Infernal Interview with Hydra M. Star

I sat down for an interview with Witch Hydra M. Star from the Church of Satan.

Apart from being a member of the admin team for the unofficial CoS Facebook group, Hydra is involved in a number of writing projects and has a pyrography business called The Burning Witch.


Quill:  So I know you’re working on The Burning Witch and Infernal Ink Magazine, along with “Candy, Blood, and Sex” which is also out right now. Is there anything else you’re currently working on? Infernal Ink magazine has been going for five years now, hasn’t it?

Hydra:  It is in its fifth year of publication. We started back in April of 2012. So, just passed the four year mark.

H:  Beside the magazine, I have several other personally writing projects in various stages of completion. One of them, “Great-Grandmother’s Necklace”, will be released before this interview goes live. I’m also contributing to as least one anthology, Fucked Up Fairy Tales, which will be out later this year and in the early stages of putting together another for next year.

H:  But the magazine is my main, on going project.


Q:  And it’s gotten to the point now that people are submitting material faster than you can fill the pages of a magazine, so you can be more choosy with material to fill its pages?

H:  Yeah, it’s been that way for awhile, actually. We’ve been very lucky, in that regard. Originally, we were only going to publish twice a year, in April and October, but after the first year the response was so strong from would be contributors that we expanded that to four times a year, January, April, July, and October. Even still, I’m usually a year out with submission. For example, I’m currently reading for April 2017 and the issue is about half filled.

H:  Early on, we took both erotic and non-erotic horror and dark fiction, but erotic horror was what we were really interested in. We now only take erotic horror and erotic dark fiction and have added a subtitle to the magazine to reflect this; Infernal Ink Magazine: Devilishly Erotic Horror. So, yeah, we’re quite choosy now.

Q:  How did you find your way to erotic horror, of all possible avenues you could have gone down for writing?  What draws you to that?

H:  When I first got involved with the online horror writing community–and it didn’t take long for me to disengage to a large degree from the “community”–one of the first exchanges I had was with a gentleman, who will go unnamed, that had a HUGE problem with the use of sex and erotica in the genre. It kind of confused me, because this was like ten years ago, before Kindle and e-books were really a thing and indie authors were all either blogging or going through print on demand services to get their stuff out to readers. Some small presses were putting out non-mainstream stuff, but even most of that was pretty “safe” by most people’s standards. So, I really hadn’t been exposed to very much erotic horror. I don’t even know if it was a proper genre back then–probably not–but I took note of how offended this person was by it, even though I just hadn’t seen it or at least not every much of it. I then noticed a lot of the submission guidelines I was reading stated things like “no graphic sex” or “tastefully written sexual content only”. This really got me wanting to read the stuff that was making these rules something publishers felt they needed to state and had this other guy so upset. Around this time, through Myspace, I met and became friends with a couple of authors who wrote in the genre and used a lot of erotic elements in their work. From there, I started writing a column for an erotic horror magazine called Horroica, which was started by one friend and then taken over by another, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Q:  There is erotica out there for people no matter what their kink is.  I’ve heard about someone that makes over $50,000 a year writing Bigfoot erotica. I would have never thought that there was an actual niche for that kind of kink until I had read about someone raking in the cash for it.  Do you think you wrote your first erotic horror piece around 2012, or were you writing in that area before then?

H:  Most of my work in the erotic horror genre has been in editing and publishing. I’m not really sure when I wrote my first erotic horror story. The column I did from late 2010 until the end of 2012 was non-fiction. I wrote a lot of poetry and “traditional” horror and speculative fiction. I’d have to say my novella CANDY, BLOOD, AND SEX is my first really serious contribution to the genre, in the form of my own writing.

Q:  When I write a large piece like a novella or a novel I use Scrivener and Scapple as software for writing because I look at it all as a non-linear process.  How did you construct your novella, as your first serious entry into a genre that you’re championing with Infernal Ink magazine

H:  I use very basic writing software. Usually something like Open Office. I sort out the plot and everything in my head or create an outline for longer pieces and then follow that when writing.

Q:  You aren’t using any kind of mind mapping or mind node software to sort of plan out where all of your story arcs are going ahead of time?  That’s what I use Scapple for, not that I’ve used it for the short stories about Darius Tupper that I’ve posted on Corna & Quill lately.  Those shorts I write about Tupper are just too short to require much planning.  Have you had any aspirations for writing a longer piece than your current novella?

H:  I don’t like using that type of software. I prefer to just let things flow and then go back and fix, flesh out, or add in whatever is needed.

