The sound was deafening. A persistent rumbling accompanied by the rhythmic thump of heavy footfalls, echoing from a long hallway at the far end of the room. A faint glow emanated from within those cavernous stone walls, one which grew all the brighter with every passing moment. Lucene scrambled for cover, diving behind an ornate marble pillar, and pried a torch from the wall. As far as makeshift weapons went, this one was absolutely pathetic, but what was she to do, face the dragon unarmed? Peering from her hiding place, Lucene could just barely make out the far wall of hallway from which her foe now approached. Suddenly, a harrowing shadow came into view, cast long and threatening against the far wall.
Long jagged horns crowned a gaping reptilian maw lined with dagger-pointed teeth. Even in shadow, Lucene could make out the terrible strength of the beasts hulking form and powerful muscles. Each thunderous step brought taloned feet large enough to clutch a full-grown person with ease ever closer. Great wings, which, even folded, single handedly accounted for just how cavernous the rooms of this underground palace needed to be built, loomed even larger in the distortions of shadow. The sight alone made Lucene’s knees wobble and heart pound, sweat pooled at her brow as her body locked up. She had so little time; each earth-shattering step brought doom ever nearer.
Her knuckles whitened, splinters dug into her palm as she tightened her grip on her torch. It was so hard to breath. This was futile, pointless, her mind screamed at her louder and louder how useless it would be to fight. But what was she to do? Give up? Give in and let herself perish in the jaws of some horrible monstrosity? Perhaps Tyranaxxia would show her mercy if she surrendered? She had clearly shown mercy to the women she now kept locked away in this palace of hers, but was that any way to live? At the beck and call of an evil monster? And what of Princess Izelle? Still, Lucene could hardly save Izelle while dead.
A sudden silence fell over the room. The shadow did not dissipate, or halt, but the deafening rumble had ceased. All Lucene could hear was the pounding of her heart as she watched death draw ever closer. Her eyes locked on that head, the jaws, the teeth, the gaping maw. To fight that, unarmed as she was, was to face certain doom. Where had her resolve gone? Lady Lucene had been so ready for death, yet now, Lucene stood trembling in place at the mere shadow of the thing approaching her, unable to tear her eyes away. The sound of wood clattering to the floor tore her away from her fearful trance. Lucene looked down to see she had dropped her torch. She glanced up, toward the hallway, toward that shadow, just in time to see a figure step through the entryway.
A woman, tall and regal, in flowing dark green robes appeared, head held high and back straight, standing under an ornate arch. Jagged horns sprouted from her head. She had an elegant face with sharp, burning orange eyes which surveyed the room around her. Her expression, serious, but calm, collected, conveyed no sense of urgency, but broadcasted to the world around her the distinct sense that she would always get her way. Her hands, clasped behind her back, bore long fingers which stretched into sharp claws. She paused for a moment, frozen in thought; the whole room seemed to pause with her. Lucene could not find it in herself to so much as breath, she could not hear the beating of her heart, nor tear her eyes away for even a moment. After several agonizing moments, the newcomer nodded, then took a step, and the world resumed turning.
She walked with purposeful strides toward the pool in the center of the grand hallway, stopping before the edge. Every last one of the bath-girls now waited on the lip of the pool, watching the horned-woman’s approach with eager anticipation and glazed-over eyes. Her gaze swept the pool, stopping to linger on each and every one of the faces within. Silence ruled the room once more, only to be broken and cast aside when tight lips and narrowed eyes gave way to a fond smile. She leaned forward, and brushed one of the girls’ cheeks, eliciting a gasp of delight, a swoon and a chorus of giggles. A brief conversation followed, carried out in hushed tones and dreamy wide-eyed gazes. From time to time, the woman would stop to gingerly touch one of the girls on the hand, or the neck, or the face. Each touch was always met with the same reaction: blind, open adoration and delight. Lucene could not hear the words, but somehow she knew exactly what was being discussed.
