Mercy, and Other Costly Mistakes

18. Vicious

by gargulec

Tags: #cw:gore #D/s #dom:female #pov:bottom #pov:top #sub:female #bondage #fantasy #sadomasochism
See spoiler tags : #exhibitionism #humiliation

Sight and sound dissolved into a milky haze, surrounding Ifi in a synesthetic susurrus. It wasn't that she was blind to the motion around her, or deaf to the music of the masque, but they reached her in scintillating shards, scattering and shattering across the surface of her senses. Sometimes an image would break through this shimmer, manifesting a burst of noise or a rhythm traced out in swirls and swooshes of white dresses.. She forded straight through the rushing torrent of the crowd, shining in the bright charmlight, and yet so remote, so far away.

Only touch remained with her, its tactile presence the one thing cutting through the weaves of incoherent, cascading thoughts. Ifi's body was near to her. It remained present in the push of the straps securing her arms tightly around her chest, and in the way her breath struggled and failed to loosen them. It was in the way the cuffs at her thighs shortened each of her steps, and in the focus needed to keep herself steady on the spikes of her heels. It was in how the collar and the muzzle locked her head in place, turning each attempted sideways glance into a reminder of her bondage, and in how her teeth and tongue kept slipping around the gag forcing them apart. It was in the sharp reminders sent by the hook impaling her, coming with each little motion of her body, and in the desperate, damp want she met them with. And, of course, it was anchored to the tog of her leash, the braided cord holding her in the here and now, even as it extended towards the fiery blur that was all she could perceive of Shard.

No, her body would not slip from her attention – nor from the attention of others. People stared. Ifi felt their looks as a pressure settling from all sides, as hundreds of little touches and caresses brushing across her skin. There was no hiding from their tiny pinpricks, there was no looking away from the hungry eyes taking the hold of her, there was only the burning shame of exposure barely concealed behind the mask and the muzzle. Locked into proud uprightness, denied the choice of flight or a shy sideways glance, Shard held her up, stripping off everything other than her most naked self.

She leaked – drool, sweat, arousal, and else. She wanted to stop. She couldn't. She was thankful. She hoped others couldn't notice. She was desperate for others to see.

At the edge of yet another crowded floor, Shard stopped and wrapped a hand around her waist. She flaunted her to the world, and made her bow to the dancers below. As the dress tightened around her, it drew an involuntary, beautiful moan from her distorted mouth. Ifi was gone. Only a body remained, uninhabited and unburdened by all the weights that it had suffered under. The memory of the moment etched itself into the foundations of her, to forever remain a warm trace buried deep in her muscle and bone.

In the moment, the dumb bliss seemed like it could last forever, leaving her with its gifts of emptiness and weightlensses, of defeaning light and blinding sound. But the waters had to recede at some point, and there was only so much her body could take, flooded as it was. She followed Shard floor after floor, passing through a mass of white that slowly resolved itself into singular bodies and individual masks. The little discomforts of her dress increased, not nearly enough to become unwelcome, but still enough to drag on the free flow of her sensations, slowing and taming them.

In a way – and that was the first lucid thought she had in a while – she knew this feeling. It was the leisurely comedown from a potent relaxing tonic, one brewed well enough to leave only by imperceptible degrees and linger long after the last of it had been flushed away. She tried to exhale deeply, mostly to remind herself that it was not a comfort she was allowed.

The elevator they were in brought them to a circular gallery running the edge of the tower's wall, far away from the noisy dancefloors. Private booths lined the length of it, colorful curtains and muffling charms separating them from the rest of the feast. Shard let Ifi step out first, then followed after, looking around with a slight lean. The alchemist had no real idea what she was searching for, nor exactly what it was that had brought them here in the first place. Distantly, she recalled images of Shard holding a conversation with Villis, and a sense of her disappointment. The finer details were harder to hold on to.

Realizing that her memory was giving in made her quiver in excitement.

