The Fakir had cultivated the venom of his winged cobra with such care and erudition that connoisseurs of the ecstatic delights gained from poison came from all corners of the kingdom to sample its bite. As is frequently the case among addicts there were those who overestimated their resilience to tolerate the effects of the reptilian substance. Feeling the pinch of the Uraeus at the base of the spine and subsequent flooding of the sensorium with inexplicable tinglings, sensing the emanations of the stars, was known, in some, to cause madness and death.
So the Fakir Srikanth was never surprised when his assistant Legrange, a dirty French emigre, had to drag another casualty down to the bone yards alongside the river. The first time a corpse came back, blackened but not burned, revivified, breathing, intact, it did surprise him. It was a strong venom indeed which took a man so deep into a coma as to resembled death. Of these cases, and there were only a few, the celebrant of the serpentine mysteries often reported such vivid encounters in the supernal realms as to defy even the the Fakir’s ratiocination. With supreme dread and fear he reluctantly sent the poisoned back out into the world. They had been torn apart and were in need of healing. Yet he was no healer. His hand was not for mending. They walked away from his shack, back into the desert, wounds gaping wide.
He rued that word from these few fortunate unfortunates would somehow spread, and the respect he had earned for genetically engineering such fine specimens as the winged snake would be ruined. Only the opposite was true, and those who had been so close to becoming ash came back to test once again their temper and strength against the fire of the serpents venom. And they brought with them devotees eager to submit themselves to the hand of chance, people fervent to partake of the miracle themselves. So it was that many pilgrims began slithering to the Fakir’s once humble dwelling. And so his pride began to swell as did his purse with gifts received from the many petitioners desirous of the ineffable poison. Indeed, his now frequent visits to the brothel, his commanding swagger and sway among the people of the nearby village who feared his art, all combined to attract the attentions of the Heresiarch.
The electric chair of the inquisitors had been sitting dry for many a year as the populace had finally succumbed to his lashings. Yet the Heresiarch was eager for the high he got when he made another man taste the juice. There was nothing quite like watching eyeballs boil to a blister in the socket. When he want to the Fakir’s dwelling he hadn’t counted on being taken in by the strange rhythms of the circle of snake charmers whose somnolent pipings now attended the increasingly elaborate services of the Fakir.
Soon he was among them, the sweating poor and merchants alike, among the warriors and converted priests, among the flying reptiles amidst the celebrants. All burned with violent inebriation. The snakes were hungry and ready to pounce.