Author: Absent Pulse PM
And so it came to be that the tamed serpent fell in love with her human saviour. But jealousy and fear are powerful motivators, and as most tragedies go, the young girl's innocence inadvertently awakened a beast.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Tragedy - Words: 9,343 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 7 - Published: 11-13-11 - Status: Complete - id: 2970208
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This is my first published story ever on this website. I'm a little nervous about it. Seriously hoping this gets a pleasant reception. Anyway...
As a warning, there will be violence, mildly sexual f/f themes, and swallowing. I'm uncertain what you'd call that. In any case, enjoy, and review if you want to. I'd like that. Make the newbie feel welcome and all that jazz.
Oh, and don't feel intimidated by the length. The actual story is divided up by separate scenes that add to the whole, but they didn't sound right when put into multiple chapters. Hence the massive one-shot. Also, the writing has been kept relatively simple.
Many thanks, and bless you.
The naga, who was taken by surprise when she heard her name being called by a voice ringing in the near distance, made a sudden motion.
Lifting her mighty head from the ocean bottom with a start, she hissed curiously to herself and trained an ear for the call again, unintentionally startling the seal she had hoped to catch.
Could it be?
"Hello? Anemone, where are you?"
Yellow serpentine eyes roved to the surface high above her head, a gentle tide swaying the sea grass and distorting sunrays. She felt an odd sense of excitement, knowing that she was being visited by that funny little human girl again.
It had been a while. She was late.
But no matter.
Clarissa had come, and Anemone was happy.
"Anemone!" The human called again, her voice melodious. "Come on out. I know you're hiding."
The naga's tail thrashed and she pointedly chose to remain hidden, slowly circling her pool, head craned upward. When it got too much for her neck she rolled over, swimming gently with her back spines running through silken sands and stomach scales catching the light, shining gold.
Ah, much more comfortable. She could see her human girl quite nicely like this.
Clarissa was standing on the edge of a large overhanging rock, their regular meeting place. It had been for the last few years, since an accidental encounter involving a fisherman's net and a lot of screaming, terrified humans and an overturned boat had caused her to come upon this island.
She was overlooking the ocean, and her blond tresses seemed alive, swept back by the playful winds.
The naga felt her throat constrict, as it had started doing in their more recent encounters.
By the gods, she was beautiful.
"Okay, I'm going home. I brought you some fish, but I guess you you're not interested." The blonde head vanished.
With a surge of speed Anemone's scaly face broke the now violent surface. She soared upward, arms outstretched, and gripped the rock tightly in her claws, hefting her womanly half over the top, her slick serpentine body soon following.
Clarissa smiled, satisfied to find the gigantic snake woman coiled obediently at her feet, gazing up at her with what could almost be a cute expression, if the gills, savage scars and wild, fiery eyes were ignored. "Ah, there you are."
The naga hissed again, rising off the wet bed of rock. Soon she towered over the human, balancing on relaxed muscles that went on for many, many feet, casting the girl in shadow. She hissed in greeting and the human, unafraid, waved back.
"You've lost weight. Am I making you complacent, oh great hunter?" Clarissa's blue eyes flickered jokingly and she motioned to a bag not far off, which had been pulled across the beach in a section of a turtle's shell and rope, a makeshift sled.
Anemone grumbled lowly, pausing to give her self-proclaimed caretaker an appreciative glance before slithering over to investigate, moving amazingly quickly for her size and lack of legs, swaying with every tug of her hips.
"Try not to choke this time," the human called after her.
The naga lowered herself and tore open the bag, driving her hands inside quickly to pull out a rubbery squid, her back spines arching as she brought its head to her jaws for a bite.
"I missed you." Soft, warm hands ran over black scales in searching caresses, Clarissa walking along the serpent's length on her way to the woman's torso. As she wandered her fingertips ran over healed, rough cuts, courtesy of a fisherman's knife when he tried to gut his catch, and digging ropes from a constricting net. "I'm sorry I haven't been coming as often, but I've had a lot of things on my mind, on my hands."
Anemone, currently shovelling fish in her mouth, didn't answer. Her stomach felt empty, and while the offering wasn't much, it would satisfy her gnawing hunger for just a little while. The humans' boats had been scaring away a lot of the food recently, and she understood that she'd have to cover more ocean in the future if she wanted to properly feed herself. But that would put her further away from this human, and she still wasn't sure how she felt about that yet.
"Anemone?" the girl called softly.
She paused, looking at her.
"Good." A tender mouth curved delicately at the corners. "So you are aware that I'm still standing here."
Clarissa grinned back, sitting herself down in the sand to watch. "Such a charming creature. So majestic."
The naga licked her fingers and frowned.
"All gone?" Blue eyes widened when she made an odd nodding motion. "So soon? That took my father the whole morning to catch, and he was so mad when I told him we weren't going to eat any of it…"
Anemone belched, thumping the heavy tip of her tail over a rock in a pleased, yet not completely satisfied kind of way, upturning the bag in her claws and shaking it with the hope something would fall out. Nothing did, and so she distracted her disappointed self with the interesting little creature beside her.
Clarissa giggled when fishy fingers moved to play with her face and hair, the massive naga taking her weak attempts at struggle as a coy invitation to try harder. "Anemone, no! You smell!"
Growling, she gently smacked the girl's hands aside, finally cupping her jaw within strong claws and turning her face toward her so she could stare into those pretty blue eyes.
"Anemone." Clarissa made a disapproving sound, but didn't fight any further.
