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B1 — 27. Dominated

POV Change:  Eltha (Clanless Ri’bot that was taken in by the Roxim Clan; the one Elinor called Creep at the beginning)

Recap: Violet and Azalea just made a little game out of their capture orders.

Azalea Wins:  She gets five sets of fancy clothes from her sister!  Custom made with Tiffany’s help.

Violet Wins:  She subjects Azalea to some master-slave fun.  xD  Someone has a fetish for dominating her older sisters >.>

Eltha is a messenger between the two spy parties, and it’s clear that she’s not treated that well by the other warriors.

Queen of the Thélméthra’s Name:  Iris

Eldest Sister:  Camellia (talent is inherited in progression, meaning the youngest will always outshine the oldest; Camellia seems like a really hard worker and tries really hard to prove herself).

Middle Sister:  Azalea (Seems to be more of the positive encouraging sister-type)

Youngest Sister:  Violet (Lazy, but competitive when she feels threatened, which is not common with her relationship with her eldest sister).


Elinor’s Currently Known Skills

Monarch of Death (Cluster Skill):  The physical manifestation of her authority as the crown and veil (comprised of the Death Element) atop her head.  The following are skills a part of this cluster (meaning they do not work if this main branch is not active).

Lesser Aura of Supremacy (Connects to Imperial Presence):  Releases from her crown.  Casts Horrify on others, if Horrify fails, casts Fear.

Lesser Minion Mastery: Provides buffs to her minions within a certain range.

Prose of the Potentate: Allows her to talk any language her minion knew in life (if her minion was an idiot, then her speech vocabulary and flow to the recipient would not be translated well).

Call of the Empress: Week cooldown, releases a burst of Death Energy that resurrects everything available in range at a base cost and set period of time.  It bypasses any limit cap on how many minions she can summon and are all unintelligent.

Other Skills:

Lesser Possession:  Allows Elinor to take physical control over one of her unintelligent minions within a certain range.

Herald of the Empress: Advanced form of Lesser Corpse Detecton (absorbed into the skill).  Allows Elinor to scan the area around herself for possible minions and gives her a rough estimate of their potential.  A ranged means she can use to raise the dead.

Racial/Kind Skills

Imperial Presence: Makes her act more dignified and regal while also implanting that mental image in weak-willed creatures around her.

Life Tap: Corrupts Life Energy into a usable form for Elinor to use.

Lesser Corpse Detection: Allows Elinor to detect bodies within a short range.

Raise Skeleton: Ignites fire at her hands; the embers can bring create the undead.

Emotional Loss: Does NOT get rid of all emotion, but dulls Joy, Trust, Fear, and Sadness, while leaving Anticipation, Anger, Disgust, and Suprise alone.  This creates an imbalance in her emotions, but Imperial Presence also affects her behaviors, causing her unfiltered emotions to burn below the surface of her cool appearance.  Inspired by Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions.

Minion Ranks:

White – Poor

Green, – Common

Yellow – Uncommon

Blue – Rare

Purple – Heroic

Red – Epic

Orange – Legendary

Dark Orange – Mythic

Pearlescent – Transcendent

 

Elinor’s Current Minions:

Transcendent-Grade: Rank 9

Tiffany (Former Mother) – Royal Wichery Title, over all Witchery related Classes

Edmon (Former Father) – Royal Gatekeeper Title, over all Elite Defender Classes and the Empress’ Personal Guard

Iris (Thélméthra Queen; Otherworldly Tank-Spider) – Royal Executioner, over all Assassin Classes

Mythic-Grade Minions: Rank 8 (General Class)

Violet (Youngest Spider-Sister) – Close to Transcendent

Legendary-Grade Minions: Rank 7 (General Class)

Azalea (Middle Spider-Sister)

Epic-Grade Minions: Rank 6 (Commander Class)

Camellia (Eldest Spider-Sister)

Uncommon-Grade Minions: Rank 2 (Foot Soldiers)

Garu – Ri’bot that allows Elinor to speak Ri’bot.

