The place was obviously badly modified, with rooms hastily converted from their original purpose. Alicia could only presume that the tunnel systems were originally interlinked, but decay or deliberate destruction had separated them. It seemed to fit this group's MO: chaos hiding behind fancy paint and shiny props.
The corridors continued to twist and turn as the girls kept up their pace, keen to see who they would meet. But, surprisingly, the place was very quiet. As they went past one room, Ulla let out a small gasp.
Alicia turned to look at her. "What?"
"Look at this door," signalled Ulla as she pointed to the door. Alicia leaned in, only to realize what Ulla was looking at. This door had obviously been broken from the inside. Inside the room there were scattered and broken chairs, suggesting that there had been a struggle in this room.
"Someone busted out," mumbled Alicia. "The prisoners in the other area were held better, but not by much. Most of them were too scared for a full breakout."
"Getting to the surface would be hard. And even then, they could likely cut you off before you started to head down the mountain," pondered Mara. "This whole thing is Kabuki theatre, shadow puppets chasing shadow puppets."
"Go on?" asked Ulla.
"Just," Mara sighed, "I'm not sure how to word it. The fake walls, the fake fangs. Having actual brainwashing, but yet not using it on everyone. Having prisons, but obviously having prison breaks. Ranks that don't seem to exist. Someone is projecting something they very clearly aren’t."
"My thoughts exactly," added Ulla. "We're being played and I don't like it."
"And Mesmera," added Alicia, "If she was able to waltz into power so easily, it suggests a vacuum."
"Right," interjected Mara. "She's good, but a competent team would have seen through it by now. This whole thing is just bugging me."
"Any luck on those fangs?" asked Alicia as she motioned towards Mara's suit.
"It definitely contains biological material," began Mara, "But I'm not having much luck. My suit isn't really designed to do full chemical scans on the move."
"Fair," Alicia shrugged as the cogs in her head continued to turn. "Ever feel like you have a revelation just out of your reach?"
"Most of the time I'm around Mesmera," replied Ulla, "But we won't gain new information by waiting. So lead on."
"Right, right. You're totally right." Alicia pressed on as she started to walk through the corridor again, doing her best to put the pieces together. But however much she tried, it just wasn't working. Things were not making sense.
After several minutes of wandering, the girls found themselves in even more dilapidated areas of the tunnels. It was clear that whatever work had been put into the other areas had not been applied here.
However, as the girls turned the corner, they spotted a figure at the far end. Alicia raised her hand. Ulla and Mara stopped in their tracks and quickly tucked back around the corner.
Alicia moved quickly and silently. She couldn't tell if this vampire was looking at her or not, so she had to close the distance as quickly as possible so they couldn't raise the alarm.
As she moved closer, Alicia was able to tell that the vampire wasn't looking at her. In fact, she was leaning against the wall, almost like she was about to fall over.
Alicia took a deep breath before running forward and grabbing the woman by her waist. She twisted her hips and sent the vampire tumbling to the floor. Alica quickly flipped the vampire over and covered her mouth before channeling her power through her eyes.
"Just relax, relax. Go deeper, deeper, yes, falling into my eyes," whispered Alicia gently. "Don't fight, just go down. Go down deeper. Yes, go down deeper." The vampire went quickly limp, its eyes turning bright silver. Alicia was shocked; she hadn't seen someone fall under this quickly before. Sure the grab would have destabilized her, but this was worryingly quick. "Yes, deeper and deeper into sleep, so heavy and tired, can only sink further down, give in and go deeper, doing down and deeper," continued Alicia as the vampire let out a soft gurgle.
Alicia continued to stare as the silver danced in the vampire's eyes. She took a few moments to look at the vampire. She looked pale and weak, and there was a fang mark on her neck. It looked fresh. There was even dried blood around the injection site.
"Now you're going to do exactly what I say, aren't you sweetie?" Asked Alicia as she used her one hand to gently nod the vampire's head while using her other one to signal to Mara and Ulla.
The pair quickly dashed over to Alicia as the vampire let out a soft moan. "Whatever you say," she responded in monotone.
"Bite mark," noted Alicia as she pointed to the bloody mark on the vampire's neck. "Fresh."
"Very fresh," Mara agreed. "Can you keep her under while I inspect it?"
"Can do. I want to hear her story anyhow. So we're going to have a nice chat, aren't we?" cooed Alicia as she nodded the vampire's head once more.
"Great!" chirped Mara as she moved around and started to inspect the wound. Ulla stood guard, quickly transforming and drawing her sword. She held it at the ready, prepared to beat back anyone who had the misfortune to enter the corridor.
