A gypsy girl that dreams of nothing but revenge for her dead family. A female warrior who can not love any one. Seven broken girls, and a prophecy that says they have to save the world. A hangman's noose that has been tied, but for the girls or their foe?
Book one of The Heartless Chronicles


21. serpent

Sylvia turned back to Merse. Merse was kneeling down, "I am very sorry mistress, I did not know!" she spluttered and tripped over the words.

"What's wrong with you?" asked Sylvia. Merse took it as aggressive and flinched.

"I did not know you were my superior, and I humbly beg forgiveness," she said. With her face to the ground she was unable to see Sylvia's utterly confused face. Sylvia blinked a couple of times

"Stand up," exclaimed Sylvia, I have no idea what you are talking about! Superior? What is this nonsense?" Sylvia asked annoyed.

Merse looked up, now she was confused as well, "You are a star devil, you are my superior, I should have been submissive to you."

"That's just being silly, come on stand up lets get going to you house," Sylvia said beckoning to her. Merse rose back up with bewilderment written on her face. Speechlessly she nodded and they fled the rest of the way back to her house.

Merse's house was actually a small but beautiful cave in a cliff riddled with holes. The lamia settlement was a natural oasis in the land of the heartless. In the midst of the black glassy area there was just a large sandy area filled with light and plants. It was much like a dessert oasis, it was sandy and extremely hot, but there were natural springs and it was a perfect environment for life.

When they got to the cliff Merse's house was several stories off the ground. Sylvia flew up and Merse used an enchantment rope ladder that came down when she called for it. The house was small but cozy, it also had high ceilings and that gave it a spacious feeling, Merse gave Sylvia a guest room off to the side of her living room. As far as Sylvia could tell there were only three rooms in the house, Merse's bedroom, the general room, and Sylvia's room. 

The room was small just like the rest of the house, but it was also very beautiful. The walls were smooth and some of it had small but incredibly intricate paintings. The room had a very high ceiling, there were several wooden beams just above head height. One of them was padded, apparently for curling around and sleeping on. Sylvia had a hard time believing anyone would want to sleep relying on their strength for holding them up, she could imagine falling off so easily. Luckily there was a bed in the corner and and hammock she could set up.

Off to the side of the room was a hot water fall running down the side of the wall. At the bottom the water collected in a large and deep stone carved pool. Sylvia stripped down and stepped gingerly into the tub. Finding that it was a pleasant temperature, she slid in. She relaxed letting the hot water work its magic on her hurt and knotted muscles. 

Then she stood up and dried herself off, stills smiling and relaxed, she the purple shirt over her head and rejoined Merse in the common room. Merse had a skin in front of her and was sewing a blouse. She beckoned and Sylvia sat down beside her.

"Do you sew?" asked Merse.

"Yes," replied Sylvia.

Merse gestured to a large length of skin and a pattern. "As soon as you molt we will have money enough, but we need to survive until then," It was obvious that by now Merse realized the Sylvia did not wish to be treated as superior and that it was fine to ask her to work, but still she look a little apprehensive.

Sylvia nodded and began to cut the skin, looking at the pattern hoping, and Merse sighed in relief. They chatted and Sylvia told Merse her name. At first Sylvia's fingers were out of practice and clumsy, but as she worked her fingers became increasingly nimble and quick until they regained her former skill. The blouse was nearly finished by night time, and both girls put down their work to sleep. 

In the morning they woke up early and finished their work, then they got ready to leave and sell the work to a merchant. As they walked out the door onto to small balcony like platform Sylvia caught her breath as she saw the sunrise. "The sun!" she breathed. For the first time since she reached that barren land she saw the sun, she had forgotten what it felt like. She had never loved the sun, she was much more at home in the night, but seeing it then she was captivated. It must have there yesterday to she supposed, but she just noticed it was in the oasis.

"Yes, isn't it amazing?" said Merse coming up behind her. "Everywhere else there it a shadow across the sky, but here that shadow is taken away and you can see the sun, and the moon, and the stars," Merse said dreamily. "Come now we must make haste and sell these clothes." For a few seconds Sylvia remained still staring at the sun, then she spread her wings and let herself gently down to the ground.

