.” That explained the complexity and subtlety of the enchantment,
and why it seemed like a glamour but didn’t act like one–it was that same
geas/glamour hybrid magic the fey loved so much.

“We definitely need to take
this off, then,” said Iola, and once again reached for the cloth over her

“No, you really don’t!”
said Lugal hastily. “I haven’t finished the story, you don’t know all of
it yet.”

“So tell!” I snapped.

He raised his hands. “All
right, all right. So, once I had the garments, I ordered another performance of
the Barley Dance. It’s unusual, but within my rights. I ordered new costumes,
too–and I put Simta in an enchanted one. Since I had two anyway, I put the
second-prettiest dancer in one, too.”

He grinned, clearly enjoying the
memory. “It worked. By the end of the dance they were quite worked up, and
happily joined me in my bed chamber. By the next day the other dancer was ready
to join my harem, and Simta uncertain about whether she wanted to return to the
temple. By the third day, Simta was happy as well–but she didn’t want to be my
queen. All she wanted was to be a harem girl–the enchantment had made her love
and crave that role.

"She pledged herself to be mine
forever, and in that moment the spell became permanent, even without the
garments. I told the enchanter how pleased I was with the results, and asked
what else he could make–with enchantments of this power I could turn political
enemies into friends, rival nations into allies, I could make Lagasch a power
to be reckoned with and be remembered as its greatest king!

"That was when I made a second
bargain. More of a bet, really, all about you.”

“Us?” asked Iola.
“What kind of bet?”

“It’s simple. If you surrender
completely to the enchantment and become my slaves, at that moment he will
return and teach me the secrets behind his magic. If, however, you remove the
garments before that time and break free, or try to leave the temple palace, he
will immediately return and slaughter everyone here.”

“…Fuck,” I said. The
only reason I could see that Red didn’t just appear in the middle of the night
somewhere on the road and slit my throat in my sleep was that he was still on
Queen Maev’s shit list. Obviously he’d talked her into commuting his death
sentence (for freeing me, natch) to community service, that was why he’d been
trying to free Sylki back in Rasnia, but that didn’t mean he was back in her
good books yet. She probably wouldn’t mind him killing me, but she probably would
mind him creating a diplomatic incident between Faerie and Lemuria, so
killing me was only an option if he could do it without breaking the
treaty–which meant as part of a bargain with a human, or if I was aiding an
enemy of the fey. That had been his excuse in Rasnia, but here?

Here he had to use the bargain. But
after two bargains with me going south for him, he’d realized bargaining with
me wasn’t the way to go–so he bargained with someone else for me.
Technically within the rules of the treaty, and there’s nothing fey love so
much as a technicality.

But that meant… that meant that
unless I could figure out a third option, my only choices were to become
Lugal’s harem girl, or risk being killed by Red–“And that’s why you’ve
told us all this,” I said out loud.

“What?” asked Iola. Lugal
just smirked at us, and dammit, even that was sexy.

“You and I both know we could
break out of this easily. But we also both know that fighting Red would be very
nasty, so knowing that he’s going to try to kill us the instant we try to take
it off…”

“Exactly,” said Lugal.
“The longer you keep those costumes on, the better for me–but the longer
you keep them on, the longer you have to try to think of a way to get out of
them without being killed. It’s in both our interests for you to keep them

What you don’t realize, I thought, is that Red has tricked you, too. He can
teach you the secrets behind his magic, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use
it. I know I couldn’t, and I’ve got more power, more talent, and more training
in my pinkie than you have in your whole body

It was a nice thought, but it didn’t
change one fact: we were trapped.

“Now then,” said Lugal,
“since we’re all in this together…” He clapped. “Dance for

“I don’t–” I began. But
those wet strands of magic, that net, closed suddenly around my head. I felt
them worming through my brain, tingles running up and down my limbs. My muscles
relaxed, music filled my head–insistent drums, combined with beguiling
woodwinds–and slowly, I began to sway to the rhythm. Next to me, Iola did the
same. We turned to face each other, and I knew her heavy-lidded, blank
expression matched my own.

Our arms waved up and down in
opposed unison, our hips swayed back and forth, and we began to dance. We
couldn’t resist, couldn’t want to resist; dancing was simply and
unquestionably what we were to do, and it was wonderful.

I tried to keep hold of my thoughts
as best I could, to analyze what was happening. A fey geas was a lot more
powerful than a human one; it didn’t require conscious, deliberate agreement,
just any act that implied agreement. We were wearing the uniforms of
harem girls, and we weren’t trying to take them off; that implied agreement to
be harem girls. As long as we wore them, we were bound by the geas to be harem
girls–and if we actually promised to be harem girls, that would be
enough to keep the geas going whether we wore the outfit or not.

Therefore, we were harem girls–and
then the glamours kicked in, making serving as a harem girl seem like a
wonderful thing. Making us enjoy it, making the idea of just giving in and
agreeing to be one permanently seem attractive. And since the glamours were
woven right into the geas, making the geas permanent would make them permanent

And Simta had had no idea. She’d
have no way of knowing the clothes compelled her and made her like it. She’d
have thought it was her own idea, her own enjoyment… and she’d still been
stubborn enough to last almost three days?

Iola and I bent backward, exposing
our bare midriffs and legs, only the bare concealment of the sheer cloth
between our legs making the pose less than completely lewd. Glamours slotting
into place, so hard to identify and push back out. Dancing feels good, exertion
feels good
, being sexy feels good, dancing is sexy, all these
linked strands trying to worm their way into my brain while my body was
occupied. Of course they weren’t made of words–it wasn’t the thought
“dancing feels good” I had to push away. It was more primal than
that, deeper down–not ideas but feelings, trying to worm their way in beneath
my thoughts.

But I was able to snip each one, cut
if off while it tried to find an attachment in my brain, so they couldn’t
completely root and dangled free. My outfit is sexy, I like being
, I like being wanted–that last was a hard one, because who doesn’t
like being wanted, but I was still able to push it away while Iola and I
straightened up, leaned forward, and shook our breasts at King Lugal.

Serving the king is good–pfft, yeah right! This is my place, it feels
good to serve
, none of these were going to stick on me. Obeying feels
, obeying is sexy, I like being made to obey, being
made to obey turns me on

That was bad. That was very, very
bad, because a certain dragon had left an unshakable little nugget of truth in
my brain, a fact about myself which I could not deny: Being made to obey turns
me on. That strand of glamour that said the same thing hit that little nugget
and wrapped around it instantly–inevitable, undeniable.

And once that strand was in place,
it was that much harder to push away the others that attached to it. Being
made to obey turns me on
, being made to obey is sexy, obedience
turns me on
, obedience is sexy, being made to dance is sexy, dancing
is sexy
, dancing turns me on…

I tried to fight it. I really did!
But by the time the dance ended, and Iola and I held our final poses–on our
knees, bent backwards so the backs of our heads nearly touched the floor, our
hands stretched out as far behind us as we could go–we were both exhausted,
panting, and glistening with sweat.

But I was also wet and horny as

Lugal clapped politely as our
performance finished. “Not bad,” he said. “Untrained, of course,
but the enchantment takes care of that somewhat. In time, Simta will teach you
what she knows, and then we will really see what you can do.”

He hadn’t released us; we were still
locked in our positions. All I could do was stare at the ceiling, panting, and
hope someone did something about filling up the emptiness now filling
me. Then I felt his hand stroking my bare tummy, and for a moment I forgot to
breathe. His touch is pure pleasure, the glamours told me, and as turned
on as I was, I couldn’t deny it. I love when he touches me, I crave
his touch
, I need his touch. More and more glamours layering in,
feelings and desires building on top of feelings and desires.

“Both of you, kneel,”
Lugal commanded, and my body–or rather, the geas–knew exactly what that
meant. Simultaneously, Iola and I curled upward and then forward, flowing into
a new position without moving our legs at all, until we were in the same
posture as Simta earlier: knees slightly apart, heels together, butt resting on
heels, head almost touching the floor, arms stretched out ahead of us. My abs
were going to hurt in the morning.

I glanced up at Lugal–that was,
apparently, allowed. He was hard, and his  cock was long, slender,
smooth–I could feel my mouth and pussy watering at the sight of it.

“You both want me,” he said,
stating it as a fact, and it was true. It was part of the geas, part of being a
good harem girl, not to mention something the glamours were working very hard
to get into my head. And with the glamours that made me love and crave his
touch settled into place, it was very hard to fight off the thread that, put
into words, was something like I want my owner.

He is not my owner, I told myself. But I still needed his touch, and obeying
him turned me on. I could keep the thread from getting a permanent grip, but
not push it out completely.

He looked over us both, and I knew
that if he ordered me to fuck him, I would be lost. “Iola,” he said,
seating himself on the bed. “Suck my cock.”

I couldn’t help but groan in
frustration, but I stayed where I was while Iola rose, walked over to him, and
then knelt again. Taking his cock in her hand, she opened her mouth and took
the whole shaft. I wondered if that was something she’d learned how to do on
her own, or from Lord Brinksmoor, or if the geas gave her the ability. Either
way, she wasn’t bad, but from what I could see on the floor, she wasn’t up to
my level.

If he only knew what he’s missing, I thought, and immediately regretted it. One of the
threads probing endlessly at my mind found that thought and latched onto it,
then coiled itself into place, linked firmly with my mounting desire for his
touch and to be made to obey: I want to be made to suck him. And then
quick on the heels of that: I want to be made to service him, I want
to be made to serve him
, I want to be made to fuck him.

I trembled with need and exhaustion
and the effort of trying to fight off all these glamours. The more of them made
it through into my head, the bigger a net they built around my feelings, the
more places there were for the remaining threads to attach. I’d gone from
fighting on one front to fighting on fifty, all at once. Threads about
obedience and sex bombarded me, trying to link with my desire to be made to
fuck him, my craving for his touch, my desire to be commanded, and all the threads
related to those desires. I tried my best, but something got through, linking
to both wanting his touch and wanting him to make me fuck him: I want him to
fuck me
. Then a thread linking that to wanting to be made to serve him: I
want him to use me
. And another linking to that and craving his touch: I
want him to take me

Grunts from Lugal and choking sounds
from Iola signaled the end of his blowjob. She fell back, gasping for air, cum
spilling over her chin and dripping down onto her breasts. It was my turn. He
was going to take me, use me, fuck me, and I knew there was no way I could keep
fighting while–

“Good,” he said.
“Both of you may return to the harem now.”

It was phrased as a permission, but
the geas compelled us to understand it as an order. We both stood and walked
out into the hall.

We walked down the hall in silence.
Without his presence, without the ever-present possibility of new orders, I
could focus more clearly on the net of glamours settling in around me. I could
probe it, push it back and away, loosen it.

“How are you doing?” asked

“I’m… fighting,” I
managed. “You?”

“The same. I keep feeling
these… feelings. But I know they’re not mine, so I can force them away. I
can’t help but obey his direct orders… but I’m still me. I still hate

“Yeah,” I said, still
trying to pull those glamours out. I could push the net back, but I couldn’t
get rid of it completely. The strands were all woven into each other, and that
made them strong–and they had a very solid anchor point courtesy of the
dragon. If I could just find some weak linkages, and start breaking them,
tenuous connections that weren’t quite right, that I could doubt and question
and pull apart…

But the geas held us in its grip. I
could smell the smoke of the room ahead, feel my concentration wavering.

“This will not be easy,”
said Iola.

“No,” I agreed. Then we
plunged through the archway into the smoky room.


Iola was right: it wasn’t easy. I
needed to concentrate, but I was so tired, and that smoke made me so sleepy and
lightheaded. Lying down helped a little–there was less smoke near the
floor–but then I was tired and sleepy and lying down, and it was so easy to
just drift off, just relax and sleep and deal with the glamours in the

I woke with a pounding headache.
There was no telling what time it was or how long I’d been asleep, since the
room had no windows, but the brazier was burning low, and the smoke had thinned
quite a bit. I still felt a bit woozy, but mostly I was just thirsty.

Best of all, while I was asleep the
glamours had just hung there. My dreams had been lurid and incoherent, bursts
of color and bizarre imagery–nothing the glamours could latch onto.

I hauled myself into a sitting
position, which made my head throb even harder, but it also meant I could reach
for one of the large bowls of water on pillars scattered around the room. I
gulped water until my stomach started to hurt, all the while pushing back
against the glamours.

Where to start unraveling them? I
poked at the feelings, holding them back. Looking at them this way, they were
like echoes or memories of feelings, dulled and distant. But while no new
glamours had settled in while I slept, the ones that were already there had
tightened and strengthened their connections, linking up to each other in a
more and more complex web.

But not everywhere was equally
strong. There were no dangling threads I could pull at, but there was one on
the periphery I might be able to do something with–dancing is sexy. I hate
dancing, especially in public, so that was definitely something I could
question. Something I could push at, weaken. It was connected into the other
glamours, sure, but not very strongly, and if I could just pull it out…

I was aware of Iola sitting up next
to me, but I was trying to concentrate on the glamour and pull out the weak
link. Almost… almost… there! It snapped and spun free, out of my
head back into the clothes. Dancing was most certainly not sexy!

And if it wasn’t sexy, then why
would it turn me on? Without “dancing is sexy,” that thread was
weaker now, and I could suddenly notice that Iola is about to take off her

“Stop!” I shouted, and
grabbed her arm. “What are you doing?”

“Getting out,” she said.
“I’m tired of having to fight these feelings off. I’m going to take my
chances with this Red person.”

