For the Love of Gods

Part 12 of The New Goddess

My thoughts heave and surge like the tide, flooding, claiming, reshaping the world around me. However, so little of this is my design. The world is clay in my hands, but my hands are not alone, and my hands are not even entirely my own. I recognize Velle’s fingerprints here and there, nudging reality in delicate and subtle ways that contrast with my own wild flailing. Something within me lashes out even at those I love, possibly because I love them. My mind has become a kitchen with too many cooks, all of whom hate me.

The ones I love are suffering, and though I would move mountains to save them, right now I cannot even move my own will. I am lost and confused and dissolving into nothing.

Hubris. Devoured from the inside out by pure, unadulterated hubris. I was always a fool to think that a mortal woman could claim the power of gods, and even more the fool because I thought I could surpass what killed them. I forgot the simple truth: mortal, god, or figment, all that lives can one day die.

That includes me. It’s including me right now. My veins are filled with lightning scorching me from the inside out. Only a child could convince herself she could swallow all of this. I deserve my fate.

“Oh, do shut up.”

Velle rips me out of my thoughts by the collar, brute force carrying me back into focus. She is beautiful as ever, radiant in green, shining like an emerald sun, and as stupid as I am. She assumes that she is powerful enough to hold me. A laughable notion. Doesn’t she know that whatever power she has stolen, she cannot truly elevate herself any more than I could? I may be drowning in hubris, but she is just as wretched, doomed, dying, damned.

“I’ll be doing much better once I’ve exorcised you.

How dare she speak to me like that? After all I’ve done, she would presume to threaten me? With a growl, I reach toward her with the full force of my divine might, prepared to rip this insipid mortal in half, and—

No! Why would I hurt Velle?

“Natalia, good, you are still in there. Hold on to me. I need to find the seams.”

I try to reach toward my sorceress, but my arms are chained. I can’t budge. What’s going on?

“A precaution. You are quite far gone. Dead as they may be, those old gods are determined to claim you. Hold on to my voice.”

Dead. Dead, dead, dead. They are supposed to be dead. How are they trying to claim me? I ate them. I ate them, and… their spores clung to my very soul. They died, but they would make of me a substrate to grow within. Like a tree falling in the forest, becoming host to fungi as it decomposes, mycelia breaking my soul down for nutrients, death becoming life. All that dies may yet bloom in rot. I must die so that they may grow through me and live again.

“Blasted parasite, I’ve got you.”

Velle grabs my face between her hands and something of her reaches down inside me and pulls. I feel the sickening sensation of my mind tearing for a moment, and then I snap back into clarity, confusion’s fog burned away with the light of an emerald dawn.

I try to speak, to offer thanks, but my voice is… my voice… where is my voice?

“Eaten, I’m afraid, by that one. But at least I can do your favorite trick now.” Velle taps the side of her head with a finger. She reads minds like I do. “And now, thankfully, both you and I should have an easier time distinguishing your thoughts from theirs.

I push into her mind but find nothing to grab hold of. I cannot see what she’s thinking. She is completely closed to me. How can that be? Have I fallen from godhood?

“No. That isn’t possible without destroying you. You never wielded the Godsblood the way I do this Ring of Waking Nightmares. Instead, you fully integrated it within yourself. Same with the Spine of Ages, the Liver Incandescent, and the Abyssal Tears.” Velle rattles the names off as if intimately familiar with every step of my ascension, as though these names were an academic exercise for her. She pauses to chew her thoughts for a moment. “Honestly, it was a miracle you could handle the first of those. That it took you until devouring your third god to lose stability is an act of frankly unfathomable spiritual might.”

But you are still closed to me.

“Right, that. Mental wards to protect me from the influence of gods. If you had ever been taught even the basic the principles of such things, these dead fools would never have been able to overpower you.”

The lightning in my veins strikes again, and I cry out voicelessly in pain. I can’t even scream, can I? I can’t thrash, either. I’m stuck. I can’t feel my legs or my tail. Why can’t I feel half my body?

“Eaten too. And the rest of you will be devoured as well unless you let me take control of what power remains under your command. That is, the strength of the two gods you successfully integrated.”

Oh. That’s it, then. That’s what this is about. Velle wants to rob me of the power I took from her. She wants to erase my ascension, lay claim to everything I built. I would rather die, thanks.

“That’s not—!” Velle screams in frustration. “I am not trying to rob you, girl. I am doing my damnedest to help you!”

How can I believe that without proof? People lie all the time, Velle. You’re an expert at it yourself, aren’t you? Drop your wards. Let me see you.

