The Pearl Ch. 11byThistlethorn©
Author's note. I have changed the naming of the chapters again. I am going back to the old style. For anybody who missed chapter 10, it is between chapters 1 and 2 at the beginning of the list, entitled The Pearl 2. Sorry for any confusion. Also, this is the section of the story where things start to get a little dark.
The Pearl part 2: Whore Spider
Edited by PennLady
This is a copyrighted work of fiction. All rights reserved.
Qiang stood as a human on the river bank and waited, forcing himself to be patient. As he surveyed the river for what felt like the hundredth time, he caught sight of Sebastian. He crossed his arms and watched, with eyebrows raised and jaw set, as Sebastian approached.
"So kind of you to come," was Qiang's sardonic greeting.
"Yeah, well, I knew it was you."
"So you took your own sweet time?"
"Something like that." Sebastian shrugged.
"Fine," Qiang sighed. "How do you want to do this?"
"Why are you asking me? You were the one left in charge."
Qiang struggled to hide his irritation. He pinched the bridge of his nose and said, "Look, neither of us would have made the arrangement. But made it is. The question is: how do we survive it? I promised your elder I would watch you, and by Heaven, that's what I'm going to do."
"Then do it," Sebastian grumbled.
Qiang looked as if he might say something, but reigned it in with a visible effort, then recrossed his arms in front of himself and looked down to gather his thoughts.
"But you see," Qiang began as he looked back up to Sebastian and took a step forward. "The how of it is open to interpretation. The most literal course would be for me to arrange for others to see to my current responsibilities and install myself here, twenty-four/seven, until Chang's return. In the absence of a reasonable suggestion from you on your preference, this will be my course of action."
"Yes." Qiang uncrossed his arms and shrugged. "That way most thoroughly and completely discharges my obligations."
"Yeah, now, you see, I'm not really liking that."
"Oh? So what is your suggestion?"
"Chang would stop by like, once a day."
Qiang gave Sebastian a baleful look. "I assure you he was well aware of anything that was happening in his absence."
"He didn't know it when you showed up to kick my ass." Sebastian glared.
"Oh, he did. And he went to the pearl. Which wasn't with you."
"Oh yeah." Sebastian rolled his eyes. "There was that. Then why does he need you to look out for me?"
Qiang brought his hands together in a gesture of frustration, then pointed to Sebastian. "He is going to the Middle Kingdom. To the spirit side. When crossed over, you're only aware of whichever side you're on. Being there," Qiang pointed off to one side, "he won't be aware of what's happening over here." Qiang pointed in front of Sebastian. "Understand?"
Sebastian looked down, sheepish. "Yeah, I knew that. Sorry."
Qiang inhaled and let out a slow breath. "All right, now that that is cleared up, how are we proceeding? Stopping in once a day is not sufficient when I have no means of knowing if something else comes up."
Sebastian shrugged. "I don't know. It's not like I can call your cell phone."
Qiang reached into his jacket pocket. "It just so happens that I have this." He held up a silver chain, from which dangled a stone about the size of his palm.
Sebastian leaned in close to examine it. The stone was oblong, though it's shape wasn't exact. The stone was bright red-orange, semi-transparent, and glistened in the light, throwing off flashes when the sun hit it just right. The silver chain looked delicate and filigreed. Sebastian could sense the magic.
"What is it?" he asked.
"A fire opal." Qiang twirled the gem, refracting more light. "But more importantly," he continued, "it's a talisman." He stopped the twirling stone so Sebastian could see the back. There was a small Chinese character inscribed there. "With this, you can contact me if you need my immediate attention."
Sebastian cocked his head and regarded the stone. While it was large for a gem stone, it was small compared to Sebastian's dragon form.
"Perhaps you've noticed I don't have pockets."
Qiang snatched the side of Sebastian's head and pulled it close then hung the talisman off one of his antlers. As soon Qiang released his head, Sebastian jerked back.
"You could have asked," he complained as he twisted his head to get a look.
"I suppose I could have." Qiang stifled a smile.
"I can't see it."
"It's on your antler, of course you can't see it."
"What if it falls off?"
