On the Theory of Fire

Story by xax on SoFurry

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

in which some scientific discoveries about the reproductive strategies of the common magma imp are made

and also it is discovered that calling it "reproductive strategies" is kind of misleading

It was cool near the surface of the caldera. Lava churned sluggishly, piling in cooling shelves at the rim; forming smooth-edged floes that jostled against each other before inevitably sinking beneath, to melt and reform. The temperature was positively glacial compared to the heat at the core: down and down the magma tube that fed the volcano, to the core of pure Fire under geologic pressures deep, deep in the heart of the earth. The land above was scum on the surface of the world: a film collecting over the platters of rock floating on rock; an afterthought to the true workings of the earth. Heat and darkness and pressure, that and Fire: that was the truth of the world.

The magma imp swam through the upper layers, cooling lava chill on its molten skin. It surfaced in the molten rivers between glassy basalt floes.

The world above was cold: wind icy, leeching at what little heat remained from the core. It was a land of stillness and ice and death, empty and void.

Empty, perhaps, save for the humans. They had been coming around recently: gawking at the volcano, full of vainglory and blind to everything but the most gross matter. They were identifiable as shadows: chill even to the air, black spectres against the icy blue of the upper air. They came in arrogance, thinking that they could for even one moment understand Fire. Cold and desperate, full of the terror of the void above; they came screaming to hide in the fire, even knowing it would destroy them -- that was what the magma imp liked to think, at least.

The imp liked to toss fireballs at them and watch them scatter. The aim was off; mostly they only winged the humans.

The latest figure to come to the caldera came alone. The human stunk of magic, the weak stirring that clung to wizards. The imp's fireball went wide, scorching the rocky cliffs in sooty black flowers, and a moment later the human called, staff held aloft.

And, sickeningly, the imp felt the lava respond. A crude spell, but effective: witchlight sparked in the lava around it, surging up in a spout and encasing the imp. It cracked and shuddered, heat bursting out as the oter shell of the glob crystallized in an instant, and everything went dark: mired within a crystal of cold obsidian, a tiny pocket of heat surrounded by dead earth.

The imp howled, slamming claws against the glass, and the wizard called again, dragging the crystal closer, through the lava sea. Forget about fireballs: were it not for the obsidian barrier, the imp could -- and would have -- torn out the wizard's eyes. The obsidian barrier was implacable; each pounding blow just leeched already-sparse heat.

"How kind of you to present yourself," was what the wizard said, but the words weren't even meant for anyone: simply talking to himself; egotistical. If the imp got out the first thing that would happen would be the wizard getting immolated. "I had thought, foolishly, that it might be a trial to capture a living specimen," the wizard said, and the imp just snarled.

And then, worst of all -- the wizard spoke again, and the crystal rose. The imp felt the severing from the volcano like a blow: lingering heat thinning and thinning as the crystal emerged from the lava, until with a final snap the connection broke: simply floating in air, inert rock. The imp howled again, a scream, and curled in on itself. Alone, separated.

The sensation was cold. Heat ebbing and ebbing, lost and lost. At intervals the wizard would press his palms to the crystal, send his mockery of heat -- heat without Fire -- into the crystal, warming the magma and staving off the inevitable. Heat just to make the chill more pronounced. The imp hung there, curled in on itself, trying to keep the heat flowing. The world outside the crystal was stark, black on blue-black, everything cold and dead, but the world inside the crystal was -- pitiful. So small it could not spread its limbs, so cold the rock seemed perpetually an instant from solidifying, the heat only a vague memory of Fire.

The ground around them changed. Descending from the volcano: as good as stepping outside the world, walking in the dead abyss beyond. Things shifted outside the crystal, light and dark, sound and vibration, but all the imp could think of was the cold, perpetually encroaching, frosting its limbs, stealing its breath.

Eventually: they came to a chamber, walls thick with runes, and the wizard set the crystal on a containing pedestal at the center of a vast magic ring. The wizard spoke and it rose to life: a surge of warmth, a beat of magic. The wizard had been planning, then. Not an act of will but the culmination of a long plot. The sheer arrogance humans had, to think for one instant they could master Fire--

The magic diagram unfolded: a pathetic imitation of the volcano's heartbeat, bottled and turned mechanical. Warmth enough to push away the worst of the chill, but not enough to banish it. It would never be enough; all the wizards in the world didn't have enough Fire in them to sustain life.

Then stillness and silence, and the imp slipped into a fitful slumber, curled in on itself.

It woke in a lecture hall, wraithlike humans arrayed in rows, peering down at it. The crystal was cooling again, wreathed in bitter ice, and the wizard was standing next to it, speaking:

"The common magma imp," the wizard said, dispassionate, and when the imp howled he spat a syllable and the imp found itself without voice. "As any educated person knows, the nearby Geimaswald caldera is host to an entire colony of the beasts. They are classified as lesser demons of flame, and it is known that they are native to the elemental plane of fire, only appearing in the material plane in places and locations of particular affinity towards Fire -- it is presumed the magma chamber of Geimaswald volcano is one such place, allowing gateways between the planes to open when the mana flux is suitable.