I have a series of books, THE CHRONICLES OF THE INFERNAL EMPIRE, that I’ve been working on and at times suspect I may never finish that are much longer than the novella…MUCH LONGER.

Q:  So when you write, it’s entirely linear – you pound out the beginning, the middle, and the end (in that order), and then you go back and edit?

H:  Pretty much. Sometimes I’ll get the inspiration to write a certain scene that comes later and I’ll write it and save it in a different file to add in when I get to that part, but mostly I just sit down and start at the beginning. I do, as I said, outline many of the stories, before starting the real writing. So, I have some idea of where it’s all going.

Q:  How far have you come along on The Chronicles of the Infernal Empire?  Are you going to publish it if/when you finish it?

H:  Not very far, at all. I have a lot of the series outlined and several bits of it written. The first book, which will be a collection of four stories that take place in Heaven prior to the Infernal Gods being…well, Infernal, is further along than anything, but work on it has been put on hold for some time now. Basically, I keep taking on other projects and THE CHRONICLES OF THE INFERNAL EMPIRE is such a massive project that finishing it will probably take YEARS. It will eventually be published though, before I die.

Q:  I can certainly understand how life and the things we pursue get in the way of making time to write, to storyboard, to worldbuild, and everything else. Do you see benefit in self-publishing as you did with your novella, or would you look to publishing companies for The Chronicles of the Infernal Empire?

H:  At this point, I see self-publishing and publishing through small press publishers as about equal. Many small presses now use print on demand services like Lulu or Createspace for their print books and platforms like Smashwords or Kindle Direct Publishing for digital. This means a couple of things. One, your book through these presses will almost certainly not be getting into brick and mortar book stores, the few of them that are left. Two, unless they have a name and reputation that sell books or they have same serious marketing skills, there isn’t much these small presses can do for an author that they can’t do for themselves.

H:  The only real plus side to going with a small press, at this point, is that they’ll handle the editing, formatting, and so forth. This though can be handled by the author. Freelance editors are easy to find and most of them offer services that are reasonably priced and often these editors are the same people who work for small presses. If money is tight, in some cases, if you’re well-connected enough and/or good at editing or formatting yourself, you can trade services….but I advise against trying to self-edit. You need to have at least one other set of eyes on anything you’re planning to publish.

H:  With all that said, at this point I don’t plan to look for a publishing company for THE CHRONICLES OF THE INFERNAL EMPIRE, though I may have started my own by then. It is an idea I’m toying with.

Q:  I fully agree about having other sets of eyes on what you’re writing, though I usually get them by tempting people I know with a juicy new bit of writing that they’ll be the first to see. Do you find the process simple enough to self-publish through, say, Amazon?  Have you been making any decent money off of your novella?

H:  Oh yeah, I use the “read it before anyone else” trick to get proof/beta readers. Even after things have been edited it’s still a good idea to have one or two people give it a final read. Editors miss stuff, even the ones that work for the big companies. So, I employ that little bit of lesser magic towards that goal.

H:  Yes, the process of publishing through Amazon and Lulu, who I use for print, is very easy. You need to understand basic document file and image formatting, but the actual publishing process is very easy. The money sucks. Anyone that’s in publishing for the money has a long hard road ahead of them. I make back what I put out and enough on top of that to keep me going, but it’s not a windfall. Not by a long shot.

Q:  Not yet, anyway.  Speaking of sales and promotions, how has Infernal Ink Magazine grown lately?

H:  The magazine is doing great, by indie standards. July was probably our best month to date, sales wise.

H:  As I mentioned before, submission numbers are quite high, as well. I’m actually very behind in reading submissions, at the moment, but hope to catch up soon.

Q:  So.  Pyrography.  The Burning Witch.  How did you get started on that?

H:  I was first introduced to wood-burning as an art form through a middle school art class. It was a short lived experience with it, because a boy in the class was burnt badly by the burning tool and it was taken away from us, but years later when I was in my early twenties and pregnant with my daughter, no less, I was looking to create a Sigil of Baphomet altar piece. I’d tried painting a couple of them, but I suck at painting. Then one day I came across a wood-burning tool while shopping in one of those big box craft supply stores and remembered liking it. I purchased the tool and some wood and was off and running.

H:  That original Sigil of Baphomet piece is something I still own. It can actually be seen in the display picture for my cat’s Facebook page. Just look for Cyrus the Orange on Facebook, if you want to see it.



Q:  I know exactly which picture you mean.  I love that picture of Cyrus the Orange!  How long do you think it took you to do that one Sigil of Baphomet?

