Esmeralda and the Midas Touch

by bububub2
Illustrated by izra (@IZRART)

Lightning crackled above the tower. A perfectly normal thing to happen in this part of the world, which was one of the reasons this particular location had been chosen by Baroness Esmeralda Hazandar. Appearances were just as important as magical power in the world of sorceresses and witches, at least where your reputation among the normal people was concerned. A good reputation did most of the work for you when requesting audiences with kings and queens, or ordering mud-smeared peasants to move out of your path. Mages commanded respect only so long as they looked and acted respectable.

This meant towers, lightning, large hats and ornate (not to mention impractical) outfits. It was a game everyone who was anyone in this life played, and Esmeralda excelled at it. She was young by the standards of arcanic academia, having just entered her early thirties, but already her name was being passed around the air in very important circles. She was beautiful, of course, possessing a classical elegance with high cheekbones and a pair of full lips. Long unnaturally green hair that she tied into a voluminous ponytail and framed with a wreath of vitrified leaves were complimented by green eyes, green lipstick and a verdant green and gold wardrobe- which had become her color as far as anyone within a hundred miles was concerned. She also kept herself fit, and not with magic- a practice she frowned upon. Many a mage was bested by a warrior or beast that simply beat them to death. Mages taking shortcuts to appear strong without having earned it was an occupational hazard, and just plain tacky. The Emerald Witch, as she was known, was no physical slouch... though admittedly many barbarians and amazons could still overpower her in a straight fight if it really came down to it.

Yes, Esmeralda was a classic vain and beautiful sorceress, though the idea of becoming a hut dwelling crone in a swamp one day when her beauty failed her was always a path she considered for herself. She enjoyed being beautiful, yes, but power was power. And indeed, she was also very powerful, especially in the school of alchemy.

Transforming things into other things was, at least in her opinion, the highest of magical arts. Anyone could hurl the elements as a weapon, or trick the weak minds of victims into seeing things that were not actually there. Alchemy allowed one to reshape the very structure of reality; to force the texture of existence to be unraveled and re-knitted! Gender, sex, race- even the gods and demons at their very core could be changed... theoretically. That was, of course, the endgame for all alchemists - finding the fundamental smallest building block of reality. Once one maped that, they could become more than a god, they would be the true master of existence in all its forms!

Lightning struck behind her tower once more as Esmeralda laughed. It was a passionate noble laugh she had cultivated over years that was designed to inspire inadequacy and awe in anyone who heard it.

“Oh~ho ho ho!” The repeating tones echoed through the stairwell of her tower, bouncing off of stone walls and ringing in glass fixtures. She was enjoying herself, watching the storm from her study and sipping a glass of rum from a silver goblet that had been a gift from an elvan suiter. The poor fool thought he had a chance with her, but unfortunately for him she preferred the company of the fairer sex. Prince... Horace? Hortense? Hippogriff? She could not remember his name. He had been eager, and speaking with him had been quite intellectually stimulating, that is... if she was remembering him correctly...

Lazily she brought the goblet up to her eye level to inspect it. It was adorned with engravings of frolicking stags. Yes, it was coming back to her. An elven prince, like an elven princess, was not actually an impressive title; long lives among the nobility mean long family trees whose branches rarely get pruned. Why, Esmeralda herself had two elven princesses in her tower right now! One was trapped in a painting, taking a shower under a waterfall for eternity, or at least until the canvas of her prison wore out. The other was to her side, transformed into a grey statue of stone. Its pose was one of shock and horror with arms held high and a mouth frozen mid scream. That had been the work of one of her pets.

As she recalled, she had considered transforming the prince - was it Horatio? - no that wasn’t right either. She had considered transforming him into a her, but she was already in a committed relationship at the time and honestly it would have been too messy logistically. That breakup was among the worst, and the addition of a confused, enthralled, and newly transformed elven princess would have just been too much.

