List of cities/places, people and other things
Andoué Protagonist 1, human woman
Zsarisha Protagonist 2, naga woman
Ogdrul slave master
Setikai former slave, helped Andoué; was a gladiator in another country
Fuzzle old beggar who had taken care of Andoué for a while, deceased
Rissa'Zsah leader of the naga (the Zsah basically means queen or leader)
Zsizsuni a young Naga girl, fiancée of Setikai
Kantar one of the slaves that were courted by some of the Naga from the village. He feigned the romantic interest of Xseezsa was mutual only to steal her jewelry and run away
Xseezsa a young Naga from the village who fell in love with Kantar. she was devastated when he turned out to be a trickster
Zsihizsa one of the Naga "guards" in the village, often with Rissa'Zsah for ceremonial purposes. Good fighter.
Cities & places
Xisset destination of slave caravan, city of dark magic, ruled by an emperor & a council of necromancers
Streets with No Name Andoué's home neighborhood in Zath, a maze of dark, trash filled streets where beggars and thieves live; basically slums
Zath large city west of the desert, ruled by a council, thanks to its harbor wealthy, but has a lot of poor folk, too
Kaluhn large city south of the great desert and west of Xisset, since about 250 years run by a caste of noble monks; opposes Xisset and its dark magic
things & concepts
val'kuda a ball game, usually played in Kaluhn and it's region. a mixture of volleyball and basketball, played with a relatively hard ball. The Naga play a variant of it adapted to their physique
atanaxam a plant growing in shadowy, slightly moist rock cracks; its root is used in several ointments and elixirs in Kaluhnian healing arts
Desert Lilies - Background
The idea to write about a lamia/naga and a human girl is actually several years old by now. I think it's been almost ten years, actually. I've written other, shorter and less interesting (or ambitious) stories, but nothing really long or worthwhile. So at first I decided against putting Desert Lilies to (digital) paper. What finally changed my mind were some funny/raunchy images about "Monster Girls" posted in a message board I read. You can simply google for that, the stuff has its own wiki by now I think. A word of warning, though: It's not girl-girl or even romantic in itself, basically it's "wanted" posters of monster girls with a description next to them. It typically goes like "this species wants to screw men, yadda yadda". A bit funny if you like this stuff, but more in the direction of bad porn plot than serious story material.
I write this here because I want to give credit where credit is due. I incorporated some of the ideas (see the epilogue, Zsarisha being the daughter of an Echidna) and might even write about other "monster girls" in the future. The Naga's "lustful nature" is also in part inspired by this, though I want to stress that I had planned for them to long for and eventually (usually) marry human men from the start. Plus, I toned the "man-catching maniacs" aspect down, of course.
I had a hard time not going into detail about what I envision the world Desert Lilies plays in to be. Of course it's in no way fully thought out or deep, but I tend to ask myself questions about my characters like "where do they come from?", "do they follow a specific religion?", or "how can they make a living?" before I have even decided what they look like. So in my mind there is quite a bit of stuff assembled.
Desert Lilies takes place on a southern continent of a yet unnamed world. It's a mixture of 1001 nights and ancient Greece in that it is more about city states and not nations, at least in that particular region. The three cities I mentioned in the story are separated by a great desert. Zath lies west of it, directly at the ocean. It's something like a "pirate city", controlling much of the trade with far away lands, drawing in adventurers, heroes, and crooks of all colors. It claims to be neutral in regards to the other two cities to be able to do trade with both.
Xisset is the other old, in fact oldest city and is located in the mountains east of the desert. For centuries it has been ruled by a caste of black wizards and it's basically the world's center for dark arts, especially necromancy. Xisset is not a nice place to be in if you don't have the means to deal with mad magicians, witches or assassins. Since its lands are harsh and not very fertile hunger and famine are common and Xisset has a high demand for food. And slaves, who either have to work the fields or serve in their masters' dark laboratories. Or they are plainly sacrificed… Still, Xisset is rich, because the ruthless from all over the world are always willing to pay a high price for magical goods and services from a Xisset mage.
Kaluhn, south of the desert, has only relatively recently risen to greater importance. About 250 years ago, a sect of monks took over the then not too big city and managed to make the lands and its people prosper into a force that can be reckoned with. While their system of beliefs is strict and somewhat fanatical, they're basically the good guys. They're against slavery and since all the politics are regulated by a council of monks united in faith (unlike the leaders in the other two cities, who constantly conspire against each other) life is pretty stable and good for the average person. The system is still based on a feudal model, but since the lands are relatively rich (the desert changes into a more hilly, grassy area before a big mountain ridge comes, at the foot of which Kaluhn lies) the monks can afford not to press too much out of the farmers and keep them happy.
Kaluhn and Xisset are, of course, enemies, especially because the monks are strictly against slavery, dark magic, and human (or humanoid) sacrificial rites. The relationship between Kaluhn and Zath is somewhat ambivalent. Zath does trade with Xisset and its leaders are mostly former pirates or warlords, but officially they at least don't dab into the dark arts, nor do they deal in slavery (unofficially, they do both, of course). Besides, also Kaluhn is still dependent on the harbor of Zath for trade, so they get along. This also prevents outright war between Xisset and Kaluhn, Zath often acts as diplomatic intermediary behind the scenes. The geographical location and the desert also make it difficult for each to simply attack the other.
