A dip into the icy waters of the basement tub felt good. The water was almost freezing but compared to the frigid darkness that pumped through her veins, it relatively hot. Tiny shards of ice gathered around her as she dipped her head underneath the surface and then crawled up to the edge.

The bathing area had a short wall around it and it took her a moment to lever her body out. The effort crushed her bare breasts against the sharp rock and tiny scratches peppered her stomach and thighs before she could perch on the edge.

She knew she could have just transformed and crawled out, but she was nervous about Haviston's enigmatic thoughts. Being reminded of her helplessness tempered her fear slightly; it also gave her a little rush of power that danced along her veins.

Merrie took a deep breath and exhaled. Black mist and the taste of sake tickled her throat. She focused on the water dripping off her pale body, the way it caressed her curves before boiling away from the cold. The mist seeped away from her, rippling across the sharp stone ground of the bathing area.

She thought back to the battle. Years ago, Count Blood had once reprimanded Bass for starting fights. Given the destruction and the number of warriors dead, it had to be the reason Haviston wanted her presence.

Her ears flattened against her skull. It wasn't her fault that the paladins attacked. All signs were that Bass was doing whatever he could to avoid conflict. Her thoughts turned sour, he was doing the same thing the first time Lemetri attacked back when she was first cropped.

With a sigh, she looked around the small chamber and before reaching out for the dark shadows. There was power for her. With a smile, she reached out and pulled it toward her, solidifying the shifting darkness into the rippling folds of her cloak.

The cloak caressed her body, cupping her breasts and tightening around her ribs. Layers of darkness pressed against her pussy, crushing her labia as it molded against every fold and bump. As it wrapped around her throat and seeped underneath the collar, she let out a unwitting moan.

The cloak squeezed down on her in a ripple, a firm touch from throat to cunt to the ends of her legs. A few droplets of water were squeezed out and splattered to the ground as ice.

It didn't matter that the cloak was almost completely underneath her control, she still remembered when its behavior was unexpected. Like when the collar changed her thoughts, she got a rush of pleasure from the unexpected.

With a grim smile, Merrie got ready to face the count and the reason he summoned her. She crawled out of the bathing area and used the cloak to snap the door shut behind her. With Haviston's map still in her head, she headed toward the stairs leading to the main floor and Count Blood's great hall.

The lower floors were obviously for the servants. She passed across narrow doors leading into cell-like chambers. A dizzying array of smells overwhelmed her: the musk of men, the perfume of women, the rot of mold and water damage, and even the faint sweetness of drugs.

The triple beat of her heart began to accelerate as she considered what waited her. She crawled down the empty hallway and breathed in the scents of different servants as she tried to push her thoughts away from the growing dread.

She was about to set the severed end of her wrist on the first step leading up the stairs when a twinge scraped against her senses. The rest of her body tensed with a sudden surge of danger. Taking a deep breath, she inched her outstretched arm closer. The prickle intensified and she froze.

Merrie pushed out with her senses. With her supernatural vision, the stairs began to glow. A ripple of reddish energies coalescing into unfamiliar infernal runes inscribed on each step. The glyphs hurt to look at but she scanned them quickly in fear that it was another attack by the spiders. To her relief, the spell didn't have the same signature but it was definitely infernal.

The fear turned into something else as she pulled back from the steps. She could feel infernal energies manifesting around her. It beat from inside the walls of the hall, the runes inscribed underneath the wire and plaster that lined the hallway.

Her lips tightened as her tail lowered against her cloak-covered pussy. The runes were hidden underneath old and moldy plaster but the energy was fresh. It took her a moment to realize it was flowing from behind her.

A cold ripple ran down her spine.

Even before she turned around, she began to draw her combat spells across her mind. Black calligraphy scrolled in her thoughts, the familiar words and dark magics pulsing through her pitch-black veins. Her heart beat faster, a triple beat that sent waves of icy through her body. Magic for strength, speed, and defense flowed into her body.

A little girl giggled. “Someone's been a naughty puppy.”

Merrie knew the voice, though she hadn't heard it in years. It was sweet and innocent, just like every little girl Merrie had heard on the streets.

She also knew it was a lie. There only innocent-sounding girl in the fortress was an infernal pretending to be the count's daughter. Merrie first saw Diffy after she had finished butchering a monster at the annual county fair. She didn't have a scratch on her but she was covered in blood from head to toe.

Tensing, Merrie turned and focused on the young girl standing at the end of the hallway.