She sighed and looked over at the podium that held the tome she had been reading. Moraine had been her name. Arival mage and demon summoner... long blond wavy hair and predisposition to wear elegant red (and tight) outfits. Now her curvy form was preserved in padauk, her wooden arms holding a tray at a slant. The firelight glinted off of her brass hair and cast shadows over her unseeing eyes, framing a face frozen in the same shock she had displayed when Esmeralda bested her. Appropriately, she held a large leather bound book on demon summoning right now - flipped open to a page that described a ritual to call forth a being from an unholy dimension.

The emerald sorceress glanced back at the sky once more and waited. This particular summoning ritual was not in the book - she’d simply been using it as reference material to perfect a customized ritual to call forth the demon she wanted to conjure this evening. Unfortunately, there was nothing she could do about the alignment of the heavens. She needed a full moon during a thunderstorm, and using magic to create that effect might have unintended consequences. So for the past year every full moon she’d waited in her tower with a bottle of wine and a different goblet. This time, she’d been rewarded. All that was left now was waiting for the moon to peek out from behind the clouds.

Of course, she also wasn’t entirely sure this summoning ritual would work. Though she’d carefully engineered the spell on sound conjuration principals and thorough, rigorous research, it was still newly constructed and untested. For all the laws of weaving magic, one never knew if a spell would succeed until it was tried for the first time. And that time was now, according to her star charts and the moonlight spilling into her study.

With an enthusiastic hop, Esmeralda stood up from her chair and walked to the center of the room where she had drawn the alchemical circle. It had required ruby and sapphire chalks and incredibly rare (and foul smelling) incense, but expense was nothing for this particular project. With a flick of her fingers she lit the flames around the circle, beginning to chant in a dead demonic language. It was a little disconcerting to her that a demonic language could be a dead one, but she assumed such things happened over time just like for mortal races. Nothing, truly, lasts forever - though perhaps after tonight, she’d be able to change that. And all she required was a little guidance from the being she hoped to summon: Azala, the Queen of Demons.

It was a name scarcely whispered of in the infernal journals of unholy historians. Azala was a demon of such age and power that her origins were lost. It was said that her knowledge exceeded the bounds of reality itself, and indeed, it was hotly debated if she even was from this realm of existence at all. There were conflicting reports that she simply arrived in creation one day from a metaverse outside the concept of reality. But honestly, Esmeralda was only marginally interested in that. It was a mystery for another day, after she solved the one in front of her now. One that required knowledge outside of the context of her world.

Lightning swirled around the tower, and the moon’s radiance began to glow into a spotlight directed at her window. Unseen magical energies sizzled and popped, briefly coming into the visible spectrum when it became too energetic to remain hidden. An aurora of greenish purple formed, as the lighting began to bend and contort into eldritch shapes in the sky. The circle Esmeralda had drawn into the floor was beginning to spin faster and faster, independently of the floor it was etched into, and all the while Esmeralda continued her chant in the dead demonic language.

Then, all at once, everything seemed to stand still. Flame froze in the air, trapped in whatever form it had found itself in. Lightning hung in the sky, like brilliantly bright kite strings holding the storm clouds in place. Esmeralda blinked, and looked around her study. Even her clothing felt... odd. She moved her arm, and the cloth moved with her, but only as a reaction to the force she herself exerted on it. A long, well toned leg stepped forward, causing her skirt to shift, but at the last moment the emerald witch pulled her leg backwards... and watched the skirt remain floating in the air, unaffected by gravity. It was if all natural forces of kinematic motion had ceased functioning, turning her ritual chamber into a closed system in which she herself was the only force capable of exerting change. Even the air itself felt sluggish to move through, the molecules only shifting aside when she started to walk.

“Damn it,” she said, though her voice was muted, and barely made it to her ears.

This was not unknown magic to her. Transmutation was the magic of change, of altering the fundamental building blocks of existence. And existence, naturally, included time - one of the four core laws of reality. Stopping time was a very powerful bit of magic, and not something that could be maintained for too long - but... whatever she had accomplished just now wasn’t exactly that. And it certainly wasn’t supposed to be part of a summoning spell. Damn it, had she miscalculated?

