Part 10: Fallen Angels
Trisha was startled out of a restless sleep when she felt one of the walls of her padded prison open to reveal a brightly lit hallway beyond. She could hear voices in the hallway and jumped to her feet. Ready to fight, she waited for Faluden's henchmen to enter her cell to overpower her, but her claws would not make that easy for them.
"Come on you cowards!" she shouted down the hallway, but no one answered her.
Trisha frowned and licked her dry lips.
She cautiously walked to the door and looked left and right down the hallway.
Her cell was positioned at the end of a long corridor and she could see other doors, but they were all locked. The hallway itself had the same cleanliness as Celine's lab and was made of smooth white stone. Immediately, the thought occurred to her that her sister was the one behind it. Trisha began to calm down, presumably this was some sort of emergency shelter of Celine's and her suit had brought Trisha here to escape the fireball. She put on a smile and walked toward a nearby bend, behind which she heard voices.
"Quickly load this up! If she realizes we're behind schedule we'll soon fill this cell!" said a panicked woman and Trisha slowed her pace when she couldn't put a face to the voice.
"Do you think I'm up for this? You better help me, or I'll tell her it's your fault!" said another voice, also unfamiliar.
As quietly as possible, Trisha crept to the bend and peered cautiously around the corner.
Two women were kneeling next to a trolley on which various cleaning products were lying. Around it lay some bottles and brooms, which both picked up as quickly as possible. Trisha at first had doubts whether this was really a Celine facility, but when she saw the women's shiny uniforms, she knew her sister couldn't be far away. The two women wore turquoise nurse's uniforms that were made of the same slime material as her own suit. In addition, they wore masks that concealed the lower half of their faces.
"Jinara is going to give us…" one of them started and looked up when she noticed Trisha's face at the corner. She turned pale and froze.
"Why do you stop, you know as well as I do…" the other followed her gaze and spotted Trisha.
"What is she doing outside her cell?" She whispered, turning as pale as her colleague.
"What are you asking me? You're in charge of the doors!" hissed the other and they both stood up cautiously and slowly walked backwards away from Trisha.
"Hey, wait, I'm not going to hurt you, this is all a huge misunderstanding!" Shouted Trisha after them, but the two women only seemed to get more agitated.
"My name is Trisha. Celine is my big sister, she surely told you about me!"
Trisha could see the nurses' eyes widen. They turned and ran away as if Trisha was a monster threatening to devour them.
"I guess that backfired," Trisha muttered and slowly started to follow them, not wanting to scare the women further.
Again she heard panicked voices and loud shouts echoing to her and then all at once silence.
Trisha exhaled deeply as she once again arrived at a bend.
"Don't worry I am NOT armed," she said and turned the corner. She entered a massive room that far dwarfed the size of Faluden's warehouse.
The walls and ceiling of the hall were made of the same smooth white material as the corridors and offered no support for climbing. At regular intervals, lattice doors were set into the walls, presumably leading to the interior of the facility. A large glass dome was mounted on the ceiling and offered an unobstructed view of the entire square. Trisha turned her attention forward and surveyed five women in front of her who were blocking her way.
Four of them wore a light blue catsuit, the middle one, as Trisha suspected her leader, a dark blue one. All of them had batons in their hands and looked like they wanted to test them on her as well. Behind them were the two nurses, shaking like aspen leaves.
"Please I just want to see my sister Celine," Trisha said, raising her hands placatingly.
Trisha heard a soft thudding sound and something took her breath away as if someone had hit her in the chest. She was thrown backwards by the unseen force and doubled over in pain. Only when the women stood next to her and pushed her on the ground did she manage to regain a clear thought.
"Was that really necessary?" moaned Trisha, while her hands were rudely pressed behind her back and fixed with handcuffs.
"Silence, prisoner and identify yourself!"
"I already told you, I'm Celine's sister, Trisha!" The shifter pressed out through her teeth.
The guards all rolled their eyes.
"Your number, prisoner!"
"What number? Let go of me, we can talk about anything!" Trisha tried to stand up, resisting the women's grips as best her bound arms would allow.
"It's no use, turn her off."
"Please what?" said Trisha, turning her head to the side to see what they were talking about. A baton lunged forward and hit her head. Immediately, she slumped and lost consciousness.
"Take her to Interrogation Cell A, I'll deal with her there, and wake up the director. I think she wants a word with the shifter, too."
"Yes, Warden Rabea!"
The guards bowed to the woman dressed in dark blue, and while two of them dragged Trisha away, the other two ran to the Warden's quarters.
"Now to you," the leader said, turning to the nurses.
"Report to the Director's office."
Both women looked at her in horror, but they dared not open their mouths. They bowed to Rabea and walked toward the office with their heads lowered.
Trisha awoke again. This time, however, she was not in a soft cell, but hanging by her wrists a hand's breadth above the floor.
Bright light shone in her face, blinding her, so she could only make out two shadows that seemed to be watching her.
"There was no need to knock me unconscious!" she growled at the shadows, squinting her eyes to spy more details of her guards.
"What's your number, prisoner?" someone asked and Trisha recognized the leader's voice.
"Like I said I have NO number, and I'm not a prisoner!" said Trisha annoyed.
"If you're not a prisoner, why were you in one of the cells?"
"I don't know. I kind of fell in there!"
"Kind of fell in…" the Rabea repeated, frowning at the other woman in the room. The latter didn't bother and continued to watch Trisha.
"What's your name?"
"How about you untie me first, before I answer anything else!" hissed Trisha, pulling at her restraints, which only cut deeper into her wrists.
"Director?" asked Rabea, glancing again at the other person.
Trisha saw her shake her head and make a spinning motion with her wrist, like Celine did when she turned on one of her contraptions.
A small spark appeared on Trisha's cuffs, but the shifter didn't seem to notice it.
Questioningly, Trisha looked at both shadows.
"Is there anything supposed to happen now? If so, you're the worst mage I've ever seen… maybe I can ask my sister Celine to give you some pointers."
The director winced, and Rabea looked at her, frowning.
"Director?" she asked.
"Leave us alone, please," the Director said, and at the sound of her voice, a chill ran down Trisha's neck. Somewhere she recognized this woman's voice, but she couldn't put her paw on exactly where from.
"Of course Director, if you need me, I'll be in my office."
She bowed and left the interrogation room.
As the door slammed shut, Trisha felt as if the temperature in the room dropped ten degrees.
"Listen… if you would just let me explain, we could all go home and laugh about this tonight. Because this is all just a huge misunderstanding."
"Tell me Trisha, who made you this suit?" Trisha blinked. Had the guards told her name? And why the question about her suit?
"Did the guards tell you my name?" Trisha evaded the question.
"No, but I know you."
"You do? Well, then you can just let me out of here, can't you? As a little favor between old friends."
"After all these years, you still have such a big mouth. I'm sure Celine put a gag in there a lot."
Trisha was about to retort something at first, but then closed her mouth.
"If you actually can't remember, I don't blame you. You were just a kid, after all." the director got up from her chair and walked up to Trisha.
She pushed the light aside and Trisha drew in a hissing breath as she realized who the director was.
"Jinara? I thought you were dead!" said Trisha as she recognized the blue Nandrasi who had made her life hell years ago. She had been Celine's friend and student, but one day she had disappeared off the face of the earth. Trisha had suspected that one of their experiments had gone wrong, but didn't want to ask further.
"Death? Naaa, Celine probably didn't tell you what happened back then. She almost killed me, granted it was my own fault, and I'm not even mad at her for it, but now that I see you like this in one of my suits." Jinara fell silent for a moment and stroked her hand over Trisha's stomach, letting it wander below her breasts.
"Would I like to scratch her eyes out?" Her hand pinched Trisha's suit and the shifter suppressed a cry of pain as she kneaded her nipple between her fingers.
"Your suits?" asked Trisha, trying to twist away.
"Of course, she never told you that either, did she? It was me who turned slimes into something useful, not your thieving sister."
Jinara's hand moved further up Trisha's back, and she breathed a sigh of relief.
"Now I know how you got in here. Not long ago I wanted to visit Celine, maybe even apologize. But she wasn't there. Just a big hole in the wall where her door used to be. I wanted to wait for her and see what she was working on. But then I saw on her table two of my suits, the one you are wearing right now. As you can imagine I was more than angry, but I decided to keep a cool head and wove into the suits an invitation to my humble home. I thought Celine would follow it sooner or later and find me. But instead, here you are." Said Jinara, giving Trisha a light pat on the butt.