Overall, though, it is only a matter of time before a greater conflict between Xisset and Kaluhn arises.
The Naga village
The home of Zsarisha's tribe is located in the region north of Kaluhn. The desert sands are not that far, but hills, rock formations and so on shield it enough so that the land allows farming and holding cattle. The village is a little off from main trading routes and relatively secluded.
About 150 years ago, the Naga entered an alliance with Kaluhn. Basically this made them "desert buccaneers". Kaluhn allows them to attack slave caravans because it fits the doctrine. The Naga may keep the worldly possessions of the caravans, but usually they trade them in for other goods. Kaluhn sends traders to the Naga on a regular basis, offering the freed slaves a place in their city (potentially even in the order or the military). Xisset either doesn't know about the deal or they don't care, whereas the regents of Zath can't officially complain about their caravans being attacked…
Should the village be threatened by any greater force Kaluhn promised military protection, but likewise the Naga have to help should a military conflict between Xisset and Kaluhn make it necessary.
The Naga are, however, no soldiers. Their physical strength gives them a good advantage in combat, but they hope no such conflict will ever force them into a war. Even attacking caravans isn't a regular thing, since there can be casualties in such a fight (the attack against Andoué's caravan was a full success in that the Naga didn't even get wounded). Rissa'Zsah and her predecessors have always been very careful selecting potential targets. They also avoided doing it too frequently for the traders would have avoided easy to reach routes or, even worse, hired more guards, increasing the risk for the Naga.
Still, the practice of freeing slaves and looting their tormentors allowed the Naga to accumulate some wealth over the years. Of course they're liked by neighboring humans and the population of Kaluhn as well, which is not typical for their kind (in other regions Naga aren't generally hated, but sometimes looked at with some skepticism).
The village consists of about 35 families, where "family" actually means extended family. It is not uncommon for children to stay in their birthplace and live with their parents even when they marry. Only if space is an issue a new house is built, something the entire village helps with.
As described in the story, a typical Naga house is very spacious and takes the form of a basement under an artificial hill. The also mentioned high standard (a real bath, access to water in the house) is a consequence of the overall wealth the village got from the deal with Kaluhn. The village even has a rudimentary sewage system which was realized by hiring the services of a mage from Kaluhn (who summoned an earth and a water elemental for building this).
Also noteworthy about the architecture is that each house entry usually has a relatively large area with a special carpet and shallow pond. The Naga use this to "wipe their tails" before entering like humans wipe their shoes/feet. Their physique makes this a little more complicated, so this also requires space and often the entire main hallway of a home has a brush-like carpet to wipe off sand and dirt from the Naga tail's underside.
The Naga/Lamia (sub-) species
I have thought a lot about how the Naga as a people actually "work". While their origin may or may not be something magical, they're not magical creatures in the sense that they possess active magic. They do have superhuman strength, but other than that they're normal people. Besides the look, there's nothing snake like about them, especially not in their character. I dislike the tendency in some fantasy that attributes certain personality traits to human-animal-hybrids that are, in fact, already only attributed to the animal without any real substance in the first place (dog-people being overly affectionate, cat-people arrogant). The only exception is the "urge" of the Naga, though I'm sure that's not what is typically associated with snakes.
Like humans, the Naga are omnivorous, need sleep and social contact (I hope the story made that clear). They do farm work and hold cattle (mostly goats, but also some pigs).
Anatomically there are some quirks I decided to "give" my version of the snake-women. They manage to sustain their great mass by getting the most out of their food (though yes, they also simply eat more than humans). That means their digestive system is very large. In fact, the intestines are not just where a human's stomach is, but extend into the tail, so they're very long. Yup, that means that their waste expulsion orifice is quite a way from their vagina (and they obviously don't have a cloaca, but only one orifice for both, solid and liquid waste). Yup, icky topic and yes, I'm smirking while writing this…
Because of the intestines being located in the lower parts of their body they have an easier time attaining an hourglass shape. In fact the space is needed during pregnancy, since the fetus is generally larger (or rather longer) than a human child.
The Naga are effectively mammals, but the child does grow in something like an egg (consider it a thicker amnionic sack) while inside the womb. It "hatches" before birth and the "eggshell" comes out afterwards with the rest of the placenta. From then on everything's pretty much the same as with humans, though of course all offspring are female.
About four times a year an adult Naga sheds her skin (just of the tail part, of course). Child Naga do that more often depending on their growth, which makes it rather unpredictable for them. Once they're sexually mature this is accompanied by an increase of desire, though it's usually not as bad as it was for Zsarisha in the epilogue (she just had never had the chance to follow her desires before, so that added to her needs, psychologically).
Unlike humans Naga can't conceive year round, their cycle is linked to the shedding, but I haven't thought that out yet. For Andoué and Zsarisha this is irrelevant anyways…
The specific tribe depicted has as a common characteristic: the "rattle snake" tail (that Zsarisha also has it is actually coincidence), but there's also Naga tribes with a different type of snake tail.