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The One


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0 Prologue

My name is Cassia Bent, and I live in the City of Doors. I don't know how I got here, and weirdly I can't remember much before I got here, but that seems to be fairly normal for a lot of people. Something draws people here, or deposits us here, or pushes us out of other places and we end up here. Maybe we're chosen to be here, maybe we're just rejects from elsewhere. No one I've spoken to knows or if they do, they're not telling. Part of me says that should be terrifying, or at the very least worrisome. But the City holds such wonders, the people are delightful, and the past just doesn't seem important. As if I live in a dream and use dream logic, the not knowing is not only acceptable, but nothing with which I need to concern myself.   

The night life here is pretty crazy. The city has a sort of multiversal, anything goes kind of vibe. There are dangerous places, sure, but the whole city is alive with things to do after hours, weird things, things that might give you pause if you stopped to think about it. Naturally, none of us do. We just keep partying, hanging out, enjoying ourselves. Maybe it's all part of The Lady's plans, maybe we're being duped and used, but it's not like we're trapped. We can leave any time. Half the time, you might open a door and end up in the Emerald City, or Asgard, or Cleveland, or some high school for wizards. The multiverse seems to be real, and we're in the one city where you can get at any corner of it without even trying. But it's not just a one way trip. Anyplace you can go, people and things can come here from there as well, and they all seem to stop to enjoy themselves in the City of Doors. At a comedy club you might see standup from a living statue, an imp in a bottle, and then an sentient crystal colony. If you go out to a live show, the band members could be ghouls, elementals, or vegetation. You just never know. Literally anything can happen and anything can be alive. The dating possibilities alone are unimaginable.

It's a thrilling city for a sensate. Apparently that's what I am, a sensate. A witch I met read my aura and told me that I am driven by "strong cravings for sensory and sensual satisfaction", which seems about right. The City seems like the best place to be me. Here everything is alive to my senses. So many things to experience, so much to see and do, music to hear, books to read, languages to learn, food to try, people to meet and know and love. 

Edited by IsabellaRose
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  • IsabellaRose changed the title to The One

1 Bodak, Part 1

Bodak was an attentive lover. His long limbs seemed to wrap around me protectively. I never felt threatened when his towering form was nearby, but there was something about his gloominess that felt almost oppressive. Still, he was tall and strong despite his gaunt frame and oddly attractive in his own way. His body was almost hard to see for all the darkness, but that smile. When he chose to smile, which wasn't often, it shone out from all that darkness like a beacon.

We met my first night in the city. I didn't know my way around yet and ended up in a bad section of town. Bodak happened to be there when I found myself frightened and alone and helped me find my way. It was the first time I saw his smile. I offered to buy him a drink by way of thanks. We met out a few more times and the next thing we knew, we were spending most nights together. It wasn't exactly fireworks or instant attraction, but we fell for each other.

I suppose it was his darkness that attracted me to him. It was the mystery. I had to know more. He didn't reveal too much too quickly. I think it was a challenge. Also, I love big guys, and he towered over me, almost surrounded me when we made love. It was my first real hint at my power exchange fantasy, giving myself physically to someone else, knowing he had total control, knowing his size alone enforced it.

I don't know what attracted him to me. He always said he liked my smile, too. He said my positive attitude felt like a light to him. Perhaps in comparison to his eternal gloom it might be true. He called me his light and said he wanted to bathe in my glow. When we were in the throes of passion, sometimes it felt like he might devour me, douse my light forever. He enshrouded me in his presence, his darkness. I could feel myself fade when that happened.

He wasn't always doom and gloom. I remember once, at his place, this song Still Need Sensations by The Historical Babes came on. We had just seen them in a club a few nights before, and I had fallen in love with the song, lyrically as well as musically. I got up and started dancing. One think Bodak did not do was dance. He was the definition of wallflower. Still, I decided to try, and while I was moving around the room, I came over to where he sat, took his hands in mine, and pulled him up off the couch. He went along with it for some reason, even though it wasn't his thing. I tried to get him to dance, moving with him, pulling his arms, leaning against him. I was grinning like an idiot, and out of nowhere he started dancing.

I was laughing as he let loose this flurry of moves I never would have guessed he had, this explosion of grace in what had to have been a well-practiced routine. He was amazing, and he took my hands and led me through a series of moves I'd never be able to replicate. It was amazing, mesmerizing. We moved like one person during the last two minutes of that song. When it ended, I was breathing hard and he was grinning at me. It was one of my favorite times with him, just seeing him cut loose and have fun.

More often than not we spent quiet time together. We used to go to old book stores and browse and read for hours. I remember sitting on the tattered old couch up on the second floor of Left For Dead Books, my head on his lap, both of us reading. We used to do that for hours. It was one of my favorite things we did together.

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Posted (edited)

2 Bodak, Part 2

Things were going well. Bodak and I enjoyed each others company, mostly in quiet moments like the bookstore, or quiet moments at his place. We went out less and less, stayed in more and more. We read quietly, or sat around. We had sex all the time. Bodak was long and lean and every time we made love I felt a little more like I was a part of him, like he was my everything. At the same time, I felt more and more like I was dissolving into him, like one day he would fuck me into nothingness, absorb the last bit of individuality I had until it was just him, sitting silently in his room, and I was just a memory.

We had been together for months, spending less and less time outside. Really it was just me that went out for whatever we needed, mostly food. When I went out that day, I felt like I was waking from a dream. Fresh air, even city air, seemed to revive me from some sort of haze. On the way back to his place I took a shortcut and ended up in some back alley in the Warrens. I shouldn't have gotten lost, I knew the city streets, but off the main streets people said the back alleys changed and shifted, and I was turned around. I was smarter than this. I knew my way. I was frustrated, positive I was heading in the wrong direction. I turned on my heel to retrace my steps and stepped right into a group of Black Razors.