"I could get Celine for you if you want?" asked Trisha nervously.
"God how I hate your loose mouth," Jinara replied, shaking her head. "You'll never see the light of day again Trisha. Like all the rest of my prisoners. No one knows where you are and no one will ever find you."
Trisha's pulse quickened. Rilliana would find a way to get her out of here. But maybe Jinara was right, how would her friend know where she was? Rilliana might think she had perished in the fire, like Faluden's henchman.
"I will now return to bed, and I wish you a restful stay in my asylum. I doubt you will ever see me again, but don't worry I will always keep an eye on you." said Jinara and walked towards the door.
"Why are you doing this? I didn't do anything to you!" Trisha called after her in exasperation and Jinara stopped.
"You're right. You didn't. But your sister and if I can hurt her through you… then I'm happy for now. Who knows, maybe sooner or later Celine will end up here too." She glanced back at Trisha and surveyed her from top to bottom.
"Besides, you can make yourself much more useful in here. Oohh how I've missed our experiments."
Trisha froze as a long forgotten memory came back to her mind and an icy cold hand closed around her heart.
"Welcome to the fallen angel prison," Jinara said, pulling the door shut behind her with a soft click.
Trisha was left alone in the sparsely furnished interrogation room. She was finding it hard to breathe and sweat was pouring from her forehead.
Jinara exhaled deeply as the door slammed shut and smiled with satisfaction. For the first time in a long time, she felt a joy inside her that seemed to invigorate her whole body and quicken her steps.
"Calm down, Jinara," she admonished herself. She had, after all, a certain degree of professionalism to show. Her smile was replaced by an indifferent expression, and she walked briskly to the office of Warden Rabea so that she could integrate Trisha into the prison as quickly as possible.
Jinara knocked on the door and opened it.
Immediately Rabea rose from her desk and saluted her.
"Warden Rabea, please take care of our newest prisoner personally. She is one of my private guests as of today and I would hate it if she got the wrong impression of my facility."
"Very well, Madam Director. May I ask what color code she should be given?" asked Rabea.
Jinara paused and considered for a moment.
"I think red would look excellent on her don't you think?"
Rabea frowned, but didn't ask further and bowed.
"As you wish," she said.
Jinara continued to the glass dome, high above her "playground" as she called it. A masterpiece of magic and technology and perfect for the Daily Games her prisoners could complete, provided they wanted to eat.
She quivered with excitement as she opened the door and began to grin diabolically when she saw her control panel with which she could control her entire prison.
"Ooooh we're going to have so much fun," Jinara muttered and stroked her console, sitting down at her chair and rubbing her fingers.
She was about to create today's attraction when she caught movement in the corner of her eye.
"What are you doing here?" she asked harshly when she saw the two nurses who had humbly pressed their heads to the floor and squealed in fear when they were addressed.
"Mistress, Warden Rabea sent us to you after the captive escaped. It was our fault, and we ask your forgiveness!" one of them said, making herself even smaller.
Jinara did not give them another glance and manipulated the control panel with her magic, creating walls and obstacles on it. At the same time, loud noises were heard in the square below them, echoing throughout the hall.
"It wasn't your fault that she escaped," the director murmured, lost in thought.
"Oh, thank you, mistress, thank you so much!" they both said as if from one mouth and carefully rose from the floor.
"I didn't allow you to get up, though."
The two women gave each other a nervous look and knelt down again.
"This should be a worthy welcome home gift for Trisha," Jinara said, giving the console one last command.
Satisfied, she nodded and rose from her chair.
Jinara stretched and walked to the glass panel that separated her from the hall.
Below her stretched a labyrinth which she had equipped with traps and obstacles. She bit her lower lip and put on another diabolical smile as she looked at her life's work.
"Let's see if you still have such a big mouth tonight Trisha… You two! Come here!" she commanded the two women.
Jinara wanted to enjoy the view and have a comfortable place to sit. The two women came just in time for her.
Trisha didn't know what to expect, and she didn't intend to find out. She had to get out of there, and as fast as she could.
She carefully lifted her legs and gritted her teeth as her bonds cut deep into her wrists. When her boots came within reach of her hands, she breathed a sigh of relief and pulled out her lockpick. Slowly she lowered her legs again and expelled a hissing breath.
"By the gods, no wonder Rilliana called her safeword that time!" she muttered, and began to work her lock.
Trisha felt warmth on her fingertips and looked up in irritation. The lockpick seemed to glow after she put it in the lock of the handcuffs and she hastily released it when it threatened to burn her fingers.
Clattering, the lockpick landed on the floor beside her.
The door to the interrogation room opened, and the warden came in, followed by two women in light blue catsuits.
"I see we've been busy," said the woman when she saw the still glowing lockpick on the floor.
"I am Chief Warden Rabea and you are in the private prison of fallen angels. As you've probably already noticed, things run a little differently here than in ordinary prisons. Thanks to the Director's magic, her prison has the highest security…"
"Can you get me down here my paws are starting to fall asleep," Trisha interrupted Rabea's speech and stared at her unimpressed.
Rabea raised an eyebrow, but nodded to her employees. The two women in the lighter catsuits took Trisha down and made her kneel on the floor.
"You have a loose mouth, Shifter," Rabea noted, pressing her baton under Trisha's chin.
"Depends on who you ask," Trisha replied, looking stubbornly into the warden's eyes. She could have sworn she saw the hint of a smile on Rabea's lips.
"The warden wants you with the other prisoners as soon as possible. Can I count on you to obey and not make a fuss, so we can get this over with quickly?"
"Why don't you untie me and find out?"
Rabea shook her head and signaled the two women.
Trisha was roughly grabbed from behind and pushed to the floor again while Rabea pulled a metallic brooch from her pocket. She pressed the brooch onto Trisha's neck and the shifter felt it spread and tighten around her throat.
"Take off the suit, shifter," Rabea said as the two women let go of Trisha and released her handcuffs.
Trisha smiled slyly and was about to make short work of her guards with her extended claws when an electric shock robbed her of all control over her body and she went down twitching.
"Get her out of there," Rabea said bored and bent down to Trisha's face.
"Kind of stupid to only be protected from the current when your suit is in between, isn't it? Any violence against guards is nipped in the bud with this invention," she said, tapping Trisha's collar which was stuck above her suit.
A short time later, the guards had undressed Trisha and taken her suit. Carefully, she stood up with a flushed face and scowled at Rabea.
"What now? Do all the prisoners walk around the prison naked?" asked Trisha irritably, covering her body as best she could with her paws.
"If I may give you a tip for the future… my subordinates are far more… shall we say… energetic in the execution of their duty and might not find you as amusing as I do."
"Oh, thank you very much too," Trisha replied, gritting her teeth.
Rabea shook her head again and said, "Activate collar. Code red. Prisoner number 5703."
The collar around Trisha's neck beeped briefly and the shifter felt a warm fluid spread over her body. Trisha looked down at herself and watched in fascination as red slime covered her entire body below her neck apart from her tail.
"Couldn't I have kept my suit if you were going to give me an almost identical one anyway?" asked Trisha, but shortly after she noticed that the material was getting much thicker and the number 5703 appeared on her cleavage in white letters. It restricted her movements and forced her body to stand upright with her arms at her side. Her claws also failed to pierce the new suit.
Rabea smiled with satisfaction at the strained expression on Trisha's face as she tried with force to lift her arm.
"Code red suits are usually for our strongest and most dangerous prisoners and I thought at first that the warden was exaggerating when she gave you one too, but I think it will look excellent on you." Said Rabea, attaching a leash to Trisha's collar.
"I'm not convinced yet. Could I have my suit back?"
Rabea pulled Trisha toward her by the leash.
"You haven't seen everything yet. 5703 Straitjacket two!"
Trisha felt the suit grow over her already coated paws and forcing her arms to cross under her chest. Behind her back, the sleeves linked together, rendering the shifter helpless.
Additionally, a rope stretched between her ankles, stopping any thought of running away.
"Better?" asked Rabea.
Trisha said nothing and started down her body with a blank stare.
"You two take her to a cell, so she can rest some more. I have a feeling the director has some grand spectacle planned for her today," she added to her guarded robe and pressed the leash into their hands before leaving the room.
The two ladies in the light blue suits had no smiles on their lips and stared emotionlessly at Trisha.
Something told the shifter that she had better keep her mouth shut and was waiting to be taken away by her guards.
"Look at her, she knows what silence means after all," one of them said and pulled the leash rudely to get Trisha to follow. Trisha stumbled after her as best her leg restraints would allow.
