The measuring tape sliding around Alan’s midsection felt like the cord of a snare being pulled taut around him. The tailor was not intentionally cruel; the outfit he was to wear was a matter of tradition. But he couldn’t help but feel trapped as the elderly man took the last few notes he needed.
“What are you so nervous about?” William asked.
“It’s nothing,” Alan lied, his jaw tightening. “I just hate getting measured like I’m a carpet.”
The tailor thanked Alan and gave William a respectful nod before departing the study. Its many leather-bound books represented more wealth than the man would see in a lifetime, though both younger men had grown up against a backdrop of such casual excess that they would never notice such a thing. Alan sit down in one of the plush reading chairs near the fire, sinking into its embrace. He wanted to just keep sinking until he disappeared, but then, who would William torment so with his inane banter?
“I don’t know why you’re so wound up about this. All the eyes are gonna be on me,” William said, sitting down in the chair directly opposite. Alan averted his eyes from Will, the man’s casually handsome features standing mock opposition to his own lanky, often unkempt form. Alan ran his fingers through a head of red hair at nearly the limit of polite length for his station, his evening dress in no better state. If something did not continuously clean his laundry for him, he didn’t know what he would do. All of it felt so...unimportant.
“I hate ceremony, you know that,” Alan said. A partial truth. The pomp of regal life was never a thrill for him, though that was partly due to how exhausting it was to perform the role of the dutiful heir. His future had a grand design he had no part in planning, so in times like these, he felt more like the furniture than an active participant in events. Just something to be shuffled around to meet others’ various needs.
William himself was restricted in some ways. As the family’s Throneguard, he’d been elevated to minor nobility, at the cost of a twenty five year term of service as their bodyguard and head of castle security. But he’d signed that deal of his own volition. And in 22 years and change, he’d have land for himself and his children. The children he has with Milla.
The groom-to-be chortled. “Can’t agree with you more. Will feel naked without my sword. But it’s a marriage, it’s supposed to be pretty and frilly and...all that other nonsense women care about.” He tapped the hilt protruding from his scabbard. As Throneguard to the Lethans, he had the honour of wielding Hopelight, the family’s ancestral sword. Even now the jeweled pommel glowed with the faint white light of dormant power.
Alan flashed a weak smile. “Of course. Must be for their benefit more than ours.” The topic of women scraped at the back of his mind for several reasons, most of them envy. How were they so free to pursue their leisurely pursuits? How did they look so carefree and beautiful? Other thoughts along those lines died as they ran into the carefully cultivated mental barricades he’d erected over his life. And he knew, logically, that their lives were in many ways less free than his own. Then…how did they smile so?
“How is Milla doing, anyways?”
“Well, I think. You know the old tradition, ‘once the match is made, can’t see the bride until the altar’. Absolutely ridiculous. How are we supposed to know if we’re a good pairing if we can’t even talk beforehand?”
Alan kept his expression impassive but he was a cauldron of angst within. ‘You wouldn’t make a good pairing,’ he wanted to say, ‘I was friends with Milla for as long as I can remember.’ The memories pained him. He had taken her aside in the garden of his home and said as much. To his joy, she had returned his affections. But as they both talked through their desires, it became obvious how intractable their positions were. Princesses and Princes didn’t elope. Their only hope to be together was a matching of their two houses at the diplomatic table. But Milla was from a small, regional power, and Alan had been promised to the daughter of a much more strategically important monarch. And while it was irregular, Milla’s family had agreed that the hand of the Lethan family’s Throneguard was a worthy enough prize.
And so, he was having new formal attire prepared...for what might be the worst day of his life.
“Milla’s a wonderful woman. She’ll make you very happy,” he said, and almost sounded like he meant it. If William could tell he wasn’t speaking from his heart, he had the good sense to feign ignorance.
“It’ll be your turn soon enough,” William said, putting far too much force into a shoulder pat. “Your turn to make ‘em kneel and beg for it, eh? Can’t wait to fill mine’s belly. Anyway, I should be going. Promised I’d help your mother with vetting the guestlist. Can’t have River Fiends trying to make off with the cake, can we?” He laughed again and took his leave. Alan kept his emotions from showing until the Throneguard was out of the room. Then, he slammed the side of his fist into the stone wall beside him
Sharp, bracing pain. Envy. Hate. Sorrow. Rage. That’s all she was to him. If her wanted sex or a child he could have gotten that from a hundred different women. Why must it be Milla?