Without warning, she turned abruptly; her gaze found Lucene immediately, as though she had known all along. And those eyes, Lucene could write entire volumes on those eyes and not come close to capturing the feeling of being caught in them. To be captured in that gaze was to be burned from the inside out. Lucene felt it, felt them, boring into her soul. The intensity of that gaze could only be matched by their burning orange glow. She could not move, she could not breath as those slitted pupils regarded her with such intensity. She did not know it was possible to feel even more naked than she already was. For the first time in her life, Lucene truly understood what it meant to be trapped by the gaze of something far more magnificent and terrible than any human could ever hope to be. This was a predator, and whether or not Lucene was prey depended entirely on whether or not this beast deemed her a morsel worthy enough to spend time devouring.
Each of her footfalls was absolutely silent, yet the weight each step carried was far more deafening than ever before. Lucene clenched her fist, desperately trying to steel herself, and found them impossible to unclench. For the princess. For Izelle. She was doing this for Izelle. She would not balk, would not fold. The woman was nearly upon her now, towering over Lucene and casting that same wretched shadow on all sides of the room. A small part of the lady knight’s mind felt ridiculous still holding on to any sense of doubt as to who this stranger could be. She knew who approached her, she knew it with the same certainty that the sun would rise and set—and with the same certainty that, should the woman before her decide so, the sun would in fact, not rise or set. Even if Lucene had never heard the name, had never so much as heard of a dragon before, she would know; the truth was etched into those eyes, and that gaze burned the words into Lucene’s very soul in the flowing calligraphy of terror, awe and wonder.
“Tyranaxxia,” she drawled; the room shook with each syllable as she extended her hand outward in greeting. “You are the knight my noble champion caught snooping about the entrance to my home, are you not?” Despite phrasing it as a question, she neither waited for a reply, nor carried a hint of uncertainty. “I bid thee welcome to my home, Lady Lucene. You will make a fitting servant, and a fine addition to my ranks.”
Half expecting flames to burst from her hands, or erupt from her mouth, Lucene tensed, and waited, barely even registering the dragoness’ words. When her mind finally caught up, she blinked hard, and shook her head, giving Tyranaxxia a harsh look. “Your servant?” The shock and insult were enough to quell Lucene’s fear, if briefly. “I am here to end your miserable existence, you monster. Where is princess Izelle? Tell me what you’ve done to her,” she demanded.
Amusement twinkled in Tyranaxxia’s eye as a sly grin tugged at her lips. “I see you’re quite the fiery one, my lady. Though I suppose I already knew that, it’s a rare sort that can push me out of their mind while unconscious. Of course, that only makes you all the more interesting.” She took a step forward. Lucene stood her ground; at least, she thought she did. The next thing she knew she had taken a stumbling step backward.
Pointed teeth glimmered in the faint light beneath plump, grinning lips. Before Lucene could react, Tyranaxxia’s hand darted forward and seized her by the jaw, forcing her to meet her foe’s gaze. She took a moment, glancing Lucene up and down, sizing up her morsel. “Now now, stay put, running won’t do you any good,” she chuckled, and sighed to herself, shaking her head. “And I know, my lady. I didn’t answer your question. You must be very frustrated. Your princess is safe. In fact, as soon as you surrender to me, I’ll allow you to see her. So why not give in? It’s the only option; I won’t permit any outcome which doesn’t involve you swearing undying service to your new goddess.”
There was a heady scent in the air; there always had been. Throughout the room, flowers bloomed, incense and candles burned. This was different, however. How, exactly, the scent had changed, Lucene couldn’t say, but the air was thicker than ever. Each breath Lucene took sank heavily into her lungs, weighing her down. Her head spun, the more Lucene tried to fix Tyranaxia with a gaze of unblinking resolve, the more her vision swam. With each word Tyranaxxia spoke, the miasma seemed all the more impenetrable. Still, she kept her head in place. Of course, were she to relax, Lucene’s gaze would not budge one bit, as the dragoness held her in place regardless. That was, however, the exact reason she needed to keep her head held high and her body rigid. Lady Lucene would not give Tyranaxxia the satisfaction of relaxing into that grip.
