A Cage Of Gold

Part 2 of The New Goddess

Clouds break in slow motion upon the walls of the crystal palace. The grand structure floats high in the sky, far above a kingdom bathed in the rays of the morning sun.

The view is stunning from up here. It’s like eating breakfast on the sky’s shoreline. Almost hard to imagine that not so long ago I was one of those tiny specks struggling for survival down below, in the streets of a city that looks very different from this vantage.

I can’t say I miss that life.

Standing up, I leave the table behind me. A backward glance reveals the dishes have already been removed, as has the table I was just using and the window I’d been gazing out of. No servants here, at least in the traditional sense; the palace itself serves. I’m still getting used to that.

I resume my daily exploration, ambling where my whims direct me. The steady tap of my boots echoes through a hallway that takes me to another wing of the palace, varying slightly in style from the one with my quarters. Has it been here the whole time? Last I came by this way, the same path led to a garden, and the time before that, a library. No idea whether these rooms still exist when I’m not visiting them or whether the palace simply chooses to guide me to wherever it wants me.

Once upon a time, I’d have gone out of my way to spite anyone that tried to lead me to do anything I hadn’t already decided I wanted, but I guess things change when you find religion. My Goddess is my shepherd, and I happily walk the path She lays before me.

Today Her path takes me to an ornate pair of doors. With a gentle push, they glide effortlessly open in a wordless invitation for me to continue.

A gorgeous foyer greets me, lavishly appointed with soft rugs, ornate tapestries, gold trimmed furnishings. It’s an entryway fit for the royal quarters of some big-deal monarch, much like the lodging provided for my use. Excitement gets the better of me, and I feel an uncontrollable grin split my face as I break into a jog. Could the other guest here be…?

From the antechamber to the private dining area through several more opulent rooms—I’m sure palaces have fancy names I’ll never know for each of them—I check for an occupant, finding nobody until I barge into the bedchamber and find myself staring at the sorceress who killed me.

Now, I’d like to credit my faith in Her for helping me stamp down the spike of fear that suddenly grips me, but to be honest with myself, it’s the gold shackles binding her arms, the collar of bone, and the chains anchoring her to the wall that are doing most of the heavy lifting there.


The raven-haired woman responds to her name with a wild-eyed stare, managing to look like a wretched and bedraggled mess even while wearing an immaculately tailored dress of luscious crimson, trimmed with lace. Black-painted lips open and close wordlessly, shock momentarily robbing her of speech.

“You escaped?” The words come at last. “No, of course you did. You were the picklock, were you not? The criminal. You were the one who helped them escape every trap I set. You probably broke free of a hundred prison cells to avoid justice whenever it came for you.”

The sorceress Velle leaps to her feet, and to my surprise the chains extend from the wall to allow her this much freedom. “Set me free,” she hisses in desperation. “Let me join you on your escape, and I will grant you anything you desire. Riches? Power? An army at your command!” Her eyes dart around the room. Her voice cracks. “Anything your heart imagines. Just hurry, before she returns!”

“Wow.” This is too much to process right now. “I mean, wow.” There, that should clarify my position on the topic. Wait, hold on, I might be able to do a bit better: “What are you on about?”

I recognize the expression that crosses her face. I’ve seen it on a lot of people I’ve met, usually accompanied by the question, “are you stupid?” Velle, at least, refrains from saying that aloud, choosing instead to gesture with shackled arms in a way that makes her chain rattle at me rather pointedly.

“Yeah, I didn’t have anything like that,” I reply. “No point in chaining someone up who doesn’t want to escape. I mean, have you looked at this place?” I gesture at the opulence surrounding us. “Who would try to escape paradise?”

“A cage of gold is still a cage when those inside cannot choose to leave it.”

“Oh no!” I gasp in mock horror. “I can’t leave behind all these free meals and silk sheets and actually having a bit of privacy for once! I can’t return to the thrilling life of a cutpurse, running from guards and sleeping outside! How I’ll miss wearing the same mud-soaked clothes for months at a time—”

“Shut up.”

“Come on, I’m not done. I’m still lamenting that I’ll never again experience the sublime joy of starving on the road, deciding to try eating berries I found, not expecting the stomach cramps followed by explosive—”

“I don’t want to hear it!”

“Are you sure? I can go into detail. I remember so much so vividly. Actually hold on, I’ve got one more memory for you: There was this time an evil sorceress fired shards of glowy stuff that ripped through my most important organs and killed me for no good reason.”

“I think you mean sh—”

“That one really hurt, you know. I died about it.”

Velle scoffs. “Obviously you did not die.

