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Merrie slipped out of the Shadows in the one place she knew the barrier between the worlds would be the weakest, her former home. Her naked knees thumped against the rotted wood of the stairs. One wrist caught on the side of the stairs but her other flailed into empty air.

Her cloak poured out from the rip in the Shadows, wrapping around her breasts, hips, and pussy with a tight, comforting pressure. Black tendrils snapped out to catch other parts of the railing. She was instantly pinned in place.

The wood underneath her knee snapped and fell down. It plummeted a few feet into a pile of rotted woods, clattering loudly among the rusted remains of a cage Kine had put underneath the former stairs.

Flush with power from her orgasm and her journey through the Shadows, Merrie easily shifted into shadows and flowed down the side of the stairs back to the solid ground. When she reformed back into a naked bitch, even the floorboards creaked and a puff of dust rose up around her.

She fought back a cough and looked around her. It had been over a year since she left her home and it looked like a rotted building was on the verge of falling down. Deep beneath the crumbling wood, hunks of plaster, and leaking roof, she could feel the source of the rot: the black magic that permeated every part of the manor. It had been sunk into the foundation itself, layers after layers of protective spells that prevented most people from even seeing the house. It was a shade spell, a shadow version of a repulsion. There were also warnings and protection along with the spells. The individual magics were knotted together into a complex weave that weakened the barrier between reality and the Shadow while protecting her home.

The wards were tripped, but no one had repaired the fraying spells. Even the shade had started to fade, no doubt letting someone to enter the property and set off the alarms.

Even though she was only going to be there for a few days—the clock in her head told her exactly how much time—Merrie closed her eyes and cast her senses into the spells to repair the wards of her home. It took her a moment to remember how everything worked together before she could start repairing the weave. As she did, she added her new experiences with magic to enforce it and make it last longer.

A sad part of her realized that she might not be returning to the place after her court visit. It might be the last time she would be there. If that was the case, repairing the spells would be an exercise in foolishness.

She tore her thoughts away and focused on repairing the spells. After an hour of concentrating, she had enough repaired that she could use only a portion of her attention to maintain the words. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes again.

The inside of the manor hadn’t changed with the repaired spells but the atmosphere had changed. There was a presence of darkness in the air, a rippling of another realm in every pitch black shadow cast by the faint light leaking in through the broken ceiling and through the rotted holes along the walls.

It felt more like home.

She smiled to herself, a bit sadly, and began to inspect her surroundings. It didn’t matter how repaired or fixed the building was before she had died, the shadows had corroded everything: hinges were rusted completely through, pots had collapsed underneath their weight, and even the massive cages in the kitchen were nothing more than rusted fangs sticking out of the floor.

Merrie paused at the cages, remembering her pack. The central cage, hers, was ruined just like the others. She had almost died in it and the memories of watching Kine die in front of her echoed across her mind. The pain still gnawed at her heart, but she forced herself to walk past it and peer out into the yard.

The present of the other realm had twisted the plants. They were still thick and weedy, but everything looked wilted. Pale mushrooms stuck out along the cobblestone trail that lead to the back where she had once had a gang-bang with her hound back for her master’s pleasure. She smiled, a memory of pleasure flickering along her senses.

Turning back, she headed through the house as she relived memories, both good and bad.

As she headed back through the entry hall, she noticed it was almost sunrise. Pale light streamed through the cracks in the ceiling, walls, and shattered windows. The beams were easy to avoid despite the brilliance hurting her eyes. She considered her options and came up with two choices, the basement and her master’s bedroom. She chose the latter, it was where she felt safest.

The master bedroom was large. The far wall had been destroyed in an attack against the manor but she had them repaired knowing about the corruption from the manor’s magic. It was solid and thick, crafted from dense rock and magically enhanced mortar. In the year, it only had a few cracks along the wall but no light leaked through the solid walls.

She smiled to herself and crawled inside.

The cloak closed the door behind her, plunging the room into pitch darkness.

The icy pressure of the room was a comfort, tickling her skin as she looked around. While the wall had survived a year with little damage, the massive bed had not. The fabric of the mattress had ripped apart, spilling straw and cotton across the floor. Much of it had already crumbled into dust that blew up in little clouds every time she exhaled.

She headed to the one thing that survived inside the room, a large iron cage. With her magical senses, it glowed faintly with the spells to ensure she couldn’t escape even with magic. Kine had used it to “punish” her and she loved every minute of it. She sighed and rubbed her cheek against the cold metal before crawling inside.

The memories flooded through her, bringing a flicker of excitement cascading along her senses. She circled a few times and then curled up on the hard metal. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

Just two days and then she’ll turn herself in.