I waited impatiently in my chamber for news from my servants. Not more than twenty minutes before, I had been informed that the tower was under siege. A small group of plucky, yet courageous men had stormed my humble abode in hopes of removing me from power, or to be more precise, of robbing me of what I had conquered through my own strength and cunning. I was told that the trespassers were “armed to the teeth”, so to speak, and would present something of a challenge to my most experienced personal guards.
I slithered back and forth from my chamber, asking myself I ought not leave the safety of the room and join my followers in repelling the rebellious rabble. No, I told myself at last. The queen is the most powerful, but her moves must be more strategic. I must not mix with the pawns unless it is to destroy something more powerful.
Almost an hour had passed before I heard an ominous knock at my chamber door.
“We bring you visitors, m’lady,” hissed a voice from the other side. It was Ashtoreth, my most-trusted guard.
“Very well,” I said. “You all may enter.”
The door flew open and smashed against the golden bricks that made up my chamber with an earth-shattering din. My guard, an armed skeleton who had been reanimated by my magic, led three Palmans into the chamber, each of whom appeared to be slightly injured. Furthermore, all three of them had burlap sacks placed over their heads; it was standard procedure for bringing captives and prisoners into my presence. Two more stalkers entered the room as well.
I gestured for Ashtoreth and his companions to close the door. “Well, well, well,” I said. “What do we have here? It would seem you have come here looking for trouble.”
The three men stood completely still. In fact, they stood so rigidly that I wondered if my gaze had not penetrated the sacks they wore.
Shaking my head, I slithered up to one of them. I gently caressed the skin around the open wound from which blood poured liberally. The raw flesh slowly pulled itself together while a new layer of skin grew over it in a matter of seconds.
“Who are you and why are you here?” I asked gently.
“Don’t touch me, you freak!” the first prisoner replied.
“Insolent Palman insect. I shall teach you a little about respect,” I said.
I yanked the sack from his head. Unsurprisingly, the man’s eyes were closed. For a moment I examined him. The invader was a not a handsome man. His orange beard was tainted with the blood of my loyal guards and followers and his skin was ruddy with age. He was a bloodthirsty troglodyte at the very most; there was absolutely no sign of culture or sophistication in his angry countenance.
Digging my sharp fingernails into his eyelids, I pulled at them until those feeble flaps of flesh could no longer hide his fearful eyes. It took only a few seconds for the process to begin. The man’s body began to harden and his skin began to turn an ashy grey. I gazed intently at him for a few moments before turning away. Summoning up the dark energy that ran through veins, I fired a bolt of energy at him. The man’s partially-petrified body exploded, the shock of the blast knocking his friends to the ground. The translucent remnants of the belligerent beast littered my chamber, not quite stone, but no longer flesh and blood.
I moved on to the next prisoner. Dispensing with the usual interrogation, I removed burlap barrier from his head and examined him much like the first. This was an infinitely more handsome specimen, with his youthful innocence still engraved upon his face. I could see it in his visage that he was not a man of violence, but an idealistic one who simply used violence for what he felt was “the greater good”—if there was peaceful alternative, he would choose it without thinking twice I like those ones the best; they are a lot more fun to toy with.
I brought my face close to his and even went so far as to brush my lips lightly against his before stopping near his ear.
“How many others are they?” I whispered.
This second prisoner contorted his face as he fought the temptation to speak up. I turned my tone of voice up to “full vamp,” as the Palmans would put it.
“Please, my dear, how many more of you are there?”
Sticky beads of sweat rolled down the man’s face, some of which wetted his lips. Finally, he broke down and said, “There were fifteen us of. But only four—three of us are left.”
“And who’s the other one?” I said. I bit his earlobe lightly.
“Traitor!” yelled the man’s companion.
I ignored the third captive; I’d deal with him soon. I had heard enough; Perseus had had a strong reputation throughout all of Palma as a “hero of the people” and “an enemy of all oppression.” I had on numerous occasions sent my death squads out to exterminate him; I didn’t even have the desire of seeing him die in person. Unfortunately, the persistent little roach of a man had resisted every attempt I had made to kill him. Now he was wandering around my tower with the intent of killing me. I could only hope that my disciples would outnumber him and destroy him.
But I believed in relishing all opportunities for pleasure, so I didn’t want to pass this one up. I cupped the man’s head in my hand and pulled his face against my mine. Our lips met and I kissed him passionately. It only took a few seconds for the weak-willed man to give in to my charms and return the gesture, tongue and all. I loved the taste of confusion in a Palman’s kiss. It was just as I sensed that he was beginning to enjoy the experience that I gave the signal. The vipers and asps that adorned my head struck as one, each and every one of them sinking their fangs into the man’s face. The man groaned in agony and convulsed for a few moments before collapsing to the floor.
“Tsk. Tsk.” I said. “There’s a reason they say not to fraternize with the enemy.”
It was now time for the last one. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to have the same fun with this one that I had with the other prisoner, so I determined to cut to the chase and decorate my tower once more. Pulling off the bag, I was rather surprised to see him with his eyes open, glaring me at me. The sound of rock cracking and flesh hardening echoed in my chamber; this one either didn’t want me to force any information out of him or simply wanted to make things quick. He got his wish. I picked up my new Palman statue and placed him in the corner of the room, after which I ordered Ashtoreth and others to find and kill Perseus before he could make it to my inner sanctum. The skeletal warriors stalked out of my chamber leaving me alone again.