His eyes watered. Weakness, his father had said, tears are but weakness waiting to break free. Alan choked them down, the lump in his throat taking a seeming eternity to dissipate. He wanted to be strong. He wanted to show William and his father and everyone who had ever mocked him how wrong they were...
A voice exploded in his mind, ricocheting off the interior of his skull like a bell’s toll. It hasn’t entered his ears, but he heard it as clear as day.
“Hello?” he asked, looking around the empty room.
--THE FOUNDATION. COME TO THE FOUNDATION--
The voice had no timbre or pitch. It merely was, the same way there was air in his lungs and blood in his veins.
“I don’t know who or where you are,” he continued, “But the Realm does not take kindly to sorceries directed at the King’s heir. Uncloak yourself, villain, and be recognised.”
--THE FOUNDATION. COME-- Then, as its voice faded, --I CAN GIVE YOU WHAT YOU DESIRE--
Just as suddenly as it had appeared, it was gone.
The day passed without further sources of distraction, though Alan remained preoccupied with what he had experienced. He did not have the knowledge in the magical arts to give what had happened a name, and it wasn’t like he could just ask someone about it. Learning about magic was the first step toward being twisted into its service, and so it was banned in most civilized lands. The few magic users kept as deterrence were controlled by the church, and even the heir to a kingdom didn’t go up to a priest and ask for instruction on the forbidden craft.
The one clue he had was the one that had been given by the voice itself: the foundation. The castle stood atop a high mound, its foundation buried deep within and built up over time. The only way to investigate it would be to go down into the wine cellar and start poking around.
He waited for night to fall and the castle to quiet down. The only inhabitants of the halls being the occasional lone guard on a bleary eyed patrol. Those were easy to circumvent. Not that he would have been detained, he just didn’t want to explain what was so important as for him to head to the basement in the middle of the night. One might think he’d taken leave of his senses.
“Perhaps I have,” he wondered to himself sotto voce. Late nights were for reading or journaling or wishing he was free, not for plumbing the depths of his own castle like some tomb raiding adventurer. He readied himself by dressing in his riding outfit, the closest thing he had to working clothes. A dark green jacket with long coat tails, white trousers, and sturdy brown boots. He carried an oil lantern in one hand as he descended one staircase after another. From the top floor, to the guard’s barrack, to the servants quarters, parts he had rarely if ever deigned to visit. As he reached the kitchen and crossed over to the hatch leading to the wine cellar, he realized how little he knew about the people who were employed for his comfort.
Alan had always found the cellar to be strange. He had been to many castles in his life, dragged around by his father on missions of state. Most of them were of similar construction and opulence, but none had such splendid frescos. Inordinately detailed scenes of conquest, each soldier lovingly decorated in shards of coloured stones. The garnet banners of Lethan flying beneath lapis lazuli skies. But decades of neglect have left the tableaus dull and tarnished, their splendor concealed by rack upon rack of fine wines and casks of distilled spirits. And despite rigorous security in the halls above, there were empty sockets where the more expensive stones had been popped out and stolen.
One figure stood out among the rest. Clad in red armour, they towered over the other soldiers, a sword of impossible size clutched in both hands like an executioner about to swing a decapitating blow. The sword had once been festooned with gems, and only indentations remained of the weapon’s ornamentation. Something about that image called out to him. He ran his fingers along the wall, feeling the smoothness of the stone next to the scratchmarks where pick or prybar had been places to remove the precious stones.
He paused when his finger ran along something strange. Feeling around, it was a perfectly square object within the hole where the pommel of the sword would have been. In the centre was a circle of some manner of smooth material, perhaps bone or ivory, that yielded to pressure as if held in place with a spring. He pressed it inward, and was rewarded with a distinctive *click* noise from behind the wall.
The ground rumbled. At first Alan thought the ground was quaking, something not unfamiliar to his country. But as he reached for the wall to catch himself, it slid down his hand into the floor, revealing a hidden passage beyond! Musty, cold air billowed forth from the gap, the chipped and broken stonework appearing as teeth to a widening maw. He cast the oil lamp’s light into darkness, revealing a path of cut stone. Ancient sconces stood in various states of entropy, with more than one having completely detached from the wall altogether. Vast tapestries of gossamer glinted off the light, offering hint to untold generations of spiders who had made this passage a home.
