Part 9 of The New Goddess

For the first time in longer than I can remember, I wake up pain-free.

I also seem to be completely naked in an unfamiliar bed with someone else’s arms around me. I feel and smell filthy. With a groan of disgust, I try to regain my bearings. Memories of what happened yesterday slowly drift back to me as though from a great distance away.

“How’s your head, Velle?”

I turn to see Canina’s languid smile greeting me as she continues to hold me close.

“Fine. Shockingly fine, even, considering how much wine we drank.” I shake my head. A minor miracle.

“When Goddess loves you, some blessings you don’t even need to ask for.”

Ugh. A miracle indeed, then. I groan and haul myself out of bed, trying to plan a way to salvage the day. Too much light outside, it’s long after sunrise. What time is it? Certainly too late in the morning to start the usual routine now.

“I should draw a bath. For both of us, I think. I’ll fetch your breakfast and have the bedding washed after I make myself presentable, then get started tidying the mess out there. Does that suit you, Your Highness?”

Silence. I turn back toward the princess. “Your Highness?”

Her face tells me that she expected a different reaction from me, and when she finds her words, she answers my question with one of her own. “Are you trying to pretend last night didn’t happen?”

“I am only trying to fulfill my duties, Princess.”

Another pause. She locks eyes with me as if searching for something in my own expression, then drops her gaze down to the bed. “Do you hate me?”

“What reason would I have to hate you?” Now it’s my turn for confusion. “I suffered the most debilitating migraine of my life last night, and you took care of me. You brought me to your own bed and stayed by my side. How can I forget such kindness?”

“The things I made you do…”

Ah, she feels guilty about all that, does she? Let me assuage her fears. “You were within your rights to demand I satisfy you.” I must help her stamp out that emotion if she’s to fulfill her role in the Plan. I need my princess unashamed of her capacity for selfishness and cruelty, willing to trust me with knowing even her darkest impulses. If she must use me to practice taking what she desires, I can handle it. I’ve been through worse for lesser payoff.

I sit back down on the bed, placing one hand atop hers in a soothing gesture. “A woman as powerful and lovely as you deserves absolutely everything she wants, Your Highness.” I tilt her chin up to make her look at me, then give her a soft kiss on the lips. “If what you crave is to take from me something I haven’t offered, then let me be grateful it should be the perfect Princess Canina, the most radiant beauty I have ever known, who demands that of me.”


“Profoundly. The envy of all your servants, even. My Lady, asking permission is something for those beneath you. Come now, do you truly believe a person could ever resent someone so fine as you laying claim to their body?”

At this the girl melts into blushes and giggles again. “Well, if you put it that way, I guess you’re right.”

“Of course I am, Princess.” I stroke a flushed cheek with sincere affection. “I am an endless fount of wisdom and good advice. You’re almost as lucky to have me as I am to serve you.”

“You’re so right.” Canina grabs me by the collar—a collar?—and pulls me into another kiss. “Humility would be wasted on the two of us, wouldn’t it?”

My train of thought veers from our conversation. Why am I wearing a collar? My hand drifts upward with the temptation to touch it, but I discipline myself to stillness. Not now. I have work to do.

“Shall I draw that bath for us, then?”

Canina gives me a nod of approval. “But not the rest of it. You’ve been spending far too much time doing menial chores and not enough time enjoying my company. We’ll make the dolls do all that stuff.”

Does she mean the other maids? I’m impressed. To dehumanize her other servants so while drawing me closer is better progress than I hoped. I’ll make a pretty little tyrant of her yet. With a bow of my head, I take my leave to begin.

My Lady’s bath is extravagant, but the palace’s elaborate plumbing system carries water in great quantities from its source—wherever that may be— heated by some magic far beyond my understanding. As a result, it takes a remarkably short time to fill a basin that seems better sized for a public bath than one for a princess’s private use.

I am not surprised when she demands that we bathe together—I have little left to hide, and in her shoes I would also seek excuses to more fully take advantage of something so large—but I am surprised that she insists on washing me herself.