The naga eyed her human pet closely, running a pale thumb lightly over her cheek, the glassy claw narrowly avoiding her brow as it moved to settle in her hairline.
So soft to the touch.
"My father would have a seizure if he saw us like this," she breathed ever so quietly. "Then again, if he knew anything about us I'd be locked up for life. You're my secret, you know."
Anemone released her captive's face, instead ensnaring her within her inescapable coils, squeezing her human just tightly enough to make her squeak.
She liked that sound.
Why, she wasn't sure.
But she did.
"Bad girl." Clarissa managed to pull an arm out of the embrace, slapping her hand over an unblemished section of scales, causing the muscle beneath to quiver. Her blow was hardly felt under the natural armour, but it made a very fulfilling smacking sound. "No choking. We've spoken about this. Loosen up."
The naga obeyed, her coils slackening. Leaning over her girth, she rested her chin on folded arms and regarded what would normally be considered potential prey with a raised brow, receiving a similar look for her efforts.
"What are you thinking about?" Clarissa asked after some time, her head cocked.
Anemone responded by running her forked tongue lightly over the girl's forehead, tasting her sweat.
"You can't eat me." She scrunched up her face, wiping her brow dry. "So don't try it."
The naga growled.
She could swallow the human whole with ease if she tried.
Not that she planned to.
"You don't eat friends, silly. It's a rule." A brown hand stretched out to pet her head, bringing out a rattling hiss. "You only eat fish. Not friends. Right?"
Anemone's sensitive crown of webbed spines flittered under the caress. She grumbled amicably in reply, which was as good as a yes.
"Good girl." The human smiled.
A shallow cove provided a place to sleep that night.
Anemone was forced to curl tightly around herself to fit inside, but the shallow water helped her cool and the rock walls were comfortingly snug. It would do quite fine.
Later on she'd probably need to find a new den, since seals tended to try and stuff themselves in every available space and they were noisy neighbours, but that was a problem she'd deal with later.
She closed her eyes, nuzzling the bag that Clarissa had left on the beach, the stench of fish still there.
But if Anemone breathed in deep enough, she could smell human hands.
Clarissa didn't come the next day.
She didn't come again for weeks.
And then months.
But Anemone didn't worry too much, because it was only a matter of time.
So she hunted, and she fed herself, and watched the distant village from the depths of the leafy jungle, retreating whenever a human wandered too close.
Sometimes she'd see her, walking about with a boy near her age, who held her hand.
This made the naga curious.
And when she saw them touch noses behind a hut, something twisted up inside.
Anemone had gone back to her cove after that.
She didn't visit the village again for some time.
Clarissa's voice woke the naga from her slumber.
"Well, someone's sluggish." The human grinned, running her fingertips down a pale side, the fine, silvery scales of the creature's upper half as soft as skin, and almost as smooth. "And look at that stomach. Must've caught something big today."
Anemone grunted her own greeting, slowly lifting herself. She'd been basking on the rock that was their meeting place after a very successful hunt for seals, her inner acids slowly breaking down flesh and bone while she slept to regain her energy. And now she would sleep no more.
"I guess you won't have any room for fish, huh?" Clarissa smiled, then looked guilty, and sighed. "I'm sorry I made you wait so long. I…"
The naga didn't mind, and in an effort to show this, she wrapped herself around the girl, holding her close where she could inhale her soft, golden hair.
"I met someone," came an eventual whisper, soft hands placing themselves on the bulge of the woman's stomach. "He's wonderful."
Anemone stiffened, her eyes darting to the sea below.
The boy from the village.
"He makes me feel like… like…" Clarissa giggled. "Like a woman. Especially when he holds me and says the sweetest things."
The naga slowly slithered away, unsure what she should be thinking. Surely this was good news, that the human had found a mate with some potential, and yet…
It felt awful.
"He's kind, you know. Not like most men. Soft and gentle." The girl followed after her slithering charge, seemingly unaware of the dark storm brewing behind bright eyes. "He treats me so well, and my father loves him. I think, just maybe, I found the one…"
Anemone trembled, stooping over and clutching her dilated stomach within her claws.
Gods, the pain.
What was that pain?
Clarissa stopped talking immediately and ran over, only for a long, muscled arm to bar her from coming any closer. "Anemone?"
The naga unhinged her jaws and gagged, groaning as she lost control of her insides and retched again, emptying her stomach spontaneously over the edge of their rock, a ragged, unrecognisable seal corpse and its separated tail falling to the reddened sea below, where they bobbed on the uneven surface.
Tense calm followed this gore.
"Are you sick?" the human finally asked, her voice soft.
Anemone smelt blood, but it was not hers, not the seal's that caught her attention. Turning to the smaller female, she realised that her sharp, thorny elbow had snagged Clarissa's stomach, leaving behind fine tears in the fabric of her dress. She snarled her surprise.
"Oh." Blue eyes gazed downward, widening. "How did that happen?"
The naga moved to console, her great silver hand touching soft human form; long, webbed, clawed fingers finely scaled and made for grasping, were ever so light and careful, and they were flecked with the girl's blood as she gently rubbed her belly, feeling the wounds beneath while warmth ran down her elbow.
"It's okay." Clarissa patted her arm, smiling bravely. "It doesn't even hurt that much."
Anemone felt herself relax slightly.
"I'm going to go back to the village and get this sorted." She stood on tiptoes and the naga lowered her head, soft lips meeting with a sharp, womanly jaw. "I'll be back soon, I promise."
She then began to walk away and Anemone watched on helplessly as her only friend in the world grow smaller and smaller with each step.
