Merrie whimpered as she curled into a ball and clutched her arm tight against the wound in her stomach. Her cloak was wrapped around her injuries to keep the black mist from being exposed to any flash of light. The pressure of her arm helped alleviate a small measure of the sharp agonies of having her body torn open. With her shortened arms, she couldn't do the same for the hole in her back and she had to suffer from the discomfort that wracked her senses.

The control of the cloak still remained under the collar's power. She fed it energy through the connection and could give it orders, but it didn't respond like before. There was an unexpectedness to it, a sentience that made every movement like a lover.

A twinge scraped against her senses and she whimpered again. Twisting slightly, she tugged at the heavy blanket draped over her. She would know if it came up, the count had ordered a magical light to be shone over the blanket to ensure she wouldn't escape. Even lifting one edge brought a dangerous brightness underneath her shelter.

It was humiliating that she could be imprisoned by nothing more than bright light. For everything she had done in the years, light was the worst thing to be vulnerable to. It was everywhere and even the reflections off the floor were enough to burn.

Despair darkened her thoughts. The count refused to listen to her with Diffy sobbing and claiming that Merrie attacked her. There was no chance for rebuttal, no chance to defend herself. The little girl had the count completely wrapped under her spell, though Merrie didn't sense any compulsion magic around either of them.

(There isn't a compulsion,) projected Haviston. He was a few meters away and unable to approach. His thoughts were deadpanned but she could tell that he was frustrated.

(Then why wouldn't he let me speak?)

(You saw seven runes on her, right? No doubt one of them is related to manipulating others. That is how she would gain her power, by capturing his affection that he is incapable of seeing anything other than her.)

She let out a long breath.

(Borias Kivas will be approaching soon, he will be able to provide some healing.)

Merrie nodded and clutched her wound tighter.

(This fight will make your case more difficult.)

(Case? What case?)

There was a moment of reluctance. Then, Haviston's mind grew closer to hers as he created a more private and intimate connection.

A prickle of fear fluttered down Merrie's spine.

(The duke and prince are here but under disguise. The shadow land you created has created a great deal of concern and you are to answer for it.)

Merrie's heart beat faster, a triple beat thumping in her chest. (The shadow land? Not the attack?)

He projected a sour amusement. (No, the attack is also a problem. Waver Blood is still stinging from his private meeting with the duke. It wasn't much different than the one years ago.)

The count stood up. He clasped his wrists behind his back and stood up straight. “Yes, my lord duke. What should I have done?”

The duke leaned to the side, his tiny hand clutching his staff. He looked around the campfire for a moment, his eyes briefly stopping on Merrie before focusing his attention back on the count. “The problem is you're too nice. You have never been in a war or a battle, but you are one of the eastern counties between Dorza and the rest of Franome. You are the first line of defense against invasion and you can't even handle a hundred guys trashing your fair.”

He continued. “I don't care that you get your rocks off snuffing people. I don't care that your fair has people lining up to get killed. What I do care is that you,” he pointed a shaking finger at the count as he spoke in a hard, cracked voice, “are losing control of your lands and your people. Your guards are poorly trained, you allowed those damned paladins to wander on in to wage war with your pet fallen paladin—”

Bass tensed but said nothing.

“—and I don't like your daughter.”

There was a ripple of power and Diffy was suddenly standing in front of the duke, her long knife aimed at his throat. She shoved forward, her face a mask of rage, but her blade rang out when it struck a brilliantly white great sword that interposed itself between the girl and the duke.

Merrie sighed. (Another lecture?)

(Yes. Allister Natis had a private conversation with Waver Blood. The small amounts I heard through the door echoed similar sentiment. The duke blames the count for allowing Lemetri's paladins attacking and, by conclusion, putting you into a situation where you were forced to create the shadow land.)

A strange longing rose up. (I wasn't forced. It was a deal.)

(Be careful how you word this deal then. I… Borias is here.)

“Be fucking me? You be shining a light on her?” asked Borias as he walked up. He sounded furious and she was warmed by his emotions as they approached her.

