03 – Mila

Savaron's core throbbed and bounced wildly within her mass, tiny bubbles fizzling away as they traveled up through her. The inside of Mila's stomach had been deliciously warm; combined with the intense heat of the shower she'd started, and Savaron considered herself lucky to still manage somewhat coherent thoughts.

Her core spasmed and throbbed, gently bouncing against stomach walls and splashes of her own mass. It had been a while since she'd had a good boil, though she was fairly certain that her now exceedingly soupy body was only a few degrees away from poaching her solid center.

“D-don't stop,” Mila said, hand pressing against Savaron through her stomach walls.

If Savaron could've responded, she would have. Alas, words were surprisingly difficult to come by when your body was splashing around. Her mass would creep up the side of Mila's stomach, only to spasm off of the walls and back down into her center. She let her core simple exist, partially exposed to the space inside of Mila's belly.

Initially, the solid mass contracted back into her mass, submerging itself once more into the safety of her slime. Bubbling nervously, she pushed her core up to her surface once again, slime slowly peeling away.

Now, Savaron had taken it upon herself to measure her core each year, around the time that Phil had decided was appropriate to celebrate her “birthday.” While she didn't take much stock in the idea, she had grown curious as to her age. Judging by how much her core had grown from year to year, she estimated that she was in her late twenties.

Each time she had measured her core, she had made sure to fully expose at least half of it. It was a tradition she had taken upon herself, and one that not even Phil knew about. She would take painstaking measures to ensure that she was completely and utterly alone when she made her core vulnerable like that. Not so much as a butterfly could be in the same room at the same time.

And here she was, exposing her tender core in the heart of digestion. The sting of acids dripping onto her core caused it to throb violently. Her mass overreacted, launching the dense core up against Mila's throat. For a fleeting instance, it was completely and utterly separate from her being.

The bubbles ceased immediately, her slime splashing back into itself like water. She felt her mass attempt to clench at her core that wasn't connected, but nothing happened. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't make her naked core throb.

What felt like an eternity later, her core splashed back down into the pool that was her being. Her slime enveloped it swiftly and immediately, burying it in layer upon layer of the thickest slime she still had. Her core clenched harshly, contracting her body further until she was a simple, formless blob once again.

“Savri?” Mila asked, an odd pressure climbing up her throat. Her mouth opened again, intending to repeat the question, only to find herself eructating instead. Covering her mouth shortly after her outburst, she slid down to the shower floor, feeling her belly bounce gently against the wet surface as hot water continued to pour over her. “Savaron?” Both hands began gently rubbing her belly.

“Savri, are you okay in there?” she asked, feeling the pressure subside. As her fingers probed her stomach, a new thought began tiptoeing from her subconscious to mingle with her slurry of emotions. She had been digesting her friend – she had been digesting Savaron. Caressing her stomach further, she was no longer sure just how big it was now compared to when she'd initially eaten the slime.

“Savaron,” she said again, voice barely louder than the pelt of hot water against her body. “Savaron,” she repeated, one hand dipping under her swollen gut. Her fingers held for a moment, inches from her crotch. She bit her lip to stifle the moan that followed her finger's journey. Her free hand took to the dutiful task of rubbing her belly, coaxing any sloshing she could muster from her meal.

From Savaron.

“Oh, Savri,” she whispered, unsure if she was actually feeling or simply imagining her meal's sloshing. She leaned her head back, water now pelting her neck as the hand that was rubbing her belly made its way up to her breasts. Squeezing ever so gently, her legs twitched as sensation shot from the base of her back up to her head. “Savaron,” she hissed, other hand doubling its efforts.

“Mila?” Savaron's voice had slipped up through Mila's open mouth.

“Savaron!” Mila said, abruptly correcting her posture. “Are you okay in there?” she asked, both hands back to her belly. “What happened?!”

“I'm okay,” Savaron said, shifting her core around. “I'll tell you about it later.” Mila sighed, letting her head rest against the shower wall. “Can you send some protein down?”

“Of course!” Mila smiled, drawing out circles on her belly with her fingers. “Got any specific craving?”