"If you feel better later and start getting hungry," she called over a tanned, pretty shoulder, smiling, "I brought you some fish over there. Eat that and then try to sleep a bit while I'm gone, okay? I'll find you when I come back."
The naga's eyes fell on another bag, another offering, one she did not want. She hissed softly and, when Clarissa was gone, gingerly tried to refill her throbbing stomach, only to spit the bloody mulch back into her hands.
Clarissa didn't come back for a few days after that, and Anemone couldn't keep anything in her gut.
Hunting became too much of a chore, and so she took her warden's latter advice and tried to sleep, only to find herself plagued by a bitter feeling inside that was so powerful, sometimes she snarled and struck the walls of her den to try release some of her strain, claws raking shrilly against dank rock. And it only grew worse with each sunset.
That boy was the cause of this, she was sure of it. Whether it was witchcraft or the gods trying to tell her something, she was not sure.
But she somehow knew he was making her ill.
"Anemone!" Clarissa's voice called one morning a little distantly, like a ghost's haunting. "Are you well?"
The naga forced herself up, straining with her lethargic, hungry coils as she untangled herself. She carefully slithered outside, wary for any strange humans as she followed the sound. She strained her eyes, which hadn't met salt water for some time since she'd stopped searching for meat, and saw her.
There she was, standing beautiful and as tall as she could on their rock a little ways down the beach, gold shimmering on tan.
Anemone wheezed, stroking her aching stomach. It felt so far, but she made her way over, and it didn't take long before her red stripes and shimmering black length trailing behind her caught the human's eye. She finally stopped, exhausted, and watched her human come bounding over the sand the rest of the way.
She was excited to see her, even if she couldn't show it very strongly.
That girl was so pretty when she smiled.
"Hello!" Clarissa giggled when she was within range for an embrace, flying forward to be caught within large, cold hands, burying her face in the naga's lower half.
The serpent woman whimpered, stroking her sunny head. Everything felt better all of a sudden, as if their mere proximity caused her innards to stop their screaming.
Clarissa's breath tickled her in intimate ways as she spoke again, barely above a whisper. "Oh, I missed you so, so much. I would have come sooner, but my father said I needed to rest and recover, and that boy I told you about wouldn't let me do anything for myself…"
Anemone hissed, that pain suddenly returning.
"You feeling okay?" Those blue eyes could not be lied to, and so the naga shook her head slowly. "What's wrong? You're looking so thin…"
Carefully she lowered herself to Clarissa's level, then lower, finally lying down on her side, uncaring to curl herself up as she would usually do when so exposed and vulnerable. She took a tanned hand and placed it over her firm abdomen, silky fingers spreading over the knotted muscle beneath yellow scales that clustered there like armour plating, and the girl seemed to understand.
"You still can't eat anything," Clarissa murmured, kneeling in the sand to caress a silver cheek. "I wonder what's wrong."
Anemone whimpered. Her heart felt like it was bound to burst from her chest.
"It's going to be just fine. Probably some sort of naga sickness." The girl gently pushed her larger companion onto her back, dorsal spines folding in and flattening in the sand. "Maybe I can give you some relief. Tell me if it hurts and I'll stop, okay?"
The naga nodded, closing her eyes as those soft hands began to caress her, rubbing the pain away that the boy had magically inflicted upon her somehow. Her muscles loosened and she almost purred.
"That's nice, isn't it?" Clarissa sounded amused, a fingernail dipping into the woman's bellybutton, so low down.
That earned her a shudder and choked gasp, eyes peeling open at the sudden pleasure.
"Shh." Lips unexpectedly met with Anemone's taut side, brushing sweetly over hard ribs. "Do you think if I help you, you'll eat something?"
This did not make the other too keen, and she voiced her displeasure with a growl.
"Would you eat something for me?" Those blue eyes were steadily staring, probing.
The naga eventually nodded and the human vanished, returning later with fresh fish, less than last time, contained in a little basket weaved from some plant thing that was fascinating to touch.
"Open up," Clarissa commanded, dangling a small fish over Anemone's jaws, gently lowering it onto her forked tongue when she obeyed. Her brown fingers brushed lightly against sharp, angled teeth that pointed toward the back of the naga's throat, like a snake, and the way she fitted inside her mouth was somehow erotic when it really shouldn't have been. They'd never done this before.
But Anemone swallowed, and did not retch again.
For the next month Clarissa came every single day, and Anemone regained her weight.
She even got fatter when she was strong and willing enough to hunt for seals and fish. She regained some of her spunk and that made the human laugh, which in turn made her feel relaxed.
That pain hardly bothered Anemone anymore, except when she was alone. But Clarissa stayed with her for many hours, sometimes even playing and swimming with the naga into the early blackness of night. So while the ache wasn't gone, it was bearable. It was less.
Anemone discovered that being handfed was so much more satisfying than catching her food, and she noticed that her human pet was a little more affectionate than usual, touching, feeling, kissing her in places she hadn't done so before. She seemed happy to dangle fish teasingly over the naga's open mouth until finally relenting and lowering her hand inside, just deep enough to make her grunt softly in pleasure.
It felt nice when she did that. Nothing else she handled inside her mouth made her tingle and tighten like that. When she'd allowed impulse to take over rational thought and suckled on that hand, Clarissa had made a funny sound and her face had turned a peculiar shade of red.
It was a pretty red.
Anemone growled, poking her head out the surface of the water to look at the world above, her snake half coiled on the sandy bottom and invisible in the dark waters.
