This is a preview to the chapter Chapter 12 from the book The Weeping Empress by Sadie S Forsythe.
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Chiyo lay a on a hard but not uncomfortable sedan. The excitement of the women around her made the air spark, but Chiyo only watched one. Moran stood against a wall almost directly across from her and held a one-foot-by-one-foot woven box. Inside was the adder they intended to unleash on her.
At least it can’t be too big, she comforted herself. I wonder if I’ll recognize its scale pattern before it sends me on my mental vacation. She was scared, and there was no sense in denying it. She wanted to scream and run, fight and escape, but the situation was unavoidable, and she remained supine with, what she hoped, was a calm look on her sweaty face. Did there have to be so many of them? After months alone with Relda, the half-dozen women swarmed her, and they weren’t helping her nerves at all.
The six women fell quiet; the lack of sound was far more notable than the indistinct buzz of their previous utility. The basket-wielding Moran approached solemnly. Chiyo smiled grimly at her. (The priestesses would tell their codevotees that she had smiled while accepting the sacred rites.)
The box seemed larger next to her. The lid was removed and inside it lay a small, surprisingly green snake. Chiyo sighed. Somehow its diminutive size made it easier to accept.
She looked around at the six eager faces and said, “Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit (“Perhaps this, too, will be a pleasure to look back on one day”).”
She reached in.
The serpent flicked its forked tongue at her and wrapped its dry body around her wrist. She always had been surprised by the dryness of snakes. They shone as if dewy, and she always had expected them to be wet.
They laid her back and brought the vile beast close. It continued to curl itself tightly around her arm and was moving upward. It sprang suddenly, and Chiyo didn’t have time to gasp. It sank its disproportionately long fangs into the flesh of her shoulder as if attempting to massage it. The pain was like lightning, bright and sharp, blighting her other senses and sending her whole right side into tight spasms.
The dreamscape came on her quickly. In the beginning, she was in a liminal state, dually aware of it and her physical surroundings. She could feel the women touching her, tending the bite, and rubbing out the cramps, but they were taking a long time. Eventually, however, even their sharp prodding faded into oblivion, and her whole world was encased in an incandescent fog.
There was a feeling of familiarity, that knowing without reason. Her heart beat too fast for her chest; her ribs felt like a corset constraining her bountiful heart. It wished to exceed its calcified structures, to leap headfirst forward and to see what she felt was near.
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