The dark figure gently crept amongst the rafters of the large hall, careful not to make a sound. Looking from above, they could see their target, sitting on an obsidian throne, looking very bored. A tall, curvaceous woman, ghostly pale, long black hair hanging down in straight layers. She wore very... eccentric clothing, all black, glittering in the light, as if she were wearing the carapace of some strange insect, her face was adorned with an elaborate butterfly mask with opaque dark lenses over the eyes, and her corset and lack of skirt or pants accentuated her body, an entirely intentional aspect of her apparel.
She sat staring across the open stone hall at three armored men brandishing swords. They were metal hulks of steel and righteous fury. They were here to at long last defeat their tormentor, their oppressor, Empress Mirideth. "You know why we've come, wench!" exclaimed the man in front, pointing his sword at the woman on the throne. "You've oppressed our people for too long!" At this, the woman simply stared, a dull expression on her face.
"Nothing to say, have you?" The second man bellowed. All this, the figure in the rafters knew, was simply a distraction, giving them time to get into position. Silence filled the room, as the men stood on one end of the hall, and the woman sat in her throne on the other. The figure made their way slowly closer to the throne, to Mirideth herself. Readying themself to strike at the critical moment.
"You know how this goes by now. All you lessers do." The woman finally spoke. "You come in here, cut down my thralls, and bellow at me. And all I have to do is decide when to kill you. Why do you still do it?" Then men simply stood, still defiantly pointing their weapons at the Empress.
Several seconds passed, the figure in the rafters making their way closer, directly above the Empress now. Not much longer...
The men collectively let out a scream of fury and charged. The Empress simply sighed, lifted a hand, and swept it across the three men. The screaming stopped instantly, replaced by the heavy clanging of their armored bodies hitting the stone floor. Heaven and Void! That was... not supposed to happen. thought the figure in the rafters, as silence fell over the hall once again. There goes my distraction. Void taken idiots.
The figure's confusion and anger were quickly replaced by ice cold fear as the Empress simply called out "You can come out now, assassin. Where are you hiding this time? Under the floor? Perhaps somewhere behind my throne?" She looked up at the ceiling, directly at the spot where the figure was hiding and said, with a smirk "Or maybe... in the rafters?" The Empress's pupils glowed a bright teal behind her butterfly mask, and the figure found themself pulled from their hiding spot, and unceremoniously dumped onto the floor before the throne.
"Did you think you were being original with that sorry excuse of an attempt on my life? Did you think you'd really be the one to do it?" Mirideth stood up from her throne, the click of her heels echoing through the stone hall. The figure lay there, stunned, in pain, knowing that any second now would be their last. The Empress walked up to the figure lying there in their dark clothing, which covered their entire body, for anonymity. "You thought you were going to just, drop down on top of me and stab me with this?" She picked up a small dagger from the floor, looking it over behind the opaque lenses of her mask. "I'm sure you realize now that you were wrong." She threw the dagger aside. "It's really almost endearing what you lessers think you can accomplish, almost."
The figure regained their senses, and tried to get up from the floor, but Mirideth was already there. "Oh no dear, Cant. Have. That." She said with a smirk, punctuating each word with a kick to the figure's stomach. Now on their back, the figure looked up at the Empress standing over them.
"If you're going to kill me, then do it." The figure's feminine voice seemed to surprise the Empress, which the figure took as an opportunity to act. She leaped up and threw herself at Mirideth, tackling her to the floor. This attack was short lived however, as Mirideth simply raised her hand, and pulled the woman back with her magic.
"A woman? How interesting..." The Empress said, showing no reaction at all to the tackling. With a wave of her hand she removed the black cloth covering the woman’s head, revealing intricately braided, long blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, pale skin, and a long, rough scar across the girl’s face, starting at her left brow, all the way down across her nose.
The woman heard shuffling and scraping metal from behind as she floated a foot in the air, trapped in the Empress's magical grasp. "These three will make fine guard dogs, don't you think, Plaything?"
"I'm not your fucking plaything, witch." The woman spat back angrily.
