“Cidolfus, pray, I might request a boon,” said Venat one morning, or rather so late in the evening that the summer’s dawn had already begun to stretch its fingers across the horizon. “Procure a body, to your taste. A corpse,” she clarified, seeming to let the suggestion settle before she added airily, “I have the thought to fuck you like a hume.”
Cidolfus Demen Bunansa choked on his coffee. “And a corpse,” he said, once he had stopped coughing, “is needful for that, my dear?” Still his voice held a strained note. But he was, it went nearly without saying, rather more awake than he had been only moments ago.
“A host,” said Venat simply, indelicately, “may balk the role, should he be quick. The dead are quickly called to heel and task.”
“A frightful pun and concept both,” noted Cid, “but I do see your rationale.” He knew already that he would give in. As distasteful as having relations with a cadaver sounded, there was a world of difference, he supposed, between a true act of necrophilia and making love to Venat. Brilliant, beautiful, neoteric Venat, whose goals once met would be damned by the faint praise of the word revolutionary, who would merely be wearing a corpse in deference to Cid’s own limited physical existence. Needs must, and it was, he supposed, not so different from how a man’s spirit lay encased in dead flesh, for all it made him shiver.
(Not entirely, he was forced to admit, from an unpleasant sort of discomfort.)
Cid was… curious. How this act might compare to their experiments with Venat’s own native form, roiling Mist so dense it had a tangible presence that nipped cold and powerful beneath his fingertips. To the times she had worn his skin, so that its movements were not his own and his touch, auraed with what Mist his body could not contain, felt wholly alien. And he was perennially weak to Venat’s whims.
There, he had nearly convinced himself.
He set aside his mug—the coffee tasteless now it was lukewarm, and he was alert enough now without its aid besides—and said consideringly, “I suppose… Vayne must have no shortage of bodies. I could make a request of him.”
Even the idea made an anxious sickness rise in his belly. Vayne had been remarkably agreeable to any of Cid’s requests thus far, and he appreciated Venat’s genius almost as much as she was due. But what if he asked what Cid needed the corpse for…
It was best, for the sake of his continued patronage, that Vayne remain unaware of the true nature of Cid and Venat’s goals. The nature of their relationship may have little bearing on the best actions for the Archadian Empire, but Cid would prefer that remain unknown to Vayne as well.
Venat must have read the expression on his face. “‘Tis not to punish that I asked, only so you would think the body beautiful.” Her voice was soft, and if she had a face of her own Cid knew he would find it bore a fond smile. “I’ve means myself, should you prefer and trust my judgement be not ill—your choice to make, and either path I shan’t begrudge, my dear.”
“Venat, architect of my soul’s fulfillment, I would be a fool to think you anything but beautiful, no matter the form you embodied.” The words came automatically, so similar to sentiments he expressed daily and weekly, as happened when one spent one’s time with such a magnificent being. They were true here, as well, but it was only once they were past his lips that he thought about what he’d just said, and wondered how much Venat knew about the matter of decomposition.
“Then I will begin.” Even as she spoke, the words laced with what might well be excitement and void of her usual poeticism, she was already fading from view.
Cid glanced at his abandoned coffee. Well. No matter the result, this should prove… illuminating. He picked up the mug and went in search of a heating appliance, mind already turning to the odd stutter in the power outputs of the last batch of his manufacted nethicite. Perhaps Venat’s idea about adjusting the containment protocols would do the trick…
Nearer midday, Cid returned to his rooms for a change of clothes. He noticed the smell first, growing stronger as he approached the door to his rooms, and more unmistakable. Cid abruptly remembered the conversation that had preceded Venat’s disappearance all morning, and his step faltered.
He should have, he thought, perhaps specified that he’d prefer a corpse very recently dead.
There was little point in delaying, however, and he had missed Venat’s company in the hours she’d been gone besides. More than once he had turned to comment an aside, only to remember midway through the words she’d gone off on her errand, and found himself strangely bereft. Cid took the remaining steps to his door and opened it just far enough to slip inside, locking it behind him.
