velvet mace

Proving Grounds

Al sniffed the air with disgust. There was a foul, slightly decaying scent that lingered cloyingly in his nose even after he turned his head to the fresh breeze. He looked at the men with him. They seemed utterly uninterested in heading into wreckage that was originally a farmhouse, and then an illegal alchemy lab, but now appeared to be something of a hazardous waste site.

Al looked the men over. They were the typical military grunts. Low ranking, burly, and also utterly uninterested in taking orders from a thirteen year old, state alchemist or not. Short of clapping his gloved hands together and putting on a show of strength there didn't seem a lot Al could do to convince them to step into the place.

Finally one put a voice to what all were thinking. "It looks empty. We'll guard from the rear." Al knew what he meant was, we have no idea what kind of experiment was going on here, but it looks nasty, let's let the expert deal with it.

Al pulled himself up all of his five feet two inches and tried to look as impressive and commanding as a boy just barely over 100 lbs could. His hand fidgeted over the watch, but they already knew that about that, and clearly they weren't all that impressed with his physical specs either. Or his rank. He outranked all of them many times over.

It meant nothing.

He climbed back in the van to change into the hazardous alchemical suit HQ had given him. After shrugging it on he looked down in disgust. It hugged his form rather too closely and though the intention was to allow him the maximum amount of movement, while presenting the least amount of surface area to get snagged, it seemed almost purposefully provocative.

Sure enough his own men whistled and catcalled him as he approached the lair. He glared at them but that only made them change to knowing smirks.

I need to prove myself, thought Al. I can do this by myself.

So he walked down the steps into the foul smelling lair, leaving his escort behind. The floor was criss-crossed with lines of green ichor, as if something had slithered across it, back and fourth.

Al's eyes began to adjust for the limited light and he scanned the outer work room. There were arrays drawn on the walls and the floor in a way that suggested both enthusiasm and crazed mania. He recognized some of them as being chimera arrays, and others resembled those used to cultivate plants. What on earth was the alchemist trying to do?

He stepped in a puddle of goo and hopped back, glad for a moment that he had put on the suit. He wasn't sure what the stuff was, but it reeked and he was just as glad he didn't have to get it out of his ordinary clothes.

He continued on past some broken beakers and chipped Petri dishes. Several sacks of fertilizer had been torn open and strewn across the ground. He avoided stepping in it as much as he could.

The first sign of the experiment was the fine hairlike tendrils that wove in and out of the wood and concrete wall. As Al peered at them they seemed to move, as if stirred by a breeze. Then he realized they weren't moving—they were growing at an alarming and unnatural rate. The plant they were attached to was just on the other side of the door. Whatever it was, still very much alive.

Al grabbed the handle of the door and his hand slipped on slime. He jerked away in disgust then looked down at the array on his glove. It was entirely hidden. Goddamn it, thought Al. If he was lucky he would be able to do his fast array work, more likely, should anything come up he'd have to actually draw the array longhand. He could do that, but really.

He reached for the knob again, because he had to. That was where the job was. If he walked out now because of a little grime not only wouldn't he impress the men he was with, but he'd lose all respect for himself.

With some effort, he pushed the door inward. Al put his shoulder into the wood and forced it open more. Inside the door the floor was woven with tendrils, most as fine as hair, but some growing as thick as his wrist. It was dark, but some light came in, not only from the door but from broken sections of the ceiling as well. Al heard the sound of a moist rag being dragged across the floor. He turned and saw a line of darkness slide between the roots. A snake?

His questing eyes moved around until he saw the alchemist—or rather what was left of him. The corpse was bloated and covered with the omnipresent green ichor. His clothes appeared ripped and torn, but what made Al gasp was the slender vine like stalks that appeared to be growing out of every natural orifice and a few unnatural ones as well.

The military had been coy about what they knew of the rogue alchemist's intentions, but they had asked Al to investigate before destroying what he found. They wanted to know if it had any military applications.

Al looked at the body and decided that even if this plant DID have a military application, it wouldn't be used by any military he was involved with. Automatically, he clapped his hands together and took a page from the Crimson Alchemist's notebook. There were plenty of compounds around that could be made into a decent explosive. It was time to give the unfortunate Alchemist a fiery pyre.

He pressed his hands against the twisted stalks, but nothing happened. The array! He'd forgotten his glove was dirtied.

He heard another sick, wet slopping sound. He turned. Several snake-like shadows slithered across the floor. This time they didn't slide back into the dark but instead made their way directly toward him. Al stared in disgust as their forms resolved. They appeared to flexible vines, ropelike in texture, green and oozing the ichor he'd seen everywhere.

Al stepped back towards the door. He'd draw an array on the other side and destroy everything within in a fire. He turned and pushed at the door that had somehow shut while he'd been in there. This time it refused to budge inward. The roots had bulged up, forming a wedge to hold it closed.