"Oh, sweetie... that's what they all say. You. Take her to the holding cells." The Empress gestured behind her and dropped the woman from her magic. Before she could even hit the floor she was caught around the shoulders by large, gauntleted hands. The hands of one of the men she'd arrived with, or rather, his corpse.
She struggled, but to no avail, the corpse was strong, stronger than the man had been, given it had no brain to tell it not to use its full strength. It took her through winding stone passages for what seemed like forever. Finally, they arrived at the holding cells. Rows of metal cages lined the walls on each side of the hallway. Most were empty, but some contained young women in various mental states. Some were crying and begging to be let out, some were simply lying on the floor, seemingly comatose.
Others were more disturbing. Some were furiously touching themselves, moaning loudly about their devotion to Mistress Mirideth. Others were disturbing creatures, only partially still human. They had horns of varying lengths sprouting from their heads, one on each side, long, dextrous tongues wrapping around whatever was nearby, and in their eyes, no pupils, nor irses, simply black sclera, and pink hearts in the center. They simply kneeled in their cells, staring ahead at nothing.
The woman said nothing in response as she was carried past them, to an already open cell. The corpse carrying her unceremoniously threw her into the cell, and slammed the door shut. The woman lie there on the dirt floor of the cell, listening to moaning from the other prisoners around her. This is fine she thought, I can get out of this, just have to keep my head. All I have to do is stay clear headed and I'll get out of this.
Several hours passed, every so often either a corpse or a dark purple skinned creature would enter the holding cells and take one of the women away somewhere. It won't be me for a while, I'm sure. I've only been here a few hours. The woman thought, certain she'd have time to think up a suitable escape plan.
A few minutes later, one of the purple skinned creatures stopped in front of her cell. "Up, girl. Don't make me force you." It said, in a distorted feminine voice. The woman turned to look at the thing. It had an exaggerated feminine body shape, was wearing nothing, and looked thoroughly unamused. Though she noted its nether regions were dripping with arousal. It looked down at her with its heart-shaped pupils, waiting for her to stand. Its horns curled up behind its head, forming a heart, the center of which faintly pulsed with pink light. "I said, up!" the creature threw open the cell door and stormed toward her.
"Or what? You'll kill me, demon? If you're going to do that, just get it over with."
"Perhaps I will, slut." It grabbed the woman by the throat and held her up off the floor. After which it slammed her against the metal bars of her cell, over and over. Just as the woman's vision began to blur, the grip on her throat loosened before dropping her entirely. As she lay on the floor, retching and coughing, her head buzzing with pain, she saw that the creature's eyes had started glowing a teal color, and it looked as if it was in a state of total bliss, judging by its facial expression.
It turned as if pulled by an unseen force, and fell to its knees. It knelt before the Empress herself, Mirideth, who stood before them both, her eyes glowing behind the opaque lenses of her mask. "Now my dear thrall, that's no way to treat a guest, is it?
"No.. Mistress..." It replied, in a sleepy, slurred fashion. "You will take yourself back to your quarters, and you will punish yourself for me." The Empress said it as if it were a simple fact, not even an order, just something that absolutely would happen. And it did, the thrall stood and walked off down the hall, out of the holding cells.
Palpable silence filled the hall, aside from the moans and cries of the other prisoners. The woman made a slight attempt to stand, stopping short in anticipation of punishment, but none came. "I'm terribly sorry about how you've been treated so far." Mirideth said as she made her way to the doorway of the cell, not so subtly blocking the woman's only avenue of escape.
"I'm sure you are, witch." the woman walked to the back of the cell, leaning her back against the wall. "Why'd you save me? A few hours ago you were kicking me whilst I lay on the floor helpless. And you locked me up here in the first place." The Empress took a few steps into the cell.
"Because I can see your potential, my dear. You can be so much more than a mere assassin. Sneaking about in the shadows, failing to carry out your duty."
The woman scoffed, "I only failed because-"
"I was better than you? Saw through your pathetic ruse? Am more powerful than you ever imagined? Which is it, plaything? I'm curious."
The woman was silent, staring down at the floor. It was evident she hadn't been expecting the interruption. Suddenly she found her thoughts become cloudy, less fully formed. She looked up at Mirideth, and saw her eyes glowing teal. This meant something, she knew that much, but what it was, was hard to pin down. Everything was becoming confused. Mirideth spoke, and her voice was.. different somehow, prettier, distorted, easy to listen to. "Tell me, girl. Which, is it?"