"Now sweetie," began Alicia gently as she continued to rub the vampire's cheek, "What are you doing in this corridor all by yourself?"
"Got lost, was walking with people," slurred the vampire, her lips hardly moving as her silver eyes stared up blankly.
"Oh?" asked Alicia, "Where were you going?"
"I don't know," mumbled the vampire, "Thirty-One was going to lead us."
"Of course, as is normal," Alicia kept going, letting her eyes glow again for a moment as Mara rubbed her finger along the wound, "But where did you come from?"
"Lamia Queen's parlor," groaned the vampire as her eyelids fluttered.
"Her parlor?" Alicia asked with a grin, getting somewhere. "Where is that?"
"Castle," the vampire continued to groan as Mara looked at Alicia.
"We were there, though?" Mara wondered, but then shook her head. "Shadow puppets."
Alicia delved further. "Oh, where exactly in the castle, sweetie? Could you lead us back there?"
"Think so," mumbled the vampire. "Got dizzy," Her eyes fluttered again.
"Dizzy?" Alicia’s eyes grew brighter. "Focus on my eyes, sweetie. Tell me what happened."
"I was walking. Then I get confused and my head hurt. Dizzy. Got lost." the vampire weakly moaned as she squirmed slightly under Alicia's body.
"Right, right." noted Alicia as she motioned to Mara. "Open your mouth sweetie, the wider your mouth opens the deeper you go, the deeper you go the wider you open."
The vampire's mouth opened as her eyes continued to flutter. Mara leaned over and looked inside. She touched the girl's fangs, only for them to wiggle slightly.
"Huh," mumbled Mara as she pressed a little harder.
"Yes, deep and heavy, so warm and cozy," continued Alicia as Mara continued to inspect the fangs.
"No wonder the girl is feeling off," interjected Mara. "The fangs aren't in right. One of the injectors is broken, seems like someone shoved them roughly and didn't care."
"Poor thing!" gasped Alicia. "Well, if you're a really good girl and take us to the Lamia Queen's parlor, we'll help you feel less dizzy. Isn't that nice?" cooed Alicia.
"Okay," droned the vampire, her tongue flopping out of her mouth as she did.
"And you can just know that we'll help you, and you just have to act normal and go along with whatever we say. Just don't question. Don't question, as we'll help you. Okay?"
"Okay," responded the vampire as Alicia stood up.
"And, wake up!" Alicia shouted as she clapped her hands. Instantly, the vampire's eyes returned to normal as she started to look around. She quickly pushed herself up off the floor.
"I," stuttered the vampire as she looked around with confusion.
"So, you're going to take us to the Queen's parlor. I've got to get these prisoners to her!" Alicia said, playing the part with confidence. The vampire's eyes glazed over for a few seconds as a smile formed on her face.
"Oh, right! Okay! Follow me! I'm a little lost, but once I get back to the main corridor I'll be able to orient myself!" the vampire offered as she walked past Alicia.
Alicia waved for the other girls to follow her and started to move behind the vampire, doing her best to guide her back towards the area the girls had explored previously.
Once they arrived there, the vampire turned to Alicia and smiled. "I know where I am!" she said as she pointed down one of the turn-offs that the girls had previously skipped. "This way!"
"Good!" Alicia smiled as she looked around the corridor, hoping that they could avoid coming across more vampires. Alicia wanted to fish for information, but she didn't want to risk someone hearing them talking and blow their cover. In these small, tight corridors, it would be far too easy to get swarmed.
Thankfully, the route the vampire led them meant that they didn't have to deal with the vampires outside of the prison. Eventually, the vampire led Alicia, Mara, and Ulla up a set of stairs and out through a trapdoor.
As the cool night air hit her face, Alicia looked around. They were on the far side of the forest, meaning that this was likely the route vampires took to originally get out of the forest and to the back of the castle after the chainsaw chase.
"This way!" chimed the Vampire as she started to walk.
"See anyone?" asked Alicia as she looked around.
"Seem clear," said Ulla.
"Not seeing anyone," added Mara. Alicia quickly upped her pace so she was next to the vampire. The girl didn't seem as out of it anymore; perhaps she was getting used to the lack of drugs.
"So," began Alicia, "What happened in the parlor?"
"Oh," the vampire started, "I don't remember much."
"What do you remember?"
"Well, Thirty-One picked me up from the cell and told me to come with her. I remember being scared? I think?" the vampire mumbled, clearly confused. "But, she and her friends grabbed me and did something and suddenly. I felt like I had to do as they said."
