Sarlene's Touch Ch. 41byFuinimel©
"If you think this change means you can do what you like, think again. I own you, all of you." He grinned suddenly, a feral smile that did not reach his eyes, "but tomorrow, when these three are out of the way, we celebrate."
Zarenis sprawled back across the cushions, revelling in the feel of their soft satin, and took a sip of fine wine from a golden goblet. She was wearing a tight sleeveless top that left her midriff bare, high boots and a skirt that reached half way down her thighs.
She had taken on her favourite form, making her heritage clear to all, but not to the full extent that it had on her first encounter with the censer, before she had learned to control it at will. Her horns were prominent, curving spikes two inches in length, not the small nubs they had been in her former life, and a slender tail with a barbed tip curled against the cushions. Her eyes were garnet, not pure red; she had tried them brown, and human-like, but, in the end she had decided that she liked their natural colour. It reminded her of who she was.
"Ah, Amloth," she said, waving a hand as the drow entered the room, "how goes it with the Jalibian ambassador?"
"He has seen sense, as the Presence knew he would. The threat of our demonic forces has unnerved him, and he has brought gifts for us. Pearls, rare woods, exotic artworks, and..." she held out her hand, "this amber necklace, for you."
"Oh, I like that!" said Zarenis, leaping to her feet and stepping over to the drow woman to examine the necklace more closely. "Yes, that is nice. Very fine." She put it on, admiring the way that it glittered in the light from the great pillar of fire that shone from beyond the archway.
"So," she said, "everything is fine? The Jalibians will trade with us, and the city will be wealthy?"
"We could press for more," said Amloth, "for preferred trading status. They still do not fear us as much as they could, and perhaps we could persuade them to crush their paladins... or whatever their equivalent is. Our demons are strong, urging for a fight, I say we give them one, show the Jalibians the true cost of not bowing to our will."
"And I say we don't," said Zarenis, "certainly not yet. We are the great demon city, but that does not mean that we should antagonise our neighbours unnecessarily. And the demons will do as I tell them, for that is the will of the Presence."
"Oh, don't look so petulant, Amloth. I know that when you conducted the ceremony, you thought that you would be ruler of Haredil, that you would be the Presence's chief acolyte on this world. But you are not -- I am. It was always me, all along, that was my destiny, why I was created. My demonic blood binds me to the Presence like nobody else, and now that I am its living conduit, if you even thought about betraying me... well, you know what it would do to you."
"But don't worry about it -- you are my High Priestess, my deputy. Certainly higher than Scaggs and Valmor and all the rest. I mean, really, what do we even need a Thieves' Guild for anyway, these days? He took over from the Rake, but so what? And, in a city of demons, a priestess is always going to be more influential than a magician."
"You're important, Amloth," she said, leaning over to pat the woman's cheek, "of course you are. But no mortal being will have authority over me, ever again. The people of this city worship me as an avatar of the Presence, and even the demons follow my every command. I have everything I could ever want -- even this lovely necklace!"
She laughed at Amloth's expression, a mixture of wounded pride and affronted shock. "Oh, why can't I be frivolous from time to time? I can be whatever I want, whenever I want. I just never had the chance to do this before! Oh, and speaking of fun..."
She turned round, and jabbed a manicured finger towards one of the human guards standing to attention at the periphery of the room. "You! You get to join me in my bedroom tonight." She swished her tail, "infernal delights await you, and, believe me, they're always the best kind."
"Thank you, your highness!" gasped the guard, an exultant grin spread across his face.
Zarenis winked at him, then turned back towards Amloth, her face serious again. "Back to business. How goes my latest decree?"
Zarenis woke suddenly, staring at the ceiling above her. The dream had been vivid, contrasting her former life as a servant or victim to others, against what could be hers if only she anointed the sceptre. Amloth would be the last person ever to try to manipulate her, for soon, the tables would be turned.
She might not become that woman in the last part of the dream, but that was the point. She could become whatever she wanted to be. No more living like this, in a tiny garret, no more bowing to the Thieves' Guild, or anyone else. She could be the master of her own destiny, the powerful, feared, and beloved ruler of Haredil. It would all be so simple, just one little sacrifice.
She slipped from the bed, and ran her hand across one of the sharp spikes of the sceptre until a drop of blood fell onto the crystal. It flared into light, a powerful golden glow that flooded the room.
Zarenis was going to be a princess, after all.