They passed through the streets until they found Merse's usual merchant. Sylvia's shirt instantly attracted her attention. Sylvia had made a variation on the pattern and the shirt covered much more than any of the other shirts. It mostly covered the wearers breasts. It didn't cover the stomach, but that was typical, and Sylvia didn't mind that. It was very tight around the ribs but fluffed out around the chest. It left some details to the lookers imagination and suggested that the wearer was more curvy than she actually was.

Merse haggled with the merchant on prices, the merchant paid normal for the other clothes, but she payed double for Sylvia's shirt. "Make me fifty! And every couple of hours bring what you have made down here, and make them as soon as you can!" The old lamia said forcefully.

"Yes ma'am," said Merse as she slipped the coins into her purse.

"And make sure at least ten of them with Shrine ripper silk!" the old merchant admonished.

"Ma'am? I don't have the money!" Merse began.

"I pay more for Shrine Ripper silk, you know this, I don't care how, but get at least ten of Shrine ripper silk! Use the money I just gave you, it doesn't matter, as soon as the first is sold everyone will want one!" said the old and wise lamia. Merse nodded and the two friends sped away.

When they were at a fair distance Merse stopped and gaped at Sylvia, "that was more than I have every gotten for any type of garment!" she said with astonishment, "I was right, you are more than paying your own way! Now we have a lot to do, that old biddy wants fifty, imagine that! How fast does she think we can sew? And then we need to get you a snake and we need to have food!" Merse panted.

"A snake?" asked Sylvia.

"Yes, all city lamias have snakes, you need one to," explained Merse.

"Where is yours?" asked Sylvia. Almost as in response to her question the necklace on Merse's neck came alive and hissed. "Oh," was all Sylvia could think to say.

"By the way Sylvia, I hope you don't mind if I keep the money you make, to pay me back for the clothes yesterday," Merse siad tentatively.

"Sure," siad Sylvia.

They wandered leisurely through the streets, topping once to buy some breast meat of a Western Roc. Then they got to a booth selling snakes, Merse gestured for Sylvia to have a look. Sylvia looked at all of the snakes, some of them were long and skinny some shorted but broader, and some were just huge, but Sylvia felt her eyes always drifting back to one snake in particular.

That snake was a medium sized cobra, it was completely white with red patterns that looked almost like a painting of red brushstrokes. When she extended her hand and snake wrapped itself around her arm and draped itself over her shoulders.

"One Amethyst Shilling please,"  the merchant said. Merse whistled but handed over a coin. 

Then she dragged Sylvia back to her place and left Sylvia in the common room and ran into her bedroom. When she came back out she had a precarious stack of skin her her hands. She dumped it down on the table, careful not to let in fall to the sandy floor. Then she rushed back out of the room. Sylvia started to look through the pile of skins, but then Merse came in, she was holding a large piece of cloth.

"I want you to use this one, it's shrine ripper silk, my mother bought it but she never got a chance to use it, she was killed by The Man In Black. I was waiting to use it until I was a seamstress as good as my mother, but you are far better than me, so I want you to use it," Merse explained.

"Okay," siad Sylvia. She took the cloth from Merse and marveled at this lightness. She washed her hands and sharpened her needle deciding not make a single mistake and to honor this cloth. She cut it with precision exactly following the pattern she had made.

"Where did you learn to sew?" Merse asked.

"I was the daughter of a noble family," Sylvia explained without taking her eyes of her work, "Embroidery was a activity deemed fitting for a lady of my station, and there was nothing else to do, so I practiced a lot." Then she concentrated on her work, it was several hours before she finished it, in that time Merse had almost finished two. Sylvia started some roc meat on the fire while she waited for Merse to finnish. The two girls packed the cloths in a bag and set out.

"We will sell these two to the old biddy, but we will sell the silk one to one of the wealthier merchants, they pay better," Merse explained. Sylvia nodded her understanding.

They went to see "The old biddy" first. "You know," siad Merse in a conversational tone. "You are not the only one who wants these, the large and better paying merchants now want these to, and I'm sure they are  willing to pay at least double what you offer,"

"I double my price," the old hag said quickly.

