"Hey!" shouted one. "Hey! Look what I found!"
"Huh?" groaned the other as she rubbed her eyes. "What now? Why do you always get so excited?" she complained, only to notice what her friend was pointing at. "What?"
"Hey!" The first vampire to awaken shouted as she kicked Alicia on the side. "Get up! We're taking you in!" She smirked triumphantly at her partner. "The Queen is going to love us!"
"Huh?" mumbled Alicia as she sat up, doing her best to look like she had just woken up. "What's going on?"
"You're coming with us!" barked the one vampire as she grabbed Alicia's shoulder and yanked her up off the ground. "You're our prisoner now!"
"Yeah!" nodded the other Vampire. "You're going to be taken to the queen!"
"I mean if you insist," replied Alicia.
"We do!" Shouted the vampire as she started to pull Alicia's sleeve. "Follow us!"
"Sure," Alicia complied. "I don't want any trouble."
"Good!" laughed the vampire as the group started to walk through the forest.
As the group left the clearing, Ulla and Mara emerged from the bushes. "Do you think this is a good idea?" asked a concerned Mara.
"When was the last time anything we did was a good idea?" Ulla laughed with a shrug. "We'll make it work."
"Right," Mara nodded. "Let's tail them."
"Yes," Ulla started to creep forward.
The pair of vampires continued to drag Alicia through the forest, both of them excited to have a prisoner. Every few feet Alicia would drop a small chunk of wax on some clear ground, hoping to create a breadcrumb trail that Mara and Ulla could follow.
"Keep moving!" shouted the one vampire as she yanked on Alicia's sleeve. "Don't slow down! Not even for a second! Keep moving!"
"I'm coming, I'm coming," huffed Alicia. "Not sure why you want me, anyway!"
"Because! The Queen will be so happy with me, she'll let me take Thirteen's position! Or higher!" Giggled the one Vampire.
"You're obsessed with Thirteen," sighed the other vampire as she rolled her eyes.
"What's up with that?" smiled Alicia. "You guys and your numbers."
"Why do you want to know?" asked the pair in unison.
"Just curious. Like, I've met a few of you and honestly, I don't get it."
"Like we're telling you," cackled the vampire as she increased her pace, "The Queen will tell you when she turns you."
"Fair enough," giggled Alicia as she continued to follow the vampires. They wound through the forest past several decaying wax figures and dioramas depicting different fairytales and myths.
The vampires talked amongst themselves, but they were mostly echoing Alicia's command to be excited about their prisoner. Alicia kicked herself as she lost a chance to gather intel, but at the same time she didn't want to make it too obvious they were under the spell of a post-hypnotic suggestion.
The group moved through the fairytale land and into across what looked to be the remains of an old area full of flat rides. Their frames still littered the area, but there were piles of junk and scrap metal everywhere.
"Eww," groaned Alicia, only for one of the vampires to glare at her.
"Quiet," muttered the vampire as she looked around before motioning to the other vampire. "See anyone?"
"No? Why?" asked the other vampire as she held her head. "Ouch."
"I don't want anyone stealing our glory," said the one vampire, then looking at her companion with a hint of concern. "What's up with you?"
"Headache," groaned the other. "I feel really dizzy."
"Well, you can sit down once we get the prisoner tied down!" growled the one vampire as Alicia's eyes went wide. The vampire with the headache was the one Mara defanged. Could the headache be from the fangs’ drug wearing off?
Alicia's brain was elated for a few seconds as a wave of realization hit her. Would a sudden change in body chemistry cause this girl to break free of the suggestion she was acting under?
Alicia pushed the thought out of her head. She had to keep up the prisoner act. If something went wrong, she would have to improvise as it happened. This wasn't the time to be planning hypotheticals. She didn't have enough information.
The one vampire swayed as she groaned and held her head. "It looks clear. No one hangs out around here, anyway."
"Right," nodded the other as she gripped Alicia tighter. "Go open the door."
"But," replied the other, only to get cut off.
"Forget your headache. Open the door!" the other vampire snapped, obviously losing her temper.
"Fine fine," mumbled the other as she walked over to the remains of an old teacup ride. She slowly pushed one of the cups aside, causing the metal to let out a rough scraping sound.
Alicia gritted her teeth as the scraping metal echoed through her skull. The vampire winced as she pushed, this sound obviously not helping her headache. But as the cup moved, a small hole in the ground was revealed.
