It took a quarter hour to race along the valley floor toward the village. Her body molded along the rocks and ridges. She could feel the various paths but the fastest route was moving toward the now blinding light of the village. In her shadow form, the brilliance hurt from even a kilometer away but she could easily used it as a compass toward her destination.

By the time she was only a couple hundred meters away, she realized that she felt… off. It was a thin feeling, like she had a string trailing behind her and someone had pulled it between her fingers. She tried to pull it free, but the sensation grew stronger with every passing second.

Concerned but unable to do anything about it, she continued toward the village. As she did, she reached out for the Shadows; if she had already decided to use her powers, one more step would make it easier. However, there was no veil to reach across. It was just an abyss, a separation of the two worlds too large for even her powers to breech.

There was no escape for her using nothing but magic. She suspected, but she had to try again.

Her experiments ended when she came up along the back side of the village. Like before, she reached the empty and abandoned buildings first. The smell of rotted food, shit, and old urine flooded over her as she slithered through the decrepit buildings toward the bright center.

The outer edges of the village also gave her up. The sun would be coming up soon and she knew more about the layout to know where to hide from the morning light.

Unsure where to start looking, she headed for Horge's home first. She avoided the center of town and the light. Her body slowed through the narrow streets between the brick and stone buildings. Even in shadow form, she could sense familiar streets as she came around the same path Horge took every day.

However the building was empty. She reformed into her Bel Dark hound form, her massive body bristling with wariness. She padded inside, past the door hanging on one hinge. Her eyes pierced the darkness, scanning the edges.

Memories flooded through her: of Horge fucking her, her submission, and even the way he treated her as property more than a woman. Each of them brought a flush of heat and a tingling along her cunt. But then the memories of Trien interrupted her joy and the feelings vanished. He was hurt her friends just so he could whittle away the days until he could return to Cat's place.

She sighed and focused on her surroundings. She closed her eyes and slowly took a deep breath, drawing in the air as she used her heightened senses to pick out the scents.

The first was Horge. His musky scent was prevalent everywhere. It had been painted on every surface with his presence. She could even smell his manhood, the combination of sweat and semen that excited her so may times. But his smells were old. At least a few weeks, maybe a month since he was last in the house.

She took another deep breath, picking up the faded scent of her own body, the distinct sake taste in the back of her throat was hard to miss. There was also cum, food, and drink that tickled the edges of her senses but nothing for weeks.

Merrie frowned and looked around. What happened to Horge? If he was gone, was Ston okay?

She padded out of the house and looked down the empty street. It was about the second or third bell, in about an hour or so the village would be waking up with the morning light. Now only a few painful lanterns marked the corners and gave some illumination to the paths between buildings.

Stepped into the open, she sniffed the air for any others that came to the prison on the wagon. However, she couldn't pick up any of the scents; it simply had been too long and there were too many other smells.

The world wavered around her and the sick feeling in her body grew. Pressure tugged on her body and part of her hound form began to crumble away to bare pale human skin underneath. She stared at it in surprise, seeing her massive body dissolving as if she was standing in sunlight.

She shook her paw and more of her outer body blew away to leave the smooth end of her wrist behind. Her white skin almost glowed in the dark. Gingerly, she set the smooth end of her wrist down on the ground as the last of the hound form disappeared from her arm and shoulder.

Merrie glanced to her other limbs and saw her spell burning away. However all the wisps of shadows were all being pulled away in the same direction. She lifted her head to follow it, tracing the direction as the curls of darkness snaked their way toward the center of the village.

She groaned. If there was one place she wasn't safe, it would be the center. Rat's Bar was surrounded by burning light. She dreaded visiting it but it was also probably the best place to find out where her friends were.

With a soft whine, she crawled toward the center without the speed of her shadow magic or the power of her Bel Dark. She was nothing but a naked woman on her knees and wrists working her way through the dust, dirt, and garbage of her new home.

It took almost as much time to reach the center as it did to travel from the dump. Her human form was slow and painful. The light also seared her skin as she found herself crawling around magical lanterns and lights.

Rat's Bar and Whores was empty. The lights flooded the bare seats and benches. No whores served customers and no one was drinking. Even the mugs appeared to have been neatly cleaned and stacked up along the back of the bar. Heavy bars had been pulled down between the open air and the bottles of spirits Rat served.

