By taking the blood of Vedic, last of the great scaled wyrms of the southern wilds, the usurper Shalyis was able to draw upon the creature’s guile, its cruelty, and its simmering alien gamesmanship.

Within a year, Lady Shalyis had overthrown the ruler of the Oasis and installed herself in his place. She was able to rally monarchists by falsely portraying herself as the daughter of the Shah’s older brother, whose brief reign had ended under suspicious circumstances. To the merchants she offered favorable taxes in return for increased shipments, and the disenchanted saw in her someone who was not like the typical aristocrat.

Once Lady Shalyis was in power as the self-proclaimed First Subject of the Oasis, the various brokers behind her rise were each rewarded and punished to ensure their continued loyalty—rewards for many, to reap the benefits of their support and to show what they could expect in return for more, and executions for the few who were popular enough in their own right to oppose her.

But the mingling of her blood with that of Vedic was already beginning to make itself known even as she seized power. She took to wearing colored spectacles in all public appearances, and over the next few years gradually assumed a more and more modest dress until no part of her body was visible beneath a richly embroidered burniq of the sort that noble wives sometimes wore.

The Lady Shalyis also began speaking less, relying on an orator to deliver her remarks even when she was physically present. By the jubilee to mark ten years of her rule, she never spoke in public. Though her great natural beauty had helped with her rise to power, the First Subject no longer took concubines as was her right, and the marriage negotiations which had begun with an eye toward providing the new regime with an heir were called off.

After twenty years of rule, no one could remember seeing the Lady Shalyis, even concealed beneath her burniq, for years.

In time rumors grew that, beneath the old palace, a grand subterranean chamber had been constructed, and into it was heaped all the gold and treasure to which the ruler of the Oasis was entitled. Though no lights were allowed within the chamber, and only the vizier and a few trusted retainers ever entered, information about it still leaked out in whispers.

A great form lay there, they said, with eyes aglow with inner flame and wings spread wide, exulting in the feel of coin upon scaly flesh.

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