tagMind ControlAn Apocalypse Rising Ch. 09

An Apocalypse Rising Ch. 09

bySaddleRider©

"Give you my mind?" Anna wasn't sure she heard correctly. "I hope you're not suggesting I become some version of them." she sniped.

Maylin shook her head. Her irritation made her slip in her efforts to heal Dalen slightly and the other grimaced in pain. "I'm sorry, Dalen." Anna moved to the entry to keep an eye out as Maylin spoke.

Her fingers dipped downward now and then to get to the more deeply wounded flesh like one would press keys on a piano. "I am not her. My son is not her."

Anna's eyes darted for a moment to see look at the viscious wound, wincing in sympathy at the sound her friend made. "I know that. I apologize. What are you suggesting?"

"This is delicate work and I have to see. I have to sense my way through the wounds, so that means I have to be here. The spell for the ley lines and the protection spell that comes with it are complex, even for a well-trained mage, and not something I could teach you."

"However, as the half-mages are conduits for Drexa, you could be so for me. We would be connected. We would share thoughts. And when you reached the lines you would know what to do and be able to draw on my skill to do it. "But you would still be you. You would still own you. And when the spell is broken we will each be as we were."

Anna looked over her shoulder as she reasoned it through. "But didn't Deres say that she can do what she does because she has power to spare because of these magic pools. If I joined with you that way and took yours to do this, doesn't that leave you vulnerable?"

She let go a small sigh. "Between that and this...I would be vulnerable. As I say, it is not without risk. But, with luck, I would be finished or nearly so by the time you reached the lines. We can meet halfway and then proceed onward to the center of this place, where I suspect she is."

Anna pondered. The plan seemed sound even though she loathed the idea of leaving them behind and in an even more vulnerable position. The alternative though, was nothing she would allow to come to pass. "All right, what happens?"

The layer of gray light between between the mage's hands and Dalen's ripped back darkened. "I will be finished with Anna before the pain returns." Straightening from her position from over the wounded soldier, she turned to Anna, studying her eyes and liking what she found there. "You have no fear."

"Because I would do this for her even if it meant I was your slave, so it doesn't matter."

Maylin looked clearly uncomfortable at the notion and her tone was stiff. "That won't be required."

"And I trust you. I trust your magic." An honest smile found her lips.

Maylin swept a hand through her hair to let go of some of that discomfort. "Thank you. It means a great deal to me that you do. Now, all you need do is relax. Calm your mind. Think of something that brings you peace."

Anna's mind went immediately to writing at her small desk at the end of every day. Sometimes it was just a few paragraphs. Sometimes she reported for duty having had only a few hours sleep because she couldn't stop the words from flowing. There was only her, the paper, the pen, and the words born there. She felt the gentle touch of Maylin's fingers at her temples, then at the nape of her neck near the base of her skull while she heard Maylin whisper in an ancient tongue.

That she understood.

As the consonants and vowels came together, they did so like pieces of a puzzle until the word and meaning were clear and the intuition of what came next. She sensed Maylin in her mind, her presence stepping carefully through her thoughts, not wishing to touch what Anna didn't wish to share.

Even if Anna could speak, she would have had no words. She saw the spires as though they were her home. She saw all the buildings of the city of Adar and the gray blanket of the sky around it that let rays of sun peek through, beautiful in its own stark way.

Then she saw things that needed no special gift to describe or understand. She saw a girl being carried on her father's back through a perfectly-manicured park. She saw pleasantly raucous dinners with parents and a sister. She saw quiet moments studying magic tomes that needed no book; they simply scrolled on glass sheets as the young woman looked to her teacher for understanding.

She saw love and more than one broken heart through the eyes of another, and she saw, through those eyes, a woman lay behind a dark-haired boy, petting him as they whispered while she allayed his fears as he sought sleep.

Anna saw that and more, and she knew the other, in some ways, more intimately than her own family. The images slowly evaporated from her conscious mind, but the sense of the other was still there.

"You still belong to you and you always will. Do you see?"