The tugging sensation grew stronger. Merrie looked around, trying to find the source.

Movement caught her attention. She had thought the bar was empty but a single person sat on the top of the bar: Rat. The short, curvy woman dangled her feet over the edge of the wooden surface as she peered down into her lap.

Merrie took a step from the surrounding buildings. Her action reminded her of the first time she approached the bar. This time there wasn't anyone else watching. She inched forward, using whatever shadows she could to protect herself.

Rat gasped.

Merrie froze.

The other woman lifted her hand as she lurched off the counter. Her boots thudded against the ground. When she straightened, she reached blindly back to grab the bar with one hand as her other hand lifted.

It felt like someone was pulling Merrie's tail. She clenched her body tightly as she looked up.

When she saw her collar in Rat's outstretched hand, she froze. There was no mistaking the black gem along the ridge. It called to her, tugging on her very soul with a sense of longing and desire.

As soon as she saw it, the tugging sensation turned into a painful pull. There was a connection between her and the collar, one that grew taut with her presence and pulled at her neck. She tried to not thinking about it but then she realized she was being physically dragged along the ground toward it.

Rat shook her head and dug her heels into the ground. Her grip on the bar tightened, the knuckles white.

As much as Merrie wanted her collar back, the fact she was being dragged toward it worried her. She dug her own knees and ankle into the ground until she could figure out what forces were controlling her.

Rat grunted and released the bar to grab the collar with both hands. She leaned back as the adamantite metal appeared to shake in her hand. “What is…?”

Her eyes lifted and caught Merrie's gaze. She narrowed her eyes. “You are supposed to be dead.”

Merrie whined. She struggled to kept her body still.

Rat shook her head and tightened her fingers around the collar. She dug her boots into the ground. “You can't have it back. I need it more.”

The pressure grew stronger. It felt like someone was reaching into her chest and grabbing her heart. Powerful forced yanked at her being, tugging at her magic and spirit.

Dark, shadowy energy burst out of Merrie's chest. She let out a cry as it wavered for a moment and then grew taut in a straight line between her and the collar. She could feel her soul reaching out for it, questing to pull the two together.

Merrie gasped, she had seen a mystical lead from her chest before but not in many years. It was a bond, the mystical connection between a master and an alpha. It was usually only visible during powerful exchanges of magic or when the alpha was bonding. Reaching out for it, she could feel that she was still bound to her collar; it was visible as the two tried to pull together.

Rat shook her head and ground her teeth together. The air around her wavered, twisting and warping with energy. Streaks of rainbow lights flashed and faded, distorting the air.

The strange effect quickly grew more pronounced. Underneath Rat's feet, the wood twisted and liquefied. The bar melted, both metal and wood running free.

Only the collar was untouched.

The roof evaporated above Rat. Her body continued to twist, various images of other people superimposed over her small, statuesque form. Merrie saw men and women, tall and short, all layered on top of each other. The only thing that remained constant were Rat's flashing eyes.

“I need this collar! I can tap it, I can use it.” snarled Rat, her voice mixing with other voices in perfect harmony, like a massive choir speaking at the same time. “I need to get out of this damn prison!

A multicolored glow formed along the dark line between Merrie and the collar. It flared like a flame along a rope dipped in oil as it raced down to envelop almost the entire length of the spectral leash.

Inside her mind, she felt the strange flames burning her connection. The flow of energy and her ability to project into the collar was being affected, as if the flames were destroying her bond to her collar. She tried to reach out through the lead but it felt like it was being gnawed upon by a thousand rats made of rainbows and horror.

Stunned, she pulled harder but she couldn't escape. The spectral lead pulled on her neck, the pressure of physical and spiritual almost in perfect harmony. She was stuck, unable to do anything besides strain to avoid being drawn closer.

“No! I've been in this place too many centuries! No more!” Her voice grew deeper, echoing in Merrie's head and also against the surrounding buildings. “No more!

The layered voice cracked and Merrie caught a flash of something old and chaotic in Rat's mind. She wasn't a simple human, she was something else. A force that not only felt barely in control but one that dwarfed even the powers of the gods. Like Merrie, there was no hint of a geas on Rat's mind; even without being able to see those powers, there was no way Rat could use magic if she had one.

Knowing that Rat was on part with Merrie terrified the alpha.

I'll be damned if I let a submissive cunt take this from me! I must destroy my brother's prison and I need this power to do that! It has energy, it has strength!