If the walk to his rooms had put him in mind of a battlefield, inside the room was overpowering. Cid’s eyes were drawn immediately to the figure which stood in the center of the room, facing the full length mirror at the wall with its back to him. Mist fell off of the body in rolling waves, pooling on the ground and curling around the edges of the mirror, but it was not thick enough to hide the green-black hue of the corpse’s skin; the misshapen and bloated form of its decaying, gas-filled body; the gaps in its pale, stringy hair where clumps had fallen or been torn out. In the mirror, Cid could see the black veins that climbed up the body’s bare, sagging breasts, the rough fabric he assumed must have once bound them in the Rabanastran style wrapped around the abdomen. It was soaked through with blood, something bulging unseemly behind it, and it oozed.
“Venat,” he said, still standing against the closed door, and the body turned.
It was difficult to say whether the face of her borrowed body had once been considered beautiful. Now, it was discolored and sagging, and had cracks in the skin where a layer was beginning to peel off. And the Mist was still there, curling lazily around her face and neck as it drifted downward. It seeped out of her eyes and nose and mouth alongside a thick, red liquid, making it seem as if the very fluids of her borrowed mortal form had become something magical, something otherworldly. Her cloudy gaze, when it fixed onto him, was intense and unwavering and wholly Venat.
“Oh, Cid!” she said warmly. “I pray you like the one I chose.”
A part of him quailed at the rotting form in front of him, but it was far overshadowed by the fact that this was Venat, this was his great love standing before him and solid enough to touch, yet still recognizable in the power that charged the air around her and the presence no mere hume body could mask. “You’re magnificent,” he breathed.
“Perhaps,” she allowed, with humor. “In troth, these forms of humes are grander yet; what variance in shape and issue, this! A microcosmic metamorphosis.”
“Another facet of man’s power to change, perhaps,” Cid mused. Little wonder, if so, that Venat was so enamored of it. Was it the Occuria’s eternal, unchanging nature that rendered humanity so endlessly fascinating to her? If so, he supposed he could not truly fault the corpse in front of him, for being an example of the very thing that had brought Venat to him.
“Just so.” Venat caused the body to lurch forward, her control not so great for Cid to call it walking. A blackened hand, its skin loose and peeling back, coiled its fingers in his own as she brought the corpse forward to meet his lips.
She tasted of magic and decay, noxious and cloying, and the cold press of her lips was uncomfortable in its way, the flesh soft with its decay and yielding. But they were also real, the physical sensation enthralling in its difference from all those times Cid had kissed Venat in her semi-corporeal form, his fingers coiling around the thick, heavy Mist of her shoulder and very nearly convincing himself he could feel it; his lips pressing into the dark plate that covered what he thought of as Venat’s cheek.
Cid was intimately familiar with the feeling of her against his skin, the sharp, icy twine of Mist crackling along his lips and his fingertips, arcing through his body from the point of contact and leaving him feeling wholly invigorated. When he kissed Venat now, in this borrowed body, bringing the hand she had not clasped in her own up to her thin shoulder, he could still feel the bite of the Mist’s power, but it was as if chastened by the softness of the flesh, and tamer yet.
The clasping fingers’ skin tore between Cid’s own, and the spongy mass of the corpse’s breast pressed against the skin of his forearm as he tore his nails into the flesh of her shoulder was an altogether alien sensation; in another context, perhaps, an unpleasant one, but the cool, bloated, soft flesh was charged dense with Mist and sparked against his touch as static.
The bursting skin beneath his nails let up a putrid scent Cid found he was growing very nearly fond of, associated as it now was not with war and death but with the sweet press of Venat’s lips against his, smearing blood and gore across his face. “Mortality soon you as well shall claim,” Venat murmured upon the air itself, and reached one blackened finger up to stroke down his cheek fondly. She hadn’t broken the kiss, and even as she spoke her borrowed mouth’s slack lips opened under Cid’s. “Though beautiful, this final change bereft leaves Ivalice—‘tis lesser, lacking you.”
Cid laughed into the corpse’s mouth, feeling something fall into his own as he did. Thinking little of it, he raised his bloody, gore-strewn fingers from Venat’s punctured clavicle and picked the little object off his tongue as he pulled away enough to reply. “It must pain you, to name my mortality a tragedy,” he said fondly, turning the small thing over in his fingers to see it better. It was no bigger than a grain of rice. “Bodies have such fascinating issue, after all.”