Right, I thought. Iola’s never actually seen him fight.
“Listen, you have no idea how dangerous he is!”

“We beat Brea,” Iola
replied. “We can defeat him.”

“I’m not sure we can! Brea was
going easy on us, remember? He might not be as strong as her full power, but he
can definitely kill us a lot faster than a vampire that’s not trying

Iola stared at me. “You…
you’re actually admitting you have limits?”

“Ha. Ha,” I replied.
“I’ll have you know I’m very realistic about my limitations, it’s just
that most of the time I don’t have any.”

“Yes, I can see how realistic
you’re being.”

“I’m serious! Most things I can
at least hurt with my magic! But Red? I can’t scratch him, and he can
tear our limbs off with his bare hands. The only one of us who stands a chance
against him is…” I sighed. I didn’t want to say it.

“Is?” asked Iola.

“Iason,” I replied.
“One scratch from his sword could kill Red dead–but even then only if he got
a scratch. He’s so fast, I’m not sure Iason could land a hit before Red killed
us all.”

“Okay,” said Iola,
“but it’s a chance. Iason said he was trying to get a job as a guard, he’s
got to be around here somewhere! We strip, find him, and then we fight this Red

I shook my head. “You don’t get
it. A fey bargain is like a geas in itself. The instant we free
ourselves, Red is obligated to murder everyone in this temple. He would be
pulled directly to us, instantly, from anywhere in this world or Faerie.
He’d be on top of us before we could take a step.”

Iola stared at me. “This
creature really frightens you,” she said.

“Yes! He does! Which is why
we’re going to stay calm and come up with a plan before we get ourselves

“Okay,” she said.
“But we should still go looking for Iason, right?”

“What makes you think he’s even

“What?” asked Iola.

“Think about it. Red told Lugal
we were coming. He said you might be with me–do you think he didn’t mention
Iason, too? They probably kicked him out the door the minute they got us away
from him.”

Iola looked at me in silence for a
long time, then sagged back on the pillows. “So we are on our own.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Lemma…” She paused, her
dark eyes large and clear. “I don’t want to be a slave again. I won’t
be a slave again. If I feel myself going…”

“I understand,” I said.

“You too, right? If you can’t
hold out, you’ll tell me, and we’ll tear these off and make our stands.”

I nodded. “Of course.” I
mean, if it’s a choice between being a slave and dying… I mean, I know I want
to be made to obey, but… shit.
This was a bad train of thought to be
going down. It was distracting me from fighting back, and more importantly, I
wasn’t sure I would rather die than be a slave. The glamours had their
in, and I could feel one slipping in: I’d rather be a harem girl than dead.

It burrowed in below my thoughts,
coiled around my uncertainty, and then grabbed onto the net I was trying to
push away, linking up to wanting to be made to serve, wanting him to take me.
At once that net was pulling itself back around me again, those echo-emotions
surging back up to feel present and real.

Simta approached us, smiling.
“His Majesty wishes to see you again, Lemma,” she said, and like a
puppet I immediately rose. “Oh, you’re so lucky,” she said, “to
be summoned again so quickly. But I suppose I’ve had more than my share in the
last few months!” She giggled.

I couldn’t deny how happy she
seemed, and another glamour slipped in, linking to my now-conviction that it
was better to be a harem girl than die: harem girls are happy.

As I walked down the hall, I
couldn’t help feeling excited. Thanks to the glamours, I craved his touch,
wanted him to take me and use me, to fuck me, to make me fuck him. Those
desires were getting stronger with every step I took, as I got more and more

Finally, I reached Lugal’s chamber.
Immediately, instinctively, I started to kneel, but he raised his hand.
“No, Lemma,” he said. “No need for that now.”

So I stood there, trembling with
excitement and need, while he slowly walked around me, examining me.

“Do you know why I made Iola
service me last night, and not you?” he asked.

A question was as good as a command
to reply. “No… Your Majesty.” The last two words were compelled out
of me, and that was hot as fuck, and there went another glamour, linking
to finding being made to obey sexy and wanting to be made to serve: being
made to serve is sexy

He finished his circle and faced me.
“Because, Lemma, it was obvious very quickly that you are being affected
much more quickly than Iola.”

I gulped.

“I am not a fool, Lemma. I
could see that the other dancer fell quickly because she had a natural
submissive streak, while Simta very much did not. Not that it mattered in the
end–but it did help Simta hold out a full day and a half longer.” Lugal
took my chin in his hand and gently tilted my face up to look at him, and between
the thrill of his glamour-amplified touch and the sheer power it demonstrated
he had over me, I nearly creamed on the spot.

He smiled, then stepped back.
“Dance for me, Lemma.”

So I did, just as I had before. Like
I said, I hate dancing–but I hadn’t had a chance to deal with the other
glamours related to it. Even though I hated it, it still turned me on, and I
still found being made to do it sexy. I hadn’t been able to hold off the
glamour under those circumstances before, and I couldn’t do it now: once again,
dancing is sexy.

But it didn’t matter either way; I
did it because the king commanded it. I had no choice, I had to serve,
and being made to serve was sexy. Serving is sexy. Just like that, the
glamour was in my head, linking up to finding dancing sexy and finding being
made to serve sexy.

“Stop,” Lugal ordered, and
I did instantly.

Again he took my chin in his hand,
and looked down into my eyes. I was transfixed, speechless; all I could do was
beg with my eyes. Then he kissed me, and it was like a fireball exploding in my
brain and lightning down my spine. I didn’t move a muscle except my mouth, my
tongue, and he just held my face with one hand while our lips and tongues met,
but it was intense, electric.

He broke the kiss, stepped back, and
I nearly lost my balance, I was so staggered. “Please,” I whimpered.

“No,” he said, his smile
not the least bit cruel. “Not until you are completely mine. Go back to
the harem and tell Iola to come see me next.”

I didn’t want to. I wanted to grab
him push him down, straddle him, fuck him, but I couldn’t. I had to obey
him, had to serve him like a good harem girl would, and that opened the door to
more glamours: Harem girls serve. Being a harem girl is sexy. I want to be a
harem girl.

By now the air in the harem was almost
completely clear. Iola was seated crosslegged on a pillow, her eyes closed.
Trying to fight the glamours, I assumed.

Probably with a lot more success
than me
, I thought. And there was another
glamour: I can’t beat this. It’s surrender… or death.

And I already knew, surrendering
meant being a harem girl, and I would rather be a harem girl than dead. I
wanted be a harem girl anyway! Given the choice… another glamour. I want
to be his harem girl. I want to surrender to him.
And that linked up so easily
to wanting him to take me… I want him to own me.

I want to be his completely.

It was over. I think Iola must have
seen something in my face, been tipped off by some instinct, because she looked
up at me as I approached her, and immediately her hand went to her breast, to
rip off the cloth.

I couldn’t let that happen.
“His Majesty wishes to see you immediately,” I said.

She stood, but her hand was still in
the same place. I had to stop her, I couldn’t let her ruin this, not
when I was so close! I understood, now; Red had tailored the glamour part of
the enchantment specifically for me. He didn’t know Iola, didn’t know the
buttons to push.

I did.

I’ve never been great at glamours,
but after two years of dealing with every imaginable type of mental magic, not
to mention a few I’d never imagined, I picked up a thing or two. My glamour was
crude compared to Red’s, but it was something I knew would work on Iola, the
careful, strategic fighter: Wait for the right moment.

I could see it settling in her
brain, and she was so startled she actually managed to stop, geas or no
geas, and jerk around to face me. “Lemma!” she said, her expression
one of total betrayal.

“I’m sorry,” I said, and
added more glamours: Avoid risks. Go along to get along. Conserve my

She was fighting, but she couldn’t
fight the geas and my glamours and the ones in the clothes. I could see them
curling around mine, joining my crude, clumsy network, making it harder and
harder for her to muster the will to resist.

The pull of the geas was too strong,
but I followed. His Majesty had said he would take me when I surrendered, and I
had surrendered, that was like an order to come back to him.

And while I followed, I put more
glamours into Iola’s brain, feelings something like It’s too dangerous too
try to escape. There’s no way to win. Better to survive as a slave than be
killed horribly

That last one bounced right off, so
I had to think a moment. Then I saw the answer: Survival is victory.
Survival is as close as I can get to winning. The only way to survive is as a
harem girl

And that did it. The glamours were
definitely working their way in now–and more importantly, any desire to remove
her outfit or run away was firmly tied down by my own additions.

We entered the King’s chamber and
kneeled. I caught a glimpse of his face as I entered; he looked cross.

“Lemma,” he said sternly,
“Why have you returned? I did not command you to.”

“My apologies, Your
Majesty,” I said. “But you did. You said you would take me when I was
ready to surrender completely.”

“And are you?” he asked.

This was it. My last moment of
freedom before I became completely, entirely, eternally his, bound by
unbreakable fairy magic. But that was a lie; freedom was already gone, and I
was glad to be rid of it. “Yes,” I breathed. “I want to be
yours, your harem girl. I am yours. I am your devoted, obedient, sexy
harem girl, forever.”

“Then come here,” he said.
“Iola, you can watch as Lemma sheds her garments. See how happy she is to
be mine at least, and know that soon that will be you as well.”

Iola raised her head, sat back on
her haunches, and watched as I sashayed toward King Lugal, my hands already
reaching to tear off the cloth almost-but-not-quite concealing my nakedness.

“Wait,” he said. “I
like watching you dance. Do it while you strip, slowly.”

I groaned. I didn’t want to wait. I needed
him, desperately–but I was his obedient harem girl. There was no choice but to
do as he said–and it felt so good to do it, and know I had to do it.

I began to sway and twirl slowly in
place, running my hands up and down my body. Slowly I dropped my veils, the
gauzy pieces of cloth covering me, one by one letting them fall, until at last
I wore nothing but golden collar and the golden chain around me waist.

I stepped toward my owner, my master,
my King, as he lay back on the cushions, hand behind his head, his cock
sticking straight up in the air. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Iola,
biting her lip as she watched, and through the thin fabric of her outfit I
could see how hard her nipples were, how wet she was getting. The glamours were
getting her, and before long she would join me in bliss.

I was glad.

But then, before I could impale
myself on King Lugal’s lordly, half-divine cock, the door burst open. I groaned
when I saw who it was: Iason, his armor spattered with blood–other people’s,
it looked like–and his sword gleaming darkly in his hands. “Lemma, I’m
here to save you!” he shouted.

Iola half-turned toward him, as
close as she could get to disobeying the command locking her eyes on me.
“Help!” she managed. “Your sword, quickly!”

“No!” I shouted, but it
was too late. Iason touched the flat of his sword to the side of Iola’s head.
There was a sizzling noise, and she collapsed onto her sides, a puppet with its
strings cut.

“Thank you,” she said.

And then Red was there. No pop, no
glow, no portal, just one moment he wasn’t and the next he was in the middle of
the room. He grinned as he saw me, and time seemed to slow. I could see that he
was tensing, about to spring–and then he ducked as Iason’s sword whistled over
his head, missing him by a hair.

“Oh, how lovely!” he said,
straightening and spinning out of Iason’s reach. “The best of both
worlds–one last humiliation for Lemma the slave, and I get to kill her
and all her friends!”

“You’re wrong!” I
retorted. “I’m proud to be a harem girl, it is everything I want to

Red laughed. “Well, then I know
what I’ll be taking first.” He dodged away from Iason’s sword again,
grabbed Lugal, tore his head off his neck, and threw his body onto Iason’s

I screamed in agony. My lord, my
master, my reason for living, was dead!

“Ah, that’s what I like to
hear,” said Red.

Iason struggled to pull his sword
out of Lugal. “Touch her, touch either of them, and you will not
leave this room alive!” he roared at Red.

But Red had thrown Lugal hard,
and Iason’s sword was almost hilt deep in him. It was taking too long for him
to pull it out, and Red was right on top of me. “A hundred humans could
not restrain me,” Red spat back at Iason. “What can one mortal do
alone, no matter how pretty a sword he might carry?”

He turned to me, death in his eyes.
I wasn’t sure I minded. What purpose was there to being a harem girl without an
owner? I might as well die with him.

Then something very large and very
fast burst through what little Iason had left of the doorframe, leaped across
the room, and shoulder-checked Red into the far wall.

“Who said I was alone?”
asked Iason.

I looked up to see a familiar, short
figure standing in the doorway. “Sonneillon!” Rhoda ordered in a
clear, bright voice, obviously relishing the moment. “Kill.”

The huge wrath demon roared and
swung a fist at Red, but he was too fast. He grabbed Sonneillon’s arm, swung
around it and onto his back. Claws gripped the hair on the demon’s neck while a
mouth of gleaming sharp teeth widened, preparing to bite down–and then Red howled
and sprang back as a flurry of needle-sharp hairs fired out of Sonneillon’s

Red landed nimbly in a crouch in the
middle of the room, facing Sonneillon. I could see Red clutching his arm–he
was bleeding, a weird silvery-red color but definitely blood. He snarled
and leaped. Sonneillon punched, but Red slid under his fist, between his legs,
and slashed with his claws.

Sonneillon roared, and I saw
droplets of ichor sizzling where they touched floor and cushions. Red seemed
unperturbed as he kipped up to his feet behind Sonneillon, who whirled around
to face the goblin.