Blood dripped from Rat's fingers. She yanked harder, the ground twisting and shifting as she stepped away. The raw strength drew Merrie along the ground.

The pressure also tugged at the connection, drawing it out and increasing the flames that seared the bond she had with her collar. The multicolored burning brightened to almost blinding brilliance.

The possibility that she would be forcibly ripped away from her collar became a distinct possibility. Fear surged through her black veins as she tugged harder, trying to break free but she couldn't.

Her helplessness set off a flash of pleasure. She resisted it at first but then realized she needed it to save herself. She needed power and energy, there was no way around it. Turning it around, she let the pleasure flood through her veins.

It felt like a drug rushing through her body, a longing of desire and a hunger for power that came back faster and harder than she had ever felt before. It surged through her and up along the connection, swelling it and solidifying it.

The rainbow flames darkened, the colors interspersed with the shadowy wisps of her own power.

Merrie focused the power into spells. Black calligraphy seared through her mind, flowing faster than ever before as she drew out her common spells for strength and speed. The old combat spells sank into her bones and the world darkened around her.

Merrie's screams faded into growls as her body twisted and reformed into her Bel Dark shape. Her claws dug into the ground, tearing into the stone as she braced herself. (This collar is part of me, you cannot have it.)

Then I will break your bond to get this power!

(The gods couldn't destroy it, neither can you.) Merrie wasn't sure of herself. She was getting nervous that she was about to lose her collar.

Rat laughed and the world wavered at the sound. “Gods? You think I care about gods?

The chaos magic that stormed around Rat grew. In seconds, the bar was gone, the bottles of spirits sparking as they were destroyed. It began to melt into the surrounding buildings, tearing apart liquid streams of multicolored fluids.

The gods sealed me here because they could not kill me. A thousand tried and failed. I killed assassins and the gods of assassins. I even killed my own death to ensure no one would ever stop the Kivas.” Rat yanked harder, pulling the collar away from Merrie with incredible force. The stretched connection burned brightly as the multi-color flames snuffed out her shadowy wisps. Even strengthened by her magic, it didn't feel like it would last long.

Desperate, Merrie tried to channel energy into it. Black flames jetted out around the multi-colored magic, fighting it for a few precious seconds before being extinguished again.

Rat tugged harder, her face twisting into a cruel scowl. “Your so-called special connection is nothing. A trick, a power, nothing more than a paladin's touch or a ranger's gift. Even with a master, you wouldn't be able to stop me. No one can. No one is as powerful as me, no one!

Blood dripped from Rat's fingers. The crimson droplets splashed on the ground but seemed to be unaffected by the chaos howling around them.

Fear surged through Merrie. She was danger of losing everything. She thrashed back and forth, howling in rage and desperation. Her attempts to send energy to the collar only diminished the multicolored flames briefly.

Rat grinned and yanked hard. “Say goodbye to your powers, cunt. If you live, you'll see what a true weaver of magic could do.

Merrie whined. She had to do something. Her collar and her connection to it were the most precious things she had, her reason for living and her ability to survive her trials. Without them, she would quickly die and then thousands more would die when the Shadows invade from their lands in Blood County to darken the world.

But how could she save it? Or herself. What could she protect something even gods weren't suppose to be able to protect?

She tried pulling energy from the collar but there was nothing in the artifact's store. Her promise to Parn had kept it empty since it had exploded in the courthouse. Tears burned in her eyes as she tried to find some way of saving herself.

Chaos continued to burn at her connection, eroding it until there was only a failing thread that remained between her and the collar.

Desperate, she sent an order through the collar. (Don't let her take the collar!)

Even diminished by the failing thread, the echoing command slammed into her and gave her strength. Submission-fueled energy bolstered her internal stores but she needed to funnel it through the leash to save it. She fed it into her collar, strengthening the bond but it wasn't enough to stop the flames.

Like the other alpha and master, there was a spectral lead that connected Dixie to Tabitha. It wasn't as powerful and didn't glow as brightly. But Merrie could sense energy bouncing back and forth, magnifying Tabitha's magic with every passing second. It enhanced both of their healing powers to keep up with the constant onslaught.

Merrie needed a master, one capable of using magic that she could magnify. That would keep the energy building inside the bond to prevent the rainbow flames from destroying it.