H:  I want to say that took me a week or week and a half, but I wasn’t doing much else at that time. The burning is also pretty light. Today, with other work and heavier/crisper burning, it takes about twice that time frame for me to get one, that same size, completed and out the door.

Q:  I would have thought that the amount of time would have gone down as you honed your skills, but it makes sense that with deeper, heavier, and crisper burns that it would take more time. Are you still using that same tool you picked up at the crafts store, or have you expanded the tools you have available to you?

H:  Oh, the tools burn out and die pretty quickly. I go through at least one a year. So, no. That original one is long since died. In some ways, the time frame has shortened, but I now usually have five or so projects going at one time. So, my time is divided now. I’m no longer a pregnant woman with little else to do.

Q:  Is it just one tool that’s used, or a variety of them?

H:  It’s just the one.

Q:  And are you drawing everything free-hand, or do you use some kind of a stencil system?

H:  A bit of both, depending on the piece. I have stencils for all the items listed in the shop. This is so they are uniform, but for custom pieces I draw out a lot of the design by hand or tweak existing stencils. It really depends on what the customer wants. A lot of customers will come to me with art or an example of a sigil or something similar that they want and I’ll use that to make a stencil. So, it really just depends.

Q:  You trace what you’re going to burn in pencil using the stencil as a guide, then fire up the burninator?  I still don’t think I could do it. Hell, even my handwriting is terrible.

H:  Again, it depends on the piece and the stencil I’m using. Some of them are more or less just print outs I burn directly through, because that’s faster. Either way, it requires a very steady hand.


Hydra’s work space for The Burning Witch with Cyrus the Orange


A custom ouija board made by Hydra


More wood burning examples made by Hydra

Q:  Are there any other big things coming down the line that you want to talk about? New projects or anything like that?

H:  Nothing big in the works with the pyrography. At the moment I’m still waiting to hear if a piece I did has made it into the Devil’s Reign art show. If the piece makes it in that will be my first art show, but other than that it’s just business as usual with the shop, at the moment.

H:  Alder Strauss and I are currently taking submissions for a cannibalism themed anthology we’ll be publishing in 2017, BON APPETIT: STORIES & RECIPES FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION. We’ve very excited about that and the guidelines for it can be found on my website.


H:  Other than that, I’ll be continuing with Infernal Ink Magazine for the rest of the foreseeable future. As mentioned, I’ll be making an appearance in the FUCKED UP FAIRY TALES anthologies in September and possibly releasing some other shorter pieces here and there.

H:  I’m also in discussions with a couple of authors to get some books out, possibly as part of the Infernal Ink publishing brand, but none of that is set in stone just yet.

Q:  That’s awesome, I hope your work gets picked up for The Devil’s Reign.  What sorts of considerations does one have to make when working toward creating a publishing brand like you may be doing with Infernal Ink?

H:  That’s what I’m currently sorting out.

Q:  All right. Well, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule with all of your projects to do this interview! I hope to see you again at our next conclave.

H:  It was an absolute pleasure. I have no doubt we’ll meet up again, one day.

Q:  I’m looking forward to it.


Cyrus the Orange – The very finest in quality control evaluators

Darius Tupper – One Night in Beylor

One Night in Beylor – A short scene of Darius Tupper

Heavy footsteps scraped across the paving stones down the city alleyway and were quickly drowned out by the deluge of rain that had persisted throughout the night.  I pressed my back against the concave side of a trash bin in the shadows, hoping that Lord Braxton’s men would pass me by and leave me in peace.

The footsteps slowed and I could hear labored breathing less than a dozen paces from where I was hiding.  Using the darkness to my advantage, I risked a quick glance around the edge of the bin.  Three large men in boiled leather with cudgels.  Fuck.

“Come on out, Tupper!  There’s no use hiding!  We saw you come down here and there’s no way out.”

Ever so quietly I lashed my shield to my arm and made sure my flail was ready if it were needed.

“We’re giving you until the count of five, Tupper.  If you don’t come out, then we’re going to get violent.  One!”

I tried my best to fix my hair with my free hand.  The rain does terrible things to it.


Why were these men even interested in finding me?  It’s not like I was trying to steal Lord Braxton’s wife away from him.  She was nothing to me.  The way these noblemen treat me, you’d think I had stolen from them or something.


All I had done was plow his wife and daughter at the same time.  Ha!  Lady Braxton really was a screamer, though.  And her daughter did the most peculiar thing with her tongue, it was as if—


What was I thinking about?  No matter, it was time to toss the dice.  I stepped from behind the bin and in to the moonlit alleyway.

