Holding Me Together

“The raid on the Hobgoblin settlement has been successful, meaning we now control that entire sector of Silva. Already our forces are working to cut off the enemy’s supply lines.”

Malikel glanced over the map spread before her, tracing the pencil lines while she listened to the report. It was certainly an impressive expansion of their territory. With this they could finally afford to withdraw the main bulk of the army to recuperate; many of the soldiers were overdue for a rest.

Though speaking of soldiers…

“Have you recovered any new materials?”

Even without looking she could sense the officer shuddering, his voice growing quieter as he responded, “There were a few casualties but… none of them were intact.”

“I see.”

Her gloved hand tightened into a fist.

This would cause a delay in replenishing the advance scouts, which the Queen would not be happy about; she’d been in enough of a temper as it was after the loss of Proelium. Malikel knew the Queen understood her need for materials, and that she valued her role as a strategist just as much as her necromancy.

That didn’t mean she was immune from her wrath.

A small scab dropped onto the paper.

Malikel stared at it for a moment. Then her other hand reached under the veil covering her face, feeling the dead skin peeling around the bone.  

“Mistress?”

Her brown eyes flicked up, seeing the soldier still stood there, his expression a twist of fear and disgust as he also looked at the scab.

Getting to her feet she said “Thank you, that will be all for now. If we get any word from the General let me know upon my return.”

“R-return?” The soldier watched as she pulled on a long robe, placing a handful of dried flowers in one of the pockets and pulling the hood over her red hair before moving towards the door. “The Queen requests your presence immediately; she wants to go over our next move.”

“Tell the Queen I’m working on the issue of replenishing our troops. I’ll speak to her later.” With that Malikel pushed past the soldier, not missing him covering his mouth as she grew close.

Guards and servants gave her a wide berth in the corridors, avoiding her eyes and growing silent the closer she got. She was used to such a reaction. Necromancers made people nervous at the best of times, and almost everyone feared Revenants. Being both meant all kept their distance unless necessary; even her fellows in the war council only ever spoke to her about official business. It proved useful for privacy, especially when she had to focus on her work, but it also left her isolated. For a long time, she had nobody she could speak to; no one to act as her confidante.

Meeting Aino had changed that.

After picking out a horse from the stables and waiting for the drawbridge to be lowered, Malikel left the castle and headed towards Venenum. The journey was short as she had made this journey several times and knew all the shortcuts, though the increase in outposts meant she saw more people than usual. No one gave her trouble, but she knew that she was going to be the subject of rumours for a while.

Her horse suddenly drew back and whinnied, its hooves beginning to sink in the now marshy area. Shushing the animal, Malikel got down and progressed on foot. Her own boots were not immune to the muddy surface and she had to do a bit of jumping to the more secure areas, but within time she had reached a group of moss-covered rocks overlooking a large, murky lake. Taking a seat on one of the rocks, she started to watch the water. For several minutes the marsh was still, nothing but insects to break the silence. Then a faint ripple on the water’s surface caught her attention.

“There’s no need for dramatics Aino; I know you’re there.”

The ripples grew stronger, finally parting to allow a black-scaled, reptilian face to appear. A pair of silver eyes watched her, blinking sideways before saying in a hushed tone “I am lucky my prey is not as perceptive as you Sweet Carrion; otherwise I would have starved.”

“I’m sure I’m the only one you’re so predictable with. How has hunting been recently?”

The Lamia gave a wide grin, swimming forward and resting her arms on the bank while looking up at Malikel. “Alright, had a couple of your boys through here the other day. They’re a little bitter for my taste.”

Malikel smiled beneath her veil, watching the tip of Aino’s snake-tail idly swaying to and fro along the surface of the water.

Part of her still couldn’t believe this was real, even though the two had been meeting like this for several months. Their first encounter had been by accident; returning to the Queen after a successful assault on an enemy camp, Malikel and her force had gotten lost here in Venenum. While trying to get their bearings one of the soldiers had made the mistake of going through the water, right into Aino’s hunting ground. All the living had either been crushed or poisoned, it was only when Malikel resurrected one of the bodies that the Lamia had ceased her assault and was willing to speak. Far from being nervous or disgusted, as Malikel was used to, Aino seemed more… curious. They had agreed to a truce that allowed her team safe passage through the swamp, and at the time Malikel had no intention of returning.