The three of them walked through the white corridors of the prison, passing various doors. One of the guards explained the day's schedule to Trisha, but the shifter didn't listen and instead studied the location of the rooms and pathways to figure out a possible escape route.
"So here we are," the guard finally said, opening the cell Trisha had fallen into, "You still have a little time until the day starts for you. Have fun in the 'playground', 5703." Trisha was pushed rudely into the cell and fell to the soft floor.
The door closed behind her and her restraints loosened, allowing Trisha to use her arms and legs again.
She turned onto her back and stared at the ceiling.
Struggling against the suit, Trisha lifted her paws and felt for her collar, which was tight around her neck. If she was going to escape from here, she had to get rid of it first, but she couldn't find a keyhole or any other weak spot in the ring and lowered her arms in disappointment.
"Shit," she whispered as she realized she was going to spend a long time here.
A young Nandrasi lady was excitedly jumping around in her small room, looking at her new dress in the mirror. The black garment was tight against her skin and contrasted sharply with her pale bluish skin. Every detail of her upper body was visible through the refined material of the slimes and on the side she had added a slit through which you could catch a glimpse of her seductive long legs. Her strong demon-like tail wagged happily through the air behind her.
Jinara grinned. She had finally managed to create something unique out of these useless creatures.
As she lost herself in her image, she thought of the future and all the possibilities her creation could enable. The machine of Celine and her was finally working thanks to her new formula, and she couldn't wait to present it to the world.
"I have to show this to Celine first!" she said and hurried out of her room. Forgetting to duck with excitement as her horns scraped across the door frame, she hurried into the basement of Celine's house where she had left her friend and mentor.
Carefully she walked past her, still damp, canvas representing Celine's current predicament and looked up in awe at her friend hovering over her like a goddess. At first glance, it looked as if vines and flowers were decorating her body and holding her high above the ground, but when one looked closer, one could see that ropes had been wrapped around Celine's body beneath the plants. Celine's legs were braided together in an intricate pattern, winding up around her body and stretching her arms apart. Her scarlet hair was intertwined with another rope adorned with white roses and pulled back, forcing Celine to stare at the ceiling.
"Celine, I did it!" exclaimed Jinara joyfully, loosening the ropes that held Celine to the ceiling.
She groaned loudly as she regained control of her arms and began to massage them.
"What do you mean Jinara?" asked Celine with narrowed eyes as she felt her blood flowing back into her limbs.
"Why don't you open your eyes?" demanded Jinara, posing in front of her friend.
Celine opened one eye, exhausted, and looked up at her Nandrasi friend.
She started blinking in disbelief when she saw Jinara's shiny black dress and her jaw dropped.
"You did it!"
"I told you so!" said Jinara with mock indignation and started to untie Celine's leg restraints.
"How did you do it?"
"I'll explain once you get dressed," Jinara said, tossing Celine's pants and shirt as she stood up and stroked her body.
"Just imagine all the things we could make with this!" the student murmured, licking her lips.
"Just slow down. We should do some more tests." said Celine, pulling her hair out of the collar of the shirt she was putting on.
"I'm already TESTING it, and my solution is PERFECT! Come on, I have to show you!" said Jinara and gave a hand to Celine to drag her upstairs.
Celine couldn't help but stare at Jinara's shiny body the whole time until they arrived in her workroom and stood in front of her machine.
"What did you do to our machine?" asked Celine, examining the aperture, "It doesn't look any different than the last time we tried it, does it?"
"It was simple," said Jinara pointing to a hopper at one end of the machine, "That's where the material goes in, and processable stable material comes out the end, and it was right in front of us the whole time!"
"I realize that Jinara. I mean how did you manage that, the material didn't lose its shape once you were able to turn it into the dress."
"Well,… not at all," Jinara said with a grin that always sent a shiver down Celine's spine. She waited for Jinara to explain herself and tried not to let on.
"I was wondering how the slimes themselves can stay in their form even though they're just brainless creatures, but then I wondered what if I just fed them to the machine completely and not just the secretions like we usually do."
Celine's eyebrows drew together seriously when she heard that.
"You throw my slimes into the machine?" she asked coldly, but Jinara didn't seem to notice.
"Yeah, stupid we didn't think of that before," Jinara said, stroking the shiny metal.
"This is going to change the world. Imagine finally these worthless monsters can be useful for something! No lack of clothing, armor that can patch up their wearers' wounds. And if we enchant them well enough we might be able to turn them into powerful battle suits! Indestructible and with infinite deployment possibilities! So what do you say?" Jinara asked, turning to Celine when she realized she wasn't answering.
She faltered when she saw the tears in Celine's eyes.
"What are you doing?" asked Celine with a quivering voice and suppressed anger.
"Don't you see!" said Jinara, upset, slapping the metal with one hand while the other clawed tightly into her cleavage.
"This is the future!"
"Not like this. Not if we have to sacrifice my pets for it!" said Celine, shaking her head in disgust.
"Oh don't act like you named them all! They're hideous and just waiting for me to turn them into something wonderful, like the picture below or your shifter sister!"
There was a loud slam as Celine's hand left a red mark on Jinara's cheek as she slapped her.
"Get out!" said Celine. Her voice trembled with anger.
Jinara's eyes were wide, and her mouth was open in horror.
She collected herself and looked Celine in the eye.
"You're putting those monsters' lives…"
Celine interrupted her with another slap.
"Get out, and get out now! I want… I can't see you anymore! Now I realize a lot of things! Get out before I help you with it!"
Silence spread through the room as more tears rolled down Celine's cheeks.
Wordlessly, Jinara went to her bed and rummaged a backpack out from under it. She threw books, clothes, and other of her belongings into it and walked through the door. She bumped rudely against Celine's shoulder as she passed her and left the house.
Celine followed her and was about to close the door behind her when Jinara spoke up again, "You planned this from the beginning, didn't you? As soon as I would have made the breakthrough you never could, you'd take everything away from me."
"That's not true!" said Celine, clenching her hands into fists.
"Oh but it has been your thing from the beginning! Even when I had you tied up you couldn't help but be in control! Every time I had an idea, I had to ask your permission! That's over now Celine! Give me the machine, I'll continue without you!"
Celine just shook her head while a storm still raged inside her that she tried to suppress.
"IMMEDIATELY!" sniffed Jinara, raising a hand threateningly and letting magic flow into her.
"Don't do this Jinara… if you do, there will be no going back for you!" said Celine, raising her own hand.
"Back? Back into your shadow? Don't be ridiculous! I will create the future!" screamed Jinara and a fireball shot out of her hand at Celine.
As if in slow motion, Celine saw the fireball shooting towards her, but all of a sudden she no longer felt anger, only sadness. She cast her own spell and threw it against the fireball. The two spells collided and exploded with a deafening bang.
Celine was thrown back into the house and slid down the hall. She didn't make any effort to get up and just lay there while the fire was burning in front of her house.
Tears were now streaming down her cheeks and she had the feeling that she had lost all strength.
Her screams echoed throughout the house and only when her voice failed did Celine force herself to stand up.
She braced herself against the walls and hobbled to the crater that had devastated her front yard.
A sob escaped Celine's throat when she saw the remains of the black dress. She knelt in the ashes and took it in her hand.
Her friend's magic was still trapped in it and Celine pressed it tightly against her chest. The image of the dress in her hand and its magic burned into her memory.
The sun rose and bathed Celine's bedroom in red light. Its rays hit a painting on the wall, which showed a woman whose body was overgrown with vines. She seemed to be flying towards the sky and looking at it with hope.
Celine sat on her bed, one arm wrapped tightly around her legs and in the other a wine bottle.
She stared at the picture and tried to make sense of it all.
"Ten years Jinara, ten years you've been gone. Ten years that you made me believe that I had killed you… my best friend. And now that I know you're alive, you kidnap my sister? How could I have been so stupid?" she muttered, taking a big gulp from the wine bottle.
"AND NOW WHAT? SHOULD I COME CRAWLING BACK TO YOU ON MY KNEES, APOLOGIZING?" she yelled at the painting and threw her bottle at it. She missed the picture and the bottle shattered on the wall. Shards scattered all over the room and red stains speckled the wall and floor.
There was a knock at her door.
"Come in," murmured Celine, dropping backwards onto her pillow.
Terra opened the door and looked at her friend.
"Should I be worried Celine?" she asked.
"No. I'm just considering my next course of action."
"Looks like it," Terra muttered, surveying the shards and wine stains on the floor.