Red snarled again as Sonneillon
tried another punch, but Red ducked under it, then jumped the next one, and
then–jammed his clawed right hand shoulder-deep into Sonneillon’s chest.
Sonneillon roared, and shuddered, and I knew he was about to dissolve, and–

And not even someone as fast as Red
could dodge an attack he couldn’t see coming. Behind Sonneillon’s massive bulk,
Iason lunged forward, sword gripped in both hands. It plunged straight through
Sonneillon’s back and out the other side–right into Red’s grinning face.

An unearthly shriek echoed through
the room as Red dissolved into silver dust. Sonneillon shuddered as well, and
then melted away into goo, which soon dissolved as well.

The four of us stood, Iason, Iola,
and I panting, while Rhoda leaned against the doorway looking smug.

“How–?” Iola started.
Then, “Who–?” She shook her head. “No, first things
first.” She picked up Iason’s sword, lifted it in both hands, and stabbed
it down hard into my discarded clothes. There was another sizzling
sound, a little zap–and their magic was gone.

“Lemma?” asked Iason,
looking at me with concern.

“I’m okay,” I said,
surprised to hear myself say it, and even more surprised that it was true.
“Between destroying the enchanted garment, killing Red, and killing Lugal,
the geas had no anchor, so it dissolved, and took the glamours with it.”

“Just to be sure,” Iola
said darkly, and held out the sword. I gingerly touched the side of the blade
with one bare hand; nothing happened. “Good,” she said, but she
didn’t sound happy about it. “So… who is this person, and what
just happened?”

“What?” gasped Rhoda.
“You’ve never heard of Rhoda the Mighty?”

“You may just earn that
name,” I said. “How did you manage to get a demon inside a temple?
This is sacred ground!”

“Well…” she admitted,
glancing at Iason. “I may have had help.”

“Oh,” I said. “Of
course, the sword. It… what, cleared a path through the holy magic and let
Sonneillon through?”

“Yeah,” said Rhoda.
“Seriously though, next time you call me in for backup, can you pick
somewhere easier for me to get into? Like, literally anywhere?”

Iason leaned past her out the door,
and looked up and down the hallway. “We need to move,” he said.
Sonneillon and I killed a lot of guards to get here. Well, I killed
guards, Sonneillon killed anyone he saw.“

"Sorry,” said Rhoda,
blushing slightly. “Controlling him is hard enough normally, but in here?
It was all I could do to get him not to attack allies.”

“Anyway,” said Iason,
“we need to get out of here before the rest of the guards follow
the trail of screams and blood.” He shook his head. “I’m getting to
be like you, Lemma.”

“What’s that supposed to
mean?” I asked sweetly. “I don’t leave trails of blood, I leave
trails of fire. Case in point…” Turning, I examined the walls. Then,
with a shrug, I picked the one by the pillows and started blasting.

As we left the city in a calm and
orderly fashion, by which I mean one step ahead of a very angry army, Iason
filled me in on the rest: like I’d guessed, he’d been kicked out as soon as we
were led away. While he tried to figure out how to rescue us from what he now
knew was a trap, Rhoda showed up looking for me, so they teamed up.

“What I don’t get,” he
said, “is how Rhoda knew to look for us there?”

“Oh, that was me,” I
replied. “Remember that backup I sent for in Khemeth? I used a grateful
ghost to take a crossplanar message, let the demons know I wanted Rhoda to meet
me in Lagasch as soon as possible.”

“And eventually they got the
message to me,” Rhoda said. “Silly Sonneillon tried to tempt
me with it, get me angry by refusing to tell me what it said, but I forced it
out of him. And then I just summoned an Erinye to fly us here, took less than a

“Okay,” said Iason,
“but why?”

I sighed. “Because there’s one
book left, and if anyone has used it… well, we’re going to need
Rhoda’s help.”

“Yeah, I was wondering about
that myself,” said Rhoda. “What book is it, exactly?”

I sighed. I didn’t want to say it;
it made it real. “The one book that might be more dangerous than the Rite
of Uncreation,” I said. “The Sepher Shel Agrat.”

Rhoda’s eyes widened. “You
don’t mean–” She covered her mouth. “I’ve heard of that! Demons have
mentioned it!”

I nodded.

“Care to share with the
class?” Iola asked testily.

“It is the most complete
collection of demon lore ever assembled,” I said. “With it, you could
learn in time to summon anything, up to and including a demon

“Is that as bad as it
sounds?” asked Iason.

“Well, we at least know that
hasn’t happened,” I answered.

“How?” he asked.

“Because they haven’t started
the apocalypse yet,” answered Rhoda.

“Fuck,” he said.


We walked on in silence for a bit,
Iola lagging a bit behind. I pulled back a bit to walk next to her. “Um…
are you okay?” I asked.


I thought about some of what had
happened in the past couple days. What I’d done. “Are we okay?”


Well, shit.

Lemma the Librarian Volume Six: The Inner Sea, an Ebook by Midori Konton

New Lemma ebook!


  • “The Contractually Obligatory Anachronistic Beach Episode”: Exactly what it says on the tin. Okay, also there are fairies.
  • “The Di-Lemma Dilemma”: A former Patreon exclusive! Lemma and co. travel to Iason’s home town, and face Lemma’s most insidious foe: herself!
  • “Possession with Intent”: Deserts, pyramids, and sexy ghosts.

Check it out today!

Lemma the Librarian Volume Six: The Inner Sea, an Ebook by Midori Konton

Lemma the Librarian: Possession With Intent

“Khemeth!” Iason announced
as we stepped off the riverboat. “Breadbasket of the Inner Sea!”

“It smells like dung and river
muck,” I said.

“Well… yes,” he
admitted. “It’s basically one big farm.”

“Great,” I said. “And
somewhere in here is one of the last three books, of which at least two are really

“Maybe it’ll be the not-so-bad
one,” Iason suggested cheerfully.

“Yeah, with our luck, what’re
the odds of that?” I grumbled.

There was a brief silence, which
Iola broke: “About one in three, I believe.”


* * *

We made our way overland from the
Great River, across the fields upon fields upon fields of wheat and barley, an
endless and endlessly flat sea of light brown which at last gave way to the
slightly less flat, slightly lighter brown of the desert.

“Are you sure we’re
going the right way?” asked Iason.

“The big is that way,” I
said, pointing. “Not too far, maybe a mile.”

“Why would it be out in the
desert?” Iola asked. “Normally, we’ve found books around people, not
in the wilderness.”

“Actually, it is a bit weird,”
I admitted. “Deserts are normally full of really nasty wild magic–burning
winds, drifting sands, lots of death, they’re about as inhuman as anywhere can
get short of the deep ocean. But I can feel the book, loud and clear. Maybe
there’s a town out there… for… some reason? Or a temple?”

“Could be a temple,” said
Iason. “One of the Khemeti death gods is supposed to rule this

“Oh fun,” I said dryly.
Then I paused. “Wait, one of? Also, how do you know Khemeti

“Oh, I came here on a monster
hunt with dad, once. It was my first big hunt away from home!”

Iola nodded. “I remember that.
I was quite annoyed that for my turn we just went to Rasnia to hunt gnolls. Not
nearly as exotic.”

“Reminisce about your weird-ass
childhood later,” I said. “Tell me about the multiple death

Iason shrugged. “Not much to
tell. They like death around here. Well… not like, exactly, but
they’re kind of obsessed with it? So there’s a god of dying, and a god of
death, and a god of judging the dead, and a god of the world of the dead, and I
think a different god of the world of the dead, too?”

“Okay, and which one are we
probably going to piss off when we take the book from his temple?” I

“Don’t remember,” said
Iason. “I think he’s the old god of the dead that died and got
replaced by the new god of the dead, maybe? Or something.”

I sighed. “Well, I guess we’ll
find out when he curses us to eternal suffering or whatever. Let’s go.”

Five hours later, I stumbled, rolled
down a dune, and lay on my back at the bottom. “We’re dead, aren’t
we?” I moaned.

“We’re not dead. Have some
water,” replied Iola.

“No. We’re dead. We pissed off
the dead god of dead deserts or whatever, and he cursed us to eternal
suffering, and that’s where we are now.”

“Where?” asked Iason,
sitting next to me and pulling out his waterskin.

“There,” I said.
“Where he cursed us to. Eternal Suffering. It’s a place now.”

“It’s only been a few
hours,” said Iola.

“It’s been a thousand years,”
I insisted. “My feet say so.” I took out my water skin and sucked out
a mouthful. I let it sit in my mouth, swished it around, and pretty soon it was
gone, without me even swallowing. And my mouth still felt like old leather.
“This is fake water,” I continued. “An evil illusion from the
evil death desert dead god.”

“A death illusion?”

“Right, Iason,” I said.
“A death illusion.”

“What about those shacks?”
asked Iola. “Are those a… ‘death illusion?’”

“Probably.” I sat up and
blinked blearily into the glare of white sun on white sand. There was a neat row
of little shacks a little way ahead of us–and the book felt very, very close. Well
shit, guess I’m not dead. Which means I have to get up and walk the rest of the
way to those shacks…

It took us about another fifteen
minutes to reach the shacks. By that time, we could see what was spread out
below them: a huge pit, at least a couple of hundred feet across, divided up by
crisscrossing walls that separated it into roofless hallways and rooms. Dozens
of people swarmed into and over the pit, laying bricks or carving symbols into
them. Near us, a tall, lean, muscular man gazed watchfully over them. He was
bald, beardless, darker than Iola or Iason, and a bit shorter than either, too.
If his position and posture hadn’t given away that he was in charge, the gold
bracelets on his arms and adorning his loose, chest-baring tunic would
have–and if that weren’t enough, he was holding a large piece of
cloth-like paper and a stick of charcoal, which he was clearly using to mark
off tasks as they were completed.

“Can I help you?” he
asked, his voice rich and deep.

Oh, I hope so, I thought. Not quite the solid wall of manmeat that was
Iason, but that voice more than made up for it. It was the kind of voice you
could drown in, and be glad you were. What I said, however, was,
“Possibly. I’m looking for a book.”

“A book?” he asked.
“There’s a library a few hours downriver–”

“A specific book,” I said.
“One I have reason to believe is here.”

“Ah,” he said. “Well,
sorry, nothing here is for sale. We need all of it for The Project.”

I ignored the ominous, very audible
capital letters with which he pronounced “The Project,” and said,
“Well, that’s not a problem. I’m not looking to buy the book, seeing as it
was stolen from my people’s library. I’m here to take it back.”

“Huh,” he said.
“Well, I’m sorry, but everything here was either purchased for The Project
or belonged to me already. Nothing here was stolen.”

I could feel my lightning bolt finger
getting itchy, but I fought down the urge to set him on fire. A man that pretty
should only be immolated as a last resort. “Is it possible it was stolen before
you acquired it?”

He shrugged. “If I have a book,
and I’m not saying I do, then I got it fairly. It’s not my responsibility where
it came from before that.”

I closed my eyes, let out a slow
breath, and counted to ten. “Look, it’s a book of magic, and if we don’t
get it back, the entire nation of Lemuria is going to take that as a
personal insult, and I’m going to make very clear to them that it’s your

His eyes widened. “You’re
Lemurian? Oh, of course, you’re looking for that book! Why didn’t you
say so? Of course you can have it.”

“What?” I asked, feeling
like the rug of righteous anger had just been yanked out from under my feet by
the prankster arms of surprise helpfulness. “Really? Just like that?”

“Sure,” he said. “Let
me finish up here and I’ll look up which treasure room we stashed it in.”

* * *

It had been late afternoon when we
arrived at the–well, at whatever that pit was supposed to be. The Project, I
suppose. Anyway, it had been late afternoon when we got there, and it was near
sunset when Mr. Pretty rolled up his scroll, called out to the workers that
they were done for the day, and then led us into the nearest, and nicest, of
the shacks.

The inside of the shack turned out
to be much nicer than the outside: there was a large, low table in the center,
and basically the enter rest of the floor was covered in pillows. The Very
Pretty Man settled himself on the far side of the table, lounging on the very
comfy-looking pillows, and gestured to us to sit as well.

As some of the workers brought in
food, we introduced ourselves.

Our host nodded graciously, and
said, “I am Set-Perib, Eighth Prince of Khemeth. Welcome to The

My jaw dropped. Hot and friendly I
could handle, but hot, friendly, and royalty? That was a new one.

He laughed at my expression.
“It means very little,” he said. “For now, I am indulged by my
father; when one of my older brothers inherits the throne, I am likely to be
less indulged. Probably I will be married off to support some diplomatic
measure or another.” He shrugged. “But until then… there is The

“Yeah,” I said.
“About that. What, um, is the Project?”

“The Project,” he
corrected me. “And it is nothing less than a revolution in death!”

I glanced at Iason and Iola. Pretty
and rich or not, people looking to revolutionize death are rarely safe to be
around. Especially if they want to share…

“Don’t misunderstand,” he
said quickly. “It’s nothing to do with killing people. I find
violence quite distasteful. No, no, this is about what happens after you

“Is that why you’re building it
out in the desert?” asked Iason.

“Exactly! Where else but the
home of death would I build my palace of the dead?” He beamed as he
explained: death, it is said, comes for everyone equally, but why should it?
Why should a king, for example, have to be just another man once he dies? He
had a palace in life, it’s what he got used to–you can’t expect him to be
happy with just a normal house in death!

(I mean, I can expect that,
because what did he do to deserve a palace anyway? But Peri clearly didn’t
think that way.)

“So,” he said,
“that’s when it hit me: why not build a palace for my father to…
uh, live in, after he dies? Hrm. Be dead in? Sorry, I’m still working on this
bit of the pitch.”