For a brief moment she panicked, and wondered what would happen to her if she was trapped in this moment forever, living out the rest of her life in between a single tick of a clock. But the worry passed nearly as quickly once her confidence reasserted itself. She was still aware, alive, and her willpower was stronger than ever. This was merely a minor setback she would need to overcome in order to continue. First things first, she needed to--

“Who has summoned me?” A sultry voice from just behind Esmeralda’s head caused her to nearly leap from her skin.

She spun and raised her fingers threateningly. To some, this wouldn’t look threatening at all, but to anyone who has seen even a novice mage it was as dire as a blade being drawn. Green flame began to dance along the mage’s palms, weaving between her fingers like an agitated serpent. Once the magic was primed, she shifted her focus to the figure before her to assess if the spell should be let loose.

The entire process from thought to readied spell took less than a second, and her decision not to attack the figure took an equally swift amount of time and thought. Esmeralda lowered her hands, and then bowed respectfully at the figure floating in the room.

“Your highness, please forgive my rudeness,” Esmeralda said with a smirk once her eyes had raised back up from the floor.

The woman before her was tall and regal with a pair of horns that emerged from just above her forehead and curved backwards to end in a sharp upward point. Her skin was something of a surprise, not the red or purple Esmeralda was used to in demons, but positively human in complexion - a dark bronze tone, with nearly the same luster. The demon’s hair was long, straight and dark, but her eyes caught Esmeralda’s attention most of all. Deeply intelligent, and cat-like in shape and attentiveness, they watched the human with a hunger that made the mage feel as though she was on the menu. She wore no clothing save for a pair of black leather boots that hugged her legs up to the thigh.

“My question stands, mortal,” she said to the green garbed woman. Despite her nudity, the demon’s sheer presence was both palpable and terrifying.

But, of course, this was not Esmeralda’s first rodeo. She had conjured powerful beings many times before, and was quite able to keep her composure in the face of even a demon as terrifying as this.

“Baroness Esmeralda Hazandar, oh great and terrible fiend. And you are the Demon Queen Azala, are you not?” she said with another bow.

“You doubt your own skill in summoning? My name was invoked. You know who I am.” The demoness crossed her arms over her rather impressive bosom, annoyed but also... oddly amused.

“One can never be too cautious of one’s own work. Even a genius such as myself,” Esmeralda responded cooly.

“Do not waste any more of my time,” the demoness said with a pout. Then her expression shifted to a toothy smile which revealed her sharp fangs. “Il am quite busy.”

The green mage smiled once more and bowed a bit more deeply. She was certain this demon queen - The Demon Queen - could effortlessly rip through even her advanced binding techniques. Azala’s power was metaphysically immense, unknown, and beyond most mortal minds to comprehend. Even so, Esmeralda knew the best way to handle all demons from the lowest imp to the mightiest pit lord and beyond was to make yourself interesting. Annoying a demon served a purpose in that regard.

“Oh, great Azala, myth tells of your vast knowledge... of things that used to be, things lost, and some that never were.” She kept her tone even, and made sure to carefully word her request. Accidentally calling the demon queen my queen or some similar honorific might be an agreement to much more than she bargained for.

“Ah... you wish for hidden knowledge? Interesting, not many go through the trouble to invoke me for such things. Not given... what I am capable of.” The demon placed a finger on her chin and began to float around the room, keeping her eyes on Esmeralda the entire time.

It was no boast. Azala’s name was recorded alongside some of the most devastating events in recorded history; the fall of the elven alliance, the disappearance of the underwater kingdom of Quas... and the petrification of the pirate queen Methuselah the Red and her army of amazons. They still stood, hundreds of years later, in the Valley of the Valkyries as the site had since become known. Some unknown force prevented any from removing even a single statue from the battlefield, every beautiful warrior frozen in stone exactly as they had been standing when the magic was invoked. Esmeralda herself had traveled there to see it with her own eyes, had met Methuselah in the flesh... so to speak. The ages had done little to detract from her legendary beauty, preserved for all time.

“You are the only entity that has the Knowledge I seek, great demon queen. An alchemical manuscript contained in the lost library of Quas,” Esmeralda said.

“Ah... there were many manuscripts lost when Quas was. But I think,” she floated near the green haired woman and whispered into her ear, “you seek the Equations of the Philosopher Queen... do you not?”