"Celine, you don't have to do this alone. Rilliana and I can help you. Rilliana has been asking for you all night after you stormed into your room without a word."
"Did she?" asked Celine emotionlessly, continuing to stare at the ceiling.
Terra sighed softly.
"I promised to watch out for Rilliana, but I don't know if I can stop her if she decides to go looking for Trisha on her own," Terra said, closing the door behind her as she headed back downstairs.
As she passed Rilliana's room, Terra heard sobbing through the door. Concerned, she reached for the handle but hesitated.
"What am I doing here," she muttered, lowering her hand.
She went further into the living room and dropped into the armchair.
"If I at least still had my contacts in Onan’s Rest, then maybe I could find out where Trisha has gone. Damn Faluden." She muttered, folding her fingers under her chin.
She let her gaze wander around the room and noticed a small framed picture next to her on the table. It showed Celine, Trisha, Rilliana and herself arm in arm. They all had their catsuits on and were beaming with joy. Celine had used her magic to capture the happy moment. "I don't deserve this," she said, putting the picture on its face.
Terra heard footsteps behind her and saw Celine staggering down the stairs.
"Did you think of something?" Terra asked her, but got no answer.
Celine disappeared into the kitchen and reappeared a short time later with a wine bottle in her hand.
"Are you serious?" asked Terra, storming up to Celine and pushing her against the wall.
"Is that your plan? Fill yourself up with wine and wait for Rilliana to leave? What did you find out? Let us finally help!"
Celine looked at her and opened her mouth, but no words came out.
Instead, she lifted the bottle to take a sip from it.
Terra's eyebrow twitched, and she knocked the bottle out of Celine's hand.
"Enough, you've had enough to drink!" she admonished Celine, glaring angrily at her.
"What do you want me to say Terra? That I know where my sister is? I don't! I have no idea! The only thing I know is that Jinara took her from me! Damn it! After our last meeting, she could do something heinous to her. If it wasn't for that egg, I wouldn't even know she was gone!" screamed Celine at her, and Terra smelled a trail of wine coming from her mouth.
"Jinara?" she asked quietly, and you could see it start to rattle her head.
"My… an old… I don't know what she is, Terra. I thought she was dead and now… I can't do this Terra, she was…" Celine fell silent and disengaged from Terra's grasp. Terra let her, glancing after Celine as she disappeared upstairs.
"Jinara," Terra murmured, licking her lips as she remembered the documents Trisha and Rilliana had brought her.
"And I know just the person to get me the documents." Terra concentrated for a moment and cast a spell to contact an Old Friend.
Silently, Rilliana sat by the door and listened as Celine stumbled up the stairs.
"Jinara, then," Rilliana muttered and went back to her bed. According to Celine's descriptions, she needed to come up with a plan as soon as possible and free Trisha, but where was she anyway?
There was a knock. Rilliana jumped off her bed and opened the door. Standing in front of her was Terra, looking at her with pity.
"Are you all right Rilliana?" she asked when she saw the elf's tear-smeared face. She just nodded and stepped aside to invite Terra in.
She sat down on Rilliana's bed and patted the space next to her to get the elf to sit down beside her.
Rilliana followed the invitation and smiled at Terra.
"You've been listening in, haven't you?" asked Terra, sighing, "Can I trust you not to do anything stupid?"
Rilliana's smile disappeared.
"I can't promise you that Terra, and neither you nor Celine have the right to keep me here."
"Then what's stopping you from leaving?" asked Terra.
"Information. I have a name but nothing more. If I were in Leon´s Keep, I might be able to find something out."
"That would be a huge maybe, though, and we don't know what the status of Faluden is. Besides, I can't in good conscience let you leave the house as long as Celine is in that condition," Terra said, continuing hastily when she saw Rilliana's scowl,
"But I think I've found a way to find out where Trisha is."
"How?" asked Rilliana incredulously, coming to stand next to Terra.
"It's just like your plan, a big maybe, but I mean I read Jinara's name in the documents you brought me."
Terra said, propping her head up with one hand.
"You mean the documents that are in Onan’s Rest? Please, Terra Onan’s Rest is two weeks away from here. Not to mention you're wanted there just as much as I am!" said Rilliana, sounding more upset with each new word.
"I am, but not the person who can get me the documents," Terra replied.
Rilliana was not convinced yet, but she felt a hint of hope inside her.
"How long until he can get them?"
"He doesn't know yet. He's fast, but he said he'd need a little more than a week anyway." ended Terra.
Rilliana couldn't believe her ears and stood up.
"Terra, we have to do something now! Every second we waste here could cost Trisha her life!"
"Rilliana please. We have to wait. Where do you even want to start looking?"
"Like I said, Leon's Keep and from there…" Rilliana interrupted herself as Terra stood up and into her way.
Rilliana scowled at her again and raised her fists.
"Terra, get out of my way," she whispered.
"You don't really want that, Rilliana."
"No, but Trisha needs me and no one is going to stop me."
"You're going to lose again," Terra said, but made no move to defend herself.
Rilliana sparkled angrily at her, but then lowered her hands.
"You're right, this is the wrong way to go," she muttered, placing a hand on her bed.
"Trust me. Not long now and Trisha will be back…" said Terra as Rilliana grabbed the blanket of her bed and threw it over Terra's head with a flourish.
Annoyed, Terra pushed the blanket aside and realized that Rilliana had taken the opportunity to rush past her into the hallway.
"All right! That's it Rilliana!" she raised her hand towards the elf and cast a spell.
Immediately, Rilliana stopped dead in her tracks and desperately tried to run forward as her skin slowly hardened.
She turned to Terra, strained and stared at her accusingly.
"I'm sorry Rilliana…" Terra whispered ashamedly as her spell took full possession of Rilliana and turned her into a stone statue.
Rilliana blinked as light fell into her eyes after who knows how long she had spent her existence as a statue. She looked around in confusion and realized that she was back in her room. Next to her sat Terra who was tightening one of the straps that bound Rilliana's body to her bed.
Rilliana lifted her head to examine her bonds. Her arms and legs were pulled to the four corners of her bed. More straps were stretched above and below her breasts, as well as across her hips, so that she was effectively pressed into her mattress.
"A spell in the back? Dick move, Terra!" said Rilliana, laying her head back on the pillow. Terra didn't reply to her comment and instead pulled Rilliana's waist strap a little tighter, causing her to sink a finger's width further down.
"How long was I gone?"
"TERRA IF I GET MY HANDS ON YOU THEN YOU'RE IN FOR A TREAT. GET ME OUT OF THIS RIGHT NOW!" Rilliana hissed at her and struggled unsuccessfully against the restraints.
Terra put her hand over her mouth to silence her and said, "Calm down I just wanted to see if the restraints were enough for you. It was only an hour. OW! SHIT RILLIANA!" Terra screamed out and hastily withdrew her hand as Rilliana bit her finger.
"You earned that!" said Rilliana, turning her head away from Terra.
"Maybe so, yet that was absolutely unnecessary! Even if you don't like it you're staying in bed until I can trust you again or we get word where Trisha is. I can't have you risking your life for a maybe, even if you hate me for it. We need information and a plan before we act, didn't Trisha teach you that?" Terra appealed to Rilliana.
"Don't say her name!" Rilliana pressed out through clenched teeth.
Terra sighed barely audibly and stood up.
"If you need anything, call me," Terra said, stroking Rilliana's blond hair and disappearing from the room.
Rilliana heard Terra go into the kitchen to cook them something to eat.
She looked up at the ceiling again.
"I don't hate you Terra, you're right," Rilliana murmured as a plan sprouted in her which would definitely not please Terra. She just had to wait for a suitable moment, free herself and turn off Terra's magic to put it into action. Experimentally, Rilliana pulled on her bonds, but she might as well have been lying in Celine's vacuum bed, so unyieldingly taut were they.
"Soon she'll make a mistake and then I'll be there Trish."
Day changed to night and night changed back to day. Rilliana couldn't help but notice that Terra always played it safe with her. She spent most of the time tied up in bed. She was allowed to go to the bathroom on request and to freshen up and "stretch" her legs in the garden once a day.
"Terra this is ridiculous! Wouldn't it be enough to tie my hands behind my back and maybe attach a leash to them?" asked Rilliana as she struggled to walk around the garden under Terra's watchful eye.
"Honestly Rilliana? If I knew your puny muscles could support more weight I'd put you in a breastplate and ask Celine to weld it around you. I've already found four of your lock picks that you've been hiding. Where do you get them?"
"Trade secret my ass! If you want to go in the garden, you'll get the full package from me. End of discussion."