Al reached in his pocket for chalk and found his hands sliding over the slick fabric of the biohazard suit. This was ridiculous.

He looked around for something left in the lab to write with, and just at that point the first slithery stalk wound its way up his leg.

Before Al knew it, his leg was being yanked out from under him. He fell to the rather spongy ground. He pulled himself up quickly on his hands and knees, but by then the others were on him, sliding over the rubberized material of his suit and getting little purchase. Perhaps this outfit wasn't a complete loss after all, thought Al.

The vines were persistent. Like the tentacles of some octopus they wrapped themselves around his arms and legs. Al realized he was pinned in a semi-sitting position. He was in over his head.

It would earn him no points with his men, but this was why they were here. "Hey!" Al cried. "I need help!"

Would they even come? They were soldiers yes, but far from suicidal. They hadn't wanted to come down before they knew for certain it was trouble, they wouldn't want to come down now that he was calling for them either. And sure enough Al heard no response coming from outside.

He opened his mouth to call out louder, only to find a tentacle slide over his cheek and between his lips. Al gasped in surprise, and tried to pull it out with both hands, but other tentacles pulled his arms back. The one in his mouth pushed further in bumping against the back of his throat and causing him to gag.

The taste was disgusting, salty and somewhat rancid. It slithered about in his mouth, over his tongue pushing for the back of his throat. Al did the only sane thing: he bit down hard. The tendril wriggled frantically for a moment, then as Al eased up it withdrew to his lips. Just when he thought it was gone it forced its way back in, and this time a second tendril joined it. AL felt his jaws being pulled open to their fullest as the ropy vines slid over each other and seemed to jockey about and vie for room in his mouth.

Al was so distracted by his mouth that he didn't realize his suit had torn until the first tendril slipped inside and slid over his stomach. Al felt himself heave but his bile was trapped by the parts of the plant in his mouth. He was forced to swallow again or choke on it.

His eyes were wide and he stared over the vines, which appeared to be multiplying, pushing and pulling at him. The scientific part of him noticed the tiny teeth lining a small hole at the tip of each vine. These tips seemed to press themselves against the fabric of his clothes in several spots and CHEWED their way through inside.

That they hadn't chewed his flesh was something that both relieved and alarmed Al. The plant seemed to be trying to gain access to him, and yet at the same time not hurt him.

More slimy tendrils found their way into his shirt, sliding over and around his chest, exploring his arm pits, his belly, his nipples. Al gasped. As if sensing his response, the tendril looped back in a lazy arch to his nipple again, this time the tip pressed against it and he felt the teeth within biting and rasping at it. Al hissed with pain and pulled back.

It was time to get his head together. He was going to have to make an array and soon. He didn't have much mobility left.

A second tendril latched onto his right nipple, biting in and then pulling with increasing pressure. It hurt but Al also felt a disconcerting line of pleasure as well, that moved from his ravaged chest down to his groin.

Al looked with horror down at his own crotch, only then realizing that holes were being opened up there as well. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the body of the alchemist. It was clear that the plant was growing OUT of him, not into him. The plant gagged Al's involuntary screams.

The first tentacle slid under the tight rubberized fabric of Al's pants and up against his crotch. It wormed about obscenely, sliding over his cock, and then looping back under his testicles. Al thought of the teeth near his most tender regions and fought harder. The vines around his arms and legs simply tightened bringing his movement to an almost complete halt.

Another tendril joined it, sliding through the same hole, this time taking a lower path, pushing firmly between Al's clenched thighs. For a moment there was something of an impasse, with Al holding his legs closed with all his might and the tip of the vines pressing ineffectively against the crack. Then the vines around his legs jerked unexpectedly, forcing his thighs apart. Before Al could think to do anything, the tendril slid over the inner tendon of his thigh. Al jerked as it pressed its slimy tip against Al's anus.

No, it couldn't! It's thickness and ridged texture filled Al's mind with horror. The tendril seemed to unleash copious amounts of the slippery ichor against his tight ring of muscle. Then it pushed inwards and bit-by-bit, and Al,despite all efforts to keep clenched tight, stretched to receive it. As if to distract him, or perhaps to make up for the disturbing penetration, the tendril caressing his groin moved up to snake around his cock, sliding and squeezing it in a way that felt terribly wrong and at the same time unnervingly pleasurable.

Al screamed when the thickest part of the vine breached him, and then a good number of inches whipped inside, filling him uncomfortably. Once there it didn't stay still. It flailed about like an eel stroking, sliding and writhing, impossible to ignore. Disturbingly, Al found a growing pleasure mixed with the pain. How could his body possibly like this? It made no sense.

Al sweated. His heart beat friercely, and he was losing his battle with his own emotions. He needed to suppress his feelings, because if he didn't they would overwhelm him and he'd drown in fear and horror. By sheer wrenching willpower he forced himself to analyse the situation clinically.