Esmeralda blinked and then nodded slowly. If Azala was expecting her to sweat ata small display of meta Knowledge, she would find herself disappointed. Her possession of that knowledge was literally why she had been summoned, after all.

“Yes, with it I will be able to complete a formula that has eluded me for some time,” the human said evenly.

“I am confused, surely an alchemist of your skill doesn’t need some dusty old scroll?” The demon floated in lazy circles and began to examine her nails.

“That manuscript represents the culmination of dozens of lives worth of research, whereas I have only the one life to live. I could potentially piece it together- in fact I am sure I could... but then what? Waste my life re-learning something an irresponsible idiot from history destroyed? Thatis an insult to my intellect.” She waved her hand in annoyance, banishing the thought.

“Ah, but perhaps immortality would interest you more? You would have all the time in the world to complete your work...” Azala said, as she began to poke the stone form of the elven princess that graced Esmeralda’s study.

“Immortality is another puzzle I prefer to work out for myself, after I have mastered my current project. And besides I do not wish to offer my soul or my eternal service,” the green mage said.

“I have yet to hear what is in this for me. If you do not offer your soul or service then I shall depart.” No longer looking at the human, Azala began to float back towards the summoning circle in a lazy bobbing motion.

“Ah, but I think this will interest you. My work is an attempt to recreate the golden touch of legend! The key is in that manuscript. Only I can improve upon it! The original touch could be undone by the gods, returning all the objects to their original worth/ess forms. My touch will be eternal! Anything I touch will remain gold for all time!” Esmeralda practically jumped up and raised her fist into the air.

“Material wealth is less than worthless to me,” the demon said.

“Ah, but surely you are familiar with the Temple of Bliss, not far from here. It is filled with angels - or at least their mortal descendants. Long lived, beautiful, and each and every one of them has a pair of feathery wings,” Esmeralda said with a smile.

The demon paused, and turned slowly. She regarded Esmeralda directly for the first time since she’d appeared. The mage could feel the demon’s gaze piercing into her aura, looking not just at her physical body, but peering deep into the depths of her soul. So, she had the demon queen’s attention. Good. It had been said that Azala had a fascination with angels, a perverse sexual lust. That, and a love of statuary.

“Perhaps, in exchange for the manuscript, I could touch a few priestesses from the Temple of Bliss, and offer them as tribute to you,” the mage said.

Azala floated for a long period, before reaching into... nothing. Her hand simply disappeared, and Esmeralda felt a creeping sensation, as if vast stretches of time and space were being bridged right next to her. A moment later, Azala’s hand reemerged holding an old scroll. Esmeralda’s heart skipped a beat.

“I find that deal acceptable,” the demon queen said, dropping the scroll into Esmeralda’s hands. “But know that if you do not deliver to me a half dozen golden statues of exceptional quality from that temple before the end of the next year I will return and take both the manuscript - and your knowledge of alchemy - for myself.”

Before Esmeralda could protest, the demoness was gone. Time resumed with a thunderclap, causing the mage to almost jump out of her skin. The restoration of time came with a sudden onslaught of noise; she hadn’t realized just how much sound was in her life until it had been removed.

Her breath caught in her throat as she unrolled the scroll. Reading the first few lines, there was no doubt that this was the manuscript. She smiled and let loose her signature laugh.

“Oh~hohoho!” she exclaimed into the back of her hand.

...but then she stopped, and considered the deadline she had. Not only would she need to work out the new golden touch, but she would need to find and acquire half a dozen suitable models once she did. A difficult challenge to be sure... but one she was more than willing to tackle. It would be a task fit for her genius!

*     *     *

The glass beaker shattered against the laboratory wall, exploding into dozens of large shards and an incalculable mass of tiny slivers. The contents within began to sizzle, creating a noxious fume as the chemicals tried to eat through the stone surface. Luckily Esmeralda built her lab out of sturdy enough material that it caused no lasting damage before the chemicals ran their course.

Esmeralda picked up another glass container, clutching it tightly between her quivering fingers, but thought better of it. Glass was expensive, and it was foolish to destroy her equipment just to quell her frustration. Instead she took a deep breath, smoothing out her hair and dress to regain her composure.