Rilliana snorted. If the situation hadn't been so tense she would have found the whole thing funny, but now she was limping through the garden with half a dozen chains between her legs. Her arms were stuck in a tight leather bag that pressed her hands into the back of her neck and prevented her from even lifting a finger. To finish her off, Terra had put on a neck corset that prevented her from turning her head, let alone glancing at the locks on the shackles.
Glass could be heard breaking in the house.
Terra rolled her eyes and pulled on the leash to drag Rilliana behind her into the house.
"I swear Celine, you're next!" cursed Terra.
Rilliana stood next to Terra and they both looked at Celine who was lying on the floor in a pool of wine and seemed to be fast asleep.
"She's just asleep, isn't she?" asked Rilliana with concern, and Terra nodded.
"She has no injuries and is breathing. By the gods, if she wakes up, I need to have a serious talk with her. Please watch her for a minute while I go find a broom."
Terra disappeared, leaving Rilliana alone with Celine.
"It's now or never," Rilliana muttered, nudging Celine with her foot.
"Mmmh not now…" Celine mumbled and turned around.
"Celine, I need your help! If Trisha and I mean anything to you then get the fuck up and look at me!" hissed Rilliana, kicking her mistress in the ass.
"You can't do that I understand, but now is not the time to sleep it off in a pool of wine! Get up and untie me! I know how to save Trisha from Jinara!"
Celine didn't budge and Rilliana's hope left her as Terra came running back into the hallway with a broom in hand.
"How is Celine?" Rilliana asked Terra as Terra chained her to the bed again after going to the restrooms that evening.
"I… don't know. Jinara must have hit her really hard. I hope it's all going to be okay once we find out where Trisha is."
"Let's hope so," Rilliana said, pressing her head into her pillow.
"Oho? Does that mean you've come to terms with my plan?" asked Terra.
"Even if I did, you wouldn't believe me anyway, would you? I can only make the best of it and try to make my stay here as nice as possible while my friend…" Rilliana fell silent and turned her head away from Terra again.
"Rilliana I'm really sorry, but…"
"Save it. Just let me sleep."
Terra lowered her eyes in shame and left the room. At the door she stopped short and opened her mouth to say something but nothing she could say would excuse her behavior. She pulled the door into the lock and went into the living room.
Rilliana looked at the window and watched the sun slowly disappear behind Celine's forest until her eyes grew heavy, and she fell into the realm of dreams.
A siren blared throughout the facility and jolted Trisha from her sleep. She wanted to jump up with one leap and beat the first person who came into her cell. But as she found out, her new suit did not allow her to do the former, so she had to struggle to get up. Fortunately, no one came into her cell, but this time she heard conversations, shouts and occasional laughter. Cautiously she went to her door and took a look outside.
Dozens of women were walking towards the place where Trisha had been knocked unconscious during the night. Trisha saw one of the women notice her, and drew another's attention to her. When they saw Trisha staring at them, they quickly turned away and started whispering behind their hands.
She noticed that none of them wore a red catsuit, mostly green, sometimes yellow.
"My first day in prison and I stand out right in the crowd. At least the others don't seem scared." muttered Trisha, following the women. She turned the corner where she met the nurses last night and collided with a tall muscular woman who was walking back toward the cell block.
Trisha was thrown to the ground while the woman, also in red, glared angrily at her.
"Watch where you're going, newcomer, or you'll get hurt!" she hissed at Trisha but didn't seem to pay her any attention and ran past her.
"Alright next time I'll look through the wall first," the shifter muttered, groaning as her suit bucked against her again as she stood up.
In the next moment she was whirled around and pressed against the wall.
The woman scowled at her and had her eyes narrowed to slits.
"You got a big mouth for someone in my cell block!"
"And you a lousy case of bad breath! Don't you get toothbrushes in here? "Trisha retorted knowing she was a little outmatched thanks to her suit, but wanting to find out how her inmates were ticking.
Trisha didn't flinch and held the other woman's gaze.
"I don't have time for this shit!" She mumbled and let go of Trisha to continue walking toward the cell block.
"I wasn't expecting that now," Trisha said, frowning at her. She turned to leave and noticed a couple of the other women staring at her with their mouths open.
"Hey, you guys okay?" asked Trisha nervously, waving at them.
She earned a mixture of laughter and head shaking as she continued walking.
"At least some people around here can take a joke. Let's see what this she-devil has prepared for me, shall we?" said Trisha, circling her arms as best she could.
Trisha left the corridors behind and re-entered the large square. At least she thought so. Instead of a large open space, there were now insurmountable walls in front of her. Trisha could see gaps here and there, which were embedded in them and some prisoners who went inside.
"Maybe I should have listened a little yesterday," Trisha muttered with her eyebrows drawn together.
" Make way, newcomer!" Trisha heard a familiar voice and was jostled as the other woman dressed in red walked past her. Trisha immediately noticed that she had a leash in her hand and was dragging something behind her.
Trisha froze when she saw a woman in a green suit desperately fighting her mistress. Her suit had been changed into a petsuit, so she had to walk on her knees and elbows and had no chance to resist her mistress' tugging.
Her hands were uselessly sealed in the suit and an equally green mask hid her hair and lower half of her face. She was undoubtedly gagged underneath as a bulge could be seen where her mouth should have been.
Tears were in her eyes, and you could clearly see the desperation in them.
Time seemed to stand still for Trisha when she saw the woman's face and remembered the night Rilliana had used her safeword. They both had the same expression and fear in their eyes.
Anger boiled up inside her and from one moment to the next she was standing over the woman in red in her shifter form, leash in hand and behind her the woman in the petsuit.
"HOW DARE YOU SHIFTER! THAT'S IT, YOU'RE DEAD!" she said and scrambled to her feet only to be knocked back to the ground by Trisha in the blink of an eye.
"If you lay your hand on that woman again, I'll rip your throat out!" hissed Trisha, baring her pointy teeth. Her yellow cat eyes seemed to pierce them.
The woman turned pale and slowly stood up to retreat.
Trisha took a deep breath and turned back.
"Hey, are you all right?" she asked, kneeling down to the helpless woman to remove her mask and gag.
To reveal herself a human woman with gorgeous blonde hair.
"Yes I'm fine, but do you even have enough credits?"
"Credits? Money doesn't matter right now. Better tell me what your name is?"
The woman looked at her as if doubting Trisha's understanding, but then said, "My name is Epolia. But I don't think you understand what you've done. Jonete bought me and if you take me away from her then… oh shit." Epolia suddenly made herself very small and hid behind Trisha. A shiver ran down the shifter's neck as she felt someone building up behind her.
"Stay behind me, I'll handle this," Trisha whispered and turned around.
"Warden Rabea, good to see you again," she said, taking a step back as Rabea stood uncomfortably close to her face.
"5703. I actually thought that my subordinates had explained to you the procedures in our facility," Rabea said, taking a step closer to Trisha.
"Well maybe it didn't all sink in," Trisha said, bumping into Epolia as she walked even further back.
Rabea rolled her eyes.
"5703, petsuit." she sighed.
Instantly, the suit transformed around Trisha, forcing her to crawl across the floor just like Epolia. Annoyed, Trisha clicked her tongue and looked defiantly up into the warden's eyes.
"Now listen to me carefully 5703. This prison operates on a system whereby you prisoners can buy food or amenities for your cells, like her there." said Rabea, nodding over to Epolia.
"You can get credits by winning them from the director in the Daily Challenges, for example, or by earning them in other ways like your little friend. 1680, right?" she asked, addressing Epolia.
"Y… Yes mistress," Epolia said anxiously.
Rabea continued, "By taking 1680 from… whatever her number was you have to pay a fee."
"I… don't have any credits yet though, right?" asked Trisha hesitantly.
"Well, let's say not now that you've bought 1680."
"I didn't buy her, though…"
"I'll stop you right there. You did, and if you don't pay off the rest of the money by nightfall, you'll be available as a pet for the others starting tomorrow. Is that clear?"
"Good, then have fun failing. 5703, solve."
Immediately Trisha regained control of her body as the suit released her.
Rabea smiled maliciously at her and strode away.
Trisha remained still on her stomach, staring after her until Epolia pressed into her field of vision.
"I'm sorry," she muttered.
"Don't be, even if I had known this before, I would have acted the same way. You could help me out, though. How do I see how many more credits I need to acquire?"
"It's on your upper arm," Epolia muttered, sitting down awkwardly next to her.
Sure enough, Trisha could make out a black 4900 headed by a thick minus.