“My Lord Count's orders,” responded a strange voice which Merrie assumed was a guard. “There is no other way to prevent her from escaping.”

“Merrie not be going anywhere. Havi, why didn't you say something?”

“I did,” said Haviston in his emotionless voice. “The count was unwilling to listen to logical reasoning.”

“Well, Blood be being an idiot. Dispel that light,” Borias' presence grew closer. He was less than a meter away and Merrie sank into his rage and let it wrap around her thoughts as a protective blanket.

“I cannot allow that, sir,” said the guard.

“Havi, kill the light.”

“Sir, don't—”

“You be shutting up. There be Natis, Loyal Alestri, me, and Havi. Even if she wanted to be running away, she not be escaping. Now, be dispelling that light and be letting me attend to her injuries!”

There was a shuffling and then the blanket draped over Merrie was pulled back.

Merrie cringed in expectations, but no killing light spread over her. Even the curtains were drawn and the room was cast into a shadowy darkness. She let out a gasp of relief. With a tired smile, she looked into his eyes. (Thank you.)

Borias knelt down next to her. “Hey there, pretty bitch.”

He looked rested despite the bandages on him. There was a sparkle in his eye as he reached out and deftly slipped one hand between her legs and the other for her wound.

The cloak peeled away from her body underneath both of his touches.

At the caress along her pussy, she let out a soft gasp of pleasure and relaxed her legs.

“Yeah, that be making you relax,” he said. His fingers trailed up and down her pussy, teasing the opening of her ass before circling her pussy and then flicking her clitoris.

With his other hand, he spread out his fingers and began to whisper. A circle of yellow-green energy blossomed from his palm. The light hurt, like scratches against her skin, but the flood of healing magic pushed it aside. Her insides twisted and boiled as she leaned into his questing fingers and let him heal her.

“That collar be nasty. It be healing you but it would take forever. Maybe days with your injury.” He shoved two fingers into her pussy and pumped back and forth.

Pleasure racing along her veins, she moaned louder.

Haviston pushed into her thoughts. (I find it fascinating that his manipulations are capable of producing so much energy for you. You are getting far more out of being sexually stimulated than anything I've seen before.)

Merrie panted and glanced up at the psionic.

He sat on a bench a few meters away. He had found a white robe and pinned the sleeve for his missing arm against the side. His right eye was heavily scarred and bandaged, she already knew he lost his vision from the fight.

She would have said something but Borias added a third finger into her cunt and pumped harder and faster.

“There you be, be enjoying the energy. I've almost got this healed.” The spell continued to seep into her body, filling her with shimmering energy that was nothing compared to the pleasure flooding in from the thrusting fingers.

The door to the room opened up. Merrie glanced over to see Duke Natis, Prince Claston, and Loyal Alestri walk in.

The duke walked toward them with a scowl. He shook his head. “Borias, please stop that.”

Borias didn't look back. “She be seriously injured. I not be stopping.”

The Loyal stepped forward. Her green armored boots thudded against the ground as she walked. There was a flash of magic as a spell was activated, it came from the spear in her hand which meant it was an attack spell.

Claston stopped her with his hand. “Let him heal her, Natis.”

The prince was dressed in a neat black suit. There was no disguise magic around him. Merrie wondered if they had sealed off the audience chamber to let the prince and duke speak freely.

A wave of agreement washed over her from Haviston.

The duke nodded and turned his back on Merrie. He wore a simple outfit, a farmer's, but there was no question he was still one of the more powerful men in the country. Merrie remembered that he was a summoner. The duke said, “As you wish, my lord. She isn't going anywhere.”

Merrie was warmed by Claston's compassion. She started to project but then stopped at the flash of magic from the Loyal. Alestri was capable of detecting telepathy and frequently misinterpreted Merrie's actions as attacks.

Instead, she groaned and rolled over, spreading her thighs to give Borias more access to her cunt. She loved how his fingers were wet and slick as they pumped inside her, the way his knuckles brushed against her aching labia with every smack against her body.