"Can you sense it?"
Sebastian stood a moment in contemplation. Qiang blessed the silence.
"Yeah, actually, I can." Sebastian's tone was surprised, but pleased.
"Well, if you stop sensing it, it's fallen off. At which point you should locate it and put it back. However, it's on there pretty snug so there shouldn't be a problem."
Sebastian paused again as a thought hit him. "This was your plan from the beginning." He gave Qiang a suspicious look.
"Yes, it was," Qiang conceded with a smile. "But trust me, I am more than willing to implement my first plan and will do so, in a heartbeat, if this doesn't work."
Sebastian was none to pleased to be outmaneuvered by Qiang. Even though he wouldn't do it, Sebastian said, "so if I get into some kind of trouble, you'll have to answer for it?"
Qiang continued to smile. "Yes, that's true. And if you intentionally do something with that goal in mind, Chang will know. I believe you've already covered yanking my chain?"
Sebastian sighed. This was definitely turning into a Calvin/Rosalyn sort of situation.
A few days, and dutiful Qiang check-ins, later, Sebastian sidled his way into one of the barren areas along the river. It had always given him the creeps, but the energy had somehow changed in the past day. Remembering Chang's admonition to keep these areas under close scrutiny, he was determined to ascertain the reason why.
unwise to do alone best to wait for chang
"I don't know when he'll be back and I don't know if this will hold until he is." Sebastian took a long and careful look around. He surveyed another industrial area that had been long-abandoned. Sebastian wondered at the fact that there were so many along the river. The river's length was considerable, about eighty-five miles, and some development would be expected. The areas that concerned him felt forsaken; as though someone had tried to do something, then left in a hurry. He shook himself. Maybe he would ask Dakota to check the river's history.
The sound of the water took on the character Sebastian had come to recognize as the river thinking. After a moment the river came to the resigned if disagreeable suggestion, wait for qiang or summon him
"I'm not going to call him if this is the metaphysical equivalent of a dead woodchuck under the porch, unpleasant but not a big deal. I have his little token." Sebastian gave a shake of his head for emphasis. "If this goes south, I'll call him damn quick, I promise."
Apprehensive, Sebastian climbed out of the river. He analyzed the feeling of the ground and took a deep breath as he sought out what had changed with this place. The ground was gritty under his feet. He lowered his head to his front leg, gathered dirt and let it run through his claws. The ground cover appeared made up of ground debris from whatever manufacturing occurred here. The air was bitter and left a sour taste in his mouth. But the elements of this place conspired to keep their secrets from him. He could discern nothing. He picked his way further in.
He could have sworn he felt eyes upon him, but when he looked around he saw no one. Only spiders that clung to the tumbledown buildings. Damn if it didn't look like they were watching, he thought. Sebastian ducked his head into one of the buildings and paused to listen. He pricked up his ears to catch a faint sound. Sobbing. He listened a little longer, and determined it wasn't a trick of the wind. He shifted to human then checked for Qiang's talisman and found it tied into his hair.
"Uh, hello?" he called tentatively. "Are you all right? I'm not going to hurt you."
Sebastian made his way further into the rubble, guided by the sound. As he walked along, he felt something brush against him, like he was walking through strings, or webbing. He brushed himself and looked about, but saw nothing. He continued on.
He felt the pull of the river, but hen it lessened, as though the volume had been turned down. Sebastian stopped as the strangeness of the place got to him, and turned to go back when the crying became louder and more insistent. He paused and considered what he should do. He made his way forward, toward the crying.
After a few minutes of searching and passing through invisible cobwebs that made his skin crawl, Sebastian found a figure huddled in a corner. The sobbing softened as he drew near. The figure appeared female, though he couldn't be sure. She was curled into the corner, with her back to him and she was covered in ragged clothing. He sniffed the air around her, but caught no scent. That seemed odd, but the harder he tried to focus on why, the more the idea slipped away.
"Um, ma'am, are you all right?"
She looked over her shoulder at him. Her face was pretty, though sad. But underneath the display of emotion, the face seemed somehow contrived and predatory. As Sebastian focused on what was wrong with the face, his thoughts blurred and he brushed at what felt like webbing on his face. He shook his head and tried to gather his thoughts. Why was he here? Oh, the woman.