This wasn't random movement—there was intelligence behind this assault. Al couldn't imagine why, but the plant intentions were clearly sexual in nature. Or maybe procreative was a better word—uncontrollable dread rose up at that thought and Al had to fight to regain his self control—No it was more than that. The plant wanted pleasure, not just a place to deposit its seed. There was no other explanation for why it would continue to slide over his most erogenous parts, even though they didn't provide access inside his body. And even his mouth—those vines could have choked him to death easily, but instead they hung back allowing him to breathe. If all it wanted was fertile soil to deposit its young, a dead body would work even better than a live one.

The plant enjoyed sex. Moreover, for whatever reason, it wanted Al to enjoy the act as well. It was beyond sick. Worse yet, Al's body was responding to the constant slick pressure. Between the writhing pressure within him and the incessant stroking and rubbing against his cock, he had become hard and was on his way to a most revolting and unsatisfying come.

His eyes were completely adjusted to the light, and he stared out at his surroundings in a desperate attempt to distract himself from what was happening to his body. It took a while to make sense of what he saw but he finally understood what was going on.

This was a chimera all right, one with three parts. There were tanks in the room, several broken now, but Al could see the remains of at least one octopus. There were flowerpots, one of which still had a ficus growing within it. The last part was held pinned to the wall. So little was left of the original form that it was hard to make out, but there were still scraps of a lab coat left entwined with the ropy roots.

There had been a second alchemist. And he was still alive. He'd been caught in a backlash and incorporated into the plant and octopus. The mind behind it was still human, although warped and deranged and apparently horny.

The urge to collapse into horror nearly overwhelmed him, but Al fought it off. Instead he concentrated on anger. He wasn't going to be a victim of this thing. He was going to bring it down.

He fell on his side. The plant allowed him that. He wiggled until one hand was free and close to the floor. He'd have to work fast, this plant would recognize an array when it saw one.

The only thing to draw with was ichor—there was plenty of that, but finding a patch of ground not covered in roots or already well-slimed was difficult. Al spotted one just out of reach. He pushed on the ground, trying to shuffle his way closer.

The plant reacted to his movement by writhing around even more frantically. Al's eyes rolled up in his head and he felt the stimulation overwhelm him. He felt his cock jerk at the first spasm of orgasm, a tendril slithered about in his semen spreading it around his belly.

After a moment, Al got his mind enough together to push forward just those few inches. He began drawing the array. He didn't have much time. Now that he'd come, the vines seemed to shift in attitude. Al felt the tentacles plugging his mouth calm down and then jerk, then his mouth was flooded with a foul tasting miasma. He longed to spit it out, but the vines wouldn't move. His only choice was to swallow it or choke on it.

A moment later the one in his ass calmed down as well. Then he felt a strange cold fullness.

Al ignored these sensations as much as he could and drew the array. He then pressed his hand to it, and willed with all his might.

Suddenly the plant began to ooze all over. At first it was the same viscous ichor that now drenched Al, but then it began to thin out and grow clear. The plant itself shriveled in, darkening. Al felt the tendrils stiffen and become brittle. He wasted no time snapping away the parts that held his arms. He yanked the vines out of his mouth, then off his legs. He grabbed the one in his ass and pulled rather too roughly, and bit back a scream as it rasped its way out. Finally he shrugged away the pieces that tugged at his torso.

The dehydrating array continued to work, shriveling the plant. The roots split and broke, then turned to dust. The line of disintegration worked from the extremities of the plant up to the main stalk. Al thought he heard a faint moan issuing before the plant grew completely still, and then collapsed to dust.

Al vomited until he had nothing left in him but air.

Then for good measure he took care of the second plant growing out of the alchemist. He'd have to do something to fully purge himself soon, but that would have to wait until they returned to base. Though he didn't look forward to flushing every trace of the things seed out of himself, he did NOT want to suffer the same fate as the first alchemist.

Al was shaken, sore and disgusted as much with himself as the circumstances. He felt glad his men had never come. Standing up, he was relieved to discover that while the holes in his clothes were apparent, but the sexual nature of their placement wasn't as obvious. Al grabbed the doorknob and pulled it open, this time meeting little resistance. He staggered out into the main lab and then up to the surface.

His men stared at him, taking in his wet, dirtied and torn suit. "It's done," he told them coldly. "I'm going to change." He cleaned himself up as best he could with a rag and changed back to his usual clothes. The scent lingered. As did the taste.

They didn't ask him exactly what had happened down there, and Al was pretty certain that none of them even came close to guessing, but they appreciated that there had been a hell of a fight, and that Al had come out victorious at the end. As they drove back to Central Al detected a grudging admiration for him, and a new respect.

It felt ironic, because Al thought he'd never respect himself again.