A story came to me…
Some citizens of the Realm find themselves in places and situations that they never expected to be in. But the thing is … in spite of such things, they are still of the Realm … and that is something that never changes …
Acceptance is not submission; it is acknowledgement of the facts of a situation, then deciding what you are going to do about it. So, what are you going to do?
Those words echoed through Sheryl’s thoughts for what seemed to be the millionth time since she had first become a succubi, and, considering that the one who had spoken them was Tera, they were very likely to be true. The thing was that, in spite of the advice that she had been given so long ago, she didn’t have the answer to the question that her Queen had posed then.
She had begun to wonder if she would ever find the answer, to be honest with herself. Looking into the mirror she saw, sadly, what she was: there were no horns to be seen, no tail either; both were invisible. That in itself was not a good thing, as another one of Tera’s proverbs came to mind …
… You never hide your horns or your tail. Be proud of who you are.
Shaking her head slightly, she fiddled with a few stray locks of pinkish hair, pushing them behind one ear … more or less … and taking another look at herself. What looked back at her was pink hair in a pixie cut framing a pair of blue eyes that could sparkle with mischief and desire … once. A full pair of lips, also pink, that could melt souls with desire … once. The pink continued as she shifted the pink latex sheath dress—her slightly over-endowed chest was her proudest feature … once. A short look to her toes, with their pink nails, tucked into a pair of, of course, pink strappy heels.
Another sigh, another look at herself … She missed her pink tail and horns … desperately … so much so that she gritted her teeth and willed them to appear. It was a comfort to her to know that they were still there, with her, even if she couldn’t have them present the way she should …
How did she get into this situation anyway?
It started—as all things do, it seems—with a promise … this one made ten years prior.
She had taken, as a lark, really, a position with an escort agency. It seemed a good deal at the time: she made clients happy, and in return she could savor their energies as she needed to survive. She never hurt them—unless, of course, that was their thing—and with the money she made she did something that a mortal would consider odd: instead of hoarding the money for herself, she happily gave it to the other girls that she worked with.
At least it started that way. Over time, they came to trust her more, share more about themselves, and, in return, Sheryl taught them some of the Knowledge of the Succubi. The escort agency did very well for itself from that point forwards.
It was during that time that she came to meet Joseph. At first he was a client, and Sheryl kept a professional distance from him as was expected. Over time, however, something changed, and even to this day she wasn’t sure exactly when that happened.
At some point he submitted to her … completely. She was no longer Sheryl to him; she was Mistress. He was more than happy to defer to her wishes, to do something, anything, for her. But Sheryl never abused that trust, never took him for granted, never allowed herself to be aloof or something other than what he expected her to be.
That was until one day … things changed. She had been showering, in her true form, tail and all, and he walked in and saw her. She didn’t realize he was there until she turned off the shower and began to step out. Joseph was standing there, holding towels for her. He didn’t seem in a panic as he asked, “What are you, Mistress?”
It was the longest moment in Sheryl’s life. Standing there, the water dripping from her hair, along her curves, goosebumps starting to trace their way over her skin, her first reaction was to reach out with her power, blank his thoughts and wipe them away … but she didn’t. Instead she reached out for a towel and wrapped it around herself, “I am … obviously … not human.”
He smiled, “Obviously.”
Stepping from the shower she stood there in front of him, her tail, her pink tail, swishing from beneath the towel as she continued, “I am one of the Succubi. My name is, truly, Sheryl, and I mean you no harm.”
He placed the other towels on the counter, “Oh, I know you don’t. If you meant to hurt me, belittle me, cause me pain, make me feel like the lowest of lows I wouldn’t have called you ‘Mistress.’”
She nodded slightly, “You honor me with that. I take that honor seriously, Joseph.”
He was leaning against the countertop, looking away from her, “I know. You have from the beginning, Mistress. Few do.”
She bit her lip and then started to walk past him, “I’ll be gone shortly. You need not worry.”
She almost, but not quite, made it from the room when his hand touched her arm, “Are you giving up your honor?”
“I am not what you expected me to be. I lied to you. So I will go.”
“When did you lie to me? Your name wasn’t a lie, it appears. Your caring about me wasn’t a lie. I chose you, Mistress, not the other way around. You do not give up that which you did not ever take.”
The words brought Sheryl up short and she turned to him, “I am not human. I’m not.”
He shrugged, “Doesn’t really matter, does it? You are still Mistress.”
She looked at him, really looked at him. The pink bracelet he wore was her mark upon him. He wasn’t a movie star or something like that, but he was, in his own way, a comfort to her and, she realized, she was one to him. “What does matter to you? Truly?”
He was bold—truly so, and she knew it—when his fingertips touched the nape of her neck, “Is this the real you?”
“So all of the time I have seen you, the only difference is that your … added curves … were hidden from me?”
She couldn’t help but smile and nodded again.
He traced a finger over her lips and looked into her eyes, “Will you stay if I ask you?”
Her tongue darted out and licked against his fingertips as she nodded … again.
“Then please, Mistress, please remain here with me?”
The night that followed was more than either of them could have possibly imagined any night could have ever been before …
… with a promise unspoken, but one that would come to haunt them both …
There was a knock at the door and she shook herself from her memories, making her tail and horns vanish into thin air once more.
A short, well-endowed brunette entered the room, trying not to stumble in the tight hobble dress she wore. She bowed, slightly, “Mistress? He is here. Asking for you.”
Sheryl’s eyes narrowed slightly, she knew exactly who ‘he’ was. He was the cause of the situation she was in, one that she never wanted to be in.
Damn him and damn her too.
Still, she took a calming breath before replying, “Thank you, Celeste. I’ll be right there.”
Celeste nodded and nervously fingered the pink bracelet that she wore which completely clashed with her black dress before she managed, “Thank you, Mistress.”
She left, the door closed again, and Sheryl closed her eyes, gathered her emotions, her thoughts, her wishes. She boxed them into a little space inside of her where he would never find them. Opening her eyes again she wore the practiced smile of welcome and greeting that he would expect, her thoughts, the ones that mattered, held beneath the personality that he expected to find.
She walked from the mirror to the door, but paused there, looking at a small picture frame hanging on the wall by the door. She touched her fingers to her lips and then touched the image there twice.
As she opened the door, she allowed herself the small thought that there was an answer and she was going to find it. She was in her own personal hell because of him and she would find her way out of it.
Succubi were, if nothing else, well versed in finding loopholes … and she would.
Acceptance – Part II
The hallway that Sheryl stepped into was brightly lit, warm, inviting. Doors, some open to reveal one of her courtesans there, others closed for the privacy of those behind them. Her own personal curse was there, but in spite of that, the needs of those who came to her would always come first. As she passed one door, she sensed within the heat of two souls entwined …
… and smiled. A bit of passion helped to calm her in the worst of times and this was, truly, one of them by far.
But there were the best of times as well, and she recalled how all of this began…
The pause that followed, as Sheryl well knew, came when he wanted to ask something of her that he expected she might refuse. The thing was, truly, she had never once refused a request he made, for the simple reason that what was asked for was never something she could refuse. Looking back, she wondered if she should have, just this once.
He stood there, fidgeting with his bracelet a moment longer, “How wealthy are you?”
“That’s an odd question, but, I’m well enough off. What possibly brought up that question?”
“How much do you enjoy working for the escort service?”
The shift in topics was a surprise, but Sheryl told him the truth, “I’ve been moving away from it, to be honest. It is not as important as … as you are.”
He turned away a moment, smiling. Sheryl did like it when he was a bit embarrassed, “Some of the others there are thinking of moving away; starting something on their own. You, Mistress, have given them all the ability to do so.”
A nod, “Well, I hope that, whatever they wish to do, they are successful in doing so. But, especially if they are leaving, then there is little reason for me to remain.”
“No, Mistress. You do not understand. You have given them much. You respected them—all of them. You gave freely of yourself to them, supported them, and made them be more than they ever expected them to be.”
This was confusing to her, “I did what I thought was right, Joseph. That’s all.”
He smiled, a smile that usually meant that she didn’t quite understand what he meant.
“Will you come with me? I would like to show you something.”
