Introduction: A Most Unfortunate Encounter With a Basilisk
Aurena Stormbridge paused before the cave's entrance. She clutched her longsword tightly in her hand, raising it slightly. Her jaw quivered, but cold fire glinted in her eyes. She had come here to slay the Basilisk; she must not show fear.
The horrid creature had been despoiling Hyaasia for a year now. What was once a fertile valley had become a miasmal waste where no crops grew, no cattle roamed; what plants were left had become sickly, twisted caricatures of themselves. A foul mist hovered continually over the earth, bathing everything in a dull greenish-gray hue. To make things worse, the creature had taken to raiding the villages, carrying off human victims to enjoy at leisure in its lair. Yes, it had to be stopped.
But swordsman, archers, and even priests had met with unsuccess. Finally she, Aurena herself, anointed by birth with the Holy Star of Paldrina, had taken up the sword inherited from her mother, also a Silver Warrior, and come to Hyaasia to aid its people. The platinum-haired maiden wore next to nothing except scraps of scale mail from the back of a silver dragon, they being enough to protect her; it was her skill with the sword that prevented damage. Other warriors smiled in amusement when she showed up half-undressed to take care of some wrongdoing, but how sober they became when she began to fight.
The warrioress surveyed the cavern's mouth. Nothing moved except stray tendrils of the mist. Reports of the creature varied. Some said it was bulky like an ox, others long and lithe like a snake. What was for sure was that no one who hunted the creature, or been carried away by it, had returned to tell the tale.
It was clear she had to prepare herself for anything.
Whispering a swift prayer to her goddess, she entered the cave.
A foul smell rolled forth to greet her, an indescribable mixture of rotted plantlife, raw sewage, sulfur, and dung. Tears rose to her eyes at the stench, then she breathed it in and breathed it through; there was no other way to get past it. The Basilisk might destroy her yet, but its stench would not do so.
"Silliwun," she whispered, and her blade glowed with a silvery light, encouraging her, dispelling the darkness and dankness of the cave. She began to walk, nerves on alert, back poised in a fighter's crouch.
A large rodent suddenly scuttled away from her, startling her. Only a rat, she thought. Probably living off the monster's droppings. The thought filled her with disgust. She began to walk forward and felt her boot nudge something. Looking down, she saw it was a freshly-cleaned human skull, still glistening with slime she assumed was the Basilisk's saliva.
Girding herself, she moved she. She had seen worse.
There were no passages off the tunnel; it ran a straight if convoluted course. At least the creature wasn't about to burst out of a side chamber and surprise her. Around the next bend she saw the glow of daylight and deduced there was a hole in the cavern ceiling that let in daylight. Still cautious, she rounded the bend and gasped. A noble warrior stood in the beam of murky light, his sword raised in a killing blow.
"Who--" she began, then noticed the warrior wasn't unmoving.
Carefully she stepped forward. He did not twitch. And it was not only the dull light that made him appear gray. He was made of stone, a cold gray granite forever caught at mid-defiance. Even his weapons had become stone.
Aurena cursed. A half-remembered legend teased the back of her mind, something she'd read once in an old book, in the lair of a mad wizard. The legend of a beast so poisonous and deadly it turned its victims into stone...
No! Surely, there must be some other explanation. But glancing around, she saw the other statues at the edges of the chamber...some frozen in mid-battle, others dramatically fallen. Some were even begging for mercy. All were of hard, lifeless granite.
Her hammering heart threatened to tear a hole through her chest. The legends were true, had to be true. Who would carve statues in such lifelike positions? What Hyaasian sculptor had the skill to capture every detail of armor, every agonized facial feature?
Down, down she went. Other chambers led off this one, each one deeper than the last. In each, the story was the same: statues and more statues, along with bones, droppings, and random bits of clothing. The deeper she went, the older the statues grew, until they lay broken in her path: a maze of broken limbs and empty torsos. The heads lay as scattered boulders, their features crumbled away by the actions of moisture and moss. She realized she had probably walked a mile or more into the bowls of the earth. That won't happen to me, she thought with steely determination. I am a Silver Warrior. The goddess protects me.
Once or twice she saw a turquoise object glittering on the floor, which she assumed was a scale of the creature's. The size of it did not encourage her.
