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The Snake and the Hyena

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The Topless Tower stood upon the Street of Golden Lanterns within Hell, and within that slithering place it stood in five places. Climb the stairs of one floor, and one would find themselves in another place. The floor known as the Pulsing Floor was close to the crippled behemoth Jelenth, who once stole drinks from the table of Isidoros and whose blood forevermore had been sweet and efficacious. The area around his prone bulk was filled with distilleries fed by copper pipes that run from his veins and butchers who hacked off chunks of ever-regrowing flesh.

The Pulsing Floor had been built to honour the spirit of this place, from the products of Jelenthm and it was nearly a living thing. The air was thick with the mug of sweat and sex, the curtains were woven hair, and ivory archways resembled bones. Pores in the walls took the edge off the heat, but only added to the humidity. This was a place of skin. The walls were warm and damp to the touch, the floor sticky, the beds covered in velvety flesh.

To this place, Keris Dulmeadokht had taken Claudia the Lambskin Hyena, for the demon lord had come off worse in a wager between them and now for a scream of the tomescu she would have to obey and submit to the princess of the green sun. They were straight out of the fighting arenas, and Keris gleamed in almost-organic demonic plate while Claudia wore scaled armour ripped from some forgotten monster.

“Would you rather go back downstairs?” Keris hummed smugly. “Or does this floor satisfy your tastes?” There was a wealth of promise of what else Claudia might be tasting soon in the last word, throaty and low.

“This is the heart of the Street,” Claudia said rather than answer directly, voice oddly soft as she glanced out the window. “Under the gold; under the beauty; meat pounding meat, at least if you ask Quintus - my brother. The gold is just how we keep score, he says. Do you agree with him, or does the smell and the fleshiness just do things for you?” She cracked her fingers. “Or maybe you have a plan? You’re interesting, Keris. You’re sharper than you act in the Conventicle. I think, perhaps, you depict yourself like my greater self, but you’re maybe a bit more kin to me under the perfumes and the smiles.”

Keris gave her a piercing look, the smugness fading into thoughtful regard for a moment. It was an interesting - and uncommonly perceptive - question. But perhaps Claudia was well-suited to ask it. Most who saw her probably thought of her as a feral, brutish beast, all muscle and no brain. They’d probably be thrown to see her sitting courteously at a table with gold-rimmed spectacles on her nose, reading through documents and negotiating with a sharp intellect and a thorough understanding of value in trade.

After five years as an Exalt, Keris had learned to stop judging by appearances.

“Perhaps I am,” she murmured. “And I do have a plan, yes. I make use of this floor for my alchemy, and the access to the distillery district’s ingredients. I have some nice little brews tucked away in here that will make our pleasure much more enjoyable.” She taps Claudia under her chin. “And I want to get a look at that hyena-form of yours, once I’ve had my pleasure, and I’m sure you’ll be hungry. There’s good food around this entrance to my Tower. But first...”

She pushed Claudia up against the wall, unnaturally strong for such a small woman, and slid one knee between the other woman’s thighs.

“First, I think I’m going to ride you till you scream.”

The demon lord seemed to consider this not much of a threat, from her cocky smile. “So how do you want to do this?” she asked.

Grabbing one arm, Keris led her through to one of the bedchambers in the Pulsing Floor. This room was nearly an auditorium, with a central bed made from bone and draped with flesh sitting in the centre of a lowered, stepped circle. Tendon-cables hung down from the ceiling, pulsing to the building’s heartbeat, and unnamed liquids slowly drip-drip-dripped down from the jagged ceiling. One wall was jagged basalt columns girded with translucent membranes upon which was cast the shadow-play of the affairs of the street outside.

“Go to the bed and strip off your armour,” she ordered. “Stay there until I return. There are some things I need to get and others I need to prepare.” She ran one strand of hair along Claudia’s jaw. “And the anticip-” she paused for a breath, “-pation will be good for you.”

“As you desire, Peer Dulmeadokht,” Claudia said, golden eyes hooded. “Don’t hurry on my behalf. Your time doesn’t start until the next scream.”

She did hurry, though. The fight had been late in the scream, and with the time taken to get here - well, she didn’t want to waste more than she had to. Heading through into one of the smaller changing rooms, she lit the dim yellow lanterns with a snap. She unsealed her armour and stepped out of it, revealing that she was nude underneath. Padding got in the way of handling her increasingly resistant armour. She needed the skin contact and she was tough enough to take it.

“You were stiff today. I took a few blows I didn’t need to because of you,” she told the suit, running a hand over the green-tinted moonsilver. There was no response, of course. “I really need to take some time to try some repairs. If you locked up on me when it’s a real fight, I’d be fucked. And not literally, like what could have happened today.”