There’s a feeling of empowerment that one feels when killing captives; you think that nothing is capable of defeating you. You feel like the universe revolves around you. That feeling dissipated quickly, though, giving way to fear and dread. What if my guards were unable to stop Perseus? I had killed a great number of prisoners in the fast few years, but none of them had presented any sort of danger to me. Would I be able to hold my own against this Palman upstart?
I don’t know how much time passed before I heard a knock at my chamber door. When no voice came to identify my caller, my hands began to tremble. I slithered into a corner and waited for a few moments. Nothing. Minutes passed before I began to reason with myself that if it were Perseus, he would have barged into my chamber with his sword drawn and ready for battle. I composed myself and slinked across the chamber to the hulking metal structure and opened it.
Lying at the foot of the door was a dead manticore. In fact, it was my favorite manticore. I had even given this one a name: Nemeanus. You might have even said that I considered it to be my pet. I reached down and dragged the creature into my sanctum and closed the door. I caressed the beast’s face, allowing my anger at Perseus to simmer inside of me. He was playing mind games with me. He was trying to break me down. Well, he’d have to try a little bit harder if he—
Suddenly, something stirred inside the body of that great beast. I heard the sickening sound of flesh tearing, followed by a bright flash of light. Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my gut: it had been sliced open. I saw the shape of a man leap out of the huge tear in the beast’s hide. The man moved away from me into the corner of the chamber. I turned to face him, only to see a large circular mirror covering the marauder’s face. Only the Mirror Shield and the partially-charred metal guards that protected his legs were visible.
“Perseus!” I hissed.
That Palman scum gave no reply. A metal object popped up from behind his shield. It was the barrel of a laser pistol. Blue beams of light flew across the room. Some of the struck me and burned my scales. A few of them struck my head; I screeched in horror as I saw the charred, lifeless bodies of my dear snakes plop to ground. Losing all sense of composure, I howled and fired bolts of dark energy at Perseus, all of which were deflected by his shield.
Instead of staying in the corner, the Palman pushed forward, braving my onslaught of energy blasts. Nothing seemed to hold him back. Suddenly, Perseus lurched forward and swung his mighty sword. I felt the laconian blade dig into the side of my neck. I tried to cry, but I couldn’t. The world around me began to shake and spin violently, until I felt my head strike something hard. It was the ground.
I saw my body writhing around on the ground beside me, convulsing the same way a Palman does when he has a seizure. It took only a few moments for tail to stop moving, but my torso kept trembling. I saw the exposed flesh of my neck moving and parting. All of a sudden, a single feline paw appeared from within the stump. A second paw appeared and, digging its claws into a space between the bricks on the floor, started pulling itself out of my body.
The creature’s fur, despite being covered with blood, was a golden yellow. A pair of white, feathery wings sprouted from the creature’s shoulders. Soon I could see its feline face emerge from within me, followed quickly by the rest of its body. The cat-like animal walked up to be and batted my head around the floor with its paws as if I were nothing but a ball of yarn. Losing interest in me, it ran over to Perseus and nuzzled its head against that murderer’s legs. Perseus knelt down and picked the cat up and started walking toward the exit.
“When you get to the abyss,” I heard him say. “Remember who sent you there.”
I felt his boot strike the side of my head, sending me flying across room. I could say nothing, but could only think and desire that my misery end soon. It took only a couple of minutes before the lamps ceased to give their light. It might’ve been eyes finally giving up on me. All I know was that I was soon enveloped in darkness and welcomed its desperate, miserable embrace.
The serpent lady felt something tug at her. It was not the ghoulish hands of the near-infinite demonic spawn that inhabited the expanse of oblivion where she had dwelt for almost an entire millennium. She had gotten used to their endless grabbing, poking, scratching, and groping. However, the force that pulled at her blackened soul was different. It had purpose and direction; the serpent could feel it. She soon felt her spirit being pulled out from the midst of the monstrous hosts that had surrounded her for so long.
She soon felt free of the claustrophobic nightmare that was the pit she had been banished to. The perpetual darkness began to give way to a sight she had not seen for centuries: light. Chaos took a backseat to organization and beauty. Yes, that was it. She was being summoned back to her old world. The serpent rejoiced that the beauty of Algo would now hers to behold.
The next thing she knew, she was standing in the huge hall. Before her stood a huge man of more than seven feet from the tips of his armored feet to the top of the horned crown adoring his head. Her benefactor had his back turned to her, giving the serpent lady only a view of a long, flowing blue cape and the large blue horns that curved upwards from his headwear.
“Who are you?” the serpent lady asked.
“I am Lassic. As you can imagine, I’ve summoned you from the depths of oblivion.”
Lassic turned his head slightly, giving her a glimpse of his shriveled, dried up face. “It is time for you to pick up where you left off. All of Algo will soon be ours.” Turning away, he continued, “Until then, the Palmans are your playthings.”
Upon hearing this, the serpent lady licked her lips. “And you?”
“I am your king. You are my general. There is nothing more. I shall arrange for you to be returned to the tower you once lived in. You shall await further instructions there.”
Bowing her head, the snake woman said, “As you wish my lord, Lassic. I am grateful that you had not forgotten me.”
Lassic said nothing, but gestured for his guards to accompany the serpent lady and walked away.
With a loud cackle of triumph, the gorgon slithered out of the castle.