“Just,” Savaron said, searching for the words that felt right. “Just whatever protein you can get me.”

“You got it,” Mila said, looking down to her belly. Her smile faltered as she looked at her right hand. The water had washed away the majority of her juices, but she could still clearly see the sticky essence on her fingers. She stared at her fingers for a few moments more, mouth watering as the shower water continued to wash away evidence of her pleasures. Shaking her head, she stood up. Before shutting the shower off, she rinsed her hands thoroughly.

As she stepped out of the shower, it dawned on Mila just how long she must've been marinating. Steam hung heavy in the bathroom, every surface that could support condensation was doing so – all the way down to the doorknob. Wrapping herself in a towel, she opened the door to confront the cooler air outside of the bathroom.

“Where is everybody?” Mila asked, mind desperate for a distraction.

“What do you mean?”

“Your tavern is,” Mila paused, glancing down the hall before entering the guest room. “Pretty empty.”

“Finals,” Savaron said simply, a slow bubbling returning to her volume.

“What about Phil? Or Ebby?”

“They both have their own places. Why are you so interested in how I run my tavern?”

“I was more wondering if I could ditch the towel,” Mila mumbled, pulling her panties back on. “How do you keep this place running with just three people though?”

“I handle most of the work, Phil and Ebby just cover when I need a break or extra help.”

“Even slimes have to sleep, Savri.”

“Not as much as humans,” she snickered back, core bubbling against Mila's stomach walls.

“What I'm saying,” Mila said, placing a hand against where Savaron's core had rubbed her belly. “Is that it doesn't sound like there's much time for you outside of work.”

“A bit of magic and some determined slime can go a long way.” Savaron's bubbling returned to a light simmer as Mila carefully descended the stairs, fastening her vest loosely against her shirt. “Besides, I haven't had too much reason to spend time away from work – until now,” she said.

“Are you,” Mila paused, placing both hands on her belly. “Are you purring?”

“Wouldn't you like to know,” she said, flicking Mila's stomach walls. Mila inhaled sharply, biting her lip.

“I just got used to walking around with you in there,” Mila said, tenderly resuming her walk towards the bar.

“So you're saying you don't want me to do things like this?” Savaron pushed up against Mila's stomach walls, gently rubbing her sensitive partner's insides with all her mass. Mila's knees buckled as she made it to the bar, both hands gripping the oak structure for support.

“Or what about this?” Savaron asked, pulling her slime into two humanoid hands. She began kneading and rubbing Mila's belly as though it were dough, pressing her hands and fingers out distinctly. Mila squeaked when her hands ran over the outline of Savaron's hands, slipping down onto a barstool.

“S-Savaron,” she said, voice wavering. “I n-need to get you protein.”

“Oooh, sounds delicious,” Savaron said, pulling her hands back into her mass. Mila closed her eyes, breathing heavy as she pulled herself upright one more time. “You really are more sensitive that most human tummies I've been in,” Savaron cooed, sloshing around gently as Mila resumed walking.

“Where's the protein at?” Mila's cheeks burned at Savaron's remark, so much so she could've sworn she was giving off visible light.

“I don't have much peanut butter for you to spoon out,” Savaron said, smiling to herself. “How do you feel about sending me a couple of juicy chunks of meat?”

“I think I can hear you drooling in there.” Mila draped her hand over her stomach, blinking as her eyes adjusted to the light of the backroom. “You don't happen to have any instant meat, do you?” she asked, recoiling slightly from the salted raw meats in the first cupboard.

“I usually just eat it raw,” Savaron said, core rolling around as her thoughts stewed.

“As close as we are, I'm not eating raw meat for you.”

“Fiiinne,” the slime said, her core dipping to the bottom of Mila's belly. “There's some enchanted salts at the counter.”

Mila picked up a smaller steak – maybe six ounces or so – and walked it to the preparation counter. One hand still on her belly, she leaned down to look under the counter.