I try to brush away the proposal as I step foot into the water. “Princess, there is no need to play the role of maid any longer.” The temperature is perfect, just a hair shy of scalding, my skin coming to life in delicious pain scouring my body clean as I lower myself down the stairs. I’ve never had a bath like this, deep enough to stand with water up to my shoulders, hot enough to melt the tension in my muscles. The pain fades as I grow accustomed to the temperature, and all that remains is bliss.

“I am not playing anything.” The princess, already immersed, carries a bar of soap with a look of purpose in her eyes. “If anything I’ve decided I’m done playing this entire game of princess-and-maid.”

“Princess Canina?” Did she mean yesterday’s role reversal or… the entirety of our relationship as royal heir and attendant?

“Just Canina. No more titles.” The soap is cool against my shoulder, and as she builds a lather, the sweet scent of lavender fills the air. Such unfathomable luxury. “You’ve been given to me to do as I please, and what makes you fun to have is completely different from what the, ah, ‘other maids’ provide for me. If I use them too roughly or abuse or break them, who cares, right? They’re replaceable.”

Oh, she can be more callous than I’ve given her credit for. Her words—so harsh, in contrast to the gentleness of her touch on my body—inspire a twitch between my legs “And I am different to you, Canina?”

“You’re real, Velle. Real and perfect and an irreplaceable gift, and if I want to keep you, I must not damage you.” She continues to soap me up as she speaks, massaging my shoulders in a most pleasant way that seeks out what remaining knots the heat has not already loosened. Her long fingers slip underneath my collar to glide around my neck in a motion that makes me feel terribly vulnerable. I feel my own quickened pulse beating under her thumb.

“It’s important to take care of my most prized possessions, and you are at the very top of that list.”

Just Canina lifts my right arm out of the water to continue. She does not wash my body the way I would myself, nor the way I would have washed her. Her motions are not those of someone working efficiently to get a job done. There is an indulgent thoroughness to the way she massages every muscle in my arm with rapt attention on her work, hands working oh-so-slowly from my shoulder down toward my elbow, fingernails gently exfoliating as she goes, then incrementally continuing her attentive scrubbing bit by bit toward my wrist.

Her thumb presses with insistent pressure into my palm, finding and releasing tension I didn’t know I had there. A slick, soapy hand glides over my thumb, fingers curling to envelop the digit and swirling with aromatic lather from base to tip before moving on to the next. Slowly, methodically, she individually cleanses every finger on that hand with a sweet caress that feels more intimate than anything we did last night.

She raises my other arm and does exactly the same there, every muscle, every joint, every finger receiving the same unhurried, lingering attention. My eyes half-lidded, my arms feeling weightless, I can’t will myself to speak. It’s hard to object to someone calling you a prized possession if this is how such a trophy is treated. Some part of me takes umbrage, deep down, but Canina’s wordless touch speaks with a far louder voice.

She moves closer, body sliding into mine underwater, and feeling myself poke against her belly makes me notice that I’m hard again. Impossible for her not to feel it herself, but she doesn’t flinch away. Instead, she wraps an arm around my waist.

“Up.” With her hand at the small of my back, Canina guides me to a raised seat such that I can relax in a sitting position with only my waist and below underwater. She isn’t done polishing her prized possession.

I confess I have no idea whether Canina soaps my breasts with any more lavishing attention than she does on scrubbing each and every other part of me, but my body certainly reacts more strongly. Eyelids fluttering, breathing heavy, I can’t think of anything other than how good this feels. Even when she moves on, there is no less pleasure in how her fingers dig into my back or in how she grabs my waist.

She guides me again, and I feel in a trance as she has me perch out of the pool, sitting at the edge so that she can work her way up my leg from foot to hip. Canina starts by massaging the sole, moving from there to soaping each individual toe, up to ankle, calf, knee, then thigh. Each leg receives its attention in turn until at last only one part of me remains untouched.

“You look fit to burst, Velle.” Her tone is teasing, playful, completely devoid of any of that guilt she showed earlier. “Who knew you enjoyed baths so much?”

“I have never enjoyed a bath so much in my life,” I admit, “even if you stopped here. You take very good care of your possessions.”