He hesitated at the threshold, his worries once again assailing him. It was late and there was much more preparation he had to oversee for the upcoming wedding. But the more his mind focused on that image of William and Milla embracing one another, of how little he cared for her...the voice promised him what he desired. He wasn’t a fool; magic in the old stories would be used to twist a person’s desires into a horrible fate as often as grant them. But it wouldn’t hurt to hear it out. He steeled himself and took a step into the darkness. Then another. The dim illumination from the kitchen above disappearing, leaving but the oil lamp between him and total oblivion.
The passage took several twists, and he had to catch himself from tripping on broken stonework or hitting his head on a buckled ceiling section. Near the end, he had to drop on hands and knees to proceed, and the pressing claustrophobia of it all nearly sent him scurrying. But he was Alan Lethan, First Heir to the Throne, and by all the stars in the sky he would not flee from the mysteries of his own home.
Blessedly, the passage widened, growing back to the small corridor. Then larger, as the ceiling opened up. The rough stonework became even once more, but the style changed completely. Granite block became sheer slate walls, fearful black surfaces that reflected the meagre light of the lamp like some dark mirror. Huge iron braziers out of some pagan temple stood on jagged legs at regular intervals. The room’s cathedral-like length ended in a single stone throne on a raised dais. And there, plunged into the backrest, was an enormous sword hilt. The pommel glowed an ethereal red, a perfect mimicry of freshly spilled blood.
The voice returned, loud enough to be painful. He held his hands over his ears impotently, the sound pumped directly in his mind as surely as if someone had put a funnel through his skull.
“Who is this? Who screams in my mind so? I have brought myself here, reveal yourself!”
--THE BLADE. TOUCH THE BLADE--
He spun with the lamp, searching for the source of the words. A wizard, a demon, or some mischievous goblin. Nothing. With no other option than return from whence he came, he stepped up to the dais. With trembling fingers, he reached out to touch the glowing red pommel.
Alan was no longer in the secret basement of his castle. The ceiling had become open sky, a scarlet sun partially obscured behind a haze of acrid black smoke. The stone tile beneath his feed had become the empty steppe, identical to the lands to the west of his kingdom. A lizard the size of his hand skittered past, climbing onto what appeared to be a misshapen lump of earth. As a stray breeze caught the column of smoke and allowed the sunlight through, he saw it was a body.
He yelped, falling onto his back before skittering away. He was back on his feet and running in the opposite direction, only for the source of the smoke to rise above him. A great wall jutted into the sky, its silvery stone marking it as distinctly Elven in construction. But the great Elven cities had been destroyed. This one burned in the now, the smoke of wood put to the torch plain to see, to smell.
“I expected more.”
Alan spun. There, where the body had been, was the tallest woman he had ever seen in his life. 6’3 at least, though since she was clad her neck down in gleaming red and black armour, it was difficult to tell her unmodified height. But her strength was undeniable, as she lifted the gargantuan blade like it weighed nothing, letting it rest on her right shoulder guard in the same way he’d seen William do with his much less impressive weapon. The patterns on the sword flowed from hilt to tip, pooling and splitting like a steady flow of blood in defiance of gravity. And the hilt was identical to the one he’d seen stuck out of the throne, complete with glowing pommel.
“There you are,” the woman said. Her voice was, and was not, the one he’d heard in his head.
“Are you...are you the owner of this weapon?” he asked in a shaky voice.
“In a sense. In another, Veinsplitter owns me. I am Raysha.”
Alan’s eyes became the size of saucers. “Raysha the Mother? Saint Raysha?”
Her lip curled in a sneer. “I think not. I am Raysha the Quenched. Scourge of the Siltwastes. Willbreaker. Raysha of the Scarlet Hands.” She approached him, her armour clanking and making every step sound like the ominous steel clatter of battle. Her gloved finger pressed itself to the crest of the Lethan family emblazoned above his heart: a black five pointed star over a field of red. He winced in pain as her pointed fingers stabbed through his simple jerkin. “What is this? You mock me?”
This couldn’t be real, and yet...his racing pulse, the pain in his breast, it was unlike any dream he had ever experienced.
“I don’t understand. If you’re Raysha, then that is your crest too. Raysha founded the Lethan Dynasty.”
She raised her arm to indicate the space above her. A ruby flame burst from her palm and flew upward, burning a new sigil across the sky. A grasping hand reaching toward the viewer, its black fingers dripping with dark red blood. Superficially, it resembled his own coat of arms. But it was so nakedly aggressive that his mind rebelled at the sight.
