Title: The Reluctant Storyteller
Author: Strega
© 2004
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The reluctant storyteller

By Strega

West of the Lortmil mountains lie the County, Principality, and Duchy of Ulek. The Lortmils, of course, are infamous as the seat of the Grey Domain, that small state whose capital is Greyston. Most know Greyston by another name: Monstertown.

That home of monster and man alike is not a popular neighbor. On the one side, the elven kingdom of Celene attempts, with some success, to blockade trade between Monstertown and the Wild Coast. On the other is Ulek, who, while they trade with Lord Grey's subjects, view even the humans among them with profound suspicion.

The Treaty of Tringlee guarantees even monstrous natives of Monstertown safe passage through Ulek, provided they behave themselves. So it is that many strange creatures come to the towns along the Ulek border, anxious to buy or sell away from the taxes Lord Grey levies. Generally, these are the smarter monsters, and they rarely cause enough trouble to attract hostile attention from Ulek's constabulary.

In of the village of Kingston, then, one day….

Uvuzi came to the village to sell her collection of trinkets. For reasons she chose not to explain to the shopkeepers, she had accumulated a stockpile of jewelry, weapons, and bits of armor. The armor tended to be oddly corroded, as though scored by acid, and she silently accepted the few coins the armorer offered for such damaged goods. The jewelry was in better shape: the more gold or platinum in its composition, the less damaged it was by its exposure to whatever mysterious force affected the armor. Best off were the weapons, which were usually no more damaged than their use required. In an afternoon, she sold off her three packs of goods, acquiring six gold Wheels and almost a seventh in assort silver Lunars and copper Clacks.

She traded the six heavy gold coins for a spiral bracelet in the form of a silver serpent. Its scales were finely wrought and its eyes glittery chips of ruby, and she smiled as she slid it up past her elbow to ride on her slender upper arm. It joined the assortment of gold and silver earrings, three finger rings, and woven gold wristband as her only visible possessions beside a small belt pouch, for she had already sold the three backpacks. She evidently liked to travel light and, as she told the swordsmith, "By the time I get that much junk collected, I've usually managed to turn up a few packs."

She wore a yellow dress that covered her quite modestly from neck to what would be a woman's knees. Still, the locals shied away from her as she made her way down the sidewalk, for Uvuzi was a strange beast even by Monstertown's standards. The villagers had never seen anything like her: she was like some strange combination of snake, skunk, and woman.

From the hips down, she resembled a huge, furry serpent, perhaps eighteen feet of dauntingly thick constrictor wrapped in indigo-blue fur and topped with double skunk-stripes. At the hind end of all this waved a fluffy skunktail big as a man, reminding all who looked that she could if need be defend herself with a stinking spray. At the opposite end, the 'serpent' joined a petite woman's body, with curves in all the right places despite its dark blue fur. Atop her slender neck rode a head not in the least humanoid: pale yellow eyes in a wedge-shaped skunkish face. Her tongue was narrow, pointed, and liver-colored, and a waterfall of smooth white hair fell from behind her cup-shaped ears to merge into the double stripes that were as present here as they were on her serpentine lower half.

At first the villagers shied away and reached for their daggers, for she was obviously a monster. Still, she carried no weapons, and neither her polished fingerclaws nor the many sharp but small teeth that showed when she spoke looked capable of inflicting much damage.

She was shy, polite, and smiled often. Something in her manner suggested that she wasn't happy with what she was. The armorer managed to ferret out a few details: it seemed she was an unwanted child, the accidental product of monstrous parents, and that she'd been sent out into the world at a terribly early age by an unwelcoming mother. The smith passed this on to the barkeep, and by noon, this information had flown to all corners of the town.

It was also plain that she hated to get her fur dirty, an event that remained unavoidable as long as she must slither on her belly. She visibly envied humans and their shoes, for that sturdy leather footwear kept their feet quite free of the clinging road-dust.