Then the war continued. The scale of her operations increased, and she was growing more and more stressed with no means of release. Malikel found she was looking for secluded areas to try and relax, resorting to talking to herself when the isolation became too much. All it took was a few steps too far into the marsh and Aino had appeared; she found Malikel’s angry rambling quite funny, not helping her mood but opening the gate for further conversation. The two began to talk more and Aino proved to be a great listener, happily letting Malikel get everything off her chest with only the occasional comment in between. Thus, the visit became a regular thing, increasing in frequency since she’d been summoned back from the front lines permanently. Any time Malikel felt something bothering her, she’d come here to talk it out.

As if on cue Aino asked “So, Sweet Carrion, how goes your little army game? Has Queenie dominated the world yet?”

Malikel chuckled. “Hardly, though we’re gaining more territory. It’s likely the General will be ready for a larger assault soon.”

Aino’s head cocked to one side. “You don’t seem too excited; I thought more fighting was a good thing.”

“Only if you have the soldiers to fight.” Pulling down her hood and shaking her hair loose, Malikel returned the Lamia’s gaze as she continued “Recruitment has been low, the army hasn’t had chance to recuperate and I’ve been lacking materials to make up for what we’ve lost.”

“Materials?”

“Corpses.”

Blinking again, Aino’s tail dipped beneath the water for a few minutes before coming back with the top half of a skeleton. “This any good to you?”

Malikel spluttered with laughter, the skin around her eyes creasing with a smile that her veil couldn’t hide.

“I… hehehe… I appreciate the thought Aino, but I need intact materials to make sustainable soldiers. Intact… and fresh.” The smile faded as quickly as it had come, feeling the frustration boil inside her; she had been holding onto this for a long time. “That’s the problem with not being on the front lines as much, there’s a greater delay between me receiving the materials and being able to use them. The older a corpse is the less time it will remain conscious. Of course, their sentience is far below my own, nothing will change that, but the recently deceased can act independently for months at a time. Trying to coordinate a long-term attack with soldiers that will fall apart in less than a week… especially when that pig-headed General continues to treat them like fodder instead of giving them real orders… is nearly impossible to do from behind a desk. If I were out in the field, I could keep an eye on them but-”

A soft hissing in her ear made Malikel turn in surprise, seeing Aino’s face suddenly beside her own. She hadn’t noticed the other woman moving out of the lake, having curled her long tail around the rock she was sat on. Her thin smile still held as pressed her torso against Malikel’s back, but now there was an odd glint in her slit pupils.

“If it’s so difficult, then why are you here? Not that I mind having you visit more often…” A section of coils slid across her legs, allowing her to see a pattern of yellow diamonds amidst the black scales. “but clearly this position is stressing you out.”

Malikel struggled to keep her gaze steady, very much aware of the Lamia’s cold body against hers. She was far more comfortable with the intimacy now then when Aino had initiated it a few months ago, but those first touches always threw her off. Even when alive she’d never been a particularly physical person; her few relationships had been either brief or long-distance. And part of her still didn’t understand why Aino wanted to be close to her.

She certainly enjoyed it, but she didn’t understand it.

“The… the Queen has decided I would serve better here. She believes that such a role is more suited to my… talents. Her war council is growing tighter; she wants her most efficient servants close by. I suppose I should take it as a compliment.”

Long fingers ghosted over her chin. “You said yourself you work better in the field, and you’ve defied her orders before. Why is now different, Sweet Carrion?”

“I… I…” Her voice faltered, suddenly  hesitant to speak.

Aino was, as the she herself put it, a wild creature. Intelligent to be sure, but a being of instinct and survival. She had no interest in the machinations of royalty or the petty concerns of society, yet she had an uncanny knack for picking up on Malikel’s true feelings no matter what she said or did.

That’s why she felt so comfortable confiding in her.

Why she’d been able to tell her the one thing nobody else knew.

“It’s the list.”

Aino’s expression changed instantly, her voice lowering as she asked, “How many?”

“Four. Two have been seen on the front lines, one I know is at the Arce fortress and the other… the other I have no idea.” She gently pushed the coils off her legs, standing up and walking towards the water. “I haven’t been able to track her. And the last encounter accelerated my decomposition. Two more… hell, maybe even one more, and I could start falling apart. Until the Queen’s victory is assured, until my security is guaranteed, I can’t risk losing any more of them… so I need to stay here. Stay safe.”

Malikel clutched her arms, feeling her bones beneath the thin material of her robe.