I erupt in a fit of laughter. For some reason this strikes me as hilarious, the best joke I’ve ever heard, even. “Obviously!” If you’ve never died, it must seem reasonable to assume someone could be mistaken about it! But no, she has no idea, and she has absolutely no idea how much she has no idea! I wheeze hysterically, and I wonder if it’s possible to die from laughing too much, whether I might give her another demonstration right here and now!

“I did. I did.” The laughter subsides enough to speak. “I promise, when your soul leaves your body, it’s hard to pretend you’re just taking a nap. When you feel the embrace of a Goddess, when She cradles the core of your whole existence and brings you back, safe and whole, it’s quite different from bandages and reparation magic!”

“Princess Natalia resurrected you? Truly?”

“A bit more than just a princess now, isn’t She?” Come on, I can squash down my giggling while praising Her, right? “But yes, the Goddess resurrected me. She loves me, and I am blessed.”

“Love.” The sorceress in chains sneers. “At last. Now comes to light the real reason for your freedom. I bet the two of you were fucking,” she emphasizes the crudeness of the word, “while poor Sir Wolfgang dutifully followed behind, pining for a lady who was already spreading her legs for some rancid street rat who no doubt could barely even concentrate on her royal cunt, too busy salivating over her family’s wealth.”

Nope, no stifling this one. I double over in another fit of laughter. Was she really trying to upset me by talking about my Goddess and my friend like that?

“Please,” I gasp, “go on.”

With a scowl, Velle remains silent.

“It’s a good start! I think you could really lean hard into the cuckoldry thing. Oh, maybe the Goddess (in Her mortal aspect as the Princess) was betrothed to the Knight before Her ascension. Maybe She really loved him too, in that romantic way, but was determined to wait until the wedding to consummate their love. He understood, and he admired such acts of purity even though his carnal desires cried out for release. Now enter the dashing Rogue, a scoundrel whose peculiar services were needed to get them out of a trap laid by their fiendish enemy (that’s you, naturally)…”

Velle groans. I continue. “The trio escapes! Now, the Rogue plans to rob the two of them before leaving, but the Princess finds Herself strangely captivated by this stranger, whose charm and wit possess a certain irresistible allure. She begs me—the Rogue I mean—to join them on their journey to save the land from certain destruction. Our Rogue claims to be moved by such arguments, but in truth recognizes an opportunity in the blushing glances She sneaks.

“Now the Princess is determined to remain pure for Her betrothed, but oh! How the dashing Rogue’s shirt leaves such a tantalizing swath of unclothed chest open and visible! And the Knight sees how She steals such scandalous glances when the Rogue leans forward in a bow, how hard She blushes at a sly wink, how She laughs at some honestly kind of half-assed puns.”

“How much longer is this going to go on?”

“Not a fan of slow burns? I wasn’t planning to have any bodice ripping for a while yet, but I think if you stick around for a few more chapters we can really get to the juicy part where the Knight finds himself torn between his jealousy and the slow, creeping realization that he’s also falling for the Rogue. There’s a really good moment when the Princess tells the Rogue ‘you’d look so beautiful with painted lips,’ and the Knight stumbles into the scene. He’s taken aback by the gentleness with which the Princess decorates the Rogue’s features, his face scarlet and, for a moment, unable to hide his desire. As he looks at the two of them, the princess in Her underclothes and the Rogue in rouge, it’s unclear what exactly he yearns for, but not even he can deny how he yearns.”

“Are you sent here to torture me then, is that it? I am a gift to you, that you may do with your murderer as you wish?”

I sigh and drop the bit. “No, I’m sure you’re here because She loves you too.”

“A funny sort of love,” Velle says, tugging her chain for emphasis.

“I have faith that if you embraced Her as your Goddess as I have, you would be freed.” I offer a genuine smile. “Sure, it’s especially easy for me to love She Who Saved Me, but if you can learn to love Her as I do, you’ll see that you’re already home. And like me you’d never need to fear death again.”

The other guest spits, hitting me directly in the eye. “Well look at you, getting a wink from the dashing Rogue yourself,” I say with a chuckle, wiping sorcerous saliva from my eyelid. Impressive aim, really. On an impulse, I lick my hand clean, maintaining eye contact as I do so. “If you want some bodice ripping of your own, just say so. But maybe let’s keep this a slow burn of our own, okay?” With a charming grin and a wave of my hand, I turn and walk away.

Maybe Velle’s right, though. Maybe she is a gift of sorts. What could be greater than helping guide a lost soul such as her to the warm embrace of the Goddess? I’ll visit her again the next chance I get.