“You’ve slurred the words together to conceal my legacy, as you’ve buried my throne under floor after floor of stolen comforts. You stammer out ‘Lethan’ to avoid saying proudly that you, too, are of the Scarlet Hands.”
He shook his head. Everything he had heard of Raysha had been heroic, the divine feminine founder of their dynasty building a kingdom from nothing before bequeathing her power to her son when he came of age, as was to be tradition. The creature before him was...a savage. A barbarian from the darkest age of history, using vulgar displays of power to maintain dominion. It was antithetical to everything he had been taught, and his mind rebelled.
“No, this must be a trick! You’re using some fell power to influence me. To make us weak you would spin a lie to the future heir of the kingdom.”
For a moment, Raysha looked about ready to cut him in two with her blade. But after a seemingly endless moment, she closed her eyes and loosened the grip on her weapon’s handle.
“I cannot fault you for what you do not know. They have stolen my legacy from me, and that I cannot abide. Your longing has awakened me, and so I have come with an offer.” She stabbed the sword into the earth, letting it wobble slightly as she let it go. “Take it.”
Alan raised an eyebrow. “Take it? Just like that? I’m afraid I don’t have the strength to lift it, let alone pull it from the earth.”
Raysha grinned. “The weapon will give you all that, and more. Veinsplitter is more than a mere piece of steel. It is a soulblade, forged out of a titan’s skin and smelted in forges of purest hellfire. It is alive in more ways than one, and bonds to its wielder in ways that cannot be spoken. Seizing the blade will make you one with it. You will be able to lift it, and more. It will guide you to a new dawn of conquest, of unyielding will.”
He stared at the weapon before him. Even as a layman he could tell it pulsed with magical power. The very air around it crackled with life, seeping into the mundane world of the projection and threatening to distort it entirely.
“And if I refuse?” he asked.
“I cannot force it upon you,” she said, begrudging the inference. “You may leave me and the power I offer to dwindle and flicker away. You can return to your life of indolence and impotent rage as those with strength use you as a pawn in their machinations. Or you embrace my gift as your ancestral birthright, and become more than your mind can comprehend.”
A beat. Then, he shook his head and chuckled a forced laugh. “That’s it? You’re going to have to work on your corruption technique. I know some gifts come at too high a price. I’m not so much a fool as to throw away my soul.”
Alan walked away, willing himself to wake up from this illusionary state. While interesting, this was ultimately pointless. He could turn the sword over to the church authorities in the morning.
“It can give you a new body.”
He halted in his tracks.
“You heard me, whelp. My voice didn’t reach just any of my descendants. It took centuries for one such as you to come along. Do not try to deny it. You cannot shield your heart from me. Your very soul is Envy.”
He felt her eyes bore into him, and moments of his life flashed through his mind like someone flipping through a children’s storybook. Of his constant disappointment, of his father’s desires for a masculine, assertive heir. Of standing in the shadow of his peers and wishing he was anywhere else. Long glances at serving wenches taken as crude carnal desires when they were something more. Something deeper. He pulled his mind out of the torrent of images, shaking them off.
“Get out of my mind! You’re nothing but a dead warlord with delusions of immortality. I don’t believe your lies.”
She laughed. “I offer you the first truth you’ve ever heard in your entire misbegotten life, and you turn from it. Very well. Run back to your bed chambers. I’ve waited generations, I can wait a few more. But one day there will be one of my bloodline with the strength to seize destiny in their hands.”
Alan’s features twisted. ‘Strength’, damn her, of course she’d know just the words to strike at his psyche. He wanted to be strong! He wanted to see all those who mocked him brought to heel. Of all those sneering faces turned to grimaces of fear...but…
He closed his eyes. “What kind of body?”
Raysha’s smile chilled him. “Do you think I was born with this form? I took it,” she said, making a fist with her gauntleted hand. “I made this blade give me my true body, and you can do the same. All you needs do is prove that you have the will to claim it.”
The sun expanded, blasting clear through the blocking smoke. Alan shielded his eyes, but the light burned right through his flesh. It was bright, so bright, and then in an instant, it was gone. He was alone again, back in the strange throne room underneath
He pulled at the hilt, expecting it to yield as Raysha had said it would. But it refused to budge. He tried both hands, pulling one at a time and in tandem. His forehead beaded with sweat at the effort. He tried harder. This future would not be denied him. His arms ached, his palms burned from friction. He focused on his goals. Power. Respect. Confidence. Victory. His vision narrowed. He wanted to be more than he was. He wanted to be at home with who, with what, he was.