"As we have discussed already this term, the theory of the elements dictates the structure of the human soul, and was for a very long time unable to consider the souls of other creatures. However, my recent breakthrough has at long last expanded the theory: while human souls is balanced and generates certain elemental 'harmonics', the magma imp is a degenerate being: their souls are formed from unalloyed Fire, and are lacking entirely the harmonics that give rise to reasoned thought. However, the sheer potency of their construction, and their habitat in a place of such extreme mana density, grants them many attributes otherwise only possible through the magical arts. Consequently, the magma imp is a dumb beast capable of manifesting certain para-magical powers.

"The most curious aspect of the magma imp, and one still being researched, is that the demons have no sense of self, or in fact higher intelligence at all. Colonies appear to exist as a hive-mind, and individual imps have been observed freely allowing themselves to be cannibalized, if necessary to provide nutrients for the remaining imps. This process, when lead to its conclusion, results in an entire colony of imps engaging in a frenzy of cannibalism, with the final remaining imp consuming the mana of all its brethren, and birthing the entities known as Spirits of Flame: eldrich beings of unknown abilities and capacities. As you can see on the board," as the chalk began to move, sketching diagrams without the wizard turning away from his audience, "when calculating according to the traditional theory, no such thing results. However, using my harmonic theory there is a clear inflection point, where the mana density becomes so strong that the Fire harmony begins to synchronize and overlap, vastly increasing the potency of the imp's soul. This is just one of many confirmations of my theory that we will be covering in this class.

"The imps reproduce by asexual division; a single imp given sufficient food and energy is capable of generating an entire host -- an extremely dangerous beast. Fortunately for all of us, they are incapable of survival outside of their natural habitat. Even the obsidian prism responsible for containing this one is a stopgap -- removed from their lava vent, death is certain."

The wizard went on like that for a really long time, and only once did one of the students raise their hand in interruption.

"Um, about the harmonics, I'm not sure if I... fully understand how those diagrams relate to conventional mana plots. I don't know just what a 'harmonic'... is? In relation to standard magical theory. Are there, uh... notes?"

While the student was talking, the wizard was stalking closer, and with each step the student's speech was slower and peppered more and more with stuttering filler, until the wizard was glowering down in front of the student, and the final plaintive "notes" floated through the room gone utterly silent otherwise.

"I'm sorry, I was unaware I was teaching a class of singing yokels. This is a thaumic theory, not some folk song." The wizard rapped his wand against the student's desk with a crack, and the student startled backward. "If your mind cannot follow the trivial equivalences I've already established, then perhaps you are simply not cut out for higher learning." The wizard stepped back, turning his back on the student. "I trust everyone else understands the lesson?" he called to the class at large as he walked back to the front, and was met with a ragged chorus of mumbled yeses.

All-in-all the wizard seemed like a real asshole.

After the lecture its containing crystal was levitated away, back into the chamber: left in storage until it was to be gawked at again. Experimented on, vivisected, or simply forgotten and left to cool until the crystal was nothing but a gravestone monolith.

There was a stirring in the chamber that woke it from its uneasy slumber: a human entering the chamber, wincing back at even the paltry heat. The imp wanted to flense the flesh from the bones; show the human what true Fire looked like. That it might be dying, already dead, but none of their machinations could hope to extinguish Fire.

The human approaching, cringing, panting, and when he saw the imp shift he froze in place, staring. The imp snarled.

"Hey there buddy," the human said. "Don't worry, I'm gonna help you out."

The imp's hiss turned into a mocking laugh: "Step close. Feed me your bones. Your heart would be enough to stave off death, for a moment." It tore against the obsidian rock, claws going numb from the chill.

"Woah, holy shit, you can talk!"

The imp let its claws drag to a stop against the obsidian glass and looked at the human quizzically. "Why talk if you expect no answer?"

"Uh, it's just-- that's just a thing humans do."

The imp bared its teeth right back, pressing them up against the glass. "Come closer. Enter Fire's embrace. Even this paltry heat is enough to consume you." The human's flesh was wet, sweat steaming off his body.

"It's not--" The human swallowed, cutting himself off. He reached a hand out, flinching back from the heat. "It's not right, what Professor Lonway did. And you can talk."

"Well, I certainly didn't talk to him," the imp said, and the human barked a short laugh. The imp slammed its claws against the crystal prison, and the human startled, jerking back. "I am not here to make conversation, to be a toy for humans. Leave, or come close." With its face pressed against the crystal there was enough heat to send to obsidian shimmering, slow bubbles forming at the surface.