By the end of the afternoon the townfolk, while not actually comfortable around her, at least managed to be civil. Several local men commented that if you ignored the parts that weren't human, what remained was strikingly attractive. 'Of course', their fellows replied, 'You would be courting a shaved, disembodied torso'. Not that there was time for courting, for she conducted her business rapidly and was back out the gate before sundown.

And that's when the trouble began, though no one in the village ever knew she was responsible.

She slithered through the gates, waving happily to the two bored guards on duty, who waved even more happily back, for they were two of the single men who'd speculated about courting her. She really is a pretty thing, they thought as she made her way toward the woods. She even has a proper woman's hips and rump , though they could not explain what those were doing there when her tail lay eighteen feet away at the end of a legless furrysnake body.

Kingston lay close to a sizabled woody copse, and since the surrounding area was patrolled by the Duke's patrols, the town had turned the nearer edge of the woods into a sort of park and picnic-ground. Her duties in town had tired her, and noting the cropped sward of the parkland, she slithered only far enough into the woods to find a secluded grassy spot. There she curled around herself with a sigh, leaning her humanoid parts against a tree in lieu of a chair.

Reaching into her pouch, which seemed unnaccountably larger inside than out, she fingered past a small leather-bound book, some loose coins, and a gem wrapped in soft calfskin to grasp a hairbrush and a parcel wrapped in waxed paper. The latter she unfolded to reveal her dinner, meat-filled dumplings from the inn. The pouch also yielded a corked bottle of the only nonalcholic drink the inne had sold, something they called roots'-beer.

"Well, that was a productive day." She spoke to her herself in lilting singsong as she stroked the brush through her lush tailfur. The cool autumn breeze rustled the leaves overhead, and dusty angled sunbeams announced the imminent sunset. "I got all my leavings sold and no one recognized --"

"Hello!" A bright, clear child's voice rang out, and she looked up from her tail.

"Hello?" Her pale eyes scanned the undergrowth. "Who is there?"

"It's me!" The boy popped out of a bush, giggling. "I snuck up on you!"

He was five or six, she thought, and wore a laced woolen jerkin and coarse wool leggings against the autumn chill. A bright red stocking cap rested unevenly on his golden-haired head, and one hand had a mitten while the second was bare.

"Well, hello again." She recognized him as the boy who'd tugged her tail that morning, then solemnly apologized when his mother grabbed him by the collar.

He ran full-tilt up to her, chubby little arms pumping, and snatched a dumpling from the waxed paper. "I lost my mitten!"

"I see that. Now, it's not polite to take someone else's food." She held out her pink-padded hand.

"I'm sorry." He surrendered the food readily enough, then smiled. "Your nose is pink, skunk lady." His wide, bright eyes twinkled happily.

She smiled in return. "I don't have your mitten, little one. Shouldn't you be with your mother?"

Plopping down on his rear end, he grabbed handsfuls of her body-fur and tugged. He managed to shift the loose pelt around a bit on her serpentine lower half, but not enough to hurt. That pelt, like her bone and muscle, was extraordinarily flexible.

"She's wif her man friend, my new daddy. She don' know I'm gone." He looked up brightly. "Tell me a story?"

The skunkiesnake smiled while her cup-shaped ears swiveled back and forth. While she listened, she sniffed.

He giggled! "Your nose moved. Why are you a skunk?"

Still sniffing, she arranged a bit of her snakey length to act as a soft and furry chair. One coil slid beneath his back and another under his legs, lifting and supporting his little body.

Her ears still swivelled, but her hands busied themselves folding the dumplings back into their paper. "My father was a skunk. My mother was a sort of snake, what people call a lamia, and when they…got married…they had me."

The dumplings went back into her pouch as he looked wide-eyed up at her. "So you is half snake and half skunk? Why do you look like a woman?"

"They both looked like people, besides being a skunk and a snake. My mother looked like me," she gestured at her snakey lower body and her humanoid, "And I got her looks and my father's fur."

"Oh." Already bored, he plucked at her fur restlessly. "Tell me a story?"

