When they reached the door of the caste, they realized that it was still damaged from Alicia's earlier escape. "Great," Mara smiled. "Means that they've likely not fixed anything." She stepped inside and peeked around, only to have her suspicions instantly confirmed. The place was wrecked and there was an Alicia-shaped hole in several of the doors.
"Well," Ulla spun her sword in her hand with a grin, "Let's wreck up the joint."
"Right!" Alicia agreed as she slammed her fist through one of the walls. "Hey! Nice castle you got here! Shame if something were to happen to it!"
The girls slowly moved through the room, following the path Alicia had walked when she tried to escape. As they moved, Ulla swung her sword at random, slicing through the fake walls that made up the majority of the maze.
"Come out, come out wherever you are!" shouted Ulla as she cleaved one of the doors in two. Eventually, the girls arrived in the large room Alicia had been in earlier.
"Can see where you entered," Mara noted as she gestured up to the vents.
"It wasn't a good landing," sighed Alicia as she pointed to the far wall. "That is where they went."
"Right," Ulla nodded as she quickly moved over and slashed at the wall. The sound of scraping metal echoed around the room as sparks flew. Ulla's blade cut right through the fake wall, revealing and scratching the metal door underneath.
"Yeah, it is pretty thick," nodded Alicia.
"Not thick enough! Step back," commanded Ulla as she pulled the ticket out of her belt and pushed it into the slot in her sword. Alicia and Mara backed up and covered their eyes, knowing what was coming.
Ulla pulled the sword back as energy surrounded it. After a few seconds, she lunged forward as a massive flash filled the room. The sound of metal mangling echoed.
As the flash faded, it became clear that the door had been totally shredded. Half the wall was also damaged by the blast, and rubble dust hung heavily in the air.
Behind the remains of the door sat a small twisted corridor. "Looks legit," said Ulla as she replaced her ticket and walked through the gap.
"Yeah," Alicia nodded. "What do you think this place was?"
"Security, maybe?" supposed Ulla as she walked. However, after a few feet of twisting corridor, they came to what seemed to be a dead end. Ulla let out a groan. "Really?" she huffed as she put her fist right through the wall.
"Good call,” Alicia remarked as she spotted a strange damaged bit of floor under Ulla's foot. "Hey, move a second."
"What is it?" asked Ulla as she stepped away from the spot. Alicia quickly bent down and pulled at the floor. As she did, the floor came away to reveal a small hatch.
"Found our tunnel entrance!" Alicia smiled as she pulled the metal hatch open. She poked her head inside, only to find the tunnels they had originally been exploring. "This must have been a maintenance hatch. Way to get supplies up, maybe?"
"Right," agreed Ulla as she pulled the fake wall out. "And, look what I found." She pointed to a red metal staircase. "Our one-way trip to vampire penthouse."
"This has to be a repurposed maintenance thing," surmised Alicia. "Makes me feel like an idiot for not coming in here sooner."
"Don't worry about it," offered Mara, "This area would have been guarded earlier. It is likely how we avoided so many vampires."
"Right, and knowing what we know now is useful," Ulla said as she started to climb up the stairs. The other two girls quickly followed and started to make their way up the stairs.
The stairs went on for a while, looping and doubling back on themselves, suggesting that the staircase had been originally designed for some industrial purpose as opposed to something the guests would scale regularly.
After several minutes of climbing, the girls came out onto a small landing. While this area was as industrial as the staircase, it was clear that someone had tried to make this place home.
There was a tattered rug on the floor, as well as several dirty pillows and dented metal chairs scattered around. Some fake walls had been added to create two small rooms. Alicia could tell they were fake as they used the same brick pattern that the fake walls in the maze had used.
Two soft voices could be heard from behind one of the doors. Ulla signaled for the others to stop. Alicia nodded her head and slowly crept towards the door, keen to hear what was being said.
"I can't," groaned the Lamia Queen.
"You have to!" demanded the Courtesan, obviously angry. "We have to keep all of these people suppressed, else they'll escape and then everything is ruined!"
"I can't. I feel so weak," protested the Queen. "It has been five today, and you dragged me into that garden."
"We needed to make an impression! We needed to show your dominance. We can't have the lessers thinking those three chancers can waltz around doing as they please."
"I'm tired. Let me sleep," begged the Queen.
"No! I need more blood!" the Courtesan shouted. "We need to convert more now if we hope to have them ready by morning! You need to bite some!"
"But, the artificial."