The human paused, a pregnant moment, and then he shook his head, shaggy braids jostling. "I can't, I-- not right now. Holy shit, I didn't realize you could talk. I-- Uh, I had this plan to break you out, but I need to brew some potions of fire resistance first; I just wanted to check--" He started again, jerking backwards when the imp howled and the entire crystal resonated. "I'll be back, uh, try to hold on. I guess."

And he left. The imp wasn't sure to consider that a victory or not; it had at least been gratifying to see the fear on the human's face.

Time passed: sometimes the wizard dragged him out to float there in the lectures, a prop for his tedious arguments and theories. It was so cold: the chamber was lukewarm, and each moment outside it was a freezing chill. The magma in the crystal was sluggish, so thick each motion of its weakened body began to hurt.

The other human, the one who spoke to it, was in the lecture hall: staring down with the other students, gaze fixed unflinchingly on the imp's slowly cooling form, trapped within the crystal.

Things went on like that, until one day they didn't: the imp was returned to the chamber and fell into an uneasy hibernation, and after some time it was awoken by the human.

"Hey," he said, and the imp didn't have the energy to do much aside from snarl.

"You said--" the human started, swallowing. "You're dying, right? It's not-- Lonway was so wrong to do this, he's such an asshole--" but he cut himself off, started again at the imp's snarl. "If you could get back to Geimaswald would you be okay?"


"The volcano. That's what it's called." Right. The wizard had said that a few times in his lectures. The imp tried to ignore him, usually.

"That's not what we call it. And-- " A pause. The absurdity was enough to drag a wracking laugh from the imp's throat. "And what miracle would transport me there?"

"Well," the human said, a grin on his face as he pulled neat stacks of glyph tokens from the pack he had slung over his shoulder, "I'm not a miracle, but I've been told I'm pretty good. I haven't-- I've been working on things. Potions of fire resistance -- that's what I'm studying here. Uh, potion brewing, not fire resistance specifically. I mean -- uh, here" he said, gesturing and stuttering, and reached forward, pressed a hand flat against the crystal and shockingly did not have it immolated and burned to the bone instantly. A tentative lash of mana slunk through the connection, and the imp sunk its teeth in and devoured, dragging mana from the human's body. It was weak, like all humans', calcified like a shell of dead matter, but it was easy enough to rework it.

The feeding threw the human into shock, body paralyzed, spirit thrashing in the imp's starving grip, until finally the imp relented, minutely, and the human managed to break free. He lurched back, tripping over his own feet, and stumbled to the ground, retching nothing, pale from exertion. "Holy shit," he panted. "Fuck, don't do that! You trying to kill me?!"

"If you offer yourself as food, why be surprised when you are eaten?" The imp showed its fangs. "Your wizard said how much mana it takes to sustain us, you should know the dangers."

"I'm trying to break you out, asshole! I can't do that if I'm dead!" The human staggered to his feet.

"If you wish to stay alive, then don't throw yourself into a starving beast's mouth."

"Professor Lonway seriously was not kidding about you things having no sense of self-preservation," the human grumbled.

"No human could hope to kill us: why should we worry?"

The human looked sourly at it. "Humans can definitely hope to kill you, or else you wouldn't be here." He waited for a few seconds, but when that failed to get a response he huffed and shrugged. "Well, whatever. Be glad I'm a pacifist, seriously. Let's get this show on the road."

The human's magic was faltering and unsteady, probably more now that the imp had eaten most of them, but he wrenched the crystal prison from its pylon and set it floating in front of him, and they went.

The school was a mess of hallways and passages, dim and dingy and most of all, cold -- the back ways, the imp realized, after some time of travel. For servants or slaves or whatever they kept. So that no other humans would see them moving. Curious, certainly.

They had to stop after only a few minutes, for the human to grab a glass vial from his satchel and down it: a potion of fire resistance, presumably. The imp could taste the Fire in it, bottled and dead. They seemed to recharge the human, at least; the crystal shook less when it rose again.

"You're really fucking heavy, you know," the human said, and when the imp didn't respond he just... kept talking, chatter, nothing talk as they made their way, one step at a time, from the school's corridors to the surrounding park, to the wide road beyond. The volcano was in the distance, far too far to feel.

"I'm Maat, by the way," the human said at another pause, after letting the crystal crash to the ground. The human simply flopped down next to it, attempting to recoup some of his magical energies. "I should've introduced myself. Uh, do you have a name?"

The imp didn't understand names. Humans had them, clearly, and they tended to care a great deal about them. All observable facts, but the why behind it was unclear. "No," it said.

"That must get confusing, right? How do you keep all the other imps separate?"

"We don't."

The human -- 'Maat' -- tipped his head to the side, looking up at the crystal. "That's not confusing?"

"Names are confusing."