“So that’s what the pit with
all the rooms is?” I asked.

“Well… it’s the start,”
he said. “We have to roof that over, and then–okay, you want to hear the
really good part?”

“I guess?”

He beamed. “Then we roof it
over again, but slightly smaller this time. And we keep doing it
until we have a, a giant pointy thing! It’ll be like a mountain, but made by
human hands. People’ll see it for miles, and flock to it from around the

Okay, Mr. Crazy Man. “That’s… it?” I asked.

“It?” He looked
crestfallen. “I can see you don’t quite get it, but believe me–in times
to come this will be what all the great rulers want to be buried in!”

“Sure,” I said, trying to
keep the sarcasm out of my voice. Yeah, I’m real sure that thousands
of years from now, people are going to slog out into the desert to look at big
stone triangles or whatever and say, “Oooh, I wonder who was buried here,
I bet he was an awesome king or something.”

We chatted a bit more, by which I
mean Prince Peri-whatever went on, and on, and on about his
“genius” idea to make big piles of rocks to put dead people under,
but he confirmed that a book of magic was in one of the treasure chambers of
The Project. “In the morning we can check the records and figure out which
one it’s in,” he said. “Until then, please, enjoy what hospitality we
can offer, here in the wilderness.

Turns out that even in the
wilderness, when you’re a prince, that’s a lot of hospitality. I went to
a very nice bed in a smaller shack adjacent to the prince’s, with a belly full
of delicious food and slightly too much of some very excellent wines.

That night, I had a strange dream. I
was a courtesan of some kind, with aspirations to be more. Two brothers were in
love with me–a worker and a palace guard–but while I liked them both, I had
my sights set on a nobleman and the life of ease I would have as his concubine.
I successfully seduced him, but didn’t count on the jealousy of the
 worker. I tried to use the guard’s infatuation with me to turn him
 against his brother, but I did too good of a job and he became obsessed
 with me as well. In the end, both brothers and I ended up dead, but it
 wasn’t clear exactly who killed who.

I woke up feeling fuzzy-headed and
confused. The dream had been so vivid, it took a moment for me to remember I
was Lemma, brilliant sorceress and adventurer, not some wannabe schemer whose
only real skill was being a simpering sextoy for rich men to play with. As
much fun as that would be…

I shook my head. Prince Peri was
cute, sure, but the shorter the list of  missing books got, the closer I
got to going home. I wanted this done  with. Goodbye to walking for days,
deserts and rain-drenched mud fields,  seasickness and sunburn. Goodbye to
vampires and cannibal fairies and  demons. 

Goodbye to Iason.

I shook my head again.  These
early-morning thoughts were getting silly. I should go to the  Prince’s
for breakfast.
That was an odd thought too, but it made sense,  didn’t
it? He’d said he’d host us while he was here, and to come back in the morning
to find the book. That had to be what he meant.

He  smiled at me as I entered,
and I nodded back. What am I doing? He’s a  Prince! I need to show
proper respect to earn his favor!
I dropped  clumsily into a sort of
bow/curtsy thing and said, "Thank you, Your  Highness, for the
hospitality you’ve shown us.” Which, again, seemed odd… but I did need
to stay on his good side until I got that book.

“Think nothing  of it, my
lady,” he replied gravely. He gestured at the large breakfast
 arrayed on the table in front of him. “Would you care to join me in
 breaking our fasts before the day’s work?”

I smiled. “I’d love to.”

I spent the meal on full charm
offensive: I batted my lashes at him, and played with my hair, and giggled at
his jokes even when they weren’t funny–which none of them were. I gasped in
wonder at his lame-ass boasts about his military prowess, and stroked his bicep
appreciatively as I admired his muscles–which admittedly were pretty nice, in
a whipcord sort of way. So easy. I know just what he wants. All I have to do
is give it to him, and he’s eating out of my hand…

After breakfast, we met Iola and
went down to the pit. “Your book should be in the Chamber of the
Asp,” he said, taking my arm and leading me down the ramp. I looked down
at his hand on me–Let him, he’s just being gentlemanly. Anyway I want him
thinking I want him, right?

Which was another odd thought, but
before I could consider that I noticed something else even odder: Iason,
stripped to the waist, bronze torso glistening as he pushed a barrow full of
bricks down the ramp. Odd? No, just seriously hot.

But it was odd, too, so I called out
to him and asked what he was doing down here.

He set down his barrow briefly,
mopped his brow, and came over. “I just figured, long as I’m here, might
as well help out, right?”

“It is greatly
appreciated,” said Prince Peri.

Iason smiled, but it didn’t touch
his eyes, which were fixed on Peri’s hand on my arm. If I didn’t know better,
I’d think he was jealous. Of course he is, what man wouldn’t envy the man
who had me?

Before I could question what I meant
by “the man who had me,” Peri led us down into what I assume was the
Chamber of the Asp. 

“Here,” he said, gesturing
to a series of cubbyholes built into the wall. “The book should be
right… Wait, where is it?”

Iola immediately stepped forward,
hand on her sword, and examined the cubby. “It’s missing, Your Highness!
It must have been stolen!”

“Of course it must have!”
he snapped. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and turned to me. “I
am so, so sorry,” he said. “Who knows when it was taken? The thief
could be miles from here.”

“Could be,” I said,
“but the book’s not. I can feel it, it is definitely somewhere in this

He looked surprised. “Then we
must search for it!”

Ugh, I thought. Being in the desert is bad enough, but
grubbing around in a literal pit?

“I’ll help look,” said
Iason. “It has to be somewhere.”

“And I’ll question the
workers,” said Iola. “Someone must have seen something.”

I watched them walk off. Iason, so
strong and rugged, hard-working and down-to-earth. And Iola, tall, tough, a
noble protector.

“Come,” said Peri, patting
my arm. “Let’s go somewhere out of the sun. I’m sure I can find something
to entertain us while we wait.”

I smiled up at him through my
lashes, and said softly, “I’m sure you can, Your Highness.” I
giggled. He is so into me. By the time they find the book I’m going
to have him completely wrapped around my little finger.

We were halfway back up the ramp when
it hit me: my dream! Iason was acting like a worker, Iola like a guard… and I
was acting like a status-seeking courtesan. I opened my mouth to say something,
and then stopped. Either Prince Peri is doing something to us, or someone
else is. Either way, he could be useful… maybe getting him a little wrapped
around my finger is a good idea

* * *

“I’ve never met anyone quite
like you, my lady,” Peri said to me a couple of hours later.

It had been a relaxing couple of
hours, just lying on a wide couch under an awning that hung from the roof of
Peri’s shack, watching the workers swarming in the pit. Every now and then I
caught a glimpse of Iola talking to a group of workers or Iason poking into
corners looking for the book.

“How so, Your Highness?” I

“Well, firstly there’s
this,” he said, holding up the drink in his hand. It was a sticky,
tangy-sweet fruit juice, not too bad, but it became excellent when I cast a bit
of ice magic to make it cold. Frost still rimmed our glasses from the spell.
“There are few capable of such feats.”

“True!” I laughed.
“But surely you have met other enchanters or sorcerers in your

“Mmm, perhaps,” said Peri.
“Dour old men. Never someone with youth, energy… beauty.”

I didn’t need to fake the blush.
“Surely Your Highness has met many beautiful women, as well.”

“I have,” he admitted.
“But you are different.” He lifted a strand of my long hair. “I
have seen black, brown, even yellow hair before,” he said. “But only
once have I seen red, on a trader from Hattush. You wear it better than
him–you remind me of tales of the far Tin Isles, where it’s said beautiful
maidens with scarlet hair dwell.”

It’s a good thing I never changed
the color back after that time in Munn!

“You flatter me, Your Highness.” Now reel him in… Visions
danced in my head of a besotten prince offering me my weight in gold for one
night of pleasure. I rolled onto my side, so I was facing him instead of
reclining and looking out over the pit. Gently I traced a finger down his bare
chest. “I haven’t met many princes. Are they all this charming?”

“Perhaps,” he said.
“But rarely are we this motivated to try.”

Then his arms were around me,
holding me to him while my lips sought his. We kissed long and deep, and he
took my waist in his hands while I rolled on top of him. I stroked his arms,
his chest, kissing him hungrily, again and again. I clutched his shoulders and
pushed my hips down into his and humped slowly against him.

Then I broke the kiss and sat up.
Still panting, I said, “We should see how the search for the book is

I stood, and he stared at me in
breathless disbelief. Then he shook himself. “Right. Right, of course, my

I tried not to let my legs wobble on
the way down. That was close–I’d nearly given in to whatever force was pulling
me toward the Prince, and that had made an already pretty intense moment even
hotter. I’d had to break it off then, before I went to far. Besides, gotta
keep him wanting more

* * *

That night, when work ended for the
day and Peri had to do his tallies, I managed to snatch a moment alone with
Iason and Iola. “Has your day been as weird as mine?” I asked.

“Possibly,” said Iola.
“I kept looking for thieves and interrogating workers. It kept making
sense at the time, too, like…”

“…like your thoughts had a
mind of their own?” asked Iason. “That’s what it was like for me.
Every time I tried to do something else, I suddenly thought of a bunch of
reasons to keep on working.”

“Yeah,” I said.
“That’s similar to what happened to me. But I’ve been looking for magic,
and there’s none on us that I can recognize–no glamours or enchantments or
anything like that. We’re just… acting weirdly.”

“What did you do?” asked

I shrugged. “Made out with
Prince Peri a couple of times.”

“What!?” snapped Iason.
Him? What could possibly possess you to do that? He’s so… weird.”

Somebody’s jealous… I could have
fun with that
… I pushed the thought away and
focused on what Iason had just said. Something about it… “Wait.” I
closed my eyes. There were three books left. I knew the titles of all three,
and–I opened my eyes again. “Whoa.”

“Lemma?” as Iola.
“What’s wrong?” There was urgency in her voice, alarm–that
protectiveness again.

“I didn’t realize I could do
that,” I said. “Or maybe I couldn’t until I had more experience with
the books. But… I don’t just know there’s a book here, I know which
book–one of the bad ones. The Liber Paginarum Fulvarum Mortis, a book
full of the forbidden secrets of necromancy. We’re not enchanted,
guys… we’re possessed.”

* * *

Death is powerful. It’s one of the
most powerful magics there is–stronger than life, than love, than almost
anything humans have found. Not even time–which can destroy just about
anything else–can overcome death. But there’s nothing less human than
death–it’s pure wild magic.

Which makes ghosts weird. They’re
human, but not–like vampires, they’re human-shaped former humans, but made of
wild magic. The difference is that vampires’ bodies look human; with ghosts,
the body is gone, and it’s everything else that stays human-shaped. They’re
like floating blobs of unfinished business and unfulfilled intentions, drifting
around until their business is done.

In theory, anything you can do with
wild magic you can do with high magic and vice versa. In practice, some of the
things high magic can do would require much too much control to accomplish with
wild magic, and some things wild magic can do are much too complex and
dangerous to do with high magic.

That’s where necromancy comes in:
using high magic to try to control death. It never ends well for the
practitioner… but in theory it could enable possession, or it’s possible a
powerful ghost could pull it off on its own.

“So we’ve got ghosts in our
heads,” I explained. “The ones from my dream–the worker, the guard,
and the courtesan.” I tried to remember what I could from what little
training I’d got on ghost possession. “They want us to do things, finish
their business, and the more we go along with what they want, the more control
they get.”

“In my dream, we ended up
dead,” said Iola. “If these ghosts get control…”

“Yeah,” I said.
“They’ll act out the ends of their lives… and take us with them.”

“Lemma!” Prince Peri’s
voice carried from above. He was clearly done tallying. “My lady, where
are you?”

“Shit, time’s up,” I said.
“Listen, it’s probably him that’s playing necromancer, but it could
be anyone. Watch out, but don’t let anyone suspect anything.” Never
show what you feel… play the part
, and dammit, that was the ghost, but
what could I do? She was right, that was the right way to play this,
even if doing it sank her hooks deeper into me. At least it means getting my
hooks deeper into the Prince…

Peri soon found me. “What are
you doing down here, my lady?”

“Oh, meeting one of my many
other lovers,” I teased. I slipped in under his arm and placed it around
my waist. “You should be careful, Your Highness. If you don’t pay
attention, someone might steal me away.”

“My lady, I will gladly pay you
all the attention The Project allows me,” he said grandly. “But… if
you have other lovers besides me, does that not imply…” he
trailed off.

I simpered and snuggled against his
side. Play the silly servile slut, and he’ll suspect nothing. “Your
Highness is a powerful prince. Surely whatever you wish for me to imply, you
can simply command?”

He stopped and turned to face me.
Hands on my hips, he looked down into my eyes and spoke seriously. “I
don’t want to command an unwilling servant,” he said. “I want you to
welcome the command, when it comes.”

I linked my arms around his neck and
smiled up into his eyes, playing the besotted serving-girl to the hilt.
“If it came from Your Highness, any command would be welcome.” That’s
it. Make him think I’m nearly his.
I leaned up on tiptoes and kissed him
softly. Make him want to claim me, and he’ll never notice he doesn’t own me
at all

Those weren’t my thoughts, and I
knew it. They were the thoughts of a long-dead woman, a seductress who got turned
on by manipulating people… trying to control me, a woman who very badly
needed to be manipulative right now… and who got turned on by being
manipulated and controlled.