The drive was not that far, less than an hour from the condo she—they—had called home for some time now. They arrived at an old, worn out, dilapidated Victorian mansion. She really would not have been surprised if there were bats in the belfry and cobwebs in every room. To call the place a fixer-upper would bring shame to many other houses … But there was something about it that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Sheryl continued to look at the place for quite some time after he turned the engine off.
“You do understand that I am not a vampire? We have been through all of that, haven’t we?”
He chuckled, “Oh I know, but that’s not why we are here.”
He left the car, then opened the door for her. Moments later he had guided her to the front door and paused there.
“Remember I said that I chose you as Mistress?”
“Yes, I do. I never forget.”
He turned the doorknob and opened the door for her, “I’m not the only one.”
While the outside looked to be a mess, just inside the landing the house was … spotless: the wood floors gleamed, freshly polished; the walls were covered in intricate patterned wallpaper; furnishings surrounded her that must have cost … Well, in truth, she couldn’t really guess, but she was sure that no expense had been spared.
She heard the door close behind her and turned to look at him, “What are you trying to explain, Joseph?”
He nodded further into the place, past an archway where there appeared to be a larger, dimly lit room. From it, Sheryl could sense … devotion? The quizzical look she had was met only with a smile and an outstretched hand.
The sight she beheld next was one that Sheryl would never forget. Stopping just inside the archway, her senses were overwhelmed by emotions of a strength she had never experienced before. There, kneeling in a circle, was every single soul she had touched, every single person whom she had helped, taught, befriended. They did not look down, but towards her, open, freely gazing upon her, their united desires only one thing at that moment: devoting themselves to her and her alone.
Joseph entered and took a place to Sheryl’s right, kneeling there, not saying another word. The silence was both terrifying and arousing to her. So many souls … so much raw power that she could draw on … control … make whatever she wanted of it.
The realization of that thought in her mind made her shiver … and another of Tera’s proverbs came to her …
Seduction is not a one-way street.
Out of the shadows came the sound of heels clicking and in the next moment the surprises continued as Sheryl stood face to face with someone she didn’t expect there.
Her name was Ashe. She ran the agency. Once she was a very popular call girl who had managed to bankroll her way into ownership. She was, to be honest, a little bit past her prime, and of late had been spending less and less time there.
Sheryl could see the worry lines around Ashe’s brown eyes. In spite of that she still cut a figure in the rather flattering blue dress she wore, and her greyish hair was still as perfect as it ever was. The more troubling thing was that Sheryl also sensed … acceptance—sad, in a way—within her.
“Ma’am. What … what is going on?”
“It has come to my attention that …” she regarded the others there with them a moment, “… that you are planning something?”
Sheryl shook her head: “I know nothing about this. I have no idea what’s going on.”
“What are you planning, Sheryl?”
She paused, then admitted, “I am planning on leaving; with Joseph, if he wishes to be with me.”
Ashe looked at the others in the room with them, “I have heard something different. From what I understand, all of those here wish to leave with you.”
Sheryl was dumbfounded, and the look she had was complete and utter shock, “I …”
Ashe stepped closer to her, “Answer me one question: are you worthy of them?”
Sheryl shook her head, “No. Absolutely not.”
“Are you sure of that?”
“I have done nothing more than be who I am. I have not done anything more than that.”
“You are wrong, you know.”
It was then that Sheryl noticed something she hadn’t before. Placed in front of every kneeling soul there was a pink bracelet … exactly the same as Joseph wore.
“I never … I didn’t …”
Ashe took Sheryl’s hands in her own, “No, you didn’t. They chose for you … for both of us. I was going to offer you my place and leave … retire … leave everything to you.”
Sheryl shook her head, tears beginning to form, “No, this isn’t what I want. It isn’t …”
Ashe shrugged, “You want to do the right thing. If you do not take my place, there is another who will. Someone who is not like you. You care; you have cared. You will look after them because that is who you already are.”
Tera’s voice came again …
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is say yes.
Sheryl bit her lip, “I am not their Mistress. I am only Joseph’s.”
“He chose well. They chose well. Accept that you are Mistress with my blessing and be what they need. Please? For their sake?”
Sheryl looked back at Joseph: the trust, the complete trust in whatever she decided, so very plain upon him, the pink bracelet shining on his wrist. “I promise to do my best.”
When she looked back to Ashe, she noticed that not one bracelet remained on the floor … and Ashe had lifted her right wrist to reveal that she wore one, as well … “Of course you will. Joseph chose well.”
Sheryl entered the sitting room and found, as she expected, the one that she loathed more than any other being in the universe sitting there.
To most he was a nothing: a face in the crowd, one that could be overlooked so easily. But the seeming normality hid behind it a force that wished to be more than he was. He was human, completely so, but morals were long past from him. All that mattered was what wealth, what power, what gain he could realize at the expense of others.
Specifically, right now, at her expense.
He had been examining the suitcase he collected each time he visited, Sheryl refused to deal with his underlings before and, after what happened … there was no possible way she would deal with anyone else but him.
She wanted to see him, dissect him—unfortunately, not physically—try to pick apart what might make him crack and give what she wanted. The problem was, she knew exactly what it was he really wanted from her. If the thought of him near made her skin crawl, there was no possible way he would have what he wanted. But he would never know that … for good reason.
As such, the game began once more, one piece after the next moving over the board they played on …
Sheryl crossed from the archway to the Victorian chair that rested near to the wrought iron fireplace, unlit now … not lit for some time. She brushed her dress smooth behind her and then settled into the chair, her hands resting upon the deep black fabric of the upholstery. She was a pool of bright pink surrounded by the deepest of darkness … a reflection, perhaps, of how she truly felt in that moment.
“It’s about time you came.”
The smile hid Sheryl’s true thoughts, “Oh you wish that you could manage that, don’t you?”
Instead she tilted her head slightly forward and spoke, “My business is mine. You asked for me, I am here. What would you like?”
Sheryl’s smile didn’t change an iota, “You know the answer to that.”
He seemed to be mentally undressing her, which Sheryl was quite sure would be the extent to which he would manage such a thing as he continued, “Pity. We could rule if you did.”
Sheryl’s eyes narrowed slightly. The foolish mortal always believed that power was the be all and end all. It had taken Joseph for Sheryl to understand what was more important.
“I am not at all interested.”
He shrugged, almost dismissively, “Then I’ll have to find one of yours that will.”
Sheryl’s thoughts moved to the others standing around the edges of the room, trying to blend in, but unable to hide from her what their feelings were. Some were quite willing to kill this mortal in her name. Others simply rejected him out of hand. Still others considered a means to trick him for Sheryl’s benefit.
But the one overriding feeling in the room, the one that warmed Sheryl, was that not one of those that had given her the gift of being Mistress thought about leaving her.
Sheryl could have laughed, or stood and threatened him, but before she could do so, Celeste came to stand to Sheryl’s right and said, quietly, as was her way, “We are spoken for.”
Sheryl nodded slightly in unspoken thanks to those in the room, knowing full well that the one sitting across from her had no real understanding of all that they had done, not just to her and Joseph, but to all there.
This was the game he played each and every time he came here. Now, it was her turn, as it always was … “How is he?”
The silence was, as always, something that caught in her chest … but on the outside, she was still calm and controlled in his presence …
… as long as that would last.
Acceptance – Part Three
The answer he gave was short—as it always was when the question was asked. “Last I saw him, he was fine.”
Sheryl kept her outward reaction to a slight twitch of her right foot, managing not to tap the floor nervously. “I see.”
Inwardly, she held back her desire to allow her Tail to take over and do things that were simply unspeakable to the foolish human across from her. Only Joseph truly understood what she was; the rest of those that were her responsibility didn’t have any idea. Sheryl needed to keep things that way—not for herself, but for the promise she had made to them all.
“If you submit to my wishes, you can have him back.”
Sheryl’s eyes narrowed slightly, “You have what you came for. The rest is meaningless. You say the same things each time and each time I refuse you. Why don’t you accept that and give him back to me? You have your pound of flesh.”