Three on one, probably with more waiting nearby. They were mocking, taunting, and I suddenly realized how vulnerable I truly was in this city. They wanted my bag, my money, made comments about what they could do to me this deep into the Warrens without anyone ever hearing. I was terrified. They moved closer, I backed away, and ended up against a wall, three of them closing in. I didn't know what to do. I wasn't a fighter. I was at their mercy, and who knew how far they'd take it.

And then he was there. Everything got dark and I felt him before I saw him, but then the Razor in front of me was gone and in his place was Bodak. He looked to the left and right and told them they had one chance to leave or they'd end up like their friend. I couldn't see what he had done to their friend, but they could. They still charged him. I guess they liked their odds, two on one, coming from different directions. His darkness enveloped the alley. I couldn't see anything but I heard something, a scuffle and then he was beside me, walking me back toward his place. I felt safe, like that first night we met when I was lost and alone. He made me feel safe. I might have been thinking about leaving him, but after that, we stayed together.

Edited by IsabellaRose
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3 Bodak, Part 3

The night Bodak met Maria was the night I learned we weren't exclusive and Bodak was not monogamous. I kind of knew already, and honestly, it didn't hit me very hard. I guess I wasn't as emotionally invested in our relationship as I should have been. We were at open mic comedy night at Brew-Ha-Ha. The acts ranged from mediocre to just terrible, and Maria was at the next table over heckling the worst of them. She was funnier than almost every act, and we laughed more at her one liners than at any of the would-be comedians. 

After the show, Bodak asked her to join us. She asked, "for a drink, or in the bedroom?" and he said, "why not both?" without even gauging my interest. That upset me a little but truth be told, I was up for almost anything. I think we were close enough that he knew that, so I let it slide. 

Back at his place after a marathon session that only seemed to exhaust me (those two were insatible), I could hear Maria and Bodok talking. They had a common friend, Murphy, the Sheriff, and they traded amusing anecdotes about times with Murphy. I felt a little left out. I only knew Murphy through Bodak, and couldn't really contribute to the conversation. I got something to drink and they asked if I was ready for round two. I told them to go on without me and went back to sleep. They did, loudly enough to wake me a couple times. 

The second time I was drawn from slumber by Maria's wild ecstatic cries, I came in, sat down, and watched. She rode him like a cowgirl breaking a bronco and kept going after she wore him out. The whole time I was watching them, she was watching me with this quirky smile on her face. Something about that was pretty arousing.

After he passed out she read my aura, my palm, and my reactions to her fingers and tongue. She was amazing. When I woke up, she was gone. She had left the two of us naked and exhausted and both thoroughly satisfied. It was the best one night stand threesome I'd ever had. Technically the only one I'd ever had, but that doesn't make the other statement untrue. In one night she shook up my world.

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Posted (edited)

4 Winter Part 1

Bodak and Maria were spending more time together, discussing magic and darkness and things I didn't really understand or care about. I tried to participate, but they were on a whole different level than me, so when they got into it, I went out. At first I'd just pop down to the corner bar for a drink, but soon I started exploring the city, and the more I explored, the more I discovered. The city was at the crossroads of all realities, and as such, there was a little bit of everything within its confines. My explorations kept me out longer and longer with each excursion as I wandered further and further in fascination at the sheer variety of things to see and do.

I found some new bars and clubs, tried out a zero gravity dance floor and a few other novelties. I found a Dreamporium called The Philosopher's Stoned and spent two entire days high on epiphany debating multiverse origin theories with a bearded dwarf named Mia, a sentient crystal colony, and a primordial serpent. Mostly I found dive bars and clubs where I could hear live music. There were so many bands, so many styles, so much to experience. Eventually I found a new favorite bar called Pour Judgment and spent a lot of my free time there. I got to know a few members of the house band, the Asteroid Cows, and even sang with them once or twice. It was on one of the nights that I was on stage with a microphone in my hand that I first saw Winter.

She was in the front row, inhumanly gorgeous, impossibly graceful, and utterly aloof. Despite her haughty attitude, I could not take my eyes off of her, and when she approached me at the bar after our set, I felt my heart skip a beat. Those eyes were twin daggers of icy domination and they pinned me to the spot where I stood as she took the last few steps to stand directly in front of me. Her lips twisted in a cruelly beautiful smile and I could feel the cold emanating from her like stepping out the door into a snowy day. She tucked a stray strand of cerulean hair behind one pointed ear and our eyes met. 

She had liked my singing, told me she thought I was gifted, and after some innuendo-laden conversation, asked for a private performance. The implication was obvious, and after so many nights alone, feeling neglected, and with her fey glamour overwhelming my senses, I went home with her. She was pure as snow and clearly just as dangerous when driven, and that night she was driven to wring algidic pleasure from my body. Her cold embrace and biting kisses chilled me to my core and turned the beads of sweat that formed all over my body to tiny ice crystals. Her touch was a flash frost of freezing stimulation, and she built arousal at a glacial pace that lasted well into the morning hours, teasing and taunting me, hinting at the release to come like storm clouds on the horizon before finally letting it erase everything else in a blinding blizzard of ecstasy.

It was almost evening before I could muster the energy to leave, and she asked when she would see me again. A part of me wanted to say never, but the words that tumbled out promised her my company whenever she wanted it. It turned out that was every night for two weeks. 

Edited by IsabellaRose
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5 Winter, Part 2

Bodak was pretty cool about me and Winter. He said it wasn't like we were exclusive or anything, but I could feel something change between us. I couldn't put my finger on it just then, but in hindsight I should have seen what was coming. I still stayed at his place, and we still hung out, but we were each spending more and more time with other people. We made love with much less  frequency but no less passion. His darkness still reached places in me even Winter's probing icicles could not find.

