Elise slammed the heels of her hands against the bars of her cell in pure frustration. Unbothered by her display of emotion, the gaoler moved away, heavy keys jingling in his hands as he moved on to lock Ceilas in the cell next to her, like he had put Rebecca in the one before hers. Elise struck the bars again with her palm, hard enough that they stung, before the Knight mouthed a curse and sank down on the cot in the back of her prison cell, muttering darkly.
She shouldn’t have done that… shouldn’t have let herself be baited like that… but she was just so angry. For two years, she had known that that son of a bitch had done it. He had killed her sister… Danielle’s blood was on his hands. He had arranged it all. She just had never been able to prove it.
It was her duty to stop him. Her ancestor, the Grandmaster Laika, had stood up to a world filled with demons practically alone. She had founded this order out of nothing with the help of their angelic patroness. Elise wouldn’t see the legacy of the brave woman destroyed by a fool… and neither would Danielle. It was why he’d killed her.
In the weeks after her sister had vanished, Elise had held out hope that she would be found. That it was some kind of unexplained absence, some emergency. For months after that, she had held out a secret hope that maybe there was some kind of mistake, that she would show up again when she was needed. Those dreams had faded like gossamer, and she had been forced to admit the truth to herself – that she was gone, and she wasn’t coming back. Elise had never wanted to be a knight herself… content to support her sister, to share in the woman’s strength and glory, but she had worked hard to prove herself, to earn the right to take her place… if only she could spit in his face. The face of the man in the cell across from her, the man who had murdered her sister and was taking control of the order.
Karsus didn’t look like much. A plain man with a hawkish face and eyes like steel, he rested shirtless against the wall, his eyes closed. She could still visualize him the way she had found him… naked, between the legs of a screaming, struggling village girl who had gone missing several days earlier. Her hand still hurt from where she had slugged that bastard in the face. It pissed her off that he was sitting in that cell, looking so calm, just looking at her with amused eyes.
She had begged to be allowed to interrogate him… This bastard had murdered her sister, and she would make him admit it. Grandmaster Farron had refused her, however. It had probably not been a good idea to lose her temper… especially not when she saw Jezriel there as well. How could he be so blind, however? How could he still refuse to act against the murderer when evidence of his corruption had been laid so bare?
She hadn’t meant to be so insubordinate she had ended up locked up with him. When her soldiers had heard of it, they had all but rioted… most of the them were in cells alongside her now, to “cool off.” Elise didn’t know if she ever would be cool again… just looking at Karsus had her blood feeling like it was boiling in her veins.
“Hey, asshole!” she called. When he didn’t respond, she glared harder. “Yeah, you! Raping, murdering scum! Tell me one thing,” Elise called across the room. “Tell me why.”
A slow smile cross his face, and by all the Archons it just made her want to punch him harder. “Because she was there, and she was tight?”
Elise didn’t quite manage to stop the growl. “Not that. I already knew you did that because you were scum. Why my sister? You can’t possibly be big enough of a fool to think that freeing the demons is wise… so what is your game?”
Karsus face fell. “I would have thought it would be obvious,” he said, leaning further back until his head rested on the stone wall.
“Pretend you’re sane and see things from my perspective,” she bit off.
He sighed. “It’s simple. We’re despised. Treated like an artifact. A order of demon hunters with no demons to hunt, no war to fight. We no longer offer the kingdoms anything, and they have forgotten us… when they don’t resent us. Every day, our power decays further. Every day, we are lesser and lesser. Without demons, we are nothing. We have no purpose, no power… like we did in the old days. I’m going to bring them back. Esperiel will return and give us glory, lead us against the demons again… make us powerful again.”
Elise shook her head. “You are mad.” Despite herself, she felt a kind of grim satisfaction. A dozen of her men, and the gaoler, would have heard this. With an admission like that… he was surely finished. “You’ll never be allowed to do it.”
Karsus laughed. “It’s too late to stop me now,” he said as he slowly pushed himself to his feet.
Elise would have retorted, but footsteps on the stairs stopped her. A beautiful woman walked around the corner, glowing wings of the purest white sweeping behind her as Jezriel came into the dungeon. The Order’s new guiding Archon looked serene and calm as she strode into the dungeon, sweeping her too-calm gaze over everyone one by one. Elise bit her tongue. It wouldn’t do any good to start shouting accusations now… besides, she had always had the impression that the Archon didn’t think much of her. Something had always seemed… off… about their interactions.
“Leave us,” she ordered the gaoler. “Lock the door above. No one enters or leaves until I or the Grandmaster instruct you otherwise.” With a bow, the man complied.
“Took you long enough, slut,” Karsus said, stepped up to his bars and hanging both hands through them. The Archon didn’t flinch at the insult. Instead, she just walked up to his door… and unlocked it with a touch of her delicate hand.