He picked up the case as he stood, regarding her with an expression somewhere between contempt and desire, “The flesh I desire hasn’t submitted herself to me. You will, you know. At some point you will. Everyone does.”
Sheryl did not stand or escort him to the door, nor for that matter did any of those in the room with her. This, too, was what happened every time, and would happen again she well knew.
It was the game he played. He simply did not understand who he was trying to play. As Sheryl thought about this she began to tap a finger against the armrest of the chair. “Celeste?”
“Could you please be sure that he is being followed.”
“As always, he expects it.”
Sheryl nodded and then stood, “Thank you, Celeste.”
Celeste’s words echoed in Sheryl’s thoughts for some time as she walked through the place she called home: “As always, he expects it.”
The troubles began just after Sheryl had moved the agency and all of those that had pledged themselves to her to their new home. The police weren’t a problem: they did visit, of course; that was expected. Through the connections that Ashe had, the inquires faded away soon after they began. They did not go about flaunting their collective wealth either. The neighboring community was not threatened by them; more they were welcomed for the good they did for many in the surrounding area, not asking for anything in return.
No, the problem was that, as popular as they were, there were always those that became jealous of them. What followed was the occasional threat, confrontation, and sometimes—just sometimes—the more enlightened came to see something better in what they had and joined with them.
That was what brought . . . him . . . to confront Sheryl.
Sometimes those that wanted to see them be no more would send, for lack of a better description, a Trojan house into their midst, someone on the inside to tell of their secrets, their weaknesses, and, in doing so, make the work of others in their goal that much simpler. Their problem was that Sheryl always knew who those were and they didn’t get very far … save one.
Her name was Celeste.
She appeared on the doorstep one fall evening, afraid, unsure, worried, and more. The emotions spilling off of her were very clear and the force behind them very obvious. She had been told to do this, to plead for acceptance.
Sheryl could have rejected her out of hand—it wouldn’t have been the first time—but there was something under the surface that was Celeste’s own truth, and that called to Sheryl more strongly than the thin veneer that covered it.
At first, Celeste was apart from everyone: watching, leaving and telling of what she had seen, then returning once more. This went on for some time, but, in spite of it, Sheryl taught her many things. She learned about herself: what she liked, what she didn’t. Sheryl spent many a day just talking with her. In the back of Celeste’s mind there was always that voice that told her she was being used … again … that no one wanted her … again. The fears bubbled up over time until, finally, she stood in the front hall, her single bag packed with her meager possessions, one hand on the door to leave.
She didn’t turn, “I … I have to go.”
The rest came in a rush: there was nothing to hide; she’d be away in the next moment, leaving another person disappointed in her, “I lied to you. I have been spying on you and … I can’t do it anymore.”
She turned to see Sheryl standing there in a pink blouse, blue shorts, and sandals, a sad look upon her. “Doesn’t matter what you’ve done before.”
“Of course it does! I’m worthless!”
“You are never that to me. You never have been.”
Bending down to pick up her things, Celeste insisted, “I am. I am nothing. Always will be.”
“No, you aren’t; not here. Think about this, please? When, at any point, did anyone here not treat you well? Tell me one moment where I treated you poorly?”
The truth was that she couldn’t, but, by the same token, her own fears didn’t allow her to believe that she was wanted by anyone.
“I have to go.”
“Celeste … My door will always be open to you. If you decide you want to come back, just please do?”
Her hand shook on the door handle, wanting to turn it and yet not wanting to. Then she heard Sheryl come close. Not so close that she flinched, but close enough.
“I was going to ask you to do the same thing. Please don’t. We’ll protect you. I promise.”
Sheryl was shaken out of her memories by Celeste’s voice, “Mistress?”
“Might I have a moment to speak with you in private?”
They entered Sheryl’s office a few moments later, the door closing behind them. Sheryl didn’t take her chair, instead standing by the windows and looking out at the world that passed on by while she was trapped where she was.
“Mistress, you need to give him what he wants. This has gone on long enough. I know that you need Joseph back … we all do. I’ll go back to him and … it will be fine.”
Sheryl didn’t look at her, “No, I will not allow him to win. He is not going to have you under his thumb. Not again.”
Celeste fingered her bracelet worryingly, “It wasn’t that bad. He is petty but, in the end, he won’t hurt me.”
“I doubt that.”
Celeste was quiet for a long, uncomfortable moment. Then she said something that Sheryl never expected: “I know what you are, Mistress. I know what you can do.”
Sheryl looked at her, “What, exactly, do you mean?”
Celeste worried her hands, not looking at Sheryl, “When I came here, I know I wasn’t really trusted by everyone. When you gave me the place of second to Joseph … I knew you trusted me. He made me promise to look after you if … something happened. He explained that you are … different.”
Sheryl walked to Celeste and cupped her chin, making her look directly at her, “Celeste … be very clear what you mean.”
The words came in a rush, “You are Mistress. You are more than Mistress. You … you are powerful in ways I cannot say I understand fully … But you are.”
Sheryl nibbled her lip, “What am I, Celeste?”
“You are …” The pause was very long, “one of the Succubi.”
There: the words were in the open. Joseph had trusted to Celeste her deepest secret. Why would he? What possessed him to do so? Sheryl felt the ache in her chest, confusion in her thoughts. Her hand tightened, slightly, upon Celeste, “What does that mean to you?”
The look in her eyes, the emotions she gave were … many shades of acceptance. “It means that you are Mistress no matter what. I trust you. We all do. We all would do anything for you.”
Sheryl let go as if her hand had been shocked and turned away, “I don’t want you to do anything for me. It isn’t about me.”
“It isn’t. But it is. I accepted you as Mistress because you gave me the one thing I never had before. You accepted me as I was. You saw in me something that I didn’t see in myself. You gave me hope.”
Sheryl turned away, “I can’t say I have any of my own left.” In the next moment, she felt Celeste’s hands wrapping around her waist from behind, “Have you lost hope in seeing him again?”
“No … not yet. It’s the one thing … the one thing that …”
“Keeps you going? It’s like that for me. I could give up, disappoint you, walk away, but I won’t because you didn’t give up on me.”
Her hands twined with Celeste’s own, “I just haven’t worked out a way.” A sigh, a long one …
Then Celeste answered, “There is more than one door to open, Mistress.”
“What are you trying to get at, Celeste?”
A sigh, a moment as if the words would doom her, then, “I know how to get Joseph back … if you are willing, Mistress.”
The plan was bold and something that Sheryl had never considered. To do so was not in her nature; the risks to herself too high by far. She was about to reject it when another of Tera’s proverbs came to her …
We have to take risks. If we don’t, then things become boring. Life should never be boring.
Sheryl found that the risk was, in fact, worth taking … and it wouldn’t be boring.
Acceptance – Part IV
She left in the middle of the night, not saying a word to anyone, though she wanted to. Wrapped in a long, thin coat, and wrapping her arms around herself, she darted from the place she called home and made her way to the streets. Her only companion was the clicking of her shoes on the concrete sidewalk. She had left her comfort behind. She did pause, just once, to look over her shoulder as if reconsidering her plans, but then turned away, almost meekly, before moving onwards.
Moments after she had disappeared from the view of anyone watching, a black car pulled up alongside. The man driving it was simply a thug doing the bidding of the one that paid him as he rolled the window down. “About time you gave up. Get in, he’s waiting.”
She hesitated … for a moment, her hand touching the door before opening it and getting inside. The car drove off moments later. Little conversation passed between the two. It was probably better that way, for her sake.
“You defied him.”
She kept her thoughts to herself, saying nothing, but looking ahead.
“What made you go back to him.”
She had a thin smile and replied, for the first time: “It’s what he expects.”
The drive was long from one side of the city to the other. His domain—not a home—was isolated, and looked out over the world that he ruled over. It was built to impress those that he dealt with, owned, or otherwise wanted in his power. Perception was everything, after all, and it was … what he expected.
She looked out of the window as if seeing the place for the first time—or was it so that she didn’t have to pay attention to the thug in the car with her? Either way, the reflection in the glass was that of a short, well-endowed brunette with troubled eyes.