Diffy looked only eight years old. She had the same face and appearance as she did so many years ago, it didn't look like she had aged even a second. The only thing different was her dress. It was black with a flared bottom that was short enough to reveal the little girl's sex if it wasn't for the crimson lace underneath it. She had both black socks and gloves that went to her mid thighs and almost to her shoulders respectively. Red flowers clung to her black hair that cascaded down her back.

Her appearance would have benign except for the large meat cleaver in her hand. The blade shimmered in the glare of the infernal runes glowing from underneath the plaster.

Merrie's body grew tighter with anticipation. She finished her spells. Her cloak rippled with her thoughts, caressing her body as it loosened slightly.

“A very naughty little puppy. You ruined my playground and now I can't play on it.”

Merrie cocked her head in confusion. (What?)

She froze. Her mental thoughts didn't reach Diffy. The infernal mind was well-shielded. The minuscule personality that did leak through was alien and inhuman, a devil.

Diffy's eyes narrowed as she tightened the grip on her cleaver. “I don't like it when puppies ruin my toys. I don't like it when anyone ruins my fun.”

Merrie kept her eyes on the infernal girl as she crawled to the nearest door. Reaching out with her cloak, she tried to push it open but a field of infernal magic burned the tip of her cloak. It came back smoking.

A faint breeze washed over her.

She looked up.

Diffy was only centimeters away. She smiled at Merrie but there was nothing but cruelty in the blue eyes.

Merrie gasped and jerked back. She tried to melt her body into shadows but infernal energies surrounding her interrupted the magic. It felt like an electric surge racing through her body and preventing her form from dissolving. Bouncing off the wall, she regained her feet but was hit by a wave of nausea from the wave of magic that halted her transformation.

Diffy's cleaver flashed for Merrie's head.

Merrie ducked underneath it. Her tail ground against her pussy. She crushed her breasts against the ground to avoid the attack.

The cleaver slammed into the plaster next to her, slicing easily into the soft material until it struck solid stone with an impact that shook the ground. A cloud of dust exploded from the impact, followed by a flash of reddish light.

Merrie snapped her cloak forward, the edge forming a sharp point.

Diffy smacked it aside with her blade and then launched into a rapid fire series of slashes. The heavy cleaver punched into the air, chipping the stone ground and carving off large hunks of plaster. Bursts of infernal energy, red and violent, flashed with every impact.

With a burst of concern, Merrie sent out a pulse of alarm. It echoed back, bouncing off the magic surrounding her. Cringing, she jerked back to avoid one of Diffy's attacks but she misjudged and slammed against the wall. The hunks of plaster ground into her back and she rolled to the side to avoid another attack.

Diffy was fast. Despite having a frail-looking body of a preteen girl, her blows were powerfully as they broke off large chunks of the wall. Merrie noticed that even though her attacks looked wild, she was careful to avoid harming the wards that kept Merrie sealed in the hallway.

Focusing her attention on the attacks, Merrie tried to transform but Diffy's attack prevented her from concentrating. They came too fast and powerful for her to divert even a small amount of her attention. She swore and focused on easier attacks, using her cloak and mental blasts to lash out.

The little girl's dress fluttered as she spun around, easily avoiding the cloak. Her eyes were pitch black as she swung her cleaver around, slashing through the cloak and cutting off the tip.

A bolt of agony slammed into Merrie. The cloak was part of her but separate. She normally couldn't feel it, but the backlash from the infernal magic in the cleaver branded the agony across her mind.

Diffy smiled and her eyes widened with an insane lust. “No, puppy. I'm going to punish you.”

Merrie tried to send out another pulse of alarm. She reached out for Haviston, but the wards kept her contained. She whimpered and looked back at Diffy, backing up dangerously close to the stairs as she did.

The little girl smiled broadly and stalked after her, plaster dust dripping from her black. “Oh, you really won't like what I do with thieves.”

Diffy's leather shoes tapped on the hard ground.

Merrie glanced at the stairs. The infernal wards were glowing brighter now, beating against her back in waves of heat. She was less than a meter away.

“Time to die,” giggled Diffy.

Merrie gathered up her power and lashed out with her mind, punching hard with her thoughts. The impact slammed into Diffy and the little girl stepped back. A trickle of blood, black as night, oozed from her right nostril.

Diffy's eyes widened and then her face twisted into a nightmarish glare. Her pitch black eyes seemed to glow as she clutched her weapon. “Bad puppy!”