“Oh, I know this one,” she said, grabbing a pouch of purple salt. Standing upright, she opened the pouch, took a pinch of the purple salt, and sprinkled it onto the steak. It proceeded to pop and hiss as soon as the salt made contact, sparks dancing across the counter. Yelping, she stumbled back from the light show, covering her eyes. The salt bag plopped to the floor, spilling a fair amount of salt in the process.

“What's happening?” Savaron asked, no longer sloshing. She knew those sounds. “What salt did you use?”

“It's sparking! The purple salt made it spark!” Mila said, still shielding her eyes as the sparks started to die down.

“Purple? That shouldn't do that.” The slime's core remained tense and still, barely wiggling in Savaron's volume. As the realization washed over Savaron, her core started to jitter.

“What's so funny?” Mila asked, one hand on her belly.

“This is your first time cooking meat,” Savaron said, trying her best to stifle jittery outbursts. “And I didn't tell you to get the storage salt off of the meat!” Her core jittered heavily, increasing in intensity as she realized this was probably her very first belly laugh. Technically.

“It's not funny!” Mila said, smacking her stomach. “I hate cooking with magic,” she said, trying her best to suppress the tickling sensation Savaron's core was giving her. She glared at the circular cut of meat as the sparks finally dissipated completely, cursing it under her breath. Gingerly, she picked up the fizzling meat with two fingers, hastily brushing any salts away with her other hand.

“What cut did you get, anyway?”

“I have no idea!” Mila brushed away the salts that had collected on the counter, giving herself a relatively clean workspace. Setting the disc of meat down, she looked around for the purple salt sack. Grunting, she leaned down to pick it up, making a mental note of where the spilled salt had landed. “I'm going to need the broom at some point.”

“Protein first.” Savaron could feel Mila's belly working away at her now, her mass easily having halved since she'd been eaten. Mila rolled her eyes, taking a fresh pinch of the purple salt and rubbing it into the meat. The meat sizzled, sparking a few more times as if to ensure Mila was fully awake.

A few minutes later, and the cut had seared itself thoroughly – likely even over cooked. Mila took one of the many knives at the counter and started cutting up the meat, her mouth beginning to water as the fragrance wafted up to her. One bite sized chunk at a time, Mila swallowed the meat down for Savaron.

Savaron eagerly started dissolving the meat as soon as it landed in her sloshing mass. Chunk after chunk quickly dissolved into her, pushing her back to a healthier volume within Mila's belly. Mila found herself burping a bit more as her guest digested the meat, though she dutifully continued to scarf down the remainder of the meat for Savaron's sake.

“Hey,” Savaron said, inspecting one of the chunks of meat Mila had sent down. “This is a filet!”

“Is that,” Mila said, pausing to swallow the last chunk. “Bad?”

“No, I suppose not,” Savaron said, continuing to dissolve the meat. “Bit pricey though,” she mumbled, more to herself than to Mila. Once she had nearly filled Mila's belly once more, she decided to let the rest of the meat float down and give some protein directly to the human.

The meat sat peacefully at the bottom of Mila's belly for a moment – just long enough for Savaron to resume playing with her puddle. Mila's stomach contracted around Savaron, growling intensely as the meat Savaron had left started to digest.

“Sa,” Mila said, burping. “Savri? What's going on in there?”

“I thought I'd give you some meat,” the slime said, now observing the scene taking place in the bottom of Mila's stomach. “Give me a break from being digested for a few.”

“I feel,” Mila paused, burping again. “I think we should probably,” she started, only to interrupt herself with yet another burp. “We better get you out.”

“I'm starting to think you might be on to something,” Savaron said, pulling herself up from the meat. “Let's go back up to my room and get me out.”

Just as Mila had started heading towards the stairs, a knock rang out at the tavern's front door.

“What's wrong?” Savaron asked, taking note of the lack of movement.

“Someone's at the door.” Mila squinted as her eyes adjusted to the mid day light bleeding in through the windows. “I'm gonna go see who it is.”

“Tavern's closed, it's their problem,” Savaron said, keeping an eye on the meat below her mass.

“It'll just take a second,” Mila said, resting her hand on her belly. With one last check to make sure she was in fact fully dressed, she opened the door to greet the stranger. “Hello?”