Shard gave her a light shove, pointing her in the direction of an isolated booth set by a tall stained glass window. A few people loitered around, their demonic masks drawn slightly up, cocktail glasses in hand. Obediently, the alchemist started to shuffle towards it, the below-spawn shadowing her, quiet on her feet.

"There you are!" one of the feast-goers exclaimed, sauntering towards Shard and Ifi.

Shard stopped, pulling at the leash and almost getting Ifi to stumble in turn. She blinked, trying to remember why the blue goblin mask seemed so familiar – she must have had a run in with this man earlier? Her thoughts trickled through her mind as if through a sieve – a feeling she tried her best to savor.

"Father is waiting inside," the man declared, his lips indicating that the amber cocktail in his hand was hardly his first one tonight. "You should have seen his face when I passed him your little offer!"

Shard nodded curtly, making a sound between a thanks and a feline hiss, then shortened Ifi's lead, pushing her through the curtain and into the dark of the smoke-filled booth. There was a popping sensation in the alchemist's ears as the muffling charm welcomed them in, the sounds of the party instantly fading into a heavy silence.

"Shard of White Obsidian."

There was a table inside, and behind there sat a man, a sea-foam pipe dangled inches from lips. In the dim light, only the glint of his silver half-mask showed, alongside dozens of little charms rimming the collar of his shirt. His voice trailed heavily through the artificial quiet, laden with impatient hunger.

"Master Anateus," Shard replied, inclining her head. "I've come to negotiate."

Ifi didn't have to wait for the pull of the leash to know where she was supposed to be. She dropped to her knees, feeling Anateus' eyes follow her down.

"Is this a joke?" he asked, glaring. "Don't you know to come alone?"

"I did," Shard waved her hand, settling down herself. "She is not a party to any of that. She is not even from the Table."

"I can see that," Anateus knocked the ash out of the pipe, then set it carefully in its stand. "Get your whore out. Then we can talk."

The word caught Ifi like a slap on the face; she flinched, less so from the insult itself, and more from the well-practiced contempt it carried.It described everything she could ever be in his eyes.

"Don't you call her that," Shard protested. "She is not a servant to be-"

"I don't care," Anateus interrupted, rapidly drumming his fingers on the table. "We are either talking it between ourselves, or not at all. And judging by Alissa's mood," his fingers stopped mid-strike, "I don't think either of us has time left to waste."

Ifi twisted her torso to look at Shard, briefly meeting the ruby eye of her mask. The below-spawn opened her mouth, pointed teeth forced into a grimace, then quickly slipped an a finger under Ifi's collar, urging her to pull herself up from the floor.

"It will only be a moment," she promised into her ear, guiding her out of the booth and to the railing running across the gallery's edge.

A delicate thread tensed inside Ifi as Shard loosened the leash from her wrist, before looping it around the ornately pattern metal railing. She made a noise through the gag, somewhere between are you sure and fine, but didn't protest.

"Just a moment," Shard reassured, touching the tips of her fingers to Ifi's cheek.

There was a kind of a charm to the idea of being left alone, like a pet or a slave in one of the stories. Sure enough, a barbed fear lurked beneath it, but if it was only going to be a moment, then what was the harm? She nodded at Shard, resolving to be brave, made all the easier in the afterglow of her long comedown.

"I won't be far," Shard said, wiping some drool from underneath Ifi's chin with the hem of her robe.

Only after the below-spawn vanished into the curtained interior did Ifi realize that with the muffling charm, there would be no way for Shard to hear any of her struggle. She was, for the time being, alone. It took a few moments for the thought to build up properly, spreading across the expanse of Ifi's consciousness before closing its grip with a crushing force. She was alone, bound and gagged, left unattended in full display. Mere weeks ago, she could have only fantasized about being so thoroughly helpless. As if to give it a test, she tried to take a step back from the railing, watch the leash unfurl and then pull taunt; the braided ribbon was far stronger than she was.