I hadn't realized it, but my fashion style had changed while I dated and lived with Bodak. When I looked in the mirror I realized my eyeliner was heavy and black, my clothes were all black, and I wore a studded black leather choker. I considered changing but found that almost everything I owned now was black. Had he influenced me that much? His darkness had affected my fashion sense and personal style. What else had been indelibly stained by his inky gloom?

When I was out, no matter where I went or where she was, Winter drew me into her presence as if she were at the center of a whirlpool and I were a leaf floating atop the water. Slowly, inexorably, circumstances always seemed to draw me into her orbit, then to her side, and eventually into her bed. I would wake up trembling from the cold, utterly exhausted, but satisfied in ways I never knew were possible. Her brumal charms were irresistible, though the cold seemed to be more mind-numbing that physical. I don't know if it was on purpose or just some effect of what she was, but I found it impossible to resist the things she asked of me, and those things grew increasingly invasive and permanent.

Dyeing my hair pure white didn't seem like a big deal, nor did the tattoo, a blue snowflake above my left breast she insisted looked perfect. I'd have done anything to please her even outside of the bedroom, and she took full advantage of that. Soon my black wardrobe was accented with icy blue and pure white, jewelry and clothing she bought for me. She started taking me to clubs that were mostly fey, and I found myself drawn into a world I didn't know existed. Those clubs had doors that opened into the fey realm of dreams and fantasies and my senses were overwhelmed. We could spend weeks in a dreamworld only to come back out in the city an hour later.

I was with her for over a month in one dreamworld, exploring a wondrous landscape, indulging in foods and intoxicants that altered perceptions and physical traits. I became aquatic and swam through liquid thought for days, breathing in the dreams of others through my mindgills, spawning a colony of tiny Cassiafish who in turn spawned, died, evolved in a rapid succession of iterations until after thousands of generations they spawned another me, and the two of us swirled in a dulcet, liquiform reverie exploring erotic escapades hatched from the mind of Winter, a delusional sea of fluid imagination. When we returned to the club forty minutes later, after living a thousand lifetimes, my mind was overwhelmed.

She took me home, calmed me, cradled me in her arms, the poor mortal who could not cope with the simple diversions of the immortal fey. She soothed away my embarrassment and perplexity, eased my mind back to reality, and made everything right again. It was then that she offered me the feytouch, the mark of one who belongs to the fey. I had seen them in the clubs, the feytouched. Mimicking the style and appearance of their immortal patrons, marked by the tattoos and sigils that bound them to their fey masters and mistresses for as much of eternity as the fey wished. They were more pets than partners, and despite the genuine affection Winter showed, I was no one's pet. I declined, and everything went to hell.

I could have said yes. I could have lived for decades, centuries, millennia in her thrall, experiencing unimaginable pleasures and luxuries, then returned to a mortal life when I no longer entertained her, but that was not the kind of relationship I wanted. I belonged to no one, and to be feytouched meant fealty, implied ownership, servitude. This was no path for me, and I told her so.

She exploded in an arctic rage, slivers of icy exasperation prickled my flesh, frozen fury stormed around me like an indignant cyclone. I did not understand, I was a fool, I would live to regret my decision. I cried. She was so amazing, so powerful, I did not want to lose her, and the intensity of her outrage engulfed me, threatened to erase me. I could have given in. It would have been so easy. To be her consort, her plaything, her salacious amusement, would have fulfilled most people. It could have made me happy for longer than most people live, but it was not me.

And just like that, it was over. I was amazed at the depth of my heartbreak. I didn't realize her frost had rimed my heart so thoroughly, but there it was. I loved her, despite everything, and I had lost her. I knew walking home I would miss the feel of her frigid fingers, the glacial graze of her loving caress, the enthralling hold of her ice blue eyes. I would miss the way my heart skipped a beat when her gaze held me. I would miss the satisfied smile, the feeling of utter contentment being wrapped in her arms. But all things end, and every ending is just another beginning.

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6 Bodak, Part 4

I spent two weeks wrapped in Bodak's protective darkness. I realized two things while he kept me safe and gave me time to recover.

The first thing I realized was that his darkness was the cause of the wardrobe change I had discovered while dating Winter. I had not simply replaced my old clothes with ones he liked, his darkness literally leached the colors from what I wore, from my very skin. The time I spent with him left me with less light, less color. Even now my tattoo faded from to a less vibrant blue, the new clothes Winter had given me were greying, turning black.

The second thing I realized was that time did not pass the same when he folded me into his shadow. I languished in heartbreak, comforted by the calignosity that ensconced me. It felt like two weeks, my body knew it to be that long from the cycle of waking, eating, and sleeping, but when he lifted the shroud of twilight from about me it had only been three days. Three days of sadness was all it took to mourn a lost love. He told me he could have kept me there forever, letting me wallow in the anguish and heartache, feeding my suffering, letting me slowly fade away in a despondent malaise. The way he said it made me think he would have relished that decline, savored those emotions like one might a fine meal.

I said as much to him, said it angrily, for some reason looking to start a fight with the one person who had given of himself to help me, the one person who had put his own needs after mine. Of course, he said that was entirely accurate. He did not hide what he was; he would have fed on the emotions and darkness inside anyone else, but not me. I don't know why I was angry with him, but I stomped off like petulant child. It was our first fight, and it was stupid and entirely my fault.

I went back to Pour Judgment, not even thinking that I might encounter Winter there, but she was not. The Asteroid Cows were on stage and welcomed me back. I sang a few songs with them and things felt right again. They seemed to feel my mood and we started slow and sad, then worked our way from songs of melancholy into an increasingly angry, rage-fueled set that had the place up and jumping by the time we finished.

