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Lamia

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I wish I could say that everything was alright, Jackie.

But so much has changed – I have changed – in ways that I never thought would happen. And now it can never be undone.

~nAgA~

When I was first lost in that black abyss of another dimension, I waited for you to come and rescue me. Really, I did. I didn't go wandering off to explore or find an adventure, I just stayed put and waited. Like a good girl.

Though, perhaps I should have gone wandering - because she found me first.

She was a demon, Jackie – I was no match for her alone, and with no magic. She subdued me easily, threw me in a cage and took me back to what seemed to be a palace, filled with reptilian servants and snake-demons like herself, all subordinate to her.

She was bored, she explained to me. She had ruled a vast empire for millennia, and wanted to be on her own again. But she had put a lot of hard work into conquering her territories, and she didn't want it all to fall apart once she left. She had no children – she had never deemed any man worthy to enough to share her bed. And so she was taking others – any others, mortal or no – to be tested to see if they were strong and powerful enough to succeed her. I was just one in a long line of potential heirs, all of them dead.

For four days I was starved and beaten by her, and then I was dragged away, chained to the wall in a dark chamber. When she closed the door and left me there, the room instantly became suffocating, and I felt a chill go down my spine. It was a familiar feeling – what Uncle would call the willies, the feeling of being surrounded by dark magic. It filled the room, drowning me in it. I was forced to sit in it, absorb it, breathe it in.

I remember hearing a cackle as several dreadful presences came into the room. They were snake-like, and formed of shadow. Shadow spirits, as I heard the she-demon call them later. They attacked me, tormented me. Sometimes I could sense them slipping down my throat or through my nose as I breathed inward, possessing me and rendering my will powerless. Their favorite places to bite me were my arms and shoulders, since I couldn't move them, and every time they bit down, I could feel their venom sinking into my blood. I screamed for so long – I called out for help, for somebody to please, please help me, even though I knew no one would come. I yearned only for release from my torture; the pain was the only thing I could think of.

I don't even know how long I was in there – just that when it was finally over, I was actually glad to see the she-demon's face.

She took me to a new chamber – not the dungeon where I had been kept before, but a clean room, with a bed and bookshelves and a desk. She unchained me, and pointed to a suit of plain black clothes lying on the bed. She told me that I would be wearing them by the time she got back, or she would give me no food or water.

I had no choice, Jackie. I was about to die of thirst.

When she came back, she picked up my old clothes, all I had left of home, and made me watch her burn them in the fireplace.

She told me that her name was Lamia, but that I should refer to her as Mistress, for she was to be my teacher.

I fought back against this, of course. That was when I first learned that insolence would bring me broken bones. Later that night, I would learn that trying to escape meant being whipped.

She had me shadow her every day. I would stand behind her as she went about her business, creating spells and writing legislation – mere municipal matters. As she was holding court or having meetings with her generals, she would have me sit beside her, watching and listening.

It took me a few days to learn not to speak out or to question her authority. I still have the scars.

Over time, as I learned what she considered to be 'good behavior,' she gave me more privileges. I was allowed to sit and eat with her as she took her meals. I was allowed to ask questions, but only about the things she was teaching me about magic and ruling. I would gradually gain more and more liberties, but I still hated her with a fiery passion, with every cell in my body. I would sooner see her die a painful, agonizing death than be proud of me.

Lamia knew it, too. Perhaps she thought my hatred was only proper.

~nAgA~

Sometimes, she would put me back in the chamber with the darkness and the evil spirits. The first time she did this, I asked her why.

She must have heard the fear in my voice, because as she was chaining me to the wall, I saw Lamia smile for the first time. It was a terrible, frightening, dreadful smile, yet beautiful, like lightning striking during a storm. I think perhaps she meant it to be comforting, but it was not.

Lamia explained to me that this was not a punishment, but a part of the process of transforming me into a demon like herself. I would have to experience this every six months over the next fifty years.

You see Jackie, I hadn't realized that she expected me to remain with her that long. In the back of my mind, I was still so certain that you'd come to rescue me...

Fifty years is a long time.

So very long...

~nAgA~

One day, she told me that I had earned the right to have a name.

"Your new name is Naga," she commanded. "And you are now officially my heir."

Afterwards, I was allowed to speak up during meetings with her generals, suggest courses of action, do research and perform spells on my own. I tried to find a way out, Jackie – I swear I did. But it was no use, and if I ever went too far, she would immediately become suspicious. I had to survive. You understand that, right?

By the time I found out how to travel between dimensions, thirty years had passed – and it was too late to stop the changes. I couldn't pull out the fangs, remove the scales growing on my face – I was becoming a demon.

I remember the first time she made me kill someone. She forced me to choose between killing a child and killing their parents, for a crime none of them was responsible for.

….I don't want to even think about it, Jackie.

Fifty years is a long time.

When I finally looked like her, had all her powers, had learned everything she could teach me – she left. Lamia left without a word of goodbye, scorn, spite, or even apology, as unlikely as that would have been in the first place. And I was left Empress of a sordid land full of demons.

Fifty years is a long time. Somehow, one thousand flew by like they were nothing. How did that happen, Jackie?

I had to expand her empire, Jackie, and I still have to. It was what her generals wanted, what they're always craving, even when they're constantly replaced by a newer generation. It's a sick, never-ending cycle of them coming into power and whinging and demanding more, more, more. And I have to keep them happy, or they will destroy me with their sheer numbers, hunt me down, tear me apart, eat me alive.

I conquered the entire dimension, and moved on to others. It was a long, long time before I found any resembling ours. When I saw you I was delighted – when I saw me, I was terrified.

The secret of who I truly was had long since vanished from the history books, and I was determined to keep it that way. And to you, and my young self, I was just another villain, the Empress Naga. You would have killed me, or sealed me away to go mad. I wouldn't have had it any other way – you wouldn't be my family otherwise.

I have buried you hundreds of times over, Jackie. My own bodies lie dead and rotting in my herbs garden, feeding their hungry, thirsty, evil roots.

I liked to think you would have forgiven me. It kept me sane – gave me a small spark of bittersweet, almost-happiness in this new world of mine. I know that's not true now – not now that I've finally found you. My own Uncle Jackie.

I'm not me anymore – I'm hurting, I'm broken, I'm demon who was once a girl and hasn't felt sunlight on her cheeks in over a thousand years. I can never walk again, I have no legs. Everything smells and tastes wrong. My family was dead to me for a century and a half. My heart has been torn from my chest a thousand times, and I have been made to watch as it was ripped apart and eaten alive. I feel...hollow. I'm a shell – just a shadow of my former self, and an evil one at that.

So no, Jackie, everything is not all right.

Shhhh. Please, don't scream. Just close your eyes – it won't hurt, I promise it won't. I always make sure it doesn't.

Yes, I do. Trust me, it's me, Jade – your own Jade. I wouldn't hurt you.

Goodnight, Jackie.