The thick furrysnake body stirred beneath him, but she quieted it with an effort. "Maybe you ought to find your mother? I bet she'll be worried when she realizes you're gone."

"Can I have a story first?" He petted her back. "Pleeeease?"

Her ears finally ceased their swivelling. As far as she could tell, they were alone. "Once upon a time, there was a young and handsome Prince. He had hair of gold, and all the damsels in the kingdom swooned for him, but his heart was set on adventure."

"What does swooned mean?"

She nibbled her lower lip. "He was so handsome they all wanted to be with him, but he wanted to have adventures!"

He nodded fiercely. "Girls are icky. What happened then?"

"He had many adventures, hunting giants and ogres and chimera, and with each adventure, the kingdom loved him more. Each time a new monster appeared the King would send the Prince to hunt it, and the kingdom was the safest and most pros…richest in the whole world."

"Did he fight dragons too?"

She nodded solemnly. "All by himself he slew red and green and black dragons, for his magic armor was dragon-proof! Fire and poison and acid didn't hurt it, and didn't hurt him, and he soon taught the dragons a lesson with his magic axe!"

A little frown appeared on his face. "It sounds too easy."

"Oh, but they weren't all easy! One day, the king heard of a new monster. A nasty, scaly serpent-lady had moved near the kingdom, and she lured young men to their doom. Though she was half snake, she was very pretty, and the young men would want to be with her the same way women wanted to be with the handsome Prince. That was how the snakey lady lured them close, you see."

He nodded, bright-eyed. "And what happened when they met?"

"The serpent lady lived in a castle, and she had an ogre guard, but the Prince knew all about ogres. He defeated the ogre with his magic axe, then climbed the castle wall."

"How did he climb the wall?"

She paused, her ears swivelling again. "Ivy grew on the wall, and he went up it like a ladder. The castle was abandoned, you see, for the snakey lady had eaten all the people there."

"Except for the snakey lady and the ogre?"

"Except for the snakey lady and the ogre." Gradually her coils shifted under him, letting him settle comfortably into a sort of pit in her midst. Her skunktail flipped around, covering his feet, and she snuggled herself down atop the thickest coil so she could talk to him nose to nose. "So the Prince climbed the wall and searched for the snakey lady."

"And what happened then?" He didn’t seem the least tired, nor of a mind to go look for his mother. "Can I have something to eat?"

She fetched out one of the dumplings and the bottle of roots'-beer. "Eventually the Prince found the snakey lady, but she didn't look as scary as he'd heard. She didn't have snakes for hair, and she didn't turn him to stone when he saw her. Of course he was ready for that, and looked for her in his polished shield. But all he saw was a pretty lady with blue hair, whose lower body happened to be scaly and snakey."

"Did he kill her?" He was halfway through the dumpling already, and she winkled the cork from the bottle so he could drink.

"He kept his axe in hand, but he went up to her to talk. She was very pretty, and soon he was relaxing against her snakey part." She twitched the muscles in her lower body, kneading the boy's back.

"He didn’t trust her, did he?" He burped loudly. "Excuse me."

"He shouldn't have trusted her, but he did, and suddenly!", she twitched her coils beneath him hard enough to make him jump, "She wrapped him up in her coils!"

"Oh no!" He dropped the bottle, but she caught it before it spilled on her fur. He looked up into her pale eyes, only inches away. "Use your axe, Prince, use your axe!"

She'd held onto the cork, and rapidly recorked the bottle. "But his arm was trapped in her coils, which grew tighter and tighter around his body!" She twitched her constricting muscles repeatedly, making the boy gasp atop her coils. "He could barely hold onto his axe, and as he struggled, her beautiful face came over the coils to smile at him. She licked his face…."

Her own dark, narrow tongue licked out, plastering a golden lock to his forehead. Eyes bright and wide, the boy nodded.

"And what happened then?"

"And then the evil snakey woman took his shoulders in her hands, to help hold him still." Her pink-padded fingers illustrated the story on his own shoulders. "And she opened her mouth much wider than he'd thought possible, and she swallowed him all up!"