He deepened the kiss, and I slid my
hands down his chest, over his abs. “I am Your Highness’ loyal
servant,” I whispered. “Shall I kneel to demonstrate my

Without waiting for an answer, I
slid to my knees, running my hands over the front of his kilt. I could feel him
through the linen, hot and hard, and I knew the part of me that was a courtesan
loved the feeling of control that gave her, while other parts of me loved the
feeling of being on my knees, the awareness that my actions and even my
thoughts were being manipulated–and all of those parts agreed, they wanted his
cock in my mouth.

“Does Your Highness have any
commands for me?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said hoarsely.
“Take it out, please…”

I did, flipping up his kilt so I
could stroke his cock with eager fingers. There was already a droplet of precum
on the tip; I gently scooped it up on the tip of my index finger, brought it to
my mouth, and licked it off with a steamy smile and an “mmm.”

I wanted to suck him off there and
then, but the courtesan knew it was better to wait for an order, make him think
he was in control, and the possessed girl knew it would be so much hotter to
hear a command and be forced to obey it. 

We didn’t have to wait long.
“P-put it in your mouth,” he stammered, and that was enough. I
wrapped my lips around him and suckled gently, my tongue flicking at the
underside of the base of his bulb. We were good at this, courtesan training and
fun times at the Academy in perfect alignment. We stroked his muscular thighs,
caressed his balls, deep-throated him, licked and sucked, while he held our
shoulders and gasped in rising pleasure. 

He came, and we gulped it down,
except for a little we let dribble out onto our chin as if there was so much
our mouths couldn’t hold it–which is nonsense, no human man can cum that much,
but they do like thinking they can. Eyes locked on his, we scooped up that
little dribble on a finger and sucked it clean, then beamed.

“Wow,” he said.

We rose gracefully to our feet,
teased his chest with a finger, and said, “Happy to be of service, Your
Highness. I hope I’m invited to dinner again tonight? That was delicious… but
I’m sure I’ll be hungry again by then.”

He gathered his composure
impressively quickly for someone who’d just gotten a blowjob from us.
“I hope to dine together every night, my lady. I shall instruct the chef.
Bring your appetite.”

“I intend to,” we murmured
sultrily. “Until then, Your Highness.” We sashayed away down the hill
before he could question where we intended to spend the time until dinner. Princess
, we thought. It has a nice ring to it.

* * *

We made our way down into the pit as
quietly as we could. There was no  sign of Iason and Iola, but we knew
they’d be along soon. Sure enough,  as we passed a shadow it detached itself
from the wall, grabbed our arm,  and pulled us around. 

“Where were you?” Iason

We yanked our arm out of his grip.
“Hello to you too,” we said.

“You were with him,
weren’t you?”

We smiled. “So what if I was?
That was the plan, remember? Make him think everything’s normal?”

“I don’t like it.”

We stepped up close to Iason and
laid our hands against his chest. Looking up into his eyes, we said softly,

Iason closed his eyes and groaned.
“Lemma,” he said with obvious difficulty. “I’m fighting a ghost
that’s in love with you–I mean, the ghost in you. Don’t… don’t make it

We let our hands drift lower.
“Is it hard?” we teased.

He grabbed our hands. “Stop it!
I know–I know the ghost’s in your head, feeding you thoughts like me, but we
have to fight them together!”

Oh, getting under his skin is

“Get away from her!”
shouted Iola, running up to us, her sword half out of its sheath. Iason started
and dropped our hands, and we all turned to face her as she shoved her way in
between us and Iason.

Iason’s fists clenched as he and
Iola glared at each other, about an inch apart. “She’s coming on to me,
Iola!” he shouted.

“Yeah? She’s a fool. If you two
aren’t careful, the Prince will find out what you’re up to and have you killed!”

We turned our smile on Iola.
“Worried about me? That’s sweet.”

 "I’m just looking out
for–for my brother’s friend,“ said Iola gruffly. 

We  drifted closer to her.
"Just your brother’s friend?” we said softly. “I  thought
we were friends, too. I’d like us to be… close.”

Iola’s  mouth twitched as she
looked down at us. “Nnnn… Nnnnnggghh…  NnnnggghhhhGAH!” She
collapsed to her knees, clutching her head. “Stop  it!”

We stared down at her in shock.
Iason knelt beside her  and put his arm around her shoulders.
“Iola?” he said gently. “What’s  wrong?”

“Thoughts..!” she groaned.
“It’s in my head, making me, making me… think about… HER!”

She  waved a hand at us.
“Is that really so bad?” we asked, letting just a  hint of a
tease slip into our voice, but keeping it mostly gentle.  "There are
worse things.“

"You don’t get it!” she
snapped. “Every time I think about… that… I think about the
time we did!”

Oh.  Right. Iola and I had,
hadn’t we? And remembering it no doubt brought  up memories–of being
under Brinksmoor’s control, of leading the women  after his defeat, of
their slaughter… “Fuck,” I said. “I’m sorry,  Iola.”
I can think of ways to cheer her up, I thought, but I knew that
 wasn’t really me. I wasn’t stupid enough to think that would help.

“It hurts to think those
thoughts,” she gasped, “but fighting them is so hard, and the more I
do the more it hurts…”

So  stop fighting. But that wasn’t me. I could feel the friction building
 in my head, the ghost and I diverging again: she wanted to use me to act
 out her last days, and that required Iola playing the role her ghost
 was pressing on her. But I saw a friend getting hurt. If only ghosts
 were flammable

See, now that thought was definitely

“You should go,” said
Iason. “I’ll take care of Iola.”

“No,” Iola managed.
“Lemma, if you have the book, can you get these ghosts out of our

“Probably,” I said. Though
it’s much more fun to just–
I nipped that thought in the bud.

“Good. I’m going to go try to
rest. You two find that book.”

We watched Iola trudge back up to
the shacks, struggling every step of the way. I could understand that
feeling–her ghost was trying to pull her back, just like mine was trying to
get me to chase after her, flirt with her, try to make Iason jealous.

Because that was what I–what she
did. Flirt, distract, encourage jealousy, all for her own amusement or
advancement. And I wasn’t about to do that to Iason, of all people! He was
different. Special. Comfortable. I’ll admit, very, very pretty–no. Peri is
pretty. Iason is tasty. There’s a difference.

“So, uh, how do we start
looking?” he asked.

I shrugged. “Dunno. I’m trying
my best to focus on its location, but I can’t seem to get much more accurate
than ‘close.’ You spent the whole day down here working, didn’t you find any
clues or anything?”

“Sorry,” he said. “It
was hard to focus on the book… easier to just work, and listen to the other
workers complain. It’s rough for them… I think maybe they’re possessed, too,
because they talk about wanting to go home to their families, to take a break
when it gets hot, but it’s like they just can’t.”

“Puppets,” I said.
“Dancing on ghost strings–and I bet Peri’s the one pulling them.” I
hope he is. Hope he pulls me down to my knees again and
–no! I needed to
think about something else.

“I’ll get you away from
him,” said Iason, and I smiled. Poor guy, he really means it, but what
can he do? The prince has all the power here. Iason’s just a nice guy with a
great body.
Who was thinking that? Me or her? I mean, I thought he was
hot from day one, he just never looked at me that way. Like in Munn, he had me,
could’ve done anything he wanted with me, and all his inhibitions were gone…
and he did nothing. He just doesn’t want me.
I looked up and met his eyes. So
why is he looking at me like that now?

Obviously, that’s the ghost, stupid.
The worker in love with the courtesan, that’s how we all get killed–got
killed–how they all got killed.
tried to tell myself that I didn’t really want him to kiss me, that it was just
the ghost making me want it. But I do want him to want me. I want to be
wanted. I want to be wanted so much he’ll stop at nothing to take me, claim me,
own me… possess me.

His lips met mine. I wrapped my arms
aroudn his neck, and his hands on the small of my back pulled me against him,
my soft, slender form pressed up against the broad, solid muscles of his body.

And then he broke away, pulled away,
turned away. “I’m sorry!” he said. “I’m sorry. That was the
ghost. I wasn’t–I didn’t–”

We put our hand on his shoulder,
turned him back to face us. We smiled up at him dazzlingly. “It’s
okay,” we said. “I liked it. Kiss me again?”

He groaned, clearly fighting the
battle I’d already gladly lost, and then he lost too, and kissed us again.

It didn’t feel like losing.

Everything seemed to slow, like we
were in a dream. There was the feel of his body under our hands, and his hands
on our body. The light of the moon and stars in the clear, black desert sky.
His lips at our neck, our breasts, our thighs.

Part of us was excited because Iason
was a weapon against the prince, a way to make him jealous and therefore more
possessive–and the more he needed to own us, the more leverage that gave us
over him. Part of us was excited because we were helpless not to want this,
helpless to stop increasing not only the control of the sorceress over the
courtesan, but the control of the love-besotted worker over the monster hunter.

And part of us was still horny from
earlier, and excited just to be getting naked with a tasty chunk of man-meat. A
very big part, actually, and rapidly growing.

Speaking of very big, rapidly
growing parts, we could feel Iason’s hard cock pressing against our thigh as we
lay back in the cool nighttime sand, our lips tangled with his once again. It
filled us so perfectly, so completely, that we couldn’t help but moan and
clutch Iason to ourself while he slowly began to pump in and out.

We cried out in ecstasy as we came,
and so did he. Then we and he collapsed back onto the sand, side by side. He
pulled us close, kissed us softly, and we snuggled against his side.

We must have dozed off, because next
thing we knew, we were dreaming…

* * *

Before the desert, there was
grassland. It was already dry, and nearly barren, but there was enough grass
and enough water to sustain sheep and goats and their herders. But the desert
was coming, expanding slowly, driving people from their old lands toward the

And there was this village. Less
than a day from the fertile farmlands by the river, it was a place of trade,
wealthy by the standards of the time, and most of that wealth belonged to the
man who ruled it, a cousin of the king of the farmlands. For a girl with little
education, less money, a lot of ambition, and a way with men, the way up was

But the desert was growing, and the
grasslands dying, and the refugees kept coming. The nobleman, fearing his
wealth would be looted, ordered the construction of town walls. When the people
balked–they would rather build canals to bring water in, not a wall to keep
people out–he had his guards round them up and put them to work at swordpoint.

We barely noticed any of that. We
were too busy getting closer to the nobleman, despite our attraction to one of
the workers, a handsome young rabblerouser who was trying to urge the others to
revolt. He loved us, and we felt something for him, but our ambitions would not
allow that. He grew jealous, and that drew attention, and that made the noble
jealous, too. Scared one or the other might murder us, we seduced the worker’s
guard brother for protection.

Then came the confrontation. The
workers threw down their tools and refused to keep building. The noble stormed
down, a guard–our guard–at his side, to order them back to work, and
found himself face to face with their leader, our lover.

Swords were drawn. We pleaded with
them not to hurt each other; all three demanded we choose between them. But how
could we? How could we choose love over ambition, or ambition over safety, or
safety over love? Our lover attacked the noble, or tried to, but the guard got
in his way, and they fought. We tried to get between them, to make them stop…
and our lover accidentally stabbed us. As we fell, we saw the shocked guard’s
sword droop, saw our lover scream and cut him down, before finally falling on
his own sword… all while the noble looked on in confusion and fear.

And then we died. Not long after,
the walls went up–but the time and money spent on construction had meant less
to spend storing up food and water for the coming dry season, and it turned out
to be an unusually bad and long one. Most of the people were dead by the time
the noble and a handful of survivors abandoned the village and fled toward the
river, joining the stream of refugees they had tried to shut out.

The village stood empty, and in time
the desert swallowed it completely. Walls, buildings, streets, all
gone–nothing left but the ghosts.

* * *

Idiots, I thought as I woke up.

Iason was smiling at me, and at that
sight the memories came flooding back of what we’d just done, how good it had
been, how irresistible it was to go along with what the ghost wanted when we
were in alignment, and we were in alignment, more and more with every passing
minute and second…

We smiled back. “How long was I
asleep?” we asked.

“A few minutes,” he said,
and kissed our forehead.

“And you just watched us

“Well–” he began, but a
noise at the top of the pit made us look up.

Prince Peri stood there, with Iola
at his side. “So it’s true!” he shouted. “You are
plotting against me! Not just that, but…” he waved at us as if to take
in our nakedness and in-each-other’s-arms-ness. “Betraying me, the both of

We scrambled hastily to our feet and
waved our hands. “No, no, Your Highness,” we said. “We are loyal
to you. This was…” A trick? He won’t believe that. A mistake? Maybe I
could say Iason forced me
–but no, I couldn’t say that. Wouldn’t say that!
I could feel the pressure of the ghost trying to make me, but I refused.

Beside me, Iason was on his feet,
glaring at Iola.

“I had to,” she said.
“The ghost was pounding and pounding on my head, trying to make me think
about Lemma. I spent everything fighting that, so when it reminded me that I’m
a palace guard and it was my duty to report to the prince that you’re fomenting
rebellion… I couldn’t refuse that as well? I have a duty.”

No you don’t, I thought, and I was pretty confident it was me
thinking it. The ghost is making you think you do.

Peri scrambled down the slope, Iola
beside him. “You betrayed me!” he shouted at me. “Seduced me,
used me, and all the while you were thinking of him!” He pointed at
Iason. “You could have had a prince, and you threw it away for a no-name,
no-family, muscle-brained…” He sputtered with rage, trying to get the
words out.