“Dropping my wards against the mental intrusion of other gods while contending with the power of these self-necromantic old bastards is as good as suicide. I will not.”

Then give me that ring and let me use it to free myself. It was destined to be mine anyway when the time was right.

“Natalia, you are half devoured already. Your mind is completely unshielded except by the power I am exerting right now. If I were to give you this, at the very instant it fell into your grasp you would feel the overwhelming urge to consume its power—an urge you have demonstrated a complete inability to resist—and then there would be one more old god eating you to death. You cannot be trusted, and so you must trust me!

No. How am I supposed to trust you when I can’t see what’s inside your heart?

Velle doesn’t bother trying to answer. Instead I feel her plunging herself into my mind, trying to take what she wants by force. Intolerable. I still have two gods worth of power to wield in defense of my mental sovereignty, and Velle has only the one. I don’t have her fancy shielding techniques, but I have the raw force needed to repel her invasion.

She doesn’t give up, she keeps pushing, but she’s fighting a battle on a second front too. The god she ripped from my head is howling in rage, tearing at her chains. Velle’s sweat turns bloody—her body struggling to contain the forces at her command—as she splits her attention between her personal magic and the holy power she wields.

I hear the voice of that god commanding me to rot. Its teeth rip through me from inside my own blood. But that’s not all. Unexpectedly I also hear my little bird, begging Velle to abandon her ambition. It’s here along with my precious Nina.

I don’t know if they have the power to persuade my sorceress, but if these are to be my last moments, I can think of worse company to have at my side. Unlike Velle, I can read their earnest love for me—and even for her, even now—as clearly as ever. It brings a touch of comfort to my heart.

Then something goes wrong. Velle slips, and the teeth rip through another piece of me. The pain is hideous, blinding, unendurable. I feel myself sinking. The warm, sucking, hungry mouth sucks me deeper, tearing at my body, digesting a little more of my soul. Then her arms wrap tightly around my chest, heaving me upward with divine might. It’s almost enough to save me.

Now with her face so close to mine, I can see the pain etched in her features. Where I expect to find ambition in her eyes, all I see is pity. “Stupid girl,” she calls me. “Surrounded by stupid disciples. We are all going to die because I cannot trust you, and you will not trust me.”

Is that all I am to her still, after all this time? Just a stupid girl with stupid dreams. Powerful but unworthy of respect. Unworthy of love.

“Natalia. I do love you. Despite my best efforts to not fall in love, even. Please believe me. Let down your guard and help me save you from yourself.”

She kisses me, and we plunge into darkness together.

Teeth rip into my body and soul in a torture unlike anything mortal nerves can experience. I feel myself becoming less.

But Velle kisses me still. I open my mouth to accept her tongue.

My mind frays at the edges. In moments I will be gone. I should already be gone, but Velle is kissing me, and every fiber of my being demands that I be present for this moment. What use is all my power if I can’t cling to every remaining scrap of myself long enough, to protect us both long enough to kiss her back?

I can’t see her love for me, but right now in this moment I can feel something of it. Maybe I can even accept that what I’m feeling could be her love for me.

Maybe even a goddess can learn to have faith.

I welcome her inside me, and she wastes no time grabbing the opportunity with both hands. The power of three gods against the will of the two that seek to remove me from myself, and the woman in my mind is Magistra Velle, a genius who intimately knows how to wield magic as a weapon of war, a sorceress who spent her life studying forbidden magic that ordinary academics were too cowardly to touch.

I almost pity the gods who stand in her way.

Her thoughts bleed into my own, and to be so intertwined with her while she does her work is a joy I never imagined.

Every face of Logaia, Who Wept The Oceans, screams in fury as Velle wields my will with a surgeon’s precision, butchering our enemy as one would livestock. She rips out the creeping mycelia belonging to Aman of Ubiquity, extracting every tiny thread and boiling it in Logaia’s blood. She knows their names and their weaknesses. Did she truly know so much the whole time? How did I not notice that I never saw beyond the surface of her mind?

In a moment—after a shockingly brief explosion of violence—it’s over. No more teeth consuming me. No more voices demanding my end. Just the two of us acting as one to rewrite this nightmare and put it right. But Velle isn’t done. I feel her probing my mind, looking for signs that either of the other powers I consumed retain any will of their own.

Satisfied at last, she commands me to sleep. I am unable to resist.

The God of the Waking Nightmare undermines her own title, offering such pleasant dreams as I never experienced before.