Another arrested breath, restrained by the collar and the gag was enough for the thick flicker of excitement to shake through her. She was alone, bound and gagged, thoroughly helpless. Once again, she strained against the sleeves and straps holding her arms, and once again she was reminded of how firm and tightly-fitted they were. This was enough for a warm fluster to wash over her, and for the sucking sensation in the pit of her stomach to expand. She burned.

A pair of short steps brought her back to the railing; carefully, feeling the hook twist inside with every twist of the upper body, she propped herself against it. There was no way she could describe the experience of it digging into her inside as pleasant, and yet it indisputably was – in a way that made her cry so very quietly, the sound dying behind the muzzle. She looked down at the gala below, but her thoughts were instead taken by the image of slender white fingers, slick and warm from working her over.

There was this story, stuck in her head, from those lewd pornographies she had once so loved; it was about a woman driven into madness from sheer want, from arousal so titanic that its unfulfillment left her mind permanently shattered. As with most of the Southern Teacher's output, it was revolting to read and entirely impossible to scrub from Ifi's imagination. Trying to follow the Feast and being only able to really think about the throb of her own desire, and the impossibility of relieving it, she had to consider if that is how she was going to go.

What she didn't account for was boredom.

The initial rush of excitement took some time to drain, but drain it did. Minutes passed unmarked, with Shard still vanished inside her secret negotiations, and Ifi left unattended. There was a novelty to it, and many little pleasures, but not much more beyond. Unfilled time began to unspool. The alchemist kept glancing over her shoulder, expecting Shard to appear behind her at any moment, but instead each thrown look was just another jab up her backside. The first few were jolts of pain thoroughly mixed with pleasure; the ones that followed simply annoyed. She turned around to avoid them in the future, instead exposing herself to the laboriously mounting frustration of waiting with nothing to do. She couldn't even tap her fingers impatiently against the railing; the cuffs at her thighs made it difficult to drum her foot as well. Standing mostly still and staring mostly ahead was all that was left to her; that, and feeling the spit pool in the corners of her mouth, before tickly slowly alongside the edge of her jaw.

The mounting frustration was not without a sweet edge of its own, and Ifi tried to hold onto it, imagining it as a kind of a play from Shard, a trick performed on her to make her more compliant and weak for the rest of the night. And after all, it was not like she had been really abandoned; there was no way for Shard to leave the booth without showing herself to Ifi. All she had to do was wait. There really wasn't a reason to be worried, there was no cause for anxiety, and the little discomforts of her situation were, in themselves, a kind of a pleasure.

"Hey!" a voice reached her over the idle murmur of the Feast.

She turned to see the group of three masked men that had greeted her and Shard before, apparently returning from their trip to the bar. One of them was pointing towards Ifi with flute glass.

"Isn't that…" he asked, slurring lightly.

"Oh fuck, yes, that is her!" another, the one with the blue goblin mask, responded excitedly. "Want to take a look?"

In an instant, Ifi's heart swelled a size. Her first instinct was to take a step back, only to be reminded of the railing behind her. The group of men approached her, stopping a short distance away, their colorful masks all turned towards her. They took a moment to take the sight in, properly.

"Damn," the one with the flute whistled. The others laughed.

"Told you," the blue goblin took a long sip from his glass.

The third one, wearing a mask in the shape of a deceitful devil leaned in, the tip of his long, red nose pointing at Ifi's face.

"Wow," he mumbled. "Even the eyelashes, see?"

She had to meet his eyes; breathing was suddenly so very difficult. Then again, a breed of weird and altogether disturbing satisfaction did settle in her throat, insect-like. If they were just going to watch – maybe that, too, could be a good memory. Something to remember.

"That's so weird," the first one muttered. "Must have hurt as shit, no? Looks like some reptile."

"Bet she begged the demon lady not to do it!" the blue goblin snorted. "On her knees and all. And then…" he mimed a hand pulling something out at eye-level. "Bam!"

They laughed again, the sound burning cold. It occurred to Ifi that she couldn't move – not just because of the bindings, but that something in her head seized up like a broken mechanism. She kept staring dead ahead, past the men, and at the booth, waiting for the folds of the curtain to sweep aside, and for Shard to finally step out and…

"Look, she's drooling," the long-nose pointed.