Quin – Elite Hunter of the Quen’Talrat; allows Elinor to speak both Quen’Talrat and Yaltha’ma.

Common (Fodder) Minions: Rank 1

x17 Normal Quen’Talrat; Skeleton Type

x1 Thélméthra Drone


Eltha tried her best to keep calm as rain dripped through the thick foliage overhead.  She hopped around the massive slick branches of the black trees, doing her best to remain hidden behind their large yellow leaves, shining with the liquid falling around her.

Her five long toes felt the tickle of the moss growing on the bark, and the sharp gusts of wind made her skin prickle; she hadn’t felt this cold since she was a little girl in the north.  The night was darker than usual, but her sharp eyes adapted to the bleak weather.  However, it wasn’t the chill of the storm that caused her bones to quake.

Why did it have to be me?  I ran away from the Northern Territory to get away from all the wars!  Damn you, Caltha; right, it’s better in the south my foot … if only one of the other clans would have accepted me, but no, no one else would take in a Clanless from the Northern Territory.  They might be Malox spies, and they’re not wrong.

She cursed her misfortune, being born among the Kalnath Clan’s scattered remnants; her homeland had long been in decline after the Cnaxar Federation’s expansion four years ago.  The Kalnath had tried to seed their fortunes in some of the wildlands of the former Trelmere Monarchy after the Quen’Talrat’s rise to power had obliterated them, and that didn’t turn out so well for her parents.

Eltha refrained from sliding her tongue across her wet mouth as her gums itched, and she dropped to the ground as a bolt of lightning illuminated the area, momentarily blinding her.  She threw her hands over her head as the energy struck a tree nearby, splitting the towering three-hundred-foot structure nearly in two.

A long rumble shook through her body, causing her to shut her eyes and swallow a lump in her throat.  Her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth as tremors rippled through her frame, and she almost fell off the slick branch.

Son of a Malox!  Why am I even in this insane storm?  This is insane!

Repositioning herself, she coughed several times; Eltha was doing her best to suppress the toxins leaking out of her skin, but it came out despite her efforts, triggered by her ever-growing stress.

Damn the Kalnath Clan, damn the Roxim Clan, and damn this storm!  Why was I born to a broken place with useless parents that would rather sell me to the Federation than protect their daughter?  What’d my ancestors do for me to deserve this?

Now, I’m out here spying on some insane undying ruler from another world.  Damn you, Malox!  Why did they put some warlord in power?  The Federation was peaceful for years, then you got in and went on a crusade for more land … what’s the point!  You have enough, and if it couldn’t get any worse…

She breathed out a shuddering breath, rubbing away the snot that leaked out of her nose before she sniffed it back.  I run away from slavery to join up with this crazy cause!  Now, the Quen’Talrat might be back; we’re probably all going to die if even a fraction of the stories are true.  I saw one Elite Hunter, and that’s supposed to be the weakest kind!

It’s terrifying … too big … bigger than the Torlim War Mounts.  Those fire apes might be back, and it was all the Roxim Clan’s fault!  No, Fennel’s fault!  Damn you, Fennel!  I don’t want to be blamed for this!  I’ve been busting my tongue…

Her thoughts were silenced as she scanned the forest floor, mostly silent except for the falling rain and cracks of rolling thunder in the sky.  She caught sight of the shallow rocky stream she’d been looking for.

Setting her jaw, she dropped a few branches before pausing to scan the area.  Eltha’s wide purple eyes and orangish green skin collected and analyzed the moisture in the area, searching for chemical changes in the atmosphere for danger.

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A shiver ran down her spine, nostrils flaring to test the air; a Ragnlar had been in the area at least an hour ago, but that was the furthest back scent she could sense with the water washing away anything else.

Breathing out a long sigh, she jumped down to the ground; her webbed toes flexed against the muddy floor, body tilting left and right to get a full view of her surroundings as she blinked a few times.  