There was no ceremony when they passed through the guarded gates, nor was there anyone there to greet her when the car pulled up to the main doors, the interior of the dwelling lit up brightly, the wealth beyond the doors obvious there.
“You know your way inside.”
She nodded, just once.
“I don’t see what he sees in you.”
She opened the door and stepped out, but, before closing the door, said in a quiet voice, “It’s what he expects.”
She watched the car leave, its tires making crunching noises on the ground as it moved off to what were laughingly called the servant’s quarters by him. When all was still, she turned towards the doors, took a long breath and as her hand reached out to turn the door handle, a proverb came to her …
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Opening the door, she paused there to take the scene in. He loved money. It was really his only true love; everything else was just window dressing to that. Marble floors, the best in furnishings: everything had been put towards things, as he always did, since, as he believed, only things kept their value.
Getting her bearings, she moved away from the entranceway. She was going to start by going upstairs to look for him when she heard a voice to her right.
“I’m pleased you are here.”
She stopped, not moving, not daring to turn around either because she knew exactly what she would see. He would be standing there, the King of his domain. She could not walk away either, so she did the next best thing. She rested her hand on a nearby railing and closed her eyes to gather her strength.
“Will you keep your word?”
“Why should I? I have you. I have him.”
There was a long pause, then he asked: “Show me your right wrist.”
Raising her right arm slightly, she shook the sleeve of her coat and revealed that her arm was bare, no pink bracelet to be seen there.
“Excellent. I will teach you your place again, Celeste.”
With that he walked away from her, leaving her there, alone, in a deeply dark and foreboding mood. After he left, she walked upstairs and found the room that was hers. The door had been closed for some time, it seemed; she needed to push against it before it would open and allow her within. She left again about one hour later, dressed as he preferred her: nude, save for a steel collar around her throat and black boots with far-too-high heels.
She decided that the hobble dress was a much better choice. But he would never allow her to choose what she wanted to wear. It was, after all, what he expected: he was the one in control and things were done his way.
She found him in his study after searching the mansion; really the first place she should have looked, but she did not, could not. He was reading a file: business, brought money, which was his one true love, after all. She did not say a word as she entered, her head bowed to him. Moments later, she knelt beside him, still looking at the floor, and waited for him to acknowledge her.
He didn’t for some time, the only sound in the room being the turning of pages.
“You still remember your place, at least.”
More turning of pages, another long silence, then: “Why did you defy me?”
She continued to look down: “I was wrong, sir. I beg for forgiveness …”
This silence was longer still, then she heard him pick something up, and then the doors to the room opened.
“Take her to the dungeon. Put her with that bitch’s toy. I’ll teach them both a lesson in the morning.”
She did not resist when the two thugs picked her up and carried her away from him. She expected that they would do something as punishment for defying him … but they didn’t. They weren’t kind, but it seemed as if she was still … somehow … important to him, if only a little bit so.
Being dragged outside was a surprise. It wasn’t the warmest of nights and, being bare to the world, she shivered in the cold badly. It was a ten-minute walk from his domain to the place that one of the thugs called “Purgatory.” A flight of stairs descended into the earth, the door at the bottom a thick, steel one. Passing through, it was obvious that the place had been once some kind of wine storage, now put to more distasteful duty.
The floor was uneven stone, the walls the same. Very old—there seemed to be some kind of etching on some of the stones. Her eyes pausing on a few; the thugs didn’t notice her focusing on them.
The hallway had, on either side, bare and open metal cages, none of them being used or lit save for the very last one on her left. She found herself within that cage moments later, the thugs locking the door once more and then walking away, turning out the lights before locking the main door once more.
After they left, she moved to the back of the space, finding there a pile of blankets covering a body. She froze, not daring to hope that he was beneath all of them. Finally she found her voice: “Joseph?”
In the darkness, she heard a rustling sound, then: “Celeste?”
She darted over to him, her hands pulling the blankets away, needing to see it was him and he was well. His hand found her wrist before she touched him and held her fast.
“Where is your bracelet?”
For the first time, she smiled, a warm real smile: “It is what he expects.”
As all of this unfolded, there was a knock at the door of the old Victorian mansion. Standing outside was a single figure who patiently waited for the door to be answered. When the door was opened she smiled and asked if she could speak with Sheryl.
When the young man found his voice, and managed not to drop to his knees in submission, he asked her to please enter and, after guiding her to the sitting room, darted off to find his Mistress. “Mistress? There is” … The pause was telling, really … “ a woman here to see you.”
She entered a short time later: pink hair in a pixie cut, sparkling blue eyes, pink lips, her signature pink latex sheath dress and heels there, as well. It was, after all, what was expected. She greeted the woman with a smile before taking her place there. “Is there something we can do for you?”
The women regarded her for a long uncomfortable moment. Her red lips were in a thin smile as she asked, “Can we speak in private?”
She found that was, for some odd reason, a good idea, and dismissed the young man that had brought the raven-haired dream to her. After he left, she could only watch in silence as the visitor came closer, the scent of … cherries … in the air.
She found herself looking into the woman’s eyes … so green … so very green … framed by the darkest of raven hair …
The visitor reached out a slender hand, her red nails shimmering in the light of the room, and touched her chin in a familiar way. Her eyes now glowed a soft green … hypnotic … powerful … taking her host’s attention completely as this enigmatic visitor asked, “Where is Sheryl, my dear?”
Acceptance – Part V
Joseph was still wrapped in the blanket as he held her wrist. He did not hurt her, but there was an air of disappointment in his voice: “What do you mean that it is what he expects?”
“Exactly what I said.”
He shook his head slightly then let go, his hand moving back underneath the blankets again. “I put my trust in you.”
She took hold of one of the blankets, drawing it around herself, trying to overcome the chill of the air around them: “I know. I put mine in you.”
There was a long moment, she couldn’t quite see his expression in the darkness, but she could feel the tension in him.
“Why did you give yourself up? It isn’t what she wanted.”
“She wanted you home. We both do. This was the only way, in the end, to make that possible.”
She placed her free hand over the bracelet that he wore. As her fingers touched it she felt the marks of where someone, or something, had tried to remove it. “What have they done to you?”
“Not important. I want to know why you have abandoned her.”
She patted his wrist twice: “It is what he expects.”
“You keep saying that.”
“Yes … Yes I do.”
A moment passed, he unsure of what she meant, she trying to control herself. Then she pulled back some of the blankets to reveal him fully. The gasp was heartfelt when she saw the marks on his body, felt the hurt that had been done to him.
“What … did … he … do?”
He sighed: “He wants … everything. He wants me to abandon her, to do what he wants. Then, he thinks, he will have her as well.”
“That is not an answer, Joseph. Tell me what he did.”
“I’ll survive. He didn’t break me. But now he has you, and he’ll use you to get to me … and to her. You never should have come here.”
She wrapped the blankets around them both: “There is no place I would rather be.”
“Are you sure?”
“It is …”
“… what he expects?”
He didn’t press the issue, even though the questions he had weren’t answered as they huddled there in the cold, waiting for the morning to arrive. When the light of day came, it didn’t help illuminate their prison very much. In spite of this, he woke to see her standing at the gate to their cage, looking off into the distance, her bareness quite evident to him. “Did he always make you dress like that?”
She turned and nodded, “All of the time, really.”
He pushed the blankets off himself and then walked over to her: “He’s not a kind man, you know.”
“No, he is not.”
She seemed to pause, as if considering something, then continued: “Joseph, whatever happens, promise you will not interfere.”
“Even if he …”
“Especially if he does. I am expecting he will.”
“Why did you come here? Did she tell you to?”
A short chuckle, “Oh, no … She gave me the idea but she did not make me do anything.”
They heard the steel door open and he entered with several of his henchmen. Joseph moved to place himself in front of her, but a touch of her hand on his arm stopped him, leaving her next to the cage door, he behind her.
“Did you enjoy your night?”
“It was fine, sir.”
“I did not address you. Remember your place.”
Her reply was to drop to her knees and look at the floor in silence.
“Again, did you enjoy your night?”
Joseph’s reply was to say … nothing.
“You will answer or she will suffer because of you.”
It was a short, blunt answer: “No.”
