Atar is now the Firestarter, but his only wish is to escape to the land of his dreams. It is the fabled “Land of the Water Dogs,” where white mares graze by a crystalline lake. Atar and Bulliwuf are making their way there, but as the rightful heir to the throne of the Persian Empire, Atar is thrown into responsibilities he does not wish to face. Zohak is waiting to pounce on the throne. He is also an heir, but his rule will bring disaster to the fair land. When forced to compete for the throne, Zohak loses until he cuts a deal with a demon. Zohak was once the evil brother of Atar. Now he is a demon.
“Do you want this?”
“Yes! Yes!” Zohak screamed.
The Goddess was inches away now. Zohak was surprised to feel the deep fear struggle violently to the surface. He thrust his hands out, warding her away, his face a mask of fear, but it was too late. He couldn’t move.
She bent her head and kissed his right shoulder with unseen lips. Tiny fangs pierced his skin. They were scalding hot, like fire. Zohak shuddered with pleasure. She kissed his left shoulder, tiny fangs again piercing his skin. Zohak felt the most wondrous waves of power shoot through him. He felt like a god!
Then Zohak screamed and screamed. He fell to his knees, screaming. And all the while, his head rang with the sharp, measured sound of iron striking iron. The sound rolled through him, tearing at him, tearing at his sanity like a raging river. The awful clanging mingled with his pain, producing a fear inside him unlike any he had ever experienced. He screamed until the blood dripped out of his mouth and nose. He felt the most awful sense of shame and violation that he had ever known. The pain persisted like fire, with unbearable intensity. The Goddess behind him laughed. The thick air was foul with the scent of rotting corpses and vile things.
“What have you done? What have you done?” Zohak screamed at the presence, hating it with all the intensity of his pain. He could not hear his own words for the awful clanging in his head. The measured tones fell with inexorable precision. Zohak fell to the floor, clutching his shoulders as more unbearable pain centralized there. Under the palms of his hands, he felt his shoulders swelling. He felt something smooth push against the palms of his hands.
“What…what’s happening to me? What? Ahh!”
Zohak screamed again, but his voice was horrible to hear. The weak, rasping croak was a parody of his normal clear voice. He took his hands away, but he could feel the things growing. A hungry hissing filled the chamber, and the clanging died away. Zohak strained to hear it, but the hissing was now dominant.
“No! No!” Zohak sobbed, wishing this were a dream.
The chamber was in blackness again. Zohak stumbled over to his room, and fumbled for the lamp. He somehow got the thing lit. Blinded by tears, he blundered into his bedroom. The light from the lamp seemed to be swallowed up by the utter darkness around him. He froze before the mirror, shaking his head in denial. Through his tears, he saw the sleek black shapes weaving in the air above his head. Their scales glinted in the yellow light as they undulated ceaselessly in a way that was sensual, but at the same time unspeakably horrible.
The one on his right shoulder dipped and flicked his damp hair with its red, forked tongue. The copper eyes of both snakes regarded Zohak with steady malevolent intelligence through the mirror.