On the far side of the room, a door slammed open. Count Blood took a few steps in and then stopped. In his arms, he cradled Diffy who was wrapped in a black nightgown and a thin blanket. She looked broken and fragile as if the fight had almost killed her. The count's eyes widened. “What are you doing!?”

Borias looked at him. “I be healing her.”

“I ordered her to be left alone! She'll escape as soon as she can. Guards, I'll—”

“No!” snapped Borias as he stood up. “I be not stopping!”

Merrie felt an empty loss with his fingers no longer plunging into her, but the tension in the room was already diminishing her pleasure. She took a quick breath and was happy when the wounds only ached, not burned. He had healed her enough to give her respite to crawl up on her knees and wrist.

Her cloak fluttered and wrapped around her body, pressing back against her wounds and grinding up against her slick and aching pussy. A tendril slipped inside her, squirming deep inside her.

She fought a faint moan rising in her throat as the pleasure brought a surge of energy.

Count Blood hugged Diffy tighter, his hands white as he held her. “I will not be questioned! Guards, secure that bitch now! If she tries to run, burn her body away with all the light you can.”

“She not be going anywhere,” said Borias.


Borias clamped his mouth shut but he didn't move away from Merrie.

The count strode over to a recliner, glaring at Borias the entire time. He turned away only long enough to gently set Diffy in the chair and tuck the blanket underneath her. It was almost sweet how he leaned over and kissed her forehead.

Diffy looked up. “I love you, daddy,” she whispered in her innocent, girl-like voice. She shuddered as she curled into her blanket. There were bandages visible through her thin, silk gown. Some of them were soaked with crimson.

The tenderness disappeared when he turned back. The glare painted across his face brought a shiver of fear. “That bitch attacked my little girl. She almost killed my innocent baby!”

“Your daughter not being innocent, count,” Borias said.

The count stepped closer, raising his fist in front of him. “I will have you executed if you say another word. Just one more word and you'll be dead by morning.”

“Um,” Claston spoke up as he entered the fray, “I believe that is illegal.”

The count turned on the prince. “And what do you….” The words faded in his throat as he visibly paled and then cleared his throat. “My apologies, my prince. That monster attacked my daughter.”

Claston cocked his head. “Have you asked the bitch her side of the story?”

“Why would I need to? I saw what happened.”

“Really? You were there during the fight?”

The count twitched. “I saw enough. It is my right.”

The prince held up both hands. “Except for that whole legal thing? We have laws, you know. She has be tried and convicted.”

“Fine, she's guilty. I'm the count, I can—”

“Count Blood,” Claston said in a low voice. “I'm the Prince of Franome and if you finish that sentence, I'm going to strip your title away from you before you sit down.”

“You can't do that, I have—”

“Rights?” Claston said with a smile. “Process? Laws?”

In the corner of Merrie's vision, she saw Diffy lift her head. The little girl was paying attention to the conversation as much as the others, though she was obviously pretending to be an innocent girl for the count's sake.

The count's face grew mottled with anger. “You are fucking her! Of course you are going to side on that bitch's side. You, that fallen knight, the healer, and even that psion!”

The Loyal stepped forward but stopped when Claston held up his hand.

“Maybe, but that isn't the point. We have laws in this country and I want to make sure you obey them. Your position, your oath to Franome and the Royal Family demands it.”

From the bench, Haviston spoke up. “For the record, I have no interest in sex with anyone.”

Everyone looked at him.

“It's true,” he said. “I have never had sex with Merrie.”

The count trembled with his emotions. He glanced at Diffy who had rested her head again while pretending not to listen, and then back again. “She attacked my little girl. The bitch almost killed her!”

“Your little girl is a murderer herself.”

“She is—”

“I just saw her in the blood games a week ago. Wields a nasty cleaver. She's your champion, for what… the last fifteen years?”

“Eighteen, your highness,” said the count but it didn't seem to register.

“Right, your eight year old girl has been a champion for eighteen years. She gutted that last guy right before she cut off his legs and dick. I remember because she threw the dick and it landed on my feet.”