"Let's move," shouted the one vampire as she yanked Alicia's arm.
"Alright, no need to shout," sighed Alicia, doing her best to play the part of the prisoner as best she could.
"Oh, you won't be shouting once the Lamia Queen gets her hands on you," chuckled the vampire as she dragged Alicia into the hole. The pair descended the decayed metal steps as the other vampire lagged behind for a short while before dragging the cup back over the hole from the inside.
As they entered a corridor, Alicia looked around and dropped another chunk of wax. This area was very rough, suggesting that it had been quickly built by the vampires rather than being part of the old park.
The vampire continued to tug on Alicia's sleeve and drag her deeper into the facility. "My head," whined the other vampire as she stumbled. Alicia crossed her fingers and hoped she could get somewhere before this woman might possibly break out of her suggestion.
After a few minutes of walking, twisting, and turning under the ground, the vampires dragged Alicia towards a room that had a heavy metal door. "Hold her," said the headache-free vampire as she pushed Alicia.
"Sure," moaned the other vampire. The vampire without a headache dragged the metal door back revealing a barred door behind it. A ripple of shock echoed out of the room as the door opened.
Alicia's eyes lit up at the sight. This room was a prison. Several people from the event were inside, including Beth and Katie. As the metal bars were pulled back, all of the prisoners ran towards the back of the room.
"Get in!" shouted the one vampire as she shoved Alicia into the prison. Alica stumbled inside and watched as the vampire closed the door behind her.
"I need to sit down." groaned the second vampire as she slid down the wall. The second door clicked shut as the still-fanged vampire closed the prison back up.
"Interesting," mumbled Alicia as she turned around and faced the cowering people. "No need to worry! No fangs!" Alicia reassured with a grin as she opened her mouth.
"Wait," gasped Katie. "Alicia?!"
"What?" Blinked Alicia. "I didn't think I was that obvious." Replied Alicia as Katie ran up and gave her a tight hug.
"We wondered what happened to you!" shouted Katie.
"Yeah. But what's up with the outfit?" asked Beth as she walked over.
"Long story," replied Alica, remembering the outfit’s peculiar beginnings. "Really long story."
"Where did they grab you? How did you avoid them for so long?" asked Katie as she rested her head on Alicia's chest.
"Again, long story," sighed Alicia, trying to work out how to explain all of this. "Look, I'm going to need you to trust me."
"Trust you?" Beth looked unsure. "That sounds suspicious."
"Things are going to get weird," replied Alicia firmly. "Just go with me, and I think I can get everyone out of here in one piece."
"Okay," nodded Beth. "Hey. What lecture do I hate on Tuesdays?"
"Doctor Rex's development of literature?" asked Alicia with confusion.
"Right," Beth giggled awkwardly. "Wanted to make sure you were not one of them. They've already taken a couple of people."
"It's okay," Alicia nodded as Katie let her go. "I admire you keeping your wits about you. How many do you think they've taken?"
"At least ten," supposed Katie.
"Interesting," mumbled Alicia as she pondered. If they could turn people, why were they leaving so many of them locked up like this? It could be due to her ruining the plan, but the existence of this prison suggested that holding people wasn't uncommon. This meant they needed non-vampires, or they had a limit to how quickly they could turn people.
The other prisoners slowly warmed to Alicia and started to return to their original places around the room. Alicia looked around the room, trying to plan for as many options as she could. One of those options was tearing the door off of the prison and letting everyone escape, but there were so many tunnels under this park. There was no way she could keep everyone safe and escort them out of the park. Right now, this was the most defensible position.
After several minutes, the outer door opened. All the prisoners ran to the back of the room. Alicia waved for Beth and Katie to get behind her. "I'll protect you, whatever happens," she said firmly as she moved towards the bars.
As she approached, she realized the Courtesan was stood outside of the prison, flanked by the two vampires that had captured Alicia and several others. Behind them lurked Mesmera.
"Well, well, well," chuckled the Courtesan. "All that bluster to end up in a cage. Delicious."
"Cut the games," replied Alicia.
"No. I won't," asserted the Courtesan. "Where are the rest of your friends?"
"They left," Alicia replied. "By this point, Emergency will be halfway down the mountain."
"And yet you remained?"
"To cover her," nodded Alicia, "so cowards like you can't attack from behind."