The words spilled from her mouth with little effort, little thought
"I-it was... all of them..." Her voice sounded odd to her ears, sleepy, or slurred somehow. "What's.. happening.." Mirideth came closer to the girl, and whispered in her ear
"Everything you could ever desire" was her reply. At this, the girl felt a shock of pleasure unlike any she had ever felt. Mirideth stepped back, her eyes still glowing.
"This is... wrong.. I need to.. t-to.." the girl slurred out as she took a wobbly step forward.
"It's not wrong, you're exactly where you need to be, Plaything." Mirideth said as she placed a hand gently on the girl's shoulder. "Tell me, Plaything, what is your name?"
"N-not.. your... plaything... my name.. is Lucia.."
"That's a good girl, Lucia. Beautiful name, will be a shame to strip you of it." The Empress gently pushed Lucia to her knees, with very little resistance.
"You can't.. break me." Lucia said, with increased lucidity.
"Oh my dear Plaything, you're already broken. You just don't know it yet. Not to worry though, I'll show you the way."
Lucia didn't know how much time had passed. The last thing she remembered was telling Mirideth her name, and yet now here she was, nude, kneeling before the Empress's throne. A metal collar had been fastened around heck, attached to a chain, which was held by Mirideth herself as she sat upon her throne, her legs crossed. "Now, Plaything, tell me, who sent you and your.. companions?"
At this, Lucia felt a shock of panic, just how much had she told her already? "T-the Forsyth rebellion... sent us..."
"The Forsyth rebellion you say? How very interesting. What a good plaything you are, telling me whatever I ask." Lucia found a small portion of her mind still intact, still willing and able to resist. She poured all she had into it, bringing her out of her trance.
"I'd never help you, witch. You think you can do whatever you want, hurt whoever you please. All due to your wicked, demonic powers. Well I'm telling you right now, wench, you'll never break the spirit of our People! You'll ne-... ver... br-break..." Her words trailed off as Mirideth summoned a shining black orb, seemingly from nowhere. Lucia found she couldn't stop staring at it, no matter how hard she tried. She simply kept falling, staring deeper into what looked like an infinite void within the sphere.
"That's right, Plaything. All quiet now. No more words, no more thoughts. Just stare into the Void, and listen to what I say."
"listen.. quiet.. yes..." Lucia replied, unknowingly, she was too far gone, too empty of thought to comprehend the concept of saying things. Only her subconscious listened now, taking in Mirideth's words. Accepting them.
"Good girl, Plaything, just relax, there's no need to resist, no need to speak, no need for anything, but to listen to me."
Lucia awoke back in her cell, still nude, and utterly exhausted. She had no idea how long it had been. The last thing she remembered were the glowing eyes of Mirideth. Those.. Pretty. Pretty eyes… she thought, before catching herself, getting herself back on track. Okay Lucia, you’re down, but you’re not out. You’re in your cell. You’re naked, and your mind has been… defiled, by that demonic witch. She shivered at that thought. It was so easy for Mirideth to take control; so easy for her to break into my mind.. How am I so weak? I was trained, knew what to expect... She sat up and hugged her knees close to her. The dungeon was dark now, but the moaning of the other prisoners was still audible all around. No, I can’t let myself fall into despair. That will only make it easier for her to… do what she does. Lucia thought, looking around, squinting in the darkness, trying to see something, anything in the gloom. She could see vague shapes, the bars of her cell, other cells, other prisoners, all the same, just dark now.
Lucia nearly leapt out of her skin at the sudden tap on her shoulder and the whispered word from behind. “Stop panicking, do you want the thralls to notice?” The whispers said, annoyance audible in their voice. Lucia calmed herself and stared into the dark of the cell next to hers. She could make out the faint outline of a woman, still clothed in dark cloth not unlike Lucia’s assassin outfit. She hadn’t been there before.
“Who are you?” Lucia whispered, confused.
“My name is Arana, but that’s not important. I need to get you out of here. The others in this block are too far gone, but you’re still you.” Lucia stared, confused and a bit stunned.