"Well, I can't just keep calling you 'the imp'!"

"You're calling me 'you'. Who else would you be talking to."

Maat laughed shortly. "I guess." He levered himself up, staggering to his feet. "Okay, rest time over." He grunted in exertion as he bore down on the crystal, a trickle of mana flowing between them, and the crystal jerkily rose in the air as if raised on an invisible fulcrum.

Going was slow. After they had cleared the university Maat took the same trail as the wizard: curling along the dead terrain of the upper world, sparse prairie punctuated by trees, ground raising underfoot as the volcano grew beneath them. Aeons of geologic force had shifted the rock, bubbling rock into magma below in veins and clusters, and eruption after eruption had spread fresh rock in layer after layer, forming up a broad, low mountain. The humans were, presumably, ignorant of all that. To them it was simply a mountain, and one that happened to have a volcano at the top. The human was panting and huffing as they ascended, step after step. Still so distant, but the imp imagined it could already feel the heat, bubbling up in veins far beneath them.

"I mean-- do you think you'll survive until we get there? This is--" more huffing, panting. "This is seriously not easy, fuck. Don't want to get to the volcano with a corpse"

The imp looked over. "If it comes to that, I'll make sure to claw myself out and kill you before I die." It grinned. Reassuring. The human didn't look very reassured.

The prairie gave way to scrubland, and then simply to rock and dust, the scarce craggy trees growing with their roots sunk into rock. The final slopes were nothing but an elongated switchback, the steepest part of the ascent, cutting higher and higher up the volcano. Even Maat's forced dialog had gotten much more forced: delivered in a ragged thread, the human taking several seconds between lines, voice breaking off and resuming nearly cracked.

"He's just such an asshole, like, he's so sure his whole harmonics thing is right -- right and intuitive even though it's a fucking mess. Josiah asked about how to translate his fucking mana songs into actual diagrams and and Prof. Lonway just spent the next half-hour tearing into him, like, 'oh, I didn't realize even the fundamentals of the theory were too abstract, clearly you are lacking the rarefied mind required of any magician.' Josiah was crying by the end of it, it was fucking awful."

"I don't really care," the imp said.

Maat groaned, an exhausted kind of whine. "At least pretend, c'mon, I'm saving your life here."

"If you could save my life without talking about the vagaries of your human life, that would be preferred. It's of little matter how the wizard behaves: once I'm free I'll devour him whole, and that will be his end." A pause. "If you prefer, you can imagine it is payment for his sins against you, instead of his sins against me."

"That's not the point," Maat said, after another few seconds, still wheezing. "Actually, wait, you're not going to do that to me, right? Like a genie thing? Where you've sworn to kill the person who releases you because they didn't do it earlier?"

"I don't plan on killing you," the imp said. It looked up, trying to sense the volcano -- under them now, in truth, but still so distant its pulse was perhaps imagined entirely. "Though if you don't go faster, I'm considering it."

"That's not the best motivator," Maat said. "I thought you'd be... more grateful. I guess."

"Humans were the one to bring me from the volcano; only fitting that humans return me."

"I'm not Professor Lonway," the human said, and he sounded angry. "We're not the same person."

"You're both humans."

"That's not -- fuck, whatever. Don't kill me after I let you free."

"Then get there before I freeze."

The approach to the caldera's lip was agonizing. After that it was all downhill. Maat could practically let the crystal roll, though at this point that would shatter the imp along with the crystal. The human's mana was now well and truly revealed as insufficient, each potion he quaffed giving him a burst of energy that lasted for briefer and briefer periods. Neither of them talked. The human was a mess, sweating and panting, aura sparking and guttering. At the end of his energy. In that at least, they were similar. The downhill trek seemed to take ages, longer than the entire rest of the journey.

The magma lake at the center of the caldera approached: basalt floes and bubbling magma achingly familiar. It was the worst kind of hope to have. The magma imp knew very well: it would not be over until it was over. The air was still chill against the outside of its prison, and it could die just as easily here as in the trap at the university. "In!" it yelled, nearly slavering with anticipation, for all that it could move at all in the freezing crystal. "Into the volcano!"

The human gulped down the last potion, grimacing, and looked a lot less he was going to wilt in the heat of the caldera. He took such a long time of it, though, on the verge of collapsing as they made the final approach. His aura faded before bursting back with redoubled effort, one last time, and the crystal heaved in time, base screeching against the ground as it lurched forward ungainly. The ground turned into barely-frozen slag only feet away, and from there it was only a short drop into the magma pipe itself.

Maat gave one final push, inhaling deep and shoving -- physically as well as magically, hands splayed against the outer shell of the crystal -- and that, was, perhaps, enough. The crystal lurched again, spinning slowly, and cleared the final lip over the magma pipe. Heat boiled up from below, leeching slowly into the frozen crystal, and then Maat's magic gave out and the entire thing plummeted, briefly, down into the lava.