She whimpered. She tried to cast another spell but the energy came from herself. As she strained her body to keep herself from being dragged into the collar, she tried to order herself to magnify her powers but the order didn't come. It wasn't possible, when she played her mistress, it was like speaking through a voice box; the voice changed but it was always herself.

Not, not always. There were times when the orders came from somewhere else. But she didn't know to do that on her own. What spell? What mental control could she use to create the illusion that she had a mistress when she had bonded to herself?

Rat suddenly grinned but the smile didn't reach her eyes. Her arms trembled with the effort to hold the collar still. "You've survived longer than I thought you would. I can feel you creating energy inside yourself, sick and twisted magic but it still rare to encounter anyone capable of sustaining themselves like you.

She hauled back, dragging the collar away from Merrie. “If you survive this, I might force you to bond to me. Even without the collar, your boost would easily let me continue my goals.

Fear surged through Merrie. She couldn't imagine losing another master, the pain would kill her. There was no one closer than herself.

Merrie growled, a deep rumbling sound in her chest. (I will not lose my mistress to you!)

Rat snorted. “You lie. I can feel it. You are using this collar as a buffer to create an loop. You don't have a mistress, you have an artifact that lets you fake it due to impurities.” She moved her hand to cover the shadow gem. “Without this and the remnants of your old masters, you would have nothing.

(I have a mistress.)

No, you don't, you stupid girl.

Then Merrie remembered something Parn said. The goddess of oaths had said Merrie had bonded with someone: Zillia. She didn't understand what it meant—even the gods didn't know the name—but it was something she could use.

Desperate, she decided to create Zillia right then and there. It was a risky chance, but if she could activate both ends of her collar at the same time, it might be enough to create the feedback loops that an alpha enjoyed with their masters.

She wracked her mind. She didn't know how to invoke it on demand but she could use the feeling of the unexpected commands, the thoughts outside of her head.

Merrie also needed a manifestation, something to give her faked master a physical form. When she realized she already had it, she smiled. There was her cloak. When she had first became an alpha, it had manifested as a black, snake-like demon that fought as part of her. Later, she would find that it was nothing more than a fragment of her personality in her time of need.

There was no greater need then now.

As she strained to funnel energy through the connection to keep it from burning away and to keep her physical form in place, she began to craft spells. She started with the unexpected voice and her cloak. The abstract and physical. Binding them together was one of Haviston's geas, the one that took on her grandfather's shape to teach her things. It was a fragment of his personality but it had evolved differently than him. She needed that now.

More spells were thrown into the mix, some psionic and others shadowy. She bound and wove the spells together into a convoluted mess that would barely cast. She didn't have time to create an elegant spell that she may only be able to cast once in her life.

At the last minute, inspiration struck her. She prayed to Parn. She wasn't a priest or a paladin, but there was something between her and her creator. She hoped it was enough. Unsure of how to work prayer into her spells, she brought up the fragments of geasa from her life. The pieces weren't capable of binding her actions anymore but they were still parts of the ultimate promise.

The spell started to fit together, faster than she had ever felt before. The oath magic somehow arranged itself, connecting different geasa together into something new. As it did, it pulled in the threads of psionic and shadow magic into something incomprehensibly beautiful.

Merrie began to cry as a joy filled her. She didn't understand it but it didn't matter. She just sank into the spell as energy flowed through her.

(Cast the spell,) she ordered herself to give power.

The order came along with the surge of power of submission. She moaned as it flooded through her veins, filling her with dark powers that she funneled into her spell.

A last minute attempt to save yourself? That never works.

Merrie didn't respond to Rat. She screwed up her face in concentration. Her bond was getting thinner, she didn't have much time.

Then the moment came. Everything seemed to stop for a moment as she projected the spell. It burst out of her, a complicated spell that she could never duplicate again. (Zillia!)

Black flames tore up through the bond and into the collar. The rainbow flames along the connection sputtered but managed to remain burning.

Merrie's spell poured into the collar.

Then it burst into black flames.

Rat almost dropped it. “Shit!” swore the harmonized voice.

Merrie's black cloak burst out of the collar, spreading out in a smear of darkness that stretched out into two bat-like wings. The folds of black briefly appeared to be tentacles like the shadow kin before it coalesced into its snake-like appearance. The needle-sharp tip reared back to reveal two black-on-black eyes.