Surging forward, Diffy covered the distance between them in a blink. Her cleaver slammed into Merrie's side, slicing through the cloak and scraping against her ribs. The heavy blade jerked her off the ground for a millisecond.

Agony exploded along her senses as Merrie cried out. She reflexively tried to dissolve into shadows.

The infernal runes flashed brilliantly and the light tore at her form. A high-pitched whine filled her ears right before a pop snapped inside her mind, the backlash bolting throughout her entire body.

Merrie sobbed at the agony and slipped back, inching closer to the stairs as black blood splashed down from her side.

Diffy appeared in front of her again. Her blade shone in the light of the infernal runes as she brought it down toward Merrie's skull.

(Defend yourself!) came the commanding voice from her collar.

Something snapped inside her as a surge of power and lust flooded inside her. She sank into the submission and lashed out with her cloak, forcing the magic into the cloak.

The black fabric surged forward, forming into a black tentacle that looked disturbingly like one of the Lord of Shadow's tentacles. It punched into Diffy's abdomen near her hip.

Merrie formed other tendrils out of her cloak and thrust them forward. Her ordered echoed inside her head, endlessly commanding and she was helpless to do anything other than obey her mistress.

Diffy brought her cleaver up to deflect Merrie's attack.

With a growl that shook her head, Merrie used her magic to strength the tendrils. They punched into the broad side of the cleaver, drilling holes through the metal before piercing Diffy's shoulder and ribs with her attacked.

The anger in the infernal girl's face cracked. Her eyes lifted for a moment above Merrie.

Merrie's cloak had blossomed into a fan of tentacles and tendrils. Around her, the shadows darkened and deepened, blurring the infernal runes as Merrie pulled on the very darkness around her to add to her attack.

With a surge, Merrie ripped her cloak out of Diffy's body. Gouts of black blood splattered against her face as she saw the gaping wounds in the waif-like girl. It was already soaking through the red lace of her dresses and dripped for the ground.

The end of the heavy cleaver snapped off. It landed in a pool of Diffy's black blood.

The little girl's expression twisted into an inhuman growl, her corners of her mouth stretching out further than possible and her teeth growing sharper. Her pitch eyes grew larger, morphing her face into something utterly terrifying.

Light seeped through her black dress. It caused the short skirt and blood-soaked lace to flutter with the energy rolling off her. Seconds later, Merrie could see seven infernal runes glowing on the little girl's body. They were on her throat, sternum, belly. The other four were on her shoulders and hips.

Energy beat against Merrie, pushing back the darkness in waves that left a burning, sulfuric taste in the back of Merrie's throat. It scraped against her senses and she cringed at the brightness.

“Bad doggy,” said Diffy in a low voice. The end of her cleaver twisted and melted, stretching out into a wide-bladed sword. Infernal flames raced along the edge of the blade.

Merrie set her jaw and pulled her cloak close, ready to strike back.

Diffy appeared in front of her, teleporting to skip the intervening space.

Ready for it, Merrie slashed out with her tentacles. The pitch darkness wavered under the light but she kept it together.

The infernal twisted her blade to present the wide side.

Merrie thrust her tentacles forward. The blade broke once before.

Her cloak slammed into the blade but it didn't shatter. Instead the force of the impact threw both of them back.

Merrie's tail brushed against the stairs.

Heat exploded behind her.

Merrie screamed out, this time from the light and heat. She spun around to see a wall of too-bright flames engulfing the stairs. Magenta waves raced along the flames and the heat pushed her back. The brightness slammed into her, hitting her with a force far more than mere flames. Her cloak began to boil off and she could feel it searing her skin.

With a scream, she threw herself back.

Diffy's sword pierced Merrie's back just right of her spine. The heavy blade punched deep into her body and out her belly. Black blood poured out of her torn-open stomach and evaporated immediately in the infernal light.

The strength in her arms faded. She slid down the blade to smack loudly against the bloody ground. The fall drove her chin hard against the rock and she almost blacked out from the agony.

“Bad doggy!” Diffy twisted the blade, ripping open the wound. It scraped against her spine and white-hot agony shot through Merrie's body.

Merrie tried to move but her arms and legs didn't seem to work. Instead everything focused on the searing agony of having a cleaver buried deep inside her.

Diffy pressed one tiny, patent leather shoe against Merrie's tail and yanked the blade out. “Down puppy.”

Tears rolled down Merrie's cheeks. She couldn't get purchased with the severed ends of her wrists. They kept slipping on the dust and blood along the ground. Her vision blurred.