“Hey, is Saviri here?”

“Saviri? You mean Savaron?”

“Yeah, that's her! Cassidy said she'd know where to find Mila.”

“Hmm,” Mila said, clenching her stomach around Savaron. “She's out of town right now, down at Kaso on a business trip.”

“Kaso!?” the stranger groaned, pulling a map from her bag. “That'll take days!”

“I'm Alvar by the way,” Mila said, opening the door. “Covering for Savaron while she's out.”

“Shelby,” the stranger said, accepting Mila's invitation. “I don't s'pose you'd know where Mila is, would you?”

“I'm afraid not,” Mila said, folding her arms over her stomach. “Is this Mila in some kind of trouble or something?”

“Well, no, not exactly,” Shelby said, opening her bag. A short rummage later, and she produced a silken bracelet, holding it out for Mila to inspect. “I was told to get this to 'er at all costs. Apparently she'd know what it meant.”

Mila took the bracelet from Shelby, the hair on the back of her neck standing up as the material flowed between her fingers. Her back twitched as she held off the urge to shiver while handing the bracelet back to Shelby.

“Any idea what it is?” Mila asked.

“Some kind of family heirloom, I s'pose?” Shelby suggested, tossing the delicate piece of fabric back into her bag. “You don't know when Savaron will be back, d'ya?” Shelby's eyes darted around the tavern, never spending more than a few seconds on any one point.

“I think she's in Kaso for the weekend. I'll let her know you stopped by though.”

“If she gets back early, will you pass this message along to her for Mila?” Shelby asked, pulling out an envelope.

“Sure thing,” Mila said, taking the parcel.

“If you see Mila, will you tell her that Melody wants her to come visit?”

“I'll make sure she gets the message,” Mila said, heading towards the door. “We are closed right now though, and I have some cleaning to get to in the back.”

“Thanks for the help Alvar, you're a real life saver!” Shelby said, heading out. Once the door was closed, Mila locked the dead bolt and leaned against the door.

“Alvar?” Savaron asked, core still spinning in thought. “What was that all about?”

“Shh,” Mila hissed, clenching her stomach again. She watched Shelby's shadow slowly disappear from view as she left the immediate vicinity of the tavern. At least she was out of earshot now. Quickly heading back up the stairs, she sat down on the guest room bed. “Let's get you out, then we can talk.”

Mila felt Savaron shift around in her stomach, pushing up into her stomach just as Mila realized the bed was probably not the best place for what was about to happen. They needed to talk face to face though, and she wasn't about to delay that. Relaxing her throat, she felt Savaron's intensely warm mass slowly slide up and into her mouth, filling it completely.

Breathing through her nose, Mila opened her mouth and cupped her hands. Savaron's blue slime oozed down her chin, pooling in Mila's hands as she pulled herself from the human's stomach. Drop by timid drop, Savaron managed to evacuate herself from Mila's gut, save for her core. Wrapping the last of her slime around her core, Savaron began pulling the heavy mass up Mila's throat.

Mila coughed and gagged around the sphere, but it eventually found its way up and into her mouth. Slowly breathing through her nose, Mila opened her mouth wide as Savaron pulled her core out. A bit of slime dribbled down her chin as she relaxed her mouth, hands still cupped in the middle of Savaron's mass. The slime took humanoid shape once more, delicately setting her core in Mila's hands.

“All done champ,” Savaron said, smiling. Mila opened her eyes, forcing a smile as her stomach growled. “All that mass and you're still hungry?” Savaron chided, placing her hands on Mila's arms.

Mila went to say something, only to lurch both of her hands from Savaron to her stomach. She gasped, breathing heavily, only for another, louder growl to emanate from her stomach.

“Mila?” Savaron watched as the human doubled over, lying down on the bed. “Mila, what's wrong?” she asked, pulling herself from Mila's lap.

“S-stomach,” Mila managed to croak out. Another growl caused her to convulse again, wheezing when it finally relented.