“Is that what you do here, then? All the women you’ve kidnapped over the years? You take them here and enslave them? Bind them to your service?” Lucene spat.
To her surprise, the dragoness threw her head back in full, jubilant laughter. “You still think I am the villain of your story,” Tyranaxxia replied. Keeping her gaze fixed on Lucene, the dragoness turned, and began to pace a wide circle around the knight. As she did so, her clawed fingers gently ran across Lucene’s cheek in a caress that was both tender, but unmistakably threatening. Each point stroked her skin with just enough force to leave the skin intact, while reminding her exactly how easy it would be to tear and rend such soft, delicate flesh. She shivered at the way those sharp points lit up her nerves and stoked her fears. The hand slipped off her cheek; Lucene was sure to track Tyranaxxia’s movement with intent eyes.
“Tell me—actually, don’t. I’ll let you know when I wish to hear your voice again.” Rage bubbled between the cracks in Lucene’s fractured stoicism, but she didn’t bother with a retort. “I’m sure you’ve heard tales of dragons and their hoards. For some its gold and jewels, others guard knowledge and secrets, weapons and powerful artifacts are common, some even covet art. But, for the greatest of dragons, is the greatest of treasures. My hoard, dear Lady Lucene, is one of intimacy and carnal delight. Specifically, the intimacy and delight which only arise from love between women.”
As though to prove a point, just as Tyranaxxia finished speaking, a young red-haired woman wearing a dazed, distant expression wandered into the grand hallway from one of its many side chambers. She took a moment to stretch sleepily, rubbed her eyes, and glanced about with only slightly less glassy eyes. When her gaze fell on Tyranaxxia, her whole face lit up in delight. “Mistress!” she cried, then flung herself toward Tyranaxxia, wrapped her arms around the towering dragon-woman, and buried her face into Tyranaxxia’s chest, nuzzling like a lonely cat begging for attention.
Just as before, Tyranaxxia’s entire aura completely changed. Her threatening air disappeared as she proceeded to stroke and coo over the girl as though the diminutive redhead really was a needy cat begging for attention. With a single stroke of her cheek, Tyranaxxia immediately captured the girl's gaze, and cocked her head to the side in expectant curiosity. “You have a message for me, little whelp, do you not?”
A blush nearly as red as her fiery locks bloomed over the girls cheeks, and she nodded, standing on her toes as Tyranaxxia bent so she could whisper within the dragoness’ ear. A few moments later, a predatory grin full of sharp, pointed teeth crossed Tyranaxxias face; she ran her tongue across them, and nodded, then stood. “That’s a good girl. Thank you, my dear; I’ll make preparations. Run along now and play with the nymphs, they’ve been quite lonely of late.” Another blush, and another eager nod, the girl scurried off toward the bath. With her back turned, Lucene could see the girl’s robe left the skin of her back exposed. Criss cross patterns of thin scars, all varying in age, ran from her shoulders to the small of her back. Lucene tensed at the sight of them, and, seeing the object of her attention, Tyranaxxia caught the girl by the shoulder, causing her to stop short. Eyes glimmering, the dragoness turned, approaching with slow, silent, heavy footfalls. She loomed over the girl, then leaned in to envelop her from behind.
A tense moment passed. Lucene watched the girl, frozen save the faintest trembling. As though posing a doll, Tyranaxxia cupped the girl’s cheek, and tilted her gaze to look back toward Lucene. Frozen in place, Lucene could only watch the girl, lower lips trembling, eyes pleading—but for what? The dragoness bent lower, to whisper in her ear. The girl’s lips formed a single word. Without pause, Tyranaxxia lunged, sinking her teeth into the girl’s neck and raking her claws down that pretty, delicate skin. A scream of pain and pleasure etched itself into the walls, and into Lucene’s mind as she watched, transfixed.