“My good sirs, why do you hunt me so?  Did you seek Chauntea’s blessings tonight?”

The burly man in front with the oft-broken nose spat.  “Can it, Tupper.  You know what you did.  Lord Braxton wants you in his chambers right now.”

I affected my most winning smile, “I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I don’t have Lord Braxton on my schedule for tonight.”

“Your schedule,” the pimple-faced oaf beside him scoffed, “You’re a fucking wanderer!  Everyone knows you don’t have no bloody schedule!  Hell, you live in a bloody inn.”

“Wrong and wrong again,” I began, “I do keep a schedule, and I choose to stay at an inn because I appreciate being waited on.”

The maladjusted bull of a man in the back coughed and waved his hand in an almost child-like attempt to appear articulate, “Oh, aye, Mr. Big Priest here has a schedule, boys.  Tell us priest, what’s on your bloody schedule that’s so Gods-damned important that you ain’t comin’ with us to see Lord Braxton?”

“You have no idea how bloody my schedule is about to become.”

“Was that a threat, Tupper?”  The three laughed together, “Lord Braxton is gonna skin you alive for what you did to his wife and the Lady Marguerite.  He didn’t say we couldn’t rough you up first, thou-urk!”

Pimples stumbled backwards two steps before toppling and splashed in a murky puddle with my thrown knife protruding from his still gaping mouth.  Fucking chatty simpleton.

Bull and flat-nose rushed forward, roaring fury with their cudgels raised to strike.  I ducked low and allowed bull’s momentum to roll him across my back.  The suddenness of it caught him off guard and sent him sprawling behind me as I raised my shield to deflect flat-nose’s cudgel strike.

The cudgel impacted directly on my shield sending numbing shockwaves down my arm.  I quickly struck out with the hilt of my flail as I drew it in the ensuing scuffle and nailed him straight in the nose, shattering it once again and knocking him out cold.

I wheeled on bull, just scrambling to his feet.  The seething fire within me demanded violence.  I bared my teeth in a rictus snarl as I shook the shield off of my half-numb arm, now gripping my flail in both hands.

“W-w-wait, Tupper!  I know you’re mad, but we’re just doing our jobs is all!  We don’t want to die for Lord Braxton, we’re real sorry, honest,” pleaded bull.

“Apology accepted,” bull visibly relaxed, “But you blasphemed!”

Bull’s eyes widened in horror as I stepped forward and brought my flail down on his skull with every ounce of strength and fury I could muster. Bone fragments, grey matter, blood, and tissue exploded in an egregious display of violent beauty.

“Yesssss…” a quiet rasp echoed through my subconscious as I splashed some rainwater on my flail to remove chunks of grey matter, and returned it to my belt loop.

I took a moment to finish off flat-nose and retrieve my knife before a merry tune I had heard at a tavern the other night popped into my head.

Fuck, that’s catchy.

My footsteps barely made a sound amongst the damp gloom of the night as I began the slow trek back out to the main street, whistling that catchy tune I had heard at the tavern.

The carnal indulgence of Darius Tupper.

What follows is a small background I was working on for a Dungeons & Dragons character that I’ve started playing with some co-workers.  I’ve enjoyed writing about this character and find their progression to be interesting, so I may write more about them in the future.

That said, I’ve been worldbuilding for something larger that I’d like to write about. The details about the world in which Darius Tupper lives fall within the confines of what the Dungeon Master (DM) created for this adventure.  I may come back to this at a later date and re-write the character to a world of my own creation.

Father Darius Tupper.

That was what they called me.

I was a dutiful servant of Chauntea, and well regarded in the community of Kleb.

But all things must change.

I don’t have any sob stories to tell, I wasn’t an orphan, I wasn’t abused by the clergy; every decision that I have made in my life I have done so of my own volition and with my own self-interest at heart.

I had two parents who loved me dearly, as I loved them.  We weren’t rich, but we weren’t destitute.  My father was a reputable hatter, and my mother was a seamstress; together, they operated a shop, Tupper’s Tops, and were often called upon by nobility to provide the latest spring or fall fashions for their… refined taste.  A peacock feather in a hat here, a dash of crimson velvet there, a smattering of pinecones wrapped up in a fine sky blue lace – for the season of course.  Honestly, the things that these pretentious nobles paid for were ridiculous, but money was money as my father said.