“You need protein or something, that's gotta be it,” Savaron said, core starting to shake. “Hold on, I'll get something for you!” she said, legs solidifying while she moved towards the door. Mila's stomach growled again, and she could restrain no further. She howled in pain, clutching her now flat belly.

Savaron sprinted down the stairs, launching herself over the counter towards the back room.

“Come on, come on!” she said, core shaking violently now. Her back began to crystalize as she conjured a bit of magic, illuminating her hands. “Protein,” she said, eyes adjusting to the low light. “Protein,” she said again, opening one of the meat cupboards. She found a hefty slab of meat, throwing it to the preparation counter with practiced aim. The meat sparked and fizzed as its preserving salt came into contact with the left over cooking salt Mila had used earlier.

“Don't sass me,” she hissed, engulfing the steak into her mass. She ripped the storage salt from it, dropping it to the floor carelessly. Grabbing two other salts from below the counter, she began preparing the meat for Mila. Putting the steak back on the counter, a flurry of various colors of salts followed. A pinch of blue, a heavy dash of green, and the steak was practically dancing on the counter. One quick dash of purple, and the meat was engulfed in rapid, magically induced cooking.

“Hope you don't mind well done,” she said to herself, engulfing the still cooking meat back into her mass. As she sprinted back up the stairs, she could hear Mila crying now. She'd forgotten to cut the meat, but at this point she didn't care. Core still in a frenzy, she knelt down next to Mila and began ripping the slab of meat into bite sized chunks.

“I'm here Mila,” she said, placing both hands on Mila's cheeks. “Everything is gonna be okay,” she said, pushing the first meat chunk up through her arm. Holding the chunk between two fingers, she pressed it against Mila's mouth. “Open wide,” she said, her own voice starting to waver.

Mila weakly obeyed, opening her mouth for Savaron. The slime pushed her hand down Mila's throat, stopping just after it had entered her stomach. She could feel the growl of Mila's stomach around her arm, even as she pushed chunk after chunk of meat into her friend.

With each chunk landing in Mila's stomach, the growling's intensity lessened. Her belly was still growling, but she was breathing normally now. A mess of tears on her face began to dry while Savaron fed her. She watched the remainder of the massive steak get pushed into her throat, slowly relaxing around the slime's arm.

“Better?” Savaron asked, core finally starting to calm down.

“Mhmm”

“Good,” Savaron said, retracting her arm as the last piece of meat dropped into Mila's belly. While pulling her arm free, the slime used her other hand to wipe away the human's tears.

“Why,” Mila asked, choking on her words as she sat up. “Why did you feed me?”

“Well,” Savaron sighed, wiping up her residual slime from Mila's chin. “I just left your stomach, and when it was growling you were hurting. My best guess is you didn't have food in there that your stomach was trying to digest.”

“You sure you're not a biology major?”

“Just a tum enthusiast.”

“That's a lot of food,” Mila said, looking down to her once again bloated belly.

“It's no small feat to contain this much slime,” Savaron said, sliding onto Mila's lap. Hugging her tightly, she let her core settle into a slow throb against Mila's chest.

“You're just one big cuddly puddle,” Mila said, returning the hug.

“So,” Savaron said, pulling back to sit in Mila's lap properly. “Want to tell me about this Alvar business?”

“That girl you heard – Shelby,” Mila said, resting a hand on her now quietly gurgling stomach. “She's from Vatskóg, my home village.”

“I get the distinct feeling that Alvar isn't exactly a nickname.”

“When I was little, Melody would tell me stories about magic guardians that protected the forests around the village. One of them was named Alvar.”

“So why didn't you tell her your real name?”

“Because she didn't recognize me, and I want to keep it that way.”

“Why?”

“Shelby and her family did everything in their power to make life difficult for me and my parents. Between her and Calvin, it's a wonder I made it here in one piece.”

“What did they do?”

“They would harass me or Melody or Gale every chance they got. They were always so forgiving and apologetic to them,” Mila trailed off, breathing through her nose for a moment. “One time, Shelby found out that meat made me ill, so she got a piece of rancid deer meat and snuck it into my bedroom while I wasn't there. Whenever Gale would go to Crada to get medicine for me, they would spread rumors that I had finally scared him off, or that he'd been eaten by some ogress.”