There was a brief moment where the count said nothing. Then he took a deep breath and pointed accusingly at Merrie. “She attacked her!”

“Why don't you ask Merrie what happened?”

“She's a fucking bitch, she'll lie.”

“You have a psion in the room.” Claston gestured to Haviston. “You could prove that.”

The count pointed accusingly at Haviston. “He's a friend of hers and Bass. He won't speak against her. Besides, truth spells are illegal and you know it. They can easily be faked.”

“So you can't prove she did it—”

“My daughter—”

Claston held up his hand. A wave of determination rose from him and Merrie felt worry start to radiate from her thoughts.

Merrie's skin prickled. She took a deep breath and gathered her energies, if the prince was nervous then she wanted to be ready to defend him.

On the far side, Loyal Alestri's armor began to glow with spells activating. Unlike Merrie who could only activate a few spells, there were at least a dozen that exploded across her senses in less than a heartbeat.

Claston cleared his throat. “Your daughter is a devil.”

Diffy lifted her head slightly as her eyes narrowed.

“She is not!”

“Yes, she is. She obviously manipulating you into doing whatever she wants. The fact that she remains eight years old after almost two decades is a good indication that she has wrapped you in at least some form of compulsion.”

Claston's thoughts grew more guarded. He was scared but determined. He rushed forward to say. “In fact, I'm going to recommend that she—”

Diffy appeared next to Claston, her broken cleaver in her hand.

An explosion of air blasted the entire room as the Loyal teleported between Diffy and Claston. Her massive spear glowed brilliantly with a thousand killing spells activated at once. The raw power of the armor and spear blinded Merrie.

Diffy smiled broadly, her eyes darkening into pitch. She tightened her grip on the cleaver. A glow began to form underneath her gown, the runes quickly becoming visible through the thin fabric.

Haviston's thoughts pushed into Merrie's (I see infernal runes for fatherhood, innocence, long-term planning, and blood. I don't know the other three.)

Merrie tensed. She sent a pulse of thanks to Haviston. She could feel the Loyal's killing spells continuing to gather. They were embedded in the spear and her armor, making her nearly impossible to kill. The spells also made her sick to her stomach, which only was worse with the infernal magic gathering.

The silence stretched between them.

Brimming with relief, Claston leaned to the side and looked past both Loyal Alestri and Diffy to speak to the count. “So, your daughter is grievously injured? She no longer appears to be at death's door.”

Diffy's eyes narrowed. One of her runes flickered as it gathered energy. It was one of the runes that Haviston couldn't identify.

The Loyal slammed the butt of her spear on the ground. “Loyal Alestri says step away.”

“Try it, old lady.” Diffy's voice was sweet and innocent. The black eyes and shimmering cleaver were not.

Claston sighed. “Loyal, back. Count, have your daughter return to her chair.”

Alestri obeyed first, stepping back but not releasing the spells on her spear. Dust curled up around her feet, wafted by the power rolling off the waiting magic.

Diffy didn't move.

Claston glanced at Diffy. “You're sweet, aren't you?”

Diffy smiled sweetly back. The rune for innocence and one of the other runes flickered briefly.

Alestri tapped her spear on the ground.

The prince returned his attention to the count. “Your daughter?”

Waver sighed. “Diffy? Please.”

The light underneath Diffy's gown faded. She turned as the monstrous appearance faded instantly. “Yes, daddy.”

She skipped over to her seat and sat down.

Claston gestured to Merrie. “We have a bitch who is being healed and has a collar that regenerates her. Your daughter who appeared to be dying is now in full health. At this point, I think we can say both of them are going to survive with nothing more than minor inconveniences and we should table your accusations without blaming either.”

The prince's emotions calmed down and Merrie felt a thrill of success radiating from him. She squirmed slightly and let her energy bleed back into her body. “That is, unless you want me to follow through with my threat?”

The count let out a long, shuddering breath. “Yes, my prince. I have no complaint with the omega.”