"Good," said Merse. "But this doesn't guarantee I won't go to other merchants."

"Triple," the old biddy tried.

"Very good," said Merse, and Sylvia hid a smile. The two friends departed and Merse brought them to a wealthy and very well known merchant.

"Hello, my name is Merse," she said as the merchant left one of her apprentices to run the stall while she talked to them. "I am a seamstress, and so is my friend here," she said pointing to Sylvia. Sylvia was wearing a shawl over her shirt to conceal to blouse beneath. "I would like to sell you a blouse," she nodded to Sylvia and Sylvia discarded the shawl. She had made one blouse for herself so that she had a slightly less revealing thing to wear. The merchant's eyes lit up.

"How much?" she asked.

"Well, I got 6 amethyst pennies for it," said Merse.

"Twelve," siad the merchant.

"That would do nicely, but this one is made of shrine ripper silk," explained Merse.

"Let me see," said the merchant.

Sylvia took it out of the bag and handed it to the merchant. The merchant ran her hands over it. "It is real silk, and black to, a royal color," she looked up, " forty eight." Merse nodded satisfied. "Can I expect you to come here and be a supplier of mine, especially for these?" asked the merchant.

"Yes," said Merse. The two friends headed back to the house. Merse handed Sylvia a pouch with 16 amethyst pennies. "You have more than paid me back at this point, from now one the money you make is yours." Sylvia smiled her thanks then retired to her room.

Sylvia washed all the dirt and gimme and sand off of each one of her three forms. She spent exclusive time washing and massage all three forms. Her wings had sand caked in them from the dessert like oasis, and there was fine sand in between each of her scales and she made sure to get it all out. Then she sat down to let her self dry off and began to write in the magical journal:

Dear Ivy,

I am doing well, but I am going to stay for a few months more than I planned. With love to Thalia and all the girls. 


She put the book down and closed it carefully. She turned to the snake, who had declined to get wet and waited out side the spring and Sylvia smiled. "What to name you?" she asked. "I think you seem like a Storm Blood," The snake hissed and stuck out it's tongue. "Storm blood it is," smiled Sylvia. The snake draped itself over her shoulders lovingly.

She turned her legs into a snake tail and went to see how Merse was doing. Merse smiled at Sylvia as she walked into the room.

"Hi Sylvia,"

"Hello," Sylvia replied. She sat down and picked out a skin from the pile. It was a soft one with small deep red scales. She cut it quickly and her practiced fingers were soon threading her needle and making precise stitches.


"Yes?" answered Sylvia.

"I think you are going to molt soon."

"What makes you say that?" Sylvia asked.

"Well," said Merse, "The skin on your tail is starting to flake and peel a bit, and it's getting a little dry. That will be a good time to get a lot of sewing done."

"Don't we need to wait for me to finnish molting before we start sewing the skin?" asked Sylvia worried.

"Of course, but you won't be able to leave the house until you finnish molting and the new skin grows in enough so that is not tender," Merse explained. She sat down the finished shirt and started on another. They worked in companionable silence, every once in a while they would set down their finished project and start another. When the roc meat was finally finished slow cooking they set down the shirts and eat kebabs, then they packed up the blouses and headed out.

Their first stop was the wealthy merchant, she payed 12 pennies a piece for the blouses and each girl went away with their purse 36 coins heavier. 

Then the two friends made a stop at the old biddies stall, Merse politely told her that she was receiving 12 pennies for each blouse and the old hag went white and said she could not possibly pay that much. Merse smiled but her eyes stayed very, very cold, "Then I guess I will not be working for you anymore."

Their next stop was at a fabric booth. Sylvia bought two bolts of Shrine Ripper silk, it left her purse feeling light and empty, but she knew it would pay off in the long run. Merse already had all the cloth she needed, and she still didn't feel she was good enough to chance her luck with expensive silk.

Then the girls stopped at a food cart to pick up dinner. Merse's favorite was roc meat, so they got another pound of it. And Sylvia also got a cup of soft white four to make bread. Then the pair slid home to rest.

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