“That's horrible!”

“That's just a drop in the ocean. If Shelby is looking for you, I promise nothing good will come of her finding you. If she's looking for me through you, that only makes it worse.”

“So, what did she want?”

“I'm not sure. She had Melody's bracelet, and an envelope.”

“Your mother's bracelet?” Savaron repeated, forehead rippling with speculation.

“It was with me when she found me,” Mila shrugged. “She always said it was her way of protecting me – even when she wasn't with me.” Mila looked down at Savaron's core, staring at it as it throbbed gently against her chest. “I think I should go check on her.”

“Didn't you just say that if Shelby was looking for you, it was a bad sign?”

“Yes, but as far as she knows, I'm nowhere to be found, and you're in Kaso for the weekend. I can take the train to Vastkóg tonight and be back tomorrow afternoon – before she's even figured out you're not in Kaso.”

We can take the train.”

“What? No, you need to stay here and out of trouble.”

“If you think you're getting out of introducing me to your parents after nibbling on my core, you've got another thing coming.” Savaron smiled, kissing Mila on the cheek. “Besides, if you try and sneak out without me, I'll just go and try to find your parents on my own.”

“Savri,” Mila groaned, laying back on the bed.

“It'll be fun!” Savaron said, splashing down on top of Mila. “Or do you not like my puddle cuddles?” Mila stared at the ceiling, blowing bubbles up through Savaron.

“Fine,” Mila grumbled, grinding her teeth. “Just know that there's a reason I left Vastkóg. Not everyone there is so accepting of non-humans.”

“I can be just as prim and proper as the rest of you bipedals!” Savaron said, pulling her torso together to fold her arms.

“Right up until someone starts eying you up like the snack you are,” Mila said, tickling her core. Savaron bubbled, melting back down to a shiny blue puddle in Mila's lap. “Come on, we need to get ready if we're going to catch the evening train.”


“You look fine,” Mila said, straightening Savaron's jacket.

“I dunno,” Savaron said, raising her arms to inspect the seams again. “Something feels... off.”

“You could show up naked and my parents wouldn't know any better – they've never met a slime before.” Savaron's face lit up, a devilish smile sneaking onto her face. “No. You're wearing something,” Mila said, rolling her eyes.

“I think,” Savaron said, straightening her coat for the umpteenth time. Her slime shifted around in the clothing – her chest flattening and broadening. “There,” he said, holding his arms up. “Perfect!”

“You sure?”

“I know you prefer girls,” he said, adjusting his voice to be a bit deeper. “But this just feels right.”

“I prefer you, cuddle puddle,” she said, pushing his nose in slightly.

“I've got to find a nickname for you or I'm never going to live that one down.”

“I think you're better off accepting that fate now.” Mila looked up at the sky as the second moon rose. “Thanks for coming with me,” Mila said, looking to Savaron's eyes. “No matter what happens.”

“You're over thinking this, Mila. Before you know it, we'll be back at my tavern, exploring just how sensitive your belly really is.”

“I hope you're right,” Mila said, stretching as they left the train station. “Let's just hope we can get this over with nice and quick.”

“This place is really serene,” Savaron said, distracted by the enormous trees of the Vastkóg forests. “It's like this all year round?”

“No. It's usually much colder.” Mila glanced over her shoulder, eyes scanning the forest as the light faded.

“What's wrong?”

“It's nothing. Just feels weird to be back home.”

“You're a terrible liar.”

“I'll feel better once we're leaving, that's all.” Mila rubbed the nape of her neck, pushing the raised hairs back down. “Feels like there's always someone watching me here.”

“Maybe it's your friend Alvar?”

Mila said nothing as the couple continued their walk towards the village center. Oddly enough, once they were in the actual village, the feeling of being watched felt more like a comfortable blanket than anything. At least here she knew who the eyes belonged to.

“Here we are,” she said, stopping at the house furthest from the village hall. Breathing in, Mila held her breath and knocked on the door. A few moments later, she exhaled, staring at the closed door. “Melody?” she asked, knocking again. “Gale?” she asked again.