Elise gaped as Karsus grinned at her. Then he walked back to the cot and started ripping one of the sheets into stripes.
“Don’t take too long, my lord,” Jezriel said softly. “The appointed hour isn’t too far now.”
“There is time enough,” he said with that same sickening, lustful smile. He raised the cut strips of cloth to Elise in a mocking salute, grabbed the gaoler’s keys off the wall, and walked out of her sight towards one of the other cells.
That was when the screaming started.
“What are you doing!” Elise screamed at him. She turned to Jezriel. “And you! How could you… what is the MATTER with you!” She winced at another scream… that was Elara screaming, yelling at him to get off her, until her sounds became muffled a few seconds later as something was stuffed into her mouth. “How can you let him do this? What kind of monster are you?”
Jezriel just kept standing there, looking at her calmly.
“He’s raping her!” Elise yelled. “He’s a monster, and he’s trying to set the demons free! How can you just stand there, you COWARD!?”
Jezriel looked at her… and then her features shifted. Her wings vanished first, dissolving away like mists. Her skin shifted next, darkening to a light grey, her eyes darkening just the same. Horns erupted out of her blonde hair, parting it, pushing it to the side as chitin covered her hands. “I know,” she said with a heavy voice. “That’s why I’m helping him.”
Elise looked on in horror. A demon. A demon, inside her order… outside of the Darkstone, impersonating an Archon. Jezriel… wasn’t real! She screamed in frustration and fear, and only as she did did she realize that the sounds from Elara’s cell had stopped. She could hear other girls screaming, yelling in fear and anger and outrage and confusion, but from Elara’s cell, she heard nothing at all.
Then Karsus walked by her cell, naked as the day he was born, already twisting some of the other torn sheets into another rope. He paused to grin at her briefly as he walked past her… then he continued on, heading to another cell…
The night crept by half an hour at a time as cell after cell went quiet. Elise screamed. Then she threatened. Then begged. One after another, her friends, her colleagues, her allies and sisters in arms, were raped in their cells by Karsus before they were killed… killed just like her sister had been. It took hours while she screamed herself raw, while the succubus stood there watching her with eyes that seemed to mock, but soon enough Karsus stood in front of her cell, his clothing shining with sweat.
“Time for you to join your sister,” he said as he wound the cloth around his hands, twisting it into a rope. Then he opened the cell door.
Elise launched herself at him. He ducked her first fist and slammed his hand into her stomach, far, far harder than seemed possible for his frame. Her breath left her in a rush, and she sagged… not too far, however. He grabbed her hair before she could fall and shoved her against the wall. She kicked out at him, but he took it on the thigh, her flailing punch weak for lack of air, and then Karsus slammed her against the wall again.
Dazed, Elise was barely able to resist as he grabbed her arms and tied them together with the rope. The knot wasn’t great, it probably wouldn’t hold her for very long, but Elise doubted she would have very long to get out of it, either. Karsus threw her down onto the cot, grabbed her ankle as she kicked at him, and slammed it against the wall until agony flared through her body… then he settled his naked weight on her, his hands ripping at her clothing. She didn’t stop fighting. She fought through the pain and the humiliation and the sense of betrayal… the hopelessness of needing to helplessly listen to her sisters-in-arms being murdered one by one just out of her sight without her being able to do anything to help them. She fought right up until she felt him slam his cock into her, using it to pin her down to the bed as thoroughly as if he’d rammed a sword into it.
It hadn’t been any vow that had kept Elise a virgin this long… merely a lack of desire for any of the men that surrounded her, a sense of purpose to the order at first, and then later to finding her sister’s killer and bringing him to justice. It sickened her to know that all she had been doing, in effect, was saving herself for this scum. She wriggled on the bed beneath him, trying to squirm out from under Karsus, but the man was clearly an experienced rapist… he followed every movement of her hips, every thrash that sent her breasts flopping… he made her feel every bump and ridge of his disgusting prick as it sawed in and out of her raw body.
Then his hands closed around her neck.
Her eyes widened as she gasped for breath and it didn’t come. She forced the panic away, made herself continue struggling to kick him off her, made herself keep glaring at him with hatred in her eyes… and Karsus laughed at her. “You know,” he said as he squeezed tighter, crushing her oxygen off with his hand so much she could feel her heart beating against the beat of his through the palm, “it’s funny. When most girls know they’re dying, they just become pathetic. When death looms up, all their vows, their royalty, their rage… it all falls away, reducing even the proudest warrior to nothing but a mewling bitch.” He started pumping into her harder, faster, riding out the way her body thrashed in the struggle for air. “Your friends… I could see begging in their eyes as they died. If I would just take away my hand, give them the gift of living, they would do whatever I pleased. No strength left to them.”
