Merrie woke up to a familiar agony, the one where every part of her body burned from the inside as light seeped in to burn away the shadows that made up her core. She tried to her body away, twisting and writhing, but her form refused to respond to her silent commands or the screaming that couldn't escape her throat.

Underneath her writhing form, she felt the ground shift and slither. She was on something as it shoved her from one side to another. She silently hoped it would bring her into darkness where she could somehow muster the energy to flee but the light seemed to focus on her as she was dragged away.

Suddenly, the slithering stopped.

“Why do I bother?” said someone, their unknown voice was rough as sandpaper and almost bored. “You are just going to reform in a week.”

She whimpered, the first sound escaping her throat. It was hazy and wispy, the only sound that could be made from her half-formed vocal cords. She could feel them tearing from the effort even as her body struggled to rebuild itself.

The brilliance diminished, turning from a white flame that blinded her completely to green-tinted colors that only burned on her skin.

She gasped, her eyes still not seeing as she enjoyed the brief respite. Even the screened light hurt, but it was nothing compared to having her shadows boiling away into wisps. Trembling, she concentrated on her surroundings to identify the speaker. If it was Rat, then she was in far more danger than she could imagine. If it was someone else… well, she could escape as soon as she found darkness.

When she heard nothing, she frowned. The only sounds were the rustle of leaves and the creak of branches. The ground still shifted underneath her body but there was no tentacles or hands grabbing her, no blades pressed against her skin, only the burn of light and nothing else.

Unsure of what to do, she focused on moving herself. Trembling, she focused on her right arm. It took effort to move it, to drag the smooth end of her wrist along the shifting ground underneath her. She felt leaves and twigs scrape her skin but nothing lashed out.

Thankful that she still had a body, Merrie focused on her legs. It was harder, her body still felt disconnected from the rest of her, but she remembered how her skin felt when she crossed her legs. Bearing down, she focused on moving one leg and then the other, scissoring them together until she could feel her skin rubbing against each other and the pressure that teased her hairless pussy. It wouldn't be too much to masturbate, but it didn't seem like the right thing while still blinded in an unknown place.

Merrie blinked away the tears from her eyes and peered around. Everything was fuzzy and shifting and green. It took her a moment for her vision to focus that it was the forest that was still moving: coils of vines twisted and pulled through complicated knots, the trees swayed but also groped for each other, even the grass waved opposite to the wind as if it was following a breeze that didn't exist.

Confused, she looked around for the speaker. She didn't see anyone.

Glancing down, she looked at her body. The pale skin, a faint white, had blackened rents from where the sun pierced her shell. The boiling shadows seeped out but the wisps were fading as her form healed and sealed over itself. She gulped and looked around again as she considered using magic to try escaping or healing faster.

Merrie let her senses cast out but the shadows around her were dead. No, not dead, but there was no energy in them. Nothing to pull on, nothing to tap. Just dark pools that gave no comfort as something else drew all the magic out of the air.

She sighed and glanced down. Her breasts were rising and falling before she realized she was breathing again. The realization brought a rush of hope and she smiled.

Then she felt a presence wash over her. Jerking, she peered around but there was no one in the shifting trees.

No, she stopped and turned to the side. There was something wrong, a detail she had missed.

Her eyes had passed over it thrice before she spotted a face almost hidden among the coiling vines and weeds. It was impassive and small, more like a happenstance shape of wood than a face.

Then it blinked.

She inhaled sharply.

A silfae stepped out, a tiny humanoid barely two feet tall. His body was the same color of the vines around him but the movement made it easier to see him clearly as he peered at her. He appeared to be a Copir silfae, just like Dixie, but there was something unnatural about the way he stared back at her.

“You make poor fertilizer,” came the surprisingly rough voice.

“W-What?” she whispered.

“Your body, it gnaws at my plants and withers my leaves. Not just that shell of yours is destructive alive.” He pointed at her with three fingers. “But even the presence of your corpse is enough to wither life. You sap the life out of my plants and leave them to die. The ground that soaks your blood can no longer sustain life.”

He stepped closer. She noticed he had plants growing in his hair. Tendrils of roots clung to his pointed ears while more of it added to the matted life that made up some sort of robe or vest. He glared at her, his green eyes glowing faintly.

“I… I'm sorry.”

“I don't care about you. You're…” He gestured at her with one hand an pulled a face. “You are not one of my children. Normally I'd just mash your corpse into feed. I tried already but you still kill my children. Your blood, your skin, everything about you is more than I can handle.”