“Your stubbornness is impressive, but it won’t help you. She won’t help you. She has no idea where you are.”
She spoke, still looking at the floor, “Will you keep your word, sir? Please let him go. You have what you want.”
“I have some of what I want. I have you. I have him. Next I will break you both to obey, and then she will be mine as well.”
At those words one of the thugs opened the gate and they were taken from their prison forcibly. She did not resist, he did a bit, but not as much as he had in the past, for her sake. As they were taken to the entranceway, once again, unnoticed, she looked at the markings on the wall until they turned away from the steel door that opened to the outside world and into a smaller chamber off to the side.
She was dumped without ceremony to the side of a steel chair that was bolted to the floor. As she watched, Joseph was none too gently thrown onto the chair and then strapped into it.
Getting to her knees, she continued to look downwards, seeing only the shoes of the men in the room as they hustled about her.
“Now then, Joseph, you will call me Master and you will obey me. Or …”
The threat was clear, he didn’t need to say the words to get his point across.
“She is yours now. You have her.”
“That I do.”
She heard him walk over to her, place a hand into her hair and forced her to look at him: “You always were a good fucktoy. Play with him.”
She stood up and walked towards Joseph, her hands tracing over her body lightly. Their eyes met and she could plainly see that he didn’t want her. There was but one in his thoughts whom he loved … and knowing that made it easier for her …
As she traced her fingertips over her thighs, her nails turned pink, unnoticed by any in the room. She stopped in front of him, straddling his legs, looking into his eyes. Joseph started to ask her to stop, tell her that he would take whatever punishment they doled out, but she placed a fingertip over his lips and shook her head slightly.
Then she was bent over at her waist, one hand wrapped around his length and stroking him … slowly … lovingly … familiarly …
She had positioned herself between Joseph and the others in the room, her long boots drawing their eyes towards her heart shaped rear, one hand playing between her thighs, teasing at her sex and holding their attention, the flashing of her pink nails hypnotic as they danced there.
Her pink tongue darted out and stroked against the tender part of him and he stifled a moan. He looked down towards her, meaning again to beg her to stop for both of their sakes, but then she looked into his eyes and, as he watched …
… her lips turned a familiar shade of pink.
It couldn’t be … But the smile from those lips and then the feeling of her lips tightly wrapped around his shaft in that one way that only she could do convinced him … and he shuddered in relief.
Her hips moved from side to side in a rhythmic motion, holding the attention of those in the room as Joseph moaned and whimpered in need. Her touch long missed, her desire for him and he for her being rekindled from embers into a roaring fire once more. As they both spiraled upwards in their desires, her own powers built and grew, flooding the room with her scent … bubblegum. It seeped into all in the room, into everyone, her control over them all ensnaring their thoughts and pulling from them their desires and wants.
Each, save for Joseph, had their way with the naked brunette in their minds, doing things that were their fantasies … But Joseph tilted back in the chair, shuddering as she pulled from his length leaving a pink lipstick ring around his shaft … the same colour as the bracelet that he wore—and which was now gleamingly pink and perfect as the day he first gladly gave her the honour …
She looked up with pink eyes that he knew so well, “Cum for me Joseph … Cum for me …”
As he came, one word escaped his lips: “Mistress …”
The others in the room were still frozen, entranced with what had happened, off in their own little fantasies that she had planted in each of their minds, and they were far too slow to react to what happened next … exactly as she had hoped.
She spun around as she came to her feet, her hair turning pink, a pair of pink horns and a heart-tipped tail rising into the air behind her, the collar around her throat vanishing in a puff of smoke, along with the boots he had given her, her body shimmering for an instant, Celeste’s shape giving way to Sheryl’s form … Her eyes glowed bright pink as she stared at the two henchman and purred, “Thanks for cumming, boys … Nite nite …” The henchmen fell to the floor drained, their energy spent and taken from them, no longer a threat to her—not that they ever truly were, but she couldn’t take the chance with Joseph there.
He, however, was standing there frozen, staring at her in disbelief, his fantasy of her being his, controlled by him … gone.
She smiled almost wolfishly as she approached him … “Not what you expected?”
He didn’t answer as she closed the distance between them, rolling her hips as she placed one foot perfectly in front of the other, her powers enveloping him further. His thoughts slowing … emptying … leaving only the thought of looking into her eyes and listening to her words …
She paused, for a moment, then snapped her fingers and he was stripped bare to her … mind, body and soul.
“You’ve had your fun for long enough. Now let me show you what power really is …”
Acceptance – Part VI
Revenge: a single word with power. At that moment, in that place, the idea of revenge was consuming Sheryl. She had the power do to almost anything to hime. Images of the pain and suffering he had caused over so many years ate at her thoughts, pressing her to lash out and take that revenge. It would be so simple to make him walk off a cliff, to end himself, and she found that there was nothing of mercy or compassion within her.
But then she heard Joseph’s voice, “Mistress, why didn’t you come for me?” They brought the shuddering realization that her thoughts were on taking revenge and not what mattered most. She felt, finally, shame, shame for the missing concern that she should have felt, concern that was overwhelmed by the need for revenge.
Sheryl did the only thing she could. She turned her back on him and returned to Joseph. The bonds holding him were nothing to her strength, coming apart easily. Then she looked into his eyes, his confused … were they accusing eyes as well?
“I could not find you. I looked everywhere and I could not sense you. You were … gone. It was like you had been taken from this world and …”
“How? You are … more. You can do more. Why?”
Sheryl nodded in the direction of the steel door that separated this place from the outside world: “This place is old. Perhaps ancient would be a better way to put things. He did not know what he had when he created this place. There are markings around the doorway here, and they are proof against seeking. My kind can be attracted to certain things, and these are proof against my kind and other beings that have powers like ours.”
Joseph had the look of trying to understand, but not being able to. She shrugged: “This place is dead to me. It simply does not exist. He never spoke of it to anyone and only those two there knew of what happened here.
“What does that mean, exactly?”
Sheryl’s answer was chilling: “No one ever came out of here whole.”
She had never held a secret from him. Not one. He trusted her and she trusted him. That hurt in him, the feeling that his belief in her was wavering hurt more than anything she had experienced in her life save one thing …
… the moment that she lost him when he was taken.
Sheryl dropped to her knees in front of him, not looking at him as she began, “I don’t know everything. I wish that I did, that I could have snapped my fingers and been with you. Had I known you were here I would have …” She sighed and looked at him finally as the truth came out: “… I would have burned this place to the ground. I would have wiped him and all that he holds from existence. I would have left nothing here but a smoking crater in my wake and then …”
He was going to say something, but her next words broke before his did: “… then I would have ended myself.”
She pressed on, knowing that, if she didn’t, she might not ever be able to. “You made me promise you something, Joseph. You made me promise to protect you. And I didn’t do that. I failed in that promise to you. You asked me to hold you as my first, my only, the one that I would keep with me and cherish above all others.”
The silence was deafening to her ears, but still she pressed on: “I could not protect you. I did not protect you.”
Again Joseph tried to get a word in, but she stood up, resolved in her own thoughts what needed to happen next: “We need to get out of here. Out that door so I can get you home.”
She brooked no further discussion and she did not care to listen to him just at that moment. Turning from him she approached the two thugs and touched a finger to each of their foreheads, a pink glow appearing there, before she moved on to the cause of all of their problems.
She turned to Joseph and asked him to go and see if the main door was unlocked. He did not look particularly pleased to do so, but he held his words. When he had left the room, Sheryl took hold of the chin of the man whose life she was more than willing to turn into ash and made him look into her eyes. “I hate you. I hate what you represent. I hate what you have done. I hate that you have made me do what I have done.”
He did not reply, how could he? Sheryl had frozen him, both mentally and physically; she had stripped him bare. She felt the desire for revenge coming back again, pressing at her thoughts.
“You think you have power. You believe that you do.”
Her nails dug into his chin as she continued: “Your soul is black. There is nothing I could do to you that would be any worse than what you are doing to yourself. To destroy you, to end you, would be a waste of time.”
She moved his chin, examining him: “But that’s what you want, isn’t it? You want me to. Then you win whether you have me or not.”