I was energized after that. I had put a lot of emotion into my singing, and it was only then that I realized how much making music meant to me, how much I felt when performing, how free I felt when I sang my emotions. The band noticed, too, and asked me to join them as their permanent lead singer. I accepted without even considering the time commitment, but knowing it was something I needed.

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7 Bodak, Part 5

I headed home to make up with Bodak, which started out as me apologizing for being an idiot and him being his usual, quiet, accepting self. It was going well until I told him about the band, about letting my emotions out in song, about how connected I felt to my bandmates, to the audience. The energy, the release, the true expression of emotion…

He got angry. I didn't understand at first until I realized that he really had been holding back, barely keeping himself in check. In the time we'd been together he hadn't just leeched the colors from my clothing, he had ingested my darker emotions. After my breakup with Winter, he had been tempted by the strength of my feelings, but had resisted for fear of taking them before I fully felt them. He had wanted me to sit with the negative so I would better appreciate the positive.

But then I had gone and poured my emotions out to a room of strangers, fed them my sadness, my sense of loss, my emptiness. He had wanted that, and I gave it all away. He was angry because he had laid claim to my negative emotion, it was the thing he wanted more than my companionship, more than my body, more than my love. He wanted my anxiety, my grief, my loss, my shame and humiliation.

Suddenly the dark sex made sense, the way he loved to degrade me. A part of me had liked that dehumanizing treatment in the heat of the moment, being treated like an object, knowing I made him aroused by no more than my sheer physicality, but it was a lie. I didn't know if I had ever really enjoyed those things, and if I did, would I have enjoyed them as much? As angry as he was at me for giving away my emotions in song, I was even more angry at him for using me.

Our fight was apocalyptic. There was screaming, yelling, blame, accusations. We both said things we couldn't take back. He cast his shadow across the entire room, his darkness imposing, I shrieked out my anger, he consumed it, devoured all my negativity, feasted on it like a starving beast and when he was done I was… empty. Emotionless. I felt nothing. Nothing for him. Nothing about our fight. I simply existed, without any feeling at all.

I realized it was why I had thought myself so content with him. I hadn't ever really felt anything bad. He had consumed it before it brought me down. Everything was on an even keel with him because I didn't feel much good, and the bad I felt was sucked up by his hunger.

It was the end of us. I left. I didn't pack or make plans, I just left. I needed to be away from his emotional vacuum. I could come back and get my things later.

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8 Bodak, Part 6

I returned to Bodak's place almost a week later to get my stuff. In the time we'd been together, he had only ever had at most one or two people over at a time, but that night, he was having a party. I assumed the worst, that it was just to embarrass me, to make me parade my meager possessions out the door past all of his friends, half the people I knew in the city. I didn’t need any help, so I was by myself; all I had was a couple bags worth of clothes, some keepsakes from our time together, and personal care items. I managed to get everything into a backpack, a messenger bag, and three large, paper shopping bags.

Heading through the party to use the bathroom, everything I owned in five bags in Bodak's bedroom, I bumped into Alex, one of Bodak's friends. He asked how I was, where I was staying, and, with a tone that said he'd like to be that person, if I was dating anyone. I managed to get away with some general non-answers and then ran into Maria. She told me she had heard we broke up and was sorry. She had enjoyed being with the two of us, but while Bodak could match her conversationally, I was the one she enjoyed more physically. For some reason I found that amusing. She asked me to call her if I was ever lonely, and I considered it. But witches, you know?

On my way back from the bathroom I bumped into Murphy, the sheriff, someone else I met through Bodak. Seeing him out of uniform at a party was unexpected. He looked out of place, and I told him as much. He said he was having fun through that thick mustache, then leaned back against the wall and continued to observe the party. Maybe that was his thing, just watching. I made it back to the bedroom, grabbed my bags, and started for the exit.

I felt the cold before I saw her and knew that Winter was here. Really, Bodak? You had to have a party the night I was picking up my stuff, invite all your friends I knew, and my other ex? I didn't want to see her. She hadn't been even remotely understanding when I left, and seeing me like this, loaded down with what few things I had to my name, leaving another failed relationship… no. I did not want to see her. But there she was, resplendent in her arctic glory, a new girl on her arm. It was someone she had introduced me to before, Octavia, a caryatid, smooth as stone and just as cold to the touch.  They seemed like a perfect couple. Winter did not notice me, or if she did, she did not look my way. I was happy for that.

Out in the hall, Bodak was waiting. If I didn’t know better, I'd say he was drunk. He apologized, I don't know what for, said he hoped we could be friends, and offered to help me get my bags downstairs. I told him I was sure it would all work out, that someday we'd look back on this and laugh, and that he should get back to his party. He told me it wasn't his party, that Maria had read in his cards that he needed socialization and had set the whole thing up last minute. She hadn't told him he was having a party until just a couple hours ago. He had tried to warn me, but couldn't get in touch. I felt a little better about that, less like he'd done it on purpose, but I still had to get out of there.

I gave him a kiss goodbye. That kiss wanted to grow longer, deeper. I felt it right on the edge of turning from a peck on the lips to a real kiss, and had to pull away. I felt tears sting my eyes, but I looked down so he wouldn’t see, told him to take care of himself, and walked out.

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9 Gigi Fury

I got a shitty little apartment and worked a series of crappy jobs. I found work as a dishwasher, then a prep cook. When their delivery person quit, I transitioned to the delivery role and, once I learned my way around town fairly well, I parlayed that experience into a courier job. It sounded more prestigious and I had less risk of food stains, but the pay and hours weren't much better.