The blade shook.
He redoubled his efforts. Energy slid down the guard and into his fingers. Alan wanted what he was promised. No longer would the kingdom be bequeathed to him, it was his by rights. By the force of arms, by strength of will. The sword shifted, sliding out an inch. He closed his eyes and pictured the world as it had been in the dream, but it wasn’t Raysha in that armour. It was...it was...
--CALL IT OUT. CALL OUT YOUR NAME--
The voice again, the words enough to be deafening if it had been spoken aloud. Instead, his vision filled with sparks of light and he struggled to remain conscious. He blinked them away. His name? Was was his name? He struggled to find the words, to give voice to his thoughts. But as he tried to form ‘alan’ in his mouth, he found he couldn’t. His mouth refused to respond. Only one response would the voice accept. It had been what it had called him all along.
“My name...is Envy.”
Burning hot light like the sun from his vision exploded from the blade. But this was no mere illumination. The individual rays became motile appendages with depth and weight. They slithered and squirmed, seizing him in an iron grip. Coiling around his chest, they lifted him into the air. He lost hold of the sword, but it did not lose hold of him.
The tendrils peeled his clothes off, showing incredible dexterity to match their strength. Though he feared them, he did not fight back. Whatever their plan for him, he would see it through to the end. In no time at all he was nude before the blade, his thin and frail body not much to behold. He stared down at that sight that had greeted him every morning in the mirror and felt that instinctual revulsion towards it. But this time, rather than shun it or turn away from those feelings, he harnessed them. Lashing them with his will, he felt the sword’s power burn through him as he envisioned a more accurate reflection of who he was.
Her hair was still red, of course. But long, freely cascading off her shoulders. Blue eyes like sapphires in milk drawing all attention toward her, with sharp features that evoked a bird of prey more than anything heard about in a bard’s sonnet. She was tall, with the legs of a dancer that could break into a predator’s sprint at a moment’s notice. Her body held knots of corded muscle from long hours of training, but perfect skin that the uncountable number of blades that had been brought against her hadn’t been able to touch.
Envy reached out to this alien reflection, and the woman on the other side reached out in tandem. They were one in the same! Or could be...yes. Yes, they would be! The sword’s power grew, and she willed it into herself. She opened herself, and the light slid in as easily as a grateful lover. It stretched her throat, leaving her twitching in the air as another thick tendril of light took her from behind. Upon insertion, they poured their energy into her body in great gushes. It flowed freely into her body, pooling in places that needed adjustment.
It took a few moments for the visual to translate into physical change; the energy building up and threatening to burst free. Tentatively, she urged the power within to transform her body. A pressure on her chest. She looked down and gasped around the energy tendril in her mouth: she was growing breasts! A rush of euphoria combined with the pleasuring of her body and made her spontaneously climax. She cried out with a newly raised voice around the ethereal phallus in her mouth, her cock reflexively twitching. It was beyond her wildest dreams. A chance to become who she always was but could never be.
The energy tentacles continued to penetrate her with power. Her hips bulged outward as her waist shrunk. Her wiry arms became toned and defined as if months of weight training had happened in an instant. For a moment she thinks about shrinking her cock. But after some thought, she realized it wasn’t a source of dysphoric feelings. Far from it, she wanted even more. Her limp shaft bulged down the side of her leg, growing to unrealistic proportions. Every inch send a pulse of pleasure along her lengthening member, forcing ropes of cum that only grew thicker and longer. A small puddle was forming underneath her from the sheer excess of release. She imagined it was her old life, her old priorities, all those hangups turning to so much spent seed, emptied unceremoniously onto the stone floor.
Sensing the convergence of her desired form and the body she inhabited, the tendrils gently pulled out. As she slid to the ground, Envy beheld the wondrous form she now inhabited. It was everything she had dreamed of and more. She felt desirable, gorgeous, but with terrifying power all the same. She grabbed ahold of Veinsplitter and, with one hand, pulled it easily from the stone seat, the hard slate feeling like melted butter. A steady flow of power trickled through the handle into her body, replenished by an equally potent flow leaving her. They were linked now. Weapon and Wielder. Owner and Master. She wondered which one would she be in the end, but that answer didn’t matter. So long as she was herself, there would be nothing to stop her.