It took a moment to sink in: the surge of contact so overwhelming the imp bobbed there in its glass prison, dumb and blind as energy soaked into it. Then it ate. There was heat all around it, the obsidian little barrier, and so it grabbed hold and drank down the heat, Fire flooding in so fast the obsidian fractured and exploded before it melted.

The imp groaned, heat flowing through still-sluggish limbs, and drank more, glutting itself after its long starvation. Maat, panting at the lip of the lake, scrambled away as the caldera's edge slowly dissolved, rock going molten, patterns of mana coalescing and shattering in the air as the imp consumed everything around it. The imp breathed in the lava deep and exhaled frost. The imp coughed, yawning wide as it pulled its still-frozen bones up through its body, spitting them out into the rocks as it rebuilt itself, soaking in warmth for the first time in far too long. Even the cooling surface was nearly overwhelming in its heat after so long, burning through it and dissolving the hard callouses that had formed while it'd been freezing.

It swam through the lava, considering simply diving into the deep and letting the human make its own way back. But there was still something left unpaid between them. It surged up out of the lava, dripping and renewed, heat crackling all across its skin and spiraling up into the air as a bright, smokeless flame. Maat was still there at the edge, nearly dipped into the lava himself, sweating and panting and shaking. It was a pity humans couldn't withstand the flame. Fire transformed, and where the imp was renewed and restored, for a human it would only leave him a blackened skeleton. They were brittle creatures.


The imp swum closer, surface air cool but hardly registering now, after it had a reference point. "Human," it said. "It was not expected, but you did return the crystal." And then, slower, in the strange mode of thought humans used: "You saved my life. I would grant you a boon."

Maat nodded, head moving jerkily, breathing slower. This close the human's breath came out of his mouth as steam. "I mean, you're not... like you're not going to eat me now or something, right?"

"Do humans usually eat each other in thanks?"

Maat let out a dry huff of a laugh before seeming to think better of whatever he would say. "Oh, no, but I got no clue what magma imps do."

The imp showed its teeth, black glass, fixed in molten gums. "I owe you a favor, certainly. But what favors could I grant you? I could show you Fire." The imp reached out; Maat's shirt and pants slowly began to smolder, peels of smoke rising off him. And yet his skin was still unburnt. "The only thing worth anything." The imp slavered, whip tongue drooling molten rock as it lashed from its mouth.

"I'd be happy to show any human. But -- they cannot stand it. They burn to ash." It reached out, and Maat flinched back -- but after a second he held out a trembling hand in response, flinching when their fingers made direct contact. Maat's smoldering shirt caught flame, sputtering as slag dripped down his forearm. Whatever his potions had done, they were certainly more efficacious than most. Maat was breathing hard, breath hissing steam as the imp slowly moved closer, his fingers smeared with molten rock.

"Uh, wait, hold on --" Maat said, scooting back, eyes closed. There was Fire gathering, the human's aura soaking in the raw mana as he inhaled. The imp watched, curious. Mana gathered, swirling and condensing inside him as he held his breath, and when he exhaled it was a long, lazy coil of fire, billowing up into the air in spirals and waves. The wizards had pulled mana from the air like that, in meditation, but even then -- the imp had not seen any manage, even in air so lightly tinged with Fire.

The human inhaled again, ragged and coughing, and then blinked his eyes open, dazed. "Yeah," he said. "We can do this."

The imp stared intently at the human: smooth obsidian faceplate mirroring the human's face. Yes, it could be done. Hardly as elegantly as between two imps, but it was worth the attempt. This was quite the interesting human, after all.

It opened its mouth, tongue lolling out a whip of drippy magma, and lashed across Maat's face, lapping at his skin. He jerked back reflexively, legs splaying, eyes wide. "Woah, okay," he said.

The imp drew itself up, the chill of the open air... tolerable, now, after so long in the void beyond the edge of the world. Its hands dug into the ground on either side of the human's body, and it leaned in, mouth open wide, slavering. Maat looked up at it, his own mouth falling open, and he leaned in to press his mouth against the imp's, a rattling groan muffled by the imp's rock body as it spilled its tongue down his throat.

The imp solidified their connection, body pressing against Maat's chest, reaching out with one webbed hand to tangle fingers again. The liquid-rock of its revived body slowly flowed over Maat's flesh. Dribbles of red-hot basalt poured over the human's forearm, slowly coating his skin entirely.

His fingers twitched as the first of the connection formed, dragging through the molten rock -- not longer just sheathing his skin but interpenetrating, magma in his blood, skin growing scaled and rough. They both moved, sensations rippling up their conjoined arm into both minds, and the imp pushed further, drooling magma into Maat's mouth, jaw dragging across his face. It smeared its dripping arm up Maat's until they were pressed shoulder-to-shoulder, arms conjoined in a churning, drooling mess. Maat moved, curling and opening their arm, clawed thumb pressing against the webbed fan of obsidian glass between their fingers. Little bubbles grew, fumes as his flesh gave way to molten heat, popping in bursts and scattering molten black glass across their bodies.