I was making a delivery to Bodak's friend Alex, a shady drop in a crowded bar where I was to swap cases with him and leave with a duplicate of the case I dropped off. It felt like one of those mysterious drops in a spy movie and seemed pretty sketchy. On the way back to the office I was followed, then chased. I was terrified. I had no specialized training for anything like this and I was certain if the two in pursuit caught me, the best outcome for me would be hospitalization. When they split up, quick feet and quick wits helped me get the drop on one of my pursuers and knock him unconscious. I evaded the other and led him right past a Harmonium outpost where I slowed, let him move to attack me, and watched the Hardheads take him down. They eyed me with suspicion, but his escape attempt distracted them long enough for me to get out of sight and make it back to the courier office.

Rumors of my evasion spread among my coworkers, embellishments making me some kind of mystic master of escape, a cunning trickster who could not be caught. It was the rumors more than my actual skill that got me better paying and increasingly risky jobs, and naturally I did nothing to deter them. In truth, the danger thrilled me. I took chances I should not have and often paid the price. The injuries were never too bad, and healers worked their magic to get me back on my feet. Despite everything, I never missed a delivery, and I may have even started believing the rumors people spread about me. It was during one of my courier jobs that I heard about delving.

Delves were basically treasure hunts. Some rando would want something of value beyond one of the many doors, invariably a portal to another world, often a world filled with danger. They'd share as much info as they had, specifically the object they wanted, the dangers they expected, and what they were willing to pay. Delves always came with a provision that anything you found other than the goal was split up evenly among all delvers upon their return. The pay was better than being a courier, the work less time consuming, but the risks were much deadlier. Only sixty-five percent of delvers returned alive. I attempted the delving trials and passed on my first try, earning a spot in the Delver's Guild.

Delves weren't a nine to five kind of job. They were more like gigs, a few times a month, sometimes lasting for a few days, so as I waited for my first gig, I worked a few last courier jobs, enough to keep the lights on, water flowing, and food on the table.

The whole time, from dishwashing to delving, I was singing most nights with the Asteroid Cows. My wardrobe had grown, specifically what I wore on stage. The Cows had shifted members a few times, and our sound had slowly transitioned from "angry post punk garage band" to a sort of "punk blues with a dark cabaret aesthetic". I don't think that will ever be a genre, but it's the best way I could describe us. We changed our name to Hollow Lies, and I dressed to match our stage show in increasingly risqué gothic outfits. Everything was dark velvet, lace, and leather with ruffles, fishnets, corsets, gloves, and chokers, mostly black with purple or crimson highlights. I started using the stage name "Gigi Fury" which I thought was funny, apparently funny enough to write it on my delver guild paperwork.

We developed a fan base, which was strange. People called out my stage name, and I played to their adoration. I rarely paid for drinks, and received gifts and notes from fans on a regular basis. It was an overwhelmingly good feeling, like being loved without the commitment and bullshit. Between that and my unstoppable courier persona, there was a good chance I was going to develop an unmanageable ego. But at the end of the night I was still alone in a shitty little apartment. I found hobbies to fill my down time. I painted. I wrote fiction and terrible poetry, but what I wanted was to make sense of everything.

I read up on many of the religions and beliefs practiced within the city. I studied briefly with the Godsmen, who believed that each life is a test. That sounded promising, but when it turned out that they believed the tests would lead to every person becoming a god, they lost me. I went to the Great Gymnasium to improve my body and mind and studied with the Transcendent Order, learning to move through pure instinct, reacting to things that had not yet happened, tapping into the cadence of the myriad realities that touched the City of Doors to achieve a higher state of being. I discovered the Society of Sensation, where an entire library of stored experiences could be relived by any through some strange and possibly magical apparatus. I could have lost myself in reliving experiences that were not my own, but something told me to get out of there.

Everything sounded promising, but none of it satisfied me. I continued studying with the Transcendent Order until the grandmasters sensed my internal conflict. I was not letting go, I was too invested in physical sensation, too wrapped up in myself and my individuality to continue my studies. I was promising, but until I could move beyond myself, I could learn no more from them. In the end, I learned a lot about myself, but I was still alone, and all I really wanted was someone to love who loved me back. I pushed it from my mind, told myself it would happen when it happened, that I'd meet someone when fate decreed it, and tried to find joy in my daily life.

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10 First Delve

I was told I would need weapons, but all I had was the belt knife that was given to every delver upon acceptance into the guild, and the two batons I'd been carrying as protection on my courier gigs. They clunked skulls nicely and when held by the side handle, were excellent protection for my forearms when blocking more dangerous weapons. I had no armor or protection, which made me nervous, but also allowed me to move quickly and freely, which had always proved to be my best defense.

Gigi Fury, lead singer of Hollow Lies, went on her first delve with a group of two other virgin delvers, Quintan and Farissa, and an old pro named Cathan who we happily let take the lead. The goal was a signet ring worn by the rando's brother. The trick was that the brother had died on a delve. Most of the experienced delvers didn't want this particular gig; anyplace that had already been the subject of a previous delve was likely already picked over, and the extras you could often expect to bring home would probably be a lot less than normal.

We followed Cathan, the only experienced member of our group, through the door and into an underground complex of some kind, all dark stone corridors lit only by our torches. We explored a few passages until we found chalk marks on the floor that seemed to indicate a path. Cathan followed them and we followed him. There was little of interest, definitely nothing we would be able to bring back. My hopes of sudden wealth were rapidly dwindling. Every chamber we found had been thoroughly looted, and each corridor was spotlessly clean. That should have been our first clue.

We found our first bit of treasure lying on the floor, a strange trail of bones and coins with seemingly random items included - a belt buckle, a crowbar, an amulet bearing a religious symbol of some kind, an empty glass vial. Cathan was studying the items and we had gathered around him, trying to determine what significance they had. Quintan looked up and saw what looked like a skull floating at eye level only a few feet from him. He reached slowly out toward it with the tip of his knife, and just before he touched it Cathan shouted a warning, but it was too late.