These Roxim guys are insane; they’ve got a death’s wish.  They actually volunteered for this stuff!  I mean, it’s only been a few hours and that ruler already raised a dozen or more Quen’Talrat, and she’s having them kill everything!  What’s she planning?  Make an army of dead animals to attack the Clans?  That’s so creepy, and I had her fur on my tongue … gross.  How do we fight that?  It’s a lost cause … should I just run?

Eltha worked her jaw around as she stared down at the water; even in the darkness, she could see reasonably well, and the disturbance the rain left against the gentle stream made her lick her two teeth, pressing them against her lips.

Releasing a low rumble in her throat, she reached down and splashed her skin with the water, trying to wash away the toxins leaving her body.  She hated how the slightest thing made her sweat; the Roxim Clan members always gave her odd looks because of it, but she couldn’t help herself, most of the warriors picked on her.

Stop complaining … I just need to do my job, and they’ll protect me.  I can’t let them smell that I’m scared, though … Roxim Ri’bot are supposed to be fearless.  Why did I ever believe Weltha and her insane talk about how the Roxim had changed since the wars … they’re as battle crazy as ever.

Still … just a bit more, and then Toka will send me back to report.  Just do my job … stop thinking about things I can’t change … yeah, just look at the bright side of the rainbow.  It’ll show up after the storm!

Lifting herself as high as her legs would stretch, she threw out her thin arms, trying to ease the tension in her bones.  Eltha took a deep breath before jumping back into the trees to follow the fading chemical trail the warriors had left for her; she hated that Denral had a pleasant scent because his attitude was anything but that.

Can I ever find a good warrior to protect me?  Well … that’s the dream, but every useless non-warrior feels that way.  Get a good warrior as a mate, and you’re set … fat chance for me, though.

It took her a few minutes to reach the spot; she slowed, knowing the Undead creatures were around the area and kept her senses sharp.  There were low rumbles that bled past the cracks of thunder, coming from the skeletal Quen’Talrat as they hunted.  She hadn’t dared approach them, but they’d been tracking their movements since they’d entered the jungle.

She heard the soft popping of the Roxim’s warrior language and slowly approached.  The three Ri’bot were caked in wet mud and moss, using it as camouflage while lying against a thick branch.  They peered down at the floor, studying the bony figures that passed beneath them.

Toka was a bit of a role-model for her; she was one of the few warriors that didn’t pick on her, and she was tough as a Quen’Talrat blade.  All the young warriors admired Toka, and she had just recently graduated to a Minor Warrior, which was unexpected for her young age, but her brother had also been chosen.

The moment Eltha landed, Toka’s soft feminine voice met her.  “What did my brother report?”

Eltha tried her best to keep her voice low; Forva and Denral didn’t even look back at her, and she knew Denral hated that she’d been the messenger Fennel had chosen, but no uninitiated warrior would question Fennel’s decisions.  Eltha wished they had; then she wouldn’t be in this mess.

“He said that the Quen’Talrat came out of the Breached Fortress; Roka and Grem haven’t been able to get close yet.  They have seen the carnage, though; the Undead apes are killing large creatures in the area, and piling them up on big carts where they’re laying low.”

“What’s the purpose?”  Forva muttered, shifting his body as a sharp growl echoed below them.  “Another one is passing the area … they’re strip hunting.”

“Careful,” Toka whispered, waving her wet hand at her.  “They know if any creature gets within seven feet of them.  I don’t understand how yet, but nothing has survived, not even Ragnlar or Torlim.”

“Such a waste,” Forva muttered.

A shiver ran down Eltha’s spine.  Not even a Torlim?  They must be angry about all the wild Torlim being killed.  If they’re slaughtering all of them, then they won’t have proper breeding stock, and they’re a massive combat strength and resource for the Roxim Clan.

That’s still a bit crazy, though.  Even if these are just wild Torlim, they’re vicious and huge … I couldn’t survive being attacked by one, and if its tongue hits me … I’d end up like my…

“Down,” Denral growled, lowering himself against the branches.

“Get in those leaves, Eltha!”  Toka seethed.  “You’re exposed.”