These nobles were often accustomed to treating those of a different social standing as being beneath them.  My dear father either refused to see it or remained willfully ignorant to the fact, but it always ignited a flame inside of me.  The way the nobility treated my parents sickened me.   Mother and father had spent years teaching me their trade so that I may one day inherit the family business, but I didn’t want to spend my life in servitude to “my social betters” without something tangible to show for it, or at least feeling satisfied at the end of the day with what I had done.

Given my feelings about bowing and scraping to others, it may seem ironic that I left my home at the age of sixteen to train as a priest.  I saw in my service to the goddess Chauntea something that I hadn’t seen before:  a chance to help people that didn’t have any other options.  These nobles, they could have gone to any hatter in Kleb or anywhere that they wanted and purchased a hundred hats or a thousand, it didn’t matter to them.  Their money was their freedom to do what they wish and treat people how they wish.

By the age of twenty I was raised to the priesthood of Chauntea.  I remember the pride that I felt the first time I wore my priestly robes.  Those days, my time was spent doling out chores to initiates, hearing the pleas of people without options, and praying with them.  There was peace in this simple life that I had chosen, and I was able to go to bed with a clear conscience every night.  It was enough that I should help others.

By the age of thirty I was tasked with traveling the countryside to bring Chauntea’s blessings to those unfortunate souls that require her assistance.  My days were spent traveling, praying with farmers, with barren mothers, with the poor.  My nights were spent in bawdy taverns or barns, wherever I could sleep on a pallet for a few coppers or someone’s charity.  The days were long, the nights were often cold and there were many days I would go without a meal, but it was enough that others found it in their hearts to provide this humble servant of Chauntea with a roof over his weary head.

Ten years is a long time to wander the highways and byways of Beylor.  Ten years can make a heart grow cold, if not for that black flame that was ignited within so long ago.  One of the strange things about traveling for so long is that you come to recognize fellow travelers.  It could be a fellow you saw at a bar a few years back or a mother you prayed with on the road in hopes of her bearing her husband a son.  Many of these names and faces are forgettable, but I began to notice a man that I would encounter from time to time in sleazy taverns.  I had never spoken to the man but he had an air about him, one that I recalled the nobility from my youth had about them.  He looked strong. Confident, as though he were an adventurer of some sort.  Somehow I didn’t think that were the case.  He wore black from head to toe, even black mail armor, and he would have stood out in any crowd, but no one paid him any mind.  One night in Klib at The Howling Harlot tavern, I worked up the nerve to take a seat at the bar beside him.

“It seems our travels bring us together often, friend, though I don’t even know your name,” I remarked to him.

He took a long draw from his ale, then set it aside and looked me dead in the eye, “I know you, Darius Tupper.  I also know of that black flame that burns in your heart.  I can see it.  You may call me Charus,” his breathy voice had a distinct rasp to it, as though spoken by someone who had survived having their throat sliced, though this Charus bore no scars.  I swallowed involuntarily at the unnerving fact that this man knew exactly who I was while I was completely ignorant of them.

“Are you, by chance, a nobleman?”

He laughed, a deep and mirthful laugh. “Titles only hold the value that we place on them, Mr. Tupper.  I am no noble, I prefer true power.”

“True power,” I said incredulously, “True power is for the Gods alone.”

I’ll never forget his oily smile.  A faint curve of his sinuous lips.  His raspy voice spoke in the hushed tone of someone conveying some kind of great secret, “True power is that which we create for ourselves.  You’ve served this feckless wench Chauntea for your entire life adult life.  What do you have to show for it?  A straw covered pallet in the stable of a shitty tavern in a shitty town full of shitty people that only care what you can do for them.”

“These people need my help,” I argued, “how can I just turn a blind eye?”

“You need your own help. “


The man who called himself Charus leaned closer, “While you walk the roads of Beylor your father lies at home dying.  He succumbs to a lifelong lack of ventilation from his hatter’s glue. If your family had been able to raise more money, they may have been able to afford some semblance of a ventilation system.”

Tears stung my eyes. I didn’t even know. “What can I do? For my father?”

This man in black, Charus, casually pressed a glittering ruby into the palm of my hand.  “Take this.  Use it.  Go to him, and return to me when you are ready.  The power is within you to heal him.  Become the instrument of your own will.  We’ll speak again when you return.”

With that, he returned to his ale.

Wasting only the time it took to wipe the tears from my eyes, I dashed from the tavern to find the nearest money changer and accepted a sum of five hundred gold coins for the ruby that Charus had gifted to me.  No one would allow me to hire their carriage at this late hour, saying the roads are too dangerous to risk a horse hurting themselves; instead, I bought a horse from them, never mind that I had never ridden a horse before, and I raced west down the dark roads toward Kleb.