The skull was in the middle of a mass of gel and ooze that seemed to fill the hallway, presenting a nearly invisible, flat surface toward us. If the skull hadn't been there, we may have walked right into it. It was alive in some way, and the thing attacked by extruding its mass into a tentacle-like arm that caught Quintan by surprise. It adhered to him and pulled him slowly back toward its main mass. I could see past him and into the gel, where enough bones were suspended to make up at least two other people.

Quintan screamed, and we all started trying to strike the thing. Farissa swung the cudgel she carried and found her weapon stuck to the thing. Cathan slashed with his sword, apparently moving fast enough to prevent his sword being caught by the gel. It moved, slowly pulling the screaming Quintan into its bulk. We were dumbfounded, uncertain what to do. Cathan hacked and slashed at it as Quintan was pulled deeper into it. Farissa got her cudgel free and started swinging, and I hit it with my torch, hoping the flames would deter it. They did not. It moved inexorably forward, Quintan now more than halfway inside the thing, his screams echoing down the stony hallway.

Cathan's sword seemed to be doing damage as large chunks of gelatinous goo were detached from it's bulk and flew left and right, spattering the walls. He looked to the dumbfounded Farissa who stood staring at Quintan as he disappeared fully inside the thing, then to me. He tossed me his short sword and I started hacking. It was like chopping into water. The blade cut deep but then slowed and stopped, forcing me to yank it out and swing again. I tried to mimic Cathan's attacks and used a shallow slicing motion, which seemed to have more of an effect. The thing was gigantic though, and it seemed like we were trying to chop down a mighty oak with a steak knife.

Quintan was deep inside the thing now, his eyes bulging, but his screams no longer audible. He struggled, fully engulfed, and we worked our way toward him until another of those tentacle like arms got ahold of Cathan. He cried out, hacked at it, cut it right off, but another extruded and got him again. He was pulled foot first into the things mass, hacking and slashing the entire time. I did my best to cut toward him, but it seemed a losing battle. As he was pulled inside, his arm continued to swing until it could not, and Farissa grabbed his sword and tried to cut him free.

The two of us worked in unison, hacking, slashing, backing slowly down the hall as we watched the thing begin to digest Quintan. Farissa nearly wretched, but put on a grim face and kept slashing. I did the same. Either we cut this thing into tiny gelatinous globs or we became dinner as well. A pseudopod grabbed my leg and I cut myself free. One grabbed Farissa's sword arm. She switched hands, tried to free herself, was pulled slowly into the thing. I renewed my efforts, screaming like a lunatic as I finally seemed to make headway. Farissa joined me in my wild battle cry, and finally the thing seemed to slow. A shudder ran through its body, and we felt elation, then it tugged her again. Her screams turned to panic and pain as it did something to her arm. We gave it everything we had, a wild whirlwind of blades chopping the thing to a gooey, pulpy mess. Finally it stopped, almost seemed to deflate, and moved no more.

We cut our compatriots free from where they were trapped within the mass, but it was too late. Cathan's skin was pocked with what looked like burn marks, and Quintan had already started to be digested; half his face was red and skinless. We both fell to the floor, panting. Farissa's hand that had been pulled inside had burned pockmarks on it like Cathan's skin. We wrapped it in cloth, caught our breath, and began to survey the damages.

The thing left quite a mess, but within its body were treasures from who and whatever it had previously digested. Aside from Cathan and Quintan's possessions, there were bones, armor, and on one fingerbone, a golden signet ring that perfectly matched the description we had been given. We collected everything we could find, including Cathan's two swords, packed it in the sacks we had brought for this exact purpose, and squished back through the dead thing toward the exit.

After we returned and delivered the prize to our patron, we were paid and our loot was appraised and divided. Once the gold and jewels we had found within the gelatin creature were exchanged for actual currency, I ended up with more than three months salary in the bank as well as a couple items I chose to keep rather than cash after they'd been appraised, a puzzle box that no one had been able to open, and a bottle that contained a small storm complete with dark clouds, rain, lightning, and thunder. I liked that bottle.

Edited by IsabellaRose
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11 Fouchard, Part 1

I was an entirely different young woman when I started dating Bodak than I was when I started dating Fouchard. When I met Bodak I had been a new arrival, uncertain of myself, of what the city was or my place in it. Everything was new and I had approached it all with wide, almost naïve eyes. Now I was an experienced delver, lead singer of a somewhat successful band, had been through a couple relationships, and was no longer barely scraping by. Delving had allowed me to upgrade my living standards, including a larger apartment in an upscale building.

I had originally met Fouchard through Winter at one of her clubs. He had a small retinue of followers or hangers-on surrounding him and we didn't get to talk much beyond an introduction.  We were in the same place several times, noticed each other past his entourage, but still never actually talked. That changed one night after a set at Pour Judgment.

I usually just hung around the stage with the rest of the band after a set. Pour Judgment wasn't a big place, and there was no "backstage", just a corner where bands could setup and play. I was in my usual stage garb, black leather corset laced up tight, long black gloves, a crimson skirt cut dangerously high up the front to show off fishnet stockings and impossibly high heeled boots with polished silver buckles up the sides. My choker was black leather with a crimson velvet band to match the skirt and polished silver studs. I was chatting with Peemes, our stand-in drummer for the night, when Fouchard appeared.

Fouchard was a golden golem. Every time I saw him, he looked different, as if he were a knight who changed pieces of his armor every day. As we chatted, I wondered what he looked like under all those plates of gold. I didn’t know golems could change their appearance; I assumed they were one solid piece of whatever material made them brought to life, but he assured me that he had accoutrements and attachments for any eventuality, and invited me to join him on the town after our last set. I accepted, finished our set, and headed straight out still dressed in my Gigi Fury leather and velvet, not something I usually wore out on the town.

