Butter-soft skin sloughed beneath the pressing knife’s edge, its shining blade keen as starlight. Lyceae sliced with practiced movements, every stroke precisely measured, right down to the wrist flick that separated meat from hide.
“Lovely, lovely, lovely,” she purred, lapping blood stains from the blade. The flesh in her hands so fresh it quivered, the spigot cored into the skin suit’s donor collecting scarlet nectar she guzzled down.
While alone at the center of her chambers, her trussed-up, trembling meal finally expired. Heart drained of all its life-giving fluids, flensed body pending from meat hooks with all its muscles on display.
Not one drop of blood left in it—Lyceae prided herself on draining her kills dry. On the artistry that peeled the fat layer free while preserving the sweetness of the blood her Mormo soul craved. Stretched out on her chaise lounge feeding station, she rasped at her peeled-loose handful, breathing deep of its heady aroma to stimulate the barbs and nodules of her pitchfork tongue.
Titillated by its texture. The feel of it oozing greasily down her throat. No more carnal pleasure than feeding. The sensation of flesh on tongue.
Spittle frothed on orchid lips, dripping hoarfrost from Lyceae’s pointed chin. “You may devour it,” she told the goblins, of the nameless, sexless corpse. Cattle, like all the others bred here in the dust and the dark.
“What of the skin, Mistress?” Roget asked, greedy as the others, despite the tux and tails.
Wretched creatures, goblins. Always wanting, expecting more. She tolerated them out of necessity, though, needing someone to tend her livestock and ensure their bloodlines remained disease-free.
The plague taught her that the hard way. Poisoned food stores, decimated her people, drove their remnants down into the dark.
“You may have that as well,” Lyceae decided, vermilion skin stretched tight over her swollen belly. “But parse the bones and organs,” she warned as the starving goblins dismembered the corpse to pull it down. “You may keep the tongue and brain. Feed my larder the rest of its innards.”
“Yes, Mistress. Thank you, Mistress.” The lot of them bobbed as one. Grey and green and squat of shape. Peeling-scaled after generations spent in the dark.
“Leave me,” Lyceae ordered, flicking her fingers to send them away. The mass of them jittering and jabbering as they scattered, carrying their purloined parts in crooked claws. Squabbling the cousins left lurking in the darkness who swarmed in a feeding-frenzy of stub-winged shapes.
With them gone, she parted her gilt-chased, silken robes and sighed in relief as her engorged belly rolled out. Full to bursting and lined with knotted veins that pulsed and throbbed with each beat of her hearts. Grinding and gurgling to separate fat from blood and extrude the jellified contents into one stomach while the other topped up with juice.
Perhaps I overdid, she thought, rubbing at that vast and sloshing balloon.
More fat on her lunch than she’d expected. Too much fat for her system to handle, making her skin sweat tiny crystals beneath her fluttering, mulberry robes, and her hearts beat in tympanic rhythm—all three of them, pounding out of time.
I’ll need a fourth before long, she realized, measuring the bloated acreage of her ever-expanding girth. In a world of stick-thin, preening leeches, Lyceae tended toward pleasingly plump. Slim of limb and visage, yet thick around the middle. Bloated, one might say, thanks to her insatiable urge to feed.
She gasped at a sudden pain beneath the zipper closure stitched to her chest. Calling, “Roget!” into the darkness while delicately burping into the back of a hand. “Roget! Attend me!” Lyceae snapped her fingers, the sound of them gunshots summoning the gnarled old goblin from the black. Tux and tails ratty and filthy with dirt, satin bowtie strangling his mottle-scaled neck. Like all his kind, he smelled of an abattoir. Lyceae stuffed cloves in her nose as he waddled near. “An emetic, Roget, to ease my digestion.”
“Yes, Mistress,” Roget lisped juicily, spade tongue flickering through grave fence teeth. He bowed at the waist and hurried away, expediting the retrieval of her ruby-jeweled emetic cup. The tincture inside it syrupy thick and perfumed with honey and venom. “Mistress,” he murmured, handing it over. Eyes down, shoulders bunched up around his ears.
Scared of her, and with good reason: in the lean times, the goblins became lunch. Despite the breeding programs, her larders emptied, teetering on perilously short. And Lyceae’s hunger knew no patience. She could not, would not go without.
The only question was who she’d turn on first, and how long the goblins would last.
Roget, her faithful lapdog, twittered in consternation as she drunk that cup down. Anxious about displeasing her, losing favor and getting replaced. Wary of her fickle, oft changeable moods—she was Mormo, after all, and transitory in her whims. Never, not once to be trusted.