The nameless horse I paid too much for died from exertion shortly before dawn on the outskirts of the city.  I left its body by the side of the road and ran the rest of the way.  I burst through the door of my parents’ home out of breath, exhausted, dirty, and with sweat soaking through the robes I was once so proud to don.  “Mother?  I’m here mother!  Where is father?”  I raced through the house to their bedroom.  I know mother said something to me as I came into their bedroom, but I didn’t hear her.  Falling to my knees at my father’s bedside, I pleaded desperately with Chauntea to bestow her divine mercy upon my dying father.

Those prayers went unanswered.

My mind raced for a solution to my father’s suffering and Charus’s dry rasp echoed within me, “The power is within you to heal him.  Become the instrument of your own will.”  Determined, I placed my hand upon his chest and light exploded from within him, filling the room.  My previously unmoving father arched his back violently and began thrashing about, then emitted a primal scream as light shot out of his eyes and mouth.

In the blink of an eye, the light filling the room extinguished and my mother and father embraced me.  This man who was about to die only moments before beamed at me with the sort of pride that only a father can feel for their son.  “By Chauntea!  Darius, you’ve worked a miracle!  A true miracle!”

“Chauntea didn’t answer my prayers, father.  I don’t know how I healed you, I just… I needed to.  So I did it.”

“… return to me …” Charus’s rasp filled my subconscious.

“Father, mother… I love you both dearly, but I can’t stay.”

“Surely you can stay for lunch?” my mother asked, squeezing my hand.

“I’m afraid I cannot.  There is something I need to do,” I paused for a moment, removing my belt pouch and emptying its contents on the nightstand.  Gold coins rattled and rolled around to the astonished look from my parents.  “This is four hundred ninety gold coins.  Please, use this to improve the ventilation system of Tupper’s Tops.  I love you both so much.  So, so much.  I must be away.”

Exhausted and road-weary, I began the long walk back to Klib, playing the events of that morning over and over again in my mind.  How did I create that light?  Why would a stranger give me such a kingly sum?  Who was this man in black really?  So many questions that needed to be answered, and I knew that the only place to get those answers would be to go to the source – Charus.

Charus was at his ale when I arrived at The Howling Harlot.  Wordlessly I crossed the common room and sat down beside him.  With a lazy index finger he nonchalantly pushed a short stack of platinum coins toward me, “You look tired, Darius.  Treat yourself.  No words.  Just go.  You’ll know where to find me.”

Before I even thought about it my hand closed around the stack of platinum coins and I was pocketing them as I exited the tavern.  Somehow, I had never felt this free before.  Was this how nobles felt?  Freedom to do whatever they want because of the money they possessed?

I asked around town for the finest inn and found people surprisingly willing to offer up information for a dirty priest.  An hour later I was standing before The King’s Chalice feeling the platinum coins through a fold in my robe.  I stepped through the door and was greeted by the sight of a bard reciting poetry in the common room which boasted three fireplaces.  Elegantly dressed serving maids weaved between the well-to-do patrons that were engrossed in the bard’s poetry as a portly man in an apron spotted me and made a beeline for me.

“Err, master priest, sir, don’t be wantin’ no trouble, no sir.  We’re all Gods-fearin’ folk here in The King’s Chalice.  Don’t no one be wantin’ no proselytizin’ here, no sir.”  He appeared to be trying very hard not to look at the dirt on my once priestly robes.

I hated him immediately.

Flashing my best faux-satisfied smile that I had seen nobility use so often in the past, I addressed him, “My good man, you mistake me!  I have not come here to spread the love and mercy of our dear goddess Chauntea, no sir.  I’ve come to occupy your finest suite.  I’d also like a hot bath, and fresh clothes brought to me, mister… ah, mister…?”

“Err, me name’s Merryweather, master priest, sir, our finest suite do be occupied, so if you could just—“  with a flourish, I fished several platinum coins out of my pocket and tucked them in to Mr. Merryweather’s breast pocket and tapped them.

“I’m sure you’ll find these coins will cover the expenses, Mr. Merryweather.”

“It do appear that our finest suite just opened up!” a painted-face poff of a man across the common room visibly fainted and was carried away by a small team of serving maids. “Right this way, master priest, right this way.  Eledwyn Merryweather runs the finest inn in all of Klib, you’ll see.”