"Oh, I can't wait to see you after you've fed on the blood of the Queen. Your spirit will feed me for days," cackled the Courtesan. "You can be like your friend here," she added as she motioned to Mesmera.
"Don't think I've forgotten about that," growled Alicia.
The Courtesan chuckled haughtily. "You'll be like her soon enough. The Lamia Queen has plans for you, after all."
"Yeah, come in here and say that!" shouted Alicia as she pushed up against the bars and clawed at the Courtesan. However, at that moment, Mesmera moved forward and grabbed Alicia's arm, twisting it as she did.
"Speak with respect to your superiors," Mesmera said firmly as Alicia felt a sharp stabbing in her hand.
"They'll have to earn it first. The real Mesmera always knew that." Alicia shouted rebelliously. "And I'll get you for what you did to Ulla,” she added, doing her best to play up the moment, “mark my words!"
"You'll regret those words," nodded the Courtesan. "These rest of you: stay here and guard her. The Lamia Queen will want to talk to her personally. Mesmera. Follow."
"Yes, Courtesan. I hear and obey." Mesmera forced Alicia's arm back into the cell. The Courtesan turned and walked off, Mesmera not far behind. The remaining vampires hissed at Alicia.
"Come act tough inside. Then I'll care about your hissing," said Alicia firmly as she walked back over to Beth and Katie.
"You know her?" asked Katie.
"We have history," nodded Alicia as she opened her hand, only to realize what the stabbing sensation was. Mesmera had palmed her a set of vampire fangs. But unlike the ones Mara had extracted, these ones didn't have the injectors going into the gums. Alicia smiled and tucked them into her costume, a wave of relief washing over her. Ulla was right. Mesmera had a plan.
"So, what do we do?" sighed Beth.
"We wait," Alicia shrugged. "They've got a lot of people. We have to play smart."
"Right," nodded Katie.
"I've got a question," asked Alicia as she looked around the cell. "You remember the Lamia Queen, right?"
"Yeah," nodded Beth and Katie in unison.
"Do you remember being trapped in a room? One full of vampires? Tied to chairs?"
"I," mumbled Katie as she rubbed her head. "A little. But it feels like a dream. I remember the vampires dragging me into the castle, into the throne room, and then it goes fuzzy. At some point, I woke up here."
"Same," said Beth.
"Right, right," nodded Alicia. "So, she has been hypnotizing you."
"Hypnotizing us?" Blinked Katie.
"Yeah. It's her eyes. They glow red and you do what she says."
"I," started Katie, only for Alicia to cut her off.
"Yeah, it's weird. Just work with me on this one. It is a really long story."
"So, what's the plan?" Asked Beth.
"We wait. I'll come up with something.” Alicia started to pace around. As she paced, she listened in on the vampires outside the door.
They were mostly talking amongst themselves, but one was obviously the leader as she kept talking over the rest. "This is great," smiled the blonde vampire. "You just wait, she's going to promote me."
"Promote you?" smirked Alicia as a plan formed in her head.
"Yeah," nodded the blonde.
"She's not going to promote you. You didn't capture me. She did!" chuckled Alicia as she pointed at the vampire who she had hypnotized earlier.
"Yeah!" Nodded that vampire. "I'm going to be Thirteen! So stay in your place, Thirty-Six!"
"My place?! My place!" shouted the blonde vampire. "You're not even numbered, minion! You didn't deserve a number! You're a minion!"
"How dare you!" shouted the minion, "I brought the prisoner in! All you do is swan around and suck up!"
"No. I act on the Queen's spirit! I get things done! If you get promoted, it will be Fifty-Two all over again!"
"What do you mean?!" the minion demanded as she shoved Thirty-Six.
"You are a regrettable mistake, one the Queen will make into a Revenant!" laughed Thirty-Six as she returned the shove and sent the minion flying.
"How dare you! When I'm Thirteen, you're in for it! I'll get you turned into my personal footstool!" The minion pushed herself up off of the floor.
"Ladies. Ladies." Alicia chuckled as she moved up to the bars. "I hate to break it to you, but I'm going to be Thirteen. Likely higher."
"You're not special," huffed Thirty-Six.
"Oh, really?" Giggled Alicia. "I think I am, and the Lamia Queen obviously agrees."
"What makes you think the Lamia Queen, the mighty Lamnia Queen, cares about you?" Huffed Thirty-Six as she put her hands on her hips.