Anna nodded, the look of awe still there. She felt there was so much to talk about, but there was no time. She pulled the cuffs and chains from her belt, locking each to the pommels of her daggers and the larger cuffs to her wrists to keep her daggers with her. "Take care of Dalen."

"That was the point of all this, young lady. We will be all right. Hurry now."

She knelt and gripped Dalen's hand as if to share her strength. You hold on and I'll see you soon."

Dalen nodded. I'll just...stick around here for a bit. Good luck, Anna."

Anna lingered for a moment longer before she scanned the pathways around the entry. Having now an idea of where to go on her own, feeling the ley lines at the edge of her senses pull her down one path, she threw caution to the wind and began to run, hoping she could be insanely fast just long enough.

***

Neral was far more annoyed at being left hanging, wrists overhead, captured by emerald green vines than the fact that she was naked, toes just above the dirt. It hardly mattered who saw her. Military life had a way of stretching boundaries and chipping away at modesty.

The remaining vines had retracted upward, leaving them alone and freedom, or at least the chance for it tantalizingly close. Those that held them seemed aware enough that they would tighten to the point of cutting off their circulation if they sensed too much movement, but loosened their grip somewhat if their captives seemed docile. Even the thinnest of the vines had a rigidity to them when need be that could feel like steel cuffs.

As Neral had surmised, the slaves masquerading as refugees in need and the slave Neral had rendered unconscious simply waited for the trio to be overwhelmed, stripped them without word or ceremony and left them hanging for, by this time, a fair stretch of minutes. "I was a fool."

Dion shook her head. "For trying to help someone? No. It was a trap, yes, but we could have been caught in a thousand ways from the moment we arrived to now. In some ways it was only a matter of time."

Elan agreed. "I would have done the same if that matters to you at all, sir."

She took a breath. "It does. Thank you. But I'm done wallowing for the moment. We should consider how we might escape."

The line of thought was interrupted by the harshness in an all too familiar voice. "You really are a stupid bitch, Neral."

The general looked to her left and closed her eyes, her heart sinking into her stomach upon seeing Bryana strolling in with a sway in her step that suggested the place was hers. The neckline of the black dress she wore plunged so that even a fraction of an inch more would have exposed her areola. The bit of fabric that covered her breasts formed a diamond at her midriff, exposing her belly and the head of the serpent tattoo that seemed to eye them all by itself. The skirt slid up the side, exposing leg all the way to the curve of her bare ass.

Around her neck was a pendant, the ruby in the center surrounded by runes carved into the yellow gold. The jewel seemed to feed off the light in the room, each facet seeming to work in tandem with the others.

Following behind her was a tall, bone white woman with black eyes and a far more graceful glide. Neral found her oddly beautiful, the deep, red gown she wore drawing a stark contrast to that unnaturally pale skin.

"Go find Deres and invite him to join us." Bryana said smoothly to the other. If I know him, and I do, start from Drexa's chambers and work your way outward to the milking chambers, implantation caves, and egg storage. He'll be wherever he can cause the biggest mess."

"What of Maylin?"

"What of her? She is off somewhere causing her own mayhem or heading straight to Drexa herself." She shook her head in frustration. "The former makes her a threat to nothing She cannot fix and the latter means She wins anyway."

She touched Elan's cheek before letting her hand run over the subtle slope of her left breast as Elan looked at her with defiance. "Mistress has given me these to do with how I please so long as She gets what She needs, and having the good general gets her what She needs."

"Find him. Invite him to me and he will follow. Just don't give him any reason to burn you to the ground."

She bowed gracefully. "Yes, Lady Bryana." She backed away several steps before turning on her heels and disappearing.

Alone now, Bryana turned her piercing gaze on Neral, her tone derisive. "What's the matter, my love?" She spat out the last two words as though she feared letting them stay on her tongue too long would make her ill. "Sad to see me alive?"

"I am happier than I can say that you are alive. I am only sad to see you like this,"

"Of course you are, dear. The leash is off. I am no longer your fawning pet. Her voice turned mocking, "Oh, Mistress, I'm so sorry, Mistress. I'll do anything to make up for how I've wronged you for the next thousand lifetimes. Goddess, how that makes me want to wretch."