It had been seven months. Seven entire months since she had gotten the manuscript. Deciphering it and working out the formulae had been easy enough, and from there is was barely any effort to develop a golden touch whose effects were permanent - she’d mastered the ability to transmute base metals into gold (and many other substances) long before this. That, in fact, was the easy part. The problem was that everything, every material and every object had a, for lack of a better term, ‘memory’ of what it used to be. A memory that was so powerful and so intrinsically bonded to the core of its existence that most transformations “wanted” to snap back and become undone.

Any curse, like the classic prince into a frog, was doomed to be temporary unless steps were taken to make sure it remained in effect. There were generally two ways to do this: the first was the simplest brute force approach, to use overwhelming magical power to force the object in question - in this case, a prince - to change its shape and become the new desired object, or frog. This was generally speaking how Esmeralda transformed most of her victims. The downside to this method was that eventually the spell’s energies would run out, or the arcane bonds keeping the curse intact would atrophy, resulting in the transformed object turning back to its natural state. This was not terribly concerning to the green mage, as the natural end to the magic would happen no sooner than a thousand years from the origin of the spell. But there was always the problem of counter magics, restoration spells, and the like, all of which could easily free a victim from one of her transformations.

The second method for transmutation was the more practiced one, and it was also something of a cheat. In order to ensure that counter magic couldn’t be used, or to ensure the spell would work on exceedingly large timetables, one could interlace the transmutation magic with a natural end point. Somewhat like tying a knot which can all come undone at once if you knew exactly which loop of string to tug on. To use our princely frog, for example, instead of simply zapping him into an amphibian and going on your way, you could instead install a specific set of circumstances that would result in the curse ending. Say, a kiss from a princess, finding his true love, or even just taking a bite from the perfect piece of lemon cake. Installing these kinds of situational releases for magic served to reinforce the structure of the transformation, like a support beam in a house.

But what Esmeralda was hoping to achieve was so much more than that. She already had a working golden touch, one whose transformation was powerful enough to result in an indefinite duration to the transformation. All she had to do was apply the alchemical oils she’d developed, and carefully make sure to touch only the object in question to transform it before cleansing herself of the oils in another alchemical bath. It was a good start, but as far as she was concerned, even this was not true gold. The object might look like gold, it might shine like gold, and it might sell for the price of gold, but it would forever retain the “memory” of what it once was. Which meant that any mage of sufficient skill would instantly be able to tell it was the result of a transmutation, and would easily be able to turn it back (well, relatively easily).

One might say the distinction was merely academic, but this was a matter of pride! It wasn’t about the money - goodness knows she already had access to as much of that as she wanted, and gold was much more useful as a lightning conductor besides. No, this was about something much more than that. She wanted to change things, down to their most fundamental level, into a new form. Esmeralda had hoped that the manuscript would hold an answer to her experiments. And while it was useful, it ultimately provided little more than a shortcut to developing her working, but imperfect touch.

She sighed, finally setting down the glass beaker she’d been clutching in annoyance. This was getting nowhere. She would need to sleep soon. Hanging her head low, the mage made her way into her study, the closest thing to a safe and secure home she had in her castle tower. She poured herself a small glass of distilled whisky and drank it down quickly, before undoing the laces of her dress and allowing her excellently toned body to become exposed. Fluffing a pillow, she lounged on a padded bench and waved her hand at her crystal ball to begin scrying on the surrounding area. The ball quickly became the only source of light, and she found herself losing focus gazing at the misty images within.

She didn’t have anything specific she was looking for. Most of the time she simply used the ball to entertain herself by watching the local kings and knights go about their dreary little lives. Recently she had discovered that three small lizard creatures trying desperately to pass themselves off as a human apple merchant by standing on each other’s shoulders underneath an oversized coat, and their adventures had quickly become one of her greatest sources of entertainment. Tonight, however, she simply turned the ball’s eye towards the stars, hoping to find some hidden wisdom among them.