“Why would I stop here? Every part of you belongs to me, Velle.” Soapy hands run along my side from thighs to hips. Mischief dances in her eyes as she continues. “Let me tell you about a knight I once knew who so loved his sword that he spent all his time maintaining it.” Her hand moves to my penis, gently lathering it with an especially delicate touch. “Every day he would polish that blade, careful not to miss even the smallest spot. He used only the finest oils so that the steel would never rust, and he’d take a honing stone to its edge after each use. He was meticulous.”

My breathing turns to open-mouth panting. I focus my attention on holding myself back from the release my body screams for.

“That sword never failed him. That’s a lesson I took to heart. Show a good tool the proper devotion, and it will repay you in loyalty. I really truly believe that.”

I shudder. A whimper escapes me.

“I’ve been treating you like a pet, Velle, but I think you have it in you to become a very good tool. Would you agree that role suits you better?”

“Y-yes, Canina…” Please, yes!

“So compliant.” A splash of water from cupped hands rinses away the suds. “And disciplined; look at you, waiting for me to finish! That’s an important trait too, you know.” She sighs as though smitten. “Aah, you really are perfect. I give you my permission to enjoy this.”

Canina takes me into her mouth, and I don’t even know if I can say it feels that much better than the rest of this bathing, but the implicit invitation in every eager movement of her tongue brings a heightened exhilaration. There is nothing dignified in the sound of the moan I make.

I run my fingers through her hair while my other hand drifts upward again of its own accord to find the collar at my neck. When did this thing appear? I don’t remember noticing it before this morning. Did Canina collar me after taking me to bed with her? Was that when she decided that I was more than her personal servant, that I was her possession?

I curl my fingers around the loop at my neck. I should feel more distressed about being collared without my consent. I’m quite sure I should feel distressed at all about it, in fact.

Yet I don’t. “Hers.” I run my fingertips along the seamless circle. “Hers.” All I can think as I touch and stroke my collar again and again is the word “hers.”

I release all my pent up need down Canina’s elegant throat.

And now it’s her turn to get clean.

“That girl is getting to you.”

Another dream, another lecture from the other Velle.

“By ‘getting to me’ do you mean to object that I have elevated myself above the status of housemaid?”

The sorceress scoffs. “Elevated yourself from royal servant to personal toy for a girl’s physical gratification.”

“It looked to me like emotional gratification as well,” Priestess Velle chimes in. “Or were you only watching the salacious parts?”

I look to the more religiously inclined version of myself with begrudging gratitude. “Disturbing that she’s the one being reasonable now. Don’t forget the value in winning the princess’s trust.”

“Opening your eyes to the truth of the illusion was not meant to result in you embracing your captivity!” Sorceress Velle shakes with fury. “That you would welcome Natalia’s collar—getting off on it like that—is intolerable.”

“I do not ‘welcome’ being collared by Canina’s goddess. I have not embraced her religion. I am no closer to doing so than you are.” Was I ever truly so unreasonable? “Do not blind yourself with hatred to the point you forget the entirely expected consequences of my inability to remember our conversations. I will necessarily draw some erroneous conclusions. You will have to tolerate that.” If the other Velle fears I am losing my spine, I will show her otherwise. “Now can we move on from your paranoia? I would continue our work conditioning our subconscious to do what we must.”

Dawn’s light shines through the windows of the palace, cascading across the bed and easing me awake to another beautiful morning. The arm around my waist pulls me closer, a half-asleep Canina reflexively responding to my stirring with a possessive gesture to keep me from escaping this soft prison of silk.

Ah, well. Nothing to be done, I suppose. I can only surrender to this cocoon of warmth cozied up with another woman’s bare skin against my back.

We linger in bed, the two of us, until other needs prove a greater motivator than lethargy. With the ring of a bell, Canina summons a servant to bring breakfast for us both. It’s funny, until she called them dolls, I didn’t pay the other maids much mind, but now I see the metaphor. Their faces truly are completely forgettable, aren’t they? And when I catch a glimpse from my peripheral vision, their movements almost strike me as wooden and mechanical. How easy to dehumanize them.

I’ve come to enjoy how cutely she wriggles and squirms in her chair on mornings like these. She tries very hard to match the leisurely pace with which I eat my breakfast, but we did linger in bed awfully late this morning. There’s a real risk of her making a mess before we finish. Still, to her credit, she refuses to rush and does not complain. After all, this whimpering and suffering is her own fault. We’re following her rules that insist breakfast come before tea time.