Shaking her head, Keris made sure the armour was properly locked in position, and wandered over to the mirror, the floor sticky velvety flesh underfoot. This dressing room was cramped between the wall-mirrors trimmed with bone and the wardrobe of fetishwear. Tucking her hair back, Keris examined herself. She met her own grey eyes, and nodded. She wasn’t entirely fresh, but there was something about the slightly deshabile look of a bit of sweat and imperfect hair that was plenty hot. It definitely looked good on Claudia too.

Was there anything else she needed to do? She’d known she was getting laid today either way, so she’d taken time to handle things before the fight. The only hair below her neck was the empty red circle she’d shaped the hair on her pubic mound into, a reminder of her status as one of the Scourges of Hell. That was staying; if she’d have lost, she’d have removed it so Claudia wouldn’t be symbolically laying claim to a Scourge. Perfume? No. She’d be making Claudia breathe in her smell from their battle, and more simply the Pulsing Floor wasn’t friendly to delicate scents.

So next came her choice of outfit and body ornaments. She’d left a few things from the time her and Sasi had decided to play a game of themed fucking on each floor of the Topless Tower, and while Sasi hadn’t liked this floor much for the decor and the general viscerality, Keris had wanted to pull out this outfit again.

Her little jewelry box had the piercings in it, deliberately crude rings of Valiant iron that sparked and crackled with captive blue-black lightning. They’d lost some of their charge, but they’d be good for a scream of wear. When she removed them from their insulating boxes, they occasionally arced between each other. Blue-black ghost lightning jumping between her ears, nipples, navel and clit was striking. Ruins-henna for her hands, to look like bloody patterns… but only if she had time for it. Her hands stroked the outfit she’d picked out. Black sheer stockings. A pale lilac neomah-leather cupless corset, studded with silver studs. And a matching neomah-leather microskirt, which barely covered that she was wearing nothing underneath even when she stood still.

It was halfway on when outside, within hell the clamorous screams of the demon breed known as the tomescu sounded out. Those demons foresaw visions of their own demise at the time when the sun rose or set in Creation, and so within the demon realm - where pitiless Cecelyne had made clocks illegal - they were the only measurement of time. And that meant the time had started.

Keris paused, and shrugged to herself. Five, ten, fifteen minutes wasted wouldn’t mean much. Even she wasn’t planning twelve and a half hours of just sex. She could spend a little time getting ready. So she might skip the henna, but she’d still take the time to paint her nails violet, apply deep purple lip paint, and lightly oil herself. She grinned at herself in the mirror as she tucked the little bottle of lip paint into her corset. She had an idea there.

Taking a deep breath, she took a final look at herself in the mirror, posing as if for an observer. The bulky piercings were an unfamiliar weight, and she couldn’t resist the urge to play with the ring in her clitoral hood, enjoying its pressure on her most sensitive spot. The tingle when it arced lightning up to her navel was a delightful little buzz. In her head, she heard Pekhijira hiss-moan, her serpent lower-soul enjoying the stimulation just as much.

“You want in on this?” she thought towards the demonic snake.

lust-envy-desire-begging was the thought that washed back into her, accompanied by a lurid fantasy of Claudia, exhausted and sticky, making wordless pleading noises.

Keris let out a happy little breath, playing with the ring. “So that’s what you want,” she exhaled. “Maybe you should get to watch.” The skin of her left leg rippled, churning from inside, and black colouration bled up from her ankle, curling around and around to take form as a tattoo feathered-serpent who stared possessively from her inner thigh. “That’ll put you right by the action.”

lust-delight-nostalgia, Pekhijira thought through her, images flashing through her mind of Testolagh begging, Testolagh groaning, Testolagh flat on his back being ridden by her, Testolagh on top of her in that final bit when she’d come.

Keris paused. “You… liked that,” she said, feeling nervous. No, of course Pekhijira had liked that. She’d liked that so her lower, most base soul had liked that. “I… don’t like who I became with him.”

lust, thought the serpent.

“I know, but-”

lust, she repeated.

“I know I… I liked it, but I don’t want to lose control again and-”

lust-pleasure-anticipation, Pekhijira insisted. But no fear.

“You’re not scared,” Keris realised. “But… I’m scared. What if I…” She swallowed. “Maybe I can give it a go,” she offered. “Even if… if it goes wrong. I just won’t bed her again. And I’ll know I can’t trust myself to be in charge. Even if I really,” she slipped a finger inside, “really like it.”

Pekhijira huffed an acceptance, but didn’t depart. She could feel the snake lurking behind her eyes. Not exactly ready to merge with her and manifest, not yet, not exactly - but a presence in her thoughts, twined jealously around her arousal. And when Keris glanced at her reflection, settling her nerves, she could see her pupils had turned to slits.

“Come on, girl, let’s go play,” she whispered, blinking her eyes back to normal.