Finally, an ending to the tunnel. Turning, she found herself in a cavern higher and wider than the ones before. In the cool light of her sword she saw gold glittering at its edges, piles of it, chests of it, and gems in heaps too, burst from sacks long rotted. The creature's hoard! Then it must be--
A slithering sound was enough to warn her. She raised her sword, whirling around, just in time to see the Basilisk drop like a blue-green rope from the ceiling behind her. As the rumors said it was long like a snake, but moved on dozens of pairs of scuttling lizard-like feet... feet that allowed it, clearly, to move across ceilings and walls like a centipede. It reared back like a snake, spreading its needle-like teeth in an ugly grin.
She raised her sword to lop off its head before it could bite her or spray her with its poisonous breath.
The Basilisk's eyes glowed a bright yellow color, dazzling her, as her sword continued to rise. A blazing white ray shot out of the creature's pupils, meeting hers squarely and without mercy. A buzzing brightness consumed her like fire, spread over her body like fire, along with an electric tightening and popping sensation that froze her in place. Her skin tingled wildly as the sensual vibration washed over her insides. Aurena was a virgin, but the cry that came from her lips was not. It was also her last cry.
The wave swept from her feet to her thighs, then up her torso. It left behind a solid, numb feeling...the feeling of being petrified alive, turned into a granite statue as cold and lifeless as all the others.
No! This can't happen to me...I'm... her thoughts scattered as the blazing wave washed over her skull, freezing her features into a swoon forever. Light exploded before her eyes, dazzling her; and a shameful pleasure made into pain by the thought of what the creature had done to her.
* * *
The Basilisk drew back from its work. The warrioress had been petrified in a most fitting position, her sword raised, her shield on guard, a lovely look of mingled fear and surprise on her pretty face. Her feet were planted sturdily on the earth, wide apart in a heroic brace. No danger she would topple over then. Her clothing -- what small amount there was (he chuckled lasciviously to himself) -- was stone also, every crease, fold and scale rendered in minute detail. All in all, a true work of art. That was why he had chosen to petrify her here, in his treasure chamber.
As he was wont to do, the Basilisk wrapped himself around his victim, probing with his tongue the planes and crevices of her rocky flesh. His hard scales and lack of digits prevented him from enjoying his victims any other way. The fresh stone dust tasted most delicious, mixed as it was with the scents and oil essences of her once-living flesh. He caressed her in his coils, feeling for himself her slim yet muscular form. He had been a prince once, eons ago, and yet retained the carnal appetites of a man.
That done, he gazed into the eyes of his victim. The horrible glow in them had no effect on her now, thought it did allow them to communicate in a way.
*You fiend,* the warrioress thought. *What have you done to me.*
*You are stone, and will be stone forever,* the Basilisk replied. *And you are mine. I will keep you here with my other treasures.*
Aurena groaned, a sound of deep despair. Her sword had not petrified when she had, though it remained fast in her grip, and shed a silvery light over her frozen curves.
The Basilisk chuckled. *Yes, as well you should. You aren't going anywhere. And there is no cure for a Basilisk's glare.*
*My goddess...* Aurena whispered desperately.
*Does not exist, and therefore cannot hear you. There is only magic on this world Aurena, cold, practical, impersonal magic that forged your sword and made me what I am.* He flicked his tongue over her cold, frozen lips. *Your despair, indeed, all your emotions are meat and drink to me. You feel them more keenly than the others. They are men; you, a young female, are made of finer cloth.*
*What can I do for you to let me go?* she thought desperately.
*Nothing,* the Basilisk said. *You are stone and will be stone forever, until you crumble into dust like the others in my chambers. But that will take centuries, and I will take better care of you than that.*
*Wicked creature,* Aurena spat.
*By whose standards? Mine, or yours?* the Basilisk replied, his coils tightening around her. *I could crush you now into pieces if I chose.*
*Don't do that,* the warrioress thought desperately.
*Even in unlife, there is life,* the Basilisk chuckled.
*Someday someone will find me,* the warrioress said defiantly. *You think there is no cure for your magic, but every spell has its counteragent. My sisters will find me, and restore me to flesh, so I can destroy you.*
*You think so?* the Basilisk laughed, a lazy, rippling sound. *Well, I concede that may be. I do not know everything of magic in this world. But until that day comes I will entertain you, Silver Warrior. Of tales so strange your mind will spin; tales of times and places so far beyond the ones you know your worldview will shatter, your arrogance humble. When I rest my mind wanders to other planes and places, where I observe many things... and I know I am not alone in the universe, the only being with a deadly glare, a deadly breath, a deadly magic.*
*I do not wish to hear these tales,* the warrioress said primly.
*You have no choice,* the Basilisk said. *Ten tales I will tell you.
At the end of them, I will decide your fate.* And he raised his forked
tongue to her shapely granite ear, and began.
On to the first tale
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