Clarissa hadn't come that morning. Hopefully this absence wouldn't stretch on as long as it had in times past.
And then there was that pain in her stomach.
The naga finally made up her mind and slithered over the sand, leaving a wet furrow and the safe comfort of the pool behind her as she ventured into the jungle growing so near the beach.
She came to the village soon, and waited, watching.
There she was.
Clarissa, talking with that boy.
Anemone's sensitive eardrums could make out the words, but she didn't like them. Sticking out her forked tongue, she tasted every human in the village; sweat, mud, and something else.
It was on Clarissa, and it was even stronger on the boy, who suddenly pulled her in close, this time in front of every other human in their pod, and pressed his nose against hers passionately.
This earned him a smile, and a nuzzle back.
The naga's dorsal spines opened, projecting sharply from her back. The ache in her gut worsened and she almost flew from the bushes that hid her, pulling back at the last possible moment when blue eyes darted to her position and the two humans separated, staring at her but not seeing.
Anemone decided it was wise to remain motionless, and the moment their noses once again touched and she was forgotten, she slipped away, raking her claws into a nearby palm tree to leave deep, angry sores in its trunk.
She wanted to hunt, regardless of how much her stomach hurt, regardless of whether she would be able to hold in the meat or not.
She wanted to kill something, and that was what she did.
She left the seal's corpse in the sand, blood gushing from its torn throat, and settled in her den for the rest of the day, and the next, and the day after that.
When she was out again, she went hunting.
She spent a lot of time hunting.
But no time eating.
It just hurt too much and her hunger was frustrating her.
"Are you still sick? I thought you'd gotten better…"
Clarissa had found her den, probably because of the smell of deterioration that had led her there, or perhaps it was the deep, winding grooves of a restless, heavy body being dragged back and forth, over and over again before suddenly vanishing into the water and returning to a discreet little cove.
Anemone paid her little attention. She was irritable, unable to keep still one hour and then simply dozing the next, but never finding sleep or satisfaction in eating. She didn't want company, because she couldn't stop thinking about what she had seen back at the village. That had been weeks ago.
And it still felt fresh.
To the human, she must have seemed a frightful creature, a dark, hefty being with angry eyes and red markings wherever sunrays met with scales, her blackest parts lying curled around herself like a waiting python to support her human half above, twitching from the ache in her gut that she couldn't get rid of. Not even the girl's crooning or soft hands on her scales helped it lessen.
She was truly, truly ill.
"I saw the seals outside. I know it's hard, but you can't keep killing things and then leave them to rot on the beach. People are starting to suspect things. The fishermen who almost killed you still remember. They're spreading stories and my father's suggesting a hunt." Clarissa sighed, climbing over the serpent until she was near the woman's face, which she cupped and lovingly caressed with her nose. "Oh, Anemone."
It felt a lot like the way she rubbed noses with that boy, and this confused the naga tremendously.
"We have to do something. You've gotten worse." Her blue eyes were sad, and they fluttered closed as something sparkled in their corners, then trailed down soft, tanned cheeks. "It's like someone's cast a spell on you. I wonder if a witch knows you're here, and she wants you to leave. But you can't, because I'd miss you too much…"
Anemone watched the tears as they inched along, and without really thinking about it, she quickly caught them in the fork of her tongue before they could escape. The salt reminded her of the ocean, of hunting, and of throwing up, of anger and pain.
Clarissa shivered, her grip on the other's face tightening. "I don't want to lose you," she managed to choke, staring hard through glistening blue mirrors that reflected the horror that she spoke so appealingly to. "Please, eat something. Try. You have to get better."
The naga wheezed. She wanted to be left alone. Having those hands touch her so nicely didn't feel so good anymore.
"Please," her caretaker repeated, a thumb lightly tracing pale lips. "Promise me, Anemone. Promise me."
A scoff followed.
Did they mean anything to humans?
But those eyes were too beautiful to deny, and so the naga finally consented, gently nodding.
"Thank you." The human closed the distance between them again, nuzzling her nose to her once more. "Thank you. Thank you…"
Anemone pulled away, holding her stomach. The bitterness inside made her volatile, and the girl was likely to get pushed away rudely if she kept rubbing against her like that.
His nose had been there.
His foul, lustful stink still wavered.
"I'll get you something to eat." Clarissa smiled encouragingly, then disappeared.
Even when she was outside, the smell stayed, mocking Anemone, who drummed her claws over her own body in frustration.
Thud, thud, thud…
Nursing the naga back to health was more time consuming than it had previously been, possibly because she was less eager to be touched and the human had been so adamant on touching.
"Easy, girl." Clarissa once again tried to bring the fish to Anemone's mouth, only to be dodged as the naga shirked away, taking the fish between her claws instead and ripping off its head with evident brutality. "Okay, that's fine. If you feel more comfortable doing this yourself…"
So much more.
"Can I touch your stomach?" The girl tentatively reached out, far more cautious than she had ever been before. "Maybe I can find out what's wrong. I'll be gentle, you know I will."
Yellow eyes followed her movements and a rattling hiss eased from Anemone's reddened jaws, dribbling with fish as she aggressively ripped off chunks rather than swallow it whole.
Placing a finger lightly over her stomach scales, Clarissa ignored the intimidating stare and began to feel around, no unusual lumps or bulges hinting at some internal wound or infection. Or perhaps pregnancy, but that made little sense, even if it had crossed her mind once or twice. "I don't understand…"
The naga suddenly moved, tail almost thrashing as she hurried away, tossing what little remained of her meal into the sand.
