50. Ceremony, Vision, Illusion

Soundtrack and Video, Adam Ant, Kings of the Wild Frontier (Live 2011)

Alecto has finally finished Inglorion’s back, and now a young woman is splayed across his spine, half-hanged: Arachne in the process of metamorphosis from human to spider. It’s an image dear to the Drow, and to the Theates in particular: Arachne confronted the goddess Athena with a woven record of the crimes of Zeus, and was cast out and punished for it, much as the Drow themselves were.

Beneath that, across the small of his back, Alecto has inscribed a heron. Inglorion’s father was named for the Thracian king Tereus, whose symbol was a bird eternally prepared for war, with a rapier-like bill and a crest that resembles a soldier’s plumed helmet.

After the last, long session, Inglorion’s tempted to tell Alecto that he’s had all the visions he needs, thank you very much. But it’s tradition — what the gods demand — the price of spiritual awareness. No knowledge is too terrible, he tells himself sternly. He will take the drug and get the last tattoo and accept whatever the gods choose to show him.

An animal part of him remains unconvinced, so he feels physical dread and loathing as Alecto swabs his face, applies the stencil, and mixes the ink. It’s all he can do not to cringe away when she administers the injection. He starts to shiver from the chill of the drug entering his bloodstream.

The drug hits, and he retches miserably. His stomach is empty, so there’s just a bitter taste in his mouth, amplified and elaborated by drug-induced awareness. The needle hurts like hell, too — she’s working over his jaw and cheek. It’s needle over bone, and Alecto doesn’t spare him, though she does stop briefly and ask, “Are you good? Is this OK?”

“It’s fine. I’ll settle in. I just didn’t expect to puke, that’s all.” Another rush of nausea overcomes him. He feels faint, but remains miserably conscious and aware.

“We’ll see how you’re doing in a few hours,” she says. “We can always divide it over a few days.” She starts up again, and he focuses on the pain, strives to find his center in it.

He finds himself in an ornate bedroom at night. A single candle is lit. Even in the gloom, he can pick out elaborate wainscoting and crown moldings, a profusion of silk draperies.

Tereus hears muffled laughter outside the window, and looks out through a gap in the drapes. The master bedroom overlooks a formal garden dotted with orange and lemon trees and brilliantly lit by a full moon. The window is open. The breeze is heavy with the scent of orange blossoms. He feels smoldering anger, tension in his jaw and neck — long-suppressed physical rage. It’s late. He’s tired, vaguely sick. That’s how he always feels: restless, exhausted, rubbed raw. 

He hears a feminine giggle, quickly suppressed, and then a man’s voice. He can’t make out the words, but the tone is seductive and playful. Tereus feels a surge of irritation as he picks out a couple sneaking through the garden hand-in-hand, making for the door leading to the back stairs and the servants’ quarters. It’s Fabius, with some wench he’s trying to ball. Tereus feels a familiar surge of disgust and disbelief that he spawned such a weedy specimen. The usual thought crops up: He’s so tiny and cute. If he were a girl, I’d fuck that sissy myself.

The parlormaid he’s got in tow is a pretty piece. Nice curves. A half-elf, so she’s more earthy and solid, a bit of cushion for the pushing. They kiss as he watches, and he sees his son grab that ripe ass, knee her thighs apart, and draw her against his cock. The little Drow boy gives her a knowing look. She drops gracefully to her knees. He takes his cock out. They’re brilliantly lit in the moonlight, so he can see her head bobbing and hand working, and his son, leaning against a tree trunk, all but limp with the shock of sudden pleasure, one hand guiding her head. His hair and skin glow white. His fingers are pale in her dark curls.

Though Tereus can’t see much of her — just the sweet inward curve of her waist, a hint of bosom — he finds himself getting hard. To Inglorion’s horror, Tereus takes out his cock and strokes it. It’s uncanny to handle another man’s cock with such familiarity — to see the little tricks Tereus uses to hurry himself along, cupping his balls and twisting them lightly, occasionally giving the entire unit a brisk shake. The weight and girth is familiar and comforting to Tereus.

Below, in the garden, Fabius’ eyes are closed. His head falls to the side, and the curve of his neck speaks of almost unbearable pleasure. The girl’s head moves faster. He stops her, holds her head down, gently urging himself deeper into her throat. Tereus feels a desperate rush of excitement as he sees her choke, come up for air, then take the boy’s cock deep again. He has to ease up to avoid coming too soon.

Fabius twines his fingers deeply in her hair, and an expression of pure joy suffuses his face. After a moment he slides to his knees and kisses her. Tereus knows exactly how her lips and tongue would taste — the flavor of musk and ocean. He comes abruptly and hard.