"I see," nodded Alicia, a strange wave of sorrow crashing through her body.
"But, I started following her. This was the route!" continued the vampire. "And, we got into the castle and went through a hole in the wall and then climbed some stairs, and up there was the Lamia Queen's house!"
"A second floor?" Alicia blinked with surprise. "Then, it must be between the ventilation system and the ground floor we were on."
"Huh?" the vampire’s brow furrowed.
"Don't worry about it, keep going," Alicia said lightly, almost in a coo. "You're doing just great, sweetie."
"Well, we had to line up, and then the courtesan picked some of us. Some were taken off, but I was part of another group. I was told to lie on a bed in another room. There were seven of us. We had to lie there and wait."
"Okay," nodded Alicia. "What happened then?"
"After a while, someone came and gave us an injection? I don't know. It hurt, but I felt. Fuzzy. Like earlier. Made me feel like I was floating. Like I was dreaming. Like I couldn't say no. But then the Lamia Queen entered. We squirmed, but then," the vampire continued before suddenly trailing off.
"Then?" Asked Alicia.
There was a pause. "I don't remember. It makes my head hurt to think about," she groaned as she tried to recall. "But, there was a flash of pain. My neck." She rubbed her fingers along the wound. "Then I felt. Different. Like I wasn't me? Am I me? Who am I? Everything feels weird. We were told to go and wait in another room, Thirty-One was going to lead us, but we got lost. Who am I?" The vampire started to shudder.
"Oh, sweetie," Alicia frowned with sympathy as she pulled the vampire close. "Hush, it's okay, deep breaths, relax. Relax."
"I," started to the vampire, only for Alicia to gently rub her cheek. Bubbling rage ran through Alicia’s veins as Mara came over and looked at the vampire.
"Her vitals are going nuts," she replied firmly.
"Remove her fangs," Alicia decided. "How close are the caravans?"
"A couple of minutes away," replied Ulla.
Alicia nodded. "Remove the fangs and I'll knock her out. We'll place her there for safekeeping."
"But, guide you," weakly stuttered the vampire.
"You've done a great job," cooed Alicia. "Just open your mouth for a moment," she genttly commanded as the vampire slowly opened wide. Alicia's eyes turned sliver as Mara carefully pulled the fangs out.
The vampire went limp in Alicia's arms as her eyes turned silver to match Alicia's. "Just sleep, deep sleep. You can rest now," sung Alicia as Ulla lifted the limp vampire. "Don't worry. I'm going to make her pay. But you can sleep until we're done."
"Sleep," whispered the vampire as her eyes fluttered closed.
"Let's move her," said Ulla as she started to walk. "This Lamia Queen sounds like a piece of work."
"Yeah," growled Alicia. "When I get my hands on her."
"We will," said Mara as she rubbed Alicia's back. "It seems that they're injecting several things into them to turn them."
"Seems that way," sighed Ulla. "What do you think, Doc? Any ideas?"
"Well, the drug from the fangs seems to suppress personality and increase suggestibility."
"Would explain why my powers are so effective on them," nodded Alicia. "But, what about the second injection? And the bite?"
"That is what has me confused," Mara pondered. "Why not make one cocktail? Why not mass distribute it?"
"Right. Especially after the prison break," questioned Alicia. "They want to get people here so the Lamia Queen can broadcast her power. But then what? Have people wait patiently until they can inject everyone?"
"This is where I'm struggling," nodded Mara, "And the fangs suggest that the one drug needs a constant supply to keep it going." Mara ran things over in her head as Ulla gently rolled the sleeping vampire into the caravan.
"Think she'll be safe here?" asked Alicia.
"Seems the best place," nodded Ulla as she looked around. "These places are still as ransacked as they were earlier. Likely to play up the mysterious disappearance angle. So, where is this castle suite?"
"I have no idea," sighed Alicia. "When I was on the roof, the vent went right down to ground level. So, it is tucked in there somewhere? Likely through that hole in the wall they escaped into last time."
"So, we go back through the maze to try and find it?" asked Mara. "You likely left a trackable trail of damage when you burst out earlier."
"I have a different idea," Ulla smirked as her sword formed in her hand. "They want to build fake walls. So, let's rip them down. We either find the door, or cause enough damage that someone has to come and stop us. We've been playing along with their shadow puppets for far too long. Let's cut the curtain and see what's really there."
"I like that plan!" agreed Mara with a grin.
"Me too!" added Alicia as she turned and left the caravan. As they moved, Alicia altered her powers, feeling her muscles grow stronger as she did.