Despite the urgency painting her face, Canina waits until we both finish eating to ring the call bell and summon a maid to clean up after us. Only then does she rise from her seat to fetch the customary tea set.

It turns out that my gambit on that first drunken evening has backfired on me somewhat. Her determination to learn how to appreciate “every aspect” of herself—or at least where she feels I have surpassed her—means this has become one of our daily rituals. For my own part, I have to marvel at the way one truly can grow accustomed to anything, though personally I prefer a splash of brandy to make the taste more palatable. Canina doesn’t mind my choice of adulteration as long as we continue to have our daily tea together.

Every day we grow closer. Certainly our relationship has gone far beyond the expected intimacy between princess and attendant. I no longer have need of separate quarters when I spend my days in her company and my nights in her bed.

When I ask her how she thinks of me now, if not merely as a servant, she replies with an ease that suggests she’s been thinking about it herself. “You’re like an older sister I can fuck.”

I’m caught off guard, and my scandalized laugh inspires her grin to widen as she puts a hand on my thigh in a gesture of casual intimacy. “You know,” I remind her, “traditionally the older sister is the one in charge.”

“Well, we do things differently in this family. More tea?”

She’s breathtakingly perverse. I think I’m in love.

In our new routine, almost all my duties have been cast aside. Still, I enjoy remaining the one who helps her get dressed. Not all her selections require the same degree of assistance as when she was wearing all her most formal dresses at the start of our working relationship—was that always just to impress me?—but she takes obvious pleasure in dressing for my enjoyment. I can recommend the most scandalously revealing styles I’ve ever seen, and Canina jumps at the chance to flaunt them on our strolls through the palace, completely shameless no matter who might see.

Reasonably, on days I choose a particularly enticing outfit, she wants to spend even more time with her favorite mirror. Among the changes to my routine is that I am no longer expected to give her privacy for these personal sessions with herself. Instead, I am now explicitly invited to enjoy the show, with the caveat that I not try to distract her from her beloved.

Not that I would ever. Such exquisite vanity isn’t only desperately attractive, it is a work of art to be admired. I would sooner set fire to the most beautiful painting in the world than interrupt Canina’s self-love.

These days I also enjoy expanded freedom in what I wear. To hell with the maid uniform, I now get to share the extravagant walk-in closet with her. Though we wear similar sizes, somehow Canina has contrived to set aside a whole section for dresses tailored more precisely to my frame. I am flattered by how well she knows my taste, all dark colors and clean lines.

When I paint my lips black for the first time, it feels like coming home.

My girl misses no opportunity to remind me that I have her goddess to thank for every luxury I enjoy. I am to thank the goddess for the brandy and the clothes and the food and for Canina herself. If giving a meaningless “thank you, goddess” when prompted makes her whole face light up in joy, how can I bring myself to deny the speaking of such simple words?

Twice a day we pray together at the shrine. Each time I find myself drawn to studying the statue at the focus of the room. Something about the material it’s carved from feels both familiar and wrong. A tickle at the back of my head urges me toward some revelation or deeper understanding that continues to elude me.

I now accompany Canina to her third—once “private”—daily visit to the shrine. I had always assumed that what she was up to was not dissimilar from her private affairs with the mirror. A sexual encounter with the statue would not be out of character for her, after all. I never suspected the truth.

The ritual starts with the two of us disrobing and anointing ourselves in sacred oils. Canina extracts an ornate dagger from a gilded box, whispering a reverent prayer to herself. That jester-thing lays on the altar at the foot of the goddess statue. It doesn’t struggle as she plunges the dagger into its heart, blood spilling over the surface into a channel carved into the altar that directs the flow into a small bowl.

Canina uses her fingers to daub blood across her forehead and downward at the throat before doing the same to the statue. Another prayer, and then another wet smear of blood coats the statue’s lips, and with a kiss on those same lips, she stains her own mouth as well.

The ritual ends with a cleansing of the blood on her body, and we leave the corpse behind.

After my first experience of this, I mentally revise my plan to poison the thing. That suddenly strikes me as much less satisfying than getting to stab it to death each and every day.