The bright, eager eyes looked at her one last time as her mouth opened, then were gone as the child's head filled her mouth. Her own jaws, like the snakey woman's, opened far wider than the boy had ever imagined, for they hinged well back behind her ears. Her narrow skunky muzzle stretched into a huge yawn, and before he could react, her cheeks engulfed his entire head.

He began to struggle, but her hands slipped down onto his upper arms and trapped them to his sides. He was, after all, only a child, and the frontmost of her 'harmless' little fangs were already dug into his linen shirt. Each quadrant of her jaws -- upper left, upper right, lower left and lower right -- had its own set of muscles, and one after another the corners of her mouth stepped forward to sink their teeth into his clothing. Her jaws walked over his shoulders with startling rapidity, and by the time, he really began to put up a fight his whole head had slipped into her soft and slippery throat.

Sweet child's flesh lay against her tongue, but Uvuzi did not delay. Rather than savor her meal, she worked her jaws as swiftly as she could. His upper arms and chest vanished into her cheeks, his head and shoulders went down her throat, and powerful contractions of her swallowing muscles kept him stretched out straight as she ate him alive.

By the time her cheeks were full of boy's belly her throat had a solid grip, pulling him inward even between the movements of her unhinged jaws. Her gulps propelled his head down past her ribcage to where a woman's stomach should lie, but there was only a continuation of the hungry, pulsing gullet. Beneath her sex his face passed, his little body swelling her humanoid torso surprisingly little. If fact there were no internal organs at all in her 'humanoid' body except her sex and womb: the rest of her torso was all gullet and swallowing muscles.

As his hips slid into her throat she straightened, lifting his fiercely kicking legs from the cradle she'd made with her coils. Stretching upward, she clamped down with her swallowing muscles, and her advancing muzzle engulfed his thighs in one soft slide.

Her dozens of fingernail-long, inward-pointing fangs were no longer needed, and she stretched herself further, letting gravity aid the swallowing process. Soon the boy's calves vanished, leaving only his twitching feet. One last yawn and stretch, and the soft leather shoes slipped into her maw. The softly flexible muzzle shut around this last bit, and she worked her jaws to reattach the segments of her jaws as she swallowed him down.

45 pounds of mildly chubby, golden-haired child slid through her humanoid parts, bulging her in odd places before nearly vanishing into her broad furrysnake lower body. Three feet past her sex his head encountered a muscular valve, and encased as he was in strong gullet and stronger swallowing muscles he had no way to resist being expelled into her stomach. That organ was a six foot long, enormously stretchy tube of folded muscle. Half a dozen just like him could have fit in its elastic confines without difficulty, and he had enough room to start struggling once more.

Uvuzi eyed the almost unnoticable bulge in her midsection, licked her lips, and continued. "And so the golden-haired Prince came to rest in the snakey lady's stomach, and the magic armor which had protected him against black dragon's breath turned out to be not quite as acid-tight as he might have hoped. It kept him alive, for a while, but the acids gradually crept in. In the end the armor survived, perfectly intact, but when the snakey lady threw it back up a week later, the Prince was no longer in it."

The struggle beneath her pelt was weakening. Under inches-thick constriction muscles, snakey ribs, and stomach wall, the golden-haired boy still thrashed, but there was little air to be had. The walls pressed in powerfully, massaging the digestive enzymes into his clothing and skin alike, and only the already terrible pain of digestion kept him moving at all.

"The snakey lady sold the Prince's axe in another kingdom, and the armor, fetching enough gold to --" Uvuzi looked up suddenly, ears swivelling. Someone was approaching, and with that, she tensed her constriction muscles. One long squeeze was enough to silence the weak body wriggling beneath her pelt, and a second, even strong squeeze forced her stomach and body to conform to the meal a little faster than was comfortable. That last shuddering effort broke some part of her meal, probably, from her experience, the collarbones, and the boy became a streamlined mass. Even she, who knew where to look, couldn't see the swelling now.