"What's wrong?" The girl ran after her, hopping onto the end of the tail and holding onto it just to keep pace, arms wrapped around the black and red bundle of shiny, guarded muscle.
Anemone barked back in response, moving toward the water and diving into its icy depths, dragging her caretaker down with her.
Clarissa was concerned, even a little scared, letting go when they were near the bottom and watching in the murky blue as the naga gracefully turned and encircled her, keeping distance, vanishing in and out of focus whenever she suddenly darted away like a startled fish only to return again in a sweeping motion, yellow gaze regarding her environment with some sort of dissatisfaction.
She watched Anemone, but could not follow her in this odd dance. It was as if she didn't physically exist, yet was the centre of the naga's axis. When she surfaced for breath, her lungs having begged her to after some time, and gazed down, only a suggestion of shadow told her the creature wasn't some apparition, and actually was swimming about beneath her feet in such a strange, intimidating manner. It wasn't right.
Normally they'd play together like this, but this didn't feel playful to the human. It was grimmer than that, more serious.
When something sharp suddenly nicked her ankle, it felt predatory, and she hurried to the shore.
Anemone did not stop her, but she did follow, like a shark trailing blood, only stopping when her face hit sand.
Clarissa sat on her rump, panting, the yellow eyes glaring at her from the rippling beyond, then flashing as the naga turned and vanished, barely upsetting the surface at all.
What was that?
Clarissa thought about visiting Anemone to check on her, but after what happened yesterday, she decided against it.
She'd said she would help, but her attempts were obviously being rebuked.
And she had no idea why.
"Is something wrong?" asked a soft voice near her ear, followed by the brush of a strong, masculine nose against her cheek.
"No," she said quickly, smiling at that handsome young man who'd asked. When he took her face in his hands and kissed her, she felt all insecurities vanish and eased against him, kissing back.
A shrill roar was what broke them apart.
"What in the name of-"
She turned her eyes to the jungle, seeing nothing but the foliage gently stirring in the breeze.
The noise was strange, yet somehow familiar.
It made her shiver despite the heat of the day.
Could it have been…?
"There's something in there," an old woman said, holding her grandchild closer against her chest. "Something evil."
Others began to group around her, all murmuring their agreement. It was like every man, woman and child in the village stopped what they were doing to watch and listen.
Like they were expecting something to come at them from the dark recesses of the jungle.
"It's that snake woman, I tell you!" whispered one of the fishermen loudly, fingering a knife at his belt. "You saw the scales in my boat! She's real, and she's living out there somewhere just waiting for the right time to slither down and eat us all!"
"What should we do?"
"Find the beast and drive her off. Kill her if we have to."
No, no, no.
It was her father speaking, suggesting these terrible things.
She had to stop them.
"I've heard of nagas," said another, this time a woman. "Man-eaters with hypnotic eyes and the strength of a dozen men. It's said they're magic tricksters and rape to create more…"
That wasn't true.
Clarissa frowned heavily.
What could she do?
How could she convince them?
She had to, somehow.
"We prepare ourselves tonight and begin the search tomorrow morning. We'll need every able man to do it. The women shall stay here, where you should be sa-"
"I don't think she wants to hurt us," Clarissa spoke up, all eyes moving to settle on her incredulously. "I think she's lost somewhere, and maybe scared of us. I think she's calling out for help…"
It was a lie. The naga chose to stay because she'd domesticated her, befriended her, given her a name.
But it was like she was becoming wild all over again.
"Sweet child, this isn't a person. It's a monster. Don't let her lull you into some false security," said the old hag, bobbing the baby up and down in her arms. "You haven't seen this naga about, have you, child?"
Clarissa stiffened, her father's blue eyes burning into hers. "No, of course not. I'm just saying it might not be right to hunt her down without cause. She hasn't hurt anyone."
"Have you seen those corpses in the water? When I take out my net, I catch rotting seal, not fish! That hurts my pocket and my sons need their dinner!"
"I hear voices sometimes. When I think I'm alone, they whisper me, telling me to go for a swim…"
"I woke up this morning with a terrible weight on my chest, like she was bearing down on me, reaching for my nethers and-"
Clarissa walked away from them.
Making up lies to justify hurting a harmless creature.
Anemone wouldn't rape or kill a human. She was simply stressed about something. Maybe she sensed the villagers' animosity.
She needed to visit the naga and sooth her, find a better hiding place, and get her to start eating again.
Then it would be all right.
She paused, her father suddenly bearing down on her.
"Have you seen the naga?" he demanded, gripping her wrists as he leant in to whisper, "Because you've been to the beach a lot recently. Bringing fish. Why?"
"I like feeding the seals," she fibbed, yanking, but unable to get away. "Father, let me go. They're watching."
"This is serious, Clarissa. If that monster really does inhabit the island, I don't want to risk you going anywhere near it, whether it's lost and frightened or not. I won't lose you because of my negligence like I lost your mother." His face registered pain for a moment, then hardened again. "Understand?"
She nodded, repressing the urge to sigh. "Yes, Father."
"You're to remain indoors until I'm satisfied there's no threat. No gallivanting about alone, or with your suitor, and not because I don't trust him, but because I have your best interests on my mind. Understand?"
She opened her mouth to complain, only for his meaty finger to press over it, silencing her.
She nodded stiffly and he let her go, pointing to the door of their home.
She obeyed, and the moment it was night and her father had fallen into a deep slumber in his bed, she snuck out, escaping the watchmen as she hurried through the jungle to the beach.
"Anemone! Please, it's important!"