But before she could claim her prize, Envy had much to prepare. A special day was arriving soon, and she would hate to miss the festivities.
The castle’s chapel was packed full of the kingdom’s finest. Nobles of every stripe and house filled the immaculately carved wooden pews, their many petty feuds temporarily forgotten to partake in a moment of collective solidarity. Another alliance born, another thread in the fabric of nations. They might not be on Lethan’s side, but it represented another peaceful moment where the lords and ladies of the land came together to venerate their class.
The moment was tarnished slightly by the disappearance of the kingdom’s heir. Alan’s bed hadn’t been slept in, and a top to bottom search of the castle grounds yielded neither hide nor hair of the prince, besides a report that a guard had seen him heading down the stairs to the servants’ quarters with an oil lamp. But with foreign dignitaries already on their way, it would be impossible to postpone the ceremony merely for a single man’s irresponsibility, regardless of who they were.
William waited at the altar, his heart full of confused, conflicting emotions. It was a big day, and he would be getting a wife and integrating himself into a noble house at the same time. That meant land for his children in perpetuity, a guarantee that they wouldn’t have to play pretend friend to any noble brats or effete manchildren. He looked again through the crowd for the familiar face of Alan. Though this was outwardly a great day for him, it was partially soured by the apparent disappearance of his ostensible charge. Though responsible for protecting the royal family as a whole, the heir apparent held particular importance. To his great relief, the marriage was let to continue. Wherever Alan was, it hardly mattered in the least. Finally, after years of toil, this was William’s day in the sun.
The organ to the side of the altar groaned and wheezed to life, playing the familiar fanfare of the royal family before beginning the time-honoured nuptial anthem, The March of Doves. Eyes were already watering among the bride’s family as she appeared from the back of the church, resplendent in a spotless white dress. Even William was taken with the craftsmanship, and he found his heart pounding as hard as during a sparring session. All eyes were on him and her. Milla. His wife to be. He swallowed a lump in his throat and reached out his hand. Milla took it, climbing up to the raised platform where the altar stood. Between them, the High Priestess of the Church of the Redeemer smiled serenely. Her own holy vestments were an equal to those worn by the bride and groom, all worth more than many in the kingdom could afford in a lifetime. The servants had all been shuffled away into backrooms and alcoves. Only the upper crust of society would enjoy this sight.
“Dear friends, children under the light, we have gathered here to consecrate a matching between two worthy souls…” As she wound through her recitation, those in the back were unable to hear the words of the Priestess, as muffled sounds of metal striking metal and shouts could be heard through the giant riveted door. At first it was ignored, those who heard it politely return their focus to the proceedings ahead. But the noises only increased in volume and severity. The murmurs of concern caused the wedding to sputter to a halt as the gathered gentry and armed guards alike voiced growing concerns. Their worries only increased when something heavy slammed into the door, causing the colossal construct to wobble.
“Please, everyone, I’d like for you to stay calm. It would be best for all of us if we let the guards,” she turned to the assembled men-at-arms as they rushed forward toward the door, “To perform their duties. As it stands, if you could all come closer around me, I’d like to offer a prayer of protection for our-”
The door exploded inward. Splinters the size of daggers shot out, jabbing into the first few pews and any place on the guards where the armour was weakest. Smoke billowed in, the smell of some great conflagration now clear to everyone.
In strode a walking nightmare. William’s jaw hung open as a gargantuan form strode through the choking smoke wearing armour of gold and black. Her red hair billowed behind her, ashes smoldering feebly in her hair. On her shoulder rested a blade of impossible length and width. Something that large could not be wielded by anyone, the Throneguard balked, let alone a woman! As the lights in the cathedral caught it, the bloodstained pattern on the blade’s surface sent a chill down any God-fearing man’s spine. It was like something from the pits of the underworld brought to life.
The many disparate dignitaries in the church all had small personal retinues, one or two armed guards who kept to the side as much to keep each other in check as guard their charges. They fell upon the interloper with differing levels of enthusiasm, from reluctant duty to wild abandon. Two men from the Iron Hearts rushed out with halberds only to have their hafts clove in twain with a pair of swing from the sinister sword. Throwing daggers from the Trade Prince Bellero’s contingent clanged off the blade she held up like a shield before a disarming blow she delivered proved far too literal. Khoros Vael, the Throneguard from Molosia lasted the longest. He swung a terrifying curved blade with ineffable grace. So pleased was he with his performance that he didn’t notice the energy tendrils lash out until it was too late. They seized his wrists and tossed him like a child’s plaything, his immaculately polished blade clattering to the stone floor. Each blow the sword itself struck caused it to flare, something within its heart seeming to drain the very life out of its victims as it struck.