After a while, she felt a soft, warm, and fuzzy creature worm its way into her lap and under her hand. It was her familiar, a green and gold rabbit she’d learned to conjure early in her magic career, and she cared for it as dearly as she did herself (because technically it was an extension of herself). She pet the small creature fondly, prompting a twitching of its nose as the two of them regarded the cosmos reflected in her crystal ball. Eventually answers would come for her. Failure was not an option in this task - the demon queen had been quite clear about that. But more importantly, Esmeralda’s desire for knowledge was at stake!

two of them regarded the cosmos

The problem simply needed to be isolated and--oh! She suddenly had an idea!

Esmeralda placed a hand on her chin, wiggling her fingers towards a book somewhere to her side. It flipped open and a quill began to write as she dictated a new procedure. A fire gleamed in her eyes, as her mouth twisted into a wicked grin.

“Oh~ ho ho ho ho ho!”

The laugh echoed through the tower, loud enough to cause the birds to fly away from their perches from the windows nearby. A bolt of lightning crackled right as it finished, causing a thunderous echo to ring through the halls. Inside her laboratory, Esmeralda was filled with utter glee as she stared up at a golden flower held between her fingers. She spun it this way and that, drawing it close to her face so she could kiss it. She pulled it back, leaving a green lipstick print on one of its petals.

It had worked! The flower, a rose, was now gold. True gold. Any magical memory of what it once was had been purged. She laughed to herself again and placed the flower on the table, before spinning around and grabbing hold of a chair. Her hand solidly gripped its back and she watched a wave of the yellow metal move down along the wooden frame and over its cushions until the chair was completely consumed. With a push she tipped it over, a task that was a bit more difficult now given the increased density. It hit the ground with a satisfying clank.


Esmeralda smiled up at the heavens triumphantly, shaking her fist at the sky. This proved it. She was the greatest alchemist in the world! She had cracked the code for a perfect golden touch, ensuring that anything she wished would remain gold for all time, just like the legends of that ancient greedy king. Even better - whereas the original curse had led to starvation for the king afflicted, as the master of this magic she could remove it at any time.

Careful not to touch anything else with her magically enhanced hand, she moved to a tub of bubbling green liquid. Without a moment’s hesitation, she dipped her hand into it and moved it back and forth. Instead of changing into gold the liquid simply began to glow gently. She felt it tingle against her skin, and after roughly ten seconds she removed her hand and flexed the digits. Satisfied, she reached over to pick up a quill and smiled when the feather pen did not turn into a precious metal.

It worked perfectly. Her golden touch could be applied with a formula of her own design, the secret of which she would forever keep in her own thoughts. Then, should she desire it, a simple application of the counter formula would remove the touch. An elegant and flawless design!

Moving over to her washbasin, the emerald witch further cleaned her hands with soap and water to remove any of the reactive agents that might cause any harmful effects. Then reminding herself that she wasn’t quite finished, she furiously wrote down the results of her success and placed the data in her lab journal.

She spun around on her heel. This momentous occasion required a celebration! A clap of her hands caused dozens of animated objects to spring into motion and head off to do predetermined tasks; a table scooted off to the kitchen to procure some snacks, while a floating ice bucket disappeared to fetch a bottle of sweet wine from the cellar. Though, as she watched her magical creations jump into action, Esmeralda suddenly felt a wave of melancholy. It had been ages since she had allowed a servant to grace her tower. There had been no desire, and then once she started this project, no time. But now she wanted to celebrate, and a lovely curvaceous bed partner would hit the spot. Potentially several times. She bit her lip. Perhaps...perhaps she could kill two birds with one stone? The next step for repaying the demoness for her role in all this was to acquire half a dozen ‘angels’, right?

She smiled and walked up to her sleeping chambers, slowly undoing her blouse and research dress. Moving up the winding staircase she allowed various articles of clothing to simply fall off her body and land where they may. Eventually, she emerged into her personal sleeping area, wearing nothing but a look of intense purpose on her face. A gesture of her hand made her crystal ball activate. She uttered a spell of far seeing and the ball hummed in tune. Spectral images began to coalesce inside its surface as Esmeralda moved to her cushioned bed.