Death was a part of her. She had dedicated her life to necromancy, learning how to manipulate and control those who had fallen. Even after her murder and her return as a Revenant, she was more concerned with the limits of her abilities rather than the loss of her mortality. Out of the seven who had killed her, three were dead. If she kept away from the survivors, she could control the instinct to kill them and prolong her existence. But as decomposition continued, she had to work even harder to disguise her decrepit state. The dried flowers in her pocket was a good example of this, trying to mask the scent of her own body. It was a constant reminder that she was on borrowed time; a walking corpse held together by revenge. Aino was the only one who didn’t seem to care… who still saw her as a person.

The Lamia in question was watching her, patiently waiting for a response, and Malikel found herself beginning to laugh nervously.  

“It’s not that big a concern. There’s been some alchemic developments I can use to supplement my magic, so I don’t have to strain myself as much, plus embalming has helped a great deal. The oils feel odd, but it helps me maintain my physical condition far better.  Old Leo even says he’s getting close to making a working prosthetic, so it might be worth just replacing-”

“No!” Aino tail suddenly snapped around Malikel’s waist, pulling her back roughly until she collapsed back into the pile of black coils. Her face leaned over, gazing at her upside down with a serious expression. “I’ve seen one of his toys skulking around; your soldiers were using it. It was… strange. I didn’t like it. And I don’t want you replacing ANYTHING… understood?”

Malikel blinked up in surprise. Aino could read her emotions like a book but rarely displayed many of her own; she certainly hadn’t anticipated this kind of outburst. She smiled softly, keeping her voice gentle as she said, “In time I may not have a choice, unless you want me to join those bones in the water.”

Aino’s expression didn’t change, though she did lean in closer and begin caressing her face and hair. Her coils started sliding around and in between her legs, their grip tightening but not quite squeezing. Malikel allowed her companion to do as she pleased while staring into her eyes. It was odd how relaxed she felt like this, far from what many would consider the ‘comfort’ of her personal chambers. Just being alone with Aino, admiring how the light played on her scales and enjoying her tender ministrations… had she been the religious type, she would say she had reached paradise.  

“You should stay with me.”

“Hmm?”

“Stay here, with me.” The coils tightened a little more. “I’ll hold you together.”

A small chuckle escaped her throat, Malikel reaching out a hand to touch her scaly cheek. “I won’t lie, it’s tempting. But you know it’s not that simple.”

“Sweet Carrion…” Aino moved her fingers to the veil, unhooking and casting it aside. Malikel flinched a little but remained still, allowing her to caress the skeletal lower jaw and peeling skin. “That’s because you won’t let it be simple.”

Aino pressed her lips against Malikel’s, softly at first but deeper as the Revenant began to respond. This upside-down kiss lingered for several minutes, allowing Malikel to enjoy the smooth, cold touch until Aino broke away.

“Thank you.”

The silver eyes blinked.” For what?”

“Just… being here.” A choke caught in her throat as she spoke. “Being able to talk to you, to let go of my stress… my fears, it helps a lot. I don’t know how I would have coped if I hadn’t met you. Aino… you already hold me together.”

A light hiss of contentment slipped through the thin lips, Aino’s expression so full of affection that Malikel felt her heart melting; what had she done to deserve this beautiful snake?
“I’ll always be here, Malikel. And I am always happy to talk. Although…” Her eyes suddenly took on a mischievous glint, and Malikel felt the tip of her tail beginning to run along her hip. “… there are other ways to relieve your… stress.”

The Lamia winked, eliciting a snort from Malikel as she asked, “I thought you wouldn’t be in heat for another month?”

“I won’t. But there’s something about your pretty bones that sparks my hunger.”

“Crazy necrophiliac.” Malikel muttered, but she eagerly pulled Aino’s face down for another, deeper kiss.

A small part of her mind told her she couldn’t stay long. That she had a lot of work to do and that the queen would be very angry at her departure. But she pushed those worries aside, choosing instead to focus on enjoying this moment for as long as she could.

Malikel had lived for twenty-seven years and been dead for three. But it was only here, lovingly wrapped in Aino’s coils, that she truly felt alive.

*

Decided to have a break from editing but still wanted to write so decided to indulge a bit. So here’s some dark fantasy lesbian monstergirl fluff (I rarely do straightforward romance so there will always be another genre mixed with it). It was fun, kind of a culmination of several different ideas I’ve had over the years. Got a bit cheesy towards the end but I’ve got a soft spot for cheesy romance. Might do more shorts like this in the future.

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