When Merrie woke again, she was on a bed of blankets. Her surroundings smelled faintly of sex underneath the cleaning solutions and Eolis' musk. There was another smell, another man. A name came up, Zeob. Merrie remembered Zeob as a slender, submissive male who traveled with Eolis and did all the cooking and cleaning.

She shivered and opened her eyes. It was blissfully dark around her. She was underneath a heavy comforter, the weight pinned her down against the mattress with a steady pressure that made her feel safe. She twisted around slightly before using the smooth end of her arm to lift it slightly.

Outside of the blankets, it was also dark. She blinked and stared at the room around her, inspecting it before she dared to peek out.

It was Eolis' room. She had seen it before but it had been years since she was inside it. She remembered the tapestry on the wall and how it smelled. There were new decorations, expected after so many years, but it gave her some comfort to be somewhere familiar. She took a deep breath and scooted out from underneath the blanket. Her ears caught on the way out and she felt delight growing at the pressure. She still had her dog-like ears. Curious, she reached down and stroked along her body toward her tail. When she felt solid skin, the delight grew despite the discomfort of raw nerves unused to being touched. The joy and discomfort peaked when she caressed her tail, stroking the silky strands with the edge of her arm.

She had a body, a solid one. She ran her wrist along it, exploring her skin as if it was her first. It felt smooth and solid, unlike the shadowy form that she pulled together. It was just like she remembered, except for a pucker of a scar above her heart from where Lemetri had burned it out of her chest.

Merrie held one hand against her scar as she continued to explore her body. She had forgotten her sense of touch and it took a moment for the sensations to come back to her; it felt like she was touching and being touched by a stranger at the same time.

Underneath her skin, her shadowy form was still there. Part of her concentration remained on it, keeping it in place to prevent it from leaking away. She was keeping herself together in spite of her skin. Curiously, she wondered if her new flesh could contain her.

Taking a deep breath, she relaxed her concentration. It felt like letting her bladder go free. The darkness inside her swelled and boiled, pressing against the insides of her skin with only a whisper of pressure. She closed her eyes and concentrated on her flesh, stroking around for any sign that she was losing her form. Her arm caressed against hard nipples and soft breasts that still felt like a stranger's. She trailed her hand down to between her legs, along the smooth mound of her sex and against the raw opening of her sex.

At the flash of pleasure and pain, she let out her breath. It felt good to touch herself, to feel her body responding once again.

A snore startled her.

She jerked and lost control of her concentration. Her shadowy body blossomed inside her skin but it held her. She panted for a moment, afraid that she was about to dissolve, but when her new body held, she let out a long whimper of relief.

“M-Mer?” A man sat up in the chair next to the bed. His dark hair was plastered against the side of his face but Merrie recognized him immediately. It was Borias, the mage and healer at the Puppy Mill. He was also a lover and a friend, though she had only seen him briefly before her fight with the goddess.

Letting out a shuddering gasp, Merrie reached out for him. The ends of her wrists couldn't grab him but she had a sudden and desperate need to touch him. Then she remembered how much she hurt touching anything and dropped her hand, her ears flattening against her head. A whine rose in her throat and she pulled back.

Magic sparked against her senses as he cast a spell. His eyes began to glow.

She flinched but then realized it was just her seeing his magic, not producing a killing light.

He turned to look at her. His smile stretched across his face as he slipped off the bed and sank to his need. “It be you, right?”

Merrie nodded and whimpered softly.

“Be thanking everyone.” Borias rose up and reached out for her.

Merrie flinched.

He pulled his hand back. “Sorry, I just be excited. They found you yesterday. I be healing part of you but your body is fragile. It be just a wrapper around your… darkness.”

Merrie rested her severed arm against the pucker of her wound.

Borias' eyes followed it. “I cannot be healing that. Divine magic be burning you and no mortal magic could be healing that. Are you solid?”

It would have been a strange question for anyone else. Merrie prodded her body for a second and then nodded. The movement made her dizzy and she had to lean back against the headboard for support.

Borias gasped and held out his hand. “You be okay?”

Merrie let out a gasp and nodded. She didn't think she could speak. Compared to pulling herself together every night just to burn away in the light, she was in far better shape than she could imagine. She looked at his outstretched hand for a long moment and wondered if she could risk him touching her. She didn't know if her shell, her skin, could take the pressure.

After taking a deep breath, she pressed the side of her face against his palm. As soon as they touched, the contact burned. She jerked back with a whine. Her nerves were raw like an exposed wound. Even the briefest touch hurt as much as a flame.

Borias snatched his hand back. “Oh, please be forgiving me.”

