Read Demon Lord 6: Garnet Tongue Goddess Online
Authors: Morgan Blayde
Tags: #Dark Fantasy, #Horror, #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction
“You don’t have to be a vampire to
enjoy the blood of your enemies?”
The coils dragged me through the hole, out into the backyard. I released my guns and they vanished into the ether, on the way to my armory in Malibu. With the coils pinning my arms to my sides, the weapons were useless. What I was counting on was the built-in sword blades on the forearms of the suit. As the coils tightened, they sliced themselves open. Snake blood sprayed everywhere, dripping down my suit.
My inner dragon snapped awake in the back shadows of my mind. His golden eyes were raging stars spewing lightning.
Oh, no, we are not getting killed by a mere snake!
“I’ve got it under control,” I muttered.
tattoo was active, its magic already paid for. I called the flame to me, letting it pour out of my body. Every inch of me was sheathed in fire which had more than natural heat. Only the magical protections built into my apocalypse suit kept it from melting off my body and pooling at my feet like tar. The fire burned nearly white-hot, masking my face as I stared at the naga who thought
“How you like me now?” I asked him.
He was too busy screaming to answer. In a spasm of pain and desperation, the coils snapped out, releasing me, flinging me violently away. I hit dry, brown grass and set it on fire as I rolled to a stop. The naga was slithering off, the human half losing definition, sloughing away as he went into his complete form, metamorphosing into a snake that looked natural except for its freaking huge size.
Dragging himself through the dirt and putting his cells into flux by changing had reformed him enough for superficial healing, but parts of him were still raw and badly burned. I grinned as he favored sections of himself, making his undulations awkward and erratic.
There was also still a bit of dragon fire clinging to him, eating him alive. Dragon flame is a bit like napalm that way; it doesn’t know when to quit. The burning yard around me died down because I pulled the fire to me, increasing that which danced over my suit. I picked myself up and reined in the fire even more, keeping it limited to my hands and face.
The demons that had been sleeping ran across the back yard to join me. I pointed at the naga whipping up the hill. “Follow that snake.” I set an example by giving chase myself. There was no way this guy was getting away from me again.
Two of the demon soldiers with me were in magical armor and loaded down with weapons. One armored suit had a medieval look, painted deep red, with a red, writhing dragon on top of the helm. The other suit was Japanese with antlers on top of the helmet and broad metal plates on the shoulders.
A woman with short, petrified hair could have been Shiva’s twin, except her stony body was black marble, veined with threads of pale blue and white. She wore a leather kilt, leggings, and a leather bra as well to hold her boulders.
There were a few others, among them, a quartz skinned elemental demon whose body was filled with a pale green sludge that branched and filtered through transparent veins and organs. A kind of icy green light shone in his throat. The demonic anatomy had more correlation to a jellyfish and firefly than to a humanoid; I understood his outward shape to be a matter of choice. Since he could unleash clouds of chlorine gas at will, I’d ordered him to always stay downwind from me.
Our snake quarry crested the hill, dropping from sight. We followed. Running into a line of waiting naga in their half-human state. I muttered a fast “Fuck-me-blind!” and flung handfuls of dragon flame into their midst.
One naga went down, hissing, thrashing—on fire as my armored demons fell on him, swords flashing in the late morning sun. The black marble lady-demon kicked another naga in the throat, ignoring the coils that failed to crush her super-hard body.
A half-human naga lunged to intercept me. I angled diagonally with a step and let him slither straight into a knee strike. The powerful bands of his stomach absorbed the blow easily, but before he could turn and realign his attack on me, my flaming left fist snapped out with full dragon strength behind it. His head rocked violently away. His neck didn’t quite shatter, but his jaw did.
I slipped behind him and leaped onto his back. He straightened on his snake tail. I was carried high off the ground. Slightly cupping my hand, I made a spear-tip of it, driving my palm into his back muscles. My other hand dug into the wound. Both hands pulled and tore open his back, exposing bleeding muscle and vertebrae that shielded his spinal cord. His blood bubbled, steaming in the fire of my hands.
He bucked to throw me off, but my legs were locked around his human waist. I seized his vertebrae and ripped out a fistful. His body slammed to the ground and I went rolling downhill toward the lake. I used the momentum of the roll to spring back to my feet, running toward the dock. I saw my target throw himself into the water, same trick as before.
You are not escaping me.
Leaving my troops behind to finish things there, I ran onto the dock, my feet thudded on the wood. I let my
tattoo go dormant, feeding my raw magic to the Demon Wings tattoo instead. A chainsaw ripped through my guts, payment for the magic I invoked. I ran on through the agony which vanished as I reached the end of the little peer.
With murder on my mind, I leaped out over the water, slapping one of the three red-crystal cabochons on my suit’s chest, infusing a burst of raw magic as a catalyst. I hadn’t tested out this feature Selene had added. I had to hope she hadn’t made any mistakes, or I’d be choking on water, or maybe turn all giddy and forget what I was supposed to do in the water—which closed over me. I peered through gray-green murk as bubbles of air rose around me toward the surface.
I relaxed my lungs, letting most of the air out, and fought the impulse to breath, knowing the necessity was purely psychological. My blood was being oxygenated by the red-crystal I’d activated. I had to believe that and not get distracted by the sense that I was about to die. I used a mental trigger, employing my meditative skills; I visualized myself as an unborn child in my mother’s womb, anchored by an umbilical cord that provided life-support.
I’m just an embryo.