"The artificial blood is useless! Unless we keep them dosed to the gills, they break out! They become idiots! They're not going to hold back an army or anyone with skill."
"I can't. I need to sleep," moaned the Queen as she yawned again. "Later."
"Later is not an option!" barked the Courtesan, obviously losing her temper. "We could have another prison break if we're not careful! We can't keep them all down there and aware."
"Artificial," started the Queen only to be cut off by a shout from the Courtesan.
"Do you realize that for every new one I hook up on that, I need to make more?! I don't have the resources to keep creating more of it! Even if I put all the turned revenants to work, and the numbered ranks, we will not have enough! Yours is the only way to keep the effect!" The Courtesan was now screaming. "You need to turn more! It is the only way we'll have enough to take the city."
"Use the video," sighed the Queen, sounding like she was half-asleep.
"They need the fangs to even feel the effects of that for more than half an hour. Unless we keep showing it to them, they quickly fall out of control. Anything complex seems to be lost. Tomorrow, we'll need to keep you on every channel to get as many people up the mountain as possible."
"I'll try," sighed the Queen, "But sleep now."
"No! No sleep! You need to turn people! I'm going to get Thirty-One to bring up another batch."
"No," the Queen rebuked, too worn to be assertive.
"Yes. I'll give you a shot to wake you up, then you'll be good to go." The Courtesan huffed as she moved towards the door. Alicia waved for Ulla and Mara to hide, however, Alicia herself didn't have time to move before the Courtesan exited the room.
The second the Courtesan made eye contact with Alicia, her eyes went wide. "You!" She screamed. "How did you escape?!"
"I'm good!" Alicia smiled as she grabbed the Courtesan's hair and yanked on it, sending the girl crashing to the ground with a thud.
"How dare you!" yelled the Courtesan as she scrambled up off the floor and ran back into the room she had come from. Mara and Ulla came around the corner.
"Stop right there!" shouted Ulla.
"We need to move," the Courtesan began as she grabbed a needle and jammed it into the Lamia Queen's side. The Queen let out a low groan as her whole body twitched, causing the sheets to tumble off of her bed. As the sheets hit the floor, Alicia gasped. The Lamia Queen didn't have legs. She had a long snake-like tail under her waist.
"She is actually a Lamia?" screamed Alicia as the Courtesan dragged the spasming Lamia Queen out of bed.
"Nowhere to run!" quipped Ulla as the Courtesan turned and looked behind her.
"Window!" Shouted Alicia as she came around the corner.
"You'll pay for this!" Screamed the Courtesan as she dragged the Lamia Queen. With her last few steps, she picked up speed and slammed back-first into the window. The sound of shattering glass filled the room as the Queen and the Courtesan fell.
Ulla ran to the window and looked down, only to watch as the Courtesan and the Queen hit the ground with a thud. However, within seconds, the Courtesan was up and dragging the Queen behind her.
Ulla put her foot out of the window, but Mara grabbed her shoulder. "Wait," she said firmly.
"But, chasing them," started Ulla as she watched the Courtesan drag the Lamia Queen off.
"Splitting up is a bad idea, and we've got their sanctum." Mara stated as Ulla sighed.
"You won't survive until morning! I'll see to it!" screamed the Courtesan as she moved out of sight.
"Says the woman who just escaped through a window!" Alicia called back sarcastically as Ulla let out a sigh.
"You're right," nodded Ulla. "I'll protect the way up. Alicia, make sure this place has no other entrances and then guard the window."
"On it!" Alicia quickly started to move around the room. Mara did the same, quickly starting to inspect the table that had held the syringe.
It was covered in various bottles, each full of different pills or chemicals. It also had several sets of the fake fangs scattered about. As Alicia searched, she relayed what she had heard to the other two.
"Huh," mumbled Mara, "They've got her on some strong stuff. No wonder she is so tired. She's running off a hangover the size of Lakeview County."
"Alicia, clearing the second room. Guard the stairs," called Ulla.
"Right," replied Alicia as she quickly swapped places with Ulla. "That should be the bedroom, I guess?"
Ulla slowly made her way over to the second door and softly pulled it open before suddenly cringing. "Oh god," she groaned.
"What?" asked Alicia before the stench of sweat and dried blood hit her nostrils. "Oh, that is horrid!"
"Clear," coughed Ulla, "Clear but disgusting."
"Gross," Mara said as she cringed.
"Be happy your suit has air filters. Mine doesn't," added Ulla as she walked into the bedroom and started to look around.