The naga recognised terror when she heard it, her eyes rolling upward, bloody flesh released from her jaws. For just a moment she almost forgot her mounting anger at being left alone again, footfalls pounding in her eardrums, and she burst out the pool to investigate, the stars reflecting off her dampened scales.
Clarissa was sprinting full speed toward her until she stumbled over something and fell, cursing loudly.
A dead seal.
She kicked it away with revulsion.
Slithering quickly up the cooling sand bank, the naga picked the girl up off the beach and set her down correctly again, holding her by the shoulders as she stooped to try and make sense of the desperation in her wide blue eyes.
What was wrong?
"They're coming to find you, Anemone! My people!" Clarissa was panting heavily as she spoke, the words coming out strangely. "They know you're here. Or, they have a good idea. Something in the jungle, it…"
The naga looked away, yellow eyes burning brightly as they chose to study the beach instead of the human in her grasp.
"Was that you?" she asked softly, touching Anemone's abdomen. "Did you make that noise?"
A slight nod was her answer, but otherwise, she was ignored.
Seeing them kiss had been her undoing.
She couldn't help it.
"Why, Anemone? You gave yourself away." Clarissa felt angry when she didn't get a reply, suddenly pulling away to bring her hand to the stomach before her with force, smacking it hard. "Answer me!"
Anemone whined, then snarled, letting her go as she slinked away, holding her burning, empty belly. The blow made her feel like something was impaled in her gut, as if she had fallen onto a rock and was pierced through. But it didn't hurt as much as the terrible realisation that came with it.
Her caretaker had never hit her before.
Not until now.
"Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to hurt you…" The same hands that had caused so much pain hurried to mend it, lovingly stroking the quivering naga wherever they could reach. "I'm just scared. They said they're going to come after you in the morning, and it's so late already, I just don't want… I'm so sorry! Please, look at me."
Anemone turned on her, staring hard.
"I'm sorry," she repeated, shamefully bowing her head as if speaking to a goddess in physical form, dwarfed by the woman and serpent. "Forgive me. Please."
The naga's facial expression softened at this honest admission, then changed completely. Eyeing the little human suddenly brought a thought to her mind, as well as a strange pleasure when she considered it. She knew how to fix everything. It would work.
But could she do it?
She recalled being told it was wrong.
It was, wasn't it?
But it was a solution…
"We need to get you somewhere safe. Hide you." Clarissa reached upward and to her relief, the naga bent down to be petted, responding with a low murmur when fingers met with her crown. "They don't know what they're doing. If they find you, they'll drive you off or… or worse. I can't let that happen. No matter what, I won't."
That was the confirmation she needed.
Anemone lovingly grasped the smaller woman's face and kissed her soundly on the lips, enjoying the way she stiffened, then relaxed, small limbs eventually wrapping around a muscular neck.
All was quiet between the pair but for a soft, coy moan and hiss that melded together into one sound, tail moving over the sand to wrap around them, packing them tightly together.
The kiss deepened, and it was about to get far, far deeper, still.
This was deceitful, but the Anemone was willing to do it, because she knew it would keep them together and safe.
It wasn't going to be permanent, she told herself. She swore silently while sucking on the human's smaller lips that she would spit her out the moment she found someplace safe.
While Clarissa was distracted, the naga subtly dislocated her jaw, taking in a little more with each second that passed until her mouth fitted around much of the girl's face. A small tongue began lapping at her inside and caused her most private of places throb sensually in response, her stomach finally at peace with itself.
She was enjoying the intimacy, the affection, just as much as Anemone, and this was pleasing to her.
The naga twisted and pushed, taking her human's head in carefully and quickly, stroking tanned arms soothingly when she felt them move questioningly, trying to feel, then push, then squeeze tightly until it hurt.
Clarissa stopped feeling safe. She began to struggle, and it made things difficult, yet exciting.
Then she screamed, and the naga moaned gutturally in turn.
The girl's voice was muffled in Anemone's throat, and so the village remained unaware of the naga who continued to engulf the girl, holding her firmly between her clawed hands to keep her relatively still, eventually lifting her off the ground as her open jaws moved ever downward, throat expanding to accommodate.
She was gentle while she worked, being careful with her teeth, trying to make it quick so the human didn't grow too frightened, or suffocate, before reaching the cavern of her stomach. She wouldn't be digested until days later, and that was more than enough time to get her away from this place and regurgitate her again somewhere far away, somewhere they needn't be afraid.
This would solve everything.
A fist punched something, and pleasure, greater than that of before, shot through her unexpectedly.
The naga had to stop herself from pausing to relish the excitement as she began to swallow, head upturned to the stars, her eyes squeezing shut.
Gods, it was wonderful.
Feet vanished down eager jaws, which clicked shut immediately after to prevent escape, yellow gaze flickering alive again, glancing down at the squirming, rounded naga's stomach, then the jungle, and finally the sea.
She dived into the ocean and swam.
Anemone was growing tired.
She'd been travelling for hours straight that night and for hours more into the next day, moving quickly and never pausing, keeping her head above water and mouth slightly agape. She made a special effort to keep one hand over her stomach while the other churned water, gently stroking her belly to remind Clarissa that she was fine, that everything was going to be okay, and that the naga loved her, and that was why she'd broken the rule. She just wanted her safe.
Here they could be safe.
She snaked her way over the waves, moving toward the landmass she'd been hoping for, having relied on memory the entire journey to reach this point. They were almost there, and she hoped it was still as wild and untouched by human hands as it had been before, when she'd last settled there.
