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Hours later, Udin brought in three wizard-priests into her cell. “Here is the criminal. I only need the collar removed.”

Merrie looked up from the ground. She felt energetic from her orgasm but couldn’t do anything about it. The wards on the room were still powerful; she could have broken through but Udin had enough sense to command her to stay every time he left. The order seeped into her thoughts, bringing waves of pleasure every time she considered leaving.

The priests came in, fanning out by the door. She spotted the symbol of Misyr dangling from their amulets and along the bottom of their robes.

The lead one, an older woman, walked forward and knelt down. “Hello, Merrie.”

Merrie didn’t know her but she still sent out a welcoming wave of emotions. It brought a growl from Udin but the priests just smiled.

“May I see it?”

Merrie lifted her neck, exposing her throat and collar.

The head priest took it and then gasped. “Cold.”

(Sorry.)

“No magic!” snapped Udin.

“Please, sir, we are capable of defending against her.” She was lying, Merrie could tell that, but there was little fear. The head priestess turned back and rolled the heavy adamantite collar around her neck. She stopped at the wedding ring fused into the side, the dark crystal almost pitch black.

Udin paced back and forth.

“You know, Sister Rendi regretted making this collar with her dying breath.”

At the memory of Borias’ mother, Merrie sobbed. The old woman had been at the mill when she arrived. She left because of Merrie and she was killed because of the collar. It was the last magical item that she had made, but Merrie had been told that it had the energies of a god inside it.

“She was a sister to me,” said the older woman. “Her death still haunts me.”

She ran her finger along the collar again. “This cursed artifact was her destruction. I only wished I could remove this stain from the world.”

Udin stopped. “Wished?”

The priestess stood up. “We cannot destroy it.”

“What? Why not? I said I’d pay you a hundred thousand marks!”

“The Church of Misyr will return the money, of course. Even the nonnegotiable fee we charged you. This is a matter of honor.”

“I don’t want the money,” he snapped. “I want that collar gone! She is a traitor, she must be geased.”

“It cannot be removed.”

“Everyone keeps telling me that! How is that a stupid fucking whore has something even you can’t remove!”

The priestess gasped. She stepped forward and slapped him. “Don’t you dare!” Her voice cracked.

Udin froze. His cheek was red but he made no effort to touch it.

“That collar is a stain on my god’s honor. It is a device that binds forbidden spells into it. It was crafted by a terrible man who should have never been able to do it. I am ashamed that Great Lord Misyr had any involvement with the collar but he did in his great knowledge.”

“It’s just a collar.”

“No, it isn’t just a collar. It is the soul and life of a great sister, it has the blood of two different gods flowing through it, and it was forged in darkness. Any one of those could be removed by us, but not all five.”

“F-Five?” His face twisted into a scowl. “Explain.”

“Her own soul is wrapped around that collar. Her nature, the True Submissive, takes any mind control and twists it, binding it tighter than any magic could do alone. She is that collar as much as it is part of her. Her soul, her spirit, her nature are tied into it as much as the gods and shadows.”

Udin’s jaw tightened. “Are you saying no one can destroy it?”

“It would take a god, maybe many of them.” Her face still twisted in rage, she leaned forward. “Do you have any gods owing you favors?”

A low growl rumbled in his chest.

“That collar cannot be destroyed. Even if you happened to find some way of cracking it, the sheer power that is stored inside it would destroy the city.”

“You mages keep—”

“And you are obviously too stupid to listen.”

Udin bristled. “I will have you—”

“Shut up.”

“I will not—”

The priestess slapped him again. “Quiet!”

Udin stepped back in surprise. His hand dropped to his sword.

The priestess backed away her self. “My apologies. I feel strongly about this. If you insist on going forward, I will petition the High Court and the Royal Family to stop you. You must not mess with powers beyond your ken, not this time, Lord Bailiff.”

“I will not stop, justice must be served.”

“As you wish.”

The three turned and left, leaving a seething Udin and cowering Merrie behind.

He took a deep breath. “Every fucking one.” He glared at Merrie. “How did a common whore get an artifact like that? Why didn’t they kill you sooner?”

Merrie wanted to respond but she tasted the acrid energies of the geas preventing her. She couldn’t tell him she was already bound with something far more powerful. Instead, she shrugged and pressed her body.

Udin paced back and forth, his fury beating against her shields. Then, he stopped. “Fine, if I can’t remove the collar, I will move forward on the geas. Page!”

It was a young man who arrived this time. He glanced at Merrie’s naked body and shivered; she could feel that he had orgasmed with her and no doubt had her image burned into his head.

Behind the page, in the door, was Autiur. The gray guard shook his head before walking past.

“Yes, sir?” asked the page.

“Summon the binders. We have a geas to put on this criminal.”

“Yes, sir.”

Udin waited until the page was gone and then sighed. “You will be on that wagon to Abbinkey by morning. I promise you that.”