His ejaculate is hot on his hand and groin, then quickly cold and sticky. There’s a sharp tumult of emotion: disgust he can’t name or fully see, followed by a wave of bitter self-loathing. He lets the curtain drop, walks to the sideboard, wipes himself on a dishtowel, pours and drinks two glasses of liquor in succession. To Inglorion it tastes of smoke and gasoline. In a moment, things blur around the edges. Something unclenches within Tereus, easing his rage and shame. 

After a third glass, Tereus walks to Lavinia’s chamber. His steps are heavy, deliberate, but still steady. She’s asleep, or pretending to be. He wakes her, thrusts his cock in her face. It gives her no pleasure, but Tereus gets to see those lovely lips wrapped around it, that beautiful face distorted with effort and concentration. He can’t come. He can’t even get half-hard. But he can smack her face with it and say a few filthy things. He feels — what? Blank. And that’s all he needs.

After a time, her air of resignation and disgust quenches his last flicker of interest. He ties his robe, returns to his own bedchamber: gloomy, grand, cold. He’s tormented by the usual restlessness, a mix of loathing, shame and impatience. He paces in front of the hearth for a moment. He needs these feelings to stop.

He brings the decanter and glass over to the bed and settles into the bank of feather pillows. Tomorrow he will feel exhausted, cloudy, grimy inside and out. He’ll be as uncomfortable and ashamed as he is now, but in the full light of day, with the anesthetic brutally removed. In the meantime, he’s unlikely to feel euphoria or even calm, but he can feel nothing for awhile, and that’s good enough.

He returns to the sight of the half-elf girl on her knees, playful and eager to please, tries to switch it around in his head and get it just right. He can’t quite blot out the figure of his son. The Drow kid has that terrible energy that wiry guys have — lively and quick like a baby rattlesnake. And that look he gave her when he took out his dick! Enjoy it while you can, kid, he thinks, raising his glass in a silent toast. 

As he lies there drinking, he keeps returning to that dark head, the pale hand guiding it down tenderly, firmly. The trick is to just see the parts he wants: the curve of her waist and bottom, her eagerness and diligence. He’s had her in this room, making up the fire. He can almost edit together a reel from scraps, step into the blank spot opposite her, give her the look, and all the cues that follow. His hand on her head, his back against the tree trunk, his boots planted in leaf litter and spent orange blossoms, his cock in her hot, willing mouth.

He can’t quite get there. Instead he sees Lavinia’s cold revulsion, his son’s feral beauty, the way the girl avoided his gaze as she cleaned the hearth and set the fire. It won’t work. It’s late, he’s tired and spent. There’s too much to filter out. But he has to think of something as he waits for relief, so this is what he thinks.

The level falls in the decanter. A stale, flat, blurred dawn arrives. 

He’s lying on his stomach, head to one side. Alecto has him pinned down firmly as she plies the needle. He’s cold. The sweat has mostly dried. He’s still very high, and in a lot of pain.

She asks, “What did you see?” 

“I was my father again.” He’s too high to respond in any organized way, so he stops there.

She nods, continues to work the needle.

He’s sick and exhausted. Her hands are strong, so he lies there in wincing misery. The spiders are back.

“Not much longer,” she says. “About an hour.”

“How long has it been?”

“Four. Just one more.”

That calms him. He can lie here and take it. There are visions after that, but they’re partial, fragmented. Something terrible in that same room with Lavinia and Sieia. Inglorion’s relieved to see it melt away, half-formed.

Alecto finishes up, swabbing his face over and over to remove the last traces of blood, ink and sweat. She props him up, hands him a mirror. He sees his face white-hot in the darkness. On the right side, there are two cold, black slashes of warpaint across his cheek. His eyes are lined with black lashes, curling up to the orbital bone, and down over the crest of his cheekbone. On the left, she’s cleverly inked in shadows to form a skull. The jaw, teeth, cheekbone and orbital socket shine through. His open eye glows silver; when he closes it, the socket goes black and empty. He’s almost appalled at how perfect the illusion is. 

“Here,” she says. She strikes a match and lights a candle, and even that bit of ambient light banishes the marks, leaving his face as flawless and fair as before. “Only the Drow can really see it. To gray elves, or anyone else with rudimentary dark vision, in total darkness your face will just look cloudy, blurred.”

“Like a caul,” he says, marveling.

“If you like, yes.” She snuffs the candle and it’s back: warpaint, skull.

“It’s perfect,” he says. 

3 thoughts on “50. Ceremony, Vision, Illusion

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