"I'm sorry," he said, looking again at her. "Are you all right?"
She looked into his face and nodded. She held out her hand and he helped her up. Her grip was surprisingly strong, and cold. Her fingers were long and oddly jointed.
"I am better now, thank you." She rose up unsteadily, then faltered and fell against him. Sebastian reached out and caught her. He looked down into her pale, too-perfect face and became lost in her endless black eyes. She reached her hand up and drew it around his neck. Sebastian flinched as he felt a sharp sting. He started to reach around to brush it away, but she caught his hand.
"You are so very kind, please let me repay you," she whispered, and pressed herself against him.
Sebastian felt his body respond to her, but something in her manner caused his every instinct to flare in warning. He began to look back and pull away.
"That's...that's all right. If you're OK... I'll just...go on my way."
She tightened her grip on his hand and turned his head back to her. He felt chills begin to run through him as a cold sweat broke out on his body. Still, the urges her touch elicited were getting stronger. Stronger than his instinct to flee.
"Please, stay with me. I am afraid and I need you." She shrugged just enough for the threadbare garment she wore to fall open, revealing the curve of her breast and the barest hint of her nipple. Sebastian wanted to taste it in the worse way.
The river burst into Sebastian's awareness. He could discern no words, but the urge to bolt surged through him. Almost on its own accord, his body pushed the alluring stranger away and turned to run. He ran into a thick wall of webbing he hadn't seen before and was instantly tangled in it.
The sense of the river and urge to escape dominated his awareness for a few moments more, then everything went numb. His legs gave out from underneath him and he fell to the floor as the webbing vanished. He laid there and tried to remember what he had been doing just a moment before. Something to do with the river. It seemed like it was fairly important...
He felt a cool and gentle touch on his back. He eased himself into a sitting position and looked to see the strange young woman kneeling down next to him.
"Oh dear, you poor thing. Are you all right?"
Sebastian regarded her. It seemed there was something he should be thinking about her, that was unrelated to her attractiveness. Something bad.... But she seemed so nice.
"Yeah, I'm all right. Tripped over something I guess. Awfully clumsy of me."
She smiled, shy and seductive at the same time, and slid closer to him. "I think you were very brave and kind to come in here and check on me." She ran a hand down his side. "I think such things should be rewarded, don't you?"
Sebastian nodded. She enclosed him in her arms and kissed him as she pushed him over onto the floor. He offered no more resistance than a rag doll. Then her clothes were gone, as were his, though he had no memory of either of them undressing. It seemed to him there should be something strange about that.
Her body was pale, but dull, like ash. Her hair was long and black, like shadows that clung to her head and body. Her face and body were perfect, but there was something off in the perfection. Everything about her that was beautiful had an odd quality about it.
She straddled him. Her pubic hair rubbed against him, stiff and wiry, and caused some irritation to the skin along his abdomen. She ran her hands down his chest. Her hands didn't feel right. Instead of fingers, it felt like little legs crawling over him. Spider legs. He shivered and his thoughts drifted to how much better Dakota was at this. He squirmed and tried to dislodge her.
Dakota, this was not Dakota and that was wrong. The thought seemed to burn through some of the fog in his head and he tried to focus on it. The woman pushed him back down and kissed him again with more force; her tongue crawled into his mouth, probing. His struggles weakened as his mind was again filled with fog.
"Now, isn't that so much better?" she murmured. "Nothing to worry about at all. I'll take good care of you."
She trailed a long line of kisses down his chest, leaving behind little red welts. When she reached his penis she took it into her long-fingered hands and began to stroke and fondle it. Sebastian's body responded to her attention and she smiled. She knew her craft.
"You're fate is sealed, little one," she whispered. "But that doesn't mean you should suffer." Once he was solid and erect, she settled on him. She twisted and weaved her body around him until she enveloped his shaft within her. Her movements remained slow, but gradually built momentum until his body surrendered itself to her.