His clothes burned away, leather and cloth crackling, buckles and rivets glowing red-hot until they burnt away their surroundings, falling to the ground with muted clangs. Sex, Maat was thinking, their minds joined enough the imp could see now what the human thought this was; there was the dim answering thought as Maat realized in turn just what joining entailed. Foreign to the both of them, though -- with Maat's cock hard and flushed jammed between them, the shared sensation slowly becoming comprehensible -- the imp was curious to go further. It pulled back from the kiss -- for that was what it was -- and lapped lower, tongue spilling down Maat's chest, flowing in a thick curl over one nipple, then the other.

The imp reached down with his other hand, magma veins spiraling across the back of its hand, and stroked Maat's cock, groaning the both of them as the pleasure shot across their mind, pre bursting from his cockhead in gouts of steam, superheated by the imp's grip. This was -- this was not something imps could do. Lava was rough lubricant, molten rock sheening his cock ruddy-red, crackling into black glass where it was coolest. Maat jerked up, gasping as he came -- the imp groaning, mouth pressed against Maat's chest, mind awhirl with incoherent sensations, huffing and groaning as they shared the orgasm.

His issue was a steam explosion, boiling into froth before it even made its way from his body, acrid and burnt as his hips hunched up, fucking his shaft through the oozing mess of the imp's hand. His claw slid over the slope of his cockhead, finding the divot at the tip, and he pushed inside, feeding molten magma down inside: solid and heavy as rock, even liquid; they could both feel its weight, like a solid rod shoved inside Maat's cock, changing his flesh as it bore down inside him.

Maat whined, legs kicking, bare feet curling on the rough rocks as the imp fed him more heat, more lava. His skin was glowing from within, magma outlining the inner passages of his body: down the length of his cock, diverging into twin cords that knotted into a tangle through his sac, his balls themselves glowing like embers. There was a swollen reservoir deep inside him, only a muted glow making it through the sheathing layers of muscle and flesh.

Maat gasped, breath billowing from his mouth as steam; sweat sputtering and boiling off his overheated body as the imp kept feeding him lava, letting it soak into his flesh. Muscles worked, vainly pushing against the heavy flow, flesh useless against the sheer weight of the rock -- but the shift and slide as it filled him made them both moan, gasping as they rutted their bodies together, breath curling out in tongues of flame. The imp pushed, the muscle in their shared body giving way to new structures of molten rock, and Maat moaned, cock kicking again and erupting in miniature, slag shooting up the length of his shaft, spraying droplets of lava across their flesh.

The imp leaned forward, tongue a red-hot flow, drooling magma across Maat's chest, sheening his skin as he lapped up his neck, coiling over his jaw. Maat whined again, a high broken noise, mouth open -- jerking forward to kiss properly this time, lips meeting the imp's tongue with an explosive burst of steam, his exhale white. Their tongues tangled, lips pressed against craggy rock, Maat's moan swallowed up, and his breath alit, steam giving way to a breath of fire, wreathing their heads in tongues of flame as they kissed. Lava drooled down his throat, heavy and dense in his stomach, and Maat shuddered and drank, glassy magma flooding his throat, each swallow bearing him down the oozing morass of the imp's molten body.

The imp's tail swung back, curling under him, and Maat found himself spreading his legs, gasping as the fat spade-tip slid between his cheeks, a pulsing heat pressed against his asshole. Lava drooled from the molten flesh, slobbering down his skin, and it pushed inside him with an inexorable force, a frenzying kind of heat soaking inside his flesh, radiating out from the molten-hot brand. He groaned, settling forward to ride the imp's tail, thick gushes of lava pouring inside him and squirting out, forming messy tendrils dribbling down to the ground.

He was huffing and panting, drooling lava from his mouth, cock, ass as they fucked, hips jerking back to meet each of the imp's thrusts -- and increasingly feeling both sides; the imp bloating its tail to feel its ass stretch, its moan a feral cry; Maat rutting back to feel the clench around his tail, drooling fire as he, they, eagerly fucked himself.

He came with a howl, impossible pleasure tearing through his body. His cock erupted, spurting lava across the ground, and he howled again, jamming his tail deeper, slamming against the molten-rock core of his bloated prostate, clawing furrows in the ground. He kept coming, growling and whining, each brutal slam of his tail forcing a gush of lava spurt from his cock, ribbons turning into a stream as he lay there, messy cords of lava pooling across his flesh.