"And what's the fastest way to get 4900 credits?"
"Rabea already said that… there," Epolia said, pointing her elbows toward the walls.
"Looks like you're going to be unlucky today though, mazes are some of the nastiest things they throw at us."
"So what do I have to do in there?" asked Trisha.
"Get as far as you can."
Trisha didn't know if Epolia was trying to annoy her by answering as minimally as possible, but she knew she had to get in there as quickly as possible.
"I take it pets aren't allowed in the maze?"
"Very funny. I don't participate in the events anymore, that's why I'm in here. Having to play dog for a bad mistress every now and then is nothing compared to what I had to endure in the 'playground' at times."
"Then you wait… where?"
"But waiting is sooo boring, and we could have so much fun together," Epolia said seductively, resting her head on Trisha's leg.
"Sorry I already have a blonde waiting for me at home," Trisha said, gently stroking Epolia's hair, "How about you wait in my cell until I get back with the credits, and then you continue to answer me some questions about this place?"
"Well, it's your money," the petgirl said, and scrambled toward the cells, humming happily.
Trisha watched her go for a moment longer, then stood up. Her transformation had briefly helped her ignore the unruly suit, but now it was no longer available to her for the moment.
"I hope the suit doesn't ruin my chances. If only I had my dagger…" she muttered and strode determinedly in the direction of the labyrinth.
The massive walls of Jinara's labyrinth loomed before Trisha, and she gulped as she heard screams inside.
"5703? Do you want to go in now or admire the architecture a bit more?" asked a guard at the entrance, yawning loudly.
"Sorry, I'm new here… mmmh… I was told I could win credits here? How do I do that?"
The attendant looked at her, bored.
"There are traps in there and treasure to find. The treasures can make your stay here more pleasant, or you can exchange them for credits later. Reach the end and win the grand prize. If you get caught by a trap, you'll go back to your cell and be punished," she explained tersely, crossing her arms to tell Trisha to finally go inside and leave her alone.
Trisha looked at her upper arm again to take a glance at what she owed. She sighed and went inside.
"I'm playing right into your hands, aren't I Jinara?" muttered Trisha.
There were three paths in front of her to follow, and none of them made her feel like the right one. Like the rest of the prison, the walls and floor were made of a white material and offered no clues as to where Trisha needed to go.
"Let's just start with the Golden Center," Trisha said, following the corridor to a turn to the right. She found herself at a dead end with a chest at the back just waiting to be opened.
"Jinara, are you serious," Trisha asked looking up at the glass dome almost expecting to see the Nandrasi lady's diabolical grin in one of the windows, "I don't take ten steps in here, and already you're putting a chest in front of me? Forget it!"
She turned away to take another path as a fellow captive in a yellow catsuit approached her and nearly pushed her to the ground when she saw the chest.
"Get out of here Shifter, that's my booty!" She hissed and knelt down to open the treasure.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Trisha said, but the woman ignored her and opened the lid.
Pink fleshy teeth dripping with saliva were revealed.
The woman shrieked loudly and backed away, but tentacles shot out of the mimic and wrapped tightly around her ankles, dragging her back.
"Shifter! Help me! Please!" she screamed, and Trisha didn't need to be told twice, jumping to her side to grab her hand.
"I got you! Hold on!" Trisha cheered her on and pulled with all her might. But the Mimic had other plans and more tentacles came out at her. They grabbed the woman by her waist and wrapped around her neck. Others tried to catch Trisha, but the shifter managed to dodge them by hair's breadth each time.
"I don't know how much longer I can hold you," Trisha yelled as she saw more tentacles grab the woman and move over her arms, forcing Trisha to let go or be pulled into the box with her.
The woman opened her mouth, but no words came out as the mimic slowly choked the air out of her and she started to turn red.
"Sorry," Trisha said as the mimic tried to grab her wrists and let go.
The woman reached out to Trisha, asking for help, but another tentacle wrapped around her arm and pulled it back with the rest of her body. The last thing Trisha saw was the woman's tear-streaked face as the lid closed over her.
The shifter stumbled back until she hit the wall and slid it down. Trisha stared in horror at the chest, just waiting to pull the next prisoner inside.
Her heart was beating so fast that she thought it would burst her ribcage as long forgotten memories awoke again. Memories of Jinara that made her blood freeze in her veins. Now Trisha knew that Jinara was still the same monster as before and it had been a mistake to enter the labyrinth without a plan.
"I need to get out of here as soon as possible," Trisha muttered feverishly and looked back down the hallway from whence she had come, but there was no sign of the entrance.
Trembling, Trisha stood up. She had to brace herself against the wall to keep her balance. She gulped as she realized that Jinara had not only lured her into her trap, but had also designed it especially for her.
Disappointed, Jinara let herself sink back into her soft new chair. It moaned softly through the gag as she leaned against it. Jinara would have liked to see Trisha pulled into the mimic, but that would probably have been too soon. Trisha had not yet seen everything and was to remain in the labyrinth until the end.
"Then I guess I'll have to play with you for that long," Jinara murmured, letting her fingers wander over the face of her side table until she found its nose and squeezed it shut. Immediately it began to twitch until Jinara said in a calm but emotionless voice, "If you spill even a drop of my tea, you'll find yourself in a cell next to Trisha tonight."
Panic appeared in her table's eyes, but the twitching became a slight tremor as the table tried to keep calm despite the lack of air, though it was becoming more difficult with each passing second.
"Finally, she goes on!" said Jinara delightedly, releasing the nose. Instantly, her table drew in air greedily as Jinara picked up her cup and took a sip.
"I would have loved to see her face, wouldn't you?" she asked, looking mischievously down at her chair.
The anxious and exhausted face of one of the two nurses looked up at her. Jinara had made herself comfortable on top of her after leather restraints forced her to hold her arms behind her back in the Reverse Prayer position. Her legs, also fixed, served as a backrest for her mistress. The nurse had been bedded in a metal frame which additionally held her in position and raised her to a comfortable sitting height.
Jinara's fingers curled around the gagged mouth of her chair and shook it gently.
"You make a gorgeous face too though my dear," she said in a near whisper, "Remind me to hire someone new for you, I think I've found your calling!"
Jinara cast a snide glance at her side table, which was still shaking.
"I'm still undecided about you," Jinara muttered, squeezing the second nurse's nose again. The trembling grew stronger, despite the steel frame that held her body in place, and Jinara's tea swilled ominously to just below the rim of the cup.
Slowly, Trisha felt her strength returning after overcoming her shock and hesitantly continued through the maze. After a few steps, she once again found herself at a dead end and once again there was a chest on the wall, tantalizingly calling out to her.
"All chests can't be mimics, can they?" muttered Trisha, cautiously walking towards it.
She balled her paw into a fist and slammed into the chest with all her might, only to hastily back away the next moment.
It did not move, but Trisha continued to look at it suspiciously.
"Maybe I was just unlucky with the first one," she said, walking back toward the chest and opening it. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that it was indeed not a Mimic and found a large pillow inside the chest. A short moment later, the chest and pillow disappeared and Trisha assumed that she would find it in her cell later.
"I wonder how much that pillow is worth?" pondered Trisha as she walked down another corridor and shortly found herself in a long hallway that sloped slightly.
She could make out another chest in the distance, but suspected that the hallway was filled to the brim with traps.
She bit her lower lip and considered whether she should take another path, when a wall opened next to her and two women stumbled out of it. Both looked almost identical from their raven black hair to their dark eyes. The only difference in them was a beauty mark on their cheeks. One had it on her left and the other on her right.
Trisha supported both women dressed in yellow, so they wouldn't fall to the ground.
"Hey, thanks a lot, Shifter!" one of them said, scrambling to her feet.
"You're welcome," Trisha said, grinning at the two, "You two seem to have been in a real hurry."
The twins smiled.
"Well we didn't feel much like getting caught by a spider, artificial or not. My name is Pina and this is my sister Rebecca. What's your name?" she asked curiously, eyeing Trisha up and down.
"My name is Trisha. Nice to make your acquaintance. Do you think we can walk together for a bit? It should be safer in a group, right?" asked Trisha nervously.
"A thousand times better than alone." Rebecca laughed and went ahead down the long corridor, while Pina smiled at Trisha and told her to come along.
"How come you two are walking along so confidently? After seeing a prisoner caught by a mimic I hardly dared to take another step."
"Mmmmh I would say that we have been through some things here and most of the traps are quite predictable. Especially here in this hallway. It's probably loaded with traps up to the top but as long as we don't step on a pressure plate everything is fine. And even if we do, you usually have enough time to avoid them," Pina explained, crossing her arms behind her back.