Ifi tried to swallow; a trail of spittle extended down her chin. Even her thoughts ground to a frozen halt.

"Lowborns," the flute glass groaned, his dismissive contempt little different from Master Anateus'. "So filthy…"

"You mean hot?" the blue goblin slapped him on the back. His chortled out a sloppy, runny laugh.

"Get better taste, An," the response came out easy and casual. "Didn't you fuck enough of those already?"

"Jealous much?" he snapped back, swaying into a half-crouch. "Hm…"

Ifi's throat closed on itself, crushing the inkling of hope that this would be a pleasant memory. He was staring at her crotch. But Shard was just behind the curtain. Nothing bad was going to happen. This was just a scare.

"You know," he mused with a drunken cheer, "I think she's dripping from the other hole too."

"What, at you?" the long nose snorted.

"Bet. You know how bitches are."


They laughed so hard that the glass flute ended up coughing some of his drink; that made them howl again.

"But for real," the blue goblin reached under his mask to wipe his mouth. "Now I'm curious. Let me check…" he put the cocktail glass on the floor.

It was a small grace that Ifi's imagination was also completely locked. She stared.

"Wait" the long-nose reached. "She's, you know…"

The curtain twitched. Ifi was a statue, a thing, a wait. The blue goblin fumbled with his glove.

"Who cares that much about a servant," he slurred, finally getting it out. He kept staring at Ifi's crotch, fingers twitching expectedly. "Me and Shard go a long way, she won't mind a quick-"

The booth opened up. The below-spawn's red-vested form emerged from the zone of silence, her head immediately darting towards the throng of men around Ifi. The alchemist's heart skipped a beat; the blue goblin didn't even hear the light porcelain steps behind him. A clawed hand arced through the air.


And then, it stopped. Behind Shard, there was Master Anateus, beholding the scene with a deep, angry frown. The blue goblin stifled a curse; the long-nose helped him up and around.

"We were just talking, father," he grunted out. "Just having some fun."

Ifi watched Shard stare straight at him, the half-extended claws retracting quickly.

"Did you touch her?" she snarled in a voice murderous enough to be a cut in itself.

Ifi smiled under the gag, letting relief wash over her. She'd hug her, if she only could. The blue goblin made a stumbling, awkward step back – but he was not looking at the below-spawn.

"No!" he threw his hands up. "What's wrong with you lately! It's just some girl!"

"If you…" Shard began.

"Don't waste your breath on this," Anateus grunted, voice like churning gravel. He was staring at the blue goblin with a well-worn frustration on his face. "And for our both's sake, don't threaten my son."

There was supposed to be a curt why not; Ifi couldn't wait to hear those words. But Shard remained rooted in place. The blue goblin stumbled back into an upright position, the flute glass patting his back.

"It was all just some misunderstanding," he muttered. "Me and Shard would never, father, never…"

"I sure hope so," Anateus spat, turning towards the elevator. "We don't have time for this."

Slipping between him and his son, Shard skipped towards Ifi, reaching for the knot at the railing.

"Shard!" the old glassmaker's voice shot out. "Which part of 'no time' don't you understand?!"

The below-spawn's hand stopped again, just inches from the leash. Ifi looked directly into her face, the flames painted across it, and the helpless line of her hidden mouth.

"I'm not leaving her," she began, but her voice trailed off.

"You're not dragging an eye-candy to what we're about to do!" Anateus growled. "She can wait until I have the damn city back!"

The worst part – worse than the desperate memory of the promise given, worse than the gut-shredding fear that followed, worse even than the absolute despair Ifi saw in Shard's brief hesitation – was the fact that the alchemist wasn't surprised at all when the below-spawn straightened away from her. Her heart broke a second earlier, just to soften the blow.

"Just a moment longer," she promised, her words empty and dry. "I'll make it up to you. I swear."