The imp's body went incoherent -- jaw lolling open to swallow Maat's head entirely, teeth and obsidian warping around the molten mass as it reshaped around Maat's head; other arm coiling around Maat's, legs a liquid mass piling up over Maat's -- as it coated Maat's body in a bubbling layer of molten rock, only vaguely humanoid. Maat moaned, a new mouth cracking open, craggy teeth dripping as he spat fire, hips jerking; grinding against their shared body with tectonic force, crackling and bubbling. No eyes: just the imp's featureless black obsidian planes, but he could see everything perfectly, spirals of heat spiraling around him as his -- their -- body reformed.

His claws dug into the rock, each twitch strong enough to tear chunks from the basalt. His hands and feet cooled, minutely: coarse black rock, claws shining obsidian glass. Thick spurs extended back from his elbows, a messy nest of crystalline shards like a mantle across his shoulders, thick and curved across his head, feigning his old dreads. Everywhere else he was molten: bubbling, boiling rock, red-black in the coolest and an incandescent white where he was hottest, and always shimmering and shifting, lava coiling up his frame as he moved.

His tail was jammed up inside his own ass, a neat three-quarters loop from the base of his spine, the entire surface molten and drooling, forming thick webs that splattered down over the lower curve of his tail, spilling down the backs of his thighs, and its twitches ground against his rocky prostate, unimaginable pressures sending magma drooling from his cock.

He was all swallowed up. He -- they, it -- knelt on the basalt, chest heaving as he panted, fire billowing out in streamers with each breath. He shuddered, clawed hand feeling down his body, over the ridges and lulls of his form, new to them both. His balls were rocks, dense and hard even as they churned with magmatic pre. Rivers of heat twisted and curled inside his body, a slow throb filling them like the pulse of the volcano itself -- the sensation both wholly new and an aching relief from the chill.

His cock -- a spire of oozing rock, cracked and shattered to reveal thick cords of magma bubbling under the surface, tip long and tapered, drawn out in a twisting tentacle of boiling black glass -- drooled magma, rivulets streaming down his shaft and splattering across the basalt below. His cock pulsed, slag bubbling up in a gush, spitting glassy bubbles of molten rock, and he found himself mindlessly rutting against his forearm, claws squeezing his balls until they ground together with a crackle, huffing and groaning as this new pleasure shot across their merged minds.

He collapsed on the ground with a crash that sent the earth rumbling, the last of his load gushing against the ground, slowly spilling out over his sides. His tail emerged from his ass with a messy burble of lava, his cratered ring gaping after the fat spade-tip emerged, furrows and ridges of glossy-black molten rock spread to reveal his boiling-rock guts. He was dizzy with heat, aching with a hardly-sated desire, new body strange to both of who he had been, but now seeming the most natural thing in the world.

He dragged himself the feet back to the caldera and slumped in: for a moment just enjoying the pressure of the rock all around him, the heat that he'd missed. The pulse of the volcano was all around him, and for once he could identify it perfectly. The heartbeat of a God, certainly.

It was with a sardonic edge, his combined mind able to correlate its halves. Professor Lonway's shattered understanding of the magma imp colony -- not cannibalism, not when any two imps could join together into one, and not reproduction when any one imp could split apart into two. And of course the magma imps knew, they had always known. What they were, what each one was, was an aspect of Fire. A primordial spirit of flame: a demon, or a god, or the world itself. Hundreds of avatars, splitting and merging in a teeming frenzy, as easily as one flame becomes two.

He submerged, sinking into the depths: letting the currents draw him down. Bearing him towards the rest of the colony, to join and share all of what he'd learned.

Later: he swam through the molten rock, again near the surface. The world seemed a lot larger now, with the knowledge of just what was out there.

There were muted sounds from above. Humans, he thought, anger already sizzling up his spine. Not even a day and they were back. If it was Professor Lonway he wasn't even going to try fireballs: he was after all a trained mage, and pulling the energy from the volcano came with the ease of long practice. Send the volcano erupting, see how he'd try to diagram that as an octave of Fire.

But as he swam higher the sounds gained clarity, even through the murk of the magma. Multiple humans, and familiar.

Maat -- since that who he was being now -- surfaced in a gurgle of lava, letting it sluice down his obsidian dreadlock-spine hair. Yeah, there were his classmates -- Josiah, Ettayek, Halhac -- looking generally worried and alarmed. "Oh hey," he said, swiping lava off his brow. "I totally forgot about the whole, 'if I'm not back in a day you should probably worry because I might be dead' thing." His feet kicked in the magma, a bad habit he'd kept over from swimming in water. "Nah, the magma imps are cool."

The first one to react was Josiah. "Holy shit!" he yelped. "You're a magma imp!"

"Well, yeah." He shrugged, swimming closer, leaning his arms on the taffy-like shelf of half-molten rock at the edge of the caldera. "I didn't really plan on it, but I mean, it's pretty cool." He flicked droplets of rock at the assembled crew, and they all scattered back.