“What? You’re in a cell, you’ve been captured just like me.”
“The cell isn’t locked, dullard. You didn’t think The Forsythe Rebellion would just leave to your fate, did you?” Lucia stared in shock, hope starting to flood back into her. As calm as she’d been trying to be, she had all but given up hope of actual escape.
“I.. this is real? Not one of that witch’s tricks?”
Arana quietly sighed “Yes, it’s real, listen to me, this isn’t safe. We need to get you out of that cell and get moving, or neither of us is getting out of here.”
“How do we do that?”
Arana stood up and examined the cell extensively. “I just need to apply this uh.. magic salve to the bars here, here, and here.” Lucia felt disgust rising up from the pit of her stomach at the mention of magic.
“Magic? You’re using magic?! How are you any better than that sorcerous witch?!” Arana suddenly reached between the bars and slapped her hand over Lucia’s mouth.
“Shut. Up. Keep your damned voice down or you’re going to get us caught.”
Lucia stepped back, freeing her mouth and crossed her arms indignantly “Magic is a tool of the corruptor, the Empress Mirideth. If you use her tools, why should I trust you to save me from her?”
Arana sighed quietly and whispered back “Because you don't really have any other options. Unless you want to stay here and become Mirideth’s corrupted servant?” Lucia stepped back and said nothing more. Arana took out a strange metal container, and scooped out some kind of semi-solid material out of it, applying it to the bars in the indicated area using one gloved hand. Lucia stared in shock as the bars slowly melted and dissolved wherever the material touched it. Arana reached out and grabbed the weakened metal and pulled. It came free with little sound, and she carefully set it aside on the floor of her cell.
Lucia stared at the new gaping hole in her cell incredulously. Arana grabbed her arm and pulled her through “Come on, we need to go.” The pair exited the unlocked cell next to Lucia’s and stepped out into the hall.
“I hope you know how to get out of here” Lucia whispered as they headed toward the door. Arana didn’t reply, continuing on and carefully opening the door to the cell block. She led Lucia through the darkened halls, avoiding walking corpses and Thralls alike, until they reached a tall stairway that could only lead up a tower of some kind. As they ascended the stairs in silence, a loud bang was heard from below, and a teal glow could be seen from behind.
“Oh fuck” Arana whispered, and half-dragged Lucia as she began sprinting up the stairs, two or three at a time. They reached a wooden hatch at the top of the stairs, and Arana tried to open it. It didn’t budge. “Fuck fuck FUCK come on.” She wasn’t bothering to be quiet anymore, as she quickly took out more of the salve and applied it to the hinged side of the hatch.
“Naughty girl, trying to escape...” purred a female voice from further down the staircase. “I don’t know how you managed that trick with the cell bars, but you have nowhere to run now.” As Arana began trying to beat the hatch open, Mirideth rounded the corner, eyes glowing behind her mask. Lucia backed up as close to Arana as she could
“GET IT OPEN!” She cried and she pushed further into Arana’s legs.
“Doing my best here!”
With a crack and splinter of wood, the hatch came open. An incredibly bright light filled the staircase, brighter than any Lucia had ever seen other than the sun. Arana moved more quickly than Lucia thought possible as she hauled them both up and out of the hatch. A deafening roar filled Lucia’s ears as they exited into the cold night air. Lucia first thought it was one of Mirideth’s hideous creations, but she soon realized the sound was coming from the same source as the light. Behind the point of light illuminating the top of the tower, Lucia could see a large, dark shape, angular, unnatural looking. Jets of intense flame and heat spouted from various places on the creature’s hide, the roar seeming to come from everywhere at once. As she was all but dragged by Arana toward the creature, something even more peculiar happened, a rectangular section of its hide suddenly opened, and formed a ramp, light was visible inside, but that was all Lucia could see of it. She felt herself tumbling through the air, and only after hitting a hard surface within the creature did she realize Arana had thrown her. Arana jumped into the opening after it, after which it quickly closed.
“What’s happening? What is this thing? Are we being eaten?” Arana ignored Lucia’s panicked questions as she walked past her. Lucia looked around and saw a room unlike any she’d ever seen.