Strangely, the first thing she felt wasn't sadness, nor rage, nor even fear, but rather a disturbingly familiar sense of disappointment in herself.

In the end, Ifi had only herself to blame for the glassy tap of Shard's feet, as she walked away, trailing Anateus on her way back to power and prestige. Had she not been warned, multiple times? It was her choice to ignore all those warnings and instead pursue a fantasy. Now, this was coming to the kind of a close her beloved stories had never really covered. She sagged in her bindings, or as much as she was allowed to. Her body hurt.

The blue goblin spent a few moments trying to pick up his glass, his eyes following his father all the way to the elevator.

"Wow," the long-nose muttered. "Everybody's so mad tonight."

"I don't get it," the blue goblin shook his head. "What was she thinking I was about to do, fuck her latest toy? I know better than that."

"Right," the flute glass nodded eagerly. "And during a party too."

"All I wanted," he continued his angry rant, "was to check something. Like that!"

Ifi made very little noise as she felt his hand push up the cloth on her thigh, warm and sweaty. She couldn't move anyway. The touch was mercifully brief; she felt sick of herself, and of the world.

"Was that worth working herself up like that?" he waved the hand to his friends, the drink spilling from his glass. "Was it?"

"Nah," the flute glass agreed.

"So, is she wet?" the long-nose couldn't hold his curiosity down, even now.

"Oh, yeah," the blue goblin muttered, the matter clearly no longer of interest to him. "Like a complete slut. Fuck," he sighed. "I need another drink."


For the second time in the night, Ifi was alone. At least this time, there was no boredom to the solitude, replaced wholly by a vast and bitter sense of disappointment and broken hope. She stared dead ahead, at the empty booth and the window past it, without really seeing either.

The future unfolded before her, regret bringing out clarity. Shard was going to come back for her or she was going to die due to the consequence of her plotting; in either case, there was only one thing Ifi intended to do next. Get released, by the below-spawn or a contrite servant or whoever else, and then just run back to the safety and seclusion of her workshop, away from everything and everyone. And there, she would brew herself a bottle full of oblivion, a potion to strip the last few weeks from her memory like old paint. And if that left a scar on her mind for the rest of her life, it would still be better than remembering the brief few moments when she was as happy as she could be, and the crushing realization that they were built on yet another lie.

The ease and fluidity of her thoughts, long arrested, baffled her, but they were helping her. They were building a firewall between her and everything else, between her and her body, and all that stuck to her, all of its disgusting leakages and pathetic humiliations. They were the prize and the price of her mistakes, along with every other indignity of the night. They all belonged in the same ledger. All in all, she was probably going to live. The High Families saw her as little more than a discarded toy, and really, given what Shard has just done, wasn't she just that? Not ever worth the time and effort to properly smash before tossing it aside.

The spiral of self-loathing unwound in front of her, inviting her to take a slide to an unreachable terminus. She took the opportunity, gladly drowning herself in the rotten reassurance of despair and self-pity; it muted all other hurt, for the time being. Then-

The crystal gong split the tower from top to bottom, the noise loud enough to break even through the ugly veil Ifi spun around herself. By the instinct of the mind less than an impulse of the will, she turned around to see Master Glassmaker at her balcony again.

"I apologize for interrupting this enormous waste of everyone's time," she declared brightly. "But I have a few words of appreciation I'd like to offer to a pair of people who have endeavored to make this night as special as possible for me! Please," Ifi could just hear the smile, "I invite everyone to look at the main dancing floor."

Driven by an awful exception, Ifi looked down as much as the collar would allow, taking into view the floor below, where a crowd in white was clearing space around a pair of figures, one of them draped head-to-toe in fiery red. In their side galleries, musicians set their instruments aside, the last few notes of the melody trailing out into a storm of whispers.

"I have often been called vicious," Master Glassmaker continued. "A woman only after blood and power. I would add justice to that, but otherwise, it's not wrong. Still, I do appreciate finer things, from time to time."