Josiah again: "So are you stuck here now?"

He hadn't really thought that much about it, aside from dimly thinking he didn't want to stay in the volcano forever. "Nah, I mean, I can probably just... transmute myself back to human."

"Can you really do that?" Ettayek said, with more skepticism than Maat really thought was reasonable.

"Can't see why not. It'll be just like--" he started, and thankfully stopped himself before he finished that time I gave myself a horse dick for kicks. Josiah at least realized that's where he was going and gawked, but, Josiah was the only one he'd fucked with the horse dick so he kinda had a little more context. "-- uh, I mean, I've done some human transmutation before; it's not that difficult. A successful cast of flesh to stone is mandatory, y'know? The other way around shouldn't be that much harder."

Maat dragged himself up onto the ground, and -- it wasn't any more pleasant than the first time, having the pulse of the volcano die away. But now he had the reason to see the why and the hows of it, and to... Magma imps didn't have a pulse. A magma imp existed inside a larger heart. It had to do with... mana circulation. So of course magma imps had weird-looking souls, but here and now it was effortless to reshape his soul the same way he reshaped his body. Just see how Prof. Lonway liked that, him with a soul not one thing nor the other, singing out on impossible octaves, giving out impossible harmonics.

The actual transmutation was a little more in-depth. His friends mostly just watched. Like, he wasn't the best student, he could easily admit that, but transmutation was kind of his specialty, and he hadn't been lying fallow in the volcano: Fire was where it was at, in his heart and in his blood, and here and now it was a source of near-limitless power. So eager to be used the energy spat from his fingers, forming itself into glyphs and focuses almost before he could decide which were the proper forms to use in this situation.

And then he sat in the middle of his circle and began to really cast. It was nothing like the joining had been -- good for his friends; probably they weren't up to hardcore demon sex -- but it was something similar in reverse, rock warping as it cooled, wreathing him in a glassy cocoon as his body twisted itself together, remembering something of human anatomy.

His soul was different, and new. Perfectly-human wasn't something he could -- or honestly wanted -- to really do. Eyes gleaming yellow; claws black rock; skin rich red, ruddy and dark down his forearms and calves; tail whipcord-thin from his spine down, coiling in loops between his legs and ending with the same fat, swollen spade-tip; two sharp curves of obsidian rock jutting from his forehead, scything backward in a shallow curve. Fangs.

Well. That was good enough; he could use a glamour if he really needed to look human.

Maat rose from the circle, stretched, realized he was giving everyone else an eyeful of his still-weird lava tentacle cock. The flesh was dark and glittering like it was shot through with mica, balls still pulsing with heat, dense fist-sized rocks hanging lopsided in thick basalt flesh, the whole thing almost painfully heavy between his thighs. More than half of them had seen him naked already; this was more of a sneak-peak of the inevitable drunken run through the campus. Maybe he'd have to get Josiah to chug a few potions before the next time they fucked; it wouldn't do to accidentally immolate his guts.

"Is that... really gonna work?" Ettayek asked. "For class?"

"I mean, Prof. Nunuzac trapped himself in the world of beasts after he fucked up that summoning circle and he's still giving lectures." Maat shrugged. "It'll be fine."

"If you're really sure. Uh, we didn't bring extra clothes though, so..." Halhac said. There was a brief altercation as he tried to use Ettayek's overcoat as a skirt and ended up immolating half of it. Maat said sorry but he really wasn't.

Maat turned his back on the caldera -- even now he could dimly feel the hum of the colony, all those fragments and aspects of some primordial god of fire swimming deep, deep down, branching and merging. And in him too, the burning heart of fire somewhere inside him now -- that was part of a god; he was part of a god. Heat pulsed around him: his mana his own, beating with his own heart. A flame split into two -- the same flame, but now in two places, and always willing to join again.

Maat closed his eyes briefly. "Yeah, I think I'm good to go," he said.

So he was gonna go back to school and destroy all of Lonway's terrible theories and he was gonna drown him in lava and eat his corpse; it was gonna be great.

Field of Elbane

College was going okay for Chad so far. After move-in day he met some of the other freshmen in Wellester dorm, got acquainted with the campus, that kind of thing. Hung around, mostly -- there was nearly a full week between move-in and when classes...

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Forest of the Noonday Sun

West of Asheville the Appalachians rise wild, cutting and jagged amidst luxuriant, thickly wooded forests, and on either side of the highway out that way -- headed to Tennessee up into the dismal stretches of the Virginian panhandle toward the...

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Human Experimentation

When Ildathech returned to the village with the corpse of the necromancer in his hands, the villagers looked at him as if he was some figure of legend, some mythical hero. An elderly old man even broke down sobbing, clutching at his robes, as the...

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,