Trisha tilted her head to the side thoughtfully.
This was not like Jinara at all, and the mimic seemed to have reached for the woman extremely quickly as well.
"Hey cheer up, even if you get caught the punishment for failing is usually not too bad," Pina said.
"I don't know. I have a feeling Jinara has something planned for me."
"Jinara? Who…?" asked Rebecca, but interrupted herself as her foot sank a bit into the ground.
"Trap!" she screamed, backing away as the whole hallway shook. The twins let their eyes wander and tensed their bodies to be ready for anything, but nothing happened.
"Maybe a dud?" asked Rebecca hopelessly.
Trisha gulped as she looked behind and saw a huge black goo ball rolling toward them.
"Run!" she yelled and sprinted off.
The twins didn't need to be told twice and ran after her.
"If it weren't for this damn suit, none of this would be a problem!" She thought and glanced behind.
Panicking, she widened her eyes as she saw the sphere getting closer and closer, demanding everything from her body.
"Shit!" Trisha heard Pina shout and saw her fall to the ground as she tripped over her own feet. Immediately Trisha stopped and turned around while Rebecca kept running.
"What are you doing! Run!" yelled Pina as Trisha helped her up.
"Together we have a better chance!" Trisha retorted.
She was about to pull Pina behind her when she noticed a crack in the wall, which was easy to miss.
"In here!" barked Trisha, pushing Pina and herself into the gap. Not a moment later, the ball rolled thunderously past them.
"Lucky," Trisha muttered and stepped back into the passage. She watched the ball roll relentlessly on, until it reached the chest and smashed against the wall behind it. Black slime splattered back into the hallway, making the chest inaccessible.
"I hope your sister found another hole in the walls, too," Trisha said to Pina as she stood next to her and surveyed the slime trail on the walls and floor.
"I hope not," Pina said, sticking out her tongue.
"What, what do you mean?" asked Trisha in horror.
"My sister and I compete in these events every day, betting on which one of us will get the farthest. Looks like I finally won after a week."
Trisha shook her head in disbelief.
"Come on, we should keep going," she said, pulling Pina along behind her. As they approached the chest, they could see Rebecca on the far wall. She was buried under masses of slime, desperately trying to free herself from the sticky substance.
"Hey sis. I'm glad you're giving me another victory. I'm going to go off with our new friend and conquer the labyrinth. I'll see you later in the cell!" said Pina and waved goodbye to Rebecca.
Incredulous, Trisha looked at the twins in turn, one smiling serenely, the other had her mouth open in a silent angry scream.
"Come on Trisha, this way," Pina said, opening a door on the side.
"Shouldn't we help her?" asked Trisha.
"Believe me, it's useless. Once you're stuck in a trap, there's no escape. Rebecca and I tried to save each other all the time in our first few days here. Each time with the same result. Don't get me wrong, we help each other where we can, but with something like this," she said, pointing with her hand at her sister, "there's nothing we can do but get stuck ourselves."
Doubting, Trisha looked to Rebecca, who seemed to have calmed down. Trisha didn't know if she was imagining it, but she thought she saw Rebecca shrug her shoulders, as if to tell her, "That's just how things work around here."
"Well then, let's hope we don't end up in a predicament like this, too," Trisha muttered, stepping through the door offered to her.
Instead of another corridor surrounded by high walls, Trisha and Pina found themselves in a dark passage. Thanks to her cat eyes, Trisha had no trouble seeing in the dark. Pina, however, could not see her own hand in front of her face and had to rely on the shifter's guidance.
"If I had known this door led to a darkroom, I never would have gone in here," she mused, feeling her way blindly along the wall.
"Don't worry. Climb over here carefully," Trisha murmured, lost in thought, and helped Pina over a tripwire that was stretched across the floor.
"What are you thinking about?" asked Pina.
"I'm trying to think of a plan to get out of here safely." Replied Trisha, pulling Pina further behind her.
"Out of the maze? Could be tricky. The walls shifting, traps that could separate us, other fellow prisoners. How are you going to come up with a plan with so many factors?"
"I'm talking about the prison itself. I gave up trying to think of something for the maze after the first trap. Jinara just knows how to get at me so why do her a favor and make useless plans?"
"Jinara? That's the name you mentioned a moment ago. Who's that supposed to be?" asked Pina, bumping hard against Trisha's shoulder as she turned to her in disbelief.
"Jinara? The director?" asked Trisha incredulously.
"Ouch… no, no idea," Pina said rubbing her nose, "We were thrown in here and have been the guards' plaything ever since. So who is this Jinara?"
"She's an old friend of my sister's and was my… babysitter. She made my life a living hell with 'experiments' as she called it. I called it torture. Electroshock, breath control and sleep deprivation were her favorite subjects. Speaking of which," Trisha said, yawning out loud as she realized she hadn't slept properly in over a day.
"Certainly not the most enjoyable reunion."
"No not by a long shot," Trisha muttered.
"How did you get in here anyway?" asked Pina.
"Jinara apparently hexed my sister's clothes and affected a protection spell in the process. This caused me to be teleported not to safety, but to her prison." replied Trisha.
"So you are also innocent here like so many of us."
"Well innocent I wouldn't say but yes I wasn't convicted," Trisha said laughing, "and how did you end up here?"
Embarrassed, Pina looked to the side as if uncomfortable talking about it.
"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to," she reassured Trisha.
"No, no. It's okay, you told me. My sister and I worked at a pub in Onan’s Rest. After the owner changed, and he wanted to turn it into a pleasure house, we refused to work for him and wanted to find something else. However, he was of the opinion that we were sold to him as well. When we continued to refuse, he had us moved here," she said and sighed.
"This man, what was his name?"
"He introduced himself to us as Faluden."
Trisha spat out when she heard his name.
"You know him?" asked Pina.
"Unfortunately… He also framed a friend of mine to take over her business in Onan’s Rest," Trisha replied.
"Are you talking about Terra?"
Trisha hummed in agreement and turned a corner. She breathed a sigh of relief as a door appeared in front of her, and she opened it.
"So that's what happened," Pina concluded, blinking to adjust to the light, "Just before Rebecca and I were thrown in here, Terra was one of Onan’s Rest most wanted. Her sudden disappearance made Faluden incredibly furious."
"Glad to hear our escape upset him so much," Trisha laughed.
"You did that?"
"With the help of my girlfriend," Trisha said, frowning as they once again stood in a long hallway. To their left, a turnoff led to another part of the maze,
"I guess the director is running out of ideas," Pina said, smiling at Trisha.
"Maybe…" Murmured Trisha, "I think we'd better go left."
They were about to leave the hallway behind when they heard two voices and Trisha's expression darkened as she recognized one of them.
"Did you see her face when the plant grabbed her? Simply priceless! Even if the awards didn't exist, I'd go in here just for that and…" said the fellow prisoner in red, who had already caught Trisha's eye in a nasty way, and stopped in front of them as if rooted to the spot.
She contorted her face as if a foul odor had risen to her nose.
"I didn't think you'd dare come in here without your transformation, Shifter," she said.
Trisha flashed her teeth and smiled at her.
"I wanted to give the rest of you a fair chance to win."
"Hey, hey, hey, we don't have to be at each other's throats, do we?" asked Pina, getting between them.
"She's right Jonete, we'd better walk together for a bit," said the woman in yellow next to Jonete, making herself very small as she received a punishing look from her.
"If you guys don't slow us down," Jonete said, brushing past Pina and Trisha.
"Seems like we're going down the hall after all," Pina said, putting a hand on Trisha's shoulder.
Trisha said nothing and the three remaining women followed Jonete.
"And shifter? Did you have some fun with Epolia yet?" asked Jonete casually as the four women walked down the hallway.
Trisha pondered her intentions with this question, but came to the conclusion that she just wanted to establish a conversation to build trust in this hostile environment.
"Honestly, not yet. Someone is waiting for me at home and I don't want to spoil the anticipation." she replied.
"You think you're going to get out of here again? You'd be the first."
"Just a matter of time," Trisha muttered barely audibly, stopping as Pina held out her hand and pointed at the walls.
"Are those bodies?" she asked, horrified.
The four women looked more closely at the walls and sure enough, they could see women kicking in the walls. Trisha was reminded by the traps of Celine's vacuum beds which she and Rilliana had been allowed to try.
"I guess we weren't the first ones through here. Let's keep moving before we end up the same way." said Jonete, pulling her friend behind her. Trisha and Pina glanced at each other, but continued to follow her.