Merrie cringed away from him.

The silfae stopped in front of her. He crossed his tiny arms over his chest and glared down at her face. “What are you?”

“I'm… the Omega.”

He shrugged and shook his head.

“An alpha?”

Another shake of his head.

“I'm a creature of shadows?”

“I figured that but most shadow creatures are black and have shifting bodies. You are a naked… human? I don't remember, humans have those fat bags on your chest, right? Or is that only the females?”

She frowned in confusion.

He gestured to her limbs. “But you don't have hands or feet. How can you be… anything at this prison? Did someone bring you in as luggage or just some toy to play with?”

The idea of being shoved into a bag brought a surge of desire and fear. She had only been jammed into a bag a few times, all of them at the prison. She squirmed for a moment and then shook his head. “Only at the prison.”

The silfae scowled and pointed to toward her crotch. “Could you stop watering my children? That kills them.”

She glanced down at her bare pussy. It was already starting to glisten with her growing excitement. Looking up, she scanned his face. There was no attraction, no desire, just disgust. Confused and a bit wary, she clamped her legs together.

He shook his head slowly before looking her over. “Why is a naked human killing my children?”

She hesitated.

“Come on, human, speak.” He rotated his fingers as if to encourage her to go.

“I… they thought I was dead.”

"Obviously, you were on the fertilizer wagon. Why? You stink of this Kivas' magic, though it doesn't seem to have corrupted you. I'm surprised at that, not curious, just surprised."

“Kivas? Rat?”

The silfae shrugged. “Don't know, don't really care what he calls himself now. You have the chaotic energies around you but that isn't what is warping my children. Your shadow-stuff is killing them and I'm tired of creating dead patches in my forest with your corpse.” He stepped back just as a tree branch swung down to cradle him. “What do I have to do to get you out of my woods?”

Merrie thought about Abbinkey. The prison was hell, but it wasn't going to get better even with Rat gone. She didn't have many options if she wanted to restrict herself using magic. The only future was being used as some prisoner's sex toy, fucked and abused and beaten in a constant cycle of pain, death, and recovery.

Her pussy grew slicker with her thoughts. She squirmed and fought back a moan. The desire to return to the prison rose up, a hunger that felt stronger than ever before. It felt more than just lust, there was something else. An overwhelming need to return for… something. She couldn't tell the reason, or the purpose, only that she had to return.

Merrie sank into the feeling to return. It felt like a master commanding, or about to command her. The anticipation burned in her bones and deep inside her soul, a hungry desire to obey even as the words came out.

She wasn't sure where it came from. The closest she had to a master was herself, through her collar, and Zillia. Reaching out, she tried to connect to her cloak but the shadows were still snuffed out by the power around her.

Merrie couldn't be sure but maybe the command came from Parn? Would the goddess send her back to the prison for some purpose?

She considered escaping, fleeing through the woods. She knew she could do it, at least if she could find some way to tap into the shadows.

The Royal Geas didn't have a hold on her but she instantly knew that she would be violating it. It was a powerful sensation, as if someone was clawing into her skull.

To her surprise, she found that she could keep considering her options, to decide to violate the geas, but the answer was clear.

There was no doubt what would happen if she returned. She was helpless if she honored her geas and it wouldn't take long before some prisoner claimed her for their own. Before she knew it, she would used as nothing more than a fuck hole and slave. She twisted for a moment as she imagined her future.

“You're leaking again,” the silfae said with an expression of disgust.

Blushing, Merrie pulled herself up. After a moment, she slipped until she was on her knees with her legs spread, her pussy hovering inches over the ground. It felt more comfortable to be on her limbs but the sensation of having her tail wag free somehow distracted her from the thoughts.

The silfae snorted and shook his head. “You are broken for a human. More than usual.”

“I'm exactly who I am,” Merrie responded.

“And I want you out of my forest. How can I get rid of you?”

Merrie thought about the prison. She had to go back. “I—”

“I won't let you escape the prison, if that is what you want to ask.”

Startled, Merrie closed her mouth with a snap. Then she spoke. “Why?”

The silfae shrugged. “I have a good thing here. This place is close to the Green and my babies thrive on the constant flow of fertilizer and corpses. Except for yours of course, but you shouldn't have been thrown into that prison without being… still comfortable in your own magic. Not with the Kivas around, he'll use you to try to escape. They are getting sloppy.”