“Do you suppose they're not home?”

“At least one of them should be home,” Mila murmured, raising her hand to knock again. As her hand made to strike the wood, the door opened.

“Mila?”

“Hi Melody,” Mila said, pulling her hand back. “Surprise?”

“What in the nine isles are you doing here?!” she hissed, looking over Mila's shoulder. “Get in here before someone sees you!”

“What's going on, Melody?”

“Who's your friend?”

“Savaron,” Mila said.

“You trust 'em?'”

“With my life.”

“You'd better get in 'ere too.'”

Savaron nodded, choosing to remain silent as he entered the house. Melody quickly closed the door behind him, sliding several bolts into place.

“What, in all of Gias, made you come back here?” she asked, peering through the windows before closing them. “Now of all times at that!”

“Shelby popped up looking for me,” Mila said, watching her mother. “She had your bracelet.”

“My bracelet,” Melody said, moving one hand to her left wrist. “None of that matters,” she said, standing to her full height. The light of her home danced across her toned physique, casting an imposing shadow. “You need to go. head back, and tell no-one that you were 'ere today.”

“We came to make sure you were okay,” Savaron said, moving to stand between Melody and Mila.

“Who do you think you are, gettin' involved in business not your own?”

“He is mine,” Mila said, stepping in front of Savaron. She pulled his hand to her side. “And I am his.”

“Not until Gias bears witness,” Melody said, eying Savaron up one more time. “Apologies, Savaron,” she said, sitting down at the kitchen table. “A lot's been happening recently. I 'oped, since it was Shelby that gave you the message, you'd know to steer clear of here for a while.”

“She had your bracelet!” Mila repeated.

“And now she does!” Melody snapped back, rubbing her temples. “You both need to get out of here,” she said, looking from Mila to Savaron. “Calvin has been missing for weeks now. His family is looking for someone to blame, and if you showed up right as the searches ended...”

“Why didn't you say so?” Mila groaned. “How are they both still causing this much mess.”

“Easy 'nough to do when your father is village chief.”

“Well, the next train doesn't leave until tomorrow morning,” Mila said, checking through her bag. “If we start now, we can make it to Jesa by noon tomorrow.”

“No. You're staying the night,” Melody said, turning her attention back to Mila. “No matter what happens, do not walk the forest at night. It's not safe here anymore. Your room is just how you left it, you can stay the night here.”

“Not exactly the family reunion I was hoping for,” Mila said, half smiling. “Where's Gale?”

“He's out getting supplies for the apothecary. He'll be back day after tomorrow.”

“Well, I guess we'd better settle in,” Mila said, picking her bag back up. “I'm going to go unpack what we did bring,” she said, heading down the hall towards her old room.

“Savaron?” Melody said, voice lowered.

“Yes, Melody?”

“You have to protect her.”

“Of course,” Savaron said, looking at Melody. “With all due respect though, I think she's probably safer with the two of us protecting her, don't you?”

“You listen to me, and you listen good,” Melody said, tearing her eyes away from where Mila had wandered off. “Gias, magic and all the muscle in the world cannot protect her from herself. Me and Gale tamed 'er through years of training and study – don't let all of that be for naught.”

“Tamed her?” The conversation halted as a knock rattled the door.

“Melody,” a deep, feminine voice said. “Don't make me break the door again.”

“Protect her at all costs, no matter what she says,” Melody said, looking into Savaron's eyes. “Promise me you'll protect her.”

“I swear on my life,” Savaron said, his core still.

“Then go, protect her. So long as she's occupied, you can both escape.”

“I wouldn't count on that,” the voice said. The oak door began to creak, splintering at the hinges.

“I'm coming!” Melody said, standing up. She looked to Savaron one more time before unbolting the door.

“I didn't want to have to break another door,” the voice said, stepping into the home. Savaron stared in disbelief as the massive feminine figure crouched to squeeze into the tight home. As he looked down, his eyes followed the larger than life features of the woman, only for them to fade into the thick, armored chitin of a massive spider abdomen.