Diffy folded her arms over her chest and pouted, but otherwise made no effort to leave the chair.

Claston looked at Merrie and cocked his head. “I'm sorry,” he mouthed.

Merrie smiled weakly. (Thank you.)

The Loyal twitched and Merrie pulled back her thoughts.

No one said anything for a long moment.

Borias coughed and relaxed, sinking down until he was sitting next to Merrie. Reaching out, he stroked her ear.

A shiver of pleasure raced through her. She sat down properly, her ass against the ground, and leaned into his fingers.

Finally, the duke interrupted the silence. “May we speak of the reason she is here?”

The old man stepped forward, his body shaking as he leaned against a walking stick. He stopped between Claston and Waver before turning to Merrie.

A prickle of fear raced through Merrie's senses. She took a deep breath and looked at everyone else who was staring at her.

The duke seemed to hesitate and then glanced at the prince.

“Go on, Natis. We all have questions.”

Borias stroked harder against her ear.

Merrie worried her lip. (You want to know what happened?)

The prince and duke both nodded.

(How much? How the attack started or just the shadow land?)

Claston smirked and his eyes flickered over in Haviston's direction.

Duke Natis cleared his throat. “Yes, start with the attack. What happened after you made it to the mill house?”

Merrie opened her mouth to start at the beginning when Eolis brought her into the house but the geas surged up, silencing her. She choked for a second. Her ears flattened against her head, trapping Borias' fingers. She tried to move forward but as soon as she even thought of Claston, Natis, or Eolis, the geas silenced her.

With a whine, she ducked her head.

“Well?” snapped the count from next to Diffy.

Merrie sent out a private thought to Haviston.

“Um, my lord?” said the psion as he stood up.

“Yes?” asked both the duke and prince.

“Alphas are known to be susceptible to compulsions and mind-control. We would not be able to detect if she was unable to speak due to certain influences. These spells are commonly known as geases and—”

“Oh!” gasped Claston. He spun on his heels. “Count? She may be revealing sensitive information. Could you please dismiss your guards?” He took a deep breath. “And your daughter?”

The count's face twisted in a scowl. “I don't keep secrets from her.”

Claston sighed. He thought for a moment. “She'll find out anyways. Your guards though.”

The count waved the guards out of the room. As soon as they left, Claston ordered Haviston and Borias to ward the room against listeners and spies. Everyone watched the two mages work in silence. When Borias finished, he started to return to Merrie but was stopped by Claston. Instead, he positioned himself next to Haviston on the bench.

“What is this about, my lord?” asked Waver.

“Borias and Merrie both have sworn fealty to the Royal Family.”

Diffy looked surprise.

The count gasped. “Your geas? Then how did she summon a shadow land? That can't possibly be in Franome's best interest.” The count's face darkened. “She got past it, she—”

“She is an alpha, my lord,” Haviston spoke up. “I am intimately aware that her very nature magnifies compulsions to a dangerous level. Not even a god could break the control it has over her thoughts.”

Merrie ducked her head and shivered. It was terrifying to know that there were two unbreakable forces on her thought, the collar and her oath. She hoped they would never be put into conflict, she didn't know what would happen.

Waver waved his hand, his face still mottled. “Maybe the lord prince doesn't know how to cast the geas—”

“My mother cast that spell, Waver. If you want to question her abilities in magic, I recommend you come with us back to Franome City.”

The count slowly closed his mouth. “I spoke out turn, my lord.”

Merrie could feel energy flickering around Diffy. The infernal was picking up on the conflict and drinking it in not unlike how Merrie gained her power from submission and pleasure. The energies were focused on the runes, both the planning and the one that appeared to be responding to impulsive statements.

Claston chuckled. “We are all on edge and outbursts are understandable. Merrie? Please tell what happened.”

Merrie started the story. This time the geas allowed her to speak. She projected as much as she could, condensing information when she felt the listeners were getting overwhelmed. Even though she could, she didn't exclude Diffy who listened with rapt attention. It took almost an hour before she got up to the deal with the Lord of the Shadows.