The last of the fabled Sanguisuge line and pure in her unbroken heritage, unlike the mongrel kin she devoured.
Fatted on their bastardized blood, Lyceae drained her cup to dregs. Noting a twitching tic on one side of Roget’s face, and bitter taint beneath the sugar and churn.
She raised her cup and sniffed, quirking an eyebrow his way. “Poison, Roget? I’m disappointed.”
He stopped breathing and the twitch infected his eye. “Ipecac, Mistress—”
“That’s a form of poison.”
Roget licked his lips. “I—I fixed it just as you asked.”
“Stronger, I think.” She smacked her lips and poured the drugged dregs out. “You should know by now that poison won’t work.”
Over the years, she’d built up a tolerance by forcing it on her feed. She drank their life and infused her flesh with a resistance to nature’s many and varied toxins that doubled and reboubled with each century that passed.
No poison out there could kill her now, as well the goblins should know. And yet, once every generation, they tried again, convinced they’d brewed a potion strong enough this time.
Lyceae burped far less delicately and handed the goblet back, tutting at Roget in dissatisfaction. “I thought better of you. I truly did. I thought you’d learned better after all these years.”
The head drooped, and the eyes followed in a pathetic attempt to hide his guilt.
“There must be consequences for this disobedience, Roget. I don’t enjoy punishing you,” she lied smoothly, “but I fear I must to make a point.”
“Yes, Mistress,” he whispered dutifully, fear stink pouring off of him in waves. A carrion stink that overwhelmed her just as the ipecac hit.
The scions of Hades invaded Lyceae’s guts and set her innards to rocking and rolling. Explosions erupted as everything inside her bubbled up, clamoring to be let out. “Cut off your hands,” she ordered brusquely, and feeling magnanimous, added, “You may feed them to your cousins, if you like.”
“Yes, Mistress. Thank you, Mistress.” Roget bobbed at the waist, shying at the slither of silk grinding against her velvet perch. He shuddered when Lyceae leaned sideways to cough her load of devoured fat up. Heaving repeatedly to void every last bit of tissue, but not the blood in her. No, never that.
Valves restricted the flow between her stomachs, ensuring the most precious of nectars stayed put. With a crack of bone, Lyceae dislocated jaw and evacuated every last bit of fat, and collapsed with gusting, much relieved sigh at being relieved of all that jelly in her gut.
“Lap it up,” she ordered, smiling as Roget knelt down. Sucking greedily at the sick she’d left him, and afterward cleaning the stone floor with his tongue.
By then the contents of Lyceae’s twin stomachs had balanced, leaving a void that clamored to be refilled.
“Roget. My belly rumbles. Fetch me some dessert,” she ordered when he stood.
“What—What kind, mistress?” he asked her in his querulous, ever-trembling voice. Wiping fat blobs clinging stickily to his lips to swallow those tiniest of nibblets down.
“Something… rabbitish,” she said after much pondering. “Yes, I believe that will do.” Less volume in vermin than her recent main course, but their blood ran pleasantly spicy, providing a welcome pick-me-up after all that sweet. “Chop-chop,” she said when Roget hesitated, with something, seemingly, on his mind.
“And my hands, Mistress?” He held them out—curled and clawed as talons.
“You may retain those until after,” she said grandly. Feeling godly now, beneficent and just.
“Thank you, Mistress. Thank you.” Fawning, Roget sketched another bow.
And spun on his heel to hustle away while Lyceae, relaxed and reclining, drummed her fingers against her swollen stomach, growing perturbed when her lapdog failed to return. “Roget!” she thundered into the darkness. “Roget! Where’s my pudding?”
“Here, Mistress. I have it right here.” Belatedly, Roget stumbled from the dark, hauling a heavy cage he carried in both hands. Its metal mesh rusted and splashed with offal, the creature inside it spitting and hissing—not rabbit-shaped, as she’d expected, she spied a bandit’s face and fevered eyes.
“What is this?” Lyceae demanded through lips gone suddenly numb. Noting a sluggishness in her kettledrum hearts and a leaden feel to her limbs. “Roget,” she breathed in dawning horror. “Oh Roget, what have you done?”
“Fetched you something, rabid-ish, Mistress, just as you requested.” Roget’s face twitchy-twitch as he set the rusted cage down. “You see, I have learned a few things over the years,” he said with an uncommon smile. And pinched the hasp to work the lock, laughing as the raccoon lunged out.