03|Kiss of Nightmares
To an ancient folk dulled by eternity, clever, pretty humans are a revelation. They come to us immortals same as memories of music, like wisps of a dream from our last glimmering moments in Hell as they whisper themselves into fascinating treasures.
That’s why we keep humans as pets: monsters watching dolls. It amuses us, the risk of it. And so, in the weeks following my beloved Belladonna’s demise, I entertained myself in the decadence following ownership.
I taught Dante to dance to the haunting brutality of the Wolfsong, saddle fiery creatures old as ancient lore, steal the shadows of the dimwitted, and bathe in a cataract of starlit blood. I had Dante dressed as an extravagant predator in Black Swan feather doublets with cuffs of metallic embroidery, and I wove intricate crowns of Shade bones in his beautiful molten solferino-red hair.
One particularly lonely day, I showed Dante how to hunt for pegasus off a cliff’s edge. Together we had baited our traps with blood-coated blossoms and waited silently for a hungry winged stallion with fangs longer than my own to fly near the citadel of carved spires that was Corphasium.
Corphasium, the capital of Kórinthos my sisters had claimed eons ago, was a stunning inferno of immortal life that enfolded witches. It was a delightfully devilish city as hidden as a vein of blood where sins vanished and memories of shame melted away for dances of death and kisses of nightmares.
So when a carnivorous pegasus caught the scent of mortal blood coating the silken layers of petals upon a rose, a rose blooming and bleeding in the darkness of twilight, our carefully laid contraptions of leather and bones ensnared the creature.
To honor my ancestors, whose spirits hushed bleeding roses to bloom as if the slumbering dead had dreamed them during their carefree days in Elysium, I taught my sweetest pet a verse of the Veils of Starlight, a folkloric witches song.
𝕮𝖔𝖒𝖊 𝖙𝖍𝖊 𝖉𝖆𝖜𝖓, 𝖈𝖔𝖒𝖊 𝖙𝖍𝖊 𝖉𝖆𝖗𝖐𝖓𝖊𝖘𝖘, 𝖈𝖔𝖒𝖊 𝖙𝖍𝖊 𝖔𝖗𝖈𝖍𝖊𝖘𝖙𝖗𝖆 𝖔𝖋 𝖘𝖍𝖆𝖉𝖔𝖜𝖘: 𝖋𝖔𝖗 𝖙𝖍𝖊 𝖗𝖔𝖘𝖊𝖘 𝖆𝖗𝖊 𝖎𝖓 𝖇𝖑𝖔𝖔𝖒.
But just as roses eventually withered away, our debauchery came to an end the same as dried roses turned into ornamental decorations. My coterie of spies had located a siren who had, allegedly, seen the likes of a living Belladonna.
Thus, my cadre of watchers had bribed the bewitching siren with rare dark salmon shaded coral formed when the sea was young. Every creature had a price, some more precious than others.
Now all that remained was to wait till the morrow’s midnight shadows emerged to peer into my reflection in a looking glass, then evoke the siren’s name thrice, and she shall materialize. Soon, I reminded myself, soon I could discern if there existed a lingering echo of truth entwined around the siren’s song of Belladona.
If not, she would pay for her masquerade of lies with her life.
It was dawn. The tattered lace of darkness still hushed the city of Corphasium, as though night were a grim bride trudging to the skyline, trailing her shadowy gown as wisps of twilight. How long had he slept?
Coming out of the fugue of the Wolfsong that had awakened him, he would not have been surprised to find himself in chains again, standing beside a murky river where ravenous selkies hunted. Indeed, he half expected it.
Instead, he awoke in the tower, chainless and with a fresh basket of banquet-worthy treats such as ripened neverberries and slices of a succulent roasted peacock. Was the angel-witch bribing him, corrupting him with tempting sustenance? Perhaps. But still, he feasted.
In the past weeks, he had lived up in the tower, becoming a wild mortal thing to be cosseted by Chimera and scowled at by the High Witch. But despite the High Witch’s disgust of him, under Chimera’s tutelage, he had remade himself. He transformed himself into an assassin who knew that if he clenched his hand into a fist and pulled with the urge of darkness, he could make the shadow of his enemy go taut before him.
When next the angel-witch returned, he constantly found himself drawn to the menace within her that sounded beautiful with her voice that melted like honey. The attraction was but a spark, but he knew intimately well that even the tiniest spark of lust was enough to ignite romance.