She picked up the bottle of roots'-beer, humming to herself, and straightened the remaining dumpling on the wax paper. Her claws drew out the cork, and she took an experimental sip. The drink had a tart and sweet flavor, and she smiled.

"Excuse me?", said a voice from the bushes. Not a child's voice this time, but a woman's.

"Oh, hello again," said Uvuzi, politely returning the cork to the bottle. "Didn't we meet in town today?"

The blond woman emerged from the woods, looking back and forth uncertainly. "I'm sorry to bother you, dear, but have you seen my son?"

Uvuzi tilted her head. "Has he wandered off?" She straightened, thinking. "You know, I did hear something a little while ago that might have been a child's voice." She nodded toward the woods, quite honestly, since the last time she'd heard the boy's voice her nose had pointed that way.

The woman clutched her hands.together. "I know he'll be all right -- there's nothing dangerous in these woods -- but I worry so when he runs off like this."

Uvuzi nodded, putting the bottle and wax paper parcel back in her pouch. "I will help you look. There's nothing more worrysome than a missing child."

"Oh, you don't have to…."

"Nonsense. I have much better hearing than a human does, and my sense of smell is excellent too. I may be able to find him when you can't.. Come along now." Her snakey lower parts moved in a series of S-curves, propelling her ahead as fast as a man could walk.

"Well, thank you then."

"It's the least I can do. Your town treated me well today. You'd be surprised now many won't let me in the gate, even here." Uvuzi led the way, flattening low brush beneath her furrysnake bulk to clear a path. It sprang back up after they passed, and bit by bit they entered the deepest, darkest part of the little wood.

"You heard him over here?" The blond woman looked uneasily up at the trees. "It's getting dark."

"Wait." Uvuzi held up her hand. "Did you hear that?" She drew back against the woman, and pulled her coils in close. "You say there's nothing dangerous in these woods?"

"Nothing at all --"

The woman's voice trailed off into a surprised squeak as Uvuzi's tail swept her legs from beneath her. The furrysnake coils, drawn in close against the 'danger', were around the blond in an instant, and the child inside them didn't impede their movements at all. Two circuits of waist-thick furry muscle encircled the woman's body, keeping her from regaining the breath she'd lost when she fell.

Uvuzi looked down at the reddening face. "Well, there's one dangerous thing I can think of." She smiled. "And then the Prince's mother came to look for him, but she was no more cautious than he'd been, and she found the snakey lady's jaws waiting for her as well."

The blond, whose name Uvuzi had never known, and whose name she probably now never would, looked up with fearful eyes as the lamia positioned her muzzle near the golden hair. She hadn’t the breath to speak and could only wriggle slightly in the muscular coils as the narrow muzzle opened over the crown of her head.

Unlike the boy, this meal suffered some pain. Uvuzi's little teeth were meant to grip into fur or catch between scales, and on soft human skin they sank in readily. The woman let out a stifled moan as the sharp little fangs walked through her hair and over her cheeks, pulling her face past the thin pink lips and into the elastic chasm of skunkiesnake throat. Uvuzi paused almost at once, to remove a pearl earring from one of her meal's ears. Pearls, unlike gold or platinum or most jewels, didn't take well to digestion. Rings were also particularly hard things to find in a large skunkiesnake dropping. Though Uvuzi would never lower herself to do that search, (she hired kobolds for that dirty job), she had no reason to make her minions' tasks any harder than they were.

Once she resumed, her lips spread easily across trapezius to take in the woman's shoulders. Even now, Uvuzi had no difficulty, for though her muzzle was narrow and her neck slender, her lower jaw could fall clear away on her stretchable cheekskin. Her face was as broad as a man's, and like a great snake she could take in meals several times the diameter of her whole head.