That is when she saw them, the angels. They were divinely beautiful, of course, though technically no longer actually divine - merely the descendants of true celestials from ages past. Common folk did not know of their origins, but with someone with Esmeralda’s scrying capabilities, it was an easy enough mystery to solve. The “angels” would engage in a week-long ritualistic celebration in the winter time which, when completed with the proper amount of passion and piety would result in them being graced with child. Said children were always born female, and would bear the feathered wings and flawless beauty of their mothers upon reaching maturity. A rather boring manner of procreation, though it certainly made for an interesting reason why they could only be found at this temple.

Despite their lack of sexual reproduction, the angels would regularly engage in sexual escapades with each other, after all the worshippers had left for the day. They were, after all, servants and creations of the Goddess of Bliss, so it was to be expected that they were not uneducated in the ways ofthe flesh. Esmeralda tuned her crystal ball to them on nights where she felt particularly... lacking in bliss.

Tonight was not disappointing- already the head priestess was face deep in another angel’s thighs, and Esmeralda hungrily licked her lips as she enjoyed the view. Her fingers traced her inner folds as she laid back on a cushion and spread her legs. Breathless moments became panting minutes, as her dexterous hands - so used to the weaving of arcane gestures - moved with precision along her womanhood. Soon, she found herself becoming lost in the sensations from her body, closing her eyes and leaning back.

Her body became tense and she gasped quietly to herself. Esmeralda had never been very loud when it came to sex. It was a trait that made some of her lovers uneasy, which served her just fine. She had yet to meet the woman she actually wished to make a deep connection with, and keeping a lover off balance helped her maintain control. She opened her eyes and watched the angels. They had applied oil to their bodies and were currently entwined in a soft embrace. She imagined the smell of those oils- what fragrances was she unable to sense through the crystal ball?

The shine of their bodies reflected the torchlight in the temple nicely. She imagined those bodies rendered in precious metal. Unmoving as the firelight dances over the gilded curves. She once more closed her eyes and leaned back, drawing herself ever closer to climax. Her body was nearly slick with sweat and her muscles tensed in anticipation of release.

Her fingers slid over the nub of her clit, and then deeper. She moved over the moist flesh, the heat building within her. But then something unexpected happened. As she once more moved over the folds of her flower, her fingers felt only a cold hard render of what she had been exploring. The surface under her fingers felt foreign - alien - and her eyes shot open as she looked downward. Her blood ran cold and she gasped in terror. The folds of her sex, as well as her inner thighs and lower abdomen were glittering and immaculate in the lighting of her private chambers.


She tried to pull her fingers away from her sex- now frozen open in the throes of lust, but noted that her forearm was also rendered in the precious metal and seemingly stuck where she had been stroking. Fear and anxiety threatened to overwhelm her senses, the terror mixing with her need for sexual release. She looked on as her taut and well toned stomach froze with the tension from her lust still displayed, now gleaming and gilded. The newly reflective material of her body complimented the lovely lines of a well maintained and fit physique.

Her forearm was also rendered in the precious metal

Her mind raced; how was this happening? She had removed the magics, cleaned her hands! But... her brilliant mind already had a hypothesis: her goal had been a perfect midas touch. Had she truly succeeded in her task, it could mean that removing it was impossible - she had only been able to suspend it temporarily with her alchemy. It had reactivated, and her own flesh was not immune. As her breasts surrendered to the gilded wave, she forced her thoughts towards an answer to her predicament. A countermeasure, a cure, some way to keep the transformation at bay, at least for a few moments longer! But no solutions were forthcoming, and her mind was quickly filling with the urge to descend into panic, all set against the paradoxical thrust of the pleasure that kept building within her.

The gold left no feeling, not even a chilled numbness - those parts of her body claimed by the effects of golden touch simply ceased to exist as objects capable of sensation. Yet the pleasure in her mind still raged, pushing almost everything else from her consciousness. Speculation as to why this was happening now became impossible. She gritted her teeth and closed her eyes as a reflex action, both from the pleasure and as a last ditch effort to pull back from the gold as it climbed her neck and washed over her face. Within a moment, her visage became frozen in gold, and her mind was thrown into a black void of the pleasure finally finding release. It was an orgasm like no other, a sensation divorced from physical pleasure. And as it cleared, and her faculties returned, she felt her awareness and consciousness dimming into a golden eternity. She realized, with the last of her intellect before it galvanized into the eternal embrace of the gilded magic, that the nature of this touch would mean that she was beyond any form of help...