He did not reply, of course.
“Leave us alone.”
With those words, Sheryl pushed him to the side, releasing her hold on him and putting him to sleep. She stood up, still bare to the world, and left the room in search of Joseph … She found him waiting just outside of the door.
“Mistress … please.”
Sheryl took his hand in hers: “Later. We are not free yet.” She pulled him towards the main door, pushing it open, and into the bright light of the outside world. Two steps more and she felt her powers fully once more, and the two of them vanished in a puff of bubblegum-scented smoke in the next instant.
Elsewhere, at that moment, back at the Victorian mansion they called “Home,” Celeste was kneeling and looking up at the woman who had come calling for Sheryl. Moments before, she knew, she had looked like Sheryl, but this woman had seen through that illusion in the first instant when they met.
Celeste couldn’t help herself as she explained the plan that she and Sheryl had agreed to. That Sheryl had taken the form of Celeste and then placed the illusion over her that made her look like Sheryl. She told the woman about watching Sheryl leave, knowing that she would be collected by one of his thugs, taken to him, and that they had hoped that the risk of this plan would result in them finding Joseph again … for all of their sakes.
Throughout all of this, the woman nodded and simply asked her to continue. Celeste found it so easy to look into her eyes, to obey the simple requests. She did not fear when the woman had waved a finger at her and Sheryl’s illusion vanished, leaving her as she really was and not who she was pretending to be. There was no reason to worry … the woman had told her so.
When the story came to an end with the words, “We have heard nothing since she left,” Celeste could see that the woman was concerned in a way that she only could dream about.
“Did I do something wrong?”
The woman shook her head, her long raven hair floating about her neck and shoulders as she did so: “No. Everything is fine, Celeste. Why don’t you go and sit comfortably in your chair and, when you do, you will remember everything we have talked about, and you will not panic in any way.”
Of course, that made complete sense and, when she had settled into her chair, her mind came back fully and she saw fully the woman who was across the room from her: raven hair, so-green eyes, a long red jacket that shone in the light, deeply black pants and ankle boots, and a bandeau top. Celeste licked her lips slightly, realizing that she would have happily given herself to this woman if she had not already pledged herself to Sheryl.
A question came to her, but the woman spoke first: “You are claimed already. I respect that. But thank you for the compliment.”
Still, Celeste asked: “Who are you?”
The woman tilted her head to the right and smiled, “My name is Tera. Sheryl knows me … intimately …”
Celeste could not help but have a little fantasy in her mind play out about what that meant exactly … until she gasped and placed a hand over her mouth.
Tera raised an eyebrow as Celeste quickly returned to the floor, kneeling there and looking downwards.
“I meant no disrespect. Please forgive me.”
Tera’s voice was bemused: “Just how much has Sheryl said about me?”
“You are her Queen. As we are all hers, then we are yours, as well.”
The sigh was unexpected: “I do not think you quite understand what that means, my dear. Again, I do not accept for you are spoken for. Now, please, you need not kneel to me, I do not stand on formality … well … save for those moments where it is fun, and this is not one of them, so … Please?”
Celeste felt as if Tera was disappointed in her, but did stand once more and return to her chair … worried.
“I have trust in Sheryl, even if I worry about her frame of mind sometimes.”
Those words hung in the air for the longest moment and then … there was a puff of bubblegum-scented smoke. Sheryl and Joseph appeared, and Celeste ran over to them, wrapping her arms around them … but then she gasped, realizing the injures that Joseph had, and began to cry in anguish.
Sheryl froze in the middle of embracing Celeste and looked behind her to see Tera there, smiling, as she simply said, “Welcome home … all of you.”
She nodded once, then looked at Joseph and Celeste, her heart heavy as she said: “Celeste, please find a place for Tera to stay. I will look after Joseph.”
As Sheryl helped Joseph away, she knew that she would be leaving in the morning …
Acceptance – Part VII
As Sheryl led Joseph out of the sitting room and towards to their place in the mansion, she felt Tera’s eyes upon her and, for the briefest of moments, believed that she heard Tera recite one of her proverbs …
You are responsible for making dreams … reality.
Sheryl did not look behind herself. She already knew what Tera was likely thinking; that she had disappointed her Queen in many ways: telling Joseph what she truly was; using her powers in front of Celeste; teaching those souls around her some of the ways of the Succubi. All these things were supposed to be held close to her and not told to those who might speak of them.
Knowing all of the things that she had done … she accepted that Tera would demand that she return to the Realm. She thought, in truth (as they turned a corner out of Tera’s view) that it would be for the best. In spite of all of the things she had done wrong, and there were many, she had kept her promise, and now, with Joseph safe, she was … free to leave.
Why didn’t that make her feel any better? Sheryl held Joseph closely, moving through the halls, not caring that she was bare to any who saw her, only that she had Joseph home now. As they walked, Sheryl didn’t quite notice the scene around her, and she should have … Joseph most certainly did. As they passed each room on their way, the door was open and, just inside of the threshold, there was someone there to see them pass by.
Downstairs, Tera remained in the sitting room, tapping a finger against the arm of her chair, considering something. Celeste stood nearby waiting to fulfill what she had been asked to do. She had accepted that responsibility because Sheryl asked her to.
“Celeste, might you answer a question?”
“Of course Tera … Anything.”
“Tell me exactly how it was that Sheryl became your Mistress. Leave nothing out, please; it is important that you don’t.”
After Celeste had explained what she knew—she hadn’t been there herself—Tera nodded slightly and tapped a finger against her lips in thought. “So she accepted. Interesting.”
Tera then stood and turned to leave the room, Celeste close behind her: “Would you like to be shown your room?”
Tera looked over her shoulder: “No, thank you. I believe that I won’t be sleeping much tonight. You need not tell Sheryl that I departed … In fact, I would rather you didn’t.”
As Tera approached the front door, Celeste asked one last thing: “Can I help in some way?”
Tera offered Celeste her hand: “Actually, yes, you could.”
When their hands touched they both disappeared in a puff of cherry-scented smoke that dissipated moments later into nothingness.
In the meantime, Sheryl had guided Joseph to her bed and then closed the door. As she turned back to him, her horns and tail reappeared, revealing her true self to Joseph once more. She didn’t say anything as she approached him, there was no need to, the hurt in her eyes was so plain to see, even as was that in Joseph’s own.
“Turn over Joseph … please?”
He didn’t want to. He wanted to talk to her, to try to understand why she was leaving in the morning, to take away the ache within him over the fact that she regarded her promise to him fulfilled. Again he tried to speak, but Sheryl had come close and placed a finger on his lips.
“Please, no. We’ll talk. Just … just let me help, first … please?”
He did as she asked and then felt the bed shift, as by Sheryl knelt on either side of his legs, straddling him. She paused for a moment; he heard her intake of breath when she saw the marks. He made to shift around to look at her, but was stopped by the touch of her hands on his back. There was a tingle, a feeling, and Sheryl spoke as she moved her hands slowly: “This is all my fault. I accept that.”
As those words came out, Joseph could not be quiet any longer: “No.”
“Yes. I have to. And, as such, I will be leaving in the morning, because I couldn’t keep my promise to you, to everyone here, but especially to Ashe. I let you all down because I was … unwise.”
“You are, if anything, stubborn, and …”
Sheryl slapped her hand against his back once, leaving a sting that she quickly soothed: “I am still your Mistress for one more night, and I will have my say, Joseph. Tomorrow, you can say or do anything you want, but, for right now … just let me talk.”
He fell silent again, but the tension in his right hand, closed and shaking, was obvious.
“I love you Joseph. I love you like no one else I have ever known. You gave me a gift, the gift of being your Mistress, that I never deserved. I know, believe me, that you did so because of what I said, how I acted towards you. I know … I wish that it had been only you, Joseph. That’s all that I ever wanted.”
Sheryl wouldn’t see, but Joseph’s eyes were tightly closed now, biting on his cheek to keep from crying out in anguish for all that was being said.
“I accepted all of this … because there was no other choice. I didn’t know at the time who Ashe was talking about … it was him. He wanted all of what Ashe had and she did not see a way to keep him away … until me. Until us.”