Though I lie in bed, too weak to move, Velle holds me close and spoons broth into my mouth. The taste is earthy and delicious, rich and meaty. It nourishes even the soul of a goddess.

“You’ll have to share your recipe, my love.”

“The ingredients are simple: meat and mushrooms and a touch of blood, though somewhat more exotic variants than one typically keeps on hand. The real secret is all in the preparation.”

“Will you teach me?”

“My dear, I will not allow you to leave this house until you have mastered every last technique.”

Allow me?” My laughter is pitiful and weak, but full of genuine mirth. “The more god you feed me, the more I regain my strength. If you wish to command me, you should reconsider this kindness.”

“I shall reconsider none of it.” With a finger, Velle wipes away a drop of soup that spilled from the corner of my mouth, slipping it between my lips. Without thought, I reflexively suck her clean. “Good girl, Natalia.” Her hand drops to my neck, touching the collar there. “And I will continue to command you as long as you wear this symbol of my authority.”

“Well then, I’ll have to work hard to regain the full power of all four gods, to show you how flimsy such a collar is against my might. And then devour the remaining gods as well once I make you show me the right way.”

Velle leans forward to offer me a gentle kiss. “I look forward to it, Goddess.”

“Look, I’m gonna be honest, I was a little bit worried, once Velle explained the whole thing, that all those sexy murder games the two of us enjoyed were just because You were haunted by an evil freak, and now that You’re fully You again, You’d basically revert to being, like, A Powerful Human, and then probably be sickened by all the stuff I thought was incredibly hot.”

I don’t know if “impressive” is the word for it, but I do have to marvel at my little bird’s ability to continue tweeting incessantly with my scaled foot digging talons into its back, forcing it violently to the floor to lick up its own pool of blood.

“If anything, I’m even less human than before,” I reply. “Try having part of your soul digested, then heal yourself on a diet of divine half-resurrected corpses, and we’ll see how human you are afterward.”

“Aah, Goddess!” I knew that would make it squirm. Look how much this darling creature likes that idea! “Speaking of becoming less human, I have become inspired with ideas for new blessings I might beg from You.”

So it has. Let’s see what’s on its mind… Bioluminescence, giant prehensile tongue, and egg-laying? Ah, that one was Velle’s suggestion. Her mind never ceases to fascinate.

“I could make your tongue an ovipositor. Let you fill a victim full of eggs, have them hatch and eat their way out,” I muse aloud. “Would you like to birth a swarm of yourself? Become a hive mind spanning each and every one of your offspring, tasting everything they taste, feeling every single pleasure and each and every death?”

My adoring jester practically glows with excitement as I describe its future. I plant the vision in its mind of just how beautiful it will become, and watch its eyes widen with desire. “You could eat me by the dozen and fuck the pile of gore that remains while I watch.”

“Yes,” I can’t deny I’m salivating too. “I can hardly wait myself, little bird. Let’s get started.”

I descend from my heavenly abode to visit the seat of my power in the mortal realm. This is the capital of the Holy Principality of Rutennia, no longer a kingdom in order to indulge Nina’s wish to keep the title “princess.” The newly renamed City of Light is where Princess Canina reigns from her freshly remodeled palace.

With each step I take, the clack of my talons on the floor announces my arrival to the ears of the faithful. Palace servants—wearing those frilly dresses Nina adores—offer me a warm smile and a polite nod or curtsy before resuming their duties.

The priests and priestesses prefer to prostrate themselves in my presence, so many hoping that I will bless them with the sacred madness to become one of my oracles. I have them dress according to Velle’s preference, their holy vestments made of sheer cloth and in a cut that leaves little to the imagination, serving only to accentuate the beauty of their bodies. Such dress makes their vows of celibacy that much more exquisitely tortuous, Velle tells me, which is what makes the ritual orgies on feast days something truly sublime. I admit, I do enjoy watching the festivities and drinking up the fine cocktail of emotions stirred together on the special occasions when my most devout worshippers are encouraged to break that vow. Such fine ideas she has! How much of my high priestess’s growing perversity is Nina’s influence, I wonder?

Wide hallways are scaled appropriately for my favored form, allowing me to swish my tail indulgently and without concern for knocking anything over as I saunter toward my destination. Hundreds of mirrors line the walls, allowing the captivating ruler of this land to admire herself wherever she walks throughout the palace, the ceiling’s soft glow ensuring she always has the ideal lighting.