And with that, Esmeralda was no more; a perfect golden statue had replaced her in body, mind and soul. No magic would be able to even recognize her as having been anything but a priceless work of art, expertly crafted down to its finest, most minute detail. Perhaps, if she were capable, she would feel a deep shame at the pose her body was now trapped in. Lewd, unrefined, her face a mask of reserved but unfiltered sexual release, and her womanhood presented to the world through brazenly spread legs. The light glittered over her curves, which were enhanced by the shiny metal they were rendered in. Muscle tone only hinted at by her pale skin was brought to the forefront, her hard work at sculpting her body expertly preserved in this new form. Though embarrassment, shame, pride... all such feelings were now beyond her abilities.

The tower fell silent, as the golden statue simply glittered pleasantly in the magical torchlight.

*     *     *

Azala the Demon Queen materialized in the same spot the green-hued mage had summoned her before. For most demons, it was impossible to manifest in the mortal realm without the anchoring weight of a summoning spell - be it at the behest of a new “client” or to collect on the dues owed from an old one. Azala, however, was not beholden to such rules, even though she was invoking them now to appear in Esmeralda’s tower. It was more a courtesy than a mandate for her. Technically, she hadn’t even needed to answer the ritual from a year ago; it simply had amused her to do so.

Gliding through the mage tower, it amused her even more to find it in a state of disrepair. Automated magics were beginning to fail, no longer being maintained by their mistress. The demon chuckled lightly. Sometimes she forgot just how ephemeral the magic of mortals could be. A few weeks or months left unattended and it all went to pot. Truth be told, she had been hoping for and expecting this outcome. As she leisurely explored the tower, she noted a few women trapped in transformations. The magic that had bound them was elegant and impressive. For a moment she considered taking them for her own collection, but decided that this particular world would be richer with them in it. Fate swirled around them. Uncertainty. It was a delicious aroma that she did not want to spoil by sealing them within her ageless gallery.

However, as she glided into the living quarters her lips parted into a positively devilish smile. There was nothing uncertain about the fate of the figure before her. Destiny was locked into only one outcome for this one.

She draped herself over the head of Esmeralda’s golden form, reaching out with senses that even other immortal beings did not possess. She stroked a glittering metal cheek with her clawed fingers and stroked the gilded soul trapped within it.

“Your time is up, Esmeralda,” She said aloud, savoring the Knowledge that the statue did not hear her, possessing neither the faculties to comprehend her words nor the capacity to respond to them if it did.

’Your time is up, Esmeralda’

The statue floated off the ground, born aloft by a simple exertion of magic from the demon. This piece would be added to her collection, sparing it the possible fates in this world that involved a furnace or a smelting facility. Mortals would think she were merely a mundane work of sexual art, but Esmeralda had become so much more than that. Azala could see the intricate magics that trapped her, even on a metaphysical level, in this form. A goddess couldn’t have done better.

She leaned forward, her lips pressing against the statue’s golden ears. “A masterpiece,” she whispered sensually.

And she meant it. There was no doubt that Esmeralda Hazandar had become the truest kind of masterwork, both of art and magic. A final crowning achievement of a life devoted to the study alchemy. And all it had cost was her existence as a woman of flesh and blood.

With the snapping of her fingers, Azala and the golden statue disappeared from the world, spirited to a realm beyond the reach of all but the bravest (or most foolish) souls. There, in a gallery that resided in a bathhouse, the statue would be installed. And there it would remain.

Time did not pass in Azala’s realm, so the phrase “forever” had little meaning. However, the demon queen was nothing if not a master of the weave of fate. Esmeralda’s glittering golden form had no future save for a decoration, sitting on a pedestal for the demon queen’s pleasure. The queen herself saw to it.