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Merrie berated herself as she splashed around the icy water of the trough. It felt good to clean up before the final trip to Abbinkey, but at the same time, she and the rest of the prisoners were feeling the dread of the prison looming before them. She didn’t know what to expect, only that it would be hell for her.

Further down was Monte. He dressed quietly. Since he woke up, he had not said a single word to anyone. Just worked with mechanical steps.

Their eyes met for a moment before he looked away.

Merrie’s ears and tail drooped. It was going to be a painful last trip. There was no way that anyone could miss the tension between them.

She slipped out of the water and shook herself. Ston and Slender both reached out with towels and she let herself forget Monte for a moment while they buffed and dried her. By the time she was done, and a couple slipped fingers along her breasts and pussy, she was smiling again.

“Okay, bitches, time to get mounted up. Tonight, you’ll be in your new home!” Dornen was in high spirits, no doubt enjoying the dread that all the prisoners were showing.

“Come on, bitch,” he kicked Merrie in the ribs. “Move your cunt.”

Merrie winced but obeyed. She crawled along the white path around the building and toward the wagons.

“Stranger approaching!” yelled one of the crossbow men from on top of the gate.

Vace and Dornen stopped, looking around with confusion.

The fortress guards sprung into action. “Prisoners in the cells! Now!”

Vace spun and pointed back to the doors. “Now, move, move! Move your damn asses!”

Merrie crawled forward, hopping up the stairs and into the first cell. There was one of the fortress guards waiting to guide each one.

Monte was close behind her but when he was directed to enter the same cell as her, he balked.

“Get your fucking ass in the cell, prisoner!”

“I can’t, not—”

The word ended with the guard slamming the butt of his spear into Monte’s gut. As the paladin bent in half, the guard grabbed him by the scruff and threw him powerfully into the cell.

Monte slammed into the far wall, crumpling to the ground with a groan.

The cell door closed behind them.

Frowning, Merrie rushed over to Monte and cradled his head. “Are you okay?”

Monte looked up in confusion. His eyes took a second to focus and he waved at Merrie. “Monster.”

“Yes, yes, but right now, you need to stay still.”

He slumped forward into her lap. His head was hot and sticky. She frowned and stroked his head, only to bring it back bloody. Worried, she lifted his head to see there was a gash on his head. With his dazed expression, that meant he hit the wall harder than he expected.

She whimpered and looked around. She didn’t have anything to help. After a second, she rested his head back on her lap to comfort him.

It only took a minute for the cells to be loaded and the doors closed shut. Six of the guards, a mixture of wagon and fortress, remained in front of the cells while the others filed out.

In the distance, she heard a muted “Halt!”

“What do you think—?” started Razor.

“Silent!” snapped one of the guards.

Everyone quieted.

“Identify yourself! Identify or be shot!”

Silence.

It stretched uncomfortable as the guards shifted on their feet, their swords brandished in front of them. Most of the prisoners stood at the doors to their cells, watching the front door as curiously as the guards.

Merrie felt the intruder long before they approached. It started as a quickening of her heart, a triple-beat that slammed into her ribs. With every moment, it felt like the pressure in the room increased, beating against her skin and ears.

She looked up. No one else seemed to notice but there was a little less tension in how tightly the guards held their weapons and the prisoners peered out.

The pressure build up. It was overwhelming. She could feel a silent command echoing inside it, the words beating against her ears. “Remain calm. Remain calm. Don’t pay attention.”

To her surprise, she felt no need to relax. No overwhelming orgasm coming from submission but also no slack jaw obedience. She had the choice to obey.

She did not.

The door darkened and then a young woman entered the room. She was in her early twenties with a brilliant smile and blonde hair. She wore chain armor that highlighted her perky breasts and narrow hips but left her midriff and thighs bare. Despite being almost useless as armor, Merrie found her eyes focusing on the large symbol between her breasts: Galladin’s fist. The symbol looked fresh and she could spot a few burnish stains from where the woman had removed the previous symbol.

She stepped inside and the guards stepped back. She had a two-handed sword on her back but despite the size of the weapon, she moved easily as she peered into one cell and then the other.