The room grew uncomfortable as she recalled the deal. The moments where the geas guided her thoughts left holes in her memories. She could remember the final decision but not how she agreed to open the gate.

Natis interrupted her before the sex that consummated the deal. “You agreed to create the shadow land in exchange for the assistance in the fight?”

(Yes. My friends were dying and I had to save them.)

“Then you can close it. You are the focus of the gate between the Shadows and this realm. We can easily create a ritual to dispel the gate through you.”

The aching longing came back. If she closed the gate, then the shadows would no longer have their sanctuary, their home. Her children would be helpless against the forces that saw shadows as evil and destructive. A tear burned in her eyes, she didn't want to lose the shadow kin. They were her children.

Natis chuckled. “This is good news. I can find the spells to break the—”


The entire room jerked at her response. The only one who didn't respond was Diffy who was glaring at Merrie with shielded thoughts.

Natis tightened his grip on his staff. “What? Why?” His voice was low, angry.

Merrie's stomach twisted in fear and terror. She was in the room with some of the most powerful beings in her life. Natis, the Loyal, and Diffy would be almost impossible to defeat.

(These are my children.)

“They are monsters. They are no better than devils or demons.”

Diffy switched her glare to Natis for only a heartbeat. She clutched her father's hand as the infernal rune for planning flickered. The other rune, the one for rash actions, was glowing brightly even through her shields.

Merrie felt a prickle of concern. It seemed that even her own decision to refuse Natis was feeding Diffy.

(They are contained.)

“You don't know what. They could just claim that they won't… what, go beyond the limits of the shadow lands. Do you know how large of a land you claimed with that stunt of yours?”

Merrie shook her head. She cringed with anticipation.

“Almost four thousand square kilometers. Your shadow land has swallowed all of Blood County and then some.”

Emotions rose up from everyone in the room except for Haviston, anger and shock were the strongest. They glared at her.

Natis took a deep breath. “You have to understand. Everyone in this county is going to die because of you. Not just one, not just a hundred, thousands. This is going to far worse than what you did to Franome City and the Shadowed District! A hundred thousand people are now at risk because of what you did!”

Merrie cringed and bowed her head. Tears burned in her eyes. She was familiar with the guilt that she inflicted on the city. Innocent people died because of her despair. She thought a shadow land far away from the city would be safer, a place of sanctuary."

She considered sealing the gate. Even with her promise to the Lord of the Shadows. She could almost imagine what it would like to have her children dying. They wouldn't go easily which meant it would require months if not years of cleaning out using magic and light. Her stomach soured at the thought.

Diffy's runes for impulsive actions and the long-term planning both glowed with energy. There was a flicker of a smile on her lips that Merrie wasn't sure she saw it before it disappeared.

Claston sighed. He looked away as frustration radiated from his thoughts.

Waver spoke up in a far calmer voice. “You need to close the gate.”

“We understand saving your friends,” said Natis. “It was a horrible way of doing it and I would have rather you let them die, but that is in the past. You can't leave this shadow land in place. I'm sure… I'm sure Claston will pardon you for summoning it if you assist in clear it out.” He looked at the prince.

Claston looked back. “Of course.”

Tears rolled down Merrie's cheeks. The longing was back, choking her. She fought against it even as the world seemed to spin around her. She was sick to her stomach and torn with guilt, but it wasn't an easy choice. There were thousands of shadows that were safe in the shadow lands. It was part of her, part of her begin. It was her children, her babies. She knew what should have been the right answer, to help the others and close the gate. (I… I….)

She looked at Diffy but the infernal's face was a mask. She was hiding her emotions and her runes. Only the shimmer of her bright blue eyes gave any hint that she was waiting for Merrie's answer as much as the others.

Trembling, Merrie turned to Borias and Haviston. Borias' eyes shimmered with tears. Haviston's thoughts were guarded.

(Haviston, what do I do?)

(I cannot help you, Merrie. This is a choice you must make, even though the consequences of either appears to be dire. Just know that whatever you do choose, I have no doubt that your friends and I will support you to the limits of our abilities.)