Merrie turn her head to look at her opponent.

Diffy slammed her other foot against her skin, grinding it against the ground and preventing her from looking. “Goodbye.”

Tears burned in Merrie's eyes. She couldn't see enough to stroke out.

The heat grew around her.

Desperate, Merrie released the control of her cloak and it slumped against her. It felt she had just yanked a blade out of her gut. She immediately threw everything she could into the collar, channeling the magic she used to drive the cloak through her collar. She didn't know what would happen but she hoped it would give her a chance to survive.

The cloak snapped forward, tightening around her neck as it launched away from her.

Diffy's foot slipped off Merrie's tail. It briefly slammed against her pussy, crushing it underneath her toe before she stepped back.

“W-What?” The young girl sounded surprise.

The cloak ripped from Merrie's body, spinning her around like a helpless top. The world flashed around her, giving her only a glimpse of the cloak becoming a ball of shadowy tentacles before she flipped over again.

There was a wet smack of something hitting Diffy and then Merrie crashed to the ground and against the wall. The infernal runes tore at her back, growing hotter with every passing moment as black blood poured out of her wound. She couldn't escape the agony but that didn't stop her from trying. She planted her wrists against the wall and pushed with all her might.

The cloak, moving on its own, snapped forward again. The needle-like tip punched into Diffy's chest and legs. Instead of pulling out, they ripped to the side, tearing large chunks of the little girl's body out in showers of black blood. The torn fabric revealed her pale white skin and the glowing runes that swam in Merrie's vision.

Shaking, Diffy stepped back and grabbed her stomach with her free hand. Blood oozed out from between her fingers. She gasped and looked at Merrie with a hurt look on her face.

The cloak boiled, its shape changed from something that looked like the shadow kin to the giant snake and back again. Finally, it solidified in something that looked like a snake except that it had hundreds of tentacles coming out of one end.

Sobbing through the pain, Merrie channeled more energy through her collar. (Stop her.)

The cloak shot forward.

Diffy dropped her blade and screamed, “Daddy!” It was the sound of a terrified little girl.

One of the runes flared brighter than the other.

Merrie's thoughts blurred for a moment as a sudden and startling concern to save a little girl rose up. She fought against it but the power of the mental compulsion was too powerful and fast for her to prevent it from seeping into her thoughts.

Her cloak crumbled to the ground.

The runes faded instantly as did the wall of fire.

Diffy's face twisted back into shape as she cried out, sobbing. “Daddy!” her scream echoed unnaturally loud in the hallway.

The pressure around Merrie faded and she could feel outside thoughts intruding on the hallway again. There were people approach, angry and concerned guards being the closest.

She tried to gather up the power to launch another attack but the compulsion stopped her. She couldn't hurt an innocent little girl. Not someone innocent like Diffy.

The little girl's scream echoed shrilly. She clutched her side where bright red blood now flowed from her grievous injuries. Her dress was completely torn to reveal her immature body.

Racing boots slammed down on the stairs.

Merrie managed to push herself off the ground. Swaying from the agony and nausea, she tried to pull herself up.

The cloak fluttered toward her, sailing across the ground.

Suddenly the cleaver slammed into the middle of it, shattering the rock underneath.

The cloak halted. It jerked toward Merrie but it couldn't move. It's material stretched from where the blade appeared to have pinned it to the ground.

“Daddy!” screamed Diffy but there was no fear in her bright blue eyes.

Guards landed on the ground and immediately surrounded Diffy. One of the knelt down next to her but the rest of them interposed themselves between Diffy and Merrie.

Seconds later, the count came racing down the stairs. “Baby!”

He flung himself to his knees in front of her, sweeping her up in a hug. “Oh, Baby!”

Unlike his so-called daughter, Count Blood had aged. He was always older but now he had completely white hair. He wore a black suit. It was impressive-looking but there was a fragility to his body, time had not treated him well.

“What happened?” asked the count.

“T-That puppy attacked me!” Diffy's eyes were dripping tears. “I-I wanted to give it a pet and it bit me!”

A prickle of fear race along Merrie's nerves. She managed to push herself up to her knees but the injury in her back made it almost impossible to move any further. Black blood poured out of her, splashing down her back and along her inner buttocks before splashing on the ground.

The count looked at Merrie, a glare painted on his face. “Guards!”

Four guards next to Merrie stood up straighter. They drew their short shorts out and pointed them at the injured omega.

“I want that bitch in irons, now!”