She quickly obeyed, doing her best to make as little noise as possible as the rain slid down her slick skin, and she felt more than heard the low rumble that vibrated the moist air as something heavy jumped into the trees.

Her knees started to tremble as she heard a few weak voices below.

“Did you hear that, Po’lo?”

“No, but Co’ta smells one!”

“Po’lo smells big furry angry one, too.”

“This way, bony one!”

Who’s talking?  Why is someone guiding them?  Wait … how can I understand them?  They must be Ri’bot, right?  Why would Ri’bot help Elinor, though?  Are they more Clanless or Marauders that were brought under her control?  Oh, no, what if I get discovered?  Will I be eaten … alive?  What do the dead eat?  Will they turn me into one of those creatures?  Fire melting my skin and muscle like she did to…

The heavy thumps and vibrations faded toward the stream she’d washed in.  Did they smell the Ragnlar that passed by the area?  Is this a purge of all life?  They’re terrifying!  Why did Fennel bring that powerful creature back with us?  We should have left it … I was the one that discovered it, though … I don’t want to be blamed!  It’s not my fault she was brought back!

“Did you see that?”  Forva muttered.

“Yaltha’ma,” Denral growled, fingers tensing on the shield by his side.  “It seems they’ve aligned themselves to Elinor.”

Eltha breathed out a heavy sigh of relief.  “Oh, it’s just those small things?  That’s not bad, then.  They can’t…”  She trailed off as Denral shifted to glare at her.

“Are you an idiot?”  He spat, tongue sliding across her two teeth.  “You must be mental.”

“W-What do you mean?  I—I don’t think so … I—I mean, I can kill a Yaltha’ma, m-myself.”

“This is why I hate Clanless,” he grumbled.

Toka released a slow puff of air, nudging the warrior beside her.  “Give her a break, Denral.  She’s never been taught the tactics of the Quen’Talrat; she’s not a warrior.”

“Still, we really could have used a warrior as a messenger,” Forva muttered darkly.  “I’m not saying I don’t agree with Sir Fennel … we can only use what we have.  Still, just the fact Elinor has some help is bad, much less scouts that can be used to infiltrate Clans; Doma and Ukata use them as trained scouts.  This is unfortunate news that needs to be reported.”

Denral popped his tongue a few times, and the other two responded with their own soft clicks, making Eltha press her teeth against her lips in frustration.

Why do the warriors always do this?  I’m the messenger!  Don’t I need to know what they’re talking about?  Still, at least Toka doesn’t put me down all the time … scouts, though.  Why would she need scouts?  If they brought the whole Roxim army, they could probably crush the Quen’Talrat running around … they could even give the entire Federation a run for their tongues.

“Dammit,” Toka mumbled with an angry tone.  “You need to understand, Denral, we might have to retreat.”

Eltha’s forehead furrowed with confusion.  “Why”  She instantly regretted opening her big mouth.

“She’s as dense as a Holan shell,” Denral grunted, nose twitching with disgust.

“Because of the Yaltha’ma,” Forva explained with a tired tone as he rose to a crouching position, water dripping down his gear poking out of the camouflage.  “They have an excellent sense of smell and a wide field of vision.  If they come across any place we’ve been, they’ll know we’re in the area, even in this rainstorm.”

“We’re not equipped to handle Quen’Talrat with our current gear,” Toka whispered, partially to herself while rising next to Forva.  “I don’t like it, but Sir Fennel told us to use extreme caution.”

Denral’s nose flared even more, but he kept his voice low.  “We can’t go back with just this much; it’s taken us hours to get this scrap of information.  We haven’t even been able to make it inside the keep!  A Xaria was taken!”

“I get it, Denral, I do,” Toka said while blinking and swallowing.  “That’s why Sir Fennel put me in charge; you’re too reckless, and you know it.”

“Tch,” Denral made a low sound in his throat, fingers trembling against his shield.  “I get it, but we only discovered their sensing radius, the Undead have bad vision, and that the Yaltha’ma are guiding them.  We have no clue how many are inside the walls or the Xaria’s condition.”