When Canina finally offers me the opportunity to play the role of priestess, I leap at the chance.

“On one condition,” she says. “You must speak the prayers. No pretending by mumbling nonsense.”

“Of course.” Again, they’re just words, and I do not fear words.

“Then I’m excited to teach you!” There’s that smile I adore.

The ritual begins as it always does, though this time I am trained to know the meaning of each step.

As we shed our clothes, we shed our doubts.
As we shed our doubts, we shed our fears.
As we shed our fears, we shed our past.

I rub oil across my chest, over my heart.
We purify the body for our goddess.

I breathe deep.
The sharp scent enters us to purify from within.

I grasp the dagger.

“Yesterday you shed the blood of her enemies. Today you shed the blood of her faithful. My your edge remain ready for whatever tomorrow brings.”

I approach the altar.

Softly, quietly, for the creature’s ears alone, I speak. “Did you know the ritual does not demand you die quickly? Will you still be so willing a sacrifice after today, I wonder?”

The thing does not move. It does not open its eyes. But its mouth twists in a mocking smile. “Have fun, priestess.”

I have fun.

I slice and shred and penetrate this loathsome thing in every way I’ve ever fantasized. This thing resists crying out for only so long before I draw a song from its throat. It is profoundly cathartic, and by the time the jester dies, there is more than enough blood on my hands that I do not need the bowl.

It is still part of the ritual, however, and I am obligated to use it. Crimson-stained fingers bathe in the still-warm contents of the bowl, the blood from which graces my forehead, my throat, the goddess’s forehead, her throat.

With this, I align my mind with hers.
With this, I align my words to her will.

“I am supposed to thank you for your blessings. I don’t what, if anything, you are truly responsible for giving me, but this religion has offered me the joy of eviscerating a jester, and for that I can express sincere gratitude.” I add as an afterthought, “but if in truth you have influenced my connection with Canina, I must thank you for that most of all.”

I smear blood on the statue’s lips. With a kiss, I accept her love for me.

There is something in that kiss that arouses my attention. The statue is not stone at all, is it? It feels just like the collar at my neck. Bone. Is it bone? What kind of…? Hmm. Up close I see tiny details I couldn’t make out before: fine red lines like veins as thin as hair. I feel compelled to kiss the statue a second time, eyes closed, lingering, trying to feel something I cannot quite articulate. Canina giggles at me in the background, surely imagining a prurient motivation for the gesture, but my mind remains focused on feeling the unnatural pulse from those red lines.

Then all at once, the spell breaks. Pain clenches my skull, and I forget whatever line of thought I might have been following. I wash the blood away and leave in the company of my partner.

Velle Prime fumes and paces, irate with me as ever and particularly energetic about it this night.

“At this rate, reintegration with the two of you will be a problem.”

“Goddess, was I always so high strung?”

I chuckle at the priestess’s comment. She took the words right from my mouth. “I got what you wanted, didn’t I? Close enough to touch the statue.”

“A long, lingering touch at that,” Priestess Velle adds, beaming down at me as I rest my head in her lap. “I, at least, am proud of you.”

“Falling for obvious bait in the process,” the sorceress adds. “Freaky masochist probably got off on how you tortured it.” She points an accusatory finger at me with a sneer of disgust. “And don’t think I failed to notice how your pleasure at killing that thing softened your animosity toward it! Only a matter of time before you’re doing consensual snuff kink together in the boudoir of that hussy of yours.”

“A hussy, is she?”

“I don’t think our dear sorceress has ever been in love, Velle.”

“Goddess, I fear you’re right. She doesn’t even know how she’s missing out.”

Sorceress Velle grits her teeth. “One way or another, I am going to find a way to break us free of this whole charade whether either of you remain cooperative or not. If I’m stuck in this head with the two of you, then the two of you are equally stuck here with me, and I am not going away.”

I wave her complaints away. Neither of us are trying to get rid of a part of ourselves the way she is. “Just say what you’re going to say. I assume there’s something special you want me to do on our trip to visit the king?”

The other Velle takes a deep, calming breath. It even seems to help. “Yes. First and foremost, I want you to kill that bastard.”