When I arrived at the top level of the inn, there was another team of staff from the inn that were dutifully removing someone else’s belongings from the suite, probably the poff’s judging by the amount of lace, as I was ushered in to it by the portly Mr. Merryweather.  The simpering fool stood there dry washing his hands and looking at me, “The bath will be up shortly, master priest.  You do be in good hands.  Miss Everly will be up with brand new clothes for you.  She do have good taste, sir, the best taste in Klib.  You’ll see!  You will,” and with that he bowed his way out of the door and shut it behind him.

No one had bowed to me before.

Actually, I kind of liked it.

My mind snapped back as there was a knock at the door.  I opened it to a team of inn workers bringing in a large copper tub followed by more team members hauling buckets of steaming herbal-smelling water.  The tub was put in place, the water was poured, and they were all exiting the room when an elven girl in a sheer robe walked in clutching a sponge to her breast.

“If it pleases you, master priest, I’m here to bathe you.”

Oh, this was too much.

“It does please me.  It pleases me greatly.”

Another knock at the door and a beautiful auburn haired woman pushed her way into the room.  “Master priest?  My name is Evelyn, Evelyn Everly.”

“Evelyn Everly?  That’s an unfortunate combination,” I smirked.

It would seem that my technique had become rusty over the years, as it appeared I had wounded her. I would have to work on that. The elven girl began undressing me for my bath as Evelyn approached with a measuring tape.

“Twenty five centimeters, Miss Everly.”

“Excuse me?”

“Twenty five centimeters.”

“Of what?  Twenty five centimeters of what?”

The elven bath maiden pulled my breeches down revealing my endowment.

“Cock, Miss Everly.”

They both blushed.  I spoke again to fill the deafening silence.

“Why else would you approach a nude man with a measuring tape?”

Evelyn turned an adorable shade of red that fit her auburn hair so well, making it appear almost black.  I wanted her.  The consummate professional stepped closer and brought the measuring tape up to measure me for my clothing sizes.  Of course I knew she wanted my clothing sizes, my mother being a seamstress.  But how else was I supposed to flirt?

“Miss Everly, I do believe you are blushing.”

“Noble women do not go about… measuring cocks!  And you! A priest!”

“I used to be a priest.”

“You quit?”

“Today.”  She snorted in response.  “Miss Everly, Mr. Merryweather tells me that you’re a woman of refined taste.  That you’ll find me the perfect clothes.”

“That I will.  My father is Lord Tychon Everly, our house may not be the most prestigious in Klib, but it is very old and well-respected.  I’ve been living in the lap of luxury for my entire life.  I know all of the best fashions for both men and women.”

“Promise me one thing, Miss Everly.”


“Don’t make me look like that ruffled lace-wearing poff of a man that fainted in the common room downstairs.”

Evelyn erupted in hysterical laughter before she schooled her face to stillness and bit her lip, realizing that the elf maiden was still present, washing me.

“Lord Peters is a man of unique style and taste,” she replied politely, barely able to contain her laughter. “Very well, no lace.  Do you have a favorite color?”

“I don’t know.  No one has ever asked me that before.  Surprise me?”

“Very well, sir.  May I ask a personal question?”

“Of course you may, Miss Everly.”

“How old are you?”

“Miss Everly, how scandalous!  Why would you ask such a question?” I demanded with an overly dramatic insulted tone.

Evelyn giggled, “I just think you’re probably older than you look is all.  Besides, people should dress their age, so it’s important to know a client’s age when you’re shopping for their personal style.”

“Forty four, Miss Everly.  Yourself?”

“How scandalous!” she giggled, “I’m twenty.”

“Marvelous,” I replied with a wink.

She slipped out of the door again with a giggle.  The elf maiden spent the next hour washing me, calling for additional hot water to be brought up twice.  The entire thing was so relaxing that I fell asleep immediately after the inn’s work team drained the tub and removed it from my suite.  I couldn’t remember the last time I had slept in a real bed.  Surely it had been decades.

I was asleep when I heard the knock at the door.  The knock came again, followed by the turn of a key.  I could see Evelyn’s silhouette illuminated by the light from the hallway lanterns.  She was carrying a wrapped bundle in her arms; my new clothes.  As she approached the bedside to lay out my new clothes on the nightstand, I reached out and took her by the wrist.  She didn’t resist or seem surprised as I pulled her in to the soft bed with me.

What happened next was purely animalistic.  I did not make love with Evelyn Everly, oh no; I fucked the shit out of her.  I beat years upon years of pent up aggression toward nobility into every one of her holes for hours and hours.  I lost count of how many times she came.  I lost count of how many times I came, as well.  The little slut loved every second of it.  She’d never need a measuring tape to know what twenty five centimeters looks like again.  I continued fucking her long after she passed out, and once I was bored of it I collected my bundle of new clothing and left, getting dressed in the hallway.