“Better me than some skinny boy
obsessed with death, who treats his people like slaves!” Iason retorted.

I looked up. The shouting seemed to
be drawing some attention; a crowd of workers was forming at the edge of the
pit. This could get bad, I thought.

“Guard,” said Peri, his
face growing cold. “This traitor has insulted his prince. Cut him

“But… Your Highness. He’s my

“And I am your prince!”
snapped Peri. “Do your duty!”

Reluctantly, Iola drew her sword.
“I’m sorry, Iason,” she said. “I have to.”

We watched in helpless horror. The
details were different, but it was all playing out the same. At the same time,
there was a fight happening within us. I was struggling, and there were moments
where I was almost me, but we were too aligned for that to last long. 

“Don’t do this, Iola,” he
said. “You don’t have to do what the prince orders! None of you do! He
doesn’t deserve your loyalty or service or work!” Growing numbers of
workers in the watching crowd muttered noises of agreement.

Peri was looking more panicked and
angrier by the second. “Kill him!” he screamed, and Iola advanced on
Iason, her sword ready to strike.

Of course we aligned. We wanted the
same things–we wanted the prince’s possessions, Iason’s affections, Iola’s
protection. We were going to play out the same story, and there was nothing we
could do to stop it.

Fuck you, I’m Lemma. There’s always something I can do to stop it. A few seconds
of clarity, but that was all I needed to call up a little wind power. A
gesture, and a gust struck Iola sideways, hard enough to knock her off her
feet, and tumbling off the wall into one of the chambers below. In the sudden
silence, I heard her thud against the sand.

“Ow,” she said from below.

Peri stood alone on the wall, with
Iason on one side, a crowd of workers on the other. He went white.

I stifled a giggle. Looks like
he’s seen a ghost.

“Get him,” said Iason,
quietly, and with a roar, the crowd surged down the pit toward us. Peri yelped
like a frightened puppy and scrambled for the ladder down into the chambers…
only to find Iola climbing up, blocking his way.

“Guard!” he yelled at her.
“Do your duty! Protect me!”

She reached the top of the ladder,
sword still in her hand, and said, “Yes, I’ll do my duty.” She shoved
Peri toward the advancing crowd. “My duty to my brother, and to the

There was very little of Peri left
by the time the workers were done with him.

* * *

“What will you do now?” I
asked one of the workers later, after we’d broken open Peri’s food stores and
all shared a big, raucous feast.

He shrugged. “The death of the
prince will bring suspicion on all of us. But he was not a popular prince, even
among his own family. If we tell them he wandered off into the desert in his
madness, they will choose to believe us.”

I nodded, and looked down into the
pit, at the squishy mess that had been Set-Perib, Eighth Prince of Khemeth.
Lying dead in his monument to death, surrounded by chambers full of treasure, a
palace to carry beyond the grave. “Fuck that,” I said, and lobbed a
fireball into his corpse. In the dry air, it burned quite easily.

With Peri’s records, it was easy to figure
out where he’d hidden the Liber Paginarum Fulvarum Mortis. With it in
hand, I expected to sleep easily that night, comfortable in the knowledge that
this was over and we’d be moving on in the morning.

But of course not. I had to have one
last dream first.

I was standing at the edge of the
desert. Behind me was a world of water and life; ahead, just dry emptiness. The
sky was black and heavy with bright white stars, far too many of them. The sand
had that ghostly look of desert under the moon, even though there was no moon.

It’s possible the ghostly look also
had something to do with the crowd of ghosts in front of me. Most of them were
unfamiliar, but the three in front I recognized: the worker, the guard, and the

“Unfinished business,” I said.
“Of course. It wasn’t anything to do with the love triangle… it was the
worker’s revolt.”

A sigh went through the crowd, like
old pain finally released. It made sense. Without their leader, the rebellion
didn’t happen, and everyone starved to death, filled with regret.

“Yes,” said the courtesan,
“except for me. My unfinished business was a choice I’d been unable to
make–a failure that got me and everyone else killed.”

“A choice?” I asked.
“I don’t understand.”

“Yes, you do,” said the
courtesan. “And thank you…”

Her voice faded as the wind rose–a
cool, wet wind coming from the river behind me. The ghosts sighed again as the
wind swept through them, picking them up like mist and spreading them out
across the desert.

“Wait!” I said, thinking
of something. “Before you go… is it true that the dead can carry
messages to other realms?”

“Yes,” said the courtesan.
“Is there someone you want to say something to?”

I gave her the message, told her who
to take it to, and then I woke up. It was still night, but there was a growing
paleness to the east. It would be morning soon, and I didn’t feel like going
back to sleep.

I padded out of the shack and
wandered toward the pit. There, sitting on the edge, one knee drawn up against
her chest, Iola was looking at the stars.

“Not the sibling I
expected,” I said, sitting next to her.

“No?” said Iola.
“Expected, or hoped?”

“I don’t know what you

“Yes, you do,” said Iola.
“And thank you.”

I stared at her. “That’s the
same thing that… no, never mind. What are you thanking me for, exactly?
Knocking you off a ten-foot wall?”

“I suppose,” said Iola.
“It gave me a chance to knock some sense into myself. I realized the ghost
and I both thought we had to fight for the prince, but really the person
we had to fight for…”

“Was Iason,” I finished.
“Your brother.”

“Yes. That was his regret, his
unfinished business. He died fighting against his brother, when he should have
died fighting beside him.”

I nodded. “They’re gone
now,” I said. “Their business is finished, so there’s no regret to
sustain them anymore.”

“I know,” said Iola.
“Anyway, that’s not the only thing I wanted to thank you for.”


“No. Thank you for Iason,

“What do you mean?”

It was Iola’s turn to stare.
“You really don’t know, do you?” She shook her head.
“You’re a clever woman, Lemma, but you really can be a fool.”


“Lemma, when I tried to
overcome the ghost, it hurt. A lot. When I stopped fighting, he led me down the
same path that got him killed. What changed was when he was divided–between
duty and family. I didn’t feel any duty, but Iason is my family, and that
tipped us over to the family side.” She stood. “Your ghost couldn’t
pick a lover, correct? For different reasons, she wanted the worker, the guard,
and the noble equally.”

“What are you getting at?”
I asked.

“Lemma. When you acted against
me and the prince, to protect Iason… did it hurt because you were resisting
the ghost? Or was it that her feelings were torn… and yours weren’t?”

My face started getting hot. “I
have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said stiffly, and turned away.

Iola laughed. “I’m starting to
see what he sees in you. You’re cute when you blush.”

I clenched my fists and whirled
around, fully prepared to blast her so hard the ghosts would feel it, but she
was already walking away. What the hell is she on about? I wondered. I
have no idea who ‘he’ is!

Yes, you do. And there was no one that thought could be but me.

* * *

“So where to next?” Iason
asked a few hours later, after we were all up and breakfasted and packed.

“There’s two books left,”
I said. “Both about the same distance away. I looked at a map before I
went to bed last night, and I think I know where they are–one’s in Lagasch,
and the other Hattush.”

Iason whistled. “That’s
far,” he said. “Far from each other, too–Hattush is way north, and
Lagasch is way east.”

“The book in Hattush is way
nastier,” I said. “I hate to say it, but I think we’re going to need

“Backup?” asked Iola.

I nodded. “We’ll go to Lagasch
first. We’ll grab the book, meet up with our backup, and then head for

“And you’re not going to tell
us who the backup is,” said Iola.

“Nope!” I replied
cheerfully. “You’ll find out when we get there.”

Iola opened her mouth to say
something, but Iason interrupted. “Don’t bother. The more we ask, the more
she enjoys not answering.”

“Aw, ruin my fun why don’t

We started to walk, but Iason wasn’t
following. I stopped and went back.

He looked out over the shacks, the
pit, and desert, and said, “You think he was right?”

“Who?” I asked.
“About what?”

“The prince,” he said.
“About the whole palace of the dead thing. Wave of the future, he

“What, do I think that someday,
people are going to drag tons and tons of bricks out into the desert to build
big pointy things to put dead kings in?” I scoffed. “Don’t be
ridiculous, Iason. It’ll never catch on.” I patted him on the back.
“C’mon, we’ve got a long trip ahead. Let’s get going.”

Lemma the Librarian: The Contractually Obligatory Anachronistic Beach Episode


I took the pain with characteristic dignity and fortitude. “Owww! It
hurts! Why does it hurt so much!? Why don’t you two hurt?” I huddled
under my cloak. It hurt like hell, rubbing against my red, burningly
painful skin, but at least it wouldn’t get any more sun.

Iason shrugged as we trudged along through the hills. “I just don’t burn,” he said.

“This is insane,” I muttered. “What kind of crazy, evil country is this, where the sun can burn you?”

“We assumed you knew,” said Iola. “Doesn’t everybody know?”

“Not everyone,” I seethed, “is lucky enough to grow up in a land where the sun is trying to kill you! No wonder we Lemurians are so far ahead of the rest of the world, the rest of the world is either dreary, chilly little islands where it never stops raining or treacherous, evil countries that lure you in with sun and warmth and then burn you alive! With some kind of, of, invisible sun-fire!”

“Is she going to be like this the whole way?” asked Iola.

“Until she heals,” sighed Iason.

“I heard that!” I snapped. “My back may be one giant red scorched mass of agony, but my hearing’s fine!”

“I knew we should have just moved on,” said Iola. “I said we should, you two wanted the extra day.”

“Nuh-uh!” I countered. “This isn’t my fault! Neither of you warned me the sun can do this out here!”

Iason and Iola both sighed.


Twenty-four days ago:

“Land,” I moaned, crawling out of the little boat onto the sand. “At last!” My stomach was even happier than I was–it wanted to kiss the sand, even though I’d learned my lesson about that ages ago.

“Land,” Iola agreed, stepping smartly out of the boat. Iason was right behind her, just wrapping up our business with the fisherman who’d taken us north from Motya, a Sea People colony on an island east of Qart Hadast. From there he’d taken us to a peninsula sticking down from the north shore of the Inner Sea, which belonged to a people called the Rasni. I’d vaguely heard of them before, but I didn’t know much about them. Iason and Iola knew a little more, but not much. They traded with the Sea People and the Forest People–the mysterious denizens of the huge dark forest that covered most of the landmass that stretched from the north shores of the Inner Sea to the south shores of the cold northern seas where the Tin Islands lay. But they didn’t take much to ships–smart people, I say–so they didn’t have much contact with anyone else.

Supposedly they were like most trading cultures–welcoming to outsiders in direct proportion to how much money they had to spend. Which wasn’t a lot, in our case, but hopefully it’d be enough to get the book I could sense ahead of us.

“Well,” I said, getting to my feet. “We may as well get moving.”


Earlier today:

“This is the life,” I sighed, stretching out on a towel laid out on the warm golden sand, basking in the bright Rasnian sun, wearing only a sunhat and a light, tight, one-piece green garment, scoop-necked and backless, as well as sleeveless and legless. I was practically naked, but so was everyone else on the beach, and no one seemed to mind very much.

“We’re alive, yes,” agreed Iola, towering magnificently in a barely-there burgundy two-piece number, an upper part that cupped and covered her breasts and hardly anything else, and a lower part that clung to her hips and butt. It left basically nothing to the imagination–the dark curls tumbling down her back covered more skin than her outfit! “If we wish to stay that way, maybe we should be moving on?”

Nearby on a towel of his own, Iason yawned. He was wearing almost nothing, too, just a pair of very, very short, baggy blue breeches that almost but not quite reached his knees, and everything else was just tan skin stretched over tight muscle. The three of us made a pretty yummy view, I’ve got to say, though obviously I’m the hot one. I mean, unless your type is big beefcake-y dudes or towering dusky Amazons, and that’s just weird, right?

Anyway, Iason yawned. “Do we really have to hurry? I mean, he has to go all the way home, find a new excuse, and come all the way back here, right?”

I shrugged. “Yeah, that should take at least a couple hours.”

“Hours!?” Iason sat up suddenly. “I thought we had weeks! Months!”

“I mean, we probably do? But in theory, if he went straight back and immediately got a new assignment…”

“This is what I mean,” said Iola. “We should move.”

“I mean, he’ll find us regardless,” I pointed out. “I mean, that’s sort of his deal. We can’t actually hide, or run really, so we may as well relax a bit, take things at our own pace.”

“You want to relax?” Iola asked. “While that thing could come after us at any moment?”

I shrugged again. “It’s not like not relaxing would do any good.”

“I… suppose that is true…” Iola admitted slowly. “Very well. I shall join you in relaxing for the remainder of the day, and we can resume our journey tomorrow.”

“Awesome,” I said. I rolled over to enjoy the warm sun on my back.


Twenty-four days ago:

The place where the book was being kept wasn’t hard to find. It was a villa just south of the city walls, part of a little cluster of them between the city and the beach. They were all more or less the same shape, though they varied in size: a long, low building with lots of columns built along the city wall, with another, similar building sticking out at each end, forming three sides of a square courtyard. The fourth side, the south side, opened out onto the beach.

We approached the largest of them, which was definitely where I felt the book. A helpful merchant in the town marketplace had told us it belonged to Larth, the richest trader in town, and it certainly looked like it. We walked into a broad, open courtyard lined with laurel trees, with a small pool of clear, fresh water in the center. A statue of a seal rose out of the water, and the tile floor was decorated with a mosaic of fish and coral. For a successful overland trader, this Larth guy sure had a major aquatic theme going.