Her hand went none too delicately around the soft flesh of Neral's neck, nails digging in. You enslave me and pretend it's all sweet and perfect so you and Deres can feel better about what you did to me."

"But, I'm free now, Neral." She twirled her finger above her head. "All this? My magic. My idea. Even Drexa didn't think you were stupid enough, even as a primitive, to fall for it. But I knew you would. You are too noble, honorable, and kind-hearted not to try to save the poor innocents. You lead your innocent friends to their end, then and now, and you still cannot stop yourself."

"We all have to be who we are, Bryana."

"Yes. Yes, we do." Her finger went to her chest and to Neral's to punctuate her words. "This is who I am and who I always was until you stole me from me."

"Perhaps that is so, my love, but..."

Rage bubbled to the surface. "Do not call me that, bitch. You never knew me to love me. One like you would not conceive in your nightmares to love someone like me.

"But I do," she said, her own emotion roiling beneath. "The magic used on you did not create the person I love from nothing, It simply allowed the better parts of you to come through. Or were you always wicked without fail. Did you never show another in your path mercy or kindness?"

Her eyes misted. "We both know you did. We both know your heart was never black to its core. You told me your stories. There were times when you helped another when there was nothing in it for you. There were times even then when you were decent for its own sake, even if you did think most people were beneath you. That is the person I love. That is the person Deres loves. That is the person the magic brought to the fore. She is still inside even if you choose not to see her."

"This thing that lives in this place thinks everything not her is worthless. That isn't you."

"She freed me."

"She thinks nothing of you. You are just another half-mage to her. There will only be one of you in the end once she gets bored with you and you have served your purpose. I love you. I do. Deres does. You know I speak the truth. You are not like her..."

"You will see, Neral." She put her lips to Neral's cheek before whispering, "You will see how much more like her I am than you."

***

Deres moved swiftly through the passages, not allowing his mind to drift much to Neral and the others. There was enough to occupy his mind as it was. He had used his knowledge and tools to shut down the mechanisms in two of the milking facilities, dispatching the half-mages that were working in the place or guarding it, not engaging them enough to find out which.

The wails of desperation from the men when their bliss was taken from them were like the howls of wraiths being forced back to the depths. He'd left in a rush because an idea occurred that needed testing. Cutting a path to one of the smaller rooms with scores of eggs, he surveyed them and the gray, green, and black veins running throughout each one. He walked to the center of the room as his mind began piecing the spell together, pulling bits of the energy together that he would need from around him even as he drew his polished dagger.

Placing it firmly in his hand, curling his fingers around either side of the crossguard, he aimed the blade to the nearest eggs, his muscles stiffening as it channeled the energy through his body and to the metal that glowed an electric blue before the weapon itself seemed incapable of holding it back.

He swept the blue across the room, watching the light and the fine tendrils that split from it drain the color from every egg it touched, leaving them a lifeless white, some of the shells cracking and crumbling as soon as they were once again exposed to the air. Being able to infect the creatures in this way would be a benefit indeed.

He sensed the half-mage approach through her infantile connection to magic before he saw her turning to face her just as she came to the entry. She scanned the room with a pained expression. "Does it please you to murder so many children?"

"Children? These were not children. They are abominations and, yes actually, it gave me satisfaction to end them. Can I help you?"

Her dark eyes resigned themselves to his callous indifference. "It is I who can help you. Lady Bryana asked that I bring you to her and General Jaye."

At the sound of their names his anxiety ticked upward as he eyed her suspiciously. "I should trust you, why?"

"If I lie to you, kill me."

He took a step closer. "You offering me your life has little value since, when all is said and done, you don't care whether you live or die."

"On the contrary, I do care. While I am content to die in Her service, to die unnecessarily means I can be of no more use to Her."

"It's good to have your priorities straight, I suppose."

"Follow me or take their location from my mind, it does not matter. It only matters that you get to where Lady Bryana wishes you."

He knew all he needed to know already. Bryana was here, she had turned, and she had Neral. He'd go where he had to and do whatever had to be done. "Lead on."