Evelyn had gotten some fine black clothing for me.  It felt right.  She had even gotten fine new boots, a tooled leather belt, new matching pouches with inlaid silver filigree, and, curiously, a single red rose.  Was this girl in love with me?  No matter.  I made my way back to The Howling Harlot, thinking the name fitting now that I had had my way with Miss Everly.

There was Charus, still sitting there with his ale.

I crossed the common room with a new found spring in my step, my fine new boot heels scraping on the sawdust covered floor.  People turned to look at me as I passed them by.  I took a seat at the bar.



“I thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”

Charus grinned knowingly, “Everything you’ve done, you did for yourself.  I merely gave you the tools to make it happen.  You were the sculptor of your own destiny, and I was the chisel you put to the marble of your life.  How do you like what you’ve crafted for yourself, sculptor?”

“It feels different,” I paused, “Good.  It feels good. How did I create the light that saved my father?  Why have you given me, a complete stranger, such a vast amount of wealth?  Just who are you anyway?”

“I am known by many names, but it is enough for you to know that you may call me Charus.  As for the money, it was a test.”

“A test?”

“A test to see what you would do with it.  I wanted to see you do what you wanted with the money rather than donate it to charity or some other such foolishness.  I must say, my boy, you performed flawlessly.  You gave the gold to your family because it pleases you to know they are safe.  You spent the platinum seeing how the other side lives.  How was Evelyn?” Charus’s eyes took on a hawkish, almost expectant look at the direct question.

By now I had come to understand that Charus had a way of knowing things even when I didn’t say it.  I didn’t need to, he just knew.  It would be unnerving if I hadn’t come to actually trust him.

“She uses some kind of flower-scented soap, I think.  Her hair smells like it,” I sniffed my fingers, “Maybe most of her smells like it.”

Charus clapped his hands together and howled with laughter, though no one in the tavern turned to regard him.  His laughter cut off abruptly and he looked me dead in the eye again, “She was a virgin, you know.  Her father will be furious.”

I shrugged, “Just a noble girl of no consequence.  I used her like the nobles use everyone else.”

That answer seemed to please him.  He placed a hefty belt pouch on the bar and slid it toward me. “This is for you to continue to do as you wish.”

I glanced from the pouch to Charus and back again. “Who… are you?”

“Just a fellow traveler.”

I worked my sweet flower-scented fingers in to the belt pouch to have a peek.  It was full to bursting with platinum coins.  I swallowed hard.  “What of the light? From my father?”

“Ah, that.  I’ll check in on you from time to time, fellow traveler.  But let’s just say you’ve been raised to the clergy.”

“I don’t understand,” I began, “I was already a priest.  How is that different?”

“The difference is that as a Cleric in service to me I won’t ask you to kneel before me.  I only expect you to follow your passions.  You have the power to create your own miracles as you see fit when you see fit to create them.”

My blood ran cold.  I was sitting at a bar in a sleazy tavern with a god and I hadn’t even realized it! I glanced up from the bag of platinum I was staring into to where Charus was sitting but he was gone, with his rasping laughter echoing in the back of my mind.  I stood up with urgency, knocking my rickety bar stool over and glanced about the common room but Charus was nowhere to be seen.

“Mind the stool, yeh faggish poff!” screamed the irritable bartender with a disgusting comb-over.

“Sorry about that.  Barkeep, did you see the man sitting here leave?”

“Thur was only you, lad.  Yeh been talkin’ inta thah there ale fer like two hours, yah git.  You gonna pay for thah?”

“Sorry.  Yes.”  I slapped a platinum coin on the bar and ignored the barkeep’s vapid, stupid expression as he greedily snatched it up and bit in to it.  I stood up, fastened the belt pouch to my belt, and walked out of the common room and out into the sun rising in the east of Klib.

I took a deep breath of the early morning Klib air.  It occurred to me that this tasted like the first breath of air I had ever taken feeling truly free, though I was supposedly in the service to this mysterious Charus. I spent my first money as a free man on a weapon and armor.  If Lord Everly was going to be as furious as Charus said, I would need to protect myself.

Clad in shining mail armor over my fine new clothes with a shield strapped to my back and a flail through my belt, I set off west to seek my own desires.

I would run in to Charus occasionally over the next ten years and he would always tell me that he was so pleased that he had found a truly carnal individual to carry his metaphorical banner across the lands.  Whatever that means.  Eventually I found myself in the City of Beylor, where our story truly begins in earnest.