Joseph felt the pain that he had suffered starting to fade and with it the tension within also started to ebb. He tried to hold onto it, to keep it, if only to be able to speak when Sheryl was done.
“When it was me that he had to deal with, he couldn’t find something to exploit, to hold over me. But he saw your devotion and that was the weapon he used. Bit by bit, he took from me all of the good I had when you were gone. He had no idea what he was dealing with and I … I couldn’t just lash out. But I wanted to. Every day I looked into the mirror trying to convince myself to accept that you were still here, that I would see you again.”
She paused, and Joseph tried to say the words he needed to, but instead found he couldn’t as Sheryl pressed her lips against his shoulders, her body now draped over his own. She said nothing, just touching, exploring … silently. He began to lose focus, his thoughts becoming slow and thick, the strength he wanted leaving him.
“You will be fine, Joseph. Tomorrow, I will declare you and Celeste my replacements and I’ll fade away … You both looked after most things here regardless of my ineptitude, and so nothing will really change. I will go and face Tera, take what is coming to me, and … you will be better off, Joseph.”
As she spoke the last words, he finally faded from consciousness, and she was left to her own thoughts as she focused on healing him, her final gift as Mistress. In the middle of the night, her task completed, she lay beside him and watched not his physical form, but his soul. To remember him always, to have that moment in her memories when she had nothing else to hold onto … that she longed to keep. Sheryl was still doing gazing, intently, when she finally closed her eyes and drifted away …
Morning announced itself with the sun warm through the window … and the smell of tea in the room. Sheryl draped an arm possessively over Joseph as he stirred as well. There was something different; something wasn’t right, and, when Sheryl opened her eyes, it was quite plain to see what that was.
On the other side of the room were two high back chairs, a low table between them. That in itself wasn’t unusual; it was who was present in the room that was … and Sheryl was amazed that she didn’t sense what was happening when she slept …
Sitting in one chair was Tera, in the other was Ashe, and, between the two, Celeste was pouring tea for them both. When she finished pouring, Celeste walked over to the bed and knelt beside it, looking towards Sheryl.
“Mistress … would you like some tea?”
Acceptance – Part VIII
There was silence in the room as a hand held a tea cup and fidgeted with it. The hand belonged to Sheryl, who found herself set among those that had helped shape her life. There was Tera, the Queen of the Succubi, looking … perfect.
Tera always was perfect … at least to Sheryl’s eyes. She was everything that Sheryl wanted to be: in control, understanding, complete. Tera had so much, was so much, that it gave Sheryl pause to wonder why it was that Tera would spend so much of her time looking after … everyone—including Sheryl herself.
Next to her was Ashe. She came from nothing, made something of herself. Hers was a firm hand when needed for those who needed her. Sheryl wanted to be like her, to have it in herself to do and be what she was and not what passing circumstances and urges led her to be, to have the strength to make the right choices for the right reasons.
Just moving away with the teapot was Celeste: once lost, hurt, and tortured, then freed and trusted to be more than she was, to be more than anyone had expected her to be—even Sheryl herself.
Seated beside Sheryl on the bed they had shared was Joseph. She was “Mistress” to him. He was the one she had promised much to, so that now she felt that she had been foolish and not kept her part of the promise. He was the one she would miss most of all. She could see out of the corner of her eye how he looked at her still, and it made her heart ache knowing.
She looked at the tea for a moment, the liquid swirling around in the cup slightly as she fought to keep herself in check. It would not be ‘proper’ to come apart at the seams in front of all of them, but the silence was starting to become more than she could take.
Another one of Tera’s proverbs came out of the blue: Be the one to start the conversation, and the one to finish it.
“I have to go.”
She caught Joseph beginning to speak and her free hand touched his thigh softly: “No, please let me say this.”
The look in Joseph’s eyes spoke volumes, but he fell silent as Celeste returned to sit at Sheryl’s feet, looking up towards her once more. Sheryl couldn’t bring herself to look at either of them, and instead continued to watch the tea in her cup as she continued. “I am not, truly, a Mistress. I did not keep my word when I should have. I have made many mistakes and errors and … and I do not wish … I never wished … to put anyone at risk. I didn’t think things through when I offered my hand to Celeste. I did not consider when Joseph called me “Mistress” and I accepted. I should have seen what might have happened and …”
Sheryl’s voice trailed off because Tera raised a finger into the air. Sheryl tilted her head down and Tera took that as tepid permission. “It is in the best interests of everyone that all of the cards come out to play. After all of that is said, then … then we’ll see what you have to say, Sheryl.”
Tera laced her fingers together and Sheryl shivered slightly. It was the sign that Tera was going to say some important things and she’d better pay attention … Even if the words probably were that she was disappointed in her. “Yes, Tera.”
“Both Joseph and Celeste are aware of Sheryl’s and my true nature, and Ashe … well, she has a fairly good idea at the moment.”
Ashe looked at Tera and nodded slightly.
“Then, with that out of the way, there’s no need to hide certain things, is there?”
With that, Tera’s red horns and tail shimmered into view, and, a moment later, so did Sheryl’s own pink ones.
Ashe looked at the two of them, commenting: “So you are …”
Tera nodded: “… succubi, yes.”
Ashe smiled: “I wish I could take a picture. There’s a certain professor I know whose mind I could completely blow.”
Tera tilted her head to the right and looked at Ashe: “We’d rather you didn’t speak of …”
Ashe nodded, looking serious: “Oh, I wouldn’t. But I have so many questions to ask.”
Tera smiled, slightly, then turned back to Sheryl, who had managed a sip of her tea, “I shall be first, I think, for obvious reasons. Sheryl has done wrong by me.”
Sheryl winced at those words, but kept silent. When Tera had made up her mind there was no changing it. She wondered what the accommodations were like in the Realm’s clock tower as Tera continued to speak: “… or at least she believes that. She holds herself to her promises, and the largest of these, and the one that I know very well, is that she holds herself to a standard that she feels she cannot attain. She has goals for herself that we all strive for and … it is not always possible to make them real.”
Sheryl was confused. She had done wrong, letting others know what she was. That should be more than enough to …
“She wants to keep all those she loves from harm. That includes every one of us in this room and every single soul outside those doors. Any hurt that befalls them she feels, and that takes a small part of her away.”
Sheryl couldn’t argue that point, remembering looking into her mirror and feeling … lost.
“Ashe, it is not your fault, and I am not blaming you for what happened. But Sheryl was happy with Joseph and was content. I know that she would have tried to fade away with Joseph and have that in her life. She had the honor of being his Mistress and she held that honor with all that she is. As any of us do.”
Ashe was about to speak, but Tera’s tail drew around from behind her and the tip touched over Ashe’s lips.
“You will have your chance soon enough. I won’t be long. That goes for you, Celeste and Joseph. Allow me to finish, please.”
The nods around the room where measured but accepting as Tera’s tail moved once more behind her, the tip looking over her left shoulder as she continued to speak.
“But Joseph found that the joy he felt with Sheryl as Mistress was … perfect. She accepted him as he was, she cared for him, opened herself to him, and, in the end, trusted him with the knowledge of who she was and what she was. When he learned that you were being forced out, that all those you held were to be lost, that was too much to bear on himself.”
The look in Joseph’s eyes was haunting as Tera continued: “He took it upon himself to speak about Sheryl. About his belief that she was someone he trusted with his life and that she was, if not a Mistress like you, Ashe, still worthy of being given the honor of Mistress. You, Ashe, found out about that and you offered her the role. She could have said no, but she didn’t.”
Tera looked at Celeste as she continued: “Then you came into the picture. You were lost, afraid, and being forced into something that you did not want to do. No one in your life ever trusted you before. Ever.”
Celeste did not look at Tera, but nodded slightly.
“You reminded Sheryl of herself a long time ago. She saw in you the promise of what you could be if someone said they loved you, trusted you, and wanted you for being you; not making you what you weren’t but seeing you as you are.”
Celeste had a quizzical look, but did not look away from Sheryl.