"So you don't think I'm going to make it out of here?" asked Trisha to pick up the conversation thread again.
Jonete threw an arrogant glance backwards and seemed to be studying Trisha's figure.
"Not even if you had my muscles and were in a green suit," she replied and started laughing. Trisha interrupted the laughter when out of the corner of her eye she saw a wall of slime hurtling towards Jonete and her friend. The wall whizzed past Trisha's tail as she tackled them both to the ground and the three women rolled across the floor.
"WHAT WAS THAT SHIFTER…" Jonete yelled at Trisha and was about to teach her some manners when she saw the trap had just missed her and was now sticking to the wall empty.
" You are welcome," Trisha said, knocking the dust off her suit and walking past her without giving her another glance. Pina made a beeline around the two of them and closed in on Trisha.
"I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have done that for you," she whispered to the shifter, glancing behind.
"It doesn't matter. Eventually the time will come when I need her and she'll remember. She's right, without my transformation and in this Red Suit, I'm in need of help," Trisha replied, "Could you maybe strike up a conversation with her friend? I'd love to have a chat with Jonete."
A little disappointed, Pina looked at her but dropped back and did as she was told. Jonete quickly seemed bored with the conversation and took a few quick steps until she was walking beside Trisha.
"If you're expecting thanks for saving me, you can forget it," she said grumpily.
"I didn't. Like I said you were welcome. You would have done the same for me."
Trisha smiled inwardly at the lie.
"How did you get in here?" asked Trisha to break the awkward silence.
"Pissed off the wrong people and when they realized that normal jails couldn't hold me for long they decided to put me in this theme park. It's at least cleaner than the Scabbard, I can assure you of that much."
"Another prison," Jonete replied, waving her hand as if to shoo away the bad memories of it.
"I like it here better than the Normal Stone Fortresses I was in before, though I'd like it if you gave me back my toys," Jonete said, staring down at the shifter.
Trisha held her gaze and replied coldly, "There are a few rules when 'playing' with someone in Epolia's position and must be followed. Until I see that you can follow them, she stays with me."
Jonete laughed out loud.
"Rules? I beg you. Not much longer and I'll buy you both! Then you can experience a surprise," she said, pointing to her upper arm.
Trisha gulped when she saw all the numbers on it, but quickly regained her composure and said, "Not if I win here."
"I doubt it," Jonete replied sardonically and shoved Trisha full force towards the wall.
At that moment a trap activated and Trisha escaped it by a hair's breadth as she dropped to the ground and the wall of slime shot over her.
Jonete ran ahead laughing and disappeared into a barely perceptible gap which closed behind her in an instant.
A hand appeared in Trisha's field of vision as Pina tried to help her up.
"Was that part of your plan, too?" she asked with a grin.
"Not really," Trisha replied, standing up with Pina's help, "but at least now I know what I'll face if I fail."
Jonette's friend stood beside them in dismay, not making a sound until Trisha addressed her.
"And what about you? Shouldn't you have run away with Jonete? Or are you waiting for a suitable opportunity to stab me in the back with a dagger, too?"
"Honestly, I'm glad Jonete is finally gone. Our last companion was pushed into a trap by her." she replied, blushing.
Snorting, Trisha turned and gestured for her to follow.
"You look stressed," Pina whispered.
"I've only been here a day and I've made an enemy of guards and prisoners, I don't know if I'll ever see my girlfriend again, and I'm helpless against my sister's vindictive ex. So yes I am stressed. Also, I'm so damn tired that I'm about to fall asleep while walking! Let's… let's just keep going, shall we?" said Trisha indignantly.
With each step Trisha took deeper into the labyrinth, she hated Jinara's prison more and more. Behind every bend and in every corridor a trap or a monster was waiting for her.
While Pina saved Trisha from every trap or clarified it, the newest member of her team, Vasha, was more of a burden.
Trisha suspected that Jonete had given her the task of holding her off as long as possible.
"Keep an eye on Vasha, please," Trisha whispered to Pina.
"You don't have to worry about her. I've been talking to her, remember, and she's really nice."
Trisha refrained from explaining to her that humans had the ability to lie and left it at that when they arrived at a pit filled with a black bubbling liquid. The only way to the other side was a narrow beam that left little room for missteps.
"This is new," Pina muttered as she surveyed the black mass four steps below them. The substance seemed to follow their movements, trying to creep up the smooth surface wall.
"Should we maybe try another…" Vasha asked, but was interrupted by Trisha, "Vasha after you!" she ordered and pushed Vasha onto the beam, closely followed by Trisha and Pina who shook her head at the shifter's behavior.
When they reached the middle of the beam, Trisha cleared her throat and said, "I'm sorry Vasha, but I can't afford any detours. No matter how I spin it, I can't end up as some fellow inmate's pet if I want to make it out of here. For that, I have to win that grand prize."
"Mmh. I see… why didn't you say so?" said Vasha, stopping unexpectedly so that Trisha almost ran into her.
"Shit, Vasha, be careful! If we fall down here…" said Trisha, interrupting herself as she saw Vasha's arm darting towards her out of the corner of her eye. Having no room to dodge, the attack hit Trisha right in the chest and she stumbled backwards against Pina. Pina lost her balance, fell off the beam and clung to it at the last moment.
"Jonete is the one who will win the prize and I will earn myself a share!" Vasha shouted while Trisha tried to regain her balance and at the same time not step on Pina's hands.
Trisha glanced down and saw Pina desperately trying to pull herself up while the black mass beneath her reared up to grab her ankles.
"You don't seriously think Jonete is going to share the prize with you," Trisha threw at her, raising her fists.
"All I have to do is push you down, and I'll find out for myself afterward," Vasha said, closing the distance to Trisha with two big steps.
Trisha again cursed her hindering suit that forced her to put her hands down and resisted his move when Vasha threw a punch at her and blocked it with difficulty. Another blow narrowly missed her as she ducked out from under him.
Trisha took advantage of the gap in Vasha's guard and pushed her backwards.
Both of them swayed menacingly.
"You know, a thought just occurred to me Trisha," Vasha said, putting on a mischievous grin.
"That you regret putting Pina and me in this position?" asked Trisha hopefully.
"Actually, all I have to do is manage to throw you down here. I don't even have to stay on the beam."
Trisha froze. Vasha ran at her and Trisha tripped over the hands of Pina who let go cursing. Trisha fell backwards on her rear and kicked Vasha's knee with full force. The attacker crumpled to the side and landed face-first in the pit next to Pina, screeching. Trisha immediately got up to help Pina out, but it was already too late. The black substance had already clawed at her and pulled her deeper and deeper into itself.
"Pina, I'm sorry!" cried Trisha desperately as Pina's hands were pulled down and disappeared into the mass.
"Oh don't worry Trisha I'll see you tomorrow," Pina said smiling and winking at Trisha just before the black slime crawled up her neck and completely covered her face.
While Pina took her elimination in stride, Vasha fought the substance as hard as she could. Again and again she almost pulled her arms out only to be sucked in deeper the next moment.
Trisha heard the muffled screams through the substance and shook her head in disgust.
Was this what Jinara wanted? Sow anger and despair among the inmates?
Trisha gritted her teeth. Jinara's idea of fun had nothing to do with what Celine had taught her. More than that. It was a perversion of what Trisha loved and valued.
Trisha looked high up at the glass dome. She sensed Jinara watching her at that very moment, devilishly pleased at Trisha's renewed loss.
She raised her arm upward and pointed her finger at the dome.
"I'm going to make sure you go down Jinara!" she yelled, "SOON!" she added emphatically. She turned to leave and was startled when black words formed on one of the white walls in front of her.
"Congratulations Trisha you have come a long way, but unfortunately I am tired of you for today. Good luck in tomorrow's games. I'm sure your petsuit will look great on you." Trisha read aloud and frowned.
"What does that mean? I'm not out yet!" said Trisha.
She heard something hiss and in the next moment felt a dull pain that swept the air out of her lungs. Again she heard a hiss and shortly after that again the dull pain this time at her shoulder. Trisha wrenched her eyes open as she finally saw what had already been hurting her during the night. A tiny black ball fell from her shoulder into the pit. She looked up at the dome and the walls above her and saw long thin tubes aimed at her.
For the third time the hiss sounded, and she lost her balance as another bullet hit her leg.
"Still the same sore loser," Trisha pressed out between her teeth as she fell into the pit and was met by the already joyfully waiting black mass.
She closed her eyes.
"At least now I can get some sleep."