Forva put his hand on Denral’s shoulder.  “We learned that she’s making more; it’s exactly like the Chiefs feared, and why Krava had us track her.  She’s taken up residence in the Quen’Talrat fortress; she’s pinned down to one location.  Krava is calling for a War Council…”

“Yeah, and that takes time.  We’re behind enemy lines,” Denral pressed.  “We are the strongest weapon the Roxim Clan has right now; we can gain even more vital information.  Have the Clanless return…”

“Denral,” Toka chided.  “Eltha is Clanless no more; she’s been adopted into The Clan.  You can’t keep disrespecting that.  You are spitting in the Chief’s face by not recognizing his decision to adopt the Clanless.”

Denral picked between his two teeth, nose creasing, but he turned his head away in acceptance.  “I get it; I won’t question the Chief.  I know he has his reasons.”

“Good,” Toka chuckled, nudging Denral.  “Then Eltha will go inform my brother and Grem that we’re packing up to give our first report.  I’m sure we’ll…”

“Oh, there are only six of you in all?  Well, that’s rather disappointing.”

Eltha froze in place as the invisible girl’s voice seemed to shift around them playfully while she spoke.  However, Toka, Denral, and Forva shot into a tight group, back to back as they readied their hardened shields, tongues popping.

The girl’s succulent tone shifted around them with a giggle, and Eltha couldn’t tell where it was coming from; however, there was a new fragrant scent that was beginning to surround the area.

Oh, no … we’ve been … where is she?  What is she?  Is she the one Chief Valdar spoke of, Tiffany, the one that made that sleep fog?

“Now, let’s see.”  The girl hummed.  “There are four of you here and two of you somewhere else?  That means … I win!  Vi is going to be so angry.”

Eltha’s mouth dropped open as a creature resembling Elinor appeared in front of Toka, hanging upside down by her dark blue-fur that defied gravity; it looked like she was biting her lower lip and her large pink eyes were wide as she spoke, staring into Toka’s green irises.

“I should probably introduce myself; hello, my name’s Azalea,” she said with a clear tone, bright and without reservation.

Shadows surrounded the girl as Toka swung her shield up, muttering a curse.  “What the ancestors!  She’s gone … what are you?  Are you with Elinor, or are you a traveler of the lands?”

Azalea clicked her tongue a few times as thunder rolled around them, causing Eltha to tremble again.  Run, run!  Wait … I can’t move?  Her heart pounded, and sweat gathered across her skin again with her rising stress, but she couldn’t twitch a muscle.

“Well, aren’t you rude,” Azalea huffed.  “It’s Empress Elinor; you cannot call her without the proper title.  Such a predicament … I want to play, but I can’t waste too much time.  Hmm … why don’t you run?  That might be more fun; I enjoy playing chase.”

Eltha couldn’t even tense her muscles as Azalea’s hot breath pressed against the side of her head, mixing with the cold rain.  “Right, I paralyzed you … hmm, it seems you have ways of getting rid of toxins; I can feel my poison weakening.  Isn’t that wonderful!  I love these new abilities.”

Toka and the other two warriors shot toward her at a blinding speed, spears in hand as they stabbed beside Eltha’s head to attack the disembodied voice; tears gathered in Eltha’s eyes, mixing with the rain as the cutting air blew past her ears before the warriors quickly retracted their weapons, repositioning themselves to search for the intruder again.

“Where is she?”  Denral growled, spinning around while sniffing the air.  “It’s like she’s everywhere … Forva?  Forva!”

They backed up as Forva shot into the air without warning, disappearing into the treetops without so much as a gasp, and Azalea giggled, appearing behind Denral from thin air.

He reacted swiftly, swinging his shield around, but she simply leaned back, hands held behind her back while easily dodging the warrior’s bash.

Lowering her center of gravity, Azalea tripped Denral, elegantly twisting back to a standing position, hands still held behind her back.  “C’mon, faster, cleaner, you can do better than that!”

“Shut-up, and die!”  Toka jumped to the tree to their right, using it as a springboard to launch toward their assailant.