She shrilled her pleasure to the sky and the watching spiders as she milked his body for all the vitality she could plunder. As she came back down, she watched Sebastian's body as it shuddered. She was concerned for a moment, and reached down to his chest. She was relieved to find breath still moved and the heart still beat.
"You had me worried for a moment," she confided to the spent Sebastian beneath her. "But then, you're not all you appear to be."
She climbed off of him and moved his head into her lap.
"Show me, my precious. Show me your true self."
The human form melted into the dragon, still laying his head in her lap. He blinked and looked at her. He could tell he had shifted but didn't care. When she smiled at him, nothing else mattered
"What a beautiful creature you are," she crooned. She noticed a stone hanging from one antler. She removed and examined it then twisted her features into a look of disdain.
"Oh, we can't have this around, now can we?" She gestured and an enormous spider darted towards her.
"Take this," she said. "And take it far from here." The little creature obeyed.
She turned her attention back to Sebastian. "Yes, my fine young dragon, you shall make a very fine repast indeed." She turned and reached for a stringed instrument. The neck was short, and the body like a lute. It had four strings, and the woman began to draw a beautiful, haunting tune from it. Sebastian turned his head and watched her play.
"What is that?" he asked, dazed.
She smiled down at him. "It is a biwa," she explained. "It is an instrument traditionally played by my people. Do you like it?"
"Good. I think it is nice to have some civility in the world." She continued playing.
The river raged, incensed by what had transpired. The water rose several inches and slapped against the shore and building. But even in its rage, there was nothing the river could do except knock a few straggling spiders into the water to drown. The building was sealed; the water could find no way inside It had no means to contact anyone, and its only conduit was trapped in spells.
Unknown to the spiders and their mistress, or even the ensnared dragon or his river, a hidden observer shivered at what he saw below. His yellow feathers were dulled with dust and stray webbing. He merited no scrutiny from the forces around him. His attention was riveted on the spectacle, and his mind raced.
The simplest thing, the darkness whispered, is do nothing. Let the spider have its prey and he will no longer be your concern.
For a moment he considered taking flight, even started to open his wings. Yet he couldn't tear his eyes away from the creature that held sway over Sebastian. For even as he saw a beautiful woman, the other senses he was seeing the world with showed a far different picture.
The face still had some of the recognizable lines of the mask, but they were distorted by extra eyes, and mandibles formed a second mouth below the human one. The dark hair fell in sensual waves, but a multitude of spiders swarmed in the depths. The neck, shoulders, the arms playing the instrument, and the breasts could easily enough pass for human, in spite of the ashen hue. The enormous set of spider limbs curling forward from the where lower back blended into a mass behind her did not carry forth the illusion.
Her stomach, abdomen, and cunt would all pass for human, except they were attached to the grotesque body of a gigantic spider that sprawled out behind her. With a sickening dread he realized the cunt synced up to where the mouth would be on the spider body. Sebastian was resting his head on a nest formed of the front two legs, which in the illusion appeared as a human lap. The other legs were curled up against the body as the creature rested.
Chad was repulsed not only by the creature's appearance, but by what he sensed from it. Malevolence rolled off of it in noxious waves. It spread this malignancy around itself, seeking to destroy whatever it could. Chad was terrifyingly aware of how easily this creature could end his existence.
All the more reason to run, confirmed the darkness, his darkness.
He couldn't bring himself to flee. A thought was turning over in the corners of his mind. An association that, though it came unbidden, was all the stronger for it. There was another, deeper, reason he wanted to flee the scene below. He worried at the formless thought and tried to pull it forward into his consciousness. He puffed out his feathers and twitched his wings in frustration. There was something familiar in the abomination below. Something he couldn't quite fathom, and it made him uneasy.
It's me. The realization broke over him with shattering simplicity. The bloated horror plucking its instrument below was not only a reflection of his own darker impulses, but also a shocking indication of things to come.
This was the end game of his own darkness, for him to become nothing more than a hateful thing, preying on any foolish or unlucky enough to come within striking range.
He sat stock still, the enormity of the realization weighing on him. Finally, he asked himself a simple question:
Who am I?
In the silence he knew perhaps not the answer, but what he wanted the answer to be. He took flight.