The woman's dress protected her from the march of fangs to some extent, so the struggle became a hair less violent as Uvuzi's advancing jaws ushered shoulders and breasts into her smoothly muscular throat. The struggle would have been more violent still had the blond not been squeezed nearly unconscious already, but even if she had been allowed to breathe, the woman was doomed. Trapped in the lamia's coils, held in inward-hooking teeth, she was pulled bit by bit into the skunkiesnake's gullet by a combination of advancing jaws and powerful swallowing muscles.

Soon Uvuzi reached the waist, and as she had several times already, she shifted her coils downward. Now they restricted only the legs, and the freed hands clutched at her coils. The half-suffocated woman displayed surprising strength, yet soon her hands slipped into the lamia's maw, never to be seen again. Rhythmic contractions of the skunkiesnake's gullet tugged the meal downward even as the jaws kept walking.

Another pause, this time to remove the money purse from the woman's belt, and Uvuzi resumed her meal, walking her jaws over the broad hips and rump of her entrée. If she's been of such a mind, she'd have noticed that her meal was quite youthful, hardly into her 20's. The shapely and vital woman vanishing into her gullet was just a meal to her, though, just as any man would've been. While Uvuzi occasionally dallied with men, and less often women, her goal in almost every case was simply to get close enough to seize her prey. Sometimes that required a sexual approach, sometimes it didn't, but in every case, the result was the same.

She proceeded easily down the nameless woman's legs, hardly having to work her jaws now that her swallowing muscles had a good grip. She licked a few drops of blood from her lips as the knees vanished, then stretched upward just as she'd done with the boy. Gravity aided her swallowing muscles, and the calves and barely kicking feet slid easily out of view.

The narrow skunkie muzzle closed once more, and with a powerful and effortless gulp, she sent the woman to join her son. An S curve in her unnaturally flexible humanoid torso helped push her meal downward, and in moments she felt the unique pressure of two meals bumping together in her gut. This new meal was three times the size of the last, but it was still no strain, and she settled back into her coils, quite pleased now with her evening.

"The Prince's mother, like the Prince, missed one important fact when meeting the snakey woman. When confronting a monster, it's not wise to assume it has human motivations. Monsters are monsters."

She stroked the weakly wriggling bulge in her middle, so much more noticeable now than before. "Uurrp." Licking her lips, she tasted clothing, not her favorite flavor, and human, which was one of her favorites.

"The snakey woman was just following her nature when she devoured the Prince and the Prince's mother. She was not evil, as such, or cruel, or uncaring. She just wanted to eat, and by her nature she fed on humans, elves, dwarves…people."

Another belch rumbled up, and Uvuzi's ears swivelled. Yet another person was approaching, alone.

She couldn't disguise the bulge now, but it was still hardly gross, and in the twilight, it'd be easy to miss. She slid the broadest part of the lump into the undergrowth, and watched to see who approached.

It was a man, and she smiled to see who it was. The blond woman's husband, of course.

Uvuzi waggled her tail at the woodcutter, smiled, and tilted her head fetchingly. Despite his marriage, this man had looked her over with some interest earlier. Before he could open his mouth to mention his missing wife and child, the lamia spoke.

"Oh, hello again. I was just resting from my shopping, and making up a story. Would you like to hear it?"

Her posture radiated interest -- perhaps even sexual interest -- and, against his better judgement, the muscular, bearded man approached.

Months later, when she returned to the town, Uvuzi would shake her head mournfully at the tale of the family lost in the woods. No trace had ever been found of the husband, wife, or child save one mitten. She'd sold the 'leavings' in a far distant village, and had buried the valueless indigestible clothing and hair miles from any trail. It'd only taken her two days to deal with the three, for though her shape was snakish, she was all mammal and had a skunk's fast digestive system. The fat she put on from the pleasantly filling meal soon disappeared, and with that there was nothing left of the little family but memories.

Like her mother before her, she was not blamed for the disappearance of the 'Prince' and his family. When she heard the tale, she'd smile sadly and nod. Even here, in a patrolled area, it was wise to be cautious.

There was just no telling what hungry creature might wander close to town, after all.

The End