In her head, Merrie felt her mistress reaching out for her. It was the same energies and feel as when she used the collar to fake her mistress but it felt somehow more alive. There was anticipation building but she didn't know what the order would be; she had disconnected herself from her mistress.

Then the rush, the hungry desire to respond to energy before the order came. It danced along her insides, flooding her pussy with an icy pleasure. She gathered herself and let it flow through the connection.

Energy rippled through the bond, sputtering the flames. It sank into the collar and then surged through the cloak. Black calligraphy painted across the animated cloak. It was her combat spells: strength, speed, and armor.

Merrie sobbed with relief.

The cloak snapped forward, punching into Rat's chest. Rainbow blood burst out across the ground as it came out from her back. The cloak shaped into claws as it tore through the chest, ripping its entire body through the widening hole.

Rat screamed out in agony.

(Transform!) commanded Zillia, her mistress, her cloak.

Merrie's body was already turning into a Bel Dark hound. She felt the fur and claws spreading out from her body as she was twisted and shaped by desire and darkness. The pleasure that boiled inside her pussy was nothing compare to the rush of obeying.

She charged forward, mouth open. As Zillia ripped completely out the other side of Rat's chest, Merrie's teeth clamped down on the woman's leg. Powerful muscles forced the teeth into flesh. With a surge of strength, Merrie ripped a hunk of muscle and tendon away from the bone.

A strange taste flooded her mouth. It was sparking, hot, and cold at the same time. It changed even as she concentrated on it. Concerned, she spit out the hunk of Rat's leg to see it was covered in rainbow blood.

Rat howled in pain. As the rainbow blood poured out of her leg, she released the collar and snapped her hand down. The howling multicolored lights and rainbow blood coalesced into a brilliant sword in her hand. It was blinding and dark at the same time, shifting in appearance almost constantly but it was always a weapon.

Staggering back, Rat slashed at Zillia. The blade cut into the billowing darkness.

Pain blossomed through the connection and Merrie groaned in agony. It felt like Rat had cut both of them at the same time.

Merrie started to transform but then realized her mistress wanted something else. It was a wordless order to attack the hand still holding the collar. Unwilling to disobey, Merrie growled and spun around. She gathered the darkness inside her and then lunged for Rat's arm.

When her teeth bit down, she released the withering effect of the shadow direction into the woman's arm.

Flesh darkened and peeled away to reveal rainbow blood flowing through veins. Muscles, tendons, and bones corroded into nothing, blowing away.

No!” bellowed Rat. She yanked herself around, picking up Merrie completely off the ground with surprising strength. Then she threw the collar away from her. “You cannot have it!

Merrie released the arm and landed on the ground.

Rat continued her spin. Her one good leg shifted and swelled. It went through dozens of versions of human legs before it stopped on the powerful leg of some warrior.

The kick caught Merrie in the ribs.

The force of a thousand horses slammed into her, shattering bone and picking her completely off the ground and throwing her in the opposite direction to her collar.

Merrie howled as she flew across the clearing. She hit the stone wall with a sickening crunch and cracking bones. With a groan, she slumped to the ground after leaving a smear of black blood on the wall. Shaking, she lifted her arm to see that her Bel Dark hound form was crumbling again, this time disrupted by the rainbow blood that covered her entire body.

The sensation of pulling rose up. She looked around.

The collar was sailing in the air toward her.

She lifted up one hand, her disappearing claws poised to catch the adamantite ring before it struck her.

Merrie missed by millimeters.

The collar slammed into her neck, crushing her throat in an instant. The force of the blow slammed her head against the wall.

Stars exploded across her vision.

The collar continued to drive into her, forcing the blunt edge through her flesh. She felt bones crunching and skin parting around the bloody collar that had slammed into her. It drove into her with irresistible force as it tore through the scar that she had before.

Merrie tried to scream.

When her spine snapped, the sound died in her throat.

She tried to reach up but her arms were no longer working. There was nothing left, not even the sensation of pain. She was floating, sailing, and falling at the same time.

With a crunch of stone, the collar settled into place around her neck.

Merrie couldn't move.

She could cry.

The world tilted, she was falling. She tried to catch herself but nothing worked. No response, no sensation.

She kept falling, bouncing off her shoulder and then slamming into the ground. She had a brief image of her own body—a naked woman with a geyser of black blood where her head used to be—before her vision rolled away and into the darkness.