Merrie nodded, tears in her eyes. She tried to gather her thoughts to project but something kept her silent.

“Your body be new. You… you… everything be new to you. It may be hurting because you have never been using it before.” Borias' broken speech was the results of a geas that forced him away from Franome City. It had been cast in a hurry and it took part of his ability to speak with it.

Merrie licked her lips for a moment. She knew how to talk to him, but not with her words. She frowned as she remembered how and then reached out with her mind. She encountered a shield around his thoughts. It protected him from intrusion and spells; most people had them but powerful mages had stronger ones than most.

She pulled back and whined again.

Borias shifted and sat down on the bed. “I know it be hurting right now. And I not be knowing if the light will be hurting you, so we be taking you back to the mill.”

He tensed for a moment and she remembered how violently she responded when someone tried to take her back. Fear and concern rippled in his mind and she could feel it lapping against her senses.

Merrie reached out and pressed her arm against his thigh. It hurt, a burning pain, but the touch also relaxed much of his growing fear.

“Sorry, you be cropping Havi. I be liking me arms and legs,” he said with a chuckle.

Merrie blushed and ducked her head. She didn't know what she was doing when she ripped Haviston, Borias' cousin's, arm off his body. She was vulnerable to compulsions and Haviston's effort to keep her away from the mill had grown until it consumed her thoughts and she tried to kill everyone who brought her back.

“Me room be dark. I can be caring you down there until you are strong enough for sunlight. That is…” he paused, “… if you are willing to be staying with me and the others.”

She remembered his room. It was deep in the basement of the mill house. There were barrels of beer that he brewed along with an entire kitchen where he made magical food. It was also dark, shadowed and muted without a single window. It was also far more comfortable than cowering under a pile of leaves. She nodded and touched him again, wincing at the pain that rose up from their touch.

Borias sniffed. He wiped his face with the back of his hand. “I be missing you, girl. Five years you be gone and we be hearing horrible things that happened to you. If I not be having all me organs burst out me asshole, I would have been coming with Bass to save you. Instead, I be staying here to avoid seeing death and having all me organs be spewing out of me nose. Though, one of them be gone now.”

Merrie cocked her head, smiling at the familiar movement. Her tail twisted underneath her, but it was trapped on the pillows and her ass.

“The prince, Claston, he be taking off the death geas. I can be using real magic now, not have to be using spells and weaker charms.” Borias sighed and gestured around the room. “But, I be kind be nervous since I think he be doing it right. I'm afraid to see if I can still be getting power from killing someone. Or I be dying painfully.”

Merrie pushed herself up on her severed wrists to free her tail. Then, she crawled on her knees and knelt down on the bed. Her tail wagged once before drooping to the side. The position felt better, though she could feel the wagon moving underneath her. The ragged thumps and jerks was comforting, in a way.

Borias chuckled and smiled at her. “You be beautiful.”

Merrie blushed and wagged her tail. She gave him a smile and arched her back slightly, lifting her heavy breasts to his view.

His desire washed against her senses and she twisted slightly knowing that it would turn him on the most. His lust brought the faintest of ripples of energy along her skin before it slid down to her pussy. Her vulva began to tingle with excitement.

“You be still an alpha? Do you still be getting power from sex?”

She thought about it for a moment. She hadn't thought about sex since she regained consciousness.

He smiled. “You be putting them lovely titties up for me. You be doing to turn me on? Or you be doing that because it be feeling good for you?”

With a shy smile, she took a deep breath and arched her back more. She spread her legs along the cool sheets until she felt the faintest touch of the lower sheet tickling against her sex. Unconsciously, she tightened her inner muscles.

“I be thinking, if you can handle the touch, maybe me be bringing you orgasm might help your body.”

The thought of his mouth against her sex rose up followed by a wave of longing. At the same time, she cringed at the burning sensation that would come from his touch. She wanted it, now that he reminded her, but she didn't know if she could handle the pain.

Borias held up his hand. “No, not be pressured. I only be wanting to—”

(Please,) she projected into his mind. This time, her thoughts pierced his shield easily. At the same time, she brought her wrists up to her collar in the begging position she was taught during the early days at the mill.

He stopped with his mouth open. He slowly closed it with a choked sobbed. “I be missing you, girl. That voice be haunting me and I thought I never be hearing it again.”

Borias shifted closer. “You really want me to be trying? It be hurting, your body is still new.”

Merrie nodded hesitantly but she felt the longing building inside her. She inched forward on her knees, keeping them spread obscenely apart. Her slow movements brought her to the edge of the mattress. (Just a touch?)