She turned and he kept pace several steps behind and his senses tuned in the event that it was indeed a trap. Leading him through the main passages outward closer to where they entered until finally he came face to face with the four, Bryana moving to stand behind Neral, running her fingers delicately through Neral's brown hair. "Welcome, Dearest." Her tone was equal parts charm and malice.

She saw him glance to the other side of the seemingly empty room before refocusing on her. "I know you see it, Deres. Step into the snare."

"Well, this is familiar."

"Isn't it though? I've always liked turnabouts such as this. Step to the snare."

"Bryana..."

Her blue eyes glared. "I am still not your better, but I don't have to be. I can hurt Neral before you can stop me from it. The only thing that saves her or the others is you stepping to the snare."

Neral shook her head. Indeed, all three shared the same look, but there was nothing else to be done, so he stepped cautiously into its boundaries. It blazed to visibility in a flash of golden light, the runes below and all around on the cavern walls could be seen now. Patterns into patterns, the outlines of each symbol seemed to physically move into and merge with one another. Deres' body locked instantly, his breath and his eyes the only things willing to respond to him.

Still, Bryana approached him with some timidity at first, even though Drexa herself molded the snare. Satisfied that he was caught she entered it to face him. "Unpleasant, isn't it, my mate; trapped in your own body due to another's will? I will allow you to speak, but if you attempt to misbehave they will pay for it."

She touched two fingers to his throat and he immediately felt the invisible hand there vanish. "What are you doing, Bryana?"

"What must be done...Master." When she laughed it was a mirthless, heartless sound. "I need you to break her. And her breaking will break you, so there's some lovely symmetry there, don't you think?"

"You have me, Bryana. Let them go back the way they came. She gets what she wants in the end and it costs you nothing either of you care about."

"At least I know where I stand, hm? Neral at least tried to save me even though it was only to save herself. You? The first thing out of your mouth are words for her."

"Them. And I would help you if you let me, but I doubt you're in the mood for that."

She paced around him. "You are such a fucking liar. You'd kill them both if you had to to save her. Resist me and they pay for it. I shall not toy with you."

He hurt at the words and it was reflected in his eyes and his tone. "You, too. I know, Bryana, that you're going to do whatever you will, but if the person you are valued anything we had, will you do me two favors?"

Facing him again now, her face a mask, her words flat. "What?"

"Touch my mind as you mark it so that you know even now how I feel for you. And, if you ever regain yourself... know that, whatever happens to me, I know that this is not you. If you come back to yourself and look upon this, know that, should you feel the need to ask forgiveness, that person has done nothing that needs it from me."

She scoffed but said nothing. Her fingers began to draw themselves across his features. One over the next, one into the other, Deres recognized it as a spell of corruption. It was a foot in the door of his mind. Intense enough and long enough it would open him to all the rest. He would fall and happily lead them where they wished to be. He called it a small mercy that Bryana's disdain kept her from from using herself to do it. From the scent of her to every curve on her body, he missed her.

More than once, success at mastering something new, or simply a walk with her along the river led to a kiss, which led to ten, which led to rapture and exhaustion in the grass as the white noise of the gently flowing river soothed them. Had she not wrapped herself in her worst nature she might have seen that herself and used it. If that had happened he might have fallen even before he could do what he hoped to, which was admittedly not much, but not much of a chance was better than none at all.

As it was, it was a mad dash along a cliff's edge to close off the smallest part of himself into the center of his mind so that she could not see and quash it as the heat grew within his mind, running like warm honey, thick and sweet down to his heart down to his heart. Everything seemed to become indistinct to his eye as it became harder to concentrate on anything but the beating of his heart and the sweetness of the voice in his ear.

"There you go, Deres," she cooed seductively, touching easing through his mind as she went, working to close off the parts of him that she didn't need. "You're such a good boy. Tries so hard to be proper for his sweet Neral during the day, but at night he lets beast out for her. That's what I want,"

She looked down to see the cloth of his pants tenting outward, the light brown fabric already showing wetness. "There you go, Deres. That's it. Harder, sweet. Surrender. Longer and harder. The ache grows like your cock grows, doesn't it?"

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