He emerged as we entered the courtyard. At least, I assume it was him–a broad, short man, powerfully built with just a hint of a belly. He was tan and dark haired, with a distinguished bit of gray at the temples, and wearing red robes and a gold chain. He looked like a rich guy starting to think about retirement, who’d been a strong fighter once but let himself get just a little soft with age.

He smiled as we approached. “Hello, travelers!” he said expansively, spreading his arms. “I am Larth, welcome to my home! Who might you be?”

“Lemma,” I replied. “And these are my… companions, Iola and Iason.”

He nodded politely to us. “And what brings you here?”

I looked at the other two, then shrugged. Might as well tell the truth; if he reacted badly, I was pretty confident the three of us could take him. “I am on the trail of a book, taken from my people years ago. I believe it is here.” I braced myself for him to call for guards or summon some kind of monster or start throwing fireballs or something.

“Oh, yes, that?” he asked. “I think I know just the book you mean. Dear!” he called back into the villa. “Dear, could you just grab the book and bring it out here for our guests?”

Wait, seriously? That easy? No way it’s gonna be this easy.

And, of course, it wasn’t.


Last night:

The seal slipped into the water with graceful ease, a dark, sleek shape just under the surface. It burst back up happily and clambered back onto the shore.

“Hrm,” said its companion. “Well, that’s that, then,” he growled. “But next time–”

“Yeah, yeah, next time you’ll get me and kill me or whatever.”

“Next time,” he spat, emphasizing each word, “I will feast on your entrails. You and any who stand with you! You’ll all be my prey.”

“Sure,” I said, waving a hand dismissively. “But that’s next time. Bye-bye now!” I gave him my biggest, cheeriest, most rage-inducingly friendly smile.

He snarled and turned away, walking into the sea. The seal swam away with him, pausing only a moment at the edge of sight to wave to us.

“Is it really necessary to antagonize him like that?” asked Iola.

I considered a moment. “Yes,” I decided firmly. “Now. We’re alive and free and there’s a real pretty beach with a nice sun overhead, not to mention a villa that’s empty except for us. A villa with, I seem to recall, a well-stocked pantry and an excellent wine cellar. Who’s up for a couple days of fun on the beach before we move on?”


Twenty-four days ago:

One of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen emerged from the villa. She was about my height, pale and thin, almost ethereal, with a fountain of dark, dark hair reaching almost to her feet. Her face was absolutely perfect, sweet and sad with big dark eyes. She was wearing a sheer white gown edged in silver, and carrying an ornately carved wooden box just about the right size to be holding a book.

Larth grasped the gold chain around his neck and drew out a key which dangled from the end of it. He unlocked the box his wife held and opened it to reveal a book, sitting atop some kind of dark, shimmery cloth. I felt the magic surging from it–that was definitely what we were here for!

I reached for the book, and Larth snapped the box shut. “Nah-ah-ah,” he said, wagging a finger. “What kind of trader would I be if I just gave treasures like this away?”

I glanced back at Iason and Iola. “We have some money,” I said. “But…”

He waved his hand. “Don’t worry! I know how tight money can be on a long journey! But clearly you are adventurers of some skill, yes? Your companions seem quite fit, and I would hazard a guess that you yourself have some skill in magic, Miss Lemma?”

I had to admit, I was impressed. Most people don’t recognize a sorceress when they see one, in my experience. “That’s true,” I said. “What’s your point?”

“My point is that an exchange does not necessarily have to involve money or goods. Instead, you could perform a service for me in exchange for the book. How would that be?”

I shrugged. Couldn’t do any harm to hear him out–if I didn’t like the favor he wanted we could find something else or, push come to shove, just take the book. There didn’t seem to be anyone here but him and his wife, and we could easily take them. “Yeah, okay,” I said.

He gave Iason and Iola a look, and they both shrugged. “All right,” Iola agreed, and Iason just said, “I’ll go with what Lemma decides, that’s worked so far.”

He clapped his hands. “Excellent! Then we are agreed. I will give you the book after you serve me.”

“Wait,” I said. “That’s not exactly what we–”

“Kneel,” he commanded, and all three of us did.

No, all four of us–me, Iason, Iola, and the woman we’d assumed was Larth’s wife.



Earlier last night:

“Well, that’s that, then,” I said. I tucked the book under my arm and picked through the smashed remains of the chest. “Here you are,” I said, drawing out the black cloth that had lined it.

Our erstwhile ally snatched it out of my hands. Grumbling, he stalked over to Sylki and wrapped it around her. As it touched her, it shimmered and shaped itself around her, until it was difficult to tell where her dark hair ended and the black cloak she now wore began.

“Thank you,” she sighed with a voice like a song. She turned toward us. “All of you!” Then, joyfully, she began to skip down the beach toward the water. She leaped into the air gracefully, shimmering and flowing into a seal, and then plunged into the water with barely a splash.


Twenty-four days ago:

“Oh, fuck this,” I said, and threw a red-hot ball of fire straight at that Larth bastard’s head.

Water fountained from the pool in the middle of the courtyard and smacked directly into my fireball. When the steam cleared, Larth’s wife was standing between us, her palm outstretched. “I cannot allow you to harm him,” she said in a voice as beautiful and sad-seeming as she was.

Larth grinned. “Thank you, Sylki dear. Lemma, Iola, Iason, part of your service is that you may not attack me.”

And just like that, it was true. I couldn’t. I thought furiously, in both senses of the word. This had to be a geas, a magic contract. It was too much of a coincidence, we make an agreement and then suddenly we are unable to break it. But… this was much too vague for any kind of geas I’d ever heard of. We’d just agreed to perform a service to get the book, and suddenly it twisted against us like this? Normally a geas got more powerful the more specific it was–the one that had initially bound me to seek out the books had been a full-fledged contract, and even that I’d been able to break.

The fey might be able to make an unbreakable geas on a promise this vague, but even then, it wouldn’t be able to twist our words this far, from “doing a service” to “being in service,” could it? And anyway I was pretty sure this guy wasn’t one of the fey.

“Well,” Larth said, “this is nice. I’ve been meaning to get some new servants. I just sold off the last batch, they were getting a little worn out. But you look like a healthy trio. I imagine you’ll last quite a while before I tire of you.” He walked over to Iola, who was glowering at him, and looked her up and down. “Yes, very nice. An excellent change of pace from a tiny thing like Sylki. Now, let’s all get naked.”

I had no choice. It didn’t matter that I didn’t want to; my hands went to my clothing immediately and began to pull it off. I was trapped, helpless–and, worst of all, a little turned on. He hadn’t suggested that, hadn’t ordered it–I’m not sure if the terms of the geas would even give him that kind of control. I couldn’t deny that part of me genuinely enjoyed being helpless.

The others stripped as well, and soon we were all completely nude. Sylki had exactly the kind of body you’d expect–all lithe, gently rounded limbs and perfect little high, round breasts and slim hips and, near as I could tell, not a single hair anywhere on that perfect creamy skin.

“Now then, Sylki, what would you do for me?” asked Larth. It had the sound of ritual to it.

“Anything, my love,” Sylki replied in doleful monotone.

“Of course,” said Larth. “Well, you are the lady of the house. You should welcome our guest properly. Go get on your knees in front of Iason and suck him off.”

“Yes, my love,” said Sylki dully, and did exactly as instructed. She knelt in front of Iason, took his cock in her delicate little hands, and licked up and down it until it was hard. Then she started bobbing her head on it. She gave no sign of enjoyment or enthusiasm, but she must have known what she was doing, judging by Iason’s moans.

“You fuck her face however you please, Iason,” said Larth. “But when you’re ready to finish, spray it on the tile and make her lick it up. The little slut loves that.”

She certainly didn’t look like she loved it. Larth, on the other hand, clearly did–he was quickly getting hard just watching his wife on her knees in front of another man. He turned to Iola and me and said, “You two, over here. Your job is to get me to cum, as quickly as you can, without using anything but your mouths.”

Iola and I knelt on either side of his cock, facing it and each other. We both began licking up and down opposite sides of his shaft, occasionally pausing to kiss or suckle it.

It didn’t take us long. Larth soon came with a grunt, pulling back and grabbing his cock so that he could pump long, sticky white ropes of cum onto our cheeks and breasts. “Lick that off each other,” he ordered, and we did.

“Lemma,” Larth said tauntingly, “what’s that?” He pointed at the tile between my legs, the shiny little damp patch.

“Uh,” I said. “That’s my, uh…” I tried to fight the urge to say it, but I didn’t have to. I could see he knew.

“So, another one like my little Sylki?” he asked. “Another filthy little slut who gets off on knowing who’s boss?”

I groaned, and he laughed. “I want you to kneel there and play with yourself while I fuck your friend’s tits,” he ordered. “I want you to imagine that it’s you I’m ordering to fuck me.”

Helplessly, I reached down to tease my wet pussy while Larth made Iola take him into her mouth until he got hard again. Then he slid his spit-soaked cock between her full breasts, squeezing them together while he slid up and down between them. I imagined him squeezing my breasts, his cock sliding up into me. I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t stop imagining it. My fingers were his cock, pounding me while I helplessly urged him on. He controlled what I imagined, and that made it hotter, which made it harder not to imagine, which made it hotter, which–

I cried out as I came. A moment later Larth spurted up in Iola’s cleavage, spattering cum on her chin and neck and tits. I glanced over at Sylki, who was on her hands and knees, licking Iason’s cum off the floor.

“Well, that was fun,” said Larth. “Now everyone get cleaned up. Sylki, Lemma, you’ll make lunch for all of us. Iason, you get this place clean. Iola, come with me, I want to see how many ways I can fuck you before lunch is ready.”


Even earlier last night:

I lay awake, staring at the ceiling, listening to Larth snore. Sylki lay on the other side. She didn’t snore, but her peaceful, slow breathing made clear that she was asleep as well. If I was going to do this, it had to be now.

Slowly I lifted the key on its gold chain from the mass of dark curly hair on Larth’s chest. You can do this, I told myself. He’s never ordered you not to. It took a moment’s concentration and a tiny, tiny bit of magic to snap the chain–can’t attack him, but this ISN’T attacking him, I told myself–and then I could slide out of bed and pad naked over to the shelf where the chest lay. I lifted it carefully and then went out into the courtyard–it felt easier to do this farther from Larth, out in the open air.

The moon made the courtyard look eerie, ghost fish trapped in the tiles under silver light. I slid the key into the lock, let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding, and–

“Stop, Lemma,” said Larth. I froze, physically unable to turn the key.

“Almost had you,” I said.

“Yes, very well done,” he agreed. “Now come here.”

I had no choice. I had to walk over to him. I’d tried and failed. He beat me, and now I was going to be his forever, or at least until he tired of me, and then he’d probably sell me off into slavery, still bound inescapably by the geas, unable to do anything but obey.

I bit my lip. Part of me really, really wanted it, want to just hand him the box–but he hadn’t actually ordered me to yet, had he? With a sigh, and without breaking stride as I walked toward him, I flung the box out into the darkness.

“Lemma!” he snapped, outraged. “How dare you–”

Out on the moonlit beach, the box landed at the feet of a dark figure. It bent down, picked up the box, and hurled it back with perfect aim. It smashed at my feet, and, as if in a daze, I bent down and picked up the book. In the light of the moon, I could just make out the title: Magical Contracts and You.

“Lemma!” Larth repeated. “Give that to me now!”

I grinned at him. “Funny thing. Remember how I’m bound in your service until I get the book?” I held up the book, waved it at him.

He reared back, face blanching in panic. “Sylki!” he shouted, but that was all he managed to get out before I torched him.

Sylki hurried out into the courtyard at his cry, and if I’d thought she was beautiful before, that was nothing compared to how she looked naked in the moonlight. “My love!” she said dully, and gestured. Water arced across the courtyard from the pool–but then, halfway there, it fell to the tiles as Sylki dropped her arm. Then she laughed. “He’s dead!” she cried in utter joy, a huge grin splitting her face. She threw her head back and spread her arms. “He’s dead! I’m free!”

And so was I. I turned to see Red stalking toward me, and I laughed in his face.

“You die!” he snarled.

I waggled my finger in front of him. “Nah-ah. Remember our bargain? The exact words of our bargain?”



Almost a month. A month of serving Larth, fucking him, doing whatever he wanted. I’d learned a few things in that time: that he kept the box containing the book on a shelf near his bed, that he preferred to fuck Iola alone or me and Sylki together, and that he never, ever set foot outside his villa, not even one step out of the courtyard. He even ordered us never to do it either, unless specifically ordered by him.

And he never ordered that, at least not until we ran low on flour and he ordered me into town to buy more. I didn’t have a choice, he was very specific: go into town, buy flour, bring it back, and don’t tell anyone that I’m anything other than his servant.

So I went into town, went to the marketplace, haggled a bit over the price of a large sack of fine flour, and then bought it. I hefted it in my arms, turned, and found myself face-to-face with the grinning, sharp-toothed visage of Faerdarrig. “Oh, hi, Red,” I said, trying to act nonchalant about running into a psychopathic, probably cannibalistic murder-fairy who wanted me in particular dead.

“Lemma,” he said, still grinning like a shark. “I’ve been waiting for you. I knew you’d be here eventually, but I missed you on the way in, had to wait a bit longer for you to come out.”

“Well, it was nice of you to wait,” I said. “Very patient.”

“I hate waiting,” he snarled. “But I hate you more, so I amused myself imagining what I was going to do with you once I got my hands on you.”