"She set her right-hand woman to see me. I'm a VIP."
"Shut up," growled the minion.
"I mean, think about it," continued Alicia with a smirk as she reached through the bar and rubbed the blonde's cheek, "Mesmera turned up a few hours ago and she's already been promoted higher than you."
"She got lucky! Thirteen was a weakling! I could have taken her down!" replied the blonde.
"Why didn't you?"
"Because. I didn't want to anger the Queen. But, I totally could have!" insisted Thirty-Six as she looked back at the minion.
"See, this is what you're missing. Mesmera is now the right-hand woman of the Queen, following her around, hanging with the Courtesan," explained Alicia as she backed up.
"So? She beat Thirteen. And I'm going to beat her, too!" huffed Thirty-Six.
"Nah," giggled Alicia, "because I'm going to do it. The Queen knows! It’s why she is waiting to turn me."
"What makes you think you understand the Queen?" huffed Thirty-Six.
"I know she knows talent!" Alicia quipped. "Because if she likes Mesmera, she loves me."
"Such an ego," grumbled the minion.
"I've earned my ego," Alicia retorted. "Mesmera has never put me down! I've beaten her twice! It’s why I led this raiding party. It’s why I was the one left behind." She made her way close to the bars. "I'm Mesmera, but twice as good."
"Really now?" Thirty-Six raised an eyebrow.
"Why else do you think I laid out more vampires than I could count?" Alicia giggled. "It is so easy! You could say that it is as easy as falling asleep," she added as her eyes started to glow silver, "and you are so very sleepy."
The vampires all stumbled as the silver glow started to fill their eyes. "Isn't that right? Gosh, you're such sleepy heads. Been working all day and all night I bet!"
The vampires let out moaning noises as they all wobbled, their mouths dropping open as Alicia continued to focus her power. "What?" Beth gasped.
"Sleepyheads! Oh gosh, so sleepy!" continued a giggling Alicia. "Aren't you feeling so tired? It is like heavy lead weights are tied to your wrists, pulling you down. And the more you wobble, the heavier they get. And the weights keep pulling. Pulling you down, down, down."
"I," mumbled Thirty-Six.
"Don't talk, you're too weak. Far too weak," Alicia continued almost melodically. "Nod your head. Too weak." She nodded her head up and down, asserting that the vampires agree, watching the vampires drowsily copy her movements.
"Weak," echoed the minion.
"Yes! So weak. So tired, being dragged towards the floor," cooed Alicia as the vampires slowly collapsed to the floor, each one of them landing in a puddle of their own drool as their silver eyes rolled up into their heads. Alicia smiled. "Sleepy. So sleepy! So cute!"
She took a few moments to look at the crowd of downed vampires. She knew she likely didn't have long until someone spotted this or came to check on them, so she had to move quickly.
"Now listen closely, going deeper with every word," Alicia began. "First, Thirty-Six, why not unlock the door for me, unlock the door and let me go?" With that, Thirty-Six let out a low groan and started to crawl towards the door, moaning softly as she wrapped her hand around the bars.
Thirty-Six let out a soft gurgle as she clambered up and unlocked the barred door before slumping limply to the ground. Alicia nodded as she watched the vampire start to drool again.
"Exactly," continued Alicia. "And, in fact, when I leave the cell, you're going to start to count down from 80. When you get to zero, you'll wake up, but you won't remember what happened. It will be like I vanished.” Alicia thought for a moment, quickly planning her next move. “But, you'll also find," Alicia went on, "that whenever anyone says the word ‘bite’, yes, the word ‘bite’, you'll be filled with the uncontrollable urge to dance. You just can't stop yourself! It feels so good to dance! And the more someone yells at you, the more you'll dance! The louder they yell, the more you dance! It is like a pumping beat you can't help move your feet too! You just have to dance when you hear the word, ‘bite’! What do you do?"
"Dance when we hear the word bite," groaned the vampires as they continued to squirm on the floor.
"Excellent!" Alicia praised them as she blinked and turned to Beth and Katie. "I'm going to be back soon. Stay put, okay?"
"What did you do?" stammered a flabbergasted Katie, her voice wobbling.
"Long story. I'll tell you later!" Alicia slipped out of the cell and put the fake fangs into her mouth before dashing into the corridor.
"What are you going to do?" Beth asked, calling after Alicia.
"Cause trouble!" With a wink, Alicia closed the door and ran off.