We were recognized. Fouchard was well known, and soon so was Gigi Fury. We got the best tables at the most exclusive restaurants despite the fact that he needed no sustenance. We had the best seats at any concert we attended. He took care of his friends in lavish style, racking up excessive bills that he paid without a second thought. I was living the high life, my star was rising, and Fouchard made it all possible. He expected nothing from me in return, so naturally I wanted to give him something. The only thing I had was myself and my time, so I gave him both.

When he said that he had an attachment for every eventuality, it was not an idle boast. Our first night together he took his time removing the plates, pauldrons, vambraces, and other exterior parts that were attached to him. Underneath he was smooth and sleek gold that glinted dully by candlelight. His body was well defined but lacked detail. There were no blemishes, no hair, nothing but a fluidly moving, continuous golden surface. We moved together, my all too human skin sliding across his glossy metallic shell like a woman making love to a gold statue. The various attachments he affixed between his legs showed imagination on the part of their creator, and he used each with a steady skill. Making love to Fouchard was a new experience every time, but always with that polished perfection, the undeviating rhythm that promised new heights of pleasure.

He was tireless, and managed to exhaust me repeatedly. It became a challenge to see if I could outlast my previous record, and we had marathon lovemaking sessions that lasted long, languorous hours. He was a patient and experienced lover, and he stretched my sexual boundaries and introduced me to some of the strangest positions and most intense pleasure I've ever experienced.

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12 Fouchard, Part 2

As much fun as we had on the town and as satisfied as Fouchard left me in the bedroom, we didn't last long. The spotlight was always on Fouchard, and my star was rising thanks to being in his sphere of influence. But ultimately, I was just another human, and he was an immortal. I didn't hold enough interest for someone who had been as many places and done as many things as him.

Things simply faded. He showed up at fewer shows, we went out less, he took me into his bed less frequently. I probably could have tried harder to make it work, been more accommodating of his more extreme fetishes, but ultimately that would have only prolonged the inevitable. We finally realized that it would not last, that we were each just a diversion for the other.

I'll miss the nights out, feeling like a star, and sitting in that eye of the storm with him, where everyone around us was there at his pleasure, but I was the one he chose to share it with. It made me feel special in a strange way. I'll also miss his methodical, intense lovemaking and the sheer variety of appendages he had to use on me. He definitely expanded my horizons, especially sexually. I found myself craving many of the kinks he introduced me in the months and years to come. I blame him for what almost became an obsession for me, and the reason several subsequent relationships fell apart.

I still went to the same clubs, restaurants and bars. I was a minor celebrity, C list at best, but I still qualified for a modicum of the special treatment I received when I was with Fouchard. We remained friendly, even after he started dating Gorag, the Spider-Mother. It was strange for him to almost immediately start dating a monster after we split up. It made me wonder what he was searching for that he thought he could find with me, then looked for with Gorag.

Our manager started billing us as Gig Fury and the Hollow Lies, and we played larger venues thanks to the exposure I received dating Fouchard. I ran into Maria, the witch who had a threesome with Bodak and me, and found out that the two of them were no longer on speaking terms. We flirted a little, but nothing came of it. I spent a few weeks single, but before I knew it, I was in another relationship.

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13 Brigid, Part 1

Brigid was a friend of Fouchard. We met once or twice, and I honestly thought she didn't like me. It turned out, I was absolutely incorrect. I saw her at a few of our shows but didn't think anything of it. I played with Hollow Lies most weekends, but I was also working on an all-girls project with some musicians I'd met around town. We called ourselves Pretty Hostility, and apparently each brought a following from our respective bands, because our first show at the Locatium sold out.

The basement of the Locatium combined the ruins of the previous building, arches and ornate stonework that looked like some sort of temple, with utilitarian cinder blocks and a crisscrossing maze of huge pipes overhead that disappeared into wide tunnels or directly into the floor, walls or ceiling. It was a jarring juxtaposition and the room they setup for the band was almost as big as the venue itself. The lounge was a series of couches, chairs, and tables left in the wide open space, like someone setting up a folding table and chairs in a warehouse and calling it their office. There was a party down here after the show, and we had fans. We had lots of fans.

An all-girl group will gain the attention of men like bare skin attracting mosquitos, and often with about as much enthusiasm on both sides of the equation. Guys were buzzing around, tossing out compliments and fishing for interest. We humored a few, but mostly just joked around with each other. It was nice to have girlfriends for a change, other women with a passion for music with whom I felt a kind of camaraderie. We were being entertained by promises from a trio of rather good-looking guys flashing around bling when I caught a glimpse of Brigid looking at me from beyond our circle. She quickly turned away and blended into the crowd.

I felt a compulsion to seek her out, so I did, brushing past the party boys and moving into the mass of bodies. I was on a mission, following a hint of red hair, a flash of her green dress. I politely nodded and smiled as people greeted me with "great set", and "you rock!", sometimes replying with a quiet "thank you", but always pursuing the elusive woman I knew I'd seen but who somehow remained just out of sight.

And then she was there, standing alone in the opening of one of the wide tunnels that led out of this strange subterranean room. She was naturally beautiful in a way other women tried to emulate with makeup. Her eyes were huge and bright green, her lips were full and red, her skin was flawlessly smooth, and her red hair flowed around her like a wild mane, a shroud of honeyed fire, gold, and amber. She wore a simple green dress with no adornment that hugged her curves and as I approached her eyes were on mine. I felt stripped bare by her gaze, and found that I didn't know what to say.