Clarissa was tired too. An occasional kick was all she could manage in her struggles, and those were slow, lethargic. It felt pleasurable to her vessel and helped keep her awake.
Anemone pushed herself for one last burst of speed, closing her eyes as she slid up a pebbled slope and lay still for several moments like a beached whale, the sun well into the sky and warm on her back.
They had made it.
She then rolled over and managed a sound that mimicked human laughter, gazing with fondness at the small mound that was her full stomach. How much she adored the being trapped inside, she realised, patting her abdomen.
A kick answered her.
It was hope.
Once she'd regained enough strength she rose a little way off the ground, balancing on her strained arms as she looked about the dimly familiar jungle and mountainous range further on, forked tongue tasting the air. She detected no humans, and her senses were strong in her youth. She trusted them, and so without delay she lowered her head and unhinged again, slick flesh sliding down.
Clarissa hit the pebbles, but the drop was a short one, and she was unhurt, lying in a thin coating of slime as her blue eyes rolled about timidly, dazedly, chest rising and falling quickly with her shallow breathing.
Something about seeing her like that was precious.
Anemone called softly to her, wiping her cheek and mouth clean with a thumb.
Those eyes fell on her, and widened still.
The naga sensed her concern and tried to lessen it with a smile, something she'd observed humans do to create happiness and calm in others, as well as express it in themselves. She then lapped at the girl's face, attentively cleaning her nose, eyes and ears, listening closely to the small being pant and cough against her tongue.
"Why…?" was all the girl could manage before unexpectedly falling asleep, lying limp within her self-appointed protector's shadow.
The naga sighed, then scooped her into her arms, cradling her protectively while they lay together in the sun. Soon she'd find someplace for them to coexist, and it would all be perfect.
Perfect like the human was.
A cave served as their new den.
Carefully Anemone put Clarissa down on a bed of leaves she had gathered singlehandedly, never having felt safe to release her captive until now that the nest was prepared, a soft place she could rest while the naga cleaned and guarded her.
And cleaned and guarded she did.
The sun was setting when Clarissa finally opened her eyes, greeted with another smile. "A-Anemone…"
The naga bore down on her, fondly brushing damp golden strands of hair out of her face and hissing softly.
"What? I don't…" She frowned and sluggishly rolled away, trying to crawl out the mouth of the cave. "Where are we? Where have you taken me? Where's the village?"
Patiently a silver hand plucked her up and brought her back, arms snugly enveloping her.
Clarissa was wide awake then.
"Let me go!" She growled and struggled with her newfound strength, only to be affectionately nipped behind the ear. A guilty whimper whispered of her arousal at the simple action, but she was angry, and she grew angrier still when her wrists were restrained, soft lips traversing down her neck. "I said get off me! HELP!"
Anemone jolted at the loud scream, but held her resolve, for surely it was only a matter of time before the girl realised that she had done what was best. She tried to speed up the process with another nip, gently taking a soft cheek between her teeth and squeezing ever so slightly.
"Please, I need to go back… Father will be worried sick!" She strained, but could not break free, suddenly finding herself upside down when the body she was pressed against began to shift.
The naga lay on her back with her relaxed coils acting as pillows, scooping Clarissa off her nest to take its place. Smiling, she gently placed the girl in a small gap before tightening again, her arms acting as a harness to keep them closely wrapped, mouths brushing, breath intermingling.
It was so nice to be able to cuddle with someone.
But the pleasure ended when Clarissa forced herself back and struck the other's face with a firm backhand, her melodious, sweet voice reaching newfound heights. "What the HELL happened to you?"
Anemone gaped, then felt ashamed, then angry, and finally distraught. This was not what she had planned.
"Put. Me. Down." Blue eyes hardened and a finger was jabbed toward the ground for emphasis.
She did as she was told, carefully lowering the human until she stood, swaying a little and visibly fuming.
"Take me back," Clarissa whispered. "Now."
Anemone whined, shaking her head slowly.
"Why not?" The girl gripped the naga's still lowered hand, yanking it hard. "Take me back!"
Still, she shook her head again, wincing, as it hurt to be screamed at. She'd been screamed at before, but this was horrid.
This was her only friend, hatefully bellowing at her, shrill voice stinging the woman's sensitive ears.
"Fine!" Clarissa let her go and stepped back, tears streaming down tanned cheeks. "I don't need your help. You've done enough."
Anemone reached after her as she started running, blindly running through a jungle she didn't recognise. So she took chase.
The girl just wanted to escape the hissing monstrosity pursuing her, the man-eating, raping monstrosity, and when she finally broke through the foliage she found herself running on air, staring through teary eyes at a sheer drop beneath, sharp rocks and frothy, dark waters far, far away.
She then fell.
Certain death was put to an abrupt halt when clawed hands exploded from the green, gripping the nearest thing they could reach, sunshine wrapping around stern fingers.
Clarissa was yanked back and deposited on the ground, her scalp burning, head spinning, stomach lurching until bile rose up her throat.
Anemone stared mournfully down at the girl, a fistful of her beautiful blonde locks blowing away in the wind, wrenched from the rest to leave a bald patch toward the back, skin red as the cliff face.
When the human made no effort to move anymore, the naga carefully took her into her arms and held her, following their trail almost soundlessly back to the cave.
It was a cold night, and all attempts made later to comfort the sobbing girl seemed useless.
And sleep still evaded Anemone, even if the burning in her stomach was finally gone.
Painful days of trying, and failing, to get that pretty girl's face to smile for her again.
