The snake launches forward and bites you, its fangs striking you in the chest and belly. You try to cry out in pain, but you have no voice to do so.

"Do not fear," says the snake, drawing away from you. "It is the fastest way to travel."

Your mind and movements grow sluggish, and before you've realized what's happened, you're on the ground, and the wold is growing dark.

* * * * *

You wake up in the desert.

Above you, the sun is high and merciless. You clamber to your feet and find yourself entirely alone, with no sign of the snake prince, nor anything else, save for a temple in the distance.

With no other option, you move towards the ruins.

[You Wander the Desert]

The structure before you is massive. You crane your neck upwards to try and take it all in. It is a temple of sorts straight out of ancient Mesopotamia: enormous and stepped, mostly rectangular, slightly slanted, and flat on top, save for some kind of structure that might be another building, or might be a table. The word ziggurat flickers through your mind, and you're uncertain if that knowledge comes from you, or from somewhere else.

As you approach the ziggurat, you're surprised to find that even at this great size, it would have been bigger: the temple is actually buried in the desert dirt, and you can see the tips of engravings and statues sticking out about a foot from the ground, only their word heads visible.

At first, you're afraid you'll have to huff your way up the steps, but when you're closer, you see that there's large opening leading into darkness.

Inside the temple is dark and cool. It's takes a moment for your eyes to adjust, and by the time you're able to distinguish the shapes of the pillars, walls, statues, and alter inside, you're entirely surrounded by snakes. Hundreds upon hundreds of snakes that are oddly silent save for the whisper of their scales brushing against the stone.

Before you is the Queen of Snakes. There's no mistaking her; a massive, serpent whose body fills the room, whose body fills the next room, whose body is no doubt tangled through some or all of the rooms in the temple. She is gargantuan. Her body gleams a rich, red-brown in the weak light that pours down from unseen holes in the temple's roof. The amber coloring fades lighter and brighter along her sides, transforming seamlessly into a creamy tan the same color as the sands outside, then to milky white.

"Greetings, mortal."

You give her a little wave.

"Yes," she says drawing out the ss. "I remember you, little one. Have you enjoyed your journey so far?"

You fervently shake your head.

She chuckles. "Well I have. We have been watching you flail about. We are not the only ones. Such entertainment is rare here, and should be rewarded." She brings a massive green eye up beside you. "What would you like, little one?"

Without amusement, you point generally at your mouth and throat.

She laughs again.

"I do so like you better this way," she says. "But I suppose fair is fair."

She moves her head towards you, butting you with her nose-- or what passes for a nose for a snake. Though the motion was small, you're suddenly winded, as though you'd been punched directly in the guy. You double over, coughing and gasping for breath.

"Well?" she says.

"God damn!" you manage.

The Queen of Snakes hisses with laughter.

"Oh child," she says. "Your first words in this place, and you choose blasphemy? The irony is. . . poetic."

You glare at her, unamused. "I am very very tired," you say.

"I can imagine."

"Do you have my Name?" you say. "I met an angel who said I needed it to get home."

"To cross the Bridge, yes," she says. "Only named souls with in-tact hearts may leave. You may understand, then, why a loose Name would be a rare commodity in these parts."

"Do you know where it's at?"

"I might."

You wait for a second.

"Can you tell me?" you say.

"I might."

You wait another second. Then give an exasperated sigh. You throw up your hands dramatically and bellow out,

"Excuse me, oh most queenliness and snakiness of snakes, if it is not too much of a bother for your majesty, can I puh-lease have my freakin' name back?"

The Snake Queen watches you coolly.

"I preferred you voiceless," she sighs. "You were more a toy then. Now you are. . . disagreeable."

"Disagreeable is my middle name," you say. For all you know right now, it might be. "Where's the rest of my name at?"

"I sold it to the Bridge Maker," she says.

"Sold? Do you even use money around here?"

"Money is worthless here. I sold it for something of true value. If you want your name back, you'll have to take it up with him."

"Where do I find him?"

"We will show you the way."

She makes a mall movement with her head, and there's a sudden flash of pain in your arm. You yell out and are just in time to see a viper zip away on the half-wall nearest you. Blood trickles down your arm from where the snake struck you.

"What the hell?" you shout.

"Relax, child. Watch."

You do. Before your eyes, the puncture wounds change, transforming into a strange tattoo of a snake. The snake tattoo slithers down your arm and coils itself around your wrist, as though it were alive.

"What." you say. Not really a question, more a statement of disbelief.

"Your companion will point you in the direction you need to go," she says. "Think of where you ant to be, and he will know the way.

Finally, you ask the question you'd bee fearing to ask since you'd gotten your voice back.

"Why?" you say. "Why are you helping me?"

"Because you're mine already," she says. She resettles her coils around the pillar. "One of mine will come for you eventually. You'll be out hiking, or gardening, or doing something where we can get to you, and we will get you. And you will wind up back here with us." Snakes move along the floor by your feet, and you hastily step back from them. "It doesn't matter that I help you leave now."

You feel a cold chill run down your spine and suddenly have the need to leave right now.

-->[Leave the temple.]