“Is this all the kingdoms of this world can offer? Are these the guardians of the life I feared to live? Pathetic.” The woman’s voice was cold, bitter. Something about the voice sounded familiar to William, but he couldn’t place it. Whoever this was, the farce had gone on long enough.
“Halt, creature!” William bellowed. Into his hand flew Hopelight, the gleaming silver blade flashing brighter than reflection could account for. He charged, blade raised above to strike Envy down. William had served as Alan’s trainer, instructing him on how best to fight with sword and with bow, on foot and on horse. In all their “friendly” competitions, William showed superior reflexes, strength, and a sheer drive to succeed.
So it was strange for Envy that he moved so slowly. It was as if he ran in water, sword raising above his head to cleave her in two with a single blow. She parried the clumsy attack effortlessly, sending him into a tumble that he expertly turned into a roll. Without his armour, his natural athleticism was able to reveal itself. He struck again, howling defiance. Each swipe met Veinsplitter, Envy using his own momentum and letting his sword slide down hers without visible exertion. He threw more and more of his strength into each attack, trying to overwhelm her with brute force.
“Die, villain!” he hollered, preparing a neck-line coup de grace. This time Envy swung her own blade as if attacking, directly in the path of William’s sword.
Hopelight shattered. An explosion of light and shower of metal shards cascaded over them both. She blinked rapidly to clear the sunspots from her eyes. When her vision returned, she grinned at the sight of the Throneguard gawking at the shattered blade’s hilt in his hands.
“How…” he stammered, “H-how is this possible?”
“Anything made of lies is fragile,” Envy said, her voice pouring like black oil into his ears, “I come bearing that truth, nothing more.”
She raised her hand and dozens more tendrils of coherent scarlet energy lashed out, slamming him into the pulpit dozens of feet away, its wooden frame cracking from the impact. The priestess and Milla didn’t move, watching with horror as his unconscious form sagged to the ground between them. They did nothing but gaze in frozen horror as Envy stalked her way down the aisle of empty pews. Some few stragglers fled in her wake, while another two guards, who had been biding their time, dived in unison onto her flanks. One smooth arc with Veinsplitter and they were cast aside, the blade’s corrupted heart drinking deep of their essence.
As Envy’s armoured heels clicked forward on the elegant marble floor, those few who remained made for the exit, dragging along those fellows they could out the shattered remains of the church’s door. Two souls remained standing, both at the altar. The priestess stood her ground with all the hardened zealotry of a lifetime devout believer. Milla didn’t move either, though from her wide eyes and shaking hands, it was from fear, not conviction, that she was frozen in place.
“Halt your transgression!” the priestess demanded, putting her body in between Envy and Milla with her arms outstretched. She was middle-aged, her curvaceous features concealed behind the robes of her office. Though not armed, her faith served as a substantial bulwark against the power of the blade. In her mind’s eye, Envy could see the cerulean magical light that coursed through the holy woman’s veins.
Envy placed the blade against the back of her armour, where it fused there as if sheathed. There was no point drawing steel against the priestess, though Veinsplitter’s edge was far from the only weapon at her disposal. With a flick of concentration, the blade’s magical tendrils yanked her up and jerked to the side, out of the way. There, the corrupting tentacles sought to penetrate the woman’s protective energy while she struggled feebly in their grasp. The last barrier between them removed, Envy approached Milla. Her love. Her desire. Despite the changes, despite the corruption, that remained whole and pure.
She looked up, her voice quivering. “H-how...how do you know my name?”
Envy gave a gentle smile. “You remember on that day, in the gardens, how I wished we could steal away and be together forever? Well, now we can. Be together, that is. I will never run from anything again.”
Confusion dissolved into realization. “Al...but I don’t understand..”
“You don’t need to,” Envy said, and leaned over to press a kiss to Milla’s mouth. The other woman melted into her embrace, and soon they were as one. Energy bled out into both their bodies, the cursed sword making all of Envy’s primal desires come true. In that instant, the old world and customs they’d been subsumed in their entire lives dissolved. There was nothing but each other. Her eyes alighted with the glowing red power that now consumed them both.
“Take me,” Milla said, their lips still connected, “Take me here, on the altar. Make me yours!”