The tears were still rolling down her face.

“Why are you hesitating?” snapped Waver. “You know the right answer.”

Merrie sniffed. (No.)

“No?” asked the count. “No, you won't do it, or you don't know what is right?”

She struggled with her thoughts. Her heart and mind warred inside her, tearing her apart. She wanted to throw up. Looking up at Claston, she knew that she was about to betray him.

Claston's look softened and then he looked in agony. “Merrie—” he started.

(I will not close the portal.)

Natis drew back. “What?”

The Loyal's spells slammed back into place.

“You stupid bitch!” yelled Waver as he stepped forward. “I will have—”

“Silence!” snapped Natis. He slammed his walking stick down.

Merrie's attention was drawn to Diffy, where a look of rage was disappearing. Whatever Merrie had just said had pissed off the infernal though both of her runes were flickering even through her illusion of innocence.

“Like hell I will shut up,” yelled the count. “You will close the damn portal, you stupid fucking bitch! I will not let you ruin my—”

“I said quiet!” bellowed Natis.

Waver opened his mouth to rebuke the duke.

Loyal Alestri slammed her spear down on the ground. “Loyal Alestri says quiet!”

The compulsion spell slammed into Merrie with the force of a tornado. It wrapped her thoughts tightly in it and sent her into an intense cycle of pleasure that threatened to explode. The orgasm tore through her veins, flooding her with power. She whimpered and shuddered, her juices dribbling out of her pussy and splashing to the floor.

(I recommend you don't let the orgasm escape,) projected Haviston.

Merrie whimpered, her vision blurring as it rose inside her. She reached out for her collar and channeled the pleasure into it, screaming in her mind as the pleasure crested inside her and then exploded directly into her collar.

Darkness gathered around, the shadows growing hard-edged. They stretched out from their places underneath the tables and chairs into tendrils that reached out for her.

“Loyal Alestri says—”

“Quiet!” bellowed Claston. “No more compulsions! Merrie!”

Merrie sobbed as she sank her thoughts into her collar, forcing more of her pleasure until it finally seeped away from her body. When she could see again, she was in a puddle of her own juices with the smell of her sex wafting up around her.

Haviston spoke up from his bench. “I recommend not using compulsions like that around an alpha.”

Borias smacked his cousin.

Merrie shuddered. Her entire body felt frozen, a searing pleasure of cold beating through her veins. She panted for a minute before looking up. (I… will not.)

Natis approached her, his body glowing with defensive spells. “If you don't, you are committing treason on this country.”

Brimming with the energy from her orgasm, Merrie found it easier to speak up. (I swore a oath. My geas prevents me from doing anything to harm this country or the royal family. I can make this choice freely so I will. I swear, my actions have not harmed this country or the the royal family.)

“The royal oath won't save you from justice,” said the duke.

She was still sick to her stomach but she nodded. (I must accept that then because this is now my children's home. I made a promise, a deal, and I will not go against my Lord of Shadows or our children. The Shadow Lands are contained by my deal, they cannot go beyond those limits.)

Claston groaned. “Oh, Merrie.”

She looked at him. (I'm sorry. This is important to me, more than anything else. I cannot break this promise. I made it in good faith and I feel that it fulfills my oath to country and family in spirit. I stand by it. I must honor it.)

Even thought she felt the conviction of her words, she almost threw up.

Natis sighed. “You leave me no choice then.”

She looked at him. (I know.)

“Merrie Golddotter, as a duke of Franome…” Natis looked at Claston.

When Claston looked away, Merrie's heart sank.

“… I hereby charge you with treason against Franome, the Royal Family, and the people therein.”

The tears didn't stop rolling down her cheeks. She kept looking at Claston. (I'm sorry.)

Claston sighed and walked out of the room.

“Count, could you please have her escorted to one of your cells. I will ward it personally to prevent her from leaving until we can arrange for her arrival in Franome City.”

The uncomfortable pause that followed was interrupted by a little girl saying “fuck” before she disappeared from her chair.