Her smile reassured me, and I smiled back. I asked her if she'd like to join me and my bandmates, but she said she wasn't one for the party scene. I asked her if she'd like to do something else with me, and next thing I knew we were walking down one of those tunnels and talking, her in that green dress that hinted at concealed beauty and me still in my stage clothes. We walked up and out of that underground maze, but I'd probably never remember the way. I was caught up in conversation and infrequent eye contact. At some point I realized we were holding hands, and then we were at her place. She told me she enjoyed talking, and hoped we could do it again some time. A peck on the cheek and she was gone leaving me staring up at her building and wondering when I would see her again.


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14 Brigid, Part 2

Brigid knew the locations of some portal doors that took us to amazing locations. One of our favorite things to do was to spend a day or two through a portal in a verdant valley filled with unknown flora, or along a craggy coastline watching waves crash along the shore, or picnicking in a lush meadow untouched by sentient species. She knew all the best natural places you could reach via portal, and we spent countless days enjoying them all.

Brigid was a patient and gentle lover, and it took us time to build to the intimacy we both wanted from the start. When we finally did, it was amazing. Earning her trust was a reward in and of itself. She seemed to trust no one but herself, so when she gave herself to me, I knew it meant more to her than to others. That trust, that unshakable faith from one who had seemingly lost hers, was a treasure I dared not damage.

Her love of simplicity was a stark contrast to my life of excess, and it made me reexamine myself and my choices. I loved music, and I enjoyed the challenges of delving, but I also cherished the quiet time I spent with Brigid. She was invigorated by nature, but enjoyed my company enough to come to all my shows, both Hollow Lies and the less frequent Pretty Hostility shows. She said she was jealous of how I expressed myself in song, so I offered to help her try to do the same.

We wrote a song together, an emotional and musical rollercoaster that took you on disturbing, passionate, impetuous journey if you let yourself feel it. When she sang those words she had written, the raw feeling in her voice let you feel her ripping her heart open and pouring her lifeblood out in song. I cried listening to her sing it, but by the end, they were tears of joy. Her song told of her faith, her loss, how the Gods themselves had let her down, and her eventual redemption in her own self-reliance. She was amazing, powerful, and utterly confident in who she was, and her song conveyed it all in a way most music simply cannot.

We played it for the rest of Pretty Hostility once and everyone knew we had to play it, and Brigid had to sing it. No one else would put that much emotion into it. We practiced it until it was perfect, and then debuted it at the Platinum Palace. Brigid was nervous, but got on stage and performed like a born rock star. Her song was a hit, and people loved her.

Working on that song together took us into a new level in our relationship. I'd never felt as close to someone as I did to Brigid. We were indescribably happy.

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15 Brigid, Part 3

Brigid kept her own place even though mine was big enough for both of us. We split most of our time between writing music at my place and relaxing in one of Brigid's secret nature preserves. She was an amazing cook, and would disappear while I was working on a song only to reappear later with plates full of whatever delicacy she dreamed up for us that day. She came to every one of my shows, and we spent countless nights wrapped naked in each other's arms. It was domestic bliss and it continued for months with no sign of slowing.

When a delve came up that finally paid enough to make it worth a few days out of the city, I decided to take it. Brigid surprised me by asking if I'd like her to come along. I had no idea she was a delver as well, but when she assured me she could handle herself, I invited her along. Brigid arrived wearing armor I'd never seen before and carrying a sword that looked too heavy for her. We joined three others and headed into the dark domain beyond the portal.

Our first delve was quite an adventure, and seeing Brigid in action, swinging that sword, battling the demons that guarded the treasure we sought, showed me a sign of her I never would have known otherwise. When one of our companions fell, Brigid laid her hands upon him and healed him. I had no idea she had that kind of power.

The last line of defense guarding the treasure we sought seemed to recognize Brigid. They cried out that "The Bright One" or "The Sacred Flame" had returned, and some of the demons even fled before those names alone. When her sword burst into flame I understood the second title, but I didn't have much time to ask her about it. We were locked in a deadly battle against demonic forces, and two of our number fell before we managed to banish the enemy. Brigid was unable to heal either.

Three of us left that realm with more treasure than any of us expected. I found some new armor and a magical weapon on that delve, and Brigid kept a circlet we found. We exchanged the rest of our treasure for cash, and I took home enough to live on for over two years and a lot of questions about Brigid's life before we met.

I didn't ask her more than she asked me, which was nothing. Clearly I had a history she didn't really know, and hers seemed even more storied than my own, but I wasn't going to press her for details she didn't want to share. Weeks later, relaxing in rolling meadows after a picnic lunch through one of her favorite portals, she started talking about herself and her past.

She had been born with power. She could heal, she could create flame, her mood could affect the weather to some small degree. Her people, those who raised her before coming to The City, believed that The Gods had given her great power, and revered her abilities as divinely granted. She was a shining example of divine gifts, and her people treated her like a holy person. When their men fell in battle defending the village, she took up a sword that burst into flame and, as a storm raged around only her, defeated enough of the attackers to frighten the rest away. They considered her blessed, almost a saint, and treated her as such. But she did not want the role, and beseeched her Gods to allow her peace, to let her find love, to let her live a life on her own terms. The Gods did not reply nor offer any signs other than more of the same, and she realized she was on her own. She was not divine, she was just a woman. She left her village in the middle of the night with no warning or message. She wandered for a time, found adventure, and ultimately discovered a portal to the City and had been here ever since.

She had never told anyone else her story. No one knew that she was considered a Saint in her homeland, that she felt forsaken by her Gods and had lost her faith, that she was a warrior who could face the strongest foes without flinching. Here she was just a woman seeking happiness, and she seemed to have found it with me. I was lucky that she found me.

I heard through the grapevine that Winter and Fouchard had stopped speaking, but it didn't really affect me at the time, so I ignored it.

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