Once, Cid had joked that Venat only loved him for his secretions. She was ever preoccupied with the fluids a mortal body contained—blood, piss, spit, come, and viscera held all an equal fascination to her, for Occuria were beings of none of them. She’d sworn effusively, some half a dozen stanzas in all, that she had done him a disservice if he truly believed she valued him for less than his totality, and by the end of it, Cid was only thankful he could undo the damage of his ill-thought humor.
“I name it only true, my love, but know: ‘tis Mis’ry’s arm which Beauty enters on.” The corpse’s fingers quested for the fly-front of Cid’s breeches with the jerking, disfluent motions of a marionette in unskilled hands, then tore them open on the seam. “And there, what curiosity have you?” asked Venat as she freed his cock of his linen braies and took him in hand, the skin of her palm sloughing off with the friction.
What it left was slippery-wet decay like oil, and though the source be discomfiting, the sensation was welcome. Cid groaned with pleasure, eyelids fluttering closed. A deep breath, and then he pinched the hard casing of the little thing he’d found between his thumb and finger, showing it to Venat.
If she was looking out at him through only the cadaver’s cloudy eyes or maintained some unearthly perspective yet, Cid didn’t know, but the body’s chin wrenched itself towards the thing, eyes glimmering with Venat’s interest as she inspected it. “It’s called a pupa,” he told her, and he focused on half-remembered bits of information he’d looked up one day in curiosity, instead of the thought of what else was in Venat’s borrowed body. “You’d love them, I think. A metamorphosis still greater than that seen in any man, alive or dead. You recall the fly?”
At Venat’s jerky nod he continued, slipping into the comfortable rhythm of knowledge imparted even as he fought to control his breathing as Venat continued her ministrations below. “Some species of flies, you see, make use of cadavers such as the one you wear. They lay eggs in any available opening and when those eggs hatch they feed on the flesh surrounding, and they excrete their own fluids that aid and encourage the… breakdown of the body, I suppose.”
Venat cocked her head at the little pupa in his hand, and then she knelt down before him. “Go on,” she said, and he could hear the smile in her voice, and the sensual note behind it. “Describe to me this glorious change.”
He looked down at her as she inexpertly attempted to hold his cock steady in borrowed hands and felt a wave of fondness anew at this odd, brilliant creature he loved. He brought the hand not holding the pupa down to stop her. “Description is well and good, but are you not always impressing on me the need to look as well?” When she tilted the corpse’s head up to look at him, he inserted two fingers into her mouth, searching for slightly firmer tissue that still moved under his fingers.
“And to what end is this endeavor, pray?” she asked curiously, the body’s lips slack and unmoving around the intrusion.
“I’m told many people find fingers in one’s mouth alluring,” he joked unthinking, “but I am merely collecting another sample.” He removed his fingers to find that he had managed to procure two plump white maggots, one somewhat flattened while the other still wriggled enthusiastically on his finger. He transferred the pupa and maggots to his palm and held them out for her to see for herself the shorter, thicker oval beside its younger brethren. “The eggs,” he explained, “hatch into the moving creatures you see here, and then they harden, and their skin becomes darker and forms a cocoon of sorts, as within this darkened shell the creature begins to transform into something wholly different.”
“‘Tis beguiling,” Venat said simply, and then Cid’s skin sung with the sparking Mist as she took him at last into her mouth. It was an unfussy affair, Venat enveloping the whole length in a single motion, and surprisingly smooth, and looking down at her he could see the body’s peeling lips stretched wide around his cock. “Occuria,” said Venat venomously, her nose pressed to Cid’s pelvis so that the only movement on his cock was the squirming of those maggots in the confined space, a sensation unlike any he had ever felt, “we so-called deathless gods, are never born, and have no native mode of transformation; change all clawed unwilling by interm’nable hands of heretics.”
“Just one, I should think,” replied Cid fondly, letting his fingers tangle in the cadaver’s stringy hair as she began to move on his cock, ministrations made with the technical precision of a test, and in turns too little and too much. “A treasure so perfect that her peers neither deserved nor understood her, and no wonder, for—ah—is it not always those who are not content with what they are told is the natural order who achieve the greatest feats known to our world?” His hand clenched slightly in her hair, torn between the desire for contact and the need to sketch out his thoughts in the air.
“All Ivalice is on the brink of its own transformation. Once we have ushered it in, the world itself will become unrecognizable to its dispensable, despot gods—oh, Venat.” She was as single-minded in this as she was in all things, once she had begun, and his halfhearted attempts to set the pace had been wordlessly rebuffed. He closed his eyes, feeling the little pupa drop from his fingers, and focused on the feeling of all that passion and determination focused in on him. “I’m close,” he managed.