"Your suit has a helmet!" giggled Alicia as she pointed to the open nose on her cowl. "Anything?"
"Just a filthy bedroom," said Ulla. "Lots of blood. She's been biting a lot of people."
"Hey!" Mara called to the other two. "I've found some maps," she said as she walked out into the center and unrolled them.
"Great," gagged Ulla as she walked out of the bedroom and looked at the map. It depicted all of the tunnels and hatches that were scattered around the park. The map seemed to be from when the park was still operating as it had several rides that Alicia hadn't seen while walking around.
However, there were several pen scribbles in certain places. Mara tapped on one big scribble before looking up at Ulla and Alicia. "Seems like all the tunnels were originally connected, forming one network, but they've used the fake walls and explosives to block them off into two distinct systems."
"Interesting," pondered Alicia. "Some places are marked on here as well."
"Looks like labs and supply stores," supposed Mara, "but nowhere near enough for a siege."
"Their plan seems to be falling apart," noted Alicia, "If they're feeding people the Queen's blood. well, how much blood does a lamia have?"
"I have no idea," replied Mara. "Not really in any of my classes. But based on her size, there is a reason she is so tired."
"But, didn't the Courtesan say that the blood was permanent? That didn't seem to be the way for the girl we dealt with," added Ulla.
"True," Mara considered. "Either she was given the fangs when she shouldn't have been, or the stress on the Queen's body means that the blood she transfers during the bite isn't as potent, anymore."
"So, that vamp was running on half the dose," supposed Alicia. "Explains her break. But something about how they were talking about the other vampires got me thinking."
"What?" asked Mara and Ulla in unison.
"Well, shadow puppets. If they're so keen on making the Queen seem strong, then they must be worried about an uprising."
"Right, you don't need to project strength if your position is stable." Ulla nodded.
"The missing ranks. Making them fight against each other to increase their position. Do you think it is a distraction? Keep them all so busy that none of them can ever find out that the Queen isn't as strong as she seems?"
"That would make a lot of sense," mumbled Ulla as she tapped her chin. "Especially as these ranks don't seem to have any real function. They're not heading up anything or doing something specific."
"Exactly," nodded Alicia.
"But where does that leave tomorrow?" interjected Mara. "We don't have much of the night left."
"People come up here to hear the story of the group who went missing," mumbled Ulla. "A story they've already got read to announce most likely."
"Yeah, the Courtesan was talking about getting her on every channel and getting people to come up the mountain," agreed Alicia.
"Make it undefended?" wondered Mara, "Hypnotized victims come up, vampires charge down the hill and ransack the town? Takeover whatever they can?"
"That sounds like the most logical option," Alicia said with a nod, "Why they need so many turned."
"The fangs could likely keep you drip-fed for a day or so," Mara continued, "So yeah, they would have to strike quickly." At that, Alicia started to giggle.
Ulla turned her way. "What?"
"I think I'm going to get captured!" chuckled Alicia. "I mean, I skipped out of jail unnoticed. Maybe time to skip back in?"
"Why?" asked Mara.
"Would be a shame if someone were to start a rebellion. Show the vampires just how weak the Queen is."
"Devious," remarked Mara.
"Especially if I can take out one of the other ranks. Then I might be able to get Mesmera to join me. Running this whole park side by side. Sisters in conquest!" Alicia laughed sarcastically, doing her best evil villain pose as she did.
"Right, but how do we sneak you into a prison?" asked Ulla.
"If you two pretended to be revenants, you could get me locked up," Alicia plotted. "This whole place is chaos. I doubt anyone is keeping track. Especially if we use the prison in this tunnel system."
"Worth a shot," Mara said with a shrug. "I want to check this other system for labs. If they have a drug production area, I want to see if I can get samples."
"Then let's have a break-in!" giggled Alicia as she moved to the steps.
"I'll catch up in a few minutes!" replied Ulla as Mara and Alicia started to descend.
As the pair reached the bottom of the steps they heard the familiar echo of a train horn before a loud bang shook the castle, a chorus of destruction echoing from above.
After a few seconds, Ulla emerged at the top of the stairs covered in dust. "Not going to use that place anymore," she said firmly. "No more boltholes. Also no more caste front."
"You blew the front off?!" shouted Mara.
"Courtesan crashing out of the window damaged that area, but most of it is just cosmetic," chuckled Ulla. "It won't collapse or anything, but I think we have to send a message."
"Fair." Mara nodded.