The double doors ahead of me open wide, and I am pleased by the vision of both my beloved women basking in each other’s company. Nina lounges on her sofa, idly stroking Velle’s hair as my high priestess drapes herself across the princess’s lap. On the nearby table, small plates dotted with crumbs and an emptied tea set are pushed aside, awaiting a servant to clean up.

“Goddess!” Nina lights up upon seeing me enter. “Is it that time already? Oh, but first You simply must try this cake. Truly my baker has been divinely inspired to concoct something so decadent. It has strawberries!

A well-trained maid proffers a plate bearing one extra slice for me. I reach out to accept, my arm splitting down its length in a toothy grin that opens to devour the treat, plate and all.

“Oh that is lovely.” My right mouth licks its lips before closing itself back into an arm again. “Inform the baker that his family will never know illness or misfortune, will you?”

The maid smiles and bobs her head and scurries away to carry out my will. Her heart races after witnessing all that, but not from fear, from excitement. She will touch herself later tonight thinking of me. Ah, how that pleases me. Nina really does know how to find ideal servants.

With an encouraging pat on the butt from Nina, Velle stands and glides toward me. Her new collar glitters in the light: a permanently affixed ring of rose gold that could be mistaken for simple jewelry if one failed to notice that there is no way to remove the seamless circle. However, one would also have to miss the “property of Princess Canina Rosadeus Lillian Ruten” engraved all the way around.

My high priestess must be the most powerful mortal in the world, yet she so willingly continues to submit to my precious Nina. It wasn’t even my princess who insisted on the collar, either. To be so powerful and yet enjoy another holding your leash? Well, I think I might be able to imagine the appeal.

I have long ago eaten Velle’s little ring. Yet for all her confessions that I was right about her from the beginning, that she did not have the inclination for godhood, she took such pleasure in making me beg for the right to do so.

Just like she makes me beg now, squirming and moaning pathetically beneath my priestess while she straddles my body and pins my wings to the bed with her knees. The way she teases me—touching and caressing everywhere except the places that would give me satisfaction—it drives me insane.

“Please.” I always sound so small when she gets me alone like this. “My collar…”

This collar is enchanted with more than merely the divine energy that crafted it. Once, I could have torn it to pieces, but instead of doing so I allowed Velle to reach into my mind again and reinforce her sorcery with the full extent of my holy power. Now she, a mortal, holds my leash, and freeing myself is beyond me.

Velle’s hand glides up my sweat-slick chest, long fingers wrapping around my neck with supple grace. One of her knuckles gently grazes my collar, and my body twitches with need. A whimper I am helpless to suppress escapes my throat.

“What shall I do with Your collar? You want it removed?”

“No, please no. Anything but that!” She. Knows. Damn. Well! “I need you to touch it…”

It’s not just a collar any more. Not merely an inanimate thing separate from myself. One night she teased me for hours, refusing to use her fingers or her tongue where I begged them to go, insisting on stroking and kissing my collar instead. She told me if I wanted my release, I could have it, but only my collar captivated her at that moment. I did what she wanted of me, integrating my collar into my body map, making it into a new erogenous zone as intimate as any other, boosting its sensitivity to touch so that every nibble and lick could reward me with pleasure.

“How shall I touch it, Goddess?”

“Use your mouth, please, Priestess!”

Today the lust transparently flooding Velle’s mind inspires generosity, and she leans forward to suckle the god-bone collar around my neck with less pleading than she often demands of me. I wrap my arms around her body, claws gouging into her back, into skin blessed to handle my worst excesses when I lose control of myself—though not so blessed that I can’t leave red marks on my beloved priestess.

Her lips, her tongue, her teeth grazing the sensitive bone circling my throat… I cry out without restraint as Velle gives me the release I beg for, merging our minds once more so that every drop of pleasure passes back and forth between us in a rapturous feedback loop.

When she is done with me, and not a moment before, she relents, collapsing onto my body and separating our minds again. With a hand, she strokes my face with sudden tenderness.

“Hey, Natalia. I hear You have another date night with Nina tomorrow.”

I hold my darling priestess close to my body, savoring the touch of her skin against mine. “Precious Nina couldn’t help gushing about it even with you in her grasp to occupy her attention, is that what happened?”

“Mmm,” Velle murmurs her assent, snuggling into my breasts. “I think you’ll enjoy the dress we picked out for the occasion.”

I choose not to peek into her mind to see it for myself. Surprises, I’ve learned, can be quite enjoyable. Besides, there’s no rush. I can take my time indulging in every moment as it comes. My jester, my princess, and my priestess… they may be mortal, but their souls belong to me forever, and I will never let them go, however many lifetimes we share together.