Venat pulled back immediately, and Cid gasped at the loss. He looked down questioningly. Venat was staring intently at his cock, one hand poised just above a trio of small, slightly squished forms that managed to stand out amidst the blood and discharge.
Cid licked his lips, and his voice came strained when he told her, “If you’ve other activities in mind tonight, love, perhaps do not touch. I’m not as young as I used to be.”
Venat made a thoughtful sound. “Then to the bed,” she ordered. “Divested, I’d prefer.”
“With the greatest of pleasure,” he told her, and did so. She climbed atop him, her marionette limbs sprawling, and leaving gore strewn across the fine sheets. Cid gave them barely a glance, transient material things that they were, his eyes focused only on Venat’s as she maneuvered the slip of fabric between the cadaver’s legs aside and lowered herself down onto his cock.
Inside, she was cool, slippery-slick, and squirming with maggots. The swollen, necrotic flesh was displaced as Venat seated herself fully onto him, the press of him making the fragile skin tear, letting loose a flood of slimy fluid that dripped down between their bodies and pooled in the recesses of his hips. Her bloated, distended abdomen shifted, too, an almost pendulous motion in tandem with the corpse’s breasts as she rocked above him. Cid wondered if it, too, might burst with the hard use, and spill her rotten viscera into his lap.
Venat pressed him down with all of her weight and more power beyond that, pinning Cid to the bed flat until all he could see was her face, or rather faces—both that of the decaying hume, and her own true face of dense, seething Mist above it. Both faces, bright with interest, watched Cid as she rode him, her movements violent and jerking. She was somehow in that moment everywhere at once—overpowering and all-encompassing and present. Her face was framed with the Mist that was falling onto him, sparking at every point of contact, and it felt as though her hand on his chest was accompanied by something greater than wasted muscles and half-rotted flesh, a power holding him in place. She was— ‘beautiful’ did her no justice, and he knew no words that truly could. Cid couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere but beneath her.
Venat brought her hand up to his face, caressing his cheek with a care she’d afforded nowhere else yet. “Am I alluring?” she asked—not a test, as some others might have said it, but an honest question—as she pressed two of her rotting fingers into his mouth. The taste was indescribable and thoroughly revolting, but it was offset by the sensation of Venat grinding down upon him, her spine arching back with the motion as her other hand slid down from its rest on his chest to press down hard with the heel of her palm just above the base of his cock, as she knew well he liked.
He moaned around her slimy, peeling fingers as he came, and at the same moment of his release felt Venat press them deeper into his mouth, scraping past his tongue and down into his throat. Cid choked on the intrusion, feeling too the loose skin of her knuckles catch on his teeth and tear, and something stuck in his throat as it contracted, staying as he jerked back from the press of her fingers.
He twisted his head away and was ill even as the final streams of his spend joined the putrid gore which stood in for Venat’s own arousal. He kept retching and coughing well after having expelled what she had left behind—a fingernail, and black flesh—as if perhaps the taste of his own stomach acid could overpower the noxious decay.
(It could not.)
Venat, ever obliging, lifted herself off of Cid, and allowed him to catch his breath as well as he could. Every inhale brought the smell of his own vomit, and the taste of her, and made him gag anew.
He drew in a long, shaky breath, and then felt wet fingers trailing lightly along his spent cock and his hips, swirling in what was no doubt a delightful pool of come and blood and putrefied viscera. He swallowed down another gag, and then flopped onto his back, propping himself on his elbows to watch her.
Venat looked up at him, her borrowed, torn mouth twisting into a wide, contorted smile, and Cid couldn’t help but smile back. She crawled up the bed to lay beside him, indifferent to the pool of vomit beneath her as she curled into his shoulder. She reached her hand back up to Cid’s lips, and he turned his head away before she could press her fingers into his mouth again. Venat settled for leaving a mess of necrotic fluid, dead maggots, and his own spend smeared across his lips and cheek.
The absurdity of it all left Cid laughing, and Venat soon joined him. “Perhaps next time,” he told her, spitting a bit first to ensure the gore stayed out of his mouth this time, “I shall pick the corpse after all. If only for the sake of the maid.”