It was madness, yes, but of all the insanity he had known, it was the sweetest.
Suddenly, without warning, the tower door grated open with a loud screech. Then in came Chimera, moving with a swagger that he reckoned only an immortal could achieve, her scarlet cloak trailing behind her, the combat leathers clinging to her lithe form. A living weapon— that was what the angel-witch was.
“My sweetest,” she purred in her dulcimer-sweet voice of a songbird. “The time has come to proceed to our next chapter of the curse and the kiss.” Enthralled, he stared as her smokey spider’s silk locks writhed in an unseen spirit wind, so enchanted by a divinely stunning immortal witch whose danger was something to lure in the reckless and desperate; a poison that he would kill to sip.
Wait, our next chapter?
Realization dawned a dark horizon in his mind as he realized that Chimera meant to wear him once more- to don him like a dapper embellished waistcoat. “Why now,” he queried, his tone thick with her betrayal. She cooed with feigned solicitude, “A siren shall arrive soon, and I cannot have my pet succumbing to any enchantress’ hymn.” Was this her way of admitting she cared for him-- or at the very least, desired that none but her seduced him into obedience?
The warmth that then possessed his haloed demon soul haunted his thoughts as he drew nearer to the horribly beautiful Ironblood witch, an immortal who had captured his ghost on that fateful day of their first meeting in a lush copse of trees. Gazing into her eerie inferno gold, rhapsody-amber eyes that smoldered, her crimson lips curved into a manic grin. He shuddered at the sight of her sharpened canines, for Chimera had the smirk of a death goddess who knew the exact position of his soul, how to extract it, and how tender it will be when she devours it.
But he too hungered for more, craved her kisses of sweet devouring, because, in the mediate realm of Kórinthos, it was either devour or become devoured. Surrendering to their provocative dance with toxicity, he commanded with ironic defiance, “Intoxicate me now, angel-witch.”
A queer glitter bright in her tilted golden cat eyes, Chimera offered not a command or an insult but tender permission when she spoke in response,
“Look upon my actions, Dante, and observe as a daughter of darkness and night destroys a masquerade of lies the same as love-devouring Death does what he dare.”
Then Chimera set her iron-taloned finger beneath his chin and raised his face. That blaze of amber ignited within him, the shock of descending into a frozen river dulling his senses as the world in its entirety became muted and distant.
Instantly, Chimara was inside his soul, and he was as powerless over his own body as if he had become merely its shadow.
Hope is how angels are born.
Darkness is how demons are born.
Passion is how sirens are born.
A spell whispered in a dead language is dead- only that woven in sacrifice can fabricate powerful magic. Invoking the siren’s name thrice before the mirror, I shivered as the looking glass returned my kiss with a frostbitten one. Dante’s kiss, I corrected myself.
Captured inside himself like a clever mortal creature within a chrysalis, Dante sensed nothing as I felt what his lips felt while kissing the mirror; indeed, I was merely a villain wearing a borrowed body.
Summoning the siren with a passionate kiss of nightmares to come forth from the ocean that was her pulse and the echo of souls kept safe in the cradle of waves, the siren appeared: strolling out of the mirror like an ocean breathing.
The siren’s soft steps were akin to a surface of water rising and falling with rhythmic ease. Chimera greeted the siren with eyes like glowing embers and a grin that spoke of coffin scriptures and the lovers she must have ravaged, soul and skin, only to banish them to the Underworld with a kiss of nightmares as they slept, entwined. “Welcome to Corphasium, temptress of the sea,” spoke Dante with Chimera’s voice. But her voice sounded distant, warped as if a veil of fog covered his ears.
Gods above! But the sensation of being worn was unsettling!
The siren’s hair was the exact shade as his own, red as coral with pale skin, the color of cream sprinkled lightly by the spice of freckles. In a voice that could drown lovers, the siren said, “Leagues, leagues over the sea I have swum to sing the truth as my sea-maiden sisters have shown me, O coven leader of the Thirteen.”
When the siren fell silent, professing no more of her tale, Chimera snarled, “Tell me of Belladonna now or by all that is unholy I swear to drown you in the flood of your tears!”
Blinking eyes the deep aqua of the sea that complimented a gown of silver sharkskin, the siren told them sweetly, “Belladonna is an inmate in the bastion of the Underworld.”
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