Spotting Monte, she smiled. Turning to the nearest guard, she said in the sweetest of voices, “Open this, please.”

The guard stumbled forward. He fumbled with the cell door for a moment before opening it. Gulping, he stood there as she entered the cell like a queen.

Then stopped as her perfect blue eyes locked with Merrie. The smile froze, still brilliant but held in place. “Shadow Spawn.”

Merrie smiled, confident that the deal that the gods had made was in place. “Lady Paladin, good to meet you.”

The paladin frowned and then gestured to the moaning Monte. “That one is ours.”

“I know.” Merrie gently lifted Monte’s head from her lap and showed the new paladin her bloody arm. “He hit his head, he needs help.”

A look of concern flashed across the paladin’s face. Then she strode forward with amazing grace and knelt down, smoothly sliding Monte’s head from Merrie’s lap into her own. The blood didn’t touch her, it just dripped off the white gloves she wore onto the ground.

Merrie crawled back, fighting against the overwhelming Presence of the paladin that demanded that she remain calm. She didn’t want to lose to it, it was important that she saw that Monte was cared for as much as knowing her fate.

A yellow-green glow surrounded Monte’s head. Merrie had been healed enough times to know exactly what it mean. She watched curiously as Monte’s dazed moaning stopped.

Seconds later, he sat up. “W-What happened?”

“You hit your head,” said the paladin. “You needed healing.”

“Oh, thank you…” He looked at her and then gasped. “Sir Lilin? What are you doing here?”

“Welcome back, Sir Fainmar. I apologize, we did not know where you are.”

Merrie suspect that it was a lie.

“Y-You are wearing the symbol of Galladin.”

“We have much to talk about. Lemetri is no more.”

Monte looked at Merrie, frowning. “What trick is this? How did you convince her?”

The Presence grew stronger it focused on Monte. “Sir Fainmar, I swear to you on Lemetri’s and Galladin’s light, there is no trick.”

The guards and prisoners began to stir but then the Presence washed over them and they grew still. Merrie felt it echoing in her head, trying to convince her to remain calm and not pay attention.

Monte looked at Merrie again. “My mission?”

Lilin glared at Merrie. “Over. Forever. Orders came from high, the fight with Fallen Paladin is over.”

“Did we win?”

“No, Sir Fainmar, we did not win. We will never win.” There was bitterness in the paladin’s voice.

“Then why—?”

“Because it is over. We have much to talk about. Come.” She stood up and helped Monte to his feet.

Lilin looked at Merrie. “I hope, to all the powers in the universe, that you make some mistake, some horrible decision that once again lets us hunt you. The fight with The Fallen One may be over but we will watch you until the end of days.”

Monte groaned.

“The only solace I have is that you will never remember this threat, Omega. I know your weakness.”

A divine spell was gathering around her. Merrie could tell it was another compulsion, a spell for forgetfulness. She tensed, hoping and praying to whatever god was listening that she would be able to resist it.

“None of you will remember this event, ever.”

The spell snapped across the entire fortress. As one, every guard and prisoner went slack. Standing there with limp arms as they stared forward.

Merrie felt the spell crash into her mind. It crumbled almost immediately, breaking apart into fragments that she could see how they were constructed.

She had a choice to forget.

She did not. Instead, she knew exactly what she had to do to make it appear to work. She let her jaw go slack as she pretended to have the spell take over.

The paladin nodded. “Horrid creature, may you die painfully.”

Together, the two paladins left the cell. They headed out.

As soon as the Presence faded, so did the spell. Everyone else began to stir awake, regaining their senses. For a minute, they just stood there in dazed confusion.

Then the captain came in. “Why aren’t the prisoners in their wagons! We have a deadline. Move folks, move!” She clapped her hand to emphasize the point.

By the time they loaded the wagon, Merrie noticed that no one questioned why there was only five prisoners in the wagon including herself. Monte no longer existed to any of them.

She sighed and slumped down. They would be back, that she was sure about. She only hoped she wouldn’t be constantly attacked like Bass was.