Azalia just smiled while effortlessly shifting her steps with Toka’s trajectory, using the same expression Elinor had used when mocking them.

Denral nimbly regained his balance before popping his tongue and jumping into the treetops, likely to save Forva while Toka bought him time.  The warrior she admired shot in sharp blurred motions, bouncing between branches with her spear in hand, yet every attempt was casually dodged as she hummed some kind of melody, fur wrapping around her body as she made flourishing motions as Toka tried goring her smug face.

No … this can’t be happening.  We weren’t supposed to be found.  She’s not even trying, and I can’t run!

Azalea started bending back, flipping around and dancing like the Yalmáth celebration ceremonies she’d seen in the north.  All of Toka’s deadly attacks missed, and Azalea only increased her acrobatic performance up the side of the trunk as if gravity held no sway over her movements.

Denral’s angry voice shot down to them.  “Forva’s frozen, and stuck in some kind of web … it’s like the Thélméthra stories.  I can’t cut it; it’s like steel!  It was hard enough trying to get a single finger out of it.”

Toka’s spear sank into the trunk while Azalea made a few spiraling motions, halfway to the treetop, and Toka used her lodged weapon as a spring to follow Azalea into the overgrowth, tongue shooting out before they vanished from sight.  

“Wait, I can’t move!”  Denral yelled.  “I’m stuck in…”

His voice faded, and without warning, Azalea appeared in front of Eltha out of nowhere with a flourishing motion.  “Aren’t I flexible and fast?  I love this form!”

Eltha’s stomach tightened, and her lungs heaved, heartbeat pounding against her chest.  The creature’s words dulled slightly, hearing dulled somewhat as a pounding sound in her ears; she’d never felt more terrified.

Azalea’s bright pink eyes were alight with glee while she caressed Eltha’s cheeks, thin fingers sliding down her slick skin.  “Hmm … your sweat is poisonous,” she giggled, tongue sliding out to sample her finger.  “My poison,” she mused, smacking her lips.

Poison?  I’m poisoned!  When did she poison me?  I didn’t feel a thing!

“It’s a good night for a hunt, right?  I love the rain.”  Her cheek shifted to the left as she reached back behind Eltha’s neck and pulled something out before brandishing it in front of her face with an amused smile.  “Can’t you see it?  Well, it is pretty thin.”

Upon closer inspection, Eltha caught sight of the object through the pounding rain; it was the thinnest line of fur she’d ever seen, stiff as a blade.  “Y-You … p-please,” was all she could mumble.

“Oh,” Azalea flashed her teeth, looking at her with shining pink eyes as water dripped down her white face, “we’ll have time for that later!”

Eltha’s widened irises focused on the creature’s tongue as it exited her mouth in slow motion, sliding over her moist deep red lips; the implications rattling through her mind spun wildly.  How did I get here?  No, please … I just want to be in a safe place…

Azalea’s voice turned musical as she began to sway back and forth.  “Do you see the curves running down my frame?  I’ve been told I don’t look the same, but what do you think?  Oh, how silly of me; you haven’t seen my original form.

“Oh, oh, oh, this weather seems so fitting, ‘cause I have a desire to play; I’m trying to learn how to sing.  I’m moving slowly, watching the sky fall while waiting for your friends to dance with me as the sweat on your skin tingles my lips.  How could I ask for more?

“Oh, oh, a lifetime of serving an Empress seems so fitting for happiness forevermore; oh, oh, you should smile, even though you’re sad…”

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She winked at Eltha before turning to greet Toka as she shot down from the trees, breathing heavily while glaring at her.  “W-What did you do to Denral and Forva?  What is this?”  She yelled, brandishing what Eltha assumed were the long needles.

“Poison, silly,” Azalea chuckled.  “What else would you expect?  I made them so obvious, but you only barely noticed them.  Now, are you ready to play some more while I wait for this one to move again?  She’s starting to stink a little, too,” she hummed, glancing back at her.  “That usually takes longer with my experience with your ancestors.”