“No one else in the prison can use magic. They are all geased—”

The silfae snorted. “Not the children of Kivas, The Kivas. The brother. The one that they created the prison around. He's still there, I can feel the chaotic energies dripping off what you call a soul and the stench of it clings around like flies around the bloated corpse of some idiot.”

She closed her mouth with a snap.

The silfae leaned forward. “And if no one in the prison can use magic, why can you?”

She blushed.

“No, there are a lot of people using magic. That geas that is put on you makes you unable to use your natural talents, but… whatever you humans do to keep living, that's still there. You can learn a new magic that way.”

Merrie thought about how Borias had switched magic from killing women to using spells and runes. The memories came back of her kneeling on the floor of the basement, begging as he fed her foul-tasting food created from magic. Her tail wagged slowly with her memories.

“Kivas has that will, that stuff that keeps humans moving forward. He shifts and twists too much. No geas sticks long enough to stop him. When it blocks his blood magic, he shifts to use stone-shaping. As the oath magic changes to prevent that, it's mind control. Then whatever is needed.”

The silfae shrugged and tugged on a root that curled around his finger. “I've been watching over this prison for seventy years now. At least five iterations of magic rose up from that prison, each one tainted by Kivas chaos.”

He released the root which blossomed into a flower. “So, you aren't escaping through the woods. I have no interest in ruining my situation for your attempt at freedom. I don't need oath magic for that, I simply won't give you passage through my woods.”

“N-No, I want to go back inside.” It felt good to say that.

He cocked his head. “Really?”

“I need to. I… I was convicted and sentenced here.”

“Wrongly?” snorted the silfae.

“I…” She felt about a moment before she caught the hint of pressure, the silfae wasn't to know about the Royal Geas. “No, they were right. I killed all those people. It wasn't intentional but I think I did the right—”

“Yeah… I'm going to stop you there. I don't care.”

She glared at him.

He shrugged. “I don't. What I want is to get you out of my woods. What do you need to repair your body? That's what you need to leave, right?”

She bent away from the light. “Darkness would help. And maybe whatever is preventing me from pulling on the shadows.”

“Will you grow your hands and feet back?”

She shook her head.

He lifted one hand. As he did, the world grew darker.

She looked up to see the trees growing rapidly, stretching out to create a thick foliage that blocked the light and plunged her surroundings into almost total darkness. Only the faint light of moss and some plants gave her light.

“I won't let you access the shadows though. That would let you escape and I have no intent in letting that happen.”

“I won't.”

“I can't trust you. I will give you shade though.”

She breathed a sight of relief, letting the scent of fresh flowers flood over her. The darkness felt good, a balm against the agony of burning. Her body would heal, but slowly. She smiled to herself as the tingle of her collar's regeneration magic took over and started to repair the damage.

“I noticed sunlight kills you.” It was a statement, a cruel one. Above her, the canopy fluttered and little spears of light shot down before disappearing instantly.

“Yes,” she whispered.

“I can't do much about that. I can keep you shaded until the sun sets though.”

“That would work. I can sneak back into the village.”

The silfae stood up and then walked toward the edge of the clearing formed by the plants. “You do that. Try not to get killed or whatever happened to you.”

She thought about the fight. “I hope not.”

“Avoid Kivas though. If he finds out you survived, you are going to be more of a prize than ever before.”

“Rat is dead.”

“Kivas is never dead. He just reinvents himself every time someone thinks he dies. If you don't believe me, head to the well in the center of town. If there is a new store there, a promising new leader, or someone who seems to naturally take charge, I promise you that is Kivas. He's a weed that you can't kill, with roots down into the rocks themselves. Blood binds him to this prison, it keeps him alive as much as it pins him in place.”

“I'll be—”

“I don't care,” the silfae said as he stepped out of sight. “You have an hour before the sun sets. Follow the path and I'll throw you back into the pit, human.”

She closed her mouth and stared in the direction of the silfae as her mind spun furiously. Rat was Kivas, the first one? How could that be? She saw Rat's body, even Jale fucking the eye hole. How could anyone survive that.

But she had and from far more damage.

Merrie groaned and stretched. She looked at the shadows around her and considered using her magic. She didn't have much energy in the woods, despite the darkness. There was something, the Green that the silfae talked about, that made it impossible to use shadow magic. She sighed and bowed her head, she could use Zillia's company right then.

With a groan, she sat on her heels and leaned back to let the darkness heal her damaged body.