My inner dragon snorted.
We weren’t born. We were hatched, you just don’t remember. Mom was a dragon. She laid an egg instead of carrying us to term.
I thought back at him.
Shut up, I’m visualizing here.
You’re sinking like a stone here. The snake’s getting away.
Once I adjust, we’ll track him down.
My inner dragon paused, staring.
How do you figure that? Visibility is poor, even for us. And I’m not really designed for tracking scent in water.
There are naga and nagi that live in the lake. This is their home. They’re going to have homes down here, some kind of underwater structure that should be large enough to stand out.
You actually thought this out.
My dragon’s telepathic voice sounded impressed.
Well, of course.
After what had to be several minutes, the impulse to breathe abated. My lungs learned they didn’t need to work for me to live.
With that distraction gone, I looked around, keeping my movements slow and easy as I explored the bottom of the lake, trying not to stir up silt that could blind me. Sunken logs and piles of rock gave the lakebed definition. Cloudy shafts of light from above helped my orientation as well. Inorganic sediments and pondweed limited visibility to twenty-five, maybe thirty feet near shore.
The water grew clearer as I moved toward the center of the lake where I thought it might be deepest and most sheltering. Occasionally, there were flashes of what might have been trout. The light weakened overhead as I followed the slope of the basin.
And then I found Naga Central. It had the look of something alien that had been transported here and accidentally dropped in the water. The stone was a yellow-tinged and off-white. Buildings lacked windows, just a cluster of smooth shapes that huddled together. There were statues that looked like Hindu gods or devils. Some were human and snake, clearly naga or nagi. They were carved from blue stone, or had at one time been painted that color. The statues guarded low-level porches with overhanging roofs like bamboo coolie hats. The porches themselves attached to larger structures like the bracket mushrooms that grow on the sides of trees. I wouldn’t call this place a city, but it would easily hold two or three family clans.
It seemed likely that the bottom pods acted like natural airlocks, holding room-sized bubbles that kept the lake water out. While I looked things over, this was confirmed by a half dozen monster snakes that came rippling out. They shot past, searching the area. The escaped naga had no doubt reported that things were not going well. I was glad my
magic kept them from noticing me. The water was a lot more their element than mine. I’d hate to take on a crowd of naga under these circumstances. Once inside, I’d be much more effective.
We’ll just walk in
, I decided.
My inner dragon had been watching through my eyes. He undulated his neck in a kind of shrug. S
imple plans are the best
I chose one of the airlocks that hadn’t disgorged snakes, swimming under the overhang, angling up. Inside, I broke the surface and made my way up a tilted lip until I was clear of the water, just a few feet from an arched door. Water dripped off my suit. I couldn’t help the wet footprints I’d leave behind. Hopefully, they wouldn’t be seen as significant. I didn’t restart my lungs; I might have to escape into the lake at any time and I didn’t want to hassle with the transition again. It would be all right; I had air for another forty-five minutes or so, and two more breathing crystals for back up.
I stepped through the archway, into a wide hall. There was a youth with a spear lounging on guard duty, leaning back against a section of wall with a faded mural painted on it. I recognized several Hindu deities with blue skin and multiple arms. One section had tigers fighting giant snakes: a battle of shapeshifter clans.
This was my line of retreat so I couldn’t leave a sentry behind me to foul up my retreat. Concealed by magic, I stood in front of the youth and reached out. A quick wrench of his head broke his neck. He died in a rush of limpness. I caught him and the spear, easing both to the ground. I left the boy sitting in a slouch, the spear across his lap. His head bowed as if he’d merely fallen asleep.
“Sorry,” I lied. “It was just your turn to die.”
I went left, padding stealthily down the hall even though I didn’t need to take such care. Force of habit. I came to a curve in the hall. Beyond, there were doorways with bright curtains. Things were too quiet here. These were probably sleeping rooms. I needed to find where the excitement was going on in order to finish things with the naga I’d burned. With him gone, I figured the chances were good the other naga would leave the haunted school alone. After all, until the poison-wind naga showed up, the sea snake naga hadn’t even showed themselves, staying in their quiet little lake.
I spent a half hour getting from building to building, level to level, in my search. At last, I found my prey. He was still a snake, curled up in the bottom of a pool that glowed with healing magic. There were a number of women wearing exotic silks and flimsy vails across their lower faces. Their hair and eyes were dark as their skin. Some of them wore gold necklaces and earrings, and had rubies embedded in their foreheads. It was like I’d somehow been thrown across the world to India.
One attendant drew my attention more than the others. She wore a robe the color of sea foam green. Her eyes were jade with vertical black pupils. She stood at the edge of the healing pool, peering anxiously down into the water, her hands clasped.
“Will he be all right?” Her words were accented, but clearly English. “I cannot understand why his regeneration is not already complete. Why is he having to grow an all new skin?”
A woman kneeling by the pool answered. “There is some potent magic to the fires that burned him, but we will see to his recovery, your majesty. The sacred waters need time to work. You should rest. We will inform you of any changes in his condition.”
A male entered the room, strolling in past me. He wore pajamas of gold thread and a turban wound around his head. There was an emerald on it in a gold setting. The man had slippers with pointy toes, and a sheathed scimitar hung at his waist.
The man was a fool to go and mess with the demons in the ruins. I told him no good would come of such games.
The snake in the pool swirled around, lifting its head from the water. Its baleful glare settled on the newcomer, then swung to me. He hissed like a leaking tire, baring fangs.