He moaned and rubbed his hard cock through his pants. “I can be doing that. Just tell me when you need be stopping.”

Borias stood up enough to slide closer before sitting on the bed. His weight sank down on the mattress.

Merrie shifting her position to avoid touching him but to have her body close him him. The anticipation, half forgotten in her agonies, rose up and she felt her pussy tingle with excitement. Her smell rose up around her, it was a strange mixture of musk and alcohol blended together.

“Tell me,” whispered Borias as he reached out for her, “if it be hurting.”

He carefully maneuvered his finger between her legs. His body trembled and his breath was hot against her skin as he held still for a moment. Then he touched her lightly along her vulva.

The first touch was fire, burning from the caress. Her muscles clenched and she trembled as a whine escaped her throat.

Borias snatched back.

(No,) she projected, (please.)

He looked at her, worry naked on his face. But he obeyed and brought his finger back against her smooth, hairless vulva. He hovered over her moist lips for a moment before giving a gentle stroke along one side of her pussy.

The touch was fire but so was the desire underneath it. He was right, the pleasure brought a ripple of power sparkling along her senses. She bit back her whine and focused her world on his finger as he slowly drew it up and down her slit, teasing it. The light touch was almost as much agony as being burned alive but the pleasure that blended with the pain made it bearable.

She let out a soft sigh and held herself still, enjoying every burning caress against the delicate folds of her sex.

It was dry at first, as if her body didn't know how to respond. She held her breath and sank into the pain, embracing it as she let her world focus on his digit.

Borias drew back and forth, teasing and hurting at the same time.

The tingling along her pussy grew stronger and the first smells of her sex wafted up to her. It smelled of pussy and ether, a strange mixture of scents that tickled the back of the throat. Her hips rocked against his finger but the pain caused her to cringe.

Seeing that he was looking at her with concern, she took a deep breath and leaned her damp sex against his palm.

Borias parted her lips and ran his finger along the inner opening of her sex. The burning increased as did the pleasure. He found her clitoris and circled around it. Tiny sparks of pleasure ran along her black veins, flooding through her.

With the pleasure came something else, a pulse of power. It flared inside her and then sank into her skin. She felt it shimmering around her, an invisible field of energy.

“There we be going,” whispered Borias. “I can be feeling your cunt growing wet. Just a little more pain, k?”

Merrie fought against the discomfort and pressed her pussy tight against his fingers.

He stroked her gently, back and forth. After fucking so many women, he seemed to know exactly what she wanted. The pleasure grew, overwhelming the pain, and she began to pant.

She reached out for him but, at the first burning touch, she yanked her arm back. She used to brace against the headboard for balance and expose more of her body to his stroking fingers.

“This not be loving as much as I want,” he whispered, “but you be a good girl.”

Her inner muscles clenched at the remembered words.

“Oh, I be remembering what you like. You be liking being a good girl,” he said playfully.

Her pussy spasmed again and the pleasure rose.

“Good girl,” repeated Borias.

His burning fingers assaulted her clitoris and pussy, drawing through her ether-soaked lips. Inside her, the pleasure swelled inside her, rising to fill her body with the pleasure of something intense. The anticipation plucked at her senses. Between her legs, she began to drip with excitement and his fingering slurped quietly.

Merrie whimpered and clutched the headboard. Her naked body shook in the darkness, unseen by any light. She could feel the air against her aching nipples and the heavy weight of her breasts moving. Even the muscles, freshly formed from shadow and magic, strained to hold herself still as the pleasure continued to rise inside her.

His deep breathing punctuated the rapid triple-beat of her heart. Her collar thumped against her chest, matching the beat of her heart. The heavy ring that had been melted into it dug into her skin but it was nothing compared to the discomfort and pleasure of his finger teasing her.

Her whine filled the room as she held back her orgasm. It only took a few seconds longer.

Pleasure burst inside her. A black flame of intensity exploded from her clitoris and pussy and raced along her veins. Power and energy followed after it, blossoming inside her body as it sank into the shadowy mass underneath the skin and wrapped around it. She felt her form grow more solid as she cried out.

Borias yanked his hand back.

Merrie collapsed on the bed, panting heavily. Her orgasm hummed inside her, pulsating deep in her body. She felt cold and comfortable at the same time. With a happy sigh, she curled up on the pillow.

Borias pulled the blanket over her. “Good girl.”

Merrie looked up at him and smiled. (Thank you.)

“I be never stopping loving you, Merrie.”

She smiled again. Her eyes drooped.

“Go on, you be sleeping now. When you wake up, hopefully we be at the mill.”