In the crowd around Shard and Anateus, Ifi spotted motion. Three shapes, larger, leaner, and more predatory than any human could be. Though the white porcelain faded into the color of the Feast, the way the shapes moved was a tell enough. Ifi swallowed; Shard's comeuppance was coming in fast.

"Fashion, for example," the words came in a light cascade, "My attempted killer, now killing with her dress! So much more interesting than most of you! If only her eye for allies was just as sharp."

The three below-spawn, each with a long leash extending from their backs into the hands of black-clothed handlers, broke into the cleared space, surrounding Shard from all sides. Even from a distance, Ifi could hear them laugh out a skittering series of cruel clicks.

"I can also be forgiving, even to my most ardent enemies. For an impressive enough price, that is."

In distant silence, Ifi watched as Shard leaped towards Anateus, claws outreached, only to be tackled and pinned to the floor by the three of her siblings, their triumphant howls drowning out the scream of the crowd.

"And this brings us to my personal, thoroughly unexpected highlight of the evening!"

One of the below-spawn, wrapped in criss-crossed black fabric, a dark shape painted across its face, jammed its claws into Shard's mouth, prying it open. Another hurried with a flask of a milky potion, pouring it down inside. Ifi looked away.

"To the Lair-Mother below," Master Glassmaker exclaimed, "as proof of our alliance, I offer her errant child, to be dispensed with as she sees fit. And to all of you, I raise a toast: to vengeance, the basest and best of all pleasures!"

On the dance-floor, the below-spawn dragged Shard up, legs buckling under her as the slowmilk took hold. A slight, absurd mote of pride flitted through Ifi's consciousness – they were using the same solution she came up with, all on her own. Another thought, awful and thorny, followed: that there was some kind of justice in this world, even if it brought no one happiness.

"I'm sorry!"

The familiar voice rose from Shard's throat, carrying up above the dance-floor. The words were smoothed around the edges, already weakened by the poison, and yet ringing with more than hurt.

"It's long past time for apologies," Master Glassmaker responded from up high. "For you, at least."

She didn't understand, and it occurred to Ifi that no one did. That no one but her could hear that under fear and despair so audible in Shard's shout, there was more.

"I'm sorry!" Shard wailed.

Nothing backed that apology; nothing could Ifi remembered the last time the below-spawn promised her to do better, and how she failed to do so. Through the fog of the night, she fished out the words that Villis spoke: none of it is real. The alchemist understood why he had thought so – it wasn't hard to see. But those desperate shouts?

They were. They had to be. The realization sunk into her slowly, finding its place alongside regret and heartbreak, and the trembling anger she still felt towards Shard.

She wanted to respond, even though she didn't know the word that would fit. It was moot, anyway. Even if she could find them, she couldn't speak them.

"You were-"

Words died in Shard's mouth as one of her siblings punched her, the sound another tolling of a bell. Then, it punched again, and again, until she was quiet. Then, Shard vanished, pulled into a hidden path on the side of the tower. For the third time, Ifi was reminded of just how alone she was.

She was given much time to dwell on the feeling as the night dragged on and no one paid her any attention, leaving it to servants to sweep her aside later, alongside all the other refuse of the Feast. The dress strained her body, the loss strained her mind, all combining together a murky haze she was settling in slowly and without any choice in the matter. Worse yet, the warmth of the evening before, of those moments in empty-headed bliss refused to fully flush away, remaining in the recesses of her as a reminder of everything she was losing. But even that realization was without proper bite, failing to find solid purchase on the piece of flint that Ifi was rapidly becoming.

Even when the help came, with the beautiful golden hair of Eusi, and the blank-faced powerful arms of her wife, the alchemist struggled to react with more than just a weak nod.

"We've been looking for you," the woman whispered, carefully undoing the gag and the collar. "Let's get you out of here."

The alchemist allowed herself to be handled, freed, and led away; as the tension released from her tired body, so did the senses give way, one by one, the feeling of strong hands helping her up the last thing she remembered from the Feast of Indulgence.

Show the comments section (1 comment)

Back to top

Register / Log In