Eltha swallowed, the action forcing her to blink as the rain continued to fall around them, and she felt a little self-conscious, knowing she’d wet herself.  I need to run … run, damn, you!  I should have gotten rid of most toxins by now, but I can’t move!  I don’t want to die…

“What are you?”  Toka growled.  “How can you make those … whatever you used up there?  It’s sticky, even in the rain.”

“Who am I?”  Azalea asked with surprise.  “Oh, I’m the good, the bad, and the dirty; I’m the middle child,” she giggled.  “Now, come on, if you’re going to throw a spear, make it count because I’m getting bored, and I’m running out of time to play with you.”

Eltha realized that her fur wasn’t wet; it seemed to repel the water.  She’d never felt more exposed before.  This was not something they could fight; Azalea scared her more than the Quen’Talrat, yet she looked so fragile and weak.

Toka breathed out a long breath, calming herself before glaring at the blue-furred creature.  “You’ll regret attacking my soldiers.”

She wiped away the liquid falling down her face, tongue sliding out to dip into one of the pouches connected to her jacket while drawing her knife, reforged from Quen’Talrat metal.

“Oh, dear, I fear I may become addicted to talking to my prey.” Azalea’s tone lowered with an excited edge as she leaned forward.  “You’re making me quiver!   Games, stalking, the unexpected … it’s like juicy meat I want to sink my fangs into.”   She tilted her head with a long hum, “please, don’t threaten me with a fun time if you can’t deliver!”

A reluctant grin spread across Toka’s lips.  “I see the light in your eyes.  Why don’t we play a little game, then?  You let Eltha run and try to deal with me; if I can hold you back long enough for her to escape, we win.”

“Oh?”  Azalea walked to Eltha’s left, hands behind her back.  “I’d love to mess around with you a bit more, but unfortunately, I’m nearly out of time.  I must say, your ancestors were much more entertaining to play with.”

“Tch,” Toka lept to a nearby tree, but her acceleration faded as she seemed to strike something in the air.  “W-What’s…”

No … she’s stuck.  We’re going to die … I’m going to die … just like everyone else in my clan.  I don’t want to die…

Azalea sighed, running her wet hands through her fur as the thunder rolled around the area; she turned back to Eltha with a sad smile.  “You should be able to move now; not well, but you could walk.  Are you going to crawl away from me?”

Eltha’s body began to quiver with the sudden knowledge, and her legs collapsed.  “N-No … what’s—what’s the point?  Y-You just … I can’t … I don’t want to die…”

The monster in front of her looked up, and a depressed puff of air slid through her wet lips before she opened her mouth to gather a few raindrops.  “It tastes so different,” she muttered, massaging her left shoulder.  “Well, Vi should be just about here.  I won, but I wanted it to be a bit more entertaining.  Maybe helping Tiffany will be more fun…”

“Lea!  What’s this?  How did you get four?”

The fear pervading Eltha’s body doubled as another sinister creature appeared in front of Azalea; this one had longer fur that was black and seemed to put off a more dignified demeanor than the playful monster that had toyed with them.

“Only found two?”  Azalea asked with an innocent tone.  “Guess, that means I win!  Yay, nice clothes!”

“Not fair,” Vi huffed, folding her arms under her chest while looking around.  “What’s up with your tactics, too?  This isn’t clean at all.”

“I’m not concerned about that, Vi!”  Azalea waved her comment off.  “I wanted to play with them, but they were all pretty disappointing.  The Ri’bot that were around a century ago were much more entertaining.”

“That is just like you,” Vi giggled.  “I remember a few of the prizes you brought home before … why you had me string them up like prizes is beyond me, and making them wander around in the dark, hoping to escape … it’s just not my style.”

“I want to remember them!”  Azalea said with a chime in her voice.  “Oh, and it’s the light in their eyes, the spark that they’ll escape, then it’s all the more fun when it dawns on them that there never was any hope, to begin with!

“These, though,” she mumbled, glaring around at them.  “They aren’t even good enough to be the weak Ri’bot.  Things have really changed, Vi, and I don’t like it.  I want to cut loose!  I was born ready, but these things are pathetic.”