“Who are you?” Savaron asked, eyes slowly wandering back up to the drider's face.

“I am Risha,” the drider said, looking down to Savaron. “You would do well to remember my name. Where is the youngling?” she asked, looking to Melody.

“She's” Melody started.

“She's not here,” Savaron said, pulling Risha's attention from Melody.

“Your lies lack substance,” Risha said, lowering her abdomen to get closer to an even level with Savaron. “Do you think your entrance to my nest was unnoticed?”

“That was Alvar, a friend of Melody's. I came with her to make sure she made it back safely,” Savaron said, firming up his chest.

“Better,” Risha said, walking over to Melody. “But I am not the fool you take me for.” She lowered her head, mouth next to Melody's ear. “Mila is here, isn't she?”

“What do you want with her?” Melody snapped, pushing the drider away.

“You know very well what she needs,” Risha said, pushing Melody with one of her legs. “Do not speak to me in that tone again, lest I remind you how delicious Cal was.”

“What did you do to Calvin?” Mila asked, standing in the hallway entrance to the kitchen.

“There you are,” Risha said.

“Mila, no!” Melody said, lunging across the table. “Get out of here, now!” Risha pinned Melody to the table, biting her shoulder. Within moments, the woman was still.

“Melody!” Mila said, approaching the table. Savaron held her back, watching Risha carefully. “Melody!” she screamed, watching her barely breathing frame.

“She will be fine, youngling,” Risha said, looking to Mila again. “She is under my protection, just as you are.”

“What kind of protector bites their wards?!” Mila snapped.

“I will do what I must to ensure the long, industrious future of this pitiful settlement,” Risha said, one hand idly rubbing her belly. “But that is a discussion for another time. You and I have more important things to discuss.”

“You think I will go with you willingly? After you bit my mother?!”

“What lies have poisoned your mind for you to believe that this brute is your mother?” Risha took a step back, looking over Mila's body. “How old are you, youngling?”

“What does it matter to you?!”

“You were certainly raised by thick headed bipedals,” Risha said, rolling her eyes. “You must know that you are not the same as these creatures,” she said, gesturing to Melody's still body.

“That creature is my mother,” Mila said.

“There it is,” Risha said, a devilish grin sneaking onto her pale face. “You've eaten meat, haven't you?” she cooed, climbing over the table. “How long did you believe that meat would make you ill, youngling? How long did your precious Melody lie to you?”

“She,” Mila said, looking to Melody's form on the table again. “All my life,” she said quietly.

“The cravings, have they set in yet?”

“Cravings?”

“Mmm, still time to enjoy it then,” Risha said, excitement dancing behind her emerald eyes. “Lifeless meat will only sustain you for a time. Listen to your body, youngling. Listen to what it has been screaming to you for years.

“What are you talking about?” Mila said, looking back to the drider.

“You were stolen, youngling. You were never human,” Risha said, approaching Mila. “These humans did something to you. Something no drider should ever be put through. They starved you – corrupted you to their will.”

“Don't listen to her Mila,” Savaron said, placing his hands on her shoulders.

“No,” Risha said, attention snapping to Savaron. “Listen to your own body. It will guide you.”

“We have to go,” Savaron said, whispering in Mila's ear. “Don't let her confuse you.”

“You cannot escape your own silk,” the drider said. “Go. You will know where to find me when you are ready,” she said, smiling.

Mila looked down at her hands, opening and closing them experimentally. The drider's words danced in her head, her body no longer feeling like her own. Savaron's body enveloped Mila's, his hands wrapping around hers. Slowly, his core slid across her back, resting just over her heart.

“We will not succumb to your threats, monster,” Savaron said, fully encompassing Mila.

“I do not threaten the youngling or her 'mother',” Risha said. “Were I another drider, you would be found weak and consumed. One day you will thank me for opening your eyes.”

Savaron moved Mila's legs, pulling her back to reality. She looked up through the slime to the drider, heat swelling in her chest as her gaze moved from the drider to her mother. Without saying a word, she turned with Savaron and ran through the open door.