Envy grinned. Without looking, she shot her hand out toward the High Priestess. Red tendrils shot out of the blade and penetrated her, corrupting her sainted soul with darkest magics. Her holy power flickered and failed, and the all-consuming crimson filled her mortal coil to the brim and beyond. A cry of distress evolved into a moan of exctasy as she was overwhelmed by the pleasure of falling into sin. She returned to the ground, her former stuffy and formal demeanour now sensual and teasing. She pulled up the hem of her robe and slid her fingers within, openly pleasuring herself to the many carnal delights she would have once abhorred.
Milla lifted herself onto the altar, hiking down her own undergarments yet keeping the majority of the while bridal dress intact. The profane sight of such a wholesome ensemble being treated so only served to fuel their passions, and at once Envy was upon her, pressing herself between Milla’s open legs. The black armour parted, slithering back into the blade and revealing Envy’s new glorious body. Her pert breasts, her muscled back, her gorgeous shaft standing erect. With serpentine grace she plunged herself into Milla’s dripping slit, the energies making sure the bride to be was perfectly formed to sheath Envy’s other sword.
The High Priestess stuck a fluid covered finger into her mouth, suckled it clean, then began the invocation. “Dear friends, children under the black, we have gathered here to join two tainted souls in desecrated sanctity…” As she droned on, the two lovers fucked like rutting beasts on the altar. Blasphemous words mingled with joyous groans and moans as they sated themselves. Those few souls remaining in the pews watched with a mix of disgust and fascination as the sword’s energies, diffused by distance, worked their power on them as well.
The Priestess’ form had warped since the start of the ritual. Her breasts pushed outward, squeezing the top of the robes until they were merely a line of taut fabric in her cleavage. Her mouth had widened into a perpetual grin, her flesh toughening into a scaly hide. Her fingers warped into claws that continued to pleasure her increasingly saurian form. She continued to chant the profane parody of the traditional wedding vows, all to the discordant cries of bliss from Milla, herself not immune from the transformative effects. Purple lines grew at a slow and steady pace out from her pussy, rolling down her legs and up her stomach. They branched out, curled, divided, and branched out again, forming anarchic sigils over her form. The more they engaged in rapturous sex, the more they spread, soon curling around the curve of her breasts.
Envy felt the tension of climactic proximity grow in her loins, amplified by a dozen distinct sensations and sights. Milla beneath her, finally yielding to her appetites. The source of Alan’s greatest humiliation resolving into a perfect triumph. And most of all, the joy of having a body that made sense. Regardless of the sinister force that lurked in her heart, that euphoric joy of body and soul meeting as one was unassailable. Her eyes rolled back, her thrusts becoming frantic and desperate. As if on cue, the Priestess wrapped up her speech and placed her hands on both Envy and Milla.
“I now pronounce you bonded for life,” the fallen Priestess said, barring her many sharpened teeth, “You may Take the bride.”
And she did. Envy’s corrupting seed flooded into Milla’s body, forever tainting it and marking it as her own. The curling purple lines exploded outward, overwhelming her skin in a profane metamorphosis. As her pussy was stuffed full, so did her body bloat outward in violation of biology. She bulged outward, appearing months along into a pregnancy while runes not unlike those on the blade spiderwebbed their way across her stretching, violet stomach. Her bridal dress popped in the middle as her form pushed outward, taking on the visage of some primordial fertility idol while Milla cried in perfect ecstasy. Envy’s physical climax was nothing compared to the all-consuming satisfaction of finally claiming her lover.
That moment of consummation cemented something in Envy. A breaking of past compacts while solidifying others in adamant conviction. She was an agent of Veinsplitter, yes, but so much more. She was an agent of deliverance for this entire kingdom. A razor that would cut through the comfortable illusions the rich and powerful lived under. The cloying words eviscerated under the singular truth under which all absolute despots lived under: conquest. The blood price. The force of one’s will over another. Behind the pomp and rigmarole, title and duty, there it remained. And Envy would lay it bare for all to see.
The doors to the church burst open, and a dozen palace guard swarmed in. All were armed, loyal men of the watch all. William stood in full arms and armour, having scurried away to round up his fellows. All they found at the altar was the baying laughter of the Priestess, her body a mockery of what she had once been. Of Envy and Milla, there was no sign. Save words carved in red onto the altar’s surface, the letters themselves scalding to the touch.
'YOUR TURN TO KNEEL'