Days of eating, trying to get the other to eat, and sighing at her refusal.
Days of lying alone when it got dark and wondering if things would ever be the way she'd wanted them to be.
So many days.
Until one day, she spoke.
"You can stay here if you want to. I understand that."
Anemone glanced at Clarissa, who sat on the pebbled beach with her bloodshot eyes trained on the horizon. She grunted softly for her to continue, moving a little bit closer, always hopeful.
Maybe it would be different now. Maybe she finally understood.
"You'll be safe here, and I want that," the human said, completely shattering said hope. "But I don't want to stay here with you."
The girl's voice was level, toneless, devoid of any emotion after so much screaming and whining and sobbing. "I think I understand now, understand what you were trying to do by taking me here."
The naga hugged herself, seeing as it was the only embrace she'd be receiving.
"But you can't keep me here," Clarissa finished quietly. "I have family back on the other island. My father needs me. And then there's-"
The boy from her village, Anemone thought silently to herself, stroking her own arm for comfort. It didn't help.
"I'm in love with him."
She knew that.
"He's good to me. I want to marry him one day and have his children."
She knew that, also.
"But I can't do that if you keep me trapped here like this. How do you think that makes me feel?"
The naga pursed her lips and shrunk, eyes burning.
"Please. If you care for me, at all, then you'll do this one last thing for me and take me back."
Yellow eyes glistened with emotion.
She couldn't. Not now, not after they were finally safe.
She'd worked so hard.
She'd broken the rule.
You don't eat your friends.
She broke it because she wanted to keep her friend, and now look what was happening.
She wanted to go back.
"Do you love me?"
A small, betraying nod.
"Then take me home."
The naga said nothing, reluctantly unhinging her jaw.
Clarissa closed her eyes and waited. "Thank you."
She swallowed her, and now that there was no struggle, it didn't make her body tremble or her breath quicken.
It was like eating a rock.
It weighed her down, and made her so desperately long to spit it back out again.
But she couldn't, because she still loved the girl.
Dejected, she dived into the ocean, slowly making her way back.
Clarissa looked happy now.
She laughed as she ran into her father's open arms, scooped off the sand by the big brown man.
He didn't mind that she was filthy or that she stank. He kissed her all the same, and the rest of the villagers, all armed with flaming torches and knives, forgot their hunt and crowded around the united family, huddling together.
But Anemone was not happy.
She felt betrayed, and exhausted.
And her stomach burned, because she knew that the village boy would take her little human and love her the way the naga desperately wanted to, but could not.
But still, she watched.
From a distance, she saw her girl move in with the boy but a few weeks later.
She noticed as she later began to pick up weight, until her stomach bulged.
Witnessed the resulting blonde pups grow into noisy children.
She watched until it hurt too much to do so, and so she found a quiet stretch of sand where she could lie and contemplate the emptiness in her stomach, the pain that made it so hard to eat, to sleep.
And she held a heavy weight in her hand, slowly lifting it off the sand and bringing it before the sun.
Years before then, Clarissa, once she could escape the crowd, had snuck back to the beach.
She prayed to the gods, prayed that she hadn't left.
She searched the pool, and found nothing.
She ran into the cove, and smelt her, but could not see her.
No, no, no.
There was no naga wherever she looked, as there would not be the next morning when she searched again, calling her name.
Or the morning after that, calling again.
Or the weeks and the months and the years.
There was no Anemone.
And even when she had her children and loving husband, she always kept searching.
Stories were told about how she found a strange snake woman lying on the beach, a fisherman's knife stuck in her serpentine body and nets wrapped so tightly around her their marks never left.
About how she nursed the beast back to health and tamed her.
How they danced and played.
How she was swallowed and taken away, far away, and safely brought back again.
Beautiful, beautiful stories.
Most didn't believe them, but as the naga didn't trouble the village anymore, they couldn't dispute them, either.
Still, these stories, despite keeping the memories alive and bringing joy to her offspring, did not fill her.
It wasn't enough.
Clarissa always felt like something was missing.
And one day, when she happened to walk the beaches alone, she found it again.
Could it be true?
She blinked, and the image did not leave her eyes.
This was no illusion.
She grinned, and ran to the familiar shape, spread over the sand as if asleep.
The naga, as it was indeed a naga, bore the same markings and scars and was in every way exactly how she remembered her to be.
It was her.
"Anemone!" She dropped to her knees and embraced a pale arm, kissed it, nuzzled it and sobbed into it.
Where had she been all this time?
But no, it didn't matter.
The gods had answered her nightly prayers.
She thought the serpent must be asleep when she did not stir, and that brought a giggle out of her.
"You came back! I'm so glad you came back to me!"
Still, Anemone said nothing.
"I'm sorry I made you think you had to stay away. You can come back to the cove. It's safe now."
"Hey…" Clarissa cautiously rolled her over, lying her on her back, and then gagged.
Anemone's face was peaceful, contradicting the deep, bloody gash in her empty belly, a rock clutched tightly within a stained silver hand, which flopped lifelessly to the sand when it was jostled, blood meeting with the tide.
For Anemone, the burning in her belly had became too much, and as she could no longer eat sufficiently, she could not summon the strength needed to leave the island.
She smiled as she thrust the jagged end into her belly, slowly pulling across.
Better to die here…
Warmth gushed down her lower half, spilling into the sea where it would feed the fishes.
Where just maybe…
She closed her eyes, claws slipping, arms trembling.
She would be found.
Anemone lay still.
She breathed in the salty air deeply.
The rock was heavy in her stomach.