The redhead’s eyes rolled back into her head as her knees gave out, and Tyranaxxia caught her in one hand with ease, drawing her into a tight embrace. A long, forked tongue flitted out to lap at the redhead’s bleeding wounds, and she fell completely limp and still in Tyranaxxia’s arms. After one last long, greedy lick, Tyranaxxia hoisted the girl’s limp, whimpering body into a princess carry. Their lips met in a long, passionate kiss, and Tyranaxxia carried the girl off, depositing her in the massive tub, where the myriad of other young women waited, and immediately began to cover her with searching fingers, soothing lips, and greedy tongues.
At that, Tyranaxxia spun on heel, and reminded Lucene exactly why she was frozen in place. The fire had returned to her gaze. She approached with the casual predatory menace of a conqueror, one victorious, regardless of whether the conquered understood the weight of her inevitability yet or not. She marched toward Lucene in a seductive prowl that erupted with unflinching beauty and purpose. The word gravitas came to mind, but it did not befit such a creature. It was not so much that she had gravitas, rather, Tyranaxxia was gravity. She stopped a few paces from Lucene—a few human paces, at least, though the young knight was certain Tyranaxxia could be upon her before she could take a single step, should the dragoness wish.
A well sculpted eyebrow rose, pronouncing expectant silence. Lucene deigned not waste her words, and the dragoness flashed a smug, toothy grin. “You understand now, don’t you? I could wax poetic about how little your king cares for his people, how the world looks down on you simply because of who and what you are, but you’ve seen all that needs showing. My girls live in opulence. They are comfortable, provided for, sheltered. Between one another, and in their generous, attentive Mistress, they find all the community, love and belonging anyone could hope for. When you are mine, you will have all those things, and so much more.” She took a step forward, Lucene could not budge even if she wanted to. That hand sized her chin and cupped her cheek again. Lucene was so tired; she yearned to lean inward.
“All of my treasures are special, but you, my lady, will serve a purpose few can. You are to be one of my champions, much like the knight you faced at the entrance to my home.” Tyranaxxia leaned in close, stopping with her face inches from Lady Lucene’s. Her breath was hot on Lucene’s face, carrying with it an intoxicating, delicious aroma that commanded Lucene to look nowhere but those piercing, burning eyes. In a low, fraying, husky voice, she spoke, just barely above a whisper. “With your submission to me, I will grant you the power to stand above all others. I will imbue you with strength, cunning and will unlike anything you’ve ever known. You will have girls of your own, devoted to you as you will be to me. You will become an instrument of my will, and when the day comes, you will join me, as well as your siblings in arms, and we will remake the world in my image.” Tyranaxxia paused, savoring the look in Lucene’s eye as the Lady Knight struggled to find the right words, the words that would shatter Tyranaxxia’s spell and cast off the power carried on her every breath. She didn’t find them. It didn’t matter, if the dragoness had no intention of killing her, she could bide her time, play at service. When the moment came, it would be all too easy to excise Tyranaxxia’s head. She would save Izelle, and all would be well.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Tyranaxxia cooed. “You think you can resist, that your loyalties are unshakable. But all surrender to me with time. From naive, trembling maidens to prideful, wild barbarians, all fall into my grasp eventually; that precious little red-head with a taste for my claws, she once thought herself prince of Kaeleph, until I showed her who and what she truly was: a sweet bed-girl who trembles at the thought of her Mistress’ touch. You are no different.” As though Tyranaxxia could see Lucene’s refutation bubbling from her pores, the dragoness smirked, and shook her head. “I can see that even now you deny me. But tell me this, why have you not once spoken since I commanded you be silent? Why have you not yet budged from that spot since I commanded you remain?” Shock, denial and anger raged against doubt and fear. Lucene opened her mouth to protest, and no words came out, she tried to flee, and could not budge. As despair bloomed across Lucene’s face, so too did smug victory erupt from Tyranaxxia’s.
The Dragoness exhaled, and the sweet haze thickened, Lucene was lost. Satisfied, Tyranaxia beckoned. “It’s time I make you mine; follow me, my champion.” Lucene followed.