She could feel her heartbeat in her ears now… it made it hard to hear his voice as she was strangled, but somehow his words sank deep into her mind anyway. “Your sister was just like that. Weak. Pathetic. But you…” he laughed as he raped her. “If I let go right now, you’d go right back to fighting me, wouldn’t you? You’re nothing like that pathetic bitch. Make sure to tell her I said so when you see her, won’t you?” He bore down on her neck then, putting all of his weight on it as he slam-fucked her bleeding cunt until she could feel nothing but the pain, pain in her pussy, pain in her lungs, pain in her neck… her vision narrowing down just a tiny tunnel that she could see him grinning face at the end of. Then she felt his seed splash against her womb, and just a second later everything went dark.
Elise felt cold water on her feet as mists tickled her skin in the darkness. The water felt like it cut right through her skin, stealing the heat directly from her blood as she slowly rolled her head to look around, her brain feeling sluggish as she struggled to remember where she was, what she was, what she was doing. How had she…
“Is this one ours?” a male voice, like the rumbling of stone, said. It felt like it came from all around her, and she didn’t so much hear it as feel it rumbling against her skin, through her bones. The sense of malice, of hunger, in that voice… it made her shudder.
“I think not, dear Jackal,” a feminine voice said, and Elise spun to see a white figure walking through the swirling mists. Where as she was almost knee deep in the water of the stream she stood in, the white figure walked over the top of it effortlessly. “Already she’s being pulled back. She won’t remember.”
Passage. This was Lady Passage. She was…
Memories flooded her. Her last moments. Her murder. The disgust and horror and rage of it. She wanted to scream… and with her memories came a sensation not unlike being pulled backward by her hair – irresistible, painful, and unyielding.
“Or perhaps she will,” Raven admitted as she took in the fading girl. “This one is strong. I will see you again soon, little one,” she promised as Elise’s awareness faded again…
Elise woke screaming to find herself tied to a table, naked and spread and very much alive.
“Welcome back,” the succubus said as she pulled back from the woman’s lips. “I have to admit, I very much like this method of keeping one of them alive. Was it really necessary though, master?”
Karsus laughed from where he stood, both of his hands on the back of another kneeling woman’s head as he fucked her face with hard, vicious strokes. “Of course it was. Fuck that stupid whore. Let her suffer. Anyway, I needed to make sure she was going to be worthwhile… and I think you were right about her. She can make the sword work.”
He continued fucking the girl in front of him, holding her in place as he grunted and poured a load of cum down her throat. Then he shoved her backward onto the floor.
It was Danielle.
Elise look at her sister, her mind caught between relief and horror to see the state she was in. She was alive… but her body was covered in bruises, her tits were nearly beaten black, and when she looked over at Elise, she saw no recognition in those eyes. She had seen more life and intelligence in the eyes of the horses she rode.
“Danielle!” she called. “Danielle! You’re alive!”
“Of course she’s alive,” Karsus scoffed. “I wasn’t about to waste as premiere of a piece of fuckmeat as she is…” He looked at her appraisingly. “Was, anyway. I would have collected the set from you eventually even if the bitch had been able to make this work.” Then he reached onto the table behind him and lifted up a golden blade. Elise’s breath caught. The Dawnsteel seemed to glow even in the dim light of whatever dungeon Karsus had them in, shining with inner light, ready to come to life. “She can’t use it,” he said, kicking Danielle half-heartedly and making her moan and roll over in a pathetic attempt to protect herself. “Too weak. Too pathetic. Unlike you…”
The succubus cut her off. “Esperiel locked the prison from both sides,” she said with a smile. “The key to her own side, she holds… but she needed to make sure that she could never be made to set them free. She locked it from this world’s side as well. And she entrusted the key to the one human she trusted over everyone else… your great, great grandmother, Grandmaster Laika. That key, and the power to turn it, is with what she left behind… this sword, and you.”
Elise narrowed her eyes. “Esperiel will never set them free. They’ll never make her.” The tales of their order’s founding were clear, and she believed every single one of them… of the strength of that Greater Archon, her will, how she had sacrificed herself to save this world. “She’ll never do what you want.”
The succubus smiled. “You might be surprised… they can be very… very… persuasive. I’ve seen it before…” she shuddered in ecstasy at the memory. “No one would even recognize her by now. But by all means, keep imagining her the way you have been. You’ll see her yourself, when you turn that key for us.”
“I won’t do it,” Elise said firmly.
Karsus stepped onto Danielle’s neck and began to push his weight down, making her sister flop around weakly as her air was cut. “You know,” he said, looking at the succubus. “We really don’t need this one anymore, do we?” Then he looked at Elise. “You’ll do it,” he said, “or you get to live with having your sister murdered all over again. Your choice.”