“As I see it, three lives came together and then the universe went in the direction it wanted to. You each were pushed and pulled in directions that were never expected and yet you survived. So who am I to judge? I’m not about to. As far as I am concerned, it is Sheryl’s choice as much as it is each of yours where things go from here.”
Sheryl’s tail fell onto the bed with a soft thump as she understood that Tera wasn’t angry at her. Tera wasn’t disappointed, either—which would have been far worse. Tera was … Tera. Sheryl should have known better than she did.
Tera looked at Ashe: “The floor is yours.”
Ashe looked uncomfortable as she began to speak: “If anyone is going to take the blame, I will. I had heard whispers before I gave Sheryl my place as Mistress. I knew that …” she hesitated, then continued: “… that he was planning to force my hand and take everyone from me. I knew that his resources were far more than mine, and I just didn’t have it in me to fight him anymore. I’d had too many years of being pressed on, and I was looking for a way out.”
Sheryl had a thin smile as she looked at Ashe, who continued: “Sheryl: I knew that she had been the one that had turned us around, helped anyone that needed help, did whatever she could, because that was who she was. But most of all, she was trusted. I knew that she was more trusted than I was, and that made my choice for me.”
The smile had become a frown, but Sheryl said nothing.
“Joseph did not know I was here when you arrived that first night. I came in some time before you did and I had a long talk with everyone there. I asked them to understand why I accepted you as Mistress. I explained that I would give you my position and I would offer myself to you every bit as much as everyone else there.”
Ashe closed her eyes as the memories came back: “You cannot hide anything from those that accept you. They all knew what was at risk, and they accepted the choice I made. I accepted the choice they made. When it was over I was there, but you were young, strong and I felt you could defend yourself. But then Celeste came and …”
Celeste waited a moment, but then: “… I was a tool. Actually, a fool, when I think about it now. I was used and thrown away time and time again. I didn’t see myself as being worth anything, and never had. I just made it day to day, survived, and didn’t expect anything more than that.”
Her eyes did not waver from Sheryl: “Then came you. I had no idea what it was like to be trusted, to be cared about, to be able to be with someone whom I wanted to be Mistress, not someone who demanded it. I learned that it was my choice who I called that. For the first time, I wanted, desperately, for you to be that.”
Sheryl looked back at Celeste—it was the honorable thing to do—as she continued: “I offered and you didn’t hesitate. I never understood why that was. I still don’t. But you trusted me to be here. You trusted me when he took Joseph. I saw you weren’t invincible. But you were Mistress and you were …” Celeste smiled: “… well, at the time, I thought you were human. At least until Joseph took me aside and asked me one very important question.”
She looked at Joseph: “He asked me if I would protect your secret with my life. He told me you had a secret that no one could know, but if he was gone that you would need someone. You would need me. You could not, would not, survive without having a shoulder to lean on and a voice to speak when needed. It was the first time I realized what it meant to be that close to someone. Of course, I said I would. And I learned.”
She held Sheryl’s eyes again: “I learned that the impossible was possible. That one thing, that one thing alone, changed me, you know. I understood what you saw in me. You saw that anything was possible for me. That I mattered to you as much as Joseph did in his own way.”
Then, finally, it was Joseph’s turn. “You did not break your promise, Mistress.”
Sheryl was going to remind him of how she told him, the night before, that, in the morning, she was no longer his Mistress, but he continued: “I remember having this conversation with you before, you know. Explaining that you didn’t have the right to just give up and walk away. I … we … all of us gave you that honor.”
“You can’t force me to stay, Joseph.”
He sighed: “No, and we’re not. But you don’t just stop being Mistress because you leave. You stop when we both agree that it is time. It isn’t.”
“Of course it is.”
He smiled: “You know, everyone else had a chance to talk, may I, please?”
Properly chastised, Sheryl stopped talking and remained silent as he continued: “When I was taken, when I was alone, the only thing that I had was the knowledge that you were my Mistress and you would not abandon me. I knew that you would hurt and I worried that you would become that other self you talked about. I never told you, but I saw her once.”
Sheryl just looked at him, she didn’t know what to say.
“She … frightens me. She is not at all like you, but she is. She appeared our first night when you revealed yourself and when I first saw her I didn’t understand. She was so dominant, so frighteningly so: dangerous, powerful, possessive. She asked if I was worthy of being trusted; if my soul was worthy. I had to look into her black eyes and in their depths I saw how selfish I was. It was about me: my wants, my needs, my wishes.”
Sheryl shivered as her tail moved from behind her and placed its heart-shaped tip over Joseph’s chest.
“I told her that I wasn’t, that you deserved better, and I would go. She wouldn’t let me. She put everything to me—all that she was, all that you were, everything. She told me of what happened to you, to her. Then she bared my soul, showed me who I was and … and I was wanting. I wanted you. I wanted to be yours. I wanted … I wanted you to want me, too.”
Sheryl’s tail moved from his chest to touch under his chin, making Joseph look at Sheryl before moving away again.
“She told me that I had to accept that you were Mistress, but you were also hurt, needful, and wanting in your own way. I needed to accept that you needed me as much as I needed you. I accepted. I’ve never stopped accepting. I hope you can accept that, too.”
Sheryl was quiet, considering, then she began: “I can accept that Tera isn’t angry. I can accept that Ashe did what she felt was right. I have problems with accepting that I should be Mistress for you … for everyone here. I feel like I have done wrong, and it bothers me. I’m worried that I’ll make a mistake and you will pay or Celeste will pay or one of the others will pay for it.”
Tera had steepled her fingers and was tapping the tip of her nose, but said nothing and Ashe just looked at her own hands in her lap where they rested. But Joseph and Celeste? They both just looked at Sheryl and she withered in their gaze, but continued: “I’ve made mistakes. They’ve weighed on me. I lost my joy, my happiness for being … me. I wanted to make others happy and taste that joy. When I can … could … those were the moments that made everything worthwhile.”
She looked at Celeste: “I was happy when you became the woman you are—the person you are. You showed everyone who doubted you that you were someone special. I saw that when you came through the door. I wanted to see that, have you see it.”
Celeste smiled and the warmth in her soul was so clear to Sheryl.
She turned to Joseph: “All I wanted was for you to be happy. I knew you were, I felt that, and it kept me from feeling the darkness when it came to our door. Then I lost you, Joseph, and all I had was the pain: pain of not knowing you were alright; pain of not being able to find you.”
She shook her head: “I didn’t understand why you would trust our secret to Celeste. But now? Knowing you saw … her? I do. She would have done … things. You knew that, and having Celeste there when you couldn’t be if something happened? It makes so much sense now.”
She closed her eyes and then continued: “I’m flawed. I’m not anything like Tera or Ashe. I’m a mess, and I’ll always be that. The best thing is for me to go, to leave you both free, and your lives are better for my going away.”
Joseph took her hand in his: “Doesn’t really matter, does it, how flawed you are? You are, still, the only one that I call “Mistress”, the only one I ever will. Leave and you still are my Mistress. Stay and you still are my Mistress.”
Sheryl smiled: “Truly?”
Joseph touched her cheek and kissed her lips softly. Then, to Sheryl’s surprise, Celeste drew close and did the same before Joseph asked: “Will you stay if we ask you?”
Sheryl could only tell the truth: “I don’t know.”
They took her hands—one each—asking: “Then please, Mistress, please remain here with us?”
Sheryl could only offer: “I’ll think about it.”
They both looked at her with hope and Sheryl found that her answer was already there, that she was going to stay. She just couldn’t put the words out, but they knew. Somehow they just did knew.
Tera stood and offered her hand to Ashe: “We shall be on our way, then. You three have things to work out. Oh, and Sheryl?”
As she led Ashe out of the room, Tera called back, as her tail pointed towards Sheryl’s mirror by the door: “It’s nice to see that you have accepted who you are.”
Sheryl looked into the mirror and saw herself, horns, tail and all, with two souls who loved and needed her as much as she did them, and she also found acceptance in herself.
And that question that Tera had posed so long ago became very clear … Acceptance is not submission, it is acknowledgement of the facts of a situation, then deciding what you are going to do about it. So, what are you going to do?
The answer, Sheryl finally knew, was … Be the best I can be … always.