“I’m happy to have helped you while away those boring days,” I said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I really must be getting back with this flour…”

I really did have to. Staying and chatting with him was taking intense effort. Every fiber of my being was screaming as the geas pulled on me, trying to drag me over, walk me like a puppet back to Larth’s villa. I couldn’t hold out any more; I turned and started to walk, intensely aware of Red staring at the back of my neck. I have expected to feel his teeth close on it any second.

“Don’t you walk away from me!” he shouted.

But I had to, and it gave me a chance to think. “Wait a second,” I said, turning to look back at him even while I walked away. “Why wait here? Why not come after me wherever, whenever?” I thought about it a moment longer. “You’ve been sent here, haven’t you? You’ve got some kind of a mission–” And then it all clicked. “Fuck, Sylki is one of your people, isn’t she? And she’s protecting Larth’s villa, so you couldn’t get to me there.” It made sense–Larth’s book probably taught him something about geas, and on one of his journeys north, he ran into one of the fey of the northern seas and got control of her. She could make his geas as powerful as only a fey could–but he could make it twisty in ways a fey’s geas couldn’t be.

I turned back and nearly walked right into Red. “How’d you–” I started to ask, but then I realized that was a stupid question. Of course a hunting fey could go from behind me to in front of me in a moment, if he wanted.

“But I can get to you now,” he taunted, grinning. His hot breath washed over me, stinking of rotten meat.

“No,” I said. “You can’t. You have a mission, don’t you? You’re actually here to rescue Sylki, you just realized that the book meant I’d show up eventually too!”

Red shrugged. “That is why I volunteered for the quest when my Queen learned of this human treachery, yes. But just because that’s my quest doesn’t mean I can’t crunch your pretty little skull on the way.”

I took a deep breath. “Actually, it does, because you’re never going to get to her without my help.”

Red’s eyes narrowed. “What.”

“Really,” I said. “Larth never leaves his villa, he sends servants instead. And I’m guessing that Sylki doesn’t either. That or whatever hold he has on her means that you can’t just snatch her up and drag her home if she leaves the house.”

“The latter,” Red said sulkily. “He has her skin secreted away somewhere. As long as he has that, she’s trapped in human form and bound as his slave-bride.”

Her skin? Gross. But something like that had to be intensely magical, and I hadn’t felt anything like that in the house. Unless… I remembered a shimmery black cloth lining a box, with a book nestled in it, and I’d just assumed any magic I felt from it came from the book.

“I think I know where,” I said. “Listen, I can help you get her free, but in return–”

“I will not promise not to kill you,” Red said sharply.

“Okay, just… look. I’m stuck obeying Larth until I get the book in my hands. Promise me that you won’t me kill me until you’ve finished this mission, and that you’ll help me get that book, and I’ll help you free Sylki.”

“How am I supposed to help you get the book?” asked Red. “It’s in the villa, where I can’t go.”

I shrugged. “Fine, just… promise not to kill me on this mission, and I’ll help you as much as I can–and if I can get the book, that’ll be a lot.”

Red hesitated, then sighed. “I fucking hate you, you smug Lemurian cunt. Fine. If you agree to help me rescue Sylki, I promise not to kill you until I kill Larth or bring her safely back to Faerie.”


Red gave me another shark grin, and vanished. I bet he feels real smug, thinking I didn’t notice that ‘or,’ that he can just kill Larth, then me, and then take Sylki home. I resumed my journey back to the villa.

Not if I kill that Larth fucker first!

Lemma the Librarian Volume Five: Out to Sea, an Ebook by Midori Konton

New Lemma ebook! This contains two stories previously seen here and on MCStories.com, plus a previous Patreon exclusive!

  • Op-arrrr-ant Conditioning: Lemma leaves the Tin Islands at last, only to fall into the clutches of a pirate who plans to sell her into slavery! Sex slavery, of course, and that means she’ll need some training first…
  • Hard Truths: Shipwrecked and alone, Lemma must deal with a dragon–which would be hard enough, but she can’t help but believe every word he says!
  • Afterechoes: Lemma gets a tune stuck in her head. A very, very catchy tune, a tune that demands to be danced to…

Check it out today!

(Reblogs appreciated!)

Lemma the Librarian Volume Five: Out to Sea, an Ebook by Midori Konton

Lemma the Librarian: Hard Truths Part 6

“You love being helplessss,”
it said. “Pinned by my gaze, feeling me devour your liessss and force you
to accccept the truth, thissss excccitesss you. I can ssssmell your arousssal,
little morsssel.”

And it was true. I was incredibly
turned on. If it released me at that moment, I would have jammed a hand down my
pants and frigged myself then and there, dragon or no dragon. “I… it’s
just…” I stammered. “I’m just… used to this kind of situation
leading to sex, that’s all!”

“No,’ the dragon said.
"You ssssought out ssssituationssss where it would lead to ssssexxxx,
becausssse it isss ssssexxxxy to you.”

“No…” I said again,
fighting to resist the crystal certainty, the belief growing inside me. Because
it’s not true? Or because the struggle makes it hotter?
–and if my knees
could have buckled at that thought, if I weren’t held immobile by the dragon’s
eye, they would have. “I… I always fought back.”

“Becaussse you believed you had
to,” the dragon said. “Becausse you believed your own lie that you
didn’t want to ssssubmit.”

“I… I…” Something
inside me snapped. A wall fell, and behind it there was only truth, the true
fact that I wanted to be used, to be broken, to be mindfucked. “…take
me…” I managed, and the dragon’s laughter echoed until the cavern shook.

“Now you sssee the truth,
little morsssel. But I have no desire for you, even if you could sssurvive a
mating long enough to get to the good partsss. Fear not, I will leave you
enough liessss to warm you. I will even give you a gift, in thanksss for liesss
of rare deliccciousssnesssss, a usssseful truth. Leave this placccce, and climb
down the cliff to the sssshore. Follow it, with the occcccean on your right,
and you will find your friendsssss.”

And with that, I was released from
its gaze. I staggered back out of the cave into the light of day, and nearly
collapsed onto the same outcropping I’d laid on for a while before. It had
, I thought. It could have done anything, but it let me go. I
imagined if it hadn’t. What did it mean, I wouldn’t survive? How intense could
dragon sex be?

I couldn’t help myself, and the fact
that I couldn’t made it even better, even harder to resist. My hand slipped into my pants as
I closed my eyes and imagined the dragon becoming human-shaped, even while its
eyes stayed the same irresistible, inescapable flames. Imagined it pinning me
to the wall with eyes and cock, fucking my mind and body, using me, owning me,
claiming me, transforming me into its plaything–

I shoved the knuckles of my free
hand into my mouth to muffle my cries as I came. It was true, everything the
dragon had told me: I wanted to be controlled. The thought of my mind being
manipulated turned me on. And I honestly couldn’t be sure whether I had always
felt that way, or believed I had always felt that way because the dragon
made me.

And that may have been the hottest
thought of all.

Want to see more Lemma, and many other stories, right now? Check out my Patreon for early access to all stories, plus exclusive stories and captions!

Lemma the Librarian: Hard Truths, Part 5

The most important rule of dealing
with dragons is that you never, ever look them in the eye. Everyone knows that.
What everyone doesn’t know–or at least, I didn’t until that moment–is how
hard it is not to. Its eye was enormous, at least as tall as I am, and
flame-colored: dull red around the edges, mostly orange, and then shading into
bright yellow in the middle. Its pupil was pitch-black, though, and slitted
like a cat’s. While I stared, the dragon blinked, but not with its eyelid. Some
kind of inner, transparent eyelid flicked across its eye. Great, so it can even
blink without breaking its gaze.

I couldn’t look away. I was caught,
helpless prey staring into the gaze of the ultimate predator. I couldn’t move,
couldn’t flee, couldn’t cast a spell: all I could do was look into that fiery
eye as it seemed to expand until it filled the world. I was going to die. 

“Greetingsssss…” it
said. Its voice was a low rumble, ending in a snakelike hiss. “What
bringssss you to my home, human?”

The most important rule of dealing
with dragons is to be polite, and I know that’s the third “most important
rule” I’ve mentioned. They’re all the most important rule, because make
one mistake with a dragon, and you die. “I’m sorry,” I ventured.
“I didn’t know anyone lived here, I was just looking for shelter. 

It made a strange rumbling noise. A
chuckle? "You lie,” it said. 

“No! I really didn’t–”

“Quiet,” it said, and my
mouth snapped shut instantly. “You knew sssomeone lived here, that isssss
why you came. You sssstole food.”

I gulped. “I’m sorry. I
shouldn’t have–”

“No matter. You will make
recompenssssse. You will provide nourissssshment in lieu of that which you

Oh fuck oh fuck it’s going to eat
me what do I do!?
But there was nothing I could do. Its gaze held me utterly
helpless. All I could do was think, and talk if it let me.

“Fear not,” it said.
“I will not consssume your flesssh. I desssire sssussssstenancccce of a
different sssssort. Oncccce it hassss been provided, you ssssshall depart in peaccccce.”

“Why should I believe you?
Everyone knows the most important rule for dealing with dragons is never believe anything
they say!”

“Impertinent whelp! You are
lucky I had a good nap and am in a good mood, elsssse I would take what I want
and burn you to asssssh. You are wrong; we do not lie. That issss a lie
humanssss tell becaussssse they fear what we do even more. We do not make liesssss–we
conssssume them.”

“What?” What could that
even mean?

“I will take away your liessss,
little morssssel,” it said. “I will leave you naked before the truth,
and then sssend you back into the world. That isss why you humansss want to
believe we lie, becausssse you do not want to believe the truth we ssshow

And it was true. I knew, somehow,
that it was true, that everything the dragon told me was an iron-hard, crystalline
fact. But I’d dealt with too many glamours and enchantments to trust that
feeling. “You’re lying. You’re making me feel like it’s true with magic,
but I know it’s not.”

It gave that rumbling chuckle.
“You would like to believe that, and not jussst becaussse it would let you
hold on to your liessss.”

“What are you talking

“How many timessss, little
morsssel? How many timessss have you let yourssself be caught, ensssslaved,
your thoughtssss and feelingssss rewritten by your captor?”

“That’s–that’s not my
fault!” I protested. 

“Isssn’t it?”

“I fought them! I broke

“But you wanted to

“No,” I insisted, trying
to shake my head, but it was hard with my eyes held in its inexorable gaze. So
much easier to nod… “You’re just trying to control me yourself.”

“You would like that,” it
rumbled. “The thought fillssss you with desssire.”

“No,” I said again, but I
could feel the flush spreading through me, my growing wetness. And that was it
making me feel this way, it had to be–and that thought made me even hotter.

To be continued…

Want to see all of this story, and many others, right now? Check out my Patreon for early access to all stories, plus exclusive stories and captions!

Lemma the Librarian: Hard Truths, Part 4

I climbed my way up and over to the
smoke. It was slow, painful going, my poor muscles screaming at me the entire
way. Finally I arrived at the source of the smoke, a large gap between two
outcroppings of rock. I never would have found it if it weren’t for the
smoke–the opening was invisible from below or either side.

I clambered on top of one of the
outcroppings and found a flat surface big enough to sprawl out on. It was warm
in the sun, and felt good against my aching body while a lay there for a

But my aching stomach compelled me
to go further. I turned to face the opening. Thanks to its angle, it was dark
inside, so I cast another light spell and walked in, the glowy ball hovering
above my head. 

My nose twitched as something wonderful
filled it, the most welcome smell I could have imagined: roast meat. I found
the source before long: someone had roasted what looked like an entire godsdamned
cow and just left it lying there, warm and fragrant. 

It was a LOT of meat. Surely whoever
it was wouldn’t mind sharing a little, right? With some difficulty, I ripped a chunk
off and tore into it. It was really badly cooked: it tasted like they’d
forgotten to put on any seasoning at all, and it was burnt in some spots while
practically raw in others. 

But at that moment, it was the most
delicious thing I’d ever tasted. I wolfed it down, and then lay there for a
while, luxuriating in the feeling of a full belly. 

A little too much, I guess, because
I fell asleep again. By the time I woke up, I was feeling much better, almost
human again. And still no sign of whoever this cave belonged to, just the smell
of meat and smoke. 

I considered just leaving, but what if
it was Iason and Iola, or somebody who could help me figure out where I was? It
made sense to look for them–which meant following the smoke smell farther into
the cave. 

The cave soon opened out into a large
chamber. The floor here was smooth but uneven, as it rose into a series of
lumps or hills on the far side. I increased the brightness of my light smell,
trying to figure out what I was looking at, and spotted the source of the
smoke: it was coming out of two holes in one of the smaller lumps, near the
center of the room. 

A lump shaped sort of like a horse’s
head… and then that long rounded ridge was a neck, which made the really big
hilly thing the body, and–fuck, it’s a dragon, isn’t it?

As if on cue, the dragon rumbled and
shifted. It’s wings rustled for a heart-freezing moment, and then it was

Okay, Lemma, you’ve stumbled into a
dragon’s lair and eaten part of its lunch. Back away slowly and quietly.
Remember the rules for dealing with dragons. The most important rule: let
sleeping dragons lie.

I walked backwards, but I must have
gotten rotated slightly, because my butt went straight into the wall. I risked
turning away from the dragon to find the exit–it was a couple feet to my left.
Then I turned back and saw the dragon looking right at me.

To be continued…

Want to see all of this story, and many others, right now? Check out my Patreon for early access to all stories, plus exclusive stories and captions!