Eltha couldn’t help but agree with her; what she’d just witnessed was something more befitting the strong fighters in the Yalmáth Republic to the Northeast, and the reason was soon revealed.  Both of the creatures that looked like Elinor transformed into massive eight-legged metallic-like creatures before her eyes.

“Thélméthra,” Eltha whispered in utter horror.  “You’re—you’re Thélméthra…”

“Not just that,” Azalea chuckled, eight legs a blur as she moved inches from her face, rain dropping down their smooth forms; her head was nearly half the size of Eltha’s body.  

“We’re the Queen’s daughters; all of those other ones you probably remember or tell stories about, they’re just drones.  Just weak drones and your ancestors were terrified of us.  Isn’t it delicious?  The taste of fear on your skin is intoxicating!”

“Maybe to you,” Vi grunted.  “For me, it’s disgusting.  Let’s get these things back to Tiffany … are you going to wrap up that one?”

“No, she’ll come, right?”  Azalea eagerly asked, gem-like pink eyes showing her reflection in the dim moonlight passing through the dark clouds that managed to make it through the foliage.  “She’s going to walk with us and tell us all about what happened to her ancestors’ power.  Storytime!”

“A new pet?”  Vi sighed.  “You’re the reason mom used the Yaltha’ma.”

“They were cute and fun, and now they can talk to us!”  Azalea defended.  “The Yaltha’ma found me all sorts of fun prey to play with, too.”

Vi turned around, and a net shot out of her abdomen, wrapping around Toka.  With apparent ease, the web latched onto Toka’s suspended body before pulling her down and encasing the warrior in white thread.  “Whatever … let’s get back, or mom will yell at us for loitering around again.”

Azalea’s cheer dampened.  “Yeah, hehe, I’d rather not have mom glare at us again.  I wish we could be in our human forms longer … I hate feeling this way now.”

“I agree,” Vi mumbled, walking up the side of the trunk to get Denral and Forva, one of her eight legs tapping the butt of Toka’s spear as she passed.  “I had some of the Infernal Ape drones take the other two back.”

“Good thinking, Vi!  I didn’t even consider that,” Azalea mused, moving to pat the armored back of the large creature, nearing the foliage high up the tree trunk.

“How did you subdue those ones?  They’re not moving, but they’re alive.  Did you use a neurotoxin on them?”

“Yeah, isn’t it amazing?  Since mom told us to put nerves in our hair so we could control it better, I thought about adding poison injectors to some thin threads that I could project.  Pretty fun, huh?”

“Why didn’t I think of that?”  Vi grumbled.

“No, c’mon, Vi!” she said, lowering back through the wet yellow leaves on string with her sister, wrapped prey in two of Vi’s spear-like legs.  “You’re a webmaster; why do you think I made that bet for new clothes?  I know you did all sorts of things with your hair, too.”

“Well, yeah, of course, I did!  I can change its colors, it’s stronger than my original web, and there are all sorts of other attributes I can add to them, like elemental attacks and resistances.”

“Amazing!  See, you’re so strong, Vi!”

“Yeah, I am a little, aren’t I?”

“Uh-uh!”

Eltha didn’t know how to describe what she was witnessing, but one thing she did know, they were utterly dominated by these Thélméthra; they didn’t even try.

It’s over … if Elinor can make creatures like these … hundreds … thousands … how can she be stopped?  I don’t want to die … can I join them?  Will she accept me if I give up?  I don’t want to be eaten…

The two Thélméthra turned to face her as two Undead Quen’Talrat jumped up into the trees, flanking the two with low rumbles.

“Well, Eltha?  That is your name, correct?”  Azalea asked.  “I’m a little sad we couldn’t play more, but we’ll have a lot of time when we get back!  Eternity, actually!  C’mon, hurry along.”

Shakily getting to her feet, Eltha followed her new captors, knowing that resisting would only bring her more pain.

I need to survive … whatever it takes … I need to survive…


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